The spotlight travelled the circumference of the room in search of a victim, looking to curb its own discomfort by persuading the unwanted attention on to another. Beneath its bright glare the chosen individual trebled and froze, as if caught in headlights. Then, becoming aware of the line of eyes, the press of bodies – waiting, watching, for her to spring into action, to move, to come alive – she lifted her arms, stretching them out, inhaling deeply.
Her performance opened with a slow dance, the words of a song low and soft on her breath, barely above a whisper. But as her confidence grew, as she started to enjoy it, started to believe in her ability to entertain, to transform the atmosphere of the room, she sped up, the song going from sleepy to wild – a celebration, an homage to life.
Minutes later and it was all over, ending in the same abrupt manner with which it began. She stopped as the light snapped out and joined it in the shadows, two lonely compatriots sheltering beneath an impenetrable blanket. And from the shadows she watched, trying to gauge the reaction of the audience, trying to read their thoughts. On the surface they looked satisfied, content. Some even looked impressed. Some even looked like they might perhaps want to hear more – either now or later. It was a good start. It made her happy. She might manage to make a go of it after all, do as her grandmother had predicted.
And yet, because it was only the first day, the first audience, and because it was only a cruise ship with a simple name rather than a theatre with an impressive title, she might just as equally amount to nothing, fulfilling the prophecy of her late father. Conflicting views. Conflicting futures. She knew which one she desired, she just didn’t know which one desired her, and at the end of the day it didn’t much matter how hard she tried, how hard she fought: if the future had other plans, she was helpless to interfere, a mere fly in the ointment of a huge pot, a pot that would be sure to kill her the second she dipped so much as a toenail, fingertip or eyelash in.