The corridor seemed long and dark at its end. The fat red carpets with the windowless walls would make it seem suffocating and stifling, more like the entrance to a big underground cave than anything else. If it wasn’t for the occasional candle lamps appearing every ten steps or so, it would be a rather bleak and dismal place. Yet, besides the simplicity of it, everything seemed rather carefully chosen, from the yellow warm light diffusing through the room like little suns to the iron props in the walls supporting the lamps, with the curling shapes, drawing multiple little curves in their small corners as if they were uncompleted circles.
The long hallway would be the most quiet place in the world if it wasn’t for the pressured breath of a man marching through it in agony. The light would fall upon him strengthening its intensity as he was approaching each little prop, only to turn abruptly to shadow once passed it. Because of the low height of the ceiling and whole structure, his outline would project into the ground through the whole distance beside and in front of him with the lighting dancing drunk as if in a haze.
His whole outfit was solid black with heavy boots and a big light trench coat covering his whole body throughout the knees. His breath was quick, matching his quick thrusting and distressed heart that was beating like a knocking door. As he reached the end of the hall he turned left to meet a sweaty old man the sudden appearance of which created a small jolt in both of them.
«Mr. Sadler, thank god you are here.» said the old man as he raised his hand to cover his mouth in disbelief. «You got to do something fast. She won’t listen to anyone!»
The man in black grabbed the old man’s arms and hold him in support. «Ethan. Don’t you worry, I promise you to handle this. Where is she now?»
«She is still in her dressing room but refuses to speak or respond to anyone. Out of all the years that I’m doing this job Mr. Saddler this has never happened to me before. All these people. They paid for the tickets already and wait for a show. It’s gonna be almost 20.000 people and all the talk and discussion that went on it…Ohh I m telling you this is gonna backfire and we are gonna lose all our credibility and reputation. Everything we strived for so many years…Ohh this is pure disaster.»
«Ethan, I promise you» the man leaned in, facing him with his two hands holding his two knees. «We’ll get her back in no time, and she is gonna perform one of the best shows this town has ever seen. Just lead me to her and I’ll prove it to you. How much time do we have?»
«It’s 30 minutes..30 minutes for the show to kick off or else disaster is looming over our heads. There is no turning back now I’m afraid. She either performs or this will be the end for this historic theater and us.»
The two man continued marching through the little hallways to come out into the main hall through which various pathways would extend like a geographical octopus. The old man raised his hand and pointed over one of them.
«There! The last door down this corridor is her dressing room that she is now at.» The old man stared at him expressionless. «Harry up my little friend, cause the time is running up..» he said and the man nodded at him before he rushed over it.
The man stood right beside the door as he approached in reverence. He touched it with his two hands and leaned his ear in it but couldn’t detect any sort of noise coming from inside. «Stella?» he said with a gentle voice with his lips almost touching the door. «Stella, can you hear me? It’s me, James..». Again no sound at all. He slowly grasped the door well and turned it clockwise till it produced a warm mechanical clap sound. He steadily pushed the door forward and led himself in looking worryingly around.
The woman was sitting in the chair in front of the big central mirror with one foot wrapped inside her two hands and her eyes staring at the ground. She was wearing a clownish red veil on her shoulder that her blonde hair were falling upon and her lips were painted with tense red lipstick that was wet and diluted. The man checked around the room which was like an amalgamation of small accessories and clothes thrown in every corner of it before he leaned towards her.
«Stella? Honey? I heard you were quite distressed and I came over to see you.» he ducked down and tapped her arm with his right hand. «Honey, what is going on? What happened to you?»
The woman remained unresponsive for a bit. She took a cigarette out of her package and lit it up as she forcefully exhaled the smoke outwards.
«What happened to me?» she drew a sarcastic smile on her. «I don’t know. Why do you think something happened?» she playfully turned towards him confronting him.
«They say you are not responding to anyone and that..it’s not even sure if you going to perform tonight. Honey..» he approached closer. «..why don’t you tell me what’s running through your head? what is bothering you?»
The woman took another sip from her cigarette and continued unbothered. She skewed her head on her right as she glazed over. «You know today was the saddest day I had to face for quite a while. Our little Oscar died in an accident.»
«Oscar? You mean the little cat?»
«He was playing outside when a car drove over him and left him there.» she turned over to him again with a smile. «When I found him he was still breathing, lying helpless in the side of the sidewalk. All these people passing by the whole day, all these self-satisfying, big-headed scumbags that spent their times declaring on their attune sensitivities and environmental aspirations…Nobody had any inclination in helping a little animal that was lying there half-dead. His whole right side was shattered and discarded and blood had… filled the ground all around him.» She held her head with her hand as she hid in it.
«Ohh darling» said the man giving her a small compassionate hug.
«We had to kill him, James. We had to..put him down to stop his suffering.» She spasmed in a little cry. «Can you believe it? All the pain he had to face?»
«Dear, this is such a terrible thing you had to go through. You should have called me already. I would have come earlier and stood by your side. Why didn’t you call me?»
The woman swept her nose and eyes from the cries and threw her hair bag with her hand.
