French Kissing

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15. Suppressing feelings

If Mr Grayson was crazy about Marcy you could hardly tell from the way he acted toward her in French that week. Half to her relief, half to her disappointment he was flawlessly professional, there were no looks or special attention, and he didn't call her back after class. Her Advanced Placement transfer hadn’t been finalised yet due to starting late, so she was still having to attend both classes.

One more week and hopefully she would no longer have to face Brittanny flinging herself at Mr Grayson. What Brittanny lacked in attractions she compensated for with her father's wealth. If she couldn't win someone, she bought them.

Maybe that's why she hates me so much, Marcy thought. Because she never really won me or Addy. They had never fawned over her like others in the group. It was also possible that someone had heard Addy refer to her as Bitchany Paige and told her.

So long as Marcy had dated Josh, she and her best friend were kind of untouchable. Now she was out in the cold and fair game for tormenting.

The only good thing about Brittanny's crush on Mr Grayson was that her malice towards Marcy subsided a bit, at least in French. In the first week, before the fateful night in the bar, Brittanny had tried making some sneering remark about Marcy to another girl. A searing look of disgust from Mr Grayson cut her dead.

He wasn't just defending Marcy though, much as she would have liked to have imagine she got his special attention. On another occasion Brittanny was deliberately rolling her eyes and smirking when a slower student was struggling over a translation.

"Do you think that kind of response is conducive to a supportive learning environment, Brittanny?" Mr Grayson had asked her.

Brittanny probably didn't understand what conducive meant, but she picked up his general tone. He didn't find bitching and gloating appealing. She had gone bright red, and a few others who were routinely victimised by her had in turn tried not to smirk at the takedown.

After that she was a lot nicer - or less nasty, more accurately - in French.

Mr Grayson didn't ignore Marcy completely. He still called on her in class, but no more than anyone else.

AP French lessons were a bit less tense even though there was a smaller group. Somehow Mr Grayson seemed more laid back with fewer students. The Canadian girl Emilie turned out to be a livewire and often held the floor, joking and even answering back.

Marcy might have felt jealous except the rumour was Emilie preferred girls. Brittanny mocked Emilie about it behind her back, and no one dared call her out for being a homophobe.

Marcy now sat with Revel as a regular thing at lunch. She liked her a lot, though Revel was very different to Addy. Addy spilled her guts, Revel was more reserved. It wasn’t that she held stuff back deliberately, or was really private, just that she didn’t feel the need to share everything.

"Nick has your photos if you want to come over after school," Revel told her. It was Friday, finally the end of another long week. "I’m not singing tonight but we could go for a drink at the bar later if you want, get some food somewhere."

Marcy looked glum. "I wish I could, but my mom forced me into this theatre thing," she told Revel. She was embarrassed even to mention it to Revel, given Revel’s background.


"Just a local group. Our neighbour is really into it. Everyone else in it is over seventy." This was an exaggeration, but it was fair to say that the Springdale Players had fairly mature age members. Which was why Mrs Helberg, well into her fifties, still cast herself in ingénue roles.

"That sounds like fun," Revel said.

"Honestly?" Was Revel joking?

"Yeah. All that off-stage drama. Haven’t you ever done amateur theatre before?"

"They take themselves quite seriously," Marcy said.

"Exactly. That’s why it’s funny. And kind of touching. You want me to sign up with you?"

This sidelined Marcy. She simply couldn’t imagine Revel lowering herself to join Mrs Helberg’s troupe. After all Revel was the daughter of a Broadway star, hugely talented herself, and already practically a professional performer.

"Won’t it interfere with your band?"

Revel shrugged. "I can juggle it. What hours do they rehearse?"

Marcy told her that it was Tuesday and Friday nights, from six to nine o’clock.

"Then that’s fine," Revel said. "Plenty of time to do both."

Suddenly the miserable prospect of dragging herself to the Springdale Players twice a week seemed a lot brighter. Marcy’s mother had also sweetened the pill by increasing Marcy’s allowance, as she would have to give up her Tuesday shift at the café.

With Revel there, it might even be bearable. She couldn’t imagine Revel being pushed around by Mrs Helberg. Marcy also wondered how Mrs Helberg would react to Revel’s talent. She probably wouldn’t like a challenge to her role as star.

There was plenty of time to view the photos before they had to get to the rehearsal. Several of Revel’s were pinned up around the studio-come-storeroom, along with some of other girls.

