I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I stared up at the glittering marquee in awe, my body teetering on the edge of the curb, needing to get a better view but not wanting to fall into the street and get hit by a car in the process. My fingers rose to my quivering lips and a surprised breath huffed out of me. I never thought this day would come.
A woman passed by, glancing at me as she did. She stopped, her face creased in concern at the tears streaming down my face.
“Hey, you ok?”
I pointed up at the marquee with a shaky finger.
“Jezebel’s Circus. Written by Samantha Baker.” she read out loud. “So?”
“I wrote it. That’s my play up there.”
Her suspicious concern melted into a stranger’s admiration.
“Congrats, girl! That’s amazing!”
I brushed my tears away and conjured up a watery smile. “It is, isn’t it?”
“Damn straight. You should be celebrating, not standing out here crying.”
With a tilted head and pursed lips, she looked at me, considering something.
“Hey, I’m meeting some friends at Bar Virage, on the corner of Second and Seventh. You should totally come join us.”
I shook my head and she nodded hers right back at me.
“You have to celebrate. Besides, we don’t get to meet real live playwrights everyday. I’m buying the first round.”
I gave her a wary look and she laughed.
“If you get there and think we’re a bunch of looney tunes you don’t have to stay. Either way, you get a free drink out of it.” She waggled her eyebrows. “Whaddaya say?”
She reminded me of someone. Someone just as beautiful and charismatic. Someone I’d lost touch with a long time ago. Nostalgia sank its claws into me and ten minutes later I was sitting in a bar, sipping my free drink.
Her name was Sariya and her friends were just as open and welcoming as she was, and just as much in awe of my accomplishment. They peppered me with questions and before I knew it, I was telling them all about how my play’s name ended up on that marquee.
I told them how I’d wanted to be a playwright ever since my best friend and I saw Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street when we were fifteen.
Afterwards, we became obsessed with the theater. We devoured the works of any playwrights we could find at our tiny town library; Shakespeare, August Wilson, Neil Simon, Suzan Lori-Parks. We dressed in all black, spoke in British accents and dreamed of writing the most amazing, fantastic, ridiculously brilliant play ever.
By the time we graduated high school and went off to college together we’d ditched the black clothes, ditched the British accents and my best friend had ditched the idea of writing the most amazing, fantastic, ridiculously brilliant play ever. But I hadn’t.
I majored in Theater Arts and under the creaky stage lights of our college theater fell in love with a milk chocolate Romeo with a beautiful hazel colored glass eye. It was amazing and intense and over far too soon.
I never gave up on my writing dream and toiled away on my masterpiece, Jezebel’s Circus until it was perfect and complete. And now it was opening tomorrow night at the theater just a few blocks away.
I told them how I had to head home. I needed to get my rest. Tomorrow was going to be a big night for me.
Sariya and her friends promised they’d come out to support. I told them they didn’t have to, that it wasn’t necessary, but these funny strangers now considered me their friend and vowed they would come as they embraced me and pressed farewell kisses on my cheeks.
That night, I was too hyped and jittery to sleep. I paced my tiny room, thinking, calculating, preparing for Opening Night. By the time the sun rose, I was settled. I was ready. I’d dreamt of this day and it was finally here. The blood, sweat and tears would be worth it.
One hour before curtain, I pulled my dark hair into a ponytail, slid into black jeans, a black sweater and grabbed my pair of silver and black stilettos.
I was steps away from the Staff Only entrance when I heard, “Samantha! Hey, Samantha!”
It was Sariya calling to me from the milling crowd waiting to be ushered into the theater. Her friends surrounded her. She smiled, waving a bouquet of flowers over her head and
beckoning me over. A thousand snakes writhed in my belly. Didn’t she know it was bad luck to give flowers before the show?
My gaze passed over her without acknowledgment and I caught the door’s edge just as a stagehand pushed through. Sariya’s smile faded, exchanging confused looks with her friends as I ignored them all and slipped inside.
A wave of bittersweet familiarity settled over me and the snakes coiling in my stomach calmed. The play that I had written would be performed here tonight. Perfect and complete.
I just needed to do one more thing before I claimed my seat.
Ten minutes later, my soggy boots left faint imprints as I climbed the back stairs to the private balcony where I would watch the show from the best seat in the house. I slipped through the heavy velvet door drape and took in a quick breath.
A woman was already sitting in one of the two seats that filled the tiny space. I wasn’t surprised to see her. I knew she would be there.
Sliding the silver and black knife from my pocket, I flicked it open and sat down beside her. She turned then froze, her devil dark eyes growing so huge I was in danger of falling in.
