Unless some magical wizard swooped down from space, kidnapped my teacher, flew her to Hogwarts and held her for ransom, the spring play was sure to be disaster. Miss A, the Dramatic Arts advisor, who was-like-my age, never seemed to know what the hell she was doing.
It was really, kinda annoying.
To be perfectly honest, theatre had never been my thing. This was partly due to utter disinterest, partly because of my near-crippling stage fright. But mostly because theatre students at school were generally the most unlikeable breed of humans on earth.
There were two types. Type A: elitist snobs with perfect lives. Or, type B: way-over-the-top attention-seekers-like a vicious clan of Miley Cyruses. Quite naturally, I actively avoided them and have been successful at it for the better part of my high school career, if I do say so myself
Recently that had made impossible by my school counselor, who brilliantly thought to inform me that I needed to take a drama class to satisfy all of my enrichment credits in time for graduation. As I sat with the chin on my palm and wondered how I'd gotten trapped in such a useless, mindless class, I conjured up an image of his unsympathetic face. Then I mentally cursed whichever spiteful administration employee was responsible for our school's graduation requirements and pretty soon, the slow and painful decay of my sanity.
There was one thing about the class I was interested in.
Getting A's was my thing. So whenever an assignment had been due, I'd complied to the best of my ability. This included the time she's asked each of us to draft a short play of our own. She was planning on using the best one in the next spring production. At the time I couldn't but feel motivated to win her little competition. What had I to lose anyway?
Today she'd given us her decision, and I surprised myself by being disappointed and furious-which had only been possible because I'd allowed myself to trust her. I'd trusted her to make an honest, conscientious decision that would reflect her otherwise imaginary professional expertise, but she totally and deliberately betrayed me.
When the word 'winner', followed by two other words that sounded like Leo Zachary escaped her lips, my jaw swung open and stayed there as I desperately tried to comprehend what had just happened. Even after I saw his gloating face stand up from his seat that afternoon to receive the applause…I still-couldn't-quite-send-the information to my brain, so I just continued to stare with my mouth open for a little while longer.
There was only one thing anyone ever needed to know about Leo Zachary. He who I had valiantly endured for the past three years, just so happened to be the most arrogant, malicious, metro-sexual waste of air that had ever walked the planet. He was famously talented in the art of being a total ego-maniac slash compulsive instigator-which was almost always directed at me. He couldn't go three seconds without seeking attention for himself if he tried. Frankly, there were just so many things wrong with the kid that it was hard to imagine him succeeding in anything because he was too busy being a jerk.
Too many times in the past had he bullied me, called me names with his equally despicable friends, and made me feel inferior in every sense of the word. Too many times has he deliberately and maliciously exposed every bit of insecurity I'd ever had and threw it up in my face just for a laugh. He used to target me so monstrously that there were times that I thought I really hated him.
Thankfully, I'd put those years behind me. In fact I'd grown and matured so much that it felt like forever ago-though it was unlikely that he had changed much at all. Despite all of this, my indignation at Miss A's decision wasn't rooted in prejudice, regardless. The real problem was that she literally leading the theatre department down a road to its own demise. The real problem was that his play was, to put it simply, crap. His plot was crap. His characters were crap. And his title was just plain stupid.
Shadows of the Sun?
That—that didn't even make any sense!
"Wonderful, wonderful job, sweetheart!" Miss A said, clapping along with the rest of the classroom. "And now if everyone'll get settles I'd like to get straight to work." She stood at the podium in the front of the classroom, the setting sun spilling through the shades. Her stance erect and eager, Miss A appraised the class. She lived in a world of perfection. She was petite and cheery, with childish, round eyes and long, blonde locks. When she went to work, I bet it didn't even feel like work to her because everything was so fun. And when she was done, she probably skipped home as she sang for birds and the rats on the street because her life was just so freaking awesome.
"We'll need volunteers after school every day of the week. I put up a sign-up sheet in the back of room," she continued animatedly, "and from now on this class will meet in the auditorium where we'll work on costumes and set design, okay?"
I had to hold myself back from groaning out loud. She really was going to go through with that god-awful play.
The large class murmured a nonchalant affirmative, through nearly half of them were absorbed in their own whispered conversations. Miss A, who seemed unbothered by her lack of classroom management skills, happily passed out set construction safety worksheets. For the rest of the class the students socialized and answered comprehension questions.
