“Freddie.” Other Eric shrugs. “He’s not a bad guy. He’s just Irish.”
“I bet this auditorium is, like, nothing compared to what you’re used to in New York,” says a girl from the floor, her jet black hair choppy and erratic, and her eyes bleeding dark eyeliner like tears.
“Actually, the theaters in New York are pretty small,” I admit. This one’s surprisingly big and almost two-tiered, an aisle dividing the back six rows of the house from the front. I guess everything is bigger in Texas; they have more space to play with than cramped-up, built-on-top-of-itself New York City.
“Smaller ones are easier to fill,” notes Other Eric. “We never sell out the house.”
Victoria grips my arm suddenly. “She studied at Rigby & Claudio’s. This chick’s been places!”
“So, you’re here for the grad program?” asks the girl from the floor.
“No. I’m a sophomore. I left that school after one year. It … It wasn’t a right fit for me.” Inspired by all the attention, I let my mouth run off. “An arts school in New York really … isn’t all that. I learned nothing I didn’t already know. All the students think they know everything.” I can’t shut up. “The professors are failed actors, bitter and blaming their failures on you. Half the time, it was me schooling them.” The resentment pours out of me like soured wine. “Claudio Vergas … is a prick.” I feel shivers up my arms, just saying that one harsh word. “And Rigby? You’d be lucky to even see him once a semester. Don’t get me started on the fools who run the dance department.”
“Please,” Victoria urges me, “get started on the fools who run the dance department.” That inspires a laugh from the others.
“It’s all so pretentious!” I go on. I’ve craved this release. My parents wouldn’t listen. I need to get this out so badly. “They make you pay so much money just to fund their own shoddy off-off-off Broadway productions—and they’re never hits. They had a whole play once where the entire set was constructed from just … chairs. Chairs stacked together to form a bed, to form a wall, to form … a bigger chair.”
“That sounds kinda cool,” murmurs goth girl from the floor.
“It wasn’t,” I assure her. “Then, during a grueling five-hour rehearsal of this weird, modernized, full-of-itself, leather-daddy rendition of Romeo & Juliet last spring, I found myself realizing—”
Then, my words catch in my throat at the sight in front of me.
From backstage emerges a man whose face catches the stage light so potently, his creamy skin glows.
I hear my own breathing in my ears, nothing else.
My heart stutters.
His killer face is carved from stone, sharp and dusted with a hint of five o’clock shadow. Even from the seats, his fuck-me eyes glisten like chips of glass.
I swallow hard.
I want to tangle my fingers in his messy brown hair, which casts a shadow down his forehead.
Then, there’s his body. Damn. His magnificent, big body. I have seen countless stunning male actors, but instantly forget all of them in the presence of him.
And I’m still trying to finish my damn sentence. “And … And I found myself realizing …”
He wears his heather-grey tee like it was hand-stitched to fit his every delicious contour, from his strong broad shoulders to his thick biceps—I can already picture him lifting me with just one arm.
“And …” I’m still trying to make words. “And I found myself …”
His jeans, light blue and torn at the knees, hang low on his hips, the sight of which guts me and sends me down a path of naughty thoughts.
“Go on,” Victoria encourages me.
He’s standing now at the table with the beer, and the firmness of his ass is a one-man show all on its own. I want to grab it or tear his pants into shreds. He’s turning me into a damn animal.
I am never like this. I’m so ashamed of myself.
“And I found myself,” I finish. Maybe that was the sentence I was looking for all along. “You know what? I think I will try that beer.”
“Drank it,” says Eric apologetically, wiggling the empty cup.
“I planned to get one that wasn’t roofied,” I joke distractedly. “I’ll … I’ll be right back.”
I turn and walk up the steps to the stage. With each footstep, my nerves grow tighter and tighter. I don’t think I can do this. Seeing him at the table with his beer, I strongly consider changing my mind. This is so insanely out of character for me, I feel like a different person with each of my slow and slower footsteps, dragging my feet through a swamp of molasses. My thighs threaten to drop me to the stage floor in an embarrassing heap of limbs.