French Kissing

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21. Watching Guys & Dolls

Marcy was entranced by the 1955 movie of Guys and Dolls. The cast was stellar: Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons - it was the most golden of the Golden Era of Hollywood.

"Something to live up to, isn’t it?" Revel said.

Marcy thought that out of all the cast, Revel was the only one anywhere nearly talented enough to do so. Gray and Martin were great, and she was sure Mrs Helberg’s singing would be beautiful, but Revel was in a league of her own.

What inspired Marcy was the thought of having famous actors read something she had written. She wondered how the screenwriters of Guys and Dolls felt. And also what it must be like if you weren’t happy with the casting, or thought your lines were being performed wrongly.

Revel’s grandmother’s house was lovely inside. It was a large house, much lighter inside compared to how it seemed from outside, with the high hedges and all the foliage. The rooms were airy and the decor old fashioned, but in a timeless and elegant way.

Revel’s room had an antique iron bedstead and a white counterpane. It was the kind of bed that people went to antique shops for, but Marcy suspected this bed had always been there. If there had been an old-fashioned wash stand there, with a bowl and jug of water, it wouldn’t have looked out of place. Even though Revel had plenty of modern touches in her room.

There was a stunning black and white portrait photograph of Revel’s mother on one wall. Now Marcy had seen Nick’s photographs of Revel, she could see the resemblance even more strongly.

Revel’s grandmother had been out when they arrived, but she came back while they were taking a break to get a drink and more snacks from the kitchen.

"Virginia. I hope school went well? And this must be Marcy. How do you do?" She was a tall, woman with steely grey hair, very upright and elegant, and the house fitted her like a glove.

Marcy returned the greeting, feeling a little overawed. Hearing Revel called "Virginia" was a bit of a surprise.

"We’re just watching Guys and Dolls, Grandma. The one we’re doing for the theatre production." Revel had poured an extra tea for her grandmother while she was getting her and Marcy’s drinks.

"Thank you Virginia. Are you able to stay with us for dinner, Marcy?"

Marcy hadn’t given it any thought, beyond hanging out with Revel for a couple of hours and eating snacks in front of the television. She wasn’t sure how to respond.

"You can stay, can’t you?" Revel asked.

"Sure, I guess. Thank you," Marcy said.

"That’s wonderful. Now I’ll manage everything, so you girls can go and resume your theatrical study."

Back in front of Guys and Dolls Marcy texted her mother to let her know she wouldn’t be home until later. "It was kind of your grandmother to invite me," she said to Revel.

"I meant you to stay anyway. The movie’s two and a half hours," Revel told her.

"Your grandmother seems very nice."

Revel laughed. "She’s completely vintage. She is wonderful."

Try as she might, Marcy could not help thinking of Gray every time Marlon Brando had a scene. While the movie script and theatre script had many differences, there were still entire phrases that she had heard Gray speak.

"So you’re writing a play yourself?" Revel asked. "Is it under wraps or can you talk about it?"

Marcy felt a little embarrassed. Her idea would probably sound really lame to anyone else. "I don’t have a title for it yet, but it has a fairy-tale setting," she said. "I know that probably sounds really dumb. But it’s actually aimed at adults."

"Not dumb at all. No one complains about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, do they? Or The Tempest, or whatever else. Besides, even with Disney there are tonnes of adults that watch it," Revel said.

Marcy was relieved Revel hadn’t immediately cringed or laughed in her face.

"It’s kind of based on Rapunzel, but it’s about people not being able to afford healthcare. Because in that story the couple have to give their baby to the witch as they couldn’t afford the herbs. So I’m using that to comment on how it works today."

"I think it sounds fascinating. I’d love to read it once you’re done."

"Thanks." Marcy was grateful that Revel took her seriously. She had not dared to let anyone at school know about it, even Josh when they were dating. People tended to mock that kind of stuff, like if you wrote poetry or whatever.

"I’m singing at the bar tomorrow night, as it’s Friday," Revel said. "I was thinking that you should come, and I’ll ask Martin. He can then ask Gray if he wants, and I bet Gray will come."

"You don’t want to ask him directly?" Marcy asked.

Revel shook her head. "He won’t come if I do that, he’ll feel obligated to decline because of the whole teacher/school thing. This gets him off the hook. He’s going at Martin’s invitation, not ours."

Marcy understood. She still wasn’t sure Gray would accept though.

"Who knows? You may even get a repeat performance," Revel said, joking.

Was Revel trying to push them together? "I doubt it. He’d had a lot to drink that night." Marcy didn’t mention the subsequent, fully sober kiss during the Tuesday rehearsal.

"The intent’s still there though. He just needs to loosen up. He’s so obviously crazy about you, it’s written all over his face. I mean I can see it," Revel said to clarify, as Marcy looked alarmed, "though I’m sure the others have no idea."

Marcy was getting a warm and nervous feeling hearing this. She marvelled how little Revel seemed to care about the student-teacher thing, or the age gap. She spoke of Gray and Martin as though they were colleagues, her equals. But then most of Revel’s friends - at least the people she seemed to know outside school - were older.

If anything happened in the bar, and Martin saw, and it got back to Mrs Helberg and then her parents… Marcy shuddered, the warmth gone. It would be a living hell. She’d probably be grounded until she was forty. Not that her parents were super strict or anything, but even they would draw the line at their daughter dating her teacher.

What if Gray was just a guy who worked in the café? Or a graduate student? Marcy wondered if they would mind as much, even though he was older than her. She thought they would probably get used to it. After all, she was eighteen and officially an adult. And her parents were seven years apart, which was more than her and Gray.

Revel’s grandmother eventually called them in to dinner. She also invited Marcy to call her Rowena. Marcy struggled to do this, as she instinctively felt that Revel’s grandmother was the kind of person you should call ma’am.

It was wonderful, old-fashioned home made food. A chicken and bacon pie with proper hand made pastry, woven in strips on the top. Followed by a spiced apricot and brown sugar tart. Marcy said how delicious she thought it was.

"You can praise Virginia, she made the tart," Rowena said.

Marcy turned to Revel. "Really?"

"It’s Grandma’s recipe."

"It was your Great Aunt June’s recipe," Rowena told her. "Though I think your changes to it are an improvement. Cardamom, if I’m not mistaken?"

Marcy was happy to have a second helping. Rowena led the conversation, telling Marcy about the house and some of its history, and the gardens. She also asked Marcy about her own ambitions. "Virginia wishes to act, of course, always a risky profession. But I believe she has some of her mother’s talent. Time will tell."

Marcy hoped Rowena would be suitably blown away when she saw Revel as Miss Adelaide. Revel didn’t really need any more time to prove herself, she already had it. She told Rowena about her own dreams of moving to New York and studying theatre writing.

"How very appropriate. Perhaps one day you’ll room together if Virginia attends Juilliard," Rowena said.

It seemed like a very far off dream right now, but a good one.

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