“That’s the way TV works,” Liam reminded me of his days in Hollywood. “They would tell me things the night before and expect me to be on set the next morning with 24 pages of dialogue memorized.”

“You didn’t do… like, a lot of TV though?” I questioned. “You did mostly film.”

“Film is even worse.” He buttered a bagel and handed it to me. “They give you line changes on set and expect you to be ready in 20 minutes. The day you start doing film, my love, is the day I will get you on anti-anxiety meds.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” I grinned at him, tearing into the bagel. Despite my hair being a mess and my PJs being overly baggy, I felt so comfortable and wonderful beside Liam. Everything felt so right, being snuggled in bed with him in the early morning. I wished more than anything that he could have fallen asleep with me the night before as well, but this was the reality that we had to endure. “What are you doing during the auditions today?”

“I’ll be there. Just my vote doesn’t count for much.” He kissed me on the head. “Is Thursday ok then?”

“I’ll be there too,” he reassured me. “They’ll need a staff escort, it’s our policy, and there’s no reason why it can’t be me.”

“That would make me feel about a thousand times better.” I leaned up against him, closing my eyes, and stifled a yawn. “We still have two hours before my first class. Time for a nap or something?”

“Hmmm.” He nuzzled into my neck. “Or something.”

I turned my face up to kiss him full on the mouth, and he responded, his tongue darting in and out of my hot lips. We snuggled lower in the sheets, hands exploring as if it were the first time. The tray clattered to the floor, but neither of us cared. We had other issues to attend to.

Later, formally dressed and showered, Liam and I entered the Red Theater from two different sides. I smiled at him as he caught my eye and took his place in the front. Shuffling into the rows with Sarah, I had a sense of déjà vu. This was so much like my audition on the first day, the day my life changed.

“You used to dance, right?” I asked Sarah, while Miss Katya, the head of the drama department, stood up to go over the procedures of the auditions. “Are you going to tell them that?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think it matters. They’ll cast dancers for the dance parts. Are you nervous?”

I thought a moment, and then shrugged. “Not really. I’ve had worse. I think I’m more nervous about the… final show…” I gave Sarah a meaningful look. “Than the audition.”

“It’ll be fine.” She took my hand, squeezing it. “We will kill that bitch dead.”

“Sarah!” My mouth fell open, and I laughed a little too loud. Katya gave me a look as she finished her announcement.

“Thank you for volunteering to go first, Amy!” she called. “The rest of you, exit by row and line up and we’ll see you one at a time.”

“Geez.” I said, getting up.

I was perhaps a little nervous as I made my way to the front. It’s not like I had a lot of experience auditioning. I had auditioned three times in my life, and gotten two parts out of it. Someone had once told me that a working actor only got ten percent of the parts they auditioned for, so I thought I was doing pretty well. Plus, no matter what part I got in this show, I would have to pretend everything was perfect and happy, while trying to orchestrate the ultimate vampire takedown plot and finish a grad school thesis.

My father had warned me that grad school would be hard, but I didn’t imagine it would be like this.

When I got up there, however, the first thing I saw was Liam’s smiling face, looking back at me with those warm eyes that had looked deep into mine all morning. I was never able to describe the connection that we shared that first day, as if we were meant to act together, both on and off the stage.

“And what do you have prepared for us, Amy?” he asked, as if he didn’t know me.

My shoulders relaxed as I spoke, “A monologue from Beauty and the Beast.”

He waved his hand. “Let’s hear it then,” he said, gently, and I knew all would be well.

When Thursday came, however, I was a real bundle of nerves. The audition results would be posted at the end of the school day, which was about when I was supposed to be done filming. Even Liam didn’t know the results, having not sat in on the casting meeting. No matter how much I begged him, he declared that it wouldn’t be ethical.

“You wanted to be chosen based on your talent alone, right?” he said, as the makeup artist that Sites TV had sent began to pin back my hair. “Now’s your chance.”

“Amy.” He reached out to take my hand with a smile. “You’re going to be much more than that.”

“So you say.” I tried to grin, but my hand was shaking with nerves.

Last night, I had gone on Sites TV, only to find out that the show was broadcast every morning and seen by millions of people nationally, never mind the international numbers. If I flubbed up today, it pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t be cast in anything else ever again. Sites had a huge following. Celebrities often hosted segments on film sets or in their own houses, and the Sites vans were recognized everywhere.

“Take a deep breath,” he said, as foundation was being brushed on face. “The key here is to breathe. You’ve gone over a list of all the things you are going to say?”

“And spoken to everyone I’m going to interview about 6 million times. It’s kind of dumb, because I talk to these people every single day, and yet when it came time to rehearse interviews, I couldn’t come up with a thing to say to them.”

Liam smiled, reaching for a steaming cup of coffee he had brought with him.

I shook my head, taking the coffee cup right out of his hand. “You’re not helping.”

It took half an hour to get my makeup done, and when she was finished, I barely recognized myself. I looked like a model, some glamazon version of myself with high cheekbones and long eyelashes.

“Wow, thank you.” I turned to the makeup artist, who was putting her stuff away.

“It was easy, you’re beautiful all on your own,” she said, and I blushed.

Liam stood up, holding out his arm. “Ready?”

“Uh-huh.” I took a deep breath. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

Liam planted one last kiss on my lips, and then, with practiced ease, wiped away the lipstick that had gotten on him.

The Sites crew had arranged to meet us in front of the school, where the first shots would take place. Liam kept me chatting the whole time, keeping my nerves at bay, and it worked so well that I didn’t notice that there was an insane amount of noise outside. In fact, it wasn’t until we rounded the corner that I clued in to what was happening. We rounded the corner and I was blinded by a sea of camera flashes. I let out a scream, startled as a wall of people that I had never seen before, at least one hundred people, met us.

They weren’t students of the school; the students were trained to behave better than this. I had seen, mostly on YouTube, the paparazzo’s reaction to Liam wherever he went. But this time, it wasn’t just his name they were screaming, it was also mine.

“Amy! AMY!” They shoved cameras in my faces, and autograph pads, and I froze, tightening my grip on Liam’s arm.

He seemed unfazed by the whole scenario, and dipped his head down to my ear. “Is this ok? Do you want me to get you out of it?”

He smiled. “You’re my girlfriend. You were in Gatsby. You’re now hosting Sites. You go to this school. You were Beauty. Take your pick.”

“Aye-yi yi.” I plastered a fake smile on my face as Liam signed a few autographs and wrapped his arm around my waist and posed for a few photographs. “If this doesn’t piss Selene off, I don’t know what will,” I said.

“So smile,” he said, as he gently led me through the mob towards where the camera crew was set up.

“Amy, it’s nice to meet you.” A woman who I could only assume was Aphrodite stuck out her hand. “Are you ready? We pretty much do things in one take, go with the flow and all. You’ve seen the show?”

“Yep.” I shook her hand, sure that she could feel my sweaty palms. “And this, of course, is Liam.”

“Nice to meet you.” Aphrodite didn’t seem dazzled by him at all. “Shall we get started?”

“I guess.” I took the microphone that was handed to me and looked at the crowd that was being pushed back. “Will this work over the noise?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Aphrodite smiled. “Let me just give the cue to the camera crew and then we’ll be all ready to go.”

“Alright.” I stood on the mark she pointed out and stood in front of the camera, trying to hide my shaking hands. I was going to interview Liam first, which helped my nerves a little, but I was still terrified that I would make a mess of the whole thing.

“Alright, Amy, we’re ready.” Aphrodite smiled at me. “Camera is on, so whenever you are ready.”

I took a deep breath and then nodded, looking directly into the camera, as Liam had taught me. He was standing beside me, completely at ease, as if millions of people wouldn’t be watching.

“Hi, I’m Amy and welcome to another great episode of Sites! We’re here at Leopard Academy, the top acting school in the whole world. Leopard admits children from kindergarten all the way through to grad school, and they turn out some of the best actors in the world. With me now is the headmaster and former Hollywood star, Liam…”