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Wishing I Was Somehow Here Again
The red velvet curtain is a motionless backdrop, hanging in a lifeless way that makes the theater seem even more still than the momentary silence before a crowd applauds a performer. The soft fabric sways and releases a lingering breath. Off-stage doors are opened by a lithe figure whose body only blocks a sliver of the sun that is attempting to flood the dark theater. Switching on the lights, with crack and a pop, the bulbs ignite. The slender woman’s sandals clap across the wooden stage, making a lonely echo that weaves through empty chairs. Lisa stands, center stage. With her back erect, she fiddles with the strap of her fraying black cotton dress. Her eyes sweep the entirety of the auditorium, remembering how it felt to have thousands of people cheering for her. In fact, all Lisa can do as she gazes at the worn upholstered seats and burnt out stage lights is remember.
“Stand up straight,” Bernadette bellowed, her face turning bright red. Sucking in a deep breath, Lisa snapped her shoulders back so she could reach the dreaded F sharp once again.
“Not good enough. Again,” Bernadette snapped, a frown deepening the creases in her pale forehead. With a heaving sigh, Lisa tightened her diaphragm for what would be the fifth time that she belted out this note. The grueling lesson continued as Bernadette began playing the opening of “Wishing You were Somehow Here Again” for this season’s production of Phantom of the Opera. Lisa’s voice and heartbeat slowed in tandem to the soft adagio as the clock ticked past noon, then two o’clock, then six o’clock as rehearsal went far past the scheduled ending time. At half past six, Lisa couldn’t take it anymore. As one of the youngest and most talented principle vocalists, Lisa was infuriated that this entire practice had revolved around Bernadette criticizing what she considered to be rookie mistakes. At the end of every day, Lisa felt as if she wanted to quit this so-called budding career as a Broadway vocalist.
After the rehearsal ended, Lisa was called into Bernadette’s office. She hesitantly tapped on the door, bracing herself for the inevitable confrontation that would occur in just moments. Bernadette was always pissed off; it was a constant fury for which there was no remedy.
“You needed to see me?” Lisa’s voice feigned disinterest as she slumped into a plush chair that threatened to swallow her small frame.
“Yes,” Bernadette quipped without looking up from the pile of sheet music that she was holding underneath her hawk-like nose, “I wanted to discuss your position here at my esteemed institution.” Lisa rolled her eyes, picturing the ramshackle space that Bernadette rented to start her own performance company fifteen years ago.
“My position? I am one of your best vocalists, Bernie. What did you have in mind? A promotion?” Lisa scoffed, twirling an auburn curl around her finger.
“First of all, I asked you to never call me Bernie. And second of all, we are releasing you from you contract with this company,” she stated firmly, raising her cold, grey eyes to glare at Lisa’s arrogant smirk.
“You must be joking,” Lisa gasped, her knuckles turning white as she clenched the arms of the plush chair, “I’m playing the part of Christine in two weeks and you’re firing me?”
“I think it’s about time that you re-evaluated yourself Lisa. My company simply cannot handle any more Prima Donnas,” Bernadette declared flippantly, whisking her eyes back to her paper work, “there is already an entire number dedicated to them in the show.” Lisa was flabbergasted; all she could do was stare as this woman who had crushed her dreams in one fell swoop.
“This is bull****! The theater is my life!” Lisa screeched, jumping to her feet and bracing herself on Bernadette’s wooden desk.
“That’s all,” Bernadette mumbled, clearly immersed in her work. Lisa turned and stormed out the door.
Lisa stands in front of that red velvet curtain, which is still motionless as it waits for this almost-Broadway star to say farewell to the stage. Turning slowly under those lazy stage lights, she imagines all those people on their feet, a thunder of applause enveloping her as she hits that last note. She opens her lips to hear the music one last time but the vision is gone. It’s just an empty theater and an empty stage.
“Goodbye,” Lisa whispers, her eyes burning with unshed tears.
Her sandals clap that lonely echo across the stage again and when she opens the rusty side door, the suns floods past her slender figure for the last time.