Chapter 10

The next day Ally tried to focus on getting some of her school work done before the show that night, but she kept her phone next to her at all times, waiting for a text. By 3 PM she caved in, reminding herself that women could start conversations too, and sent Austin a text saying "How's Dez feeling?" When she hadn't received a text three hours later and it was time to head to the theater, she started to worry. She shrugged, wondering if maybe he had just slept through the whole day.

At the theater she saw Trish and waved her over to the quietest corner of the stage she could find.

"TRISH. Girl talk time."

"Ally, I know you and Austin made out last night…"

Ally paused, not having considered that other people might have seen them at the party. "Oh, uh right, okay. Still… you're, like, okay with it right?"

Trish laughed, "Yeah, I mean as long as you don't pull another Kira we'll be fine right? So what happened after the party?"

Ally laughed nervously at the mention of Kira, not wanting to think about the fact that Austin may have spent the day ignoring her. She explained to Trish about Dez's vomiting and how Austin had to run to the rescue. Trish just commented "Leave it to Dez to ruin a memorable night…"

Austin was late to makeup and late getting into his costume. When he finally did show up, he gave her a cheery "Hey Ally!" but promptly ignored her in the bustle of getting ready for the show. Fortunately, performing was enough of an adrenaline rush to allow her to push all the overthinking and anxiety to the back of her mind for the duration of the show. The audience was even bigger than the night before and performing with Austin was just like it always was. She felt like things were normal when they were singing to each other and making music together. But there wasn't as much magic as the first night of the show. No big hug from Austin at the end, not as much terror in Ally's mind. She wasn't surprised, but a little sad that the high of the previous night couldn't have lasted a little longer.

After the show, she looked around for Austin but by the time she had gotten out of her wig and makeup he was already gone. She did run into Dez on her way out.

"Hey Dez! How are you feeling? I heard you had a bit of, uh, trouble last night."

"Hey Ally! Great job tonight! And yup, just vomited for like two hours, no big deal! All better now."

"That's good! Austin was worried about you."

"Ha, yeah, he was… quite annoyed that I interrupted what you guys were up to last night," Dez said suggestively.

"Was he? You wouldn't know it from how he acted today, I didn't hear from him at all…"

The expression on Dez's face shifted slightly, but Ally couldn't tell what he was thinking. "I'm sure he's just wrapped up in the show, Ally, you know how he is about performing." And then Dez ducked away quickly, and Ally suspected it was in order to avoid further questioning.

The rest of the night, Ally progressively got sadder, spinning melancholy tales in her mind about how Austin couldn't possibly like her, she had just imagined everything before this and she was the one who had been silly. It had just been a few alcohol-infused kisses, nothing to get too attached to. But she still wanted their friendship to make it through this, so she sent him one more text that night saying "Sorry I missed you after the show, great job tonight!"

She woke up the next morning, saw she had no texts, and went from sad to angry. Ally was moving through the stages of grief quickly, and when Ally was upset she didn't seek out her friends, not even Trish. She just hid in her room and attempted to focus on her work while wavering back and forth between resolving not to check her phone and then checking her phone.

By the time the show rolled around that night she had moved into pretending to be over it. She had convinced herself that he wasn't interested in her, he wasn't even trying to save the friendship, and he wasn't worth worrying another second about. This was of course all lies to herself, to cover up how hurt and afraid she was. But if she could put on a brave face internally, maybe she could when she saw him that night, too. Then, when the show was over after tonight, she could pretend she never met him.

Ally intentionally didn't look around for him when she got back stage, but as fate would have it, they wound up sitting next to each other for makeup. After he said hello and she nodded back, an awkward silence descended. She forced herself not to speak; if anybody was going to start a conversation it needed to be him. But he didn't, despite looking over at her several times and seeming like he was about to open his mouth. Finally, when he was done, he just said "Break a leg tonight Ally," and walked away. She couldn't even look at him as he said it, she was struggling to keep back tears of frustration.

The show started and Ally was able to slip back into the role of Sarah for one last performance. She didn't realize how much that was allowing her subconscious to take over until she got to the scene where she sang "I'll Know" with Austin.

Without even thinking about it, after he kissed her she actually slapped him instead of stage slapping him. All her frustration and anger and hurt came out in that moment and she saw the shock register on Austin's face. He made eye contact with her and looked both apologetic and confused. The audience had no idea that anything unusual had happened, but Ally could tell when she exited the stage that the rest of the cast had seen (and heard) what had happened. She didn't talk to anyone, just kept her eyes on the floor until her next cue to go onstage.

During the intermission, she was sitting on her phone backstage and attempting to avoid all conversation. Trish was wise enough to stay clear after giving Ally a quick hug because she could tell what was going on inside her best friend's mind.

Then she heard a quiet, "Ally?" and looked up into Austin's face. She felt a quick rush of emotion and her feelings for him welled up in a moment of vulnerability, but she quickly tamped them down and said "Yeah?"

