Adrian had been going to Centennial for two years already but today was the first day that he set foot in the theatre.
It was pretty much like what he expected when he thought of a theatre, with tiny seats jammed together in curving rows, dramatic curtains spilling off at the sides of the stage, the walls arced in a way that would allow voices to reach every ear in the audience. It was all painted black, the walls, the floor, the black box props scattered in the wings. There was a black piano in the band pit and black doors on either sides of the stage.
And in front of him, off the stage and in the empty, black audience, David Kendall sat looking entirely too pleased with himself.
Adrian knew who David was, everyone knew who David was. He was a senior at the school, enormously popular with the students and teachers alike and had enough charisma to suit a dictator.
David Kendall, the star of last year’s Grease and Chicago the year before,a fully fledged theatre darling with the reputation as one of the more talented kids in the senior year. Apparently. Adrian mostly got his theatre news second hand from Maria The Serial Gossip, but having the status of Musical King would explain why he was able to drag Adrian into the theatre when it wasn’t being used.
Honestly, Adrian was surprised David even knew who he was.
“Hi.” David said, leaning back in his chair. He reminded Adrian of a 90’s cool kid, all easy smiles that went right up to his eyes, casually cocked head, effortless and natural in every movement.
Adrian thought the last time he saw someone so relaxed they had been drugged out on morphine after having their wisdom teeth ripped out.
“Hi.” Adrian said,“Why am I here.”
David grinned. “Can you guess?”
Adrian did have some notion of what was going on. Empty theatre, blindingly bright lights, there were only so many options to go with. Whether or not he wanted to admit it to himself was another question.
“Is this a prank?” he asked, almost hopefully.
“It’s an audition.” said David. “An impromptu audition.”
And all of Adrian’s dreaded fears were realized. He was hoping that it wasn’t the case, but standing on a stage in an empty theatre really did make little sense otherwise. Besides, twenty minutes ago they had been in the gym for the annual Remembrance Day Ceremony, and David had gaped at him all the way through “O Canada” like he had just been snagged by a fishhook. The second the ceremony had finished he had yanked Adrian into the theatre without any words of clarification exchanged (besides “Come with me!”), and now they were here.
An audition. For something.
“What am I auditioning for?” Adrian asked, eyes glancing to the doors, and then back to David. “And why couldn’t you just ask me in the gym rather than being all mysterious and evasive?”
“I’m a drama student. It’s what I do,” said David.
“Kidnap people and make them sing for you in a theatre?”
David was still grinning that annoyingly carefree grin of his, and it was starting to grate on Adrian’s nerves. “Only the special ones,” he said. “So, can you sing for me?”
Adrian didn’t even have to think about that.
“No.” he said, sharply.
David looked stunned. Adrian figured, with more than some bitterness, that he probably wasn’t used to his darling personal requests being rejected very often. “You don’t want to?” David asked.
“Not especially, no.” Adrian snapped. “Why, should I be expected to after you drag me in here?”
Even as Adrian said it he knew he was sounding overly hostile, maybe even childish, but he couldn’t really help it. He wasn’t about to dance for some self-satisfied, casually confident ever-popular jackass just because he wanted him to. Besides, singing was embarrassingly private. It was something he did in the shower, in his room, alone. Adrian did not sing in public, he hadn’t sung in public since he was a child, and whenever he was pressured to do so he felt like the most ridiculous person on earth.
But somehow this wasn’t getting across to David.
“Besides,” Adrian said, “You haven’t told me what I’m auditioning for, or why you chose me of all people. I’ve never been in a play in my life.”
Unfortunately for him, that just caught David’s interest further. “Are you serious?” he said, brightening up. “Because you are really good. Insanely good even, you’ve never sang for anything before?”
“You could have been hearing the person next to me.” Adrian said. “Or maybe you were hearing your own voice, an assembly is not exactly the best place to judge singing.” Which probably wasn’t true, but he felt like saying it anyways. Cast a sliver of doubt into David’s consciousness, direct his attention away from Adrian. Why not.
“Why won’t you let me decide that for myself, then?”asked David.
He was looking less relaxed now, leaning forward in his chair all attentive and concerned. Eyes like Bambi, huge, pleading, complete with a smile that almost made Adrian’s feet anchor themselves right into the stage.
With incredible effort Adrian managed to rip his eyes away, and walked right off the stage without a backwards glance. As he left though the door, he could hear David calling out to him.
“Practice is this Friday! Just come by, please?”
Adrian didn’t reply. Partially because he was already well out the door, but mostly because he didn’t actually know what he would say. He stalked off to his next class with those thoughts flitting around in the back of his head, wondering about what just happened, about David and the future audition, and if that lingering feeling of interest was something that would fade away or not.
“You put him up to it, didn’t you.”
Maria had a history of responding in one way to these accusations that Adrian would occasionally fling in her direction. Never one to bother covering her glinting eyes or cocky smirk with a poker face, Maria would normally relax back, hands behind her head if she could, her voice tight with amusement. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Adrian,” was what he normally got out of her. She looked about as innocent as a coyote who had just eaten a house cat for dinner and had gotten away with it.
Except today, instead of trying to resemble a carnivore Maria looked like she was barely paying attention. “What?” she asked as she opened up the box to Spyro the Dragon to find a long-forgotten copy of Tomb Raider. “You realize that we might actually be able to play Battlefront one of these days if you actually put the discs back in their boxes?”
It was his brothers who did that, but Adrian didn’t bother to correct her. “David.” said Adrian, trying to get her attention. “You got him to do it, didn’t you.”
“Do what?” asked Maria, but just as she said it she paused her game rifling. It was as if she scented gossip or potential drama on the wind. The tone of Adrian’s voice would probably have been enough to get her attention,and now she had flipped herself around to face him with her ears perked up.
“Um.” said Adrian. “That’s what I’m trying to ask you.”
Maria grinned, the special kind of grin that was equal parts terrifying and horrifying. Adrian had known her for long enough to know what that it meant.
“Adrian” she said. “I have no idea what you’re going on about, but you are making me curious enough that I’m gonna start speculating in a manner that isn’t going to be favourable towards you. Tell me what happened.”
Well that was a threat if he ever saw one. Adrian briefly considered torturing her more, stringing Maria along with vague-ness, but based on how genuinely eager she looked, he gave in.
“He pulled me into the theatre the other day.” said Adrian, watching Maria’s reaction, “And asked me to do an audition for a role in the play.”
He had to hand it to her, she actually looked surprised. “Really!”
“Yes,” said Adrian. “He tried to get me to sing. Seemed to think I had some natural born talent.”
He gave Maria a very pointed look. “You wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would you?”
Maria blinked. “You can sing?”
Adrian leaned in towards her, voice dropping into a deadly whisper.“If you’re just feigning ignorance Maria, I swear to god I will stab you in the back every time we play Little Big Planet from here on out. I will push you into the fire pits, Maria, without remorse and no, I will not care about the team bonus prizes because if I’m suffering without a reward, at least you will be suffering with me, MARIA-”
She threw up her hands. “I knew nothing!”
“Nothing?” Adrian asked, leaning back. “You are in musical theatre, aren’t you?”
“I’m in Beginners Musical Theatre, Adrian” she said, clearly baffled that he was not aware of preexisting Musical Theatre social hierarchy. “And we’re doing Wizard of Oz, not Spring Awakening. I play a munchkin and a flying monkey. David is like, the star of Spring or some other equally perfect role. He would not be consulting me, lowly chorus girl in the beginners division, about any good singers that I knew. How do YOU think he thought you could sing?”
“How should I know?” asked Adrian, but even as he said it he thinking of the Remembrance day ceremony, singing the anthem, David’s open-mouthed fish face. David’s hand enclosing around his wrist, dragging him through the back of the theatre and onto the stage. David, sitting relaxed in the empty theatre as if he owned the place, looking up at Adrian as he stood out as the only bit of colour against the black stage set, beaming lights and that horrible beaming smile.
David, with the gaze that made Adrian feel like he had just been transfixed by Medusa herself.
Yeah, that was probably it.
“Maybe he mistook me for someone else. ” Adrian said, becoming more and more aware of the blush creeping up over his cheeks. “Whatever. Let’s just play something, okay?”
He started sorting through the games Maria had spread out, trying to will the flush away from his face as he noticed Maria had gone suspiciously silent. Katamari. They should play Katamari, and then maybe she would get distracted and not put two and two together, that David was impossibly handsome and that he had asked Adrian for a private audition, and that Adrian had thought automatically that Maria had put him up to it since she enjoyed trying to set him up-
“Are you going? To the audition, I mean.” she asked.
“No.” he said, automatically, fishing out the Katamari box.
In truth, most of him really hadn’t decided yet.
Maria had mentioned that General Musical theatre was on Fridays after school, and the thought of Friday coming to an end tortured Adrian throughout every class. Instead of identifying plant parts in Biology he was distracted with the audition. In English he read out the wrong paragraph because his brain was entirely occupied to trying to make up his mind. Math was almost an entirely lost cause, and by the time the day winded to a close Adrian had devolved into a complete emotional wreck.
He didn’t even know why he was considering it. When he had turned David down on Thursday he had done it because he was shocked, caught off guard, and slightly freaked out. He really had no other choice but to say no, to brush David off like the eccentric drama student that he was.
