Updated: Feb 3, 2022
By Jillian McWhirter:
In the middle of Times Square, a tall young girl turns in circles. She looks up at the skyscrapers surrounding her. She’s drenched as the rain pounds through her broken umbrella. The girl, who we’ll call Emma, is in her late teens, with long dark hair, thin bones, and transparent skin, her eyes locked in bewilderment like a doe searching for her mother. She’s lost in a sea of people. The people aren’t shocked by her beauty. They have seen millions of gorgeous young girls in Manhattan looking for their break into stardom. Instead, the people run around her, bump into her, and tell her to move so they can escape the rain.
Emma’s black mascara washes under her eyes from tears and rain. She gently wipes her eyes, causing more black mascara to stain her high cheekbones. She clings to a portfolio, hoping the pounding rain doesn’t take it hostage too; she’s scared she’ll lose her pictures if the rain leaks on them. Her meager life savings is tied up in the pictures, this trip, her dreams, and if the rain destroys her photos she so desperately wants to share with the world, she thinks it’ll destroy her too.
As the rain pours down, she stops turning and just stands still, holding her broken umbrella. She’s frozen with fear—fear of the unknown. The wind howls and cuts through her, sending shivers up her spine. She tries to speak out, “Do you know where Line B is?” No one answers her. She repeats her question like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: “I want to know where Line B is. I want to know where Line B is. I want to know where Line B is.”
And then, the rain suddenly stops as quickly as it started. The sun breaks out, and a rainbow appears. Emma smiles. The sun’s warmth comforts her face. She takes a deep breath, turns, and stares at the steps leading to the subway. She reads the green sign swinging from a metal pole that lists what trains stop underneath. She notices Line B is listed. Emma grins and thinks to herself, I just had to turn one more time, just one more turn and there it was, there was my Line B behind me.
Emma could have left before she saw Line B. She could have given up, but she didn’t. She turned around one more time, and there was Line B. In that second, a young girl became a young woman, and she realized that what she might be looking for was always there, only behind her.
She skipped down the steps, slid her card through the gate, and walked to the platform, where she waited for the B train. She watched everyone else stop and wait like she was waiting. A sea of mannequins. Each with their own looks, their own belongings, their own dreams. Then the B train pulled up, its doors opened, and Emma stepped onboard with the other mannequins. She held the handrail tight and counted the stops one by one. On the seventh stop, the doors opened, and Emma stepped out. She followed the others up the stairs and outside. The sun was still shinning, still warm. She walked to a building, examined the address, and then walked inside.
Once inside, Emma opened another door, and suddenly stopped when she saw multiple other stained, soaked girls waiting their turn to audition. She watched the girls roam around the room, playing on their phones, going over their lines, talking to one another as they eyed the competition. Emma smiled to herself because she knew what was behind her made her strong for today. Her roots.
Raised in Mississippi, Jillian McWhirter moved to Paris and New York to pursue modeling before moving to Los Angeles to start her film and television career. She has written numerous feature film scripts and has published over thirty educational books that are used by health and safety organizations all over the United States.
Read Elizabeth Gracen's interview with Jillian McWhirter here.
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