If she was gone from the school, and I confirmed it now, then I killed two birds with one stone. I’d be free of the awkwardness every time we saw each other and the school would soar to a new level of success. I could replace her as Beauty in an instant.

“I’ll talk to her,” I said as I opened the door. To my surprise, Porsche was stretched on the floor in the splits, her dancer’s body fully folded over as she stretched. She glanced at me, and I raised an eyebrow, watching her. She looked pale in the dawn light, her jaw set as her limbs contorted into poses only a dancer could pull off. “Hey, I also sent you Porsche De Ritter. She’s a dancer. My first scholarship winner.”

“I remember her.” Shannon replied, and her tone dropped. Porsche glanced at me, and I shrugged. “I’m holding dance call backs next week and I’m going to call her back.”

“Porsche’s the prima ballerina at the Russian National,” I snapped, my tone reflecting the look Porsche gave the cell phone. “Are call backs really necessary?”

“I’m worried about her stamina, Liam. Skinny little dancers like her can pull off a grand ball but 8 shows a week is a different matter. Even in the audition, it raised a red flag. Talk to your girl and get back to me by tomorrow.”

“Right,” I hung up the phone then, and crossed my arms, leaning against the bathroom doorway.

“Did she want Amy?” Porsche asked, as she slowly drew her limbs in.

“Forget Amy, what’s going on with you?” I didn’t miss the look of pain on her face as she came back into first position.

“I’ve been up all night, Liam, relax.”

“Well, you weren’t up all night when you auditioned, so why is Shannon going on about a lack of stamina?” I asked, heading to my dresser to pull out clothes.

“Uh,” Porsche replied, sitting on the bed and rotating both her ankles with her hands. I heard her joints pop from across the room and gave her a look. “Because Shannon is a helpless liar who will say anything to get her way and you know it? I swear, if she didn’t have so much power, I would never even look at her again.”

“Porsche…” My worst fear, looking into her face, was that she would do something incredibly stupid, which I knew she was capable of. She wanted to be human, I understood that. But insisting on waiting until her dying breath to be changed into a vampire was one of the stupidest moves she could make. We weren’t always together. We couldn’t be and I feared that one day, something would happen and I wouldn’t be able to get to her in time. “What do you know?”

“I know that all dancers age out and I’m jet-lagged, running on about an hour’s sleep. So you need to stop worrying. Now, did they want Amy?”

“They did,” I said, pulling on a shirt. “For a chorus role though. Rehearsals start soon, and then the show is on tour, so she certainly won’t have another year here. But Shannon is willing to do a partnership agreement. It’s an amazing boost for the school. It could help give us what we need to actually rank as top in the world.”

“And you won’t have to awkwardly stare at each other in class,” she pointed out, standing up. “Industry break ups are always awkward.”

“It’s not awkward,” I snapped, turning to distract myself. “She’ll stop looking at me like a lost puppy dog, and the school will get a boost. Win.”

“Except killing herself at rehearsal there, when she has a lead role here too, to just play a chorus girl and possibly get stuck there forever, isn’t the best advice in the world.” Porsche went to her purse, rummaging around for what I assumed were her pills. “Did you think of that?”

“I can’t hold their hands!” I protested, turning back to her. “I got her the audition, I got her the contact, and the rest is up to her. I need this for the school … whether she’s stuck in the chorus forever or not.”

“She’s better than that.” The dancer replied, quietly. “And she doesn’t have a lot of time to waste in the chorus.”

“That’s not really my concern.” I said, trying to ignore the look she was giving me. Porsche met my eyes, reading my face without even trying.

“You don’t want her to go, do you?” She asked, not seeming surprised at all. I scoffed at it.

“Of course I want her to go. Why exactly do I want a judgemental clingy teenager hanging around here?” I asked, and Porsche smiled slightly.

“You don’t remember when I found out about you? Shields aren’t supposed to ally themselves with anyone. We’re brought up to believe vampires are terrible evil creatures. It took me awhile to get over my prejudices and beliefs about you too.”

“You didn’t run screaming from the room in terror, either.” I said. “Making me feel like I was some sort of monster.”

