Chapter 53: The Sidekick and Taking the Stage (Part 3)
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Stage fright.

It was something I had never really experienced. School presentations didn’t faze me, and I could deal with large groups of people. That wasn’t to say I enjoyed speaking to a crowd, but I could do it when the occasion required. So, why did my legs feel like jello right now?

I grabbed the thick curtain to steady myself, my knees almost buckling beneath me. I shook like an autumn leaf, desperate to break free from the branch. There wasn’t any rest for the weary, though. My next scene with Nora was fast approaching, where I would discover her dead from poison. Or so Romeo thought.

“You’re a mess, dude.” Ethan strode up beside me, one hand behind his head and the other one clutching a rag. “Turn to me.”

I did as he asked, and he wiped away the sweat slicking my bangs flush against my forehead. My sweat drenched the rag but gave me temporary relief. The lights had been burning hot out there, and between them and the pressure of doing my best to perform my role, I had been sweating buckets.

“Thanks.”

“No problem,” he said. “Seriously, are you going to be ok?”

“I’ll be fine. We’re almost done.”

Ethan gave me a once over, no doubt noticing how much I continued to shake. “At least let go of the curtain if you’re going to lie to me.”

“I happen to like this curtain. It comforts me. Besides, there’s only one more scene for me.”

He opened his mouth to argue, closing it and settling on sighing instead. “I guess you’re right. You just need to die and be done with it. Even you can do that.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Anytime, man. It looks like you’re up in a few. I’ll leave you alone to concentrate.”

He streaked off toward the next person in need of assistance, a girl on who he forced a bottle of water. She thanked him before bringing it to her lips, downing it like she hadn’t drank in weeks. The spotlight sure had done a number on the crew. That and the nerves, and Ethan realized it. Nobody had expected him to take on any responsibility for the play. He had, though, because that was the kind of guy he was.

Beads of sweat ran down his face and yet he continued running back and forth between all of us and the pit. He was working hard too, but I couldn’t let him show me up when I was the star of the show. That would be lame.

“You’re on.”

Nodding to Lily before taking a deep breath, I walked to the front of the stage where Nora was waiting for me. My knees cooperated, and I soon found myself standing in front of the crowd. I looked out at the faces staring back at me, as I found my mark in the center of the stage. The spotlight fell on me, and I tried to ignore everything around me and focus entirely on my girlfriend. She was lying upon a flimsy futon, her hands loosely holding a vial of poison she had taken. Amelia had seen fit to attach a skull and crossbones sticker to the prop, bringing a smirk to my face. I immediately pushed it down and grimaced instead, my slip-up during the somber scene making the expression effortless.

I fell to my knees and grabbed her by the shoulders, propping her up slightly. Her pale flesh turned red under my fingertips, making me wonder whether I was hurting her. I pulled her closer to me, slinging my shoulder around her back and pulling her into me to support her. The long hair of her wig hung over my forearm, and I ran my fingers through it. At this point, I was intent on getting through this scene without any more mistakes.

"How oft when men are at the point of death

Have they been merry! which their keepers call

A lightning before death: O, how may I

Call this a lightning? O my love! my wife!"

My head lowered to her chest, pretending to check for a heartbeat. It was loud and steady in my ear, and I could feel her breath quickening. "Seal with a righteous kiss..."

The rest of the lines were lost on me as my lips met hers, a warm, soft, and sweet touch. My eyes widened, while hers clenched tighter. Our foreheads bumped together and our teeth clacked into one another. Still, neither of us relented, and she entangled her tongue with mine. I deepened the kiss, with more passion than technique. 

The fleeting moment passed as I pulled back. I could still taste her on my lips, my face too flushed for somebody discovering their lover deceased. Then again, Nora was entirely too pink for being a deceased lover.

Neither of us moved, not that I could expect much from her considering the position we were in. I hadn't meant to kiss her on the lips. I planned on kissing the edge of her mouth like I had in every scene prior. Clearly, that plan had been shot to hell.

I laid her back down on the futon, slower than necessary to try and buy time to regain my composure. I was still mesmerized by her lips and wanted nothing more than to take her away somewhere more private and kiss them again. At the same time, I was mortified and wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and unalive myself. My mom, sister, and the entire audience had watched me make out with Nora. 

And we hadn’t even been sexy or anything about it. We were just fumbling around, looking like morons.

"Thus, with a kiss I died."

It didn't make much sense, I realized. I skipped a bunch of lines and snatched the vial from her, pretending to down it in a few gulps. Laying down next to her on the futon, I held a hand over my heart, gradually allowing it to drop to my side. As my final act, I caressed the cheek of my star-crossed lovers and shut my eyes.

The curtain drew to a close. Nora and me scrambled to our feet, staring at each other. Her expression was indecipherable, and I grew tense. Was she upset about what happened? We had definitely veered off from the script direction of a ‘terse kiss, but had I taken it too far? Or was she mad that I had messed up my lines in such a spectacular fashion? Guess it didn’t really matter since I had screwed up regardless.

“Nora, I’m–”

I had wanted to apologize, but she cut me off, breaking eye contact and prodding me in the chest. “You could’ve at least bought me dinner first…”

A bunch of the crew members began to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ much to our embarrassment. Luckily, Nora recovered quickly and scowled at them. “Oh, shut up! All of you can go screw yourselves!”

“Seems like you’re already halfway there,” one of the braver girls quipped back.

This set of a chain of high-pitched giggling, chases, shouts, and threats that no doubt rang out across the auditorium. The audience began to murmur until the whole place was abuzz with noise. I could only face-palm in response. There was no other group I knew that could manage to take a perfectly fine performance, only to screw it up so royally in the end.

“We’re never going to live this down,” I grumbled.

Ethan clamped a hand on my back for reassurance. “Hey, we might not, but at least you have another makeout session to look forward to.”

“Shut up, Ethan.”

Hey, everyone if you could please vote in the poll I would really appreciate it! As this series begins to wind down, I am deciding what to write as my next work. I have a lot of ideas but have narrowed it down to what I believe are my top two. Descriptions of each are down below. Thanks again!

 

Prisoner 21: At just eighteen years old, Grant was in prison. Not for any crime he committed, not really. He was thrown in because he was a danger to society. That was at least how the politicians explained it to the rest of the population: the ones without powers. The first few days, Grant hoped to wake up from this nightmare. After a year, he had given up. That was until a girl showed up who had the ability to nullify powers. Her arrival rekindled his hope for freedom, while also revealing even darker secrets hiding behind these prison bars.

Genres: Romance, Drama, Adventure, Mystery, Sci-fi/Fantasy (because of powers)

 

Sect Skills Online: Luka wasted a lot of time immersing himself in VRMMORPGs. Like a lot of time. Like so much that the few friends he did have had long since abandoned him, and his parents were considering sending him to therapy. He ignored them all, content to spend every possible waking second logged into Sect Skills Online. So, when the GM threatened to hold Luka and the rest of the addicted player base hostage, he could only listen on in shock.

“Clear all ten floors, or I’ll wipe your character’s progress.”

The choice was simple in the face of such a laughable threat. Momentarily panic before starting up the grind for equipment and xp. After all, he’d already sunk almost five years into the game. How bad could another few months be? Being primarily a solo player, poor Luka didn’t realize how insane the rest of the player base truly was, or how they, the AI, an overbearing GM, and a sadistic healer were going to make his life an absolute living hell.

Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Slice-of-Life, Adventure, Comedy

Next Web Novel?
  • Prisoner 21
  • Sect Skills Online
Total voters: 44 · This poll was closed on Jul 21, 2022 03:06 AM.
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