Title: That Fire Within
Pen Name: .Black
Characters: Alice and Jasper
She twirls gracefully, spinning in circles, her head to the ceiling, her dress flaring out around her. Her arms reach for the sky and she smiles briefly before slowing her turns and coming to a stop in front of the audience. In the darkened auditorium, the whites of their eyes stand out, mirroring the pale white of her clothing. She stares at them for a moment, leaning forward as if to whisper a secret to the front row, then laughs and skips away, disappearing back stage.
Her backup dancers crowd the stage, displaying an intricate weave of movements practiced long and hard in the months before hand. She watches them from behind the curtain, her head just peaking out. It's all part of the act. Every movement anyone makes is choreographed, made perfect, made safe. Her cue comes and she dances back on stage; an innocent child playing. This time the dancers twirl with her, play with her.
Time passes and she dances on, occasionally looking out onto the audience that study her every move. She loves to perform, to show off, to make people watch her. She feels like she's special, wanted, and in a way, she is. They want to see what she does, how she acts. They came here to see her. They want her. She looks out at them again and again during her set, but not once does she notice the set of gleaming eyes at the back of the theatre. They blend with the crowd; nothing special, nothing different. She is too focussed on herself and he is too far away for her to notice the intense look on his face as he watches her movements. He studies her harder than anyone else has every studied her. He wants her move than anyone else has every wanted her. But she doesn't know this. She just dances on. And he just watches.
The performance comes to an end and the lights in the auditorium go on as she and her fellow performers step out to take a bow and receive the thunderous applause from the waiting audience. She smiles genuinely here, her face breaking out into a huge grin at the praise she receives. She surveys the sea of faces that look up at her, but none stand out. Her eyes don't catch the force of his stare and he leaves before they have a chance to.
She mingles with the crowd a bit, waiting till all have left before making the solitary journey back to her apartment. On stage, everyone wants her, everyone watches her, but here, now, in real life, there is no one to watch her and keep her safe and look after her. She walks alone, just like she does every night. Here she can easily slip into the darkness and go unnoticed, unwatched, unwanted. Doesn't mean she wants it, though.
The next night is the same as the first. She still gets that rush when she looks out onto her audience/ She still feels the happiness and love. And she still misses the person who watches her closer than everyone else, who wants her for more than just her performance on stage. He still leaves before she has a chance to see him and she still walks home alone.
The last night of the show approaches too quickly. She doesn't want it to end. She doesn't want to be alone again. But she gives it her everything, dances with everything she has. And when the final curtain closes and she comes to the stage to bow, she smiles brightly and accepts the bouquet of flowers handed to her gratefully. She mingles with the crowd, thanks everyone for coming, drinks her wine and laughs at the appropriate times. They congratulate her on a job well done, hug her softly and kiss her cheek but they don't come any closer. Come tomorrow, they'll have forgotten all about her. She knows that. She tries not to mind.
She feels someone's eyes on her back and smiles, but waits a moment to turn around, revealing again in the feeling of being watched, being noticed, even in this thick crowd. Eventually she does turn, and her eyes lift to meet those of the boy in front of her. She's struck by the intensity in his stare, slightly scared by it. Why does he look at her with such emotion? She looks away, embarrassed and instead lets her eyes flow over the rest of him: the honey colour of his hair, the slight stubble on his chin, the crease of his shirt, the barely-there scar over his left eye. She's entranced by him, drawn towards him. So she meets his eyes once more.
They're the prettiest pool of blue she's ever seen. Pale and soft and burning brightly. She steps forward slightly, just as he does. She's never seen someone hold such feeling in their eyes. It intrigues her. She wonders how he does it. She takes another step towards him so that they're only inches apart. She doesn't understand what she's doing; she's never acted like this before, but all she can think about, all she can see, is the fire burning so, so brightly in his eyes, calling to her.
Someone knocks into her and their focus is broken. She's released from the trance she was held in. When she looks back at the boy, she can still see the fire in him, but it's diluted somehow, as if her staring back at him had made it stronger, fanned the flames. He smiles at her, soft, just the tips of his mouth curling up, and holds out his hand.
"Let me walk you home?"
"Why?" she wants to ask. No one has ever offered to walk her home before. Why would they? She's not watched, not wanted, by anyone. But she doesn't say anything, doesn't want to ruin the moment. She just nods and takes his outstretched hand. His palm is hot, burning just like his eyes. It sears the flesh of her cold fingers but she doesn't pull away, just waits for the burn to warm her hand.
He's silent as he pulls her through the crowd. It's the first time she's left before everyone else, but no one seems to notice. No one seems to care. No one is watching to see her leave.
He pulls her closer to him as they step outside into the dark. It's cold out but he's so warm. They don't speak—what is there to say?—but she feels an odd sense of comfort and relaxation as he leads her through the streets. She doesn't question how he seems to know where to go, just follows his lead, because he wants to take her.
"Don't you have a coat or something?" He breaks the silence when she shivers in her thin dress. She says nothing, only shakes her head. She doesn't tell him the reason she has no coat is because she had wanted someone to notice and offer her theirs. She doesn't tell him she's done this every night since she first started the performance. She doesn't tell him that no one has ever noticed before.
He sighs at her answer and drops her hand briefly to shrug out of his own. She doesn't like the loss of contact, but can't complain when he tenderly slides her arms into the sleeves of his overcoat, holding onto her for a moment too long before taking her hand once again. He walks her all the way to her apartment and stops on the steps. She turns to him, feeling awkward and unsure but all that washes away when she once again meets his eyes. The fire is quieter now, less passionate and demanding, but it's still as strong. Without thinking, she lifts her hand to his cheek, her index finger reaching up to the corner of his eye.
"How do your eyes tell such stories?" she asks, wonder and amazement colouring her voice. "How can they hold so much?" She moves her head as if trying to find an answer within them. He doesn't question her sanity, doesn't ask what she's talking about or ask if she's feeling okay. Instead, he takes her own cheeks in both his hands and whispers, "Because I can see it all mirrored back in you."
She shakes her head. "My eyes don't tell stories, my eyes don't stare with such intensity as yours, my eyes don't hold a fire within them."
He smiles at her and shakes his head. "Oh, but they do." She doesn't have time to answer as he leans towards her, making her breathing hitch slightly. She knows what's happening, but it's still a surprise when his lips touch hers softly. She feels the same fire that blazes in his eyes alight her lips. She feels alive; can feel everything within her start to dance. He pulls back slightly, still holding her against him.
He whispers, "Because I always watch you. Every night I watch you. Watch the fire that burns within you, wanting, waiting to come out. And I know with just a slight push it can. And every night I want you, and I want to be the one who gives you that push." He smiles at her, seriously, lovingly. She can feel something inside her start to grow, extend. A warmth she's never felt before. "You light a fire within me that can't be contained." His voice is soft but urgent and his eyes are once again that burning inferno. She feels her warmth grow and grow and finally she smiles back at him, because he's lit that same fire within her too, just by watching, and wanting, and being there with her.