“The show must go on, Liam, no matter what.”
"No matter what,” he whispered, and then leaned into my neck, sinking his teeth into me.
I felt the venom seep into my veins, but after the pain I experienced just minutes ago, it felt like morphine. I can’t describe what transforming felt like. It was like a blessing and a curse. I screamed as I felt Liam pull me from the spike and onto the ground.
The whole world spun out of my vision, and I saw light and darkness collide and a burst of stars. My eyes rolled back and I felt my heart stop, and yet, I didn’t lose consciousness. I felt the venom flow into my body, cooling it and nothing felt natural. Everything felt disconnected and yet connected. I felt strength flow through me and the wound close on my stomach as if by magic. And then, I felt a familiar hand on my arm and I began to breathe again, sucking in deep lungfuls of air as my vision cleared. I looked up to see Sarah’s face hovering over me with a tearful smile. I had healed, I had transformed, and here she was, as if this was her purpose in life, to be here at this moment, to keep me human.
“The show must go on,” she whispered, tears falling down her face.
I glanced down at my stomach and saw the flesh healed. Slowly, I sat up, careful not to move too fast. Selene was now in Elias’s grasp, and for the first time, looking absolutely terrified. I didn’t know what her fate would be, but I had a feeling she would be kept barely alive, and suffer for the pain she had caused. All this time, I had thought it was us breaking the rules, when it fact, it had been her.
Carefully, I rose to my feet, surprised at how good I felt. My mind wasn’t clear, I knew that. To my left, my father still lay, and on trembling legs, I walked over to him, and crouched down.
He was dead, there was no doubt about that. Tears fell as I reached to close his eyes, and I felt Liam’s hand on my back.
“He’s at peace, Amy. He’s with the one he loves.”
“I know,” I whispered, brushing my hand over his rapidly cooling cheek. “I want to leave this place, Liam. There’s been so much death and sadness here, I don’t think I could take it if we stayed.”
He wrapped his strong arms around me, kissing my hair and whispering soothing noises.
“We can do whatever you want, my love. But our experiences make us who we are. Without this place, even in sorrow, we would never be where we are.”
I almost broke down. I had to bite my lip to the point of breaking the skin to keep myself in check. Shakily, I rose again, facing the crowd of vampires who now stood, surrounding Sarah. Tonight, they thought they would become mortal, and because of me, they could not.
“Thank you,” I whispered, trying to look each one of them in the eye. “Thank you.”
To my surprise, starting with Connor and then Steve and the rest, they dipped low to me.
“You are the Queen of our Coven leader, and so you are our Queen too. You have taught us tonight a new meaning of life.”
I brought my hands to my face, trying not to cry. Liam kissed my cheek, taking my hand, and drawing me forward. I reached out for Sarah and she wrapped her arms around me.
“Me too,” I replied, hugging her tight. “Thank you, Sarah, for everything. Not just tonight, but for everything. For talking to me when I was a nerdy housebound kid. For encouraging me to never give up on my dream. For always being there. I couldn’t do any of this without you.”
“As long as I’m your maid of honor,” she whispered, trying to keep the mood light.
I grinned for the first time. And then I turned to the others, who had circled around me.
“We have a show to finish,” I said, and they nodded.
Amy, as young Meg Giry, grows so much as a character in the final act of the show. This young actress is a Hollywood superstar in the making, and we will be keeping our eye on her in the coming days, said the final review of the show, published in the biggest entertainment magazine on the West Coast the next day. I glanced at the photo of us taking our final bow, my costume ripped and bloodstained. If they only knew what had brought me to that point; what had happened on my journey. If they only knew my pain, my love. But that was a secret that I would never be able to share. That was my mine alone to keep, safe in my love for him.
There had been too many deaths in the two short years since I had entered the real world. Nina, Porsche, the unborn child Sarah never got to carry, and now, there was fresh dirt on my father’s grave.
That was something I would never quite be able to come to terms with, that my father wasn’t waiting in the house down the street, that he wasn’t bustling around in the kitchen, or telling me to do my homework. But yet, I considered myself blessed, which seemed like a funny thing to do in my situation. To the world, I was a child without parents, the tragic TV star who received hundreds of messages of condolences every week, whose life was up in the air and supposed to be dying of AIDS. I had thought that I would never return to the Red Theater once the curtain fell on Phantom, that I would have to get away from the place that changed my life.
