Gabriella Montez had been employed as a chemistry teacher for the ninth and tenth grades at Manhattan High School for three years. She had substituted for the previous chemistry teacher who was on maternity leave; the principal found that the students enjoyed Miss Montez's lessons and learned a great deal more during her employment. He was so impressed that he created the under-class position for her. Mrs. Elizabeth Hampton taught the eleventh and twelfth grade Advanced Placement chemistry classes of which there were fewer students and so more time for her to be at home with her new born child.
Miss Montez also took over the Chemistry Club, which brought back many happy memories of her time at East High with Taylor McKessy, mixing solutions and solving chemical equations. This year, her fourth year, Gabriella felt that something more was missing from her life. She loved her students and her work, but there was a small voice in the back of her mind, chanting, that she needed something more. When she saw the audition notice for the school's Christmas play, Gabriella knew that the thrill and drama of performing on stage was what she had been missing from her life.
Ryan Evans, winner of the Juliard scholarship for choreography in his senior year of high school, had graduated from the prestigious New York dance school three years ago – and he was now without a job. A proper job, that is, for as talented of a dancer as Mr. Evans was. He had taken his sister's cue and choreographed musicals for some of the high schools; and though the success of each production was rewarding, the pay was lowsy.
Above all, Ryan missed being the one on stage, under the spotlight. He had none of his sister's cunning personality or stubborn determination, and he used to think that was a good thing. Now, he wished he was more like her if it meant he got his share of the spotlight. For another taste of that, he would perform for free.
Gabriella sat on the cold tile floor of the auditorium corridor with a few select pages of a script in her hands and a pen in her mouth. She had seen the audition advertisement for the community center's production of The Sound of Music taped to the wall outside of her apartment and made it her priority to show up this Saturday morning.
Men and women of various ages had shown up more prepared (obviously forewarned) and earlier than she. Many had already memorized their lines by the time she showed up at twelve-thirty in the afternoon, half of an hour past the advertised time on the ad. Others were practicing the audition songs for their character; snippets of 'I Have Confidence', 'My Favorite Things', and 'Edelweiss' could be heard as she passed different sections of the corridor. Gabriella hadn't even thought of who she was going to audition for until she got to the sign-in table. She chose her favorite character, Maria.
After what seemed like twenty minutes of reading her lines under her breath, trying out different inflections where she was uncertain of the emotion in the scene, through the noise of fifty or so others doing the same, Gabriella was ready to give up. She had never been to a real audition before, her only theatre experience was with East High and the first time was by accident. Gabrielle loved to perform but, she thought, maybe she wasn't ready for the real thing. This was only a community center event; she could hardly imagine what a real audition—where the actors were paid—would be like.
Gabriella sucked a gulp from her water bottle, then closed it and stuffed it into her hand bag, followed by her pen and script. She slung the straps over her shoulder and looked for the nearest exit.
There was that song again and one of the many male voices singing it. Edelweiss appeared to be the only song given for the males to audition with. She continued down the corridor and toward the voice which sounded clearer and more familiar than the rest."Every morning you great me. Edelweiss… Edelweiss…"
It wasn't until she had passed him that Gabriella recognized the voice. She turned around on the spot and stared him up and down. Everything about him seemed different and yet, the same. He exuded confidence – evident in the strength of his voice – he was broader in the torso, his face was more defined and mature than when she saw him last, seven years ago. "Ryan Evans," she said with the tiniest sliver of doubt in her voice. It was possible that this person just happened to look like Ryan, and live in the same state where he went to university, and sound almost exactly like him. But to see Ryan Evans to audition at a community center was too ridiculous to believe. He recognized her and smiled, affirming her suspicion.
"You look happy to see me," he said in a sing-song voice.
Gabriella wasn't sure if he was talking to her or finishing the line of his song, but it didn't matter either way. She just found a reason to stay.
"Ryan, what are you doing here?" she said.
