Ryan gazed out over the rows of seats, watching the stage. In front of him sat a messy clipboard, covered with names, each bearing a small check or "x" next to them, maybe a few notes.

"Next," said a voice next to him, and the curtain rose.

On the stage, revealed under the bright spotlights, was a girl. She had beautiful flowing brunette hair, and blue eyes that were so bright they could be seen from miles away. She wore a black jacket, and tight jeans, a small hat on her head. Her face was indistinct from the distance, but even the blur gave an impression of beauty. As soon as the curtain rose, she cleared her throat, and began to speak.

"Why?" she asked, "Why should I? Father, if I have feelings for anyone, wouldn't I be the first to know?" She paused, then shook her head and looked away from the stage. "I mean," she said, her voice cracking with emotion, "why should I constrain myself? Why should I restrain myself? Why should I deny myself? For you?" She turned back to face Ryan again and her eyes were brimmed with tears. Ryan felt his heart leap into his throat, and he couldn't breathe. "Never," the girl said vehemently, then bowed.

Ryan heard clapping, and it took him several seconds to realize it was his hands making the sound. He looked down at them in shock, as if they had done it of their own accord, then slowly stopped.

"Thank you very much, Miss Lelie," the voice next to Ryan, his stage-manager Peter, said dryly, "we'll be contacting you with any news within the next few days or less." The girl on stage bowed again, and left grinning. Ryan just stared.

I don't know what to do, the small notepad said in hurried scribble, she's perfect. Absolutely perfect. Who else could possibly play my Marietta? No one! The passion, the drive, the beauty!

I've decided, it's her. Oh so definitely. No other will suffice. And I must meet her in person-

"So," Peter said, standing up from the rows of theater seats and stretching, "what'cha think."

Ryan looked up from his notepad, slightly surprised, and made a non-committal mutter. Peter shook his head.

"The Lelie girl, then?" he asked. Ryan blinked once, then shook himself slightly.

"What?" he asked, his voice thin, "Huh? Sorry, I kind of missed that." Peter sighed, helping his friend up.

"You think the Lelie girl is best, yes?" Peter asked after Ryan had stood, "You did clap for her. That's a sign of approval, you know." Ryan nodded and bit his lip.
"Yes," he said, "I think she's the best. I'm going to have to insist upon her, in fact. I'm completely decided." Peter nodded, and began to walk to the side of the large theater row. As Ryan followed, he looked back and grinned.

"Alright then," he said, "she's got good stage presence, good voice, very confident. She matches with the character concept well. All's all, I agree." Ryan smiled weakly, and almost dropped his notepad. Peter shook his head, opening a small door into a light lobby.

"I'm glad you like her," Peter said as they walked into the lobby, filled with people milling about, "looking forward to convincing you to take a good actress over one who piqued your interest was keeping me up at night." Ryan nodded absentmindedly as Peter excused himself quietly to talk to a receptionist at the lobby's counter.

Even as I sit in the lobby, she waltzes in my head! Even in my wildest dreams I never imagined getting such a perfect Marietta! The perfect form, the perfect mind, the perfect soul...

If only I could just catch a glimpse of her face-

"Ryan?" Peter's voice called to him, shaking him out of his writing-induced trance, "Ryaaan?" Ryan blinked several times and looked up slightly from his notepad, instinctively covering it with his arms. "I'm sorry," Peter continued, "he gets a bit, well, you know, into his writing. Playwrights..." Ryan shook his head again and looked further up.

There, standing above of him, was the girl. She still had the black jacket and hat combo on, and her smiling red lips revealed shining white teeth. Her nose was small and petite, like the rest of her, and her face had the gentle curves of beauty. Her blue eyes smouldered, and Ryan could barely speak.

"Oh," he stuttered out, "he-hello M-miss Lelie." He smiled weakly and rose from his chair, offering a hand that was thankfully sweat-free from clasping his pad. She nodded and reached out, shaking his hand gently.

"Nice to meet you," she said, "Mr...?" Ryan blinked, then turned a bright red.

"Ryan," he blurted out quickly, grinning nervously, "c-call me R-r-ryan, please. I'm the... the..." He faltered and turned a deeper red, but Miss Lelie just giggled.

"Call me Susan," she said with a genuine smile. Ryan nodded quickly and looked over at Peter desperately. Peter saw his look, rolled his eyes and sighed.

