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Interlude (2/4)

The curtain came down.

….Light was restored in the auditorium, and the low humming in the air dissolved into chatter and the shuffling of people moving from their seats. The swinging, double doors brought the smell of popcorn and sugary sweetness through them. Katherine took in a deep breath, letting her tastebuds revel in a sugar crazed frenzy.

….She turned to face James, who gripped his armrests tightly. In his chair, he seemed to be bracing himself inside a NASA rocket ship, ready to take off. 

….‘How did you like that?’ Katherine asked. James seemed to snap out of his little rocket ship role-play, become reanimated, and adjusted the beanie on his head. He took in a deep breath. Katherine waited.

….‘Yeah. That was something.’

….‘We’ve had this conversation, James. If you don’t like theatre, then you don’t have to come.’ She waved her hands towards the stage, ‘I have friends who would love to come and watch this.’

….‘Don’t see the problem here, Kat. You’re always saying “try something new” – so here I am, trying something new.’

….She took a mirror out of her clutch bag, flashed her teeth in it, then brushed the blond hairs framing her face with her fingers. James’s phone beeped beside her.

….An elderly couple sat in the row in front of them, chuckling vivaciously, enjoying a wonderful evening together at the theatre.

….She armed herself with her Chanel lipstick and began recoating her lips in a fresh layer of colour. Satisfied, she put everything back into her bag, and sat limply in her chair.

….Now, the elderly couple leaned closer to one another, probably chatting intensely about the play.

….‘So… what did you make of the strong female cast? I love seeing powerful women on stage,’ Katherine said.

….James’s phone beeped again. The screen of death appeared on his iPhone. Score: 45. His thumb hovered over the play again button.

….‘You can score higher than that, James,’ she said.

….‘Yeah, almost beat my high score.’

….‘The one I set.’ Katherine stared at him. ‘The female cast?’

….‘They were good… Weren’t women always powerful?’ he asked, picking at his phone case with his fingernail.

….If they were, the world wouldn’t be this way. Katherine fiddled with her fingers, as he scanned her face. He sat back, and faced the stage.

….‘When’s all this going to be over?’ he said.

….‘I’m beginning to ask the same question myself.’

////‘Huh?’

….She sighed. Katherine pointed to James’s phone. He flashed the screen at her.

….‘The play begins in about ten minutes, or so,’ she said.

….‘Oh. Want a drink?’

 ….Katherine shook her head in response.

….‘Then I’m off.’ Like a NASA rocket, he blasted off, down the aisle, and out the double doors. The flow of people moving in and out through them sent wafts of warm air flying around the room.

….Alone, Katherine glanced around the auditorium. She repeated the mirror checking routine again: hair, teeth, and lipstick. The elderly couple continued their deep conversation. She leaned forward in her chair.

….‘But, the whole concept of acting is quite peculiar, don’t you think?’ the old woman said, pushing her gold-rimmed spectacles up her nose. ‘We watch actors perform the real in a fake setting.’

….The man contemplated this, rubbing his beard.

….Katherine picked her mirror up, again. It reflected everything behind her – rows and rows of seats going up like a set of stairs. The people at the top scurried around like ants, zigzagging across the rows. 

….‘What’s fake? Us or them?’ she whispered.

….James plopped down into his chair, a cup of ice cream in his hands. She dropped the mirror on the floor.   

….‘Hey, where’s my ice cream?’ She pouted. James licked his tiny spoon.

….‘You didn’t say you wanted any.’

….‘You asked if I wanted a drink!’ Several heads turned to look at her.

….Light faded from the auditorium, and the curtain lifted up. The double doors stopped swinging, and a hush fell over the audience. Katherine shuffled around in her chair, trying to locate the mirror. James poked her arm. 

….‘Shh, it’s starting again,’ he said, then continued to lick ice cream off the spoon.


Story number two from the City of Echoes collection

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The Same

As I walked down Old Marylebone Road, a flicker to my right caught my attention. It was the reflection of cars zooming across the glass windows of a building, on the reflected road. I stopped, and turned to face it. Eyes stared back out at me, watching me with an expressionless face.

….Taxis and vans raced past behind the staring girl. The wind created by the passing vehicles tickled my skin and played with the jacket of the girl in the glass. Footsteps approached from my left and faded away on my right. People walked past the girl in the glass, only seeing what was in front of them: pavement or a smartphone, or the girl standing in their way.

….A life parallel to the one I lived flickered in this glass, like a movie. But it was real. I tucked some hair behind my ear and the girl opposite did the same. In a minute this girl would be out of my view, going about with her life on the other side of the glass and the building.

….She walked with me now, ready to continue her day just as I was. When I passed the building and turned back, she was gone, just as I predicted. But the cars and buses kept on racing, back and forth down the road.