Chapter 52: The Sidekick and Taking the Stage (Part 2)
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“How do I look?” Nora asked.

Someone suaver would have been able to answer honestly, maybe turn her cheeks that beautiful shade of pink they tended to become when she was embarrassed. I was not such a person. I opened and closed my mouth before deciding to leave it shut. No reason to make myself look more like a fool than I had to. Already the others pacing around behind the curtain were watching us in amusement, enjoying the preshow we were providing.

Honestly, I should start charging them.

Nora fidgeted with the wig, interpreting my lack of response incorrectly. “It looks weird on me, doesn’t it? I told Amelia I wasn’t girly enough to pull it off.”

It didn’t at all; she was beautiful. The long blonde hair of the wig fell eloquently over her shoulders, further complimented by Amelia doing her makeup. Her lashes were long, skin flawless, and lips plump like a princess straight out of a fairy tale. A princess that I had somehow tricked into dating me.

Ethan came up beside me, nudging me into action. I leveled him with a glare before turning to her with a blush. Hopefully, it was hidden under the small amount of makeup Amelia had also forced on me. “No, you look stunning. I wasn’t sure my heart was going to take it.”

Her cheeks glowed. “You’re such a flatterer.”

Ethan wasn’t one to be outdone. Putting a hand on his hip, he spun one-hundred and eight degrees in front of us. “How do I look, big boy?”

This earned more than a few loud laughs from the rest of the crew. Some whistled and others clapped as I swatted at him. He ducked, but I went after him a few more times, figuring we could all use the distraction from the dull roar of the crowd. I had peeked my head through the curtain earlier, only to feel dizzy. There were at least two-hundred people in the audience, if not more. While I had no idea how that stacked up to their usual attendance that was a lot of people to me.

Especially since I wasn’t an actor. I wasn’t even fit to play the role of a tree, yet here I was playing the lead role. Talk about imposter syndrome.

Nora snaked her fingers through my own, the warmth of her palm calming my racing heart. “You clean up well. You might be prettier than I am right now.”

I scoffed. “You’re full of crap.”

Soft chuckles met my ear. “Maybe I am, but I know you can do it.”

The curtain began to rise, and we took our positions. I never let go of her hand, squeezing it tighter, wanting to share in some of her confidence.

____________

I watched the curtain rise from my seat in the back of the room as the hall was plunged into darkness, a welcome relief since I no longer had to slouch to try and remain hidden. It was pierced by the bright spotlight atop the balcony moments later, forcing my eyes to adjust again. The audience hushed and settled back, their gazes drawn to the city backdrop like moths to a flame. I was the same, content to enjoy the bickering between the servants of the Capulets and Montagues. Their acting wasn’t the best, but their honest and straightforward delivery managed to captivate the audience and earn them some good-natured chuckles.

The amusement turned to gasps when a loud guitar rift ruptured the silence from the pit and acted as a precursor to the massive brawl breaking out on stage. Nobody was spared as blades clashed, the clanging of metal and rock music reverberating around the auditorium. They even let Capulet get a few good hits in with a crutch, bringing a small grin to my face. While the prince berated the two families, I wondered which one of them altered the script and the music genre like that. It could have been Amelia just as easily as it could have been that Katy girl they convinced to join.

She was playing Romeo, wasn’t she? If so, she would be entering the stage soon. I knew she was the captain of the volleyball team, but I had no idea whether her talent extended to acting.

I grabbed my silver pendant, running the cord between my fingers. What was I doing? There was no reason for me to be here. Had I been more courageous, I could have used this as an opportunity to make up with all of them. I hadn’t told any of them I was coming, though. That was a mistake on my part. My secret would continue to burn away at me if I stayed away, and I feared that he’d find out about my past from someone else. It was easier to stay a coward and keep everything buried inside, unable to open myself up to his potential scorn. This was yet another time I wished to have his courage. The courage he gathered up to confront Sara, ask me out, and try and make everyone around him happy.

My focus returned to the play, waiting to see what Katy would bring to the play. She wasn’t the one that the boy playing Benvolio approached, however. It was him, and he looked dashing. I had called him that once when we had gone on a date to the mall together. But here on that stage, he radiated the aura of a prince. His slicked-back hair, piercing eyes, and dapper robes pulled the look together.

My heart dropped in my chest.

That meant it wouldn’t be Katy and Nora who were star-crossed lovers. It would be him and her. I squirmed in my seat, gripping the armrest and attempting to push away the pricks of envy. Because what right did I have to feel that way? We weren’t going out; they were.

“Good morrow, cousin.”

“I-is the day so young?”

He stuttered through his first line, gaining more confidence during his drawn-out monologue. Although, that wasn’t a surprise to me. Romeo was moping around in this scene, something he used to constantly do as well. Channeling back then, he managed to capture the feelings of angst and unrequited love well.

Unsteady and flustered, he exited the stage, making way for Nora to stalk forth and confront the nurse and her mother. While I had thought he was handsome, she was almost angelic in her cream dress. Soft curls framed her face, her pink lips drawn in a pout, thin eyebrows pulled down in protest. Her beauty drew me in, as I was certain it did to everybody else as well. Although it was more than that. Each line she delivered made you forget who she was because, at this moment, she was Juliet.

The scene ended and the spotlight weaved multiple colors across the stage the way a disco ball would at a party. Such a change was fitting since most of the actors were on stage, partaking in a masked ball. This was also the first time Romeo and Juliet interacted with one another. He approached her with a steady gait, his smile full of bravado. She appeared defiant, yet it was obvious to everyone watching that she was smitten. They leaned into each other’s touches and flirted with practiced ease. Nora mentioned that they would go on a few practice dates before deciding whether to become an official couple. I wasn’t so certain that they needed to do that. Whether they went on a few dates or not, I think they already knew the answer.

They may have been actors, but they weren’t acting right now.

It struck me then that this was a play about us. I had been Rosaline, plaguing his mind and making him lovestruck. Nora was Juliet, the girl who drove him to mature and take things into his own hands. They found love in one another and were able to experience a sort of happily ever after together.

And I knew I should be happy for her. She was my friend and hadn’t done anything wrong, just went after what I wanted first. I also wanted to feel upset for myself but couldn’t do that either, not when I put myself in this predicament.

My emotions were a mess when he kissed her on the corner of her lips.

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