It was night time - the company, those that stayed on site, were asleep, dreaming of leaping across the stage or spinning in the arms of their partners. All except for Rowan, in the last room on the East corridor, who was wide awake, listening to the music. It came from the hall where the big stage was, he was sure of it. But who would be playing at this time? It was gone one in the morning.
For half an hour he tried to ignore it; thirty minutes of lying in bed and staring at the ceiling. At last he could bear it no longer. Slipping his feet into a pair of fluffy slippers that were far too big for him, he shuffled past Will's bed - he was a good friend but his roommate would not appreciate being woken - and opened the door, closing it gently enough behind him that it made no sound.
The hall was not far from the accomodation block, but then it wasn't a large campus; it didn't take long before Rowan was pushing through the double doors into the vast auditorium. And there they were on the stage.
Dancers. Netta was there, right in the middle of the stage, spectacular in a glossy black tutu, black pointe shoes and a black scarf around her hair, wound up in a bun. But who were those dancers around her? They were girls - no boys present, not then - that Rowan had never seen before. Odd. He thought he knew everybody on site, but surely he would have remember these elegant dancers in their smoky white clothes?
Though he watched them for many minutes, he couldn't say much about it afterwards except that it had been "chilling. So eerily beautiful that it sucked you in, until you couldn't take your eyes away, because you didn't know what was going to happen next." The orchestra - though he could see no one - stopped playing, and the dancers paused. They curtised to Netta and left. Unwilling to be found spying, Rowan ran as fast as he could in the too-large slippers, and managed to make it back to his room. He didn't sleep that night.
The next morning he was told that James, the Prince, was still ill. He obviously knew the part and got on well enough with Netta, so he would be keeping the post for the time being. As he went to his first rehearsal of the day, Rowan said to the ballerina, "I saw you dancing last night."
"But I always dance, Rowan. Every night. It's good to have the stage to myself every now and again." Netta laughed. An act, he thought, it's all just an act.
"But you weren't alone, Netta. I saw them with you." Will, feeling somewhat abandoned as he stood alone at the barre which he usually shared with Rowan, happened to glance over to the pair and saw how serious his friend looked, how intense was the look in his eyes. He also saw the shock in Netta's face, and the way she took a step backwards.
"There was nobody there, Rowan, nobody at all." Suddenly her pretty voice was harsh. "You must have been imagining it. A trick of the moonlight, that was all." Of course, she should have known he would be inquisitive. He would never be able to help her if he wasn't.
"But there was no moon that night." He couldn't let it go. She had been there, and so had the other dancers. What had they been doing? Where had they come from?
"Rowan. Listen to me." Unwillingly, he looked up into Netta's face. "There was nobody there. I was alone on the stage, and all that you saw was a trick of the light. You will tell nobody of these foolish imaginings."