Eddie Blake didn't really know what the hell a “History Fair” was, or what the point of it was supposed to be, but his school was having one. And normally, this was the sort of thing he would have nothing to do with- hell, he probably wouldn't have even known it was going on under normal circumstances, but he stared down at the sign-up sheet he had been given, and reminded himself that these weren't normal circumstances.
He couldn't suppress a snort when he saw that the sheet called itself a “volunteer form”. It wasn't exactly volunteering if you were being made to sign up, after all. And he was most certainly being made to, because his school had decided that detention “wasn't working” and that having kids who got in trouble “work it off” would make them more “productive members of society”. With this history fair coming up, the school was desperate to get participants, and since he was always in some form of trouble or another, his punishment was forced participation.
The only problem was, the school's desperation for participants had paid off, and a lot of the events were filled up. Pretty much anything that sounded like it would be easy and not completely lame was gone, and the only remaining events were all things that sounded miserable to Eddie. He doubted he could be allowed near any of the booths that would be selling food without starting some sort of fire, and the artsy stuff was out of the question too, considering he could barely even read his own handwriting, much less draw anything.
He was beginning to think he might have to settle for one of those, and hope that the members of his group would let him get away with slacking off, when he read the description of the play. Though he definitely did not consider himself an actor, the description said they were also looking for people to help with set building, and he could at least do heavy lifting, and could probably figure out how to build something, if he really had to.
Sighing, he went to write down his name, and then he saw the name written in the space above his. Sally Jupiter . Everyone knew that Jupiter wasn't her real last name, but it was a hell of a lot easier to pronounce than her real one, and she was an aspiring actress, and claimed that she needed to start using her stage name now. She was, without a doubt, the most gorgeous girl Eddie had met, and there were plenty of people in the school who would agree with him there.
Sally was a sophomore, which made her a year older than him, and he didn't get to see much of her. If doing this little play meant that he got to see more of her, then he was almost grateful that he was being forced into this.
Nelson Gardner was a senior, and he was excited about the history fair. He had every right to be, considering he had written the short play that would be performed, and would be directing it. The young man had always considered himself a natural leader, and this project was going to be proof of that.
He'd chosen to write his play about the Revolutionary War, about the role the Minutemen had played in particular, and he was sure that it would be one of the better attractions that the fair had to offer. All he had to do was make sure that his actors knew their lines and that his set builders got the set done on time and that he could work out something for costumes, and everything would be perfect.
Sally Juspeczyk hoped that her stage name would appear on the program of this little play. She was only a sophomore, but she was sure that she was the best actress their school had to offer. But, because she was only a sophomore, she had yet to get a lead in any of the school's production, because the drama teacher tended to favor the seniors when it came to casting.
This play was being put on by a student, however, and the last time she'd checked the list, she'd only seen one other girl's name written down- some Ursula Zandt- which meant that she didn't have much competition for the female lead. She wasn't sure what the female lead would be, but that didn't really matter to her; all great actresses could handle any role thrown their way.
Bill Brady was so close to his scholarship that he could practically taste it, but despite the fact that it was supposed to be based on his athletic merits, the university was claiming that they were looking for athletes who weren't “just athletes”, and that a more well-rounded application would make increase his chances. Community service was the obvious choice, and the history fair gave him a chance to also get acting under his belt at the same time.
He had never done any acting before, unless Sunday school plays in elementary school counted, but it was just a student-written and student-directed production, so he didn't think it would be too much pressure. And as long as he had something to write down for his application, his actual acting skills didn't really matter.
Rolf Mueller didn't look for fights, but it was his senior year, and they still managed to find him. And sometimes he didn't get caught, sometimes the situations were “resolved” before anyone caught wind of them, but other times he was not so lucky, and that was how he ended up forced to sign up for the history fair's play.
Byron Lewis wanted to act, even though he had never admitted it to anyone before. He was sure that he'd be pretty good at it, but he had a tendency to get shy, which meant he had a tendency to get stage fright, which meant he had never done a school production before. Now that he was a junior, he was running out of time, and he had finally gotten up the nerve to sign up for something.
Sure, it was just the short play that the history fair was putting on, but it was something, and if he went through with this, he would prove to himself that he could do this sort of thing, and maybe then he would be able to do a real school production. All he had to do was get up the nerve to say that he wanted a speaking role, and not back down and claim to just be there to build sets.
Ursula Zandt was padding her college application. She was a junior, which meant that it was time to get serious, and she wanted to get into the best school she possibly could, with the biggest scholarship she could possibly obtain. Community service was never a bad option, and when she saw a play listed as her choices for the history fair, she decided that adding theatre experience to her resume would only make it look even better. Even if she just got stuck painting sets, she was sure that it would only help her out in the end.
Hollis Mason really thought the history fair sounded like a lot of fun, and from the day it was announced, was sure that he wanted to participate. When it came time to sign up, he was the first person to volunteer to work on the play, because the description said that they were looking for set builders. He thought that he could have a good time doing something like that, and he'd probably get to watch the actors practice while he worked.
All in all, it sounded like a good deal, and he would get to meet new people as well. He was a junior, and he didn't really know anyone outside of his class, and within his class, he only really knew those he had gone to school with since elementary. It would be nice to get to know others, and he found himself excited.
Nelson watched the door, waiting as people filtered in. Today was the first meeting of the people working with him on his play, and he was excited to get to meet all of them and figure out how all of this was going to work. He would tell them about the different parts, figure out who wanted a part and who was here for building, and explain his overall vision for the play.
When there were seven other people in the room, which was how many names he had on his list, he stood up and said, “Alright, so, I think everyone is here. Well, as you probably know, I'm Nelson Gardner and I'll be directing this play. Before we get started, I'm going to call roll to figure out your names.”
Looking at the list, he said, “Hollis Mason?” A brunette smiled and raised his hand, and Nelson went to the next name on the list. “Byron Lewis?” The dark haired young man who raised his hand looked a little nervous to be there, and Nelson wondered if there was something bothering him. “Sally Jupiter?”
He knew of her, and had recognized her immediately. She had curly red hair and was pretty well known for her looks around school, and even though she was only a sophomore, there were a lot of guys who had their eye on her. Nelson wasn't one of them, but he knew that she had expressed an interest in acting for a while, and it was no surprise that she was here.
“Bill Brady?” Nelson knew Bill as well; they were in the same grade, and Bill was a star athlete. Not exactly a theatre type, but everyone was welcome. “Ursula Zandt?” The dark haired girl had a pointed face and looked a bit impatient. Nelson had never seen her before and was sure that she was an underclassman, but he still felt somewhat intimidated by her.
But that was nothing compared to how intimidated he felt by the next name on his list. “Rolf Mueller?” He was in Nelson's class, though Nelson didn't know him well, and he was tall and he was vaguely terrifying, and he was almost definitely here as a part of the school's plans to have students get involved with community service rather than just being forced to attend detention.
The final name on the list, Eddie Blake, belonged to a young looking guy, with a lazy grin and shaggy brown hair. He had to be a sophomore, at the very least, if he wasn't a freshman, and he smirked a bit when he raised his hand, as if laughing at his own private joke. If Nelson had to guess, he would say that this Eddie fellow was here for the same reasons as Rolf, and he hoped that neither of them would make any trouble for him.
“Alright,” he said, “I'll do my best not to get any of you mixed up, but if I do, feel free to correct me. Now, as for this play. I'm sure you all know that I'm the writer. This play is going to be about the Minutemen, and there will be a few key roles.
“First of all, we have the lead role, a brave soldier who has to keep the group together. Another crucial role is his best friend, the man who supports him and helps him keep his head high even as he struggles.” Nelson couldn't help sounding a little proud of himself, as he believed that his script was a pretty impressive one. “There are parts for enemy soldiers, and always room for a few bit parts if the need arises. The script is open to revision. Any questions?”
“Um, yeah, I have one,” said Sally, raising her hand. “What about the leading lady?”
“What about what?” asked Nelson, confused. “There aren't any female parts. It's a play about soldiers in the Revolutionary War. I figured you and Ursula would work on painting sets or something.”
“What?” she asked, looking more than a little outraged, and Ursula's expression seemed to match.
“Absolutely ridiculous,” said Ursula.
Even Byron Lewis muttered something, shaking his head, and Eddie Blake snickered, saying, “Strike one, eh, Nelly?”
