Olivia and the Great Escape (4 page)

BOOK: Olivia and the Great Escape
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Chapter Seven

“Eel! Eel!” Emmy was calling her friend. “Where are you going? You’re heading the wrong way for extra tap.”

Eel swung round on the stairs. “I’m not coming, Ems.”

Emmy’s face fell. “But why? You love tap. Are you ill?”

Eel shook her head. “I think I’ve just gone off it a bit, Emmy. I really want to concentrate on my ballet this term. I’ve been doing some reading. Lots of people think that if you want to be a ballerina, you need to specialise as soon as possible. Tap, jazz, all those other forms of dance are just a distraction.”

Emmy frowned. “But you love them so much.”

Eel sighed. “I do, but maybe sometimes you have to make sacrifices to be the best at something.”

“My mum says there’s plenty of time to specialise. She’s going to talk to Miss Swan and Miss Taylor about whether I’ve got a chance of getting into the Imperial or the Royal Ballet when I’m eleven.” Emmy’s eyes were shining. “That would be mint. We could go together.” She paused. “But I’m not sure I could bear to leave the Swan. I’ve been here since I was seven. It would be harder still for you, Eel. The Swan’s your home. It’s lucky we don’t have to think about it for a couple of years.”

For some reason, Eel seemed to find it difficult to meet her friend’s eye. “I’ve got to go, Ems, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She turned and continued walking up the stairs towards the flat. Emmy stared after her, a hurt and slightly puzzled look on her face. Why was Eel behaving so strangely?

Once in the flat, Eel checked that nobody else was around, went into her bedroom and closed the door behind her. She felt bad about Emmy. Having a secret she couldn’t share meant that
she had to keep pushing her best friend away. She hated that.

She felt under the mattress of her bed and pulled out the large, thick cream envelope. Just holding it felt exciting. She had poured over the prospectus for the Imperial with its pictures of eager-faced children at the barre and the elegant swan-necked older pupils. There was something thrilling about thinking that one day she might be amongst their number.

Eel pulled out the prospectus and carefully took out the application form. It was signed and dated by Jack on the final page. Seeing his signature made her feel shabby because she had lied to him to get it. For a moment, she hesitated. Then she took a deep breath and began to finish filling in the form in her best handwriting. She knew what she was doing was sneaky and wrong, but she just had to know whether she really did have the talent to be a ballerina. If Gran and Miss Taylor wouldn’t tell her, then auditioning for the Imperial was the only way she was going to find out.

Chapter Eight

“How happy some o’er other some can be! Through Athens I am thought as fair as she. But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so; He will not know what all but he do know…”

Georgia continued to the end of the speech from Act One of
A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Georgia, as Helena, was expressing her despair that the boy she really liked, Demetrius, only had eyes for her friend, Hermia. Everyone was spellbound, including Olivia, who had been cast as Hermia. She glanced at Connor, who was playing Lysander. He seemed to be completely mesmerised by Georgia’s performance.

Only Alex, who was playing Demetrius, appeared not to be gripped. He was riffling
through his script, looking bored. There was a tiny silence as Georgia reached the end of the speech before the final bell for the afternoon rang. The class broke into delighted applause.

“Thank you, Georgia,” said Sebastian Shaw, “that was lovely. It really felt as if you were feeling every single word. And thank you, Livy, Con and Alex, too. The scene is really coming together. Well done all of you. We’ll move on to the Fairy scenes tomorrow, so anyone involved in those needs to check over their lines tonight and make sure they are word perfect. You can’t put the effort into acting if you are putting it into remembering the script.”

Olivia went to get her bag, which was hanging over the back of her chair. She saw Alex looking at her intently, but she ignored him and grinned at Tom, who winked back at her. Alex was
getting on her nerves. Even little things he did irritated her, but worst of all was the fact that he called her Liv. Jack and Tom were the only people in the world who were allowed to call her that. Even Eel had always called her Livy.

Olivia and the others crowded into the corridor, which was full of Swans heading
towards the cloakrooms, either to gather their things and head for home or to change for the extra dance, music or circus workshops that they took after school. Georgia had been waylaid by Connor who was talking to her quietly but passionately. She was shaking her head, and kept giving sideways glances towards Alex as if she was eager to get away.

