Yvette is a novella, approximately one hundred fifty-eight pages, about a nineteen year old ballerina who gets scorched with one tragedy after another. I got the idea for Yvette from an article in Chicago (a magazine) in a 1993 issue. The article summarized the brief life story of a thirty-four year old ballerina who jumped to her death inside her apartment building. The article wasn’t too detailed, but she’d recently been dumped by her man. She wasn’t married and didn’t have a job in her field of interest (ballet).
I pitied her. I understood her view of life to be: “Here I am, a thirty-four year old woman, past my dating prime; I’ll never love anyone else, so what’s the point of dating? I loved ballet, but, facing a life without love, ballet means nothing to me. What lays before me is a life of loneliness and desolation … I’m not going through with it.”
I started writing Yvette nine years later. It deserves to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Ah!—But, then, so does The Wretch!
It can be bought at Amazon.
Here’s an excerpt:
Arriving in Jon’s limousine and arranging to have the chauffeur pick them up after the performance, they arrived at The Met an hour before the start of the ballet. Jon was dressed in a black tuxedo, a black cummerbund, and new black shoes and could have made the cover of Gentleman’s Quarterly. Carrying the outfit that Jon bought for her for later in the evening, Yvette prepared for her performance. Shortly before the start of the ballet, she peeped out at the audience and spotted Jon. She vowed that this would be her best performance ever, and, in her mind, she dedicated it to him.
“Everything for you,” Yvette whispered as the ballet began.
The performance Yvette gave that night dazzled everyone and reinforced the acknowledgment that Yvette was the best ballerina of the age. Those in the ballet world who looked on, but were not convinced that she was the best now admitted to themselves that she was, indeed, the greatest ballerina they had ever seen and, most likely, would ever see. Fans of ballet who simply knew her name sat astounded, their eyes glued to that resplendent young woman, Yvette Marcheau, who was giving such a scintillating performance. Even the least enthusiastic fans of ballet were pulled in; their eyes sparkled and they surrendered their desire to go home: they had to watch that ballerina.
When Yvette was not onstage, they looked forward to the moment when “that one ballet dancer” would come back. She had that natural, intangible quality, that special appeal, that magical something that embellished, broadened, and deepened a performance, unlike some performances by dancers that were correct and accurate, but dry and uninspired; she possessed that impalpable charm and charisma that famous, enduring actors and actresses bring to their parts in movies and plays.
Tonight, though, she even raised the level of her own previous performances, for she was dancing for Jon and for love: she was dancing in celebration of their upcoming union, their marriage, and their future family. The power of her performance sprang from her soul, and her soul was simple, pure, and beautiful, and it was flowering with love. She made dullards who had no interest in the arts, and especially in ballet, take notice. Is that not perfection?
The ballet ended and Yvette took the curtain call with the other dancers. She bowed and was unable to suppress her vibrant smile. When this curtain call ended, the intoxicated audience demanded an encore curtain call. Yvette pushed her head forward and down slightly, and at the same time hunched her shoulders and raised her eyes to her dancing partner. They reached for each other’s hand simultaneously, then parted the curtain and stood before the audience again. The thunderous applause got turned up a notch, and then another.
They were applauding Yvette, and she knew it. Her smile was electric: it shot out like a bolt of white lightning, sparking an already electrified audience. She waved and turned her body at times a bit to her right and left and bowed to show her gratitude to the entire audience. Her eyes sought out Jon; she blew him a kiss; then blew kisses to the audience. Finally, she and her partner took their final bow, then disappeared behind the curtains.
Soon she stood in front of her dressing room mirror wearing her red sequin gown, her pearl necklace, her stockings, her silky, red panties, her red high heels, her red barrette, and her white, elbow‑length gloves. Her long, straight, blond hair was pulled back from her face and bound behind her head by the red barrette in a loose pony tail. Her makeup was simple: no foundation or blush, and just a light coating of black mascara. She wore black eyeliner around her eyes, trailing it off gently under her eyes near the middle.
She wondered what she was forgetting, if anything. She pursed her lips and studied her face; then she lowered her eyes to her small cleavage. Her eyes lingered on her necklace, then on her dress, then on her neck, then back to her dress and necklace, then on her lips.
She tilted her head and stared at her face quizzically. Then it hit her: “Lipstick!—To match my dress!—Ah‑duh!” Her lipstick was not as red as her dress, which she thought was good, or else she would have looked artificial. While fishing in her purse for her lipstick, she found her perfume and chided herself for forgetting it, too. It was Jon’s favorite!
“You were fan‑tastic tonight!” Jon told her in the lobby and kissed her lips lightly. “Wow!” He held her hands and took her in from head to toe. “Hot and classy!”
Yvette smiled that feminine smile that no woman in her situation can repress. But in her smile, there was always that charming touch of shyness, as though she found the compliment embarrassing.
“Well, it’s all because of you!” She was self‑conscious and typically tried to divert attention from herself.
