I turned to Liam and everything fell into place. The interview went smoothly, and when they praised me on my style, I realized that this was no harder than leading Sarah through the school on her first day.
That was until we actually went into the Red Theater on camera.
“So, this is the Red Theater, probably one of my favorite theaters, as well as Liam’s, and I… oh!”
As the lights turned on, I was startled to find Sarah, sitting in the center of the stage, and practically sitting on Connor. Both of them scrambled to their feet as soon as the lights came on, but not without guilty looks on both their faces. I didn’t miss the glint of Connor’s wedding ring as he stood in the light.
“And we have two of our advanced students here...”
I realized as Amy’s interview went on that this was a worse and worse idea. If Selene had any brains in her head, she would realize that I had several vampires enrolled in my school. She could see it on the episode. On top of that, I knew she would choose to play on our weaknesses, which at the moment, all had names. Nina, Connor and Isabelle and Sarah, all stood out as people she could attack and use as bait for the rest of us to fall into her trap. And so, the plan had to be revised.
“Make it public,” I said to Amy, as she paced in my office, waiting for the cast list to be posted for Phantom. “Every time you get an audition, we’ll pull strings to take one of the vampires alongside. I don’t want Selene to think that we are hiding anything.”
“But we are hiding something,” she protested.
“But I don’t want her to think that we are. So let’s put it all out in the open. The only thing that she can’t know about is Sarah. That’s our trump card.”
Amy bit her lip. “And what if Sarah’s not strong enough? Or worse, what if Isabelle finds out that she’s having an affair with her husband and slaughters her in the night?”
I winced. “I know Isabelle, and she won’t wait until night time to do that. In any case, Amy, they are both adults and so we have to let them make their own choices.”
Just then, a knock came at the door and my secretary appeared.
I had never seen Amy move so fast. For someone who had spent the summer in a major production, she seemed overly excited about finding out what part she got in a school play. Mind you, her Gatsby closing night would be nowhere near as spectacular as the closing night of Phantom if all went well.
Seconds later, a shriek came from outside and she came hurtling back into my office. I laughed, despite the tension.
“Meg Giry!” she said, and then stopped as my face contorted. “What?”
“They didn’t give you the lead,” I replied, shaking my head. “I would have thought for sure they’d give you the lead.”
“The lead spends half the play singing at the top of her operatic lungs.” Amy perched on my desk, looking adorable.
“Yep!” She had such a grin on her face that I couldn’t help but smile. “You don’t understand, Liam. It’s perfect. My dream has been to act with Sarah since we met. And she’ll be a much better Christine than me. On top of that, that’s perfect for the plan. Christine is on stage almost the whole time, so anything Selene tries, Sarah will be there to stop her. It’s much better this way.”
“Still.” I wrapped my arms around Amy and kissed her head, running my hands through her hair. “I would have cast you in a heartbeat.”
“Mmm.” She leaned against my chest. “But you’re biased.”
“I am… a bit,” I admitted, closing my eyes and just enjoying the feeling of her wrapped in my arms.
I never got tired of Amy, never felt annoyed by her presence, never felt like I needed time apart from her. If I could spend the rest of my life just here, with her in my arms, I wouldn’t think it would be such a terrible thing at all.
“Who’s the Phantom?” I asked, after a moment of silence.
“Charlie,” she said, looking up at me.
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. Charlie, a grade 10 student, and not the best actor, was the last person I would have cast for the Phantom. But Charlie was also ignorant and gullible and desperate to pass the semester. While he could act well enough, he seemed to be an idiot when it came to the rest of his subjects. So, likely, he would go along with whatever seemingly stupid thing we had him do in order to make our plan a success.
“Hmm,” I said, finally letting her go, so she could hop down. I took her hand though, not quite willing to be separated from her. “Should we find the others so we can celebrate?”
She looked at the clock and then out the window. “Do you have time?”
I shrugged, squeezing her hand three times in our secret sign for I-Love-You. “For you, I have at least an hour.”
Amy grinned, pulling me out the door. “Then I know just the place.”
