I hate winter; it's cold, long, and wet – snow always ends up in the least likely of places, making you uncomfortable and awkward for either the remainder of the day or until you can make it to the bathroom to sit under the hand-dryer. Whichever comes first. The end of winter is always the worst, too. Instead of snow, which is sometimes powder, and as a result not really that bad, there's slush. Brown, disgusting slush piled up on the sidewalks and roadsides. And instead of real snow, it's half-rain half-snow, which is worse because it soaks through material much, much quicker.
Thankfully, my obsessive compulsiveness slash slight (ha!) perfectionism results in me getting to school at least ten minutes before the first bell. And that's only if I miss the first bus and I'm running late: usually, I get there at least fifteen minutes before necessary. So on those cold, late winter days when I stumble in chilly and miserable, I don't have to suffer for another six hours.
Today I had arrived precisely eleven minutes before first period and snow had somehow ended up soaked through the back of my blouse. (How that happened, I'll never know, seeing as I was wearing a heavy jacket over top of it; but that's beside the point.) As per the usual routine on Those Kinds of Days I went to my locker and then straight to the bathroom. I was wearing a heavy t-shirt under the shirt, which had somehow stayed dry throughout my trials, so I took the damp article off, held it under the hand dryer and waited.
There were quite a number of girls in the washroom, but then again, there always are so early in the morning. Certainly anyone who managed to get here before the bell didn't have time for adequate hair and make-up.
"I'm so beating out April this year," someone said.
I blinked, trying to ignore the fact that my name had been mentioned; surely there was another April, somewhere in the school. And even if the girl was talking about me, I wasn't naïve enough to turn my head and get into a fight about it. An early morning bathroom cat fight would be talked about for weeks.
Another girl assumingly replied, "I dunno, she did pretty well last year as Eliza…she was perfect!"
I couldn't help but beam at the word usage.
"You saying I'm not good enough?"
It was obvious they were talking about me – I had played Eliza last year – and I could hazard a guess that the gossip was none other than Dawn Henry and that she was talking about the play auditions after school: A Midsummer Night's Dream. I wondered, vaguely, if she knew there were two female leads and that her threats were all for naught. Whilst no one was really a better actress than me, she was still a fairly close second; we would both undoubtedly get large parts.
Dawn, I must explain, seems to be the only person alive who hates me. Not just hates: abhors, despise, and loathes above all else. She's a perfectionist and overachiever akin to me, but not quite as successful; I've beaten her out for many a play part and choir solo since High School's humble beginnings.
As Freshman, we were in the same Math class and competed for the top grade. I ended up with a 99, a result of a little effort - Math is, and always has been, easy for me. Dawn ended up with a 98, much to her dismay, especially since she had put much more exertion into the grade. Ever since then she has detested me like no other.
When it comes to likeability, however, there's no competition – Dawn knows this, and perhaps it's why she fights and loses to me when it comes to everything else. Dawn's a backstabbing, big-mouthed individual. The only reason people surround her is for the related benefits of her friendship; good marks on projects, approval of teachers, and so on.
I sincerely hoped Dawn didn't see me at that moment in time. Attention-seeker that she is, she would be sure to start a scene, a massive fight, or something similar.
Karma, as I have already learned, hates me.
"Oh, Underwood, is that you?"
I cringed: the only person who called by Underwood (other than Tom, but this voice was distinctly feminine and it was after all the girl's bathroom) was Dawn. Which meant she was talking to me. Which meant I had to reply.
"Um. Yes," I said.
Dawn said, "What are you doing here?" 'You' was said in a very unpleasant tone, like one used to describe something particularly disgusting. Like a rotting article of food. Molding bread perhaps.
"Oh, just drying my blouse off," I shrugged, "Winter, you know. It got wet." I was trying my best to be pleasant, however difficult she made it.
"Trying out for the play today?" she fired, curling a strand of brown hair around her fingers. It was long, waist-length like mine had once been; I had to concede that the style suited her better than it had me.
I nodded, keeping my voice casual and light, like friends discussing the weather rather than sworn enemies trying to find something to mock the other for, "Yeah. You?"
"Of course. What part do you want?"
I pretended to consider this for a moment. I sometimes suspected Dawn was well aware of my façade. Maybe because she had once tried something similar, maybe because we were similar people. Or maybe she was just oblivious. Either way, she wasn't stupid; she knew exactly what roles I was vying for. Still, I lied through my teeth, "Oh, you know. Anything, really, just to be a part of the production. Titania might be nice…or maybe Hippolyta…"
"Oh?" she rolled her eyes, "You're not fooling anyone. We both want Hermia."
I was tempted to correct her on this. Although Hermia was the bigger role, Helena was a more entertaining character, depending on how she was played. You can't measure a role by lines; part of it's the personality. I would actually have been fine with either.
My eyebrows raised on their own, which was no small feat. My control is usually flawless, but since this reaction fit the situation, I didn't suppress it. "Oh?"