“Hey, Samantha.” I pressed the blade to her throat. “What up, girl?”
Yes, I’d told Sariya and her friends how my play’s name had ended up on that marquee. But I never told them how as kids, Samantha was as fierce and blinding as the sun and I was the shy planet caught up in her orbit. She was the one who wanted to see Sweeney Todd when we
were fifteen, but I was the one who came away, dazzled and fascinated by the tragic tale of love, obsession and revenge bathed in blood.
My obsession with the theater far outweighed hers and she was a reluctant participant in the black clothes, British accent and writing the most amazing, fantastic, ridiculously brilliant play ever.
Even though Samantha and I went to college together we were drifting apart. I’d found my calling and my newfound purpose filled me with confidence. I was learning and growing as a writer, my work gaining attention across campus. I wanted…no, expected my best friend to be happy for me, but Samantha was like an umbrella. Shade was all she seemed able to give.
In an instant, my love for my milk chocolate Romeo turned from amazing and intense to frightening. That’s what he’d said to me. My love frightened him and he backed away. Right into Samantha’s open legs.
I loved them both and their betrayal broke me, Samantha and my glass-eyed beau. I was hollowed out, nothing more than a ghost haunting the halls. I relinquished everything to her and she took it all as if it was her right! My creativity, my life, my man. Once again she was the fierce, blinding sun. I couldn’t bear to look at her.
Samantha’s sweat slickened throat quivered. I pressed the knife deeper and she breathed my name. Beautiful droplets of blood hovered on the edge of the blade. I moved closer. Gently, I slid my left hand across the base of her neck and into her hair, my fingers easily parting the inky curls. My eyes bored into hers, watching, waiting.
With a twist of my wrist, I fisted my hand in her hair, snapping her head back. She grit her teeth, refusing to make a sound, but her eyes betrayed her. Tears spilled, pulling a smile from me so wide I’m sure every thirty-two of my teeth shone white in the darkness.
I had her blood and sweat. Now I had her tears.
This is what I’d been waiting for, what I needed. What she’d taken from me, I’d taken back.
“I’m so, so very s-s-sorry.” Almost absently, she raised her hands towards her neck. I sliced at them, splitting open both palms before settling the blade back against her throat. Her sharp cry was short but sweet. She pressed her bleeding hands to her thigh.
“You should be. Both of you.”
Samantha’s eyes snapped back to mine, realization and fear pushing through. But not fear for herself.
I tilted my head, a smile curving my lips. “Did you think I’d forget about him? He was my first love.”
“But you weren’t his.” She could still cut me without a knife. I tried to keep my hand steady but the blade slid a fraction deeper. The trickle turned into a stream.
“Did you hurt him? Where is he?” she asked.
She tensed, her eyes bouncing around, looking everywhere and nowhere. She was panicking and panicked people make stupid decisions.
Downstairs, the audience had quieted. Jezebel’s Circus was about to begin.
“Time for the sun to set.” I sighed.
The stiletto whispered through her, replacing words with gurgling and pulsating spurts of blood. Her hands flew to her throat, slapping at it like she was being stung by a thousand bees. I pressed her into her seat until her flailing subsided to the occasional spasm, then nothing. Staring at her crimson coated body, I regretted being so hasty. There were things I wish I would have told her.
I wish I would have told her that I should have done things differently in college when I discovered that she’d betrayed me. I would have killed her then.
As I stood on the curb looking up at the marquee, I was teetering between exhilaration that my play was being produced (even though it wasn’t by my hand) and pitch black rage. Rage so deep it shook my entire being, so deep it stole my breath. I’d allowed her to take everything from me once. I wouldn’t allow her to do it again.
I wish I would have told her that I showed mercy on my chocolate Romeo. Downstairs, I found him in the office marked Director and when I walked in, he asked who I was. Was I that forgettable? Or was Samantha so dazzling she wiped away all memory of any woman before her? I wanted to ask, but was afraid of the answer. Neither one would do much for my ego.
Instead, I blinked away the sudden tears as I slid the stiletto from my pocket and locked the door behind my back. I did it quickly, coming from his left side, the side with that beautiful hazel-colored glass eye. The thick cinder walls deadened the sounds of him flailing, spraying them like an out of control water hose.
As Jezebel’s Circus ended, I stood with the rest of the audience to give the cast and crew a standing ovation, my smile as bright and blinding as the stage lights. It was just as I wrote it. Perfect and complete. The most amazing, fantastic, ridiculously brilliant play ever.
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