French Kissing

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16. Dramatic meeting

Gray. In the Springdale Players. Marcy would have liked to fantasise that Fate was pushing them together, but in reality it wasn’t much of a coincidence. He’d mentioned he was looking to join an amateur drama group, and she had mentioned the Springdale Players to him.

She had also implied she would rather drop dead than join up herself, so he had probably assumed he’d be safe not bumping into her there.

She could see the immediate shock in his eyes when he saw her. He covered it pretty quickly.

"Welcome, welcome," Mrs Helberg said. "Pull up a seat and join our circle of players."

Gray did so. He briefly caught Marcy’s eye. She couldn’t read his expression.

She also had no idea what Revel would think. Would she recognise him as the guy in the bar? Would she recognise him as Mr Grayson from school? Even if she wasn’t in his classes she must have seen him walking around by now. Marcy glanced at Revel. Her expression was neutral, inscrutable, just like Gray’s.

"Len was just taking us through the latest updates. Len, if I can pass back to you?"

Len opened his mouth to speak, but Mrs Helberg was too quick for him once again.

"Just one more thing! I nearly forgot, the most exciting thing as well. The scripts have arrived. They’ll be ten dollars each. Yes, Betty, they did come in very slightly under that, thanks to my negotiations with the script company, but any surplus goes straight to the Players as our Treasurer will confirm."

Mrs Helberg smiled brightly at Thaddeus, who was apparently the treasurer. "Now I’ll check off against everyone’s names on my list when you’ve got your copy and when you’ve paid. Don’t worry," she said, turning to Marcy and Revel. "I did have the foresight to order a few spares."

Finally, by some miracle, Len managed to do his update. All the major leads had tentatively been cast, though there was possibly room for some adjustments. As predicted, Mrs Helberg had cast herself as the lead female role, Sarah, opposite Sky.

The prospect of the two of them on stage playing a romantic couple was so absurd that Marcy couldn’t bring herself to look at Revel. She could sense Revel was trying to suppress her laughter. Marcy also couldn’t bring herself to look at Gray, so she just looked across at someone else’s feet, attempting to maintain her composure.

Mrs Helberg suggested that they start by "trying the new talent out". Phyllis, who turned out to be the accompanist, sat down at the piano.

Marcy did her best to get out of it. "I don’t sing, I’m afraid. Or act. I hoped there might be some way I could help out?"

She addressed this to Len but it was Mrs Helberg who answered. "I’m sure we can find something for you to do. Now what about you - " she had forgotten, or had pretended to forget, Revel’s name.

"Revel. Revel Holmes. I sing."

Mrs Helberg looked arguably less impressed by this than by Marcy’s refusal to sing. She would clearly have preferred to stick Revel and her piercings in the prompter’s box, well out of sight.

"Any preference, dear?" Phyllis asked her.

Diplomatically, Marcy thought, Revel chose Adelaide’s Lament rather than one of the lead songs by Sarah.

Revel’s performance blew everyone away.

It was flawless. Revel’s voice was strong, she was funny, the accent was perfect. The Springdale Players had never witnessed anything like it.

There were various murmurs, and Gray also looked impressed. Everyone gave her a round of applause afterwards.

The obvious thing would have been to recast Revel in the lead role, but Marcy could only imagine the apocalypse that this would bring down.

Mrs Helberg quickly stepped in to protect her territory. Revel’s choice of song had made this slightly easier for her.

"Wonderful… Revel. Now I know that we had already cast the role of Adelaide, but I do feel, Betty, don’t you - " she addressed poor Betty, who was clearly about to be demoted to the chorus " - that this might be a very suitable change? Everyone agreed?" she asked, before anyone had a chance to respond. And just like that, Revel was suddenly one of the stars of the Springdale Players.

They were starting with a read through, but a couple of people had gone to visit to the bathroom so there was finally a moment to talk.

"Mr Grayson," Revel said.

"The singer," he replied, instead of using her name.

Revel raised her eyebrows. "My lips are sealed." She turned and walked back to her chair, leaving Marcy and Gray together.

"I never guessed…."

"I had no idea…"

They both started speaking simultaneously, and then there was an awkward pause when neither of them knew who was supposed to talk. Marcy found herself wanting to gaze at him, so tall, attractive, somehow even hotter outside of school.

She looked at his lips, and the firm lines of his jaw. The breadth of his shoulders.

She wondered if she should suggest withdrawing from the group, though how she would explain that to her mom she had no idea. As she hesitated over what to say, Gray spoke.

"Thank you for… after the other night. I drank too much and I am hugely sorry."

Marcy wasn’t sorry at all. She fantasised about it all the time, being crushed in his arms. I can’t believe I’ve actually slept with you, she thought. And now they were supposed to act like polite near-strangers. Well, if that was the case, she would have to put on a brave face and try to act natural and friendly around him.

"Congratulations on getting the lead role," she said.

She saw a slight flicker of surprise in his eyes. He obviously wasn’t expecting her to be so calm. In reality she was boiling up with nervous tension and giving an Oscar-worthy performance of hiding it. Or a Tony-worthy performance, given this was theatre.

"Thanks."

Before they could speak further, everyone was called back by Mrs Helberg and the read-around began. Marcy was glad she could just sit there and listen, and not have to read any parts.

Mrs Helberg, in fairness, wasn’t as bad as she could have been. If she had been cast in a more mature role, or perhaps with a co-star nearer her own age, it might not have been so absurd.

No one was singing currently, it was just the spoken lines, but Marcy knew that Mrs Helberg had a rich contralto voice. Her singing on stage would be good even if she looked about as much like a slim young girl as Thaddeus did.

Revel was amazing, but that went without saying. Gray was also surprisingly talented, he got the accent just right. Marcy once again wondered why he hadn’t gone into acting. Martin, the man playing Nathan opposite Revel’s Miss Adelaide, was also very good. He was probably in his late twenties or early thirties, and clearly an experienced actor.

There was a coffee break half way through, at which time Mrs Helberg accosted Marcy. "Now Marcy dear, I was wondering how we might best make use of you. How about the prompt?"

This was absolutely the last thing Marcy wanted, to be stuck in the prompter’s box from start to finish, having to concentrate more on the script than anyone else. "I’m not sure I’d be very good at it. Perhaps I could help backstage, with props or something?"

"We do have Alan usually acting as our stage manager, he’s not here tonight of course, but you may be able to help him."

What Marcy would have really loved was an Assistant Director role, under Len, but she rightly suspected this position was unofficially held by Mrs Helberg.

Revel had been talking to Thaddeus and Phyllis, but broke off as Marcy came over. "Did she fix you up with something?"

"Kind of. Stage hand, depending what the stage manager says," Marcy told her

"Alan would be delighted for any help," Thaddeus said. He had a kindly face, Marcy thought.

"Such a beautiful voice your friend has," Phyllis said. "I was just telling her what a delight it is to accompany someone so talented."

Revel smiled. "Be careful, or my head will swell and Miss Adelaide will need a larger wig ordered."

They returned to their seats, and continued the reading. Marcy was really enjoying herself, listening to them all. The rhythm of it and the interplay of voices were giving her ideas for her own play.

Before everyone left, Gray spoke to Marcy one more time. "It’s a shame you don’t act."

She was surprised. "Why?"

"As dedicated as Cora is," he told her, referring to Mrs Helberg, "you’d be a better fit as leading lady." For a moment she saw heat flicker in his eyes as his gaze met hers.

Marcy blushed and her stomach dissolved. I’m not imagining this attraction, she thought. I can’t be.

But then he was gone, and the night suddenly felt emptier.


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