Criminal logo

Pas de Deux

As Carmila's ballet career reaches its pinnacle, the shadows of the past emerge, casting a poignant silhouette on her final performance.

By Karina ThyraPublished 4 months ago 16 min read
Pas de Deux
Photo by SPACEDEZERT on Unsplash

When the applause and cheers subsided, and the dancers bowed after a majestic performance of Swan Lake, young Carmila distinctly recalled the pact she and her twin sister Carmina had made. Watching Swan Lake, the eight-year-old girls decided that one day they, too, would be part of a grand production. Carmina aspired to be the principal dancer, while Carmila envisioned designing the tutus and, perhaps, even the entire stage. She had always excelled more in the arts than her twin.

This moment of unbridled happiness and the realization of dreams were forever etched in Carmila’s memory. She recalls it many years later until she draws her last breath.


A decade later, the twins' parents, Dolores and William, attended another grand production. This time, it was 'The Black Swan,' led by Carmila. She had blossomed beautifully, possessing grace, wit, and charm. Her finesse in dancing was as evident as it was in her other artistic pursuits. However, with ballet consuming most of her time, the painting of two young women performing a scene in Black Swan remained unfinished in her home studio.

As Carmila basked in the cheers and applause, the music gradually faded. Undoubtedly, this performance could secure her a spot at the Royal Ballet Academy. She had poured her heart into the act, marking it as perhaps the finest in her decade-long ballet career. When the curtains finally closed, revealing the eager faces of the dancers' families, Carmila wore a wide smile.

"Great job, Mila!" Dolores exclaimed, embracing her daughter tightly. Dolores, a middle-aged woman who appeared younger than her years, had shoulder-length hair with a slight curl at the ends. Her eyes, adorned with small, fine lines, smiled in unison. William, Carmila's father, stood tall and sturdy, giving off an impression reminiscent of a pharmacist. He too hugged his daughter and presented her with a bouquet of orchids, tiger lilies, and baby's breath.

"Thanks, Mom, Dad."

"Now, where do you want to eat, kiddo? Your manager spoke to us and mentioned you have 15 days before you fly off to Russia," William beamed proudly. Carmila could sense a mix of pride and sudden melancholy in their expressions. Her parents desired only the best for Carmila but were apprehensive about the impending changes.

"How about the pizza place? It's been a while since we've all had pizza!"

Those were the magic words. Although Dolores worried about Carmila potentially facing reprimands from her manager for indulging in 'grease,' the father-daughter duo eventually persuaded her to enjoy a little.

After their delightful dinner at the pizza place, they took home an extra pie, as Mila loved to indulge after every performance. It was her way of recuperating.

"Hey, sister! I see that you brought home the bacon!"

"Yes, Mina. It's bacon and pepperoni, with bell peppers, mushrooms, and olives."

"Great! Thanks, sissy."

"It's not a problem, Mina."

"I also heard that –"

"Can we talk about this tomorrow, Mina? I am tired. I just want to go to sleep, if you don't mind," Carmila replied to her sister, pinching the bridge of her nose to convey her disapproval of where their conversation was headed.

"Aight, sissy. Sleep tight."

"You too."

However, Carmila couldn't sleep soundly that night. She kept tossing and turning, worried that her insomnia would hinder her productivity the next day at the studio. She decided to call in sick and train in her home studio instead.

In the morning, as expected, Carmila felt as if she hadn't slept at all.

"GOOD MORNING, DEAR SISTER!" Mina shouted. "Mom and dad left early. I guess it's just you and me now."

"-And Harmonia," Carmila added. Harmonia, the cat Carmila got during her fifth year in ballet school, was heavily pregnant and due just before Carmila would leave for Russia.

"Eat up, sis, and take your meds. You've got loads of dancing to do."

"I will, Mina. Could you just please leave me alone for a while?"

Mina expressed mock shock and hurt, but upon receiving glares from her sister, she went away. Instead of spending the entire day training, Carmila decided to dedicate half of it to painting.