Aeysha and Katie peeled off for the girls’ cloakrooms.

“Georgia was great as Helena, wasn’t she?” said Katie generously.

‘Yes,” said Aeysha. “Funny and sad at the same time, and so completely lovelorn.” She hesitated, then said, “But I’m not sure it was all acting.”

“I did wonder,” said Katie.

“If you think about it,” said Aeysha, “the beginning of
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
is a bit like real life at the moment. Georgia’s keen on Alex who only has eyes for Olivia. In
, Helena wants Demetrius who wants Hermia who isn’t interested in him. Mr Shaw’s casting is spot on.”

“Are you quite sure Livy isn’t interested in Alex?” asked Katie. “She’s not just playing it
really cool?”

Aeysha shook her head. “I don’t think she knows how to play it cool, it’s not Livy’s style at all. She always wears her heart on her sleeve, and anyway, I’m sure she would have told one of us if she was interested in Alex. She’s just too busy doing her own stuff on the wire and trapeze and worrying about Jack to give him a second thought. But the thing is, I suspect her total lack of interest is probably a big part of her appeal. I guess Alex Parks isn’t used to being ignored by girls.”

“I can see why,” said Katie, “although he’s not my type. Too full of himself.”

“Alex is used to having girls swooning all over him,” continued Aeysha, “but then along comes Livy who’s lovely and not in the slightest bit interested. She’s a challenge!”

“Whereas Georgia is completely gorgeous, but no challenge at all.”

“Precisely,” said Aeysha. “But you know what really worries me?” Katie shook her head. “In
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
, Helena and Hermia’s friendship is almost destroyed. I couldn’t bear it if that happened to Livy and Georgia. It would ruin everything. No boy, and
particularly not Mr full-of-himself Alex Parks, is worth falling out with one of your best friends.”

The two girls went out of the cloakroom.

“There you are!” said Olivia. “Are you two going to your contemporary class?”

“Yes,” said Aeysha.

“Do you want to meet up at the café after?”

They nodded.

“Great,” said Olivia. “Because I’m going to help Pablo with after-school high-wire.”

“I’m just on my way there now,” smiled Alex, who had suddenly appeared behind them. “I’ll walk with you, Liv.”

Olivia started to shrug, but remembered her manners. “OK.” But then she suddenly turned back. “Oh, sorry Alex, I’ve just remembered I need a quick word with Tom. Don’t wait for me, I’ll catch you up.”

“Do you want me to take your bag for you, Liv?” asked Alex, eagerly.

A look of puzzlement crossed Olivia’s face. “Why on earth would you want to do that?” she asked.

Aeysha and Katie watched Olivia and Alex walk in different directions, then burst out laughing.

“Oh dear,” said Aeysha. “If it wasn’t for poor Georgia’s feelings, it would be really funny. Better than a play, almost.”

Chapter Nine

“Eel! Eel!” There was no answer. Olivia had looked in all Eel’s usual haunts and hadn’t found her, and eventually she had gone up to the flat on the off-chance that Eel had slipped up there at lunch time for some reason. She had passed her Gran on the stairs and had asked her if she knew where Eel was.

“Probably with Emmy,” replied Alicia. But Olivia had found Emmy in the dance studio with some of her other friends and had asked her if she knew where her little sister was. Emmy had shaken her head. “She keeps going off on her own,” she’d said a little sadly. “She’s even given up coming to extra tap. I thought she must be really sick to miss extra tap. But she said that she was just giving tap a bit of a rest for a while.”

Olivia had looked at Emmy’s wan face. “You two haven’t fallen out, have you?” she’d asked gently.

Emmy had shaken her head hard. “No, that’s why I don’t understand it. It’s as if she’s thinking about something else all the time and just wants to be alone.”

Olivia had frowned. Wanting to be alone was not typical Eel behavior at all. She was never happier than when she was in a crowd. Olivia loved being with Tom, Georgia and the others but she could quite happily spend hours on her own practising the high wire or reading Shakespeare or even just day-dreaming. Jack always said that if his daughters had been animals Eel would definitely have been a dog and Olivia a cat. “Probably a wild cat,” he added with a grin. “A puma or a snow leopard.”

