Her feet were tiny. Actually, that’s an overstatement, they were minuscule. She reminded me of a swallow on the wing, its little legs tucked up into its feathers, its claws going unnoticed. Where you and I might meander, she tottered. Where you and I might run, she staggered. To even balance in her children’s shoes was an achievement. In truth, I marvelled at her.
Her appearance was construed as comical by the populace at large. Women would point at her then talk behind their palms. Men would frown and then turn to other more complete figures. I imagined it might have broken some people, destroyed them, even. Not her. Not by a long shot.
No sooner had a man taken in her long, flowing hair, her exquisite torso, her curvaceous thighs, then followed it down to her stilted ankles, then he would mutter and move to the next prize on the boulevard. I didn’t though. I followed her down the avenue where the silver birches glinted in the midsummer sun and the shop windows reflected a world neither of us was meant for. Around several corners, she paced like a flamingo, before turning into a side street and the single unadorned door in a wall. She entered; it locked with a click.
With no other option, I retraced my steps onto the high street. No one paid me any attention, for I was singularly unremarkable myself. Looking around like a lost child, I eventually spied the entranceway I searched for. Hanging above a double door adorned in faux leather were the words Le Théâtre du Cygne. I hadn’t a clue what it meant, but forced the doors and crept inside.
She pirouetted across the stage in circle after circle of exquisite dance. She moved like a blizzard on a mountain, a white force of nature. Her feathers swished like cracked whips, their elegance breathtaking. She bore a mask of porcelain and ebony inlay, a swan to top all swans. Only if she slowed did one notice her toothpick legs and tiny, pointed feet. But who’d look other than someone who loved her for her, every bit, every inch?
I left the theatre but returned each night for a year. She never changed her dance; she was always a swan. And although she went unnoticed in the street, or at a bare minimum, disregarded, in that theatre she was a queen amongst birds. One day, she’d be my queen. That, however, is a story for another place and time.