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Postcards from Moscow: Postcards from Paris, #3

Postcards from Moscow: Postcards from Paris, #3

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Postcards from Moscow: Postcards from Paris, #3

317 pagine
4 ore
Feb 22, 2018


I'm running from my past. Well, not all of it. Just some of it. I don't know if I will ever dance again, but I know I can teach. When the jerk dropped me, he broke me. I wasn't expecting the first postcard from Vasily, so I scoffed. Why would I want to talk with someone who could do something I couldn't? But, my mother had taught me not to be rude, and I responded anyway.

When I saw Jacquellyn Arnolt's name on the list of injured dancers I could write to, I almost didn't do it. She's close to my age, but my French is not the best. We only have one thing in common: our love of dance. I am thrilled to get her postcard back, and respond right away. When she tells me she's coming to Moscow, I am terrified.

We know we can help each other, but can we learn from each other? Ballet has broken us and built us, but will it completely destroy us in the end? Beauty hides under the bright lights of the ballet, amidst the lure of Russia's most beautiful city. 

Feb 22, 2018

Informazioni sull'autore

Rebekah Dodson is a prolific word weaver of romance, fantasy, and science fiction novels. Her works include the series Postcards from Paris, The Surrogate, The Curse of Lanval series, several standalone novels, and her upcoming YA novel, Clock City. She has been writing her whole life, with her first published work of historical fiction with 4H Clubs of America at the age of 12, and poetry at the age of 16 with the National Poetry Society. With an extensive academic background including education, history, psychology and English, she currently works as a college professor by day and a writer by night. She resides in Southern Oregon with her husband, two teenagers, and three dogs.

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Anteprima del libro

Postcards from Moscow - Rebekah Dodson


Chapter 1: Firebird (Jaqui)

THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF the stage suffocated me as I waited behind the crimson curtain of right stage, maybe it was my costume that still didn’t fit the way I wanted it to. The skin-tight orange and white spandex clung to every inch of my curves, and the tulle skirt was so tight I could barely breathe. For once, I was glad for my lack of chest that fit perfectly into the suffocating corset. Adjusting my pointe shoes once more, I practiced my moves against the barre, our ballet balance beam, as I waited for the next scene. My chance to shine, and finally show the world that Jaquellyn Arnolt was more than just a millionaire’s daughter, a spoiled brat, and victim of unfortunate events, but a beautiful, talented, and amazing ballerina.

This was the most important scene of my career. Dancing in front of a crowd didn’t concern me, not with the last four years I’d spent at the Opera Nationale de Paris. What concerned me was the scene between Claude, who played Prince Ivan, and I. The big lift at the end hadn’t been executed properly in rehearsals, and I had begged our instructor, Elizabet DeBussey, to replace him with an understudy. She insisted Claude would be fine.

Whatever, I had argued, shaking my head, we will only disappoint the thousands viewing this production. Is my safety of no concern, Mistress Elizabet?

It is not your place to demand an understudy, Ms. Arnolt, she’d spit back. Claude will be fine.

I’d heard the whispers at Opera the last few years: I was difficult and headstrong. I didn’t care. Ballet was an art, and as a result, should be executed with precision, not with a bumbling oaf of a second-year who couldn’t even do a lift correctly.

It was unfortunate that that bumbling oaf also happened to be my boyfriend. I hadn’t meant for it to happen, and I didn’t even like him all that much. There was just something to be said for how much we had to touch each other during routines, and the fact our twelve-hour days were spent together almost every day of the week. I smoothed the tight bun at the nape of my neck as I absently thought about Claude’s knock on my dressing room door a few hours before...

DID ANYONE SEE YOU? I had watched Claude in the mirror as he slipped into the room, softly shutting the door behind him.

Non, he whispered, and crossed the room in two light steps. He moved in real life as he did on the stage: soft and confident, and owned any room he entered.

Zip me, will you? I turned my back to him.

Before I could stop him, he had twirled me around and pressed his lips to mine, pushing me back against the small table where I did my makeup. Fortunately, I hadn’t started yet, because it was about to become profusely obscured.

