Chapter 38: Not Quite Romeo And Juliet
“I want you to know that I blame you for this.” Bells points an accusing finger at me with a teasing frown.
“I second that.” Laiken agrees with her before everyone else on stage agrees to. “This is going to be so humiliating. My rep is over. I’m going to be the laughing stock of the school.”
“My popularity just died.” Melinda scoffs, annoyed too.
Max places his arm around my shoulder, “Awe come on guys. It’s not completely all Aqueela’s fault. But for the most part it is.” Max tries to back me up in a twisted way like a good friend would, unlike Bells who always turns on me, playfully of course.
“You’re right! It’s your fault too!” Melinda hisses at Max, pinning the rest of the blame on him. Max shields himself behind me from her merciless attacks as a result.
It’s been a full week since the strike we’d pulled off. My week suspension is officially over. However, one of the rats in the school told Principal P who was all originally involved. Principal P spoke with Mrs Paige and thankfully she’s taken back all our English essays. However, she and Principal P have made an agreement. To teach us our lesson, we who first started the strike, have to participate in the school’s cultural club, meaning we have to star in our school’s annual play.
Seeing as Max and I were the instigators behind the strike, we were told to direct the play ourselves whilst the rest of them, such as Bells, act in it. But that was called off when Max and I went way too far. We took it way over the top. We got too into our roles as directors. We were too hard on the actors and kept yelling cut several times after a single take. Bells got really peeved. It’s not our fault we wanted to see perfection on stage. We wanted our performers to rise to fame and become stars. Also, taking away your actors lunch breaks is seen as a big ‘no no’, so is calling one of the performers absolutely useless. Cough cough, Melinda.
Apparently the fame as play directors got to our heads. But’s that all hear say.
Max and I have been re-enlisted back into the play as actors.
If you’re wondering who’s in charge now, who the directors of the play are this time - well let’s just say that Principal P got in touch with my grandparents for assistance. You see, my Grams and Gramps have been lying for years, saying that they directed plays as a living back in the day. They now believe their own lie as a result. Unfortunately, Principal P fell for the lie too.
If Principal P thought Max and I were bad directors, he has seen nothing yet. Sadly, now that my grandparents are here, there’s no getting rid of them. They will see this play through to the end. The word ‘no’ is just not in their vocabulary.
There’s suddenly a loud high-pitched sound from within the hall where the stage is. Everyone, including me, block our ears and close our eyes at the ear grating sound.
“Is this gizmo on?” Gramps asks, tapping the microphone again as the sound echoes and screeches around the entire hall.
Gramps is dressed in typical film director attire. He spent a fortune buying it all. He’s got the red beret on his head, glasses, a white tank top to show off his saggy arms and the worst part is his neon coloured skinny jeans matched with his black boots. He looks like a rainbow just threw up on him. But I won’t be the one to tell him that. He even pretends to be chewing gum to make himself look younger and cool. He just comes across as cocky and moronic is all. He even has a fake moustache super glued on. He’s going to have difficulty removing that thing.
Laiken thinks this is embarrassing for him. He has no idea how much worse it is for me, especially now that my grandparents are directing this play.
Grams whacks Gramps upside the head, “Of course it’s on you absurd creature you! Stop it you hooligan! You’re making my granny ears bleed.”
Gramps taps the mic again and waits for the sound as if fascinated by the microphone. “Echo. Echo. Echo.” He repeats into the mic and seems amazed when the sound echoes through the speakers on stage. “What a nifty gadget this is.”
Grams snatches it out of his hand, “Testing, testing. One, two, three. One, two, three.” Gram says into the mic, bringing it way too close to her mouth, spit droplets flying everywhere.
You’d think she realized that it’s working by now.
Laiken’s eyes move off my grandparents and back to me, “You make a lot more sense now, Lawson.” He jokes, implying that I’m just like my grandparents. But those two are on a whole other league of crazy. Soon I’ll have to place them both into a mental institution.
Grams starts us off, “We’ll start with our warming up exercises. We’re going to warm up our vocal chords. On the count of three I want you to all blare out your favourite curse word on the tips of your tongues-“
“I don’t think that’s appropriate Mam.” Mrs Paige cuts Grams off, a mistake she should not make a habit of if she values her life.
