Perfectionist: Part Four
In the middle of a song Rese notices a robed Nimmo sitting in the crowd. The shopkeeper, she realizes. Even he, of course, has come to see Rese at her best. Seeing him makes her straighten her posture, speak even louder and with more passion to be even better.
The final scene is very dramatic. It's one of the reasons why Alyssum plays the lead role; she can easily portray intensity. Rese's eyes dart as she realizes... Alyssum is not on stage. She should be, when instead her understudy crudely replicates Alyssum's brilliance. So briefly Rese wonders where Alyssum could be. Last she saw her, Alyssum appeared tense. Something must be wrong. It figures.
The whooping and hollering the crowd gave for Rese is gone. Probably because in the scene before she was supposed to be ragingly confident. Her character was. But this scene is so deep that any interference, such as a cheer, would disrupt the stability. Nearly everyone is holding their breath and waiting. The finale is grand, huge, and spectacular. Alyssum's understudy does an okay job of holding the monumental last note. And the standing applause and praise begins. Flowers are tossed and grasped. The cast bows.
And the whole time Rese beams with superiority.
Numb to the muted world around her, she places her flowers in her bag; distantly hugs and congratulates her fellow cast members; absentmindedly says something to Linen who nearly cries at the suggestion; asks someone to help her get rid of the transmogrifying mirror; listens to cries coming from the bathroom; changes out of her costume; asks about tomorrow's weather; asks what the next play will be; and, as the lights lower, shakes hands with a Ruki from Sakhmet who says, "Did you ever receive my flowers?"
Suddenly aware of what she's doing, Rese blinks multiple times. She's dressed to go home and is carrying countless roses when she was sure she put all of them in her bag. She quizzically asks, "Well, am I holding one of them now?"
The Ruki laughs. "No. I sent you an actual bouquet. Two, really. One with red and white flowers, another with pink and yellow. Just the other night."
Rese breathes loudly and slowly. "You're RR? You can't be."
"Why can't I?"
The Ruki sighs. "Well, can you at least tell me what you did with them?"
"Home. They're... why did you send me that horrible mirror?" She's remembering the double Rs scrawled in the corner in red.
"Mirror?" The Ruki seems genuinely puzzled. "I never sent you a mirror. Okay, listen, tonight's apparently a really bad time to be catching you right now. I can tell."
Rese shakes her head and presses a finger to one side of it. "It's okay. Thank you. For the flowers. They're gorgeous."
"I just thought I should give them away after finally having them for so long. You seemed eligible. Last night when you sang was... insane. So powerful. I wanted to give you the flowers. So I asked... well, you probably know."
"No, I don't." Rese sits down in a theatre chair. "Sit, tell me."
The Ruki doesn't sit. "It's not that long of a story. I asked someone who worked here if they could give them to you. And at first they didn't, but they did. Anyway, I'm really happy you liked them."
"I loved them." Rese gazes into the distance. "Did you send Alyssum, the Meerca who plays Marisol, a bouquet?"
The Ruki shakes his head. "Nope. I didn't have that many."
Rese nods. And from his statement she gathers: 'I didn't, but I would have'. He probably would've sent everyone one. Not even out of just impartiality. Because Rese has one waiting on her at home... does that make her superior, she wonders? On impulse she hands out a rose to the Ruki. "Here. You can have this. As another thanks."
"Thank you very much," he says and takes the rose. "Anyway, you were so great tonight. Perfect, no flaws. I look forward to coming to more of these shows... soon."
Rese nods again. They chat for nearly two more minutes and then Rese says she has to go. Disappointment is her initial sentiment. RR could have been a mysterious roamer dressed in dark colors constantly, or a timid aesthete who was floored by the cast's performance, or even simply someone rich. Instead, the RR who nearly altered her mind is someone who she feels merely likes her.
Slowly Rese remembers that she was to meet Linen at Qasalan Delights. Outside, where it's cold but refreshing, she walks briskly because she's probably lost a lot of time. She calms down and bathes in her feeling of success. She did well, she concludes.
