“Careful,” I finished the sentence with an eye roll, and then rolled up my sleeves in order to wash the massive pile of vegetables in the tin bowl in front of me. The vegetables were meant to go with a home-made dip that was being prepared opposite me, and nothing at this school was done simply. I knew that simple cubes of cucumber or carrot sticks weren’t going to suffice. Instead, I cut shapes, stars, circles and squares, making a rainbow array of colors and shapes, arranging them on platter after platter. I smiled as I worked, listening to the conversations around me. It was so nice to be out of the house, and around people. Still, my heart hammered every time I looked at the clock. I was timing my three breaks so that each one would coincide with catching a bit of my favorite classes, or seeing my favorite instructors. If I could slip in just three times today, it would be enough to keep me happy for another few days.
It was like an addiction, seeing the classes run, watching the rehearsals. I had read the symptoms of addiction for a course last year and it all fit–dependency, need to lie, first thing you think about when you wake up, etc. But it could be worse. I could be doing drugs. Illegal ones, I thought to myself with a little laugh as I cut up a red pepper into the shape of a star. Legal ones, I’d been doing since birth. HIV positive patients had enough drugs prescribed to them to run a small pharmacy.
When the clock struck 10:15, I stopped and headed to the back to take off my apron, gloves and hairnet. “Going for coffee!” I called to Adam, who nodded at me, absorbed in his work. I could probably go to the moon and he wouldn’t notice, as long as I got the vegetables done.
Pulling my hair into a bun and trying to repair the damage the hair net had caused, I zipped up my jacket so as to not look so obviously like a chef. The students around me wore an array of colors, except for the senior ones who were currently in rehearsal week for physical theater. They were required to wear all black, all the time, and you could always spot them in the crowd.
I was heading toward room 3C, a huge lecture hall, in order to catch a lecture on Koobooki theater, when I was distracted by a girl’s bright yellow poodle skirt. Suddenly I felt my body connect with someone else’s. The force of it made me stumble back a little and I narrowly missed the lockers.
I knew instantly whom I’d walked into. It wasn’t hard to recognize him after all these years. Always surrounded by a cloud of staff, as if he was too good to even brush elbows with the students, stood Liam Swift. He glanced back at me quickly as he continued walking, and our eyes met, just once, before his entourage continued to sweep him away.
Liam Swift. Sarah and I practically had a heart attack when he rose to Hollywood fame. He was insanely gorgeous, probably one of the best looking men I had ever seen, with piercing light grey eyes, and dark, almost black hair kept a little too long, so that soft strands were almost touching his eyes. With pale skin, and a lean, muscular body, he was enough to make any girl fall over and do his bidding. Still, despite being stunning, he was one of many Hollywood actors we obsessed over.
At the peak of his career, Sarah had unearthed the fact that his grandfather, Peter, ran a theater school—this school. This discovery alone was enough to draw me here more often than usual. But three years ago, in a flurry of media announcements that had me glued to the local news, Liam had come to our town.
Hollywood Superstar Liam Swift , just twenty-three years old and already on Forbes rich list, announces that he will be taking over the role of headmaster at Leopard Academy, a prestigious theater school founded by his grandfather, Peter Smith. Liam will begin his new duties in September of this year, officially retiring from filmmaking.
I could still hear the newscaster’s voice in my ears as she made that announcement. My heart was pounding and I could hardly believe it.
The media had gone crazy, covering every event, attempting to get a glimpse of their favorite star. But now, it had pretty much died down, letting the school function as normal. In fact, the only one who seemed not to function as normal was this egotistic stuck up headmaster, who never said a kind word to anyone. He always travelled with an entourage of other teachers and I hadn’t ever seen a student approach him.
His classes were small, and protected, as they were mostly the junior and senior ones, so I had never attended any of them. But while I was curious about his technique, I could study it by watching his movies a million times. His personality, up close, didn’t seem worth chasing after. But those eyes … perhaps those eyes would change my mind.
I shook myself out of my own thoughts, opening the door to the lecture hall and going to sit in the back row. No one noticed. As usual, the class was full of energy and excitement, even though it was just a lecture.
For the next ten minutes, I floated on the professors words, watching image after image of Koobooki style theater float by on the big screen, listening to the techniques each type of actor would apply.
I didn’t have my note book with me, but I took notes on my phone, until it buzzed, reminding me to get back to the kitchen. With a sigh, I waited until the Professor changed slides and then slipped out, hurrying back to the vegetables.
