Anya, huddled under her coat as Russia slides away outside the window of their train car, pretends she is sleeping.
She made an idiot of herself; she tightens her already closed eyes in a wince, feeling her cheeks getting hot. Swooping around like that in a dusty abandoned ballroom – she's always prided herself on acting like a reasonably practical and level-headed girl, at least where others can see her, and to know that Vlad and Dimitri caught the end of her clumsy little act rankles.
Not that she was a graceful dancer, even back when she had tutors for that sort of thing. No, Tatiana was always the swan in the family, elegant and perfect, the spitting image of their mother. And Olga, well, Olga would probably be just as likely to sit you down in a corner of the ballroom and talk your ear off about some book she'd read or some theory she'd been musing over as dance with you, but when she danced, she was as good at it as she was at everything else. And Masha – lovesick, loveable Masha – was always the darling of any ballroom, sailors and officers falling over themselves right and left to take her hand. Not Anastasia, the little pest of the OTMA quartet. The old ladies would cluck and sigh at her antics, and the young men would grin and applaud her sauciness, and her mother's face would get weary and pinched and her father's lips would tighten (against a smile or a frown, she never knew which), but they would not want to dance with her. She was not a good dancer, or a pretty dancer; she romped, she pranked, but she not the belle of any ball and never would be –
Anya mentally draws back.
Where did that all come from? This is the kind of story she would tell herself all the time, back when she was little, sharing thin mattresses in the cold attic with the other little girls at the orphanages; charming fairy tales to lull herself to sleep and cling to her stubborn determination that no matter how worthless they all tell her she is, she comes from greater things, she is meant for greater things. But she's got to stop fooling herself. She doesn't remember those days, not really, even if it is true. She must stick to whatever precious few facts about herself she does have, she cannot be spinning mad stories like this to the Dowager Empress. She is sure that she will be seen through in a minute. Get a hold of yourself, girl, she says to herself.
She turns over a bit in her seat, trying to get more comfortable. She lets her eyelids fall apart, just a little; Dimitri, sitting opposite, scratches his chin absently as he flips through their papers. She surveys the profile of his face and wonders what kind of dancer he would be; probably just as bad as her, she thinks.
Anya smiles to herself, and tucks her chin back towards the window.