Ryan held out his arms to her for a hug. She went into his arms so fast and clung so tight, it was as if she was clinging to a life-preserver. "I'm auditioning, same as you," he said. Gabriella leaned back to look up at his face.
"But you went to Juliard. You should be auditioning for Broadway or something, not at a community center."
He chuckled. "Broadway isn't hiring everyday, Gaby."
"Alright, then." She let go of him and opened her hand bag to withdraw her script. "Which part are you auditioning for?" she said.
"Rolfe," he said.
Gabriella punched her hands to her hips. "Rolfe?" The straps of her bag slid from her shoulder and dropped all of its weight onto her wrist. She jerked to the side from the weight but righted herself in an instant with ease.
"Yes. I already have the blonde hair, and the other male roles don't have much dancing."
"Captain Von Trapp dances with Maria in one scene."
Ryan frowned. "True, but do you think I could play Captain Von Trapp?" he said.
Gabriella laughed at the thought of fun, energetic, playful Ryan Evans as the stern, unrelenting Captain Von Trapp. "It could be a challenge, an experiment," she said, and then showed him her script. The name 'MARIA' was written in the top margin in fat, bold black letters. "I could help. I'm Maria."
"I need all of the Marias and the Captain Von Trapps on stage please," said the voice of one of the casting directors through the speakers in the auditorium. Everyone had been gathered into the large room and sat in or around the rows seats, still reading through their material – some now blocking scenes in pairs or groups – in the low light of the house. The stage before them was flooded with light from the foot-lights. Gabriella walked to the middle of the stage and stood at the end of the line of Marias; there were five including herself. A yard to her left were the four Captain Von Trapps.
"Ok," said the same voice, "If any of you came as a pair, stand with your partner Stage Right." The owner of the voice, a man with short red hair and a beard, gestured in that direction.
Gabriella watched two of the Marias pair up with half of the Captains to the right of the rest of the Marias.
The red-headed man pointed to the first couple, then the second, "You are Pair One, Pair Two," then to the first of the singular Marias and singular Captains, and then the second, "Pair Three, Pair Four," then he pointed to Gabriella who had no Captain to be paired with, "You will join Pair Four. Captain Four, you will read with both Marias Four and Five."
Gabriella moved to stand with Pair Four and looked rather embarrassed about being the odd one out. Ryan felt for her. She and Maria Four would have only half of the time to prepare with their Captain than the others.
"We will call you back to read your scene," another voice said. A female this time. She raised her hand to dismiss the actors when Gabriella stepped forward.
"Wait!" she said. "I have a Captain. He just got here." She seemed to be looking into the audience and waving someone over. Ryan looked around the auditorium but did not see anyone acknowledge her back. "Ryan!" she said.
He could actually feel his eyelids widened at the sound of his name being called. What was she thinking?
"Fine," the woman said. "You and your Captain will be Pair Five. You are all dismissed."
Ryan got up to meet Gabriella at the stairs to the stage. "Ryan, I am so sorry!" she said as soon as she saw him.
"What were you thinking?" he said. They stepped over to the side of the stage so they would be out of the other actors' way.
"I didn't have a partner and I was so embarrassed… I'm sorry, Ryan." Gabriella grabbed his hand in both of hers and pleaded. "Please, Ryan. It's not like this will ever happen again."
He wouldn't admit it, but she was right. Their meeting at this audition was a serendipitous circumstance.
"Fine. But when they call the Rolfes on stage, I am going up," he said.
She let go of his hand and nodded with vigor and glee. "Deal!"
"All of the Rolfes and Liesls to the stage please."
Ryan put down Gabriella's script. "That's me," he said. "I better get up there before I end up without my own Liesl." He grinned at her and then ran up to the stage. His long legs and athletic build earned him the second spot in the line of five Rolfes. There were six Liesls. He had nothing to worry about – but Gabriella did.
When Ryan came off the stage with his Liesl behind him, Gabriella hurried to his side.
"Ryan," she said, "what are we going to do? You can't practice with her and me."
