“I read it at home, by myself. I know the story. But…”

“Then you’ll do fine,” she replied. “Most actors have so many auditions they show up without a clue, anyway. But don’t focus on that now. You came here to rehearse something else, I think.”

“I did,” I nodded, but suddenly, Beauty and The Beast didn’t seem so important.

The day went by in a blur. It took every ounce of concentration I had to not think about it. Even though I managed to get through class and rehearsal and no one asked why I was actually like a space cadet, I still couldn’t help but watch the clock every ten seconds. At least watching the clock kept me from watching out for Liam.

It still happened, much to my annoyance. I found myself quickly searching a room for him, or my heart skipping half a beat when he walked in. If our eyes happened to meet, they still lingered for half a second, but now, they held no warmth.

At exactly 2:55, I met Porsche at the front of the school.

“Do you think this is ok?” I asked, gesturing down to my outfit. “I mean, do I have time to change?”

“They want to see you, not your wardrobe. You look fine,” she assured me, placing a hand on my shoulder. It was only then that I noticed the band-aid on her arm.

“Are you ok?” I asked, pointing to it as we began to walk. It was a 25 minute walk to the audition studio.

“Sure,” she shrugged, pulling her sleeve over her hand and putting her thumb through one of the fashion-placed holes in the cuff. “A little infection a couple days ago. Nothing that an IV wouldn’t take care of.”

“I know that story. You’re still on AZT, right? Nothing yet?”

“I am,” she looked to me. “It’s nice to have someone who actually understands the medical jargon.”

Porsche took a deep breath, looking me up and down before continuing.

“It doesn’t really matter anyway. I’ll live my life and then when it comes to its natural end, Liam turns me.”

I knew that. In the back of my mind, I had known that about her. He had told me. But hearing her say it out loud was still shocking.

“But why would you go through all of it?” I asked. “Once the disease descends into full blown AIDS, it’s going to be brutal, and we all know that.”

“Because I will have all of eternity to be immortal,” she replied. “And a very short time to remember what being mortal is.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that, how to continue this conversation. It was surreal to be talking completely seriously about vampires.

“He’s a good person, Amy…” she started, and that’s when I caught her off.

“I really don’t want to talk about it, Porsche,” I snapped, shaking my head. “It happened, and it’s over. And it’s a lot more complicated than him simply being…what he is.”

“I get that,” her voice was still gentle, despite my tone.

“Well, you don’t, because you get to be immortal when it’s done,” I replied. She glanced at me, sharply.

“No!” The thought had never even crossed my mind. “Can we talk about something else?”

“Sure,” she looked away and despite our agreement, we lapsed into silence until we hit the audition studio. It was small, smaller than I had been expecting, and there were very few people in the waiting room when we walked in.

“Professional auditions are smaller,” Porsche told me, as she signed us in. “You usually have to have a resume a mile long and be personally known by the director.”

“Lucky me,” I said, as I took a seat. The other two people in the waiting room were beautiful male actors, probably not much older than me. I was grateful for the fact that we didn’t have to sit there with someone competing directly with us, and so I settled in comfortably, watching them warm up. “Are you guys dancers?” I asked when I had caught their gaze one too many times.

“Yes,” One of them, the more beautiful of the two, I felt, nodded. He had dark hair and light blue eyes that contrasted beautifully with his dark skin. “Are you?”

“No.” I shook my head. “She is, though,” I said, indicating Porsche, who uncrossed her legs and smiled, although it was tight lipped.

“Braedon and I know each other,” she said. “Braedon, this is Amy, the scholarship winner of the Academy this year.”

“Well, well, well. Looks like Liam is still picking them pretty,” he held his hand out to me, and I shook it, but immediately felt uneasy. There was something about the way he looked at me that I didn’t like, as if he were judging me. I felt myself sit up straighter. I may have gotten here on a scholarship, but I had talent too. If there was one thing I still trusted about Liam, it’s that he wouldn’t have thrown the school to the wolves by casting a horrible actor even if I hadn’t been the best one.

