I turned on the shower, relying on the water to wake me up. Last night, I had printed a fresh copy of my script, and transferred notes from the mangled one. Three days ago, I would have still felt disappointed that Liam had gone through with his choice to have someone else play Beast for almost all the shows. Today, I was glad of it.

My new partner, Deon, was a senior student, and a great actor. He had been at the school since he was six, and he knew every trick. He was funny, and kind, and took time to explain to me some terms I had not yet grasped in class. We got along well in class, and I knew rehearsal was going to be fine.

Out of the shower, I dried my hair and applied a bit of makeup. It wasn’t something I normally wore, but this was the new me; the me without Liam; the me who could make it on her own.

By 7am, I was walking down the halls of the dorms, towards the theater. I barely glanced at the hallway with the nearly invisible door where I had found Liam. I couldn’t change the truth about him, but I could move on.

He hadn’t tried to contact me at all in the past two days, nor had I messaged him. I guessed my dramatic exit had made it clear that I couldn’t deal with this.

I did miss him, of course, although it was hard to admit it. I missed his arms around me, his sweet gentle kisses that came and went too fast when we snuck away to my room on lunch hour. I missed his guidance on my work and rehearsing alone in my room without anyone to point out flaws was starting to send me in a panic.

But all that had to be behind me. Whatever issues Liam was working through weren’t mine to deal with. How could I trust him ever again?

I hadn’t expected to find anyone in the theater at 7 AM. I had checked online, and it wasn’t booked by anybody. The rooms at school were open from 6.30 AM until midnight to all students to practise what they needed. Bigger rooms, like this theater, had to be booked in advance or used with the understanding that someone could book it at anytime. I hadn’t bothered, but I had figured no one else would be up this early. And I was right.

And so became my routine. Up early every morning, before the rest and into the theater just as the janitor unlocked the doors. The script to Beauty and the Beast became as natural to me as breathing. I had always wondered how it was possible to memorize a two and a half hour play, but I began to see it was easy. Deon was a lovely partner, who worked at my pace rather than surging ahead and expecting me to follow.

Sarah became my confidant again and we spoke every night. I dismissed Liam as a ‘bad idea that should have never happened’, and she pretended to believe me, even on nights when I didn’t believe myself.

And in class, Liam behaved like I was any other student. He spoke to me only when I needed direction and he was emotionless. His eyes were dark, cold and distant. We no longer caught each other’s gazes in class, no longer took separate directions just to sneak to my dorm.

With Liam not taking up all of my time, I began to make friends with my classmates, learning to trust them on and off stage. It was a slow process, of course, to learn to talk civilly to the girls that had shunned me for the first half of the semester. But now that Liam ignored me, their jealousy ebbed away, and we soon spent hours giggling in the hallways and reciting the same lines over and over until we were sick of them.

The girls showed me websites to submit for auditions on my own, and we often spent lunch hours tailoring each other’s resumes and emailing casting calls to each other. Although no one emailed me back, it felt like a good start; like I could do this on my own.

I was happy. I was afraid to admit it at first. I was afraid that things were too good and would disappear as quickly as they had appeared. But even Dad began to comment on the change in my manner, my speech and my mood. I was finally living the dream that I had longed for since I first set foot in the academy as a child, and being involved with the Headmaster had never been part of it anyway.

One morning, however, everything began to change.

The strands of the popular pop song reached my ears before I even fully opened the door to the theater. The lights in the audience were off, and the only light on was the main light on the stage. Porsche was flying through a dance routine, and attempting to cover the song as well, although her voice wasn’t quite the same as the pop singer.

She looked different than her ballet persona; her limbs moving with speed instead of slow grace and her red hair was flying all over the place. Porsche was gorgeous, in every way that counted, and I briefly wondered if Liam had told me the truth about their relationship. Or perhaps I had just been a pawn in the game.

“Sorry, I didn’t know the stage was in use,” I said, turning to go when she spotted me at the end of the song. She smiled, panting slightly and came to the front of the stage.

“No, no. I have an audition later so I thought I’d practise. But I would get slaughtered if anyone knew I was taking the stage from students. Hop on up.” She went to get a water bottle, gesturing to me to come up the steps. “How are you, Amy? I heard you were sick a while back.”

