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I race up the stairs and into the studio: luckily the music hasn't started. I dump my bag in the corner behind the door - as usual everyone else has chosen that corner too so my bag is just one on top of the mountain of faded, tapestried, denim, leather, patched, zippered lumps of belongings. I leave it there and scan the room for a space at the barre. There isn't one. Oh hell. Somebody is going to get annoyed at me, but hey, too bad. I'm paying for this class too. I squeeze in between two girls in black - gee, what original leotards, guys. They don't look at me - the music starts, we all wriggle into the beginning position hurriedly, the teacher starts calling out the steps in time to the piano in that stilted way ballet teachers talk -
'And one - and demi - and rise - stretch! - arm up - and four - and - now darling, shoulders down - and seven - and eight...'
I faze her out, letting my body copy the girl in front mechanically. I didn't get enough sleep last night, and then when I had slept, I kept having these weird dreams. I hate dancing on not enough sleep. I feel like my brain is wrapped in cotton wool. I hate this feeling - probably everyone in the room is thinking how cotton-wool-ish my feet look too. They move like jellyfish on tranquilizer. I've gotta do something about that. Maybe I should get back into a routine with feet exercises - could I fit that in as well as the ones I do for my stomach, inner thighs and back each night? Well the least I could do is try. I read in Cosmo that Elle Mcpherson does 500 situps a day.
Oh hell, gotta do the plies on the other side - I turn just a fraction more slowly than the girl in front of me, my thoughts are beginning to hijack my dance class. That's a bad thing only half way through the first exercise. Was she trying to hide a look of disdain directed at me? Come on, I'm just imagining things. She's probably too worried about whether her hips look too fat. Well, thank goodness MY hips are all right. They are, aren't they? I'm scanning the room again, this time to find a patch of mirror that isn't either steamed up with sweat or blocked by other people, I've got to check out my hips. Oh, this is getting ridiculous. Start concentrating on the class, you loser. The teacher is already finished showing us the tendu exercise and I didn't even pick it up, though I stood there nodding wisely as she spelled out the sequence and then asked us if we had it. Well, I'll be winging it again - hope the girl in black, Miss Originality in front of me, has got the exercise so I can copy her, or we'll both look mighty stupid when we get it wrong in unison. Or rather, I'll look mighty stupid when whoever catches me realises my brain is a million miles away and I'm not really trying and I've got it wrong because I'm copying the girl in front of me. I've got to start concentrating on this class. Wake UP!

Well at least I got through that class, anyway. So my pirouettes were all at about 80 degrees and my jumps were a little er, stilted. At least I got through to the end. This shower feels so good. I wish I could just wash away that class and pretend it never happened, pretend that tomorrow I could turn up on time, do tendus with wonderfully stretched feet, have a whole patch of mirror to myself, AND look thin in it, and be brilliant. And just at the moment when I hold my leg up in arabesque at 180 degrees for a whole minute on point, the artistic director of the Royal Ballet walks in and says, 'I've got to hire that girl. What's your name, honey? When can you start? Do you want to dance Juliet, or Giselle?' Sigh. The water streams down my back and if I keep my eyes closed I can imagine I'm on my own and not in a communal shower with no curtain in the middle of the ladies changing rooms. Lathering the shower gel all over I inhale the wonderful fragrance of artificial green apple. I love it. I wonder if green apples have ever smelled like that.
There are two girls waiting to get in the shower. I suppose I'd better get out and make room for at least one of them. What a drag. I close my eyes and pretend I haven't noticed they're waiting. I luxuriate under the hot streams of water for about five seconds, and then the conscience niggle gets too uncomfortable so I pick up my shower gel and shampoo and make for the bench where I left my bag and stuff. On the way I pass a mirror - how are the hips doing - oh gross, it's a fat mirror. Don't look, don't look, it's too horrible.

Opening the door and stepping out into the street is like going from a sauna into the cold room at work. From limpid warmth to a thwack of cold air in the face, tickling your ears and making your eyes feel twice as big. A bus, a bus, my kingdom for a bus...

Sitting at the bus stop. Still. Oh man, how long do I have to wait today... and am I EVER going to wake up? I still feel like there's an insidious layer of cotton wool blocking off the connections somehow. And how will I get around Chris if I'm late for work. I can always hope he's late too, surely something has to go right for me today. I'd kill for a cup of coffee. Bus!!! I get on, show my ticket, sit down. Close eyes. Veg out till I get to work. Oh such sweet vegging. No, don't fall asleep, you'll regret it...

Well, I only missed my stop by one. Just a little longer walk, that's all, and finally something went right, I got some rest! So I actually enjoy the walk to work in the crisp air and that clean smell of wet trees. By the time I get to work my thighs are aching nicely, those jumps in class must have had enough effort in them even if they were stilted. Chris is standing by the bar when I get upstairs. He's just brewed a pot of coffee.
'Want some?' Do I what! This day is getting better, thank God. With a smile and a 'Hiya, thanks,' I take a mug with me into the back room and change from jeans into my black skirt. The zip is stuck. Yank - carefully though, don't wreck it - just a little yank...just enough... got it. Shoes back on, I get my lipstick out of my little pink makeup bag and go back into the restaurant to apply it. The only mirror in this place is above the till - no hip-hauntings here, thank goodness. I can look as fat as I like at work and everyone still thinks I'm anorexic. It's not true - I eat heaps. But I suppose I look thin to them. Just as long as they don't try and make me eat steak. Yuck.
Cutlery out of drawers, set tables. All sixty of them. Or it feels like there's sixty anyway. Do I have time to think while I'm doing it, or do I just do it like a mad thing and get it done? Hmm, twenty-five past and we open at one. Not enough time to think, but I can get away with humming. That won't distract my energy too much. But damn, can't I think of anything better than Whitney Houston? Oh well, she's stuck in my head, so 'How Will I Know?' it is.

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