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Viola sat hunched up in the corner of the Junior League Hall, where she'd been banished for fighting with Monique in the toilets. She was muttering quietly to herself.

"It's okay, Vi. Just calm down. Just because Olivia goes and says all that stuff about Sebastian doesn't mean anything. She wants Sebastian. You're not Sebastian. You're Viola. You're a girl. Maybe you should just tell her. Yeah, tell her. And then it'll all be okay. She'll be upset, but at least she's not gonna get hurt by some guy. Some guy that doesn't even actually exist. She'll be all right. Okay, I'm gonna tell her. I am. Really."

That decided – well, mostly decided – no, definitely decided, absolutely – Viola sat back, shoulders slowly relaxing, a determined look on her face. She was going to tell her.

 

Waking up the next morning, the morning of the Cornwall game, Viola's stomach was in knots. 'I'm gonna intercept every pass, make every penalty shot. I'm gonna beat that loser Justin. I'm gonna kick some Cornwall ass. I'm gonna show that girls can keep up with a boys' team. And then I'm gonna tell Olivia. I'm gonna tell her I'm a girl. I'm gonna… I'm gonna… I'm gonna be sick.'

She wasn't sick, but when she went down to breakfast the look and the smell of the food turned her stomach. She got herself one piece of buttered toast and sat there nibbling it, leg jiggling up and down with nervousness. Duke, Toby and Andrew didn't seem nervous at all. But then they hadn't changed their lives upside-down just for this one game.

"Dude, would you quit that wiggling?"

"Huh?" Viola looked up to find the three boys looking at her. "What?" She looked down at her leg, keeping time with some unheard song. "Oh. Sorry." She had to push her hands down on her leg to get it to stop.

The anxiety didn't stop all through the morning. Didn't stop while she was changing into her uniform – her first-string uniform. Didn't stop while she was warming up. Only when she walked onto the field, surrounded by the rest of the team, did her stomach settle. Yeah. She was gonna play some soccer.

The lack of coordination that plagued her off the field melted away, and she was running, the ball skimming before her feet, her clunky soccer boots dancing. Playing soccer always made her feel like this. It was the only thing that did.

Except…

Ooofff!

Tripping awkwardly over an outstretched leg, she landed heavily on her face. Tumbling over onto her back, she lay there looking up at the sky.

Except…

Except…

Except Olivia.

Images of Olivia flashed through her mind.

Olivia's smile.

Olivia's laugh.

Olivia asking "Why aren't I your type?"

Olivia saying "I'm totally into his roommate."

Olivia declaring "I'm going to kiss him so passionately that even the people he hates will feel pleasure."

'Olivia. I'm in love with Olivia.' A slow grin spread over her face.

"Hastings! Stop lying on the ground like a nancy boy and get up and kick some ball!"

Oh. Oops. She still had a game to play.

She got up and back into the game, but her mind wasn't on it. Every time she stopped focussing on the game for just one second, her mind went back to Olivia. 'Olivia has such a sexy smile.' The ball went completely past Viola, who was oblivious to her team-mates' aggravated shouts. 'The way Olivia looks up at me…' The ball whacked Viola in the back of the head. Determined to get her head back in the game, she run forward, managing to snag the ball, and ran as hard as she could towards the goal. She could hear the Illyria fans urging her on. Then she heard one voice out of the crowd. Olivia, cheering for her. Calling out –

"Go Sebastian!"

Viola felt all the air go out of her in a rush, her foot slipped out from under her, and for the second time that game, she ended up on her back in the dirt.

'Oh. I am in so much trouble'

"Hastings! Bench!"

She spent the rest of the half sitting and watching her team play without her, and smacking herself in the head.

"Idiot!" she hissed quietly at herself.

"Don't be too hard on yourself" she heard Toby say, coming off the field at half time. "I played lousy in my first game of the year."

"Gee, thanks, Toby." Viola said sarcastically. "Anyway, that's not why I'm an idiot."

