″‘A precocious child,’ Miss Honey said, ‘is one that shows amazing intelligence early on. You are an unbelievably precocious child.‘”
Before each rehearsal and performance of Matilda, Maggie spent time in one of the Shanachie’s practice rooms. First, it was time with her fiddle; it helped to settle her mind. Her elder sister
, Pearl, came in to play piano and sing the other part of a duet that had become an anthem for the teenager.
“Can we take this from here and in the key it’s written?” Maggie gestured to the place on the sheet music. Pearl started with a few chords before beginning the piece as Maggie sang. Her young mezzo-soprano voice was clear and strong.I'm through accepting limits
'Cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know
In recent days, she had come to understand her grandparents more and more. Her Harker grandparents represented what was normal for her human side. They had encouraged her to play the piano and violin when Maggie was not so sure of her own abilities. Richard Harker relished bragging about the medals his grandchildren were winning in equestrienne events. Sports were a way of life for many a Londoner. Catie’s gymnastics and dancing prowess were a topic of conversation at the ladies tea circle; she was the sensitive, artistic one. Rick was quickly becoming a chessmaster and loved kicking a ball about the field. Like his Uncle Bertie, he had a head for math and figures. Aunt Tilly enjoyed boasting about the children as well. After all, her son had a hand in their upbringing. As a first child and grandchild, more had been expected of Mairead. It was true of most first children as parents never knew if it would be their only chance to get things right. It was Colleen and Tass that encouraged her to embrace the nonhuman part of her being. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t, it was that the elders had been through it before with others.
Despite her penchant for dueling and using weapons, the theater had become one of her happy and safe places. No one ever told her she wasn’t capable of giving a good performance because she was too young
. Her best was always expected. Unlike sports where one competed as an individual, theater productions were a team effort. If one person was off, others were off or needed to compensate for the change. And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Maggie paused in her singing to study her elder counterpart. “Pearl, how did you get them
do you mean?” Pearl slid her hands from the keyboard and turned her upper body to face Maggie.
Maggie made air quotes with her fingers. “Adults.”
“Oh,” Pearl said quietly, “some never will.”
“Somehow, I thought you would say that.” Maggie chuckled as she traded places with Pearl. The elder of the pair did her dance warm up as Maggie played the piano. Her favorite classical piece was Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28, Number 20
. The music flowed into a more modern tune called Could It Be Magic
“Age is not a true constant, Maggie. Take Aunt Mara for instance. She was born like most humans are, carried within her mother. But.” Pearl held onto the barre for balance as she went through her routine.
“There’s that infamous big little word again.”
“Mhm.” Pearl nodded. “After being exposed to a certain type of magic, she was no longer the baby her mother was planning to raise.”
“Which is how she became our aunt.” Maggie nodded.
“Right, but my point is that chronologically she was a few months old, but physically, she was about sixteen.”
“Gives a different meaning to growing up fast, doesn’t it?”
“It does, but how should she have been treated? Like the few months old person she truly was or like the sixteen year old body she was inhabiting?”
“I guess that depends.”
“She would still have had to learn to read and all.” Maggie had a puzzled look on her face. “I guess it would be expected that she would have already known how to walk by someone that didn’t know her story. It’s like a newborn foal that has to learn to run or get left by the herd.”
“Now you’re getting it.” Pearl nodded. “You can’t actually tell how old a horse is by looking from afar.” She finished her stretches. “I know the issue isn’t that you want to be treated like an adult, but I’ve already lived through that.”
“Lucky you,” Maggie quipped. “You’re right, it’s not about age. It’s about having my accomplishments diminished because someone thinks
I’m too young or because I’m female.”
“Ooof.” Pearl chuckled. “Don’t let Gran hear you say that bit.”
“You know as well as I do that it still happens, even in Rhydin.” Maggie began to run her fingers over the keys again. “I guess that’s why this show means so much to me.”
A wry smile drifted across Pearl’s lips. Dahl’s Matilda had been a childhood favorite. “Go on.”
Maggie’s laughter filled the practice room. “You know the book as well as I do, maybe better! It’s that whole, I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it
business that’s the problem. So, I did
something about it, but not to prove anything to them, to prove it to myself.”
“Which is, as we were taught, all that we need to do.” Pearl did a few slow spins. She talked while she did as it helped with her breath control. “For some people, it will never be good enough.”
“For some people, nothing ever is.”
The rapping of knuckles was heard. “Curtain in ten, Maggie.”
“Thank you!” she called back. “It’s showtime!” Maggie grinned and tied the bright red ribbon into her hair. Before leaving the room, she paused to give Pearl a hug. Once she hit the stage, she would bring the precocious Matilda Wormwood to life. If anyone understood how Matilda felt inside, it was Maggie.
((Lyrics are from the musical, "Wicked" and the opening quote is from Matilda by Roald Dahl))