The Backup

This flash fiction story is part of The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash. You can check out that inspirational blog here. I had a great time writing this and trying something new. I hope you enjoy reading it! Let me know what you think! 🙂 6-2-17

The Backup

By Heather Tabata

It had to work. It just had to. Lena scuffed her toe across the duct tape X on the stage floor.

The last six weeks of rehearsals on the production came down to a lift, which would send the lead actress soaring through the air. If Clint and Nick didn’t get the angle of the throw just right, or Stephen wasn’t in just the right spot for the catch…

Lena scrubbed her palms up and down her arms and paced behind the massive royal blue curtain. Well, if not, that’s what the harness was for. Just a few nylon straps and a cable that the audience would hopefully never know existed. If everything went according to plan.

She grabbed the harness with one hand, gripped the cord in her other fist, and yanked. The carabiner holding them together didn’t budge.

Maybe she should check the rigging one more time. Dull, hollow taps followed her up the stairs to the catwalk. The ticklish smell of hair spray drifted up toward the rafters. The dressing rooms would be cloudy with it by now. Yes, the pulley system was still in place. Just like the last three times she checked.

Lena pulled a tissue paper wrapped object from her pocket and gingerly peeled away the sky blue layers. She propped the small ceramic cross on the ledge between a cowbell and a snow globe of the Appalachian Mountains. All the cast and crew brought something up here before opening night, and they’d leave everything until after the last show was finished. Kind of superstitious, but hey, this was theater.

She steepled her hands against her forehead. “I know it’s just a play God, but we’ve worked really hard. Please let it go well.”

She scurried down the stairs, snatched the harness from the clip, and ran to the dressing room as the lights dimmed.

Specks of dust floated in the spotlights aimed for the third act. Lena stood in the wing, her foot tapping the beat of the song that would play for the lift. Entrance on third measure, arms up on fourth, lift on fifth and toss on sixth.

She stepped in place and raised her arms as she counted out the beats. Stick the landing. It would work.

Muffled steps grew louder behind her.

Stella’s hair waved across her thick stage makeup as she hopped from one tiptoe to the other. “This is your moment too, you know.”

Lena gripped the thin cable and drew it through her hand. The cold steel of the carabiner chilled her fingers. “Better you on that side of the lights than me. Time to fly.”

“Alright, clip me.” Stella spun around with her back to Lena.

The fastener slid easily into the sleeve sewn in the back of Stella’s red satin dress.

“Let’s make sure it’s on there,” Lena gave it a tug, “and now you test it.”

Stella knelt toward the floor, and just before her knees touched, there was a light bounce. “All set.”

Clint and Nick took their places next to Stella. The first notes of the violin played as the curtain opened.

The guys swaggered into position beneath the spotlights. Stella spun onto the stage, and Clint took her hand for a swing dance move. Nick stole her free hand and pulled her away, and the exchange went back and forth. As the song ramped up in the middle of the first chorus, both guys lifted her up as Stephen ran onto the stage from the opposite wing.

Lena’s heartbeat thrummed louder than the music. She wove her fingers together in front of her face and bit her thumbnail. Here came the throw.

The faintest glimmer of light flashed off the carabiner at Stella’s back as the guys lowered her. In the same instant they launched her across the wide open stage. She pointed one hand toward Stephen, one back toward them, and her fingers curved just so.

But Stephen was a half step slow.

Lena’s throat strangled her breath.

Stella strained into the straightest line possible. He lunge stepped and dropped to one knee with his arms stretched  – just as Stella’s descent reached the cord’s length. Just as she landed in the slight bend of his arms.

In one fluid movement Stephen scooped her up into a lift and set her on her feet, and she began spinning the length of the stage toward Lena. At the edge of the audience’s view she circled her wrists, fingers poised, and spun once more into the wing.

Her skirt was still swirling as Lena unclipped the carabiner.

“It worked! I felt tension just as he caught me.” Stella flashed a thumbs up and spun back onto stage.

Slumping against the wall at her right shoulder, Lena’s breath whooshed out. They’d done it.

The final dance number played with a triumphant return to stage for all the characters. Lena silently brought her hands together in time with the rhythm. The last fanfare played as thunderous clapping and whistles broke out from the audience.

With a smile that grew itself, Lena shared high fives with the other stage hands. Onstage, the cast joined hands and bowed. Between the set designer and the lighting director, Lena took her bow offstage to the roar of applause.

Applause they helped make.

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