Awkward Conversations

"Elizabeth! Come and sit down," said Grace warmly, gesturing to a chair. I sat down, struggling a little with the skirts which hampered my movement and wondering whether it would crease them to sit normally. "Now, tell me a little about yourself. I'm intrigued; you seem like a very unusual lady."

"I don't really know what you would like me to say..." I said awkwardly, playing for time. "There's nothing particularly interesting about me, I don't think." As I spoke I was thinking of the digital watch that I hid, and the Marks & Spencer's underwear which I had kept, despite the fact that I would be discovered straight away if it was seen.

"Tell me about your parents. What were their names?" She seemed really interested, and I decided to humour her. "And your dance teachers, those men. Where did they study? Were they any good?"

"My mother's name was Penelope," I said, improvising wildly. My mother's name was really Claire, and she worked in a school, as a receptionist. My father was called Jeremy -- Jez for sort. His job was repairing instruments, saxophones and clarinets in particular, although all woodwind most of the time. "My father's name was Edward. He worked in a bank."

"And what happened to them? I notice you speak in past tense." Employing all the acting skills that three years of drama classes had left me with, I made my bottom lip quiver and tears come to my eyes. It wasn't hard, as I only had to think of everything I'd left behind and may not have been able to get back to.

"They were killed. An accident ... the train they were travelling on de-railed and they were instantly killed."

"Oh, I'm so sorry! When was this? I didn't hear about it: it can't have been local, or I'm sure it would have been in the newspaper." Grace looked shocked.

"It's all right. It was five years ago now, up in the Lake District. That's where I lived for the first ten years of my life, you see, but when they died I went to live with my grandmother in London. She died of old age about a year ago and I made my living in various ways until I ended up in the workhouse." Was that feasible enough? I didn't know, but it would have to do for now. Of course, there were so many holes in this story...

"Let's talk about something else," she said hurriedly. "Tell me about your dance classes. Where did you study?"

"The Courtney McMahon School Of Irish Dance," I said happily, not realising my mistake. "We had classes in the gymnasium of a nearby school. My teachers competed at the Worlds, you know."

"Irish Dance? I don't know about this. And what on Earth are the 'Worlds'?" I thought everybody knew that, but obviously not. Too late, I remembered that Irish dancing hadn't become popular in England until the twentieth century, and the Worlds had certainly not been around in the Victorian times.

"Forget I said anything," I said hurriedly. "I don't know what I'm talking about. I must have gone mad." Grace stared at me, looking suspicious and slightly confused. "When I was younger, I studied ballet at the Bird College." There, that was the right answer -- the frown lines on her pretty forehead vanished and she smiled.

"Ah! Did you get very far?"

"I'm afraid not," I said, and I really did regret that. "I had trouble with my legs and had to stop classes when I was nine. Of course, once I came to live with my grandmother I wouldn't have been able to carry on, you know, what with the expense. But I have often wished I could start once again."

"Well, there is one area in which you will not be disappointed."

The End

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