"Why are you an idiot then?" Toby asked. "At least, which particular thing has come to your notice?" he added with a grin.

"I just… uh… never mind." She said absently. She was looking up at the stands, trying to find that familiar face. Olivia must have moved, because Viola couldn't see her. She was so focussed on searching the stands that she didn't notice someone come up behind her.

"Hi partner." It was Olivia herself.

"Oh! Um, hi!" Viola said, startled. "Um, were you watching…? Oh, of course you were watching. Uh. I haven't been playing my best, um, I guess I've had something on my mind…" She trailed off, noticing that Olivia and Toby were both staring at her, watching her ramble.

"Right. So that's why you're an idiot. I'll leave you to it." Toby clapped her on the shoulder and left, grinning.

Olivia smiled. "What was that about?" she asked.

"Um, nothing. Just a … private joke, or something." Viola was aware she was still babbling, but couldn't seem to stop. The gentle amusement on Olivia's face wasn't helping. Viola ducked her head.

"I know you must be nervous, your first game in a new school. Especially against your old team. I know you'll get it together." Viola looked up at that, and saw only a firm look of faith – in her. "I've been watching you train, and I know you're good. You can do it."

Viola was struck dumb. A warm glow started spreading through her body, followed by a smile. "Yeah. Yeah, I can do it. Thanks. Look, after the game, can we go some place and talk?"

Olivia's face lit up. "I'd love to. See you after the game."

"See you. Thanks again." With a final goofy grin at Olivia, Viola went up to Coach Dinklage.

"Hi. Coach? I know I was really lousy in the first half, but I've got it together now, I promise. Please can you put me back in?" She didn't want to beg, but she would if she had to.

The coach looked at her for a long minute.

"All right." he said slowly. "But if you screw up again, it's back on the bench, and back in second string."

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. You won't regret it, I promise." Viola rushed off, missing Dinklage's muttered "Nancy boy…"

Walking back onto the field at the start of the second half, Viola spared a quick look at Olivia, sharing a smile. Then she brought her focus back in, back on the game, and it was like she'd never lost it. She regained that feeling of perfect grace that only came on the field, and the thoughts of Olivia that stayed in the back of her mind served this time only to spur her on, not to distract her. This was what she loved.

She had the ball and it stuck to her feet like it was glued there. She danced down the field. The Cornwall side couldn't get near her. Nearing the goal, she drew back, and kicked. It sizzled towards the goal and she tensed in hope. But Justin was there blocking it. He looked at her, and she just smiled, a shark-like grin. He was not going to get in her way. She wheeled round and chased off after the ball.

The second half was tougher, tighter than the first had been, both teams trying to break the nil-all deadlock. The time was running out, and neither team had managed a point. Then Viola saw the ball go flying towards Illyria's goal.

'No way.' She ran as hard as she could, leapt, and managed to intercept, heading the ball out of the way. Spinning round as she landed, she chased after the ball, collected it, and sprinted down the field. Her lungs were burning, but she ignored them. It seemed the whole field was full of Cornwall players, all in her way, all blocking her. She dodged, and ducked past two forwards. She couldn't spare a second to look at the clock, but she knew it was ticking down. 'Oh God.' There were two massive players in her way. No way around. She feinted left, ducked, then popped up, bringing her head up just under one player's jaw. He fell back with a "whoof" and she was round. The way was clear to the goal, except for the goalie, except for Justin. He seemed to fill up her whole field of vision. Her heart sank a little, but she kept running, kept her speed up, and as she neared the goal, she focussed on a tiny corner of the net. In her mind's eye she watched it get bigger and bigger, til it was all she could see, and Justin disappeared, all the noise around her disappeared, the pain in her lungs and her legs disappeared. She kicked.

Still running forward with that strange feeling of silence, she watched the ball on its trajectory. It seemed to carry a sense of inevitability. The goalie lunged for it, but it bent, looking almost leisurely, and slammed into the back of the net.

