The first time I walked into the theater, all I could see was you. The crew director's voice faded into the background as I watched you out of the corner of my eye, standing there in the corner surrounded by other actors, talking and laughing and radiating confidence. You shone so brightly, I felt dim by comparison.
As the rehearsal continued, and I was led out of the room, I knew nothing would ever be the same again.
I couldn't stop thinking about you as I made my way through the theater. Max, the crew director, showed me everything from the props room to the stage to the catwalks, and finally the lighting booth. I was way in the back of the theater, high above the audience, with a perfect view of the stage. He encouraged me to test out the lighting board, get a feel for it, so I did. As I tested each spotlight, I imagined you dancing between them.
I had only a week to learn the cues before the next show. I was nervous, of course, and a little bit of me died every time I messed up during rehearsal. But it was all worth it when you looked up at me and smiled knowingly, even though I knew you couldn't see me through the tinted glass. I was distracted for only a moment; after that, I started working harder.
On the night of the show, I was a nervous wreck. I paced in circles backstage, wanting to go set up early but knowing I'd just be more nervous sitting in the lighting booth. We had an hour and a half until curtain, which meant an hour until the doors opened, which meant 45 minutes until I had to be in the booth. It was too much time, and also too little.
You must have noticed me, because you walked up to me and smiled.
"Could you help me with this?" you said, pointing to the zipper on your costume.
I couldn't speak; you had an aura that made words die on the tip of my tongue for fear of sounding worse than what I heard in my mind. I only nodded and zipped you up. You smiled and thanked me, then put a hand on my shoulder.
"You'll be all right," you said. Then you were gone, back to the organized chaos of preparation for the show.
I took a deep breath. It was hard, but I made myself listen to your words, take them to heart. I'd be all right.
I climbed up into the lighting booth with five minutes to spare. I looked over my notes, made sure I had everything properly labeled, then sat back in the cheap folding chair with a bag of chips and watched the crew hurriedly draw the curtain so they could continue setting the stage while the audience filed in.
I don't remember much of the show itself. I was entirely focused on running the lights, keeping everything running right on time. In the brief moments when I had time to look up and watch, I was always drawn to your dancing form onstage, glowing in the light of a perfectly placed spotlight. Then I'd have another cue, and I'd be back to work once again.
When it was over, I spent a good ten minutes sitting there watching the audience slowly file out, relishing in my first success. I barely noticed when you came into the room, your face reflecting in the glass window that separated me from the theater.
"Nice job," you said. "The last guy always messed up on opening night."
"You're saying I didn't?" I said, the first words I'd spoken to you. I was too focused on the moment to realize that at the time.
"You did lag a little on bringing up the house lights for intermission, but other than that, perfect run so far as I could tell," you said. You leaned against the wall, one hand resting on the table beside the board.
"Thanks," I said, unsure of what to say.
"You mind if I hide up here for awhile? It's always pure chaos right after a show," you said.
"Yes. I mean, no, I don't mind," I said.
You smiled and started talking. I found myself slowly engaging, responding with jokes and questions, and laughing with you. You never seemed to stop talking, so I never had to worry about not knowing what to say, and yet whenever I wanted to speak, you always seemed to know, and gave me the space I needed to say what I wanted.
You left after about an hour, joking about how your face would fall off with your makeup. The lighting booth seemed dark and silent without you there to fill the empty spaces. I swept up the crumbs from my chips, then quietly made my way down to the lockers and picked up my things. We had a long run left of this show, but I knew I'd make it through.
During the next show, I was much more relaxed; I knew my cues and trusted myself enough to watch as I worked. You practically flew across the stage, never standing still for a moment, always moving with an air of grace that none of the other actors could hope to match. The male lead seemed stiff and unfeeling by comparison, no matter how well he could sing. I wondered whether you would still glow without the spotlight.
You came up to the lighting booth after the show again, bringing a packet of makeup wipes with you. We talked about the show as you carefully removed your makeup, and I shut down the equipment. Our conversation wandered from there into other territory: how you started working here, whether I had seen a show you liked, those sorts of things. We didn't stray too far from the subject of work, not yet.
At the next show, I asked about your family. You dodged the question and never asked after mine.
You kept coming, after every show, without fail. We talked and talked and talked, and sometimes I wondered what I had done to deserve this perfect moment every day. Even as rehearsals for the next show started up and we had less time together, you would find ways to seek me out; you would ask for my help, whisper gossip in my ear, and drag me into whatever conversation you were having. I found ways to find you, too, and for a time I thought I would be happy with this strange existence, seeking each other out in our spare moments, never really stepping beyond the bounds of the friendship we had developed.
The show suddenly grew in popularity. A bootleg version had been making the rounds on the Internet, and while that seemed like it would cost us at first, we ended up receiving an endless supply of free publicity. All of a sudden, people were flocking from all over to see the show. Not just the show: to see you. You were a celebrity overnight, all thanks to one person sneaking a camera into a performance weeks ago.
Our show sold out almost every night. We cancelled plans to run new plays to keep up with the demand. Eventually, when the population within a few hundred miles had all come to see us, we made plans to go on tour.
Everyone, cast and crew, were sent flying across the sea. You let me have the window seat while you took the middle; I had never been on a plane before, and I spent the entire trip staring at the clouds beneath us, wondering what it would be like to touch them.
