I slept badly that first night. It wasn't just that I was missing the creature comforts of my home life, or that I was worrying about how my family was feeling and wondering what would happen if I managed to get back--would time have passed, would they have missed me--but I was also anxious about my audition the next day. I suppose it was a silly thing to be afraid of, as so much else was going on, but I couldn't help wanting to impress them and not knowing if it was possible.
The nightgown distracted me for a moment though: it was enormous. Not just enormous, it went all the way down to my ankles and I kept tripping over, since the hem dragged on the floor. Annie, of course, thought this was hilarious, until I snapped at her that she couldn't leave the room until I was happily in bed, and I never would be unless she helped me.
When I was eventually settled in the four-poster with the curtains closed around me and the ruffles on my nightgown smoothed and flounced so that I looked like somebody out of a picture book, I tried to settle down, and found a wave of nostalgia overcoming me. For almost twenty minutes I cried, remembering the things that perhaps I would never see again, allowing my confusion and misery to get the better of me.
Soon I was myself again, however, and I tried to get to sleep. That was easier said than done. In my old life I had been used to listening to music to help me sleep, but there were no music players here, nothing that I could plug into my ears to stop me thinking: I was entirely on my own. It wouldn't have been so bad if I wasn't so used to the sensation of being soothed by soft tunes, but eventually (around eleven, despite my ridiculously early bedtime) I dozed off.
I was woken at half past eight by Annie, who came in to open the curtains and help me dress. This I was still a little uncomfortable with, but I tried to overcome my fears. "We have fetched the practice dress," she told me, holding it out. To my dismay it didn't resemble a leotard, or even my short skirt and top that I was used to for my ordinary dance classes. It was, in effect, a blue lyrical performance dress, and it reached to my calves.
"Thank you," I managed to say, slipping it on over the single, shorter petticoat which was all I was required to wear beneath it. And no waist cincher, either, since that was regarded as cheating in ballet circles. They even gave me a pair of white tights and ballet slippers, and although the tights weren't nylon and the slippers were just leather with old, 'chewed-up' ribbon, I was grateful for clothing that I recognised.
"Ma'am says you can use the drawing room for practice," I was told, but I wanted some breakfast first. Alas, this was not a grab-and-go toast affair such as I was used to, but a full blown croissants and strawberries sort of thing. Still, it made a nice change, and helped me calm down while I thought.
"Annie, please would you do my hair in a bun?" I said, and the young maid did so. Now I looked the part, and I made my way to the drawing room with not a little apprehension. It was time to see if I could remember what I had learned all those years ago, and put it into practice. But could I?
I pushed open the huge doors and walked into the large room, taking in every aspect of its grandeur. I'd made my decision--I was going to dance. I wanted to take these classes, and it was the opportunity of a lifetime, so why should I not take it? When she tested me, this Madame Lejeune would find me adequate. I could still remember pliés, still recall the grande battements over which my bottom had suffered greatly from the feet of the girls behind me.
Now I just had to show her, and I was determined to do my best. If all went wrong, I had a back up plan.