But it was more than focusing her ability. Sarah’s life force was growing, constantly, day by day, which was good for our cause, but unexplainable.
It was Saturday, normally a day when we didn’t have classes. However, due to the upcoming show, I thought it would be a good opportunity to hold a mask workshop. Masks were such interesting props to work with, creating a whole character simply by tying a string around your head. I was always intrigued by them, and one of the greatest theater actors in the world had taught me how to work with them.
The students were already waiting for me when I got there. I had a box full of various masks in my arms. The day before, I had wandered the school with the box, raiding every department of the various masks they had. As a result, I had everything from dust masks to fully decorated Venetian masks. This was going to be interesting.
Or at least I thought so. The students were half glaring at me, annoyed at the Saturday morning class.
“See the great thing about masks,” I said, as I entered. “Is that you can glare at me all you want, but it’ll be hidden and I won’t have to yell at you for contempt.”
It got a few chuckles, as I put the box down. Sarah and Amy were curled up on the side, and I gave them a smile as I reached in the box. Trying not to show any more favoritism to Amy, I pulled out a mask I had gotten from the dance department, neutral face but painted green, and called up Sarah.
I held out the mask and she got to her feet reluctantly. I waited until she was beside me before stepping behind her and placing it over her face. “Now this is a neutral face mask, as you can see, there’s no expression on it. But it’s painted green, which mean it could be used to represent any number of things. Anyone?”
A hand went up, and I was surprised to see it was Isabelle’s. They were on the far corner, as far away from Sarah as they could get, no doubt deliberately. Isabelle rarely answered questions in class, she often needed translation. But she seemed determined to answer this one, and so I pointed to her.
“Jealousy,” she said, heavily accented, and I made eye contact with Amy, who winced.
“Jealousy is one of them.” I stepped back, the mask firmly on Sarah’s head. “How about another one?”
“That’s another one.” I pointed to the cheekbone of her mask. “Green could also be used to represent illness, perhaps seasickness or…”
“No, Liam, actually…” Sarah reached out a hand to mine and I barely had time to react before catching her. She heaved twice, flailing at the mask and managing to lift it from her face before vomiting on the floor.
I had her around the waist, feeling her stomach muscles contract several times before she could straighten up. My mind began to play a hundred possibilities, the main one being about Selene. I was worried she had found out about my Shield, my trump card, and had made her sick, somehow. I wouldn’t let her suffer the same fate as Porsche. It wouldn’t be a spell, though, luckily for Sarah. If she had been poisoned, then she could be fixed.
“Alright?” I asked Sarah, who finally nodded, pulling the mask off. The rest of the class was sitting in shocked silence.
“Amy, why don’t you take her to the nurse?” I said, gently. “See if there’s something in her system that’s making her sick.”
Amy understood immediately, her eyes widening as she took Sarah from me and began to lead her out of the room.
“Charlie, run and fetch a janitor,” I said, trying to restore order to the class, who were now babbling in shock. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes. If I got through this, I deserved at least a double shot of age old whiskey with Amy in my arms. At the very least.
My reward came at noon, when we finished the workshop early, and I let them head out to their normal Saturday afternoon activities. Waiting until everyone was gone, I kicked the mask box in a corner, and locked the room behind me, stopping in my office for a bottle of whiskey and a box of chocolates I had brought yesterday.
Where are you? I texted Amy, and the response came immediately.
Yep. I slipped my phone into my pocket and took the back passage way through the dorms. Just because the whole world knew we were dating didn’t mean they actually had to see it happen.
I knocked on her door four times, our code, and she opened up, looking absolutely adorable in a baggy tee-shirt over spandex shorts. Given that the lights were on in her living room, I assumed she had been rehearsing.
“Hey.” I wrapped her in my arms, my muscles immediately relaxing as soon as I did. Amy was like a muscle relaxant, a good massage, fine wine and a hot tub all at once. I was quite sure, if anything ever did ail me, she would be my cure. “How’s Sarah?”
“I don’t know,” Amy said, sitting down on her couch and patting the seat beside her.
