As sunset came, the stage was set. Where there once had been an empty town square, there was now a wooden stage some twenty-five feet across and ten feet deep. The townsfolk gathered quickly and filled every open space from which the stage was visible. They stood packed up against the edge of the stage all the way back to the closed doors of the shops on the edge of the square. Surrounding houses and storefronts opened their windows on every story and excited spectators peered out. Not much happened in Rowland's little town, and the Theatre De Pénombre was one of the few times that the people got truly excited.
The curtain rolled back slowly, and all candles and lamps were extinguished in the square. A line of short orange flames flickered to life about the edge of the stage, lighting the set. Performers in white togas entered from both sides of the stage, their faces lit from below. The fire's orange glow cast deep shadows on the folds of cloth and the surfaces of their faces, giving the actors an appearance of being carved from stone.
Rowland, still at his place at the steps of the building at the far end of the square, placed Puppy on his shoulders again and crept around the edges of the crowd toward the wagons behind the stage. The actors began their performance with brilliant charisma and grace.
"Noble patricians, patrons of my right, defend the justice of my cause with arms, and, countrymen, my loving followers, plead my successive title with your swords..." the actor playing Saturninus spoke with a voice like deep crimson velvet.
Rowland and Puppy snuck around to where the troupe had parked their wagons behind the stage. Three of them had been transformed into the stage, but there were several left, and they had been put in rows out of sight but near enough that some of the actors could use them to change costume. Rowland walked quietly up to the door of one of the wagons. He glanced around to make sure was looking, took a deep breath, and knocked quietly on the wooden door.
"But let desert in pure election shine, and, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice."
A hinge creaked as a small window in the door opened enough for two mesmerizing eyes to peer out at their visitor. The window closed and the door swiftly opened. A pair of arms grabbed Rowland by his vest and tossed him inside with almost imperceptible speed, throwing him like a doll across the floor. The door was shut just as quickly as it was opened.
A candle was and the soft glow lit up the face of a beautiful young girl. She had a gentle face, blonde hair and was about the same age as Rowland. Rowland moved an irritated Puppy off of his leg and smiled up at the girl. For reasons unimaginable to Rowland, she looked furious.
"What are you doing here, Rowland?" she hissed through her teeth at him. Rowland stood up as his smile faded. Confused as to why she was upset, he looked at her and held her hand.
"I needed to see you again," Rowland answered softly. "I want to come with you."
"Absolutely not," she yelled as loudly as a whisper would allow.
"Why not? There's nothing for me here. And I love you, Rebecca."
"You can't come with us Rowland. You don't love me, either." She yanked her hand out of his and turned away.
"What is your explanation for last year then?"
"Rowland, it was one kiss."
"And what kind of man would I be if I left you with but one when you'll be longing for so many more?"
Rebecca rolled her eyes and groaned. As she was about to respond, there was another rapping upon her door.
"You're almost up, Becc. Get a move on," said a voice from outside.
"Be right there," she called. Turning back to Rowland, she pointed an accusing finger at him. "As for you, you'd better be gone when I get back."
She turned to leave, but Rowland grabbed her by the arm. He pulled her in close and kissed her. He felt Rebecca relax and melt in his arms for a moment, but it was not to last. She pushed him away and ran out the door.