You watched her right hand fidgeting slightly as she laid still on the bed, losing herself in her deep, peaceful sleep; totally oblivious that you were there, watching her attentively. You remained well-composed and calm in your seat, reading her serene expression before you and you chose to ponder with it. You wondered what it is that she was dreaming of, when you saw her hand stiffened suddenly, palm spread wide on her side with a slight pressure on the soft, comfortable duvet. You wondered if it is a nightmare, for you witnessed the sudden movements she made once in a while, but maybe, could be, it was not that bad. Perhaps, she was dreaming of her favorite scene, of her mentally flapping her non-existent wings to a song, body swaying gracefully, totally defenseless of its surroundings. It was as if you could almost see her in one of those pictures; when she was in her black short-sleeved leotard, soft pink ballet slippers to go with the tight of the same color, her hair neatly put in a bun and the smile, yes, the smile—the determined smile she always put on—has always been the first thing you managed to catch whenever she was in that picture. At the thought of it, your lips twisted into a little smile and you squeezed your eyes shut tentatively for a more vivid picture, so that you could see and observe the slightest details you’ve missed all that while. So that you could understand ‘why’ and ‘how’ things went the way they did. And you hummed the sound you would probably hear when she dances, and the only song that you could think of is that one particular piece but you forgot its name. It was the song she kept on dancing to, the soothing sound of the bolero, yet you could hardly figure it out why it is so significant to her. Why it means so much to her was beyond you.
But you still remembered those memories you’ve shared with her, though. Those times when both of you were still little girls with little hopes and dreams, and how they became bigger and bigger just to be left unattended by you in a way that was unexpected. You left her stranded all by herself to work on her dreams and you pictured her being so engrossed in fulfilling them, with you watching from afar. And that was despite being screamed at by the evil, heartless music of those people’s disapproval. You recalled her being so serious and determined, practicing day and night, during one of those days when people kept pulling her down with their words in hopes that her dreams would shatter and she would stop trying. During those times, you tried but never understood why Mommy thought Minji was doing the useless thing, why people said she has dark future laid before her if she insisted in becoming a ballerina and why her friends thought dancing is nothing more than just ‘pointless and random movements’. Why? You searched for the answer but to no avail, and whenever this hit you, that particular event would self-replay in your head, as vivid as ever. As if it only happened yesterday, when you were there, still there to defend Minji; your other half.
It was just like any other day of summer, and you remembered feeling the familiar warmth settling on your skin, breeze whispering against you as your body swayed back and forth on the swing. And there came Mommy, standing at the front door, arms crossed and eyes infuriated, waiting for the approaching Minji who had just walked in the gate. You remembered seeing Minji’s disturbed face upon seeing Mommy’s furious glare on her and you knew well what was about to happen. Hence, you involuntarily stood up from the swing, keeping your guard on for any possibilities. “Tell me where you were just now, Minji.” Mommy’s voice came out hoarse and monotonous, before the 13-years-old Minji could even greet us with ‘I’m back’. “I… I… was at Yoon Ah’s place. We were doing homework together,” Minji stuttered, shoulder slightly shuddered but she avoided Mommy’s gaze. Then you saw Mommy dragging Minji into the house as she said, “Don’t lie to me. I know where you were just now,” and so you anxiously followed suit, totally at loss of words. The next thing, her backpack was already in Mommy’s grip and you heard her yelling at poor Minji: “First, you insisted to do things your way and now, you lied??!!! What is this, Minji? What do ballet shoes have to do with your homework?! Answer me, why would you insist in becoming a ballerina when the whole world knows that it’s useless? How dare you hurting our family’s pride for your own good and satisfaction?!!” Mommy’s rage was at its best at the moment for the ballet shoes unexpectedly and brutally caught Minji off-guard, hitting her right on the face. You remembered coming to her defense that very second but she remained unresponsive, only her expression darkened, as if Mommy was talking to random things around her but Minji. Your sisterly force made you threw your arms around that stiff body with your back to Mommy and you practically became her shield so that Mommy would not hit her twice. At that time, you really felt like screaming to Mommy, for being so tactless but you did not. Those lines of ‘No,Mommy, don’t!! Don’t hurt Minji! It wasn’t her fault!!Why can’t you just let her feet take the lead of her own life? Why would you be just like those who think being a ballerina is a shameful thing?!’ were stuck in your throat but you could feel them flowing down your cheeks in the form of tears as you pulled Minji to her room; ignoring Mommy’s words that lashed both you and her. And it was not the only time when Mommy would yell at Minji like that and it did not only tear through Minji’s defense but yours, too.
