"Is he gone?" she whispered, looking up at the prima ballerina who was trying to put plasters over the many blisters on her toes, but wasn't having much success. These 'waterproof' types were really no good. She would have to buy some more of the fabric type soon, but her budget was very limited. It was just as well they provided her pointe shoes or she would be skint in a week.
"He's gone," she replied, looking down at the stowaway. "But now come out and tell me why you are hiding here, of all places. If the theatre management find you you'll be in terrible trouble! I can speak for you, but I don't suppose it will help much. I'm only a dancer, after all, nobody important."
"But you were beautiful out there..." whispered Lizzie. "I don't understand. How can somebody who dances like that not be important?" She stared up at the woman. "You were amazing. i would give anything to be able to dance like that, but..."
"Do you have dance classes?" The ballerina reached down and took her hand, pulling her to her feet so that they could talk more easily. "Do you take ballet lessons?"
"Yes, and I have done since I was five. I didn't enjoy it, though. I only went because my grandma made me promise that no matter what happened I would dance. She thinks I could be the greatest ballerina ever to live, and she said I had to dance ... but I could never be better than you, I really couldn't, so she's wrong."
"What makes you think that?" A little wistfully, the ballerina thought of her own childhood. Her parents hadn't been keen on the idea of dancing at first, and would only let her take one class per week until she was ten years old, when her teacher really put her foot down. It was ridiculous, she had said, that such a talented child had talent which would go to waste. She could be great if only they would let her, and she wasn't going to take no for an answer. At eleven, she started to have daily lessons for an hour, and at twelve she was accepted as a late starter into the Royal Ballet School. But now ... now she almost wished she had what this girl had - the fire and the drive to become a ballet dancer though before it had been nothing.
"Well, I don't like dancing. At least, I didn't. The classes are boring: they're just exercises and exercises and stupid plies so it's not even real dancing. I want to be able to leap about and go on pointe and dance with other people, not do grands battements for hours on end! That's just stupid." She frowned, staring at the floor. "And I'm not flexible enough."
The ballerina had had enough of people moaning. She'd taught for a year before she became a principal and she knew there was nothing in what Lizzie had said. "Nonsense. Now, I'll help you. My name is Catherine and I'm only twenty five, so I'm not too much older than you. I'm telling you now that "I can't" or "I'm not" is not good enough for me, all right? I want you to sit against that wall." She pointed. Lizzie went. "Right, so you've got that far. Put your feet out in front of you. Legs straight! That's right. Okay, so reach over and touch your toes." Lizzie held her feet with ease. "That's perfect. What do you mean, you're not flexible? I've known hundreds of girls that couldn't even do that, and you're not one of them. You've got just the right amount of flexibility..."
When one of the corps de ballet came in, half an hour later, she found them in the middle of a difficult pirouette exercise. "That's right!" Catherine was shouting. "Just turn your head a little more quickly or you'll get dizzy..."
"Catherine, what is going on in here? The girl needs to go home ... her father will be going spare. You can't keep her here."
"Who says?" said the ballerina, sticking out her chin. "She's got the makings of a great dancer. I'm not going to waste that!