In the backstage hallway of a run down theater building Leanne stood twisting a carnation stem between two fingertips, eyes focused on an unpainted piece of plywood leaning against the wall in front of her. Leanne studied the grains of wood intently as she listened to voices dramatically rise and fall in pitch from the stage. It was an angry conversation and it sounded like home.

She crushed the carnation into her palm and held it in her fist to feel the delicate petals choked excruciatingly tight. Leanne held it this way until her strained fist went red, then opened it to inspect the damage. The soft pink pieces had been formed into a ball of distorted loveliness. It looked how she was feeling just then, and she felt rather content for a moment in having managed to create a physical version of her present dissolution.

Leanne was happy doing theater in college. It was better than it was in high school. In college the dressing rooms were alive with career-oriented conversations; the rooms smelled of melted crayons and felicity, and there seemed to be more respect and appreciation for actors here. And now at the end of a play she could return to her own place rather than her mother’s. Now Leanne’s mother would call to congratulate her performance and Leanne wouldn’t have to deal with anymore dreadful fights. Or not as much.

Tonight, however, she had this miserable little desire to go home. Heartbreak forced her to feel this way, and it was so infuriating she felt the need to crush a gift from someone in tonight’s audience. The pain, the isolation she suffered only compounded with the knowledge that no respite lay in her family home.

Leanne was going to re-enter in the next scene, stage right, and was impatient to get there. The play was her only solace just then. She knew she was lucky to have her tremendous love of acting- Leanne reminded herself- something she was truly passionate about. Her ghost orchid. She was so happy tonight playing a woman that she knew she could never be. This bitch.

Her mother sat in the audience tonight-- and Leanne adored being able to perform for her. She could forget the innumerable stinging smacks and blows from her mother over the years, because up there she was someone else... Never had her head held under water in the bath. Never had her mother's hand hit her so hard the woman's fake nail got stuck in her daughter's cheek. ...Up there her mother was forgiven.

A young man sat in the audience tonight-- one who thought he was in love with Leanne. Tomorrow he would be in love with another girl in the same show. She would have a brighter smile and she would love him completely.

Leanne's mother wore an unwavering smile. She watched her daughter with pride, unaware of all the hurt underneath the young woman's skin. The memories of abuse had hardened into a plaque of anguish within Leanne. It dissipated much when she stood on stage, where she was no longer invisible, no longer just a typical girl going through the costs of living.

“I know indeed what evil I intend to do, but stronger than all my afterthoughts is my fury, fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evils.”

Leanne had this character down. It would be one of her best performances. Afterwards it would give her peace to have worn this woman. She would smile at her mother after the show and at that moment begin to heal, and to find her own self.

In her sleep that night Leanne would see her mother as a product of this place as well. Alone and in transition she'd pull the blanket to her cheek and recognize what that night had meant.

I hate her still for those beatings. I hate her for the scars I’m still constantly grappling with. But I plan on forgiving her completely one day. I’ll figure out how to truly love her and anyone else that might become a part of my life. But right now it’s only me, and the stage.

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