I spot her across the chapel, oozing confidence as she converses with ease, throwing her head back with glee as her laugh chimes above the chatter. The room smells of oak and buzzes with excitement as our choir rises from its pews, the first rehearsal adrenaline pulsing through our veins. I watch her glide through the space, the heel of her boots echoing to the ceiling, her lips brushing the cheek of each old friend she passes.
Her name is Miriam. Her clipped, blonde hair sits in a perfectly straight line across her shoulders, parted in the centre to frame her face. Her wide smile brightens her blue eyes. A pair of thick-rimmed glasses are perched atop her head, ready to slide down as soon as music is placed in front of her.
She’s from a city called Tallinn in Estonia – her friends have taken to calling her the Estonian Princess – but years of living in New York has given her a sultry American lull. Having a diplomat for a mother meant that, at the tender age of sixteen, she moved to the Big Apple for her mom’s assignment, where she began studying at the United Nations International School. ‘I graduated high school,’ she makes air quotes with her polished fingers, ‘which is really the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme.’ She flicks a tendril of hair from her face and flutters her lashes at me. She’s an intriguing woman; wide set eyes and a strong jaw line, stunningly beautiful in an almost alien manner.
When I asked her why she’d decided to study in Winchester, she brought a hand to her chest and sighed, somewhat dramatically. ‘I’ve just always had a crush on small English towns. You know, like in the movies?’ A young lad with nervous eyes lifts a bag onto his shoulder, and she blows a kiss at him as he departs. ‘See you next week!’ she coos as he scuttles to the chapel door, crimson creeping across his cheeks. She swings her gaze back to me. ‘It’s just lovely here.’
She’d opted to study Musical Theatre, deciding it was the most diverse in terms of Performing Arts and could present her with the most opportunities and direction in her theatre career. I ask her what she hopes to gain from her course and she looks at me like I’m crazy. ‘I wanna be on the stage. You know, shining lights, applauding fans.’ I smile as I suppress my laughter, not sure whether to take her answer as sarcasm. Rephrasing my question, I ask her about personal gain in terms of knowledge and growth. Her pale face brightens at the prospect of continuing our Miriam-circulating conversation, and talks about a wider knowledge of the musical theatre world and what it means to be a professional in the industry. ‘You know, the history, the context, the plays themselves, obviously. You know. Of course, my priority is to develop my singing, acting and dance skills.’
She enjoys our talks of dream jobs and leans in to me with excitement as we speak of ‘Rent’ and ‘Wicked’. Obviously, her dream would be to have a steady project-to-project career, not having to worry about where the next pay-cheque will come from. She slides a ring up and down her slender finger, avoiding my gaze. ‘But, obviously, that kind of status comes with recognition and a level of craftsmanship that I can only dream of now. But we’re talking dreams, so hey!’ And with that, her sparkling eyes are brought back up to mine with a flick of her hair. As we’re pulling on out coats, she skips to the pianist and lands a kiss beside his ear before returning to me, her iPhone 7 in one hand and a pair of suede gloves in the other. ‘But if we’re talking dream roles, it would be Sally in Cabaret. She’s confident, headstrong. She knows what she wants. Kinda like me, you know?’