Five stories high doesn’t sound like very much until you’re standing on a plank extended out over a swimming pool so small and so flimsy even toddlers give it a wary eyeball.
“I don’t like this, I don’t like this, I don’t like this,” Cecilia repeated to herself as she took that last step to the end of the board. “No, no, no, crap, crap, this is bad. What am I doing?”
Down below, a couple hundred people sat in the stands around the center platform. Their heads leaned back, gazing at the tiny ballerina balancing precariously above. Cecilia only looked for one person in the crowd.
There! A glimmer of glitter, silver and white, the unmistakable sequins of her friend and guardian angel, Lina. Cecilia couldn’t see her face, but she imagined her as she always was, book of spells on her lap, reading the familiar words.
It was Lina who made Cecilia fly. Lina who made the tiny ballerina a star, so much so that she had become the face on the Glimpton’s Magical Circus Tour poster. “Come see the amazing flying ballerina! No one knows how she does it!”
Cecilia knew and Lina knew, and to both girls, that was enough. Up on her plank, Cecilia took a deep breath and prepared to jump.
Below her, Lina stared up at the tiny ballerina, too, the spellbook closed in her lap. She knew—should’ve known—that her little trick to help the shy new girl with her act would come back to bite her. Kindness doesn’t get your face on a poster.
Lina shook her head to herself. It always ended up like this. She would try to help, someone would steal the show, and then she would be forced to stop helping. No one learns by having their hand held, she scolded herself again. She has to learn to do it on her own or not at all.
Cecilia hesitated on the jump. She didn’t feel the usual lightness that surrounded her when she dove—usually, by now, she felt like a feather. She would jump, dive toward the pool, and then skim the water and come up into a loop. Everyone would cheer.
“No, no, that’s silly. Lina’s never let me down.”
With one deep breath, she left the platform. The familiar hush of anticipation fell over the crowd, every eye focused on her, enraptured by the tiny ballerina who could fly. Lina, too, watched Cecilia, her face registering something between disinterest and impatience, as if she couldn’t quite get the energy to roll her eyes.
For a moment, Cecilia plunged straight down. The free fall felt familiar and as freeing as it had ever been. She loved these terrifying moments: the flutter in her chest, the rush in her head. Everything wonderful happened in the split second between platform and pool.
Near the end of the dive, she started to pull up like she always did. Nearby, Lina leaned forward, disinterest replaced with shock: Could she actually—?
The entire crowd heard the thud of her skull, the almost musical crack of her spine, and the scream that died with her.