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You in Five Acts
Author:Una LaMarche

“Damn, girl!” you cried, rubbing your triceps. “You’re a ballerina, not a boxer.” You’d known me for four years, but you never seemed to understand: To get where I wanted to be, I had to be both.

“I just don’t know how you’re not freaking right now.” I did know, actually. Being a guy meant you were one of seven dancers competing for the male roles, not one of eighteen competing for the female ones. Boys were always needed in ballet, and boys who could dance like you . . . ? They were golden.

“I guess I just don’t think there’s anything I can do right now to change what’s going to happen,” you said with a shrug. Or maybe it was a shiver. It was freezing outside. Your words would come to haunt me later, but all I knew right then was that I was definitely an asshole.

“You could get drunk,” Liv suggested.

“Fine,” you said, “Aside from getting wasted or breaking a leg or something, there’s nothing I can do between now and then to seriously change whatever I’m going to do in that room.”

“Are you saying it’s fated?” Liv asked, peering over at Ethan and Dave’s tête-à-tête. “What the fuck are they still talking about?”

“Nah, I don’t buy into fate,” you said. “I just mean you can’t prepare past a certain point.

“Are you kidding?” I looked at you incredulously. “I feel like I can’t prepare enough.” Ballet was all about drills and repetition. There was no room for whimsy.

“I just mean . . .” You squinted up into the bright winter sun. “Like, you have to learn the steps and then trust that they’ll be there when the time comes.”

“I wish I could switch brains with you,” I sighed.

“You’d be downgrading.” You grinned, showcasing two deep dimples. “But sure.”

“Shut up, they’re coming back,” Liv stage-whispered, immediately pretending to be engrossed in her phone.

“They?” I glanced up to see Ethan practically running toward us, trailed by a reluctant-looking Dave. He looked straight at me and I lost my breath.

“Relax,” you laughed. “He’s just a pretty white boy. I hear they’re very tame.”

“Remember,” Liv said under her breath, “We have to balance out Ethan’s bullshit by being cool.”

“Don’t act like you don’t love him,” I said, relishing the opportunity to tease her back for once. Even though it was easy to make Ethan the scapegoat of the group, he was smart and funny and even kind of good-looking when he wasn’t frowning like the world was about to end. And as much as Liv gave him shit, I knew she cared what he thought of her. Once, when she was drunk, she’d told me he was the only person she’d ever met who might be an actual genius.

“Whatever,” Liv sighed as Ethan and Dave reached the bench.

Up close, Dave was taller than Wikipedia had given him credit for, and hotter than seemed fair to the rest of the gene pool. He gave us a tight smile when Ethan introduced him.

“Dave, this is Liv, Diego, and Joy,” Ethan said. “Liv you might recognize from her appearance in Law and Order: SVU as Teen Girl Number Three, and Diego and Joy you probably saw on the landing page of JanusConservatory.com.”

It was true, that was the only fame we could claim to date—the year before, a photographer had come to school for a week to “capture life on campus,” according to the release form our parents had to sign, and a shot of you, me, and a few other dancers lined up at the barre during group class had made it onto the website. We were in profile, eyes focused, spines straight, left arms extended in tendu. Words floated above our heads: WHERE TALENT MEETS OPPORTUNITY. Based on the graphic design, you were talent, and I was opportunity.

Opportunity. The fact of the Showcase auditions, which I had blissfully forgotten about for approximately two minutes, settled back into its permanent spot at the forefront of my brain, and a fresh wave of nausea washed over me.

“Hey,” I said to Dave, when it seemed like my turn. With game like that, it was downright shocking I was still a virgin.

“Dave has graciously agreed to audition for my play,” Ethan told us, beaming.

“It didn’t really feel like I had a choice,” Dave said, shoving his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. His lips turned up in a little half-smile while he read our faces, trying to figure out if it was cool to rib on Ethan within the first ten seconds of meeting us.

It was.

“I’ll be there, too,” Liv said. Her mouth glistened with a fresh coat of gloss I hadn’t even seen her apply. “So if you need someone to shield you from the drama-department drama, let me know.”

“Thanks,” Dave said. “I literally haven’t met anyone yet.” He looked around the square, shivering. “Is this, like, the lunch hangout?”

“For a select group of masochists,” Ethan said through clenched teeth.

“It’s only the most beautiful place in Manhattan,” you said, nudging my shoulder. I looked up at Dave, trying to think of something witty to say, but his eyes were on Liv.

“I’m having a party tonight,” she said, leaning into you casually—a physical checkmate. “You should come.”

“Cool,” Dave murmured noncommittally.