By now a small crowd had gathered; it reminded me of a cliché High School movie. Dawn wasn't the type to start a physical brawl, but she was well known for the screaming fights that followed her. Maybe everyone thought I would start punching and kicking – I didn't really get into arguments after all, and perhaps that was why the interest seemed to be compiling.
Dawn vs. April: A Better Punch in the Morning than Coffee.
"Everyone knows you want the lead, and so do I. It's not a big deal."
My mind was a constant, throbbing drum, witty (ignored) retorts abound: keep your mouth shut, don't say anything stupid, keep your mouth shut, don't say anything stupid…
"Is that so?" I said, after a vicious, inner struggle. My voice came out strangled.
Dawn continued, "Or maybe it is a big deal. To you, I mean. You might as well come out and say it…"
"No, it's really not that…"
"Then why would you even bother," she snapped, "Taking it from someone who really does want it? Isn't that just cruel?"
"That's not what I meant—"
"Oh? What did you mean? You don't really care but you'll rip the carpet out from everyone else anyways, you'll crush their hopes, their dreams, their spirits, their—"
"Shut up," I half shrieked, my voice coming out much more biting than I intended, "Stop trying to instigate something. You're being completely obvious and everyone knows just how obsessed you are, so shut up."
This entire monologue was said in a half-yelling, half-threatening whisper. Don't ask me how that combination works out, but it sounded entirely threatening. Which wasn't, in fact, my intention. I had meant to calmly tell Dawn to back off, but something in me had snapped.
I blame Tom Patterson. Or lack of caffeine.
Dawn had pushed me in similar ways before, after all; it wasn't like this sort of taunting was new. I usually just ignored it and moved on, but apparently today I had different plans. Maybe I was just tired of it all.
Dawn looked thoroughly shocked. She wasn't used to dealing with people who talked back to her; she usually picked victims who kept their mouths firmly shut, who didn't stand up for her.
The semi-circle of girls who had been watching the exchange all wore looks of glee or something similar; two Sophomores even started applauding. One girl whistled.
"You'll get what's coming to you," Dawn said, tossing her hair across her shoulder, sticking her nose in the air, and marching out of the washroom, her friend trailing behind her.
"Careful you don't trip," Someone said.
Dawn let out a shriek of rage, and punched the door open so hard and fast that it hit someone outside in the face.
So much for a dramatic exit.
"So I hear you punched Dawn Henry out in the bathroom this morning," said Tom Patterson, settling into a seat beside me.
School had been less brutal than I imagined; people were less shocked with my outburst than impressed. - I'd even gotten a few high fives, and many thanks for telling off "the wicked witch". I hadn't expected the tale to spread so far so quickly, but then again, this was High School. People don't come to learn about English and Math; they come to learn about what so-and-so did with what's-his-face at that-one-guy's party last weekend.
Indeed, my little explosion in the washroom hadn't been reputation-ruining, as I originally feared; if anything, it made people like me even more. There's nothing to be said against telling off people everyone dislikes, I suppose. Although I still wish it hadn't happened.
"I didn't punch her out," my tone was testy; I had responded to similar statements all day long, each accusation growing more and more ludicrous, one boy going as far to ask if it was true I had sent Dawn to the Emergency Room, "I simply…um…had a nice talk with her."
"Right. A nice, loud, menacing talk," Tom sniggered. I didn't know why he was sitting beside me; when it came to plays, he usually helped with the technical side of things and that meant he wouldn't be needed until rehearsals started. It didn't concern me, however, so I didn't ask. The less talking to Tom Patterson, the better.
"You should lower your voice, you know," Tom said thoughtfully, "We could hear you halfway across the school."
"Oh, well," I muttered, nodding towards the stage, "There's Mr. Ford. Guess we better stop talking, huh? Shush now." The Drama Director had just walked on the stage, effectively ending the conversation.
The thing I liked – or at least respected – Mr. Ford for was that he was an all-action sort of teacher. There wasn't any "hey, let's talk about the play, its themes and goals, and dance and frolic around merrily, ladeedum". No. Mr. Ford just marched up there and said (and I quote) "Hey I've got a list here. If you're not on the list, too bad, you should've signed up for auditions. It's too late now. Dawn, you're first, so get on stage and read this." He handed her a paper.
Dawn practically bounced down the auditorium aisles, up the stairs and onto the stage. She held the script in front of her, squinting slightly at the words, mouthing them out, and making a rather large production of it all.
It was at this moment I realized Dawn could be a fierce opponent for Samuel's Drama Queen title. The thought was frightening.
"Whenever you're ready," Mr. Ford said, waving his hands and lowering his pen to his clipboard.
"Okay," Dawn said, taking a (fake) wavering breath and clearing her throat, "Sorry, I'll start." She took a long, drawn out pause. "How happy some o'er other some can be…"
Dawn spoke with a quavering, nasally tone and over-dramatized the part completely. In other words, she was perfect for Helena and would most certainly get the role. How disappointing. For her, I mean. I take great pleasure in observing her frustration.
