When I met Dakota, he was brash, childish, and utterly ridiculous. When he wasn’t poking fun or calling someone names, he was silent and distant and almost cold. I figured he’d end up being that asshole who was sort of my friend but generally just a nuisance.
I wasn’t supposed to actually like him.
I’d been working at my internship at the Chance Theater for about a month when I met him. I was new and awkward, had just been freed from the depths of the theater where we did laundry– costumes are disgusting after a day full of shows– and shoved headlong into the backstage area, dressing and undressing and quick changing people, setting up costumes every morning (and between every show) and breaking them down every night. Just my luck that my second day of training meant actually interacting with the dancers, the actors, and the techies. My awkward, antisocial ass was having a blast– not.
Waiting for the performers to come grab their costumes on the way to the dressing room that morning was pretty much like working at a department store. Girls whined about how tight their dresses were but wouldn’t go up a size. Guys couldn’t figure out which belt was theirs (not like they were labeled or anything– oh wait…), and everyone greeted my trainer, Mindy.
No, really. Everyone saw her. Everyone said hi. Which meant everyone saw me– and spoke to me.
Most performers were full of sunshine and smiles, as welcoming and understanding as could be. A few of them had that air of superiority that made me vaguely uncomfortable, but it couldn’t be helped, and I kept a smile on my face.
And then there was Bowie.
Bowie walked like a firecracker, his smile radiant, and immediately grabbed Mindy in a bone crushing hug that actually pulled her off her feet. Not like that was hard to do, considering she was a four foot ten pile of blonde fluff, and he was tall and broad and stacked. She giggled, so did he, and the next thing I knew he was face to face with me– decidedly not tiny or fluffy, but compared to him, at least I passed as short.
“Hi! I’m Bowie!” He reached out and I found myself folded into a warm and welcoming hug, and like that, my anxiety about working the show melted away. The hoodie he wore was soft, and smelled like my best friend’s detergent. I hugged back, feeling a sincere smile spread across my face as it was shoved into Bowie’s shoulder. “Welcome to the team!”
“Thank you!” I couldn’t stop smiling as I leaned away, beaming up at him. His dark eyes sparkled back at me. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Piper.”
“Happy to have you join us!” Bowie danced away, prattling to Mindy about rehearsals for one of the upcoming dance shows, so cheerful and peppy that he may as well have brought the sun in with him. My chest felt warm and full watching him– especially when he got me involved into the conversation– and I knew I’d made my first real friend on the show.
“See you upstairs, Bowie!” Mindy chirped, and we went back to blankly staring around the room.
Much like a department store, the room was split into two– women’s costumes on one side, men’s on the other. Accessories were at the front, miscellaneous things such as tights and socks were in drawers in the middle, and shoes were all shelved along the back wall. The room was a sea of color, meticulously organized by show into smaller subsections, and somehow always alive with a flurry of action. Costume caretakers such as myself wandered and helped performers, or made sure the costumes were neat and tidy. Some of them made alterations to costumes or mended tears, replaced buttons and broken zippers, all while chattering to each other or the dancers who walked in and out. The room pulsed with energy.
It was that train of thought that Dakota interrupted.
Mindy squealed, so suddenly that I yelped and jumped away from her. Whipping my head around, my eyes landed on the person who had startled her. He was tall and lanky, olive skinned, his hair dark and long– no, wait, that was a wig for the show. Brigadoon. It was the afternoon show, but he wasn’t the first person I’d seen come in early to grab all of their costumes at once. The bulging bag in his arm proved my point– he had other costumes for the morning and evening dance shows already.
He would have been attractive if he didn’t have a self satisfied smirk on his face. I found myself laughing, more to dissipate the panic clenching my heart than because of any actual amusement, my hand on my chest. Mindy laughed as well, trying to stifle it by glaring at this new guy as he strode across the room toward his kilt.
“You’re mean, Dakota!” Her high pitched voice would have made the declaration childish enough, but she followed it by sticking her tongue out anyway, as Dakota turned and made a silly face at her. “I have a new duckling!”
Don’t drag me into this, I thought, but smiled tersely and waved awkwardly.
“She’s trying to kill you,” Dakota said, looking me straight in the face. “Don’t become another sacrifice to the costuming gods.”
“That makes me feel wanted,” I said, deadpan.
“Nah I like this one,” Mindy announced, “she can stay.”
Dakota chuckled, inspecting the kilts hanging on the rack in front of him. “I have to wear a skirt,” he moaned, scowling at one as he yanked it down.
“Kilt,” I corrected him, still deadpan. I didn’t think before I spoke. I almost never do.
Dakota shook his head, waving the offending garment at me as if that would prove his point and then hanging it on another hanger, sideways.. “It’s a skirt. We wear leggings under it.”
“Ew,” I said, scowling at the kilt-skirt as well. “You’re right, that is a skirt. The fabric is wrong.”
“Yup.” Dakota grabbed a pair of leggings, inspected them, and jammed them into the bag. “And real kilts don’t have anything under them.” He stared at the tunics, pulling one down and comparing it to the kilt, then putting it back and repeating the process. “At least it’s not pink.”
“You’d look good in pink,” Mindy teased. I felt my lips twitch into a small smile imagining that.
“Aye, and all the lads would appreciate me more,” Dakota lilted, in possibly the most stereotypically gay Scottish accent I’d ever heard, shoving his kilt and tunic into his already overfull bag.
As he walked past us toward the accessories, I heard him whisper, “Human sacrifice,” before saying, more loudly, “welcome to the team!” He patted my shoulder and was gone, striding away toward the accessories.
“He seems delightful,” I commented, my voice flat.
“He’s an ass,” Mindy told me bluntly, “but he’s nice once you get to know him. He flirts incorrigibly though.”
I smiled. “I’d like to see him try. I’m a master flirt.”
Mindy waggled her eyebrows at me, so I returned the gesture.
Later, at showtime– Brigadoon, of course, but at least I liked the tired old show– I found myself thrown into the fray, shoved toward a specific spot at every scene change, ready to swap out dresses and suits and whatever else they threw at me or shoved into my hands. The show passed in a blur, and before I knew it, the curtain closed.
The post show breakdown, as I’d seen it yesterday, was the very picture of controlled chaos. The performers exited their respective dressing rooms sporadically, tossing costume bits into bins, some of them hanging their clothes responsibly (and respectfully) on racks. I helped the other girls sort laundry and hang dresses strewn about lazily on the ladies’ dressing room floor until I thought my arms would give out. Why, oh why did this pitiful old show have such a large cast?
We managed to force the entire dance corps’ costumes onto one rack, and despite how obnoxiously heavy and bulky it was, pushed it toward the door.
“Rack!” Mindy shrieked, throwing open the door and yanking the end of the rack through. I shoved as she pulled, and we managed to strong arm the dresses through the door and into the hall. I was most of the way through when I realized who was holding the door– and immediately forgot his name.
“Thank you, hon,” I said as I went past, then winced. “Sorry, I’ll learn your name soon.”
“It’s Dakota,” he told me curtly, and then walked away, letting the door swing shut heavily with a thud. I sighed. He may be ridiculous but I didn’t exactly want him to dislike me.
I replayed the scene in my head for the rest of the day, until I could rattle off his name as soon as his face entered my mind’s eye. Dakota. I was determined to make amends and become friends with him… even if he was, kind of, an ass.