“Actually, I kind of think I do.” I’m not trying to be cheeky, but I don’t see why he deserves my respect.
“You’ll learn not to speak to me like that, Georgia.” It’s almost like he believes using my name gives him power over me, but I ignore it.
“Let me rephrase my question,” I say. “Who the hell are you, and what do you want with me?” I sound braver than I feel. I feel braver than I probably should. In reality, I’m just angry. I want answers, and then I want out of here.
He sits back in his chair, and his relaxed posture is more threatening than shouting could ever have been. He’s saying, I don’t need to do anything to make you suffer. I don’t need to move. I squirm, waiting for him to say something else. “That’s not very ladylike behaviour for a ballerina like yourself.” And that’s not how you treat a sixteen-year-old. I can deal with rudeness, but what I hate more than anything is being patronised. “How long have you been dancing?”
That’s an easy question: “Nine years. Seriously for five and a half.”
“Yet you didn’t go to a vocational ballet school when you were eleven?”
“I wanted to, but Mum didn’t like the idea. She was very opposed to my becoming a dancer and wanted me to do something academic. Now she’s seen that that’s not going to happen, and I think she’s also of the opinion that ballet is much more glamorous than it really is. Besides, it would have meant boarding or moving house, and we couldn’t afford it. I passed the audition, but didn’t get any funding, and it was too expensive without a scholarship.”
“How many classes per week do you do?”
I meet his eyes and, on a hunch, say, “You tell me. I expect you’ve known that for a while.”
There – I was right. He smiles with only one half of his mouth. “Mondays, from six until half past seven. You get the bus there, often straight from school, and are picked up by your mother. Wednesdays, from quarter to six until quarter to seven, and you get a lift there, but you get the bus home. Thursdays, from half five until seven. Lift there, bus home. And on Saturdays, from nine until eleven, although sometimes you stay to help the grade two class that comes afterwards. Either way, you get a lift there and the bus home.”
“You’ve been watching me.”
“We saw you in the Nutcracker. You were very good – perfect for what we needed. But we had to know when you would be walking home alone.”
I don’t want to think about what they need. “Do you want me to perform?” I say, but I doubt it’s something as innocent as that.
“In a manner of speaking, yes,” he replies.
“You could have asked me. I’ve appeared as a guest in loads of shows.”
It’s a bit of an exaggeration, which if they’ve researched me thoroughly they’ll know – I was in the corps de ballet with the English Youth Ballet’s production of Giselle a few years ago, and I generally take a dancing role in the pantomime every year. Apart from that I’m limited to working with my own school, though we do a couple of performances a year which isn’t too bad. Mum doesn’t want to take me out of lessons when I’ve got exams coming up in May. She let me take a few days out for my auditions, though – boarding in sixth form doesn’t seem like such a big deal, apparently.