“Listen, Emmy,” Olivia had said, smiling reassuringly. “I expect it’s just a phase she’s going through. You’ve always been her best friend.”

Olivia walked back out of the flat, closed the door carefully behind her to ensure it was locked and went downstairs again. She thought she would just check in the music rooms and
after that she would head to the river without Eel, even though she had promised Jack that she would bring her little sister with her.

She stopped outside one of the music rooms. The door was closed but she could hear voices from within. To her astonishment, she realised that the voices belonged to Eel and Alicia.

Alicia was saying: “I know it’s unusual but I hope you understand the situation. I would be very grateful,” and then Eel replied excitedly: “That’s perfect! Completely perfect.”

Olivia frowned. Why hadn’t her gran said she was on her way to talk to Eel? She supposed that Alicia must have just found Eel in the music room. But there was something about the exchange that struck her as odd, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Olivia pushed open the door. Two faces swung guiltily around, and Oliva found herself staring at Eel and Alex. They both looked put out to be discovered together.

“What are you up to?” she asked, a sharp edge to her voice.

“Nothing,” said Eel quickly.

Olivia glared at Alex. “I heard you
impersonating my gran again.”

Alex fixed his soulful eyes on Olivia. “I didn’t mean anything by it, I really respect Miss Swan. She’s an amazing woman. I was just entertaining your little sister, Liv.”

“Well, she doesn’t need entertaining. She’s supposed to be coming with me to see Dad.”

“Maybe I can tag along,” said Alex, and it sounded like a statement not a question.

“Oh Alex, of course you can,” said Eel enthusiastically. “I’m sure Dad would like to meet you.”

“Sorry,” said Olivia brusquely. “This is a Marvell-only outing. Maybe another time.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” said Alex. “It would be nice to spend some time with you, Liv.”

“Actually,” said Olivia, with a forced smile, “I’d really like it if you didn’t call me Liv. Livy or Olivia is just fine.”

For a second a brief look of astonishment mixed with hurt flitted across Alex’s face, and then he recovered himself. “I’ll remember that, Livy. Sorry.”

He winked at Eel. “See you around, Eel. It’s nice doing business with you.”

* * *

Olivia hurried towards the river with Eel trying to keep up.

“What did he mean, ‘nice doing business with you’?” asked Olivia.

Eel reddened. “It’s nothing. Just a turn of phrase,” she said.

“You’re not up to something, are you? You’re neglecting Emmy. She seems quite hurt.”

Eel bristled. “You’re one to talk about upsetting your friends!” she said.

“What on earth do you mean?” asked Olivia.

Eel sighed. “Sometimes I think you’re completely blind, Livy. You never notice anything. It’s
obvious to everyone else. It’s the talk of the school!”

“What’s so obvious?” asked Olivia impatiently, speeding up until Eel was all but running.

“I can’t believe I have to tell you,” said Eel. “Georgia is soft on Alex.”

“Oh,” said Olivia. “Well, I had noticed she behaves very oddly when he’s around, and she does want to drag him along to everything. Maybe she should ask him out?” Olivia frowned. “Although, it would be very odd if one of us
started going out with someone. Actually, I don’t think I’d like that very much at all. I like it as we are. Me, Tom, Aeysha, Georgia and Katie. Although things are going to change next year when Aeysha leaves. It won’t feel the same at all.”

“Well, Alex and Georgia are never going to happen,” said Eel, “because Alex is interested in someone else.”

“Who?” asked Olivia.

Eel gave a long sigh of disbelief. “You, of course, dummy.”

Olivia stopped walking. “Me? Don’t be silly, Eel. Alex Parks and I have got absolutely nothing in common. In fact, I think he’s a bit creepy. It’s as if he’s
being really nice all the time rather than
being nice. Sometimes when he looks at me I feel as if I’m being engulfed by an oil slick.”