"Ryan here is a playwright," Peter said, "and a very good one at that."

"I can tell," Susan said, "your script is beautiful. I'm so happy I got the part." Ryan gripped his notepad tighter and tried to smile.

"Y-you were by... by far the bes-best for the r... r... role," Ryan stuttered, "exactly wh-what I'd.. I'd always th-thought of Mariet-etta." Susan smiled wider and blushed slightly at the complement, kicking at the ground.

"Thanks," she said. Ryan felt his heart stopped, and tapped his fingers on his notepad anxiously.

"Well," Peter said, turning to face Susan, "you are the last member of the cast, so we will start rehearsals tomorrow. Be here at eight, and expect to stay through the afternoon. The show opens soon and there is no time to dawdle!" Susan smiled again, and left quietly through the front. Meanwhile, Ryan collapsed into his leather lobby chair. Peter turned to look at him with raised eyebrow.

"Do you now see why I wanted these last?" Ryan asked. Peter shrugged and nodded. Ryan let out a deep sigh. "I told you I was terrible," he said. Peter rolled his eyes and slapped Ryan on the back, making him wince.

"You did fine," he said, offering a hand to his slouching friend, "you never know, too. Some chicks like the whole 'sensitive-guy' thing." Ryan accepted the hand but said nothing, his notepad still clutched nervously under one arm.

April 5th, read the small bedside book in Ryan's shaky handwriting, preparations for the play are finally done. All that's left are rehearsals, and then the play will debut.

"The play will debut." I still cannot give credence to the words shaping themselves in my mind. But it is true! Soon my Marietta will live under velvet skies!

I desperately hope that this succeeds. To have a failure this early in my career... Oh the desolation. But I must not fear. The problems are mine to solve.

At this point, I'm not sure what is worse, knowing that, soon, Marietta will take to the stage, or knowing how beautiful she is in waking life. Perhaps I should not have accepted such a stunning actress for the role- but no. Marietta must be played to life. She must exist.

Oh please life, let her exist.

The next day, Ryan arrived at the stage at a quarter to eight sharp, a small cardboard cup of coffee in one hand, and a new notepad in the other. He could not risk anyone seeing the meditations of his heart accidentally from the page.

When he arrived in the lobby of the small midtown stage, he found Peter talking to the secretary, Roxanne, at her desk, and several small groups of extras talking lowly. Ryan entered, chose his favorite chair, and sat down to wait.

He wrote absentmindedly on his pad, detailing a new work he had devised several days ago. He described scenes similar to the stage and lobby, and outlined ideas for a small love story.

Suddenly, however, there was a thump from next to him, and he looked up to see someone sitting in an adjacent seat, looking over at his writing curiously.

Ryan quickly covered his notebook, his arms taking up as much space as possible on the small white pad. He saw the face of Susan look up at him and frown.

"Sorry," she asked, "I probably should've asked first, huh?" Ryan blinked, then quickly shook his head.

"N-no," he said, relaxing his arms slightly, thought not enough to allow a glimpse of his words, "I'm just... just jumpy." He licked his lips nervously, then looked back at Susan. She was watching him interestedly, her chin in her hand, a small smile on her face.

Today, she was wearing the same black jacket, but with new red pants and a matching red cap on her soft brunette hair. She had some kind of light pink lip gloss on, and her eyes had a light, almost unnoticeable tint of eye-shadow.

"Y-you're here early," Ryan managed to say with not too much trouble, "most of the o-others won't be here for a few more m-minutes." Susan shrugged.

"I was ready at like six this morning," she said with a playful grin, "I don't think I could've stayed at my place longer if I had wanted to. I'm super excited." She giggled and added, "But I guess that's pretty obvious, huh?" Ryan smiled weakly and nodded, looking down at his hands.

"So," Susan said after a few moments of silence, "what're you working on? If I could ask, of course." Ryan bit his lip.

"It's a... a new..." he stammered.

"Play?" Susan suggested. Ryan let out a relieved breath and nodded.

"Yeah," he said, "I was just putting down some settings." Susan cocked her head and looked at him.

"Really?" she asked, "So you make the settings first?" Ryan blinked.

"Um, yeah," he said, gaining confidence slightly, "I have to think about what the characters can use in the situation before I completely write the play." He looked at her bright blue eyes watching him intently and swallowed. "I have a rough copy of it already, of course," he continued, "but it's... uh..." He stopped, looking at her bright, sparkling blue eyes in awe.

