Song Struck

A girl often has a man eating out of her hand by keeping him at arm’s length” -Unknown

**********

Anna stood in the darkness while Tony shone in the bright spotlight.  She had been scurrying around backstage all night.  Her job as stage manager demanded that she be everyplace at once while keeping tabs on all activities at once.  However, there was one moment each night when she allowed herself to stop and really watch the show.  It, not coincidentally, happened every time that Tony sang his solo.

Anna was a powerhouse of a woman.  She was young.  Her five foot height and dark, shoulder-length straight hair allowed her to blend into the background quite well when others were taking up the limelight.  But when Anna wanted to be heard, all eyes turned on her.  The actors’ stage presence came from their wild gestures or disarming good looks.  Anna’s ability to command attention of everyone around her came through sheer confidence and intelligence.  When Anna gathered people around her and began to talk, there was no doubt that she knew exactly what she was doing and what others should be accomplishing.  She had interned at the theatre in college and had quickly risen through the ranks.  Now, five short years later, everyone that graced that wooden pedestal respected and adored her.

The allure of being an actress had never appealed to Anna.  She didn’t like too much attention.  She appreciated when people would listen and consider the ideas that she put forth, but she wasn’t about to step out on stage and flash a winning smile to a crowd.  She was there to make others look good.  Anna wanted each show went off without a hitch; that was all

Over the course of the twenty or so plays that Anna had been in charge, she had observed plenty of drama taking place on-, but mostly off-stage.  The actors couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other.  He would date her, she would date him; and so it went.  Anna did her best to subtly remark that certain “shenanigans” shouldn’t be indulged at a professional theatre.  Yet, every so often, she would come across unmentionables.  Had she found them in dressing rooms then that would have been one matter.  She could almost pretend that those were props that had been left behind.  But she also found loose garments lingering around the sound booth, the catwalks, and in the audience when they hadn’t had any patrons.  It seemed that the actors loved only one thing more than struggling with their lines; struggling with their scene partners afterwards.

Anna rolled her eyes at the performers.  She was far too busy to let these men woo her or romance her.  As much as she liked her line-reciting compatriots, she had a certain opinion about them.  Actors, in Anna’s mind, enjoyed having the focus on them.  And only them.  In the social interactions that she had had with them after plays or late at night, they always seemed to lead the conversations back to themselves.  As a woman with actor friends, Anna was okay with that.  At the same time, she knew that it would never work as a romantic pairing.  Anna liked to have food cooked for her and her feet rubbed.  With the men that she spent her time bossing around, she expected to have her lunch absconded from the lounge and her toes stepped on in the darkness of backstage.

Still, as Tony stopped fighting with his fellow actress on stage, Anna couldn’t help but stare.  His short curly hair was adorable.  It wasn’t at all the type of hair that she pictured on a tall man with nice arms and a distinguished nose.  Somehow though, it worked for him.  He had the confidence that his fellow thespians did; he couldn’t have held his own on stage without it.  Yet, whenever she saw Tony, he always had a respectful way about him.  He actually stopped and looked her in the eye when he asked, “How’s it goin’?”  Most others, even Anna’s close friends, said such phrases in passing.  They never actually paused in going from point A to point B to get a response.  Tony not only stopped, he paid attention.

Anna, assuming her history with dating would maintain its tragic track record, told herself that Tony was gay.  It made sense.  He dressed well, he sang well, and he could dance.  He was nice to everyone and hugged anyone that needed it.  Anna told herself that he was not into women; he was just a perfectly nice person.  But that thought had been formed before the backrub of three weeks ago.

It had been an excruciatingly crummy day.  The lighting chief had been called out of town on a family emergency, ticket sales were lousy, and the next show was set to open soon.  Spirits were low and folks were grumbling as Anna tried to get everyone’s attention.  The director wouldn’t get off the phone and the lead actor refused to put down his latte and circle around with everyone else.

