Duchess Swan did not mess up her routine. When she did ballet, she did ballet. So Faybelle knew it was bad news when she saw Duchess stumble on stage during her recital. No one else in the audience likely even noticed the improper landing, the way that Duchess’ foot wobbled before she finally caught her balance, but Faybelle had been forced to watch this performance over and over again during the past few weeks, and she could see the shame shining in Duchess’ eyes. Even though the swan didn’t mess up again, Faybelle could tell that she was more nervous. Her jaw was clenched tight and her eyes had never stopped glistening with that faint hint of humiliation.
The instant the show was over, Faybelle had leaped out of her seat and flown backstage, catching Duchess in the hallway in front of the dressing room.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” the fairy quickly spoke up as she landed, knowing that Duchess would know what she was talking about. “I don’t even think that anyone noticed.”
“But you noticed.” Duchess glanced over at her fairyfriend, quivering slightly. Faybelle felt a coil of anger grow in her chest upon seeing so much distress upon her face. She wanted to do whatever it took in order to keep that look far, far, away.
“You’re still the best,” Faybelle stated firmly. “You know, Justine, she’s got nothing on you. She’s really only good because of her special shoes-”
“Thanks, Faybelle,” Duchess responded hollowly. “You don’t have to say that, though.”
The coil of anger burned brighter. “I’m not just saying that!” Faybelle snapped, her words coming harsher than she intended, out of her intense fury that Duchess was feeling like this. Her wings started fluttering and she hovered above the ground. “You’re so much better than any of those flat-footed fairytales! You’re the best dancer in all of Ever After!” And she would have gone on, but the fairy suddenly stopped herself when she heard a choked sob echo from Duchess’ mouth.
“I know you don’t…” the dancer whispered, trying to force the words out. She shook her head, angry about how her tears were getting in the way. “That you don’t understand. You can’t. But I…” Another breathy gasp cut off her words, as slick streams of water trickled down her face.
She didn’t have to say any more. The tears had cooled the anger inside of Faybelle. She dropped to the ground right in front of Duchess and wrapped her arms around her, and let her girlfriend just sob into her shoulder. That was all that she needed. Not for Faybelle to get upset or start plotting some sort of revenge to ensure that everyone else failed. Sometimes, a simple shoulder to cry on could be good enough.