I didn't realise how long I had been living with Grace and Alexander until Madame Lejeune made some comment about how well I'd come on in two weeks, because what with the daily classes at Madame's studio and the lessons in the afternoon with Miss Stroud, the time seemed to fly away. I was suddenly struck by guilt as I'd almost forgotten about my real family. Almost, but not quite, and they were always on the edge of my mind--yet every day it was easier to call Grace 'Mother'.
It was a Wednesday morning, two days after this reminder; I, in my practice clothes and dance shoes, stood alone in the studio. Madame had left, saying she had to fetch something, so I should practice while I was waiting. Obediently, I counted the bars in my head and launched into the study she had taught me, focusing on my hands which she was always correcting.
I had reached the front of the room when the door opened but, thinking it would just be Madame Lejeune returning from her errand, I continued to dance, doing my best to impress her. But as I reached the corner I raised my leg--turned--and saw that not one, but four figures stood in the doorway, watching me. Abruptly I stopped, knowing by the hair, posture and outfits of the three girls that they were Madame's advanced pupils.
"Not bad," said one, a pretty but thin blonde with a green dress--for only the elite of the academy were allowed to choose their own colours. "A little higher with that lift at the end, perhaps. And the left foot could be turned out a little more." She was smiling as she spoke, obviously meaning everything constructively, but her friend contradicted her, brown wisps of hair rising and falling as she shook her head.
"One has to be careful not to leap too high," she said gently. "I would say that the main thing to work on would be the posture of the neck. It is a little ... stiff." Madame Lejeune hushed them both and entered the studio, bringing her students with her.
"This is Jane," she said, gesturing to the small brunette, who smiled and shook my hand. The blonde, I discovered, was called Margaret, she was eighteen, and she planned on making ballet her career; the other--a minute, black-haired girl with intelligent green eyes shining out of a brown, tanned skin--was Anna-Marie. "They've been asking me for weeks if they can watch you dance. Well, one week at least. I felt I had to give in."
At my worried and slightly self-conscious look, she hurriedly added, "Only if you don't mind, that is. If you really object, I'm sure they could go into the little studio and practice." I hadn't realised that there were two halls but it now became evident.
"No, I don't mind," I said. "It's just a little ... unnerving. I mean, I've been dancing less than three weeks; it's slightly strange dancing in front of people who are so much better than me." But Margaret told me not to be so silly, and said that they only wanted to see if I was any good. "Why?" I asked curiously.
The three students whispered together for a moment, but appeared to come to no conclusion. "Madame?" said Anna-Marie, and she joined the conversation. I pretended not to mind while they hurriedly discussed, though I could hear words like, 'Shall we tell her?' and 'It could be a surprise...' But eventually they reached a decision and turned to me.
"We want to know whether you'd be good enough to be in the show that we're putting on in a month's time, as we need a girl with your colouring to do one of the solos."