Before I could return the kiss, Claude grabbed my hands in one of his large hands and shoved them above me, pinning me to the table. He peeled the spandex suit from my shoulders and trailed rough kisses down my neck, biting into my shoulder.

I bit my tongue to suppress the moan that was trying escape.

He murmured something I couldn’t hear, biting into me harder. As a dancer, he was strong; his upper body was ripped with muscles that rivaled those in his agile legs. We didn’t have time for this; I wanted to protest, but my body betrayed me, melting under his touch. He knew I liked it rough, despite my protests.

Ms. Arnolt? Jaquellyn? a voice interrupted from the other side of the door. It was Gerard, our stage hand. One hour to show time!

I’ll, uh, I’ll be ready! I called.

Claude sunk his teeth into my breast, and I clamped down on my tongue to resist screaming.

Everything okay in there, Ms. Arnolt?

Yes, yes, it’s fine! I barely managed. To Claude I whispered, don’t leave a mark where it will show, you idiot!

He glared up at me, his intense dark eyes sending me a warning not to interrupt him. Make the fool go away, he growled.

Before I could even my voice to speak again, Gerard spoke from the other side of the door, I’ll be back une thirty minutes, mademoiselle!

Oui! I cried, hoping my voice didn’t reveal what was actually going on. When I heard his footsteps retreat, I struggled in Claude’s grasp. We don’t have time for this. Later, mon Coeur.

He dropped my hands and instantly his long, thin fingers wrapped around my throat. It won’t take but five minutes, lover. His other hand pulled a wide ribbon from the top drawer of my dresser, and deftly wrapped it tight, binding my wrists together. We always used ribbons, they left no marks. He hooked the edge of the knot to the top of the mirror, holding me there. He peeled the spandex from my body and pulled my legs to the edge of the dresser, spreading them wide.

I moaned in pleasure as he tightened his grasp around my neck and euphoria filled my clouded vision. Fine, I managed. I hope you brought protection.

CLAUDE HADN’T BEEN wrong. He slipped out of my dressing room as quietly as he’d entered, leaving me almost the full hour to carefully apply the white makeup and orange bronzer to fit my costume. I struggled my sweaty body back into the spandex, pulled the tulle over my thin hips, and laced my bodice. Throwing my pointe shoes over my shoulder, I joined the team of other ballet artists backstage as if nothing had happened.

Now we were at the climax of Stravinsky’s masterpiece, and I hoped Claude would be able to do his job correctly.

Especially since I planned to break up with him during the after party. I needed it to be in a crowded place, because I wasn’t sure how he would take it. Badly, as he did most things. He was a sour, bitter man who never took no for an answer.

I shook my head. I was about to go on. I couldn’t focus on this right now.

I took a deep breath as the costumed demons rushed past me to join Claude and his team of dancers. The finale involved fifty different dancers, the most complicated part of this ballet. Stravinsky’s composition swirled from the speakers, picking up speed, as I made my entrance. I barely gave any notice to the four balconies of the audience, except for my mother, Rochelle Baker, and her new writer husband, Elijah Baker, who as always, were in the front row. A brief nod to them both, and I was focused on the stage under my feet.

I danced like the wind, my arms moving fluidly to imitate flight, as I wove around the dancers, expertly poised on pointe. Claude danced towards me and grabbed my waist as we turned and twisted. The other dancers finished their routine. Holding my forced smile and Claude’s eye contact as we had been trained, I watched as he danced away from me. My relevé was poised and balanced as I danced towards him.

In a careful plie, I spun, balancing on my right leg, and began the run into the lift. Claude’s arms wrapped snuggly around my waist and hoisted me, but his grip was weak. I kept smiling, and waved my arms through the move.

His hand started to tremble, and I knew he was going to drop me as he nearly did during dress rehearsal.

I hit the floor hard, my head cracking and bouncing hard on the wood stage. Dizzy, but not losing consciousness, my right ankle bent painfully behind me. I screamed as pain shot through my leg, especially when something warm ran through my eye, obscuring my vision.

The crowd was on their feet suddenly, gasping and shouting. In the midst of the crowd of dancers, the falling curtain, and the rush of a paramedics the Opera always kept on standby during events, I watched Claude stride off the dance floor, without another word.

