Backstage

Casey carefully goes through her finger exercises, limbering up each one in turn, making sure they’ll perform. She paces as she does them, and takes long, careful breaths to steady herself. She moves her head back and forth before switching to her arm warm ups.

She picks up three balls, the soft beanbags are very familiar to her hand. She does the simple patterns that she learned so long ago that she doesn’t even remember learning them, it feels like she’s always known them. Then she picks up four, and then five. She switches to clubs with their hard plastic and goes through the same progression.

She hears the low murmur of the crowd as people come in and settle down. They are not individuals, not from backstage, just a mass, an audience. She checks on them from her little peep hole, seeing them for the only time in full, bright light. She shuts the panel with a metallic click and takes a few deep breaths to try to slow her heart rate. She can’t tell if it helps.

The warm up guy goes out to minimal applause. That’s okay, the crowd isn’t warmed up yet, that’s the point. Casey has never seen the warm up guy’s routine. He’s not new, she’s just always backstage. But from what she understands, it’s little more than high energy pratfalls.

She goes through her routine, the balls flying high, the clubs almost hitting. She does it at double the speed that she’ll do it live, with none of the patter or the music, just the rhythm of her arms. Then she does it again, at normal speed; not quite silently, but everything done under her breath. She still has a few minutes left to kill before she goes on. She double checks that everything is in the right place, and takes another quick peek at the crowd through her peep hole. They seem to be having a good time. Good.

The warm up guy does his last joke, and Casey hurries to get in position behind the curtain. She doesn’t hear anything except the blood rushing in her ears and her heart beating in her chest. But then the curtain starts to move, and she puts on a big smile.

Time to perform.

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