“Where are the chairs?” I asked as we stepped into the circular room. The only light came from the fluorescent tubes on the ceiling, but that was about all there was in the room besides a couple of speakers. Judging by the empty grey walls and the stone floor, this was where you brought people to be shot, not to enjoy a theater play. “Where’s the stage? Is this some kind of joke? Because it’s not funny.” I wrapped my arms around myself and looked back at the chatting people walking in behind us.
“Relax, Kitty.” Trace cupped his hands around my shoulders and guided me across the room where we turned to face the center. “This is going to be fun, I promise.”
I nodded. I was probably overreacting. Dad’s call had put me on edge. His threats still rung in my ears and this was the kind of middle of nowhere where nobody heard you scream.
“Okay.” Swallowing, I reached up to my shoulders and grabbed one of his hands for support. He wove his fingers through mine and squeezed them lightly. I barely had time to enjoy the little sparks his touch sent through my skin into the merit of my bones because the iron door thudded shut, sealing us in with three dozen strangers. And then the lights went out. I jumped back, right into his chest, and his hand fell from my shoulder to my waist. Squeezing my eyes shut, I grasped his hand harder.
Nobody was hurting me here. Nobody was going to take me away. This was theater. Dad wasn’t here.
“Ssh, it’s okay. Look at the walls,” Trace whispered close to my ear and wrapped his arm around my middle, pulling me into the crook of his body, close and safe.
The walls. I could do that. After a long, deep breath I managed to open my eyes to the strangest mural I’d ever seen, and my fears washed away. Bright colors were shining from the walls, green, purple, red, mixed into a wide scenery. I turned in Trace’s embrace, trying to get a view of the whole room without leaving my safe spot. Someone had painted a fluorescent rain forest on the walls. It wasn’t just trees and grass and bushes, though, there were animals.
Hard to spot between the leaves and branches, but there were snakes and monkeys, bugs and a tiger. It was a piece of glow-in-the-dark art.
“This is amazing,” I whispered.
“Thank you,” Trace replied.
I swiveled around again, but the mural’s light wasn’t enough to get a good look at his face. I doubted he thanked me for looking at the paintings – he thanked me for complimenting the art. His art? It had to be. It would explain his absence from work last week. But I thought he’d stopped drawing.
A pang of guilt went off in my stomach when I drew my eyes back to the detailed painting. I should seriously spend more time on getting to know him. Maybe he secretly was a theater geek.
“Sssh.” His finger on my lips silenced me just in time for my attention to fall on a dancer. He/She/It was dancing in the middle of the room and the only way I could trace the movements was by the glowing skeleton painted onto his clothes. His face was painted as well, as one of those Mexican skulls. Mostly white, but parts were red others remained black and unpainted. From somewhere in the audience, another skeleton appeared. Both of them danced individually through the room, one of them almost bumped into us, but Trace maneuvered us a step aside as if he knew the choreography by heart. Eventually both skeletons ended up in the center of the room and stilled in their movements as they noticed each other. It was mesmerizing to watch them take each other in. They compared their hands, their feet, the ribs where their hearts would be if they had any. As if they’d never seen one of their own kind before. The first skeleton took the second one by the hand, and violin and piano sounds poured down the walls and echoed through the room.
Whatever had happened before, it couldn’t have been dancing. When the two connected, that was dancing. Their bodies were in total synch. Each movement fit. They fit
perfectly into each other. Eventually more and more skeletons appeared, whisking them apart but the initial two kept coming back to each other.
I didn’t quite understand the ending, though. A giant tiger appeared, probably carried by at least two people and it sort of ate all skeletons – they all disappeared into the belly of the tiger – until only one skeleton remained, pirouetting in the center of the room. It was the one who had appeared first. The tiger left, the lights flickered on, and the blonde girl kept twirling around and around even as the door was opened. Even as people filtered out of the room.
I held Trace back until the very end, but the girl kept spinning, and eventually we had to leave, too. There was something unnerving about her constant pirouettes and the fact that they shut her in. She probably stopped dancing the second the door closed behind us, but I couldn’t be sure.
While the rest of the audience left the building, Trace and I waited for Vince in the front room. “You know, I was expecting Shakespeare. Not… this.”
“Hmm.” A grin was obviously tugging at the corners of his mouth, but he tried – and failed – to contain it, as his hand tangled with mine again. “Vince doesn’t do traditional.”
Vince wasn’t really what I wanted to talk about. “Did you paint all that?”
“What if I did?” His thumb flicked against mine and I couldn’t help the impression that he was challenging me.
“Nothing. It’s just… stunning. You told me you didn’t draw anymore but the painting was totally amazing.” I flicked my thumb back at his and smiled up at him. “You’re not ashamed of it, are you?”
“Can we talk about something else? Anything?” Trace sighed and stepped closer, hooking his finger into one of my belt loops and pulling me towards him. I came willingly, allowing our mids to connect, but bending back just enough to keep my eyes trained on him.
Concentrating on forming words became difficult as he slipped that finger from the belt loop into the waist of the jeans, sliding it along my hip bone. I fought down the sigh
climbing up my lungs and wrapped my hands around his arms instead. “I’m not letting you distract me, Trace. Why do you want to talk about something else?”
He bent down, spilling kisses on my cheek. I let my eyes flutter close at the sweet touch. For a moment, I was okay with being distracted as his scent filled my nose and his stubble rubbed against my skin so perfectly. But then his lips brushed my ear and he whispered, “Because what I do isn’t stunning. Or amazing. You look at me like I’m… I don’t know. Like I’m worth a lot more than I really am. Like I’m a better person than I really am. I want to be that man you see, but I’m not. So we need to change the topic, because otherwise it’s inevitable that I’m eventually going to disappoint you.”
“You won’t,” I replied but mentally added I hope. Because I still wasn’t convinced that I’d survive this thing between us. I was at the theater not a club, we weren’t having wild bathroom sex and we weren’t snorting white lines – but that didn’t mean that Trace couldn’t shatter me to pieces if he wanted to.
“You don’t sound convinced.” Trace gave a husky laugh that vibrated through his chest but that I knew wasn’t real.
“I’m convinced that you’re just as talented as I think. I’m convinced your music and your art are as amazing as I think. I’m not convinced that at the end of the road, there won’t be disappointment.” I tilted my head and pressed my lips against his jaw. The simple fact that I thought I could spend the rest of my life kissing him like that proved my theory. “I think you have the power to ruin me.”
About the author, Laura Beege:
Laura likes to call herself an international girl. She grew up in an Asian/European family in Germany, spent some time as an exchange student in France, moved to England after graduation and eventually landed back in Germany, where she’s currently working on her degree in Theater & Film. No matter where she will be next year (Manhattan?) or the years after that (Italy?), she intends to keep on writing.
She loves hearing from readers!