Watching me out of the corner of her eye, she smiles. "Are you going to sit there all night, or are you going to help me learn these new lines?"
"You have to do scales first, you know, or you'll throw your voice out," I remind her, leaning back in my chair. "That's one of the reasons you're filling in for Maria in the first place."
She flops down at the desk in a most unladylike way, with her legs spread to the sides. I look away out of gentlemanly respect, even though her dress falls to her ankles. Even in an elegant gown, with the finest jewelry to come out of Albrook in years, she is still the General who lead us to victory. "Fine, fine." She clears her throat, starting her scales.
Even the most casual observer cannot overlook how much she has improved since her first performance. I watched from the rafters then, and wondered why Maria had been allowed on with what surely was a sore throat. Looking back on it now, I cannot help but smile. The commanding voice has since been honed, and now rivals any diva with a lifetime of training.
I tend to lose myself in thoughts if I'm not careful. When I turn back around, she is before me, a stage knife drawn dramatically. "Setzer, are you going to help me or not?"
Adopting the tone of the scene she sets, I widen my eyes and cower back. "Great Maria, do not harm one who only wishes to hear your siren song!"
She laughs, and it sounds like an aria onto itself. "Now, when you call me Maria, do you mean the gal I'm filling in for or the character I'm supposed to be playing?"
"Either or," I smirk.
She bats me with the sheet music, giggling. "You're so awful."
"Oh, I know," I say seriously.
Sitting back at her vanity, she takes out the sheet music for the new production. She's rehearsed it backwards and forwards, each scene in every order she could think of, attacking it like a military strategist. She thinks of every concievable thing that could go wrong, and possible solutions for each problem. She's thought of how to cover everything from hitting a bad note to fending off Ultros while remaining in character.
Taking a sip from her water, she begins again. I've listened to this piece so many times, I'd wager I could double any role in the production. If my voice were better, that is.
The very thought of myself out there, in full period costume with stage makeup pancaked on me, makes me start snickering. But she's used to that too, and keeps singing without missing a note.
Her current focus is on the scene where Maria first meets Prince Ralse, long before she is taken by him. He has very few lines here, considering how much he sings in the rest of the opera, and the majority of lines concern the state of Maria's garden, for some reason. My theory is that it's supposed to be about her virginity, so I start chuckling again until I realise it's my turn.
My voice is passable, but nothing compared to Celes'. It lacks power and tone, and I'm fairly certain that I'm unintentionally off-key. But Ralse's reply is brief, and she picks up the next line without fail.
She sings with more passion than I ever saw in Maria--the other singer, that is. But where Maria comes from a pampered Jidoor background, Celes has truly lived. She's been there in the thick of things, and gone through things that even the other Returners could not imagine.
The experiences of her life shine through in her song. I've told her more than once that her story would make for excellent theatre, but she just shakes her head.
Perhaps I'll write one for her, though, just to see how she likes it. A simple thing, worked on during the days going from place to place. Short, maybe just a scene or two.
The lights flicker--the dress rehersal is about to begin. And my role is over, at least for the time being.
She looks up, leaving the room without so much as a 'see you later'. But I don't mind, it's the way she does things.
Watching her from the wings, I smile. My warrior maiden, my ballgown Brunhilda, turns and smiles back at me.
And that is enough for now.