Five Days Later…
We’re all gathered backstage. I fumble with the large buttons at the collar of my blouse, flicking them between my thumb and forefinger in an effort to relieve some of the tension I feel.
I’m super fidgety and I hate how much it shows. I do a few breathing and posture exercises as I mentally prepare myself for tonight. For all of tonight.
The week has breezed by and it’s already Saturday. The day of the big performance is finally here.
There are only twenty minutes left before the show begins, and I’m both incredibly excited and nervous. I’m always really nervous and excited right before performing, but I feel even more tightly wound this time around.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble and doubt with preparing for this particular performance because of this thing with my stomach, and the fact that it’s the most important performance I’ve had to date. I’ve managed to get the hitching under control over the course of the week while I practiced privately, and during rehearsals as well.
“Gallo!” I turn at the sound of my name, wincing internally as I register who it’s coming from.
I walk over to her seated form as she takes down some last minute notes while everyone else does last minute touches and costume adjustments before we go on stage. I stop in front of her, but she doesn’t bother to look up.
Her voice is cool and distant when she speaks. “Switch places with Daniels,” she says.
My eyes go wide, my brows arch high, and I stare at her nonchalant expression as she continues to vigorously scribble down whatever it is she’s so focused on.
For several seconds I remain frozen in absolute shock. I’m stunned beyond belief, and I feel as if I’ve just been sucker-kicked in the face.
Surely, I must have misheard her.
“Wh-what?” my words leave my throat in little above a whisper, clearly drenched in shock and disbelief.
She finally meets my eyes, and her expression goes from typically stern and unbothered, to typically stern and sour, as if she’s being pestered by an annoying gnat.
“Unless you’ve been having as much trouble with your hearing as you have your singing, I’m sure you heard me perfectly,” she says. “Switch places with Daniels.”
She goes back to torturing the paper she’s writing on with harsh strokes of her pen, as if she’s envisioning scratching my face up with it.
I struggle to swallow the lump that’s quickly forming in my throat, feeling it constrict in the way that it does when you know you want to cry. What quickly follow are the beginnings of soreness that typically come with the feeling and the telling, stinging sensations behind my eyes.
I can’t believe it; I can’t believe I’m being replaced so easily, right before a big performance, and without so much as a second thought.
I feel like I’m being kicked in both my sides while I’m already down. I feel betrayed and absolutely humiliated.
Still, I manage to keep my wits about me and try my best not to take it personally—even if that’s so much easier said than done.
Vito’s silence ensues as she continues to act like I’m not standing there. I take a step back, turning away from her and her demeaning energy and vigorous scribbling.
I quietly head back to the ensemble and assume my new position. Kayla walks past me, offering a small, apologetic smile as she takes hers. If Vito was going to replace me, she really should have done it with Wendy or someone else I hate or don’t care for. I like Kayla. She’s sweet and considerate, and it’s obvious in her expression that she feels guilty about the switch.
And it makes it so much harder for me because I can’t be mad at her. As much as I want to hate her right now, I just can’t. This isn’t her fault.
And as much as my currently hurt feelings want me to blame Vito, it’s not really hers, either—although she certainly makes it pretty darn easy not to care and point the finger at her inconsiderate ass anyway.
So I guess it’s my fault, even if it isn’t. I suppose saying that it’s no one’s fault and just an unfortunate turn of events should make me feel better about the situation, but it doesn’t.
I sigh. This sucks. I mean, this really, really sucks. I feel so defeated and helpless. I’ve been looking forward to this performance since last year, and I’ve worked my ass off, practicing every day for it despite the challenges I’ve been facing, and investing every free second I had into rehearsing for it, even during my breaks at work. And in the end, it was all for nothing, all because of something I can’t control and can’t even put a fucking name to.
I don’t know which aspect of it is more frustrating. I feel so disappointed, mostly in myself. At the end of the day, it’s still my body, and therefore, my responsibility.
If this keeps up, I have no doubt in my mind that Vito will continue to replace me for future performances without any hesitation. She’s all business and no-nonsense, even if it’s at someone else’s expense, collateral damage be damned.
I’m going to get that endoscopy, come hell or high water, and I’m going to get it real fucking soon if I can help it. I can’t afford to lose any more opportunities—no, scratch that—I absolutely refuse to lose any more opportunities, be it to Kayla or anyone else. Not after I’ve busted my ass off and endured everything that I have.
I absolutely refuse to let Gran lose the house she’s spent the last twenty-seven years of her life in.
And therefore, I also refuse to let the night end without knowing one hundred percent that I’ll be getting a Rainbeau-Approved Card.
Thinking about it really makes me sick to my stomach, but I have to bring my A-game to that mansion party, no matter how uncomfortable or anxious the prospect is making me. It’s the only way I can pay for my endoscopy and any other medical procedures I may need, and it’s the only way I can make sure Gran won’t lose her house.
As much as I hate the thought of what I’m about to do and the things I might have to engage in, I hate the realities of our current situations infinitely more.
I desperately need to get both our lives out of the slums and back on track as quickly as possible, and right now, the Rainbow Service is the only thing that’s going to help me do that. It probably—more like, sure as hell—won’t be the proudest couple of hours I’m going to spend of my life, but when it comes down to it, my pride isn’t worth that much in the real, practical world right now.