I DIDN’T CRY WHEN THE doctor set my broken ankle. I gripped the sheet of the emergency room bed and gritted my teeth, but I would never cry. He’d given me the brutal diagnoses, and I kept shaking my head. No, he was wrong, I told myself. It wasn’t a fracture. Couldn’t be.

It was hard to understand his thick Russian accent anyway. He spoke halting French with English mixed in, and the nurse ended up translating most of what he said.

Such a shame, the nurse said a few minutes later, as she swooped the needle through my forehead, stitching the wound above my eye. I hear the show was absolutely beautiful.

Accidents happen on the stage all the time, the doctor muttered softly as he wrapped my ankle. Ballet is very dangerous.

Every touch was agonizing. Hurry up, would you? I screamed at him.


My mother pulled the curtain back and rushed to my side. A bigger woman, still in her black evening gown and fur on her shoulders, stood next to me. She wasn’t the affectionate sort, but she reached out and touched my arm. Are you okay?

Just a few stiches and an ankle to set, and she’ll be fine, the nurse told her.

Mind if I intrude? My step-father, Elijah, poked his head through the curtain.

Who is this? the doctor asked, looking rather annoyed.

Her father, Elijah said before I could answer.

Not my father, I seethed, but I don’t care.  I was in too much pain to worry about who was standing in the crowded bay.

Elijah frowned at me over his silver-rimmed glasses and wrapped an arm around my mother’s wide waist. We were so worried about you, he said, his frown twisting into a look of concern. Are you sure she’s okay? he asked the nurse.

The nurse had finished stitching my eye and was busy helping the doctor set the splint. I winced again as they held it straight. I glared at them. I’d heard of accidents like this ending careers.

My mother asked the question before I could: How long will it take to heal, Monsieur? She translated for my stepfather, who still basically spoke none of our language, despite having lived in France for the last four years.

The doctor finished the last wrap and was signing my chart, but in his heavily accented English informed us, Six weeks for fracture to heal, maybe eight. He looked at me. It was those shoes, mademoiselle, that did you in. The tip hooked under your knee and fractured four of your tarsal bones.

No, no, this can’t be, I muttered. I felt the flush of anger running through my veins. How long before I can dance again?

Without hesitation, the doctor looked at me. Three months.

You are wrong! I spat at him. Katerina sprained her ankle and it took three weeks before she could go on pointe again.

Yes, I understand, the doctor shifted, uncomfortable. But this is a serious fracture, Mademoiselle Arnolt. You must give it time to heal.

How do you know anything about dance? You’re just a doctor, I spat bitterly, crossing my arms.

The Russian doctor smiled at me then, handed the nurse the chart in his hand, and spun into a perfectly executed sauté leap, ending in fourth position with his feet angled perpendicular, the hardest of them all, despite his worn tennis shoes.

In the clearest English I’d heard this entire time he said: "Now you believe me, mademoiselle, when I say you must give it time to heal."

I blinked at him. My step father spoke first. That was quite a feat, Doctor.

He just nodded. Six years in the Russian ballet will teach you a few things.

"Why would anyone give that up to be a doctor?" I mused sarcastically.

He waved it away. It doesn’t pay the bills, sadly. And such, how you say, drama, drama, drama, with those dancers!

I grunted. The drama didn’t concern me, thought I was isolate anyway due to my family history. Besides, this doctor might have been a dancer, but he clearly didn’t understand it was the passion of the arts that motivated me—not the money. Not that I cared too much, my real father’s estate was worth so much I’d never have to worry about poor people things, like paying bills and such.

Mother’s hand landed heavy on my shoulder. We will make sure she gets some rest. Thank you, Doctor.

The doctor nodded curtly. "Nurse Gianne will be back with your discharge papers un minute." I watched them both disappear behind the curtain.

It looks like you’ll be moving back to the mansion, Elijah said as soon as they left.

I shook my head. The dormitory has been my home for four years. I won’t have it.

Ah, ah, ah, my mother scolded, her favorite phrase when she was frustrated, especially at my little sisters, Izzy and Darci. She never said it to Renee, my brother, but then he always got special treatment. Especially since my older sister, Elise, had run off with her American husband a few years ago.

