Ethan - B.C. (Before Cassie)

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Westchester, New York

Auditions for The Grove

I sit in the hallway and wait.

I've done that a lot these past few days.

Audition, wait around, watch as people get cut. Audition some more, fake my way though connection exercises, survive more cuts.

I know I should be nervous, but I'm not.

Nerves would imply I care, and I've trained myself out of that habit. I've felt hollow for so long, I can't remember what it's like to feel any other way. I still get echoes of other emotions, but that's all they are. Twinges. Rat scratches at my numbness.

Not total numbness, mind you. A low simmer of anxiety is my constant companion. It provides me a portal to a smorgasbord of negative emotions - anger, bitterness, regret, fear - but it vetoes anything positive. It's a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I'm comfortable and safe. On the other, I'm emotionally handicapped. And for an actor, that's a problem. I have to be able to run the gamut of human emotion. Is there any achievement in being able to portray complex and fascinating hate if you can't also show pure, uplifting love?

I lean my head back against the wall.

I used to know what love felt like. Or at least I thought it was love.

Vanessa.

When we met, I could tell she was hollow, too. But she took all the dead places inside me and made them feel alive. She spent so much time telling me how special I was, that I started to believe her.

She became my everything. The one person I could rely on. Well, her and Matt.

Matt had been my best friend since grade school. My only friend, if I was being honest. When I'd found out about my adoption, Matt was there to support me. He was like the brother I never had.

Until our sophmore year, it was just him and me. Then Vanessa came along.

She changed everything.

It wasn't until I was completely under her spell that I noticed how she got off on pitting Matt and me against each other. She loved the power of it. Only natural considering Vanessa was a psychopath.

If only I'd known that then.

At the time, she had her hooks into me so deep I could have been stuffed and mounted on her wall, and been happy for it. But that's what psychopaths do. They're master manipulators. They get so far under your skin you don't know if you're in charge of your own actions anymore, and when you realize you're not - that they're puppeteering every jealous outburst and assurance-seeking meltdown - it's too late. The damage is done.

And that's their ultimate goal. Damage. Destruction. If they're really high on the spectrum, even death.

Lucky for me, Vanessa just wanted to rip my heart out and let me live.

I realized the full extent of her manipulation when I walked in on her fucking my best friend. I don't know whose betrayal hurt more. Hers or Matt's. Doesn't really matter. Both together destroyed me.

Knowing Vanessa was the architect of the heartache didn't save my relationship with Matt. I couldn't look at either of them again. Even now I feel like an monumental idiot for not seeing what she was doing to me. And him.

She ruined both of us, and she did it for kicks. Fucking bitch.

So that's what I got for trusting and loving. My heart ripped out and my world turned upside down. It was then I realized love was the most dangerous emotion on earth.

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