Chapter 1: Diary Dearest
IF I HADN’T THROWN that stupid party, and if Meredith Upson hadn’t pitched a fit right in the middle of it, I might never have ended up in a darkened theatre, squaring off against a nutcase with a blade. But then, knowing me, I just might. I have that effect on some people. You either like me or you don’t. I should be honest from the start, Dear Reader - I am a bit of a drama queen!
I’d been living in Jamestown only a month when I auditioned for the school play, Vampire’s Lady, a wonderful old melodrama full of cobweb-strewn corridors and terrible family secrets. I would play Nora, the heroine who falls for the mysterious Laird Krogan. Unfortunately for Nora, Krogan turns out to be a vampire. Torn between death and life and love, she drives a stake through his heart. My heart skipped a beat at the thought of playing Nora!
Everyone knew that the only boy in school who could play Krogan was Todd Playfair. He’s a natural. Todd’s a year older than me, and apart from being as cute as Ryan Gosling or Henry Cavill, he’s tall and strong, with curly brown hair all the way down to his broad, freckled shoulders. Todd was pre-cast, the school’s dramatic sine qua non. And why not? He has a crooked little smile that makes you want to hug him. Some girls would kill for Todd. Trust me - I found out the hard way!
I’m Rebecca, by the way - Rebecca Sweet. “Sweet by name and sweet by nature,” according to Mr. Neville, the drama teacher. He’s going to direct Vampire’s Lady, and he’s always quoting things and making little plays on words. He thinks he’s a wit, but in my book, he’s a nitwit. He looks like a frizzy-haired dummy who moves like a wind-up cricket. He’s always hopping about the place, raving on about truth and motivation.
Good thing he never read my diary. Then he’d find out the truth! He’d find out I’m reallynotso sweet. But that’s part of my training as an actress. If you can fool people in real life, doing it onstage ought to be easy, right? Not that I lie to everyone. But if you want entertainment around here, you’re better off making your own.
Moving to Jamestown wasn’t such a great idea, in my opinion, but my dad got a chance to lecture at the university, so he pitched his job in advertising and we headed west. When we got here, he locked his thirty-eight revolver and a box of bullets in one of Mother’s glass bookcases, saying: “Well, I won’t be needing this any more!” Not that he ever used it when we lived in the city, but with rising crime and all, he got it “to be on the safe side.” I guess it gave him peace of mind.
Jamestown is not exactly a hotbed of crime. In fact, it’s Dullsville. I miss my friends and the excitement and the crowds. I was hoping this might turn out to be one of those weird little towns that Stephen King writes about where it rains toads and mad zealots roam the streets seeking victims for the Corn God. You can tell I’m a horror fan! Dad’s subject is English, and he’s dismayed by my ever-growing collection of sensational paperbacks; but he says that in these days of internet chat rooms and video games, he’s happy if his “one and only” reads anything.
Since my mother died five years ago, he’s been pretty lonely, so I guess he gives in to me even when he shouldn’t. But as much as he loves Literature and as much as he encourages me to do creative stuff, he wouldn’t be one bit happy if he knew what’s in my diary. You see, I haven’t had a chance to make any friends since coming here, so Diary Dearest is the only one I can tell things to. I mean, you can’t just keep stuff bottled up; a girl has to talk to someone. No harm in keeping a diary, right?
Dead wrong. I found that out the hard way too. At least Jamestown has been a learning experience.
I could imagine Narelle’s flat face if she knew the kind of stuff I’ve written about her. Here’s a taste of Rebecca’s ravings ...
“Narelle Tatham has inherited little of her mother’s beauty and none of her grace. She’s rude, pushy, arrogant, and plain as a potato! Her father’s the local member, so she resents being sent to something as lowly as a state school. But it’s good for her daddy’s image as a man of the people - the local boy made good, etc. - so she just has to grit her capped teeth and bear it.
“One thing I’ll say for her - she does have talent. She can sing like a rock chick, but she’s never gonna look like one. Not without surgery. Maybe she could have a career on radio. Isn’t that where all the people who are too ugly for TV go?”
But don’t think I don’t have a good word to say about some people. Here’s a bit about Todd:
“What can I tell you, Diary Dearest? The boy is dreamy. He doesn’t walk - he floats - and even when he’s all hot and sweaty after a game of basketball, he still looks godlike. He’s even done a magazine ad for a new line of jeans. I bet plenty of girls have that picture on their wall! Just think - our own local celebrity - and there’s a chance I’ll be starring with him in the play!
