(about time the guys started interacting with women, or at least trying to...)
After a slightly panicked hour of rehearsal, George was visibly relieved when Mr Sharpe called a ten-minute break. He had every intention of spending it all in the gents' loos, not out of any lavatorial necessity but simply for the sake of having some comforting walls between him and other people. His escape was intercepted by an unstoppable onslaught of Well-Brought-Up-Young-Lady-Being-Friendly-To-A-Newcomer.
"Hello there, I'm Ellen, I don't think we've met." said she with an expensive accent, extending the hand not carrying her cello.
"How do you do? I'm George". He hoped his intention to hide in a cubicle was imperceptible in his tone of voice, but he felt it twice as acutely at the prospect of making small talk with his new acquaintance. She was a few years older than he, tall and slender with dark hair and a friendly smile. She radiated casual class and was immaculately dressed; the Venn Diagram of women who wear tight white jeans, and women who could carry off tight white jeans had a happy intersection with Ellen. That part of him which didn't want him to flee wanted him very, very much to stay where he was.
"Pleased to meet you, George. You play wonderfully." Ellen was determined to
put him at his ease.
"That's very generous of you to say so, thank-you. I thought I'd made a bit of a mess of it, actually." He was beginning to talk to his shoes.
"Don't be silly! You're doing very well. Don't worry about Mr Sharpe, he's like that to everyone. The nastier he is to you, the more highly he thinks of you."
"He must be positively horrible to you then!" said George slightly too quickly, and immediately worried that it sounded corny.
"Talented and charming! What a catch you are for the orchestra!" Ellen did indeed think his jabbered compliment was corny, but she had a wonderful knack for making people feel good about themselves. "How did you come to join us for the tour?"
He gestured across the room towards his grandfather. "I'm Edward Kent's grandson, he said there was a shortage of violas and that I should come along. I'd only have been sitting around at home, so I thought I ought to. I need the practice! How about yourself?"
"I've been here since I was a girl. Mother's absolutely potty about music, she's in every orchestra within 50 miles, and I simply got swept along."
"Tally ho!" Edward had misinterpreted George's gesturing as a summons, and rampaged over to join them. "I see you've met Ellen, wasting no time there, you young stud!"
Ellen saw the look of sheer horror on his face, and deftly defused the situation.
"I was just telling him about Mother, about how she's been with the orchestra for twenty years. You've been here almost as long, haven't you? You and she must have some memories!"
"Well I'm just a newcomer, I've only been here fifteen years! Still, your mother and I have done a few concerts together since then! Nothing will ever quite compare with the time we played..."
Before the monologue got into full swing, George took the opportunity to excuse himself quietly, and rushed to the gents to spend the rest of the break cringing in the corner of a cubicle.