Liaison

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"How did you discover something like this?"

Totally by accident! Let's just say there was a lot of screaming, a dislocated shoulder, and grease involved. One day, I'll tell you the whole story, but for now...food and Phantom! Lee kicked open the cooler and withdrew two hearty sandwiches, various finger foods, a few slices of cold pizza, and bags of sweets, arranging them on a cushion between them.

Alex chose her meal and together they sat back, listening to the drama play out in real-time. Lee knew all the lines and songs by heart, matching Alex stride for stride. They would lip-sync along with the actors, gesturing wildly and making exaggerated faces at one another. More than once, the two "acted out" scenes as best they could-or as Lee expected they were performed on account she had never actually seen the Broadway. Alex didn't mind the alterations, happily playing along, forgetting everything that had happened earlier in lieu of harmless fun.

Sometimes she was Christine, and Lee was Phantom. Sometimes Lee was Carlotta and left Alex wheezing on the floor as she acted out the divas more memorable moments. At intermission, Lee took a flying leap off the nearest chair into a pile of cushions, imitating Phantom's ride down the chandelier.

"That was very dramatic," Alex laughed, helping her friend crawl back to their sanctuary of junk food and crumbs.

It's a dramatic scene!

"You should see it on stage. He actually rides the chandelier down."

How many times have you seen it?

Alex puffed out her cheeks. "Must be a dozen by this point. I saw it the first time when I was eight. My mother took me, and I fell in love with the music."

Mother read me the original story years ago. I didn't even know there was a stage play until Em let me listen to some of her old cassettes with Sarah Brightman as Christine. Lee put her hands over her heart and mimed being hit by something. Love at first song.

"I got to see one of her last performances," Alex said with a smug half-smile.

You suck! Lee gaped, pushing Alex's leg away. You suck so much! I'd have killed to see that!

"Maybe someday you'll get a chance to see it live."

Intermission came to a close, and again they were playing along. Sitting back to catch her breath, Alex watched Lee stomp around the room reciting dialogue, playing multiple people at once. It was both amusing and captivating, her magnetic smile pulling at something deep in Alex's chest.

They listened as the play edged closer to climax, wrapped in the warm moment. 'Wishing You Were Here Again' drifted through the chamber, filling it with its mournful melody. Lee told Alex it was one of her favorite songs, though she didn't know why. Nothing in her life mirrored this scene, but the music stirred something in her. She hummed along until the sound of a hard sniff pulled her attention away from the ceiling.

"No, no, I'm fine. I always tear up during this scene," Alex reassured, palming away the moisture gathering in her eyes and waving away her friend's concern. "The song brings a lot of things back. It used to be my mother's favorite, so it always makes me think of her."

Used to be?

"My mother died when I was twelve," Alex explained, folding her arms over the tops of her drawn-up knees, eyes focused on the ceiling. If she squinted, if she focused exceptionally hard, sometimes she could still catch glimpses of her mother's face. Flashes of memories. Hints of the past. Ghosts she didn't mind haunting her.

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