Genre - Gen
Rating - PG
It was Ashleigh Murdock's opening night. She was expecting big things, but she never expected a visit from the theatre's ghost.
My thanks to sparky955 for her beta. Last week I posted about an actress who has seen a blonde ghost wearing a blue dress. This is the resulting story -
Ashleigh Murdock had worked hard to make a name for herself. The way some people talked, you’d think she’d been handed every one of her achievements on a silver platter, but she knew it was just the opposite. She worked hard and, as her fame grew, so did her opportunities. However, this was her first time on stage and she was both thrilled and terrified.
For just a moment, she held her breath as she pushed against the lobby door. By all rights, it should be locked, but it yielded to her. Ashleigh smiled and slipped inside. Without pausing, she walked quickly across the thick red carpet and pulled open the nearest door to the auditorium.
Before her, the house of the Tilley Theatre slept, its slumber not yet disturbed by the arrival of her fellow actors and technicians. The lighting instruments above her head were dark, the only illumination coming from a single lightbulb on stage – the ghost light. The story was that it was a light to keep the ghosts company, but she knew it was really to keep anyone from tripping over cables, scenery or whatever else might be left on the stage floor from the night before.
Ashleigh took a few steps closer to the stage, he eyes closed as she breathed in the scent of the theatre. Mostly it smelled dusty and faintly of furniture polish. In a few hours, it would be rich with perfume and cologne. It would be filled with excited voices and the rustle of programs.
Opening her eyes, she walked carefully down the center aisle, marveling that, in just a few short hours, she would be up there, finally fulfilling a lifelong dream. She worked so long and so hard for this that she almost didn’t want it to happen. Ashleigh knew that she would never be able to do this again for the very first time.
She paused, resting a hand on the crushed velvet back of the seats, soft and enticing, much like the lure of that stage. She took another step and then paused. There was a woman standing in front of the orchestra pit, staring at the ghost light, apparently as star struck as Ashleigh was.
Ashleigh smiled at this and approached her. “It’s incredible, isn’t it?”
The woman spun, shocked. Ashleigh, too, was surprised, not so much by the blueness of the stranger’s decades-old dress, not even by the look of sorrow and despair on the blonde woman’s face, it was the fact that Ashleigh could see through her to the stage beyond.
Ashleigh let out a little squeal and toppled backwards, never feeling the floor as she collapsed on it.
“Miss, are you all right?”
Ashleigh opened her eyes and blinked. For a moment she didn’t know what had happened or even where she was. Then it came back to her. She was at the Tillie Theatre and she’d just seen…
“A ghost!” she started and the man holding her smiled kindly, although Ashleigh detected the same sort of sadness in his eyes that she had seen on the ghost’s face. “I just saw…”
“It’s okay. You just had a bit of a fright.” His accent was British and for some reason, that made her feel safe as did his strong embrace as he helped her to one of the seats. “Here, have a sip of this.” He handed her a plastic cup of water. “You made the acquaintance of the Blue Lady, although some, well, mostly myself, prefer to call her Sapphire.”
She sipped the water, thinking back. “I bet that’s because of her dress. It was so blue.”
“Possibly, I’ve never seen her. I’ve worked for years to spot her, but to no avail. I’m always too early or, like this time, too late, never right on time.” He sighed sadly. “”Time and I are old rivals.”
“Do you know happened to her? Who is…? I’m sorry, who was she? She looked so very sad.”
“No one really knows. The popular story is that she was an actress, suddenly plucked out of the chorus and destined to go on in the leading role. Unfortunately, opening night, there was a horrible accident and she was killed instantly. Now she haunts the theatre, desperate for her opening night. Or at least that’s one version. We will never know. I think she’s trapped here and is trying desperately to escape.” He handed her his handkerchief and she wiped the sweat from her brow. “However, you are fortunate because it is also said that she appears when she knows a success is at hand, possibly trying to relive a moment she never had.”
“I hope so. We’ve all worked so hard.”
“And in a few hours, you will open and you will be exceptional. For now, you’d best get back stage and settled yourself before the rest of the company arrives.” He offered her his hand as she stood.
“Thank you. You’ve been so kind, Mr. --? I’m sorry. I don’t even know your name.”
“I’m the house manager. My name is Steel.”
“Thank you, Mr. Steel. With you here, I feel quite safe now.”
“You are welcome. Break a leg.”
Ashleigh stood on the stage, the auditorium still empty except for the stage manager and the director. Hovering to one side was the house manager, a clipboard in his hand, watching as ushers made sure everything was neat and tidy for their patrons. He smiled at her and nodded. She beamed back at him, her butterflies calmed for a moment.
“I’ve been told by the Box Office that it is SRO, darlings,” the director said. “I want you to give them the best performance of your lives, at least until tomorrow night.”
There was polite laughter and several stage techs suddenly appeared, each carrying trays full of clear plastic cups. Ashleigh took one and frowned as she smelled the contents.
“It’s champagne,” she whispered to the actress beside her. “I thought that was for afterwards.”
“It’s tradition. Wait for it.”
The director raised his glass. “Here at the Tillie, we have a tradition.”
“Told you.” They giggled, then stopped as the director cleared his throat.
“As I was saying, we have a tradition on opening night. She died here tragically many years ago, stripped of her own opening night, so, my friends, raise your glasses and your voices to the Blue Lady. May her misfortunes be our fortunes.”
Ashleigh interrupted him. “Just a moment, Tom. That’s not quite right.” The director stopped and looked quizzically at her. “I… I wasn’t going to say anything, but I met her this afternoon.” There were gasped from her cast mates. This gentleman.” She indicated the house manager and motioned him forward. “He was very kind to me and told me her name is Sapphire. May I request we drink to her instead?”
The director appeared skeptical, but he was not about to question his leading lady. “Absolutely. So, my darlings, let them hear it in the back row of the balcony. To Sapphire!”
“To Sapphire!” Their voices nearly knocked dust from the catwalk and suddenly a woman appeared, looking confused, lost, and desperate.
“Sapphire!” Steel shouted and ran to her.
“Oh, Steel.” They embraced and winked from sight. For a long moment, there was not a sound, then there was a clumph as one of the actresses fainted. The director sank to his knees as Ashleigh jumped off the stage and ran to the spot.
She knelt and picked up the name tag, Steel cut into the plastic with block lettering. One of the ushers joined her and she handed the tag to her. “I have a feeling that you might need to call the assistant house manager tonight. I think he’s left the building.” She smiled then, just a little sadly. “I think they both have.”
Sapphire gasped and fought the bindings threatening to crush her. Gradually, she became aware of being gently rocked and of someone softly murmuring her name over and over. She wasn’t bound, it was Steel’s embrace.
“Steel,” she whispered as if afraid to find it another dream and clung to him.
“It’s all right, Sapphire. I have you now.” He cupped her face and rested his forehead against hers. “You’re back home.”
“None of us really know. One moment you were lecturing me about the dangers that theatres presented and suddenly you were gone, trapped there as a ghost.”
“I remember trying to escape, but I was never quite strong enough. I could almost break through, but it was never enough… until tonight.”
Steel smiled. “Until tonight.”
“And you stayed there, waiting for me?”
“Yes. I knew it was just a matter of timing.” He embraced her again and she rested her head on his shoulder. “And of generating enough energy.”
“The people on stage?”
“Never underestimate the power of the human voice raised in unison for a united cause. It’s a truly beautiful thing.”