by JoAnn Baca


The note would have been cryptic to anyone else. In delicate script, it said only “Samantha – Ballet shoes – The Great Hall.”

Vincent sighed, shaking his head at the memory. He refolded the note and placed it in the inner pocket of his cloak. It had been tucked into his diary since he had received it from the ever-impatient, imperious Lisa. Her impromptu visit – not to reconnect with the home that had once sheltered her, but to escape from her troubles Above – had caused waves which even now occasionally rippled through the community Below. Case in point: Samantha.

He remembered….

The note had been left for him, perched on his pillows, late one morning during Lisa’s stay. She had enthralled the community with the highlights of her career and travels the night before. Vincent knew that several of the children had stars in their eyes as a result, none more so than Samantha.  The note was yet another of Lisa’s impractical demands. Where was he to find ballet shoes, and how long had Samantha been awaiting his arrival with them, urged to expect them by her newfound ballet teacher?

Miraculously, Rebecca still had a pair of patched but serviceable practice slippers. Several of the girls had been provided with rudimentary ballet training by the elderly mother of a Helper who had discovered her daughter’s “secret friends” and been enthusiastic about “helping” herself.  The training, sadly, had only lasted a few months, ending when the old woman had passed away, but it had been enough to spark the creative talent in Lisa that had led to her career. For Rebecca, it had been a fun way to spend recreational time, even though her true talents lay elsewhere.

The old practice shoes would have to do.

Vincent descended the back stairs to the Great Hall, the ones used when food needed to be delivered. They were more circuitous but less difficult to navigate than the windy, open stairway that led to the Great Hall’s massive front doors. As he neared the Hall, he could hear Lisa’s voice as she explained the basic techniques of barre exercises.

“Don’t roll in! Keep your weight evenly distributed along the bottoms of your feet. That’s essential for  turning out properly. “ Lisa sighed dramatically. “It’s much easier to do when you aren’t wearing those clumsy Tunnel shoes. Where can Vincent be with the ballet slippers?”

He rounded the last turn and emerged from the internal stairway.

“I’m here.” He handed Rebecca’s patched slippers to a delighted Samantha. As the young girl was putting them on, Vincent murmured to Lisa, “Some advance notice would have been appreciated. It isn’t a simple thing to locate such…exotic footwear Below. Luckily, Rebecca still had a pair.”

Lisa waved one hand in dismissal of the criticism. “I knew you wouldn’t fail Samantha. You have always been infinitely resourceful!”

Vincent ground his teeth in aggravation, but remained outwardly calm for Samantha’s sake. “Nevertheless, please don’t leave notes when you need something. I might not have seen it for hours, and you would have kept Samantha from her chores for nothing.”

Lisa blithely turned away from him, busying herself with ensuring Samantha’s positioning was correct now that she had the proper footwear. Vincent was being ignored, and finally he left Lisa with her eager student.

Samantha’s promised “private lessons” with Lisa had started… and ended…that day. Without a large, rapt audience to notice what she was doing, Lisa had lost interest. It was hard for Vincent to forgive Lisa her thoughtlessness – building up a youngster’s hopes, promising to teach her, and then abandoning her without a word of apology.

That had been four years ago. Lisa had not returned Below, not even to say goodbye. She’d given her testimony Above and merely…disappeared. But the seeds she had planted in Samantha had grown. Rebecca had given Samantha her old ballet shoes to help assuage her disappointment at being ignored for the remainder of Lisa’s stay. Samantha could be spotted practicing positions everywhere – before classes started, while waiting in line in the dining hall…. She’d begged Cullen to build a proper barre for her. And Samantha…determined and focused…had blossomed with a passion that quickly grew beyond the starry-eyed  adoration of a famous ballerina.

Samantha had a true gift, one that might never have been identified or developed without the inspiration of one very self-centered former tunnel dweller who had had a momentary lapse in self-involvement and had given her a magical hour of instruction.  Lisa’s legacy Below would become Samantha.

“Are you ready?”

He had been so immersed in his thoughts that Catherine’s voice startled him. He looked up at her, then rose from his chair and nodded. “I was just reminiscing.”

Catherine smiled indulgently. “Time enough for that later…after the performance. It’s not every evening one can watch the newest apprentice of the New York City Ballet strut her stuff!”

“She might object to that characterization, Catherine.” His rebuke was couched in a smile.

“Undoubtedly! Come, the sub-basement entrance to the theater awaits, my love, and Chandler is excited about seeing his Auntie Sam on stage Above.”

As if on cue, a cherubic toddler the image of his father squirmed out of his mother’s arms, reaching for Vincent, who quickly caught him.

“Shall we go see Auntie Sam dance, little man?”

Chandler clapped his hands. “Yes, pwease!”

“Daddy has a special note to deliver to her afterwards.”

At Catherine’s quizzical look, he responded enigmatically, “From Lisa, in a way.  A recollection. The…genesis.”

Catherine smiled in anticipation of the story she would hear as they walked.

Vincent hoisted his son upon his shoulders and preceded her out of the chamber. She paused only a moment to reflect on the word Vincent had used: genesis.  They would have their own “genesis” story to tell their son one day – one more wonderful than any Vincent would tell her tonight.

With a heart full of love and happiness, she rushed to join her family.


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