Ebony White

Her name was Ebony White. Who could have known how apt her name would be? When she was born her mother took one look at her beautiful daughter – her skin so dark it was as reflective as a still lake on a moonless night – and knew her name was Ebony.

When Ebony was born she had no hair, so it came as something of a surprise to her mother when Ebony’s hair began to grow. As a child Ebony hated her hair. The kids at school would tease her and point their fingers, or whisper behind hands as she walked by. Regularly, Ebony would go home in tears and beg, “Mama, please let me dye my hair! I don’t want everyone to laugh at me anymore!”
And every time she asked, her mother would say in her heavy Ghanaian accent, “Ebony, God gave this hair for a reason. You will learn to love it. Until then, love yourself for who you are, as I do, not for what you look like.”

Now, fifteen years later, here she stood, moments away from her biggest job – the ‘Vogue’ cover. She looked at her reflection and loved all that she saw; her smooth black skin glistening with oil like polished obsidian, her wide mocha eyes highlighted with kohl pencil, her lean but shapely 5’11” frame, and her natural hair, her crowning glory, so blonde it was almost white and picked into the biggest, brightest afro it looked like a halo.

“Thank you, Mama,” Ebony whispered under her breath, as she did before every job. Then Ebony White took her place before the camera.

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The Fat Ballerina

Patty was fat.

She’d always been fat, ever since she was a little girl. Her sister used to tease her mercilessly as a child, calling her Dumbo or Miss Piggy at some point throughout the course of each day.

As the sisters grew up and left childhood behind, while her sister was out on yet another date with another boy, Patty would mostly stay home and curl up on the sofa with a bag of iced finger buns and a tub of salted caramel Häagen Dazs. On her way out the door in her skimpy skirts and killer stiletto’s, her sister would call out, “You’ve got the fat bit down, Patty, where’s the jolly?” and off she’d clip, out the door and into Harry’s or Miles’s idling Mercedes without a backward glance.

It was true though. Patty was fat. And she wasn’t jolly. Not even the cakes and the ice creams and the Thornton’s chocolates made her feel better anymore. If anything, she hated herself even more as she sat there eating them, stuffing them in as fast as she could swallow. Eating the evidence, she thought, hating the feel of it sliding down her throat, but needing something, anything, to fill the ever expanding hole she felt consuming her from the inside out.

Now, though, there was one thing that did make her happy, made her feel…light, and the irony of that was not lost her. Perhaps the irony itself was one of the reasons it made her feel that way to begin with. You see, when Patty’s sister would go out on a date or to the pictures with her friends, Patty would push the furniture out of the way, put on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, or Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, she’d put on her pointe shoes, reverently lacing them around her surprisingly delicate ankles and then she’d dance. She’d start with her positions – first through fifth, then she’d pirouette and plié away the night. Patty would pirouette en pointe, she would arabesque, rond-de-jambe and jeté. She’d imagine she was Margot Fonteyn dancing Giselle with Nureyev – oh! The pas de deux was simply divine!

Her body – the anchor that weighed her down at all other times – suddenly became her tool, her weapon, her artists brush with which she painted pictures, pictures that no one would ever see.

What no one knew was that Patty had been taking ballet lessons online for three years. No one other than her teacher had ever seen her dance but she knew she was good, she could feel it. She would close her eyes and her body would simply flow with the music, leaping and spinning and twirling like a dervish. Patty would swing her arms and point her toes in ways her sister would never believe. She didn’t tell her sister for fear she would tease her as she had her whole life. She just knew that her sister would forever call her “Patty the fat ballerina,” and to Patty her ballet was the only pure joy in her life. She wouldn’t lose it. It was sacred to her.

So imagine Patty’s surprise when, on finishing Stravinsky’s “Dance of the Firebird” one Thursday evening, panting both from exertion and excitement, she opened her eyes to see her sister standing in the doorway to their shared living room, a tremulous hand covering her mouth and a lone tear trailing down her cheek.