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You in Five Acts
Author:Una LaMarche

“You guys need a hobby,” you laughed, crumpling up your greasy paper lunch bag. “And you,” you said, putting your hands on my knees, “Need to chill. You got this.”

I forced a tight smile. Senior Showcase would be attended by industry VIPs and recruiters from elite companies all over the country. If I didn’t do well at the audition, I wouldn’t get a featured role. And if I wasn’t featured, I would barely be seen, which would mean that I could probably kiss a professional dance career goodbye, effectively rendering the previous ten years of my life a complete waste.

“Shit, remember that hospital monologue?” Liv asked, ignoring you. She reached out and caressed Ethan’s face, sending a blush racing up his already winter-pink cheeks. “I’ll always . . . be . . . with . . . you,” she whispered, her face contorting into a mask of tragedy. Then she burst out laughing.

“You’ll always be crazy,” Ethan said, but his eyes on her were soft and reverent.

I took a tasteless bite of my wrap and looked across the plaza to where Dave and Ms. Hagen, the drama head, were standing near the entrance to the Metropolitan Opera House. He was cringing against the cold, wearing only a knit skullcap and a pretty flimsy-looking green hoodie. L.A. Boy’s going to have to get himself a proper coat, I thought, feeling a little flutter in my chest that, for once, wasn’t born of pure dread.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say I had a crush on Dave Roth; it was more like a curiosity . . . made slightly more interesting by the fact that he looked like some kind of lush-lipped boy bander crossed with a Greek statue. And in a graduating class of 125 that was 70 percent female, any new Y chromosome was bound to make waves. Besides, Janus never took transfer students. It had been founded in the 70s by a crazy-rich art lover named Roberta Zeagler who had, according to the quote carved into a block of marble in the lobby, wanted to “democratize the path to cultural greatness.” That meant it was a free ride—tuition, supplies, even pointe shoes, which were $80 a pair and lasted one or two days—and, presumably, that talent was the only factor considered in the application. But each class only had room for twenty-five students per major, and there was a single audition period every spring, no exceptions. No one knew what Dave had done to get special treatment. “P.S.,” Liv said, turning to me like she could read my mind. “I saw his medical records in the nurse’s office this morning, and he’s six-foot-one, one hundred and sixty pounds, and does not have any STDs.” She plucked a baby carrot out of her ever-present Ziploc baggie and snapped it in half with her incisors. I knew Liv well enough to know that A) “saw his medical records” meant “opened the nurse’s file cabinet when she left the room”; and B) she was gearing up to play matchmaker again. She did that every so often—made a big show of trying to set me up with someone, and then lording over me how I never followed through. You never liked that; you always told me I should stop letting her act like I was some kind of pet project. What you didn’t understand was how far we went back, and how I helped her, too. Liv was just a lot louder about it. But then, she was the actress. Drama came with the territory.

“He seems more like your type,” I said, trying to deflect attention.

“He’s probably gay,” Ethan said, unconvincingly. “Anyway, you basically live in the nurse’s office, so that’s not exactly Sherlock-level sleuthing.” He smiled down at something on his phone. “And for the record, Wikipedia says he’s only five-nine.”

“I have adrenal fatigue, asshole,” Liv snapped. (Another Liv translation: her “adrenal fatigue” was what the rest of the world called “a hangover.”)

“Can we talk about something else?” you asked. You climbed up onto the bench and leapt into a perfect tour en l’air, landing with a squeak on the soles of your ratty sneakers. I rolled my eyes. I loved cheesy Hollywood dance movies—that was an established fact—but doing ballet jumps in street clothes was a little too Fame-y even for me.

“Attention whore,” Liv grinned, tucking her crudités lunch back into her enormous purse.

“Enjoy this, Ortega,” Ethan said. “It’s your official last day of being the Cute Guy.”

“Aw, you think I’m cute, E?” you asked, plopping down next to Ethan and draping an arm across his shoulders.

“No one thinks that,” I said with a smirk. That was a bald-faced lie, of course. Everyone loved you, and I wasn’t blind. You were the world’s biggest flirt and a straight-boy ballet dancer. Back on our very first day at Janus, I remember being instantly drawn to you, but not in the way other girls seemed to be. Standing there in Ballet 1 with the tags on my brand-new leotard still scratching that unreachable spot between my shoulders, I just got this déjà vu feeling of already knowing you. It had felt, somehow, that you had always been there, and I just hadn’t noticed until that moment.