Finally, there was only band and the brief meeting to be endured, and then she would be free. Free for another evening of lounging in front of the television, surfing the internet, resting her tired feet – oh, and homework, the cloud to every silver lining.
The music rooms weren’t as full as they were for Junior ensembles. Sophie was glad to have left behind the beginner violinists (oh, those screeching strings!) and incompetent clarinettists (the sound they made gave her the shivers), but this was Show Band and it was hard. You had to be invited to join, and the standard was high.
Of course, she’d got there on merit; as the only piccolo player in the school it had not been hard to convince the teacher that she deserved her place. That didn’t mean that she could play the fiendishly hard music, or understand what all the Italian terms meant when they were jumbled together so randomly on the page. Still, by the time half past four came it was starting to make sense, and the band was sounding pretty good. Sophie left for her meeting in high spirits.
When she exited the office some of her optimism had faded, as the deputy head hadn’t really seemed as enthusiastic as she had hoped, but there was enough clinging to the surface of her school uniform to put a little spring in her step as she made her way to the bus stop, headphones planted firmly in ears. If somebody wanted to talk to her they would come in front of her face and look her in the eyes, Sophie reasoned. There would be no need to hear them address her.
As she boarded the bus and sat down, another girl took the seat beside her. This was not something Sophie liked. Actually, it was something she strongly disliked, and she gave the unwitting teenager a death-bringing stare. The other girl did nothing, trying unsuccessfully to zip her bag, which seemed to be rather too full. Eventually she stopped, pulled out a few pairs of shoes and tried to rearrange everything. That gave everybody nearby a chance to survey the contents.
The most prominent, and overwhelmingly numerous, objects were dance shoes. Or, to be a little more precise, ballet shoes. There were two pairs of pink canvas ‘flats’, two worn-out-looking pairs of satin pointe shoes, one sparkling new pointe shoe and three other black leather shoes of indeterminable age and purpose. Most people know what ballet shoes look like, but Sophie had never seen anything like the others.
Seeing her companion look at her with some interest, the dance turned to Sophie and said, “You dance at all?”
“No, never,” she replied. “Not done a step in my life. Are you into it, then? You seem to have a lot of shoes.”
The dancer laughed. “You have to. These shoes,” and she gestured to the worn-out pointes, “are almost worn through, but these,” and she indicated the new pair, “are brand new, so they’re not yet broken in. I’ll be wearing both tonight.”
“What about those?” The subjects of the question were the three pairs of black leather shoes. Two looked quite soft, a little like ballet shoes. Upon closer inspection, Sophie could see that they were in fact different. Both had criss-crossing black laces, but one had a higher front and lace holes, while the other had loops along the side. The final pair looked a little like tap shoes, but the tips weren’t metal.