"You're late," said Grace coldly when I entered the dining room, for despite the fact that I had left in good time, I had had to change out of my costume before my parents saw it and struggle into another constricting dress, this one blue.
"Mother, please tell me what I have done to offend you," I said, turning to face her as I finally lost my patience. "Every day you seem a little angrier with me and my reception is frostier. You look at me distrustfully, like you suspect me of stealing something, and I cannot understand why. Please tell me what I have done so that I may apologise." Her face softened and she gave in.
"It's not that you've done anything wrong, exactly," she said, glancing at her husband who motioned as though to say This is your argument, deal with it. I'm not a part of this. "But this dancing--it's all you think about. You're out all morning, then Miss Stroud said you draw dancers on your slate and talk about dancers, and in the evenings you're practising instead of doing what other girls do, your embroidery or something, and it's not right for a girl like you."
I was bewildered. "Like me? But I'm ordinary. A--a workhouse girl. I'm not somebody special." I looked down at my muscular legs, knowing she was right. It was all I thought about, but what else was I to do, so far away from my home and everything I had known?
"Forget that you came from the workhouse. You're our daughter now; Maria looks up to you as a sister--and you must behave as a girl of your class. Ballet is not for us. It is for the working classes, the girls that are desperate to earn money and will go to any lengths, like showing off their legs in public." That was a lie. Like the working classes could afford the expensive shoes and lessons.
"But it is for me," I whispered sadly. She didn't hear me, and carried on talking.
"It's not just that, though," said Grace. She sighed. "I don't know, Elizabeth. It just strikes me that there's a lot more to you than meets the eye. There is something you're not telling us. The way you talk, the way you act ... everything about you is just out of place."
There was a great silence after she spoke. Eventually I stood up, looked her in the eye and said, "You're right. And one day, I'll tell you everything. The truth. Just not yet. I can't bear it--yet." Then I got up, curtseyed to the gobsmacked Alexander and returned to my bedroom to think.
What was I going to tell Grace? I tried out a few phrases in my mind. "I'm from the future. I woke up here and I don't know how I got here." No, too blunt. What about, "I'm not from around here. Actually, I'm from the year 2010, where there are people who..." Could I do that, and go on to explain modern technology? No, that was ridiculous.
I could always say, "It's hard for me to explain this, because you probably won't believe me. But a little while ago--the morning of the day you adopted me--I woke up in a strange room and didn't know how I got there."
Eventually I made a decision. I went into the schoolroom and found some paper, a pen and some ink (thank goodness I'd been so in to calligraphy back home, right?) and I started to write my story.
The pen scratched across the paper. "To put it frankly, I live in the past." The moment I saw those words on the website, I knew they described me...