But, at the same time, Adrian was considering it. He had been considering it for the whole day, wishing for more time to decide, to delay the inevitable.
But when three did roll around, he was standing there, at the door to the black theatre, feeling like he had walked without gravity to get here with all the effort it had taken. He was walking into something that every rational fibre of his being wanted no part of. Adrian did not sing in public. Adrian did not sing in public for an audition, which if it went well would only lead to more singing in public. In front of strangers. In front of his family. In front of the community.
But he had opened the door. He was walking into the theatre, which was kind of like walking into a faded dream now that he was seeing everything from a different angle. Kids, scattered around on the stage and in the audience, glancing over at him as he slipped through the door before turning back to their scripts.
None of them offered to help him. Adrian didn’t know who he was supposed to go to, he couldn’t see Maria, or David for that matter, and standing there dumbly was starting to wear his nerves ragged. He was just about to turn around and slip out the way he had come when a lady with a clipboard walked right up to him, staring him down with a pair of dark beady eyes.
“You’re the one here for the audition, right?”
“Uh.” Adrian said intelligently.
“Good,” said clipboard lady, glancing down at whatever she had on her list. “I was worried you were going to be late. Just get up on the stage then, and sing whatever you like. Oh, yeah those guys have to move first, of course. OI, SAMANTHA, FELICA, GET OFF THE STAGE. WE HAVE AN AUDITION-sorry, I hope you don’t mind an audience, do you?”
“Um.” said Adrian as she steered him to the stage stairs.
“Mind the gap between the band pit and the stairs, unless you actually want to break a leg.”
Adrian didn’t even know what he was doing when he climbed up the stairs. All he knows is that he was at the bottom, and then he was up, looking over everyone in the audience, on his own.
He was back on the black stage, and for some reason in this twisted perspective wonderland of a crowded theatre, it seemed to be the only familiar thing left. Squeaky black wooden stage. Hot lights, the jagged black props, they were the only recognizable features left. The empty audience had been replaced by a hundred eyes, looking up like a family of raccoons he had just stumbled across in the dark, wondering what the hell he was doing in their den.
He wasn’t wearing black this time, either. But he didn’t think he would blend in even if he had.
“Yeah, so whenever you are ready.” Clipboard lady said, eyes looking down at her notes. “Sing something.”
“Um, what would you like?” Adrian said, eyes flitting through the pairs staring at him, trying to find Maria, trying to find a corner of comfort he could latch onto and relax in. He couldn’t see her though, not by the stage or near the back. And Adrian’s head was racing a mile a minute. A song. Think of a song, hurry hurry hurry. Where is Maria. Where is-
And then, out of the corner of his eye, near the side door of the theatre, Adrian saw David.
Rather, he didn’t see David as much as he saw David’s expression. He had just barged in, backpack on and whispering on his cellphone when he had stopped, mid stride and looked up at the stage as if Adrian had just been beamed down by Enterprise. Confusion, and then slowly it gave way to something that looked to be the strangest mix of genuine excitement and pride that Adrian had ever seen.
His stomach churned in on itself with a sharp twist. Tearing his eyes away, he brought his attention back to Clipboard lady.
“Anything specific you would like to hear?” he asked. He hadn’t given this as much thought as he should have. But she was shaking her head.
“Doesn’t have to be a song from a musical or anything, just whatever you would like to sing.” she said.
That hardly narrowed it down. But somewhere, he seemed to already have an idea lurking his head.
He waited a beat, inhaling a whisp of air. And before he knew he had courage that needed working up he had already thrown himself into it, singing without realizing that he had just started and the voice in his ears, the overwhelmingly loud voice that was now echoing around the theatre, was all his.
“It’s empty in the valley of your heart.”
He watched, his mouth moving carefully around the words, as David’s expression changed to sudden realization as he recognized the song. Adrian kept eye contact, realizing somewhere at the back of his head that David’s eyes were green behind his blocky fake hipster glasses, not just a clear green but a green that seemed to be so bright and vibrant that they stood out in the shadowy theatre like they had little bright lamps behind them.
“But I will hold on hoping”
He smiled at Adrian, and Adrian had to shut his eyes or he knew he would forget the lyrics right then and there.
“I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck-”
He was belting it out now, not caring anymore about anyone around the theatre or around them or even what they were thinking if they heard. It was like he was four years old again and didn’t have a care in the world, he was just singing, singing as loud and as proud as he could. Somewhere in his head, Adrian knew if he was going to completely expose himself to his peers, he mind as well do it with all the pride he could seize up from inside himself.
He ended softly, almost whispering the last few lines before cutting off the notes, and the theatre fell into utter silence.
Adrian didn’t open his eyes.
But then, someone whistled. The audience started clapping, some of them whooping, and Adrian cracked his eyes open to stare at the black stage floorboards. They were well worn and covered by scuffs left by so many people before him who did what he had just done.
He didn’t feel timid anymore. He had stopped feeling timid the second he opened his mouth. Now, Adrian felt something that had always flickered very softly inside him burn bright and hot and vivid.
He swallowed down a smile as the lady with the clipboard cleared her throat.
“What did you say your full name was, again?” she asked.
“Adrian.” he said. His voice sounded quiet in his ears now. “Adrian Hlaváček .”
“Thank you for auditioning, Adrian, we’ll let you know what we decide.”
At the edge of the theatre, David with his natural charisma, gave him a wink.
He didn’t know what to think of the audition after that.
The whole experience was like a parasite that had just latched onto his brain, eating away ferociously and making him lose track of everything else in his life. He was consumed with the audition, the intense feeling of bright lights, the rush of adrenaline, the sound of his voice filling a theatre in dead silence.
Somewhere he felt like what he had just done was separated by another time and place, an experience that he had seen in a video or a movie recorded and stored in his brain as a false recollection. He still couldn’t actually believe that he had just done that, or better yet, how crazy it made him feel.
It was bizarre.
All throughout math class the stupid cartoon bee on his textbook just stared at him. Leering, really. It had the most obnoxious shit-eating grin, complete with buck teeth which was a stunning example of knowledge of bee anatomy. The infuriating bee had stared Adrian down through every pythagorean theorem meltdown and algebraic confusion he had since September, and now that this new addiction had consumed his brain, it seemed like it was making fun of him for that too.
Bzzz. You’re an attention whore.
Bzz. Your talent is limited to the ability to go an octave higher than most creatures with testicles.
Bzz. You’re more than partially motivated by your less than subtle infatuation on a straight boy whose charisma you clearly cannot handle-
When class was out, he all but threw his textbook into his locker, which only gave him a fleeting feeling of childish satisfaction as it managed to gather enough momentum to topple right out of his locker and onto the hallway floor. Bee side up.
“Here, I’ll get that for you.”
Adrian silently had a heart attack as David appeared by his side, holding out his math text and smiling in the way that seemed to use up his entire face. Adrian hadn’t even seen him walk by.
“Do you teleport, by any chance?” he asked, taking the book back with some reluctance.
“I get around, yes.” said David. “You’re pretty high strung, you know? Excited to hear the verdict?”
Verdict. Yes. There was that thing that he had been completely absorbed in for the entire night, which was practically eating at his brain it was driving him so unbearably insane throughout the day, to the point where he had actively been despising the existence of a cartoon bee just a second ago because his warped mind had him thinking the thing was mocking him.
“You’re in.” David said.
And that not unexpected in the slightest.
“Oh,” said Adrian. “Thanks for letting me know.”
David just laughed. “You’re not surprised at all!” he said. “You’re pretty funny, you know that?”
“If you mean funny by unbearably cocky, then yes..” Adrian said, giving David an apologetic smile, sticking his eye contact for a couple seconds longer than what would normally be considered friendly. “So I get to learn your lines now?”
David smiled back. Adrian felt his that funny feeling again, one that made him want to shove the leering bee on his textbook especially hard into his locker.
“Right after classes, if you would like.” said David’s face.
Walking into the theatre as a welcome participant felt nothing like it had two days ago. Now that he was accepted officially, everyone came up to greet him, patting him on the shoulder and introducing themselves. He knew them for the most part, many of the students were in his grade, but in theatre they were someone else. Adrian got the impression that they played roles in the classroom just as much as they played on stage, that the moment they were free of exams and tests and were allowed to be creative and loose and someone else, their true enthusiasms shone.
Maria gave him a big hug when she came into practice. “I knew you would get in,” she said, almost overbalancing him as she sank all her weight on him. “You’re gonna love it here, Adrian.”
He met other students as well. Girls mostly, the handpicked results from the ones who got so excited to join in their freshman year and would audition in droves. There were a couple boys as well, skinny guys like Adrian who seemed to have courage built right into their guts.
There was the theatre director, Mr. Shaughnessy, and his right hand woman, a choreographer who had been a graduate of the school a few years ago. She was the intense Clipboard Lady that had directed Adrian’s audition, and Adrian had a feeling she was the one who he had to pass in order to get in the play as well.
“You showed us something pretty unique there.” She said to him as he shook her hand, which was firm enough to give him the impression what type of person she was. “Name’s Amanda. I’ll be the one shouting at you guys from the audience on your vocals.”
