Gabrielle Rodriguez ran her fingers through her hair efficiently. The theater. The theater.She could do this.
"Where is it again, Mark?" she asked, practically hyperventilating.
Mark Rawlings, editor-in-chief of the school paper, turned on his heel, "You're being a nuisance," he warned.
Gabrielle felt her forehead crease with hurt and embarrassment, but she tried to hide it.
"Past the art wing and to the left," he huffed, "I honestly can't believe you've never been in there. Now go. I have a lot of business to attend to."
Gabrielle nodded apologetically and slunk out of the newspaper room.
The truth was, she really hadn't ever been in the theater. Not once. It wasn't just that she had no reason to go there- she could have snagged a story on one of the plays if she'd wanted. But Gabrielle was afraid. Afraid of the, well- theatre people, or theatre geeks, as Mark so fondly referred to them- ever since her first class on the first day of her freshman year.
It was geometry. Gabrielle had been first to class and picked the front seat furthest to the right. There was one seat open next to her, and a junior named Renee Daniels decided to take it. She quickly announced that she went by Rain.
"My parental units just didn't grasp the concept of a spiritual name," she had revealed to a wide-eyed Gabrielle on that first day, "They simply didn't understand that... what my peers refer to me as ties to my very roots... and needs to feel spiritually sound... you know?"
Gabrielle had nodded quickly and hoped desperately that the geometry teacher planned to put them in a seating chart.
"You look like a spiritually sound person," Rain had told her moments later, "You should join theatre this year!" She sighed wistfully and leaned her head back to stare at the ceiling, "We really are the most emotionally centered group of people on campus, Gabbita. Do you mind if I call you Gabbita? It just feels spiritually sound, you know?"
Gabrielle had made a decision right then and there never to go near the theater or any of the students involved in its program, and until today, in her junior year, she had kept that promise.
So maybe I kind of like Mark, Gabrielle thought to herself as she passed the art wing. After all, he was a senior, and he was powerful... and intelligent. But was he really worth degrading her morals?
Oh, God. There it was.
The theater, just where Mark had said it would be. Gabrielle's worst fears lay just beyond those heavy metal doors. She approached it cautiously and quickly knocked.
"Oh, forget it!" she muttered under her breath. Mark wasn't worth this. No one was! She would just creep back to the journalism department and write a fake interview with a fake theatre geek. Theatre kids probably didn't even read the paper. No one would ever have to know.
Suddenly the door swung open, and the most forceful-looking girl she had ever seen showed her face. Gabrielle stared. The girl couldn't have been more than four and a half feet tall, but she had a demanding sort of presence all the same.
"Hi..." Gabrielle said timidly, "I... I'm... Gabrielle Rodriguez. I'm with the..."
The girl brightened, "Newspaper girl," she exclaimed, grabbing Gabrielle by the arm and ushering her inside.
"Um... uh, yeah. I was sent to do a story on the... uh..."
"Auditions," she finished as she began leading Gabrielle down the auditorium. They were in the back of the building now, but if they walked past the rows and rows of seats, as it appeared the girl was doing, it would take them up the stairs and onto the stage. Gabrielle gulped.
"I'm Nathalie Mitchell," the girl said, "And unfortunately for you, Miss Allegory's left already. But you can interview us."
Gabrielle stared, "But... but you're just the... the theatre kids, right?"
"Just the theatre kids!" Nathalie bellowed, "Well, I'll tell you, Miss Newspaper Girl, we know a lot more about it than some stupid old teacher... especially Miss Allegory," she added under her breath.
"So... so I should interview... you?" Gabrielle asked tentatively as they reached the stage.
"Yes, me. Me and... her!" Nathalie pointed in the direction of another girl. She was taller, with long, perfectly straight brown hair, "That's Olive. Olive Chase-Hepburn, the Great. And if you want a legit story, we're the ones to ask."
Olive pranced over, examining her nails, "Miss Allegory's nice... I love the poor dear," she said, "But to be honest, around this one," she pointed to Nathalie, "She's really more of a powerless figurehead," she thought for a moment, then added, "But she is technically the supervisor, if that's what you want to know."
"Right," Nathalie affirmed with a note of contempt in her voice. Suddenly she dashed off the stage, making Gabrielle jump, and ran back on with three fold-up chairs in her arms. She snapped them up in record time and set them in a circle, then abruptly sat in one. Olive tossed her hair and daintily lowered herself into the second. Gabrielle stood timidly for a moment, then slowly moved to the third chair and sat down.
"Well, right," she began, "Um, first, could you tell me the... the name of your... your... play... thing?"
"Of course," Olive smiled, tossing her hair again, "It's called A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare."
"Can't get much more predictable than that," Nathalie mumbled.
Olive rolled her eyes, "Nathalie, stop being bitter. Just because you wanted to do No Exit..."
"It would have been fantastic!" Nathalie cried, "An avant-garde play- educate these little brats! I..."
"So anyway," Olive interjected, "There are tons of roles, if students want to try out. It mainly revolves around two couples, but there's this subplot with a play at a wedding, and..." she waved her hands, "It's just hilarious."
"Um... cool," Gabrielle said, "Could you tell me about... your production?"
"I will," Nathalie said forcefully, "We're thinking of doing it in December, but that's debatable."
"Debatable," Olive repeated for effect.
"Our version of Midsummer is going to be completely student-directed," Nathalie continued loudly.
"Entirely," Olive emphasized.
"By me!" Nathalie shouted, so loud that it seemed silly when Olive added quietly ten seconds later, "By her."
Gabrielle leaned far back in her seat. She knew coming here was a mistake, but this girl was seriously starting to scare her, "So... um... how about the... technical aspect?"
"Oh! Yes," Olive clapped, standing, "My sister is working the lights, and she's in the tower right now. I'll get her to show some of the plans to you!" She moved swiftly off the stage and dimmed the house lights, which lit the auditorium. "OCTOBERRRR!" she called.