And with that, Liam pulled me towards the new theater.

“Bloody leeches,” he said, shaking his head. “Always dying for a piece of drama.”

I felt like I was going to faint again, Liam’s words spinning in my head.

“I’ll be Beauty?” I said, and he met my eyes.

“Well, you’ll be my Beauty, of course. It was always going to be the scholarship winner, providing she was old enough.”

I leaned against the wall, and concern clouded his face.

“Are you alright? Do you need anything?” He bent to my level, a gentle hand on my shoulder.

I flushed bright red at the attention, and shook my head.

“No, you just surprised me. I’ve never acted before, you know that, right? And you’re…”

“Amy, I promise I’ll work with you every step of the way,” he said. “Every actor is only as good as his partner.”

“But won’t the other students be angry? The ones who have been here longer?”

He laughed at that, shaking his head. “No. One of the lessons we teach here is that there are so many variables when getting a part, including things you can’t control. Don’t worry about them.”

“That’s easy to say until they eat me,” I said, and he laughed at that, a slow and easy laugh that made me join him.

“The only one you have to worry about eating you is me, if you become delinquent.” He said, leading me towards the stage.

“What…uh…paper did he work for?” I asked, indicating the paparazzi that we left outside. Liam smiled.

“Your first piece of fame. Of many, I think. Don’t worry, I’ll find out and get you a few copies.”

“Thanks,” I replied, looking around the stage. I couldn’t believe all of this was happening, that it was actually real. “I didn’t want all of that, though. I mean, it’s cool, but it doesn’t matter.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, intrigued.

“It’s just…it’s stupid, you’re going to laugh,” I blushed, but he took a step forward, cocking his head with interest.

“When I was a kid, I used to memorize monologues and do them in my room. Nowadays, I put them on YouTube. I used to sit in on classes here, sneak around.”

“I surely would have noticed you,” he replied, giving me a flattering smile. I grinned.

“I’m good. I’m sneakier than the Phantom of the Opera.”

“Indeed you are, for if I had seen you before, there’s no way I could have ignored you.” He was close to my face, standing only a few feet apart. If it were any other stranger who did that, I would have felt awkward and uncomfortable about it. But with Liam, I strangely felt relaxed.

“I would watch the classes, or the rehearsals, whatever was going on. And before you found me in the kitchen…I was content with the fact that the audition would be the happiest moment of my life, being up there and acting like that. I can’t imagine film is that good, is it?”

“As good as theater?” He was still smiling, and his eyes were twinkling. “No, but the money’s better.”

“I don’t care about the money.” I shrugged. “I grew up poor, and I haven’t dropped dead yet, so money doesn’t matter. But being up there, in a room buzzing with energy, and everyone’s eyes on you, watching you perform. Feeding off their energy. Just—wow…”

“No, no, Amy.” He shook his head, his eyes intense. “I wasn’t laughing at you. I was just amused by the fact that you seemed to read my mind. Film was good, the fame and money were nice…But I never felt more alive than when I was on a stage. I wished I could have stayed in that profession forever, just only on stage, without any of the crap that came with Hollywood.”

“But just living changes us a lot,” he managed, and I nodded.

“Of course. But now you’re Beast, so you’ll be on stage again. So you’re happy, right?”

He nodded, taking my arm and leading me to the next place on our tour.

“Yes, Amy, I believe I can be happy again.”

I couldn’t wait to go home and text Sarah, now that I’d have the money to turn my cell phone back on. If I couldn’t believe it and I was standing right there, I could only imagine how she was going to feel.

I smiled, despite myself. Never in a million years had I dreamt this would happen; if someone told me what my life would be like three years ago, I would have laughed in their face. My life was the same old routine day in and day out. But now, life was finally taking shape and all because I wandered down the wrong hallway.