Eel giggled. “I think he’s trying to be charming, and it’s clear there are plenty of other Swan girls who find that kind of thing attractive.” She paused. “Livy, maybe you should tell him? Not that you think that he’s an oil slick, obviously, but that you’re not interested. I think he thinks he’s in with a chance.” She paused
and looked embarrassed. “In fact, he asked me if I’d put in a good word with you for him, and I promised I would.”

Olivia looked horrified. “So that’s what the two of you were doing together,” she said, angrily.

“Er, sort of, yes,” said Eel, looking shifty. “But Livy, it’s clearly a hopeless cause. You should tell him he’s wasting his time.”

“I think I’d better. I feel terrible about Georgia. It’s explains why she’s so snappy with me. Maybe if I tell Alex I’m not interested, it will clear the way for her.”

“Maybe,” said Eel doubtfully.

“Eel,” said Olivia. “I feel like such a total noodle for not noticing. Thanks for telling me.”

“Oh, that’s OK,” said Eel. “You’re welcome to ask your little sister’s advice any time you like. Though I may have to start charging. Maybe I could set myself up as an agony aunt.”

At that moment they passed the tube station where the free evening paper was just being delivered. Olivia took one off the top of the pile and unfolded it to look at the headline. She gasped.

High-Wire Daredevil Preparing River Thames

Fury rose in her throat. Somehow word about Jack’s plans had got out! She quickly scanned the story, and then immediately she realised that she was wrong. It was even worse than she thought. The newspaper wasn’t referring to Jack at all. The story was about the Russian stunt man, Viktor Ivanov, who planned to perform the exact same stunt as Jack a mile or so down the river from him at exactly the same time! Olivia felt sick. Jack had been wrong when he said he’d been given permission instead of his rival. They had both been given it! Jack had competition, and the first round had gone to the Russian.

Eel saw her sister’s white face. “What is it, Livy?” she asked. Olivia passed her the newspaper soundlessly.

The two girls studied the picture of Viktor Ivanov, who looked very young but very determined. The article also broke the news of Jack’s attempt, and included a quote from Viktor’s agent, Ethan Rees. Olivia read it aloud, her voice becoming angrier and angrier: “‘The Great Marvello is yesterday’s news. Viktor is a rising star. This will be a battle between
two gladiators played out on the high-wire suspended above the Thames. And my boy will be victorious.’”

Olivia was so outraged that she made Eel run all the rest of the way to the river. But when they arrived, Pablo was already on the phone with Ethan Rees.

“Listen, don’t worry, Liv,” said Jack. “It’s a game. They’re just trying to psych me out with all that talk of me being past it. As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier. The rivalry between us will stir up more interest in the stunt. It’s just a pity that this Viktor guy has got in first, but I certainly don’t want to get in a fight with the guy. There’s room for both of us on the river. It’s just a bit of showmanship, that’s all.”

When Pablo came off the phone, he agreed with Jack. “The rivalry will be good for both your dad and this young upstart. Especially when Jack wins! I just wish I’d thought of it myself.” He turned to Jack. “Ethan Rees wants to hold a joint press conference next week. It will be a bit like the weigh-in before a boxing bout. He wants us to play up the competitiveness, go for a bit of banter. What do you think?”

Jack looked pensive, and Olivia felt a surge
of sympathy for him. She knew that kind of flashy posturing wasn’t Jack’s thing.

“You don’t have to do it, Dad,” she said, gently.

“I think it sounds fun,” said Eel. “Like a mock duel. Exciting.”

“Eel’s probably right,” said Jack. “It’s just a bit of fun.” He looked at Olivia’s serious face. “Don’t you worry about me, chick. I’ll be fine. Viktor the whippersnapper had better look out. I feel quite sorry for him already.”

Pablo grinned. “I’ll tell Ethan we’re up for it.”

But Olivia was worried. She didn’t want Jack to take any more risks than were necessary and she knew that if Viktor and his manager started upping the stakes, Jack would match them all the way.

“Don’t be anxious, little duckling,” whispered Pablo. “This Viktor Ivanov is an amateur compared with the Great Marvello!”

BOOK: Olivia and the Great Escape
8.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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