"Rough?" Susan suggested, then giggled when Ryan nodded. "So what's it about, then?" she asked. Ryan blinked, then, after a slight pause, began to talk.

Fifteen minutes later, Peter broke them apart, shattering the almost dream-like trance Ryan had fallen into. He'd not stuttered once, and she had absorbed every word he'd said, and asked for more. But Peter said that the last of the actors had arrived, and the rehearsal should begin, much to Ryan's disappointment.

He followed his friend dejectedly to the stage as Susan broke off and went back stage. After several minutes of small discussion over placing, Peter led Ryan to the first row seats and called for the actors to begin their scene, Ryan sitting with open notebook on his lap.

I'm beginning to suspect that she has some power to make people comfortable, the notepad soon read, and its working. A woman as beautiful as her? And I talking to her without a single stammer? Absurd! But somehow I-

Amazing. I don't even see why she needs to attend these rehearsals, besides giving the others a glimpse of her stunning performance! She's already near perfect, and we've barely begun! I wonder if she's read the play in its entirety-

She is flawless, astounding! It was probably not intelligent to include it in the first place, but her transition from anger to laughter is natural! As a man returning home, the sun to its rest, laughter is truly her natural state...

Ryan blinked as the spotlights were raised from the scene, and the actors retreated for a brief break. He looked at a small clock on the far wall, and saw that four hours had passed already. He looked down at his writing, seeing the abrupt breaks in line and words at regular intervals, and sighed.

"I'm impressed," said Peter, stretching his arms slightly. Ryan nodded.

"I concur," he said, "they are all magnificent. Very telling of their abilities." Peter snorted.

"Oh, that too," he said, "but mainly I meant the way you stopped writing whenever Miss Susan came on stage. I've never seen you stop writing in the middle of it, except possibly for an earthquake. Maybe." Ryan blushed and looked down, shaking his head.

"I-I-I was j-just making s-s-sure the play was... was..." Ryan said, stuttering greatly with embarrassment, "going well." Peter grinned and nodded.

"Yeah sure you were, you big softie," he said, then stood. "Alright people!" he shouted, "Great work! We have lunch in the lobby for you, and then we'll conclude the rehearsal! Chop chop!" Ryan stuck his notepad under his arm and stood, as Peter gathered up several papers and prepared to leave.

"I don't believe you even know what that means," Ryan said as they walked down the row of seats, "'chop chop?'" Peter looked back and grinned.

"Sure, sure," he said, "but it fit, right?" Ryan slowly shook his head.

"Not in particular," he said, sighing as his friend held open the door of the theater, "you'd be more of the 'schnell!' character, I believe." Peter rolled his eyes.

"Very funny," he said, chuckling.

After they entered the lobby, they found the majority of the cast inside, eating off of small paper plates stacked high with food from steaming catering pans. Peter quickly extracted himself to where the secretary, Roxanne, was eating at her desk. Ryan, meanwhile, went up to the pans and grabbed a small serving of rice and cooked fish. He was just heading to his favorite chair when Susan popped up next to him.

"I notice that Peter spends a lot of time chatting up the receptionist," she said with a small grin, and Ryan jumped slightly. She looked over at him, head cocked, and smiled. "Sorry," she said, "didn't mean to freak you out." Ryan calmed his breathing and sighed.

"It's f-fine," he said, "Peter does speak w-with Miss Roxanne often, th-though." Susan giggled, and Ryan flushed with embarrassment. "Did I say something funny?" he asked nervously. Susan blinked at him, then shook her head with a chuckle.

"Nah," she said, "it's just the way you talk. All intellectual. I kinda like it." Ryan flushed an even deeper red, and tried to say something, but fell into murmurs. Susan looked over and smiled at him kindly, and jerked her head to the pair of chairs they had sat at that morning. Ryan nodded quickly, and they sat down again.

He looked over and saw Susan with a plate containing fish, rice, and a small quantity of of noodles balanced on her knee. Now, even closer to her and not preoccupied with answering questions, Ryan found his eyes scanning over her in wonder. The way her hair fell down the sides of her head and over the front of her shoulders, the way it flowed in the light. Her delicate lips were curled up in a playful smile, and her fingers tapped on the side of the chair energetically.

