“What about this one?” A woman carefully picked up a ballerina figurine from the shelf in front of her. She held it out toward her daughter, who let out a slight gasp.
“She’s so pretty,” the daughter said as she took the figurine from her mother’s hands. The glass of the ballerina’s body felt cool in her hands, and the nylon of her tutu felt stiff and prickly. “She’s doing an arabesque, see?” The girl looked up at her mother.
“Yeah, one day you’ll be able to do one of those,” she replied.
“I hope so.” The girl’s words didn’t carry certainty like her mother’s.
“So is this the one you want?” The mother took the figurine from her daughter to examine it.
“Yes! She’s perf—”
“Mm, hold on, sweetie.” The mother held the ballerina up toward the light. “I’m sorry, Brooke, but I think this ballerina has a broken leg.”
“Let me see.” Brooke took the ballerina back. She carefully lifted the edge of her tutu. A jagged white line wrapped around the ballerina’s support leg, the one that kept her anchored to the ground. “Oh, it’s mostly covered, so it’s not that bad, right?” Brooke’s mom had her lips pressed into a thin line.
“We can probably find another one somewhere else or online,” she offered. “If her leg broke again, it would cause the rest of her body to fall and shatter on the floor.” She had already pulled out her phone and begun a search online.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Brooke looked back at the ballerina in her hands. With a dejected sigh, she carefully placed the ballerina back onto the shelf. She trailed behind her mother as they left the shop.
At the front counter, an older man with a white head of hair peeked out from behind a newspaper. Wire glasses rested on the edge of his nose. He sighed aloud as he folded up his papers. Then he ambled toward the shelf where the ballerina stood. He reached up and pulled her closer to the edge so she could be seen better.
“I’m sorry, girl,” he said as he stepped back to look at her. “Maybe next time.” He let out another sigh, then shuffled back to the counter to collect his newspaper and keys. A few moments later, he was out the door too. The click of the door’s lock marked the daily closing of the antique shop.
As dusk fell, the remainder of daylight shone through the glass windows and cast a warm glow throughout the shop. Hours passed, and eventually the darkness of night took over the shop and the streets outside. The city went to sleep while the inside of the antique shop came to life.
Clashing and scraping sounds filled the air as the antiques rushed to descend from their shelves. Once safely on the ground, they huddled together to decide what the night’s activity would be. A nutcracker produced a marble and suggested a game of soccer. After a little debate, the antiques decided to split. Half of them would stay and play a game of soccer while the other half would venture up to the shopkeeper’s desk and computer to go online shopping. The sound of the game underway caused a wooden figure of a French maiden to peer over the edge of her shelf.
“Finally,” she spoke aloud. She looked down from her shelf to see a group of antiques kicking the bright green marble. An agile crystal cat had it and was successfully evading each attempted interception from the nutcracker. “They always underestimate Evangeline.” The wooden figure started to climb down when something on the top shelf caught her attention.
The tip of a shiny ballet slipper barely peeked over the edge of the shelf, but the wooden girl figure was so familiar with the sight that it stuck out like a sore thumb to her. She began climbing upward. Once she reached the top shelf, it did not take long to locate the slipper and its sulking owner.
The wooden figure took no care to muffle the sound of her steps. She let the wood-against-wood sound echo as she strode over to the ballerina. The dancer was lying down on her back. Her glass arms stretched to gracefully encircle her head. Her right leg was bent at the knee, and her foot pointed toward her cracked left leg, which remained perfectly straight.
Despite her noisy entrance, the wooden girl received no movement or sign from the ballerina that acknowledged her presence. Irritated, the wooden figure stomped over and dropped down to sit right next to the ballerina. This clamor did catch the ballerina’s attention. Her eyes flew open, and she sat up in a panic.
“Sylvie.” The alarm on the ballerina’s face turned to annoyance when she saw the wooden figure sitting beside her. “What are you doing?”
“I’m here to finally get you off this shelf,” Sylvie said.
“You know that’s not going to happen,” she countered. “Tonight is not—”
“Tonight’s the night!” Sylvie interrupted. “Adina, tonight’s the night you finally leave this dusty shelf.” And with that, Sylvie grabbed Adina’s left leg and began pulling her toward the end of the shelf.
“Wha—” Adina sputtered. “Hey! Sylvie, stop!” Adina started kicking her leg, trying to get Sylvie to release it. After she managed to escape from Sylvie’s grasp, Adina immediately stood up. “You can’t do that. You were pulling on my bad leg.”
