Carol Salazar-Roberts was totally screwed.
Nini had decided to have a cast & crew pre-show party, two nights before opening night, because they all needed their rest the next day. Carol and Dana had said she could, but only if they were there to supervise. They promised to stay mostly out of the way and check up on them every hour or so. Nini had agreed. Enthusiastically. She had squealed and ran to call everybody who was coming right away, so Carol thought that meant their compromise was a good one.
But then the day of the party, Dana had a last minute call into work, and that’s when Carol realized she would be left alone in a house full of teenagers, and she resigned herself to a stressful night full of out of control over-dramatic teenagers.
It didn’t end up being as bad as she was expecting, though. The group dutifully stayed mostly downstairs, keeping to the living room and kitchen. Carol checked in on them every 45 minutes to an hour, and they seemed to stay pretty calm-ish.
She could tell they were all nervous for the upcoming opening night, though that didn’t seem to stop them from playing some intense board game. (?) Carol would never have played board games by choice as a teen, but she had never been into theater the way Dana and Nini were. Maybe it was a drama thing?
She poked her head in again to find two boys doing some sort of dance-off while the rest cheered them on. One of them was Big Red, and the other was a darker skinned boy with glasses who she didn’t recognize. The Glasses Boy was clearly winning, but Big Red was evidently a much better dancer than she ever thought him to be. She let them finish, then did a quick head count. “I’m only counting nine heads, you guys. There should be ten. Where’s the, um, the blond boy?” That’s who was missing.
“Seb’s in the bathroom, Mom,” Nini said.
“He’s been in there a while, though,” Glasses Boy said, looking worried, even as he sat down and took a sip of water, recovering from the rather impressive dance moves he’d been showing off. “Maybe I should go check on him?”
Carol wondered how long ‘a while’ was. “No, that’s okay,” she told Glasses Boy, who had already stood back up. “I’ll go check on Seb. You guys keep playing, uh, whatever this is.”
“It’s the High School Musical board game!” Kourtney called. “Carlos made it.”
“Oookay, then. You guys keep playing that, and I’ll make sure Seb’s alright, okay?”
Glasses Boy hesitated. He clearly was more worried than he wanted to admit. “Hey,” Carol said, trying to make her voice gentler. “I’ve got this, um, what’s your name?”
“I’m Carlos,” he said. Oh. The one who made the game, then. “Alright,” Carlos conceded. “Just make sure he’s okay? He’s been really anxious about the show lately.”
“Of course,” Carol promised, even though she had not come prepared to comfort children about singing and acting tonight. She left the room and went through the kitchen to the half bathroom she had given the teens permission to use. She knocked on the door, more nervous than what was probably reasonable. Dana always dealt with feelings and comfort better than she did.
There was silence for a few seconds before a voice she assumed was Seb’s came back through. “Carlos?”
“No, Seb, it’s Carol, Nini’s mom. I came to check on you. Carlos said you’d been gone awhile. He was worried. Everybody was.”
There was another long pause before Carol heard the lock click, and the blond boy she vaguely remembered from when everyone arrived stepped out of the door. His eyes were red, and his hair was messy. He had obviously been trying not to cry, and not quite succeeding. “Sorry I worried everyone,” he said, looking at the floor.
Carol’s heart melted, her mom instincts kicking in. “Oh, Seb,” she said, guiding him to sit with her on the floor in front of the bathroom. Not the most comfortable place, but the boy looked like he might either fall over or throw up if he didn’t sit down pronto. “Now,” she said, smoothing his hair the way she used to do for Nini in seventh grade when she had a pixie cut. “What’s wrong? Carlos said you’d been nervous for a while. Opening night jitters?”
Seb darted his eyes around the hallway, looking at the pictures of Nini and the rest of the family on the walls. “My parents bought tickets for my whole immediate family, which consists of them and my five siblings, three older, two younger, so, a lot. The oldest two are coming home from college to see me, and it’s kind of a lot of pressure, especially because I haven’t exactly told them who I’m playing yet. I think they just assumed I was playing Ryan, because everyone just sort of does. I don’t exactly know why; Rico is amazing at being Ryan, but I guess I fit the stereotype better.”
Carol did not know a ton about High School Musical. She didn’t grow up in Salt Lake, and by the time the movies came out, she was too old for them, and she had only ever watched the first one twice, with Nini over five years ago. But she vaguely remembered the characters, enough to remember most names and faces. She remembered Ryan as the brother of the mean drama girl, Sharpay, and as the guy who wore hats.
“Who are you playing?” she asked. She knew Ricky was playing Troy and EJ was Chad, and she couldn’t remember any other important male roles that would cause Seb to freak out so much. Or maybe he was nervous because he didn’t actually get a main role. Did he think his family would be disappointed if he wasn't in a leading role?
Seb stared at the wall and took in a sharp inhale. “Sharpay,” he said. “I’m playing Sharpay.”
Carol was speechless for a moment, thinking about the courage it must have taken to even try out for that role in the first place. She regained her words quickly though, thankfully. “That’s amazing, Seb,” she said gently, watching Seb’s panicked eyes turn hopeful. “That’s a really big role, and you must be the best person for the part by far, or they would have given it to some random half-decent girl with an awful voice, wouldn’t they?”
Seb blushed. “Well, I wouldn’t have even been able to try out if it weren’t for Carlos, and no matter what he says, I still don’t totally believe he had no say in the casting.”
Carol looked at Seb knowingly. “Well, I don’t know Carlos very well, but you seem to, and do you think he’s the type of person to lie about that?”
“Well.... no,” Seb admitted. “Carlos usually says exactly what he thinks, and he doesn’t care what anyone else says about it. I wish I could be more like that.” He looked wistful, and Carol remembered that feeling of wishing so badly to be able to just be herself and not being confident enough for it.
I think you’re getting there,” Carol said, smiling. “And I think you’ll be a lot less nervous if you tell your family who you’re playing before opening night.”
“Probably,” Seb said reluctantly.
Carol patted his shoulder. “If anything goes wrong, you’re always welcome here. And I have a feeling Carlos feels the same way.”
Seb finally smiled, and Carol almost fell over because no wonder Carlos was so worried; that smile completely transformed the boy’s face. Wearing it, he looked like sunshine rather than the stormy cloud he was before.
“Thank you, Mrs. Salazar-Roberts,” he said.
“Um, Carol’s fine,” she called after him, as she watched him make his way back to the living room.
When she watched Seb as Sharpay in the Musical a few days later, she couldn’t quite contain her happiness, and she might have squealed. But only Dana ever had to know that.