Grams turns to Mrs Paige with a glare, “Excuse me? Who’s the one that’s been trained to be a film director for years? Me or you?”
I’ll tell you what, it’s definitely not Gran Gran.
Mrs Paige keeps quiet this time round.
Grams continues, “Sing with me now. Just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go round, the medicine go round, the med - why are none of you singing along?!” Gran snaps at us. “Do you want to be singers or not?! This song can be a hit single.”
The song already exists and it’s ancient.
“Grams, we’re acting. Not singing.” I remind her seeing as everybody else is too afraid to. That’s when she leads us into yodelling. I will be deaf after these practice sessions.
Mrs Paige takes over after we’d finished our two hour warm up sessions, yes, two hours of yodelling. I don’t have a voice left. “We need a Romeo. Bella is obviously Juliet. Max, you are Romeo’s understudy. Therefore Laiken you are Romeo.”
Max is going to have a fit when Bells has to kiss Laiken.
Bells and Max both look horrified and Laiken, well he’s clearly loving this solution. Melinda is mad as usual. Somebody wanted to play Juliet and have the spotlight for herself as always.
I’m thankful I don’t have to be Juliet. I’d only be Juliet if Jay were to be Romeo. But we all know that’s a fantasy fairytale that just ain’t happening.
Mrs Paige continues as she is the facilitator of the play, “Then Aqueela you will be-“
Grams interrupts Mrs Paige, “My brute - I mean husband - skimmed through the play script you gave us yesterday afternoon. Principal P said you’d be open to suggestions?” Grams seeks permission and I can already see where this is going.
“Of course.” Mrs Paige smiles at her.
Wrong move Mrs Paige, wrong move!
Grams grins with her last few yellow crooked teeth, “Great. Because I hate the script. It’s just too cliche.”
Mrs Paige’s smile waves, “It has to be cliche.” Mrs Paige explains, “After all it is the famous world known story of Romeo and Juliet.”
Grams sticks out her tongue in contemplation, “Meh! I just didn’t see the point of the story or feel the characters. It was just ridiculous how Romiet and Julio ran into the sunset and lived happily ever after. Astonishing really. We need a more realistic ending, say a character actually dying for goodness sake.”
I slap my forehead in embarrassment. Obviously Gran never read the script or the book because then she’d know that Romeo and Juliet have a tragic ending, not a ‘running into the sunest’ one.
Mrs Paige’s mouth falls open in shock as she tries to respond, but she’s at a loss for words and I can’t really blame her. It’s not everyday someone doesn’t know how Romeo and Juliet ended. It’s like never having watched the Titanic, not that I have.
Gramps backs up Grams as he voices his opinion, “We just decided to make a few adjustments to the play is all.”
“Not a problem.” Mrs Paige insists, “As long as the concept is still there.”
“Of course!” Grams reassures her. I already know she’s talking nonsense.
“Let’s see these minor adjustments then.” Mrs Paige replies.
Grams and Gramps smile in victory at this before taking out a completely new script and handing it to Mrs Paige. Mrs Paige glances through the new papers with a perplexed expression, “This is an entirely different play to Romeo and Juliet. This is a whole new script, a new play and story.”
“Read on a little.” Grams insists, “I’m sure you’ll agree that we’ve merely improved your original play.”
Romeo and Juliet cannot be improved by Mrs Paige because it’s not her work. My grandparents are idiots.
Mrs Paige obeys and turns the pages as she briefly reads through some of it, “Romeo and Juliet don’t even feature in here. You’ve changed the entire play. Plus, there’s so many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.”
That sounds like my granparent’s play for sure. So that’s what they were busy with the entire evening yesterday. They were writing an entire new play. How can they stand there and expect Mrs Paige to accept it? Their audacity astounds me sometimes. They really take their chances with absolutely anyone.
“Hey now! We did not fault your cliche work.” Grams points out.
I can see Mrs Paige bite down on her tongue to restrain herself before she cusses my Grams out, “No, you just changed my entire play which is not at all insulting.” Mrs Paige retorts sarcastically.
“Exactly! Now you’re following.” Gramps exclaims gleefully.
Mrs Paige frowns, “What I’m not following is this play. It doesn’t even make sense. The scenes are random. Nothing follows on. It’s almost as if you just combined two plays into one.”
“Hey! That’s exactly what we did because we couldn’t agree. We combined my Ninja Turtle play with Lillian’s Dragon Ball Zee play.” Gramps cheers, clapping his hands as if proud when really tht’s the last thing he should be.
Mrs Paige continues reading it, “Leonardo eats pizza just as Goku defeats Cell.” Mrs Paige loses her temper now as she throws the script at Grams, “I quit!” She hisses before storming out the hall.
Everyone falls silent.
“Took her long enough.” Grams retorts with a bitter sweet smile as if that was her goal all along. Grams hates not being in control. And she wonders where I get my disrespect for superiors from.
Grams turns to stare at us actors with a condescending grin, “Shall we get started?”
“I’m scared.” Bells whispers to me.
So am I.
“More spiky.” Grams reprimands Ramos as she pulls at Laiken’s hair. Laiken lets out a yelp at Gram’s subconscious actions.
Grams forced Bells to call Ramos in to prepare the hair for the play and seeing as Laiken is now Goku, we need to spike his hair up Super Saiyan style. Grams also placed him in a orange jumpsuit that resembled what Goku would wear. All in all, Laiken resembles Goku quite well.
Ramos curses beneath his breath at Grams who’d been on his case the entire morning. Finally, someone who can put Ramos in his rightful place. “Zie boy’s hair can no more spiky. Enough spiky! No no no spiky!”
Grams steps forward and grabs Ramos by the collar of his shirt, “More. Spiky.” Grams says through clenched teeth just as Ramos gulps in fear. She releases him again when he nods like a lost puppy.
“Yes Mam.” Ramos answers as he uses more gel and hairspray on Laiken’s hair, trying to spike it up even more seeing as my Grams is never satisfied.
I stiffly my own laughter when I see how hard Laiken’s hair has become from all the hair products. He shoots me a glare in return when I touch one of the tips of his spikes.
But what’s even funnier is Max being stuffed into Gramp’s oversized green onesie. Max is Leonardo, the ninja turtle. Unlike Laiken, Max looks nothing like his character. It’s because Gramps didn’t have any money for proper props seeing as he’d used all his money on his director attire. Gramps has been using cheap rubbish for his half of the play whilst Grams only implements the best. They’re opposites, a contradictory force.
“You all better pull your weight because I want to win this competition.” Grams scolds us for no apparent reason.
What competition? She makes up her own life I swear.
Gramps and Grams tend to get very competitive when competing. “Grams you’re always so competitive.” I voice my thoughts aloud.
“Puhlease!” She remarks back childishly, “I’m the least competitive person I know. I am probably the best at not being competitive. Heck, I am just the best.”
I roll my eyes at her teasingly, “You realize that you’re contradicting yourself, right?”
“I’m the best at contradictions.” She retorts smugly before pulling at Laiken’s spikes again. I wash my hands of her.
“Mam?” A drama girl that goes by the name of Sarah calls to my gran. “What part am I playing in the skit?”
“No part Honey. You didn’t do well in the auditions.” Grams explains despite Sarah having done the best in the auditions. Sarah is a professional in all things drama related. “You don’t have the face for it.”
Sarah’s expression takes an offended one, “What does that even mean?” She mutters before walking away.
Who knows? That’s Grams for you.
Grams suddenly sees Max and his crappy costume. She turns to Gramps with a flat look, “Howard you utter titface! You spent your half of the money on your outfit and now you don’t have enough money for props. You inbred! Don’t you plan? You’re terrible with finances! Money is money! You won’t find a diamond in the ground!”
The ground is exactly where you’d find a diamond.
“Relax Grams. I think Max looks better than usual. It’s an upgrade to his appearance.” I try to reassure her before Gramps is murdered in front of us all. Gramps has a habit of stuffing everything up. Sound familiar?
Max shoots me a scowl for that one to which I just smile and wave.
Gramps covered Max in countless pillows before putting on the onesie. Instead of Max looking like some a muscular ninja turtle, he just looks like a fat green slug. It’s hilarious.
