Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 20

Doris's move paid off, but not in the way that she'd expected.

She gave the news out in edited snatches during dance class, to anyone who showed an interest and to a few who had other things on their minds. It seemed that the message she'd left for her parents - that she'd be staying overnight with Bruno and his father down in Queens - hadn't made it through; distracted with worry when the early morning came and she still hadn't shown, her own father had gone straight to brother Marty's loft in Greenwich village in the hope that he'd find her there. Doris actually came along a half-hour after he'd arrived, to find the ice broken and a reconciliation in the making.

'Yeah, great news,' Danny Amatullo told her, although in truth he was only listening with one ear, the rest of him was trying to keep focus on what Lydia Grant was saying. Most of today's exercises so far had involved boy-girl pairs, and Danny was wondering if it would be possible to work his way across the group so that he could end the session in a pas de deux with Dee Wilson, a cute little redhead whose leotard appeared to have been spraycanned onto her body by a Playboy centrefold retoucher.

But before he even knew it, he was paired with Doris Schwartz.

'The point of any lift,' Lydia Grant explained as she walked down between the two facing lines of dancers and would-be dancers and actors out to stretch their range, 'is to mask the effort. The audience doesn't want to see how hard you're working. As far as they're concerned, you're all as light as feathers.'

'Auntie Em,' Doris piped in her best Judy Garland voice, 'we're not in Kansas anymore . . . '

'Doris,' Lydia reassured her, 'you are going to be as light as a feather.'

'Don't tell her,' Danny protested, 'tell me. I've go to lift that feather, and I think I'm going to need a truss as big as the Bronx.'

The line got a laugh, as Danny's lines almost always did, and when he glanced down the line he was gratified to see that Dee Wilson was smiling along with all the others. What he didn't notice was that Doris's smile was a little forced, a little glassy.

Lydia raised her voice as the laughter trailed away. 'All right, now.' she said as she reached the end of the line and picked up her dance staff, 'that's enough. Let's have the first pair.'

She rapped out a cadence with her staff on the floor, and the first pair moved out. They executed a lift that wasn't bad, but nothing special. The next pair was better, the third pair wobbled. The fourth pair was Leroy and Coco; Leroy lifted like his hands wher empty, and Coco flew.

'All right,' Lydia commented, 'looking good. Next pair.'

Doris was doing her best to get into feather feeling mode, but she wasn't exactly happy about it. The cadence of Lydia's staff was like a countdown. The truth was that Danny's remark had hurt her, just a little - although if she was going to be really honest with herself, it went a lot deeper than that.

Their turn arrived. Danny's expression didn't help; it was nothing personal, he just hated to dance. It was a non-optional part of the drama course, so he couldn't do as Bruno had done and duck out.

They met, and Danny grabbed a couple of painful handfuls of Doris and lifted. To begin with, their timing was out; if Danny's lift had meshed with Doris's leap, they'd have made it through. But he treated it like a stevedore, with Doris as the cargo, and he got her waist up to shoulder height and then found he could go no further.

Doris was trying to think like a feather, but events had gone pretty much beyond her control. Danny took a staggering step, refusing to give up so easily, and tried to complete the lift.

He might as well have quit, having established the principle that all grace was milked out of the move when the female half of the team was treated and hoisted like a barbell, but he didn't. Gravity had to do the job for him.

If this had been a drama class, and the exercise had been an enactment of the falling of the walls of Jericho, then they'd have scored top points. As it was, the end-of-session bell saved Lydia from having to make any comment.

'Bless you, bell!' she shouted over the ringing. 'Showers, everybody! Move it!'

Everyone headed for the piano and the barre to collect their gear and towels, except for Danny and Doris who took a little longer to untangle themselves on the floor.

'That wasn't my fault!' Danny insisted from somewhere underneath.

'Why wasn't it?'

'You were all sweaty. I couldn't get a good grip!'

Doris got to her feet and went over to the barre. The fall had given her normally buoyant spirits a slow leak.

Coco was stuffing a pair of legwarmers into her tote bag. She saw Doris approaching in the full-lenghted dance mirror, and could tell without much difficulty that the spirits of Mrs. Schwartz's little girl had taken a definite down.

She said, 'Don't worry, Doris. You'll get it.'

'Easy for you to say,' Doris said as she reached for her mopup towel. 'Can you give me any tips or hints or anything?'

Coco shrugged. 'Maybe one thing. Don't be so . . . easy on yourself. Pick a direction and go all the way with it.'

'That's fair,' Doris said, wondering what the hell Coco was talking about. 'Anything else?'

Coco smiled a little regretfully, and slung the tote bag over her shoulder. 'I can't now, Doris. I've got to meet Bruno for a phone call.' And with a little wave she was gone, leaving Doris to wonder if communal telephoning was about to become the school's new vogue with Coco and Bruno in the avant-garde.

Coco's place was taken by Danny Amatullo. He was holding out his hand to shake. He said, 'Truce?'

Doris considered it. 'Well,' she said, 'if you're dropping me when we're on a friendly basis, I suppose I don't want to know what would happen if we became enemies. Truce.'

They shook hands and then together they headed out into the hallway, towels looped over their shoulders. Danny took a quick look over the crowd in the corridor but Dee Wilson had already gone, disappeared to that faroff land beyond the place where sea and sky meet and where the things that we know would make us happy live just out of reach. Or else she'd gone to the showers. What difference did it make?

'You see Leroy and Coco?' Doris said as they pushed their way through the crowd to get a look at the bulletin board. 'How come they make it look so easy?'

'They've got an unfair advantage,' Danny said. 'They're dancers.'

'Coco's got an unfair advantage in everything.'

'Can't imitate Coco. You've got to do it your own way.'

A group moved from in front of the board, and they slipped into the space. Apart from the usual warnings about locker-room thefts and study hall discipline, most of the board was given over to notices concerning shows-in-production or else auditions and rehearsal calls.

'Look at this,' Doris said, shaking her head. Wherever she looked, the same name seemed to catch her eye. 'She's in everything, and I'm playing a dead body in a murder mystery.'

'Will you cut it out?' Danny said. His annoyance was mostly faked. 'So what if she got a few parts? It's just coincidence.'

'You're very sweet, Amatullo - and very naïve. Coco's got what you call "halo effect". Ever hear of it?'

'No, but I'm about to.'

'When you do something really well, it kind of slops over into everything else you do. It's like having a bright halo around your head. So I can't just be as good as Coco - I have to be better. And that's what I intend to do. She's had it easy long enough.'

Doris turned and walked away, with new resolve. Oh, no, thought Danny. This is going to mean trouble for somebody. I only hope it isn't me.

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