I looked out past the pale, pastel lights to the applauding audience before me, I was proud; and for once my mother was proud of me, I could see her dim silhouette in the sound booth daintily applauding and then sitting abruptly. She always knew since I was little, that I'd be her little actor, and she would do whatever she saw fit to make me excel in the arts. It was interesting to watch the ovating audience, their faces seemed to take a slow motion feel watching their faces distort in various stages of happiness and fanatic screaming to sorrow and angsty howling for an encore that would never come. Acting. It was the way I lived a lie, a pseudo limelight to create my own happiness, like a cuckoo bird in a Robin's nest, confronted by a mother who was truly not my mother at all; and although most people would push away the feeling of this kind of foreign love, I lived for it. I took one final bow to the people impressed by my nights work and began to retreat backstage to my room while the satin curtain fell to the floor to keep the rabid ones at bay, but not all the applaudies were kept away, as I began my walk back the staff lined on either side of the hall and began applauding and roaring encouragements at me as I walked past. Several of the crewmen had given me harsh but friendly slaps to my back which while well intended would certainly bruise and ache later.
Finally I reach the double doors to the living quarters and silence hit the hall like a slammed book on a library floor, I swiftly walked across the yellow and orange tiled carpet and the whitewashed walls to the furthest door, my door. It was dark red like the color of blood and had a piece of tarnished silver screwed onto the door with my name carved in a fancy script that seemed almost victorian, and it read; "Aaron Nathaniel Rebek" my full name, and then simply under it, in sharpie "Our Star" I had yet to figure out to did it, but my mother certainly didn't, she thought it looked tacky and wanted it gone if not for my protest. I gazed around for any other living souls there and when I deemed it safe, banged the plaque once with significant force and from behind it a silver key fell onto the floor. I picked up my key I so cleverly hid and opened my door, carefully tucking my key into my pocket for safekeeping. I only hid the key there on nights I knew I'd be out, either performing or other, it was a precaution I took, not only from the obvious theft, vandalism and ect. but also because I didn't want anyone to find the things I was hiding. As the door finished opening with a loud but heartwarming squeak home I slammed it behind me and flipped the switch to my vanity. The lights made a whirring noise like they were starting up, and soon they lit the room with blinding light that faded to a more managble level after a moment. It was on old vanity, once I think it was beige but years of use left it with stains and chips making it impossible to be certain, it was covered in stage makeup, wigs, dyes, makeup and other beauty products in bottles of different colors, sizes, and shapes, some open, some closed with other lids or plastic wrap. I sat on the small out of date purple velvet chair and began the work of disassembling my stage makeup, first my wig, then slowly take away the layers of makeup and other things, eyelashes, contacts, etc.
When I finished disassembling myself, for the first time in forever, I looked at the pictures pasted to various corners and crannies of the vanity, pictures of dancers, actors, pantomimers, and other performers of the past. It was a passed down piece, every star that had it, every hopeful, every big dreamer, took their picture and put it on this vanity, and soon, It'd be my turn. In the mirror I put myself back into focus and looked at the biggest lie of all. My hair. I looked at it's dark coffee colored color in the little bit of useable mirror left. I frowned and took a wet towel I always had laid out and wiped at it watching carefully as the brown turned to white, revealing my lie, exposing me like a nerve, for the whole world to gaze upon and let out sighs of astonishment if they saw it. It was the trait of someone with it, the disease that ravaged our world with the kind of ferocity only seen in war or movies.
It's common knowledge now, that the great 2012 incident came and changed everything as we know it. The funny thing is, it didn't come like we expected it to. There was no meteor, no tsunami, no zombies, no atomic war. 2012 came in the form of a long dormant disease, Tuberculosis. When it first started, it took out all of Washington state, and the few people pulled from there were too far gone to save, scientists couldn't believe it; more like they didn't want to. It was resistant to all manner of treatments, nothing could stop it. The president then declared a national emergency and reopened the TB sanatoriums of years past in an attempt to contain and study the disease. Anyone caught with it, or suspected of it are immediately incarcerated and taken to the nearest facility. Ours is just up the road, but I don't want to go, they say you go there to die. So I hide it.
I have Tuberculosis, and there is nothing I nor anyone around me can do about it. No matter how many times I look at it, no matter how many times I say it to myself, I have to live this lie. I have to dye my hair, and I will always be here on this stool, taking the dye away only to put it back on tomorrow.
I watch with pitied anger as I wipe away the last remaining strains of brown when a knock comes to my door. Hurriedly, I take the towel and turn it over to hide the brown, rising from my stool and sitting on the edge of my bed,
"Come in!" I yell, as the door opens, a woman stands there dressed in fine purple silk and purple boa around her neck, her auburn colored hair flashing off wonderful emerald colored eyes, her sleek slender body sauntering toward me and taking a seat on the vanity chair, she gave me a slightly pleased look, and extended her arm to me. Immediately I rose from my seat and kissed her hand. "Mother, what are you doing here?" I let her hand go gently and she immediately put it on her lap,
"My son, your performance was wonderful, I am so proud of you." She said with flat and dry happiness.