«And would you James? Would you come?»
«Sure I would! Honey, you know how much I care, don’t you?» he whispered back at her.
The woman swept her eyes with a napkin again.
«Would you leave your work and come to find me?» she said tenderly raising her eyebrows.
«Of course I would» he noded.
The woman glanced warmly at him and smiled. «You know this is a historical theater.» she swirled her eyes around her. «This place has accommodated some incredible artists and human spirits.» Her voice was soft and aetherial. «Ingrid Bergman, Elisabeth Tayor..they have all been here. Performed into this little stage at various points of their career.» She turned over to face him. «Isn’t that wonderful. To know that such people have passed the same place you are standing now.» She half-closed her eyes for a bit. «Maybe even they were in this particular dressing room, facing the same worries and anxieties we do.» She sipped from her cigarette as the man nodded condescendingly.
«I’m pretty sure they were honey..» he said as he tapped her arm.
The woman raised her hand cutting him off and looked at him through the mirror. «But it’s a mistake to believe that they had an easy life. People assume they were happy and untroubled because of their wealth and fame, but in reality, they got through the worst kind of suffering that very few have actually experienced. These people were nothing but..slaves. Slaves of their own limitless passion.» The man nodded in agreement. «Their lives were marked with pain, love and..» she turned to face him again «..deceit» she said as she stared at him expressionless on which case the man jolted slightly aback.
«They surely had their own trouble to go through honey no question about it.»
«And what is your opinion about deceit, do you approve of it?» she said teasingly as she was moving her feet in the top of the chair as a pendulum. She sipped again as she waited for his response.
The man’s face dropped dead serious as he raised up abruptly turning his back on her.
«What are you trying to say, darling? I’m not sure I follow.»
The woman chuckled. «Why don’t you reveal how you spent your whole day then? Were you at work?»
«Of course I was what is this some kind of jealousy scene you are trying to warm up for your play?». He turned around in anger, to face her with a reddened face.
«Honey, why don’t you say the truth?»
«You know what I’m talking about.»
«No, I don’t.»
She tapped her cigarette in the ashtray.
«You were at work doing your usual job..» she straightened out her leg on top of the table slowly, «..and then you took a little..break to visit Maria before you head back at work right after.»
«Went to see Maria? What are you talking about? How do you come up with all this stuff?» The woman remained unreactive. «Look at you you stay in your dressing room refusing to do your job, and now you throw accusations left and right for no reason at all besides avoiding. your. part.» he pointed at her with his finger.
A knock came from the door as Ethan opened the door. «I’m sorry to interrupt but the show starts in 10 minutes. It would be lovely if we could..»
«Ethan, just give me 5 more minutes damn it, 5 more minutes» he yelled, making him withdraw his attempt.
James looked at her in disbelief as she continued smoking like nothing happened.
«I don’t know what you’re thinking but I assure you that whatever triggered these thoughts on you is probably..»
«She told me..» she said casually.
She leaned back in her chair. «I know all about it for some time now. She told me…» she glanced at him. «..herself..»
«She told you?» the man held his head with his two hands before he duked down close to her. «Darling, Maria doesn’t mean anything she was just a flinch.» He tapped her arm again. «I only love you» he whispered.
The woman grabbed the back of his head and brought his ear close to her lips. «Shhh now…you don’t have to worry about that darling..» she looked at him straight in the eyes as she caressed his hair. «I know it didn’t mean anything to you..»
«No darling it didn’t..»
The woman tightened the grip on his hair and kissed him passionately painting his face red with her lipstick.
«And you won’t see her again? ever?» she said as she pulled downwards leaning his head back.
«Never baby, it’s just you and me» he said as they kept on kissing obsessively. «just the two of us»
«James?» she asked with their lips still glued together.
«I need to tell you something»
«What is it baby?» said the man still in the haze of it.
«There is another man..»
«I’ve been seeing another man for some time now..»
The man stopped his mouth motion as he slowly backed up a couple of inches.
«Are you serious?» he looked in wonder as his eyes spasmed.
«I’m really sorry honey» said the woman moving her head left and right.
The man lifted up letting her drop on the chair and started moving compulsively.
«You are just saying this to get back at me, aren’t you? You are trying to get revenge and you are lying. Do you really expect me to believe this? Really?» he said as he raised his hands wide open.
The woman continued moving her head in disbelief as she pressured her lips. «Ohh honey.. I’m so sorry about this»
The man’s eyes started crying as he swept them with his hands. «You can’t do this to me. You can’t leave me.» he said overflowing.
The woman raised up and approach the mirror as she freshened her make up. She straightened her dress and approached him casually tapping her hand in his chest.
«James you are a good man. You are gonna find someone that can make you happy and offer you what you need.» She kissed him in the cheek. «I’m sure of it.» She tapped him on the shoulder and left the room leaving him speechless.
A couple of minutes later a noise started making its way from the top floor. A deep vibration seemed to shatter the whole place with tensity as if an earthquake that moved the world from its core. The claps continued buzzing and reverberating with no end. And the lights dropped as the curtains opened…0