The following is the forty-third of a series of excerpts from The Rowan Tree: A Novel by Robert W. Fuller. The complete novel is now in paperback, and available for *free* in various ebook formats including Kindle. The audiobook can be found at Amazon, iTunes, and audible.com. If you enjoy The Rowan Tree, please write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or your own blog! The author also welcomes your comments.
Marisol opened her eyes. A nurse was taking her vital signs. Through a tangle of tubes she saw Rowan looking down at her. She tried to raise her head, but couldn’t.
“What happened?” she asked in a whisper.
“You fainted in company class. They say you’ll be fine.”
“In due time,” the nurse interjected. “You were unconscious when they brought you in.”
“How long have I been here?”
“Since noon,” Rowan said. “It’s Thursday evening.”
“I’m dancing Saturday.”
“No chance,” the nurse said. To Marisol’s attempt to protest she added, “None whatsoever, young lady. You won’t be dancing for a while.”
“Because your body shut down and needs time to recover.”
Marisol lay there taking in this news; looking up at Rowan’s face, she saw anxiety and tender concern.
“Adam was here this morning,” he said.
“He saw me like this?”
“No, they wouldn’t let us in. He followed the ambulance that brought you here.”
“What did he say about Giselle?”
“We all loved it, Marisol. Adam was proud of you.”
“We were supposed to have lunch.”
She drifted in and out as the nurse took her blood pressure and removed the intravenous drip. Then the poking and shuffling had stopped and she went back to sleep.
Someone had taken her hand. She opened her eyes and saw Adam’s face where Rowan’s had been, but the sun was streaming through the window. She made an effort to smile, to push her hair back.
“Hello, Marisol,” he said softly.
“How long have you been there?”
“A little while.”
“I must look awful.”
“You look beautiful to me.”
“I’m sorry I missed you at the fountain.”
“I saw the paramedics wheel you out.”
“I was pretty worried.” The nurse came in and told him his time was up.
“Come back tomorrow, okay? Make them let me out of here.”
“One step at a time,” the nurse interjected. “Before then, you have to walk, and before that you’ll have to stand.”
Adam went to the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Love you.”
Marisol’s parents came bearing gifts. Rowan brought a potted hydrangea, spilling over with strawberry-blonde blossoms. Just like her dad to try to match her hair color, she thought. How sentimental. Sara brought a tidy box of artisanal chocolates, and the Gumby doll that Marisol had played with as a child. Gumby elicited a big smile from Rowan and, for a moment, Marisol felt as if she were seeing her parents when they were young and in love. She persuaded the nurse to let them stay beyond the fifteen-minutes allowed by the doctor, but when they did leave after a half-hour, she immediately fell asleep. She woke Saturday morning ready to go home—until she ventured into the hall. Yes, it would take a while to get her dancing legs under her.
A nutritionist, after a probing interview, gave Marisol a stern lecture: Inadequate glycogen reserves had likely been the cause of her collapse. Six small nutritious meals a day and eight hours sleep a night was the prescription. Plus, whatever she could do to reduce the stress in her personal and professional life.
“Follow the nutritionist’s rules and you won’t be back,” the doctor affirmed. “You’re a healthy young woman, so eat better, sleep more, and worry less. That should do it.”
At noon, two dancers stopped by. One was her childhood friend Ellie Liang Stewart, now in the corps at the New York City Ballet. The other was Sasha. Though he still hit on her every chance he got, Marisol didn’t hold it against him. He generously shared his knowledge with his partners, and never let his amorous intentions affect his professionalism on stage.
Knowing that Sasha would carry word of her condition back to the company, Marisol took pains to assure him that there was nothing wrong with her.
Nearing the end of a long and illustrious career, Sasha had seen everything. He’d known ballerinas who had never recovered from a setback like the one Marisol had suffered, and others who’d learned from the wake-up call and gone on to realize their full potential.
To Marisol’s protestations that it was just a fainting spell due to dehydration, he responded bluntly.
“Shut up, girl, and listen to me. You get just this one chance. Either you take care of yourself from now on or you’re finished. You know I think you’re good. But you waste yourself if you don’t listen to your body. Your body is your instrument and you must treat it like a Stradivarius.”
“I thought I was doing that.”
“You weren’t. If you were taking proper care of yourself you would not have fallen down.”
“Okay,” Marisol said meekly.
“The difference between good dancers and great dancers is that great ones have a life, and they see dance as an expression of life.”
“Don’t you think I have a life?”
“Not yet. To be your best, you must build a life apart from dance. Only those who do can make it to the top. That’s what you want, am I right?” Marisol met Sasha’s gaze, and felt he was peering into her soul.
“Then remember: Dance is what we do, not who we are.”
“Sasha was here this morning,” Marisol reported to Adam as he took a seat beside her. “He and Ellie came together, but Sasha did all the talking.”
“What did he want?” He had not forgotten Sasha, nor his reputation
“He gave me a piece of his mind.”
“He told me to get a life.”
Adam didn’t respond.
“I tried to make dance my life when…” Marisol began.
She turned her face away and tried not to cry. She felt small and stupid lying in that bed. But it was true. Her life was off-balance. She had let her career consume her. Ballet was like a drug she had used to numb and distract herself.
“When we found out. When you left.”
“Nothing has changed for me. I’d give up dance in a heartbeat to be with you.”
“You don’t mean that, Marisol. That’d be a waste of your talent.”
She locked eyes with him. “It’s how it is.”
“Well, I won’t let you. I can’t let you. I can’t let myself.”
“Why not? Love can’t be wrong, can it?”
“I can’t devote my life to fighting taboos. The interracial taboo may be dying but the incest taboo is as strong as ever. We have better things to do than devote ourselves to a hopeless cause.”
“Why can’t you just love me? No one needs to know. We could go away, live abroad.”
“Don’t you feel anything? Didn’t you think about us at all on your damn trip? You didn’t even answer my letters!”
“I’m sorry, Marisol, I had to try to put it behind me, but…”
“Then this happened.”
“What do you mean?”
“I almost lost you. And I don’t think I could go on without…” Looking at the floor, he continued, “without you…without my other half.”
Marisol reached for his hand and held it tight.
“I can’t not love you,” Adam said. “I don’t know what that means, but I promised myself I’d do whatever it takes to get you dancing again. When are they letting you out?”
“Okay, I’ll pick you up and take you to Rowan’s. You’ve got to make some changes. I’m staying there too, and I can help you make them.”
Getting up to leave, Adam said, “Call me when you’re ready and I’ll be here in a flash.”
“Adam, can you do me a favor? Can you find out who’s dancing Giselle tonight? I was supposed to.”
“Whoever she is, she’ll be just a placeholder. You own the role now.”
“You don’t know nothin’. Until I dance again, I’m a nobody.”
“Well, then be a nobody. One thing I learned on my trip was that only nobodies can change.”