They entered his limousine and were driven to an expensive restaurant in Manhattan, which was well‑lit with chandeliers and packed with wealthy, well‑dressed professionals. The tables were glass. The backs of the chairs were alabaster and the seats were padded with a deep, royal, red velvet cushion. The host and the waiters wore black tuxedos and white gloves. Two of the walls were made of glass, which, this being a restaurant situated at the intersection of two streets, allowed quite a view of the nightlife outside and gave the restaurant an open feel. The other two walls were white and were decorated with two large, gold‑framed paintings.
All this was just what Yvette had been hoping for!
Bright‑eyed and blithe, the vivacious Yvette sat in the chair that the gracious waiter pulled out from the table for her. She smiled warmly at him and patted his elbow with her hand. The waiter, a man in his mid‑forties who had lived through enough of life to acquire a sharp cynicism toward the wealthy, saw and felt this soft pat on his elbow, and really looked at Yvette for the first time. Her smile was friendly and genuine, and it was pleasant to look at her face. Somehow, she seemed to be apologizing to him; she seemed to be embarrassed to have him pull out the chair from the table so she could sit on it. Something deep in his soul stirred, softened, and melted. He realized that she was young and innocent, and he hoped that she would never lose that softness and meekness that shined from her.
“Thank you.” Yvette lowered her eyes slowly, her smile fading briefly.
The waiter acknowledged her gratitude with a slight bow of his head, thinking, “Ah, she’s embarrassed. What an angel! I hope this guy she’s with knows what a special woman he has.”
Yvette’s impalpable, natural charm, always more powerful because it was always unconscious, that had enraptured the ballet audience made other diners, after glancing casually at her, either look at her a second time or discover their casual glance lingering on her, even though Yvette was not the most beautiful woman in the room. “How she glows!” “She must have just gotten married.” “He just proposed to her.” “She’s newly engaged.” “What could make such a sweet thing like her so happy?” They assumed her happiness was connected to her date, to whom their glances gravitated after being so sweetly surprised by Yvette. But in Jon, they saw one of themselves.
“I hope he realizes what he’s got.” “I wish I were young again and had someone like her in love with me.” “Oh, I wish I were young again and could feel what she’s feeling.” “I wish I could laugh and love again the way she does.” and “I was like her once.” were some of their thoughts.
When they heard Yvette’s merry laugh or if their gazes wandered serendipitously to her, they were reminded of times long ago, when they were young and able to truly love and laugh and to feel like her. These treasured memories were swiftly infused with the most cherished emotions of their lives, emotions that they thought were gone forever, impossible to be experienced again, emotions that they had come to understand were reserved only for the young or for the young‑at‑heart. They were surprised at the ease with which these lost emotions from their younger days were resurrected.
It was a special night.
But this night was more special to Yvette than to anyone else. In front of her sat the man she loved: her entire future, her happiness, lay with him, and in him resided the meaning of her life. She could not hide her happiness. She leaned forward on her elbows, over her plate, her blue eyes wide and twinkling, her face animated with interest, laughter, or a vivacious smile. Her laughter, soft and simple, feminine and melodious, revealed her gentle, modest soul. Her voice, too, like her laughter, was beautiful and mellifluous.
It began to snow. The snowflakes were large and heavy, and they multiplied quickly and picked up energy. They fell faster and harder; and they swirled in the soft wind. Suddenly, Yvette felt as though she were ten again, and it was dusk, and she looked out the front window of her home toward the streetlight and saw the thick, heavy snowflakes whirling haphazardly toward the ground. She put her coat on and stood outside, feeling the beauty of the hush that had fallen over the world. No cars, no people, no noise … A deserted paradise made just for children. She remembered standing there, wishing that the moment would never end; then her friend came out of her own house next door. They talked; they laughed; they made snow angels; then they went for a walk together in that white paradise through the unblemished snow, the snow piled high on every branch of every tree, the only sounds being their breathing or their muted voices.
Before they left, Yvette pried, “Jon, you said you had something very important to say tonight. What did you want to talk about?”
“Not here. In the car.” He looked down at the table between them, then off to his right at the floor.
They were given their coats, and Jon called his chauffeur.
“Ah, what a wonderful night!” Yvette held his arm below his elbow. She slid her hand down his arm and placed her hand in his.
When they got in the limousine, Jon turned toward Yvette. He looked her straight in the face, then spoke quietly and hesitantly, as though he were weighing his words very carefully.
“Yvette …” He took her hands in his. “We’ve known each other for a long time—about a year and a half—and we’ve had some great times together …”
She nodded, gazing back wide‑eyed.
“And we love each other a lot,” he continued. “We have some great memories that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives … And we love each other … But your love is greater than mine. You have a universal love … So, this will be the last time we’ll see each other.” His serious eyes studied her face and suddenly hardened a bit. But in his resolve was also a touch of remorse.
Yvette’s eyes widened even more and her body froze. She cupped her mouth and nose with her hands. She pulled back from him and stared into his face.
“You … You don’t want me? … You don’t love me?” Her shocked voice sounded strange and distant to both of them.
“Yvette—Yvette! Yes, I love you! But I don’t love you anymore the way you love me.” His face looked pained.
