“Porsche!” I cried, flying across the room to give her a hug.
“Hey, Amy.” Her voice was soft, and she felt about ten pounds lighter, her already thin frame feeling skeletal under my arms. She was burning with heat, her face shiny with sweat and her heartbeat could be heard even by my human ears. “How are you?” I could see the lesions on her arms, and subtly, when she opened her mouth, I could see the sores. I didn’t think it was possible to downward spiral as fast as she did and I wondered how long she had been hiding it from me, and from Liam. He seemed just as shocked as I was to see her this way.
“Forget me, how are you?” I asked. Porsche’s eyes went above my head, to meet Liam’s, who sighed.
“It’s better that she’s here, Amy. For you … and for her. So that she’s closer to me if anything happens.”
“And for him,” she said, with a soft smile. “My power grows every hour. By tonight, neither Liam nor Selene will transform.”
“But that means…” I said, trailing off with horror. She shrugged.
“Doesn’t matter anymore, Amy. It’ll all be over soon. But tonight, don’t worry about me. Worry about you.”
“It shouldn’t happen this quickly,” I said, looking up at her. “I mean, you’ve only been off AZT a few months.”
“I’m refusing treatment,” She said, putting down her mascara brush. She looked skeletal, her eyes cloudy and her cheeks hollow. “I’m done with all this.”
“So why not now?” I asked, looking to Liam. He shrugged.
“Porsche’s stubborn. She wants to protect us first. So we’ll wait as long as she can hold out…the run of the show at least.” Although he was speaking the words, I believed he disagreed with it as much as I did. His face was stony, and his eyes were dark.
“Thank you,” I said, turning back to her. She smiled, her eyes a bit teary.
“Anytime.” She said. “I hope we can still be friends when I’m on the other side, Amy.”
“Of course,” I replied. “It’s much more taboo for you to back an actor with no experience than for me to be friends with a vampire.”
Porsche laughed at that, leaning back against the pillows.
Liam shook his head, going to the mini fridge to get us both a bottle of water.
“Porsche, do you feel up to doing Amy’s makeup? I don’t feel comfortable letting her into the theater right now.”
“Would you?” I turned back to her. “I’m about as useful with makeup as I am fighting a dragon.”
“Sure, if you can be patient,” she replied, glancing at her makeup supplies. “I’m a bit slow today.”
I settled down on the bed beside her. It was hard to look; to see my future staring me in the face and know it waited for me each day. I hoped, when the day came, I would be at peace with it.
By 1:30pm, my hair was teased into millions of little curls that sat high on my head, and my makeup made me look like a supermodel. Although it took her a few hours, Porsche made me look more beautiful than I had ever looked in my life.
“Wow.” I said, looking in the hand held mirror. “Thank you.”
“Just enhancing what is already there, darling,” she said, as Liam came out of the bathroom, fully dressed. “What do you think?” She asked him.
Liam didn’t say anything for a moment. His eyes twinkled as they traveled from my neck to my eyebrows in awe. I blushed, looking down at my nails which were painted and shaped.
“You look beautiful,” he said. “But then…you always do.”
“Thank you,” I whispered and our eyes locked. This had been happening for days; these moments of intensity. We still hadn’t talked about our almost kiss backstage. It hung in the air like an elephant in the room.
“Ok you two.” Porsche slowly swung her legs around, standing up shakily. In a moment, Liam was beside her, supporting her. “I’m going to brush my teeth and change. It’s almost press conference time.”
“Do you want lunch?” Liam asked her. She shook her head. “Or anything? You’re still human, Porsche, so I suggest some nutrition.”
“Nope.” She closed the bathroom door, leaving Liam and I alone. He sat down beside me, so close I could see his pulse beat in his throat. He looked gorgeous, with his hair slicked back and a thin chain hanging around his neck, peeking through the open buttons on his dark dress shirt. His cologne wafted from his neck, a familiar scent that I realized I had missed.
“Are you ready?” I asked, and he nodded, reaching one hand up to tuck a strand of hair from my face.
“I’m glad you’re here, Amy,” he said, and I sighed.
