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Read My Lips(14)

By:Daryl Banner

“I … wanted to t-try something new,” I struggle to say through a dry mouth. I have trouble swallowing suddenly. Maybe my organs are all shutting down. I might die before I reach my class.

Victoria gasps in protest when she sees her own name. “Costume crew?! Are you kidding me?! No! That wasn’t either of my preferences! Damn it! That can’t be right …”

I can’t even participate in a moment of sympathy for her, too wrapped up in my own predicament, if I dare call it that. Will I see him today? How many people has he told about what happened yesterday in the theater? Maybe he’s not in the lighting crew at all. Maybe he was just … fiddling with them a lot. Maybe he’s part of the set crew. Just like any other student, he gets assigned to different crews each semester too, right?

I’m overthinking this. Calm down, Dessie.

“Oh well. Come by my room later,” she says to me, and I’m pretty sure I just zoned out on her whole tirade about costume crew. “We’ll pore over scripts! I want to show you what I’ve got prepared. You can critique me with all your New York City knowhow.”

I give her a halfhearted nod and grimace, then we part ways. I proceed in silence to where the lighting crew is supposed to meet: the main stage.

My heart hammers in my chest as I approach the door to the auditorium. It’s so cold that I swear they set the AC to a considerate thirty-below.

The door creaks.

I don’t know why I’m so afraid of anyone hearing me or noticing my existence at all.

When I step inside, however, I’m surprised to find only twenty or so sitting scattered among the first five rows. After a quick, nerve-wracking scan, I realize that mister mystery-hot-shit is not among them. Everyone in the crowd seems to know one another, chatting and laughing amongst themselves. Two guys in the back have their feet propped up. Three other guys are hanging over their chairs, chatting with the folk behind them. Am I the only female here? Literally zero of the people I’ve met thus far are in this room.

I sit silently in the fifth row behind the strangers, clutching my bag to my chest and waiting patiently for something to happen.

Ten minutes later, something does. A man comes out of a door backstage, emerging into the light. He’s dressed in black with a smear of unexplained green paint on his thigh and he carries a clipboard, toward which he inclines his head and adjusts the thick set of glasses that perch at the tip of his nose. His bald head shines with grease under the blaring stage light.

“Welcome,” he says to his clipboard, though I think he’s addressing us. “First day of lighting crew. Hi. Most of you know me. Six of you don’t. Hi. I’m Professor Dan Trellis. You can call me Dick.”

Two guys wearing baseball caps in the seats ahead of me turn to each other. “How do you get Dick from Dan?” one of them mutters quietly.

“You ask nicely,” answers the other, and they both break into a fit of muffled snickering.

I roll my eyes.

“This is not the slack-off crew,” Dick says in a tired drone, though it seems less like a fact and more like he’s trying to convince himself. “Most of your life here will be cables and gels and C-clamps. Shit gets stressful the week leading up to dress, just before each show goes up. You will be going up Bertha the cherry-picker at some point, so if heights aren’t your thing, make them your thing. Introduce yourself to Bertha. Learn how to operate Bertha. Love Bertha. You’ll be given an assistant when you first use her, blah, blah, life’s about confronting fears and shit, right?”

I’m about to make a mental comment on all of the professor’s swearing when something else steals every bit of my wayward attention.

Every bit of my delicious, sexy attention.

Another figure has come out of the shadows from backstage. His brawny build is unmistakable, as well as the swagger in his stride. When the light finally touches his face, it’s like a gift from the School of Sex. Dark, brooding, fierce … he always looks pissed off about something. Why do I find that so hot?

“Nice to have you join us, Clayton,” the professor mutters with a turn of his head. “Most of you know Clayton, my right hand man with the lights for the last two years. Invaluable to us. Be like him.”

Clayton … Is that his name?

If it is, you wouldn’t know it from the way he completely disregards Professor Dick, hopping down the steps and taking a seat in the front row. Just as well, Dick doesn’t seem to mind as he lifts his clipboard back to his face and resumes instructing us on what our semester with him is going to be like.

Meanwhile, my eyes drift to the beauty in the front row. Clayton. His face taut with concentration, he stares at the professor as the speech goes on and on. Something about sound crew. Something about time management and patience.