"Get your things, Lizzie, we're going out." It was Saturday afternoon and Elizabeth was trying to get on with her homework - not something that she did voluntarily. She wanted to be a scientist when she older, but the work didn't seem worth it and she was contemplating giving up on that plan. Maybe there was something else she could be, something that was a little more fun? Still, she liked the idea of putting down on forms, under 'occupation': "Elizabeth, Scientist." There was definitely an appeal.
"Where are we going?" she said, leaning over the banisters and yelling down to her father. "And you could have warned me. I've got Literacy homework to do. I should have done it earlier but I was busy." Actually, she'd been at a friend's house, moaning about the fact she had to do ballet, but that was beside the point.
"It's a surprise. Now come on! Get some nice clothes on and come down so that I can do your hair." That was unusual. They never went anywhere nice, especially at short notice. Could it perhaps be that they'd got something to celebrate? Lizzie couldn't think of anything, but she went to her room and changed into her only skirt, a knee-length denim number, and a pretty shirt that she'd had as a birthday present but hadn't yet worn.
"You look nice," she said to her father, who was standing in the hallway in one of his best suits. "When are you going to tell me where we're going?"
"Well, we're going to London," he said. "To the theatre. Granny gave us the tickets months ago as a special present for you; she was going to come with us, but of course she can't now. The hospital won't let her, though I think it would do her good. But then..." He trailed off, looking down at his sulky daughter. She was an only child, and although he loved her very much he couldn't help feeling that she must have inherited that stubborn streak from her mother because there was no way it had come from him.
Lizzie was like other girls in that she loved the theatre, with the bright lights and the comfy seats, and the way that people on stage took her to another world. But if her grandmother had bought the tickets, that meant ... "It's a ballet, isn't it?" she asked, pulling on her shoes. "Grandma wants me to go to the ballet so that I'm inspired and want to dance. Well, I'm telling you one thing, it's not going to work on me. I'm wise to her game." She pouted at her father, who sighed.
"I'm not telling you anything. What I am saying, though, is that you need to have a more open mind. Whether it's the sort of thing you'd like to see or not, I think you will enjoy it, if only you'll let yourself." That wasn't the sort of thing she liked to hear. "Besides, the tickets were very expensive. We're in one of the boxes."
"A box?" Elizabeth was astounded. "But I can't possibly sit in a box looking like this. I'll be thrown out of the theatre."
"Nonsense," her father chuckled. "You look fine, and anyway you've nothing else to wear. Come on, or we'll miss the train, and you wouldn't want that. Quite a state you'd look if we had to run!" Pulling on thick winter coats, for it was still December, they walked out into the cold evening and locked the door behind them. It was a ten minute walk to the train station, but Lizzie's father knew that she wouldn't want to walk home afterwards and he took the car. Parking was free at that time anyway.
"I still think it's a ballet," she muttered, looking up at him with angry eyes. "I don't like surprises. Please tell me?"
"You'll enjoy it," he said, and would tell her nothing more.