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Read My Lips(3)

By:Daryl Banner

My parents told me to call them when I was all moved in. I prefer that they presume I’m lost or dead. So caught up in mother’s performance in London next month, I doubt they’ll even give me a thought until well into my father’s fourth glass of chardonnay when he finally looks up from his lighting design charts to ask, “Did we hear from Dessie yet?”

It’s already almost seven, so I push myself off the bed, freshen up in the bathroom mirror, and spritz myself with a light scent. I pray there’s more than just freshmen at this courtyard mixer. When I open my door, I’m greeted with the sight of the room across the hall, its door propped open. Scarves of varying shades of purple adorn the ceiling in bilious clouds of silk, giving the room the look of a 16th century gypsy’s tent. A lamp burns orange on the desk within my view, which is littered in glass trinkets that pick up the light. It is night and day from the starkness of my room to the glamour of hers. Beads line the closet door, and they rattle when the room’s occupant moves through them carrying a thin book pinched open in one hand and a bottle of lemon vitamin water in the other.

She turns, spotting me. “Hi,” all eighty-nothing pounds of her says lamely, her tight braids dancing with her every step as her needle eyes focus on me. She stands at her doorway. “You’re living in 202?”

“It seems to be my tragic situation,” I admit. She’s reading a play, I realize with a closer look. She’s a Theatre major, too. Befriend her, damn it! I give a subtle nod to her décor. “I like what you’ve done with your—”

“I have a lot of reading to do, if you don’t mind.” She gives me a curt nod, then taps the rim of her playbook with the closed end of her vitamin water.

“As Bees In Honey Drown?” I note, catching the title off of the cover. “I played Alexa in Brendan Iron’s production in New York last spring.”

“New York, you say?” A light flashes in her eyes. “You don’t look like a freshman. Are you a transfer? New York? Where in New York?”

Now I’m suddenly worth her time. It’s amazing, the power of a simple name-drop. I discreetly leave out the fact that it was less of a production in New York and more of a botched audition. “I’m a transfer from Rigby & Claudio’s Acting, Dan—”

“Acting, Dancing, and Musical Academy,” she finishes for me. The whites of her eyes are ablaze, deepening the rich color of her smooth, mahogany skin. “And … you transferred here? What brought you from there to … to here?”

A fierce vision comes forth of my former director, Claudio Vergas himself, as he hollers at my indignant face, flecks of his morning coffee dusting the stage floor between us. It was the first time he’d ever lost his temper enough to throw his favorite mug. I can still hear the porcelain as it shattered against the lip of the stage. I didn’t even flinch. I lifted my chin and called him a stiff-necked, pretentious, know-it-all panty-wad. It was not my best moment.

“Artistic differences,” I answer vaguely.

“New York,” she moans, all her childhood dreams of being in the limelight painted across her glassy eyes. “I’m Victoria,” my new best friend says, shoving the script under an arm and extending her hand. “Victoria Li. Third year Theatre major. Don’t call me Vicki. I have violent reactions to being called Vicki. I’ll cut a bitch. But not you. Unless you call me Vicki.”

My phone in one hand, I accept her handshake with my free one. It’s cold as ice. “I’m Dessie.”

“Great name. I love Desiree Peters. Her portrayal of Elphaba on the last national tour of Wicked had me in tears. I have her autograph on my CD soundtrack and the playbill which I, of course, framed. I had to stand by the stage door afterwards for forty-eight minutes in ten degree weather. Worth it.”

“It’s not short for Desiree,” I clarify. “It’s short for … for Desdemona.”

Victoria stares at me. “As in Othello’s Desdemona?”

Hurray for having Theatre parents. “That would be the one. Anyway, it’s almost seven already, so I was going to head to the mixer. Are you going?”

“It’s not until eight,” she tells me, leaning on her doorframe and taking a sip of her lemon water. She’s suddenly so much friendlier than she was a second ago. “How’d you hear about it?”

“I was told it’s at seven. Well, according to Diane the Desk Demon,” I add with a roll of my eyes.

“No, no. Eight o’clock at the theater.”

I lift a brow. “There’s a Theatre one?”