The crowd gasped, and Amy gasped as well. I could only offer her a smile though. I was sick of hiding from the whole world; hiding everything and keep everything a secret. I loved her, and I wanted everyone to know that. To reinforce what I said, I leaned in, kissing her gently on the lips.
“I do love you,” I told her, and she nodded, stunned. “And there’s no use hiding it anymore.”
“I love you too,” she whispered, delivering me another kiss while the crowd went wild. Finally, we broke apart and I turned back to the microphone, my job not yet done. Loving Amy was the easy part. Telling them what I had to tell them next was hard.
“I also…” I swallowed hard. “I also couldn’t have done this play without a very good friend of mine. Porsche De Ritter…” I almost choked on saying her name, but managed to continue. “Porsche was my first scholarship winner, although her time here was short…”
Amy choked at this, turning away slightly.
“She danced for the Russian National Ballet for 3 years as their Prima Donna, and she had quite a future ahead of her. She always found time to help out here, however, the place that gave her the start she needed…As many of you know, Porsche also suffered from AIDS, and it became harder to work as she got sicker. However she never faltered on her commitments and her dedication to helping me with this show…” I trailed off, not knowing where to go from here. I scanned the crowd, and saw students, teachers, and the media holding their breath. “It is with great sadness that I announce Porsche’s passing, early this evening. True to form, she made sure Beauty and The Beast went on without a hitch.” I raised a glass someone handed me and the crowd did the same, in stunned silence. “So to Porsche. And to Amy.” I put an arm around her. “And to unconventional love.”
It was as I knocked back the champagne that I spotted her in the crowd. She had on sunglasses and her mouth was closed, and so it was enough to hide what she really was. But Selene stood there, in the center of everyone, looking up at me with a sneer.
“Forever,” she mouthed at me, making time stand still for just that moment. And then Amy hugged me, and Selene was gone, as if she just melted away.
If my heart was beating it would have been beating swiftly at that moment. As Amy hugged me, and the crowd drank to my toast, and I focused on the spot where Selene was. I realized I needed to end this, once and for all. For Porsche, for Amy, and for me.
For three weeks, life almost felt normal again. A great sadness had come over the school, but it pushed us to be better at our work, at the show, at everything. It reminded us that life was short, and we should take every opportunity we could get.
And so we did. My friends and I began to go out more and seeing the city as never before. We had long talks at the cafeteria tables about our hopes and dreams and how we wanted to make them a reality. While Charisma was excellent at acting, she revealed what she really wanted to do was be a director. Another girl piped up with her dreams of a screenplay, and soon, we had a full movie plotted out to be shot and filmed when I returned from my Gatsby tour.
We talked about love, and loss. I discovered more than one girl had lost a parent, and some had no memories of anything but single parent life. I showed them the very few surviving photographs of my mom that I had, and we shared in the grief.
We talked about drugs, about disease and death. It was no secret that Porsche contracted AIDS from a dirty needle, and a lifestyle choice that she should have done without. For the first time, the hard partiers in the group began to realize that there was more to life than the dark of the night.
And of course, we talked about Liam. Although I didn’t want to share too much, everyone wanted to know the details of our love affair. I shared what I could, the difficulty of being together despite the age and status difference. Charisma told me she had once dated a man twenty years older than her, which of course, caused the others to gasp. The attention turned away me, and as I listened, I realized how lucky I was, despite all of this tragedy. If anyone had told me what my life would be like a year ago, I would have laughed in their face. But now, I was happy. Truly happy.
My father, of course, took that as an opportunity to sit down and grill Liam within an inch of his life. Quite the opposite of their meeting in the fall, when it was Liam lording over both of us; I almost laughed as I watched him sit across from my father at lunch and squirm uncomfortably at questions about his intentions and his integrity.
“No, sir, of course I won’t keep her up late. I don’t like being up late. In fact, you’ll never see me after sunset,” Liam swore, looking my father straight in the eye across our family dinner table. “Amy’s future success and happiness is always my main concern.”
“And no sleepovers,” my father said, returning the look. Liam seemed to shrink in his chair, and nodded, blushing furiously. “Good. Looks like we’ll get along then, Headmaster.”