Adrian smiled as much as he could possibly bear.
He was inducted into the Advanced theatre group with the handing over of the script. Spring Awakening. Adrian had never heard of it.
“You’re David’s understudy,” said Amanda “So make sure to memorize Melchior’s lines, that’s David’s character. You have quite a few songs too, but you’ll learn them soon enough. The old understudy had them all down pat before he had to go, and we’ve only been working at the play for a couple months.”
He read through some of his lines in the beginning while some of the cast practised their solos. There were only about twenty kids in Advanced theatre, and only a few of them had songs without the chorus. The rest of them hunkered out in the audience while the stars took to the front of the stage to sing their lines, while Amanda shouted out instructions on how to improve their pitch.
To his surprise, Amanda asked Adrian to come up for a run through with solo vocals.
“You’re probably just going to be in the chorus with the rest of them” she said, “But it doesn’t hurt to get you nice and warmed up anyways. You know the songs?”
He didn’t. But David had been singing one song up on the stage, repeating it over as Amanda corrected his tune and pitch with advice. By now Adrian knew how the song went, so he got up on stage with David, lyrics sheet in hand, singing his own version of the song.
And to his ears, it didn’t sound bad. He fumbled a couple of the pitches but he felt his voice fit around the words like he owned them. The rush of energy had returned, making him feel giddy and high and excited. When he had finished there was no applause like there had been during his audition, but some people in the audience gave out appreciative whoops.
But that wasn’t what caught Adrian’s attention. There was a girl off in the corner of the audience, glaring at him slightly. She looked annoyed, peeved to be specific, and had kept up the daggers throughout the entire song. Adrian looked away, but still had the feeling she was probably plotting his grisley murder with her eyes.
A part of him wondered what he had done to make her so annoyed. He didn’t even know her name.
It was eight when they were finally released. Adrian was feeling worn, tired, but strangely energetic for someone who had been singing and reading lines for hours. He was close to escaping out the door, Maria in tow, when he was stopped abruptly by Amanda on the way out.
“Wait a sec, Adrian” Amanda said, flipping through her clipboard. “Something I got to get to you.”
She handed him a sheet of paper, with the words PERMISSION FOR PARTICIPATION gracing the top. It didn’t have the school letterhead on it.
You need to get your parents to sign this.” she said. “It kind of goes over what the play has in it.”
“You mean the reason why your last understudy dropped out?” Adrian said as he took the sheet, glancing down at the list.
“Banned by his parent, actually.” said Amanda, as Adrian looked down at the sheet.
Subjects of incest, rape
Subject discussing abortion
“This doesn’t sound so bad.” Adrian said, skimming the list. Coarse language. What kind of high schooler didn’t swear? Discussion about incest and rape, it may be a heavy topic but teenagers were exposed to worse. He really couldn’t see why a parent would be so uptight that they would destroy their kids dreams by banning them from a club that they enjoyed so much…
“The nudity is breasts on the girls part and a butt on the guys part.” Amanda said, and Adrian couldn’t tell if she was being cheeky or just completely deadpan serious. “You just need to get your parents to sign that and you’ll be okay to perform with us.
Adrian nodded mutely, eyes still locked on the list.“Yeah, everything should be alright.” he said, his voice sounding distant to himself.
There was no way it was going to be alright.
Adrian knew his parents. They were traditional in many ways, from their refusal to let Adrian learn English before Czech, from their insistence that Adrian wear respectable clothing whenever he left the house. He was the runt of the litter of three other brothers, all who were relatively successful and not drug addicted, but for some reason his parents had a much different opinion of them. They regarded their sons as hooligans even though one was working on his Masters thesis, one was playing sports semi professionally and the other was making mad cash in dry-walling.
Adrian was their last chance. Their last bastion of hope for a truly perfect son who would be polite and well dressed and mild mannered. He did exceptionally well in school, did well in sports, kept enough friends, did not smoke, drink or even swear that much.
They had been lax with him for most of his life as he grew up knowing what pieces to pick up that his brothers dropped, knowing what exactly would please his parents enough for them to get off his backs.
That was until he came out, at least.
That had been an experience he did not ever want to remember again. Now, he was no longer the one that his parents put on a pedestal as the boy who could do no wrong. He wasn’t the one his parents introduced first to friends, he wasn’t the one who they bragged about with his impressive GPA and unoffensive demeanour. His parents had seen right through that facade of perfection that he had been keeping up for his whole life. He was flawed. He was majorly, noticeably, hugely flawed. Their most flawed son, because no matter what the other hooligans got up to during their youth, no matter what job they settled on or the woman they picked, at least they would be able to give his parents grandchildren. At least his brothers could stuff his parents wallets with pictures of their offspring that they could show their friends down at the cultural centre.
There was no way they were going to let Adrian participate in a play about kids experimenting with their sexuality.
He took the form home with him that night, and slipped in between the pages of his Biology textbook and placed it in his bookcase. After dinner he took it out and looked over it again, tapping his pen against the desk as he did so.
Do you, parent/guardian of Adrian Hlaváček , give permission for his/her participation in this event.
Tap tap tap.
His chest felt tense. He filled out the line where his name should be, the date, his mother’s name. He filled out every line that could be filled out, except for the signature. It remained blank. Dauntingly, terrifyingly, blank.
When did he turn into this type of person, forging documents like this. He hadn’t ever done this before, not in middle school or elementary school or any other time when he needed to hand in a permission form. He always played by the rules.
But had he always done that because there was nothing at stake?
The rush of the stage, the wooden floorboards, blinding hot lights, the swell of air and energy that filled his lungs with every word he would sing. And the other kids, the energy that he had seen them perform their roles with, how easily they slipped on masks and threw themselves into another person. How they sang their lungs and hearts with more gusto than anyone ever showed in class. Maria, knowing he would get in. David, telling him that he belonged here, even though he was fighting him every step of the way.
He had scrawled out his mother’s signature before he could stop himself. Staring down at the drying ink, Adrian wondered if it was possible to be addicted to something like this.
It had taken him and David a week to get into a routine.
The stage was often occupied by leads practising their songs or their monologues, so David and Adrian would take off whenever David didn’t have a scene or a line to recite. He was on stage a lot, being the main male lead, but they had managed to get enough time to themselves despite that.
They spent this time practising on their own, huddled in a stairwell or in a hallway outside the theatre. Adrian needed a lot of practice to catch up on memorization, and David just wanted to practice somewhere where they could be dramatic and boisterous without receiving death glares from everyone else trying to practice.
David wasn’t the only actor with an understudy, but still he seemed to be more concerned than most of them were when it came to making sure Adrian knew his lines at the drop of a hat.
“One year the kids were doing Grease,right?” he said one afternoon. “This was like in 2008 or something, before you were in school. Anyways, they are doing a dance number and all is going well when one of the main male actors, one of the greasers slices his hand open on the zipper of one of the girls dresses. Blood everywhere, clearly not stopping, has to run offstage and use every piece of fabric around to stanch it. It’s not the best example since you can’t exactly change actors mid-play, so he ended up toughing it out. But stuff like that does happen, and in all those cases the show must go on”.
It was interesting to hear something like that. Adrian never really thought that he would ever get David’s role, but the idea that he could be potentially useful was an interesting prospect. At the same time, if he ended up taking a lead role on stage that would mean that David would be out of the play due to illness or injury, and Adrian wanted that the least of all.
When he first took up this understudy bit, Adrian was willing to admit he may have the faint lingering remains of a crush on one of the most popular boys in school. He was open to the fact that yes, David was very handsome and charismatic, and yes those reasons were probably why Adrian had allowed him to be dragged into the theatre in the first place. But with every afternoon they spent together huddled over scripts and reciting their lines, it started to burn and grow at a stupidly fast rate. He started to get lost in watching David act right across from him, staring at him rather than at the script, like David was putting on his own private performance for Adrian.
And then it would be his line to say, and he would be completely lost in which part of the script he was supposed to recite, flushing up to his ears in embarrassment.
He was starting to notice other little things about David that would kickstart the fluttery pulsing in his chest. David’s blonde eyelashes, David’s curly mop of fair hair that was sometimes stained with black paint from stagecraft. David’s smile was starting to take a whole new dimension as well, it was so potent and relaxing and lovely when Adrian was so close to him, when the only other person David could be smiling at was him.
It was horribly intoxicating that he had this guy, this horribly popular guy with all the charisma and relaxed beauty and over a thousand facebook friends all to himself for several hours in a week.
On the days David had to practice on stage, Adrian often sat in the Green Room with the rest of the Advanced theatre group, mainly the chorus girls and the more minor actors who weren’t on stage as often. There was Jessica Reilly, blonde and passionate and beautiful, the lead actress of the play and a fairly intense person. Rodney Baker, who was a bit of a party animal who probably smoked too much weed, but he was always eager to help someone with their lines while they were on their break. There was Diana, pretty and chubby and a master at playing the piano, and Lianne who was a member of the chorus and seemed to spend too much time worrying about her voice.
Adrian liked them all enough, and he figured they liked him enough as well.
That was at least until he and Mindy Babcock crossed paths.