“I don't...I didn't think that would be...a problem?”
“Not a problem?” Sally practically shrieked. “There's going to be a lot of problems if there aren't a lot of 'revisions' to your little script! I didn't sign up for this to get stuck painting sets, and so there'd better be a female lead!”
“I'll, uh, I'll see what I can do,” he replied, feeling very singled out and very uncomfortable. He had completely lost his train of thought, and he decided it might be time to cut the meeting short. “Well, I think it might be time to let you all go early. Please, take time to think about what sort of part you'd like to play, and we'll begin assignments at the next meeting.”
One by one, they all shuffled out, Ursula giving him a sharp glare before doing so and Sally going on to anyone who would listen about how she wouldn't take part in this if there weren't a female lead for her. Hollis Mason ended up listening to the brunt of her rant, and when everyone was gone, Nelson sunk back down into his seat, sighing. This might be a little more difficult than he originally thought, and now he had to shoehorn in some sort of leading lady.
“It's a total shitshow,” Eddie said, laughing and shaking his head. “This Nelson guy has no idea what he's doing. I swear, the guy still thinks it's the forties or somethin'. Ya shoulda heard the way he talked to Sally! Tellin' her she an' this frosty junior bitch couldn't be in the play cos there weren't women in the Minutemen or something.”
Edgar Jacobi laughed as well. He was Eddie's best friend and partner in crime, and had, unfortunately, not been around to get caught for the prank that had landed Eddie in this predicament. And, being the good friend he was, Eddie hadn't exposed the other boy, so he was suffering punishment alone.
“Yeah? And what'd Miss Jupiter have to say to that?”
“She raised hell about it, of course. Now ol' Nelly is gonna try to write in a part for her, which is almost enough to make me wanna try acting, if you know what I mean.” Eddie snickered.
“Oh, come on. There's no way a girl like her would give you the time of day, onstage or otherwise, and she's a sophomore! You better not get your hopes up about this one.”
“Hey, ya never until ya try, and you lose every fight ya don't show up for,” he said, grinning at his friend. “Just you wait and see.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Eddie. I almost wish I was doing this stupid play, just so I could watch you humiliate yourself over Sally,” said Edgar with another laugh.
“Yeah, well, you shoulda ended up in the same boat as me, so consider yourself lucky I didn't rat ya out and quit givin' me reason to reconsider,” Eddie replied, only half-joking.
Oh no, the Bill/Byron too cute for me, I'm out of control
Byron didn't mean to be early to the next meeting for the play, but he ended up the first one there besides Nelson himself. He was more nervous than he had been the last time, because today would be the day of auditions, which meant today would decide if he finally got to try his hand at acting and if he would be made to speak in front of a lot of people, or if he would just stick to the background like always. It felt like forever, waiting for all of the others to trickle into the auditorium, and when they all had, Nelson asked if they would come and sit in the front row together.
Byron went for an end seat, as did one of the seniors, Rolf. Next to him was a space, and then Hollis, and next to him was Sally, and the freshman had scrambled for the seat on the other side of her. There was a space between him and Ursula, and then a space between her and Bill, who ended up sitting next to Byron. Nelson stood on stage, smiling at them as he began to speak again. “Alright, so I hope you all thought about what you want to do in the show. If you're interested in having a speaking part, please raise your hand.”
Sally's hand shot into the air and she wore a determined, defiant expression. Byron hoped that Nelson had sorted out the little issue of not having any female roles, or he was sure there was going to be some sort of conflict. Not that he could blame Ursula or Sally for being upset; he was completely on their side, he just wasn't a fan of conflict when he could avoid it.
Bill raised his hand as well, and Byron realized that this was his only chance. Slowly, he began to raise his own hand, but he thought about just reading lines in front of everyone in the room. He thought about reading lines in front of a jock like Bill, like reading them in front of someone who really wanted to be a performer like Sally, or reading in front of people as intimidating as Ursula, or Rolf. And that freshman, Eddie, seemed to like laughing at just about anything. Byron lowered his hand, hoping that nobody had noticed him even thinking about trying.
He felt someone nudge him, and looked over at Bill, who was giving him an encouraging smile. “Hey,” he said, “if you really want a part, you should put your hand back up.”
Byron hesitated, but Bill just kept smiling at him and he finally broke their awkward eye contact to look back up at Nelson and raise his hand. They were the only three to raise their hands so far, and Nelson said, “I did some editing to the script. Our main character will have a love interest, so, Sally, that does mean there's a part for you to try out for. Ursula, would you like to try out for the part as well?”
“I'd rather not,” she replied. “It's better to have no part than to be stuck in a love story that was just shoehorned in.” Nelson looked a little embarrassed, and Byron had to hold back a laugh.
“Uh, alright,” he said. “Alright, then how about we get auditions underway?” He paused, then said, “Is there anyone else who wants to try out? We have two more speaking roles to fill at least. Anyone?”
There was a pause before Hollis raised his hand, saying something about being willing to help out, and then Eddie's hand shot up and he glared at Hollis from behind Sally, as if challenging him directly. If she noticed, she didn't do anything to indicate it, but she seemed like the person who wouldn't mind having a few boys competing over her. She was certainly pretty enough to earn that sort of attention, but Byron had never been able to fall for the girls like Sally.
Really, if he had to pick between her and Ursula, he would have gone for the latter, no matter how intimidating he found her. In fact, it seemed that “intimidating” was his type where girls were concerned, which might explain why he had never managed to find a date. As far as his type where guys were concerned...he was doing all he could to ignore the way Bill's smile was affecting him. If he didn't think about it too much, he might be able to get through being in a play with him without turning into a nervous wreck.
“To start off, we'll do some cold reads from the script. Bill, Byron, will you two read some lines for me?” asked Nelson, and the two of them stood up and walked onto the stage. Byron was trying to keep himself from shaking, but he noticed that his hand was trembling a bit as he took a script from Nelson.
They were told what scene to run and which characters they would be, and then Byron did what he could to clear his mind of everything except the words on the page and the character who was supposed to be saying them. It was a little rough at first, as his voice shook and he had a hard time looking at Bill, but once he really got into it, he found himself forgetting everything else, even managing to to see Bill only as the character he was supposed to be playing.
Part of it had to be just how surprisingly good at this Bill was. He seemed to get into character without a problem, and was so damn convincing that it was hard not to go along with it. By the time they reached the end of the scene, it felt weird for Byron to return to the real world, and he felt his face go red as Sally applauded wildly. Hollis gave an earnest clap as well, which meant that Eddie started up not long after him, but it didn't seem entirely insincere. Even Ursula looked a bit impressed, and Nelson beamed at the two of them.
“That was incredible, you two! Really, that was great,” he said with a smile, before telling them they could take a seat, and then he called up Eddie and Hollis to run through the same scene. It did not go nearly so smoothly for them, as Hollis hesitated when trying to figure out what emotion to put into his speech, and Eddie was over the top, like he was trying to make everyone laugh. When Sally giggled a bit, it only encouraged them, and Nelson looked relieved when they were done with their scene.
After that, he had Sally run through a scene with both Bill and Byron, trying each one of them out as the main character to see what their stage chemistry was like. Eddie looked irritated that he wasn't being considered, but Byron figured it served him right for not taking things more seriously. Once again, it was easy for him to get in character, and found he was a little less nervous acting opposite Sally than he was acting opposite Bill, but watching Bill and Sally act together was something else entirely.
She was every bit as talented as she claimed to be, and Bill couldn't seem to turn off his charisma, making it impossible not to get drawn into his scene, and the two of them had stage chemistry that would have made Byron feel a pang of jealousy if it wasn't so beautiful to watch, and if there was anything to be jealous of in the first place. He had to remind himself that he and Bill had just met.
“I think we're just about out of time,” said Nelson. “Sorry for those of you who didn't want an audition, but next time I'll have plans for sets and hopefully even supplies so we can get to work on those. I'll also have the finished cast list and we can begin official rehearsals!”
“That was fun,” said Bill, surprising Byron as he walked out of the auditorium with him. “I didn't think I'd enjoy acting that much, but it was great. Boy, that Sally sure is something, huh?”
“Uh, yeah,” he agreed. “Yeah, she is.” Now that the magic of the stage was gone, the closeness between Bill and Sally was starting to bother him, but he wasn't sure why and, once again, he had to remind himself that he didn't really know Bill at all.