Tony, in all his charming brilliance, had done what any rational actor in the situation would have done.  He pretended that his butt was on fire.  He ran around the theater, patted his butt and screamed in comedic agony.  Anna found herself laughing along with all those assembled and caught her attention drifting to the supposed scene of the inferno.  She felt her eyebrows raise in satisfaction as her head bobbed along in agreement.  She was shaken from her physical critique as two strong hands came up behind her.

“Now that I have your full attention”, Tony’s strong voice boomed.  “I believe that the lovely Anna was trying to say something?  Anna, the floor is all yours.”

Anna had coughed in embarrassment, thanked Tony for the amusing introduction, and run down the clipboard of notes in front of her.  It hadn’t been the greatest meeting.  There had been some back-talk.  But the softening of the mood had clearly helped morale.

As the actors started to take their place on stage, Anna found herself sitting on her leather chair.  There were few sacred spots left in the tiny backstage area, but every person that walked around behind the curtain knew that the aged brown chair was off limits.  No one knew where it had come from.  Most assumed it was some prop pulled from The Man Who Came to Dinner, or some similar production.  Those that had tried it before its status as Anna’s seat had found the chair to be too small.  For the tiny stage manager though, the scratched, haggard, beaten up chair fit her just right.

As her petite figure collapsed onto the chair and her trusty clipboard fell onto her lap, Anna let her head fall back onto the top of the chair.  She closed her eyes, avoiding the sight of the numerous lights above that needed to be fixed.  It was then that the two strong hands returned to her shoulders.  The thumbs rubbed and dug their way into her tense shoulders as the palms pulled at the cluster of knots that had begun a summit on her upper back.  She felt the stress of the job lessen as her body went limp.  She moaned in contented pleasure.  “Ohhhh… that’s… yeah….”

“I’m glad you approve”, a familiar voice said.

“Tony”, she said without opening her eyes.  “Is that you?”

“It is unless you wanted somebody else to do this.  I’ve been told I can be a little too strong.”

“Mmmmm.  No”, she said, unable to wipe the smile off her face.  “You’re absolutely perfect.”

“I’ll remember that when I ask you out to dinner one day”, Tony replied with a laugh.

Anna’s constantly working brain shut down.  She didn’t think and she didn’t organize or plan; she let go.  The veins her forehead loosened.  The groups of knots and nerves released.  She felt herself falling asleep in the chaotic environment.  Anna couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so at peace at theatre.

“Oops, I gotta go”, Tony apologized as he stopped.  “They’re calling me for my death scene.”

Anna was almost unconscious and only managed to reply with a, “mmm-hmm”.  And then, as she was about to mentally clock out entirely, she felt something press against her lips.  This was no quick peck or gesture of friendship.  She could have sworn that the sensual touch had lasted a good ten seconds.

Anna fought to wake up.  No was standing near her.  Blinking her tired eyes, she saw Tony on stage in the middle of a scene.  She had obviously been out of it for a few minutes.  She started to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing.  Tony probably hadn’t kissed her. The stress of the day had thrown her for a loop.  The backrub had played tricks on her weary brain.  Anna knew that she had imagined that kiss.  That was the only answer that made sense.  Or was it?

Three weeks later and Anna couldn’t take her eyes off of Tony.  She wondered if he knew just how sexy he looked when he was singing to a full house.  She smiled at his voice, his smile and that cute head of hair.  She looked in awe at the way he kept the entire audience’s attention.  Anna knew she should pinch herself and get back to work.  She didn’t want to.  It wasn’t helping that Tony was singing one of her favorite songs.  She swooned each time she heard, “Just the way you look… tonight.”

There was one performance oddity that Tony had.  At first, like the kiss, Anna doubted if it was real or not.  Yet, it happened with insane regularity.   Every time that Tony sang his solo, without fail, he would glance off stage to Anna.  It didn’t matter where she stood, he somehow found her.  For one, fleeting moment, he would look right at Anna and wink.  Then he went right back to performing his tune to the audience with no one the wiser.  Anna tried to convince herself she was wrong, but she had been doubtful of that reasoning for a while.