Well, they socialized with each other. I never really fit in with drama kids and didn't pretend to. Even though everyone wore the same indigo and grey uniform, they made sure it looked better on them than on anybody else, as if by law. I, for one, was glad I never had to worry about any of that stuff. Since I couldn't afford to live in the dorms, I took the bus to school and couldn't be bothered with time-consuming activities like fixing my hair. Chin-length and sandy blonde, it was fine the way it usually was, thrown up in a bun or something. And trying to put on makeup would be a failure from the start, since I was practically blind without my glasses.
For the most part they simply ignored me. Even the kids who, like myself, were only in this class because it was required—which I only found slightly disappointing. Even Leo had barely spoken to me at all since sophmore year, which was very much appreciated. Still, it was extremely difficult to forget one's conduct and character just because that person suddenly decided to treat it as if it'd never happened. I certainly did not.
They sat huddled amongst each other as I sat quietly and worked. Diane, a heavy-set girl the next seat over with soft red hair who rarely ever said much to anyone, surprised me by whispering, "Sorry she didn't pick your play. I think Miss A has some favorites in the class," she made a show of discreetly pointing at Leo, who was apparently saying really funny to the group of people behind me. They all laughed in way that made obvious they wanted to be heard so the rest of the class could tell what a wonderful time they were having.
I shrugged, though I appreciated her comment and smiled despite myself. "Well, that is a very valid point. But it's really no big deal. I'll get over it," I replied sincerely, realizing the second I said the words that they were true. I would get over it. Nothing besides my ego was really damaged.
She seemed to be encouraged by my answer and added after a moment's pause, "I heard she's planning on giving us a lot homework this semester."
At this I had to groan out loud, shooting daggers at the teacher who was currently sitting at her desk concentrating hard on something. "As if I didn't have enough homework from my other classes that actually have value." I massaged my eyelids.
"You could just quit, you know that right?" said a voice behind me. I started, and my eyes flew open to find him staring right at me expectantly. He seemed to have made his way behind us when he'd gotten up to sharpen his pencil at a nearby counter. He was lean, with pointed features and dark, tousled hair and fell into his eyes.
Surprised and a little confused, I responded. "I can't. It's a class, remember?" I tried to make my less-than-loving sentiments apparent in my tone.
"So drop the class," he shrugged, seeming not to notice.
"How 'bout I drop this conversation?" I turned away and faced forward again.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I don't even know why I even bothered to be nice to you." His tone was now exceedingly derisive. Familiar.
"Oh, you mean eavesdrop on me?" I said with my arms crossed, still not looking at him.
"It's not eavesdropping if China can hear you bitching," he growled.
Then it was my turn to roll my eyes. Diane was stunned into to silence, watching intently at the exchange. "I think it's high time you buy yourself dictionary-since you obviously don't know the meaning of the word 'nice'."
"I think high it's time you drown yourself in the sewage-since you'd obviously be doing the world a favor," he replied sweetly as he started to walk away.
I turned back around and blinked at him. I'd forgotten how volatile he was somehow. Then I composed my features, making a considerable effort not to sound nasty. "Listen, I didn't take this class to bicker with you. That was my mistake-"
"Let's be honest," he said, pressing his lips together, "your whole life has been a mistake."
"Can you leave me alone?" I said finally.
"Sure. Let me just stab my face with this pencil first. That'll teach me to never say anything you to again, 'cause you're still annoying as hell," he continued.
"Pfft. Can't be more painful than reading your amateur play," I couldn't help but add, smiling to myself.
His face betrayed no emotion, but I could see that that had got to him. Faint color had risen to his olive-toned cheeks. He looked like he was trying very hard to control himself. I waited.
"I don't know how or why you got a copy of my draft, but out of all the names I've called you in the past, stalker was not one of them until now."
I tried not to show the rush of emotions that had arisen at his reminder. "Oh, please. Don't flatter yourself. Miss A uploaded them all on the class website," I interrupted. But he had his back to me and was already halfway back to his seat.
"Have a nice life," was the last thing I heard.
I shook my head, and tried in vain to try to refocus on my sheet. He was just so uncouth and rude. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen that coming-that I actually started to wonder somewhere in the back of mind if he'd somewhat improved on his character.
I snorted to myself.