“The best director I ever had once gave me a piece of advice,” he said, reaching down to put his hand over mine. I let him, enjoying the comfort of his touch. “We were about to go on stage, and he grabbed my arm right before the curtain went up. ‘Enjoy your time in the cabin with the other characters’ he said, ‘for it is very short and will never return. Live in the moment’. I think that night was the best show of my life. The real world is scary, Amy, even I know that. But our time as Beauty and the Beast…that is short and controlled and ends happily. And so we have to live in that moment.”
His face was inches from mine and this time I didn’t let the moment go to waste. I kissed him hard and fast, as if I was drowning and he was my life line. I put my hands on the back of his head, pressing my body closer. Liam sunk back into the pillows, pulling me on top of him, and groaned as I pressed down. Everything fit perfectly and felt so right; the feel of his body against mine, his touch, his caress.
He put his hands in my hair, pulling gently, and I moaned despite myself. We used to spend hours just snuggled up to each other, perfectly content in each other’s physical presence and nothing more. When we broke up, I told myself I didn’t miss it, but the truth was I was dying for him to touch me again.
His hands wandered down my back, and rested on my waist, pausing there as we continued to kiss. His eyes were closed and his face was relaxed from its earlier tension. I was in heaven.
“A-HEM.” I had forgotten we weren’t alone and turned around to see Porsche leaning against the door post looking amused. I jumped off Liam immediately.
Liam stayed reclined on the bed, looking bemused as I struggled to fix my hair.
“It’s ok, Porsche’s an adult. She’s fully aware of what we were doing.”
“Not that I wanted to see it,” she replied, a small smile on her face. “You two need to just get back together already. Seriously. It’s just awkward.”
Liam and I glanced at each other, and then away. I felt my cheeks grow hot and didn’t know what to say. Apparently, neither did he, because he cleared his throat and changed the topic.
“Yep.” I may have leapt up a bit too fast. “Are you coming, Porsche?”
“You two actually have half an hour,” she said, and I recognized a spark of the old fire in her eyes. “I’ve decided to get some food in the cafeteria before my empty stomach eats itself.”
“Are you sure?” Liam asked, and she nodded.
“Uh huh,” she said, although she looked ready to drop. “This is your day. Welcome to fame, Amy.”
“I suppose tripping and falling in front of everyone will be bad?” I said, trying to lighten the mood.
“All press is good press.” Porsche said, slowly grabbing her coat, even though it was a warm day. “It didn’t hurt Liam when he was falling down drunk every night and showing up to meetings stoned.”
“Well, that’s your opinion,” she shrugged, and I laughed. And then she headed out the door, leaving us alone once again.
“So where were we?” Liam asked, and I looked back at him.
“Uh…” I replied, suddenly awkward. He pulled me back, so I was lying on top of him, our faces inches apart as I looked down at him. “We were…here.”
“Yes, we were.” He said, stroking my face. We kissed and I felt my whole body light up with passion. I squirmed against him and he groaned, pulling me closer. I felt his need through his jeans, and could no longer deny my own.
“What?” He was breathless, looking at me as if I’d just stopped the world from spinning.
“I…you…protection?” I managed, and he shook his head, drawing me close again.
“Don’t worry about it. We don’t need it. Trust me. For either reason.”
“I bet there are thousands of girls whose boyfriends have told them that.” I said, as his hands slid down my thighs.
“I’ve never…” I said, and he stopped, looking at me.
“Hard when you are under house arrest your whole life. And also when…unless somebody else is infected…or you really hate them...”
“No more, Amy,” he put a finger to my lips, silencing me. “If you want this to be your first time … or if you want to wait? …”
“No.” I shook my head. “I want you, Liam.” After that, no more words were spoken. I surrendered completely to Liam’s touch as I lost myself to him.
It was only once we were walking down the hallway to the school’s media room that I realized once again how nervous I was. I gripped Liam’s hand tightly, feeling closer to him than ever before.
“There’s no going back from this, is there?” I asked Liam, as we stood outside the door, where I could hear the press was already gathered.