The prompt was:
You wake up on a Saturday and while lying in bed think about your to-do list. When you leave your bedroom, though, everything is different: the house, the people, everything. Your room stays exactly the same, but it contains a clue about what changed. So what happened? And can you fix it?
Emma had become accustomed to the faint whisks of the hamster wheel spinning in its cage every morning. It was a relaxing sound. She used the seven a.m. workout routine of her Teddy Bear hamster, aptly named Roosevelt, to help calm her mind and organize her daily thoughts.
“Think we’ll get the room painted today, Roosevelt?” she asked her pet. He paused in his wheel just long enough to rub his face between his tiny paws before resuming his tireless spinning.
“Yeah, I think so, too.” She kicked off the covers and threw her legs over the side of the bed, yawning as she pushed herself to her feet. “This old house still has a lot of work. But getting that spare room out of the way is going to be a huge load off. Won’t it boy?” She leaned forward over the cage and lightly tapped the glass. The hamster changed directions in his wheel, but continued spinning.
Walking around the room, she glanced inside the half-empty boxes that lined the walls, unsure whether she was looking for something in particular or just scanning the remains of what hadn’t yet been unpacked. Which was a lot, knowing she had already been in the house for a month. As she reached the window, she lifted the side of the curtain slightly, just enough to see out onto the open street of the quaint suburban neighborhood.
She didn’t see anyone, but she imagined what the neighbors might be like. Perhaps there were happy families with golden retrievers. Maybe the wives all took part in the PTA and had bake sales. Maybe they even had book clubs. She wouldn’t mind being invited along to something like that. Granted, PTA was out of the question until she had kids… which she’d need a husband for… Oh well, all thoughts for the future.
The doorbell rang, and she looked up with a start. She had been so lost in thought that she hadn’t seen anyone approach her house. She checked to ensure her clothes were acceptable to wear while greeting guests, then smoothed her hair with her hands.
“Maybe that’s my future husband, huh Roosevelt?” She laughed at the idea. “Keep your fingers crossed, little guy.”
She walked across the room and swung the bedroom door open, stepping out of the prepared set and into the vast studio that Cinemagic Pictures were using for their indoor scenes. In an instant, the entire concept of Emma Rogers disappeared, and she was no more than her usual, basic Kate Nicos.
“Good feelings gone,” she muttered.
“Alright,” came a voice from her left. “Good job, not too bad at all. The hamster even cooperated this time. Ha! Take five and we’ll move on to the other bedroom scene.”
The director called out his instruction, and artists, producers, actors, and technicians scurried around the studio preparing props and grabbing coffee. Kate turned around to face the perfect bedroom she had just left.
What I wouldn’t give to live there, she thought. She longed for the peace and hope the character had, for the sense of a fresh start with no strings attached. No more long nights being overworked and underpaid. No more drunken husband or controlling mother. Just pure, simple freedom.
She walked back through the threshold, running her hands along the door frame. Her eyes trailed across the props in the room; fantasy books that Emma would love to read, pictures of Emma’s fictional family back in Jacksonville, even a pair of knitting needles that Emma surely would have used to make scarves and sweaters and other handmade gifts. She was creative like that.
And the hamster! Roosevelt was a fantastic little creature, soft and fuzzy and loving. Kate actually pictured Emma as having a cat instead… but it wasn’t her job to invent the characters. All she was supposed to do was act them out. It just wasn’t fair, knowing she had the power to step into someone else’s shoes, knowing she had the ability to see into their mind, then being told she had to come out again. How many people had she been now? Fifteen? Seventeen? She was beginning to lose count.
Emma’s room was the first set in over two years that really reminded her just how much she hated playing pretend all the time—how much she loathed her own life and envied the people who only existed in her mind. Maybe she could just stay right there in that room; would she ever realize it wasn’t real? If she fell into that dream, would she ever wake up?
Looking at it now, she sighed.
Yes, she thought sadly, I’d know the difference. The fact that the room only had three standing walls would probably have been the first clue.
“Good break, everyone. Get into positions please, Martha fix Kate’s makeup—Kate, is your mascara running? Where’s Martha? Someone get in there and fix this, NOW. Please.”
Kate brought a hand to her face. She hadn’t realized she was crying. I guess it’s just never going to end. I should be grateful for the moments of serenity and peace I get when I take on a character.
And she was grateful. The few hours of escape she managed to grasp onto were the highlights of her days, especially lately. Despite her frustration at not absorbing the fictional personas completely, she was still extremely thankful for every opportunity to become someone else for a while. She carefully wiped away her tears and affected a smile, telling herself what she always did when life overwhelmed her.
“The show must go on.”
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