The spotlight she sat in faded into darkness at the black curtains that separated one realm of the theater from the next. The velvet red seats stared back at her, empty, quiet, peaceful. Her dance shoes clicked on the stage as she shifted positions, pulling her falling curls up into a ponytail. An old tee shirt and the torn, ripped up hems of her dance pants took the place of her costume. The warmth of the audience, lights, and adrenaline were wearing down. It had been awhile since she had finished helping the crew strike the stage and clean the house, and now she was left almost to herself, only one or two crew members drifting like ghosts across the catwalks above her.
Left to her bittersweet thoughts, she barely heard the music from her unfinished duet start to play faintly over the speakers. Curious, she stood and went to retrieve the headset from backstage.
"What's the music for, God?"
The voice on the other end laughed. "Go ahead, dance. This is your last song. Finish it now."
She smiled and took the headset off, setting it down gently on the chair.
Walking back out on stage, she noticed the lights had dimmed. A few moments later, her stage manager was standing opposite her.
She tapped out a couple rhythms and he imitated, moving closer to her.
They danced closer and circled and she lost herself in the music and their choreography.
He pulled her closer into a dip and then into a lift and she began to feel the same familiarity of the dance slowly come back to her. She reveled in the feeling of being pulled up against his warm chest and then thrown into the air and suddenly dueling against him with taps again.
In a fleeting moment she was blinded by the lights above her and was caught in the sensation of performance—she was Jean, he was Colin and they were floating...
And then she stepped back towards him and they were back to being amateurs in a tiny, empty theater, only dancing for each other. Both performing their art for each other, unconditionally.
The last thirty two measures started to play, the unchoreographed notes hanging in the air, waiting for them to create something instantaneously.
She started with her favorite steps and intricate movements and he mimicked her, a slight smirk crossing his face. She skipped up to him and breathed, "Catch me" and jumped into their lift. She hung in the air for a breathtaking moment and then fell into his arms and slipped to the ground as the song faded out into white noise. She pressed into him as they caught their breath, the loudest noise in the theater.
The contact turned uncomfortable as they started breathing evenly and he gently stepped back and walked offstage. He returned moments later holding the ghost light flipped it on.
"Stay here while I turn the lights off."
She stood motionless where she had landed minutes ago, bathed in the harsh glow of the ghost light and felt a sudden wave of misery roll over her. She bit her bottom lip to keep it from quivering, and just as the tears were about to burst out, his voice came from the wings. "Don't leave here crying. You've finished everything you set out to do. It's time to move on. You have nothing to be upset about."
The tears came anyway, followed by a runny nose and tired eyes. He made no move to comfort her, but waited patiently for her to turn to face him again.
"I just never wanted it to end. I have nothing left to give, but I don't want to leave," she said sadly.
This time he walked across the stage and draped an arm around her shoulders. They looked out into the darkened mass of empty rows. "You were the first director here, and you will always be the favorite. No one can take what you had. You're done here. Don't overstay your welcome."
She nodded silently and turned to face him, ready to say good night.
She was met with a kiss and a warm body that lasted so briefly that she wasn't shocked until after it was over.
He stepped away from her, ready to disappear into the wings. "Good night. Don't stay here too long, the house manager needs to lock up," he advised.
She nodded slightly and waited until he disappeared to walk off the stage herself. She gathered her belongings from the dressing room and switched off the lights as she left.
When she stepped out the stage door into the breezy, damp March night, he stood waiting for her right outside.
She looked at him questioningly.
"I know you have to leave. But I hope you know there's no such thing as a last dance," he said. "Let me walk you home."