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Center of Gravity

By:Lina Andersson

y met.”

“Yes,” I tried to smile. “I’m sort of stuck with this, but I’m fully healed. This is as good as it gets.”

“Okay. It’s just that, we don’t ink unless…”

“I know,” I said. “I did some research.”

“And it’s not a good way to cover scars,” she said looking rather uncomfortable. “At least not scars that new. They need to have healed a few years and preferably faded.”

“I know, and frankly you’d have to tattoo most of the leg, but I want it on my good leg.”

“I’m so sorry about the accident. I can’t imagine…” She gave me a weak smile. “It must be as if I lost my hands.”

It hit me that she probably understood better than most, and that’s when I decided I really wanted her to do it for me.

“Thank you. If you think you could squeeze me in, I’d love to have you do it. I’ll be in the area for a while, so there’s no hurry.”

“If you come to the back we can see what we can come up with, and if you like it we’ll make an appointment. I need to know what you want so I know how much time we need.”

When she came walking around the counter, I almost fell over. She was pregnant! I had no idea how I’d missed it to begin with, but she had a visible bulge on her belly and the rest of her body was quite skinny, so she had to be pregnant. I did the math again. And yes, she was twenty-one, I was sure.

“You’re pregnant?” I finally managed to say. “I’m sorry, I was just surprised.”

“It’s okay. I’m pretty used to people being surprised about me being young when I do things,” she mumbled. “I’m married.”

“I didn’t... I didn’t mean to judge you. I was just... I mainly remember you as that very young and,” I almost said ‘shy’ but swallowed it. “And you must’ve been twelve or thirteen the last time I saw you.” I smiled. “Congratulations, how far along are you?”

“Seventeen weeks,” she said and gave me a smile back. “And thank you.”

I realized what else she’d said. That she was married, and she’d introduced herself as Violet Baxter. “You’re married to one of the Baxter brothers?”

“Yes. Mac,” she said with a smile. “Not Mitch.”

She probably knew why I’d asked, and I laughed. As I remembered it, Mac had been a calm and pretty nice guy despite his reputation. Mitch, on the other hand, he’d been known as the guy who got around, to put it mildly.

I followed her to the back room, and thirty minutes later I was amazed. Violet was really good at this. I’d given her some vague descriptions of dancing, movement, and in black—and she came up with something really beautiful that looked like the outline of a dancer in movement. Even if I never knew much about them, I had always liked tattoos, but it was not a smart thing when you were a dancer. Irina had come up with the idea of me doing things I couldn’t or wouldn’t do while I was a dancer, so a tattoo was on the list.

Having big breakfasts was already a part of my daily routine. That was something I hadn’t done since I was a kid. I had some other goals, things I wanted to be able to do that I hadn’t before.

Then there were the things from my old life that I’d like to be able to revisit, like going to see a ballet, but I was not even close to ready for that yet. I’d accidentally heard the music to Swan Lake just two weeks earlier and had fallen apart. I wanted this tattoo as a symbol for something I had been, that I was proud of, but that was now a finished chapter in my life.

Violet booked me an appointment two weeks later. She admitted she’d squeezed me in on what would’ve been her day off, so I was really grateful. I wanted the ink on my leg, my good one, and she promised to make sure we’d have privacy. If I had to drop my pants, I wanted to make sure no one would be around to see my bad leg.

As I was about to leave I turned around to Violet again.

“If Lisa’s ever in town, think you could ask her to call me?”

“Sure. She’s coming down next week, and she’s going to stay for a while. I’ll give her your number.”

“Please do.”

I hadn’t seen Lisa in years. We’d met up when I went back to Greenville for holidays my first years in New York. Then she went to college, I tended to stay in New York more and more, phone calls became more rare, and letters fewer and further between until they eventually stopped. It wasn’t a big thing. No huge falling out; we just lost track. Irina used to give me updates, and I was sure that she had some reports on how I was doing from her dad.

As I remembered it, Lisa was one of those people who always managed to pick me up from my bad moods, and she’d always been a lot of fun. She was also pretty much the only close friend I’d had who wasn’t a dancer. I wanted to stay away from the dancers.

-o0o-

I had physical therapy the next day. I still had to go, and they had asked me to keep it up for as long as possible, preferably the rest of my life. The limping could cause further problems to my hip, my back, and my good leg. The nerve damage would also eventually make my muscles weaker, which in turn would cause stiffness and more limping. The best way to avoid it was to keep up with the training.

The first time had been kind of fun when Brett was trying to help me stretch. I’d finally told him that I’d been a ballet dancer, and if he wanted to stretch my muscles he would have to make much more of an effort than he was doing.

I liked him, though. He didn’t coddle me, he pushed me hard, and that was what I liked about him. I’d been pushing my body since I was four, and I tried to see this the same way as I had the dancing. It was vital to keep my body in as good shape as possible, even now. I knew Irina and my parents had been worried that I’d just let everything go now, but I didn’t. Brett had given me exercises that I did every morning and often at night, too. My leg was usually even stiffer in the morning, and that could lead to pain as soon as I started walking if I didn’t try to massage and exercise it off as soon as I woke up.

Brett was one of few people I was comf

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