You wouldn’t make Renee move back home. I glared at her.

Renee still lives at home, until he is ready for college, Elijah pushed his glasses up his nose. I know you’re twenty now, Jaqui, but we’re still your parents.

"Wrong. She is, I nodded to my mother, but you don’t control me."

Why are you so petulant all the time? Elijah exploded. You know since your father died I’ve always taken care of you.

His money took care of me! I argued, ignoring the tears in my mother’s eyes. She was so weak and cried all the time these days, so I just ignored it. And Father would still be here if it wasn’t for Renee. It’s all his fault.

Enough! Mother finally shouted. I’ve had it up to here with you and Elijah arguing. He’s my husband now, and your father is gone, Jaquellyn. That fire wasn’t anyone’s fault. You’re coming home with us, and that’s final. I’ll make arrangements with Mistress DeBussey tomorrow morning, and Elijah can go get your things from the dormitory. She walked to the curtain and motioned for her husband to follow her.

He won’t touch my things! I called after them. I’ll have Claude retrieve them.

We will be back to fetch you after you get those papers, my mother answered, her eyes dry and her revolve flashing in her eyes. That’s just how it is, Jaqui.

I wanted to call another retort, to hurt her the way she always hurt me, but my anger fizzled as quickly as it had come. I hated my temper, hated what I had said about Elijah. I knew he loved my mother. She was miserable with my father, and in the last four years we had all watched her blossom into a different person. She was happy and singing again, like she did when I was young.

But I still knew I’d never forgive her for moving on so soon after my father. It’s like she didn’t even mourn him, or care the five of us had lost our parent. I would never understand my mother’s choices.

Then another thought hit me like a slap in the face—three months without the stage, the applause of the crowd, the roses thrown at my feet? It was my drug, and I needed it. What in the world would I do without ballet?

Chapter 2: Nice Man (Vasily)

LOOK AT HIM OVER THERE, silly man, writing in his diary.

What are you doing, Vasily? Crying like a woman and writing it down?

Leave Vasily alone. If he wants to record his poetry, that is his problem.

I shook my head as I listened to the other dancers taunt me from across the locker room. They teased me frequently, and usually, I just ignored it. I figured they didn’t mean it. They laughed and jeered at me as they finished dressing and left the room. I turned back to my locker and the stack of mail I’d left there in my rush to prepare for practice. The top letter was stamped with the Opera Nationale seal. My heart jumped as I opened it, wondering if they had received my application to attend.

Instead, a letter stamped alumni dropped into my hand, followed by a small postcard. Disappointed, I turned the letter over to see not an acceptance or denial, but an invitation to correspond with injured dancers, straight from Paris, the Opera Nationale itself. I struggled through the badly translated Russian Cyrillic:

Mr. Petrov:

As you may know, the world of ballet and opera faces many accidents out of the artist’s control. For this reason, Opera Nationale Alumni would like to invite you to collaborate with other artists from around the world to connect with the injured, to give them hope in their time of need. If you could be interested in corresponding with any of our team, we have included a list of names in need of comfort. You may mail or email at your earliest convenience.


Opera Nationale Alumni

I pulled the sheet out of the envelope and glanced over the names. Their names and ages were posted, as well as physical addresses and emails. Most of them were men in their 30’s, a few even 40, which was old for this profession. None of the names looked Russian, and my English wasn’t the best. At the very bottom, I read: Jaquellyn Arnolt. What kind of name was that? It sounded exotic. Spanish, maybe? Or French? I could manage a letter written in French. I’d been the top of my class for three years in French as a second language—and the other danseurs would never let me forget my love of the womanly language. True, I had been the only man in the class, but it had opened the door to a better understanding of the arts, ballet especially.

I shrugged to the empty dressing room. Maybe I could give it a chance, My shoulder drooped, though. I had really counted on that acceptance letter; it had been three months. Why couldn’t they just deny me and get it over with? I wasn’t nearly as good as the dancers accepted there, and I knew it. I really just wanted out of Moscow. I hated this town, this country.


I looked up to see Igor Manschevitz, my best friend from ballet class. He was by far the worst dancer in our troupe, but as he had told me the first day we met, it beat having to play another sport. Given that Igor was 6’2 and 130lbs, sports were certainly his downfall. His dark Eastern European and Jewish looks gave him access to women galore, but he certainly wasn’t built for football.

