“I don’t care about the future,” I said, meeting his eyes. “I came here, prepared to hate you…but all that’s changed. All of it. I feel things about you that I have never felt before, not with any man. All of a sudden, the world is real. The fairy tales I’m reading are coming true.”

“Are you not frightened?” Suddenly Liam was on his feet, growling at me. “Do you not know what awaits you, if you choose this fate? This life with me?”

There was silence, and internally I panicked, wondering if I had forgotten a line. He stared at me for an impossibly long time, and although it made me incredibly uncomfortable, I tried not to break his gaze. Acting was about looks as much as the words that came out of your mouth, and so I continued to meet his eyes with what I thought was love and support; things I thought Beauty would feel for her Beast. No one said anything for quite awhile, and then Liam left the table without another word. Everyone watched as he went over to Porsche and whispered something in her ear.

The girl nodded and then crooked a finger, beckoning me over. I went, in the silence, over to her, as Liam passed me, calling “NEXT!” in that gruff bark that was startling to everyone.

“What’s your name?” Porsche asked, when she had taken me out into the hallway. I panicked, thinking I was in trouble, that they had caught me, until I remembered that this was a good thing. Had I actually done well? Out of all the girls who had auditioned so far, he hadn’t sent one of them over here yet.

“Amy,” I said, and spelt my last name for her. She asked a few more details and then scribbled them down as well, making sure my phone number and email were correct. My heart began to sink when she asked for my experience and resume. Of course, having none, I babbled about my work in the kitchens. Maybe all she wanted was to know I wasn’t a complete spoiled deadbeat teenager who never had a job? In a last ditch effort, I mentioned my father, and homeschooling, hoping anything I had would help. It was when she asked about my mother’s profession that I shook my head and tried to change the subject. Outside of the house, I never talked about my mother. I was afraid that the very few memories I had of her, a scent, a happy feeling, would disappear, if I exposed her to the public. They were my memories, all I had left.

Up close, Porsche seemed very familiar, and finally, when she bent over to pick up the pen she dropped, did it click. “Are you a dancer?” I asked, before I could stop myself. “You are, aren’t you? You’re a ballerina for the Russian National?”

“Yes,” she said, with a smile, but offered me no more information. Instead, she instructed me to stand against the wall, taking my picture with a Polaroid camera.

“But why are you here then? Did you retire, like Liam did?”

“Nope,” The girl was incredibly tight lipped on information, and it was leading me to believe she really was dating Liam, in secret. “Now Amy, one more question. Do you have any medical conditions?”

“Uh…” My breath caught in my throat. I put myself through all that only to get caught up with this.

“Lying won’t do you any good,” Porsche said. “If we take you as a student and don’t put it on the insurance, we could get in a lot of trouble. It’s not going to affect your chances, we just need to know. What condition do you have?” I was about to lie, but the fact that she asked “what” meant that she already knew, somehow.

“I’m HIV positive,” I said. Porsche stopped at this suddenly, looking at me with an emotion I couldn’t quite read. Judgement? Sympathy? Disgust? “Not from drugs or anything like that. My mom was infected. But I’m fine and I’m healthy and I take all the right pills and the doctor says my chances are good. AIDS isn’t a death sentence anymore and…” She waved her hand with a smile, writing it down.

“It’s fine, Amy. We just needed to know. Thanks. We may be in touch.” She gave me a look to indicate that we were more than done here. I nodded and made my way back to the kitchens. It seemed like days ago that I had left them, even though it was just an hour. I was trembling, although I’m sure it wasn’t that noticeable. Still, it took a moment of effort to snap my rubber gloves on.

They had taken my information … that was a good thing, right? And they hadn’t thrown me out on the spot when they found out about my health, so that was also good. Still, I knew I needed to put it out of my mind. There were girls in there who were better than me, and I knew it. I had only seen the first twenty auditions, and there were at least two hundred. There was no way I had a shot.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling of hope that I had. I had done well, I knew that. And acting in front of the audience for the first time had given me such an adrenalin rush that I soared my way through the rest of the food prep and was allowed to leave early.

As soon as I was out of the kitchen, I texted Sarah. Her response was immediate.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. She replied, the message sent over and over again. What was he like? Tell me everything, every moment, every detail.