"You okay there, Mr. Playwright?" Susan asked after several minutes of Ryan not touching his food. He blinked and tore himself away from gazing at her beauty, and blushed yet again. He went to pick up his fork only to find that, in his mental fog, he'd forgotten to pick one up. He bit his lip and grinned weakly.

"I, uh, I s-seem to have for-forgotten to get a fork," he said weakly, and stood, placing his lunch on the seat, "I'll um, be right... right... right..."

"Back?" Susan suggested gently. Ryan nodded, and rushed back to the caterer's table.

Once there, he nearly collapsed, panting heavily. He looked back at where Susan was still sitting, quietly finishing her meal. He shook his head slowly, and picked up a fork. He looked for Peter, hoping for help of some kind, but saw that his friend was still enthusiastically chatting up Roxanne. Ryan sighed, looking back to where Susan sat with her legs crossed, looking around, lunch finished and forgotten. Ryan took a deep breath, steeled himself, and set forth.

April 6th, the small bedside journal read, rehearsals go well. The cast is competent and skilled, and there are few, if any, major problems.

Peter wants to do more advertising, and I, against my better judgment, agree with him. I simply cannot let Marietta down due to something as pedestrian as advertising. So I will be attending a gathering of playwrights for nothing more than to drink wine. Such is our lot in life, apparently. The gala is on the twelfth, so at least I will have time to prepare. Though the play itself starts on the fourteenth, so I will get little time to rest...

No matter. I know of several of the men attending, and all are exceptional writers. If I can overcome my nervousness, this will be a great victory for Marietta .

Miss Susan has begun to crawl under my skin in the most unfamiliar way. It is odd, actually. I find myself looking forward to her company, despite the crippling weakness that she brings me with her presence.

Perhaps... Perhaps I should- no. But... Maybe it would be relevant to invite her to the gala. She is, after all, my star- no. This is insanity, and I will end it before it pervades my mind and perverts my purpose. I will be attending this gala for Marietta only.

I now pray that my dreams will understand my decision.

"Well," Peter said the next morning, "I think it's a great idea!" He stood by Ryan in the lobby of the theater, while the cast were fitted for their costumes. Ryan had yet another new pad in his arms, and tapped his foot nervously.

"No, no," he said quickly, "it was just a silly proposition, it's ridiculous, no."

"Why?" Peter asked, chuckling, "Why, asking Susan to go with you to the Playwright's Ball would be fantastic! She is, as I am sure you know, stunning, and showing her off a bit would be a great bid. The amount of attention we would get from her presence alone would most likely be humongous!" Ryan sighed, and silently cursed himself for ever mentioning it. "And I'm sure that she'd be willing to go with you," he continued, "we'd just have to do a quick run-by with her agent, and it would be sealed!" Ryan sighed.

"You're going to insist upon this, aren't you?" he asked. Peter nodded, grinning. Ryan sighed again. "I knew I shouldn't have posed the question..." he murmured to himself, then turned to Peter and said, "At least allow me to broach the subject with her, will you? I'll explain to her the nuances of it better, I'm sure." Peter rolled his eyes and nodded.

"Sure thing," he said, "and I'd have though you'd be begging for me to do it for you..." Ryan paused, and blinked.

"Wait," he said quickly, "I didn't think-"

"No kiddin'," Peter said, slapping him on the back friendlily, "oh well, guess you'll have to get to 'broaching,' huh?" At that moment, the doors to the dressing room hall opened, and the members of the cast emerged to test out the range of movement for their new clothes. Ryan saw with mixed dread and delight that Susan immediately peeled away from the group and headed to them.

"Whaddya think?" she asked, twirling slightly and laughing. Peter nodded in appreciation, and Ryan was stricken dumb.

Susan wore a deep blue dress, medium cut, with long skirts falling to her feet. It was a rather simple dress, exaggerated to compensate for distance in the theater, but on her, it looked stunning.

"Kinda more fancy than the stuff I normally wear," Susan continued, grinning at them, "but it's nice. Soft, too." Peter chuckled.

"You're just lucky your costume is supposed to look sophisticated," he said, "otherwise it'd be itchy linen for you." Susan made a face and stuck out her tongue at Peter, then turned to Ryan.

"So," she asked quieter, "do you like it?" Ryan blinked once, and licked his lips.

