“I accept!” Amy blurted out, and her father gave her a sharp look. I sighed, plucking a readymade sandwich from a tray, and headed towards the door. Before I pushed it open, I looked back, attempting to make my comment seem off hand.

“Of course, the scholarship would include full medical insurance, as all our students buy into it.” I didn’t stay to hear their reaction, but continued walking down the hall. I knew that it would be the deciding factor in the end. In acting, they called it changing tactics, shifting from one point to the next, until you get what you want. And I knew I had just won.

Pulling out my phone, I sent a quick text to Porsche, who was probably going out of her mind with curiosity.

Came the reply, and I laughed, as I shut the door to my office. It was good to know I could still drive her nuts across the ocean.

I had never seen my father so angry as that afternoon. When lunch time came, he clocked me out with such a glare that I dared not argue. And then, he clocked himself out for break, took my arm, and marched me down the hall. When we found an empty classroom, he practically shoved me in and closed the door firmly behind him.

“Explain yourself, Amy. You have 10 seconds.”

“It’s exactly what Liam said. I know we’ve talked about this before, and it’s always been about money. But when I saw the line up, and heard about the scholarship…I just thought I’d try, what harm was there in that? I don’t know why he chose me, over a thousand other girls with longer resumes, but he did … and Dad, it’s a full scholarship. Everything’s covered, including the medical bills. And you’re here every single day, so if something goes wrong, you’ll be here. Heck, we’ll spend more time together now because we won’t be apart for 10 hours while you are at work. I’ll be here, right down the hall. It’s only for a year, Dad, and colleges prefer if you have a degree from a school that actually exists in the physical realm and…” I was babbling and probably very close to crying as well. Dad still hadn’t said a word to me, and when I stopped for breath, silence engulfed the room. “Please say something.”

“Is this what you really want, Amy?”

“Yes!” I cried, frantic. “Yes, this is what I really want, more than anything. And I promise, if I start to feel sick or anything goes wrong, I’ll tell you right away! You can come check on me every break, and we can have dinner in my dorm room, and I’ll come home every weekend, I swear….”

“Amy,” he waved his hand, looking tired. “If you really want this, then I’ll support you. You’re right, all your reasons have been right.” He looked at me with a sad smile. “How did I ever raise such a bright girl?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “Really?” He grinned. “Really,” he said, and I flew into his arms, hugging him.

He laughed, squeezing me tight before pulling me to face him.

“Alright, I only have forty five minutes left, so we should go speak to the Headmaster, yes?”

I nodded, letting him lead the way to the headmaster’s office.

When we got there, the secretary let us right in, clearly knowing why we were there. Liam was at his desk, feet propped up, and munching on the sandwich he had taken. When he saw us, he threw his arms up.

“And your email was written down wrong,” he said, and then shrugged, pulling his feet off the desk. “Have a seat, you two. I have the paper work right here. Any questions?” He put a large stack of papers in front of Dad, who looked daunted by them.

“…Everything is covered?” he asked, and Liam nodded, ticking things off on his fingers.

“Part of the tuition fees we ask for is so the students can have an allowance every week for items they may need. You’ll receive one hundred every week.”

I nearly fell off my chair. It got better and better.

“Now…Amy does have a medical condition…” Dad started. “And I trust if anything happens, I’ll be called immediately…and allowances will be made for her health?”

“Dad!” I said, embarrassed. Liam’s eyes met mine, with tenderness that surprised me. This was the first time I had seen him emote something that wasn’t arrogance or anger. He nodded.

“Yes, of course. I will personally see to it. I have a close friend with the same condition, so I do have experience in the matter.”

“Oh,” Dad seemed to be out of questions, and so he opened the folder, scrawling his initials where requested. My head was spinning, watching him. I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. Right here, right now.

“Amy, why don’t we take a tour of the school?” Liam leapt to his feet suddenly. “We’ll leave your father to read all this, and by the time we come back, we can answer any questions he may have.”

