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Read My Lips(89)

By:Daryl Banner

I smirk into my dad’s chest. “He took off back to New York with his tail tucked, I’m afraid.”

“The other lighting designer,” he amends.

My forehead screws up in confusion. Clayton? But before I’m able to ask the question, he pulls away and my mother and sister are given room to float forth for their stiff farewell hugs and birdlike kisses. Then, not two moments later, I’m standing outside the glass windows and waving goodbye as they disappear into the night like three peculiar ghosts, my heart heavy and my eyes suddenly deciding they want to spill all that emotion I was supposed to have onstage.

A pretty chime from my pocket startles me, disrupting the calm of the night breeze. I look down at the screen.


sorry i didn’t see you

after the show.

we waited around for a bit

but you were with your family.

thank you for the tickets.

tomas is cool, i guess.

we are at the dorm.

please knock if you come back.

i think he might kiss me.

i dunno.

I giggle, staring at the text. I’m so happy for Sam that I could cry.

I’m a second from putting my phone away when suddenly it starts to ring. I stare at it defiantly. Someone’s calling me? Who the hell uses phones anymore to actually call someone? I bring it into view and find my dad’s headshot staring back at me.

I bring it to my ear. “Did you forget something?”

“Your mother was in such a hurry to leave, I did forget something. It was something I wanted to tell you.”

I hear my mother scoff at him in the background. “I wasn’t in a hurry, Geoffrey, but if you’re just so desperate to miss our flight …”

“What’d you forget to tell me?” I ask, pressing through my mom’s fussing.

“I had an experience in the bathroom at intermission,” he says.

I wince. “You guys had Tex-Mex for lunch? Am I sure I want to hear about this?”

He guffaws through the phone, deep and heartily. “No, sweetheart. Marv took us out for a nice dinner before the show. My experience involved running into the fellow who ran the lights and, apparently, finished the job that Kellen did not. I got to brush up a bit on my ASL, which I hadn’t used since Great Aunt Esther passed away.”

I was so young when she died, I forgot that she was deaf.

“Seems we’re all skilled in the business of not appreciating what we have when we have it,” he remarks. “Fine-looking young man. He had quite a lot to say about what he thought of your talent. I didn’t know you’d taken to singing again in your spare time, sweetheart.”

I clutch at my chest. Clayton and my dad …? “I have,” I confess. “I go to a local hangout and … and there’s these musicians …” I swallow. “He told you about that?”

“He’s quite a fan of your music, even without being able to hear it. That’s quite a feat, if you ask me!” he adds with a laugh. “You know, the Lebeau talent can come in many forms. I don’t think we’ve had a singer in the family since your late grandmother. Oh, the set of cords on that powerhouse of a woman. Dessie,” he murmurs over my mother scrupulously directing the driver in the background, “regardless of its form, you have a voice, and you belong in the Theatre world. Whether you act, or sing, or do it all, you have a spot on that stage, sweetheart.”

Tears have a whole new reason to touch my eyes now. “Thank you.”

“Anyway, that young man’s got it right. I might add that he has a strong artistic voice himself, if that act three was any indication. Marv ought to know the lighting talent that’s hiding under his nose.” My dad sighs happily into the phone, then says, “Stay safe down here in Texas, sweetie. We’ll call you later when we land.”

“Love you, Dad.”

“Don’t ever say I pulled a string. You earned and owned that stage tonight, sweetheart, and you’ll own the next.” Then, after that, silence.

I hug my phone for a moment before finally putting it away for good. I take a deep breath, trying to push away the image of my dad and Clayton sharing a bathroom bonding experience. I could almost laugh, if I weren’t feeling so strangely brokenhearted.

When I push back into the theater to get my things, I find the lobby cleared except for two or three stragglers who are laughing loudly and chatting with Eric. He turns around and calls out, “Are you hitting up the Throng tonight, D-lady?”

I shake my head no. “Opening night wore me out,” I say lamely. “I think I’m just gonna head back to my dorm room and interrupt my roommate trying to make out with a bassoonist.”