Today's Reading

After the play was over, I took my tech-crew bow with a big smile on my face, warm from the stage lights. Or from the excitement of it all.

By then, the audience was on its feet. I looked into the crowd to find my own family—parents, siblings, and friends clapped. An empty gap like the Grand Canyon sat between Savannah and the strangers two seats away from her. Not only was Mom missing, but Dad had left too.

He'd missed my bow.

A dark pit opened in my chest, and a wave of anxiety hit me like a tsunami.

I'd been at the theater all day, and my best friend Alex had given me a ride this morning, so I hadn't seen my dad and sister since last night.

Mom had already been in Brazil, ready to take the flight from Rio de Janeiro to JFK in the city, then home. She'd promised there would be enough time after landing to make it to the show, 'at least' to the second act.

Had something happened? Maybe our Grandpa in Florida needed help? Or—oh God—if anything had happened to our dog, Onion, I would absolutely lose it. He was ten years old, old for a pug, and life would simply not be worth living without his horrible snores and bulged-out eyes.

The audience dispersed into the hall as the cast and crew went back into the wings. I had to get out there into the lobby to find out what was going on.

Alex joined me on the way back to the dressing room. She was dressed in an old 1920s gown and had applied her own makeup. The black lipstick wasn't right for the period, but Alex insisted it was what her character would've worn. AKA, she wanted to wear it. Either way, it complemented her short, dark hair and tan skin.

"Can you believe there's no budget for a play next year? I mean, the school has a new football field, but no fall play?" she asked.

"Yeah, it's ridiculous," I mumbled, still rushing toward the lobby.

"It's an insult to the arts. If it turns out we can't do a musical in the spring next year and there's nothing, I'll lose my mind." Alex jogged to keep up. "Hey, are you okay?"

"I'm not sure," I said. "I need to find my parents."

"You want me to come?"

"No, it's cool, get changed. I'll meet you there."

Alex frowned and gently placed a hand on my shoulder. "I'm sure everything is fine. I can pull a tarot card if that will give you some peace of mind."

I didn't believe in them, but I usually went along with it to appease Alex. Not today though. I couldn't handle any bad fortunes. More importantly, though, I didn't want to slow down. "No thanks. I need to be in the lobby pronto."

"Okay. I'll change and be there as soon as I can."

"Thanks."

We parted ways as she went to ditch the costume for real clothes.

One thing that made me ineligible to be an actor: I couldn't get naked in front of people.

Okay, it was different if it were a cute guy or girl I was doing my thing with. I wasn't ashamed of my body. Who would be, with my adorable butt? But if anyone saw my scars, there'd be a lot of questions I didn't want to answer.

I power-walked toward the lobby. It was crowded with families eagerly awaiting actors, who were running down the hallway to greet them. My fellow stage crew were accepting flowers or explaining how the set worked. As I scanned the lobby for my own family, I heard snippets of conversations bouncing off each wall.

"You were so good!"

"I didn't really understand the part where..."

"How did you memorize all those lines?"

A woman rushed by me and ran to one of Alex's castmates, enveloping them in a huge hug.

I'd been in the theater club since I'd been a freshman, and after every performance, my family met by the snack bar. Mom usually brought me flowers, so I wondered if she'd have peonies or roses this time. I appreciated it, since tech crew usually got left in the dark. It was always all about the actors. So cliché.

But today, it was only Savannah.

The hair on my arms stood. Where the hell were my parents?

She leaned against the wall, her long Gigi Hadid legs extended in front of her with her ankles crossed. I knew that position. It meant she was nervous or she had to pee. Sometimes both. I was hoping for the latter, though.

...

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