The memories evaporated when you heard a sudden movement on the bed and you saw Minji was already twisted into a fetus-like position. And her little snore was what you could hear now. You let out a heavy sigh when you realized how pitiful Minji seemed at that time and worse, you knew all along that it was always something more to it. She must be so tired, you thought, having to deal with Mommy’s scolds, to keep practicing even harder day by day, and having to endure every single challenge alone. It has always been the same thing—the lonely melody—that makes her wounds remained unhealed. That lonely, melancholy melody of wanting to fulfill her dreams, to soar high above the sky, that unconsciously lingers around her, bringing a solemn feel to it. Most of the time, it occurred to you, ‘Is it wrong, is it her fault or is it fair to even point a finger at her when all she did was being her real self?’ and for some reason, you knew your little sister has always been the same old her; the strong little Minji who is never afraid to stand for what she believes in. Even when the accusation took place, she would put that same expression that you knew full well. The serious and determined face that spoke something along the lines of ‘I would never hold back my dreams no matter what they say,’ and you would give her shoulder a little squeeze, with an encouraging smile that said, ‘Go ahead, Minji. Prove them wrong. I’m with you all along'. It was as if the telepathy that connected the both of you is what kept you behind her, supporting her without fail, though you never got the chance to do what she loves the most—ballet dancing. One thing you were so sure about back then was had your kidney did not betray you; certainly you would have been there, practicing with her for what look like a very enjoyable thing to do. And you kept wondering if it would just annoy your Mommy and people around you all the more if you really did. Yet the cruel reality left you with nothing to offer to her but sheer encouragement and faith. Faith. Faith that Mommy never had for her.
Your eyes wandered around the room and your hands itched to touch everything that were once yours and were still well-kept in the exact position where you had put them—your clothes, your schoolbooks, your musical box and everything that you could not have with you anymore. You did try to hold them in your hands once, but to your bemusement, your fingers just went through them as if those things are merely made of air. Now that you learnt the truth that neither you were solid nor real, you just laid your eyes on them without any intention to touch or hold them. You caught a glimpse of an old picture of you and Minji in a fancy-decorated, square glass-in frame on her little drawer that was taken when you were still young, for what seem like ages ago. Seeing how the two of you look like in that picture, perhaps it was during one of those childhood days, say, when you were 9. Minji is smiling wide in that picture, not even bother to hide her missing lower tooth, and you, right next to Minji, look happy and bright with a slight wink and a ‘V’ sign. For those who did not know you, you bet they could not even tell who is who for the two of you were very identical, be it in height or the hair color. Your smile reappeared with tears welling up in the brink of your eyes for you remembered now what the picture is all about. It was taken the day when Mommy and the two of you went for a picnic on one spring day. Without Mommy having the slightest idea, Minji secretly told you that she wanted to be a ballerina and that she would want you to see her perform on her very first stage one day. You remembered asking her “What if Mommy never says ‘yes’?” and little Minji just flashed you the knowing smile so you nodded, as to mark your own words. Though it sounded like a mere childhood dream of a little girl, it still hurt you too deep, though, upon realizing that you broke your promise to her and you left without anyone’s consent. But you had no doubt that Minji knows it all the same, that even though she could never see you again, your faith is always there for her to hold on to. You would always continue watching over her, like what you did every now and then, and you knew one day she will soar high, even higher than she had ever imagined. You knew, too, that one day, Mommy will see what you have been seeing all these years; the graceful Park Minji dancing to a beautiful bolero that speaks of everything in her dreams. Not just Mommy will see it, but Mommy will be proud, too, as proud as you were.
'Soar, Minji, soar. Flap your wings and fly to a place to build your dreams on. It is okay to be who you are and nobody is going to blame you. Keep the faith with you, honey, and keep searching for that one lovely place, for it is where you belong; you and your dreams.’