Justin collected the ball and sent it back down the field towards Illyria's goal. Viola just watched, still in a state of suspension, spent. Cornwall tried desperately to even out Illyria's one-nil advantage, but before they could get near the goal, the full-time buzzer sounded, and Viola came to. She dropped slowly to her knees and looked up at the score board.

Illyria 1 Cornwall 0.

She read again.

Illyria 1 Cornwall 0.

The noise of the Illyria crowds going crazy reached her at just about the same time her team-mates did. They hoisted her roughly off the ground and onto their shoulders, cheering crazily, and it sunk in – they had won. She had won. She had shown that a girl could play on a boys' soccer team, could beat them at their own game. She could stop being a boy.

Her team dropped her back to the ground, and she was just about to reach up and pull her wig off, when Olivia rushed up, enveloped her in a hug, and then stepped back, holding on to the front of her soccer jersey.

"I've been wanting to do this since I first saw you," and with a tug on her shirt, she pulled Viola forward, wrapped one arm around her neck, and kissed her.

'Omigod, omigod, omigod! Olivia is kissing me! Kiss her back! Kiss her back! Wait! Don't kiss her back. When she finds out you're a girl she'll be furious. Don't kiss her back. Don't kiss her back!' She was kissing her back.

Eventually Olivia pulled away, leaving her hand cupped loosely around Viola's neck, and Viola became conscious of the hoots and whistles. She looked around. Everyone was staring. She saw Duke looking at them. The expression on his face was crestfallen and furious all at once.

Viola realised that there was no way she could reveal herself now. No way. Olivia would be humiliated.

"Look, Olivia, I've really gotta talk to you about something. Can we go somewhere private?"

Catcalls erupted at that.

"Sure." Olivia replied with a sexy smile. "But right now I have to be somewhere. We'll talk in my dorm before you take me to the debutante ball tonight?" She ran her fingers down Viola's arm.

"Um. Yeah. Wait. What?" but before she could clarify things, Olivia had run off.

'I am in so much trouble.'

 

Viola slipped into her room to change, assuming that Duke would be in the showers after the game. She had just started to pull off her jersey when the door slammed open.

Panicking, she tugged her shirt back down. Duke just looked at her.

"I wasn't… She just… I didn't mean…" she started babbling.

Duke punched her in the face.

She dropped awkwardly to the floor. More out of surprise than pain – Duke's punch hadn't been very hard.

"You're lucky you're littler than me, or I'd kick your ass."

"Duke I'm sorry." she tried to explain. "I didn't know she was going to do that."

"Just shut up, Sebastian." Duke plopped down on the bed, and put his head in his hands. "Look, I get it. It's obvious she likes you, not me. There's nothing I can do about that. And I know you like her. But if you're not serious, you better tell her now. If you take her to this dance and then treat her like one of your playthings…"

"Duke, I am serious. But I don't think I can take her to the dance."

"You're fucking joking. You take her and you treat her right, or I will kick your ass, little or no."

"Duke…"

"Just get out of my sight, Sebastian." Viola scrambled to her feet and, quickly grabbing a few things, scampered for the door. When she looked around, she saw Duke sitting on the bed, a look of bone-deep weariness on his face.

 

"Paul, I'm in so much trouble. Duke says I have to take Olivia to this thing but I can't because then I'll be lying to her even more and she'll never forgive me and she'll already be humiliated when people find out and it's all my fault and I never should have started this except that I've shown that girls can play soccer but now I'm in trouble and I think I'm in love and she kissed me and she's going to hate me and I…"

"Woah, Vi. Slow down." Paul sounded amused on the other end of the phone. "Look, I'm still at Illyria. I'll pick you up, and we'll go back to my place, and you can tell me all about it."

"Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou."

"And Vi?"

"Yeah?"

"Breathe."

