Mia is an invalid, sinking into the sofa with the weight of a smoldering log. Her neck is mottled red, hot and dry. She clutches a bottle of cold water in one hand, blankie in another. With glassy eyes, half-shuttered, she watches across the room at her sister, dancing.
The wall of western windows is a bridge, spilling sunlight as it gallops into the room. Lauren's toes grace the puddles of light for quick-step seconds before she's twirled into another quadrant -- a shadow. Her arms make perfect arcs and swoops. A rainbow in motion, a fluid parabola. Now that her hair falls to the middle of her shoulder blades, it makes curtains that open and close as she swings, allowing glimpses of the backstage action. A forgotten smile. A raised brow. A deep breath.
Into the light and out again, Lauren dances.
Mia clears her throat. "Lauren," she says. Her voice is thin and transparent, with no fullness behind it. It sounds like it could be heard even in a vacuum, it is so without shape or force. It falls from her lips rather than flies, slow and melting.
We all stop -- Lauren pauses, hands akimbo; I turn, ears cocked; Justin sits very still.
"Lauren," she says, "you're a beautiful dancer."
The dancer looks at her toes, hiding a radiant smile behind her curtains. Then she throws her head back, beaming, and takes flight once more.
The sun has fallen just low enough to fill the entire floor with light. There is not a spot of darkness for miles.