Dancing in the Light
Shamanic Short Story
She had a twin brother and she was so grateful for him because he was her shield, her protector, her hero.
Melissa was petite and delicate while Marshal was tall and athletic.
She had honey-brown straight hair while Marshal’s hair was a curly bold red-auburn.
The only thing that was identical in these twins was their golden eyes.
It had not always been like this, however
When Melissa was 9 years old, Marshal and her were identical but for their genders.
Her hair was more fiery at that time. It shone under the sun as she played in the fields.
They played together climbing trees and seeking adventures in the forest around their home, and she was pretty strong. Her legs were muscular. Her wrists were strong and she could open any stubborn jar lid easily, just like Marshal.
They loved to run along the shores, swim in the ocean and collect shells.
“The power of the ocean is dancing inside this shell,” Melissa would declared.
“I can feel the dance of the universe,” Marshall would whisper, for he loved dance.
“You are like that shell,” Marshall said to Melissa, “Pulsating with the power of the world, so vibrant!”
“You are like that shell, ” Melissa told Marshal. “Dancing the music of the universe, so lovely!”
And they were happy.
But when Melissa celebrated her 11th birthday, things changed.
Her mom told her that she could not spend so much time outdoors. She was getting too many freckles and her skin was getting dark. That was not good for a girl.
While Marshal shoot up suddenly, Melissa felt that she had somehow shrunk. Weren’t they identical? Didn’t they have the same genes? Why wasn’t she stretching up to be as tall as her twin brother?
“You must chaperone your sister whenever she goes out,” mom charged Marshal, who puffed up. “You are her protector, her champion. She is your responsibility.”
“I don’t want to be his burden,” Melissa protested.
“You don’t wait that much, sis. You are light as a feather,” Marshal said with a smile and a wink.
Before that, Melissa was the leader of most mischief. Her curiosity and her free spirit led her to create adventures that sometimes ended in trouble. But they had such fun!
Melissa was a wild creature exploring, learning and growing in communion with the world around her.
Meanwhile, she was Marshal’s private audience as he danced on the makeshift stage in the backyard. He moved with such grace and power! Melissa was envious. What did she do, except read and dream? She wished she could move with such potency.
But all she did now was to sit decorously in the shadow while Marshal danced under the light.
“What did I do wrong?” Melissa asked herself? “Why am I being punished?”
One day she summoned the courage to ask her mom.
“It’s nothing you’ve done, dear. You are a good girl,” her mom responded. “But you are a girl, and this is the way for girls.”
So it was nothing she had done. It was her very being that was wrong. That did not give Melissa much hope!
She barely saw Marshal anymore. He was always on one sport game or another.
“What happened with your dance?” Melissa asked Marshal. “You have not danced in ages!”
“That’s silly stuff!” Marshall said, his face red. “Promise me you won’t tell our friends about it.”
And because she loved her brother, Melissa promised.
While Marshal spend most of his time outdoors, with friends and braving the world, Melissa’s adventures got trapped in the stories of the books she loved. In her real life, she spend time learning to sew, doing domestic chores and visiting her girlfriends, all of whom had changed in the same way.
They no longer talked about adventures, mischief or the ways they would contribute to the world. They talked about pretty dresses, boys and marriage.
It was not that they were not interested. They were all smart girls. But they knew that after all their destiny was to become wives and mothers and they also knew that pushing to be more, to be greater, to exist beyond the confines of home and heart was asking for punishment.
Oh, the punishment may not be a knock on the head or a beating. But it was worse. It would be a silent proscription. Looks of disappointment. Judgment from all. Rejection.
So Melissa stayed home and became a subdued version of herself.
Was she happy? Perhaps not. But she was content. Her parents were proud of her, and she still played with Marshal. But now their games were board games at home, and reading stories to one another. When Marshal went out for adventures with his friends, Melissa staid home with mom.
One day Marshal accompanied her to the seashore. He bend down and brought a beautiful pink shell to her.
“You are like that shell,” Marshall said to Melissa, “Pulsating with the power of the world, so vibrant!”
