Olie perched on the arm of the couch, balanced precariously with one leg hanging off the side. It seemed the safest vantage point for watching the scene before him. Melonie’s gleeful shrieks and giggles filled the apartment as she spun about the room, a letter in her hand.
“Can you believe it, Olie?” Melonie asked, turning to him breathlessly. She flicked her hair back, holding out the letter to read it aloud once more. “Miss Thatcher, we are pleased to invite you to this year’s spring auditions for the East Atlantic Ballet studio. They will be held May 16th at 3p.m. Isn’t it incredible?”
Olie’s wagging tail beat upon the couch pillow, and he stretched his trunk in excitement, almost falling forward in the process. He scrambled backwards to regain his balance.
After an excited jump and two more pirouettes, his human disappeared into the bedroom, listing off plans to herself all the way. It was late Saturday morning, and Olie was glad to be back from the ballet studio. The weekend class had run later than normal. Now, the whole living room was bathed in warm sunlight, a nice circle of it landing on the couch where Olie currently sat. Unopened mail rested on the carpet where Melonie had dropped when she discovered her acceptance letter in the stack. Olie considered picking up the envelopes but decided a nap was more productive.
He had barely settled his head when Melonie burst back into the room.
“Let’s go, Olie!” Her voice surprised him, and the elephant jolted, tumbling off the couch and onto the floor. “I’ve got to get to the studio and practice. Rachel’s going to be ecstatic when she hears.”
Eyes blinking, Olie pulled himself up, turned invisible, and trailed out the door after Melonie.
A sweet-scented breeze ruffled Olie’s ears as they stepped outside. Along the sidewalk, trees stood tall and full and were such a vibrant green that even in his hazy vision, Olie could tell how bright they were. White clouds floated above the building tops, and pigeons cooed as the two passed by. The clumsy held his head high as he trotted alongside Melonie, listening to her chat with Rachel over the phone.
When they reached the studio, Olie was distracted by a dog on the street and rushed over to say hello. The dog sniffed the ground as the clumsy bounced his skull against the canine’s. With a shake of its head, the lab pulled back, glancing about in confusion. Olie returned to Melonie just in time to bump his way through the door.
Inside, the high ceilings caught the heat from the windows, leaving the floor cool beneath Olie’s feet. Dust floated in the streams of sunlight which crisscrossed the room. Realizing that he and Melonie were the only ones in the building, Olie turned visible with a shake of his head.
He frolicked about the empty studio while Melonie changed. After circling the whole room twice, the elephant skidded to a stop and plunked over to the chairs.
A ladybug on the ground had caught his attention.
Ears flapping, Olie followed the bug as it crawled along the wood. Suddenly, the shiny red wings opened, and the ladybug took flight. It knocked into Olie’s forehead and buzzed off in the other direction. The elephant tumbled after it. Watching his airborne friend, he tripped on his own feet, hopped up, and continued chasing after the bug.
He was so busy that he hardly noticed when music began drifting from the record player. It wasn’t until the ladybug made her way to the wooden rafters that he gave up his quest. The elephant thudded to the floor and realized that Melonie had begun today’s practice without him. Her seemingly effortless motions were reflected in the mirrors as she made her way across the room on her tip-toes.
Olie rushed to join the dance. He trailed behind Melonie with his trunk in the air. When she began to spin, Olie plodded in his wobbly circle. His foot slipped, and he teetered sideways, knocking into Melonie’s back. She stumbled and turned around.
“Oh no, honey. You can’t dance with me today,” she said. “How about you go sit over there for a bit?”
He looked over to the seats, and Melonie patted his head, nudging him gently toward the side of the room. Casting his gaze over his shoulder, the clumsy moved to the edge of the dance floor, lying down with a gentle thump. His head tilted, and he watched Melonie dance as the hours passed. Slowly, the sunlight moved across the room, until Olie was left sitting in the shadows.
* * *
The weeks leading up to the audition were very stressful for poor Olie. Melonie needed constant attention. She forgot about food unless he left bowls at her feet or cereal boxes on her bed. The apartment was in constant chaos: DVDs all over the living room table, the couch askew to make more space for practice, and clothes scattered across furniture from Melonie’s search for the perfect outfit. Olie had his work cut out for him trying to make sure Melonie didn’t forget her phone or keys. Once, he even courageously helped put out a fire when his spilled water-dish soaked an outlet and set it sparking.
Melonie must have noticed how much work he was doing because on several occasions when she went to practice, she told him to stay home and rest. He didn’t particularly like letting his human face the city streets alone, but he did as she asked. Though he hated missing her practices, he knew he would be there to support her at the audition, and that was enough.
Finally, the day arrived.
Olie could tell because Melonie changed four times only to come out of the bedroom wearing the first outfit she had put on. When pouring their cereal for breakfast, she tried to add milk to hers but used orange juice instead. Olie was forced to knock the spoon out of her hand when she began eating without noticing the mistake.
“This is it, hon,” she said, leaning over to pat his head as she returned to the table, her cereal mistake corrected. “The big day. You think I’m ready?”
Olie nudged her chin with his trunk, throwing his head in the air. She let out a laugh and hugged his neck.
“I hope you’re right.” Her smile grew, and she stood abruptly, picking up her bowl. “I can’t eat this; I’m too nervous. I’m grabbing a banana, do you want one?”
Olie wagged his tail. He loved bananas.
As he hopped out of his chair, he was startled by a low rumble. Rain began pounding against the little kitchen window which revealed dark clouds.
“Don’t be startled, honey,” Melonie said. She held out his treat, already half-peeled for him, and Olie took it quickly, the threatening thunder forgotten.
By noon, the storm had softened slightly, though the wind had picked up. When it came time to leave, Melonie donned her windbreaker and called a cab.
