The applause was thunderous as Adalia Trevino bowed at the waist, lowering the top of her head in mute acceptance of the audience’s adoration. It would seem her encore piece was well received, then. Her limbs were still trembling from the rush of emotion and adrenaline that final aria always evoked in her. She stood upright again, raising her arms as if she could hug the whole theater, mouthing her thanks as tears sparkled in her uncannily green eyes.
The house lights dimmed, and she lifted her full skirts to hurry off stage. This was the third and final night of this concert series, and tomorrow she and her entourage would be heading to the next city and doing it all again: preparing the stage, rehearsals with the new orchestra, the publicity appearances on whatever morning show her manager had arranged. Dio.
In her dressing room, she collapsed in the chair by the mirror and closed her eyes for a moment, then began pulling pins from her hair, lining them up meticulously on the vanity. Once her dark hair was loose, she pulled a contact case from her makeup bag and popped out the green contacts—her eyes were naturally green, but not that green. She blinked a few times, her eyes watering, then spun around in her chair, her heart accelerating. She could have sworn she saw something move. But no, it was just a shadow, her eyes still adjusting after taking the contacts out. Nothing to fear.
She let out a breathy laugh, heart racing. Nothing to fear. Still, she could swear she felt eyes on her as she turned back to the mirror. The hairs at the nape of her neck stood on end, and she ran a hand over them in annoyance, leaning in to inspect the fine lines around her mouth. Movement again caught the corner of her eye, and she spun toward it, but the world exploded in tiny lights as pain crashed through her head. She sprawled on the floor, her dress billowing around her. She tried to make a noise, but only a feral grunt escaped her, the air knocked from her lungs by another blow, this time to her belly. Her green eyes bulged, trying to see who was attacking her. They landed on a pair of impeccably polished dress shoes. Italian. She tried to push herself away from the man now crouching over her. The last thing she saw before she lost consciousness was the grin of a Cheshire-cat mask.
He stayed very, very still for several minutes, watching the rise and fall of her breathing, watching the blood pooling under her head. He reached out and touched it, rubbing it between his gloved fingers. Then he began to sing, quietly, ever so quietly, a few bars of her final aria:
“Mi struggo e mi tormento! O Dio, vorrei morir!” I am pining, I am tormented! Oh God, I want to die!
He set to work.
This story was originally written for the Writers to Writers Challenge on Instagram in April 2022.