He knew he made the right choice.
He watched her throughout the song, her song, as her voice developed progressively with tremendous richness and emotion. He felt himself being captivated under her hypnotizing stance ; the way her voice broke in a surreal way, the way her hands rose into the air, as if to address the angels, to make them stroke her song with undefinable passion.
A pleasant heartache filled his body, coursed through his veins, making his heart pound as though he were holding his breath. And he was holding his breath, because he didn't want his exhaling to perturb her voice that fills his ears.
"And please, let me be the star!" she finally let go on the final line, and a wave of strong emotions pulsated in every inch of his body, even in some parts he forgot he was able to operate. She bent back, spreading her arms like a fiery bird, and a picture of Marilyn faded in behind her. She is gold, and the illumination behind added to the shine.
He saw her breathing heavily when she finally looked to the audience for a final time. The rest of the cast crawled out onto the stage, sharing the spotlight. In the audience, he saw three proud smiles who worked just as hard as himself to give "Bombshell" a standing ovation.
Karen relished the moment, accepting the applause and the whistles and the generous admirers. All the cast intertwined their hands, and bowed once, twice, thrice. Then, they ran into the wings, only to be called back by the audience a few moments later. They bowed a last time, slowly, and finally disappeared into a fog of light.
Derek watched the audience sit there for a few minutes, and even though he was unable to discern their exact words, he knew they were discussing the pros of the show. How amazing the Marilyn was, how original the decor looked, how well the chorus accompanied the leading lady.
And when Karen finally ran into his arms, he felt so proud of her performance. He embraced her fully, to the core, eyes closed, and she returned the gesture. After a few instants, they both let go, and she mouthed "Thank you," before running off into the dressing rooms.
"Derek," Eileen approached him with a considerable beam gracing her features. "I must apologize. You did an astonishing work on the show."
"It's quite alright. I get those a lot," Derek was back with a cocky smile.
"I was just a little... afraid of the outcome. It's my first show on my own. Karen was quite the shine out there, you know. You worked well with her."
"I'm pleased to hear that, Eileen. Thank you. I just hope you trust me more next time. If we work together again, that is."
"I trust you fully with your decision. You were right. And I do look forward to working with you again. You are dedicated to your shows, which makes you all the more genuine," Eileen turned to leave, and remembered at the last moment, "will you be coming to the little celebration tonight at the hotel bar?"
"Of course. How could I miss out on drinks and women?"
"Oh, Derek..." Eileen chuckled and left to join Nick.
"Karen! That was amazing! Hon' come here!" Jessica ushered Karen into her dressing room seat the moment she caught her standing in the door frame.
"You didn't call me Iowa!" Karen laughed heartily, looking at herself in the mirror, as people crowded over her.
"You earned your name for me, now," Jessica hugged her from behind, smiling warmly.
"Gosh, that was just – wow!" Bobby kneeled beside Karen, gazing at her with bright eyes.
"Thank you, all of you," she said, taking off her wig a little flustered.
"No, no, don't remove it yet!" Dennis stopped her. "We have this tradition. You have to keep it on until the day is over. It brings you luck until the whole thing is over."
"Really? I'm too hot in this. It's like I'm cooking my head in an oven."
"Gonna have to endure it, hon," Jessica teased her.
"Where's Ivy?" Karen enquired suddenly.
No one dared reply.
"What happened? Is it bad?" Karen turned away from mirror, a little alarmed.
"She, uh... She overdosed herself on the steroids," Bobby revealed, and clenched his jaw. "She's at the hospital now."
"Shit, that's horrible! Is it because of the role?" Karen asked.
"Yeah. Her life went tumbling down. She was so sure she was gonna get it. Not her fault. We all want the best. Plus, apparently Derek and her are over..."
"I don't know what to say..."
"We don't want to ruin your great performance. Let's get going to the bar. Chop chop!"
They gathered themselves and headed to the bar.
Karen was perturbed with Ivy's state. She needed to talk to Derek about this.