French Kissing

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40. Love scene

Marcy felt increasingly sick as the matinée approached. It didn’t help that she had gone over her lines a gazillion times.

Her parents were really excited for her and were coming to watch the show again, having already seen the opening night.

Everyone else was also over the moon about it. Ben, her boss at the café was coming to watch specially, as was Great Aunt Esme. Addy was frustrated beyond belief that she couldn’t fly down.

"Your big night! I am so mad I can’t be there!"

Revel was the only one who really understood what Marcy was going through and how conflicted she felt about it. And Len too, to some extent. He gave her some advice which she never forgot.

"This is your first and best chance to see things from the other side, if you never do this again. You will be a much better writer and a more empathetic director if you’ve put yourself through this. I know it feels like an ordeal, but in terms of what you want to do with you career, it’s gold."

It was this, more than anything, that steadied Marcy’s nerves. She started thinking of it as a learning experience, as a kind of experiment.

Make up and costume were just a blur. She was sitting in the female dressing room at one of the mirrors, marvelling at how anyone would do this voluntarily, when there was a knock at the door.

It was Gray, with a huge and beautiful bunch of roses.

"Flowers for my leading lady. For luck."

He was gone before Marcy had a chance to blush.

"What a very sweet young man that is," Phyllis remarked. "Such a lovely gesture."

"Isn’t he so?" Betty said. "Now if I was ten years younger…"

"…you mean fifty," Phyllis said.

Betty winked at Marcy. "If I was your age he’d be just the kind of beau I’d set my cap at."

Marcy saw Revel practically choking with laughter and trying to suppress it.

"He’s my teacher," Marcy said.

Betty and Phyllis shot one another a knowing glance.

"Well if he wasn’t, I’d go so far to suspect he was sweet on you," Betty said.

Revel started coughing and hid her face in a tissue.

Marcy just hoped her greasepaint was thick enough to mask what she was sure would be her bright scarlet complexion.

To her relief the conversation was broken up by the call for the first scene, which Marcy was involved in. She closed her eyes, thought "now or never", and made her way to the wings.

When the curtains first opened Marcy was utterly dazzled. She felt like a deer in the headlights. She had sort of seen this viewpoint from the wings: the brilliance of the footlights, the black void of the auditorium, but it was another world once you were actually on stage.

Fortunately the first scene was a kind of ensemble so she had a few moments to get used to things, not having any solo lines. She got her bearings, tried to get used to the strange sense of void beyond the lights, and then let the script take over.

Once things finally got going it was all a bit of a blur. Everything went at once very quickly and very slowly. Marcy didn’t enjoy it - each time she left the stage it was a shattering relief and a huge ordeal to step back out there - but somehow she got through it. Everyone was very kind to her but were careful not to overwhelm her.

The lip syncing was probably the easiest bit as she didn’t have to think so much. She knew all the songs backwards so all she had to do was mouth the words while Mrs Helberg’s powerful voice rang out from the audio track.

Marcy was most nervous about her scenes with Gray as Sky, and above all the scene in which they had to dance. Revel had practiced it with her a few times but being in Gray’s arms made her feel hopelessly clumsy.

Then of course they had to kiss. On stage. In front of millions of people, or so it felt.

It was only a brief stage kiss, and Marcy tried to remind herself that Gray had done this dozens of times with Mrs Helberg. But it was still his lips on hers, and for a moment the world stood still. If the audience thought her acting was particularly convincing at that point, no one was going to reveal that she wasn’t really having to act. She was genuinely dizzy and uplifted, as ever, by Gray’s kiss.

Finally it was all over, and she had Gray’s and Martin’s hands steering her and steadying her for the final bow.

She stumbled as she left the stage after the final curtain fell, and Gray caught her. He hugged her for a moment - it was something any of them might have done because they all knew what she had been through, getting thrown in at the deep end - but Marcy felt like drowning in his arms.

"You were absolutely amazing," he said.

When he let her go she saw Phyllis and Betty sharing another little knowing smile between them. They really were a pair of meddling old gossips, but they meant well.

They had an evening performance later on so most people left promptly to get some rest and recharge. Thank goodness Mrs Helberg would be back for that one.

Marcy found Len before she left. "You were right," she told him. "I can’t say I loved the experience, but it’s made me realise some things that I wouldn’t have before."

"You did a fine job. If you want to go on stage in a future production, I’d be happy to cast you."

"Thanks, but no way! It’s also confirmed to me more than ever where my place is in the theatre. I’m glad I did it though," she said. "Or rather that I survived it."

"Well good for you. You had some great chemistry with Sky up there, no one would have guessed it was your first time."

Probably because it wasn’t exactly, Marcy thought.

"I’ll see you later this evening," she told him. Right now she wanted to zone out. And that meant some ice cream, a couch and a movie.

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