Mindy Babcock, as it turned out, was the girl with the strangely mannish face, the strong nose, prominent chin and thin eyes. She walked like she had a ruler for a spine and never really seemed to smile that much. Or maybe that was just when Adrian was around, he sure hadn’t seen her lips turn upwards in any shape that could resemble a grin.
They had avoided each other for the most part, and he was thankful enough to never have a reason to speak to her. But, as things would have it, she certainly had a reason to speak to him.
“You’re the new understudy.” she said bluntly as Adrian was putting on his coat, just about to leave one day after theatre practice. She didn’t let him respond, clearly she wasn’t looking for an answer. “Do you actually even know anything about theatre, or are you just here because you fancy someone?
It had caught Adrian off guard like a blow to the back of the head, he wasn’t sure what direction this was coming from or how to respond to it. In fact, his first thought was Who is this crazy chick?
His second thought was uhoh.
“I auditioned just like you did.” he said stiffly, ignoring her question. “It’s not something that I would normally try out, David just introduced me to it. And I’m really enjoying myself.”
Which seemed like the best response to give when yes, she was half right about the fancy-ing thing, but that didn’t mean that Adrian didn’t care for the theatre like she seemed to think he did.
Mindy wasn’t buying any of it. She looked Adrian up and down, frowning as she did, like he was an especially bad cut of meat but there was nothing better to choose from.
“Have you ever even seen a play before?”
Adrian wasn’t about to admit that to her, but he did admit it to David later, as they sat in the stairwell next to the theatre going over their lines in private. David was helping him memorize one bit, a monologue that was lengthy and tricky. David had it down completely of course, but Adrian was still having difficulty getting all the lines out, let alone acting with them.
“You’re getting better.” he said when Adrian had finally managed to choke out every word in the right order. He ruffled Adrian’s hair affectionately, and Adrian felt that little smouldering fire in his stomach leap as if it had just been fed a gust of wind. “Just you wait, this time next year when all of us old fogies have left, you and the other juniors will be rocking that stage.”
Adrian smiled despite everything. Oh David, so brotherly and understanding, such a do-gooder dork. It was beginning to get so obvious and uncomfortable, but somehow his confession seemed to flow out easily anyways.
“I’ve never seen a play before, you know.” Adrian said, looking at David up over the script. “Not once.”
David looked a bit baffled. He blinked, furrowed his brow. “Really?” he said, “You’re going to be acting in a play before you’ve even seen one?”
“Yup.” said Adrian.
“Not for school or special activities or anything?”
“I have not seen a live play on stage ever.”
“Bard on the Beach? Shitty middle school productions?”
“Nope and nope.”
David leaned back, thinking about that for a bit. And then his eyes brightened.
“Clearly this needs to be rectified.”
They ended up going to Granville Island for some indie play that Adrian had never even heard of before. David got them tickets and then, just like that they were going to a play together, like it was some kind of musical theatre field trip. Or a date.
Adrian was expecting the play to be fairly dull, but to his surprise it wasn’t as nearly as dull as he was anticipating. He quickly found himself wound up in the story and the actors, charmed by how effortlessly they seemed to sink into their roles. Even the singing parts seemed to just flow right through them, filling the theatre with music that was so strong it moved something in his chest.
He thought he saw David sneaking a glance to see his reaction every so often, but he didn’t glance back, instead staring hard, straight forward at the stage, trying to block everything around him out and focus on the play. It was easier than he thought it would be, it was emotional and enthralling and all types of depressing. In the end he felt like a starry-eyed idiot coming out of the theatre, but David didn’t seem to mind.
“I told you they were good.” he said, smiling a bit as Adrian ducked his head aside to wipe away some minor eye leakage that most certainly was not tears. “They harmonize really well with one another, don’t they. Cast has excellent chemistry.”
“Yeah.” Adrian grunted. “Yeah, you’re right, it was good.”
“Wanna get some food?”
It was dark out, past ten, but they still managed to sneak an order in at the crepe place down by the water’s edge. Adrian ordered something with raspberries and chocolate, all wrapped up with whipped cream on top that got on his nose when he bit into it. David got applesauce in his crepe, which Adrian thought suited him, in the same way that his relaxed demeanour and easy smile suited him.
They walked around the island while they ate, scarves bundled up around their necks to ward away the salty ocean breeze. The entire island was lit up with lights, strung up in trees or over top the roads,linked together with the lampposts that glowed orange. The lights were warm and soft, glinting off David’s blonde hair and turning it to gold.
David was watching the people milling across the street, hanging around like blood clots around the fronts of the restaurants, the only places open at this hour. Somewhere one of the shops was playing Christmas music that filtered over the chatter, soft carols with lyrics that Adrian had memorized since he was a child.
David was tapping a finger to the tune.
“So, I hope this was an enlightening experience for you.” he said finally. “Feel a bit different about singing in public, now that you’ve seen the professionals do it?”
Adrian took a bite of what was left of his crepe “Still terrifies the living shit out of me.” he said thickly. “You’re lucky I didn’t pass out during my audition.” Or vomit everywhere, or start crying uncontrollably, or anything else equally embarrassing that could have happened.
David smiled. “The teachers are used to nerves.” He said. “They know its worth being patient.”
“For my sake I hope you’re right.” Adrian grumbled, looking down at his crepe. “God, I must be a masochist, why am I even doing this…”
“You’re brave, that’s why.” said David, and he patted Adrian’s shoulder. Adrian’s stomach clenched, relaxed and twisted in, like it was trying to perform the Heimlich on itself, like he had something clogged in his throat that he desperately needed to get out.
“Stage fright is a common fear, and you’re facing it head on. That’s quite admirable, don’t you think?”
Leave it to David to make him sound like some kind of tragic hero. “I’m not brave.” Adrian said, trying very hard to calm the nerves in his stomach, threatening now to revolt again. “I’m just pathetically repressed.”
“And you need an outlet.”
“I need to sing, that’s what I need.” said Adrian. “I want training and I want to belt my lungs out and I want people to hear, but at the same time it terrifies me worse than anything I know. It’s irrational,” he huffed, frustrated. “I can’t help it.”
“You just need practice.” said David soothingly. “There are scarier things out there than an audience.”
“Really.” said Adrian. “Because from my experience, the scariest things out there are other people.”
David said nothing for a bit, and they just stood in silence, listening to pre-recorded carols and watching the people mill about across the street. He was still tapping his finger to the faded tune. Adrian finished his crepe, licking chocolate off his fingers when he noticed that the rhythm was off slightly, from the song playing on the speakers.
And David was singing. It was Fairy Tale of New York, not one of the most traditional of Christmas songs, but the lyrics rolled off David’s lips like they were natural. Like he had been singing drunken breakup Christmas songs all his life.
His voice was soft at first, and Adrian watched with a mixture of amusement and apprehension until his voice grew louder and prouder.
The people across the street were paying attention now, raising their heads above their conversation circles and glancing over at them across the street. They looked interested, some perplexed, but none of them looked disappointed with their impromptu performance.
But that was just David, because David was brilliant. Everything he did always looked so natural and effortless, but his singing was just beyond comparison. Even Adrian, who had heard him sing so many times already, could just listen to his throaty voice spin music forever.
And with a sudden, horrified shock, Adrian remembered that in typical David fashion, he wouldn’t be alone in this. And the song was a duet. David was nearing his part’s end, and was looking to Adrian, waiting for him to pick it up on his cue.
Adrian didn’t realize until that moment that he actually knew all the lyrics and that, yes, this was doable.
Without letting himself think he just threw himself into the song. Adrian ignored the people across the street, just staring very hard at the lamppost , and sang as hard and as strong as he could. Eventually David’s voice came back and they sang together in harmony, slightly off but still sounding like nothing Adrian had ever been a part of before . Effortless, smooth as velvet and alight with energy and fire.
When the song ended a small crowd had gathered across the street, some applauding politely in appreciation. David bowed gracefully and turned tail, Adrian following quickly in his steps. He was giddy beyond belief and David was laughing about how someone had been filming them, how they might end up on YouTube.
Adrian was still in shock that he managed to sing a romantic Christmas song on Granville island in the dark with David Kendall.
They ended up at the lagoon behind the toystore, a dark smudge against the rest of the island’s orange glow. Here, without the cobblestones and flower boxes, nature seemed to regain a stance, with bare-branched willow trees drooping down over the lagoon’s glittery dark waters, marshy plants sprouting up by the water’s edge. There was less light here but David didn’t seem to mind, and he slumped down on a bench by one of the trees. He was looking quite pleased with himself.
“Bet you never thought you would be doing that, huh?” he asked in a completely cheeky way as Adrian sat down beside him.
“I think you are the most evil conspirator known to mankind.” Adrian answered bluntly. David laughed, making Adrian’s stomach unwillingly do gymnastics.
“I mean it!” Adrian said, shoving him with his elbow. “You could like, warn me next time before you decide to enlist me in a street performance.”
“Like that would have made it any easier?” said David.
Adrian knew it wouldn’t. “It was terrifying.” he said.
“You’ll remember it though, won’t you. And when you look back on it, it’s not going to be so scary then, is it?”
Adrian turned to look at David, who suddenly looked pensive, serious, thoughtful as he looked Adrian over. His trainee, prodigy, understudy, Adrian was sure he was thinking something like that, while Adrian’s mind was racing with something very different.