“You were great too. I'm glad you decided to try out. No offense to the kid, but I'd really rather not have to act with that freshman clown.” Bill gave him a warm smile, and Byron really thought he was going to die, right then and there. Or maybe he already had, he wasn't quite sure.
“Th-thanks,” he said quietly, relieved to see that they were at the door and he could make his excuses. Turning and mumbling a quick goodbye, he walked down the hallway, going the opposite direction of the parking lot, as if he needed something from his locker. Anything to get him out of the conversation before he said something stupid or exploded.
When Byron was alone, he could finally let himself breathe, and when he had himself completely calmed down, he couldn't help his excitement. Today had gone really, really well for him, and he had had a lot of fun during his audition. He was sure that he would have a lot more fun in the play, but he was also sure that he would have to get this budding crush on Bill under control soon, before it got out of hand.
Short update here after a year and a half lmAO
okay a few things! First, I used to write in past tense, but I will be going back to edit the first three chapters, because from here on out, we're doing present tense, please bear with me as the change comes.
Second, I wanted to just leave this abandoned cos it's ridiculous and i fucking hate it but I'm committed to finishing everything I start, so i'm gonna try to finish it by summer to have it off my conscious
At the next meeting of their history play practice, Sally knows that she has absolutely nothing to be nervous about. Though she was the only girl to try out, and is basically guaranteed the lead role as a result, she is fairly confident that she put on the best audition either way. Really, Nelson is lucky to have her for this, and lucky she didn’t walk out over his initial mistake with the script.
“Alright, so,” he starts, “it took a lot of consideration for some of the roles, but I think that we’ve put together a pretty good cast for the show here! I’m sure it’s no surprise that Sally will be playing the female lead, and as for our main hero, that role with go to Bill!”
Sally turns to give her co-star a smile, not really surprised that he was the one chosen for the part. Though Eddie was funny at times, he could never take the role seriously, and Hollis seems born to stay behind the scenes, so both of them were out. Byron...Byron was surprisingly talented, and she wouldn’t have minded working opposite of him either, though she thinks she and Bill will make the better stage couple.
As she thinks about Byron, Nelson goes on to mention him, saying, “And for the leading soldier’s closest confidante, the role goes to Byron! Eddie and Hollis, you will both be filling the roles of the enemy soldiers.”
“No accountin’ for taste,” Eddie says with a snicker, and Sally wonders if he was actually serious about it.
“Additionally, it would be nice to have the stage look a little more full,” Nelson continues, looking more nervous as he goes. “I’m willing to play a bit part of a background soldier to help with that. There won’t be any spoken lines, most likely, but it would be great if all of you could help with that.”
First, he turns his attention to Ursula, saying, “I know you had some...issues with my script, but would you mind too terribly to play a soldier? Like I said, it would just be a bit part.”
Sally has to hold back a laugh at the look the other girl gives Nelson, and he looks terrified as he waits for her response. “If it’s necessary,” she finally says with a sigh. “But I’d rather stay behind the scenes for as much of the production as I can.”
“Of course, of course,” he says, looking relieved. “It really will be a minor role, you won’t even have to speak, I promise. Alright, that’s two of us…” Nelson trails off, and if Sally thought he looked terrified trying to talk to Ursula, that is nothing compared to the look on his face when he realizes that he will have to ask Rolf as well.
“Um, and what about you?” he asks.
“What about me?” It’s clear that Rolf is just messing with him, which only makes it more difficult for Nelson.
“We, uh...we need bit parts,” he says, as if planning to explain it all again. “Ursula and I have both agreed to play them…do you think you’d be able to do something like that as well?”
Rolf leaves an even longer pause than Ursula did, and Nelson looks like he’s holding his breath while he waits for a response. Finally, the other boy says, “I’m already being forced to be here, so why not? If everyone else is doing it.”
Nelson visibly deflates as he gives a sigh of relief, before saying, “Thank you so much, both of you. It’s difficult pulling something like this together with such a small cast, but we’ll pull it together!”
He goes into more detail about how the leading roles will practice, and at what point they need to have their lines memorized, but Sally decides to practice plenty on her own, so that she can have her lines memorized before anyone else. She wants to prove that, though this is her first leading role, she is no amatuer, and that she was born for the spotlight.
After that, he gives a list to Hollis, saying, “These are the sorts of sets we need. We’ll be getting supplies to work with in the next couple days, and you can start making plans based on that. I don’t know how much we’ll have to work with, but as long as you can scrape something together that kind of looks like what we need, then I’ll be happy with it!”
“Yeah, I’ll definitely see what I can do,” Hollis replies. “I won’t have a lot of lines to memorize, will I?”
“No, no, your role won’t get in the way of your construction,” Nelson replies. “You’ve got nothing to worry about there. Most of the practices will focus on the leads, so you can work on sets whenever they’re busy.”
“Alright,” he says with a smile, “that’ll be great!”
“Of course, whenever anyone isn’t practicing, I’d like it if they could help you out with building sets as well, so feel free to ask anyone for help.” Nelson gives everyone a smile, and says, “Now, does anyone have any questions?”
Sally speaks up, saying, “What about costumes? Where will we be getting those from?”
“I’ll be getting clothes from the drama departments, with their leftovers from older productions,” he replies. “It won’t be much at first, but I’ll be working on them to modify them, and hopefully make them suit the production more.”
“So, basically, you’ll be makin’ costumes?” asks Eddie with a laugh. “That’s very manly of you, Nelly.”
“Don’t tease him, Eddie,” Sally cuts in. “I’d rather have him working on costumes than not have anything at all. How else are we going to shine, if we don’t have good costumes? In fact, if you need any help, I’ll be glad to, whenever I’m not busy!”
“Thank you so much, Sally,” says Nelson. “I really appreciate that.”
“I was just jokin’ around,” Eddie mutters, before laughing again. “But, yeah, whatever, everyone’s gotta pitch in somehow I guess.”
“Any other questions?” When he is met with only silence, Nelson says, “Alright, if that’s the case, then I’d like to ask my three leads to stick around and run lines for a little bit, get a feel for working together, but if the rest of want to head on home, you can.”
Needless to say, Ursula and Rolf leave not after that, but Eddie hesitates for a bit, looking as if he wants to say something. Sally gives him a wink, enjoying the way she can make the wannabe punk blush, but he doesn’t actually say anything to her, and just heads home.
“If you don’t mind, I think I’d like to watch for a little bit,” Hollis says. “Just to get a feel for how everything looks on stage.”
Sally decides to give him a wink as well, before getting up on stage, and he is just as easy to make blush as Eddie. She’s here to prove herself as a star, but it looks like there’s a little more fun to be had.
“Byron, can you speak up a little?” Nelson asks. “You’ll have a microphone during the performance, but if you mumble like that, it still won’t pick up your voice well. You need to speak clearly, and project your voice, as if you’re trying to make it carry without a microphone.”
“I’m sorry,” Byron says, and he tries clearing his throat. They’ve been running lines for a bit, and every time, Nelson has had some sort complaint, and Byron knows exactly why. He knows that he’s not doing well because, despite how he managed to pull it together during his audition, the pressure of practicing in front of others is getting to him.
It’s obvious that it’s getting annoying, and he can tell that Nelson is trying to hide his annoyance, and Sally isn’t even trying to hide the fact that she’s exasperated. After all, the longer they take to get through his parts, the longer it is before she has her chance to shine. He knows that he’s just holding everyone back, and that he probably shouldn’t have tried out in the first place. Just because he was able to keep it together for auditions doesn’t mean he’ll be able to every time he has to act in front of other people.
“Can’t we just get on with it?” Sally groans. “If he isn’t ready, he can practice more at home.”
“Now, now,” Nelson replies, “we need to give everyone their turn. I’ll keep working this scene until we get it right.”
“Whatever,” she says. “I’d like to actually make some progress today, so maybe I’ll go practice on my own.”
“Whatever you need to do,” he replies, not sounding interested. “Now, Bill, Byron? Let’s try that scene from the top again.”
“Come on, you can do it,” Bill says, but there isn’t a hint of exasperation or condescension in his voice. He just offers Byron a smile and says, “Remember how you knocked everyone dead at auditions?”
“I don’t know about that…”
“Well, I do,” he says. “It’s no different than then. Right now, it’s just us, and even when we perform, it’s not that big of a deal, right?”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Byron mumbles. “I don’t normally have to talk in front of crowds this big.”