But I found that I couldn’t. It had changed my life for the worst, but also for the better. I had met Liam, the love of my life, in that theater, and my dreams of being an actor had come true. I had played two of the most important roles there. I had met my mother there, a chance I otherwise never would have gotten. And today, I had both my parents by my side, solid as if they were alive, playing with my veil and twirling me around to have a look at my wedding dress, fit for a princess. Sarah was standing by in a purple bridesmaid dress as I put the finishing touches on my makeup.
“Do you think you could have gotten anything puffier, Amy?” my father teased me.
I looked down at the layers and layers of tulle flowing onto the floor below me, the floor that had once been covered with my blood. That was before, when AIDS ruled my life. When my mortality loomed in my face. But no longer was that an issue. For every night, Liam taught me how to control my cravings, how to withstand the pain of transformation. And most nights, we hung out in Sarah’s trailer on the set of her new TV show, Witch, which I thought was ironic. But being closed to Sarah, now that the binding spell was reversed, meant that we didn’t have to transform at all. But honestly, although I hadn’t told Liam, the pain of transformation was nowhere near some of the pain I had gone through as a human. Being a vampire meant strength, power, confidence, all the things I didn’t feel like I had in life.
The worst part was feeding. I had seen what had happened to Nina and I didn’t want to end up that way. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to feed on humans, not yet. So blood bags were the way to go. I could see Liam was worried about me, but it was a choice I made, which was good enough for me.
I had chosen to marry Liam in the Red Theater not only because that’s where it all began, but because my parents could attend.
I had fits of sadness and panic when I was alone in my father’s house, having moved out of the dorms, and knowing that he wasn’t ever coming back. But I had to look on the bright side, to know that I was so much luckier than other people in my situation. As long as I had Sarah and access to the theater, I could always visit my parents, always come back to them. And they would be waiting for me, watching the shows in the theater, and holding hands. One day, this might be harder than it was. Liam and I agreed to five years in the human world; five more years pretending everything was alright. And then, we weren’t sure what we would do. We knew we would have to disappear. Five more years with him looking completely un-aged was pushing it, especially for someone who was constantly photographed. But however we decided to disappear, it would be together. A tragic car accident, a kidnapping, something that would ensure that we were dead and the world would forget about us.
And I knew that when the time came to just have each other, we would be alright.
“Could have, but I went with subtle.” I winked at him as my mother fixed my veil one last time.
In order to have my parents there, I had to sacrifice the big wedding that I had always dreamed of. Most of my friends couldn’t come, and any distant family wasn’t invited. But as my fame from Ranger rose, I felt like a small private wedding, with people from the supernatural world, was better. Especially since their world was mine now.
“You look beautiful,” my mother said, placing a warm hand on my shoulder. “Sarah, darling, come here, let me fix your flowers.”
“I like them this way,” Sarah replied, but stepped forward, letting my mother tug on her bouquet.
Sarah was my only bridesmaid, but honestly, I couldn’t think of anyone better to be a bridesmaid than my best friend, the sister I never had.
She checked her cell phone and then looked up at me with a smile. “It’s time, Amy.”
“Oh my God.” Now I felt the nerves flow in, my heart accelerating to about a thousand beats a minute. Just because I was a vampire didn’t mean I wasn’t capable of getting nervous.
“Amy.” Sarah gave me a smile. “Normally, I’d say getting married at 19 was retarded and what the hell are you thinking and all that crap… but I couldn’t think of two better people for each other than you and Liam. You don’t have anything to be nervous about. And finally, when they say forever in the vows, you guys can actually mean them, opposed to all the other three second Hollywood marriages.”
“Such a romantic speech,” I teased her as I saw the lights dim.
I took a deep breath, as I heard the opening strands of music and linked arms with each of my parents for the walk down the aisle and up onto the stage, another reality that I never thought I’d have.
I had chosen an instrumental piece, the Celtic Wedding March, for Sarah to walk down the aisle too. As rehearsed, she went down slowly, the small audience watching as she dropped flower petals on the floor. She had wanted to drop black roses, the Phantom’s special, but I had drawn the line and reminded her that as surreal as this was, this was my wedding, not a theater show.