Like many children who swore when they were young, a promise is something that must never be broken, especially if it is a promise made to someone near and dear to your heart. The twins, Carmila and Carmina, swore that they would always be together – unless using the bathroom – no matter what. Carmila feared how her sister would react if she found out that she was leaving for Russia. Mina’s dream was to be a principal dancer – it had been Carmina’s dream, not Carmila’s. However, something happened, and Mina could not fulfill her dream, so Mila was doing it for her and their parents.

Carmila took her medication, and the rest of the day went smoothly. At night, when her parents returned, it would be one hell of a situation to put up with, again. At home, Carmila did not enjoy talking about leaving for Russia. She was excited but also anxious. It would not be her first out-of-country trip, but it would be the first one where she would not be with her parents. Carmila is eighteen years old.

“Carmila, we’re home!” William shouted.

“Dad! Mom! I am here. In the kitchen.” Carmila was preparing Alfredo Carbonara because she just felt like eating it today. Shortly, she set up the dining table.

“Smells wonderful, Mila.”

“Thanks,” Carmila said with a smile. When she turned around, she tried to hide the fact that she was startled.

“So, when were you going to tell me about Russia?”

“Mina,” Carmila began, washing the utensils she used.

“Don’t even try to deny it, sissy. I heard Mom and Dad talking; they even got you a shiny new suitcase.”

“Mina, please. Just listen to me.”

“If it weren’t for me, Mila, you would never be where you are now. All I asked for is no secrets between us!”

“Mina, I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re not,” Mina said. She left without another word.

Carmila continued to set up the table, and soon enough, the family sat down to eat the hearty meal.

“Delicious, Mila!” William said, bringing his right fingertips together and lightly kissing them as a sign of praise.

“You always make the meanest Carbonara,” Dolores concurred.

“Thank you, guys.”

“I can’t believe our little baby is going to leave us soon.”

“Mom, it’s only for two years. We can always video call, and you can visit me on the holidays.”

“Mila’s right, honey,” William said. “We can’t coop her here forever. She must spread her wings!”

They laughed, remembering that Mila’s last performance was Black Swan.

After dinner, Carmila retired to bed, more relaxed now than she had been the night before. The next day, Carmila rose early, way too early that not even the roosters had greeted the rising sun yet. It was Sunday. Carmila went to her home studio, a spacious room that connects to her own. It has a shiny wooden floor, three wide mirrors covering the side of the wall, barres, and a few exercise equipment. This is where Carmila paints too.

After doing her morning exercises, she continued painting. The portrait was of two ballet dancers wearing white and black tutus, respectively. The entire scene was almost lifelike. As Carmila painted, adding highlights and shadows here and there, she remembered her childhood.

Her twin, Carmina, would go to ballet school, practicing her pirouettes and whatnot, while Carmila went to art workshops. Less than six months later, they were already better than other children of their age; true child prodigies. Until something happened. Carmila finished the thought just as she finished painting the outline for the audience of her ballerina duo.


“Dear, is it right to send her off alone? I mean, she’s going into self-exile again. I’m getting worried,” Dolores said to William. They were now eating breakfast, and William was barely paying attention because he was too engrossed in solving his crossword puzzles.

“I’m worried about letting her go alone too. But as long as she’s taking her medications, she’ll be alright.”

Loud classical music played from Carmila’s studio.

“Didn’t you hear her last night? She was arguing with Mina. Carmina!

“And then she was calm. The meds have taken effect, then.”

Dolores sighed. It was pointless to have a conversation with her husband when he was doing his crosswords. Instead, she brought a hearty breakfast of chorizo, eggs, whole wheat bread, and orange juice to her daughter.

Carmila was painting again.

“Mila, eat your breakfast.”

“Just leave it there, Mom. Thank you,” she said without even looking up.

“No, you will eat it right now. I don’t like you skipping meals.”