"It's astounding," he forced out. Susan smiled widely and blushed red, giggling slightly. Ryan just took deep breaths to try and start his heart again.

"Thanks," she said softly, smiling. Peter coughed lightly, and the two of them jerked and looked back at him, now both equally red. Peter just grinned and shook his head.

"Fitting," he said. Ryan, confused, looked at Susan to find her also puzzled, mouthing the words, "Yeah, it fits fine." Ryan, meanwhile, turned to ask Peter what he meant, but Peter had already walked away to address the cast.

"Okay," he said loudly to the milling people, "I hope everyone's costume fits well; if not, just tell Mrs. Malcariat when you go back to take it off, because it's lunch time! All main cast members, please return here to the lobby once you are ready, everyone else, have fun!" There was a general sound of approval amongst the crowd, and they slowly began filing back into the dressing rooms. Susan turned to Ryan, shrugged, and walked towards the dressing room door. Ryan watched her go, as she played idly with the sleeves of her dress. He just sighed.

A second later, Peter walked back up and gave Ryan a grin. Ryan just shook his head and looked away from the door to his friend.

"Lunch?" he asked.

"Yep," Peter said, nodding, "I thought I'd let everyone pick their poison today. Except the main cast. They're coming with us." Ryan frowned.

"What?" he asked, confused.

"We're going to one of the posh places uptown," Peter said, waving to Roxanne at her desk as they walked, "nice publicity stunt. I know the guy who runs the place, and he said that he'd have a couple of big people in the theater industry around. It'll be great, and I managed to convince ol' Harry to show, too."

"Harry?" Ryan asked, still confused as Peter led him gradually towards the receptionist's desk.

"Susan's agent?" Peter asked, "You know, the one we, or should I say I, was going to talk to about you taking Susan to that ball? That Harry?" Ryan nodded, and sighed.

"Oh," he said dejectedly. Ryan leaned up on Roxanne's desk with a grin.

"And you're going to ask her about it today, got it?" he asked, then, before Ryan could protest, turned to Roxanne and inquired about the whereabouts of the taxis he'd ordered. Ryan just stared.

I never should've dared think up that horrid plan! The white notebook jumped and jiggled in the speeding taxi, It was a terrible idea! And yes, Peter, I can see you reading this and- thank you.

Anyway, I do not look forward to this. Not only will I likely be interviewed, but I also have to ask Miss Susan "out," as it were. Argh.

And yes, Peter, that is a word! Some people, no sense of privacy~

-CRACK-

Ryan held his head lightly as he wrote, This taxi driver should be suspended!

When they finally arrived at the restaurant, after many bumps and sharp turns, Ryan staggered into the building.

"Are you alright?" Susan asked, standing next to him worriedly. Ryan nodded and smiled weakly.

"I do not deal well with rough rides," he said. Susan smiled relievedly and nodded. Ryan silently avoided mentioning the effect her mere presence was having on his already weakened state.

Seconds later, a man in a semi-formal attire came up to them and smiled.

"May I help you?" he asked. Peter stepped forward from the small group and nodded.

"Hey George," he said. The man in the semi-formal attire nodded and smiled.

"Oh, hello Peter," he said, "good to see you made it. If you and your party will follow me?" Peter nodded, and waved for everyone to follow. He, Ryan, and Susan stood at the front, so Ryan and Susan both heard quite clearly what Peter and the man George whispered about.

"I told everyone to drop hints," George said lowly, "I figured it be a bit more tactful than going all out with advertising."

"Nice," Peter said, "thanks man." George nodded, then raised his head when they reached a medium size white table.

"You will find your menus on the table in front of you," he said as the cast all sat down. Ryan sat at the end, facing Peter, and jumped when Susan sat down next to him. She grinned up at him, and he smiled back weakly. "Our special today is fish cooked on sauteed onions with a white sauce," George continued. Next to Peter, across from Susan, sat a man with dark black hair whom Ryan did not know, presumably Harry the agent. Next to him sat a man with dull brown hair and deep laugh lines, named Charles Malsie, rich fiancee to young Marietta, A.K.A Jack Stone, actor. Across from him sat Filagree Marion, Marietta's older sister, or Jenny Jones, a tall woman with bright blonde hair and a glimmering smile. Next to her sat Mr. Marion, Marietta's aging father, or Hubert Miller. And across from him was Lewis Quaré, Marietta's forbidden love, or Frank Cecil. "We have several wines available, but Peter informed me previously that none of you would be needing to know what they were," George said, "sorry." Ryan blinked and looked back up at the man.