I blushed, looking away. The look that she gave me told me that she knew the full story behind it.

“What are you auditioning for?” I asked, changing the subject. She smiled.

“Sure. But you can’t be a ballerina forever. Like being a model, you age out of it fast, or you get injured and have no backup plan. In musical theater, there are parts galore for an older crowd. So once ballet is over, I can continue to dance. And maybe sing. But I doubt it.”

“It sounded good,” I offered her an encouraging smile. “Are you here to teach too?” Porsche guest taught the dance classes whenever she was in town, often jet-lagged and right off a plane. Her life was something I could only dream of, and it gave me hope, that even with a beeping watch reminding me to take my pills, I could still have a good career.

“Possibly. Auditions can take five minutes or keep you waiting two hours, so it depends when I get back. I’m hoping to be back in time for the five o’clock class, but the audition is at three, so who knows.”

“Wow,” I said, awed despite myself. “Are you excited?”

She shrugged again, reaching to tie her hair back.

“The average working performer goes to ten auditions before getting one job, so you can’t dwell too much on all of them. My stats are a little higher, maybe one in five, but still not a reason to put all my eggs in one basket.”

“Oh,” I said as I reached the stage. “I guess my stats are about 1 in 1 right now.”

“The only audition you’ve done is for here?” she asked, surprised. “Really?”

“You have to come with me!” She said abruptly, and my mouth hit the floor.

“What? No, I can’t. I mean, I haven’t submitted, I haven’t rehearsed, I don’t even know what it’s for, I don’t have a resume, I don’t…”

Liam’s deep voice surprised me from the wings. He approached from stage left, and unconsciously, I froze. I wasn’t quite sure what we were supposed to say or do now.

“That isn’t necessary,” I managed, finding my voice. Despite the fact that his voice was kind, it made me angry. I didn’t need any more hand outs. It was the first time we had spoken one on one since it happened. Mostly, he just barked directions at me from across the stage, and I obeyed them without answering.

“This industry is all about whom you know, Amy,” Porsche said a gentle smile on her face as she came to stand beside me. “And getting your foot in the door, however you can. Lots of people are talented, so you have to stand out.”

“If you didn’t come here to try and succeed, why did you come?” Liam’s voice had taken on that cold distant chill that I used to know him so well for. There was no warmth between us, no light, and no connection any more. “Who’s the casting director?” He addressed Porsche without so much as meeting my eyes.

“It’s Shannon,” she said, taking another sip of her water. “Which means she will needlessly remind me about the time I tripped in front of her?”

“At least she’ll see you,” There was the warmth I remembered, but it wasn’t directed at me. “Amy, you’ll go with Porsche after your English class this afternoon. If you’re feeling up to it.” His eyes bore into me, but I held my ground.

“Just for an acting call,” Porsche tried to reassure me. “We won’t force you to be a triple threat yet. Use the monologue you did for Beauty, it’ll be perfect.”

“Right,” I nodded, my heart hammering in my chest. I knew he was right. They both were. This industry was as much about whom you knew as what you could do. So, deciding to take the high road, I nodded. “Thank you.”

“What am I calling Shannon for?” Liam said, just as he turned to leave. “She’s probably casting 80 things right now.”

“Gatsby,” Porsche replied, rolling her eyes. “I told you about 60 times.” He raised an eyebrow.

“And you think you’d be a good Daisy Buchannan, then?”

“No, but Myrtle Wilson played by Porsche De Ritter has a nice ring to it.” She winked at him, and he sighed, heading out.

“Break a leg. And Amy?” He barely looked at me. “Try not to waste the whole day telling everyone. You have school work to focus on.”

“I’ll do that,” I replied, trying hard not to glare after him. He didn’t look back, strolling off as if he had said a pleasant goodbye. When the tension in the air cleared with his exit, I cleared my throat.

“Gatsby?” I turned to Porsche in shock. “That’s a huge production! Everyone in the school submitted for that at least twice. I think I submitted three times. Isn’t it set to star a Hollywood superstar as Gatsby himself? And that’s Shannon Valirie casting it? Didn’t she cast Wicked and Phantom and….” I could barely catch my breath.