They parted and she calmed the audience down. The band played some jazzy music as they went on commercial break. When they came back, Liz grinned at the camera.
“I’ve got another wonderful guest to bring on. In fact, I have three and I’m going to bring them all on at once.” She turned to Austin. “You said when you got this job, it saved your life. I want you to meet these three young people who, because of your generosity, have grown and prospered. Please welcome Tricia, Shandra and Orlando.” She beckoned to the wings.
Three thin, nervous looking teenagers came on stage. They walked over to greet Liz, then stepped up on the dais to meet Austin and Liat. The two adults moved down, allowing the teenagers to sit closer to Liz.
“I know you’re confused,” Liz said. “I’m going to explain. Shortly after Austin took the part of The Magician, he asked the executives to put together a special fund to help students who were in dire circumstances. He purposely asked them to target teens who were in foster care and interested in theatre. A portion of his salary goes into this fund. The network liked the idea so much, they decided, unbeknownst to Austin, to match his money every month.
“They found three students who met the criteria and contacted the Department of Children and Families here in the city. Soon, word got out and several of our founding families heard about what Austin had done. They matched the amount, doubling it several times over. Now, the city facility has been upgraded and given a facelift. Kids like Tricia, Shandra and Orlando have an allowance that they can spend on clothing, books and educational materials. The money has also been used to open two new food distribution centers for families at risk.
“The program is expanding and targeting more students in the tri-county area. Other businesses and organizations are matching funds with any of their employees who wish to contribute. The Magician Fund, as it’s been dubbed, has already helped fifteen students and fifty families. My three young guests are here to give you something, Austin.” She nodded at the teenagers.
The blonde girl, introduced as Tricia, acted as spokesperson. The three of them stood, walking forward. Austin and Liz joined them. A line had formed at the base of the stage. There were more children as well as a few adults, lined up. They marched on stage and formed sort of a phalanx of people, standing at an angle to the audience.
Music started to play and the group sang God Save the Queen followed by The Star Spangled Banner. When they finished singing, they filed past Austin, presenting him with cards, drawings and photographs as the theme from The Magician played. When it got to the last three, Tricia, Shandra and Orlando came over once again.
“Thanks to your generosity,” Shandra said. “Our school was able to keep the theatre teacher instead of letting her go. She was able to get the money to put on a show and we’d really like you and your friend to come opening night.” She handed Austin an invitation and two tickets.
“I would be delighted. Liat?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” She wiped a tear.
“Thank you,” Austin said. “You’re all bloody marvelous,” he said to the children and the group who had sung for him. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you hardly seems adequate.”
Shandra hugged him. Tricia joined her. Orlando couldn’t resist and added his scrawny arms on the other side. Austin was in tears. He’d never felt so loved. Liat sensed that he was overwhelmed and stepped forward, asking for hugs from the children too. The stage manager escorted them off the stage and the audience gave them a standing ovation as well.
Soon after, the show ended. Liz gave them each a big hug and they all said goodbye. When the cameras and lights were off, the audience filed out. Liz led them to the wings.
“Thank you,” she said to Austin. “You’re my personal hero.”
“Never been anyone’s hero before. I didn’t do it for the notoriety.”
“I know, but it’s worth drawing attention to. The more people who know about it, the more who will contribute. Everyone at the network has contributed, whether a little or a lot, they’ve all chipped in.”
“Thank you, too, Liz,” Austin said. “I was terrified when they told me I’d be on here today. I thought you were going to rip into me.”
“I only do that to people who deserve it. Made ya cry, though,” she teased, pointing at him.
“You did. But in the best way possible.”
They said their goodbyes and parted. Liat and Austin met up with her parents and Dwight back in the green room. They exchanged hugs and kisses before going back to the car. Stu opened the door proudly, ushering them all in.
“Watched the whole show,” he pointed to the limo’s television. “Good job, Austin! Where to?”
They all looked at Austin.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes