My latest novel, FALLING GRACEFULLY, is available now on Amazon.
What do you do when your life is over before it even really began? For Melody Bledsoe, the answer is to go home and lick your wounds. For Jessie Cartwright, the answer is to survive.
Read the first chapter below.
The cramped lobby of Mary Beth’s School of Dance was packed with young ballerinas and their parents when Melody Bledsoe walked in. She was holding a newspaper in her hand, folded to the classified section with a big red circle traced around an ad. It seemed like a terribly archaic way to find a job, but Melody’s mother laid the newspaper in front of her this morning along with her breakfast, and Melody knew she had to at least ask for an application.
The job was for a front desk receptionist, and by the utter chaos happening here, it was clear that Mary Beth needed to fill this position desperately. The waiting area was only about ten feet square, and in that space there were at least eight adults and, well, Melody gave up trying to count the kids because they all pinballed around the room in constant motion. Most of the girls were wearing pink leotards and ballet skirts, a few colorful tutus took up even more of the tight space, and they were all waiting for class to begin.
Melody couldn’t have chosen a more chaotic time to arrive.
When she finally made her way to the desk, weaving past a dozen parents all trying to wrangle their kids into ballet slippers, the woman behind the counter looked just as frayed as Melody’s nerves felt. Her wispy gray hair stuck out of her bun in a dozen odd angles and she was frantically trying to do three things at once.
Who’s here for the one p.m. beginner ballet class?” She asked, her large voice booming into the room above the ruckus. “Don’t forget to sign in on the clipboard before you go into the room. Anyone need to make a payment? Who’s here to pick up their costume for the recital? Dressing room is down the hall – please try on your costume before you leave. The time to make alterations is running out!”
Melody watched wide-eyed as the diminutive woman rattled all these things off, moving from task to task and knocking things over as she tried to move behind the small reception desk and was thwarted at every turn by a mound of costumes in plastic bags, parents clambering for the sign-in sheet, and kids running underfoot.
It was dizzying, and Melody was just about to elbow her way back out of the room when the woman barked, “Whatcha need, kiddo?”
It took a moment before Melody realized that the woman was talking to her, and then she felt tongue-tied. What did she need in this anarchy?
“Umm, you’re hiring?” Melody said meekly, her voice barely audible above the commotion in the room.
She lifted the newspaper and pointed to the ad.
“Oh, great!” The woman exclaimed. “You’ve got good timing. As you can see, I could use all the help I can get, especially with this recital coming up fast. Would you mind stepping behind the desk for a few minutes? I gotta pee like a racehorse.”
“Uh-” Melody started to object, but the woman was already squeezing out from behind the desk.
“Consider it a working interview,” she called as she headed down the hall at one end of the lobby. Then she added with a laugh, “Or a trial by fire, if you prefer. You don’t have to do anything – just get people to sign in if they’re here for ballet and if they need anything else, tell them Mary Beth will be back in a few minutes.”
“Thank you!” the woman called, and then she darted into a small bathroom halfway down the hall and slammed the door.
“Oh boy,” Melody muttered under her breath.
If this was how Mary Beth’s School of Dance functioned, she wasn’t sure her nerves could handle a job here. She thought about heading for the door – she could be halfway back to her parents’ house before Mary Beth even flushed the toilet – but then a velvety voice behind her asked, “Is this where we’re supposed to be?”
“I was just wondering the exact same thing,” Melody said, turning to find the owner of the voice. It turned out to be a stunningly pretty woman with pin-straight, carrot-red hair and vibrant green eyes. Her teeth grazed briefly across her lower lip as their eyes locked, and then she looked away, squeezing the hand of a little girl in a black leotard.
“I’m looking for the beginner ballet class,” the woman said. “I spoke to Mary Beth on the phone and she said we could try the first class for free since it’s the end of the year.”
Melody couldn’t stop staring into those mossy green eyes. She thought the woman didn’t look nearly old enough to have a kid that age.
“Yeah,” she found herself saying, “the clipboard’s right here.”