David had raised a finger to Adrian’s chest, pressing gently and firmly. “Feel anything change?” he asked, smiling slightly down at Adrian like he expected Adrian to respond with some comment on how he felt his confidence grow.
Adrian didn’t know how he was supposed to platonically react to that. His chest was now filled with sensation, a flower bursting into bloom in rapid fast forward footage, violently twitching and arching out into something too large for his lungs, too wide for his ribs. It felt like its roots had slithered through his veins in a hot rush, anchoring his feet, rising rapidly through his throat.
He swallowed that sensation down, shuddering, knowing somewhere that it felt like this feeling would rip its way out much faster than it should have. But David noticed, his eyes flicking up to Adrian’s catching his bewildered, darting glance with those placid pools of clear green.
He was already so lost in them anyways.
His hands definitely weren’t shaking as he gently reached up and closed his hand around David’s. They weren’t damp with sweat as he pulled David’s finger over slightly to the left, resting directly over top of his rabbit beat heart.
He definitely didn’t stutter as he choked out what sounded like the lamest line to ever leave his mouth.
“Maybe” he said, “something changed a bit. Here.”
David blinked. Adrian swallowed.
“Just a bit.”
“You’re shitting me.” Maria said over the phone two hours later
“I, good woman, am not shitting you.” Adrian said, pacing back and forth frantically in his room. “ I practically confessed right in front of him and he kissed me. He actually kissed me. He kissed me he kissed me he kissed me-”
“Shut up! I heard you the first time.”
Adrian flopped onto his bed.“I feel like I’m high.”
“Adrian,” she sighed, “the closest you have ever gotten to being high is walking too close to the douche bags in the smoke pit during 420.”
“Well, then I feel like I’m on something illegal, I dunno. Gosh Maria, he’s just perfect-”
“Handsome, strong body, fashion sense, confident air, doofus smile..”
“Yes yes yes.” Adrian sighed. “All of that and more. You know he serenaded people on the street? It was like we were carolling but he just started up and blew them away.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Maria sighed on the other end.
Adrian laughed, and then his face twisted up in realization. “Shit, I sound like every annoying person in love ever.”
“Yes, you do hun. But you are forgiven, its your first time anyways. Teenage hubby. Handsome and popular. God, why is your life so sickeningly perfect.”
“Haah, are you jealous, Maria?”
“Maybe. But in all honesty, I’m freaking out on your behalf. If you aren’t doing enough freaking out yourself.”
“I can’t feel my hands, does that count?”
She laughed. “Yeah, sure. You’re gonna be at school tomorrow, right?”
Adrian didn’t know anywhere else he would rather be, to be honest.
Long after he hung up Adrian stayed awake, staring at his bedroom ceiling in wonder.
They hung out a lot after that.
Granted they were practising for a play, a play that was rapidly reaching ripeness to the point that it was making Adrian excited just thinking about it. David was calling him up every other day and they would go to his house and practice, huddled up in his room and reading lines with each other like it was just natural.
Some of these days, when it was getting dark out and David’s parents were upstairs watching a movie or whatever else they did, Adrian would feel David’s arm wrap around his shoulder, bringing him closer so that he could lean his head on top of Adrian’s, sliding their warmth together through sweaters and jeans. It made Adrian’s heart race like a rabbit’s whenever David did this, initiated contact and snagged Adrian close and tight.
Some nights he went to sleep wondering how lucky he had managed to be in order to get this in his life. How he must have been a master philanthropist in a past life, a knight in shining armour, maybe he smuggled some Jewish children out of a Nazi stronghold. He didn’t know what he had done to deserve this.
Other nights, he wondered, with a bit of teenage frustration, if it would get beyond that.
David hadn’t kissed him since then. He seemed okay with the dating bit, the bit where they holed themselves up in his room and recited Spring until their tongues fell off, but he didn’t ever try to kiss Adrian again, or to touch his skin under his sweater or even say anything remotely romantic. It felt kind of odd to Adrian, but he didn’t press it. He didn’t know what the progression of relationships were, and he didn’t want to scare David away. That was his largest concern.
It was, at least, until one day they were at school in a stairwell, going over that one scene, the one with Jessica Reilly that always had Adrian going up in a firestorm blush whenever he read it. She was supposed to kiss David in this scene, hard and passionately, although wherever they did the read through Adrian never bothered. He would just skip it over, ignore its very tantalizing existence.
This time in the little stairwell, Adrian leaned forward over their scrips and planted him one right on his lips.
It was quick, dry, and sudden. But David was reeling backwards just as Adrian had kissed him, blinking in an oddly startled way.
“Uh, that’s different” he said, looking down at the script. “Sorry, wasn’t prepared for that one.”
Adrian looked at him, searching his face before looking away again. “Sorry David,” he said, feeling slightly utterly ashamed with himself. “I just-”
But David was patting his head, running his fingers through his hair in a way that almost wanted to make Adrian purr. “Don’t worry about it, Adrian” he said kindly, smiling that smile that made his belly go all warm. “I was just absorbed in the script.”
That raised his hopes somewhat. But he didn’t think he would have the guts to go initiating something like that ever again.
Soon enough they were getting so busy with the play that romantic advances were taking a backseat in Adrian’s mind. Everything was starting to slowly slide into place, with everyone having their lines memorized enough to start falling into their roles. They were perfecting their characters now, staying until the late hours of the night to go through run through and mock dress rehearsals, getting each detail down and each note in every song smooth until they could rehearse while they slept during class.
It made Adrian exhausted, but it was a weird kind of exhausted. He felt like he was wiped out, but still giddy with energy.
If he knew anything was going to go horribly wrong in the future, he wasn’t getting any indication of it.
So when he entered the theatre one Wednesday in late December, during the Advanced theatre practice, it took him a moment to notice the strange air that seemed to be lingering over the room. Everyone was sitting in front of the stage in the seats and on the floor, some of them whispering rapidly among themselves, others looking over at the door on the other side of the theatre which was just swinging closed softly. There was a strange atmosphere around them, something tense and quiet that Adrian couldn’t quite place his finger on.
“What is going on here?” said Adrian, dropping his book bag onto one of the theatre seats. One of the girls turned to look at him, and then quickly looked away. She looked like she had been slapped in the face.
David was sitting on the outside of the group, wearing a similar expression of muted shock, even something that could be close to anger. His face was twisted around as he watched the door closing, and didn’t notice that Adrian had even entered the theatre until he came and sat down beside him.
“Hey.” Adrian said, gesturing to the sea of students looking dead. “What just happened?’
“Amanda.” Jessica said, stunned. “She just said that the principle has banned the performance from the school after he read the script. We’re not going to perform Spring.”
The words sunk into Adrian’s head like slow molasses, as if his brain was trying to make him not understand it so he wouldn’t comprehend it as reality. He wouldn’t describe it as going into shock, but it kind of felt like that.
“What?” he asked blankly.
“That dickhead principle” said David viciously, “decided to censor us. Said that it would damage the reputation of the school. He said he hadn’t ever imagined that we would be doing something so…explicit.”
Adrian opened his mouth, closed it, and sat down.
“We’re not doing Spring?” he said
But even as he said it, he could see a fire flicker in David’s eyes. There was something there, something untapped and furious that Adrian had never even got a glimpse of before. David, with his relaxed smile and laugh lines, seemed very distant compared to this smouldering, furious David in front of him.
“I want to do something.” said Jessica, the lead girl. She was sitting on the floor, but stood up suddenly, spinning back around to the crowd of stunned theatre kids. “We should do something, we can’t NOT do something.”
There were murmurs of appreciation through the crowd, a stirring of a lion that had been blown back a few feet, settling to lick its wounds and contemplate what to do next. But now more than ever it was evident that the musical theatre kids of the school were not content to sit by and watch their hard work, dedication, and excitement get washed away in a wave of administrative cold feet.
“We could keep on practising,” a quiet, mousy chorus girl said softly. “Just without Amanda and…”
“They would lock us out.” Andrew Swift said. “They would. You know they would. And how are we even supposed to put on shows without the theatre?”
“We could rent out a community theatre.” someone else suggested. “In our spare time?”
“We wouldn’t have the band.” Diana said, “Really, we wouldn’t have the resources anyways, that sort of thing is way to expensive, even for us.”
It seemed to direct a new shift in the air. Everyone knew that this wasn’t a question of if they should do something as much as what they were going to do. A response was now inevitable, they just had to decide on one.
And then David stood up, towering over them all, then looked Jessica in the eye.
“We lock them out before they get to lock us out.” he said.
Jessica and David, united in age and rank, ended up taking the helm. Standing up on the stage side by side, Adrian had an uncomfortable thought that they suited each other with their dramatic presence and ability to command the audience. Even among other actors they just seemed to have an ability to make people listen.
“If you have any doubts about this, you need to leave now.” said Jessica, looking each and every one of them in the eye as she spoke. “What we’re going to do won’t win you any favours in the school. We could get the club suspended, we could get suspended. But I don’t think any of you think that at the rate things are going now, that suspension or expulsion is worse than letting the administration trample on the creative spirit of its students.”
She exchanged glances with David, who then continued.
