I unlocked my dorm room and kicked off my shoes. I flopped down on the couch and switched the TV on.
Liam disappeared for a while to allow Connor out of the office, and then rejoined me, allowing me to snuggle into his arms, as we waited for the show to come on. I shifted and shifted again, trying to get comfortable, until he commented on it.
“I can’t focus,” I replied. “I mean, I’d be restless without the day we had. I’ve never watched myself on TV before.”
“I can cover your eyes if you want.”
I laughed. I was glad that it was just us watching alone in our own private world.
“Up next, catch Sites as they visit Leopard Academy, headed up by a former Hollywood superstar, and hosted by his lady love.”
I almost screamed, but Liam held me down. I was practically vibrating with energy as it started.
I guess I would have to get used to seeing myself on TV with TV makeup, but for now, it was strange. I barely recognized myself. I sent a text to my father to make sure he was watching.
Watching AND taping it he replied, and I giggled. My father was about the only person left who had a VCR and taped things.
I looked taller, older and more sophisticated than I normally did. The makeup made my eyes look huge. My hair was fluffy and the clothes they gave me fit perfectly. I actually looked like I might fit in with other people on TV.
Liam and I watched, giggling and punching each other as we were shown room after room in the school on the TV show. His interview with me sent us into screams of laughter as we giggled at a thousand inside jokes.
“I need to get that ceiling painted,” he commented, as I took the camera crew through one of the classrooms.
I pointed to the garbage can, which was overflowing. “And take out the garbage.”
“Any other critiques, Amy?” He tickled me and I squirmed.
The commercial breaks were the worst part.
“Couldn’t we have gotten a preview tape of this?”
“There would be network commercials on that too,” he replied, as watched a stupid commercial about steam mops.
Finally, the show came back on. I was giving a tour of the Red Theater. As we caught Sarah and Connor scampering off camera we both sat in silence, lost in our own thoughts. At first, I had been kind of appalled by Sarah’s affair, and now seeing what it had amounted to, it was scary. But at the same time, you couldn’t choose who you loved, or who you fell in love with. While I didn’t care what Liam was, I wouldn’t have chosen this life for him or me. The longer he stayed a vampire, the more we grew apart, and I knew it. Sometimes I squinted into the mirror checking for fine lines or wrinkles, even if there were none. One day, they would be there, and I would age. But Liam would remain the same, forever 23, ageless, and wouldn’t we look funny walking down the street holding hands. Plus, his celebrity status was a big problem. People had to stop recognizing him if this was going to work, and without aging, that was rather hard.
I had renewed energy in me for our battle against Selene. We had to kill her. All these people that had died along the way, the victims in the hospital, Porsche, all the vampire’s victims, it wouldn’t be in vein if Selene was killed in December. What a way to start the new year.
Finally, the show came back on.
“And now, join us for ghostly footage captured backstage, on the very spot where Russian Ballerina Porsche De Ritter perished last summer.”
Liam and I both sat up straighter at that, looking at each other.
“What do you think it is?” I asked
He shrugged. “Aside from special effects that they’ve added to make it seem like a ghost story? Dust. They’ve been working a lot in there on the set.”
“They’d do that?” I asked, appalled. “They’d just disrespect her memory and make a fake ghost story?” That made me angry. I had always thought that TV was so glamorous, but the more I was involved with it, the more I saw its ugly underbelly that the public never saw.
“Sure. You remember when Kamy Tan died?” he asked.
That reminded me of the young movie star who had died of a drug overdose a few years ago. I realized he must have been in Hollywood during that time.
“Sure. How could I forget? Her family had a huge estate battle at her funeral, didn’t they?”
He snorted, shaking his head and rubbing my back gently. “No. But that’s what the media told you. I was at her funeral. Her family cried their eyes out, and made tearful speeches and that was it. There was no epic money battle, no hair pulling and no hat throwing. But the media needed some sort of story because she died so controversially.”
He shook his head. “Brain aneurysm. Unexpected, but genetically predictable. “
“But then why didn’t the family sue or something?”
He sighed. “They were too upset with the grief of her passing. They, like most of us, recognized it didn’t matter what the media said, and that they would make up something no matter what happened.”
