a novelist's dabblings

Bright Are the Balloons of Our Courage

The “Ides of March” Series … Prompt #1 – Pick a picture from Pinterest and use it as inspiration.


Emmie was a dancer; she had been all her life. The music spoke and her body responded, almost unconsciously sometimes. The floorboards of the old stage were her home, the glaring white spotlights her accustomed backdrop. She had gone on pointe the year she was twelve – which was also the year Daddy had decided to walk out.

She remembered those late nights spent in the dance studio while Mama was still working, and she had worked herself. She worked her muscles till they were taut and sore. She worked her form ceaselessly on repeat till her mind had gone numb and she couldn’t think of the raw, jagged ache in her heart. She wove the tears of her heartbreak into every pirouette and pas de barre until the gracefulness of the dance had silenced the pounding of guilt and anger and sadness.

Now Emmie stood in her dressing room, dressing for the final performance at Mila’s Dance Studio. The mirror showed a poised, graceful young lady of eighteen who had put in her hours of work and would leave next month for her just reward – Julliard. As she smoothed her face with make-up, though, she stopped for a split second and really stared back into those large, green eyes filled with hope and determination. Could she really do this? It truly was everything she’d always wanted in life, but doubt began to creep into her heart. Who was she to think she was some kind of anomaly or protege? Mama had always believed in her, but what was it Daddy had told her the night before he had left forever?

“Dance is only a hobby, Em. You’d better get over it and do something useful with your life. I’d hate to see my only daughter think she’s gonna go somewhere with her leaps and twirls and only find out too late she can’t make a living off that.”

Without warning, tears filled Emmie’s eyes at the memory. Her dad was right. What did she think she was doing with her life? How could dance do anybody any good? She was a fool. An utter fool.

Just then, a knock came at the dressing room door, and one of the stage hands peeked her head in.

“Emmie? Special delivery from your mom,” she said. The sweet scent of lilacs filled the air as she entered and attached to the flowers floated another bouquet – of bright, red balloons.

Emmie gave a weak smile as Cora set them down and handed her the card.

“Here you go! And Em – you look beautiful. You were made for this.” With a wink and a smile, the spry older lady was out the door.

As Emmie opened the card, more tears crowded her vision so that she had to blink several times before she could read her mother’s distinctive handwriting.

“Dearest Emmie,” she had written, “Words can’t say how proud I am of you. You don’t just dance – you embody the soul of dance. It’s written all over your face and is spelled out in your every movement. You tell stories through your dance and it is inspiring to watch. But more than that, I am so proud of your courage. You stuck with your passion through some of the hardest years of your life, and you didn’t let anybody’s doubts stop you. You are a strong woman, filled with beauty and grace. Just like these balloons float high and colorful, above the cares of the world, so do you, my dear, as you dance your way through life. I can’t wait to see you on that stage.
Love, Mama.”

The tears streamed fast and freely down Emmie’s face, but now they fell for a different reason. She had someone who believed in her. Who saw who she really was and reminded her of that in her deepest hour of need. And now tonight, she’d walk out on those floorboards with head held high, knowing that she had a story to tell – and she meant to tell it to inspire.

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