Igor was, however, a certifiable genius. He won a full scholarship to the ballet school in Moscow, not just for ballet, but to also study foreign languages and linguistics. He was fluent in Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, German, French, and English. He also spoke a smattering of Arabic and conversational Greek, thanks to his long-time girlfriend, Amira.

I tried not to think about their relationship: a Jew and a Muslim. I wasn’t sure how that worked, but it was none of my business. 

He slapped me on the back and ran his other hand over his close-trimmed beard. Are you ready for that drink, comrade?

Comrade? I shook my head. Who says that anymore?

He lifted and eyebrow. Russians?

You’re not really Russian, Igor, your father just works here.

I realize such, but when in Rome, you do as the Russians do.

Is that a racist joke? I laughed.

It could be, he smiled. Hey, what’s that?

This? I looked at the letter in my hand. It’s nothing. An invite to write injured dancers or something. I’ll look it over later.

Come, Mira is waiting outside.

I stood and grabbed my coat from inside my locker, tucking the letter in the inside pocket. Let’s go.

THE privnaya, local tavern, was an easy three blocks from the dorms. Mira met us outside, and her and Igor linked arms immediately. I smiled, hoping they wouldn’t see my sadness. I was always the outsider around them, though Mira did her best to include me. I enjoyed spending time with them, but women and I did not see eye to eye. They wanted the typical Russian male – aggressive, dominate, and an asshole. I was none of those.

Two vodkas and a water, please! Igor ordered immediately as the three of us slid into seats at the bar. I shrugged out of my coat and hung it on the back of the seat. It wasn’t crowded yet, but as the night wore on, it would be. As usual, the heat was cranked in here to ward off the icy fingertips of winter that crept around every corner, even this early in October.

Mira was busy adjusting her hijab, crimson red in color with tiny embroidered flowers this time, which she only wore when we went out. Igor and I had joked once she was one of the worst Muslims we had ever met. Mira had punched Igor and swore at him in Arabic, proving our point.

Why do you even wear that thing anymore? Igor threw back his first vodka.

I sipped mine, as always, turning to watch them engage.

Why do you where the little circle hat on Saturdays? Mira shot back, shoving her curly black hair back under the hijab.

"It’s called a yamake, Mira, I’ve told you a thousand times. And my bubbeh made it back in Bucharest."

Yet, you drink coffee every morning, and eat fish with me on Fridays.

You also drink coffee with me, and I hate you tell you this, but you’re not going to make it into the seventy-two virgins.

Shut up! She yelled at him, smiling, and punched him in the arm.

I sipped my shot. You two are good entertainment.

Mira looked around Igor. What does that mean?

You fight like old women. I finished my first shot and ordered another.

Like you would know what old women fight about, Igor turned to me.

True. I downed the next shot quickly, wincing as it burned. I didn’t feel like talking about my parents, God rest their souls, about now. Go ahead, Igor, remind me I’m an orphan.

Mira sipped her water. She reached around Igor and pinched my cheek. Cutest orphan ever.

I playfully slapped her hand away. She returned to her water, still staring at me.

Ut oh. Igor looked at her. I know that face. You are plotting.

We need to find Vasily a woman, she said, narrowing her eyes as she turned to view the room. Something ... hmm ... the blond didn’t work out last time, so ...

I resisted the urge to shudder. The blond she was referring to, my girlfriend of sorts last spring, was Annika. Annika loved long walks in the park, dogs, and being spanked with a flogger while dressed in black leather. Surprisingly, Annika and I only lasted the month.

What about her? Mira side nodded to a woman drinking alone at a far table. I followed her motion to see a woman, early thirties, light brown hair in a messy bun, dressed in a sharp business suit, cradling an orange drink.

Too tourist, I said.

Or lawyer, Igor added.

Or a dirty secretary, Mira winked.

I just sighed. She was incorrigible. As we watched, she was joined by a large blond man in a suit, who took her hand as soon as he sat down.

Well, there goes that, Igor sighed. He threw back another shot and ordered a whiskey.

Her? Mira

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