Grams, who’d just been eating her purity food with a spoon, steps in front of Grams with a menacing growl. She points the spoon directly at Gramps, unintentionally spraying some purity food in his face as a result, “I will shove this spoon so far up your backside that you will taste metal until the day you die.”
I cringe at her words. That’s a nasty image imprinted into my brain. Grams can be so graphic in her threats sometimes. So vulgar. She’s the only human being who truly scares me at times.
“It’s fine. If I’m dead I will be free from you!” Gramps shouts as they start their bickering again. “I’m actually looking forward to death.” Gramps concludes in conviction.
Jay enters the hall, with his impeccable timing, and just so happens to hear Gramps say that last part of his rant.
Jay stills, blinks, and then offers my Gramps a genuine grin, “I like you.” Jay decides then and there.
Of course Jay would like him for that! Jay is a pessimistic guy. A statement like ‘I’m looking forward to death’ boosts you right up to Jay’s number one list of people he admires. Jay is cynical like that.
“What are you doing here?” I ask Jay, surprised. He hadn’t really been talking to me lately. “It’s after school hours.” I remind him.
“Just checking in.” Jay shrugs. “I heard the commotion. We were bored. Just finished a race.”
I raise an eyebrow in question, “We?” In walks Grey. I sigh aloud, “You and Grey.” Before Grey gets to us, I give Jay a fierce glare, “You know how I feel about this play. You are not to come and support tonight, understand? I already know that it’s going to be a disaster. So you and Grey are not to come. Okay?” I clarify, not wanting to embarrass myself in front of Jay if he were to come watch.
“Whatever you request.” Jay smirks, agreeing to my deal before wandering off to Max and looking at his costume before asking what he’s suppose to be. Max is not impressed.
“Lawson.” Grey mutters just as he reaches the point on stage where I’m standing.
Oh how I’ve missed Grey! He’s always grumpy when he sees me. It’s refreshing!
I put on my best grin for show, “Ah Grey!” I exclaim, overjoyed to see him. I love irritating him. He makes it so easy. “My favouritest person!”
Grey scoffs at me, “‘Favouritest’ is not a word.”
I defend my word, “Well that’s rich considering you just used it in a sentence.”
“I said it to prove a point but it seems your thick head is acting up again.” Grey insults me.
I laugh, “Oh Grey. Someday you’re going to make one unlucky girl very very very unhappy.” I tease him, patting him on the shoulder playfully.
He swats my hand away, “Don’t touch me.” He hisses, annoyed.
Gah, I love it!
“Drowned Rat, why don’t you stop flirting and give me a hand here?” Melinda shouts, but closes her mouth upon seeing Grey.
Flirting with Grey?! I think I just got the shivers at the thought.
Grey chuckles, yes, actually chuckles, “Did she just refer to you as Drowned Rat?”
I nod. “She doesn’t like me very much.”
Grey turns to Melinda and gives her an appreciative grin, “I like you.” Him and Jay are one in the same. Of course Grey would like someone who detests me. Typical of him.
Melinda blushes bright red at his words and actually looks shy. “Who’s your friend Aqueela?” She asks upon getting her voice back. So now she uses my name. I’d be so much happier if she were mute.
I answer in a firm voice, “His name is Grey and he will see you now.” I end it with a wink in Grey’s direction. He is not impressed.
Melinda blushes again at the reference to Grey from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.
Oh no no no! This ain’t happening!
I see the way Melinda is staring at Grey with gaga eyes. She has the Bambi doe eyes. If Grey and Melinda ever get together, I’ll be a dead man! They both hate me. Melinda can’t be the unlucky unhappy girl I was telling Grey about earlier. I won’t allow it! My future does not depend on them having a relationship. Ever. Never ever. Ever never ever never never!
“Hey Lawson!” Laiken calls to me.
Grey seems taken aback that he’s not the only one who refers to me by my last name, “You didn’t really think that you were the only one who hated me, did you?” I tease Grey.
Grey shakes his head, his glare back on, “In actual fact I was expecting more people who hate you.”
