She stood on the landing above the main theater, above the warm darkness and the contentment of the crowd below. Her eyes were lined in cheap, smeared mascara.. No one noticed her and she noticed no one – no one, that is, except for the couple on the third row, three seats from the aisle. They were perhaps the happiest couple among many happy couples, lost in a world of their own creation as they cuddled and whispered together in the shadowy realm before the stage. To her, it was as if an acrid, bitter smoke drifted up from their enjoyment of each other, a smoke that stung her nostrils and smeared her mind with the blackness of anguish and despair.
As she watched (not the performance on stage, but the more important drama being played out between the twosome), the woman leaned over to the man and murmured something in his ear, and they stood and inched out of the row as unobtrusively as possible – while, of course, maintaining an unbreakable hold on the other’s hand. She sucked in a breath, tightening her grip on the railing. Her knuckles blushed white and the veins lining her pale hands stood out from her skin. His arm snaked around the woman’s waist as they ascended the stairway. Memories in the back of her brain threatened all at once to rush out of their hiding places to flood her mind with the stuff of shadows: recollections, remembrances, reminiscences. But she wasn’t about to lose control again. Once in a day was enough.
The pair stopped at the top of the steps to speak to the usher, who smiled wryly and then gestured toward the dimly lit corridors that led to the lobby. Her cheeks flushed as they glanced past her in the direction of the usher’s hand, burning with the fire that had been raging, unquenchable, deep inside her since. . . since only a few weeks ago, although it felt like eternity and a day. Then, as if drawn by fate, the man and the woman started toward her. Her cheeks’ fire peaked. Just before they passed, just before she gained the courage to speak, she ducked her face behind a shielding hand, staring down at the railing, feigning concentration on its intricate design, while the whole time her mind was wholly riveted on the two traitors strolling, arm in arm, right behind her.
Of course, they never even noticed her.