At the restaurant she's surprised to see Lyre and Linen sharing a booth. Quietly she slips in beside Linen. "Hi."
"Hey, Rese," Linen says softly. "Lyre and I were just talking."
Lyre coughs. "About... you."
"What about me?"
"Don't say that, Rese," Linen says sharply but still with a soft tone. "I don't know what was so different about tonight. But... you know something had changed."
Someone replaced her mirror, she thought someone stole her stuff, she messed up in the beginning of the play, she met RR, and her night still isn't over. No, tonight is atypical. "I don't know. I guess it was because it was the last night, you know? I just wanted to make it perfect."
"Then what made it different from any other night?" Lyre questions. "You were perfect then."
Lyre's crying spell is over. The flower is no longer behind her ear. There's no sign of the being she was earlier. Rese looks away from Lyre's concentrated scrutiny. "I don't know," she whispers. "I don't know. I just wanted to be better. Like spinning the Wheel of Extravagance. You don't know what's going to happen, but you want to do it anyway. Because you could leave better, richer, more perfect." The two girls just stare. "Like after I messed up in the beginning, and Alyssum got flowers. I wanted to—"
"Alyssum didn't get flowers," Lyre says. "She found them. And pretended like someone had given them to her. I don't know what was going through her mind. But that's just one of the reasons why she dropped out early."
"Oh," Rese says. "But I wasn't the only one acting different. Lyre, you were crying all over the place."
Linen says, "Rese, we're not blaming you. I was just curious. And I see that your reasons are clear but I can't really agree with them. I don't think it's smart."
"And my crying didn't disrupt anything. I didn't overreact over anything like you did," Lyre says. Though her words are poisonous her tone is still even and would be calm under any other circumstance.
Rese nods. "I'm sorry if I... impacted your night that badly. I only wanted to...." Right now she doesn't want to cry so she just holds her head with her elbows on the table. She doesn't know what's happening. Or at least she feels that way.
"We get to take a break now," Lyre says. "No auditions, no more practice, no more theatre for about a month."
"We can actually have fun, now, Rese!" Linen says excitedly. Rese nods and smiles lightly. She feels as though she's the little child and they're trying to be the convincing adults. But as belittling as it seems it would be, she lets them act that way.
They each get something to eat and talk over their food. Rese mentions that she met RR, and the girls also seem disenchanted once they learn he was only an ordinary donor, but they also note that they have to think realistically about it. She also brings up the fact that the initials were written on the mirror that Linen had already told Lyre about.
"That's... weird. Did he get it for you?" Linen asks.
Rese shakes her head. "He said he didn't."
"I..." Lyre drops her fork and looks down. "I saw Alyssum write something on your mirror, Rese. I guess that's what it was."
Rese almost chokes on her food. "But why would she do that?"
"I wish we knew the reasons we do the things we do."
Rese can only nibble at her food now as she thinks about why that's not an answer. Why would Alyssum do that? What could have compelled her in the first place to pretend that someone had gotten her flowers? It couldn't have been that she was jealous; she held the leading role! Suddenly Rese's eyes bolt up. "She didn't quit, did she?" she asks. "Did she?"
Slowly Linen nods. "She did."
Rese's appetite is completely gone. Evidently this applies to Linen and Lyre too, who both throw away the remainder of their food. They put on their jackets.
"I'm actually pretty glad we had this talk right here," Lyre says. And she gives what Rese can perceive as an authentic smile. "I'll see you two soon." Faintly she reenters her hazy world.
Linen and Rese say goodbye. Linen holds out her hand to pull Rese up. "I didn't realize it was so late. Jeez."
"It's okay," Rese replied. "We have relax time, remember?"
Linen laughs but yawns immediately after. "Not tonight, I don't. Well, goodbye, Rese. See you... tomorrow?"
The two leave, both optimistically awaiting the future. Rese feels eager to get home. Because when she does, she's glad to find warmth. But mostly she's glad to be able to toss her bouquets outside into the sand. She also grabs the roses and puts them under as well. And beneath the sparkling night she can nearly see the seams that hold the cloth of perfection together on them beginning to split.