"It's so healthy," Maria whispered to Eleanor, who grinned back. She was looking at their meal. It wasn't skimpy - the portions were an ordinary size for people of their age - but it was very 'balanced'. Protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals ... it seemed almost too perfect, and it wasn't exactly what she ate at home. "Do they always eat like this? I wasn't here for lunch." Thinking about that reminded her that her last meal had been breakfast on the train ... several hours ago. Yes, she'd eat this, even if she didn't like the mushrooms.
"I guess so. You have to when you're a dancer, don't you? And everyone here is, so it makes sense that their food would be the same." Eleanor had showered and her hair was still wet. Maria found herself staring at the other girl's t-shirt. It was light green with a black figure on it, a silhouette, leaping against a background of knotwork.
"You did Irish dancing?" she asked, intrigued.
"For a few years, yes. But I decided I had to sort out my priorities and ballet came first. I wanted it more. So I had to leave the Irish behind to come here. I hear they do it in their character classes, though," she added wistfully. "And Scottish too. I'd like that. I hope they let me come here."
"If it's anything like this evening's session, I'm changing my mind already," Maria said grimly. "I'm not going to be able to feel my legs tomorrow, of that I'm certain." She dug into her food hungrily, even the vegetables. They would keep her going - she had to eat them, for there was nothing else.
Over at the other table, Mr Conor smiled at them. The dining room was filling up with summer school students, or at least those that were staying on-site. Some were travelling back and forth each day, but only if they were local. Most of the students were staring at Maria and Eleanor with curiosity. "They probably think we're visiting students or something. They're expecting us to be advanced..."
"I doubt it," Maria replied. "Some of them saw me earlier. I was terrible." She ate another mouthful and looked up at her friend. "So, what made you want to dance? You're thirteen, right?"
"Yes. I'll be fourteen soon, though." Eleanor swallowed her food and started to talk. "I started Irish dancing when I was eight years old because my grandparents, who were Irish, thought I would enjoy it. They were right and for three years I just took those classes, reaching championships and winning several trophies. Then, when I was eleven I started tap, jazz and modern classes. The Irish took a bit of a back seat. Finally, six months ago I took up ballet. And I didn't look back."
"And why did you come here?"
"I knew it was the only place that would make me good enough to get anywhere at this age. I think that's why you came, too, isn't it? My parents said that I wouldn't get anywhere with the audition, but they brought me here anyway. I wrote to the school several months ago and explained. Because I have so much dance in my life they said they'd see me. They also said it was very unlikely that they could take me unless I auditioned in January, with everyone else. I'm the year younger than you, you see, so I'd still have a year after that. I guess this is your last chance."
Maria looked down. "Yeah. It's my last chance."
The meal was over too quickly. They could neither of them find enough to say, but it wasn't necessary, for other students soon came over to talk to them and ask them what they were doing there; each simply replied that she was taking lessons from Mr Conor and had come now for convenience' sake. It hadn't taken any communication between them to decide not to tell the truth.
"You going back to your room?" said Eleanor, standing up with her plate.
"I'm going to sleep," replied Maria. "All that dancing's worn me out completely."