Arielle looked at the piles of clothes about the bedroom of her studio apartment and on the living room floor.
She was sorting them with the itinerary for A Garden Tour of Europe taped to the door between the two rooms, when she heard the scratching at the screen door up the three steps from her kitchen.
As she set the list of fellow travellers on the piano, she rested her fingertips for balance, and did a few first position plies, tendus and degages. As she made her way into the kitchen she paused step by step pressing her heel down for a runner's stretch. Long-limbed lithe body. Lean.
It was hot. Even at 8 o'clock in the morning.
She swept her long curly hair off the nape of her neck, and held it back with an elastic she picked off the counter.
"Well, Mr. Dog, you're finally up," she said, opening the door for the little grey poodle who was waiting patiently outside.
"Where's your girlfriend, Mrs. Cat?" she asked as she scooped the little dog up for a hug. She did a few releves, giving the little dog a cuddly bounce.
The pets belonged to her mother who lived upstairs, in the ground floor apartment.
Arielle continued a sequence of ronde de jambe, grande battement and battement cloche.
Technically, Arielle lived downstairs, in the semi-basement apartment. Lived here. Again. Sort of. No. Permanently now.
Years ago, it had started as her studio to teach piano and violin to her increasing number of pupils. She had used it to live in off and on since she had moved out of her parents' home, upstairs.
It had its own entrance from the common vestibule.
The vestibule, coming in off the side street on the south as the land sloped downhill serviced all four apartments. There were two more rented out on the top floor.
Arielle's English immigrant parents had escaped the European unrest in the late 1930s. Working class, they had nothing to lose, but everything to gain by coming. Working very hard for the well-to-do in Toronto; they saved every penny they earned and were at the right place at the right time to buy the converted duplex on Avenue Road just below Eglinton Avenue where Arielle was born.
Her name Arielle, was from the Shakespearean play The Tempest. Her mother loved Shakespeare; loved the English language; and was sorry she never had the opportunity for a higher education.
It had been her parents' ambition to give her something more than a simple, common state education, so they fostered her innate ability in music and her strong supple body with lessons in piano and dance. Her parents were immigrants to the new world, but strangely enough they sought to develop old world attitudes, skills and manners in her. So any attempt at growing up a new world child was denied her.
It was the only way of life she knew; she was comfortable in it. By the age of twelve Arielle was different. She always knew she was different.
The discipline and structure in her world was satisfying. There was challenge in the build-up of knowledge and in the problem-solving of movement.
And then there was the feeling. Oh, the feeling.
Very soon, her piano teacher had asked her to make the sonatina blacker, to make the jig lighter, to stretch and compress time in the prelude.
She knew she could do it, too, with her body at the dance studio when she was asked to demonstrate the steps "with expression".
A life of music opened before her. Could she possibly take up the violin; her father was most anxious. He thought it was the aristocrat of the music world. Would it be possible for a young girl to play it?
Whatever Toronto teenagers did with their time on any given day in 1954, Arielle had no idea. She did hear phrases like "missing out on so many things" and "old for her age", but they simply didn't register.
She spent every Saturday at the dance studio in lands of make believe: fairies, nymphs, wilis. She read stories of Swan Queens, and Sleeping Beauties.
She thought some composers led pretty interesting lives and speculated on the love Chopin felt.
If anyone had pressed her about "missing out on so many things", she would have denied it, assuming that everyone else was as involved in their own rich world as she was in hers.
There were lots of young people in her dance class. Lots of kids took piano lessons. There were lots of kids at the Conservatory where she took violin lessons. There were young people at the ballet company when she was in the corps.
That had been a long time ago.
Her father had lived to see her dancing career on the stage give way to her accomplishment as a violinist in the City Symphony and ultimately be known in music circles.
She never gave up the body discipline of the dance; it was as important to her music as scales. She continued to teach dance every Saturday morning at the studio in Scarborough. She lived by her music: playing and teaching.
The little dog struggled to be put down.
"Good," Arielle said to him. "Ten No-chair Sits to do. Karen Kain can do thirty. But she's younger than I am. Then we'll get at it."
Arielle took a wide step sideways, bent each knee over its foot, back straight. She raised up on tip toes, both heels well off the floor. Heels down. Heels up. Ten times. Enough.
"Now," Arielle seriously addressed the quizzical looking dog, "You can help me sort out these clothes. They are from my past three lives, which you know all about."