She waited, jiggling up and down, until Paul drove up to collect her. In the car she explained the situation, slightly more calmly than she had over the phone.

"Vi, you've got to tell her."

"I know. I'm going to. But what about the dance?" she had to admit that she sounded pathetic, even to her own ears.

"Look, we'll get you all dressed up for the dance, you go over to her place early and explain, and you can take it from there. I'll be going to the dance as well anyway, so maybe if she still needs a partner, and she doesn't want to ever see you again, I can stand in."

"Paul! You're not helping!"

He didn't look the least bit apologetic. "I'll find something that will fit you."

They arrived home, and Paul started going through his wardrobe.

"I think this will suit you." he said, holding up a pair of tiny pink hot-pants.

"Paul! You're killing me here! I thought you were going to help!"

"Relax, Vi. Joking." He looked at her. "You're really into this girl, aren't you?"

"Um," Viola looked down at her feet. "Yeah. I think so. Yeah, I am."

"Have you … always known you liked girls? You could have told me, you know." Paul looked a little hurt.

"There's just never been anyone who… Until Olivia. She's… smart, and… and funny, and she gets me. Except that she doesn't, because she thinks I'm a guy." She looked hopeless.

"Okay, well you're going to tell her tonight." Paul said, coming over and wrapping her in a hug. "Now lets get you dressed up."

"Wait a minute. I can't go dressed as I guy. I can't lie to her anymore. But everyone knows that she'll be going to the ball with 'Sebastian.' She'll be embarrassed if 'Sebastian' doesn't show up. What am I going to do?" The wail in her voice made her cringe.

"Okay" said Paul. "Let me sort this out. You don't want to go dressed as Sebastian?"

"That's right."

"Because you won't lie to her anymore?"

"I can't."

"But you don't want to stand her up?"

"She'd hate it."

"Why don't you go over to her place as Viola?"

"But what about-?"

"Uh uh. Don't interrupt." Paul shook his finger at Viola, who looked contrite. "You go over dressed as Viola, with your wig and a nice tux in your bag. You tell her the story, and let her decide. That way you'll be ready to go if she still wants you."

"Do you think she will?" Viola looked pathetically hopeful.

"No." Paul, as always, was brutally honest. "But you never know. Hey Vi, don't cry. I'm sorry. I'm an ass. Shh. It's all right." Viola sobbed into his arms as he rocked her. "It's okay. It'll work out all right. Now lets get you looking pretty."

 

That night found Viola pacing outside Olivia's dorm block. 'I can do this. I can. I'm going to go up there and I'm gonna tell her the truth. And then she's going to hate me, and throw me out, and never talk to me again, and my life will be over.' She banged her head against a nearby wall.

"Hey, what did that wall ever do to you?" came a gently teasing voice.

"Olivia!" Viola squeaked, whirling around.

"Viola, right? You're Sebastian's sister, aren't you?"

"Um, yeah. Listen, can we talk? Somewhere private?"

Olivia looked scared. "It's Sebastian, isn't it? He doesn't want to take me to the ball." She turned half away, "I'm an idiot. I should never have…"

"No, Olivia! He does want to take you. He really, really does. It's just… he thinks you probably won't want to take him, once I tell you…"

"Of course I'll still want to take him! Why didn't he come talk to me himself? Nothing he could say could change the way I feel about him."

'Oh God, I hope that's true.' Viola didn't really believe it though. "Can we just go talk? Please?"

"All right, come up to my room."

Viola followed Olivia up the stairs, trying not to watch the way her hips swayed.

Once in the room, Viola sat on the bed opposite Olivia, and tried to think of a way to start. She had been rehearsing in her head all afternoon, but nothing had seemed to work.

"Viola, what is it?" Olivia sounded genuinely concerned, and that just reminded Viola of why she liked her so much – as far as Olivia knew, she was talking to someone she'd barely met, and yet she still cared enough to be worried.

"Um. Okay. Could you… please not interrupt me until I finish?"

