I woke with the thick tendrils of the dream still clinging to my sleep-heavy body, only to find that it had not been real. That realisation robbed me of the beauty of that morning: it was lost on me, black-and-white through a veil of tears.
"Home." The word filled my moth with a bittersweet longing, transfixing me. I could not move for the wanting. "Home." How long had it been? Two months, six months, a year? I realised with a shock that it was over ten months. Looking at my third pair of pointe shoes, already almost worn through, I could believe it.
I thought of my parents. What pain must they be enduring, if time were indeed continuing to run there as it did here! What confusion and dismay! And I felt so guilty. It was all my fault.
"Elizabeth?" said Maria, from somewhere in the corridor outside my room. Truly, that girl was the only thing to keep me from despair. "Elizabeth, are you okay?" Despite her intentions, which must have been good, her soft voice intensified my misery; it was hard to subdue a sob and I wondered if she had heard me.
"I would like to be alone," I told her, fighting to keep my voice even, then wondered why she was asking. I kept my digital watch under my pillow so that it wouldn't be found and now I pulled it out, checking the time--it was almost ten o'clock, and I was very late. I had to change, have breakfast, go to the studio ... "Shoot."
"You sound sad," I heard her say, no doubt intending to be friendly and make me feel better.
"Just leave me alone," I choked. "I'm fine." My adoptive sister frankly didn't believe that, and the door opened under her determined touch. She ran over to the bed, leaping into my arms and looking up with childish concern at my tear-streaked face.
"Why are you crying, Elizabeth?"
"I miss my family," and suddenly I was crying again, uncontrollably sobbing, "and my home and my computer and my friends. Here, my birthday came and went almost nine months ago and I let it go because I didn't want to say anything but back home ... and I just wish I was there in my own house with my own clothes and possessions..."
"Oh, 'Lizabeth." Maria hugged me. "If only we could get you back! But how?" Suddenly, she appeared to have an idea. "I know! I'll ask William. He's bound to know something."
"No!" In my anger the tears of the moment before were forgotten, Maria jumped back in surprise, shock and hurt crossing her young face. She didn't understand why I was so furious. "I'm sorry, Maria," I said, more gently, "but on no account are you to tell your brother the truth about me."
"On no account?" She didn't understand the phrase.
"Under no circumstances whatsoever, even if he asks and even if your mother tells you to. He must not know. He must not know." I glanced towards the window, repeating the words under my breath. "He must not know." Why was I so reluctant to share my story? Why was he any different from the rest of the family? I didn't know how to explain that to the little girl, but her brother was a completely different kettle of fish. And he must not know.