"I tell you all my secrets, but you never tell me any of yours. Fortunately, you don't tell anyone my secrets. You are the only man I can trust. So you can stay."
The dog settled on the floor, front paws crossed, head up, ready to give full attention to the task at hand.
"Those beside the suitcases are for the trip today. Great travelling wardrobe. Wear the brown crinkly Madras skirt, brown T-shirt, and tawny cowled sweater if it's cool on the plane. Black knit draw-string pants and a big black sweatshirt. Beige knit wedge dress. Long black denim dress. Covering the bod to avoid attention. Okay, my knees do show in the wedgie. But it might be really hot in some places.
"Throw this Indian shawl with the nice gold threads, in the carry-on. One pair of all purpose walking sandals, and my jogging shoes. Where is my camera?
"I'm going today. Did anybody tell you?
"And these clothes spread out all over are waiting to be kept, dismissed, put aside. Just like memories, which is what they are. Existential stuff from my first man ..." she laughed and corrected herself, "boy. Well, he did get older. He was twenty-six when we called it quits. After my boyish body developed, he realized he liked boyish bodies. The real thing! Maybe that had something to do with the beginning of my favourite colour: black. Right in style if I was still my skinny teenaged self. Imagine, these clothes in a box way back in the storage room.
"All of it into the garbage bag. Pow."
The little dog gave a jump and moved back ready for round two.
"Mini-skirts. I loved them. Still do. That college kid who painted houses along the street that summer. Before your time. You weren't even thought of yet. Now it's perfectly all right for a twenty-eight-year-old woman to be intimate with a twenty-year-old kid, young man. You're not shocked? Actually for us it was pretty all right too. And the fun we had, going to those dances. Jungle music. Drums. Speed ... no, not drugs ... foot and body speed. Terrific. Well, these are passe, but I think I'll put this black mini-skirt in the cedar chest. One for good memories."
The little dog barked.
"Oh, she's there, is she?"
Arielle went to her kitchen door again. The steps gave onto the lawn to the west of the house, and immediately to the right turned to go up some flagstone steps to the french doors leading into her mother's sitting room.
The ginger cat was sitting at the turning point to be seen from either household.
At the first sound of a door, the cat was in like a flash.
She walked haughtily around the muss on the floor, to the bay window facing onto the west lawn, sprang up onto the ground-level sill, turned two circles beside the huge hoya plant and settled down to make her toilette.
"I don't think she is interested in my present life," Arielle confided to the little dog, "let alone my past. Shall we finish this?"
"The psychedelic items go in there."
Once again the clothes were shoved into the garbage bag.
"As for these two piles ... old jogging shoes. Out. Dance leotards, where have these rags been hiding? Out. Black blouse and white blouse," she looked at the dog, "white, my second favourite colour ... all right, don't be picky, I know they're not colours ... split at the back sleeve seams. Only so much a shirt can take, symphony after symphony; and these other work clothes, long skirts, dress pants have had it as well. Out."
"Room look better?" Arielle queried the dog.
"You bet." she answered herself.
The flat was still predominantly her studio for teaching piano, violin and other strings, and theory. She worked here, even when she had been living with B-Man.
How long since she had given up calling him by his name? She had switched to B-Man, short for Business-Man, even to his face. He had taken no notice, or let on he had noticed. She didn't know which.
She had left their downtown apartment each morning to come here to practice her own performance work, and to prepare for and to teach her pupils. She virtually lived here during the day, and had gradually transformed it into a home.
She had come to feel that B-Man really lived at his office. So fair's fair, she thought.
The studio walls were 1920's wood panelling, the floors, parquet. She had found an elegant baby grand piano at an auction house, a music cupboard, and a muted oriental rug, of the same era. From then on she sparingly added pieces of muted tones. It was not a room for the eye but for the ear.
Now it had a look of Armani, those colours of shadow. She was even about to branch out into those shades for her own personal wardrobe, like the brown crinkle skirt for the trip. Very daring, she said to herself. A new beginning.
It was two full years since she and B-Man had split. They had nearly married, but now she was so relieved that they hadn't. It wasn't what he wanted at all.
She counted out her life by the men she had been with, which might have been considered bohemian at the early part of her adult life, but which now was normal. Nobody talked of anything nowadays except lifestyle. Not the so-called traditional life for her. Slightly ahead of the times, she thought to herself sardonically.
Now she had her own life and very glad of it.
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