Ms. Cicy’s Nightmare is a fictional work in progress set at a dance studio where I take classes. All the characters have real life counterparts (except perhaps me as the narrator. I’m not sure how real I am). I have everyone’s permission to use their names. Here’s hoping I end up with as many friends at the end of the project as I have now. If you’ve missed any of the story to date, you can find it here: Ms. Cicy’s Nightmare
Samm, a lithe woman of unknown years (unknown to me, that is) with wonderfully flawless dark skin, entered the dance studio. She was the type of woman who could randomly pull two or three unmatched items out of her closet and look as if she’d spent hours dressing herself for a Vogue photo shoot. That day she wore her purple practice skirt, which wrapped twice around her hips (mine barely wrapped once, if you must know), a maroon scarf tied into a turban-like affair, and a bluish-purple long-sleeved shirt with the tails tied at her waist. It wasn’t only her age Samm was quiet about, but her earlier years, too. Perhaps she had been a model at one time. Or maybe she had reason to be secretive — a woman with a sordid past.
Samm watched me take the photo of Jan in her death pose below the barre, then asked, “how are you going to get Jan into that exact position when she’s killed?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I admitted.
“Maybe she was trying to reach the barre so she could die dancing,” Samm said.
Jan gave a little laugh. “That’s too true to be funny.” Then, more seriously, she added, “Dying while dancing is how I’d like to go out. I just wouldn’t want to die on stage with all those people watching like a friend of mine did.”
“Dying to Dance would be a good name for the book,” I said. “Or maybe Sashaying with Death. Or Death en Croix.”
“Why does it have to be death.” Cicy said with a moue of distaste. Ms. Cicy is our teacher, a 77-year-old with the body of a woman half her age and the legs of a teenager. When she dances, you can almost see the years melt away, and she is young again.
“Maybe we could call it Ms. Cicy’s something,” I said
“Ms. Cicy’s Nightmare.” Cicy giggled, sounding about seventeen. “Maybe you don’t really kill Jan. Maybe I wake up and find that I dreamt the whole thing.”
“Great title,” I said, hoping the teacher wouldn’t notice I didn’t comment on her idea about Jan’s death being a dream. It’s a time honored ending, of course, but I thought if I were going to go through the trouble of killing Jan, it should be for real.
Glee lit Cicy’s beautiful dark eyes. “I could be the murderess. I have experience.”
I felt my jaw drop. Cicy had experience with murder? It seemed impossible that anyone who danced with such expressive moves — moves that spoke of life — could have a history of violence.
“It was a murder weekend,” Cicy explained. “I was the murderess, a princess from a foreign country. I even wore a tiara.”
I blew out a breath of relief, glad I didn’t have to alter my impression of the dance teacher, at least not yet. “But why would you want to murder Jan?”
Cicy exchanged glances with Jan, who had risen and was smoothing her skirt. “Maybe she stole my choreography.”
I understood the need to protect one’s work any way one could, yet in truth, Cicy routinely gave us her choreography. Every step she taught gifted us with her work.
Still, such an irrational theft, as minor as it might seem to the danceless, could be a killing offense, especially if Jan were to give Cicy’s work to a rival instructor. (I’ve lost track of how many dance classes Jan took. Three or four from Ms. Cicy, and at least a couple more from other teachers. In the dance world, such promiscuousness could be motive enough for wanting someone dead.)
I am new to dance, but even I had experienced the deep emotions dredged up by dancing. In just a few short months, dancing had become a need, a pilgrimage, a soul quest.
“Do you know how long it will be before the cops get here,” I asked Jan, thinking how disappointed I would feel if class had to be cancelled.
“A long time. Maybe a couple of hours.”
That seemed excessive to me, but I figured Jan should know since her husband is a retired criminalist.
I looked around the dance studio. The place wasn’t large, perhaps fifteen feet wide by sixty feet long. Mirrors lined one long wall and a barre stretched across the opposite wall. A small nook at the back of the studio had been furnished as a miniscule waiting room, and a corner had been cordoned off with a counter and cabinet for an office. Pictures and posters hung on the walls, but other than that, the studio was empty.
“If we have to stay here for a couple of hours waiting for the cops, we might as well have a class,” I said. “The floor will be mostly bare since Jan’s body won’t take up much room, we’d be dressed for the occasion, and our minds would not yet have processed the truth. I like the idea of a group of aging women dancing in the face of death.”
By this time, the rest of the class had arrived. All eight women stared at me with various shades of disbelief, but I shrugged off their attitude. This was my story, my murder, and I could choreograph it any way I wished.
Jan shook her head with mock sadness. “I am truly hurt that no one will mourn me.”
“Of course, we’ll mourn you,” I told her. “But it will have to wait until after class.”
Jan smiled, but I don’t think she thought my comment funny.
To be continued here: Chapter 1d
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.