Lilia died of cancer at the age of 32 on January 17. Of course, I knew before her death that she had cancer, and from the day I found out until the day she was gone I sent her flowers everyday. After she had died I realized two things: Everyone loved her. She was one of those people who could not help but be loved by everyone she met. They all adored her, admired her, and fell in love with her grace, beauty, charm and poise. The second thing I realized was that of everyone in the world who loved her, I was the only one she loved in return, and I was her only friend.

I have never cried as I did the morning that I read the announcement of her death in the Times.Somehow, I had never really thought that I could lose her. Though she and I could never be the friends we once were, I guess I just figured that we would always be there for each other, even though we never spoke after the night of the first ballet.

I soon discovered that I was the only person listed in her will. It was read at two o' clock the next day. I was one of three people present. I will never repeat the sum of money she left me and the fact that she left it to me makes me feel guilty; and I hate myself every time I think about it. Her money and her dancing were all that she had, and she left her legacy of dancing to the world. She left her money, her car, and her mother's house to me.

I spoke at her funeral. Or, rather, I attempted to speak. I got fifteen minutes into my stories and memories I and couldn't continue. I was her only friend, and though just under a thousand people showed up at her funeral, I was the only one of them who knew, without having to think about it, what her real name was. With her I buried the second pair of black toe shoes I bought her; I kept the slippers that I had given her for her seventeenth birthday. They are my most prized possession.

With the money that Tara left me, I turned her mother's house into a museum dedicated to her dancing. The shoes are the first display guests encounter when entering the museum. The second is the journal, and throughout the house thousands of pictures of her are scattered about. No one can walk through the house without crying. That someone as young, talented and beautiful as she was taken so soon is the greatest tragedy the world of ballet has known. War has swept the planet, along with famine and natural disasters, but none made the dancing realm's heart break the way it did when dear Lilia Dauphine died.

---

After the funeral, her meek assistant approached me cautiously. I looked up and must have startled her with my red eyes, puffy from crying. The first thing I noticed was that we were the only two people left.

"You don't even know my name, but I know yours," she began, her voice barely above a hushed whisper. "Before every production, Tara would sit in front of the mirror in her chair and ask herself, 'Is Jase coming tonight?' I would always answer that Jase couldn't keep himself away from her beauty. She always laughed gently. Then you really did start coming, and she would ask the same question each night. I would give the same response, and you always came. I noticed after a while that she wore black pointe shoes on the nights that you were coming. If you didn't come the opening night, she would wear pink or red, anything but black, and then when you did come she would wear the black ones.

"I don't think I'll ever understand everything. All I know is that after every night you came, she would tell me, 'I love him even more tonight.' Then she would give me the box to give to you. She was a very special person, and you should feel blessed to have been loved by her." She paused for a moment as she shed a few tears.

The silence gave me a minute to think about this odd woman and all that she was sharing with me. I couldn't fully comprehend everything, but I did understand that she was telling me how much Tara loved me.

She hesitated, as if she was about to tell me something she felt she shouldn't. "Mademoiselle told me that you used to watch the stars at night together. Three days before she died, she spoke her last words. The flowers you sent had just come, and I moved them closer to her bed. She said, 'Tell Jase that I made a wish for him. Tell him I wished that all his wishes would come true.' And those were the last words she ever spoke." Silence. "I'll leave you alone now," she whispered, her eyes downcast. And she walked slowly away, lost in her own world as mine came crashing down.

I was there crying until Meg came and dragged me away.

I am now 87 years old. I won't last much longer, but that doesn't matter. I have led an empty life with Meg as my only true friend left in the world.

Meg and I got married three years after Tara's death. It was a marriage of convenience. The contents of Meg's father's will stated that she received only half of her inheritance unless she married, and she and I loved each other, in our own way. We had two children, Tara Lyn and Lilia Ashley. Both adored ballet and eventually joined the LDBC—Lilia Dauphine Ballet Company. Tara had three children and Lilia had one. Of my four grandkids, three went into the ballet. The one who didn't, James, had a daughter who is now my greatest companion. She accompanies me everywhere. We often go to the ballet.

Of the 72 novels I have written, none have given me the satisfaction that this short account has given me. It is my dying wish that this be published exactly as it is. That means no editing, Meg.

So this is my story, though I suppose it is Tara's more than mine. This is rather an unusual story. There is nothing you can learn from it; do not try. It is only an account of an old friendship that an old, dying man wishes to be published. If you must, however, glean some lesson from my sad tale, walk away with this in mind: Nothing is worth the loss of a friend.

I am now free to die and will not plague the world with my melancholy writings anymore. Please remember Tara, since I will no longer be around to do so. And do not be sad. I am going to join the most beautiful angel of all in heaven.

I was right; Tara has outlived me. Her dancing will live until the end of time. My writing will last for a little while. There will be a surge of remembrance when I die, but it will not last for long. Everyone will read my books, but they were never great. They only told about life as it is—gray and dreary. Tara's dancing made life beautiful.

And so, as my last words, I say this: Goodbye, Tara Lyn Mason. This is for old times' sake.

---

A/N: There. It's over. I'm glad. Reading over it has been an interesting experience for me. I don't like it. Someday, I'll get around to making it everything I wanted it to be and was too young to write when I first began it. For now, it stays. Such a sad, beautiful story. It wasn't meant to be a love story. It's not a love story, really. It's supposed to be about friendship. Ah, well, such is life. Take it for what you will. I hope you all enjoyed as much as was possible.