Nicole shuffled sideways to make room on the green foam kneeler for her daughter. Lilly nestled against Nicole’s side, cupped a flower in her palm and drew it out of the leafy shade. The sun made its petals glow like a neon light.
‘Mummy, what’s this one called?’ asked Lilly, leaning forward to sniff the flower.
Nicole smiled as Lilly wrinkled her nose. ‘Ballerina Dreams,’ she replied. ‘It doesn’t have a smell. Most fuchsias don’t.’
Lilly released the flower. It swung back and forth like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. ‘Why’s it called that?’
Nicole picked up her fork and began to tease the weeds from the soil beneath the bush. ‘You tell me why you think it’s called that,’ she said.
'’Cause it’s pink?’
‘Not all ballerinas wear pink you know.’
Lilly took hold of the weed Nicole had unearthed and shook the soil from its roots. ‘’Cause it’s frilly then. Like a tutu.’
‘And what about these bits?’ Nicole pointed to the long, thin stamens poking out from under the flower’s skirt. ‘What do they remind you of?’
Lilly gasped. ‘Legs! Lots of legs!’
‘And on the end of the legs?’ With the tip of her finger, Nicole touched the dusty anthers.
‘Ooh … ooh … shoes! Ballet shoes! It looks like it’s pointing its toes.’
Nicole laughed. ‘There you go then.’
For a moment, Lilly sat in silence, watching the flowers sway back and forth in the breeze.
‘Mummy?’ she said quietly. ‘Do you wear ballet shoes when you dance?’
Nicole thought of the shoes she would wear that night. She thought of the straps that would bind them to her feet, of the triangular tips that would pinch her toes. She heard the click of heels on tile and saw the flash of strobe lights on black patent leather. She felt the cold press of steel on her skin, smelled beer and sweat and piss.
Laying down her fork, Nicole swept a curl of hair from Lilly’s face and tucked it behind her ear. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I wear ballet shoes when I dance.’