“Mmm.” I leaned forward as the TV show came back on. My part was pretty much over, so I could relax a bit and watch the footage.
I was not prepared for what I saw.
A voiceover narration that was not my own walked the camera in the dark through the theater, and set up on the spot, where months ago, we had sat, crying. If I squinted hard enough, I could almost see the remnants of the ghosts of us sitting there.
“Ballerina Porsche De Ritter of the Russian National was backstage helping Liam with the production of Beauty and the Beast, starring Amy, Liam’s now girlfriend. It was a well-known fact that Porsche suffered from AIDS, and no one expected her to live long. But who knew it would be tonight? During Beauty and the Beast, in the final act, Porsche, alone backstage, collapsed, her heart giving out. After a standing ovation, the cast rushed backstage to find their former teacher expired. Porsche was also the first scholarship winner of Leopard Academy, although she was only a student for a few months. Watch what we believe is her ghost perform for the camera.”
Another commercial break came in and I thought Liam was going to strangle the TV. He got up and went to my open laptop on the desk.
“I really don’t want to watch this anymore, Amy,” he said, turning his back to me.
My heart broke and I was about to go over to join him, but he must of read my mind.
“You stay there, and let me know,” he said, clicking on the Internet and logging into the school website, presumably to do some work.
With a glance outside, I saw that the sun was already starting to set. We had so few moments left, and I felt annoyed. But I understood, I guess, and so I stayed, waiting for the commercials to end.
The announcer repeated basically the same thing she had just said, which had always bothered me. They made TV shows these days where you could pick them up at any time, and still understand what was going on.
And then I saw the white mist that they had referred to. The white mist I had seen when I was in the Red Theater.
It swirled and smoked, and I searched the TV and my mind from every angle, trying to figure out where it was coming from. But then, the camera angle changed and it began to take a shape. It began to stand up like a human being, the misty outline blurred.
“Amy…” Liam said, but I held up my hand, staring at the TV.
The shape became clearer, and if you looked at just the right angle, a face appeared.
“Yes, but, Amy, what the hell is this?”
“Sssh.” I was rooted to the TV, staring at it. Hair formed around the face, and if I hadn’t seen her face a thousand times, I wouldn’t have known her. But I knew that face, engraved in my memory forever.
“AMY!” Liam yelled and I turned my head to the laptop, where he had an article pulled up.
On the top, in scrawling black script, was Amy cheats on Liam? Below it, a picture of me at the doorway of the audition room, my hand in Drago’s. I swiveled my head back to the TV from the laptop and then back to Liam. I couldn’t decide if I was seeing things or what needed priority. The media fabricated things all the time, I knew that. In a perfect world, both of these stories would be fake, and Liam would believe me. Yet he looked pretty angry about it.
I wanted to believe Sites had faked it. But they couldn’t have known, couldn’t have done it just to mess with me.
“Liam.” I pointed to the figure, now freeze-framed on the TV. “Liam, that’s my mother.”
“And the worst part is that he doesn’t believe me.” I leaned against my chair on set, keeping my voice low as I talked to Drago.
It had been over a week since Sites aired, and Liam had found that article. That night had been the worst night we had ever had. He didn’t quite believe me when I explained that nothing happened. It’s true, I was mad at him when I went to the audition for Ranger, but the anger had come out in my audition, not in cheating on him.
And on top of that, I was still trying to come to terms with the fact that I had seen my mother’s ghost. I didn’t quite believe it myself. Even though I was in the Red Theater every day, I had never seen it again. I watched the footage from Sites over and over again, going through it frame by frame, and each time I saw it. I even had a picture of her and got everyone I knew to compare it to the image. Most of them said I was right, even if they were just indulging me.
The only person I felt like I hadn’t shown it to was my father. I couldn’t imagine how he would react, and so I kept it from him. If he had seen that part of the show, then he didn’t say anything to me. Or maybe he just didn’t recognize her. I mean, after all, he had seen ever every day, looked into her face. All I had was images to go off of. I didn’t want it to dominate my life, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.
“If you want,” Drago said, bringing me back to reality. “I could talk to him. Tell him you’re great, but I’m not interested.”