“But we lived together and you loved me … once.”
“Oh—I love you, Yvette! I love you.” He grabbed her hands and held them tightly. “You’re an angel! You’re something special. You’re too good for me.”
“No,” Yvette stated in a daze, seeming to gaze in the distance at something only she could see. “No,” she continued, dejected. “I’m not too good for you. I’m not too good for anyone.” She slumped suddenly; her hands slipped out of Jon’s. Tears flowed, then stopped abruptly. She looked dejected, lost. “Was it something I did or said? Jon? Jon! Is there something wrong with me?”
“No! No, Yvette! There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“Am I unlovable?”
“No! You’re not unlovable. It’s me! It’s just the way I responded after a while.”
“Did you meet another woman?—Your face says, ‘Yes.’ I’m sorry I couldn’t have been her.”
They sat quietly for a few minutes.
“I was looking forward to spending my life with you. Having a couple kids and a nice house … Is that too mundane for you, Jon?”
They both continued to look down at the floor. As she got out of the limo, Jon said, “I’m sorry this didn’t work out.”
Yvette leaned down and crawled toward him. She kissed his cheek, lowered her head, and entered her apartment building.
Yvette wept freely in the elevator. When she got to her apartment, her tears stopped just as abruptly as they started in the limo. Yvette sat in the dark in her black leather chair that faced the window. The lights from the street lit her apartment dimly. Her face was damp and streaked with the paths of her tears, but there was no emotion in her eyes.
She sat motionless. Her eyelids did not blink; her chest barely moved with each shallow breath. She could have been mistaken for a mannequin or a dead woman. No thoughts entered her head. Her eyes shifted from the window to the floor just beneath the window. She pulled the lever on the right side of her chair and the chair’s footrest pushed out. She pushed the backrest back with her head and shoulders and reclined in a less upright position. She reclined like this for half an hour, then removed her clothes and got in bed.
The feeling that life would never be the same again gradually seeped deeper into her soul and, as it entrenched itself, Yvette’s impassive face softened by degrees. When this feeling finally entwined itself with her soul and began to throw out threads to her heart, she became convinced that the joy in the life she lived was over. All traces of stoniness, of the emptiness that engulfed her, vanished from her face in an instant, and she was powerless to resist the sadness that overwhelmed her.
Yvette sobbed deeply, loudly; she sounded like an animal that was being tortured. She slipped off her bed and buried her face in her blanket. Her little hands were clasped together, fingers entwined, above her head; she seemed to be in fervent prayer. Her passionate tears suddenly abated after ten minutes, and the conviction that her life, as she had known it, was over impressed itself upon her again, and she stared for two minutes, zombie‑like, into the darkness, as though waiting and listening for a death knell and then the welcomed appearance of the Grim Reaper. Her breathing was loud and ragged, and she breathed through her mouth.
She did not hear her own breathing; she was aware of nothing except that conviction. Partly horrified, partly saddened, she stared into her darkened room, her opened mouth gasping for breath, her eyes wide, horrified and saddened at what had once been her life. Suddenly, that new, devouring sadness flared up from the depths of her soul and devastated her. She wept, sobbing like a child whose pet has died, a pet that was loved infinitely and is gone forever. She knelt and sobbed the same way she had a few minutes earlier, but this time she prayed. She asked God to alleviate her grief and to guide her down a path, in her new life, that would be beneficial to others. She asked Him to forgive her stupidity and her selfishness in her first twenty years of life—“Life that You gave me, and that I wasted.” Through her soul‑shaking tears, she prayed for Jon’s happiness, that he would always be taken care of, that he had a loving wife and family, and “that any sorrows You have planned for him are not too severe. Please love him always. He’s a good person. We’re not meant to be together—so be it.”
Yvette’s tears subsided at once. She got in bed, pulled the covers up to her chin, and stared up, wide‑eyed, at the dark ceiling. By degrees, her eyelids grew heavy; ghostly figures flit through her mind, and she fell asleep.
She woke up at one in the afternoon, calm, but apathetic. She threw on a robe, then and looked out the window at the gray, dreary day. The people on the street seemed so small, but they also seemed to be so full of energy. A horrible thought jumped into her mind.
Yvette raised her lifeless eyes from the pavement below, then, blocking out the depressing day, lowered the wooden blinds and pulled the heavy, maroon curtains across the window. She returned to her bed and flipped through the television channels in search of something interesting. She did this until four o’clock, when dusk began to fall.
In the shower, that irrepressible sadness overwhelmed her, and she wept uncontrollably. She held on to the faucet with one hand and leaned the rest of her weight on her other hand, which was against the wall, but she became too weak to stand: she dropped to her knees and rested her forehead on the side of the tub and sobbed deeply. In the midst of a prolonged sob, when she was inhaling and sounding as though she had dysentery and was dry‑heaving, her waterworks inexplicably shut off.
An intense feeling of self‑revulsion and self‑hatred suddenly engulfed her. She sneered.
“Jon didn’t want me. There’s something wrong with me … What? What’s wrong with me?”