Charlie was fourteen, going on fifteen. She was in Year 10 at school, working towards those evil exams which were to come in less than two years time: for some of them, the deadline had been brought forward to the end of that very academic year. This didn't bother her overly, as she was clever, hardworking and knew she could do well if she tried.
Her hobbies were unusual, in their own way, but she enjoyed writing, music and dance. They took up all her time until she found herself struggling to make time for cinema trips and shopping; reading books and browsing the web for sites to waste more time on -- all the things that absorb the teenage culture, but she wasn't really an ordinary teenager.
In September of that year, her dance school updated their website. They put up a call to audition for their dance troupe (The Daoine Sidhe, Irish for the Fairy Folk), and she was desperate to take the plunge. But did she have time? Training was ten hours a week, and for somebody still at school that was a lot of time and money, even if they were paid for performances.
"I want to do it." But her parents said no. For a week, she thought no more of it.
And yet seven days, twelve hours and thirty-eight minutes later, she decided that no matter what they said, she was going for the audition. Precisely six minutes later she was on the phone to her dance teacher, arranging an audition. Charlie would never, ever say that something was impossible until she had tried. It was one of the things that made her do so well.
She went to the audition and stood, waiting nervously outside the door to her regular practice studio. Her hard shoes were tied tightly onto her feet and her socks were glued securely; she wore her competition leotard and skirt because her others were in the wash, as she had not been expecting to dance today; her hair was tightly scraped back into a high ponytail and she carried her own CD. Opening the door to admit her, her teachers hardly recognised her.
"Charlie! You didn't need to bring music. We've got the laptop." They were friendly and welcoming. "How about you just perform for us your normal dances and then we test you out on the choreography? Of course, we know mostly what your dancing style is like...."
"I'll dance this one to my own track," she insisted, handing them the blank home-burnt CD. And seeing the steely glint in her eye, they thought it best not to dispute this request. The music was duly placed in the CD player. Almost reverently, her teacher, Tom, asked which track was to be played. "There are only two tracks. The first."
He pressed play, and together with his brother James they stepped back to watch.
Now, Charlie danced. For those that have never watched Irish dancing -- or even for those that believe they have gained some impression from watching the big shows like Lord of the Dance or Feet of Flames -- a description of her stance and movements may be a necessity here.
She did not use her arms. This was entirely normal for Irish dancing. We make it our duty to keep those limbs closely against our sides and to keep our back straight, but it seems natural enough while we are dancing; dancers from other forms of dance such as ballet or tap often find it unusual, but we are used to it. However, Charlie's dancing made one forget that she did not use her whole body.
She took over the floor. For the first time, Ben and James realised how shy she was at class in front of the other girls. They had never seen her dance when alone, but her stamps were so loud (oh, and how the floor shook!), her leaps so high and her clicks so perfect that they were spellbound. They stared at her in amazement.
The song she had chosen was in itself a little unusual, because it did not contain the usual accordion playing a heavy jig or hornpipe. Instead, she had chosen a song by a band that she had used to like: a heavy, emo-rock sort of song with depressing lyrics and a bounding bass. You would have thought that it would have been a disaster.
But this was Charlie, and so it worked.