Just then, Harmonia waltzed inside the room. The cat was a lot slower now than it was a few weeks back. Any day of the week, the cat might go into labor. Dolores set up the small round table and huge cushions and placed her daughter’s breakfast there.

“Come on now, sugarplum. Eat. Your. Breakfast.”

“Fine, Mother. I concede,” Carmila joked. She plopped herself down on the cushion and ate. Meanwhile, Dolores stood up to admire the unfinished painting. She was teary-eyed as she looked at it, reminded of how they used to be before a tragedy struck their family, and Carmila was the one to fulfill a dream that was not hers.

“Have you started packing?” Dolores asked as she sat on the cushion opposite Carmila.

“Yes, Mother. Though I think I might just stay at home for a while rather than go back to the dance studio.”

“Why is that?”

“I want to spend my last few days at home. And I really want to finish this painting before I leave. I will stop over at the studio later today. Would you like to come with?”

“Alright. I will drive you there. Now, finish your breakfast and take a shower. We’ll leave at ten,” Dolores said, kissing her daughter’s hair.

After finishing her breakfast, Carmila prepared to leave for the dance studio. She would bid adieu to the place and to the friends she made there. Two years in Russia would be tough, but she could not wait; Carmila could not wait to leave this place.


It was Carmila’s last seven days in town. As she had informed Dolores, after the visit to the dance studio, Carmila barely left her studio. The girl was there either dancing or painting and couldn't be bothered to eat unless either Dolores or William went up there to bring her meals. Carmila rose early, showered promptly, and then engaged in whatever she had to do. On the fourth day, she was halfway through the painting; she had perfected a complicated routine, and she had lost 15 pounds. She only needed to perfect the details of her painting. Carmila decided that she needed to spend time with her mother and father.

“It’s good to see you out and about now, dear. You’ve been cooped up in that studio all week. Three days before you leave, and you've barely spent time with us,” Dolores lamented as Carmila sat down for some snacks. William was in the garage fixing the minivan.

“That’s why I’m here now, Mom. Say, can we go to a nice restaurant later, maybe catch a movie after?”

“Sure, dear. Won’t you give these snacks to your father? He’s in the garage.”

Dolores handed Carmila a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches and lemon iced tea, which she then brought to her father outside.

“Thanks, Mila,” William said, as he looked out from under the hood. “So, my little princess is leaving for Russia in three days. Got everything ready?” He asked between gulps of lemonade.

Yes, Dad,” Mila replied.

William sighed. “I know you’re worried about Mina, but I think it’s time to let go. You should quit feeling guilty, Mila.”

Carmila did not say another word. She just smiled and nodded.

She went back up to her studio to continue painting. The best part of her room was its mini-fridge. She had it well-stocked, from pre-made foods, small tubs of ice cream, water, and other refreshments. She could choose not to come down from her room for a week, and she would still be well-nourished and clean. And that, she did.

On the sixth day, Dolores knocked on Carmila's door with Harmonia in tow. Carmila was still asleep. Dolores just left the cat in her daughter’s room, knowing that Carmila would appreciate Harmonia by her side during her self-exile.

Every year, during this time of the month, Carmila would just stay inside her room. When she was younger, she would lock the door, but Dolores and William had convinced her not to lock the door anymore so they could check on how she was doing. Sometimes she painted, read, and played with her dolls. It was not until Dolores and William coerced Carmila to try ballet that the little girl became less depressed. She would be the one to fulfill her sister’s dream.


On the seventh day, Dolores and William were more than alarmed because Carmila still had not come down. Her flight would be in 16 hours, and still, they had not seen even a single strand of the girl’s hair. The music coming from Carmila’s studio the night before, past bedtime, unduly disturbed Dolores and William. It was classical but far too intense for ballet music in the middle of the night. Later, it turned somber; Dolores and William could swear it was funeral music. They even heard Frederic Chopin’s Marche Funebre.