“Me neither, actually,” Bill says with a laugh. “But I know worrying about that doesn’t help. Just get into character and focus on that, or focus on me, if you have to!”
A part of him wants to say that that’s only going to make it more difficult, but he doesn’t want to admit to that out loud. He doesn’t want to admit that, while having the others in the show watching is hard enough, somehow Bill’s presence is the biggest problem, because that would be outright admitting to something that he hasn’t even admitted to himself yet. But it’s not going to be much longer before he’ll have to, the longer they spend this time together. Eventually, it’s going to be impossible to deny that he likes Bill.
For now, he can’t keep holding practice back, and he tries to take Bill’s words to heart. It means a lot that the other boy isn’t annoyed with him, and that he seems like he genuinely wants to help and encourage him, and that should be enough to get another decent performance out of him, at least for the day. When they start the scene from the top, he clears his mind, and tries to put himself back to where he was during auditions, and he begins to speak more clearly.
It’s difficult to put himself out there while he’s acting, and harder still, knowing how far his feelings for Bill go, but he also doesn’t want to let him down, and that pushes him to work harder. He doubts he’d have the slightest chance with someone like Bill, and he knows that this crush is utterly hopeless, so he knows that he’ll have to keep it to himself from here on out.
Still, having a little extra motivation does help him, and Nelson has less and less complaints as practice goes on.
Sally detaches herself from the group before Byron gets his little confidence boost, and goes to find Hollis, who is already working on building sets. He pauses to smile up at her when she approaches him, and she hands him her copy of the script.
“I’ve got one somewhere around here,” he says, looking confused. “Did I need it for something?”
“I want to run through my lines, since they’re so busy right now,” she says. “I’ve got them mostly memorized, so you can just use my script. I mean, if you want to help me.”
“Aw, of course I do!” he replies. “I was about to take a break anyway. So, you just start reading your part, and I read everyone else, right?”
“Yeah, just like that,” she says, ready to get down to it. She’s wasted a lot of valuable practice time waiting for Byron to get his shit together, so she launches into her first line, and Hollis struggles to keep up with her. He isn’t the best actor there is, but he’s able to read, and that’s all she really needs. Not to mention the fact that, despite a rather plain appearance, he’s actually kind of cute, or at least she thinks so. That alone makes practicing with him worth it.
“You have to tell me,” she says, still in character. “You have to promise me that you’ll come back to me.”
Hollis opens his mouth to read the next line, but then a voice from behind him speaks. “I’ll do anything for ya, Sal, all you have to do is ask.”
“That’s not in the script, Eddie,” Hollis deadpans, and Sally turns to see the freshman grinning behind her.
“Yeah? And who says I was trying to read the script?”
“She’s trying to practice right now,” he says.
“I don’t know how she’s getting any work in with your acting,” Eddie replies with a snicker. He’s cute too, but in a very different way than Hollis, and even though he’s getting in her way, she’s more amused than anything else. Eddie’s a funny guy, even though sometimes he tries to hard, and she likes him.
She likes both of them, more than she expected, and isn’t that something?
“Why don’t you get back to whatever it was you were doing?” Hollis asks, seeming almost close to losing his patience. “You’re just wasting everyone’s time.”
“Don’t be too mean to him, Hollis,” Sally says with a giggle, and Eddie smirks at Hollis, looking ready to gloat. “And, Eddie, if you’ve got so much free time, why don’t you help us? You probably won’t take reading lines seriously enough to help with that, but you can pick up where Hollis left off with building.”
“Didn’t you just say you’d do anything for me? Don’t tell me that was a joke,” she teases. “Hollis, show him what to do so we can get back to work?”
Eddie looks like he wants to protest, but he doesn’t, and begrudgingly listens to Hollis, and does as he’s instructed. She’s definitely going to have a lot of fun with these two.
Sally knows that she’s gorgeous. She’s always known, since she was old enough, and her looks have only improved as she’s grown. So she knows that she’s popular, and that a lot of guys are probably interested in her, and that Eddie and Hollis are just two of many. With that in mind, there really isn’t anything all that special about them, and for more reasons than just that.
Yes, they’re both cute, but Hollis is plain and Eddie is kind of a brat, and she is definitely out of both of their leagues, by a considerable amount. She doesn’t have much reason to be interested in them, or pay any mind to their interest in her, and, though teasing the two of them is fun, that should be as far as it goes.
But it isn’t, and she is interested in them, and in both of them. She knows that she could easily have either, since it isn’t a big secret that both of them have crushes on her, but that would require choosing one of them, and she just can’t. They’re both so different, and she likes very different things about both of them, and she doesn’t know how she would begin to choose between them.
She’s dated quite a bit in high school, jumping from guy to guy until she gets bored with them, because it’s always been hard for her to choose, but this is the first time that she hasn’t wanted to make a decision, because she doesn’t want to have to move on to the next one too quickly. A part of her thinks that either one of them would be too much fun to let go of too quickly, and so she doesn’t want to rush into anything.
One afternoon, she volunteers to help Nelson with getting costumes ready, and decides to discuss this with him. “And don’t tease me about them being under my league, because I’ve already thought about that.”
“I wasn’t going to, Sally,” he replies with a chuckle. He’s annoyed her at times, but he’s likeable enough, though there’s something about him that makes her think she couldn’t be interested in him. “But I might tease you just for liking Eddie, because, seriously?”
“What? He’s funny!” she protests. “Sometimes he tries too hard, but he’s younger than me, so I can ignore that. Plus he’s so damn cute when he tries to impress me.”
“So go out with him, then,” Nelson replies absentmindedly.
“And forget all about Hollis?”
“You really are something else, Sally.”
“So, what about you? Got your eyes on anyone in particular?”
“No, there’s isn’t any girl I like,” he says.
“Is there a guy?”
“H-huh? Why would you ask something like that?” he asks, not meeting her eye, and she laughs.
“Why did you specify girl, when I never did?” she replies. “You made it kind of obvious, you know. So? Is there a guy?”
“No one in particular,” he says, with a sigh of resignation. And with that confirmation, the feeling that she gets from him makes a bit more sense. “I haven’t liked anyone in a while.”
“Well, that’s boring. When you’ve got so many prospects to choose from…” She laughs to herself and says, “Well, I guess that just means more for me, huh?”
“Considering you like Eddie, I’d say our tastes are pretty different either way,” Nelson replies, and then they both laugh together.
She hasn’t come any closer to making a decision by talking to Nelson, but still, he’s easy to talk to and she’s learned a little bit more about him, so the conversation isn’t a complete loss.
The more they practice, the more things start to look like they’re coming together, and Byron makes a lot of progress rather quickly. Nelson doesn’t know what Bill has been saying to him, but he’s glad that it’s working, because the less time he spends worrying about his leads, the more time he has to make sure that the minor characters are able to figure out what they’re doing. After all, if they are able to get the scenes down, then they can spend more time on sets and costumes.
So today, he is running through a scene with his fellow soldiers, working on the blocking of one of their background scenes. If they can get it all figured out today, then maybe they won’t have to run through it too many times before their final week of practice. Nelson is proud of just how smoothly everything is going with this production, and it is almost perfect timing that, just as he is thinking this, something would go wrong.
He doesn’t hear what happens, just hears Ursula let out a shout, and when he turns, she’s on the floor in front of the stage, her face contorted in pain. Running to the edge of the stage, he looks down and says, “Are you okay? What happened?”
“Tripped,” she muttered, reaching down to grab her ankle. “Fell off the stage. I guess someone left this laying around…” With her free hand, she gestures to a block of wood that seems to have fallen beside her. “I just landed weird, and twisted my ankle.”
“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” Hollis says, looking like he feels absolutely terrible. “That’s my fault, I should have cleaned up better before we started practicing.”
“Can you stand up?” Nelson asks, and Ursula tries to, wincing in pain as she gets to her feet. “That doesn’t look good. I think the nurse is still in, you should go to see her.”
“If I can even get there,” she mutters.
“I can help you,” Hollis offers, “since it was my fault and all. I really am sorry, I-”
“I can help,” Rolf interrupts. “It’ll be easier for me, I think. Besides, you should probably make sure everything else is cleaned up, so this doesn’t happen again.”