Porsche had been right about the waiting. It was agonizing. Despite being the only four in the waiting room, it was over and an hour and a half before someone appeared at the door. Exiting just ahead of her was another group of what appeared to be dancers, tired and sweaty.

“Alright, next group? Dancers, you’ll be at dance call for two hours, so if you need to call anyone, do it now.”

“Wait for me?” Porsche asked, as she stood, putting her stuff away. “You’ll probably be called in and done before me.”

“Uh…sure,” I said, shrugging. She was just about to leave when she turned back.

“Shoot. Amy, be a dear and text Liam, tell him I certainly won’t be able to teach today,” she said it without even waiting for an answer. If she had gotten one, however, it would have been a frustrated growl from me. And I’m sure she knew that. This was a set up.

I slid my phone out of my pocket, scrolling down the contacts. Liam was still saved as ‘Lover’, lest anyone find my phone when I left it lying around. My heart was hammering more than before. The nervousness of the audition combined with the fact that I now had to make contact with Liam. The only audition I had even done was with him and the only acting advice I had ever gotten was through him as well. Doing all of this alone was weighing heavily on me.

At the last second, I hit call instead of SMS and brought the phone up to my ear. It rang once, twice, three times, and I was hoping it would go to voice mail when Liam picked up.

“Hi, it’s Amy,” I said, the words tumbling out.

“Yes?” He sounded annoyed and I could hear the background noise of the school hallways.

“Porsche just went in for dance call, so she wants me to tell you she won’t be able to teach tonight. And I’m uh…still waiting.” My heart was beating so hard that I could barely get the words out. I felt sweat dripping down my back and I knew my voice was trembling. I was frustrated at myself for feeling this way, but no matter how many calming thoughts I tried to think, nothing was helping.

“Ok,” Liam sounded gentler now, and the noise in the background faded. “Is everything alright?”

“Um, yeah.” Suddenly, I didn’t want to hang up on him. I didn’t want to shut out his voice. “Thank you. For this.”

“Not a problem,” he replied, and I heard a note of concern. “If you don’t feel like walking back, Amy, please do call me, I can certainly arrange for you to be picked up.”

“I’m fine. Really.” But even listening to him was slowing the beat of my heart. I heard a noise and looked up, to see someone standing at the door again, looking directly at me. “Got to go.” I hung up the phone abruptly, shoving it into my pocket.

“Are you Amy?” The woman at the door asked, and I nodded. “Come right this way.”

“Sure,” I squeaked out, standing up. I followed her down a winding hallway, which seemed endless. She didn’t say a word to me, didn’t turn back to make sure I was right behind her. I closed my eyes as we walked and tried remember the lines to the monologue I had burned into my brain.

She opened a door, leading me into a small room. Behind a table were three other people; two men and a woman.

“Sorry for the wait, we needed to see a bit of the dancers first,” The other woman said, reaching out to shake my hand. “I’m Shannon. It’s nice to meet you. I saw your submission a week ago and thought you looked like a perfect Daisy. But I didn’t realize who you were. People.” She addressed her panel. “Amy is the new scholarship winner at Leopard Academy.”

“Oh.” They gave me a smile and I felt anger flare. Was that how I was going to be referred to the rest of my career - as a by-product of Liam’s success? Perhaps letting him get me this audition was not such a good idea. If Shannon had liked my look, had she been planning to call me anyway? I scanned my memory quickly, trying to remember if I had left my phone off at any point or forgot to check my junk email. “And what do you have prepared for us, Amy?”

“Uh…” I passed, taking a deep breath. “A monologue, one that we are working on in school.”

Shannon waved her hand, indicating I should head to the center of the room and start. Starting was the hardest part, and it took several breaths before the words came out of my mouth. But once they did, they flowed. I knew this monologue, I knew Beauty’s emotions and feelings as well as I knew my own. The fact that the people were unfamiliar to me and that the staging was different didn’t bother me. I leapt into it, not holding back anything. Make Strong Choices. Liam’s motto echoed in my head, and when I finished, I found myself on the ground, Beauty’s tears pouring from my eyes.

There was a silence from the panel, and then they nodded.

“Thank you, Amy. We’ll be making our choice in the next few days and will be in touch.”