Swan Lake by Claire Polders

The night I met her she was wearing all white, as a ruse perhaps, for she was no angel. One look into her eyes and you knew: flammable, ambivalent, relentless.

She was shaped like an angel, though. A tall, lithe frame and pliant limbs. Hair that welcomed light. You could easily imagine wings sprouting from her shoulder blades, powerful wings that would lift her into the air.

She wanted to be a dancer, she said, so I figured she’d be lifted into the air often enough, wings or no wings. Classical ballet, she said, Swan Lake. Her words were born from a dream.

But that was before the steel grey car soared around the corner and jumped onto the sidewalk where we stood talking, light-headed, not willing to say goodbye. The bar had closed by then. It was a homeless night in late March.

They kept her in the hospital for nearly nine weeks. Whenever I visited, she found her charm in looking bored or attacked the wheels of her chair with a spoon, trying to bend the spokes. Together we made up stories about the pig who hadn’t stopped. How he would meet his end, squealing.

On the day she was released, I took her into my arms. I had trained for this. My arms were not wings, but they were strong and skilled. She was wearing all white again on my request. It was a whispering morning in early June.

I took her to the water’s edge and lifted her into the air. We waited and watched. On the quiet lake, the swans swam toward us, one by one, eager to meet my dancing love.

First published in Vestal Review

Claire Polders grew up in the Netherlands and currently roams through Europe. She’s the author of four novels and co-author of one novel for younger readers, A Whale in Paris (Atheneum/Simon&Schuster, 2018). Her short prose appears wherever it’s appreciated. She occasionally makes websites for authors and artists and is the web designer for NFFR. More: www.clairepolders.com.

1920s women sitting in a chair reading a book
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