I fingered the heavy fabric as I waited in the wings, watching the other dancers as they danced in their beautiful floating dresses. Only half an hour ago I had been one of them, running through the ensemble piece that the class I would be joining had put together. But now I was dressed completely differently from everybody except Madame Lejeune, who had disappeared, and I wasn't quite sure I could go through with this.
The white sleeves of my blouse came to my wrists and were tightly laced for about the first five inches, green ribbons matching the pretty embroidered leaves that circled the sleeves and adorned the high neck. Over it I was a sort of waistcoat--green like the ribbons and leaves--and my skirt reached to just below my knees. Below that I had tight white socks, reaching to the hem of my skirt, and my black shoes complemented the colour perfectly.
"Your hair looks lovely," said Jane kindly. I thought about that for a minute. Freed from its braids and tied only with a single green ribbon, my brown, obstinately straight hair had developed a slight wave and Madame had promised that she would curl it for the performance tomorrow.
An older man--perhaps forty years old--sitting at the back of the stage saw me looking worried and winked, which frightened me until I saw the accordion in his lap and knew him to be my accompanist.
"You ready?" said Madame Lejeune, appearing behind me as the music from the dance before faded and they ran lightly off stage. Without giving me a chance to respond she signalled to the accordion player and he struck up a tune. At that moment, all my nerves vanished: I hadn't heard an accordion since the day before I woke up in 1895, and that was too long.
Madame and I skipped onto the stage, performed our duet (a two-hand reel; I'd never done céilí before so she had to teach me, but it was interesting) and then she exited, leaving me alone. I pulled off the waistcoat and threw it aside to reveal the beautifully decorated blouse. Then I danced my first solo, a concoction made up of the lead around from a hop jig, a side step from a light jig and finishing with something quite new, before I left the stage to allow the senior ballet class to dance, while I changed my shoes.
To say that the hard shoes were not what I was used to would be an understatement. They were little more than ordinary boots with nails in the toes and heels to make a sound, so no toe-stands and rocks for me. But they were enough to leave an impression as I clomped onto stage and danced my old hornpipe, my accompanist playing his heart out as he watched me dance.
My friends all tried to congratulate me on my performance, or ask me about where I had learned to dance like that, but I could only hurriedly thank them as I changed my shoes and found the cabinet where I was to leave my dance shoes--my parents could not see them, or suspect anything. Madame had told me of Grace's concerns, that I was not being ladylike and that this ballet production would give me a taste for attention, and I did not want to anger her further, although I wasn't supposed to know about that conversation.
Bidding Madame farewell and hauling open the wooden door, I fled home to my lunch, where Grace and Alexander were waiting for me.