Chapter 26: The Play
Monday was school as usual. Joey and Jimmy waited for Mrs. Dustin to drop Amarea off. Jimmy took her book bag, and Joey took her arm.
Where’s Maddie? Amarea asked.
Joey stiffened and shrugged, she’s with her cousin again.
Oh. I’m sorry. She honestly meant it.
It’s for the best, Joey shrugged again, I guess.
They walked her to her first period class. She was pleasantly surprised when they showed up to walk her to her second and third periods. She was slightly annoyed when they followed her to the bathroom and waited for her to finish. Jimmy even asked if she washed her hands. She was more annoyed as the day progressed. By lunch she told them she was fine and didn’t need any more loving devotion.
So, I’m done being a slave? Joey chided.
Amarea laughed. Silly man. I think I can manage by myself from now on. So leave me alone!
As you wish, Joey bowed to her. He left her at the door to her 5th period class. He headed to the other side of campus.
Joey was surprised when Amarea came running up to him a few minutes later.
She grabbed his arm and squealed, I got the part.
What part? Joey asked.
The part I auditioned for. She was yanking his arm up and down.
For the play? Joey tried to pull his arm away.
Yes! She was jumping up and down now. I got the part!
What part? Joey asked again.
Amarea stopped jumping and looked at him. The part I auditioned for. Aren’t you listening?
Yes, I am listening, Joey said. What part did you audition for and get?
Oh, Amarea said, the Cheshire Cat. It’s a small part, but it’s mine, all mine!
When did you audition for a play? Joey asked.
Before Thanksgiving. She started jumping again. I got the part! Aren’t you happy for me?
Joey grabbed her shoulders and held her down, Wonderful! Are you sure you’re up to it?
Amarea stopped jumping for a second. It’s a small part. I just sit there like a cat. So, are you going to help me study my lines? She started jumping again. You get to be Alice.
Wow, Joey said flatly, I get to play a girl. How exciting.
Rehearsals began that afternoon at Amarea’s house. Joey reluctantly read the lines for Alice. “Now where in the world do you suppose that?” Joey said in a girly voice. Amarea giggled.
“Uh... lose something?” Amarea said, in her Cheshire cat voice.
“Oh! Hehe, Oh uhhh... hehe... I- I was... no, no, I- I- I- I mean, I uhh... I was just wondering,” Joey squeaked, making Amarea giggle again.
“Oh uhh, that’s quite all right!” Amarea said.
“Why, why you’re a cat!” Joey said in a shocked girly voice.
“A Cheshire Cat,” Amarea said using her hand to pretend to clean her fur.
“I just wanted to ask you which way I ought to go,” Joey said in his normal voice.
Sex change? Amarea giggled.
Shut up, Joey shot back.
“I just wanted to ask you which way I ought to go,” Joey repeated in his girly voice.
“Well, that depends on where you want to get to,” Amarea purred.
“Oh, it really doesn’t matter,” Joey said.
“Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go! Oh, by the way, if you’d really like to know, he went that way,” Amarea said.
“Who did?” Joey asked.
“The white rabbit,” Amarea said.
“He did?” Joey asked.
“He did what?” Amarea asked.
“Went that way?” Joey asked.
“Who did?” Amarea asked. You know, this sounds a lot like most of our conversations.
I was thinking the same thing, Joey said. Funny, huh?
Yeah it is. Back to the script. Amarea commanded.
“The white rabbit!” Joey said.
“What rabbit?” Amarea questioned.
“But didn’t you just say... I mean... oh dear!” Joey said in his confused girly voice.
“However, if I were looking for a white rabbit, I’d ask the Mad Hatter or the March Hare,” Amarea said.
“Oh, thank you. I think I shall visit them,” Joey said.
“Wow, I can’t believe you have memorized this whole script,” Joey said still in his girly voice. He cleared his throat as Amarea giggled.
Practice continued at every available moment: lunch, before school, after school, before classes and sometimes during classes.
Uh... lose something? Amarea called out.
Not now, Joey shot back.