"Aw, come on!" came a voice, Frank's, from the end of the table. Peter just laughed and shook his head.

"Sorry Frank," he said back, "we're not on your drunk scene just yet!" The table, including Ryan, laughed.

After several minutes of scanning the menu, Ryan decided on the fish. Soon enough, everyone had picked, and George reemerged to take their orders. After he had gone, most of the cast relaxed and began talking quietly.

Ryan noted with dread that Peter was speaking lowly to Harry, and that the agent was nodding and smiling. Ryan groaned.

"What is it?" Susan asked, looking over at him. Ryan shook his head slightly and smiled.

"It's nothing," he said. He hesitated a second, and then added, "And I have something I need to ask you about." Susan cocked her head.

"Yeah?" she asked.

"W-well, uh," Ryan said, lowering his voice, "I, um, Peter and I, we-we thought th-that..."

Right at that moment, however, Ryan was slapped on the back and coughed. He looked behind him to see a large man in sharp clothes looking at him from over a pair of reading glasses. The man's head was balding, and he had a ruddy complexion.

"If it isn't Ryan Wright!" the man said loudly, laughing, "A little birdie told me you'd be on my premises today!" Ryan gaped, and blinked in surprise. Now the rest of the table was looking too, and Ryan noted that Susan was looking up at the man frustratedly. Ryan's mouth worked soundlessly.

"U-uh," he asked weakly, "and wh-who are y-you, if you'll p-pardon me for a-asking...?" The large man laughed, a deep rumbling sound, and grinned widely.

"Robert J. Pusil," he said, making a small bow, "at your service." Ryan blinked.

"Ah, Mr. Pusil!" Peter said quickly, standing and shaking the large man's hand, "I see you're doing well! Owner of the Grand Hotel downtown, and numerous others, it's an honor to meet you!" Mr. Pusil smiled and nodded.

"And the same to you, Peter," he said, "I heard tell that you were twisting my fine staff to you're own dark purposes, yet again..." Peter merely shrugged. Mr. Pusil turned to Ryan and grinned. "And I trust you are enjoying the occasion?" he asked.

"Y-yes," Ryan said after a moment's pause.

"Good, good!" Mr. Pusil said, again loudly, and grinned. He turned to look at Susan, and then back at Ryan. "You know," he said, "I received intel that you would be attending my Playwright's Ball next week. Is this true?" Ryan blinked, and then nodded quickly. Mr. Pusil smiled. "And," he added, "I was also told that you would be in the companionship of a beautiful member of the cast..." Ryan's face went white, and his eyes darted over to Susan before flying back to the large Mr. Pusil. Ryan swallowed, and nodded slowly.

"Y-yes," he said, "that is t-true. I was j-just asking her, in f-fact." Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw Susan flush.

Mr. Pusil slapped Ryan on the back again and laughed. Ryan winced.

"I admire your honesty!" Mr. Pusil said loudly, "And for that, I will leave it to you. Good day, Mr. Wright." Ryan nodded numbly and looked back around as Mr. Pusil advanced on another table, greeting another party. When he did turn back to the table, he saw six faces looking at him questioningly, and Susan staring down at the table, smiling widely and blushing. Ryan turned a light shade of red, and opened his mouth just as George reappeared with their food.

Thankfully, this stole away the gazes of the other cast members. In fact, the food drove all of the diners to silence with its flavor, including Ryan and Susan. Though Ryan did notice Susan sneaking looks at him, and smiling. Ryan just tried not to see them, and continued eating.

Soon, most of the table had finished their meals, except for Ryan, who continued to push food around on his plate nervously. Peter, however, kicked him in the shin under the table, and nodded his head to where Susan talked to Jenny. Ryan swallowed roughly, and Peter rolled his eyes.

"Alright people," Peter said, standing, "we had best go. Go ahead and head back out to the front, I'll meet up with you guys after we pay..." The cast gradually stood and left, then, while Peter gestured with his eyes at Susan, and mouthed the words "Go ask her you twit!" to Ryan. Ryan sighed, and held out a hand to grab Susan's shoulder. She stopped and turned to look at him.

