Chapter 44: The Audition Concludes
Lenora heard the dry cough as she stood frozen to the stage. One sigh rose up from the thin crowd before her. After another moment – too long – she heard snippets of conversation start up.
She felt heat rising through her neck and she felt her eyes cloud up. She just wished someone would throw a blanket over her.
“What do you want?”
“I think I’ll just do some fries. And an egg roll.”
“Nice. They have good egg rolls.”
The conversation faded off, and spots started to encroach in her vision. Lenora closed her eyes. She bit her lip to stop it from trembling.
I can’t do this.
The wave of defeat washed over her through the red haze the lights were leaving on her eyelids.
And then past that she saw it – his eyes – the bright blue of a strike of lightning. It ripped through the splotches, pierced right through her fear and landed in her chest like a spear.
Her eyes jolted open and she looked from side to side. Squinting, she saw someone backstage trying to gesture to her. Lenora quickly stepped over.
“Ok, you’re done, Honey.”
“No, wait – “
“We can’t have stage fright, sweetie –“
“Start the song again.”
Lenora fixed them with a fire-eyed glare. “Start the song again.”
Swallowing uncomfortably, they shrugged with indifference and then waved her off.
Keep him there, Lenora. Right there. Right behind your eyes.
Lenora resumed her pose. The song cut off. Conversation ended. And then the song started up.
Lenora remembered the club with Renee. She remembered what it was like to dance without a care. She took a deep breath and reached out with her arms to claim the rhythm, let it dance along her limbs, through her chest, down her legs, in the back of her throat. She pulled it through her like thread through the eye of a needle.
At first she swayed. She rocked from side to side with head bowed, letting the song build up within her like an earthquake. And then, like a levee bursting, her body erupted in movement.
Hands ran over her body and she realized they were her own. Her hair tickled her back, flew past her face and over her chest. She felt her legs burn with the exertion. The pain in her right foot disappeared, swallowed by the music that she carried within her.
Months of pain. Months of fear and loss. Months of regret and hatred and terror. Nightmares had filled her nights, loneliness, emptiness, friendlessness. Months of people misunderstanding her, cajoling, coddling her. Anger, fear, pain, all of it exploded.
Lenora reached out to the faceless people in the crowd, fingertips brushing cheeks and running through hair as she moved like a butterfly from blossom to blossom. Nothing was sacred here; nothing was safe – so why pretend to be?
Lenora felt X’s eyes in the back of her mind; she felt the chill of her sweat as she released everything, all she had, all she had hidden within her since everything else had been taken from her on a bed of silk sheets. She stared through these people, these monsters, and she was powerful.
She bent and swayed like a willow, like a whip crack, hair fanned out like feathers or knives, body arching and spinning like a flip-book pinup girl. The song propelled her forward and the electric blue of eyes that had seared themselves into her memory kept her afloat.
She barely noticed the loss of her heels; she knew she was no longer on the stage. She smelled cologne, felt breath on her chest, a hand on her arm and then she was gone, whisked away by the change in melody, by the pulsating of the bass.
Her mind was swept away in the current, and when the tide had receded, she was left spent, panting and breathless center stage, eyes half lidded and barely awake,
Lenora found that she had captured the eyes of Mr. Jones in her frenzy.
In the silence that followed, all she could hear was her heart beating. A bird, free and flying, unfettered by fear.
As the sweat began to cool on her pale skin she heard that same low whistle, and then a slow applause.
Blinking in the aftermath – the afterglow – of her release, she found a hand extended down to her.
Lenora’s gaze refocused on the face of Mr. Jones, eyes full of desire and admiration? She was delusional. He said words, and she recalled accepting his hand and allowing him to lead her back to the dressing room. He sat her down on a small bench and threw his jacket around her shoulders.
Lenora felt his breath on her neck and he spoke to her in soft whispers that turned her stomach, and at the same time lit within her a fire of triumph that she was afraid he would see.
When she was alone, she laughed and cried, gripping her face with both shaking hands, victoriously repeating his words over and over in her head.
“I want you to be mine tonight, Lenora. You are a fucking marvel.”
I can do this. I did this.
I did this.
I can do anything.
Blue eyes winked and flashed behind her closed lids as she sucked in calming breaths and rocked herself to serenity.
She still had a lot more to do.