The clumsy lay on his human’s bed, just beyond Melonie’s feet, watching as she tapped away on her laptop. He had returned to the in-between space so he wouldn’t distract her from her work. Glancing about, the elephant squinted at the dimness of everything. He’d never realized how blurry his invisible world was before he left it during the day. Soft corners had always seemed so normal in the shadows of night when he appeared to rummage for food. Now they just looked smeared. The clumsy bent his head.
Melonie seemed tired. Her arms stretched, accompanied by a sigh, but she began humming as she returned to her typing. The clumsy perked his ears. It was a lullaby, the one her mom used to sing in the nursery. With a wag of his tail, the elephant flopped onto his side, closing his eyes as he listened. He liked Melonie’s voice even better than her mom’s, although he had liked her mom’s a lot. Memories filled his head, images of a baby growing into a toddler; of unsteady feet stretching into ballet slippers. Tucking the end of his trunk in his mouth, the clumsy lazily thought back to simpler days, when Melonie could hardly walk without him there to catch her.
A rustle of movement shook him abruptly from his daydreams. Melonie was leaving the bed and heading to the kitchen. The clumsy jumped up, tumbling off the comforter and scrambling to his feet. He trotted after her with his trunk held high.
“Here, Olie, Olie.” Her voice traveled through the hall, accompanied by clicks of her tongue. Olie slid onto the kitchen floor after her.
Pouring cheerios into a bowl, Melonie called, “Breakfast time!”
Olie hesitated near the wall. The open space was just so bright. He felt safer in the muted hues of the in-between world.
Melonie was placing the bowl on the floor. “Olie.”
His ears raised. Carefully, he moved under the kitchen table and made himself visible. Peeking out from beneath the wood, he blinked, eyes adjusting.
“There you are.” Melonie smiled as she spotted him, and he bounced out, fears forgotten, nudging her palm with his trunk. She laughed and patted his head. In a moment, they were both seated on the floor, each munching their cereal.
“Well, Olie, I finished my application this morning.”
The elephant paused his eating long enough to cock his head in question.
“If all goes well, in four weeks, I’ll be auditioning to be a member of a big ballet troupe. I bet you didn’t know I danced, did you?”
He flapped his ears in response and was rewarded with a grin. Her story continued as he ate, but the clumsy wasn’t really listening anymore.
Olie. He rather liked having a name.
* * *
The next day, Olie sat by a wall, watching as Melonie frantically yanked clothes out of the drawer, stuffed the rejected articles back in, and carried the chosen clothing with her to the bathroom. He stood and followed but backed into the corner when Melonie came bustling out, still adjusting her belt as she hurried to the kitchen.
The clumsy looked around the room and noticed Melonie’s phone still on the nightstand. Brightening, Olie trotted over, carefully lifting the device with his trunk and lumbering over to Melonie’s purse. With a sense of triumph, he dropped the phone in and bounded off to the kitchen. He reached his destination just as his human was leaving it. Olie bumped into Melonie, causing her to jab her toe into the leg of the side table.
“Aaa.” Melonie bit her lip. Releasing a breath with a wince, she mumbled, “Oww. Oh, ow.” She clutched the offending foot. Olie followed as Melonie hopped into the bedroom, heading straight to the nightstand.
Her head turned side to side, searching for something that wasn’t there. “Really?” Her voice sounded strained.
Olie pinched his eyes shut. The phone.
As Melonie went to the bathroom to continue her search, Olie quickly retrieved the phone from the bag and returned it to the nightstand.
His ears flapped excitedly when Melonie came back in. Only, she waltzed right past the cellphone and straight into the hall.
“Did I leave it in the kitchen?”
Olie’s head drooped.
He grabbed the cellphone, rushing to place it on the counter, but did so just as Melonie moved on to the living room. The elephant couldn’t believe it. She was going back to the bedroom. With a huff, Olie grabbed the phone one last time, almost dropping it as he pulled it off the counter, and he ran, pushing past Melonie. He deposited his cargo on the side of the bed nearest the table just as she came in.
“Ah hah!” She spotted the cell and grabbed it. “I knew it was around here somewhere!” With a sigh of relief, Melonie dumped the phone in her purse and headed out the door.
She fumbled with the knob, then stopped, rushing back in. “Almost forgot.” Melonie yanked cereal out of the cupboard, dumped some in a bowl and stuck it on the floor. “Sorry, Olie! I’ll see you later!” she called down the hall.
He glanced at the cheerios and shook his head, following her out. If she wasn’t eating breakfast, he surely wouldn’t. As they hurried to the studio, Olie flapped his ears and proudly raised his trunk in the air. What would Melonie do without his help?
* * *
It was a Thursday, a little over a week after he was first caught, that Olie almost, accidentally, revealed himself in public. They were at the studio, and Melonie was heading to the locker room. She had paused to talk with one of the parents who had brought her child early, and Olie noticed the mother give Melonie . . . something. The child was jumping excitedly, rattling off the explanation of what it was far too fast for Olie to catch.