"Nick shoots film and develops himself. The darkroom’s back there," Revel said, indicating the place she’d gone to change her clothes the other week.

Marcy, who had never been in a traditional photographer’s studio before, now guessed that the unusual odour must be developing chemicals. She wandered over to look at some of the pictures of Revel and others pinned to a piece of string tied across the room, like a temporary clothes line. The photos were pinned on with actual clothes pegs.

Revel looked absolutely amazing in them, just like a professional model. They were really arty shots, in black and white, and a couple of them reminded Marcy of the old-style publicity photos used for Hollywood stars of the Golden Age. Even with her piercings in, Revel just had the right look. Dramatic, alluring.

As she moved along the line Marcy was mortified to realised that one of the images was of herself. It took her a moment to recognise herself because of the angle and the black-and-white style. She looked strangely solemn and wistful.

Revel came up over her shoulder. "That is just beautiful. You have to get a copy of that one."

Marcy blushed. She felt the photo didn’t really look like her, it was too sophisticated. The shadows made it look as though she was wearing more eye make up or something. It was hard to describe. And her skin looked way more flawless than it did in the mirror. Though that was the same in all the photos of all the subjects. They had a kind of pearly white marble tone to the skin.

Nick appeared from the dark room area, drying his hands on a towel. "Like them?" he asked.

"As ever," Revel said. "Which ones are you using?"

"The first six on the line, then those in that corner," he told her.

The first six on the line. That meant Marcy’s photo. She had no idea that he had planned to use it in his exhibition, and wasn’t really sure how she felt about it. She looked so timid or something, compared to Revel’s pictures. At least they weren’t full body shots.

"Great. Do you have copies?" Revel asked.

"Over here." He opened a folder and drew out some prints. As well as the washing line one of Marcy there was one in which she was smiling in an embarrassed and awkward way. In Marcy’s opinion, anyway. It reminded her of how awkward she had felt in front of the lens.

Revel handed Marcy’s to her, and Marcy put them carefully in her backpack, inside a book so they wouldn’t get bent or crumpled. "Thanks," she said to Nick. She wondered if she should be more effusive, but followed Revel’s lead. She tried to look pleased, though it made her feel vain to do so.

It had been a weird day. And it was about to get a lot more weird.

Marcy and Revel stopped to get food before going to the Springdale Players. They only just arrived in time, Marcy knew that Mrs Helberg would complain to her mom if she was late.

As it turned out not everyone had arrived yet anyway. Mrs Helberg was flitting around, introducing Marcy to the other members. A couple of whom she vaguely recognised from previous productions she had gone to see with her parents.

Mrs Helberg was initially thrilled that Marcy had brought another "young person" to the group. But when she got close enough to see Revel’s piercings, Marcy saw her expression twitch with disapproval.

She got everyone to sit around on chairs, forming a circle. "As president of the players, I’d like to welcome two new young members to our company. It’s always nice to have new faces." Marcy noticed her again give a rather sidelong glance to Revel. "Now I should hand over to Len, our director-producer, to update us on casting."

Len was a thin man who looked around sixty, he had glasses and wore the kind of sweater that people gave you for Christmas.

"I’m not sure we’re all here yet - " he began, whereupon Mrs Helberg dived in again.

"That’s right, we still have another couple of members not arrived. Phyllis isn’t here, is she? Nor Thaddeus. And of course our new male lead. Now as you know, we’ve nearly finished casting for the production, but there’s always room in the chorus." She smiled encouragingly at Marcy. "But of course I should be handing the floor back to our director."

Once again Len took the floor. Just as he started to relate what roles were still available, Mrs Helberg once again interrupted him with an explanation.

"And here’s Phyllis now! Phyllis dear, hurry and join us. And Thaddeus, do bring a seat over here. Do bring a seat over here, we’re just getting started."

Phyllis was a sweet and mild looking old lady with snow white hair, and Thaddeus also had a thick thatch of white hair. Marcy couldn’t work out if they were a married couple or not, as Mrs Helberg hadn’t mentioned their surnames.

In the confusion, which involved Marcy and Revel having to shuffle their chairs around as the circle was expanded, they didn’t notice the final arrival.

The ringing tones of Mrs Helberg broke through once again.

"And here’s our new young man, who will be taking the part of Sky. As you may know, dear," she said, addressing Marcy, "we’ve chosen Guys and Dolls this year."

Marcy looked up at the newcomer.

It was Gray.

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