“Sure,” I said, trying not to let on that I already knew the school like the back of my hand. I stood up as well, leaving my bag on the floor, and followed him out the door.

“We’ll start with the senior wing, as that’s where you’ll be,” he said, looking quickly down the deserted hallways, and then turning to the left.

“When will I start?” I asked, and he shrugged.

“That’s up to you. You can wait until next term if you wish, but ideally you can start…”

“Tomorrow?” I asked, and he laughed, giving me a warm smile.

I was surprised how well we got on, one on one. When I met him before, he didn’t strike me as the type to joke around. But now that we were alone, it was like his guard was dropping.

We walked past several classrooms, poking our heads in as Liam described the subjects taught there. Eventually, we got to the theater, which was full of people.

“This is where you’ll be next term, for Beauty and the Beast,” he said, and suddenly, the conversation in the kitchen came rushing back.

“You’ll be Beast, won’t you?” I asked, and he nodded.

“Acting is an addiction, Amy, and I thought it’d be good for the school to have some publicity as well. All press is good press.” He gave me a rueful smile. “Besides, I miss being on stage. It’s where I got my start.”

“Right,” I nodded, and took a deep breath, straightening up. “Let’s keep going.”

Liam grinned, and waved his hand, indicating our direction. Soon, we crossed the barrier between the senior and junior doors, and I found myself in a sea of giggling young children, about to be let out for recess. I had never been in this part of the school, because sneaking in would have looked way too suspicious at my age. Even when I was younger, it was easier to pretend to be someone’s kid sister watching a rehearsal than be part of a small class where the teacher knew everyone’s name. Liam smiled as the kids giggled.

“This is the best age to start young actors, really. Every single one of these children acts without thinking. They don’t put method or thought into it; they do it because it feels right in their gut and they say their lines as if it’s the first time. If only all of us could remember that,” he said, and I found myself swept away by the tenderness in his face as he watched them.

“But that’s how you act,” I pointed out. “In the movies. I always believed that you were whatever character you were playing. It never felt fake.”

“Thank you,” he gave me a smile as we walked through the hallways.

“But I can see how so many classes and rehearsals could interfere with the way somebody acts.” I kept going, speaking before I even really thought properly. “I mean, you could spend so much time thinking about the method and the training that you forget to just…be the character and exist.” I was babbling and I knew it, but he smiled at me.

“That’s why I chose you, Amy. So many of these students here are trained to the point of robots. Most of them won’t have a future. But you read those lines as if you were Beauty, and nothing else around you mattered. If you can hold on to that naturalism, you will have a future in the industry.”

“Why did you leave?” I asked, suddenly. “I mean…you had a future?”

His face clouded over and he shook his head, his jaw clenching. I saw that familiar look that he wore as he often strode through the halls.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, and pushed open another door. It led to the front of the school, where there was a separate theater, newly built in the former parking lot. Just as we were crossing the pavement, I heard someone call his name.

He swore, and I realized it was a cameraman, approaching fast. Apparently, having left Hollywood or not, the paparazzi were always around. It made sense. He had been one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. And on top of that, many of the students had careers and TV credits that brought them some sort of fame outside the school. If the paparazzi wanted a photo of something, they had a good chance of getting it just by hanging around the front doors.

“Not now, please,” he said, barely turning around and taking me by the arm. He was increasing his pace towards the theater and I was struggling to keep up. “I’m trying to teach.”

“What’s your name?” The photographer called to me. I turned, gaping, and looked at Liam, who sighed and then shrugged.

“You know what? Fine. This is Amy, our full scholarship winner for this year. Amy was the best, out of thousands of hopefuls, and she and I will be playing opposite in Beauty and the Beast next term. That’s right, she and I.” He glared at the cameraman. “So take that, and write it in your paper, and publish a pretty photo, and if you give us so much as one out of focus picture or subpar review, I will make sure you are banned from school property and never get another picture again.”