His curiosity got the better of him. He stretched his trunk, knocking Melonie’s hand in an attempt to see the object she was holding. She nearly dropped the precious item, yet Olie still couldn’t tell what it was. As Melonie walked to the locker room, the clumsy clomped after her, focused on the gift. He was so intent on the object, that as they entered the other room he stumbled and tumbled out of hiding. Melonie gasped, and in a blink, Olie caught himself, pulling back into the shadows. His head swiveled side to side to make sure no one else had seen.
No one had.
“Olie?” Melonie whispered, still shocked. He didn’t reappear, he couldn’t, and she didn’t have time to wait. She changed into her black leotard and tights and went off to her class, leaving the present on the bench. His almost-disaster forgotten, he clambered over to the seat to study the gift.
It was a music box, with a ballerina perched on top which resembled Melonie with her slim frame and brown hair. Olie wagged his tail, fiddling the gift with his trunk. After the shiny silver key turned on the side, the box suddenly chimed. The elephant jerked backwards in surprise, calming when a tinkling song filled the room. One of his ears raised into the air as the clumsy moved closer once more, watching the figure on top spin.
As the bell-like tune died out, music started playing in the other room. Olie left the little box on the bench. He hurried out and found a spot near the wall, settling in to watch his human dance. Late afternoon light poured through the windows, shining on the hair of the young dancers. Olie’s eyes were fixed on the swift steps which bounced in time with the rise and fall of the music notes.
About halfway through practice, one girl fell, and Olie jumped to his feet, ready to rush to her rescue. Melonie reached her before he took a step, so he plopped back down and kept watching.
After the class ended, Melonie talked for a few moments with Rachel. Olie liked the studio owner. She always smelled like cinnamon. He was a little surprised when Melonie helped with the next class and was shocked when she stayed even after. The room emptied, and soon the only ones in the building were Olie and Melonie.
As Melonie shut the door, locking it so no one would think the studio was still open, she looked around. “Olie? Are you still here?”
The clumsy moved to the corner of the room. “It’s okay, honey. There isn’t anyone around.”
He shifted his weight, ears tucked in, and entered the visible world.
It took Melonie a moment to spot him, and she grinned when she did.
“What are you doing here, hon? Didn’t want to hang out in the apartment anymore?”
Olie moved closer, and Melonie turned on some music. “I just need to practice for a while, and then we’ll go home and eat,” she said. Her eyes watched him in the mirror as she began, and he sat a little closer to her than he normally would. His whiskers twitched, and she giggled.
Turning her attention back to her practice, Melonie lifted her arms into the air, balancing on the tips of her feet. Bending toward the ground a moment, she raised back up with a jump, turning quickly and leaning back. When she leapt across the room and set herself twirling, Olie couldn’t help but stand to his feet in excitement.
Melonie saw him as she slowed and laughed, swooping toward him. She paused her routine, petting the elephant’s head. “You liked that, huh?”
Olie butted his head against her hands, his trunk nudging her chin. Melonie chuckled and held his trunk, leading him to the center of the room. She held her hand above his head, and his eyes followed.
“Would you like to dance too, Olie?” He squinted and flapped his ears.
She circled around him, and he followed, turning awkwardly. When she twirled to the other side of the room, he trailed behind her, rocking side to side in a hurried gallop. When she raised her arms, he lifted his trunk and tried to stand on his hind legs, holding his stance only a second before toppling forward. Melonie laughed.
For the next hour they went on this way, Melonie teaching Olie to dance.
* * *
Over the course of the next two weeks, Olie became visible more and more often. His old habit of eating at night when Melonie slept was forgotten as he joined her for breakfast and dinner. Lunch, he skipped, choosing to nap at her feet instead.
As the days passed, the two became more accustomed to each other, and Olie realized that Melonie was starting to notice his presence even when he was invisible. He wasn’t sure when she first recognized his hidden self at her side, but he could remember the day he discovered she knew.
It was a Wednesday, which meant a cooking day, not leftovers. Melonie was mixing food in a bowl, but Olie didn’t know what was in it. He planted himself at her feet, hoping she would drop something. She bumped into him, almost tripping when she reached for the spices, and Olie revealed himself, reaching out his trunk to steady her. He went back into the in-between space, intending to sneak a glance at the contents of the dish.
As Melonie mixed, Olie stood up, leaning his front legs on the counter so he could peer over it. But the strangest thing happened. When he reached his trunk to nudge Melonie’s arm, causing her to tip the bowl, her reprimand came swiftly.
“Now, Olie, stop that and let me cook,” she said, laughter in her voice. Olie pulled back, plunking his front feet on to the floor with eyes wide. He stood and looked around, and, seeing the watery filter still in place, he knew he was still invisible.
The elephant plopped to the tile with a huff, legs sprawled before him and trunk scrunched up in a pout. He wasn’t sure being noticed was all that great if it meant he couldn’t sneak snacks anymore.
Later that week, the pair were nestled on the couch for their movie night. The film was frightening, with lots of yelling and fighting and pirates. Olie remained invisible so the images on the screen weren’t so sharp. As he reached into the popcorn dish, his trunk bumped Melonie’s hand. She patted it gently, then waved her hand through the air to find his head. He stretched his neck closer as she patted him uncertainly. Olie’s whiskers twitched in contentment. Maybe he did like being noticed, after all.
* * *