At Olivia's nod she continued. "I used to go to Cornwall. I played soccer. I love soccer. But then they cut the girls' team, and they wouldn't let me play on the boys' team." Viola looked up. She could see Olivia wondering what this had to do with Sebastian. She looked back down, finding it difficult to look the other girl in the eye.

"Sebastian had been kicked out of Cornwall, and was going to be starting at Illyria. But then he decided to go to London with his band, and wouldn't be back in time to start school." This was where the story started to get difficult. She wondered if Olivia had any clue what was coming, but couldn't get up the courage to look at Olivia's face. She forced herself to continue.

"I really wanted to get back at the boys' team for not letting me in, and show them that girls could play just as well as boys. I wanted to beat them. The only way I could do that was to play for Illyria. As Sebastian."

Viola kept looking at her feet, waiting for Olivia to say something, but Olivia was silent. Finally she worked up the courage to look up. Olivia's face was white.

"I'm really, really sorry Olivia. I didn't mean to hurt anybody. I just wanted to play soccer. My friend Paul is a hairdresser and makeup artist. He helped me look like a boy. I didn't mean to get so close to anybody. I'm sorry." Viola tried to keep back the tears, aware that nothing she could say could make it better.

Olivia still hadn't said anything. Viola couldn't tell what she was thinking. "I just hope I haven't wrecked everything. I wish… I should go." She stood up to leave.

"Wait." Olivia's voice was soft. She stood up and came over. She was trembling. She leaned forward and gently, so gently, kissed Viola.

Viola was frozen, too scared to respond. Before she could move, Olivia had pulled away, looking at Viola's lips. Then she burst into tears.

"Damn you! Damn you, damn you, damn you!" She started hitting Viola on the chest. "Go away! Get out of my room! Get out of my life!" Olivia turned her back, crying softly, and Viola left the room, tripping over her feet in her haste.

She ran, tears dripping silently down her face. She knew Paul was waiting for her in the car, but she didn't want to talk to anybody. So she just ran. She found herself at the soccer field – why not? It was where she felt comfortable. It was the reason she was in this mess in the first place. She climbed the stands and slumped, arms wrapped around her legs. She finally gave in to the sobs. She cried, big choking tears, bawling like she couldn't remember ever doing before.

She thought she'd never run out of tears, but she did, eventually, gasping for breath, feeling sick. She just sat, her face squashed against her knees and sticky with her tears. Everything felt empty. She didn't know how long she'd been sitting there for when the phone rang. She ignored it, the ring-tone grating on her ears, too apathetic to turn it off. She continued to sit there as stolidly as if she was planning to take root and grow.

Some little while later the phone rang again. She ignored it again. It stopped ringing. Then it started again. She continued to ignore it. It rang again. The ring-tone, always annoying, was driving her crazy. She had to move. She looked at caller ID. It was Paul. She knew he'd be worried. She supposed, numb as she was, that she'd better answer it.

"Hey Vi? Where are you? It's been hours."

"Sorry." Viola couldn't manage more than that.

"What happened? What's wrong? It didn't go well?"

"No."

"What happened?"

Silence.

"Vi? What happened? Vi!"

More silence.

"Look, I'll come and get you. Where are you?"

This question called for a response. She tried to get her brain working.

"The place… with the grass… and the seats…"

"What? The quad? The oval?" Paul sounded exasperated.

"Soccer."

"The soccer field? Okay, I'll be right there. Don't go anywhere."

Viola waited numbly.

Paul arrived, and leapt out of the car. He rushed over to her.

"Viola, what happened?"

She couldn't talk. She let him hold her, stiff in his arms. Paul led her to the car and put her in.

He seemed to sense that she wasn't up to talking, let alone making any decisions, and he just drove her to his place, brought her in and sat her on the couch.

"She kissed me."

"What?" Paul jerked forward. "That's good, right?"

