Authors: Ann Bryant
Secrets, hopes and dreamsâ¦ School friends are for ever!
I love Silver Spires â but it isn't the school that I pinned all my dreams on.
The truth is, I used to dance, and I longed to go to The Royal Ballet School â but I didn't pass the audition. And I was so crushed that I decided never to dance again. Now there's a big Silver Spires dance show, and everyone says I should take part. But can I really risk letting ballet back into my life?
For Lynne Benton, with love. Thank you for your support.
I stared around the dining hall and thought for at least the hundredth time how much I love it here at Silver Spires. I suppose all boarding schools are great, but I just don't see how they can be as great as this one. I mean, I was so nervous when I started here eight weeks ago, but the very first time I came into this dining hall with the other five girls from my dormitory, I felt so happy. It was obvious we were going to get on with each other. Well, it's true I did feel a bit anxious about Antonia, who's Italian, and Nicole, who's amazingly clever. Those two didn't seem to hit it off as well as the rest of us, but I felt sure it would work out eventually because they both seemed so nice. And I was right. They're best friends now.
My own best friend is called Sasha, and while I was staring around right then, she was listening intently to something that Emily was telling her. Even though Emily's story seemed to be going on and on, and personally I tuned out ages before, Sasha still looked interested. She kept nodding slowly, her big blue eyes looking straight at Emily. And that's because Sasha is such a fantastic listener. I'm so glad we're best friends.
As soon as lunch was over we all set off through the grounds for afternoon lessons. It was maths first, and that's one of the three subjects we've been put in sets for, which means that we six friends aren't all together for those lessons, like we are for everything else.
“See you later!” called Antonia, as she went off with Emily and Emily's best friend, Bryony.
“I can't believe how good Antonia's getting at English!” said Sasha. “And her English accent's getting better too.”
“I know!” said Nicole, looking happy. “And it's great that she's been put up a set for maths and science.”
I nodded. “If she carries on going up, you two might be together in top sets for everything before the end of Year Seven!”
Nicole laughed. “That would be really good,” she said, linking arms with me on one side and Sasha on the other and falling into step with us. But almost immediately she pulled away, half laughing. “Do you know, I always feel a bit like an elephant when I'm walking beside you, Izzy!”
Sasha laughed too. “I know exactly what you mean!”
My body slumped instinctively as the little voice in my head started up.
Not this again
Nicole must have sensed my dejection. “Oh, Izzy, it's a compliment, you know,” she said. “You're just so graceful.”
Sasha grinned at me. “Except when you deliberately don't stand up straight, like right now.”
“I'd love to have great posture, like you,” Nicole added.
I tried to smile while my mind searched around for a quick way of getting off this terrible subject, and the voice in my head grew louder.
I don't want to talk about being graceful and standing up straight. I don't even want to think about it. I know where it leads.
“You'd make a great dancer, Izzy,” said Sasha.
I didn't reply because I couldn't think of what to say. We'd had this kind of conversation lots of times since I'd started at Silver Spires and no one knew how much I hated it. Well, actually that's not true. I thought Sasha was starting to notice how uncomfortable I got whenever anyone mentioned me in the same breath as dancing or ballet, and how I always tried to quickly change the conversation. The trouble is, Sasha's such a good listener that I'm afraid one of these days I might be tempted to tell her about my past. But it's a secret. If I told her about the
, she'd think I was completely mad.
And just when I was thinking about my past an annoying voice popped into my head.
Is it that she'll think you're mad, or just that you can't ever let yourself talk about it?
Suddenly I felt shaky. The truth had finally hit me.
It's not that I won't talk about it, it's that I
As soon as afternoon school was finished, we six went back to our boarding house, Forest Ash, to drop our stuff off in our dorm. Forest Ash is quite a modern house, not like Hazeldean and Willowhaven, but it's the best because we've got the nicest staff. The other three houses are called Oakley, Beech House and Elmhurst. On the days we don't do an after-school club we get to have free time before supper, and it's always a great part of the day because you can stop concentrating after all the lessons, and do anything you want. I was looking forward to having some time on my own, but Nicole and Antonia were trying to persuade me and Sasha to go to debating club with them.
“Eet ees such good fun!” said Antonia, her Italian accent coming through strongly. It often does when she's excited.
“We can't just turn up, can we?” said Sasha.
Nicole nodded hard. “Yes, you can. No one would mind, I'm sure.” She sounded so bright and breezy. “Go on, give it a try. I bet you'd really like it.”
“Shall we?” asked Sasha, turning to me, eyes dancing.
“I'm not sureâ¦” I began, wondering how to explain that I'd really rather just be on my own with my thoughts for a while. “Why don't you go, Sasha?”
A cloud seemed to cross her sunny face. “Are you sure? I won't go if you don't want me to.”
I smiled and spoke quickly. “No, it's fine, honestly. I don't feel like sitting still, that's all.”
Antonia grinned. “I theenk you are going to walk and get the energy out of your legs, yes?”
I nodded and smiled back. My friends all know I'm not very good at sitting still for long periods of time, and it's almost become a joke amongst us. At the end of lessons Emily and I are always the first out, and if we go anywhere on the school minibus or the coach, the others let us get off before them so we can feel free. With Em, it's more that she wants to be out in the fresh air as she feels stifled indoors. But with me it's because I want to move around. “Izzy whizzy makes me dizzy!” Sasha once said, and the whizzy soon got shortened to Whizz and kind of stuck as a nickname for me that my friends all use occasionally.
As soon as they'd left the dorm I took the pile of ballet photos and programmes and cuttings and other souvenirs from my bottom drawer and climbed up the ladder to sit on my bed. I love the way we've all got our own little space in this dorm. In fact I love the dorm, full stop. Every Year Seven dorm is named after a precious stone and ours is called Emerald. We're lucky because it's quite a big dorm and each of us has a cabin bed with a desk area underneath where we keep our bits and pieces, plus there are some drawers and a wardrobe. We've also all got a little light built into our headboards so we can read in bed, as well as a pinboard each that we can decorate how we want. Mine's covered with photos of my mum and dad and my big brother, Max, with his girlfriend, Claire, and my little sister, Holly. They're mainly photos of our last summer holiday together. It feels like Claire's one of the family now. She and Max have been going out for over a year and I really like her because she treats me like a friend and not like Max's little sister.
From where I was sitting on my bed I could see Emily's pinboard right opposite, every single centimetre taken up with pictures of her beloved horse and all sorts of plants and shrubs and trees in her farm garden back home in Ireland. I think Emily loves to see things growing as much as I secretly love ballet. Only it's a different kind of love. Hers seems so straightforward, and mine is soâ¦complicated.
I looked at the picture on the top of the pile I was holding. It was a signed photo of the famous ballerina from The Royal Ballet, Alina Cojocaru. She was in the costume of the title role in
. That's one of my favourite ballets. I spent ages staring at the picture while my mind flooded with muddled thoughts about how much I used to adore every single thing to do with ballet, including actually dancing myself.
dancing myself. But the sadness always hits me when I remind myself that I'm not as good at ballet as I thought. And that's why I'm trying to get all thoughts about it out of my system, to stop the hurt that overwhelms me every time I remember what a failure I am.