“Liar! Liar! I’ll burn your house down with fire!” I chime before skipping over to Laiken. “What do you want Lai?” I ask, responding to his countless calls to me.
“Can you give me a hand in the sound room? Your Gramps played around with everything and now nothing is working. I asked Max, but he’s busy with his costume still. Melinda is getting her flirt on with that guy that came in with Jay and Bells made up an excuse as well.” Laiken elaborates. “So can you help me?”
“No.” I reply casually.
“Why?” He asks, confused. “Also trying to come up with an excuse on the spot? Or are you busy?”
I shake my head, “Neither.” I answer him truthfully, “I just don’t want to. Simple.”
Laiken laughs at this, “At least you’re honest.”
I end up helping him anyways because I can be nice when required of me.
Jay interrupts, “Hey Aqueela? Can I ask you something?” He sees Laiken and gives him a dark glare, remembering what Laiken had said to me back in Chem class. Jay frowns and turns back to me, “Alone?” He adds.
“Sure.” I nod, excusing myself from Laiken as I follow after Jay to a closed off area of the hall so we can talk in private. “What’s up Jay-Jay?”
He scratches the back of his neck as if uncomfortable, “Do you remember anything last week when you came home drunk?”
Furrowing my eyebrows in thought I think back, all memories of that night gone. “Nah. Not really. Why?”
Jay blows out a relieved breath, “Nothing.” He states as if unconvinced himself, “It was nothing.” He repeats before meeting my eyes. “Look I better get going. See ya.” Jay says all too quickly.
Grey and Jay both leave soon after those few words exchanged between us.
I walk back to the stage to see them all performing already, well practicing for the performance tonight.
Max takes his place on stage in his fat Ninja Turtle costume. Laiken, as Goku, just in front of him. I walk closer to hear what they’re saying as they read their lines off the script.
“I can’t defeat Cell on my own. I need reinforcements and you, mutant, can help me, the alien Saiyan.” Laiken reads his lines with a confused expression.
Max reads his lines next, “What of Vegeta and all the others?”
Laiken reads his next line, “They died in a meteorite shower. I’m surprised you don’t know? It was all over the news and it happened in New York because you know that’s the place where all bad things happen. So will you help me Leo? Will you untie our forces?” Laiken stops and looks to Gramps, “Did you mean to say unite?”
“It’s untie you damn amateur!” Gramps motions for Max to carry on.
Max throws in one of his fat green arms and nods, “I, Leonardo, will be honoured to lend you a hand. My brothers will help save the day too.”
In comes Bells as Donatello, Melinda as Raph and-
“Cut! Cut! Cut!” Gramps roars cockily through the megaphone for the billionth time today as he paces up and about the bottom of the stage like a raging wild man. He’s having fun. I can tell. “I’m not feeling the emotion of your characters! I want your characters to be the half shell heroes of the play, not you! And Laiken, you’re doing the worst!”
Grams smacks Gramps and steals the megaphone from him before yelling into it, “Don’t listen to him Laiken! You’re doing fabulous. You’re the star lead of the show. It’s you Max who is stuffing up! I have half a mind to kill off your character!”
Here comes the competitive elders into play. This show is already a complete fail.
“Please do. Actually just kill off the real me too. There’s no bouncing back from this.” Max begs.
Gramps then searches the stage, ignoring Grams and Max, “And where the hell is Michelangelo?”
I hurry to the stage and take my orange mask with me. Seeing as Leo is the leader, he’s the main attraction. The rest of us turtles brothers don’t have to wear green fat suits like Max.
“Epic fail.” Grams snickers, mocking me openly like a child seeing as I play a part from Gramp’s half of the play. Laiken’s the only one playing Gram’s part of the play because she could only afford one expensive costume and the tights were reserved for Laiken and only Laiken.
I swear that Grams has forgotten I am her own flesh and blood.
“Your life story Grams.” I diss back as Gramps falls into fits of laughter.
This results in our punishment.
More yodeling from both Gramps and I.
I’ve yodeled my tonsils out!
Now I’m looking forward to death too…
“Lights! Camera! Action!” Grams blares at us through the megaphone as the audience begin to pour in through the hall, taking their seats that they had booked before hand.