“O-oh, I...right,” says Hollis with a nod, looking sheepish. Rolf gets down to help Ursula, and supports her as they walk out of the auditorium together. Nelson certainly never expected Rolf to be the one to lead a helping hand, and even if he was rather snarky while offering, the fact that he offered still remains, and Nelson has to wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye.
When he returns, the cast has gotten back to practicing, and Ursula isn’t with him. He approaches Nelson and says, “The nurse’s assistant is looking at her right now, but she should be fine.”
“I’m glad to hear it! Um...thank you so much. For helping her, I mean,” he says, feeling suddenly nervous as he remembers who he is talking to.
As if sensing this, Rolf smirks and says, “You don’t have to act so terrified all the time, I’m not going to bite you or anything.”
“Right! I’m sorry, I…” He trails off, unsure of what else to say. Rolf goes back to his place, to resume practice as well, and Nelson hesitates for a moment before joining everyone. Yes, there’s definitely more to Rolf than meets the eye, but as for what all there is, he isn’t sure. He also isn’t sure why he’s so curious.
“If you just keep up icing it, you should be fine,” says Amanda, a girl who volunteers as the nurse’s assistant in the afternoons. She told Ursula that they’re open for a while after school now, with all the extra work going on for the history fair, and Ursula is glad that they are. She landed poorly when she fell off the stage, and was afraid that she might have seriously hurt her ankle.
“If the swelling hasn’t gone down and the pain hasn’t gotten any better in a couple days, you should probably go to the doctor,” she continues. “You’re lucky you had someone to help you here so fast, though. Was that a friend of yours?”
“I’d hardly call him a friend,” Ursula replies with a laugh. “Just someone forced into participating in the history fair with me.”
“Forced, huh?” Amanda laughs as well, shaking her head. “Were you forced into it too?”
“No, it was voluntary for me, though it’s felt like a waste of time,” she replies. “I’m doing a play, and the guy who wrote it had to be convinced to even include a female role. If you’d believe that.”
“Sounds like a real blast,” Amanda says, rolling her eyes. “Was that the guy who brought you?”
“No, it’s someone else,” she says, “but he’s not much better.”
“Not a lot of prospects, then.”
“Well, I’m not exactly looking for men.” It’s been about a year since she last stopped trying to hide her preferences, and now, admitting that she’s only attracted to women is so easy that she barely notices herself doing it. She notices a brief look of surprise on Amanda’s face, before the other girl smiles softly and nods.
“Yeah, I can understand that,” she finally says. “I’m not so sure that I am myself.”
Well, this has gotten a bit more interesting.
“Not sure, hm? Maybe you could use some help figuring that out.” Ordinarily, she wouldn’t be so forward, but it’s been a long time since she’s asked anyone out, and Amanda seems nice enough, at least for now. If she’s still in the closet, then it might not go anywhere, but it’s worth a try, just to see what happens.
At the very least, it could be fun, and when Amanda shows interest in her proposition, Ursula decides to ditch the rest of practice.
Byron is proud of how far he has come, and how he has been able to swallow his nerves, if only for Bill’s sake. It gets easier after the first few times, until swallowing his nerves becomes second nature, until there aren’t as many nerves to swallow, and Nelson praises him for his progress, looking very relieved that this production isn’t a complete disaster after all.
But it isn’t Nelson’s praise that’s keeping Byron going, as much as he hates to admit it. It’s Bill, and the way he always smiles at him and tells him he’s doing great, that he just knew he could do it if he tried. He makes for a great motivational speaker, but Byron knows that it doesn’t help that he’s pretty much infatuated. It’s a pretty stupid, hopeless crush, and it’s all he can do to keep from making it obvious, because he knows he would absolutely die if Bill were to find out.
In fact, it would probably ruin what stage chemistry they have if Bill knew, so it’s not just to keep himself from being publicly humiliated; Byron has to keep this to himself for the sake of not ruining the play.
Still, it’s difficult to keep his head straight when Bill says something like, “I’m so proud of you!”
“I...thank you, you’ve really done a lot to help me.”
“All I did was tell you the truth,” he replies modestly. “Everything else was all you, and you’ve done so great. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together for the real show! Oh, sorry, not to pressure you or anything. Just keep things up like this, even when there’s more of a crowd. It’s not that different, alright?”
Bill is always encouraging him like this, and Byron can’t help but feel so lucky every time. He feels like he must have done something special to earn this kind of praise, but he knows that that’s just his bias- his crush- speaking. Really, he needs to get a handle on himself before things go too far.
“We should practice one on one sometime!” Bill continues. “We could go out somewhere, or you could come over to my house, or something.”
Or maybe it’s already gone too far for him.
“Good job on the sets,” Eddie says, and Hollis looks up at him with a scowl. He has to hold back laughter, and finds it hilarious that they’re already to the point that Hollis doesn’t trust anything he says, no matter how positive it may be. At this point, the two of them are like unspoken rivals, because it’s pretty obvious that Hollis is after Sally as well, so Eddie enjoys getting a rise out of him as much as possible.
“Thanks,” Hollis says, not actually sounding all that grateful, before getting back to work.
Snickering, Eddie continues with, “I mean, I know that Ursula is a total pain, but I had no idea you’d go that far to get rid of her! Gotta admire the initiative, right?”
“I didn’t do that on purpose, and you know it,” Hollis says, looking more irritated. “That isn’t funny.”
“I dunno, I think it’s pretty funny.”
“What if she’s seriously hurt? I’m worried about her, you know.”
“Aw, how sweet, but, ya know, pretty sure she don’t swing that way,” he teases. “Besides, I dunno if she’d go out with ya after you broke her ankle like that-”
“Just cut it out!” Hollis says, looking the closest Eddie has ever seen him to losing his cool. Things are just starting to get fun when Sally notices the commotion and comes over to intervene.
“What’s going on over here, boys?” she asks, looking between the two of them. “You could cut the tension in here with a knife.”
“Nothin’ much,” Eddie lies, but he can already tell that she doesn’t believe him.
“Eddie was just leaving,” Hollis adds.
“Really? I thought you were just leaving.”
“So, you’re fighting again, huh?” She puts a hand on her hip and sighs. “What am I going to do with you two? You know it would make me a lot happier if you would just play nice and get along.”
“I’m not the one who always tries to start things.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not the one who doesn’t have a sense of humor.”
“Ah, ah, that’s just like what I said,” she says. “You’re both fighting all the time, and that’s not the way to impress me! You’re both nice enough, so it would make me really happy if you could be nice to each other. What do you say?”
“If he’s capable of it,” Hollis mutters, and Eddie glares at him.
“Yeah, yeah, I can be nice,” he says. Truth be told, he doesn’t know if he can, or if it’s worth it to even try, but if that’s what Sally wants, then maybe he should give it a try. After all, he doesn’t want to lose.
Hollis has no idea what he’s going to do about Eddie Blake.
The freshman has been a pain ever since they both signed up for the same play, and even before then, what Hollis knew about him through reputation was off putting enough. And, since they’re both a little obviously interested in the same girl, Eddie has taken to antagonizing Hollis more than he does most people, and has not been very easy to deal with.
Except now all of that has stopped completely. Now, out of nowhere, Eddie has completely changed his tune regarding Hollis, but, rather than just keeping a respectful distance and not causing anymore trouble, he’s decided that they must be friends. At least, he offers to help with set building more than is necessary, and tries to talk to him way too often.
Obviously, it’s just a big front because Sally told them to play nice, but Hollis never expected him to take things this far. He’s almost even more of a pain than before, faking nice like this, and Hollis just can’t shake the damn kid. More than anything, he’d just like to be left alone, and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do about Eddie Blake.
So he decides to go directly to Sally about it, saying, “He’s taking you a little too seriously, and it’s driving me crazy.”
“Oh, come on, I think it’s cute,” she replies with a laugh. “You wouldn’t really want me to ask him to go back to normal, would you?”
“Maybe not back to normal, but he could cool it a little. Especially since you were just joking to begin with.”
“But I wasn’t joking,” she says, and he pauses.
“Of course not, Hollis.” Sally laughs again. “I really meant exactly what I said. I’d love it if the two of you could play nice and get along a little better. In fact, nothing would make me happier.”
“Now, you can’t be serious about that, me and Eddie are-”
“You’re both very fun boys,” she interrupts, “and both very interesting. It’s kind of cute how you squabble over me, but, like I said, I’d be happier if you could get along. That would make things easier for me, at least.”
