The following morning, everyone knew that something was different between Rowan and Netta. They came down to breakfast, walking gingerly as though their feet were sore from a long rehearsal, and both had huge dark rings under their eyes. It was obvious that they had spent the night together, even if they hadn't spent it Together. And, unusually, they sat at the same table, even though Netta had never been known to eat a meal with anyone.
"Rowan?" Will was standing beside them, looking tired. He, too, had had a sleepless night, wondering when his friend was going to return - as his roommate sneaked out, the draught had woken him, and he had been just in time to see Rowan leave the room in his dance clothes. Certain that something was about to happen, he had been unable to sleep for thinking.
"Oh, hi, Will," said Rowan, looking up. "I hope you don't mind that I decided to sit with Netta today. We've got a few things to sort out."
"No, that's fine." He noticed the mouth-burningly strong cup of coffee in front of his friend, though there was no food nearby. "You'll wreck your muscles if you dance with all that inside you, Ro. You should eat something." But nobody was listening, so he drifted away, looking once over his shoulder to see that Rowan and Netta were once again staring into each other's faces, as though they were having an intense mental discussion.
"I do not really know how to say this," said Netta uncertainly, sounding all the more foreign with her formal words and lilting intonation. "You will think me mad, I am sure. And you will wonder if perhaps last night was all a trick." She was twisting a strand of hair around one finger, looking at Rowan from under her eyelashes.
"Just say it," he said quietly. "I know you're not mad."
"That man last night - Alekzander - you shouldn't have been able to see him." The words came out a little hesitantly, spilling over one another awkwardly. "He wasn't really there. Well, he was, but you're not supposed to know that." Her eyes filled. "Why am I so bad at saying this? Rowan, you are strange. Why can you see him though nobody else sees the dancers there?"
"I shouldn't have been able to see him? But he was dancing - he was wearing bright red, for goodness' sake, he's hardly inconspicuous." He shook his head. "I don't think you're mad, Netta, don't worry about that. I just don't understand what you mean about these people. You've said before that I shouldn't be able to see them, yet I can't see why not."
"They're not really there, that's why," she said again. "How many times must I tell you? These people aren't like you. They're not ... they're not human." There, she had said it. Now that the words were out of her mouth, out in the open, Netta felt her fear vanish. Either Rowan would understand or he wouldn't, and that was the end of it. There was nothing more she could do.
He understood. She knew, of course, that he would, but it was always a risk. Exhaling noisily, he said, "They're not human." After a long, awkward pause, he asked, "So what are they, then?"
"They're dancers," replied Netta simply. Seeing his look of exasperation and interpreting it to mean that he thought that much was obvious, she explained, "I can't tell you more fully than that. But they only know dance, all of them. It's what they are and what they're made of. They live inside the music: they were the ones who taught me to feel that high when I am dancing."
"So that is why you dance so well?" His thoughts following an unusual path, Rowan said, "And that's why he said I danced well 'considering', because he didn't know that you'd shown me your secret. Everything makes sense now."
"Does it?" asked Netta. "Then you are further in your life than I am, for nothing makes sense in my own mind. I would not have expected you to ask so few questions."
"I can't seem to form questions," Rowan admitted. "It's all too big to get my head around, and I'm forced to admit that I'll never manage it, so I won't even try. But wow. Not human. I - I don't know what to say."
"Then say nothing."