Like that was ever going to happen. I shook my head again, disappointed in myself for how much I actually cared. Insufferable prick. Nothing more. Nothing less.
"Whoa," Diane said, trying to keep herself from laughing. "I've never seen him that mad before," she whispered even quieter than before as if not to attract his attention again.
I continued to to write on my sheet. "Yeah, well…he still sucks at writing."
And then we both snickered, later lapsing into comfortable silence till the class ended. I released a huge sigh of relief at the bell, signaling the end of a long, arduous week. Just a couple more days and it would be the beginning of another, long and arduous week. Strapping my backpack onto my back and heading out the door with the rest of the students, I heard a soft, soprano voice from behind me.
"April, can I talk to you for a sec?" Miss A called to me.
My initial reaction was apprehension, though I didn't quite know why. Her mannerisms annoyed me, yes. That couldn't be helped. But there had never been a time that Miss A tried to deliberately wrong me—that I knew of, at least. I made my way over to her desk, watching her closely.
She smiled at me, "April, you are such a talented writer."
"Thanks," I said as I prepared myself for an unwelcome pity spiel.
"Believe me, picking just one play was so hard. They were so many good ones!" she continued, a small, unnatural crease on her forehead.
"No-really. It's okay." I forced.
She beamed again. "I wanted to ask you something." Miss A jumped up from her seat, and came closer.
I frowned, curious, but at the same time slightly uncomfortable with the proximity. "Sure."
"April…would you be interested…in directing the play this season?" she said, nearly bursting with excitement.
"Me?" I pointed to myself.
"You want me to direct?"
"Well, co-direct," she allowed.
"…Why?" I said finally, the pitch of my tone rising at the end.
"Well, I every day I see how hard you work and I just thought you'd make a wonderful addition to the team."
"Well…uh. I-I...thank you," I said, blinking like an idiot. "I mean, I've never...done anything like this. Ever. I'm not really a team player as you probably have seen" I let out an awkward laugh, referring my lack of relationship-building skills which usually caused me to sit alone in most classes including hers. I was hoping she'd understand but she just kept smiling as if not having heard me. I realized she had never even noticed that or anything else about me other than my grades.
"Trust me, you're perfect for it. So what do you say?" Her bright blue eyes were wide, and for the first time ever I felt like she was actually looking at me.
I frowned again. For what reason could I possible be interested in being a part of that? It was a terrible idea. An insane idea. But then again, if I had creative control there was a chance that the play could be saved. With me on deck, there was less likelihood that the show would be a train wreck.
Not that cared, of course.
I cursed inwardly, angry at the unexpected uncertainty.
I wouldn't actually be doing anything that would make me uncomfortable-I would be in the backseat. Out of the limelight-yet conspicuously in control, making all the important decisions. At that moment I realized how attractive the notion was to me.
I looked at Miss A's expectant gaze. "I—I mean, I guess. Sure," I said, surprising myself.
She clapped her tiny hands together, "Wonderful! We'll need to start right away, so be in the Fine Arts building straight after school on Monday so we can begin the audition process. You have a copy of the play, don't you?"
I nodded, feeling a tiny bit of excitement bubbling inside.
"Good. Bring that, pen and paper, and some coffee. It's going to be a long day," she sang.
"Okay. See you then."
"Wait a second. Before I forget…" I said, turning back around. "Who will I be doing it with again?"
She had sat back down on her desk and was writing something down. "The author of the play, of course. Two great minds think alike, right?" she said happily.
My head spun. I stared at her.
"I still can't believe how well this all worked out!" she clasped her hands together, dazed.
She was rubbing her chin with her thumb and her index finger, "You know, now that I think about it, you two will be spending a lot of time together. Here, I'll give you his number. Why don't you two grab a bite to eat this weekend and get to know each other better?"
I was horror-struck into silence.
"Hey, it's okay if you're a little shy. He's the sweetest little thing, you'll see." she placed a hand fondly on the right-side of her chest.
I stared at her, shaking my head slowly, incredulously. What a sick, twisted thing to say.
Forget the play. Forget him. I just wanted to get out of there. But what could I say? I had already agreed to my own demise. Suddenly I wanted to be invisible again.
"See you Monday!"
All the way home I numbly repeated the same question to myself over and over. "What have I done?"
AN: Thanks for reading! Reviews are appreciated! XD