I held up the whiskey bottle and she shook her head. Not afraid of drinking alone, I poured some into a coffee mug she had left lying around, and took a sip, sitting down beside her.
“I took her to the nurse’s office, but they wanted to keep her, run some tests, and told me they would call me.”
“You think it’s Selene?” Amy reached for the chocolate box, undoing the ribbon and opening the top. “I asked that.”
I nearly spit out my drink. “You asked the nurse if it was Selene?”
“No.” She hit me, giggling. “I asked the nurse if she thought it was something Sarah ate.”
“Oh.” I grinned back at her, as she bit into a chocolate. The drink was seeping through my insides, warming me up and lightening the weight I felt on my chest.
“What is this?” She grabbed the box lid and read about the different types of chocolate. We sat in silence a few moments, until she finished nibbling and moved it aside. She slipped under my arm and sighed.
“I’m fine,” she replied, twisting so she was looking up at me. “I just was thinking about how much is going on.”
I brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes, trailing my finger gently over her face.
“I know. It’s a lot. And it’s not something you have to be involved with, Amy…”
Her face darkened. “What are you talking about? Of course I do.”
“Not technically.” I finished the whiskey and poured a second cup, larger than the first. It had been a dry few weeks, and I had forgotten how easy it was to slip into the oblivion of alcohol. A wave of happiness rushed over me as I shifted, making Amy more comfortable. “If you wanted to wait, to bow out, and work on your thesis elsewhere, maybe abroad, I could arrange that. And then after Selene is dead…”
“Liam, don’t be stupid,” she replied, grabbing my hand and squeezing. “I’m not going anywhere. Except to an audition tomorrow.”
“For Ranger?” she named a popular period TV show that was now in its 4th season. “One of my friends told me about it, from Gatsby. Although I don’t know how I’m going to fit it into my schedule.”
"Should have known you’d be in demand." I leaned down to kiss her and she arched her back in response, making her shirt ride up. My body responded to the sight of her toned stomach, now solid from months of performing. Being on stage was the best workout that I knew.
I closed my eyes, losing myself in the world of Amy, when her cell phone beeped, jerking us out of the mood.
"Could be Sarah," she said, scrambling up to go for it.
Groaning, I poured myself another drink. "Do you have any plans for today?" I asked.
She glanced up at me with a smile, scrolling through her messages. "Nope, go ahead and get smashed on my couch."
"If you stayed for the rest of the mask workshop, you would too," I responded but Amy wasn't listening.
She leapt to her TV, turning it on and flicking the channels lightning quick.
"This." She sat back on her haunches as the Sites final credits began to roll. The TV began flashing familiar images of the school as the credits minimized.
"Next time on Sites, join Amy, a graduate student and girlfriend of Hollywood superstar, Liam, as they take us on a tour of Leopard Academy: the most prestigious theater school in the world. Go inside their doors to see why students pay 30 grand a year tuition to train here, often propelling them to greatness. And, as darkness falls, watch as our cameras capture a ghostly image, on the exact site of the death of ballerina Porsche DeRitter."
"Whaaaa." I stared at the TV in shock, and turned to Amy. "Did you host that?"
"Um, no. They left at 4pm. Or so I thought. Can Porsche be a ghost?"
I shook my head, downing my drink. My head was swimming and I wanted nothing more than to curl up with Amy and ignore the world. I didn't need another reminder that Porsche wasn't coming back.
"No, Shields can't be anything. Not a vampire, a werewolf, a ghost or a witch. They can't be anything but human."
"Liam." Amy's face was compassionate as she came towards me, and I reached out for her. Just as we were about to embrace, however, a knock came at the door.
"Sarah!" Amy bounded away, leaving me in the lurch for the second time.
I growled, letting my head slam back against the wall. I was never going to get alone time with her.
Sarah stood at the doorway, looking pale and one hand on her stomach, as Amy invited her in.
"How are you feeling? Did they find out what it was?"
Sarah nodded, sitting on Amy's window ledge, but not saying a word.
"Well?" Amy prompted. "Did they say it was something you ate?"
Sarah swallowed. "They said it was something inside me, for sure."