“Hi, ladies,” I said, grinning and giving them a nod.
They shrieked some more, rushing up towards me. “Please sign this!” One of them screamed, holding out a marker and her arm. I laughed, taking the pen.
“Don’t you have something that isn’t going to wash off?”
“This!” She held out her laptop and I rolled my eyes, but scrawled my name across it.
“Talon!” Every word that she said was a scream, and her energy was infectious.
“Alright, Talon, what year are you going into?” I didn’t recognize her, so I assumed she had been found when one of my teams went cross country to hold auditions. She was pretty with long, brown, wavy hair and standing at about 5’8”. Her pixie face was sprinkled with freckles. A year ago, I would have checked her out, and when I was a Hollywood actor, I would have done more than that. But the past few years had aged me, and now, I only had eyes for Amy.
“Year 11. I’m from Swansea. I went to Cata Performing Arts there.”
“It’s a good school. I hope that we live up to their standards,” I replied, handing her laptop back. The other girls seemed too scared to say a word to me, their eyes huge. “Now, Year 11 is a senior and so you’ll have classes with me. I trust that one autograph will be enough, Talon?”
“Oh, no, sir,” She blushed. “But I won’t ask again.”
“Ok then,” I replied. “I’ve got to get going, but I’ll see you later.”
“Bye!” they called out as if they were one person.
I rolled my eyes, walking down the hallway to the theater.
The Red Theater was my favorite of all of them. All of our theaters were named after colors, and each of our wings were named after the classes they housed. Peter had once toyed with getting benefactors and donors, and naming entire buildings after them, but I shot him down. If they were successful, the students would spend their whole careers exposed to commercialism and sponsors. It didn’t need to start now. I wanted to keep things simple as long as possible so they could focus on their craft.
In the theater, there were several of my instructors sitting on the stage in a circle, in various positions. It made me grin, watching them. The dancers were sitting on the floor, contorted in positions that were natural to them, but wretched to anyone else. The technical instructors were sitting in chairs, leaning back, their arms crossed, and the drama instructors were pacing the stage, excited. The singers were calm and composed, sitting in straight back chairs, their chest rising and falling in full breaths. They each embodied their craft with every breath, which is why they hired me.
Katya, my lead drama instructor, raised her eyebrow. “Aren’t you here for the vote on the final show?”
“What?... uh, yes, of course.” I tried to make it seem like I had remembered that today they would decide what the year-end show would be, and they needed my approval. I knew there was a reason I was getting frigidity in my office. “So, what are the choices?”
“We’ve narrowed it down to three: Cats, Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. Unless you wanted to do a straight play, in which case we unanimously agreed on Gatsby.”
I shook my head. “There’s a national tour of Gatsby going on right now. We don’t need to do it at the school too. Amy’s in it.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well, what are we waiting for? Vote. Vote.”
“Alright, open ballot. Everyone gets one vote. I’ll call it out, you raise your hands.”
I saw instantly why they needed me. In a stroke of madness, each production came out as a tie, and I could see why. Cats meant that the dancers would be the stars, while Les Miserables called more for strong singers. Phantom, however, meant that there needed to be acting beyond the other two, with more text than singing. We had just done a straight play last year: Beauty and the Beast starring Amy, and myself, a production that had won us rave reviews. It was a publicity stunt for the scholarship winner and the former superstar. But this year, there was no need for another publicity stunt, and sadly, no real need for me to act either. Everyone would audition fair and square for their parts. Still, I couldn’t help but err on the side of Amy, the best actor I had seen in years.
“Well then, my tie breaker vote is Phantom,” I said, and it was met with simultaneous groans and cheers. “School-wide auditions, Friday of the first week. Everyone knows the music. They don’t need time to practice.”
Usually, I limited it to the upper years, and the lower years were assigned parts by their teachers, based on their already known schedule. But I wanted this to be different.
“Kindergarten to graduate programs. And I want two guest judges so the panel isn’t completely biased to students we already know.”
“You want a lot, Liam,” Devon, one of the technical instructors, joked.
I held up my hands. ‘What can I say? I’m a diva. Everyone good?”
