The Royal Opera House! A name that, all on its own, evoked visions of Second Empire furniture, dazzling chandeliers, the cream of a potpourri of baronetcies and earldoms.

And Annie was there in a t-shirt and shorts.

Even the man in the ticket booth was wearing the usher equivalent of top hat and tails, and he gave Annie an odd look as she paid.

“I didn’t have time to change,” she said, trying for a sheepish grin.

“The performance is beginning in fifteen minutes,” the usher said. “They’re no longer seating people in the main gallery. You’ll have to be seated in one of the side galleries and take your seat during the intermission.”

Annie blanched. “A-are you sure? There’s still fifteen minutes left!”

“Sorry, house rules,” the usher said with a shrug.

“That’s right,” his tone and posture seemed to say. “Unlike you Yanks, we Britons know how to run a proper opera house.”

A second usher, more opulently dressed than the first, led Annie through a side door onto a small balcony with a double bench seat. To her relief, there were several others already there—mostly matronly old ladies and middle-aged men. They were all dressed better than her high school prom king, save one.

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