“Yes,” Liam replied, although he wouldn’t look away from his food. I smiled, cutting into mine. The fact that Liam had never had a serious relationship before didn’t really throw me off. Neither had I, although our upbringings had been very different. At first, I had been terrified of what my father might say when he found out. But now, I saw that he just had my safety in mind, and wanted to make sure Liam made me happy. Which, I assured him, he did.
Since Liam’s announcement, it seemed like the whole world knew within a matter of hours. He had assured the press that we fell in love after my acceptance to the school not before. And although those rumors still swelled, it didn’t matter. Those close to us knew the truth.
My graduation papers had been scrapped, and I would return for another year after Gatsby went on tour this summer. I had not gotten the TV audition, no surprise there, but Liam had stepped in to offer his assistance and get me a proper talent agent. With Liam’s guidance, I began to learn the ins and outs of the industry beyond what the school taught me. How to spot a scam; how to know when it’s ok to laugh in an audition and when you have to stay stoic. How to get your name and face noticed without being in the way.
Having passed all of my courses, my final year would be more of an independent study, in which I was expected to put a production of my own, overseeing all aspects. Ideas were already swirling in my head as I thought of what I would do; everything from serious dramas to full Broadway productions. I was amazed at how much work went into a production, and I realized whatever I put on would truly have to make me happy all year because it was going to take up all of my time.
But this was not the time to think about it. Having closed Beauty and the Beast last night, we were to head to the theater after lunch for a different kind of show. Porsche’s funeral.
The Russian National Ballet had, in cooperation with Liam, flown in to put on one final show; a final goodbye to their young prima donna. I was trying not to think about it, sitting in the theater seats where she had sat only a few weeks ago, surrounded by people who had known and loved her. Porsche’s family, having never actually appeared in person, had requested that the results of her autopsy be kept a secret, much to our relief. To the world, the ballerina passed away from an AIDS related infection that took her life suddenly, but not unexpectedly. Already, I knew the Russian National had replaced her and life would move on.
But as lunch ended and we separated to get changed, it was getting harder and harder.
“How is everything?” Sarah asked, as I put her on speakerphone an hour later, rummaging around my room for my black outfit.
“It’s…ok.” I replied, pulling off my clothes to put the dress over my head. “I mean, as ok as can be expected. Liam’s sad, of course, and I miss her…but we’re ok. He took me out for pizza yesterday before the show and we had a good time. Sometimes…” I took a deep breath, looking at myself in the mirror. “Sometimes I think my heart will burst from loving him so much. This is like, Hollywood Movie type love. I thought it was fake.”
“It is a Hollywood Romance,” Sarah sighed happily on the other side of the phone. “And trust me, I know all about it because even here, the tabloid magazines tell me your every move. How was your pepperoni pizza with olives, by the way?”
“Shut up,” I laughed, a rare occurrence in the past few weeks, as I swept my hair up into a bun. “Did you submit your application yet for the school? Deadlines for the graduate program are only a few days away.”
Liam had decided to branch out and offer a graduate program next year that would be housed in a small building just off campus. He wanted no more than 10 students to try it out, and I, of course, had recommended Sarah. She didn’t know yet, but I was pretty sure all I had to do was say the word and Liam would let her in.
“I’m just finishing it up,” she replied. “I’m so excited. We could spend all next year together!”
“Well regardless, I’ll see you in a few weeks,” I said, putting a final pin in my hair.
“Yes, I can’t wait to see you in Gatsby, chorus member number 5,” she teased me, and I rolled my eyes.
“I should go, Sarah. It’s almost time.”
“Yeah,” her voice dropped a note. “I wish I could be there for you, Amy.”
“Soon enough,” I smiled sadly as I went to the phone. “Soon enough. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Bye,” she said, and hung up, leaving me alone in the silence of the room.
A knock came at the door, and I opened it. Liam stood there, head to toe in black as well.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied. “Amy, there’s a lot of paparazzi outside, alright? I just wanted to warn you.”
“They can’t even give us a moment’s peace, for a funeral?” I asked, as I locked my door and we headed towards the theater. Liam sighed.
“This is…the life I chose. But it doesn’t have to be yours.”