Chapter 28

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For ElaineStipe, just 'cause. :-)

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That first impersonation of Nadine lasted about ninety seconds. I couldn’t manage it for any longer. But we celebrated anyway with champagne Dietrich had sneaked in for us. He had been that sure we’d succeed. 

And then he made me do it again. 

And again.

Countless times that afternoon and into the evening, until I could stay shifted for fifteen minutes.

We were all so exhausted by the end that we could hardly walk back to our rooms. I fell asleep so deeply I had no nightmares at all. 

Dietrich pushed us relentlessly the next week. I spent most of the days in my studio reworking my safety devices. Dietrich still had to run rehearsals for As You Like It, more difficult now that he had to work with Delphine’s understudy since Delphine remained in seclusion. He also had to partner with Nadine during the company’s rehearsals of A Captain’s Courage, and he wanted me to sit with him and observe. 

Each night, after rehearsal was over, he and Thea and Raymond helped me shift into Nadine. They pushed me hard, and I was glad, because I had a long way to go and not nearly enough time. Dietrich allowed no complaining, no slacking. No matter how exhausted we were or how frustrating it became, his response was always the same:

“Again. Do it again. And this time, do it better.”

Within four days, I was able to stay shifted for a couple of hours. I started rehearsing my role as Julia Donovan while I was shifted. Raymond and Thea gamely stood in for the other actors, and they weren’t half-bad at all. 

It wasn’t enough for me to know the lines and the blocking. I had to perform it as much like Nadine as possible. She’d be using her vicicordis magic, which meant accessing the soul of the fictional Julia, but I had to match her interpretation of that soul. Considering I had no formal acting experience, I shouldn’t have had a prayer of succeeding. 

But I took to acting like I’d been born doing it. Dietrich just gave me an I-told-you-so look any time I expressed surprise about that. The wretch positively reeked of smugness about identifying my talent even when I’d adamantly denied it.

Being talented didn’t mean I always got it right, though. 

On Saturday, we’d been at it for three hours, the longest I’d ever stayed shifted yet. Raymond had run lines as Captain Moffett so many times, he had them memorized now. Thea also could recite most of the play by this time, and she was doing double duty as Dietrich’s assistant and standing in for the other characters. 

I was having trouble with a first act scene between Julia Donovan and Captain Moffett. Raymond and I stood on the deck of the ship, center stage, and I put everything I had into maintaining my shifted form as well as following Dietrich’s barrage of instructions.

“Dame Fairchild, cheat out to the audience—I keep telling you, you’re profiled too much.”

Damn. I kept forgetting that. And it was so basic. The real Nadine would do it instinctively. Swallowing my irritation at myself, I angled my body more toward the audience, without turning completely away from Raymond. 

Sorry, I told Dietrich.

You’ll get it. Just keep going.

Raymond gave me the Captain’s next line, “Miss Donovan! I told you to stay in your cabin.”

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