The motherfucker stood me up.
I should have been surprised, but all I felt was a bone deep rage, piled on top of stress and anxiety, to the point where I spent the entirety of Wednesday morning pacing and shaking. With my backpack stashed with Val’s oversized purse in Steph’s office, I’d been ready to go, but no, Jay had to go and say “I thought you meant Thursday!” I was livid, barely less than yelling about how many different ways I wanted Jay dead, and stressing over how I’d get to the airport on time without him. So much so that Cait and Val actually sat me down and handed me a cup of water, then told me straight up to go talk to Steph.
I was shaking so hard by the time I reached Steph’s office that she stopped talking mid sentence at the sight of me. Seeing her eased the fury a little bit, her serenity pulsing out of her like light. She looked like the ocean in a blue-green dress that showed the slight bump of her baby belly.
“I’ll call you back, Bill,” she said when our eyes met, and then promptly hung up on whoever she’d been talking to. “Come on in, Piper, what’s wrong?”
It took me a few tries to manage words. As I sat in the chair opposite her desk, I tried forcing a smile to my face. “I’ve got a flight home tonight, to see my grandfather. He’s in the hospital.”
Steph gasped, one hand going instinctively to her belly, the way new moms seemed to do, while the other went to her mouth. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you.” I took a deep breath, struggling to keep my voice even, clasping my hands in my lap. “I had a ride initially, but it turns out he can’t take me.”
“Do you need a ride?” Steph turned her chair to look at her computer. “I might be able to duck out. You get out at six right?”
“Yes, I do. That… actually, that would be fantastic.”. Relief began to ebb at the frustration. “Thank you so much.”
“Shit, that’s a no go,” Steph huffed, scanning her calendar. “I’m sorry. I have a meeting with my financial advisor at seven. But–” She looked at me, opened the employee schedule, read it over. “If you can speed run your post-show clean up, I can let you go early. When’s your flight?”
“Eight?” She gawked at me. “Shit, girl. Yeah, you’re out by five, at the latest, got that? I’ll have whoever else on the team finish anything you can’t, but you get your ass out and get home.”
Tears threatened, but I swallowed them down, squeezing my hands more tightly together. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Steph saw my tears and stood up. As I rose to leave, she came around her desk and wrapped me in a hug. “Everything will be okay. Just keep smiling, okay?” Leaning back, she gave me a toothy grin. “We’ll be here when you get back. Go see your loved ones.”
I nodded, but the tears wouldn’t stop. Steph cooed slightly and pulled me back into the hug, holding me tightly. It was weird being practically cuddled my someone my own height and barely older than me, but comforting nonetheless. I returned the hug and cried into her shoulder; once I was done, Steph handed me a tissue and sent me on my way. “Everything will work out, Piper.”
The day passed in a whirlwind of anxiety, second counting, sheer blind panic. Dakota was probably trying to distract me during lunch but I was too busy stressing to notice. I moved so quickly during pre-show that my cast members were ready to go nearly twenty minutes early. Val grabbed me around the middle during the show and hugged me, keeping me grounded, and Cait made sure I had water. I shook through the entire show.
The Flash had nothing on me post show. I was on shoes as per usual, all but shoving them into their designated places after spraying them with disinfectant and giving them a once-over for damages. I finished at four thirty on the dot, ran up to Steph’s office, and told her I was headed out.
“Right on time!” She gave me a reassuring smile as I grabbed my backpack from her office. “Oh, and here.” She handed me a takeout bag from EJ’s. “It’s just chicken tenders and fries, but I figured it would be one less thing for you to worry about.”
Touched, I took the bag. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what else to say.”
“Send your family love from the theatre,” she insisted. “No go, get to the bus. And have a safe flight!”
I waved a response to her as I bolted from the theatre to catch the bus.
It felt like racing against the clock, from the bus to my car, and then through the horror of rush hour traffic. I didn’t have one of those EZ pass deals, and sped through the tolls anyway, since I also didn’t have cash. Before I’d even actually reached the interstate, I had Emma on the phone, and I was– once again– crying.
“I can’t keep it together,” I told her, blessedly speeding past a clusterfuck of cars to my exit. “I’m so close to the airport I can taste it but shit everyone and their mother and their brother and their second cousins thrice removed are out on the road and all the fucking construction and–” I cut off with a frustrated scream, sliding into the lane beside me with a careless flick of my turn signal.
“Take a deep breath, honey,” Emma said, soothing, calm, “and use your turn signal. You hate it when other people don’t.”
“I know.” I inhaled, blowing air back out sharply. “If I miss my flight because of that slimy, cheating, useless excuse for a worm, I’m going to drive directly to his house and murder him.”
“I’d help but. You know. Pennsylvania.”
I laughed, perhaps a bit desperately. “Can we just roast him on a spit in the front yard?”
“Hell yes,” Emma said. “I’ll get the hot sauce.”
I slid into a parking spot and disconnected my phone from bluetooth and its charger. As I walked to the bus stop, I plugged in headphones and put them in, then tucked my phone into my purse. “I’m finally fucking here. I’m so pissed. I would have been dropped off right at the fucking door but no. I have to wait for the bus to come to the dark, spooky lot.” And it was dark and spooky. The place was near deserted, cool for how far south we were. I had a fleece jacket with me to keep away the winter chill once I landed in Philly, but right now it was more for camouflage.
Emma kept chatting with me as I waited. I boarded the bus and told the driver which airline I was on, then sat– alone– up front, with Emma’s voice in my ear for company. I all but ran into the building with a hurried “Thanks” to the driver as we pulled up to the airport.
“Alright love, I have to go through security. I’ll text you when I’m at the terminal.”
“Be safe, love.”
Security was, blissfully, a breeze. I jogged casually to my terminal, dropped my stuff onto a seat, and plugged my phone into the wall to charge for the flight. Apparently, I’d come without a moment to spare. The plane had already cleared out by the time I got to the terminal, and the first group was preparing to board. Rather than texting a dozen people that I was safe at the airport, I posted a selfie to facebook, and texted my foster brother, who was going to pick me up and Emma.
Look who liked your selfie so far.
Frowning, I opened facebook. To my surprise, only two people had liked my selfie. Jay, which was unsurprising and relatively annoying, and Dakota. That was a little surprising, but I supposed it showed he cared. Or something to that effect.
Maybe I could ask him in person when I got back.