"C-could I speak to you p-privately?" Ryan asked. Susan nodded quickly, and they moved off to a corner of the restaurant's dining room while Peter stayed behind and payed.

When they were safely away from prying ears, Ryan looked at Susan and sighed. She had changed back into her usual style after the fitting, a tight pair of blue pants, her jacket, and a light green cap. Her dark brown hair glinted in the light as it fell down her shoulders.

"So..." Susan asked slowly, "You wanted to... ask me something?" Ryan nodded nervously.

"Yes," he said, trying hard not to stutter, "I-I wanted to know whether or not you would want to accompany me to the Playwright's Ball. P-Peter and I both thought it would be good for public-"

"I'd love to!" Susan said excitedly before he could finish. She smiled widely and laughed. "So, it's like a real ball? Like, fancy dresses ball? With all those little hors'devore things?" she asked. Ryan blinked once and nodded, unconsciously swept up in her glee. She giggled. "Cool!" she said enthusiastically. Ryan found himself smiling and laughing with her as they went back to the cabs, and the ride back, while no less painful, seemed all the more worth it.

April 13th, the small bedside tablet read, I have barely any energy left for this farce.

I mean, what does it matter? Who will ever read these? Who would ever care?

Why would one want to read of the idiocy of the greatest mistake mankind has ever offered unto this planet.

The Playwright's Ball was a huge success for the play. Many influential men and women there were intrigued by my presentation of the play. I believe we will have even larger numbers than we could have ever hoped for.

And yet, at the same time... The Ball was an utter failure. A disaster. Crushing.

When I arrived at the hotel of Mr. Pusil, and Susan soon after that. She was truly stunning. I do not know where she got her dress, but whatever she paid for it was much under price. The thing was a work of beauty. But I am beginning to suspect that anything worn by her becomes a work of beauty.

And I blew it. Completely. Oh, sure, for the first few hours of the Ball, things went fantastically. People were intrigued by her, by (for some unthinkable reason) me, and by us, together. I'm afraid I won't be able to remember half the names I learned tonight. And that doesn't matter.

All that matters is that I failed. I failed her, and I failed myself. I would love to say that it was all that dashing blonde-haired man's fault, but I know better. Blame not others for the bell's toll, it tolls because of me.

I saw him talking to her, over by the refreshments. I, drawn away by enthusiastic theater-goers, saw her, talking to him. The dashing blonde-haired man. His guilt is nonexistent, and yet I hate him so.

I, after extracting myself from the throng, walked over to talk to her also. And, facing her so, I saw everything.

I told Peter all about it today, whilst the cast did some final practice. He insists that I am mistaken, but I know what occurred. I know what I saw.

The way she looked in my direction as I approached, the way she turned from me, to that blonde-haired man, and back again and again; I saw. And the way she at last, just before I was pulled away by Mr. Pusil, looked at me in disgust. The last thing I saw was that dashing blonde-haired man asking her to dance.

Goodnight readers of these unspoken words. My creation, my Marietta, takes to the stage tomorrow. Somehow, I feel hollow, and I expect not even my creation's success can fill the hole in my being.

Ryan watched impassively as the curtain dropped. He watched, eyes empty, as the people around him stood and began to cheer. He did not stand. He did not cheer. He merely sighed.

On stage, the cast reemerged and took a bow. Center stage, Ryan saw Susan, wearing the same magnificent blue dress she had worn for the first fitting. She was smiling widely, and her eyes seemed to home in on the box in which Ryan sat, surrounded by influential supporters of the arts. Ryan did not move. He sighed again, and stood as the curtain fell once again, and the audience began to leave.

After he exited, Peter walked up to him and grinned.

"So," he asked, "how was it?" He put on a cheery face, and Ryan smiled slightly.

"It was fantastic," he said to his friend, "everything I dreamt it would be." He looked away, then, and added in a lower voice, "The only thing in my life to be so..." Peter frowned worriedly, and put a hand on Ryan's shoulder.

"Are you alright?" Peter asked. Ryan thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Well," Peter said slowly, thinking, "me and the cast were going to go grab a late dinner somewhere and..." He trailed off when Ryan began shaking his head.

"No thanks," Ryan said, stepping away, "I'll be going back home as soon as I stretch my legs. Tell everyone I said they did a great job." Peter's frown deepened, and he nodded silently, leaving through the front doors into the night.

Ryan, meanwhile, looked around the now-darkened lobby of the theater. He let out a deep breath, and shook his head.

