“Please, William. This ain't your fight. Please, just stay.”
William held his wife's delicate hand and with his other caressed her auburn tresses. “Sandra, this is my fight. If I ignore them Yanks til they be in our state, in our town...I'm doin' this for you, darlin'.”
He wrapped his arms around her as blowing leaves circled them. Sandra painfully drew back, “Don't leave me. If you don't come back...”
William interrupted her with a soft touch to her lips, “You know I love you, darlin'?”
Sandra looked up with wet eyes, “Always.”
“All right! Cut there.” The houselights came on, revealing a svelte young man wearing khaki shorts. He leaped nimbly on stage. “Tristan, Emily, bravo!”
“Tristan,” he addressed the tall actor, “you're miles past last week's hangups, but you're still distant.” He pulled him across the stage to Emily. “Cling close to this woman. She is your lifeline. She is the reason that you wake up in the morning, and she's the reason why you're walking away.” Tristan smiled nervously as Emily briefly scowled at his unprofessionalism then turned back to her director.
“Emily,” he critiqued her, “your Sandra is great as always, but I need more reluctance to break the embrace. You're holding your husband for the last time. I need to see you struggling against that fact.”
Emily stamped her foot. “My free hand never feels right in this scene, Craig! I don't know why, but it keeps bothering me.”
“I'll give you a fan to hold opening night. Now let's do it again and make us all cry this time!”
Craig hopped off the stage and noticed an older woman in business clothes standing in the back. “Go ahead without me, I won't be long,” he called back at his actors as he walked up the aisle. The woman commented as he approached, “The wind effects are very nice. Surprisingly quiet!”
“I said I didn't want to meet here.”
The woman surveyed his stony face and a slight smile played on her lips. “You've been elusive lately, Craig. If you'd call me back I wouldn't have to come here.”
Craig glanced down. “Opening night's on Thursday; I've got a lot to do.”
“Oh, I'm sure, but we can't keep putting this off. You're looking at a three year deal with United Repertory Theatre. We want to run Isabel and Burning Moon immediately for our spring and fall lineup with you contributing two original plays a year for the two following years. All we need now is your signature.”
Craig leaned back against a seat. “I'll have creative control.”
“Of course, you will. We respect your outsider perspective too much to meddle with that.”
Craig glanced back at the stage. A tear ran down Emily's cheek as she pleaded with her stage husband. “What about casting?”
The agent smiled nervously, “The URT might make some...suggestions. We have requirements that determine the number of leads hired from the local actor's guild.”
She quickly picked up on Craig's silence, “They're holding you back, you know. Imagine how much better Autumn Winds would be with a stage veteran playing William instead of that awkward college boy-”
“Emily's never held a play back,” Craig interjected. “Isabel's success is as much her credit as mine.”
The woman sighed, “The girl's good. Maybe you can work with her again someday, but this is about you, Craig. You're thirty and barely getting by with this small stage. Emily's career will come in her own time, but it's time you looked after your own.” She pulled the contract out of her briefcase and placed it in Craig's hands.
“You're leaving aren't you?” Emily's intense hazel eyes held Craig's gaze. She was in her Southern belle costume, clutching a fan in one hand.
Craig stumbled for words, “I didn't want you to... not till after-”
The producer strolled onstage. “Thank you all and welcome! Let's give a hand to the writer and director of Autumn Winds: Craig Pendleton!”
Emily looked away, “You'd better go.”
Craig smiled hesitantly and took her hand. “You know I love you, darlin'?”
She smiled back and brushed her eye with her free hand, “Always.”
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