I was so excited for the first day of school, I could hardly sleep. My father had quickly nixed the idea of moving in the next day, but between Liam and I, I won the battle to move in over the following weekend. And now, here I was, the last of my stuff packed in boxes to move to the dorms. Classes would start tomorrow for me, but a dorm had been reserved so that every day on his way to work, Dad could carry a box or two and drop it off for me. My online course credits had all been sent to the school, and transferred in. I would be a senior in every course with the option to return for partial credits next year in the theater department if I needed to. The school admitted students all year round and offered courses all year round as well, so I wouldn’t be as out of place as I thought I would be. Their schedule was dependent on the shows they were producing and touring (in freshman year, they toured the islands for three months which had made me jealous to no end), and so admitting students according to the needs of the theater had become standard.

“Do you want to take those today?” Dad asked, appearing in the door way of my room. “Or shall I bring them tomorrow for you?”

“Um…” I turned to him, standing in the middle of my now empty room. “I thought I could move today. That way, I could get a good night’s sleep and go right to class tomorrow…”

“Oh.” He replied. “If that’s what you want…”

“Dad,” I said, trying to smile. “We’ll see each other MORE now than we did before. It’s going to be fine, I promise. If anything, I’ll be safer because you spend all day just down the hall from me.”

“I know,” he nodded, but his eyes were still sad. “I’ll just miss you.”

“You won’t have a chance to miss me.” I grinned. “I’ll bother you every moment of the day.”

“I hope so.” He gave me a firm hug, not letting go for more than a minute. Finally, he stepped back. “You want to go by yourself and unpack, don’t you?”

“I’ll be back for dinner. I promise. I just want to get a feel of the place.”

“Alright,” he said, and reached into his pocket, handing me the keys. “It’s room 66, on the 6th floor.”

“Great,” I put them in my purse and picked up the last box and a bag, kissing him on the cheek. “See you at dinner.”

I had only ever snuck into the dorms once before, and it was years ago. There was a double door at the front that required two keys, and then a key to each floor as well as your own dorm room key. So nothing prepared me for the beauty I was met with when I entered the lobby.

On all sides of the security desk were murals; stunning and colorful and ceiling high. In seemingly random, yet perfect spots were headshots and photographs of students and productions long past, staring back at me with contented eyes and happy smiles. I instantly felt at home and comfortable. So at home, in fact, that I walked right by the desk without checking in.

“Excuse me!” A girl called out to me as I walked by, and I turned, sharply. “Do you live here?”

“Uh…I’m new, but yes? I think so?” I replied. She smiled, reaching out her hand.

“Amy,” I said, carefully juggling my load to shake it. “I’m uh…I don’t know where I’m going.”

“Are you a senior?” she asked brightly, and I nodded. “And what course stream are you?”

“OH!” Her eyes lit up. “You’re the winner. Congrats then! You’re in the theater wing. Do you have your room number? I can take you.”

“Sure,” I handed her my key, and she started down the hall. “What uh…other wings are there?”

“That’s the dance wing, there,” she said, pointing down one hall way. “And the musical wing is that one, off to the left. And then the technical wing, for all things not on stage,” she pointed to a hallway behind her. “It’s more for organizational purposes, you know … like all the dancers can easily have a meeting in their common room, and all the actors can have rehearsal in their hall way. It’s not really cliquey or anything, we all hang out all the time and we all take some cross -stream classes.” She was leading me towards an elevator, which opened with my key. Getting inside, she pressed the 6th floor button. “The higher you go, the older the students are. Makes it easier for the dorm mothers to manage. You’re on the second highest floor - the one above you is more of a hotel, reserved for visiting artists and such.”

“What’s your story?” I asked, and she gave me a sad smile.

“I came here when I was six, as a dancer. But when I was fifteen, I injured my IT band and killed my career.”

“That’s ok,” She shrugged. “It happens to a lot of dancers. I spent a few years abroad and then came back here, and took a job managing this place. It makes me feel like I’m involved again. Here we are.”