by Jordan

Her breath was coming fast and she struggled to keep her composure as her heart fluttered. Standing on the dance floor in full regalia, surrounded by dozens of her fellow Fancydancers, Amelia knew the moment she’d practiced so hard for was only seconds away. She could see her grandma waving from the audience, but the little old woman was barely tall enough to be seen.

Amelia snapped back to attention as the drums started to beat, and she began to sway in time with all the other girls. As the music picked up speed, so too did the dancers, until everything around her was a rainbow of shawls, beaded jewelry, and feathers. Losing herself in the music, she danced like she never had before, her smile bright and her eyes shining.

Here nothing mattered but the dance. All her fears and frustrations were forgotten, her body and spirit harmonizing in a way she only experienced on the dance floor. The girl who’d lost both her parents to a fire only half a year past was forgotten, locked away as the Fancydancer within took flight. She’d lost sight of her grandma in the sea of people, but she could see her own smile reflected on the old woman’s face in her mind.

It wasn’t so long ago that Grandma was Fancydancing too, and in this same regalia. She thought, growing more conscious of the unique way her dress jingled and swayed as she danced. By all rights I should be wearing mom’s, but then again, mom must have worn this too before she made her own.

When the drums and dancing stopped, and Amelia found her Mary in the crowd, the old woman showered her with praise and kissed her on both cheeks. Feeling the moisture on her face, she realized her grandma was crying. Of all the things to come tumbling out of her mouth then, she thought ‘I love you’ would have been most appropriate, but what she said was “I wasn’t raised Native like you were, grandma, I couldn’t have been as good as you or mom.” It was the first time she’d let herself think about her parents since she came out of shock months ago.

“That makes no difference on the dance floor,” was her grandma’s tear-filled response. “The only thing that matters here is this.” The old woman pointed a deeply tanned finger at Amelia’s heart. She opened her mouth to protest, but her grandma spoke first. “You’re a natural-born Fancydancer, Amelia. Don’t ever let anybody tell you different.” She didn’t know what to say to that, so she took the little woman in her arms and embraced her then.

Her grandma helped her out of her regalia, untying red ribbons, and leather and wax strings. The many meticulously beaded pieces, feathers and shells adorning each of them, were all wrapped up in paper and stuffed into plastic bags, along with her earrings, necklaces, and moccasins. Her dress she folded and carried in a separate bag.

Looking at it all, she couldn’t help but think of her mother, with her full lips and dark, lazy curls. It made her want to cry, but she refused to let her grandma see it. Better that she bore the pain herself than make it worse for the poor old woman.