On a whim, he decided to go to the stage. Once he had let himself through the confusing maze of back hallways and out onto the stage, he sat down at its edge, where one light still shone down. He looked out on the empty seats.

He came in here a lot, actually. Whenever he needed to think. Whenever he needed to be more alone than alone. Whenever he wanted to try and leave even himself behind.

Suddenly, behind him, a door opened. It opened softly, as if the opener wanted to be silent, but the old wood still creaked.

Ryan stood up quickly and turned around. When he did, however, he saw Susan standing at the open door, frowning worriedly. Ryan sighed.

"Oh," he said, sitting back down, "hello Susan." He heard her footsteps behind him as she walked up and sat next to him on the stage.

Neither one of them spoke for a while, just sitting in the near darkness. Ryan trembled slightly, at all the thoughts rocking around in his head.

"Peter said you would be in here," Susan said eventually, her voice gentle and soft, "he said you were pretty upset." Ryan said nothing. Susan sighed. "He told me that you thought that I hated you," she said.

"I referred only to look on your face at the gala two days ago," Ryan said. Susan shook her head, her hair swaying.

"That was hatred, yes," she admitted, "but not for you." Ryan turned to her, confused. She smiled shyly and shrugged. "Hatred for that damn Pusil, yes," she said, "but not you. Never you." Ryan blinked and gaped at her. She just looked down, turning a light red. "What?" she asked, "Ryan, what do you think I feel when I look at you?" Ryan quivered, and blinked again, swallowing roughly.

"I-I-I don't k-know," he stutter nervously. Susan laughed.

"Well," she said, "I think you're cute, for one. I think you're funny. And smart. And interesting. And all that other stuff, too." She paused, and looked back up at him, eyes bright in the spotlight. "But as for what I feel?" she said, "Butterflies, for one. A little bit of hope, a little pinch of worry. Lightheaded..."

"Bu-but I-I don't s-see wh-what you s-s-see in..." Ryan stammered out, and Susan giggled.

"You don't see what I see in you?" she asked. Ryan nodded dumbly. She laughed. "I just told you, silly!" she said, "I think you're cute and funny! And before you say it, no, I do not see you stuttering. Or being nervous. I used to be like that, too. I still am, a lot of times. I was so happy when I first met you, because I managed not to stutter." Ryan gaped at her once more.

"You stuttered?" he asked. She nodded.

"Yep," she said, "for the first eighteen years of my life. I always thought I sounded stupid, but not you. You make it sound... sweet." She smiled genuinely. Ryan stared at her and said nothing. She reddened slightly and looked away, sighing. "But I can understand," she said, beginning to stand, "if you're not comfortable, then I'll just stop now."

Ryan felt himself jerk as she began to stand, and had to fight to keep his arm from darting out and taking her hand. She stood completely up and stretched slightly, before turning to walk away.

And in Ryan's mind, he saw himself stand. He imagined he saw his hand reach out to land on her shoulder, touching the smooth, soft brown hair that rested their, streaming out from under her cap.

"Wait," he said in his mind, "d-don't." Susan turned, her light pink lips glinting in the light, and her eyes slightly watery. Her face was a soft glow under the spotlight, and she looked at him curiously. "Susan," he pictured himself saying, "you are one of the most beautiful women I've ever known. Every time you're around, I can barely think. And, for some reason, I find myself wanting to see you, in spite of that.

"I don't get butterflies when I see you," he continued, "my stomach just does flips of joy. I feel this odd form of hope that makes me want to scream, and a kind of worry that makes me want to cry." He turned Susan to face him completely, and put his hand on her face lightly. "And whenever I see you," he said, "I feel so lightheaded I think I might just float away."

Susan's eyes lit up, a bright, sparkling blue, and she smiled, leaning her face into his hand slightly. Ryan sighed.

"And I don't want anything that amazing to just walk out of my life," he said softly, and kissed her.

Ryan didn't realize what had happened until his face began to draw away from hers. She looked up at him with a smile, and he blinked in the light that, all the sudden, was blinding. Susan wrapped her arms around him and hugged him, sighing contently. Ryan blinked in surprise several times, and then, slowly, he closed his eyes and leaned into her, happy.

And behind them, in the empty seats and deserted aisles, under the silvery light of the spotlight moon, the audience went wild.