Ryan smiled. He looked as if he had everything under control. "Don't worry. I'm not," he said.
Gabriella started. "You aren't?"
"Of course not. You know your part very well, and you have me as your partner. You can't lose." He put his hands on her shoulders and directed her back to her seat. "Go relax, practice your song. I have to rehearse with Liesl Three."
Gabriella was disappointed but did as she was told. This was her fault after all. The least she could do was to give Ryan a fair chance at earning the part he really wanted.
"Does that go for me, too?" She heard Liesl Three say to Ryan.
"What?" he said.
"You said because she has you as a partner she can't lose," Liesl said. "That goes for me too, right?"
Ryan turned to his partner and grinned. "Absolutely."
The Marias and Captains were called back onto the stage after all of the parts had been accounted for in front of the casting directors. They were instructed to line up in the wing Stage Right in order of their numbers. Gabriella hid her face in Ryan's back as they waited in line. Her hands gripped the back of his shirt in tight fists that were pressed to her ears. She did not want to see or hear the couples going on before her.
Ryan was much too occupied with Liesl Three to pay attention to Gabriella's competition. He merely tugged her along as the line grew shorter until Pair Four was on stage. He gestured to his back and asked Liesl Three to get Gabriella's attention. When he felt the pressure release from his back, Ryan dismissed Liesl and looked over his shoulder at his current partner. "We're up next," he said.
Gabriella gave him a coy smile. "Sorry about your shirt." Ryan straightened it out and then slipped his hands into the pockets of his trousers and shrugged.
"I haven't been this nervous since Tinsel Towne," she said.
Ryan lowered his head to look her directly in the eyes. "There isn't always going to be someone to guide you along." She looked down at the dusty stage floorboards. "But I am with you this time and I have a hundred times more of the experience that Troy had when you auditioned for Tinsel Towne."
Gabriella laughed and excitement seemed to come back into her eyes. Then they were called on to the stage; Pair Four exited Stage Left. She groaned. "Oh no. Ryan, I don't think I can do this."
"Yes, you can. It's just you and me out there. Don't think about anyone else." He led her onto the stage and smiled at the audience.
"Ryan Evans and Gabriella Montez," Ryan said.
"Ryan, didn't we see you line up earlier as Rolfe?" A new voice said from the casting table. There was a sound of papers rustling.
He stepped forward. "Yes. I am reading for both Rolfe and," here he paused and sighed, his eyes flickered to Gabriella and then back to the casting table, "Captain Von Trapp."
"When you are ready," the voice said. The owner gestured to him that they were to proceed with the audition.
Ryan went back to Gabriella and took her hands in his. "Are you ready?"
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay," she said. "I'm ready.
He grinned at her and then dropped her hands. He walked back to the wing at Stage Right and then mouthed to her, 'Follow my lead.'
At that moment, Gabriella wished she had not said that she was ready. She was not good at improvising and what Ryan wanted her to do sounded a lot like improvising. She gulped and then nodded. Ryan had the first line.
Ryan walked toward her with long, swift strides. He stopped a few feet from her and Down Stage with a straight back and firm expression. He stomped his foot, creating a loud 'bang'.
"In the future you will kindly remember there are certain rooms in this house which are not to be disturbed," Ryan said.
Gabriella scurried to his side. "Yes, Captain. Sir."
Ryan walked Up Stage a bit and to the left with Gabriella tagging along with a smile. He looked down at her. "Why do you stare at me that way?"
"Well, you don't look at all like a sea Captain, sir."
He turned to the side to face her direct. "I'm afraid you don't look very much like a governess. Turn around, please."
"Hmm, turn." Ryan revolved his pointer finger in demonstration. Gabriella clasped her hands behind her back and turned in a small circle as instructed. "Hat - off."
Gabriella pretended to take off a hat and hold it in her hands as she awaited further instruction. Ryan grimaced and shook his head.
"It's the dress. You'll have to put on another one before you meet the children."
"But I don't have another one. When we enter the Abbey, our worldly clothes are given to the poor."
