William was sitting next to the phone, his head in his hands. He wanted to hear from Elizabeth, but nothing had come so far. Two days. That's how long it was since she had vanished in the theatre, and he didn't know what he'd do if her mother rang up and asked to speak to her. It was difficult enough trying to persuade Grandma that it wasn't a massive issue, as she was distraught.
At last, the phone rang. He was just nodding off and it startled him awake once more. "Hello?" he said, picking it up.
"William?" He didn't recognise the voice, but it sounded slightly foreign. A woman. She sounded as though she'd been speaking English for a long time but it wasn't her first language. "Your name is William, isn't it? You're Elizabeth's father?"
"Yes. You have news? Please tell me she's safe!"
"She's perfectly safe. But I want you to listen to me." He nodded; realising that she couldn't see him, William responded verbally. He would do anything if it meant he got Lizzie home safe and sound. "She's absolutely fine. In fact, she's happier now than she has ever been, and I don't want to take that from her. You don't either, do you? Now, it's December now. Next month there are auditions for the Royal Ballet School..."
"She doesn't want to dance," he said automatically, before remembering the look on her face at the theatre. She wanted to dance. "She would never agree to go to the Royal Ballet School. And how do you know she would get in? She's only a little girl. There are others better than her."
"She would get in, because I am coaching her exclusively for three hours every morning," replied the voice.
He gasped. "Who - who are you, may I ask?"
"You've seen me, that's all I'm going to say. I'm aided by my own tutor, who is very well known, and he will be teaching her for one hour once I have left to go to my own rehearsals. She is coming along nicely. They cannot fail to accept her, but she must finish learning these routines and exercises. I want her to stay here until the audition."
"She can't. She's got school."
"She doesn't need school at the moment. She needs dance." The voice sighed, before adopting a more friendly tone. "Of course, the Royal Ballet School isn't about how much ballet you know, it's about how much you're willing to learn. But she has the talent and it would be a shame not to show them what she's capable of, wouldn't it? Besides, she may end up in a class with beginners if she goes at an ordinary standard, and I don't think that would be best for her. I want to see her in the top classes. She could be the greatest ballerina in the world!"
That's what Grandma wants, he thought. That's what she made me promise. Well then, I've got to do this. But what about Lizzie's school?
He voiced his concerns aloud. "That all seems to make sense, and I must say I agree with you on most points. But what about her school? She can't just forget about it, no matter what you say. I don't want her to get behind because of an audition that she may not even get through. And I want to see her - I want to know that she really does want this. Couldn't you teach her in the evenings?"
"I have performances," she said coldly. Oh, so he was right: it was the ballerina. Well, it was an honour to have his daughter taught by her, but he still didn't like the way this was working out. "Please, sir, you must trust me. How much do you know of the sort of work she is doing at the moment? Surely you could teach her for a couple of weeks - tell the school that she's busy?"
"I could try."
"No, you won't try. You will."