Summer has been Lily McBride’s favorite time of year since she was a kid, because that’s when the Brookesville Playhouse opens its doors. Now that she’s an adult and works as their tech director, Lily wants more for her beloved Playhouse: a larger audience, a longer season, and exciting shows to draw new patrons.
This year, though, she also wants Genevieve Mason, a pretty starlet-in-the-making from the local university, recruited for the season’s tech crew. Genny throws her heart and soul into the place too, adding her own dreams of representation to the ‘must-have’ list, and using her sweet voice and surprising flare for pyrotechnics to draw the crowds in droves. They work so well together, it’s not long before their summer crush blossoms into a steamy affair.
Lily’s falling hard, but always feels like Genny’s holding something back. And then there’s the dreaded Brookesville Arts Council—supposed to be a support system for all things cultural, instead dragging the Playhouse down with their old-fashioned stubbornness. There are a lot of hurdles to jump and egos to deflate before they can get what they want, both for the theater and from each other.
The park was familiar; it fit me like the proverbial old glove, and it always quieted my head when it wouldn’t stop. I wandered slowly, parallel to the thick woods, out toward the wide-open field and the big hill. The whole of Brookesville Park was hills, because, welp, welcome to Appalachia, but these ones were sloping, great for careful hikes and relatively safe woodland exploration. The swish of overlong grass around my ankles and the smell of green was calming.
I turned around to look at the gaping barn from a distance, and it hurt a little. Home, more than the Victorian even, in some ways. At least, I wanted to be here more than I ever wanted to be there, and that had to mean something, right?
Movement caught my eye after a few moments of staring and ignoring my Hot Pocket. I glanced toward the trailer to see Genevieve coming my way, her feet bare in the grass, her peasant skirt blowing around her calves. If it had been anyone else, I might’ve been annoyed at the interruption. But Genny in a field—hey, I wouldn’t love the theater so much if there wasn’t something in me that wanted poetry. If not for the ramshackle trailer behind her, I could almost believe she’d crept out of the woods like some kind of fairy enchanter. Well, one carrying an apple-juice box, anyhow.
Hell, I’d let her take me away any day.
“Hey,” she said when she was near enough.
She smiled and sipped at her juice. “Did it get to you? Mitzi, I mean? It was just one little sound bite. Everyone else loves the show.”
I shook my head. “Nah. I mean, not just that. It’s bigger than that.”
She turned to stand beside me, close. “So tell me.”
“Do you think I’m pathetic?” I asked suddenly.
She laughed. “What? Why?”
“Because I’m a college dropout who wants to devote her life to a stupid community theater that lives in a barn three months out of the year.”
“Lily, I’m a theater major.” The laugh was still in her voice, running through it like silken thread. “It’s the most narcissistic, pointless major in the world, according to society. I want attention, they all say. What you want—you want to give this place you love the theater it deserves. That’s the opposite of useless.”
I took a bite from my Hot Pocket, still feeling a little sullen. “Do you really want attention? You just…you don’t seem the type.”
“Well, stereotypes don’t always apply.” She was still smiling as she took my arm.
I stiffened a little, surprised at the closeness and how very, very warm her skin was, but then relaxed into her. Theater folk. We’re kinda huggy like that. I just…you know. So hot. Apparently in the literal as well as the figurative sense.
“Most actors get the rep fairly, honestly,” she admitted with a little sigh. “I know that. But my parents raised me different. Really different.”
“Why do you want to do it?”
“Well, I’m not saying I hate attention.” She grinned, then went back to chewing on her straw. “But I like not being myself up there. I like making other people laugh and cry and feel for whoever I am at the time. I like the adrenaline before I go onstage. I like the community of it. I like…almost everything about it.”
“Except children’s theater,” she said with a smirk.
“You’re just saying that to make me smile.”
Well, it worked.