Chapter 1

( Lena )

"Anywhere you go, let me go too

Love me—that's all I ask of you…"

I sang my heart out, as the cliché goes. But the panel of judges who decided which "auditionee" stayed and which would go—I called them the musical jury, but not to their faces of course—merely thanked me and told me the results would be posted on Monday. I bowed my head—showing a little respect never hurt—and left the stuffy room. I needed water desperately.

Thankfully, my savior was there, waiting for me, holding out the much-needed bottle of ice-cold water. I seized it and gulped down at least half of it before I became intelligible again.

Mario, my current roommate and saving grace, grinned at me. "Had enough yet, you crazy gel? You've drunk enough to feed a family of four for a month!"

"That," I gasped out, wiping my mouth, "doesn't even make sense." I jerked my thumb in the direction of the exit. "C'mon, let's bust this joint before I lose my mind."

"Aaaand action!" replied Mario, and we went out into the crisp autumn air. Once we were outside, I started twirling, my arms extended and my face up to the cloudy sky. I was beaming. I stopped only when I started to get dizzy.

Mario grinned and said, "So it was a good audition, huh?"

"One of my best!" I shouted gleefully. "Okay, sure, so the musical jury didn't look overly thrilled—but I might have at least landed Meg, or Madame Giry. And if all the other girls suck—I'll be singing 'Think of Me' to a cheering crowd!"

I loved musical theatre and have loved it since I first heard the theme song to Phantom of the Opera, which is my favorite all-time musical. So naturally, when I heard that Vassar would be putting on a show of Phantom, I had to try out. I've been told my voice is made for the part of Christine, the lead female, whose high notes knock the audience out of their seats. I hoped the musical jury thought the same, because to play Christine would be a dream come true.

"Your eyes are sparkling," Mario observed. "Are you sure you're not on drugs?"

I laughed and punched him lightly on the arm. He winced. I smiled and said, "Well, Mario, even if I do land Christine, I can tell you'll be there for me to bring me back down to earth."

"What else are friends for?" he asked innocently. Then, answering his own rhetorical question, "Wait, I know! Friends set friends up on dates with other friends."

I shook my head. "You almost lost me there. No, how many times have I told you, you'll only get a broken heart and a deflated ego if you keep chasing after Ryan."

Mario pouted. But he had heard this before. Sometimes I've wondered if he had finally given up chasing after the straight man. But then again, if Mario didn't chase after straight men, he wouldn't be Mario!

My roommate was gay, and he has probably never so much as touched the metaphorical closet in his life. Quite the contrary. He's publicized his sexual preference to anyone who would listen—and, very often, to anyone who wouldn't. He was known around the college as "the flamboyant Italian kid," even to those in other years. He was damn proud of the title, he said, which he deserved after all of his "hard work."

Unfortunately, he's been in love with my friend Ryan since they had first met, and he made no secret of it. And Ryan definitely did not return Mario's affections at all. Not even "one teensy bit." I knew that because Mario had asked him. Several times.

Though Mario bugged me a lot to set him up on a date with Ryan, we both knew it was a hopeless case. Mario only brought it up as a joke.


"Oooh, it's four o'clock!" Mario said eagerly, looking at his ridiculously large watch. "C'mon, let's go!"

"Why the rush?" I asked, genuinely puzzled.

But Mario, who was already running across campus, only panted out, "Radio…show…now!"

I was still confused, but I followed him anyway, jogging until we reached our dorm. It had taken a lot of cajoling to convince the Vassar dorm officials to let us share a double this year. They didn't usually approve of co-ed rooming. Yet, strangely enough, they seemed to accept that Mario's gayness and my straightness would be safe. Mario was as harmless as a girl.

That was actually what he'd said to persuade the officials. Then he'd added that it was the lesbians sharing a dorm they had to watch out for…at which point they'd agreed to let us room together and dismissed us immediately.

So now, we arrived at our dorm, which was hopelessly messy, as most college dorms are. Mario practically soared over all the junk to reach the radio. He turned it on, and a song burst forth. I immediately began singing along:

"Staring at the blank page before you,
Open up the dirty window,
Let the sun illuminate the words that you cannot find—"

Mario, however, looked disappointed as he sat down on the edge of his bed. I stopped singing and shot him a grin.

"Why the long face, bub? You'd give a horse a run for its money."

"Hardy har har," Mario said dryly. He pointed to the radio. "I was expecting—well, don't you know anything? This is Raphael's shift. His afternoon show. The only time of day I hear his angelic voice…"

"Oh, him," I snorted. "Pretty boy Raphael? Mr. Radio Personality?"

"The same," Mario said dreamily.

"Well, you've a better chance with him than with Ryan. I'm pretty sure he's gay."

"Ryan?" Mario asked hopefully, deliberately misunderstanding.

"No. Raphael. All the girls adore him, but I'll bet money he doesn't adore them. Just wait and listen."

"I hope so," Mario said eagerly. "I mean, he's downright dreamy."

I rolled my eyes. "He's downright conceited."

Actually, I had been one of those ladies who'd adored him, when I was a young and foolish freshman. Eventually I learned how disgustingly self-centered he was, and quickly developed what I like to call an "anti-crush." All my feelings of admiration towards Raphael reversed and I began to look down at him. Not long after, Ryan and my other friend Pam shared with me their conviction that Raphael was secretly gay. It took me a while to be fully convinced—he was Mr. Radio Personality, after all—but now I was sure he was definitely bisexual if not completely gay. Not that I had anything against that. Look at who I was rooming with!

Mario never knew of my past embarrassing crush on Raphael. I meant it to stay that way. Still, I smiled knowingly as Mario continued to praise the wonderful rising deejay, his hot voice, and his sparkling personality. I'd sung that tune before.

