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Falling Star, a Short Story

The following story is a little tale I put together a couple of years ago. It's been rejected three times and is nothing more than a short, fluffy romance, or rather, the beginning of one, nothing spectacular. Still, I thought it was a shame not to share it, so I thought I'd do so here. I drew on my love for musical theatre and love stories as I wrote it. I hope it brings you a smile.

The sweet fragrance of roses hits me as soon as I enter my dressing room. It's a simple bouquet. Pink, my favorite. I don't have to look at the card to see who it's from. I recognize the scratchy handwriting of the words "To Bernadette" from where I stand.

Aaron is the only one who sends me flowers. Always pink roses from the same florist with an identical card. He's persistent, I'll give him that. I turn away from the gift and snatch up my mauve lipstick for one last touch-up. I'm on in five minutes. It's time to focus on my performance, not the flowers from my not-so-secret admirer. This Faerie Queen can't be thinking about an ensemble member during her Act Two solo number. With a final glance in the mirror, I'm off.

Backstage is full of its typical bustle as I leave the quiet of my dressing room. Half-dressed actors apply last-minute makeup and share the latest gossip. Dancers stretch and study their phone screens. I return the smiles and waves they send my way without really seeing them as I head for stage left. The butterflies that always flit around my stomach before a performance have already begun their usual routine. I take a steadying breath and rotate my shoulders as I reach the wings.

Light and music spill into the darkness between the curtains. An electric pulse of anticipation fills this space, as do the twenty-something ensemble members waiting for the next musical number. It doesn’t take me more than a few seconds to spot Aaron among them, which annoys me a little. Why do I always notice him so quickly? His black curls, pale skin, and green costume are little more than shapes in the shadows.

He’ll take the stage just before my solo in his role of “forest nymph number three.” It’s a small part, one of four he holds in the musical, but he never complains. “It’s enough that I get to be on stage,” he told me once.

It’s not enough for me. Not until I land a lead role on Broadway. The lead in an off-Broadway production is a start, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I've loved performing since I was a little girl, from the time Mom and Daddy played me my first showtunes soundtrack. They even named me after their favorite Broadway star. I won’t be satisfied until I go all the way.

Aaron turns, notices me, and smiles. The tint of stage lights shining into the wings frames the edge of his face and the ends of his curls. I try to stop the heightened tempo of my heart.

“Ready?” he asks.

“Always,” I say.

Sure, I sound like a diva, but it’s true. I’d sing on stage all day if I could. I tolerate dancing, but singing is my life. The Faerie Queen role has some of the most challenging musical numbers I’ve ever performed and, thankfully, only a few simple dance numbers.

My comment doesn’t seem to bother him. He just keeps smiling with those perfect, white teeth of his.

He’s a sweet guy. And easy on the eyes, too. But he’s a distraction from the dream I’ve held all my life. A distraction I can’t afford just when my career is starting to go somewhere.

The music swells from onstage, and with a slight lift of his chin, Aaron springs forward from the curtains with the other ensemble members. He gives his dance everything, as if he’s performing a solo routine in the spotlight. His every movement flows with perfect timing and rhythm. With grace like that, it’s a wonder he hasn’t gone farther in his career. The plight of every aspiring actor, I guess. Especially here in New York. There’s so much talent, even people who deserve a shot on the Great White Way don’t always get it.

I’m not going to let that happen to me.

I only watch him to admire the skill he displays as a dancer. And if my cheeks suddenly feel warm, I’m sure it’s just from the heat of the stage lights.

This is ridiculous. I shake my head, as if that will clear my suddenly fuzzy thoughts. Two more measures until my entrance. It’s time to direct my focus. I close my eyes, take in another breath, and wait for my cue.

When the beginning notes of my solo number play their haunting melody, I open my eyes and step forward, leaving the darkness of the wings behind. I don’t have to remind myself to smile. The warm glow of the lights, the music floating in the air, and the dusty, woody smell of the theatre fill me with a joy I can’t keep to myself. The stage is my world, its songs my lifeblood. With arms outstretched, I release my voice into the open room. I savor the air in my lungs and taste the notes on my tongue, warm and round. The audience is mine, breathing when I breathe, holding their breath when I sustain a long note. For those few precious moments, only the faceless crowd and I exist. The song is my gift to them.

I release my last note slowly, letting its tone fill the room. The hushed theatre explodes in rapturous applause.

Overwhelmed, I step toward stage right, and the hem of my long skirt catches my shoe. With a gasp that matches the audience’s, I tumble toward the orchestra pit. My stomach plunges as I reach out for something, anything, to catch my fall.

There is only empty air.

Then a strong hand clasps mine and another grabs me by the waist, saving me from collapsing into the woodwind section. I lean back against my protector and take in a shaky breath.

“You okay?” his voice whispers. My heart jumps.

It’s Aaron.

I manage a nod as the audience cheers and claps.

“Watch out for those orchestra pits. That first step’s a big one.”

A weak smile pulls at one corner of my mouth as he leads me upstage. “And I told myself I wasn’t going to fall for you.”

The curtains close, muffling the applause that still hasn't stopped. The backstage crew set props for the next scene. I dare to turn and face Aaron. He’s closer than I expect, and heat burns my cheeks again. It’s too dark to see him clearly, but I can smell his aftershave and imagine the green flecks in his brown eyes and the way they must be dancing.

We should head offstage. I have a duet coming in the next scene, and Aaron has a costume change and a dance number.

If only I could remember how to move.

Time seems to stand still. Even the crew, grumbling as they work around us, appear to move in slow motion. All I can think of is Aaron.

I swallow. “Thanks for being there.”

He squeezes my hand. “Always.” His voice is a caress.

My heart plays an aria before I can stop it.

Maybe there’s room for my dream and Aaron.

After all, there’ll be countless other orchestra pits in my future. I might need him around.

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