A 991 word story, written for the October Weird Tales Contest.
| The Star Of The Show
Jerome Blakely had not missed one performance. At first he had sat well back from the stage, but even from there he could sense her magnificence. She had shone, making the rest of the cast pale to insignificance.
It was hard for him to believe that he had not known her name until he had read it on the programme. Eliza Blume! That name had since been uttered by his lips many times, often with him substituting Blakely as her surname. He was in no doubt that he was in love with her, and she would be in love with him too; the attraction would be instant, undeniable, and she would quickly agree to become his wife. Her performances then would be for him alone; both he, and she, would not have it any other way.
In spite of his depth of feeling, it took him a while to get a seat in front of the stage. He no longer had to watch the other actors as they went through their paces. Every word, every cue, every stage entrance and exit - he knew them all. Jerome had no interest until Eliza set foot on the stage. Her eyes met his own as she spoke those declarations of love to the two leading men; in reality her words were for him.
Jerome could not let his chance slip by. The performance run was drawing to a close, and although he had harbored thoughts about there being an extension, the dwindling audience said otherwise. With two nights remaining, he made his move.
After the show he made his way to the rear of the building. Jerome paced as, one by one, the bit-part actors drifted out. He saw one of the leading men appear, accompanied by an actress. It wasn't her though, not his Eliza.
So many people had left that Jerome almost convinced himself that she must have gone out through the front of the theater. Perhaps, if he ran, he would catch her up, sweep her into his arms and declare his undying love. He was just about to turn away when the stage door opened.
The other leading man stepped out, his arm flung casually across the shoulders of a woman. There was something mesmerizing about her, but it couldn't be Eliza. This woman's hair was a nondescript brown, whereas Eliza's was the blonde of spun gold. She moved like Eliza though, and when he looked at her face all his doubts had vanished.
Jerome stepped out of the shadows. He thrust his hand towards her, while ignoring the man beside her. "Eliza, I just want to say that you are a woman in a million. No, a billion! You shine like a star in the sky."
"Well, thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed the show," she said, with a hint of an accent that was not there on stage. She went to move away, but Jerome stepped in front of her.
"What have you done to your hair?" As soon as the words were out, he knew that he should not have said them.
"That blonde wig? It's ghastly, isn't it," and with that she was gone.
Jerome could not be certain, but he thought he heard one of them say, 'Creep'. So someone was bothering her. They wouldn't be, not after the next, and final, performance.
He arrived at the theater early and again took a seat in the front row. The gigantic bouquet of flowers that he had brought with him was placed on the empty seat to his left. Hopefully the lighting would keep it hidden from her gaze during the performance. Jerome fingered the small box in his pocket. Tonight was the night when they would exchange their vows.
The performance went largely unnoticed by him. Every time Eliza stepped onto the stage he would hear her saying, 'I love you, Jerome', instead of her lines. When the curtain fell he loitered in his seat. Only when he was sure that no one was around did he take the box from his pocket, then sprinkle the contents over the flowers.
He did not talk about her hair when she came out of the stage door. He did not even greet her, but just strode forward and put the flowers in her hands. He could not help but feel self-satisfied as she stepped away from her companion.
Eliza Blume raised the bouquet towards her face and took a deep breath. "Thank you. They are beautiful," she said, before walking away.
Jerome followed at a distance. He had known that the cast would be staying in one of the nearby hotels, but he had been unsure of which. Eliza stumbled, once, twice. Her co-star tightened his grip, spoke to her. Jerome was too far back to hear his words but could guess that he was asking if she was alright.
In spite of the late hour, the lobby of the hotel was busy. It was not hard for Jerome to blend in and hide away until he saw Eliza make for the lifts. She was alone, as he followed her in and pressed a button.
As the elevator began to rise with a jolt, she glanced at him. There was no recognition in her eyes; no interest either. Her face was pale, almost white. Jerome watched as she reached out with her hand to steady herself.
He coughed, drew her attention back to himself before she lost consciousness. "I love you, Eliza," he said. "Say that you love me too!"
Barely able to stay on her feet, Eliza Blume, opened her mouth to say 'I don't understand', but only the first word was uttered.
It did not matter. Jerome had finished off the sentence inside his mind. Later, once the hotel was quiet, he would carry her home with him; his wife forever and a day. Eliza no longer Blume but Blakely, her beauty captured and held in alabaster.