The girl with dark pigtails didn't know how to begin, and was horribly afraid that she knew how this would end. Still, she must try. Her predicament was becoming intolerable.

The situation called for subtlety, though.

"This way, Papa. See, isn't it a pretty place?"

The restaurant in the wood was open for luncheon. Papa was treating, and for once he wasn't restricting his daughter to a tiny salad and water. In return, though, she wasn't overindulging.

Papa knew something was up. When the dishes had been cleared away he said, "All right, little one. You wouldn't have brought me here unless you wanted to soften me up for something. What's on my girl's mind?"

"Papa, I–" This was even harder than she'd expected; best just to forge ahead. "Mama always said that learning ballet would make me into a graceful lady, and so she wanted me to learn to dance. But it has been years now. I have learned ballet, and it is so beautiful. But now, I must decide what to do with myself."

"But surely you told your mother that you wanted to be a ballerina!"

"I did once," she admitted. "Papa, nearly every little girl wants to be a ballerina when she is seven! And I did so want to please Mama. But, as much as I loved her, she is gone, and I must decide whether I can continue. I know, now, what it means to dance, and what my life would be like. I don't think it is what Mama thought it would be. It isn't beautiful costumes and fame, mostly. It's hard work, as much as Grandpapa does on his farm..."

"And you have found that you do not like hard work?" There was an edge to his voice that she feared.

"No, Papa! But– the truth is, I am not suited for ballet! Look at me, Papa. Will I ever grow to look like the girls at that table, over there? I am not afraid of hard work, I have done it for years now. But the biggest difference between those girls and myself is not time and effort. They are following their dreams, Papa, and I have been putting aside my own dream to study dance. Sometimes it works anyway, but I do not have the talent of a natural dancer."

"What dream could you have," said her father with a precision that chilled her, "that is more important than your mother's greatest wish?"

"Oh, Papa." She had lost, she knew it. She would spend her years here, learning ballet, yearning for her own life and never achieving anything in either. "Will you not see? Ballet is not a thing that should be a duty to someone else's wish, no matter how much I want to honor it. It must be the most important thing I do, more important than even a mother's dream. It is an art, not merely a craft. I am learning the craft, but no amount of hard work will give me enough talent to be as wonderful as Mama wanted.

"Our teacher used to tell us that thinking there was no way we could do something was just an excuse for not trying. But even he would say that I've tried. I don't think I can keep on with dance, and tell myself that there's no way that I can even try to do what I want."

"And what is this that you want, Delia?" Could he actually be listening to her?

"I'd like to cook," she ventured. "I already do that better than I dance. I'd like to work in a big house or a restaurant. I think I'd like to own a place like this someday, but I won't complain if I work in a household."

"You think you know what it means to be a cook? If you don't like the work of ballet, you won't like being a servant. Your mother wanted you to dance, because she did not want you to be only a servant or housewife," he reminded her.

"That's why I'd like my own place," she said. "I know the hours Miss Ebine works. She's here before dawn and doesn't leave until late. But she says she's a widow and doesn't mind.

"Please, Papa, speak to my teachers. Unless one is the very best, there is seldom any better living in ballet than a good cook can earn, and there is not always enough work. But a good cook always has work; don't you say so yourself?"

He had, indeed, said so. He had already inquired about Delia's marks, which were quite good in academics and barely adequate in dance. He thought of his wife: she had been a good cook, and looked it. He himself enjoyed a comfortable girth, and as for his own parents and in- laws... He looked at his daughter, beginning to grow at last, not as chubby as she had been even a year ago when her favorite teacher had... resigned? The school had been unclear on the departure of Mr. Cat...

He knew exactly what his poor wife would say about how Delia looked now. She'd say that the school hadn't been feeding her enough. But then, Mama had been married young and become a mother soon after, and had never envisioned anything different for her daughter until they had attended a ballet, when Delia was old enough to sit still. Her mother had, he realized, believed ballet to be a sort of magic; if Delia became a ballerina, her life would be beauty and romance and no worries about money or health or the future. Quite unrealistic, really.

"Well. Where would you learn, since Mama cannot teach you?"

A bright smile spread across his daughter's face.

"Right here. Miss Ebine hasn't enough help, and no apprentice, and she doesn't want to remarry. I'd just have to persuade her.

"May I try, Papa?"

Author's Notes: Originally intended for a dA contest. Post- series, perhaps a year or so. The main character is definitely an "obscure canon" figure, but she does appear twice (once in animal form) and has a line or so to herself.

I think I'll let the reader guess who she is. Feel free to PM or review if you figure it out. No, it's not a hook to get reviews. Nope. Not at all. Wouldn't think of it, etc. etc.

If you get stuck, try Episode, mmm, 10. And the ending sequence after the very last episode of Season 2.

Disclaimer: Princess Tutu and all related characters and elements are the property, copyright and trademark of HAL– GANSIS/TUTU and Ikukoh Itoh and no ownership or claim on said property, copyright or trademark is made or implied by their use in the work(s) of fan fiction presented here. This fan fiction constitutes a personal comment on the aforesaid properties pursuant to doctrines of fair use and fair comment. This fan fiction is non-commercial, not for sale or profit, and may not be sold or reproduced for commercial purposes.