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Center of Gravity

By:Lina Andersson

uld ever walk properly. I would, most likely, limp my way through the rest of my life.

Later that night, I was back in the bed with a new soft cast covering my leg. It felt just as good; I didn’t want to see it. Irina was sitting next to me, just like she’d done from the very beginning. She stroked the hair out of my face.

“I called your parents. They’ll be here in a few weeks.”

They were busy with their work, I knew, and I understood. She seemed scared I wouldn’t, so she continued,

“They want to be here, you know that, but they’re in the middle of training for the new—”

“Irina, it’s okay, I understand. Shouldn’t you be in the middle of training for the next performance?”

“In two weeks.” Irina took a deep breath. “How do you feel about Greenville?”

That’s where I grew up. In what was now Irina’s apartment in Greenville. It had been in the family since the forties; at times it had been empty, but had always been owned by the Dobronravovs since the building was built. Mom and Dad had moved there when I was born, and Irina had come to stay with us when I was three.

“Feels like a good place for a break,” I finally said.

Not like I had much of a choice, and it didn’t really matter to me. At the moment, I wasn’t even capable of going to the bathroom by myself. Irina had room for me, my old room, and it was private. As private as a room in someone else’s apartment could be.

“The town has changed since you left.”

“Yeah. Sure it has,” I chuckled. “You know, I used to come back for most holidays—as in just last Christmas. And unless it’s been a remarkable change in just a few months, it’s just as it was when I was fourteen.”

She gave my forehead a kiss. “Remember what your dream was when you were a kid and spent hours training in our practice room?”

“To be a principal dancer in the New York City Ballet,” I mumbled.

“And no matter what happens, you reached one of your life goals. People grow to be eighty without doing that or even working for it the way you did. Never forget that, Zvezda.”

“Spasibo, Tetya.”

We didn’t speak much Russian, just words here and there. Like my nickname, zvezda, which meant star. ‘Tetya’ was aunt, and on occasion some swearwords sneaked in, too. Mom had always spoken Russian with me, though, since she was born there, so I knew it fairly well. At least a lot better than Dad and Irina did.

“You’ll be fine, my love. You life hasn’t ended, and you have a new interesting future ahead of you.”

-o0o-

The first year after moving back to Greenville was a lot about adapting and learning basic things again. I cried a lot, but slowly my new situation became manageable.

At the end of that first year, I walked into a tattoo parlor in Phoenix. It had been recommended to me by my physical therapist, Brett, who’d said that no matter which one of the artists I ended up with, I’d be in good hands. I was met by a heavily tattooed and pierced woman somewhere in her forties.

“Hi,” I said. I was nervous. I had no idea how these things worked. “I have a vague idea for a tattoo, and I’d like to talk to someone about it.”

“What kind of a tattoo is it?”

“Well, that’s what I need some help with. It should have something to do with dancing, maybe ballet shoes, or... I’m not sure.”

This was probably stupid. I should’ve had a finished picture, but I just wasn’t sure. The research I’d done made me believe it was better if the artist told me what was possible and what wasn’t. Since I didn’t know much about tattoos, I figured it was for the best.

“Anna?”

I turned and for the first time noticed the other person behind the counter—a young girl with purple hair. I had no idea who she was, and she must’ve noticed my confusion.

“I’m Violet Baxter... or it was Warren, you used to—”

“Of course! Sorry, I didn’t recognize you.”

Violet was Lisa’s baby sister. Lisa and I had been friends through school. Mainly since I had my dancing and didn’t have time for anything outside school, and Lisa’s best friends were two brothers she knew through the biker club her dad was in. The Baxter boys, as my parents used to call them with a huff, were infamous in school, and the younger one was the same age as Lisa and me.

Lisa hadn’t shared any classes with him, so she’d hung with me at school a lot. She quite often helped me with my homework, since she was smart, and I didn’t care much about it.

I smiled at Violet. “You grew up.”

Violet had always been a quiet little sister who hung around and… drew. Was she a tattoo artist? I quickly did the math in my head. She couldn’t be more than twenty-one.

“You work here?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered, and I noticed her looking at my cane.

My parents had bought it for me when it had become evident that I was most likely going to need one for the rest of my life, or at least for a really long time. It was beautiful; black with a silver handle and engraved flowers in an Art Nouveau style—Russian, of course.

“As a tattoo artist?” I asked, and she nodded. “Since when?”

“Since I was sixteen,” she smiled. “I loved drawing and this is a way to make living art.”

“This might sound rude, but are you any good?”

It was half a joke, since she still seemed very young, but if she were an artist, it would be a comfort to have someone I knew doing the tattoo. Also, I had let Violet watch me practice a couple of times. She’d said she wanted to try to draw dancing. She couldn’t have been more than twelve, but the drawings had been beautiful.

“Yes,” she answered.

“Don’t let her fool you,” the pierced woman said with a laugh. “She’s not good. She’s extremely good. Wins prizes all the time. If she can schedule you in, you’re a lucky woman and in very good hands.”

I noticed Violet looking at my cane again, and I figured she was uncomfortable with asking about it, but that turned out to not be the case.

“Dad told me you were in an accident. I think your aunt mentioned it to him when the

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