“Not really,” Melissa whispered. “Not any longer. That girl died years ago. I lived in the shadows now, twin brother. I am a shallow shell of the brave adventure-seeker you played with in our childhood. Now you dance in the light and I sit in the shadows, reading about the adventures I can no longer live.”
“Dancing in the light?” Marshall snorted. “I no longer dance, sis. I am the man. I am the one who carries, fights and protects. I am the strong one, the one who must go out and make it in the world instead of following my heart and dance the beauty I see.”
“What a pair we make!” Melissa joked. But neither her nor her twin laughed.
“Tell you what?” Marshal said, “Go pick a shell for me.”
Melissa did as he said.
“You hold on to my shell, where my grace and dance resides,” Marshal said. “And I’ll hold on to your shell, where your strength and adventure reside. We’ll keep these gifts for one another until we each claim them back.”
And so they did.
When Melissa celebrated her 15th birthday, she began to worry about boys. They were so different! She used to play with Marshal and his friends and she did not feel so different then. What had happened?
She had her Sweet Fifteen Birthday and noticed that the boys were not asking her to dance as much as they asked her friends.
Wasn’t she pretty enough? Was there something wrong with her?
These had been the boys she had played with in her childhood. They knew her well. Why, then did they not dance with her? She wasn’t asking to be married. It was just a dance.
Melissa spent long hours in front of the mirror. Her nose was neither too big nor to small. Her lips were a bit too large for her face and when she smiled, they seemed to dominate it. So Melissa practice to taming her smile. And while she was at it, she tamed her loud, uninhibited laughter which mom had scolded her for.
Melissa finally admitted the truth. She was not pretty. Her features were plain and ordinary.
“That’s not true,” Marshal said.
“You are beautiful inside and out, sis. But you shine like a star and these poor fellows are blinded by it,” Marshal said with a smile and a wink.
Melissa laughed. She felt that Marshal meant it. But couldn’t help teasing him.
“We are twins, so that means you are beauuuutiful too!” she teased.
“Handsome,” Marshal corrected. “That’s why I know you are good looking. I just look at the mirror, sis!” and now he laughed out loud while she chased him around the house with a hairbrush.
But in her mirror, Melissa saw her ordinariness. She would have to make up for her lack of beauty. But how?
She tried being smart but it did not work well with the boys. They recoiled. She could see that they felt stupid. Plus, what did she knew about the world? She had been locked up in her little home since she was 11 years old while the boys knew how the world really worked.
She tried being serviceable. She baked cakes when her brother’s friends –who used to be her friends– came around. She helped them with their homework. She gave them tips to get the girl they wanted. That brought her appreciation, but not admiration.
When Melissa celebrated her 18th birthday, she was full of dreams and dread.
Would she meet her prince charming? Would she find someone who loved her? What could she do that would make the world appreciate her?
Since she had reads lots, she decided that she would become a teacher, and that gave her a sense of pride. She realized that as long as she was helping others, she felt good and doubt-free.
But when she was facing social scrutiny, when she was at a party and people were watching her –seeing that she was not dancing– that’s when she began to hunger for the earth to open and swallow her whole.
As a young woman Melissa was not strong enough to wrestle with men as she had wrestled with the boys she had once called friends. It was as if her body had betrayed her. As if it had transformed into a source of shame, weakness and failure. It was as if her body had been turned outward, with the seems pointing out, so that others’ expectations defined how she experienced and saw her body.
Had it not been for Marshal, she would have been terrified to face the world in her current predicament.
But her brother would protect her against danger and evil. He took her wherever she wanted to be. He open the lids on the jars, carry the heavy stuff and was always there for her… until Melissa got used to not trying her strength. She just called upon her brother, her champion, her hero.
If a man approached her, Marshal would immediately investigate the guy thoroughly before letting him even talk to her. In social events, he kept a close eye on her.
So Melissa felt safe. Lonely, but safe. Bored, but safe.
She wasn’t complaining. Safe was the most important thing, wasn’t it?
The three years following her 18th birthday were a mixture of excitement and frustration.