“If you want to leave, do so now, we won’t hold it against you. If you want to stay, well we’ll need some help boarding the doors up.”
Not so surprisingly, nobody left. They were steeled with the idea of rebelling for something as honourable as their hard work and dedication, for the play that they had been slaving away on for months.
They ended up moving quickly.
There were six doors leading out of the theatre. Two on either sides of the stage on the floor level that people walked in to fill the audience. Two on either side of the stage that led to stairwells that they had spent so much time reviewing their scripts, and one in the back of the stage that led through to the gymnasium. Adrian helped to wheel the enormously heavy piano in front of one of the main doors with Jack and David, almost putting himself out of commission while trying to push it. Everyone else blocked doors with whatever else they could find- boxes, crates, loose sandbags and other stage props. The door in the back was dealt with more simply, it had a bolt on their side that was wrenched into place with some effort, and for extra security, a chair was jammed under the door handle as a reminder for anyone who happened to saunter down he hall. The two doors on the side of the stage were blocked with heavy crates and, boarded up with leftover prop-making materials someone had found under the stage.
It had taken them about twenty minutes for twenty-three people to completely secure the theatre, and when they were done they crowded back around the stage, the tension in the air taking on a whole other feeling. Adrian was sure he wasn’t the only one whose heart was pumping, adrenaline running like crazy. What they were doing was nuts.
They were protesting against school administration by barricading themselves in the theatre.
What could possibly go right in this situation?
For twenty odd kids it would be uncomfortable, and that was even before they had to face themselves up against the grand force of the school authorities.
“I think I’m going to tweet this.” said Diana, fishing out her phone. “What should be the topic, #angry theatre kids protest?”
“That’s actually a good idea-” Jessica murmured, when there was a sudden knock at the door blocked with the piano. Everyone’s heads went up with a start, exchanging glances before flying over to the door like the stage had been set on fire. Adrian went right up with them, head craning to catch a glimpse of the first person to visit their lockdown.
The door to the left of the stage was able to open a crack before it was blocked by the piano. It was open a crack now, and a couple of chorus girls, including Jessica, clambered on top of the piano to talk to the visitor.
“Uh, hello?” said the voice outside the door. “Is this Advanced theatre practice?”
Adrian thought she sounded slightly weirded out at whatever was going on. For good reason.
“Calm yourselves people, it’s just some weedy freshman.” said one of the chorus girls.
“Weedy Freshman is also a good connection with outside.” David called back. “Tell her we’re protesting and everyone needs to know.”
And then all of the theatre kids were chiming in, pushing past Adrian to get closer, moving towards the door to tell this girl what was happening to them and that they were quite very mad about it.
“We’re locking ourselves in because the principle is a conservative bigot!”
“We’re protesting censorship!”
“We’ve worked too hard to be told by administration that we’re a black mark on their image!”
“Go to the principal and tell him that we sent you!”
Adrian didn’t even get to see what she looked like, but from the sound of it Weedy Freshman was now the second official messenger of the club’s plight, next to facebook and twitter. Apparently, she was going to the principal or Amanda or someone to let them know that the theatre kids were not having any of their shit. When the girls by the door had said she left, everyone huddled together nervously again, wondering what was going to happen next.
“I wrote up a manifesto.” David said, waving his notebook paper at the crowd. “Our terms and conditions are that we get Amanda back as our director, we get to continue practising Spring, We will not accept compromises that will censor the content of the performance, and our performances will go ahead as scheduled.”
“So serious.” said Jessica, smiling and whacking him on the back. “It should work fine.”
Meanwhile, the phones in the theatre had been brought out with full force. Everyone who didn’t have a dying battery or a fascist phone plan was texting at full force, updating their facebook status or phoning their friends, their voices hushed. Adrian didn’t really think to get out his own phone until he started to hear noises outside the theatre, noises that sounded like a crowd of people had gathered outside.
He grabbed his phone out of his bag, wondering if Maria had caught wind of this yet.
When he did check it, he was only partially surprised to see eight text messages and three missed calls from Maria.
What is going on in the theatre?
Adrian, pick up your phone!
Are you guys protesting?’
He called her quickly. “Hey,” he said sheepishly, looking over down at the crowd, at David who had his head bowed over Jessica, reading over something on her Iphone. “What’s up?”
“What’s up?” Maria almost shrieked back at him. “You’re asking me what’s up? What the hell are you guys doing?”
It suddenly occurred to Adrian that it sounded as if there were a lot of people around Maria. “Are you outside the doors now?”
“Yes, you freak! Tell me what’s going on! I heard from Marissa who got a text from Diana that the principle banned you guys from doing Spring or something!”
Adrian ran his fingers through his hair, slightly sticky with sweat from the warm theatre. He was getting himself into something stupid, that was for sure. “That’s the gist of it.”
“Holy crap, the great and straight edged Adrian rebelling. You guys are crazy, you know.” Maria sighed, but there was an appreciative tone to it.
“Well aware, Maria.” said Adrian.
Adrian didn’t really understand how big this rebellion was getting until Rachel got a picture sent through to her phone of what was going on outside.
“Come over here, all of you.” she said, gesturing to the group, who dove in like hungry pigeons to see what was happening. It was hard to judge based on the tiny picture, but from what Adrian could see he was more than surprised.
The doorway into the theatre was packed full of students, mostly theatre kids from the Beginners group, sitting down and blocking the doorway off to people from the outside. In the corridor outside there were students everywhere, crammed in and craning their necks to try and get a look at the door, blocked from the inside by the piano.
“Apparently the same thing is going on the other side.” said Diana, tipping her head towards the other door. “And how long have we been in here?”
“I dunno, an hour?” said Marianne.
“Principal’s gotta show up sooner or later” said David, pushing himself to his feet.
“I expect Amanda before that. And then maybe about four teachers, and the janitors and whoever else they can get to do their dirty work.” Jessica scoffed. “Ah well, who wants to sing?”
Adrian sure did. He was pretty glad they ended up choosing Totally Fucked, it pretty much fit his exact mindset for the situation. Gathered in their little group, with Diana playing and Adrian squashed against everyone else against the piano, they bellowed out the tune and the lyrics like angry animals, their words hoarse and harsh and as coarse as sandpaper. Adrian sang himself dry, pushing every ounce of tension and anger and frustration out with every lyric, eyes on David as he watched him do the same.
David was focused on other things, the door, Diana playing the piano, the other cast members, Jessica. He seemed tense but not worried, worn out maybe.
Adrian was so immersed in him that he didn’t even notice that when they stopped, the crowd outside had fallen deathly silent before bursting into a raucous applause that echoed down the corridor.
“Suck on it, Admin!” Diana yelled over the piano, and the rest of the theatre group whooped and cheered, and even Adrian found himself smiling widely. “We’re doing this play whether you like it or not!”
Amanda came down soon after the song full of curse words had been blasted down the hallway. Adrian had no idea how she managed to work her way through the crowd, be he had a feeling some of the musical theatre kids had parted to let her through, intimidated out of their minds by her presence alone.
“The hell do you guys think you are doing?” She asked through the crack the second that she was at the door. Adrian could practically feel the heat radiating off her from here, it was so vicious. “Whose brilliant idea was this, huh? Isolating the entire musical theatre division?”
“You took your time, Amanda” said Jessica, sliding up onto the piano next to her. “Consorting with the principal then, huh?”
“Do you have any idea what you are doing, what any of you are doing? This isn’t just about you kids and your play, this is about the entire musical theatre division. This is about my job. Think beyond yourselves and your conceited little minds for one minute to process that, alright? Have you considered for one minute that your actions could actually impact the lives of other people?”
They had to think about that for a minute. Adrian felt something that could be guilt curling away at the inside of his stomach. Amanda always seemed to know what to say to get straight to that feeling.
Jessica wasn’t phased though. “Well, I think its obvious that you guys had nothing to do with it, otherwise you would be in here. And the principal is a bigot, you can’t expect us to just stand aside.”
“I can and I will.” said Amanda. “School isn’t a democracy.”
She left soon after. There were anxious glances exchanged between them all, but nobody made a move to leave either. Its not like they could, even if they wanted to, now that they had put up this united front.
Over the course of the next two hours several more school employees had made their way through the dwindling crowd in the hallway. Two janitors had come with keys and tried to push the door open before quickly realizing it was useless. A couple of teachers had come down as well, probably to get a glimpse of who was inside and escort students that had blocked the theatre doors, with little success.
Outside was anything but quiet. There was yelling and chanting, angry high school students students eager to rebel against their authorities for a reason that was actually semi-legitimate. Every time an authority figure like a teacher or a janitor managed to reach the doors (only to find them solidly blocked) they would be told off by the students and the theatre kids alike, both groups yelling down their dedication and passion and how the school had no right to trample on it.
Eventually, the principal did come down. Or at least to Adrian, it sounded like the principal had come down, when about four people flung themselves onto the piano, trying to yell through the door crack about how much of a bigot he was. David and Jessica got through soon after, with their manifesto in tow.
“Afternoon, Principal” said Jessica cordially, swinging herself to sit up on top of the piano and flicking the crumpled piece of paper out in front of her. “And what do I owe this pleasure?”
“This behaviour is completely unacceptable, all of you.” he said. “We expect much more out of the school’s artistic ambassadors than this.”
