“Sure there is,” he said. “This industry is cruel, they will forget you in an instant if they want to.”
“I don’t think that’s helpful,” Porsche said, listening at the door. Liam shrugged, but gave me a small smile, reaching down to take my hand. He squeezed and I squeezed back, grateful. “I think they are ready for you. I’ll go do your introduction. That way, if Selene is waiting for you, I’ll know.”
“Ok,” Liam nodded, and Porsche slipped through the door, holding her head high. Liam and I stood in the hallway, in silence a moment, listening to the muffled sounds behind the door.
“Thank you,” I said, looking up at him. “For all of this. For everything. I never would have been able to do any of this without you.”
“Amy,” he said, looking down at me. “You were meant for this. There is no way your talent wouldn’t have been discovered. With or without me, you would have been an actress.”
“But without you…I wouldn’t have ever known how wonderful this is,” I said, leaning into his side. He put his arm around me, and I closed my eyes, relaxing into his grip.
“I was ready to give up hope before I met you,” he muttered, and I froze, looking up at him. He kissed the top of my head, indicating the door. “Ready?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, taking a deep breath and steeling myself. Liam gave me one last hug and then opened the door.
“Ladies, and gentleman, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the stars of Beauty and The Beast tonight…”
Porsche was standing at the microphone, looking miles better than she did standing in the hallway. I admired her for it - it was the mark of a great performer. The rest of the introduction was drowned out by cheering and clapping. Cameras flashed and questions were being slammed at us. Liam had to drag me up on the stage; I was so blinded by the flashes.
Luckily, Liam knew how to handle the questions. He waited until people stopped screaming and then took the questions one at a time, only fielding the easiest ones to me, such as “are you happy to be a part of this show?” It was over in a flash, and before I knew it, we were heading off the stage, away from the press. I couldn’t believe that they were actually so interested in me. Apart from questions about the show, they had wanted to know about my life. Where I had grown up, how I came to audition, what my hopes and dreams were. And of course, everything about my personal life, which I already chose not to answer. When they asked if I had a boyfriend, I looked away and shook my head. I could feel Liam’s eyes burning at me, but I knew it was the right thing to say. If I wasn’t certain of what was happening right now, the press didn’t have the right to know.
The photo shoot went the same way; a constant flash of cameras, and what seemed like hundreds of paparazzi standing before us. When it was finally over, I felt out of breath, waving goodbye before heading behind the curtain. We were running late, and Liam had told me as soon as we were done, it was time to start getting ready. I had to be completely fresh faced and re done as Beauty, so it would take plenty of time.
I thought I was nervous for the press conference, but the nerves that descended on me as I sat in the hair and makeup chair were now worse than ever.
“Break a leg for me, darling.” Porsche stuck her head through the door, looking about as bad as I felt. Still, she had a smile on her face as she came over to give me a hug. She was burning up. I could feel it from half a foot away. But I said nothing and gave her a tight hug.
“I’ll be in the audience. It’s past sunset and Liam hasn’t changed,” she whispered in my ear. I nodded, wrapping my arms around her.
“Thank you,” I replied, and she gave me a quick kiss on the forehead, rubbing my shoulders.
The makeup artist finished my final coat of lip-gloss, and leaned back, nodding.
“Alright, Amy, you’re ready,” she said. “I’ll do a touch up at intermission. But you’re perfect. You look just like Belle in the Disney movie.”
“She was a cartoon,” I said, and the makeup artist laughed, gathering up some of her stuff.
“Good luck,” she said, and then she left, and I was alone for the first time in hours.
I took a deep breath, looking into the mirror. I did look like Belle, with my hair tied back and the peasant girl dress. My eyes looked huge and my skin was glowing.
Trying not to tremble, I stood up and walked out of the room. Despite not being on for a few scenes, Liam was already standing in the wings, waiting for the lights to dim.
Seeming him immediately calmed me down. My palms stopped sweating, my heart slowed and I could breathe normally again. A wave of relief washed over me and I knew I could tackle whatever was waiting for me on the stage. It was then that I realized I couldn’t do this- I couldn’t walk away. I may know how to act, and I may have blown Liam away at the auditions, and Shannon, but without his guidance and help, I would never be able to continue. Acting really was only half of this industry, and the rest I still had to learn.
