Slowly she moved forward, took my hand and led me towards the bathroom.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” she said.
I needed no more prompting. It was going to be a good evening. At least until I transformed. But whatever hurdles came our way in the future, I knew that Amy and I would weather them. Because no matter what, I couldn’t live without her.
For some reason, I was nervous about going to see my father, which was strange. I had missed him so much and whenever I was homesick, he was just a phone call away. Sometimes that meant he growled at me from the kitchen phone and told me he was working, but it was basically the same thing. But today, as I put my hair up and put on a nice skirt, I felt nervous.
Maybe it's because now I felt truly like a grown-up. I was living away from home, now in my second year, and it was unlikely I would ever move back home. I was taking him to a fancy restaurant with my own money, which made me feel even more like a grown-up.
Or maybe it's because Liam was coming with me. They had met before, of course, but this felt like a real adult thing, with the two most important men in my life.
"Have you told him about Sarah yet?" Liam asked, as we met in the lobby.
I grinned. "No. He thinks Sarah is the most annoying thing on the planet. I mean, he doesn't hate her or anything, but when I lived at home, I was always talking about her. Sarah says this, Sarah says that. Because Sarah's awesome. But he thought she was a bad influence on me."
"Well, then he must think I'm the worst influence in the world for you.” Liam grinned as he held the door open for me.
"I think he likes you, mostly," I replied as we walked out into the warm September sun.
"Are you going to audition for the year-end show?" he asked me, changing the subject.
I shrugged, giving him a mischievous smile. "Depends. Are you on the casting panel? Also, isn't it a musical?"
"Right, but it's not a strong musical. We revised half the songs and made them lines. And no, it's completely impartial... not that I think that should impair you in any way."
"We'll see then."
The restaurant was a short walk away, a place that I considered fancy, especially on a modest theater salary, even with the school allowance. It had been part of my scholarship, and I was grateful for it. However, you grow up fast when you grow up poor, and money worries were a very real concern for me. When school was over, if I didn't get a show or a role somewhere, I had no idea what I was going to do.
My father was already inside, having gotten a table for three. He was reading the menu, no doubt criticizing it to no end, and didn’t notice us until we were practically on top of him.
“Amy!” He threw his arms around me, giving me a giant hug. I hugged him back, beaming. I had missed him more than I realized. “And Liam, good to see you.” He reached out to shake Liam’s hand.
“You too, sir,” Liam said, even though I knew they had seen each other all summer. But they had seen each other in the form of Headmaster and Chef, not as potential future in-laws.
We sat, opening our menus as Dad peppered me with questions.
“Fine,” I replied, trying not to roll my eyes. It was his daily question and I was surprised he went this long without asking it.
“Is everything okay with your medications? Do you need any refills? Don’t forget you have an appointment with Doctor Zed on the 18th at…”
“Dad, I know.” I smiled at him. “I have it written down. And everything is fine. Don’t worry.”
He relaxed a bit, giving me a sad smile. “Sorry, I guess I’m not used to the fact that you are all grown up. You look just like your mother, you know.”
“I’d love to see a photo of Amy’s mother,” Liam broke in. “Do you happen to have one?”
“I do.” My father reached into his pocket to get his wallet.
Liam winked at me and I grinned back at him, grateful that he was changing the subject. Dad passed over a dog-eared photograph that I knew like that back of my own hand. My mother was standing in a field of flowers, grinning at the camera, in a yellow sundress. She must have been my age, or just a little bit older. My parents had a true love story, meeting in high school and getting married soon after. It should have been an epic tale, one they could tell their grandchildren sitting around the fire. Instead, not too soon after their wedding, they got in a car crash and my mother had needed a blood transfusion. Little did they know that the transfusion contained infected blood.
“She’s beautiful,” Liam said, passing the photo back. “You are a lucky man, sir, to have such a beautiful wife and daughter.”
“Thank you.” Dad looked down at his menu again, to avoid emotion, and I glanced at mine for the first real time.