"What about this one?"
Gabrielle looked down at her 'dress' and then back up at Ryan.
"Well, the poor didn't want this one."
Ryan crossed one arm over his chest and held his chin in the other.
Gabriella reached out to touch his arm but remembered herself at the last second and retracted it. "Well, I would have made myself a new dress, but there wasn't time. I can make my own clothes."
"Well, I'll see that you get some material... today, if possible. –"
Ryan was cut off here by a casting director. "That's enough. Thank you. You will hear from us tomorrow. If we call you back, have your song prepared. We don't have enough time to do them today."
Ryan took Gabriella's hand and led her off stage. "You were great," he said.
Gabriella waited for Ryan to have his scene with Liesl and then return to their seats. Liesl Three tagged along, chatting away in Ryan's ear. Gabriella interrupted her to tell Ryan that she was going home. He seemed to be relieved. She thought she actually saw him sigh when she said it.
"I'll go with you," he said. He detached himself from Liesl Three and packed up his bag.
"Oh, are you leaving too?" Liesl Three said. She had a pout and a look in her eye that Gabriella recognized as one only used by simpering flirts and spoiled little girls.
"Yes," he said. He then turned to Gabriella, bag in hand. "Ready to go?"
She smiled and then nodded. "Yeah."
"I'll walk you out!" Liesl said.
Gabriella rolled her eyes and exchanged a look of exasperation with Ryan.
As they approached the exit they heard excited whispers (in respect for the auditions going on) of a change in the climate: snow.
"Do you hear that Ryan?" Gabriella said with an excited hop in her step. "The first snow." She grabbed onto his arm. "Let's go look."
In less than a minute they were standing in the threshold of the community center exit, Liesl Three still with them among the small crowd of spectators. The flakes were coming down in a light drift on the early evening air; there would be no trace of the snow by morning. But, still, it was…
"Snow," Gabriella said with a voice of hushed awe.
Ryan put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her. "Snow," he said.
Liesl began to sing. "Where it's snowing all winter through, that's where I want to be."
Ryan and Gabriella looked at her for the first time with appreciation for her company. Ryan picked up the next line.
"Snowball throwing, that's what I'll do. How I'm longing to ski through the snow."
Gabriella picked up the harmony on 'snow' and was joined by Liesl.
"Those glistening houses that seem to be built of snow." – Gabriella
"Snow. Oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow." – Liesl
"What is Christmas with no… snow?" – Ryan, Gabriella, Liesl
"No white Christmas with no…" – Ryan
"No." – Liesl
"Snow." – Ryan
"Snow." – Gabriella
"Snow..." – Ryan, Gabriella, LIESL
Applause drew their song to a close.
"I really should get going," Gabriella said after she recovered from the surprise of the applause. "Thanks, Liesl, er – What is your name?"
Liesl held out her hand to Gabriella. "Vera."
Gabriella shook her hand. "Thanks for the song, Vera. You have a beautiful voice."
"Bye, Vera," Ryan said. He shook her hand with a sincere smile.
"Bye, Ryan. I'll see you at call backs." She winked and turned back toward the auditorium.
"Where are you parked?" Ryan said to Gabriella.
"I'm not parked anywhere. I took the bus," she said.
"Um, my car is just over here on the street." He pointed to a black car with white racing stripes on the sides. "I can drive you home." He then began to sing again. "You'll soon be there with snow. You'll wash your hair with snow." Gabriella grinned and took a step toward the car. Ryan stepped forward and opened the passenger door. "And with a spade of snow, we'll build a man that's made of snow."
Gabriella looked up at the sky and then around her at the rosy cheeked pedestrians who were caught off guard by the snow like everyone else, the buildings decorated with faerie lights, and the festive window displays. This was her favorite time of year and she wanted to enjoy it the right way: a long walk home.
"I'd love to stay up with you," she said, "but I recommend a little shut-eye, go to sleep, and dream… of snow."
"Snow." – Ryan
"Snow…" – Together.
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