“We’re not walking in this mess,” she told Olie, and he was greatly relieved by her decision.
The pair waited in the lobby until the taxi arrived. When they saw it, they hurried into the rain. Olie tried to stay close to avoid being trapped indoors, but he knocked into Melonie’s purse. The small, white slip of paper she had received on her last shopping trip fell out of a side pocket. Quickly, Olie twirled back around, scanning the ground for the paper. The slip was floating down a stream of water rushing against the curb. The clumsy dove forward, snatching it up before it fell down the drain. Just as he turned around, the cab door shut, and the car began to pull away from the curb. Panicked, Olie chased after the taxi, galloping through the rain.
He wasn’t sure what to do when he caught it, but the clumsy knew he had to get to the audition. The cab sped up, red taillights reflecting against the pavement. Windshield wipers clacked, water sloshed, and cars honked as the clumsy hurried into the street.
The taxi wove through the bright headlights and dark vehicles, pausing at a stoplight. Olie dashed through halted tires and almost ran into a motorcycle. He made it to the taxi just as it pulled away again. A horn blared behind the elephant. The clumsy jumped onto the sidewalk moments before the vehicle plunged across the intersection.
Reeling from the near hit, Olie realized he’d lost track of his cab.
He shook his head and looked around for familiar landmarks. Restaurant signs glowed brightly, and he noticed the one for his and Melonie’s favorite bakery. The elephant clumped toward it, collecting his thoughts. Looking both ways down the street, he remembered earlier that week when he and Melonie had walked to the theatre. Melonie had wanted to be sure she knew the right address.
Recognizing the route they’d taken, he galloped off, determined to reach the theatre before Melonie performed. He turned the corner and stumbled his way through the crowds. He almost tripped over someone’s coat and gently caught the staggering man’s arm to keep him from falling. Olie wove his way around rushing feet, his whiskers twitching in the wet, his tail heavy with rain.
Every now and again, he turned and found himself in a dark alley or at a closed gate and back-pedaled until he was on track once more. He tripped over his own trunk several times, his face landing in puddles. With a quick shake, he would hurry to his feet and run onward. The clumsy was short of breath when he paused at a red light, traffic zipping across his path.
That’s when he saw the theatre sign.
He was so excited to spot his destination that he stepped into the street.
Car tires screeched by, barely missing him and showering him with a wave of muddy water. Startled, Olie ran forward, another car zooming behind him. He was surrounded, halting to avoid a blue sedan, then sliding forward on the wet asphalt. Bobbing and weaving, he dodged his way through the traffic, skidding between vehicles until he tumbled to the sidewalk and raced on.
The theatre was before him, its glowing white sign reflecting off the glass walls. The doors were wide open, and people trailed in and out with umbrellas held high.
Olie slowed to a trot as he entered the building and shook off the rain when he got inside. The floor was sleek and white and round lights hung from the ceiling. A familiar song was coming from the room before him. The clumsy sauntered in, tail swinging. Sure enough, Melonie was on stage.
Not missing a beat, Olie hurried up the aisle and found his way to the side steps of the wooden stage. Five people sat at a table in front, watching Melonie’s every motion. With a surge of pride, Olie noted that they were smiling.
After clambering his way up the stairs, the clumsy plopped himself on the side of the stage to watch Melonie dance. She had changed her routine since he last saw it. Now, her dance incorporated more spins, more jumps, and more sweeps of her hands, which seemed to invite the audience to join her in her movement. A bright smile spread across her face, a smile which seemed to grow with every turn. She tip-toed her way across the stage, and Olie noticed a concerned glance cross her face for just a moment. As her eyes flicked searchingly to the side, he jumped to his feet.
She had noticed him missing.
Olie turned in a circle, trying to decide what to do. He couldn’t let her worry any longer than necessary.
The music rose and fell, the song swiftly nearing conclusion. Olie moved forward, watching the ballerina. As the song closed, Melonie ended with three swift pirouettes in succession, followed by a graceful bow, her arms stretched out and her head down. Applause rose from the audience. Melonie stood just as Olie reached her. She stepped forward, near the edge of the stage, to bow once more to the judges and thank them for the opportunity. Seeing her finish, Olie decided to reassure her of his safety.
With a nudge against her leg, he knocked her off balance as she started to bow. She slipped on a small puddle his wagging tail had created. Olie tried to catch her, but he missed, sending Melonie tumbling off the stage in a crumpled heap to the sounds of gasps and shouts. People rushed forward, and Olie jumped to the edge of the stage. He peered over and saw Melonie leaning forward to grab her ankle. She let out a shout of pain as she did. Olie shook his head and backed up, his tail down.
“Are you alright?”
“Somebody grab ice.”
Voices clamored over each other as Olie dashed off the stage and down the steps. Pushing through the crowd, he made his way to Melonie. Carefully, Olie reached out his trunk and rested it on her ankle to let her know he was near. She gasped and batted his trunk away.
“Not now, not now,” she winced through clenched teeth.
Olie jerked back, ears drooping. Someone moved into the space in front of him, blocking his view of Melonie. Ice was brought, and several people crowded around. They moved her quickly to one of the benches in the lobby. Olie paced through the puddles on the marble floor while a woman knelt beside Melonie, asking her questions as tears rolled down Melonie’s face.
The kneeling stranger looked up at the man with her and said something Olie couldn’t hear. A moment later, the man picked Melonie up. Olie panicked and rushed over but slipped on the wet floors. The woman held open the door as the man carried Melonie out.
Sprawled on the ground, the clumsy lost sight of the couple kidnapping Melonie. By the time Olie scrambled to his feet and dashed outside, his ballerina was being placed into a red, boxy vehicle. Before he could even attempt to jump in, the door slammed shut, and the vehicle pulled away. Olie chased after it, racing through the rain once more.