She mockingly winked in return, half encouraging and half teasing the strapping man.  With Bambi-eyes and a cheerleader’s look on her face, Anna crossed her arms in front of her chest, stood on tiptoes, and exaggeratingly mouthed, “I love you!” in as obnoxious of a face as she could manage.  The first time she had heckled him, Tony had almost lost his concentration.  Like a pro, he took his surprise and turned it into a laugh, making the patrons love him even more.

Anna was afraid to admit it, but she was getting rather smitten with Tony.  She was going to have to confront him one of these days.  He actually listened to her.  He was undeniably attractive.  And the two clearly had similar interests; one doesn’t enter the theatre life for casual jollies.  Anna let her head rest on a breaker panel.  She had no desire to take her eyes off of Tony.  His song was almost over and she wanted to enjoy him glowing perfectly on stage for as long as possible.  Her cheeks started to flush.  Anna grabbed her handy clipboard and covered her face with it.  She couldn’t believe she was blushing.  Biting her lower lip nervously, Anna knew she’d have to corner Tony at the after-party.  She’d find some out of the way spot for them both to talk.  If nothing else, she was going to kiss that man with all her gusto.  Of all the performances being given tonight, Anna was determined that hers was the one that Tony would remember.

Personal Space

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Personal Space

Chad was having a hard time getting comfortable.  No matter how nice the theatre looked or how amusing the performance was, he found the leg room lacking.  Chad liked going to live shows, but he always regretted not having the roomy accommodations his home offered.  Going and seeing someone on stage, complete with hiccups and stutters, was a nice change of pace from staring at a screen with commercials.  But the cost of being in the same room as a performer was rather steep for Chad.  It wasn’t so much the ticket price that he minded; it was how tightly the seats were packed together.

He had done his best to acquire aisle seats.  Chad assumed that the ushers would come by intermittently and ask him to tuck his legs in, but those few seconds of being able to stretch seemed worth any hassle.  Others must have had the same idea because Chad’s seat options had been limited to the middle.  He was still able to see the stage from his far-back balcony seats, but any hopes he might have had for indulging in comfort came to naught.

The tickets were worth it.  The comedian, a national radio star, was really quite delightful.  He didn’t cause Chad to burst out in boisterous laughs and guffaws, but he felt himself chuckling along with the audience often.  Everyone in the theatre seemed to be having a good time and they were happy to be there.  Chad looked at Cindy and saw that she was beaming and smiling along effortlessly.

Chad hadn’t known for sure that his friend would tag along when he bought the second ticket, but he had certainly hoped.  She had often mentioned his broadcasts and the two shared a mutual sense of humor most of the time.  While they had never dated, Chad always found his constant companion to be quite lovely.  Chad was quite tall himself, and Cindy came just short of his height.  Brunette with an athletic build and reading glasses, an easy smile often flashed across her face.  Her shoulder-length hair and brown eyes were often admired by other men whenever the two associated in public.  If Chad was being honest, he could hardly blame them.  Cindy’s constant desire to be a better person and the worry she felt for those around her might have hidden away for only her true friends to know about.  Her stunning physique, however, was on display in her own confident way.

The comedian sat on his stool that was perched alone on an empty stage.  The man needed no props and rambled along in a folksy, down-home manner.  He didn’t make any grand gestures or yell at the crowd.  He just talked, to no one person or group in particular, about the townsfolk that he found amusing and the antics that seemingly sprang out of nowhere.  Someone less confident would have shuffled their shoes; possibly crossing their legs and uncrossing them in an attempt to exert some sort of control over the theatre.  This man didn’t have that problem.  His feet; like his timing, were confident and assured.  He kept his feet planted squarely and firmly while he put slight spins on his routine to meet the crowd gathered.  The performer was having a nice time and his business suit seemed a gag in itself.  This wasn’t a group that cared about attire.  They simply wanted to laugh.