"Look, I wanted to tell you that I, well, that we…"

"Austin don't bother. We're in the middle of the show, I can't be doing conversations about emotions right now," she interrupted. Then she added, "I need to focus on staying in character, not on petty drama in my personal life," just to hurt him. He winced and nodded, recognizing that Ally was not to be trifled with at the moment, then said, "After the show, then. We'll talk, I promise." He left her alone after that.

The second half of the show was harder for Ally because she needed to fall for Austin, or rather Sky Masterson, but it was hard to separate the two at this point. Easy enough to do, but painful to recover from. As she was kissing him in Cuba she remembered all the romantic, meaningful moments she and Austin had had in the last few months. The reasons for what she now recognized as her enormous crush on Austin all came rushing back and she felt herself sinking perhaps dangerously far into Sarah's romantic mindset by the end. The characters got a happy ending, but would she and Austin?

When the cast took their bows, she was nervous. She wanted to focus on living in the moment and enjoying the last night of her first theater performance ever, which had gone so successfully. Instead her mind was stuck on Austin's promise that they would talk after the show. The time was drawing close and she wanted to run away, despite the fact that all she had wanted from him the past two days was for him to talk to her.

After the show, Austin was quickly surrounded backstage by his friends from the basketball team who had all showed up to support him closing night. Ally made eye contact with him momentarily, but looked away again and headed for the door, unwilling to fight for Austin's attention and happy to use the circumstances as an excuse to get out of the situation.

She hadn't made it very far across campus before Austin caught up with her in the middle of the quad. "Ally wait! Where are you going? Please let's talk."

She stopped and turned slowly to face him, hiking her bag up on her shoulder further. "Talk about what?" she asked flatly, not willing to ask with either optimism or pessimism.

Austin shrugged and looked at her pleadingly. "You know, about the other night. Us. Stuff."

"Yeah, stuff. Perfect. Look I'm tired. I get it. You just want to be friends, meaning we'll never talk again now that the show is over. Fine by me." She turned to walk away again, but he put his hands on his shoulders and turned her back towards him.

"What the hell are you talking about Ally? That's not at all what's going on here."

"Oh come on, you don't text me at all for two days? Can't even look at me or talk to me unless we're playing characters on stage. It all tells me you regret that we kissed and you're thankful Dez threw up just so you didn't wind up making more mistakes. This is why Kira left the show, too, isn't it? Because she couldn't handle your inability to commit to her any longer." Ally challenged him, too tired to keep in her annoyance with him.

"Ally, Kira left the show because she said she couldn't stand to see how much I liked you. Which I do, and I would have told you as much if you even let me get a word in here."

Ally just stayed silent, looking at the ground, unprepared to control whatever emotions were swirling around inside her at his statement.

"Ally, look, I know it was messed up of me to not talk to you yesterday. And then again today. I just…I needed to think, okay? I know I should have at least communicated that to you, but I'm still working on that stuff. I was scared by how much I liked you and Thursday night just brought that all to the surface really quickly. You and I have been dancing around this for a long time, but I hadn't really admitted to myself how I felt. It was easier to just keep flirting with you and kissing you during rehearsals instead of for real. Because I was afraid that what happened with Kira could happen again with you and I care about you so much more than I ever cared about Kira. You're one of my best friends now Ally, and I want to make original music with you and perform in more musicals with you and do everything else, and I was afraid dating you would ruin that. I don't know, it was all messing with my head and I'm sorry I upset you but I'm here now, I'm back, and I want to be with you. I want to be boyfriend and girlfriend and go on dates and meet each other's parents and be adorable in public, the whole thing. I mean, that is, if you want that…" He finally paused to catch his breath after the whole speech tumbled out, and waited for Ally to say something.

She looked up at him and just said "Oh."

"Oh?" he asked, unsure what she meant.

"I didn't expect you to be the bigger overthinker here, honestly. I mean… it was so simple to me. After we kissed on Thursday I just wanted to keep kissing you. And being goofy with you. And talking music with you. You must know I like you Austin, I wouldn't be going this crazy if I didn't. I hadn't even made it to the thought about labels, but yes of course that's what I want. I guess I wasn't worried about the rest because ultimately I knew that our friendship was so much stronger than what you had with Kira, and we could never break up on bad terms. I can't envision the rest of my college experience without you in it, in one form or another. So don't worry that it's going to end in a big blowup and another musical disaster. I'm not Kira, and we're not that relationship. I guess we're just… us now."

Austin was smiling at her, with such pure joy in his eyes at this point. He wrapped his arms around her and picked her up, spinning them around in the still empty quad. When he put her down he pulled her close to him and kissed her for a long time, in a passionate but unhurried sort of way. When he finally pulled away she smiled, eyes still closed, and pressed her forehead to his, saying "Not a bad way to start this relationship." Then they walked back to her dorm, arms around each other.

Yay happy endings! I'm a little torn about whether to continue this story or just end it here. I feel like barring some surprising outcry for more this will be the last chapter, it certainly feels like a natural end point. Hope you all enjoyed!