“Hey,” Liam turned around, smiling at me as he glanced at the backstage clock. “Look at you.”
“Look at you. All…human still,” I said, knowing that could have a double meaning, without his beast costume. He smiled.
“The power of Porsche,” he replied, putting an arm around me. “You ready?”
“Yeah,” I said, taking a deep breath. “Have you processed my graduation papers yet?”
He gave me a strange look, but shook his head.
“No, I didn’t have time. But it’s on the 22nd of June. You planning ahead?”
“Yes,” I nodded, giving him a smile. “I thought…Liam, I thought I could stay. Another year. With you.” I looked up to meet his eyes, taking his hand. “If that’s ok.”
“Amy…” He breathed, turning fully to face me. He was quiet for a few moments. “Amy, you are so beautiful…and you are so talented…you are miles ahead of everyone here, and you are ready for this.”
“No,” I shook my head. “And I know it. If I stay out there with Shannon, it’ll break me. I’ll finish touring Gatsby, but then I want another year here. I…I need you.” I said. He bit his lip, and I was surprised to see tears building in his eyes.
“I need you too, Amy,” he said, and he kissed me. I wrapped my arms around him, standing on my tiptoes to not have him strain so much. There was nothing holding us back any longer. I let go of everything I was feeling, giving myself completely over to him. I had never felt so sure of anything in my life. Everything felt right.
“And if I stayed…” I said, breaking apart from him. “Got a second chance…perhaps you and I could also have a second chance?”
“Good,” I said, giving him another little nip on the lips. His smile turned devilish, and he leaned down, about to return it when a stage hand approached.
I closed my eyes, turning to face the stage. I saw the lights dim and the opening number started to play.
“No going back now,” I muttered, and Liam laid a light kiss on my head.
“Go on, Beauty. It’s your time to shine,” he said. I took a deep breath, looking up at his face. And then, knowing that he was behind me, I stepped forward. It was time.
As soon as I stepped out onto the stage, I didn’t feel like me anymore. All of these fears had run through my head. I had worried about the silliest things; from forgetting my lines to tripping or puking on the stage. But from the second Beauty`s first lines came out of my mouth, I was a different person. I was her, from head to toe. And when Liam entered the stage for the first time, I didn`t see Liam, the love of my life, the vampire, my headmaster. I saw the Prince; the Beast; the hated man in the castle who intrigued and interested me like no other.
The townspeople were transformed from my classmates to people I had grown up with all my life. Ryan, who played one of my potential suitors and was actually one the nicest boys in senior year, made bile rise in my throat the second he approached me on stage. I was so distracted by Beauty`s feelings and thoughts that I felt shell-shocked when intermission came and the curtain came down.
I was still in a daze when I made it off the stage. Everyone was rushing about, trying to reset the stage for the bigger scenes, which took place in the second half.
I was standing by the call sheet, trying to remember how much time I had to get changed, when someone grabbed my arm. I turned around, and Porsche nearly stumbled into me.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, alarmed. She was pale as a sheet, and her jaw was clenched in a familiar way, trying to ward off nausea. “Porsche?”
“It’s her,” she whispered, urgently. “She’s here. She’s in the audience. And she obviously knows there’s a shield here, because she looks damned confused why she hasn’t transformed yet.”
“Oh God,” I groaned, looking around as if I expected Selene to just appear.
“He uh…he’ll be getting his makeup retouched. I’ll find him, alright? You just…” I looked around for a chair but she shook her head.
“I’m going back out. It’ll be more effective the closer I am to her. Find Liam and tell him she’s here. But she hasn’t tried anything yet, so I doubt she’s going to. Just…be careful out there, Amy.”
She swayed alarmingly, gripping the wall and I was hesitant to let her go.
“And Amy…” she blurted out, right before she shooed me off. “Tell Liam that it’ll be tonight. For him and I.”
I stood, open mouthed, but nodded, watching as she stumbled off. Tonight. Everything came down to tonight.