What is it, to stand in the spotlight? To look, all eyes on you, out at a room filled with people whose entire lives, for two hours, revolve around you. To make people laugh, and cry, and hope. To be noticed.
I stand alone here, in the dark, as I always have. For a moment I feel that my mind has cleared, like the ocean after a long storm. Like a mirror it reflects my past into my future and leaves me staring into a world I hoped to leave behind. Everything has been leading me to this moment, and I can feel it all boiling in my heart, thickening and turning, slowly melting from a weighty stone into a creamy liquid, then evaporating into a scorching gas, pouring out of my heart in torrents, unable to be contained.
That pooling nebula paints pictures, parting the velvet curtains, putting on a personal play of my persistent past. Prelude of my mother and her screaming fits; her harsh voice deems me stupid, incapable, rude, untalented, a failure. The voices of my past are dissolved into a passionate presentation that gathers the dust in the corners of my mind, gifting me with confidence and defiance and determination to prove what Angelique had always told me: I was smart, powerful, and important. I mattered. I mattered.
Surry’s smirk glances across my vision, her beady eyes glittering like squirming cockroaches. I feel her breath on the back of my neck, whispering I was too stupid to make anything of myself, too ugly to matter to anyone, and too hopelessly pathetic to change it. She was my only friend, and always would be. She was not only my friend, but my master.
I obeyed. I listened. I cried.
Now, I smile to myself, staring at her smirk against the black velvet, squishing her in my mind like a bug. She crumbles to dust, rising inside of me, giving my mind the power of ignorance, of moving on, of resilience. The play carries on, new players arriving swathed in black velvet curtains.
And then there’s a quiver of a familiar sort, faltering in my chest. I feel hope rise there, despite the obvious: he isn’t back. He’s not here. He is still, and forever would be, dead. His handsome face grins at me anyway, laughing up at the clouds on some distant hill on a non-existent day. I feel him squirm in his cage in my heart, with more strength this time, and could almost hear his voice, calling me, singing my name, telling me to hope even when there was nothing to hope for.
I am still alone. I know I am. I don’t turn, afraid of what I’ll see. Afraid there’ll be nothing there. I don’t answer, just listen, knowing he’ll speak again.
“You don’t need me anymore, you know.”
“I do!” I insist, reaching out for something to hold onto, and finding nothing but a chill and a worthless scrap of black velvet.
“You’re my rock.”
“But you’re holding yourself up.”
“You’re my hope.”
“And yet you dream, every moment. Even now, you’re dreaming of a better place, when you can’t imagine where that would be.”
I turn at last, “You taught me to trust again.”
He isn’t there. Of course he’s not. But I’m not alone anymore.
They are just the same. So different, but exactly alike. Thomas takes me in his arms, warm and soft and steady. I shake.
“He’ll never leave you,” he reassures.
I nod, knowing Thomas is wrong. He’s already gone. He had to move on, and so did I. I have to leave my past behind, and accept myself for all my flaws and all the empty boxes in my attic. This life is so much more than the old one. But, somehow, it was only because of the old one that I’d been able to reach this one.
“It’s your time to shine,” Thomas whispers, and kisses the top of my head.
I smile, pull back, and turn away, walking past the long, luxurious, now blank, black velvet curtains to stand by the little scrap of dirty masking tape, alone, and in the dark. I look up at the rows of shiny orbs hanging above my head and I whisper, “Goodbye, Shane. I love you.”
The orbs begin to glow, the curtains part, and a long stream of white light blinds me as I open my mouth to say the first line, gazing out at the room filled with people whose entire lives, for two hours, revolve around me.