Chad’s knees were talking, but not in laughs or chortles.  While his need for entertainment was being met, Chad’s desire to stretch was only growing.  He was not technically in pain; however he was certainly feeling the strong itch to move well up inside his legs.  His knees were bumped up against the chair in front of him and no matter how much he sat up, his lower appendages lacked sufficient space.  Even if wasn’t living in terror that his knees popping would pierce the quiet ambiance of the room, his legs lacked a maneuvering area.  He felt his legs get tighter as the hour drew later.  Chad began to realize that there was no intermission coming to allow him anything resembling relief.  He could try to twist his legs diagonally, but he could only readjust so many times before Cindy would catch on.  Chad was determined to remain a proper theatre patron in front of her, even if his discomfort was approaching a level normally reserved for flights to Australia or dental visits.

Finally, after almost two hours, the performer stood up slowly, and thanked the audience for coming.  Chad leapt to his legs and clapped enthusiastically.  His legs cheered at their newfound ability to decompress while those around him applauded the performer; they remained ignorant of how he had suffered for art.  As the performer lifted the stool and started walking off towards stage left, Chad bounced lightly from one foot to the other.  He was about to take a break from clapping and rub the back of his knees when he saw Cindy watching him out of the corner of his eye.

“Had a little trouble sitting still, did ya?”

Chad’s sheepish grin came out and he looked apologetically towards his friend.  “You noticed?”

“Yep”, she admitted.  She leaned in towards him, closing what little space had been between them.  “Nobody else did though.  You made a valiant effort.”

Chad smiled at this as Cindy continued clapping.  He pulled her towards him and hugged her opposite arm.  “A good show with a quality friend”, he said to her.   “I’d call that worthwhile.”

The lights in the theatre went up from dusk-like to mostly-dim and the mass of people bustled and chatted their way out of the aisles.  Quite content with the company he had already; Chad rubbed his legs and enjoyed having no one sitting to the left of him.  He lifted his legs, popped his knees, and generally felt himself relaxing.  Cindy looked at the process with a shake of her head.

“You know, if we choreograph that whole performance you’re putting on, we could sell tickets.”

“Funny”, Chad replied.  “High-larious.”

“Are you ready to go, or does Old Man Winter need a wheelchair brought to him?”

Chad looked around and noticed that only a few stragglers remained.  He made his way towards the aisles and Cindy followed along.  There was still a mighty crowd around the elevators so the two wove and navigated through the groups of people on the staircases.  Chad did his customary pocket check to make sure that his car keys were still in his pocket while Cindy did her best to take in the pieces of artwork that decorated the elaborate walls.

They walked down the last few steps and pushed the heavy doors open.  Stepping into the night air, January’s fierce weather assaulted them immediately.  As if the low temperature was not enough of a threat to the general populace, it had brought along its friend wind-chill factor.  The wintery cold slapped Cindy and Chad in the face and nipped at any openings of their clothes.  They pulled their clothes tighter and shrank their heads into their too-thin coats like turtles.  They hadn’t planned for this sort of extreme environment and had no coats or gloves.

Cindy, being the one who took action, grabbed Chad’s right arm and pulled him close.  She tucked her arms inside his jacket and closed them around his waist.  Their chests and hips pressed against each other and an unspoken trust passed from her to him.  Chad; surprised but game, put his arm tightly around her.  One extra-wide person with four legs and two heads leaning against each other made its way down the sidewalks.  They hugged and laughed, hoping to beat the cold off with determination and shared body heat.  Chad enjoyed the closeness with his friend and realized he had to rethink some ideas he had.  Before he had been yearning to break free and have all the personal space he and his legs could acquire.  Now he was quite content to keep holding on to his companion for as long as he she’d let him.

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