"Thank you mother, you know I try for you."I said autonomically, I was always taught to be proper to her, and when I wasn't it never turned well for me. She lifted an eyebrow at me then deemed that there was nothing more to say, she rose and left as quickly as she arrived. It was odd to get a compliment from my mom, usually she only gave me negative feedback and grief about something minor no one but her would notice, so it made my gut turn, and gave me a sickened worry that something was about to happen.
I locked the door shortly after she left and flopped face down on my bed, listening t the springs squeak out a welcome back and then silence so I could rest, I took the towel off and threw it into the vanity taking a deep breath, then I felt it. My chest felt like it was slowly catching fire, I felt the engulfing pain creep up each individual rib and consume my chest with pressure, making me cough and gasp occasionally. All too soon, It got to the point I almost couldn't breathe and I rolled off my bed to the floor, moving a pile of clothing to reveal the beat up wood floor. I strained myself to lift up the board between coughs, stopping every so often as they contracted my chest and forced a cough and then a few more. Finally, I jimmied the board free and ripped the lid off a shoebox to reveal my TB kit, hair dye, some pain pills, and of course my ramphin prescription I had to stop the attacks, I opened the lid and to my dismay it was empty. I felt my chest contract and my body began to enter a coughing fit. One after another, my body began forcefully getting rid of the coughs, I was helpless and in pain. The burning persisted and I strained to resist screaming out for help. While my lungs felt like someone was stabbing me with a hot poker, I felt something rising in my throat, as I opened my mouth, my body let out vicious coughs and forced out a sputter of fresh blood, I began to vomit up blood onto the floor. I could feel the stinging in my throat as it rose like lava. I could taste the metallic rust of it on my tongue and lips, and I could smell the repulsive red liquid on the floor. The convulsions got worse as I continued to vomit up fresh blood and choke on it as it spat out my lungs like a clogged faucet that finally was unclogged. It lasted for a few moments longer, then it finally stopped, and I collapsed onto the floor, although I didn't have much further to fall, I was already on my knees holding my stomach all that was left was to finish. I lay there for a moment, the blood I expelled next to my head with the smell filling my nose and making me slightly nauseous. As I lay there, it suddenly occurred to me that someone might have heard me, but with my body so weak I had to wait a few moments before cleaning up.
When I recovered I took a towel and began to wipe up the blood realizing very quickly that the only thing I was doing was making it worse for the floor. I swiftly made my way to the vanity and began perusing the various bottles for something to help me. A bottle of bleach jutted from the corner of a plastic tub and I sighed with relief as I spread it onto the floor, taking a clean towel and covering my face to avoid choking on the harsh chemical smell. Finally, I finished cleaning the floor and waded the blood soaked towel into two other towels to mask it as best as I could. I would have to wash these personally. I took a flashlight I had in a small prop box and opened my door to make my way to the laundry room. I made it across the hall and used other ways around than was convenient for me, but if it meant I wasn't going to be caught it was for the best. I made it behind the stage screens when I heard my mother talking to the acting teacher she hired for the school. Normally, this meant poor was about to be chewed out for some reason or another, so I ignored the conversation as I carefully and slowly made my way behind the psyche just to be sure I didn't disturb it and give myself away. Even though I told myself to ignore the conversation, I couldn't help but to notice it and found myself listening in more than I realized I was.
" . I am sure that you are painfully aware of the 'Rush' tomorrow, are you not?" My mothers voice demanded as she talked down to her.
"Yes I am , tomorrows' screening has already been set up, would you like to attend this year?" She said as respectfully as she could muster. I must have stopped moving because I snapped back to myself and realized I had been in the same spot the whole time. I could hear my mother sigh,
"No , you do a fine job selecting the best freshman on your own, I doubt you need my help. There is however, something I would like to discuss with you now while you are free."
"There have been rumors of a very talented young lady transferring into Leogun during tomorrows "Rush" she isn't a freshman, but she could not be transferred any sooner. She has several acting awards and some experience at both districts and states."
"And you would like me to put her through without screening?"
"No. Screen her, but assess her on a honors basis and throw her into the honors classes. I want to see the kind of talent she has with my own eyes."
"What's her name? So I can be certain to make a side note."
"I believe t is Lynn Copperhide or something along those guidelines. That will be all , please continue with your setup process." My mother said dismissively to . I'm sure she nodded and left soon after because I could hear them both moving. I started back on my trail and thought that it was absurd that my mother was placing a sophomore into honors acting classes, she'd be with me and the other big leaguers. Poor girl, she'd be humiliated and thrown out in no time.
I finally reach the linen room with little difficulty and just about bathed the towels and my shirt in stain remover before I washed them. I looked at the clock which showed me an early time of 1:45am, and realized I'd have to leave the laundry behind because the janitors came in to scrub the floors at 2. I abandoned the laundry and left to my bed for the night. Snickering occasionally at the fact that the poor girl would not only have to deal with my mother, but with the "Rush" as well.