"They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. They say there's always magic in the air..."
Tara Maclay made her way briskly down 51st street to the small rehearsal studio on the corner at 6th. She wasn't technically late. Actually, by anyone else's watch, she was ten minutes early, but according to her strict standards, she was twenty minutes late. She always liked to get to the rehearsal hall half an hour early so that she could start the air conditioner, sweep the floor and have the space ready for the work that was going to be done that day.
Tara took her job very seriously. She considered herself to be one of the best, if not the best, stage managers on Broadway. It was a tough job with little opportunity for recompense beyond her small paycheck. There was no such thing as a Tony Award for 'Best Stage Manager'. She trudged on simply for the love of it all. No matter how rough the rehearsals or how big the egos; it always came down to one rule, one creed, 'the show must go on'. And on it went.
That's the part she truly adored. The balls-to-the-wall, (forgive the imagery), stubbornness of the theatrical world. Despite economic heartache and commercial pressures constantly bearing down and threatening the creative society of the arts, the arts still fought back and still enjoyed victories both great and small. It couldn't help but fill your heart with some sort of hope.
Tara loved the drama of... well... Drama.
She looked up at the door to the small converted apartment building and let out a grumble. It was already open which meant that the director was already there and she couldn't disguise her early-lateness. She clutched her prompt book against her chest and made her way up the cement steps and inside the wooden-floored hallway to the third door down on the right... and paused.
She heard the sound of quickly moving feet along the floor inside the studio, coupled with a rather stern woman counting repetitively, "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8. And step-touch-3-4-pas de bourrée, pas de bourrée, and stop. Alex, you need to clean up that bell turn, the arms are awfully sloppy. I need clean lines..."
Tara took a step inside the mirrored room, taking in the sight of all the dancers in front of her, and couldn’t help but feel a little confused. "Um..." she managed to vocalize. A petite woman with close-cropped brown hair, dressed in sweats and high-heeled sandals had apparently been shouting out the eight counts and, noticing the blonde's bewildered expression, quickly approached her.
"You must be Tara," she said warmly. "I'm Zuzie, the new choreographer. Doug let me borrow his key so that I could hold an emergency rehearsal to see where Leon had left things."
"Leon left?" Tara echoed. "When did he leave? He was at rehearsal yesterday."
"Yes, and then Doug and he went out for drinks afterward," Zuzie filled in.
"Oh no," said Tara, "say no more, I know exactly what happened next. Doug made what he thought was a 'friendly' suggestion and Leon..."
"Totally queened out and quit," the choreographer finished with a chuckle. "You got it."
The blonde couldn't help but giggle. She'd worked on shows with Leon in the past and new how sensitive he was about suggestions to his choreography. Such vanity, she tsked to herself.
"And you're Zuzie, the new choreographer," she reiterated.
"Your attention to detail is truly amazing," Zuzie smiled.
"Yes well, I was obsessed with Encyclopedia Brown novels as a kid," Tara quipped. "I notice some new faces among the chorus," she noted.
"Another point for you," stated Zuzie. "Leon apparently made a few phone calls last night and pulled some of his dancers from the show, so I brought in a few from my studio. Step forward kids so Tara can meet you and vice versa."
Three dancers stepped forward. A strapping young male dancer with sandy brown hair, piercing blue eyes, a perfect turnout, and obviously gay, a petite female with shoulder length blonde hair drawn up in a pony tail at the back, warm brown eyes and a gymnast's build and finally the most amazingly beautiful woman Tara had ever seen in her entire life. She was quite slender, almost swan like, her perfectly pale skin dusted in freckles, her fiery red hair cut chin-length so it framed her adorably cute face and accented the shape of her large, emerald green eyes.
"Tara," said Zuzie, continuing the introductions, "This is Derrick, Suzannah and Willow. I've made Willow the new dance captain since Leon took Cassie with him in his little tiff."
"H-Hi," the blonde managed to sputter after what seemed like an eternity. "U-um... I'm going to need your addresses and phone n-numbers before you go so that I can contact you in c-case of cancellations or additions t-to the rehearsal schedule."
"Okay. Sure," they each nodded severally.
"Did you want my number now or later?" asked Willow in what could only be described as a purr.
"Uh," Tara vocalized dumbly, before regaining herself enough to not look too much like a complete idiot. "Later. The end of rehearsal is fine. Is Doug going to be here?" she asked, turning the question toward Zuzie in an attempt to drag her eyes from the auburn haired goddess standing in fourth position before her.
"Nope, just me," the choreographer explained. "Doug wants me to look at all of the numbers and make changes as necessary so that we can pick up tomorrow and hopefully be ahead of ourselves. I'm surprised nobody called you."
"Don't worry about it. It's generally the rule that the person who is supposed to know everything will be the last to find out anything," noted Tara, "I'll just be over... there." She indicated limply to an empty chair near the folding table set up at the edge of the wall, a kind of makeshift desk. "Let me know if you need anything."
"Well, I might need you to be in charge of the CD player in a minute," Zuzie informed her.
"Sure, just let me know when to press 'play'."
Zuzie nodded and motioned for Derrick, Suzannah and Willow to rejoin the other dancers for the top of the next number. Again they ran through it in counts and Tara watched as the new choreographer stopped and made a few changes here and there along the way and had them go through it again and again.
Tara found that the new dance captain mesmerized her; she just couldn’t take her eyes off of the lithe redhead as she glided across the studio floor. She studied her intently from toes to nose. Her legs were perfect. Perfect legs! Tara had never seen so elegantly shaped a pair of limbs in her entire life.
Tara had to admit it to herself; she had a thing for legs. Dancer's legs in particular. Which was probably why she always found herself accepting gigs working on musicals.
She looked up from Willow's legs to Willow's eyes, and saw them looking back at her. Tara blinked and quickly glanced away, embarrassed that she had been caught. She didn't notice that the redhead had continued to regard her, a sly smile suddenly dominating her face.
Rehearsals continued for the next few hours, until finally a lunch break was called, and Tara quickly began to gather her satchel bag so that she could run a few errands during the short hour allotted.
Once again completely absorbed in her task, she failed to see Willow approaching her from the side. Tara stood up and found herself face to face with the slender dancer.
"Oh!" the blonde exclaimed, "I didn't see you there. Did you want to give me your information now?" She was trying to keep herself focused on business and not on the gorgeous woman smiling coyly at her.
"Sure," Willow replied. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"You didn't," Tara answered, pulling out her production book and a pencil, "I just wasn't paying attention. It's Willow, right?"
"Yeah," she smiled.
"What's your last name?"
"And your phone number?" Tara continued to ask, quickly copying down the redhead's answers.
"555-6784," Willow supplied before adding, "I saw you looking at me earlier."
"Huh?" Tara startled, trying to cover her embarrassment.
"I saw you watching me," Willow went on, "during rehearsal. You kept watching me."
"I was watching everyone," explained the blonde. "That's my job."
"I like your shirt," the dancer stated.
"What?" said Tara, confused by the sudden subject change.
"I like your shirt," she continued. "I think I might steal it off you."
"What?" Tara was entirely flustered and not a little freaked.
"Willow!" called Derrick from across the hall. "Are you coming?"
"Not yet," Willow answered, only her reply was directed at Tara. She smiled slyly again and then called after her fellow dancer. "I'm on my way!" Re-directing her attention back at the blonde she whispered, "See you later." And then turned on her heel and left.
Tara was left dumbstruck, her pencil still poised on writing the last digit of Willow's number.