“And we expect an administration not to censor the arts programs when they are in the middle of being creative and provocative.” She waved the manifesto over the crack in the door. “We’re not leaving until we get permission to practice again.”
“You would be lucky to get out of this with the club still intact at this rate.”
Everyone heard that. A nervous rumble went through the air, students exchanging glances with one another, not sure if they should say or do anything. Jessica seemed unfazed.
“Yeah, you do that, cancelling more arts programming. I guess we’ll be in here for awhile then huh?”
“This is nothing but a childish, self absorbed movement. If you even cared about the students or the club you would care more about finding alternatives than creating an enormous scene.”
“I thought you were here to negotiate, principal?” said Jessica. “Or is that too pedestrian for you?
She stared out the crack for a bit longer before turning back to the crowd of theatre kids all watching with rapt attention. “He left.” she said. “Dunno what he’s going to bring at us next, maybe he’ll try and get the police in here to get us all arrested for squatting or some other shitty excuse for a charge.”
He didn’t end up doing that. After three in the afternoon and most of the kids had given up and gone home to enjoy being free, cellphones started going off. Weird tunes echoed out of every bag and jacket pocket, startling the theatre kids out of their otherwise uneventful lull.
“Shit.” said Jack, flicking his phone open. “It’s my mom.”
They all were getting calls from their parents. After Jack soon followed Marianne, and then Jessica, and Diana. Some of them were apologetic, others just wanted to find out what was going on.
“I hear Metal Gear.”
“Someone going to pick up their direct call from Colonel?”
It took a second for Adrian to realize that it was his phone. “Shit.” he said, scrambling up and running between the audience chairs to his own bag.
Of course, his home was calling.
Adrian stared at it for a second, contemplating what the principal could have possibly said to his parents. But he already knew anyways.
“Adrian!” his mother’s voice, “I received a call from your principal that you have enlisted yourself in some kind of communistic terrorist faction against the school!”
And so it began.
“Hi mother!” said Adrian back in English, smiling as widely as he could manage without splitting his face open. “How are you doing on this fine afternoon?”
What followed was possibly one of the worst wringing-outs Adrian had experienced in all his years of being her son. Some of those old Czech words that were normally reserved for his brothers were being hailed against his ear like a torrential fury of disappointment. Ungrateful son, spoiling your education for some pornographic performance, and continuing to ruin our our good family name with was pretty much the gist of it.
“ I will not have another son of mine try and bring down the administration of his high school! After all me and your father have done for you, and you are going to throw away your entire school career on some smutty drama project?” she ranted. “Which I don’t remember singing the permission form by the way-”
“You’re breaking up, sorry I couldn’t catch that.” said Adrian, making static sounds with his mouth. “Sorry mom, gotta hang up!”
He turned off his phone, tossing it into his bag. David looked at him and smiled a bit apologetically, and Adrian smiled sheepishly back. He would have to deal with that when he got home.
When day rolled around into night the only people outside the theatre doors were the teachers, still trying to negotiate fruitlessly with David and Jessica. Eventually even they went home, tired and frustrated with their lack of developments. The janitors were still in the school, but that was all by the time that nine pm rolled around.
It was then that Jack cracked out the alcohol.
“I snuck this out of my parent’s cabinet” he said, passing it around the circle so everyone could take a swig. “Was planning on going to Rachel Andrew’s party tonight, but sometimes there are more important things that crop up.” he said without any bitterness, as the bottles went around.
Adrian was surprised how much liquor he had managed to bring to school without anyone knowing the better. There were four bottles of vodka, twenty beers and four things of rum going around between twenty three kids, most of them who were quite inexperienced with the fine art of getting plastered. They all sat in a circle on the stage, feeling giddy and nervous and worn down from the events of the day, eager to relax and have fun for the first time in this whole ordeal.
The seniors seemed to know what they were doing, taking shots without glasses and passing the bottles down the lines without so much as a wince. When it was Adrian’s turn with the vodka, he realized with some area of his mind not hazed by what they were doing, that this would be yet another thing his parents would be disapprove of. Adding to a scarily fast growing list of failures from their youngest son.
David was drinking too, taking shots like someone who had been to a lot of parties and was no longer mystified with the concept of getting drunk. He just knocked them back, not even wincing before passing it on. Adrian wondered if he had ever made a fool of himself, ever thrown up on someone’s rug, ever kissed someone else’s girlfriend. He couldn’t see David ever embarrassing himself. If he ever did get drunk, he probably just got adorably handsy, maybe a bit too sly and self assured for his own good.
Adrian knocked back his shot in a gulp that he nearly gagged on. Suppressing his shudders at the horrid taste, he wiped his mouth and passed it along the circle, hoping he wouldn’t draw much attention to how much of a novice he was.
At the other end of the circle, David noticed his reaction and smiled, rolling his eyes at Adrian’s incompetence.
It took about half an hour for the group to get comfortably drunk, sprawled out and giggling, their movements exaggerated and loose and their expressions warm and happy. Most of them were still on the stage, talking among themselves and drinking, but some others had spread out through the theatre. Some of the chorus girls were playing hide and seek in the theatre seats, shrieking and giggling enough to give away their locations. Diana and some other actors were huddled around the piano, banging away at the keys and singing raucous songs like they belonged right in the middle of an Irish country pub. The elite members, David, Jessica and Jack were all hanging out at one end of the stage, chatting among themselves animatedly.
Adrian stared over at them a bit, knocking back another shot that he probably shouldn’t have taken.
“Youu scheem perplexed, Adriana.” said Marianne, who sidled up beside him with all the finesse of a beached sea lion. Beside her, the ever icy Mindy Babcock shuffled over slightly, nursing a beer in her hand and looking much too mad for someone who had free booze.
“You have been schtaring over at Jessica and David for the whooolee night.”slurred Marianne.
“Hello Marianna.” Adrian nodded at Mindy. “Mindy.”
Marianne seemed satisfied, sitting beside him and looking over at Jack and David and Jessica. Mindy didn’t even bother looking at Adrian, staring off in another direction at nothing in particular. “Do you have a boner for one of them or something.” asked Marianne, leering a bit.
“Is it that obvious?” Adrian asked. He wasn’t even going to try and disguise it now, he was so far gone and about every cell of common sense in his brain had been drowned out by alcohol.
“Yes, it is that obvious.” Mindy piped up, glaring down hard at her beer. “It’s practically the only reason why you joined the damn club.”
Marianne patted her shoulder. “Don’t mind Mindy.” she said, “Sche’s jusht bitter that anooother guy came aloong. Sche’s manly enough that mochst of the schide character male roles end up going to her, and sche thought sche had your underschtudy role in the bag.”
“Beats chorus girl #14.” Mindy grumbled, but she had the sense to look embarrassed at Marianne’s drunken blabber.
Adrian blinked a bit, smiled sadly. “I’m sorry about that Mindy..”
“Don’t patronize me.” she snapped back, except the bitterness was gone from her voice. Now she just sounded weary and drunk. “Just…forget it. Go back to staring at your man.”
Marianne whistled. “Man?”
“Oh, like you didn’t notice?” Mindy sighed.
“Really, I didn’t.” said Marianne. “But it better not be Jack. Becuzz I have a boner for Jack, scho if you try and touch that ass I will shlap your shit.”
Adrian really couldn’t help smiling at that. “It’s not Jack.” he said. “Your boner does not need to worry about that.”
“Good.” she said. “I am glad me and my boner have scholidarity over Jack and his terrible, wonderful face.”
Adrian stared over at them some more with Marianne and Mindy, knocking back shots without any real care before his clouded judgment really got the better of him. “Move aside girlfriend, he said, stepping over where Marianne was sprawled out, teetering from side to side as he did so. “I am going to be stupid.”
He walked right up to where they were and plopped down right next to David, burying his hair into his warm, broad back. Inside the circle, he thought he heard someone giggle.
“You’re puppy has arrived, David.” said Jack as Adrian sighed in David’s scent. He smelled like handsome boy. “Right on schedule.”
Adrian propped his forehead up on David’s shoulder, leaning against his head. “Were you talking about me?”
“Maybe a little bit.” said David, patting Adrian on top of his head, scratching behind his ears. “Just you and your adorableness.”
“I wish my understudy was even half as loyal.” Jessica muttered, her eyes flicking back between Adrian and David. “I swear half the time she’s just trying to break my legs to get the lead role in the play.”
Jack laughed, and David did too, his back rumbling against Adrian’s chest.
Adrian grinned and leaned in close against David’s face, lips brushing against the stubble on his jaw.
“Daviid.” he said. “Daaaviiiddd.”
“What,” David murmured back, turning his head towards Adrian like he was the only one who he wanted to see. “Do you want to go for a walk, throw some sticks around for you to catch?”
Adrian smiled. “Can you hold my hair back for me while I go throw up in the toilet?
“You don’t even have any hair that could get in you face anyways”, said David five minutes later as Adrian leaned against the toilet bowl in the boys room,feeling very,very drunk. David had just about dragged him into the back of the theatre, Adrian’s legs just about as functional as wet noodles before Adrian had collapsed on the change room floor like he was magnetically attracted to it.