“When Meredith showed me Todd’s ad, my heart just flipped. He’s shirtless and wearing these really tight jeans. Man, does he have a bod! Even his feet look nice. I think Meredith fancies him too - but then, who doesn’t? Of course, Meredith’s such a drab little moth, she’d never let on. She’ll probably wind up sitting behind a desk in some dusty library, reading racy novels and dreaming of men like Todd. But I’m going to be an actress, and one day my world will be filled with men like Todd!
“No wonder so many girls worship him. Without doing much, he seems to have a way of getting people to like him. If he doesn’t decide to become an actor, maybe he’ll be a politician - like Narelle’s old man, only honest. He could run a great campaign: ‘Playfair, the Man Who Plays Fair.’ I’d vote for him.
“But he hasn’t really noticed me - not in that way. Weird alert - he seems to like Narelle. Now there’s a mismatch. To quote one of Mr. Neville’s sayings, ’God makes ’em and the Devil matches ‘em!’ Not that Narelle would give Todd the time of day. She ignores everyone except Meredith, who she treats like a slave. Todd doesn’t have the right pedigree for Narelle - his mother is a secretary and his dad drives a cab.”
You get the picture. When I’m telling it to Diary Dearest, I don’t hold back. And if the people in this little town think I’m sweet, it just proves how little they know me. Dad suggested I give a getting-to-know-you party, and although it might sound like the last thing I’d want, his timing was spot-on. I’d given out all the invitations, and then came the auditions for Vampire’s Lady. The party would be the next day - and everyone had accepted, including Mr. Neville. This would be the perfect way to get myself into his good books. With the casting of Vampire’s Lady to be announced the following Friday, all I had to do was come out of this looking good and the part of Nora would be mine.
As I’ve said, Todd is perfect for Laird. And, if I may say so, I was born to play Nora. But then there’s Narelle. She also auditioned for Nora, and I must admit her acting was all right. Then, she opened her mouth and sang! The play’s not a musical. But she sang anyway. And Mr. Neville sat bolt upright, his fuzzy little ears twitching. He looked like a terrier hearing a whistle. His eyes went to owl-size, and for once he sat still. It gave me chills. The way she sang and the way he listened.
I knew I was in trouble. Narelle may not be Margot Robbie or Scarlett Johannson, but she had done the most important thing a performer can do - she had shown she has presence. That means she can hold an audience. That means she’s a threat.
To be fair to myself - as fair as I can be - I think my audition was better. But I never had a “wow” moment. Not like Narelle. Mr. Neville didn’t react to me the way he did to her. If only she could make some terrible slip, wind up with a major case of foot-in-mouth, like ... at the party. Yes. That would be perfect.
I already knew she was rude, bossy, not the type to take direction - someone Mr. Neville definitely would not want to work with - and all I had to do was get her to show it. Help her to show it. In front of the director.
This might sound mean, but was it? Aren’t actors supposed to search for truth? Especially Mr. Neville’s actors, since “truth” is one of his favourite words. All I was going to do was let the truth come out.
Besides, since my mother died, I’ve really felt the need to make my mark in the world, to stand out ... be famous one day. I don’t think she would have called herself ambitious, but Mother used to paint. Especially after she got sick. I used to try to look after her, but she got the most relief out of doing something creative. I know how that feels. I’ve got one of her paintings in my room, and Dad has them all over his walls, and there’s no doubt Mum had talent. Dad says she used to dream of being a successful artist, but she put having a family first ... she just felt she would be discovered one day, even if that was when she was eighty, like Grandma Moses.
But she didn’t live to be eighty. She didn’t even make it to her forties like that guy in the movie Pollock. She died at thirty-one. I loved her so much. I vowed I would make it for both of us. Make our name famous. She was Rebecca, too. When I’m a star, I’m going to stage a showing of her paintings. That’s right, Dear Reader, I’m going to take her with me, right to the top!
And the first step is getting the part of Nora. You see, Todd put me in touch with Miss Rigg, the talent agent who got him the jeans ad, and she said she’d like to see me perform in something ... not just an audition, a whole show. She also said I have an angelic face, fantastic curly black hair and a killer personality. She got that last part right! I like Miss Rigg. She’s tough and smart. And if she likes me in the part of Nora, she’ll take me on as a client. That means professional work. Then I’ll be on my way. To being somebody.
But first, Nora.
And next, the party.