“Great,” Sylvie said, not acknowledging Adina’s reprimands. “You’re up on your feet. Now you can get yourself down.” Sylvie forced a smile and began walking to the edge of the shelf. Adina let out an exasperated sigh as she realized that she had played right into Sylvie’s plan.
“Sylvie,” Adina began as she took steps toward the wooden figure. “I’m not your puppet that you can order around.” Her long glass legs allowed her to tower over Sylvie. “And I’m not going—” Adina’s voice started to wobble once she realized how close she was to the edge of the shelf. She stumbled backward. Her glass feet made a tinkering sound against the wood.
“Adina,” Sylvie said as she rushed to the ballerina. She reached her arms out to help steady her friend. The ballerina regained control and slowly sat down on the shelf. She pulled her legs to her chest.
“I almost fell,” Adina said. Her voice was now full of fear. “I almost fell again.” Adina looked down at her left leg. Sylvie let out a sigh and sat down next to her friend.
“I’m sorry, Adina. I shouldn’t have tried to force you down.” Adina offered no response, only a blank stare. “I was trying a new ‘tough love’ approach. I thought that might help—”
“Help me,” Adina finished. “You were only trying to help me,” Adina said, but her voice sounded like she was somewhere far away. “On that day you were just trying to help me, but I didn’t listen to you.”
“We don’t have to go there again—” Sylvie started.
“I should’ve known,” Adina said. “I’m made of glass. I should’ve known what would happen.” Adina lifted her head to look at Sylvie. “Now I’m broken, Sylvie. I’m broken, and no one—”
“Stop. Adina, you have to stop,” Sylvie pleaded. “When you talk about it, all you focus on is the fact that you broke your leg. But you’ve forgotten why you did it.”
Adina tilted her head as if she were trying to understand what Sylvie was talking about.
“You did it to help the percussion frog.”
“I did?” Adina asked.
“Yes, remember? He didn’t have enough time to get back on the shelf, and the owner’s cat was coming to the store that day. And she chewed up anything that she found lying around.”
“Right,” Adina said. A little recognition sparked in her eyes. “I thought if I could fall at just the right angle, I could push him under the shelf and out of her reach.”
“Yeah,” Sylvie answered. “You aimed for the rug even though you knew it probably wouldn’t cushion your fall.”
“But I did it anyway,” Adina finished. Sylvie nodded, and Adina’s head tilted again. “Isn’t that a little crazy?”
“Crazy,” Sylvie replied. “Brave, crazy brave. It’s somewhere in the middle, I think.” A chuckle rose from both Adina and Sylvie.
“Thank you, Sylvie,” Adina began, “for reminding me.” Sylvie just nodded again. A few moments of silence passed.
“So,” Sylvie said warily. “You want go down?” Adina’s eyes widened. Sylvie expected a defiant no.
“Not right now,” she answered. “But soon. If that’s okay with you?” Adina bit her lip as she waited for her friend’s response.
Sylvie felt a genuine smile on her face, and she nodded her head.
“That’s fine with me,” she confirmed.
As the sun began to rise the next morning, the antiques clambered over each other to reach their shelves. Evangeline, the crystal cat, had only just reached her display case when the front door swung open. The shopkeeper walked in whistling with a fresh paper tucked under his arm. He set his belongings on the counter. Then, with his arms clasped behind his back, he began his routine stroll through each aisle.
His eyebrows furrowed when he did not see Adina the ballerina in her regular spot. He stepped back and craned his neck to see if she had gotten pushed farther back. Eventually, he spotted her on the bottom shelf.
“You’ve never been this close to the floor, have you?” A puzzled look came over his face as he picked up the ballerina and examined her. “You seem in perfect shape, like always,” he said. “Hmm. I must just be imagining things.” He was about to place her back on the shelf when the phone rang on the counter. The shopkeeper shuffled back to the counter with the ballerina still in his hand. He picked up the phone and answered.
“Hello,” he said. “Yes, this is the antique shop of Dorrel Lane . . . yes, we’re open from seven to five, Monday through Friday . . . um, I don’t normally hold items . . . I see.” The shopkeeper smiled as he looked down at the glass ballerina in his other hand. “You know, I think I could make an exception this time . . . yes, you’re welcome.” He hung up the phone and looked at Adina again. “I knew one day someone would be able to see more than just a broken ballerina.”