The stage unfolded like an old book, pages collapsing and closing in on itself, with the pull of a rope or the flick of a hand. The curtains flipped to scene twenty. A woods with a fountain, a girl, and a frog. Butterflies flapped drunkenly in the air. The wind lifted her curly hair onto the frays of the branches behind her. Below, the pit played a soft melody, and she started to sing.
“Ugh” says the reader. The girl blinks, but holds her position. The frog hops onto her hand and she smiles. The music grows curious.
“Ugggghh” sighs the reader. Both the frog and girl look up.
“Stupid” mumbles the reader.
The girl is sweating and the frog has gone rigid, both perplexed by this unprecedented stop.
“This story is so absurd, why should a girl have to kiss an animal to find true love?”
The girl and the frog look at each other nervously.
“Yes. I’m talking to you” the reader says to the stage.
The girl sighs, hoping her skirt off the fountain and brushing the dirt off her hands. The music stops.
“Well if you don’t like it, then why did you open us?”
The pit looks to the reader. Reader shrugs. “I don’t have time for this”
She flips the curtains to page twenty-five, opens it back up. The girl is standing next to a man in a green suit, yellow hills behind them, music is lively. She notices the reader and rolls her eyes, turns to the audience, and breaks character.
“You can’t escape us. What did you think would happen?”
“I don’t know i was hoping it wouldn’t be such a stupid ending.”
The girl sighs, the man looks down.
“Well i guess it is. So just close the book and let us go on with our lives!”
They go back to position, hand holding and the music restarts. The reader’s nostrils flare, and a wisp of brown hair is blown out of her face.
“No. I’m reading this story. I want it to go my way”
The girl laughs “Well you can’t. This is our story, not yours.” The man nods.
“Ugh well, do you have to get married right now? You only just met him!”
The two smile seamlessly and she says right on queue,
“But I feel like I’ve known him my whole life”
Reader groans. “That’s just infatuation, you can’t marry someone you don’t know”
“And why not?”
“Because you just can’t. It’s not right…”
The reader’s eyes wander then enlarge, a mischievous grin.
“What are you…”
A great crashing rips through the stage. A chunk of the theater is gone and so a piece of the page rests in the reader’s hands.
“What have you done!!?”
Now the scene stops before they are married, and starts again on the last page. ‘Happily ever after’ remains for good grace. The two are left standing in a church, but no bishop is there, no organ, no bridesmaids. The eerie dust of the morning settles on the pews.
“This is atrocious”
“I think it’s beautiful”
“Easy for you to say, you’re just a person. What are we supposed to do???”
Reader shrugs “Anything you want.”
The pit rifles through the score but cannot find what to play.
Reader smiles, waves, and shuts the book contently.
Without much thought or care, the curtains flip back open again, years later.
No vibrant shapes line the pages, no sunlight glistens in corn colored hair. The page that was ripped has folded in on itself, and writing pours out the sides.
Reader looks at the last scene, page broken in two. On one side lays the girl, now a woman, pointed glasses concentrated on a newspaper in front of her. She sips coffee and a sly smile glints in her eyes. The other is the man, weightlifting a cow with one hand and chugging a protein shake with another, pride glints on his cheeks.
The last line no longer says ‘happily ever after’, but
“Here the Road Ends” and “Thank you”.