by Fiona Wilkes
I did not ask to be a dancer.
I cried when they nailed my slippers to the floor and pinned my arms above my head. Every four seconds the mirror taunted me, my mouth rounded like a rose, ready to sing my melody.
I was a gift for an ungrateful niece, who opened me only when her fawning friends visited. “My aunt sent me this from Paris.” She crowed and they would respond as if I were a fireworks show. She twisted my golden key much too tight and with a jolt, I would turn for them. My song was always repetitive, although even I must admit it is pretty.
She handed me down to her daughter, who put me in a drawer and forgot I was there. I was grateful for the reprieve, although I was haunted by my song, even in the darkness, even as I lay folded down, cramping, always ready to spring up into an elegant pirouette.
When the daughter died, her granddaughter uncovered me. She was gentle when she pried open my ancient roof, oiling my key before she dared turn it. She showed me to her husband, “Look at her. She must be a hundred years old.”
I’d like to tell her I am older than that, but a lady never reveals her age; especially when her mouth is painted on and her voice is carved into an ancient record.
“Does it still work?” Her husband asked, peering at my chipped paint. “Turn the key.”
She did as he asked and, with just a moment’s hesitation, I started to twirl. My peeling paint looked so sad in the tarnished mirror, but when I began to sing, I was as young as the day I was made.
FIONA WILKES is a current PhD Candidate at The University of Western Australia specialising in English & Literary Studies. A fierce feminist, her work focuses on the plights of women & queer folk of the past, present and future.