The image above is a picture of Edgar Degas’ L’Attente (Waiting), which inspired this short fictional story I wrote a while ago.
One day in the year 1880, a dancer slumped at one end of a long wooden bench. She was the last one left to audition, and she was growing afraid. Worrisome thoughts spun in her mind.
“Bonjour, Noémie!” greeted a young woman clad completely in black and holding a black umbrella. She had just entered the room.
“Ah, Therese, it is you,” answered Noémie glumly.
“Mon ami, my friend, something is bothering you.”
“Oui, yes. I am so stressed!”
Therese settled herself next to her friend. “Let us talk about it,” she said. Then she added, noticing Noémie’s posture, “Noémie, how unladylike.”
Noémie, ignoring her friend’s last remark, put her fears into words. “Therese, I do not know if I am prepared. This academy for dance is one of the best! What if my days with you as an instructor have not been enough? Will I keep in step with the music? Is Monsieur Jacobe as strict as they say he is? And what if –”
Therese leaned forward against her elbows. “Noémie, worrying too much will aid in making you fail. You are an excellent dancer. Indeed, better than myself.”
“Therese, you only say that because I am your friend.”
“Non, Noémie. That is not true. I know when I see an excellent dancer, especially one better than I.”
“I suppose, if you say so,” Noémie told her, still unsure.
Therese pushed the tip of her umbrella back and forth across the wooden floor. “You have worked very hard for this day. You learned all you could. I am confident in you, Noémie.”
“I do not know what to do, Therese! I doubt that I am half as good as the others here.”
“Noémie, stop fidgeting with the blue ribbon around your waist and listen to me. You are a fine dancer.”
“Why have you stood up?” asked Therese, confused.
Therese looked on as Noémie began to dance. “Excellent…Très bien, Noémie, well done…Oui, yes, that is how you do it!…Noémie, keep up with me. I am going start counting…un, deux, trois, quatre. One, two, three, four…now, faster. Un. Deux. Trois. Quatre…go on, Noémie…Un-deux-trois-quatre, un-deux-trois-quatre…”
“I cannot – cannot do it!” cried Noémie.
“You can! You have prepared for this day! Un-du-trois…”
Finally Noémie dropped herself onto the bench. “I do not think I can do this!” said she.
” I am so confident in you, Noémie,” said Therese gently. “Now you have to be confident in yourself. It is your turn.”
“Oh, Therese.” Noémie slumped forward once more and rubbed her ankle. Therese stared at the floor.
A man wandered into the room and looked strangely at the two young women – waiting.
A few minutes later a door opened and someone called Noémie. She stood.
Therese glanced at her friend. “Do it for us, Noémie.”
“For us,” repeated Noémie, smiling now. With that, she hurried out of the room.
That evening, the man who had entered the room earlier was at his house staring at a piece of paper. He picked up a pastel.
His name was Edgar Degas.