After three hours, they could not hold back anymore. The somber music was still playing. At first, they thought she was practicing still, but they had convinced her to take it easy on the training so she would not strain her muscles long before she flew to Russia. Carmila’s character was far from imprudent; they knew that Mila would heed their advice.

As the somber notes lingered in the air, Dolores and William couldn't shake off their concern. It was during this tense moment that Detective Kit Cinco, whom Dolores had urgently contacted through a number given to her by a friend, arrived at the scene. An investigator with a deep-rooted passion for ballet, the detective had attended many ballet performances in their spare time, feeling a connection to Carmila's world. This made the case both personal and professional.

"I'm Detective Kit Cinco. I'm here to understand what happened," the detective said, their eyes momentarily drawn to the ballet-themed paintings adorning the walls.

Dolores, her voice shaky, responded, "She's been up there all night. We thought she was practicing, but now... we're terrified."

The detective, noting the dance-inspired decor, felt a pang of familiarity. "I understand how vital every moment is. Let's try her door and see if she needs medical attention."

When they got upstairs to Carmila’s chambers, the door was locked. She had never locked the door since she was eight years old. It took William and Dolores a good fifteen minutes to unlock the door because they had to retrieve the key; William wasn’t strong enough to kick the door open.

What they found inside shocked them; they just stood and stared as if they were shown the head of a gorgon. The scene before them was something that could drive any parent insane:

There on the shiny wooden dance floor lay Carmila, wearing a royal purple ballet gown with matching pointe shoes. Carmila’s lovely face was not dolled up, but the slight dew on her hollow cheeks shimmered like the unclouded moon in the faint yellowish light that was purportedly her spotlight. She looked like a life-sized doll, even as her collapsed body lay across the floor; it was precisely in a languid pose of a final pirouette. As her parents stared at Carmila’s lifeless body, they noticed that her corpse was facing the direction of the finished painting still attached to the easel. Beneath the painting was a purple silk that served as a bed; lay Harmonia, bloody and lifeless. However, the expression on the cat's face appeared calm as her eyes were closed, unlike Carmila’s. The soft meowing of two newborn kittens – one with white fur and bright yellow eyes, and the other black fur with the shade of the brightest blue – promptly broke the parents’ catatonic state. Dolores sank wearily to her knees and closed her daughter’s eyes, and then she scooped up the newborn kittens, cradling them in her arms as if they were Carmila and Carmina themselves, while William and the detective dialed the emergency numbers.

"And where is Carmina? May I question her?" inquired the detective.

"She's gone," Dolores answered, her eyes glazed over.

"What do you mean she's gone? Her twin sister is lying dead! And they've been arguing before this happened! Look at your daughter!" The detective tried to repress their frustration, to little avail.

"What she..." William stammered. "What she meant to say is, Mina's gone. She's been dead for ten years."

Understanding dawned on the detective's face.

"It was an accident. T-they played too far off. We couldn't find them for hours. C-Carmina, s-she fell into a deep hole. Her sister didn't. But she couldn't run to get help; she didn't want to risk leaving her sister behind or getting lost herself. We finally found them several hours later, b-but..." Dolores said.

"She died in the hospital due to dehydration. We moved to this city after our Mina died. We thought we could help Mila heal from that, but here we are." William finished.

When the detective's colleagues came to see the dreadful scene for themselves, their first conclusion revealed that Carmila died of fatigue and dehydration. After they took away her body to bring it to the morgue, they expressed their condolences to the family, however, they could not help but compliment the lovely painting of the two ballerinas wearing white and black, respectively.

The painting looked so lifelike, and amid the bokeh of the audience, one could make out two girls sitting in a row, their heads adorned with yellow and blue bows. The girls’ heads were slightly tilted, revealing only half of their young, cherubic faces adorned with the ghost of their timeless laugh.


About the Creator

Karina Thyra

Fangirl of sorts.

Twitter: @ArianaGsparks

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.