Chapter 3:

sCene 3 - ɪs sʜe reaʟʟʏ ʙaCᴋ?

ᴋraCᴋeᴅ ᴍooN

“I...I’m Cryztal now…” I said, shyly. “Please call me Cryztal.”

She looked at me with a curious face, then smiled, and lunged at me to hug me.

“It’s so good to see you again, Cryztal!” Her voice rang in my ears. When was the last time my name sounded so nice coming from someone else?

“I’m glad to see you too, Nai-bu.” I said, hugging her back, trying to be gentle. “But is it okay that you’re here? Let alone talking to me?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” She said, letting me go and giving me a smirk. “I’m a grown adult now, right? I can do what I like!”

I laughed a bit. “I mean, you’re right. I guess I’m just so used to how scary your parents can be.”

“Well they’re not here and not our problem!” She said. “I want to catch up! I have absolutely no idea what’s been up!”

We spent some time catching up and commenting about the staff, especially the producers talking on stage. We mostly talked about our very different career paths and I told her about Jason since he didn’t seem to have time to talk. It honestly felt like the years apart meant very little in the moment. We were laughing and joking like when we were kids, but it did feel different. Maybe, more serious? More mature? It was hard to tell.

What we didn’t expect was there to be spotlights. Specifically, lights suddenly shined on Jason and Nai-bu while we weren’t paying attention. I was barely caught in the light clearly meant for her.

“Since we have some of our former stars here, I’d like to now invite them to the stage to share a few words!” One of the producers with a microphone said.

Jason immediately walked to the stage, and as Nai-bu stood up, she noticed me not moving. I kinda shook my head, but she grabbed my hand and dragged me with her. Even as we got closer, other people tried to separate us, but Nai-bu’s grip was surprisingly strong compared to what I remember. As the three of us stood on the dinky stage at the front of the room, I was practically shivering.

Jason was handed a microphone and smiled. Of course he would have been ready for something like this!

“Well hello everyone! I feel like I’m greeting all of you for a second time today! Is there anyone I haven’t seen yet?” Jason said this and immediately got the room laughing. “I couldn’t be happier to be here, right now. Because you may not believe it, but the three of us standing here haven’t been together like this since the show ended. So it really means a lot to see each other again!”

Jason gestured for us to do a group hug, and Nai-bu pulled me into it. The room reacted nicely. I was just not into having actual eyes on me. I really wanted to go back home and have my normal audience. There are way more people watching me online, but it doesn’t feel nearly as awkward as this.

“If you all remember, the three of us playing as kids is what inspired my dad’s original pitch. I’m sure he’ll be just as happy to hear we were all here tonight.” Jason said, the audience applauding in reaction. “Did you two want to say anything?”

While I shook my head, Nai-bu grabbed the microphone from Jason. “Hi! Thank you all for recognizing me after so long! I just want to say I’m happy to be here and hope to keep in touch!”

Nai-bu brought the microphone to my mouth, and despite me trying to give it back to Jason, Nai-bu insisted I say something.

“Uh...thank you for all your hard work...back then...sorry for not visiting sooner.” I stammered out awkwardly.

“I think Cryztal made a great point! We wouldn’t be up here if it weren’t for you!” Nai-bu said, taking the microphone back, then handing it over to Jason.

“Yes, thank you everyone for your work back then and your dedication now! Thank you for everything!” Jason said this then gestured to the producers to take the microphone back. We quickly left the stage, and I headed out one of the exits. I needed to calm down.

Outside I was taking deep breaths. Trying to steady myself. I never realized how much stage fright I really had. Even on a tiny stage like that. Maybe it was less stage fright and more a fear of judgment. Why here and not online? Probably because my followers and subscribers are super cool, and if someone’s being rude we can just block them. Can’t block people in real life.

“Is this where you went?” I could hear Nai-bu’s voice from one of the other doors.

“I’m over here!” I shouted back, reflexively. It felt like I was a kid and we were playing hide and seek again. We used to hide from Jason together. He’d always get mad when he found us at the same time.

She walked over to me and seemed to take a long look at me. What was she looking for?

“Was being on that stage really so bad for you?” She asked with a curious tone.

“Uh...yeah. I’m not used to a live audience, I guess.” I tried to keep it light. Didn’t want to bring her down.

“Sorry for making you come up with us. But it was nice to be able to stand together like we used to.” She said.

“Yeah...that was nostalgic for sure.” I said, almost steady. “But I have no idea how I did it in front of a camera for three years.”

“It’s because you always focused on us!” Nai-bu insisted, patting my back. “You were great because you treated it like pretend, rather than thinking about acting in front of a camera.”

I never really did consider it acting. I was told it was acting because I was paid for it. I just wanted to play with my friends, and it was the best way to do it.

After we relaxed for a while, Nai-bu made sure to exchange numbers, emails, and all kinds of other ways to talk. She made it clear that she did not want this to be a one-time thing. Maybe Jason was right and I should take this as a chance to put myself out there again. I may not have any cool places to show Nai-bu since she moved away, but maybe she’ll invite me to meet her friends, or we’ll hang out with Jason and his friends. It left me pretty optimistic for where things could go.