"Then she hit me and threw me out."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"But she kissed you. That has to mean something, right?" Paul tried to put a positive light on things.

"Hell if I know. I think that chucking me out means something. I think that telling me she never wants to see me again means something. I think it means that she never wants to see me again." Viola's voice was bitter.

Viola went back to moping, leaving Paul desperately searching for something to say.

He was rescued by Viola's phone ringing.

"Aren't you going to answer that?"

"I guess." Viola pulled out her phone and looked at the caller ID.

"Shit! It's her!" She jumped off the couch, and started pacing frantically. "What am I going to do? I can't answer it! I can't talk to her! Why is she calling me? She hates me! She never wants to see me again! But I can't just not answer her. Then she'd be pissed at me. I can't have her be pissed at me! But she's already pissed at me. What if she called to yell at me some more? But Olivia wouldn't do that. But what if she did?" By this time, Viola was practically running in circles round the room, leaving Paul staring at her, mystified.

"Vi! Vi, stop!" he called out.

She stopped, chest heaving, clutching the still-ringing phone.

"Just answer the damn thing!"

"But-"

"Vi! Answer it! I'm going in the other room to give you some privacy."

Paul left, ignoring Viola's expression of helpless pleading.

She took a deep breath, and flipped open her phone.

"Hi." It came out as a squeak.

"Viola? I just remembered something you said. You said that Sebastian wanted to take me to the ball. Does he still?"

Viola was stunned, her brain frozen in disbelief. The silence dragged on.

"I'm sorry. I knew I shouldn't have called. I'm so stupid, I'm-" Olivia panicked.

"Yes! I mean no! No, you're not stupid. He'd love to go with you. I mean she'd love to. I mean I would love to go to the ball with you, if that's what you want." Viola smacked herself in the head, fully aware that she sounded like a babbling idiot.

"Really?" Olivia sounded hopeful. "Look, I'm sorry I… about the way I acted. It's just… there are things… we need to talk, Viola." She said Viola's name slowly, like she was savouring it.

"Yeah, that'd be great. I'd love to talk. Talking is good. Talking is great. Talking is… wait – do you want Sebastian to take you to the ball? As in, the suit and the tie and the hair and the…"

"I don't know. I thought that I did, but he's not real, and you are, but you're him, and I'm very confused, and I'm still really mad at you but I really want to see you, more than the mad, and I just… please come over."

"I'm on it. I mean I'm right there. I mean I'm coming. I mean I'm coming over."

"I'll see you soon."

Viola flipped the phone shut.

"Argh!" She dashed out.

"Paul! She wants me to take her out! But she's still mad at me! She wants me to go over! What am I going to do?" she wailed.

"Hmm?" Paul looked up from the newspaper he was reading. "Viola. Dear. Don't be obtuse. It's quite clear what you should do."

"She wants me to go over, so I should go over, right?"

"Give the girl a gold star. Borrow my car."

"But-"

"Keys. Car. Go. Now."

"Thanks. You're wonderful. I love you," she said, enveloping him in a bear hug.

"You're welcome, now go."

As Viola dashed out, she didn't hear Paul mutter under his breath "Bloody lesbian melodrama."

 

If it was possible, Viola was even more nervous than the last time she stood outside Olivia's building. 'Okay, I can do this. I can knock on the door.' She raised her hand. 'No I can't.' She walked away. 'Yes I can.' She turned back around. Her arm froze. 'I can't.' And the cycle began again.

Her perpetual hovering was interrupted by Olivia's door opening. "Hi." Olivia said, startling Viola with her hand poised to knock. "I thought I'd put you out of your misery," she said with a small smile.

"Misery? I don't know what you're talking about. I was just about to knock."

Olivia just looked at her. 'Oops. So busted.'

"Come in." Viola gulped.

Inside, Olivia came straight to the point. "Viola? Do you… like me?"