“Amy, call your father,” Adam said, the second I slipped back in. I reached to pull out my phone, and dialed home, trying to pull my hair net back on with the other hand.
“Amy?” Dad asked, the moment he picked up.
“Yes, I’m fine. Just had first break,” I said, as I tied the apron with difficulty. “I’m cutting vegetables all day, nothing I can’t handle.”
“Good. I told Adam to give you something easy. How are you feeling?”
“I just told you, I’m fine. How are you feeling?” I countered, glancing at my appearance in the mirror. Glamorous, I thought, sarcastically.
“Better. You shouldn’t have to be there much longer, Amy.”
“Take as long as you need, Dad,” I replied, leaning on the phone so I could straighten my apron. “Really. I’m ahead on school work, so it’s not a big deal.”
“Just be careful,” he told me again, and then bid me goodbye. However, not before making me promise to call him on my next break. I did, and hung up, putting the phone into my purse. If he was going to ring me several times, at least it would be back here.
“Do you want to make a prop?” Adam asked me, approaching with two grocery bags. I nodded, anything was better than cutting vegetables. Peaking inside, I found exactly what I was hoping for.
Adam laughed at my delight. “Yes. There’s an accident scene in one of the freshman classes, so they need a lot of fake blood. But you’ve gotta play with it a bit. It’s got to look real, but thinner, be easily wiped off, because in the next scene, they are fine.”
“Right,” I nodded, my mind already turning. Fake blood was easy: corn syrup, food coloring and water. I was already thinking that making it with ice-cubes instead of hot water would keep it thinner and easier to wipe off, without losing its realism.
I set right to work, mixing, stirring and testing. I could only imagine the scenarios in my head that they would need it for; the creativity that required playing injured. Perhaps the actor would have to fake cry? That was my favorite thing to learn how to do; I had practiced in front of my bedroom mirrors for weeks before I learned how to make tears come on cue. I had been so excited that I almost cried for real. Of course, I thought sadly as I stirred a bubbling pot full of fake blood, that was for fun. They need this for real. Lucky.
I had become so lost in my own thoughts that I barely noticed the hours slip by. But when my stomach grumbled, I was surprised to look up at the clock and find it was 12:50pm. Perfect, I thought. I had brought a sandwich and could eat it in the back of the theater. They were rehearsing act one of their production in there this afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to watch it with full lighting.
“LUNCH!” I called to Adam. “Oh, and I think the blood’s ready. Worthy of any vampire.” I grinned, pulling the spoon out to show him the consistency of him. He raised an eyebrow, coming over to test it on the inside of his wrist.
“Hey, that’s not bad,” he replied, nodding. “You want me to send this over?”
“Sure, just let it cool, but I think it’s done.” I replied, pulling off my apron and wiping my hands on it. It certainly looked like blood, even as it dried, darker than it was wet. “See you after lunch.”
“Call your father!” he called after me, and I turned, giving him thumbs up, before heading into the change room.
I texted Dad this time, quickly, as I hurried down the halls. I didn’t want to miss the start of the show, and my sandwich was finished before I even entered the next building.
On lunch. Going to read a book. I wrote. It was a lame excuse, but he would believe it. I always had my nose in a book, what else was there to do at home? I put my phone away, rounding the corner, attempting to slip into the hall quietly. I did not expect what I was met with.
There were loud voices coming from the hallway. It was impossible to make out individual words in the din. There were at least a hundred girls, maybe more, in a queue that snaked around the hallway and into the next one.
I stopped short before I almost ran into somebody. This had happened before, when I was trying to watch a show. They sometimes invited neighbouring schools to watch dress rehearsals, various young drama classes and such. These girls must be from the girls’ school on the south side of town. All of them were perfect; tall, thin and beautiful; the type that a private school usually attracts. I immediately felt inadequate, with my thrift store clothes, and hair a mess, not wearing a scrap of makeup.
Self consciously, I attempted to pull my hair back into a bun, and prayed it would stay that way. I moved past the girls, who were standing in single file. I figured if they were all from one school, they had to stay together, and I could slip past them and get a good seat before they were all gone.
There was a commotion up front and I knew who it was before I even looked up. Liam. Escorted as usual by his entourage, I was surprised to also find a crowd of media. That hadn’t happened here in awhile and I assumed they had given up on him. But here they were, squawking, cameras flashing, as if he hadn’t ever been away from Hollywood at all.