A collective sigh went up from the audience as, in turn, the lights went down. I waited on the cusp of another breath, but the auditorium remained pitch black, the diva’s final echoing note slipping away into memory.
After several minutes, the audience began to filter away, heading for the spectral exit signs like migrating moths to the flame. They bemoaned the lack of an encore, mumbled over the diva’s hasty retreat without even so much as a bow; questioned her voice. I did not. I could not. She deserved better.
When the last door closed with a spine chilling thud, I sat there still. That’s when I heard the sound of absolute sadness more audible than I could ever have imagined. That’s when I heard a heart break.
She hadn’t left the stage at all, she’d collapsed. Nobody had thought to check. Nobody really cared.
I clattered my way over three rows of seats, tripped twice before finding the inset steps and hauled myself onto the stage. She was laid prostrate like a bag of coal in a cellar. I screamed for help. At least, I thought I did in my mind, but everything blurred for me then. Time stood still as I took her head in my hands, something black running from between those beautiful, painted lips. She wasn’t breathing. I wasn’t sure if I was, either.
They said she was found alone having suffered a cardiac arrest: dead before she hit the floor, one doctor claimed. But she wasn’t and she didn’t, I knew. She died because she was no longer magnificent. She died rather than fade away. I shouted it from behind the curtain I’d hidden behind. At least, I thought I did, but it might have all been in my mind?