Joanie sat backstage, alone. All around her the hustle and bustle of show preparations were in full-swing. Stylists with clothing piled over their arms were racing around, orders were being shouted. It was total chaos. But in Joanie’s private corner in the stage-left wing, she was able to find a moment’s solace. Carlyle and Ruth had insisted on it. Jake had said nothing.
Oh, why did Peter have to do that? Joanie thought. She let her head fall into her hands, careful not to smudge her make-up but not really caring if she did. It had been one of the most embarrassing moments of her life – the unbearable silence that followed her reading that damn card out loud. Why did I have to broadcast it to the world? she had cried to Ruth and Carlyle after everyone else had left to find their seats. It was awful. She ran over the sequence of events in her head once again, the look on Jake’s face when she finished reading. He had turned a bright shade of crimson, tried to produce a natural smile as he said, “Wow, you sure do have some secret admirer.” But he knew, and so did she. Joanie had taken his arm to steer him away from the crowd then, to grab a moment and try to explain, but he had quietly pulled away.
“Listen, Joan,” he said. “We’ll talk about it later. Let’s just get through this night, okay?”
She had nodded, in agreement and in defeat. She could feel the coolness coming from Jake, the hurt. It was at that moment Ruth came by to try to help smooth things over, but she only made matters worse.
“Hey Jo Jo, we should get you backstage. You’ve got a show to do.” Jake had looked at Joanie with pain-filled eyes.
“I guess Jo Jo is the nickname your closest friends…your loved ones call you. Who knew?” He was sullen and broken. Joanie felt sick.
“Well, break a leg,” he had said, eyes diverted, then gave her a little kiss on the forehead and walked away.
“Joanie? Joanie, there you are.” Joanie arose from her trance and looked up to see her friend, Ruth, standing before her with a brave, supportive smile on her face.
“C’mon girl, you can do this. I know you can. Hey, things have been worse, right? Just remember, Jake adores you. He’s just hurt right now, and can’t express it. You can explain everything afterward, but he’s right. You’ve gotta get through this evening.” Joanie took a deep breath.
“You’re right, Ruthie. Of course you’re right. Since when have I let a man run my life or ruin it?”
“Since forever, but never mind. It’s never too late to change.” She gave Joanie a hug. “Now get out there and watch those girls strut your stuff.”