Looking around the blacked-out glass door and past the curtains, I caught a glimpse of the school hall. It had been totally transformed from its usual every day state. There were rows and rows of chairs filling the hall with a large carpeted stage at the very front against a backdrop image of a grand castle in the night’s sky with twinkling lights acting as stars. I could hear the idle chat of the parents as they began filing into the hall and choosing what they thought to be a good view of the stage, ensuring that they would be able to see their children from the best possible angle.
Behind me, a surge of people were rushing around, fiddling with costumes and putting the finishing touches to the girls’ makeup. Panic had started to infiltrate the backstage area. Everyone was on tender hooks and extremely nervous. I had never really felt like this before, it was a totally new feeling for me to be experiencing.
People would keep asking if I was alright and if I was ready for the events of tonight. All I could do was stand there, nod my head slowly and silently, and look at my shuffling feet whilst my teacher continued smoothing down my dress and brushing my knotty hair off of my make up clogged face. I could feel my revolting, itchy woollen black tights sticking to my clammy legs as I began to heat up and for the first time, the pressure of the evening had started to get to me. It was at this point that I fully understood the expression of having butterflies in your stomach. A wave of nausea swept over me.
My deep blue scruffy dress came down to just above my knees. As I was staring at my feet and cursing who ever created plimsolls under my breath, I could see the tatty hem of my dress fraying and having to suppress the urge to pick it. So much eye make up was on my eye lids and lashes that it was a miracle my eyes could stay open for more than two seconds, even though I had to strain them to be able to see clearly. Suddenly, the beads around my neck seemed to be ten times as heavy as before as I was hoping beyond all hope that I could just hide from all the commotion and sink into the floor. I hate the attention. I do not enjoy being the centre of it and I certainly do not like being forced into the spotlight.
I could see all the other characters changed in their ridiculous outfits that made even mine look slightly normal. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend I was somewhere else. I always do it when I’m stressed, all I have to do is shut my eyes tight and think of a peaceful, calm place, away from whatever is making me feel uncomfortable and anxious. But I was finding it hard to do this now; the smell of nail varnish intoxicating my lungs, peoples harassed voices muffled in the background, everyone looking at me as if I was going to pull out at the last minute…Well. I refuse to do that.
Through a crack in the heavy red velvet curtains, I could see that the hall was now full. It was now merely a matter of seconds that felt like a life time, before I would hear the words “Places! Everybody! Places please!”, and the staff playfully saying “Come on Cinders, time to go darling” in their supportive voices that sent shivers down my spine as the reality of what I now knew I had to do dawned on me.
Taking a deep breath, I pulled myself together. I was going to do this. No backing out now, I was stronger than that. I had to do it. For me more than anyone else. I closed my eyes and carefully made my legs walk forward a few steps. One last deep breath. I pulled back the curtain with great effort. The heat and brightness of the lights startled me at first. Then applause came crashing into my ears and I walked out bravely and proudly, taking centre stage.
There are times in life when we all have to do things we do not want to do. Once in a while, we all have to face our fears. This was one of those times in my life when I had to confront people staring, talking about me and either being loved or hated. I still find public speaking excruciatingly hard to this day, I still hate attention. But mow I have come to accept that it is just something we all have to get on with. As much as we might like, we can not bury our heads in the sand and hope things will go away. Life is just not like that.