Perfectionist: Part Three
The red velvet curtains close. And the act is over. Linen comes over to Rese, who is holding a pose. "You know what I hate? When people leave their mannequins in the middle of the stage." She groans. "You're killing me."
Rese is longing to sing more, to see the crowd. But she just laughs at Linen's joke. "Sorry, I just got caught in the moment."
'You're feeling better after the last act?"
Rese nods. "Much better."
"Good," Linen says and smiles. She heads to her vanity, leaving Rese on the stage. "I knew you had it in you!"
Rese grins. And she still stands posed on the stage. Facing the red velvet. Listening to the chatter among the audience, getting up to take a break from all the talent onstage. Listening to the complaints of the cast. Remembering the countless shining pairs of eyes in the audience. They loved her. And at one point she knew they weren't there for her.
But she understands that they are now.
Before the act, after she changed costumes, she saw that Linen was agitatedly trying to get Rese's attention. "Have you not been listening? I said Lyre stopped crying."
Rese nodded. "That's good. I... I talked to her," she had said.
Linen nodded. "Really. And what did you say?"
"I said she deserved the flower I gave her. And that she's so good, perfect even, that she needs to be rewarded." She shrugged.
"And where'd you get the flowers from?"
Rese leaned in so no one would hear. "I... well, I just took one from Alyssum's bouquet." She stood up straight. "I felt like it would make Lyre feel better. Was that a bad move?"
Linen shook her head. "I don't know. I was letting you know that... she stopped crying. I wonder what she was crying over. Did she tell you?"
"No," Rese answered. "She only said she didn't deserve them."
"I guess she'll be the judge of that." Linen walked away.
Rese, caught in a web of frustration, walked away as well. But she didn't get to her vanity before passing Alyssum's. She seemed stressed. Surely, Rese thought, not because she lost one little flower. Angra, Tycho, and Oeth sympathetically patted her shoulders. Rese stopped walking. She wondered if she should go over there.
But she didn't go over there. She kept moving. She couldn't waste her prepping time for showing compassion. She sat down at her desk and almost choked at what she saw.
What! The image staring back at her, back at her real self, was grotesque in a menacing, unnerving way. Her tidied bronze fur appeared dark red and unkempt. Her eyes were a brilliant blue and her mouth held jagged ivory bones as teeth. Her entire body was in constant writhing motion. She felt it couldn't be real. And when she raised a paw to examine herself, she saw that she wasn't truly distorted. The image in the mirror haunted her.
It took her a moment—two minutes she calculated—to realize someone had placed a prank mirror in front of her real one. "Very funny!" she yelled, hoping that the trickster could hear her.
She attempted to move the mirror, to at least push it over a little bit so she could see her actual self. However, the force pushing back on her was too strong. She struggled to shove the mirror even just a few inches. No one passed her since they were all getting ready, so she didn't ask anyone. She knew it would be futile to ask someone if she could borrow their mirror—they probably would value theirs as she did hers.
In dissatisfaction she sat down to look at herself in the fake mirror. She looked like a fantastical comic book character. Something only people wrote about. Something that probably didn't exist.
Someone came and tapped her on the shoulder and alerted her of the time. "Whoa. Cool mirror," they remarked.
Rese nodded. But no. It was not "cool". It was horrifying.
And—no! She hadn't finished her makeup! Frantically, mumbling to herself about how insane a mutant Acara would look applying beauty products, she threw on adornments. In a hurried blur she noticed one last thing before she left: in marker written in the bottom right corner of the mirror, two initials. Unsettled by the message and oblivious to the way she looked, she stepped out on stage and watched the curtains divide.
Her heart rapidly beat for she didn't know if she looked good or if she would do a good job. But no matter who it was, everyone in the audience applauded whenever Rese said her critical lines. The ones that defined her character, at the climax. Through the praise Rese could tell they weren't approving her character but approving her execution. Because she glowed on stage. Because she felt the feelings from the audience, everyone enjoying her performance, everyone clapping, everyone standing on the feet at the end, when she bowed, when she posed, when she caught single flowers; she knew that she did great. She was perfect.
And still there was one act to go.
Still standing behind the closed smooth burgundy curtains, Rese relaxes her pose. Adrenaline streams through her heart. Proudly she walks back to her vanity thinking of the distorting mirror that she doesn't loathe anymore. At this point last night she found the first beautiful bouquet sitting on her desk. Now she sees nothing.
Nothing! Absolutely nothing. All her makeup, jewelry, and notes are gone. Shocked with fear and rage she drops the flowers and her pride and searches in the drawers for her items. Nothing. She looks both ways, hoping inanely to see someone with an armful of beauty supplies.
Frightened, irate, and confused, Rese locates Linen again. "Linen! I have an emergency," she chokes out. "Someone stole all my makeup and jewelry and my notes and everything!"
"It'll be okay," Linen says in a seemingly indifferent tone. "You're back on in ten; you can just wear what you are now, you look fine." She turns back to her mirror.
"That'd be too long with the same makeup on. Here, just let me use yours. You aren't even going back on stage."
She reaches for the things on Linen's desk, but Linen deftly grabs Rese's paw. "Rese, calm down," she says firmly. She tries to be mild with her next words: "It'll be okay. I know it's terrible to lose all your stuff, but right now you don't need it." She sits Rese down. "Come on," she worriedly and quietly coaxes. "This is like our final show. You have to... you have to shine. And if you do this right now, you can't shine."
"But Linen." Rese grabs a lipstick tube with little stars drawn on it. She stares at it and breathes irregularly. And she prepares to speak softly but her words come out as a scream. "I need this! I live for this!" And tears start to fall down her cheeks. She holds her head between her hands. Linen tells her something and walks away.
Rese raises her head and looks at herself in Linen's mirror. Her face is beautified by anxiety, streaked fur marked by tears and makeup, misshapen frown. And slowly she applies the lipstick to her face, drawing.
"Rese!" screams Linen. "What do you mean? Your stuff is all there. Get up!"
Rese turns around.
Linen groans. "What's the matter?" She sees the chaos Rese has created on her face. "Ugh, come on, we have to wash your face off first." She grabs Rese's arm and pulls her up.
"My stuff? It's there?"
"Yes! But we have to go to the sink first."
Rese lets Linen drag her even though Linen complains. She lets Linen splash water on her face, dry it with a towel, and run her back to her vanity.
All the while Rese is quiet. She then grins when she sees that all her things are actually there! She immediately sits and grabs a powder puff.
"Rese..." Linen whispers. She inhales deeply. "How did all your stuff just magically appear?"
Rese shrugs and chuckles gently. "I wish I knew. But does it matter? I have it now." Hastily she applies makeup and beams at her reflection.
"Okay. Alright. Wait, what's up with your mirror!?" Linen shouts. She bends down to look at her reflection. She mutates into an unnatural version of herself and jumps back. "Rese. Rese... something... something's wrong. I don't...." She backs away slowly, her voice catching on the tears forming. She unintentionally collides with a member of the crew who tells Rese that she needs to be on stage now.
"I'm not ready yet," Rese says quietly and calmly.
"But the last scene is about to take place, Rese. You can't—"
Rese interrupts, "It doesn't matter. The show can't go on without me." Smiling, she stands and turns around. She can practically hear the curtains open. But she's in no hurry to walk onto the stage, to escape Linen's sobs, to follow the stagehand's orders. She vainly walks onto the stage.
To be continued...