“Easier, how?” Hollis can feel himself blushing at her words, but now isn’t the time to think about his crush on her, not when she’s saying such confusing things.
“Because then I wouldn’t have to choose,” she replies, as if it’s nothing. In fact, she says it so casually that Hollis feels like he must have misheard her, but try as he might, he can’t think of anything else she could have said that would have made any sense. Not that this makes much sense on its own.
“Wouldn’t have to choose what?” he asks, knowing that it must sound like a stupid question to her.
“Which one of you I went out with.” And there it is, exactly what he suspected, but what he didn’t want to believe it was real. “If you two could get along, then you’d be able to share, and I wouldn’t have to choose.”
“That’s…” That’s certainly something.
“I hope you don’t think I’m too weird,” she says with a wink. “But, you know, I wouldn’t be too selfish. If you two got a little too friendly...well, that would honestly be even better, wouldn’t it?”
He knows if he asked what she meant by that, he would look like a complete idiot, because, as unbelievable as it is, it’s pretty damn obvious what she’s trying to say. “Now, I’m gonna have to say you’re weird,” he finally says, and Sally just laughs.
“Well, I guess I won’t be too hopeful,” she replies.
Everything is going well, at a steady pace. Things are going just fine, and there is absolutely nothing for Nelson to worry about, and nothing for him to stress over. There is absolutely nothing to stress over, because, if they continue at the pace they are going, then everything will be done in time for the play.
But he’s absolutely stressing out about everything, and whether he has a reason to or not. There is a part of him that thinks that things could be going a little faster, that they should perfect things as soon as possible, that if they don’t hurry, then they’re going to run out of time. At least, this is the way he’s thinking, and every day at practice, he worries that he's going to let onto this or lose his patience, and he doesn't want anyone to know about this.
So he keeps it to himself, or at least, he thinks that he does a pretty good job of it, until someone confronts him about it. He never would have expected that someone to be Rolf.
“You don’t need to worry so much,” he says to him, without warning one day, and Nelson nearly jumps out of his skin. Practice is coming to a close, and the others are starting to head out, while he studies the script, wondering if he needs to change the blocking for an upcoming scene.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he quickly replies, but, considering how jumpy he is, it’s probably pretty obvious now that he is, in fact, as stressed as Rolf assumes that he is. Being mostly alone with him doesn’t really help matters, as he’s still pretty terrifying.
“You’re worried that this isn’t going to get done in time, aren’t you?” He says this as less of a question, and more of a statement, and Nelson feels like he has no choice but to nod. “You don’t need to be. There’s no point in stressing about it if we’re all doing the best we can.”
“Easy for you to say. You’re just here because you have to be,” Nelson mutters, hoping this hasn’t earned him an ass-kicking.
Instead, Rolf offers a low chuckle and says, “Maybe. Still, I don’t think you have much to worry about.” That’s all that he says before he heads out as well, leaving Nelson by himself to continue running through blocking in his head...except Nelson is far too flustered to actually work on anything relating to the play now.
That wasn’t really that weird of an interaction, but from what he knew about Rolf, and what assumed, it was certainly unexpected, and he doesn’t know what to think. All he knows is that his heart shouldn’t still be beating this fast, but even after he’s been left alone for a while, he still finds it very hard to calm himself down.
Just nerves about the show, he tells himself, and tries to put it out of his mind.
Anyone can tell that Ursula has been less of a pain in the ass lately, though no one really knows why. Ever since she came back to practice, her ankle no longer giving her any trouble, she’s seemed happier, more relaxed.
That is why, one day, Eddie outright says, “You act like you got laid or somethin’!”
She just brushes him off, but even that doesn’t seem to set off her mood, which means something is definitely up.
One day after practice, Eddie decides to walk with Sally, and see if he can score some points with her. He’s been doing his best to get super friendly with Hollis, and he hopes that she’s noticed his efforts and is properly impressed. Otherwise, he’s not sure what else he’s going to do to get her to finally fall for him.
Plus, he wants to get some one on one time with her, because if she is falling for him, then it won’t do him any good to spend all his time with Hollis, instead of making the moves on her. So he tags along with her and jokes with her, and loves the easy way he can make her laugh. He starts to think that maybe this is actually going well, and that it’s time to start making a move, when Sally finally speaks up.
“You know, this isn’t fair,” she says.
“What isn’t?” he asks, confused.
“We shouldn’t make too much progress without Hollis around,” she replies. “It’s not fair to him, you know?”
“What are you talkin’ about? I’ve been plenty nice to him, but we don’t need him around for everything. Honestly, I like it better when it’s just the two of us, if ya know what I mean.”
“I do, I’m just not sure you know what I mean, Eddie.” She smiles at him, and he wants to tell her that he has no fucking idea, but since she continues, he’s sure that she already knows. “I have a reason for wanting you and Hollis to get along, but I thought that was obvious. I can’t make too much progress with either of you if the other isn’t around, because that wouldn’t be fair. Just like you two can’t make any progress without me.”
“I...what?!” Finally, her meaning starts to sink in, and he doesn’t know what to think about that . “There’s no way you could...what the hell , Sally?” He gives her a look of disgust. “I’m not like that, you know I’m not into guys, so…”
She giggles and replies, “Well, you don’t have to make any progress with him, just learn how to share. Still, something tells me that you two might be more compatible than you realize!”
“That’s crazy!” he protests, not able to shake the weird feeling that she leaves him with. He doesn’t want to push her away now and mess up his chances, but this is actual insanity! Sally is saying things, and making him think about things, that he never wanted to hear or think about or…
“Just take your time to think about it, Eddie,” is all she says, before she waves to him and says, “Anyway, if you’ve got a lot to think about then I should leave you alone. Besides, we can’t make too much progress, remember!”
But he doesn’t know what to think about, or where to start. This should be the point where he decides to give up on her, because she’s clearly out of her mind, right? Somehow, he doesn’t think that’s going to happen.
At first, Byron wasn’t sure he would be able to survive an entire day alone with Bill, even if they were just running lines, but it proved to be easier, once they got into things. All he had to do was act like he did at practice, and having the distraction of running lines means that he doesn’t have to worry about breaking the ice. The only drawback is that Bill insists that they run lines at the park, which means that they’re always at risk of being seen by other people. Which, Bill says, is exactly the point.
They keep at this for a while, until Byron is able to forget where they are and really get into things, and neither needs to reference the scripts they brought along, both having their lines almost completely memorized by now. They take a break for lunch, going to a small fast food restaurant to eat together, and even then, Byron is so comfortable that he can’t bring himself to freak out about being alone with Bill anymore.
“Do you want to go back to my house after this?” Bill asks. “It looks like it could rain, so I dunno if we should keep practicing outside.”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Byron agrees, a little more nervous now. Will they be alone? Is he going to go to the other boy’s bedroom? He tries not to think too much about it, so that he doesn’t end up freaking himself out all over again, vowing to just keep doing things as he has been.
So they go back to Bill’s house and they run lines, and even try practicing other scenes. Bill convinces him to read some of Sally’s lines to help him perfect one of their scenes, and to have Bill look at him like that, reading such romantic lines, is honestly too much. It feels too sincere, and it’s so unfair, to have his heartbeat speeding up so much over something like this, when he knows it isn’t real.
It isn’t real, he reminds himself, again and again, the closer Bill gets to him, the more passionate he is with his lines. Byron stammers over Sally’s lines, trying to play the part without getting distracted, but when Bill steps forward and presses his lips to Byron’s, and Byron drops the script on the floor.
He doesn’t think there’s supposed to be a kiss in that scene.
But Bill doesn’t stop kissing him, and doesn’t stop after that either, and Byron knows that isn’t in the script, but he certainly has no intention of stopping him once he takes things farther.
To say that she and Amanda hit it off well would be putting it lightly; Ursula can’t recall a time that a first date went so well. If she can call ditching practice to walk Amanda home and stopping for dinner along the way a date. And in the days after that, they begin making plans after school and after practice, and though neither of them has said yet where this is going, she starts to let herself have high hopes.
Until, that is, she finally asks, “Would you like to go out with me this weekend?” She’s more direct this time, hoping that they can progress more from there, and that is when Amanda makes a face, and looks down.
“I don’t know,” is all she says.
“Are you busy?”
