‘Hmm,’ said Great-grandma. Her little, bony hand pushed the hair back from Rosa’s forehead and she looked into Rosa’s face. Rosa looked back. People always said that Rosa looked like her great-grandma, but Rosa could never believe it. Great-grandma was so old. Her face was cracked all over with lines, like a piece of dried-up earth. But her bright black eyes were not so old. Maybe those eyes were a little bit like the eyes Rosa saw in the mirror.
‘Did you ever do gymnastics,’ asked Rosa, ‘when you were young?’
‘Gymnastics! Never. It would have been forbidden.’
‘Many things were forbidden when I was young, especially for us girls. I will tell you something. When I was a girl I had a new blue dress, a beautiful dress, the best I ever had. My mother made it for me because she knew I wanted a dancing dress. I wanted to go to the dance in our village. I wanted that more than I ever wanted anything. Just to go and dance with my friends. I begged my father to let me go, but he took my dress and put it under his mattress and lay on his bed on top of it and he went to sleep. And I had no other dress. Already I could hear the music from the hall where the dance had begun.’
‘So you couldn’t go,’ said Rosa.
‘Oh, couldn’t I?’ Rosa looked at Great-grandma’s face. She was smiling, her dark, sharp eyes snapping in her wrinkled face. ‘I’ll tell you the rest of the story,’ she said.