He seemed kind of stuck up, as always. Like it was an annoyance to be doing this. I looked up as I crossed the street. When my feet hit the sidewalk again, I continued texting. It’s a tradition his grandfather started, so I guess he felt he had to. Regardless, it was a good experience.

You should have snuck in and watched the rest of the auditions! Pretended you had to work late. She typed quickly. Omg, if you get in, I might just have to kill you out of jealousy.

Dad would kill me. I’m almost home, so I’ll catch you later. I sent a smiley face and then slipped the phone into my pocket. I didn’t want to think about getting in. I knew I couldn’t get my hopes up. So instead, I tried to think of other things, keeping my face blank as I walked in the door.

“Dad?” I called. To my surprise, he appeared immediately from the kitchen, an apron tied around his waist. “Hey. Are you feeling better?”

“Much,” he said, and I sniffed the air, smelling succulent tomatoes frying in basil. “How did you like the kitchens for the day? Anything interesting happen?” He looked right at me, and my breath caught in my throat.

“Sure, I got to make fake blood. Much more fun than cutting vegetables all day.”

“You see, Amy,” he said, as he went to set the table. “It’s not a fun job, and you’re much too intelligent for it. No glamour at all.”

“Right,” I said, watching him carefully. “So does this mean that you’re going back to work tomorrow?”

“Yes, probably,” he replied, turning his back to get the glasses. I sighed inwardly. I was glad that he was feeling better, and indeed, he looked much better than when I left him this morning. But the school was my favorite place in the world, even if it meant being in the kitchen all day long.

Sarah and I had once devised a plan that required me to fail out of school and have to take a job in the kitchens. However, that lasted about half a day. The hell my father rained down on me when I told him I flunked a test taught me to devise another plan, and quickly.

“Well, that’s good,” I managed, sitting down as he brought out the food.

“Do you have much homework?” he asked, spooning out spaghetti. I shrugged.

“I probably have a few things I can do, but I’ve been ahead for a while, so nothing urgent,” I said, digging into the food. It was good, but everything seemed so bland and boring since I got out of the audition.

“Well, you should continue to get ahead, you never know what is going to happen.” Dad gave me a pointed look, and I nodded, wincing. He was referring to the fact that I might get sick again at any moment. Last semester, I was unable to even sit up enough to work on the computer for a good week. Still, I got it done before the deadline, I always did.

“Sure.” I replied, shovelling food into my mouth as quickly as I could. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be at the table any more, or even in the house.

As soon as dinner was over and I had done the dishes, I hurried upstairs, under the pretense of doing homework. Instead, I pulled up my favorite statistics site: www.whatarethechances.com.

What are the chances of getting a job out of 400 more qualified candidates? I typed in, selecting the appropriate drop down menus. And then I waited a moment while it processed.

0.001% was the number that flashed on the screen. I sat back and sighed. Somehow, I thought that my chances were even lower. What I needed to do now was forget about it.

Logging into my school site, I clicked open an assignment and started to mindlessly type. Downstairs, I could hear my father rattling around in the kitchen, and I could still smell the sweet aroma of basil from dinner. Despite myself, a tiny smile formed on my lips. If this was all there was for me, would it be so bad? I didn’t think so.

Except for that nagging feeling of the greatest moment of my life - which I left on the stage today.

Forget it, I told myself, and turned on some Broadway show tunes as I worked. Eventually, singing along to Cats, I did.

It always amazes me, the lack of talent that comes out for auditions; any auditions, not just this one. When I was in Hollywood, anyone who had a smidgen of actual talent was light-years ahead of the pretty faces that just showed up with a dream. And when we hold open audition here, dear God, it’s a nightmare. Even girls who are supposed to have tons of experience can barely convey emotion. It truly makes me wonder how they got to where they are now.

Beside me, turning on the lights as we got back to my apartment, Porsche immediately laid out the choices we had narrowed down. Fifteen girls who had made me raise an eyebrow when they read.

“Did you sense anything in there?” I asked, pouring myself a drink and watching the sun begin to set. She rolled her eyes.

“It doesn’t work like that. I can only tell you if a spell is being cast or something, not if there’s just a magical being hanging about.” She accepted the drink I handed her, and sat down on the couch, her long limbs taking up little space. Still, her position was awkward, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Porsche was always folding herself into strange positions, the mark of a true dancer.