37. On show
As often happens with a theatre group, the cast members were getting closer and friendlier. A real sense of teamwork and camaraderie was developing, and Marcy was enjoying the rehearsals for the social element almost as much as the theatrical.
There was a bit of sniping and backbiting, but that was normal with nerves growing jittery as First Night approached.
Marcy and Revel had come to adore Betty. She had worked briefly as a dancer and showgirl in her youth - "many, many years ago now, dears" - and had a host of wicked stories to share.
They had also become firm friends with Thaddeus and Phyllis, who it turned out were not a couple but "companions", as they liked to term it. They were both widowed, unlike Betty who had divorced three husbands and had a large troupe of gentleman friends. She preferred to call them her "dancing partners".
Marcy found it encouraging that all these older people still had romance in their lives. Not that she wanted to wait until she was seventy to start dating again, but it made her feel less like she was running out of time with Gray calling things to a halt. Hopefully a temporary one.
Len was also a valued colleague, Marcy was learning so much from him. She also recognised how much work Mrs Helberg did in keeping everything together and managing the company as a whole. Even without the fact that she got to see Gray more often, she was very glad she had joined the group.
Len had also arranged for a cast recording. "In case anyone gets laryngitis," he told them. "And a great Christmas gift, for those who enjoy showtunes."
"Nick’s photography exhibition is finally on," Revel told Marcy as they walked from Springdale High to the theatre. "I thought we could invite some of the cast members to the opening."
Marcy felt hugely embarrassed because one of her photos was among those being displayed. But she squashed down her discomfort. After all, Revel had half a dozen portrait shots in there.
"Sure, why not?" What was the worst that could happen, after all? It wasn’t like it really mattered if people thought she looked dumb in her picture. And Gray had called them beautiful. In front of Brittanny, no less.
"It’s Saturday afternoon. There’ll be wine and canapés, the usual."
Marcy had never been to an exhibition opening before so she had no idea what was usual. Or what to wear. She had an idea that people dressed very smartly to visit galleries, but Nick had seemed such a casual kind of guy. Not the type to even own a suit.
"Is there a dress code?" she asked.
"No, just whatever."
If Gray was going to be included in the invitation Marcy wanted to look a little bit nice at least. And hopefully older. She was still worried that if he kept forcing himself to view her only as a high school student, then that’s all he would eventually see.
The other cast members were delighted to be asked to the opening. Mrs Helberg was particularly pleased as Revel had arranged for some of the Guys and Dolls flyers to be handed out there.
Everyone was hoping for packed audiences, particularly as a reporter from the Springdale newspaper had come down to do a preview. A local magazine for retirees had also featured Betty and the dancers in a story on "keeping fit in your golden years" which they were hoping would draw a few more people in.
Loads of students from Springdale were also planning to come. Mr Grayson was such a popular teacher, and so many girls still had crushes on him that they were eagerly trying to get tickets.
The show was becoming so overwhelming that it was almost a relief to have another diversion. Marcy deliberately put on the sexiest outfit she could get away with at an afternoon event: a slinky, fitted dress that she’d once worn to a winter wedding. Everyone else had decided to dress up to make more of an occasion of it.
Marcy was still super nervous when she arrived at the gallery. Her parents were also coming, and they would meet Gray for the first time. Albeit just as Mr Grayson: as they had no idea of Marcy’s considerably closer acquaintance with her high school French teacher.
She was terrified they might sense something, even though both she and Gray had managed to be on their best behaviour. Sometimes she would catch him looking at her in French class and she would look back. There was an unspoken understanding there, even though there wasn’t meant to be.
"What beautiful photos!" Marcy’s mother said as they entered. She had already seen the two prints that Nick had given Marcy, but it didn’t compare to seeing the huge, blow-up photo of Marcy on the wall.
There were six of Revel, all arranged along one wall in a series. Revel was standing near them, with another photographer taking a picture of her and her photos. Marcy was also surprised to see Revel’s grandmother there, looking very elegant and proud.
Marcy was never quite sure what Revel’s grandmother knew of and what she didn’t in terms of what Revel got up to, but she seemed to be okay with the modelling at least.
Her world swam. It was Gray, looking absolutely amazingly good looking in a well-cut suit.
"Hi… Mr Grayson." She nearly slipped up but covered it. "These are my parents. Mom, Dad, this is Mr Grayson, who teaches French at Springdale High."
Marcy’s parents were happy to make his acquaintance. "We’ve heard so much about you," Marcy’s father said.
Marcy felt her face flame up. What? She was sure she had barely mentioned him. She could see a smile in Gray’s eyes.
"From Cora Helberg," Marcy’s mother went on to explain. "She seems very excited to have secured your talents for the Springdale Players. She’s our neighbour," she told Gray.
"Marcy’s showing a lot of directorial talent herself," Gray said.
"She’s always been very keen on the theatre. We were looking at possible theatre management and playwriting programs for her next year."
Marcy wanted the floor to swallow her. It was like being a little kid again, with your parents talking about you over your head with other grown-ups.
"I’m sure she’ll get the grades, if her performance in French this semester is anything to go by," Gray said. His eyes just flicked to Marcy on the word "performance" and she knew he was thinking of quite another kind of performance.
In my head I’m glaring at you, Marcy thought, since she couldn’t actually react openly.
Her parents were blown away by the photo of Marcy and her father ordered prints for themselves and for Marcy’s grandparents.
Later on her mother couldn’t stop going on about Gray.
"What a nice young man your French teacher is. And so handsome! I expect he’s broken plenty of hearts at Springdale. He was certainly very nice about your progress."
"Yes, he’s a great teacher," Marcy said. In more ways than one.