They returned to Mr Conor's office, Maria still drenched in sweat and wearing her dance clothes. She longed to have a shower and change but knew she would have to wait a little while before that was possible. "I'll ring your mother," he said, picking up the phone from his desk. "What's your number?" She told him, waiting anxiously while he typed it in. Maria didn't know whether she wanted her mother to answer or not. "Hello, is that Mrs Dominic? Hi, I was wondering if I could speak to you for a moment."
Maria couldn't hear the other end of the conversation but it didn't take that much imagination to work out what her mother would be saying. She'd be wondering where she was - worrying, no doubt, all flustered and panicky despite everything Maria had said to her. It was just like her.
"It's about your daughter. No - no, she's fine - no, I need to speak to you first. She asked me to call you. She was nervous, thought you wouldn't listen to her. Oh, I am sorry. My name is Mr Conor. I'm the Intake and Admissions Officer at the Royal Ballet School ... yes, indeed, I have Maria here with me. I must say, she's very persuasive. Now, I can't offer her a place just like that, but we're running a summer school at the moment and we'd like her to stay for a couple of days so we can watch how she gets on ... all right, I'll hand you over."
"Maria?" Her mother's voice was frantic.
"Mum, calm down. I'm fine. Didn't you listen to what Mr Conor said? I told you not to worry about me. I was going to call you as soon as I'd seen whoever was in charge and got an answer one way or another..."
Her mother took a deep breath. "Are you really at the Royal Ballet School?" she asked. "I didn't realise you were so serious about it. You must know the others would be much more advanced than you..."
"You didn't realise I was serious? When I gave up everything I've loved for the past five years or so? Mum..." Maria groaned. "Just tell me if it's all right for me to stay for a day or two. I have some clothes ... it would be fine. Mr Conor wanted your permission before he found me a room."
There was a long pause. "And you're sure it's legit."
"There are plenty of things I'm worried about, but that's not one of them." Maria laughed. "You do think of the oddest things, Mum. I'll never understand you, I really won't."
"You want to stay, and you've already got yourself there with clothes. I can't exactly stop you, can I? Even if I wanted to, which I don't."
"Thanks, Mum." Maria beamed up at Mr Conor, who smiled a little nervously back. "Do you want to speak to Mr Conor again?"
"Yes, please." Maria returned the phone and sat back in the chair. The adults talked for a bit, but only hearing one end of the conversation got boring after a while, so she went over to the chair-barre and started to do some stretches. She wasn't the most flexible of people, but three months of practice and stretches every day had definitely helped. If anything, her inflexibility had made her more determined than ever. After ten minutes she was so engrossed that she didn't even notice the phone conversation ending, so when Mr Conor tapped her on the shoulder it made her jump.
"Your mother has agreed to let you stay for four nights. That gives us almost four days, since she will be collecting you at six on Friday and it's Monday now. I warn you, it will be very hard work. I doubt you can really understand just how hard. You can back out now - it's not too late..."
"This is what I have chosen," Maria told him. "I'll see it through, work or no work. Don't worry, I know exactly what I'm letting myself in for..."
She didn't. She didn't have a clue.