Why not? Amarea pouted.
I’m taking a math test, he replied.
45, Amarea said.
What? Joey was confused.
The problem you are working on, she replied, the answer is 45.
I don’t want your help. Joey rolled his eyes.
Why not? Amarea asked.
You’re not always going to be around to help me, Joey said. He regretted it as soon as he said it.
That’s nice, Amarea said flatly.
That’s not what I mean, Joey said apologetically.
Whatever, she spat back.
No, stop it, he said. I just mean I need to do this on my own. I need to prove to myself I can do it, not that you can do it! I already know you can do it.
Fine, Amarea sighed. Afterschool?
Just like every other day of the past month, Joey replied.
You sound like you hate it, Amarea bit her lip. What would she do without his help? The play was so close.
Actually, Joey confessed, I really enjoy playing the part of a little girl. I feel my feminine side emerging.
Shut up. Amarea didn’t realize she was holding her breath. She sighed in relief.
It’s a date, Joey declared.
Really? Amarea perked up.
Really what? Joey asked.
It’s a date? Amarea asked hopefully.
Huh? Joey was really confused.
Won’t Maddie be upset? Amarea asked innocently.
She’s still at her cousin’s house, Joey replied. She said she’d be back on Friday.
So this is a secret date? Amarea giggled.
What date? Joey asked.
You said it was a date, Amarea pouted.
I meant practicing, Joey said dryly.
Sure you did, Amarea chided.
I’m failing my test, Joey said, a little annoyed.
32, Amarea called back.
Please, Joey pleaded.
Fine, Amarea smiled, see you after class. Silly boy.
Amarea and Joey rehearsed every afternoon. Amarea had made it to every practice and two dress rehearsals. On Wednesday, she wasn’t feeling well. Her parents made her stay home from school. She missed the third dress rehearsal.
Joey had stepped up and played her part. He knew both the Cheshire Cat’s and Alice’s parts by heart. He went to visit Amarea after practice. He was concerned that she wasn’t at home. His mom drove to the hospital, the next place to look. He found Mr. Dustin at the vending machines in the lobby.
“She’s worn out,” he said to Joey. “They want to keep her a few days for observation.”
“What about the play?” Joey asked.
“I don’t think she’s going to be up for it,” he said solemnly.
“That’s not fair,” Joey said, “She’s worked so hard.”
“Life’s not fair, son,” he said, putting a hand on Joey’s shoulder. “Amarea’s used to disappointment.”
“No one gets used to disappointment,” Joey said. “Can I see her?”
“Not right now,” he said, “she’s resting.”
Joey turned to leave, when he realized he didn’t need Mr. Dustin’s permission to talk to her.
Amarea? Joey called out.
Mar? Joey called out a little louder.
Still no answer.
MAR? Joey yelled.
I am trying to pretend I don’t exist, Amarea replied weakly. You are making that very hard.
But you do exist, Joey smiled. He sighed deeply and relaxed noticeably.
Well, Amarea replied, today, I don’t want to exist. How was practice?
Everyone wanted to know where you were, Joey replied cheerfully.
Who played my part? Amarea asked.
I did, Joey replied. He leaned forward in his seat. He hoped the news would not upset her.
I thought that would happen, she said softly.
Joey couldn’t tell if she was upset. They want you to come back, he offered.
I don’t think that is going to happen, Amarea said.
Joey didn’t know what to say. The silence soon became overwhelming. Your dad won’t let me see you, he said lamely.
I’m supposed to be resting, she replied. She sniffed loudly, grateful Joey couldn’t hear her crying.
Mar, Joey said softly, do you want me to leave?
Not really, she sighed, wiping away her tears, there’s really nothing you can do.
I’ll wait in the waiting room, he said. He leaned back in his chair and picked up a magazine. If you need me, just holler.
Thanks, Joseph. Amarea smiled. It was nice to know Joey was there for her. She smiled at the thought of him dressed up as the Cheshire Cat. She actually blushed when she thought of him wearing her tights.
You’re welcome, Mar, Joey replied cheerfully.
