He flicks open the lid of the small velvet box with an endearing schoolboy fumble.  And there it is—gleaming like the spires of Oz; it is the whole of Emerald City encapsulated in three carats that wink at me from one brilliant crystallized compound.

 

“So?”  The small word, filled with hope, balloons within my ears.  I scrape my eyes from the glistening green gem to the earnest face looking up into mine.  I glance around self-consciously—one hundred pairs of heavy eyes on me—diners suspended with forked mouthfuls hovering, jaws open and waiting.  And the noise seems to disappear almost instantly: all the clattering of cutlery on crockery, chair legs dragging on wood, ice cubes jiggling against glass, is sucked up into a silent vortex, a swirling tornado, orbiting our table.  The room revolves too, spinning on its axis—I think I am about to be sick. 

 

I know that acid-churning, I should be well used to it: the routine rebellion of my body, the gastric mutiny before setting foot on stage, enduring those torturous moments when I realize, “Shit!  I’ve forgotten my lines!” 

 

I look to the audience of diners now, panic simmering in my stomach. 

 

And he’s waiting.

 

 

This fairytale is exactly how I imagined it.  Maybe lacking slightly in backdrop, as we huddle into our narrow table, the bustle of the busy restaurant brushing uncomfortably close—and—okay, it’s not the beach tiki bar on some white-sanded, sun-kissed, tropical paradise, where we stretch out bronzed limbs and sip pina coladas whilst watching the pink sun sink into the Caribbean Sea.  It’s London.  It’s raining.  What’s new? 

 

But all the same.   This was the man I had imagined my life with: the only man who had ever challenged me to be a kinder person, a savvy businessman, a confident lover, because he was.  He could, and would, do anything he set his mind to and if that isn’t an aphrodisiac, I don’t know what is. 

 

 

People would look up when Cole entered the room—not to admire his handsome features, but because here was a man born to nothing, who had scaled far higher than anyone ever predicted, and had done so with integrity.  What a pleasant change from the backstabbing business of the theatrical underworld, where the whole premise—as much as I will defend it to the death—is to pretend; where every actor silently screams, ‘Look at me!  Look at me!  Love me!’  Cole is assured.  People do look, people do love him.  He doesn’t have to ask for it.  Except now.  - THEATRICKS