“Cass, are you insane?”
“Of course,” I said. “But what has that got to do with anything?”
“We’re going to get caught,” he said. Rick wasn’t familiar with the stage, and he stumbled in the near darkness. Only a few of the emergency lights were on. I had been working the stage crew for most of the summer, and nine tenths of my job took place in total darkness, or with the aid of a tiny penlight. I carried it in my pocket all the time, along with my wrench. My job, among other things, included being a Wrench Wench; my tools were tied onto my belt loop with a six foot length of heavy-duty cord. There was nothing more annoying than getting pegged with tools that dropped from the heavens.
“So what?” I said. Wasn’t that part of the excitement? The possibility always existed of getting caught.
“Isn’t it thrilling?”
“You are insane.” It was no longer a question.
“Old news, my dear,” I said. With one hand, I flicked on half a dozen stage lights. “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
“So you say, Cass,” Rick said. “I still think you’re a master of disguise. I thought you were a normal girl.”
“Bah… what do you want with normal? Normal girls don’t have sex in the back row of a movie theater.”
“That was a really boring movie.”
“It was good sex.”
Rick squinted at the stage. He hadn’t been here since I gave him the grand tour near the end of May; in the last six weeks, the stage-crafting crew and I had been busy. Then, there was little in place except for some scaffolding and a blank flat or two to give the actors some idea of their blocking. Now the entire set was in place and most of the scenery was dressed for the final act of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The group wedding scenes were predominately white, with only faint reminders of the fairy gardens. Giant crepe and cloth flowers bedecked the multi-tiered platforms. A smattering of Christmas lights appeared as tiny tinker bell type fairies among the blossoms. I turned these on; they were my idea based on something I’d seen in a behind-the-scenes for a blockbuster movie.
A few of the flats were down, breaking the stage into the midnight garden, but my best work, Oberon’s court, was still up in the lines. That was too bad, I rather liked that painting. Maybe we’d be able to see it better from where we were headed.
“Come on,” I grabbed hold of the ladder and started climbing. I wasn’t wearing underwear under my skirt and Rick knew it. I felt the heat of his gaze on me as he watched me climb the entire forty feet up into the flylines. My high-heeled Mary Janes were unexpectedly helpful as I was clambering up the rungs; the indent between heel and toe of the shoe allowed me to place my feet with great precision.
I hadn’t worn a bra, either. That was part of our deal for the evening—no underthings—expressed in various texts as he patrolled his route at the bank and I hauled the last of the scrap lumber away to the dump. As always, these salacious texts were part of the foreplay, so by the time we’d met up, after all the actors, directors, gophers, and scenic designers were gone, I was decidedly aroused.
“I am so going to regret this,” Rick muttered. I probably wasn’t meant to overhear him; one of the first things you learn working the stage is that acoustics means that you hear everything, each whisper and shuffle on the stage, each restless cough from the audience, and each murmured order to the gophers. You never say something about an actor behind his back, or curse under your breath at the lighting director. They will hear you. On the other hand, that’s part of why actors and crew are so weird and outspoken. There are no secrets on a stage.
The flylines a series of ropes and pulleys that hold the flats above the stage until they’re needed were my favorite place on the set. While I was a whiz at construction, could nail together a flat in about ten minutes, and was a dab hand with a brush, the flylines and catwalks were my home. I’d never experienced anything like it; I was fearless in the lines, even when experienced professionals turned grey.
Rick was not an experienced professional. He was, in fact, a security guard. We’d met one night about three months ago at Maddie’s. Maddie’s was not the favored bar of the stage crew and cast of the Shakespearean Festival that was Algie’s Cafe. It was a bit too pretentious for my taste. Everyone there was so emo that their lawns cut themselves. Besides, Maddie’s had New Castle Brown on tap. I was tired of actors preening over themselves and trying to butter up the leads. I got enough of that at work. Also, I couldn’t stomach another can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Rick had sat next to me while I was nursing my third beer of the evening and reconsidering my recent resolution to quit smoking. I had looked him over with a critical eye; it wasn’t that I was adverse to a one-night stand, but some of the pickup lines around here were pretty old. He was dark-haired, with espresso eyes and just enough five o’clock shadow that I expected he was more familiar with a trimmer than a razor. That had been fine with me. I always liked the scratchy rub of beard during a particularly hot make-out session.
“I’m Rick,” he had said, clinking his beer mug against mine, “that’s Rick, with a silent P.”
I had spat my mouthful of beer out into a bar napkin. Waste of good beer, that was. “I always did like a good prick.”
We had not gotten any further than the front seat of his Rav 4, the gear stick jamming into my thigh as he thrust into me. Still, there had been something sticky, sweaty, and exciting about getting it on like a couple of teenagers parked up by the river. When he’d asked for my cell number, I had actually given it to him.
“You’re serious?” He’d finally made the catwalk behind me. Rick had a death grip on the rail. “Up here?”
His knuckles were white and his eyes were just a little wider than normal. I swept my gaze around, taking in the catwalk a steel mesh walkway, little more than 18 inches across, with thin metal pipes as handrails about hip-high. The rails wouldn’t stop you from taking a tumble, if you stretched yourself out too far to adjust the gels or replace a bulb. I’d never known a stage monkey to fall, but I suppose it happened. And Rick was no stage monkey.
“Come on,” I said. “You’re a security guard at the First and National. You could be shot at your job, and you’re telling me you’re worried about a little height?”
“It’s practically three stories! Do you know what sort of damage you’d– “ Rick spluttered.
“So you don’t fall,” I suggested.
“No help at all, Cass.”
“Wasn’t trying to be. Here, give me your hand.”
I pulled him out, mid-stage. As I’d hoped, Oberon’s court was right there, tucked away for act two. “Look, isn’t it lovely?” I was justifiably proud of my work; soft and mysterious and fae, the painting was pardon the pun the perfect backdrop.
Rick got over his stage fright enough to admire the flat. “I think I’d recognize your brush strokes anywhere.”
“You certainly enjoyed getting painted,” I said.
“So I have a bit of personal experience with your artistic talents.”