Joey left the hospital at midnight. His mom came and pulled him from the waiting room.
“What if she needs me,” Joey asked.
“She’s got a hospital full of doctors,” his mom said, “she’ll be fine.”
Thursday’s show went off without a hitch. Joey fit into Amarea’s costume, which he found remotely funny. He wasn’t thrilled about wearing the striped tights, but he did what he had to do. Friday’s show was dedicated to Amarea. Several people sniffled in the audience when her condition was announced. Saturday morning Joey visited Amarea. She was feeling better.
Joey cornered Mr. Dustin in the cafeteria and made him promise to bring Amarea to the afternoon show. Amarea arrived thirty minutes before the show began. She sat in the back with her parents, in case she became too overwhelmed. She laughed hysterically when she saw Joey in her Cheshire Cat costume. Amarea left shortly after the second act. She simply didn’t have the energy to watch the last act.
After the final production Saturday night, every member of the cast signed the Cheshire Cat costume. Joey delivered it to Amarea Sunday morning. Tears ran down her cheek as she read some of the comments.
“Thanks, Joey,” she said.
“Think nothing of it,” Joey said. “You know you made me do something I really wasn’t prepared to do. Actually, I had no desire to do it at all. And you know, it was kind of fun. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Amarea said, blushing.
“Thanks for making my parents bring me,” Amarea said.
I didn’t make them, Joey shrugged.
I still say you looked good in those tights, Amarea blushed. Joey reached out and touched her cheek. She blushed a deeper shade of pink.
Joey cleared his throat. No man ever looked good in tights, he said.
Not even for a good cause? Amarea smiled sweetly.
Monday morning, Amarea found Joey standing in front of the bulletin board outside of the drama studio.
“So, are you going to try out for the spring play?” Joey asked. “It’s Romeo and Juliet. I’m trying out for the part of Mercutio.”
“Mercutio? Isn’t he the sarcastic, sex crazed friend of Romeo?” Amarea asked. “Somehow that seems to fit.”
“Yeah,” Joey laughed, “I think you’re right.” He pulled her close and hugged her tightly. Amarea felt dizzy.
Joey stood in front of her. He pressed his body against hers. Amarea gasped. His eyes locked onto hers. He moved closer. He kissed her, hard. Amarea gasped again and started to melt, but Joey held her fast against the wall. His hands locked with hers. She felt his tongue in her mouth; soft, searching.
The bell rang. Amarea’s head jerked up. She looked around. Stupid dream. She blushed a fierce shade of red. She turned and saw Joey sitting in the corner of the room. A silly grin was on his face. She blushed again.
Interesting, he said, raising an eyebrow. He stood and moved quickly towards her.
Joey, I can explain, she began.
He took her hand and pulled her up. He pushed her against the wall and kissed her, hard. She gasped and melted into him. Someone shook her.
“Amarea,” a voice said. “You’re going to be late for your next class. Wake up.”
Amarea drowsily lifted her head. Drool was dripping from her lip; she wiped it away. She blinked, trying to remember where she was. It was fourth period. The teacher was out sick, and the sub was showing a movie. She vaguely remembered leaving Joey in the hallway after he hugged her. She didn’t really remember much after that. She was exhausted.
“Come on,” the voice said, she recognized it.
“Thanks, Jimmy,” she replied. Then she said more sarcastically than she had intended, “Thanks a whole lot.”
“What did I do?” Jimmy asked.
“Ruined a perfectly good dream,” Amarea muttered. She rubbed her head. It seemed like just a minute ago she was standing in the doorway with Joey. She was confused and slightly annoyed.
Jimmy just shrugged, grabbed her backpack, and guided her out the door. It was probably too soon for her to be back in school, but she was tired of being home. Plus, she didn’t have as good of dreams at home.
Amarea smiled. When she saw Joey walking by, she blushed and smiled shyly. Joey saw her and smiled back. Amarea didn’t seen Maddie glaring at her. She didn’t see the jealousy in Maddie’s eyes or her hands ball up into fists.