The next to go was Noah Roberts, who had played Pickering in last year's production of Pygmalion. He was a fairly good actor, those as per the usual trend of High School productions, the female leads greatly outshined the males.
After Noah came a slew of Underclassmen, none of whom particularly stood out except a girl named Deidra, who was the only one able to speak her lines with confidence. Next was Oliver Doyle, a Senior who had never auditioned or even participated in a Drama production before. I wondered, vaguely, why he had come, but it was not my place to ask and I was perfectly comfortable keeping my mouth shut. Then there were a few younger kids and a few our age, none of whom were particularly fabulous, though some stood out more than others, not that I cared to pay much attention.
Then there was me. Since Dawn had already claimed Helena (not that she was aware of it), I decided to keep my performance a bit lower key. Although everyone ready the same monologues - girls all read Helena's "oh-Demetrius-why-are-you-into-Hermia-I-mean-seriously-she's-ugly" speech, and the boys read Puck's famous "My mistress with a monster is in love." – it was the inflections and character in the lines that were more important.
My performance was, in my humble opinion, stunning. Or at least it was better than everyone else's: that's what you get when you Google monologues the night before and practice them obsessively. I saw Mr. Ford nod his head and scribble something down, smiling, after my first line.
I could only take it as a good sign.
"Well done, Underwood," Dawn hissed after I finished and was walking down the aisle back to my chair, "Except for that mess up on the 'winged Cupid' line. I'm sure no one noticed your stumble, don't worry."
I ignored her; there was no need for two control losses in one day. Surely, that would be a bit much for my adoring masses.
After me there was three more Freshman. The one directly after me lost herself completely after the third line, and looked as though she were about to cry. I wondered if my excellent performance had destroyed her self-confidence, and instead of feeling guilty, felt slightly proud. (I told you I was a bad person.) The next was a boy, gangly and in the midst of a growth spurt; he did well, perhaps as good as some of the older students, though he wouldn't get a lead simply because of his age.
The last person to read was Tom. I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from making a snide comment when he stood up and walked to the stage. Thank lord for some self restraint.
To my surprise, he was fairly talented, and even worse, he seemed to realize it; after he finished, everyone began expressing their surprise and he just smiled smugly. I could have sworn it was directed at me, too.
Mr. Ford finished writing something on his clipboard and then headed back to the front of the room and leaned against the stage, "Okay," he said, "Good job. Well, for some of you, at least. The call backs will be posted up tomorrow. If you're on the list, show up after school. If you're not, don't come cryin' to me. The cast list will be put up the next day." He paused, "That's all. You can leave."
Those familiar with Mr. Ford chuckled; everyone else just looked confused at his brashness.
As I exited the auditorium, I made a mental checklist of what I needed to do: English assignment, check my History paper again, go for a run tomorrow, tutoring, and call Sam.
And practice my lines once I get my script, of course.
I made my way to my locker, the hallways now relatively empty; school had ended about an hour ago, after all. No one stuck around this long.
I twisted the lock and flung the door open, considering what text books I would need, exactly, for the night's work.
"You auditioned for a play?" someone, a girl, said.
Just because I don't gossip, doesn't mean I don't eavesdrop; I listened with faint curiosity, hoping they wouldn't notice my presence. They were walking down the hallway over, presumably to the main doors; they probably didn't realize how much voices echoed when the school was vacant.
"Um. Yes. Why are you here so late?" another voice said, this one male. I recognized it to be Tom Patterson, having had to listen to his Puck monologue not five minutes ago; from this, I deduced the other voice belonged to Vivian Lee. The two were best friends after all. And the voice did seem overly perky.
"Working on some pottery for Art class. And I need a ride. But don't change the subject: why'd you try out?"
"Um," said Tom.
They were further away now and I struggled to hear them; anything Thomas Patterson interested me greatly. Blackmail and or extortion might be necessary in the future. I heard their footsteps stop and the clank of metal; one of them had opened their locker. Good. I got to listen for longer.
"Really, Tom?" Vivian said, chuckling, "Are you really that bad?"
"It's not bad!"
"You're right. It's puppy love. It's adorable."
"Shut it!" Tom said, sounding half amused and half frustrated, "Someone'll here."
Vivian snorted, "Really, though, April Underwood? It's not like you have a chance anyways."
It was at this point I closed my locker and quickly escaped through the school's side door. I wasn't quite sure I wanted to hear anymore.
As contradictory of my usual manner, I wasn't quite sure what to think, either.
Author's Note: Wait, an update? Where's the blue moon? Umm yeah. I might edit this a bit later, as there are a few things I don't like. But I knew if I didn't get this up now, it would pretty much be ignored forever. I'll try to update again soon. You know, not three months from now. Although December will probably be the earliest, since November is dedicated solely to NaNoWriMo. Which reminds me: I should probably finish that outline.