Henry Cavinger watched Jayna’s performance with growing disgust, his lips twisting down into a permanent frown. It’s not that she was messing up her lines, she had actually memorized them to perfection on remarkably short notice. But she was just so...mediocre.
“The judgment of the Furies awaits any man that would harm a trusting woman so,” she recited woodenly to the male villain. There was no conviction, no fire in her words or her body language.
The audience displayed pure disinterest, while in the back row were the six women in white gowns, watching in silent disapproval. Henry began to sweat, dabbing at his forehead and fidgeting and pacing agitatedly just offstage.
Finally, the curtain fell and the play drew to a merciful close.
Waiting until the others left, he found Jayna lingering in her dressing room. “What the hell was that performance?” he barked. “I’m supposed to pay you for that?”
The delicate raven haired woman looked taken aback at his bluntness, and then collected herself, returning to fixing her hair. “I told you I wasn’t an actress, Henry. You hired me for my looks and because I said I could memorize the lines. You don’t like it, then find someone else.”
He couldn’t find anyone else, that was the problem. Jayna had been his last resort, when one after another the others failed to work out. He had just never had any luck keeping the leads around.
“The audience couldn’t even keep their eyes open!” he snapped. Henry couldn’t explain why he was yelling or what purpose this would serve, but something about her flippant tone just enraged him. He had given her a job and she had screwed it up! She should be apologizing and begging for forgiveness!
“Well I can’t blame them, it was a pretty boring play,” she answered, calm and unruffled.
Angrily he lunged for her, shoving her back against the wall and knocking her mirror off the table. She stood amidst the broken glass and stared at him, her haunting dark eyes first shocked and frightened, then angry. “Real nice, Henry. Anger issues will fix everything. Hope they help you find someone new for tomorrow night. Honestly you are SUCH a child.”
“Wait!” Damn it, there’s no way he could get a new lead in time for tomorrow. He had screwed up again. “Janine, hang on, just listen to me!” He grabbed for her as she brushed scornfully past, and something happened, her blouse ripped partially away.
Covering herself, she gave him that look again. “I should’ve known what they all said about you and the other women was right. Touch me again and you’ll be hearing from the police.”
“What? What do they say? Dammit Janine, will you calm down? It was an accident!” Henry was frantic now.
“I mean people do start to talk when for some reason it’s only your WOMEN leads who leave the show suddenly with no forwarding address.”
“It’s not like that! Damn you, come back? Why are you overreacting like this? You’re just like the others!” He grabbed at her again, and she slapped him away. That only enraged him further, they struggled, and...
“Oh no...” he whispered to himself, staring down at the body in the trashed dressing room.
He had never meant to be a killer, and yet it happened.
Mechanically he cleaned the room and hid the evidence for later disposal, then went home and downed half a bottle of whiskey. In the morning he canceled the show, had to refund the tickets, pay fees for renting the building, he was ruined. It wasn’t fair.
It took him three months to get his life together, but he had always prided himself in being a survivor. He had a new play, an all new cast, and the show must go on.
The new girl, Ashley, she was...mediocre, but he hoped her looks would make up for it. His gaze roved past the audience, to the back row where the women sat and watched in grim disapproval. There were seven now, the raven hair of the newest lying against the white dress in stark contrast. Her haunting dark eyes bored into his soul. He turned away, beginning to sweat.
Thanks! The ending was the part I was most unsure of, I didn't want to overdo it with cliched horror elements, but I might have underdone it instead.
I'll take "perfectly competent" as a compliment, you all have really high standards here compared to other writing sites. I'll keep working on that pizzazz.
Good writing and a nice twist. Well done short story.
Jayna/Janine's name changes halfway through, but other than that, this is fairly well-written. I agree with mizal's analysis that the story could be more dramatic considering that someone is getting murdered.
Honestly, there's not much I can even say about this story; there's an intriguing plot and the writing is good, so well done.