My stomach was growling and I was starving, although what I actually craved was a home-cooked meal. I wished we had just gone over to Dad’s house for lunch. After months on the road, something simple would have been nice. But I wanted to take him out, and it was the first time in my life I had been able to afford to.
“Hey, Dad, guess what?” I asked, procrastinating from choosing a menu item. “Sarah got into grad school at Leopard. She’s moving here next week.”
“Really?” He glanced from me to Liam. “And was that an… assisted application?”
Liam shook his head. “No, sir. The applications are blind. We don’t have any information from admissions until we select them. Amy’s friend Sarah is a very talented young lady and it’ll be wonderful to have her.”
“Oh, I know all about Sarah.” He gave me a smile. “You must be happy.”
Dad opened his mouth to say something, and then coughed, bringing his napkin to his mouth.
“It’s nothing. A summer cold. Shall we order before the waitress has us for dinner?”
I chuckled, glancing over my menu at our waitress, who did look quite capable of eating us, especially if we didn’t order something soon. I felt comfortable and relaxed, surrounded by my favorite people in the town I had grown up in. The town and people that had made my dreams come true. It was certainly good to be home.
The day of Sarah’s arrival, I was practically floating. Because she was coming from across the ocean, she missed the normal new student orientation. Liam had given me the master keys and told me it was my job to make sure she had a proper orientation. More than happy to volunteer, I had broken into her dorm room and adorned it with fifteen movie star posters of actors who we both loved. A few years ago, Liam’s face would have been on that wall too. Despite me thinking that he seemed pretty self-absorbed in his interviews, we were both dazzled by his good looks and his talent. We had once spent hours pouring over his acting style, line by line, dissecting every movement. Now, of course, I thought my obsession had been a little strange, although Liam had laughed when I told him.
“Do you want me to maybe autograph a poster for you?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes. “That’s ok, Mr. Big Shot,” I said, kissing him on the cheek. “Sarah knows how to not be a fan girl.”
“Good,” he replied, shooing me out of his office. “Now, go, I have work to do.”
Anticipation filled me as I waited at the airport, watching people stream off the plane she had been on. For years, I had been the girl whose best friend was an ocean away, never able to come to events or birthday parties. If I wanted advice, I couldn’t just wander over to her house and try on her clothes. But now, Sarah and I would be merely 2 doors apart.
I recognized her as soon as she stepped off the plane. Sarah was hard to miss. She was a mix of several different races, and all of them blended together to make her absolutely stunning. “Exotique” is what they called her, and I didn’t disagree. She had her hair dyed jet black, and it was gelled into spikes that fell across her eyes, perfectly done even after a transatlantic flight. She had at least seven piercings in each ear, as well as a few in her actual face. She was tall, and not quite lithe, but nowhere near fat either. I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen.
She turned her head to see me and burst into a grin. “AMY!”
She hurtled herself through the lineup, dropping her bag and throwing her arms around me. I couldn’t believe that she was actually here, that we were actually separated only by air molecules rather than computer screens and an ocean.
“I am!” She finally pulled off me. “Oh my God, you’re beautiful in person.”
“So are you!” I said, and then nodded to her bag. “You should probably pick that up. Unattended baggage in the airport and all.”
“Right!” She turned back to grab it, giving me the view of the back of her outfit. It was mesh black over black, revealing a top covered by ripped nylon. Only Sarah would have the courage to wear something like that, and she looked absolutely fantastic in it. “So, where are we going? Do you have a car? Is Liam here?”
“Um, to school, no and no,” I answered all of her questions at once. “I was just planning on taking a cab.”
“Liam doesn’t send you in a limo?” she teased me as we made our way towards the exit.
“What about you? You’re a big superstar now! You should have your own limo.”
“Hardly.” I shook my head, grinning at her as I raised my arms to hail a cab. One pulled up on the curb, and Sarah and I tumbled in. I gave directions to the driver and then settled back.
“How was your flight? Everything ok?”
“Fine. I met a cute boy on it, and I told him everything about my life.”
“And what did he say?”