The stage lights felt hotter than usual that night. The sweat prickled her between her hairline and makeup, and under her layers she wore a light undershirt to keep herself from sweating through the next act’s costume, bound tightly to her body beneath the robe, and she sweated right through that. A stroll through Central Park under a light snow would have been perfect for her apparel; under the lights, in the hood, she felt imperfect, like a tiny nail left on a hot furnace. She used that to give her performance a fiery impotence.
“Do you not see?” she wailed. “He is a brute! There is no softness to him! I must be his softness. When he strikes me I give way like breaking light; when he shouts I whisper love. How can I love such a man? He has no soul. Where else is a man’s soul but in the woman he abuses?”
Georgina Denning felt particularly proud of that last delivery. Collt’s dialogue was tripe but an actress didn’t write them, she just had to sell them. Then Timothy barged onstage and ruined the night again.
“Aha! So you are saying I am soulless, Michelle? Barabbas may have no heart, but I can cleave to my soul, if that is what you desire.”
“If you must cleave to me,” Georgina replied, “cleave to me as a man cleaves to a woman, not as a beast cleaves to his prey.”
Tim grabbed her (his fingers dug into the bruise in the small of her back) and they fitted against each other. He was sweating worse than she was under his odious black wig. “Barabbas preys on what he likes!” Right into her ear.
“Then prey, foul predator. If Barabbas is teeth, Michelle is tongue, to taste your wrath.”
They kissed. There was supposed to be a fade out there, and she was supposed to grab him passionately. There wasn’t a fade out, and Tim failed the holy trinity as man, actor, and kisser, so she didn’t grab him. She closed her eyes and let him slobber on her to the oohs and aahs of the audience, waiting for the dark to come, waiting for the curtain to fall.
In the wings, she heard Collt hissing that he was going to kill somebody. Somebody, apparently, was ruining his play.
Georgina bit Tim’s tongue and he cried like a girl.