Chapter 1: The Last Castrato
After sixteen years of avoiding the shadows, Alex Marron felt that she should have known better. Of course they would be here. Just because this was a ballet theater and not a dark alley in the ghetto didn’t mean that she was safe. The rich were no more immune to evil than the poor. They just hid it better.
A burly man in a heavy wool coat, cashmere scarf and polished shoes stood in the row in front of her, conversing with a person whom most would assume was his wife. Alex knew better. She could see the dark shadows that peeled off his skin like snake scales. Cheater. To the left and three rows down, a woman in a white dress and mink stole was so enshrouded by the dark shapes that her strawberry blond hair looked like a pile of ash. Thief. Across the room, in what she assumed to be the orchestra pit, a man in a tuxedo plucked the strings of a violin, his eyes leaking smoky tears as he looked at one of his fellow, female musicians. Philanderer.
These were just a few of the marked souls that she could see in the packed theater – and she doubted they were the worst. Alex swallowed hard and wished that she could bury her face in her father’s coat like she had as a little girl, when the shadows had been so frightening, the world so big. The shadows were still frightening, but now she was big.
So just deal with it, she told herself. Don’t be such a wuss.
A slight pressure against her hand told her that her father was conscious of her discomfort. When she turned to look at him, his eyes said more than he could ever say with words. Was she alright?
Alex nodded and tried to smile for him. “Jus noorves,” she said, swallowing the syllables like they were wads of gum stuck in her throat. She knew her pronunciation had been off, though she couldn’t hear it. She could only feel it.
He patted her knee before picking up his hands to sign. It wasn’t so dark in the theater that she couldn’t read his lips, but she was grateful for the added interpretation. “First ballet in New York City. But don’t worry. It won’t be your last.”
Alex took a deep breath. No, it wouldn’t be her last, not if she could help it. And if that were the case then she had to get used to being around crowds like this. She couldn’t expect to be a performer and not encounter a few bad souls now and then.