They looked at each other and then nodded. I was about to leave when suddenly I remembered Talon.
“Oh, by the way. Along with school rules, I want you to all give your students a good talk about respecting other performers, and not act like groupies. I nearly got mauled out in the hall by a new senior, and I can’t run classes if they are asking me for autographs.”
I turned to leave on that note. It was a casual environment at the school. The instructors had the freedom to make their own curriculums and credited themselves with their students’ success.
I didn’t get too much work done the rest of the day. I wandered about quite a bit, and pretended to contribute or oversee, but the truth was, I was constantly watching the clock. Amy had texted at 4:55 saying that she had just gotten off the train and would call me when she was in the driveway. As the minutes ticked by, I could feel my heart rate increase and my mouth go dry. After months, I could finally have her in my arms. I could finally wrap my arms around her, bury my nose in her soft hair and feel her body warm against mine.
I hadn’t wanted to fall in love with a student. I had never been in love in all my life. In lust, yes, but never in love. But Amy was irresistible, adorable and attractive, with her sweet smile and sparkling eyes. The connection that we made the first time our eyes met was unshakable. Of course, it helped that her blood was rotten, tainted with HIV and did not tempt me at any stage in my transformation. Amy was a breath of fresh air, and now that Porsche was gone, she was my only salvation.
Finally my cell phone rang with Amy’s ringtone, when I was in the dorms, sorting out a housing problem.
“Hey, I’m here. I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
“I’ll be right there,” I said, snapping the phone shut and turning to the two students and dorm mother who stood before me with a grumpy body language. “Sorry, guys, emergency. Just um… flip a coin.”
Moving as fast as my human legs would carry me and wishing that I had vampire speed during the day, I rounded corners and power-walked down the hallways.
And then suddenly, there she was, right in front of me. She was wearing shorts and a baggy tee-shirt, with no makeup on, her hair hanging down her shoulders in waves. Her suitcase was beside her and she was looking down at her phone.
When she looked up, I saw her eyes light up, and she flung herself into my arms, half with a shriek and half with a laugh.
“AMY!” I cried, wrapping my strong arms around her.
Finally, all was well with the world. I buried my face in her neck. I could feel her pulse beating strongly, and smell her shampoo, filling my nose with the scent of lavender and chamomile. She was kissing my neck, clearly overwhelmed and forgetting about public displays. Uncaring myself, I kissed her back, pulling her a fraction of an inch away from me so I could kiss her full on the mouth.
She responded immediately, closing her eyes and nipping at my lips. Touching Amy was like coming home.
Finally, we pulled back so she could breathe, although we didn’t let go of each other.
“How are you? How was your train ride?”
“It was good, but sad,” she replied. “It’s weird, thinking that I won’t stand on that stage again and say those lines.”
“But there will be other stages and other lines,” I promised her. “And eventually, it doesn’t hurt so much to walk away from a show.”
“So they say.” She smiled at me and then stifled a yawn. “How was your day?”
“Agony, waiting for you,” I replied, shifting to put my arm around her shoulder. With my other hand, I grabbed her suitcase, dragging it behind us as we walked down the hall to the dorms. “I pretended to work all day.”
“Which you can do, being headmaster,” she teased me “Did you get any groupie new kids?”
“Yes, unfortunately. I’m going to start wearing a disguise.”
Amy shrugged, as we reached her new dorm room. I reached into my pocket for the keys that I had picked up earlier that day.
“What? No you weren’t!” I unlocked her door and pulled in her suitcase for her.
Her dorm room looked just like all the others, with the small rehearsal room, the mirrors and lights, as well as the fluffy bed and minuscule bathroom. But somehow, I knew Amy would make it her own. I also knew I’d be spending a lot of time on that bed.
My heart skipped a beat at the thought of it, as I watched her close the door.
She looked taller, and older, even though it had only been a few months. She had gone out in the world, experienced things, learned to be independent, and it had aged her. And I liked it.
“I have to take a shower. I feel disgusting,” she said, as she locked the door.
A devilish smile came over my features. “Can I join you?”