The Competition

The Competition


 
The Schubert Theater, Broadway, New York City...
Julienne stood at the back of the theater; almost awaiting some kind of herald. An older woman sidled next to her and whispered in her ear,

“Broadway’s finest does it once again.” Julienne’s left eyebrow arched almost imperceptibly.

“You don’t seem all that anxious, my dear? Your adoring fans outside; the press here to give you sweeping accolades. This, along with your arch rival and no emotion? I wonder.” She giggled slightly before kissing the woman on the cheek.

“What would they think if they knew their idol had feet of clay?”

“Oh, I suppose they’d move onto another one; Samantha over there, perhaps. She’s almost dying to take your place, my dear.” Julienne smiled and nodded, but her demeanor belied the fear that permeated both her soul and spirit.

“You know, you’ve proved your point and won my bet. Even though Samantha fulfilled her part of the bargain, you’ve triumphed, though most here will never know.” The woman smiled.

“You’ll be well compensated for your efforts, my dear young lady, and maybe even be the next rising star in the universe you so treasure.” She used her hand in a broad sweeping gesture as she looked up at the theater roof, which was adorned with restored gilt trim and chandeliers of crystal.

“I did this to prove something to myself. I think I have. I surely do hope that I've become better from this, since the sacrifice has been too much to have been in vain.” Julienne looked down at her hands, which trembled slightly.

“You’re quite right about that, though some would see this as nothing more than an exercise in humility and a demonstration of common sense. I'd hardly categorize it as a sacrifice” Julienne looked at the woman and shook her head.

“Humility? No….It was my own arrogance that drove me forward, my dear mother. That and greed.”

“You’re quite right about that, but then it compelled your rival, as well.” She put her hand on Julienne’s back and rubbed it softly before pointing to the front of the theater. The press had been assembled in the first few rows, and a tall woman stood at a microphone.

“No time like the present. Ready whenever you are.” She said softly. Julienne squeezed her mother’s hand and nodded, which in turn evoked a nod from her mother to the woman at the microphone.

“I’m pleased to welcome the members of the press here today. Mrs. Pinchon will be making a statement before the contestants come forward.” Even as she spoke, Julienne escorted her mother to the foot of the stage, where she walked up the steps and to the microphone.

“As you know,” she said, looking out at the gathered media, “I have two children, and a very great deal of wealth.” A smattering of applause was accompanied by scattered laughter.

“I’m pleased that my children entered into the spirit of the competition, which has been both challenging and surprising for them both as performers and contestants. I must say with a great deal of regret and not a little embarrassment that I underestimated both of them. They stayed true to the spirit of the competition, and as a result, I am pleased to announce that seven million dollars will be donated on behalf of each to the Fresh Air Fund of New York City and to the Children's Theater of New York.

Would my children please join me on stage?” Julienne waited as Samantha walked up. She offered her hand, but her sister walked up the steps unescorted. A moment later they stood next to their mother.

“I'm impressed, as I imagine all the critics will be as well! Since both of you have successfully stayed in character throughout the year, I have to declare the contest a tie. Accordingly, the sum of thirty million dollars shall be divided equally between the two of you. I must say, as much as I am surprised, I am equally as proud of you as a mother can be. To go to such lengths to not only fulfill the requirements of the competition, but to help fulfill your mother’s fondest dream, if only in spirit, is truly the culmination of my life.” She pulled Samantha close and kissed her on the cheek. Duplicating the gesture with Julienne, she smiled at both before holding their hands in the air.

“And now, back to reality, sadly, but it was indeed only a competition.” She shrugged her shoulders and smiled once again, this time almost a wistful half-smile before nodding at the girl on her right.

“Samantha?” The girl nodded back at her mother before reaching up and pulling off a wig, revealing Martha Pichon’s older son Samuel. He curtseyed and laughed before holding his hand out to Julienne. The woman on the left of Martha Pinchon smiled and bowed before reaching up and pulling out a hair clip, allowing her blond tresses to fall softly against the back of her neck. Martha stared at Julienne in wonder. Samuel held his hands out, palms out as if to say, ‘go ahead!’

The girl smiled at Samuel and bowed once again before taking her top off, revealing a camisole which in turn revealed a neckline that rivaled her well-endowed mother. Martha put her hand to her mouth in shock as Julienne stepped to the microphone.

“I’d love to say that I am glad share in the victory, but I cannot. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cheat. The money was too appealing and I was too weak to compete on a level playing field. So at the beginning of the competition I began taking hormones, and in March of last year….” She looked down at her bosom.

“Samantha…Samuel was able to ….as you can see, even without the wig, he makes a very convincing woman. I couldn’t without help, so my brother may look like a girl, but I am one.” Gasps came from the crowd.

“I don’t understand.” Her mother gasped.

“In order to fulfill your dream, I had to do what was necessary, Mother. But I have to be honest with you; if that means losing the contest, so be it. I wanted to win, but along the way I realized this is what I wanted. Even before I started the treatment, just looking at myself in the mirror….seeing the part of you in me? I was unable to go ahead and pretend, because I realized I’d been pretending all my life.”

“So I win? All of it…every single dime?” Martha shook her head; it was true. Samuel was going to inherit every bit of her estate. Samuel looked over at Julienne and saw that the girl was beaming.

“You’re crazy. You could have lied. You could have kept on cheating! Why did you do that?” As Samuel shook his head, Martha once again put her hand to her face, this time to wipe away her tears.

“Because, my dear brother, you may have inherited Mother’s wealth? But I…I receive something so much brighter and eternal; I inherit her legacy.”



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This story is 1219 words long.