Unfortunately, sneaking into the house wasn’t a likely possibility when the engine of the station wagon announced her arrival like a freaking missile launcher. Reese winced at the drag of the gear shift and shut off the engine, pulling her coat tight around her body and exiting the car, looking left and right upon entering the kitchen. Creeping on the balls of her feet—
“Reese’s Pieces! At last, you are home!” Lorna twirled into the kitchen on a painted pink toe, her shirt tied up beneath her breasts, proudly displaying her stretch marks and a couple of tattoos circa the eighties.
Reese’s lips curled into an automatic smile. It couldn’t be helped. She adored her single mother-turned-dance coach superstar mother. Truly, she did. The woman’s energy, optimism and confidence were unmatched.
It was just really, really hard for Reese to be around her when disappointment hung over the kitchen like a raincloud, casting everything that was once so bright in shadows.
“How did the performance go?” Lorna asked, perching her chin on folded hands.
“Amazing.” Reese upped the wattage of her smile. “You couldn’t drag them away.”
From the free coffee.
“That’s my girl,” Lorna said, coming around the kitchen island.
No, strutting. Doing kind of a slow step-bounce, her lips folded inwardly.
It was how she walked when she had big news. Or a secret.
Or when she knew who’d gotten sent home from The Bachelorette and was trying not to spill the beans but couldn’t help being super smug about it.
“Mom. What is it?”
“Oh nothing.” She dropped into a plié, pulling something out into the open from behind her back. “Only that you got a letter from the contest.”
Reese’s stomach dropped to the floor. “What contest?”
Which was a stupid question. A stalling tactic. She’d entered one contest and one contest only in the last year. Dance for Bexley.
Once a year, Bernard Bexley, famed Broadway choreographer and elusive New York City culture icon, chose five Broadway hopefuls to perform in his presence on the stage of the Bexley Theater. If they managed to impress the stoic luminary, he would green light them. In other words, he would make the appropriate calls to fast track the dancer to The Dream. Also known as a paying position in a Broadway ensemble cast. His assistance was invaluable.
The stuff of every dancer’s fantasies, including Reese.
“It’s probably a rejection,” she said now. “Thousands of dancers submit. From all over the country.”
“Don’t think like that!” Lorna scolded, slapping the envelope into Reese’s palm. “There’s no reason he wouldn’t pick you. That audition tape was transcendent.”
“It was pretty great.”
“Of course it was. I did the choreo and you slayed it.”
Reese blew out a breath and kicked off her oxfords so she could dance around on the balls of her feet. “Okay. Oh, Jesus. I’m going to open it.”
“Hold on. We need better lighting.”
Her mother tapped the dimmer switch, considered, tapped it again. “Perfect. Go.”
Reese slipped a finger beneath the envelope flap and paused. “Come on, Bexley.” She ripped it open and drew out the letter, her insides curling up like the Wicked Witch’s toes after the house got dropped on her head. Due to her utter anxiety, the lines were blurred for a moment before racing back together and clearing.
Dear Miss Stratton,
We are pleased to inform you that Bernard Bexley will receive your three-minute audition at the Bexley Theater this year. Please read carefully and adhere to all Dance for Bexley Contest policies and procedures as written. There will be no makeups or schedule changes. If for any reason you cannot make your appointment on…
Reese dropped the letter and screamed.
Lorna echoed her, their faces inches apart.
“I’m in! I’m in!”
“Shut up! Holy crap!” They clung to each other, jumping up and down in tandem, their feet slapping down on the kitchen tile. “I can’t believe it. Thousands of people submit! From all over the country!”
Reese leaned away. “What was all that transcendent talk?”
“I meant it, but your odds were still horrible!”
“I know.” Tears blurred Reese’s vision. “Oh my God, I’m in, Mom. I’m going to dance in front of Bernard freaking Bexley.”
Her mother pulled a bottle of wine out of the cabinet, two glasses off the shelf. “When is the audition?” she asked, looking back over her shoulder.
Barely coherent, hands shaking, Reese stooped down and picked up the letter, savoring the opening line one more time before scanning for a date and…
Panic dropped like the steel blade of a guillotine.
“Oh my God.” She was already halfway up the stairs when the letter floated back to the ground. “It’s tomorrow!”
No. This couldn’t be happening.
This had to be a nightmare.
Reese stared at the locked door of the Bexley Theater in a nightmarish haze.
The unthinkable had happened. She’d missed her audition.
She’d…shown up late to the appointment to change her life.
To make her dreams come true.
Reese turned and fell back against the door, staring out at the lively Theater District street, and absently wondered how so many people could move that fast without bumping into each other. How did they change directions at the very last second every single time?
These people probably never missed anything important.
They would have parachuted off their delayed flight, right down onto the stage. Or rented a car when a snowstorm had forced the plane to land in Pittsburgh, instead of trying to save cash by buying a bus ticket. Once the bus got a flat tire on the turnpike, they would have gotten out and ran, instead of sitting frozen in her seat, hoping for a miracle.
These New Yorkers definitely would know what to do now.
Whereas she was at a complete loss.
One did not simply miss an audition with Bexley. The man was rarely seen in public anymore, deigning to attend opening nights on occasion and without warning. He descended from his lofty Upper West Side perch once a year to entertain the dreams of five hopefuls before becoming unattainable once again. There was no phone number to call and reschedule. The acceptance note she’d received in the mail wasn’t even on letterhead. No email address, no social media handles, nothing. Not to mention the rules were cut and dried.