"Two and a half hours. Two and a half hours?" Maria was sitting on the floor, holding her legs to her chest. She couldn't do much else with them; they were too tired. "You should have warned me first."
"I did. I said it would be hard work." Mr Conor was laughing at them, and Maria knew it. She also knew that she shouldn't have admitted it was tiring her out because he would thinks he wasn't up to it, and so it had been a really bad idea to let him catch her with her guard down. Eleanor looked absolutely shattered though, so she wasn't alone.
"You didn't say it would be this hard." For the past two and a half hours they had worked on pliés and grands battements. That was it - nothing else, just those two exercises at the barre and in the centre, in each position, with arm movements. Until that session they'd both thought they knew what they were doing. Not any more. Now they knew that their approximation of the exercise was utterly useless, and only what they did now was any good at all.
At one point, Eleanor had started to cry. She tried to hide it but she sniffling. When Maria asked her what was wrong, she said that she hadn't expected it to be so hard. Well, thought Maria, this was ballet, right? And after all, 'If ballet was any easier it would be called football'.
"Go back to your room now," said Mr Conor, smiling at them. "You look like you need a rest. Have a shower and come down to the dining room, and we'll have dinner a little early. I think you deserve it."
Maria and Eleanor left the studio together, both clutching a map. They weren't sharing a room but they were in the same corridor, just a few doors along. "Does everybody here get a single room when they're living on-site?" asked Maria, pushing open her door and looking inside. It was a nice room, the wooden floor perfect for practising dancing, and large windows making it very light. As well as a bed, a desk, a wardrobe and a chest of drawers, there was a large full-length mirror and a portable ballet barre, obviously for practising.
"I don't think so," her new friend replied. "I think sometimes the seniors do, and guests. I don't know what we count as - odd ones out, I guess." She smiled and walked off down the corridor. "I'll probably catch you in the shower blocks, right?"
"Right." There wasn't anything Maria wanted more. She was drenched in sweat and her clothes were filthy. It was just as well she had the two borrowed leotards, or it would have been horrible the following day. "I'll be there in a couple of minutes. I've just remembered I was supposed to meet my friend tonight."
"Your friend? Where?"
"At the cinema." Eleanor didn't seem to get it. "In Birmingham. She didn't know I was coming here ... I only decided last night. I should ring her, before she ends up waiting for me." Thank goodness she had a contract, or she'd have been out of phone credit in that evening. After she had rung her friend, she had to ring her cousin and say that she wouldn't be coming to their meet-up either.
When she'd finished, it was seven o'clock. Wasn't that when dinner was? She skipped the shower - later would do, she wasn't doing anything special - and grabbed a pair of tracksuit bottoms. Everybody wore them around here, it wouldn't matter. It was a dance school, after all.