“It’s not that, it’s just…” Amanda sighs. “You’re not going to like this, but I don’t know if I want to go out . I know what you want, I just don’t know if that’s what I want.”
“If you don’t like me, all you have to do is say so.” The sudden change in behavior would be strange, if Ursula didn’t know exactly what was happening, and if she didn’t already know what Amanda was going to say.
“It’s not that I don’t like you, I just….I said I wasn’t sure, remember?”
“You’re sure now?”
“No, I’m not! I don’t...I don’t know, but I can’t just...if we go out like that, you’re going to want me to-”
“Tell people about us, is that it? You don’t want anyone to know?”
There is a long, shameful silence from Amanda, and her answer is obvious before she manages to speak. “That’s right.”
Well. Better to get that over with quickly, Ursula supposes.
It isn’t until around dinner time that Bill and Byron finally come back to reality. Byron isn’t sure, at first, how long they lost track of time, but he’s glad to see that it was only a couple of hours. Still, it both felt like an instant and like days, and he doesn’t know what to do now that they are back to real life.
“That was...something,” Bill says, after they’ve been still and quiet for a while.
“Yeah, it was,” Byron replies, not sure now what Bill is thinking. He wasn’t sure in the moment that Bill first kissed him, but for a while there, he felt like he could understand everything, even though they didn’t say much.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t really expect...I don’t know what I…” Bill laughs and shakes his head. “I have no idea what I’m trying to say. That was just unexpected, I don’t really know what came over me.”
“It doesn’t have to mean anything,” Byron says quickly, even though he desperately wants it to mean something. He doesn’t want to push Bill, or do anything to make the other boy any more uncomfortable than he already probably is. “It was just...I don’t know, don’t worry about it.”
“That’s not it,” Bill replies, just as quickly. “I mean, it’s not like that...it’s definitely not like that, By, don’t worry.” Byron almost chokes, hearing Bill refer to him with a pet name. “No, it’s just fast, that’s all. I mean, I was starting to figure out that I, you know...like you. For a little while now, that’s part of why I wanted to hang out with you, I just wanted to see how it would go.”
“Really?” It all sounds too good to be true, to think that Bill was developing feelings for him all along.
“Yeah, I wasn’t really sure what to do, since I’ve never…” He doesn’t finish that sentence, but Byron can assume what he means. “Anyway, I do like you. I guess that’s pretty obvious by now, huh? I didn’t expect to go this far, but if that’s what happened, it must mean that’s what I really wanted, when I stopped overthinking it.”
All of this seems too wild, and Byron wonders if he’s dreaming, and if he’s going to wake up soon, but it all feels too real, even while seeming impossible. He just nods, listening as Bill explains himself. “Still, it’s really fast, and I don’t know...I just don’t know where we’re supposed to go from here.”
“It doesn’t have to go this fast all the time,” he says quietly. “We can slow things down, and just see what happens.”
“Maybe we could see how we are when the play’s over?” asks Bill. “I don’t mean stop everything before then, but just try things out and wait until then to decide if we want to make it official.”
Official? Like they’re going to date for real? This definitely just feels like a dream now, and it’s all Byron can do to say, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. We don’t have to go public or anything, just wait and see.”
He never thought it would be this easy, that, if something happened between him and Bill, that they would be able to talk this easily and settle into things like this. But, then again, he never thought there would be anything between him and Bill to begin with, so there’s that.
Somehow, Rolf has become a lot easier to talk to over time. His brief show of support was enough to get Nelson to want to open up to him more, at least. It starts with just casually mentioning when things are starting to stress him, and turns into Nelson using Rolf as his main confidante as the show continues to progress.
Things are still going well, and Nelson is still stressing needlessly, and Rolf listens, and it’s almost as if the two are friends now, which is very weird, to say the least. But Rolf listens well, and Nelson feels comfortable, and it’s nice to have someone to vent to, even if that someone thinks that his venting is based on unnecessary worries.
“Sally has both those boys wrapped around her finger,” Nelson comments, as he and Rolf watch Eddie help Hollis paint a set. “Things are really weird between them, you know.”
“You’re already trying to gossip with me, huh?” asks Rolf, amused.
“Come on, tell me you haven’t noticed how weird it is.”
“I have, but it seems to be making things go more smoothly, right?”
“Right, right, and I’m really lucky about that,” Nelson says. “Normally love triangles can ruin everything, but Sally is playing them both really well. I think she actually thinks she can date both of them.”
“That’s their business, though, isn’t it? If that’s the way they want to do things…”
“It’s weird, though.”
“There are a lot of things people call weird, don’t you think?” Rolf watches Nelson shrink in on himself, and wonders what it is he’s thinking about. It’s probably exactly what he assumes. “But I do agree that’s pretty weird.”
Laughing, Nelson says, “Of course you do.”
There are times when Nelson wants to gossip about others in the show and times when he just wants to vent his frustrations, and Rolf is there even though he has no reason to be. They’re friends now, as unlikely as it seems, and he wonders how things got to this point.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this is where things went, but throughout the weekend and the next week, Ursula thinks about Amanda and how things went wrong. She shouldn’t be surprised at all, and she should have known better than to chase a girl who wasn’t sure what she wanted yet. The outcome is so cliche it’s almost laughable, but she was hopeful, and things felt like they were going well, so it’s hard for her to laugh when she’s the one who got hurt.
It was just a couple days. That’s what she keeps telling herself, because that’s all it was. For just a couple days, they hung out and talked and got to know each other. She talked about her plans for the future and Amanda talked about her hobbies- other than her work as an assistant to the school nurse, she liked to paint, she was an artist- and she should have known that it would go this way.
There’s no reason to be attached to something that was so brief, and had no guarantee of working out either way. There’s nothing to miss and she’s going to move on, as soon as she stops hurting over it. Sometimes she passes Amanda in the halls; before they officially met, she never noticed her, so she never noticed how often they actually saw each other. Now, she notices her often, and Amanda is always the first to look away, always looking guilty.
Ursula is going to move on, like nothing ever happened, because, really, nothing ever did.
Ursula had been in an amazing mood for a while, making things more amicable. In fact, between that and the work Sally did to get Eddie and Hollis to get along, and Rolf’s unlikely friendship with Nelson, things were going really well for all of them. There wasn’t much conflict at practices, and Sally was happy.
But now Ursula is back to her usual self, or perhaps in even more foul of a mood than usual. At first, she’s just quiet and keeps to herself, but she’s unproductive and if anyone tries to interact with her, she’s short and snappy and sarcastic, and Sally has had about enough of this.
She doesn’t know when she began to feel responsible for the success of this play, or if it’s just a responsibility she only feels when it suits her, but this is her debut role and she’ll be damned if she lets anyone else ruin it. So she has to do something about it, she decides, and she confronts Ursula the next time she snaps at Nelson.
“Would you just get off your high horse?” she asks.
“Excuse me?” Ursula raises a brow, and Sally scowls at her.
“You do know that no one is forcing you to be here, don’t you? You can quit any time, it’s not like you’re being made to participate,” she says, a bit harsher than she intended. She meant to keep her patience, but it’s difficult when she already didn’t like Ursula, and is already fed up with the other girl’s behavior.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t know you were able to throw people out as you pleased,” the other girl replies.
“Don’t even start with me.”
“You’re the one who’s trying to start something, Sally.”
“What’s going on?” Nelson interrupts, confused. “You two really don’t need to fight.”
“I just wanted to see what was bothering her,” Sally says, “but she’s impossible to talk to.”
“ I’m impossible to talk to? You jumped straight to confronting me, you never even asked if there was something bothering me.”
“Because you were already hostile!” Sally knows that she doesn’t really have much of an argument, but doesn’t want to back down already.
“Can we please just calm down?” Now Nelson looks almost panicked, as he tries to mediate. “Whatever’s wrong, we can just talk it out and not fight about it.”
Ursula takes a deep breath before she says, “Alright. I’m sorry for my attitude lately. Things have been difficult, and I’ve taken it out on some of you, I guess.”
Though Sally doesn’t immediately want to accept this apology, she understands that prolonging this argument will only make things more difficult for Nelson. Nodding, she says, “I’m sorry I jumped down your throat so quickly. I really did just want to check up on you.”
“See? Wasn’t that easy?” Nelson smiles, but he still looks frazzled. “Please, things are going smoothly enough, so let’s not make anything difficult.”