“We’re all some sort of monster.” She pointed out, and we fell into silence a moment, locking eyes. Eventually, I looked away, not wanting to address the fact that she could read me like an open book.

“Now, are you going to teach for me today, since you’re taking up space?”

Porsche rolled her eyes, swallowing the antiretroviral meds without water, and rising, heading to the shower herself.

“Whatever, Liam,” she replied, but the slamming of the door told me she meant much differently. I rolled my eyes, letting the towel drop to fully get dressed.

She had a point of course. Shannon did have a tendency to make sure her chorus performers felt lower than the ticket takers at the theaters they performed at. And Beauty and the Beast would be attended by scouts across the country; the year end show always was. But at the moment, thinking of how Amy had bolted from the room that night, I really didn’t care.

I tried to rationalize with myself, jogging my memory of all the people I had seen fall because they were thrown into the world too early. They had shown too much promise at an audition and were given a lead role in a professional setting without training or discipline. Their talent faltered, their stamina failed, or they got too used to the easy money and fell down the wrong path. The industry was a hard world to live in and if you didn’t come up slowly, your peak would also be your downfall.

Except I couldn’t forget the memory of her audition. She had stood out from the crowd and it was more than just the way she looked, or the way she smelt. Amy had the most raw talent that I had ever seen. From the moment she opened her mouth, I was mesmerized, barely able to get the lines out myself.

And classes were just awkward. Porsche was right. I had to resist not meeting her eyes to give her a special glance; resist not looking forward to lunch time when we used to meet. Her supple lips nearly killed me every time she licked them. And the memory of her body, lean and smooth, as my hands had run over it, was almost enough to make me groan out loud.

I finished buttoning my shirt, and ran a bit of gel through my hair, satisfied with the reflection in the mirror. The sooner I was rid of all of this, the better it would be for all of us.

I had called her into my office to deliver the news of the phone call. Shannon had faxed over the contract, clear in her assumption that we would accept.

“Yes, you wowed them, just as you wowed me,” I replied, but there was no warmth in my voice as I said it. She narrowed her eyes, watching as I got a pen and put the contract in front of her.

“What about next year? I thought that it was pretty much decided I would get an extra year.”

“Well, now you won’t,” I snapped, trying to hide the nagging feeling in my chest. Raw talent was just half the game. Everyone knew that.

“But still, this is huge,” Even if we weren’t really on speaking terms, her happiness was flowing out of her like a river. And I felt bad not offering her more advice. She wanted help, and that’s what I was supposed to be there for.

“So you accept?” I asked, and she looked up, detecting the tone in my voice.

“No reason,” I said, with a shrug. “Only that it’s a small role. And I know Shannon. She’s not particularly fond of people rising through the ranks. And, if you take this, you’re gone. There’s no coming back here if you find Hollywood too nasty for you.”

“But it can be done. Aaron Douglas was an extra for years before he was a lead. And so was Ricky Gervais,” she replied, listing off names on her fingers. “I can do it. And I can do it on my own, Liam. They would have called me in for an audition without your influence. They told me so themselves.”

“And you believe everything the audition panel tells you? That alone screams that you have no idea what the industry is like, Amy. If they don’t like you - you make one wrong move - they’ll drop you and blacklist you faster than you can cry for help. And sometimes, you don’t even know you’ve made the wrong move. For God’s sake, you didn’t even know that when the panel said ‘thank you’ they meant ‘goodbye’. In the mock auditions, you stood there like a deer in headlights until your instructor dismissed you.”

“That’s not true, I knew that!” she protested, glaring at me.

“Fine.” I looked over at my wall, glancing at anything that would keep me from meeting her eyes. “Then sign it. Once the announcement is official, and they don’t back out, we’ll credit you for graduation here.”

“Do you think…” Suddenly I heard the doubt in her voice. I looked up and saw all traces of anger were gone, as she looked over the contract and then back at me. “Do you think it’s a bad idea?”

I sighed, looking back at her. “You can do whatever you want, Amy. You’ve been doing that all along.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Her eyes flared angrily again, and I cocked an eyebrow at her. I almost smiled as I realized how alike we were; this constant back and forth of extreme emotions tumbling out faster than we could get a hold of them.