We performed in London for a week, then Belgium, then Paris. Every time we went to a new city, a new theater, that old anxiety surfaced again. I was working with new equipment on an unfamiliar stage, and even with local lighting techs as assistants, I had to figure out the setup at the speed of improvising to keep everything on schedule. It got a little easier with each city, however, and by the time we were in Madrid I felt confident in my abilities.
During the first show in Madrid, I noticed nothing. I was focused entirely on working the lights, directing the other lighting techs as needed, so much so that I didn't notice when one of them vanished halfway through the performance.
After the show, you failed to arrive in the lighting booth. I worked on cleanup slowly, wondering where you could be. You never failed to come talk to me, not once. Worry began to gnaw at my stomach when the theater had emptied and you still weren't there. With no excuses left to procrastinate, I walked across the catwalk and climbed down the ladder beside the stage to go in search of you.
I stopped short at the entrance to the dressing room. A man, the missing lighting tech, was holding a gun. He turned around and pointed it at me when I gasped. The entirety of the cast and crew was huddled in the center of the room, with two other men in masks pointing guns at them. You were standing on the edge near me, your hands pulling on your hair like it was a rope holding you above a volcano.
The lighting tech said something to me in Spanish. Of course I didn't understand, but he made the message quite clear by gesturing sharply for me to join you in the center. So I did, my knees shaking as I had no choice but to step through the pool of blood coating the floor. I stood beside you, barely keeping my fear from overwhelming me.
"Are you alright?" you whispered. I knew you didn't mean physically.
"I'm fine," I lied. You gave me a look. "No," I admitted.
You took my hand, squeezing it reassuringly. I prayed we'd make it out together.
Suddenly the lighting tech was standing in front of us. He took you by the wrist and roughly pulled you from the group.
"There you are," he said, his mouth spreading into a sickening grin.
I imagined you fighting back with a witty retort. I imagined you kicking him in the balls and taking the gun and telling us to run.
But you did nothing.
"Nothing to say, my dear Sylvia?" he said. "Doesn't matter much, anyhow. We're still married in this country, or have you forgotten?"
Tears gathered in your eyes, but you refused to let them fall.
The glow was gone. All you could do was stand and take it, the fear inside you dragging you down. You looked at me, making eye contact, your gaze desperate and pleading. You said nothing, but I heard your cry clear as day.
At that moment, I was no longer scared. I was no longer afraid of the man holding a gun. Rather, I was afraid; I was scared for you, and for the other women, but I was not scared for myself.
I took two steps forward, and kicked him in the side. I snatched his gun out of the air and turned it on him, and you stumbled back into the crowd, and you were protected by them. I trained the gun on him, my breath fast and shallow, knowing that at any instant I could pull the trigger and it would all be over.
I heard the gunshot. I barely turned my head a quarter of the way before the bullet hit my side, slicing through both of my lungs in an instant. I couldn't breathe; blood came out with every desperate cough, my vision narrowing as I used up what precious little oxygen I had left. I closed my eyes in defeat, accepting my fate; after all, I had completed my task. You were safe.
And so I died, and while my body lay on the floor, my soul hovered in that same room filled with blood, and I watched you.
You were always protected after that. Even as he knocked you out and took you away, you were always protected. There was always someone by your side, always someone between you and them. I was always there.
He drove with you in the backseat for a few days, until you were well away from civilization. He took you into a house several miles from the nearest road, and he locked you inside and left. Every day he came back, and every day he tried to harm you, to take off your clothes and use you like I knew he had done before; but he could never touch you. I was always there.
He boarded up the windows. He stopped restocking food. He cut off the water. But I was there, and I would not let him touch you.
You woke up once, in the middle of the night, and you saw me. You reached out in wonder, your hand passing through mine.
"You're still here…" you whispered.
"I always have been," I said. "You don't have to stay here. Come join me."
You were hesitant; I understood that. I stayed for as long as I could, until the sun rose and I faded from your sight. By then, you knew what you had to do.
On your last day alive, you braided your hair. I watched as you stood up with pride, your shoulders back, head held high. You found a bottle of pills in the cabinet. You didn't know what they were, but there was an overdose warning on the back, so they would work. You took the entire bottle, and waited.
When he arrived that day, you did not need me to protect you. You stood and you fought, and you told him you were done, and you said you had already escaped. You collapsed before he could hit you.
When your body finally ceased to live, you rose up and joined me, invisibly floating in the sky. Finally released from your fears, your light shone through as bright as ever; and for the first time, I found myself shining with you.
"It's been so long," you said.
"And yet no time at all." I reached out and took your hand.
"You didn't have to do that."
"Yes, I did. For you."
I shook my head. "You know why."
You smiled. "I guess I do."
Finally free from the burdens of living, you kissed me. Hand in hand we floated up into the sky, finally ready to move on to the next life, together.
As I write this letter, you are beside me. You will never need to read it; you already know all that happens. I'll drop this letter down to earth, where it will land somewhere in the wilderness. Maybe someone will find it someday; maybe they'll read it, and maybe they'll share it. Maybe someday, they'll know our story.
A/N: Greetings, humans! If you liked this story, please consider heading over to and checking out my work there. Just one like would absolutely make my day!
Keep reading, keep writing, and above all, keep dreaming!