Her teenage role models had been the irresistible Maria from West Side Story, the irrepressible Maria from The Sound of Music. She'd modelled her approach to parenting on a combination of the chaotic care of Caractacus Potts and the matronly magic of Mary Poppins. But it was the character of Eliza Doolittle that had captured and held her. Perhaps it was the name, so close to her own Lizzie; perhaps it was the London setting. She'd certainly known people who would judge her on account of her accent.
She'd sometimes felt uncomfortable with the notion of a girl needing or wanting to change so drastically to fit another's definition of proper, but there was something so very enticing about that dramatic transformation. The very idea that, if you only tried hard enough, you could become beautiful and accepted. She'd pictured herself playing the part on the West End stage. Manipulating her vowel sounds, overcoming her gracelessness and winning the heart of the curmudgeonly but oh-so-clever Professor Higgins.
So why, when he played the soundtrack tonight, as they sat and ate together, did she have to blink away the tears? Why did she feel the need to straighten her shoulders, hold her head high and pretend all the optimism and joy he expected? She could still remember the time when she'd offered to give her heart to anyone who'd stand outside her door and sing 'On the street where you live'. So when exactly had the transformation from cockney girl to stunning socialite become such a parody of misguided hope and untaken chances?
She looked across the table at her own intellectual. She pictured him singing 'I've grown accustomed to her face' and wondered when that had become a reflection of reality rather than a love song. Was it inevitable for everyone to eventually reach a stage when they have to accept who they are? When do people realise that the best they'll ever be has already been?
Sighing, she got up to clear the table. Slim chance that she'd ever again want to dance all night. He stood up as she passed his chair, reaching out to catch her hand. She knew he'd meant well and that she'd disappointed him with her silence, she just didn't know how to explain. But as Lizzie looked at him he grinned and then, still holding her hand, he very softly started to sing,
'All at once am I, several stories high, knowing I'm on the street where you live.'