She studied hard for her educational degree and she had excellent grades. But her social life was in shambles. She did not know how to connect with boys anymore. And they treated her with trepidation, not to upset her big, strong brother.
Melissa’s mind got stronger, but her body got weaker. Her heart was sad. Her soul was aching. But outwardly, she put on her gowns and went to balls and parties and laughed with her girlfriends and even almost got a kiss. But Marshall walked in and send the guy packing.
Later on she realized that the guy was a jerk and was kissing her on a bet. She was so grateful to have a big bad brother!
When Melissa celebrated her 21st birthday, she was both proud and disappointed.
She had graduated as a teacher. She found a work program that gave her graduate credits and went for it. Most of her time was spent teaching and studying. Her girlfriends had either married, moved or were as buys as she was.
“I guess we’ve grown up,” Melissa sighed.
“You mean we’ve become bores?” Marshal laughed.
Secretly, she had given up on love. She was not good enough to be loved in the way she longed to be loved. She longed to be cherished. But who would cherished an ordinary girl? So Melissa poured her love into her students and stopped dating.
Until one terrible day when a devastating scream broke the peace of their home. Without a second thought, Melissa knew her twin was in danger.
Melissa ran to her brother’s bed where she found him in a pool of blood.
“What happened?” she screamed.
“A fight,” Marshall whispered.
“I’ll call a doctor,” Melissa hastened.
“NO!” Marshall tried to scream but it came out in a pained whisper. “No time. Listen!”
“I’m here,” Melissa whispered.
“No. You are not,” Marshall said.
“What?” Melissa asked, fearing that his brain had been damaged.
“You were stolen,” Marshal whispered. “But I kept the part of your heart that was brave.”
“I…what… please don’t talk. The doctor is coming,” Melissa pleaded with her brother.
“No time,” Marshall said as he struggled to breathe.
Then he took a shell from his bloodied pocket and offered it to her.
“This is your strength, Melissa. Take it back,” Marshall offered.
“But you!” Melissa cried.
“I am going to dance in the light,” Marshall said with a smile and a wink. And then he died.
“NOOOOO!” Melissa cried and threw herself over her twin’s body, willing to give her life force for him to live.
Instead, she felt wave after wave of strength, power, light and potent grace emanating from his already cold body and penetrating every pore of her being.
She laid there for hours. Days. Weeks. Perhaps years. Time had lost meaning.
Until she heard the door open and light bathed the room.
“Melissa?” mom called. “You’ve been sequestered there long enough, daughter. It is time to come out.”
Melissa rose her head, seeking her twin’s body. But there was nothing there.
She looked around, but this was not her brother’s bedroom. It was a dance studio.
“Your choreographer is here,” mom said. “She is worried that you have not shown up for rehearsals.”
“You have a dance recital soon, daughter,” mom said and she seemed proud.
“Me? On stage? That’s not possible,” Melissa said.
“Why ever not?” mom asked.
“I don’t dance. I’m not strong. Marshal is the one who…”
“Marshal?” Her mother whispered. “Who is Marshal?”
“My twin,” Melissa sobbed. “How can you joke like this?”
Her mother’s worried expression gave Melissa a very bad feeling. She stood in shaky legs.
Mom came to her then and touched her forehead.
“You don’t seem to have a fever, Should I call the doctor?”
“Mom, my twin…”
“You are a woman now,” mom said. “You must let go of your imaginary twin, dear. It’s time to go out there and show your own face without hiding behind a Shadow you invented.”
And it was then that Melissa saw that the two shells Marshal and she had held for one another were a whole oyster shell and that resting inside was a brilliant pearl.
Melissa was center stage. She was dancing in ecstasy. Her legs were strong. Her limbs were graceful. Her torso was flexible. She was center-stage and there was no place to hide and no part of her that wanted to be hidden.
She was whole, as she had been before she hid her strength and her dance within a part of herself –the part she sent out into the world while she hid the vulnerable part of herself. Marshal had been her protector and her shield while she had hidden, embracing her invisibility so that she could hide in plain sight in a world that seemed to demand the best of her while refusing to value it.
But she was free now. Marshal had called in his shell, making her whole.
She was dancing in the light.
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