One of the perks of being the namesake and face of the group, is that Florence always gets her own dressing room. The boys, they get to share. They don’t really take up that much space and their whole wardrobe put together probably takes up less space than one of Flo’s elaborate gowns. They also manage to be neater, even though there’s a lot more of them and only one of her.
Isa should technically share a dressing room with the female members of the string section and backing vocalists, but Florence has managed to convince her otherwise. That since the big sign says “Florence and the Machine”, it literally means that the room belongs to the two of them.
Grace generally takes residency there, too, as she’s not officially a member of the band, and she’s not on stage; all she needs is a sofa of some kind to curl up on and survey the scene – usually with no less than three phones lined up on the armrest.
Today, though, Florence doesn’t have Isa or Grace; this is one of those engagements where they think that “Florence and the Machine” is a person and not a band. There isn’t a single familiar face here to support her, and the silence in the dressing room is weighing on her chest. The make-up artist has just left, and a 15-minute call sounds on the little PA speaker in the corner.
She feels really jittery – she looks at her phone, puts it back on the dressing table, takes a couple of steps, stretches her legs in the middle of the room… checks her phone again, lip trills, a light jaw massage… 10-minute call. A knock on the door.
She expects it to be someone from the tv network or whoever’s in charge of online streaming, the kind of people who would film a short interview about how she feels before she goes on, or who simply walk backwards in front of her, filming her descent to the stage.
What she actually gets is a blonde head, several inches lower than where she was looking, a grey eye heavily framed in black eyeliner and part of a nose.
“Isaaaaaa!” she squeals, covering her mouth with her hands in absolute delight.
“I snuck in!!” Isa comes into the room and shuts the door behind her with a grin.
“I can see that!! But how?? You’re not that small!” Flo is bouncing up and down on the balls of her bare feet now, having momentarily forgotten she is due on stage in less than ten minutes. “And I thought you were DJing tonight!”
“Still am.” Isa winks. “But I knew you’d be nervous all by yourself. It’s pants it had to happen while Grace was away, too.”
Florence throws herself at Isa, almost knocking her off-balance as she pulls her into a bear hug.
“This is the kind of surprise that I love.” Isa hears Florence say in a really small voice from somewhere above her head.
“Surprise’s not over yet.” Isa whispers conspiratorially, and she pulls something out of her pocket that she keeps hidden in her fist. She takes Flo’s left hand in her right, and pulls at her chunky ring until it comes off.
Florence furrows her brow, confused. She tries to meet Isa’s eye, but Isa is blatantly refusing to look up until she’s finished with whatever it is she’s doing.
“5-minute call!” announces a voice from the PA system, and Flo looks over her shoulder to the speaker for a moment, until she feels Isa slip something onto her finger.
She lifts her hand up to her face to see Isa has placed a tiny, rose gold ring around her finger; she can’t look closely, though, because Isa grabs her hand again and replaces Florence’s much bigger ring over her own, so it’s almost hidden.
“Remember when I proposed to you that time, on Halloween?” Isa says, looking at Florence with the cheekiest of smiles. “I thought it was about time we made it official.”
Florence’s breath catches as she tries to understand the enormity of what just happened. Is she engaged to Isa? Like for real? Or is this just a symbolic gesture between best friends? There is no time to ask. She needs to get out of the dressing room.
She clings to Isa tighter than she ever has in her life. “Thank you,” she mumbles into Isa’s hair. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little on the childish side for two girls their age; the thought that whenever she is on stage alone Isa is somehow there with her is incredibly comforting. All she has to do is look at her hand to remember how she feels right at this moment: she is loved, and she loves back.
“Go be amazing,” Isa says, taking Florence’s face in her hands. She places a light kiss on her lips, one that lingers two seconds too long to be defined completely chaste. Florence doesn’t move when Isa breaks contact, in fact she almost chases her lips again, longing for a few more moments, anything that will avoid her having to speak, because if she speaks, she’s not going to make a bit of sense. Not a bit.
I can’t process this. It’s too much, and so quickly. I have to go on stage and I have no time to think and she’s leaving now and I love her.
“Same to you,” Flo says, with a lump in her throat. “Smash it.” But she links her fingers with Isa’s and it’s like she doesn’t plan on letting go anytime soon.
They hear a short knock, not the kind that would wait for Florence to say “come in”. The door is pushed in straight away and a giant camera is pointing at her face, as she releases Isa’s hand and starts walking towards the wings without a word.
She is loved, and she loves back.