“Alright, guys, that’s it for today, except for the Stage Hand party scene. So if you’re not in that, you can go.”
The rest of the cast gathered their belongings and began to head out. The Stage Hand party scene was a scene I had concocted, a code for the fact that the vampires and the girls and I needed to be alone in the theater. Katya had nearly punched me when I had told her I thought this scene would be a great addition. I listened to her rant and rave for nearly an hour about how it wasn’t in the original book or show, and how I couldn’t just go making up scenes. Eventually, I pulled rank on her, although I hated to do it.
The premise of the scene was this: the vampires would play attendees in a peasant party and then two girls would stumble into the party. Charlie would swoop down at the end of it to ‘kill’ someone, selected from the audience to join the party. It was genius if we orchestrated it right. But done badly, Selene would figure it out in a moment and so I needed it to be perfect. Which was hard to do when working with mostly a cast of non-performers.
Once the theater was clear, the rest of them came in closer to listen to me.
“Alright, so this scene has to go off perfectly when we bring Selene up on stage,” I reminded them. “You all got my email with the choreography for it?”
“But it made little sense,” Connor said.
I nodded. “I know, it always makes little sense until you see it done. So what we’re going to do right now is run through it a few times. I’ll play Selene…”
Amy snickered, burying her head on her knees.
I cracked a smile. “You’ll just have to use your imaginations because I don’t look a thing like her. She’s going to know who you all are, so we’ve abandoned that plan. But she won’t know about Sarah, and that’s the link we are going to need to take her down. She’s going to be overconfident and think that she can beat us. So let’s use that. So everyone, take first positions, and let’s try this.”
They scrambled to seemingly random places on the stage, and Sarah and Amy linked arms on stage right. I stood at the edge of the stage and pressed the play button to start the music for the scene.
After waiting an awkward moment, I pressed stop. “Um, Connor? That’s your cue? You’re the one who’s coming to invite our audience guest into the party.”
“Right.” He let go of Isabelle’s hand and whispered a few words to her in her native tongue, I guessed, and then moved forward to retrieve me.
I started the music again and waited. This time Connor came to bring me to the center of the stage to join the supposed party for a few minutes. Except there was no party and all the others were standing awkwardly on the side of the stage. I sighed and pressed stopped.
“Ok, change of plans,” I called, motioning for Sarah and Amy to come over. “So, clearly, girls, we have a lot of uneducated performers. So what I’m going to do is separate you two. Sarah, you’re going to be on one side and Amy on the other, and you’re going to pretend to be swept in by a crowd of stage hands, until you find yourself in the middle of this party that you aren’t supposed to be at. Once you’re in this party, someone push Connor to go and get an audience member.”
“Right.” They nodded, separating, and we tried the scene for a third time.
This time, with the girls leading, it worked a little better. I realized that the things we performers take for granted, such as a lack of stage fright, and the ability to speak in front of large crowds, as well as the knowledge of where to stand, were all things that regular people had no idea what to do with. Even watching the scene from the center of the stage, where they were supposed to surround Selene and leave no gaps or holes, it looked awkward. I shut off the music, waving my hands.
“Alright, what we’re going to need is a distraction,” I said. “In case something goes wrong, or we accidentally leave a gap and the audience is looking right at us.”
I saw Sarah twitch at him mentioning his wife’s name, and they exchanged a look, but nothing more happened.
“Can you?” I looked to Isabelle and Connor translated. She nodded, and I turned the music back on.
To my surprise, this girl was incredibly talented indeed. It was more than just a vampire’s grace and strength that she had; there was pure talent and training in her moves. In the hundreds of years that she had lived, she must have been a dancer at some point, and I questioned Connor. He smiled, sadly.
“In many lives, she was. As soon as women could be dancers then it became their profession. But since the age of cameras and digital files, it would be too hard to be in the public eye and immortal. And so, she stopped. I have not seen her dance in many years.”
“She’s very good,” I said, watching her. “Tell her that’d be perfect if she could do a small solo, enough to get the audience’s attention away from the mob.”