That was it. That one moment during auditions was the only time Samuel talked to Davis Turner. It was like a blink in his junior year. A month had gone by, then another: the show had opened and closed and with it, Samuel’s excuse of being too busy to even have a chance at seeing Davis ended. How could he pretend to be an Exorcist when a show was overtaking his life? Now Samuel was well into the school year, just starting to fret about what the hell he was going to do once he graduated next year and how he was going to survive until then.
Assistant managing transformed into costume technology. He preferred concentrating on a single project rather than being the communication hub of the cast and crew. His major went from undecided to mostly decided, depending only on if he could rationalize the income he might eventually receive. Mostly, he stayed on campus late into the night, working on student-run shows that sucked every bit of soul that was available. It kept him busy. It gave him back the excuse he wanted.
It kept him away from his mother.
His mother, who not so long ago decided that Samuel was going to have to pay his own way now that he was twenty-one. He wondered where, exactly, all his student loans and scholarships were going if they exceeded his tuition. But he couldn’t argue that. Like always, he lost all words when he tried to oppose her.
He liked being inside the theater much better than being home, even if the building was empty with only a few scenic flats for company. It wasn’t a fearful place. He sat down in the audience seating, placed his bowler hat beside him, unbuttoned his vest, and perfected what he could of the costumes for the upcoming show.
He flinched when the door clacked open.
“Oh, sorry,” Davis said, standing in the doorway, looking just as surprised as Samuel. He was wearing yet another fitted shirt, this time a V-neck, but once again dark in color. There was a graphic design that burst blues and purples from his hip to his opposite shoulder in swirls and dots. “It’s…really late,” he stated. “Why are you here?”
Samuel squinted at him in defiance. “Why are you?”
“Audition practice,” Davis said. “And my roommate is trying to get laid. I think. There were noises.”
Samuel had absolutely nothing to say to that. He simply gestured to the stage and went back to work.
The opportunity to approach Davis as Someone Who Was Possessed had passed. Samuel worked and tried to think of Davis as some victim he could help so he could somehow bring back up those hero-like feelings he used to have. Now that was gone. There were new categories Davis now fit, such as Someone Interested in Theatre and Someone Hot Enough to Sleep With, but because those two separate categories weren’t allowed to intersect, Samuel settled with the first and he promptly treated him like anyone else in the department: he ignored him completely.
“Won’t I distract you?” Davis asked, stepping into the small theater and walking into the row directly in front of Samuel. Samuel did not dare look up or, yes, he could be distracted, and he would be reminded of that second category.
“I’m used to distractions. I can tune you out,” he said instead as he changed out his thread, focusing on each small step. Threading. Doubling. Tying. Clipping.
Davis hadn’t moved. Samuel paused and huffed, glaring up at him. “What? I thought you didn’t want to distract me.”
“I never said that. I bet I will,” Davis said. “But you look like you haven’t slept in three days and, if I’m remembering right, last time you were much nicer to me.” He looked up at the grid above them, a series of pipes connected to hold ancient lighting instruments, donated to the students when the theatre was renovated. He seemed disinterested until his eyes flickered down and caught Samuel’s, his attention solely on him. “Isn’t theatre supposed to be fun?”
Samuel thinned his lips, his heart heavy. “Sorry,” he muttered. He knew he held some bitterness now. Even if he pretended, he couldn’t be an Exorcist. It wasn’t fair to take that out on Davis. “I didn’t mean to come off as rude.”
“It’s still an upgrade from some people,” Davis said, plopping down in one of the seats and throwing his legs over an armrest. “So, what’s bothering you?”
“What’s bothering you?” Davis repeated. “You look exhausted, you’re here at a ridiculous hour with no shows opening this weekend, and you’ve been focusing on that one stitch since I came over.”
Samuel looked down at his lack of progress and placed the garment in the chair next to him with a sigh. “Shouldn’t someone be asking you that? If you’re okay, I mean. You don’t look bothered, but…I think I have it a bit easier,” he said, his words catching. He hoped not to offend.
“Oh, well, no?” Davis said, looking at his boots as he rolled his ankles. “Life’s normal, for the most part.” He glanced at Samuel. “I can’t spend all of my time just moping about bullies and demon possessions, now can I?”
Samuel flushed. “I didn’t mean—you’re just—people can be worse than demons sometimes.”
“I’ve found some good ones,” Davis said, the corner of his mouth tugging. “Have you?”
Davis’s eyes were filled with laughter as he repeated himself again. “Have you? You know, found good people to surround yourself with?”
Samuel stared at him in bewilderment, unsure of how he should answer, or even what the answer actually was. After a moment, he simply shrugged.
“Well,” Davis said, tilting his head back enough to stare at the grid again. “I found you.” Then his eyes darted back to Samuel. “Do I have to prove anything to you?” Samuel raised an eyebrow in response. “You know, to make you believe I’m good?”
“I’m not going to tell you why I’m upset, or whether you’re good or bad,” Samuel said. “And for me to decide which you are, or if you’re somewhere in the middle, I’d have to know you, Davis Turner.”
“Then get to know me, Samuel Stewart.” Davis grinned, showing his perfect teeth. (How did he have such perfect teeth, Samuel wondered. Did he have braces before? Was healthcare different if you were prone to possessions? But maybe this wasn’t the time to fixate on that.) Samuel scrunched his eyebrows in confusion, trying to juggle his own thoughts and Davis’s extremely confusing interactions. Then Davis said, quietly, gently, “I’d remember the name of a guy who gave me a chance.”
“It wasn’t—you were just any other student,” Samuel said. He wanted to call out how corny Davis sounded, but decided it was more important that no one thought he gave special treatment.
“But you paused when you saw my name,” Davis said. He sat up and leaned towards Samuel over his seat, forcing Samuel to lean back. “You knew who I was and you still let me audition.”
“I’m a decent human being,” Samuel said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know. Maybe ask the others who wouldn’t,” Davis said. His gaze was sharp and serious.
Samuel broke eye contact. “Weren’t you going to practice?”
Davis hummed. He stood up in that way actors do: with pure confidence in their body. He didn’t seem like someone who needed help in any way. If someone like him, who had the world assuming who he was before they met him, was able to hold himself so well, what was Samuel doing wrong?
Samuel quickly gathered his things. “I have to go,” he said, having no idea where to go, but knowing he had to.
“Good luck, then,” Davis said, “with whatever made you come here tonight.”
He could have been referring to the technician work, but Samuel doubted he was. He said, “Thank you,” sincerely, before he left.