At that moment, the "dreamy" man himself came on the air. He spoke in a low and sultry tone, as if he was truly trying to seduce everyone who was listening. "Hello, ladies and germs, you're listening to WVKR-FM, Vassar's esteemed radio station. I'm Raphael" he rolled the "r" in his name, making Mario sigh, "your local radio angel. Well, it's that time again. Time for the Movie Corner, baby, the on-air discussion of movies new and old. Today's genre is…" he paused dramatically and rustled some paper, "romantic comedy! And the random movie is…" again the suspenseful pause, "50 First Dates! Starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, this is the touching yet comical story of a man who couldn't settle or stay committed until he met that special lady, who happened to have short-term memory loss and could never remember meeting him! C'mon now, who couldn't love this movie?"

"What the hell kind of a straight man watches chick flicks?" I asked rhetorically. Mario shushed me.

"We open up the lines…yes, hello, you're on Raphael's Movie Corner. What's your name?" The way he asked the question made it seem like a pick-up line. I rolled my eyes.

"Jemimah," said the caller.

"Well, Jemimah, what did you think of 50 First Dates? Isn't Adam Sandler fabulous?"

At this, I raised my eyebrows at Mario, who merely gave me a stupid grin. It takes one to know one, I guess…

"I thought it was a horrible movie, 'cause no man would evah go to that length to get a woman. I mean, Drew's charactah was just a gigglin' bimbo with mem'ry loss, and this guy comes along and instantly becomes obsessed with her? Nuh-uh. That stuff don't happen like that."

"So you thought it was too unrealistic?" Raphael asked.

"Yeah, it ain't like that."

"Fascinating," Raphael said, and I had to give him points because he truly sounded like he meant it, even though he probably didn't. At least the kid could act. "Thanks, Jemimah. Next caller. Hi there, who're you?"

"I'm Kayla, and I think that 50 First Dates is one of the best movies ever. Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler are so cute together!"

"I'm smarter than those ditzes," Mario said, and before I knew it, he was picking up the phone.

Meanwhile, Raphael was agreeing with Kayla's statement, albeit in a more intelligent-sounding way. "They do have pretty good on-screen chemistry."

"Yeah, and I practically cried when she broke up with him. That was so sad!"

"So you'd say they portrayed their characters well enough to get the reactions they wanted from the audience? Pulled the audience's heart-strings, so to speak?"

"Yes, definitely."

"Delightful. Thanks, Kayla. Next caller, hey there, how you doin'?"

Mario nearly squeaked. He managed, somehow, to say, "I'm good."

"Who's this?" Raphael sounded a little surprised. Perhaps because he was hearing a male voice on the other end of the line?

"Mario," my roommate said, trying his utmost not to hyperventilate.

"So Mario, what'd you think of our movie?"

"I adored it," Mario said. "The story was moving, the actors were talented, I loved the animals…"

Raphael chuckled. "Ah yes, the animals were excellent comic relief there."

"I thought all the characters were really well developed, not just the main characters, but Lucy's father, the diner-owners, even Ten-Second Tom! Plus, seeing Sean Astin get beat up like that was just priceless."

Raphael laughed appreciatively. "I agree, the characters were marvelous creations. Thanks for sharing, Mario. Next caller…"

I grinned at Mario as he hung up the phone. He immediately started jumping up and down, and continued to do so until his feet caught in some clothes on the floor and he toppled over. I laughed out loud, not truly concerned because Mario was always unharmed. Indeed, he looked up with a sheepish smile on his face.

"I adore him," he whispered, and I smiled.

"Who knows, Mario? He seemed to like you too. There might be a hot relationship in the future…"

"Don't say things like that, Lena," Mario moaned. "They might not come true."

I walked over to him and patted him on the head. "I tell you what, Mario, if I get Christine's part, I'll do my very best to set you up with Raphael."

"You will?" Mario asked, excited, looking up at me with dancing eyes. But then he frowned. "Wait, that's not very fair to me. The chances of your landing Christine are really slim…"

I punched him again, and he cried out, though I didn't hit him hard. "Thanks," I said sarcastically. "Where's the support, Mario? Where's the love?"

"Invested in Mr. Dreamy right now," Mario said happily. "Our local radio angel."

"Archangel," I corrected him. Mario gave me a weird look. I suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, it's almost 4:30! I promised Jenna I'd meet her to talk about our Modern Dance project!" I bounded out the door. "Meet me at the College Center in an hour, 'kay?"

I didn't even hear his answer as I rushed out of our dorm room. I couldn't quite say why I was in such a rush. It wasn't even 4:30 yet, and Jenna was usually a little bit late anyway. I supposed I just didn't want to talk about Raphael with Mario anymore.

I was inexplicably reminded of Phantom of the Opera. And for some reason…I didn't like that.


Sorry, that was kind of a sucky ending to a first chapter. I was having trouble ending it. But aside from that…what do you think? Like it, love it, leave it? Am I getting a "Hooray, Rhea Larkin, please continue!" reaction, or a "Geez, Rhea, what's your problem, go back to reviewing!" Whatever your opinion is, PLEASE review…if I don't get much feedback, I get a little discouraged. I'm only trying to improve myself, after all. So yeah. If you read this, please review, it only takes a minute or two of your precious time, and each review means the world to me. ) I love you all! Hearts and cookies and heart-shaped cookies to you!

Rhea Larkin

Special Notes: WVKR-FM is the real Vassar College radio station. However, Raphael's show, including his Movie Corner, is completely fictional.

The College Center is a place where Vassar students can hang out and eat at places such as the Retreat, which serves basic food like hamburgers and salads, or the Kiosk, which is basically a little coffee shop. Other places on the Vassar campus for students to eat include the ACDC, which is NOT a band; it stands for "All Campus Dining Center" :