Another gulp. "Yes." Ignoring the terrifying feeling that she was laying her heart out to be stomped on, Viola knew she owed it to Olivia to be honest. "I do. I've always known I liked girls as well as boys, but I've never felt like this before. I just… the way you smiled at me, and talked to me, it made me feel… like I could do anything. And whenever you were sad, or angry, or even just bored, I wanted to help. I don't want to use scary, serious words, but… I do. It's scary and serious. And I hope that's okay with you. Because I don't want to lose you, even if I can only have you as a friend."

She'd been looking down the entire time, too chicken to face Olivia, but now she looked up. Olivia was looking at her with a strange expression on her face. She was silent for a while, and Viola started to panic.

"Is that okay with you?"

"Viola, yes. I… I need to explain why I got so angry before."

"No, it's okay. I understand. I lied to you. I-"

"Viola, shut up." Olivia was as shocked as Viola. "Oh God, sorry. But you don't understand, and I need to explain, so please… just let me talk?" Viola nodded.

"I… I've always known I've liked girls. Instead of boys. And I just… I didn't want to. I wanted to be 'normal.' And then I met you, well, Sebastian. And you were so sweet, and funny, and gentle. And I was starting to really like you. So I thought that maybe I could be normal after all."

Viola's face was compassionate as things started to make sense. "And then it turned out I was a girl after all."

"And I was so angry at you, for making a fool of me, for making me fall in love with you, for making me hope that I could be normal. But then I remembered that you'd said you still wanted to take me out. And you were a girl. And you knew was a girl. And you wanted to anyway. So maybe normal isn't so important."

Viola pulled Olivia into a hug, just holding her.

"But I'm still scared. Of what people will say. So, if it's okay, could you be Sebastian tonight?" Olivia's face was hidden in Viola's shoulder, and she sounded embarrassed.

"Of course. Of course."

"But I can promise, it's Viola I love." She looked up.

Viola grinned. Then – "Wait. Love?" She squeaked.

Olivia ducked her head shyly. "Is that okay?"

"Yes! Because that's how- I love you. I do. But I didn't want to scare you, by talking all sorts of scary-"

"Viola, shut up." This time the words were gentle. And in case Viola didn't get the message, Olivia followed them with a kiss.

 

Backstage at the Debutante Ball, Olivia and 'Sebastian' stood holding hands nervously. Viola's leg was jiggling. Olivia looked at her. "Oh. Sorry." The jiggling stopped.

They were – rescued probably wasn't the right word, Viola reflected – interrupted by the announcer calling "Olivia Lennox and Sebastian Hastings!"

Gulping, and gripping each other's hands for grim death, they stepped out onto the stage. From there, they could see Viola's mother beaming up at them, and Duke glaring surlily. They ducked off the stage as quickly as they could.

As they left, the announcer called "Viola Hastings and Partner!"

Viola and Olivia looked at each other in dread.

"Viola Hastings and Partner!"

The announcer had just given up and called the next couple when Viola heard the dreadfully familiar voice of her mother. "Sebastian! Have you seen your sister? Where has she got to?"

Frantically mouthing 'help' to Olivia, Viola tried to turn and run, pretending she hadn't heard. It was no use. Her mother caught up. "Sebas- Viola!"

"Hi Mom," she said, resignedly.

Viola's mother looked ready to explode. Viola forestalled this by saying "Mom, this is my girlfriend Olivia," and praying to God that she wasn't stepping over a line.

Interrupted mid-tirade, Daphne Hastings' impeccable good manners took over. "Olivia? I'm so very pleased to meet you," she said, extending her hand.

"I'm pleased to meet you too, Mrs Hastings,"

"Well, that's great. Gotta go now, Mom," Viola said, dragging Olivia away by the hand before her mother remembered she was mad.

"Your girlfriend, huh?" Olivia said.

"I mean… If you want… I'd like… I shouldn't have…" Viola started, before looking up and realising Olivia was smiling.

"You know, I don't know what she's complaining about. After all, this is a coming-out ball."