He leaves them on their own then, and Sally says, “So? What is it? I get that we’re not exactly friends, but if you want to talk about it…”
“Just a break up,” she replies. “Well, hardly even that. I’ll be over it soon enough, and I’ll try not to let it affect anything else here.”
“It was a girl, right?” asks Sally. Ursula’s interests aren’t exactly a secret from anyone, but she still feels strange asking.
“Of course. But she wasn’t ready for the same sort of relationship that I was, so we went our separate ways.”
Sally has never had any difficulties getting what she wanted out of a guy, so it’s hard for her to relate to that. Still, she feels bad for her and says, “Well, you’ll probably meet someone better who isn’t as much of a coward, so this is for the best, right?”
Ursula laughs and says, “I really do admire your confidence.”
Eddie has not been able to sort out his thoughts, not even a little bit. All he seems to think about lately is what Sally’s said, and his growing friendship with Hollis. Edgar calls him out on acting strange and distant, and he just brushes it off, because it’s not like he has anything to say. It’s not like he can tell anyone that Sally has him questioning things he never thought he’d have to question.
He’s kept up being nice to Hollis, and even started to think they could get along normally, even without doing it to try and impress Sally, but that just makes things worse. Eddie doesn’t want to consider what she’s suggesting, but then, why hasn’t he given up on her yet? He knows what she wants, and, what’s more, he hasn’t backed off of Hollis at all, no matter how strange it may make him feel.
When he stays after practice one day, because Hollis is staying late as well, trying to finish something up so that the paint has time to dry, he wonders what’s wrong with him. Why does he keep doing this?
“Why do you keep doing this?” asks Hollis, as if reading his mind. “I know what Sally said, but you don’t have to take it that seriously.”
“What, aren’t ya gonna try at all?” he teases, trying to hide that this has flustered him. “I thought you liked her too.”
“I do,” Hollis admits. “But she must have told you by now what she’s after. I figured you of all people would back off as soon as you heard that.”
“Did you? I mean, was that enough to push you away?”
There’s a long pause before Hollis says, “I don’t really know what to think. She hasn’t pushed me away, but…”
“That’s pretty much where I’m at,” Eddie replies. “But if I don’t know what’s goin’ on, I might as well keep up the hard work in the meantime. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, or whatever.”
“I guess that kind of makes sense, in a weird way. Still doesn’t tell me what you’re gonna do if she doesn’t back off her weird ideas.”
Eddie doesn’t have an answer for that.
They’re subtle at school, acting no different than they were before, and at practice, they’re merely friendly. Byron’s heart still skips a beat whenever he passes Bill in the hallway, but he doesn’t go out of his way to say hi or anything. They practice together and don’t let anything get in the way of that, and Nelson is happy with their performances. All in all, everything is totally normal between them, until they leave school together.
Usually, they hang out in the afternoons, after practice. Sometimes they’re just doing homework, and other times, there’s a little bit more going on. Though they’ve both agreed to take things slow until the play is over and they’re more sure of themselves, they both have a hard time keeping things slow once they’re alone together.
Byron still can’t believe how lucky he is, and Bill says, on more than one occasion, that he doesn’t really need to think about this all that much. It all seems too good to be true, yet it isn’t, and things seem to get better every day.
Before, he dreaded the play being over, because then he wouldn’t get to spend as much time with Bill, but now he’s excited for what comes next.
“I get that she wants to make this role her own, but she’s got to stop trying to rework all the blocking to fit whatever mood she’s in,” Nelson says, halfway through another rant regarding his cast. It’s become like a ritual of sorts, unloading on Rolf whenever he needs to, and that may be the basis of their entire friendship, but that just makes the friendship all the more strong, he thinks. To think he was once terrified of the other boy!
“Perhaps you should try being a little more firm with your directions.”
“If you think that would even work on someone like Sally...I’m glad I’ve only got one diva in this show, even if everyone is difficult in their own ways.”
“Well, the show’s going to be over soon either way, and then you won’t have to deal with any of them anymore,” Rolf replies, and though he says it casually, just a part of the conversation, his words still hit Nelson hard.
The show is going to be over soon and he won’t have to deal with any of them again...but “them” includes Rolf, he knows. Mostly, he wants to say that he’s sad because it’s overall been a fun experience, and he’s going to miss it. He’s a senior, so it’s one of his last fun things to do in high school, and reminds him that he’s going to be leaving soon. All of those are reasons to be sad, but more than anything, he thinks about the fact that he won’t be able to talk to Rolf like this as often, or even at all, and that’s what’s making him sad.
They won’t be able to see each other anymore, especially not once they graduate, and he doesn’t know why that’s so sad for him, but it feels like an absolute tragedy. And just like that he remembers his conversation with Sally, the time she asked him if there was anyone he liked, and he feels the panic start to set in as he realizes exactly who it is that he likes now.
After all this time being terrified of Rolf, can he really be falling for him? Can their friendship really mean something more to him? Is he really interested in his intimidating classmate just because he listened to him bitch about the play? And, if so, what the hell is he going to do about it?
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he finally says, after pausing for far too long. He hopes that Rolf didn’t notice, but, of course, he did.
“You must be a sad about it, then.”
“It’s a pain, but that’s show business. It’s still fun.”
“You might be able to do things like this in college.”
“I don’t know about that. It’s not like I’m planning on going into anything involving theatre. I won’t be serious enough to fit into any of those groups, not in college,” he says. “Plus, it wouldn’t be the same.”
“Don’t tell me you’re going to miss all of the things you complain about.”
“Not all of them, but there are good things to miss too. A lot of good things.” He doesn’t mean to sigh as hard as he does; if he is interested in Rolf, he’s not doing a very good job keeping it to himself.
He’ll have to properly take time to panic when he’s at home by himself, and try to keep things under wraps for now.
“You two are getting closer, aren’t you?” asks Sally. There was a part of her that worried that both boys would back off once she revealed her intentions, but neither have yet. In fact, though they haven’t mentioned it any further to her, both have kept up their advances and Eddie has continued trying to be friendly with Hollis, though he gets defensive and changes the subject if Sally mentions it.
“I don’t know,” Hollis says. “I don’t know what to make of any of this, really. If anyone ever told me I’d end up in a situation like this...I don’t know. I definitely wouldn’t have believed them.”
“It’s alright if you want to take things slow.”
“I just don’t know where I’m taking things in the first place,” he says with a chuckle. “You’re gonna have to bear with me for a while here.”
And she knows that, and she appreciates his willingness to try things and not back off immediately. She also knows that he’s not the only one she has to deal with, and eventually, she’s going to have to get Eddie to come around and stop trying to hide his feelings when he must have some. Otherwise, he wouldn’t still try.
She takes a chance to get him alone as well, and he tries to brush her off and get defensive as always, but she stops him with, “If you’re not into me you can just say so.”
“That’s not what I was gonna- don’t jump to conclusions!”
“So, you’re still in, then?”
“Ya sure love rushing people, don’t you?”
“I just want to know where all three us stand,” she replies.
“So why don’t you ask him ?”
“I already did, and now I’m asking you. Neither one of you seem to be able to give me a good answer.” She sighs and says, “Maybe I should stop trying to be the middle man. If we’re going to get anywhere, we’ll just have to all get together.”
“I don’t see why we gotta do any of this weird stuff,” Eddie mutters, looking down as he does.
“Call it weird all you want, but you still haven’t backed off,” she replies, and he is the one to sigh this time.
“Don’t gotta tell me twice.”
He’s taking his sweet time figuring himself out, but at least he’s taking the time to do that, something that she appreciates. This is all going to work out in the end, she just has a feeling that it is, but she’ll have to get the two of them to spend time with her together, so they can start to get a feel for things.
The play is coming to a close soon. She’s looking forward to finally having her moment in the spotlight for sure, and prouder than ever of her performance, but she’s going to miss it once it’s gone, and not just because it’s the first real role she’s ever had. Sally is going to miss having all this time with either of the boys she’s gotten so attached to, and the only way she’ll be able to be with both of them now is if they plan something. Which is why it’s so important for them to work things out before it’s too late, so that she’ll be able to get them to agree to doing things as a group.
What started out as what she considered an ambitious venture has grown into something more. She had only vaguely hoped that they could do more than just act civil and share, but the more they drag their feet and avoid talking directly about the other, the more she suspects that they’re hiding deeper feelings, and she wonders if she might have made quite the match, without even realizing it.