Rating: Acceptable for most audiences.
The Cost of Time
“Great job everyone, let’s wrap it up and call it a day!” Kim shouts across the stage, and chatter starts as the cleanup crew moves in to start to taking down the props and lighting. The actors themselves are heading over to the dressing rooms, more than ready to change out of costume and get back into their regular clothing. The entire crew is glad that the day is finally over, myself among them. We’ve spent over eight hours today acting, and most of us are completely worn out. I’m among those numbers, though I have other reasons besides the job.
“Celeste, love, you did wonderful today!” Shelly greets me at my door, and I give her a tired smile. I love her, I really do, but recently things have changed. Shel, bless her heart, still loves me fiercely; I can’t say the same about me, though. It’s been tiring on my soul to have to watch her devotion for me, when I can’t even give it back. Having to act all day and night is starting to wear me down more than pretending that I’m someone else on stage.
“I’ll meet you at the party in a couple hours, I’m going to be a while,” I tell her, and she nods, knowing that it can take quite a while for me to completely dewind and change. The costume crew’s still waiting for me to return my clothing, so Shelly scurries off to go chat with the women that I work with.
‘Always the social butterfly,’ I think fondly, and entering my dressing room, quickly yet carefully remove the clothing and put it on the mannequin that holds it in shape. It had been the strangest experience of my life, when I had to get my body casted for the mannequin.
I don’t dwell on those early memories long, for it keeps bringing back the memories of when I still loved Shelly. Instead, I take a shower and thoroughly scrub off the stage make-up and binding glue for the props that I wore on my body, before sitting on the toilet seat to carefully apply acne controller and lotion; as both are required for my role on stage.
After dressing in a pair of black slacks and a formal white button-down, I stay seated in the chair, head in my hands. ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ I think, imagining having to pretend to be in love with Shelly Broker, my girlfriend of over six years. How does one go about breaking up such a stable, strong relationship like that? We share friends, our families are so intertwined with each other, that when I break the news, it’s going to be more than us that breaks. Sides will be chosen, and many hearts will be broken. It’s almost enough to keep me pretending, to keep faking my devotion.
“Tonight, it’s over,” I mutter, making up my mind. I need to take this risk, as pretending any longer will cost me my sanity. I pull on my black sneakers, before leaving the dressing room. It isn’t hard to find my car, being the only beat-up, piece of crap Camero in the parking lot.
During the short drive to the bar, where the after-party is being held, I try to psych myself up for the inevitable conversation. I have to do this, I need to do this, but it doesn’t mean I want to. Shelly is a great friend, and I don’t want to lose that. When I finally park the car I see Shelly’s little Mustang parked two stalls over. I take a deep breath, letting it stream out between my teeth as I steel my nerves.
‘Showtime,’ I think, turning the engine off and opening the door at the same time. Taking off my seatbelt, I get out of the car and head into the bar, greeting my fellow actors and stage crew as I walk in. Taking a seat at the counter I order a root beer and a hamburger all while watching the drinking ‘tournament’ going on between my friends and my girlfriend. Shelly’s losing horribly, but she’s still having a blast; I can see the radiant joy from here.
“Celeste!” Shelly shouts, catching sight of me. She quickly says something to one of her teammates before dashing up to sit next to me, stealing a sip of my root beer.
“Hey Shel,” I greet her, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. She meets my gaze, and her countenance drops. ‘I’m so sorry, Shelly,’ I mentally whisper, and she takes my hand, standing up.
“Let’s go outside,” Shelly whispers quietly; I almost didn’t hear her. I give a brief nod and stand up as well, and hand in hand, we walk out the front door, heading to the side of the building for privacy.
“I love you, Shel, but not... like I used to, not anymore,” I blurt out, and wince at how… bluntly that came out.
Shelly gives me a long look, measuring me before saying, “I know. I’ve known for a while, I’ve just been waiting for you to admit it.”
I stare at her, and whisper, “I didn’t want to... hurt you. But I guess I have been.”
“You have,” she agrees, and I can see tears welling in her amazing brown eyes. I swipe away one that escaped, and kiss her cheek.
“You’re my best friend, Shel, and I am going to be selfish and say I don’t want to lose that. You know me, and not many people do...” I trail off, then continue, “but I understand if you want space. I’m selfish, not inconsiderate.”
“I would like a bit of space, but it won’t be long. I… I still love you, but I’ve been expecting this. I could see you were getting tired, getting more and more distant when I kept trying to get closer, and it didn’t take long to figure out your feelings changed.”
Through her tear filled eyes, she gives me the most brilliant, broken smile I’ve ever seen from her. “I’m going to go stay with Mom and Steve for a while, but maybe we can be roommates still?” she asks me, and I nod.
“The door will always be open to you,” I tell her truthfully, and she smiles shakily before kissing me, chastely, one last time.
“I love you, Celeste Carlton, even if it’s not the same way you love me.”