Carrie stepped out of her car, tugging at her dance bag until it flipped out of the passenger seat, over the gear shift and landed with a thump next to her on the pavement. She slammed the car door and turned her head to look up at the large brick building which dominated the landscape. Funny how two months ago this was a strange place, and now it almost felt like a second home. She stood there for a moment before hoisting the strap of her bag over her shoulder and making her way to the stage door entrance of the building. She pulled the door open and inhaled a deep breath. It had a certain smell, one that was comforting and exciting all at the same time: a mixture of wood and paint and, as disgusting as it sounded, sweat and bodies, which came together to form the distinct smell of the theater. They all smell the same she mused. I wonder if this is how Broadway theaters smell too.
"Ah well, not like I'll ever find out. Not at my age." she said out loud. Her only answer was the noise outside of cars in the distance. "Who would have thought that at 26 I would feel like an old woman?" Well, when you were auditioning against and performing with 18 year olds, 26 seemed ancient.
Carrie let the door swing shut behind her and walked down the deserted hallway. It was six o'clock - still two hours until curtain - and since call wasn't until 7, she was the only one there, which was how she liked it. Once the rest of the cast started to arrive, it was chaos backstage with people running around half-costumed and half-made-up, searching for a bobby pin or lip-gloss or a lost character shoe. No, it was much easier to get ready by herself. This way, when the others arrived she could help her younger cast mates get ready with as little drama as possible.
"Ha!" Carrie chuckled at her own pun. She walked into the dressing room she shared with the other chorus girls and flipped on the light switch. Drama was an integral part of the theater – both onstage and off. She shook her head and smiled as she tossed her bag under her section of the dressing table. So many of the cast were romantically involved with each other; it got interesting when break ups occurred. It was not the most comfortable situation, playing someone's love interest on stage when in real life you just broke up. Even more interesting was if you just stared dating a cast mate while on stage your love interest was someone else. Carrie never experienced either of those situations, for which she was glad. She preferred to watch all the action from the sidelines.
Carrie reached down and unzipped her bag, digging around until she found her dance tights. She slipped off her stockings and pulled the dance tights on under her skirt. It wasn't that she wasn't interested in having a fling with a cast mate; most of the time they were too young for her, and when they weren't she found other reasons not to pursue anything. She changed out of her skirt and sweater into her bathrobe, tying it around her waist.
She had just finished pinning her hair up in hot rollers when she heard the sound of the stage door opening. She looked at the clock – 6:15 – way too early for anyone else to start arriving. She left the dressing room to go investigate and almost ran into a strange man walking down the hall. Her gaze traveled up his well-formed chest to rest on his face. Carrie had to crane her neck to look him in the eye for he was quite tall. And what nice eyes they were: a piercing blue, contrasting with the dark wavy hair that hung down to his shoulders. He was quite attractive, even if he was probably in his 40s.
Oh God, she thought I am getting old if I find this guy attractive.
He looked her up and down and she suddenly felt very naked, standing there in her tights and bathrobe. His eyes wandered up to the curlers in her auburn hair.
"I'm sorry sir." His piercing eyes found hers again. "Nobody but cast and crew are allowed backstage. If you go back out that door and around to the front of the building, you can come back in by the box office."
He paused a moment, eyes narrowed, scrutinizing her. "I am here to speak with one of the performers."
Carrie fidgeted nervously under the weight of his gaze. "I'm sorry; you still can't be back here. If you tell me their name, I can send them out to you when they arrive."
"Her name is Carrie Waters."
Carrie Waters...Carrie Waters… The man's voice echoed in Carrie's head.
ME! her mind cried out. Who is this man, and why is he looking for ME? Her eyes darted around the hall, but nobody else was around. He obviously didn't know who she was, otherwise he would have said he was here to speak to her. This was getting stranger and stranger. She made a quick decision.
"She um, she doesn't usually come 'til much later." She took a deep breath. "But you can't wait back here for her."
"Is that so?" His eyes bored into her. "Not until later?" Oh great, Carrie thought. He knows I'm lying and I'm the only one here! Panic began to set in.
"No, no she won't be here until later, but lots of other people will be here soon." Carrie's words flew from her mouth quickly, her heart racing almost as quickly as her tongue. "Lots of people: big people; lots and lots of big people."
A corner of his mouth curled up, almost as if her discomfiture amused him. "Make sure you let Carrie know I mean no harm to her. And I will be waiting for her after the show. I expect a chance to speak with her then." He raised his eyebrow at her meaningfully before turning and walking towards the door.
"Wait!" she called after him. He stopped but did not turn around. "Who are you?" she asked, her curiosity overcoming good sense.
He was silent for a moment before responding. "I am her uncle." He took a few more steps, pulled open the door, and walked out into the parking lot.
Carrie stood there staring after him. My uncle? And then it hit her. Her headshot was hanging outside the theater by the box office; everybody's was – the whole cast. He was going to see her picture and, if he didn't already, know she lied and come back here and ...what? What did he want from her anyway?
Frantically, she ran through the back of the theater trying to find somebody – anybody. She ran smack into the Stage Manager.
"Scott!" she cried. "Scott there was some guy backstage looking for me and he said he was my uncle and he needed to speak to me and he'd be waiting for me after the show but he's going to see my headshot and know he's going to know it's me and he's going to come back and I don't know what he's going to do but you have to do something!"
"Whoa there, Carrie. You're not making any sense." He shook the pack of cigarettes he was carrying. "Let's go out back and have a smoke and you can tell me the whole story. Calmly."
"But you don't understand." she wailed. "If he sees my headshot he's going to know it's me."
Scott stopped guiding her down the hall. He looked at her with a puzzled expression on his face. "But if he's your uncle, doesn't he know who you are?"
Carrie threw up her hands in frustration. Now that the panic had passed, she realized that she probably wasn't making much sense. She grabbed Scott's hand. "Come ON. We'll go outside and I'll tell you the whole story."