The evening is here, but our play is so not. Even after rehearsing, it’s still damn awful. I blame the writers and directors.
Gramps is the first on stage as he welcomes everyone like a MC and then starts us off.
The massive heavy curtains slowly open to reveal the opening act.
It starts off average and then jumps back to just plain rubbish.
Max, who had been such a big mouth on stage during practice, has now just discovered that he has stage fright.
Bell slips on stage over some purity Grams had messed earlier and forgotten to clean up.
In one scene, the curtains got jammed and wouldn’t come down properly until finally it cascaded right down on Melinda, basically smothering her. I wasn’t complaining.
Laiken had to fly as a Super Saiyan, but what do you know, the wiring holding him up also got jammed, leaving him up suspended in the air for the entire play. He got bored and started flexing for his fan girls half way through the play, taking away all the attention from Max’s scenes. He was causing a massive distraction with his constant flexing.
As for me, I didn’t learn any of my lines and just made up stuff as we went long. I disrupted the non-existent flow. At least I had the audience laughing though.
The play eventually comes to a close and Principal P is horrified with how it went down whilst my Gramps wipes tears out of his eyes, mouthing ’beautiful’ as if proud with this awful mess he and Grams created. Grams places a proud tentative hand on Gramps as if agreeing that the play was magnificent.
Are they blind?! Come to think of it, they probably are.
The sad part is when no one claps for us as we, all the actors, come up stage for a final bow. Some people in the audience even boo us or demand a refund. So no encores then I guess.
But out of nowhere, someone stands up and begins to clap and cheer, “Whoo! Best play ever! Encore!”
I would recognize his voice anywhere.
My eyes search the audience until they find him, Jay. He came despite me telling him not too. I figured he would though or maybe I was just secretly hoping he would. He’s not alone. Blubber, Simo, Benley, Oog and even Grey stand up and begin to erupt in claps and cheers for us.
The rest of the audience don’t join in, not that I expected them to. Why route for a crap performance and play? Screenwriters’ fault.
But it’s okay.
It doesn’t matter that the rest of them refuse to clap for us. My friends are here cheering us on and that’s all that matters to me.
A huge smile breaks across my lips as I wave to my friends, my family really, glad that they were here to support us.
I really do love each and every single one of them despite the hell I give them on a weekly basis. They all mean the world to me.
“Aqueela’s a goddess!” Blubber chants, embarrassing me. I can see Jay chuckle in amusement along with Grey.
I really thought Blubber would hit it off with that girl his age I set him up with. She was cute. But Blubber likes dem Cougars and Sugar Mommas’. Unfortunately for him, I’m not one. Blubber won’t ever give up on me, not anytime soon anyways.
“Sprinkle goddess!” Simo chants too, routing for me, flaying his belly up and down in the air beside a jiggling Blubber.
“Eeela!” Oog shouts just for the sake of shouting like the others.
Grey and Benley even route for me in unison, “Lawson!”
I end up laughing in pure bliss and joy as I run off stage and embrace them all with my wide smile still intact. “I love you guys!”
Grey, Benley and Jay all shove me away because of what I’d just said, but offer me smiles none the less, well two of them do. Blubber, Simo and Oog on the other hand are more than happy to hug me back. The real problem is getting them to let go.
I eventually pull away from them and turn to Jay with an accusing stare, “I’m mad at you. I’m grateful you’re here, but I will still get my revenge on you for disobeying a direct order from me. I’ll get even.” I tease but mean it at the same time.
But Jay doesn’t seem too worried. He smirks at me and shrugs, taking a step forward so that we’re chest to chest, “You can try. In fact, give it your best shot. Game on because I’m still mad at you too. I’ll take you down. I know what riles you up. I bet I can anger you more than you can anger me.”
I don’t think we’ll be heading down the same road as Romeo and Juliet any time soon with his kind of attitude.
I hold my head high with a daring grin, “Challenge-“
“Accepted.” Jay finishes for me. “I know. You’re getting predictable.”
“Your face is-“
“Predictable, by any chance?” Jay finishes for me again. I glare daggers at him and not so discreetly either, “Wow! Check me out. I think I just took the lead. You look kinda mad.”
I’m going to kill him!