“This bowl is my favourite bowl.” said Adrian. “In other news, I think that strong urge to throw up may have been a false alarm.”
“You better hope it was.” said David, reaching over to brush some hair out of Adrian’s face. Adrian looked up at him through glassy eyes before closing them and letting David run his fingers through his hair.
“I reallly like you, David.” said Adrian, side of his face still plastered to one side of the toilet bowl. “I realllllllly like you.”
David didn’t say anything, just kept threading his fingers through Adrian’s hair. It was relaxing, but Adrian could feel like there was something not being said here. There was some massive elephant in the room, something that Adrian could feel but couldn’t see.
“Daviddd” he said. “What is it?”
“Hmm?” asked David.
“Schomething.” Adrian slurred. “Schoming is up.” He slumped up off the toilet,looking David in the eye. “You’re not telling me something…”
“Do you have some kind of terrible STD, David? Did someone give you herpes?”
He smiled, shaking his head. “No, it’s not anything like that.”
“But its scchomthing then, isn’t it.”
He didn’t say anything. It felt kind of peaceful in the change room, just David and him, but whatever he wasn’t telling him…
“I’m really not gay, Adrian.”
“He says, as he brushes his hair away from my forehead.” said Adrian. “Seriously, tell me something believable.”
But David was looking at him with that weird expression, kind of sad and sweet all the same. “Not gay, Adrian. I’m sorry, you’re a really nice kid, but…”
“But what? Adrian said, furrowing his brow.
“I’m just not attracted to you, okay?” David sighed.
He left the change room a few minutes after, leaving Adrian sprawled on the floor.
It wasn’t on his own accord, Adrian had told him to get out, yelled at him really. He wasn’t sure if he had scratched his hand either, but the way David had withdrawn it from Adrian’s head was like he had been burned.
And now Adrian was lying here on the change room floor, cheek pressed against the grout, his head spinning with alcohol, anxiety and the sticky twinges of something inside his chest slowly falling apart.
He wasn’t going to cry. It wasn’t worth it, really.
Four hours later, he woke up with a snap.
His head was pounding, half his face numb, still plastered against the tiles. He felt disorientated, bleary with sleep and weirdly ill in the pit of his stomach. Lips dry and flaky, mouth full of a flavor that tasted like death.
Absently, he wondered what time it was.
It took him a minute more to remember why he was lying on the floor in the boys stage change room. Everything from the night before seemed mottled and fuzzy, layered in a drunk stupor and too little sleep. He lay there for a minute, feeling ill and not entirely sure how his limbs worked, when something else slowly came to his attention.
Far off, there was the sound of something crashing.
Adrian pushed himself off the floor, stumbling to his feet. He was woozy, swaying around, still drunk or hungover or whatever it was. The crashing wasn’t stopping, but it wasn’t in here, in the change room behind the stage. It was coming from somewhere else.
He didn’t want to go back on the stage, or in the theatre rows where everyone was, probably still holding the memories of what had happened the night before. He didn’t want to deal with that right now. He didn’t want to be here anymore.
His cellphone and book bag were still in the theatre seats, but he couldn’t really bring himself to care about them. He just wanted to leave.
Adrian stumbled out of the change room, pressing himself up against the cool concrete brick walls as he made his way down the narrow corridor. There was a short set of stairs that he all but fell down, and at the end of the corridor, a door. The one blocked by the chair and the simple bolt.
Adrian kicked the chair out of the way, and it landed on the floor with a clatter. He doubted anyone would hear it, he could already hear people in the theatre behind him, their voices rising over the crashing sound.
He stared at the door for a minute, and then pressed his ear against it, listening carefully to hear if anyone was on this end. But he couldn’t hear anything but the echoing silence in the gymnasium, the rustling of nothing.
Behind him, someone was starting to yell.
He felt dizzy and placed his forehead against the cool metal for a minute, trying to meld his head into the metal and wood, feeling nauseous and horrid and sick. And a bit inside,just a tiny bit somewhere in his pit, he felt the overwhelming burn of betrayal.
The crunching of wood, scream of metal and music sounded behind him, keys smashed down in a cacophony of notes, loud and scratched and angry. More yells now in the theatre, frustrated cries and screams to go along with the first one. Voices Adrian could recognize.
He didn’t want to be here anymore.
The bolt was smooth and heavy in his fingers, and it was less difficult to slide out than he thought it would be. Carefully he slipped out and closed the door behind him, letting himself into the quiet, darkened gymnasium. It had to be early in the morning, there were no lights on, no sounds of kids in the halls, no sounds of lockers slamming. He felt light headed and off, like he was walking through a dream, a bad, teetery drunken dream.
Adrian didn’t come across anyone as he moved across the gym, into the hallway, and down the back stairs. The door in the stairwell squeaked as he opened it, but there wasn’t anyone around to hear it anyways.
It was chilly outside without a jacket. The grass was damp with condensation, the last remaining twinkles of stars in the sky being smeared away by the warm glow of the sun on the horizon. Adrian dug his hands into his pockets, wondering what he should do next. Home, home would be a nice idea.
He was going to walk towards the road, but the loud roar of an idling firetruck engine made him stop in his tracks. Lights flashing, people wearing fire uniforms milling about. He stared at if for a minute before turning around in his tracks, walking around the portables instead, across the side road and through the elementary school grounds.
Behind him the school was dark, lighted by nothing but the orange shine of streetlamps and the faint glow at the edge of the dim sky.
It all ended up falling apart for the musical theatre club.
The whole theatre was blocked off after the fire department wrenched their way in with the jaws of life. The piano was completely destroyed, along with the two doors that it had blocked. Adrian guessed that the principal had the idea that if he described the situation as a fire hazard the emergency services would be more willing to help him out. They helped, certainly, at 3 AM when there was a smaller chance of someone trying to stop them. Now the doors were boarded up with plywood, covered in CAUTION tape.
The school was absolutely buzzing the next morning, everyone overloaded on the drama of it all. The Beginners theatre club was suspended indefinitely. The Advanced club was dissolved outright. All the students that had been found inside the theatre had been suspended for a few days and banned from Musical Theatre, becoming either martyrs or idiots in the eyes of the student body.
When Adrian arrived at school the next day, he noticed that he was drawing stares from people in his classes. He didn’t even think his participation in musical theatre was common knowledge.
In fact, enough people had come up to his desk during the day with questions about the night before that Adrian was starting to become suspicious. Why hadn’t he been called to the principal’s office? It was midday and he had already been confronted five times by people he barely recognized; all eager and excited to hear first hand stories of the drama-filled night. If they knew, there was no way the principal didn’t. They called his mother, if he left his BAG in the theatre, why wouldn’t they bother trying to see that he got the same punishment as his peers?
It almost made him think that something had happened.
Nobody was allowed inside the theatre after the whole debacle, but Adrian managed to sneak through the back door that he had slipped out of the night before. The door hadn’t been re-bolted since he had used it last night, so Adrian figured the school didn’t even know it had been used as an escape hatch.
The theatre was empty, strewn with piano wreckage and junk, dark from the lack of light seeping through the boarded doors. Adrian fumbled around for the emergency flashlight in the back of the stage and set to work to see if he could find his backpack.
As he searched, it started to slowly settle in how much they actually managed to fail. Their protest had amounted to nothing but the destruction of the musical theatre club, the suspension of half its students and a horrible drunken night where Adrian had effectively had his heart opened up and smashed to tiny pieces. It felt weird to be in the theatre now, dark and empty, with that stale smell that only reminded him of their fruitless protest.
There would be no more practices, no more singing in the theatre, no more half naked scenes or obscene lyrics.
It hurt a bit. It hurt more than a bit. But he pushed it aside anyways, searching the corners of the theatre for his stuff. But Adrian couldn’t find it.
Weird. If he didn’t have his belongings, who the hell did have them? Instinct told him to go to the principal’s office, but if they could identify him based on that they would have already suspended him anyway.
So instead he left the theatre and went back to class, twiddled his thumbs and immersed himself in math until Maria showed up at his locker at lunch.
“Hey.” she said, looking apologetic if nothing else. “You look like death.”
“Hrugh,” said Adrian, mostly into his locker. She understood at least, smiling in her understanding way and not pressing further. Adrian would tell her about it in time, but right now he just needed to recover.
“David sent me a text actually, he wants to meet up with you?” said Maria, waving around her phone. “I didn’t even know he had my number, I don’t have it on my facebook page or anything.”
Adrian had to think about that for a minute. “I have your number on my phone,” he said, slamming his locker shut. “That would be it.”
“Where did he say he would be, Maria?” asked Adrian.
David was at the library. It was across the street on public property, which attracted a lot of the smokers who could light up without fears of getting dragged into the office. David wasn’t in the smoke pit but was instead hanging out by the library entrance, under the bike rack. He was staring off into nothing, not looking over at the path Adrian walked along as he slogged through the marshy grass walkway over to him.
It was only when he got near that David turned and smiled at him.
“Hey.” he said. Adrian stopped, two meters away.
“You have my stuff then?” he asked, but he already saw his book bag hanging off of David’s shoulder, his phone in his hand. David held them out for him, and Adrian stepped forward, carefully taking them from his hands so their fingers wouldn’t touch.
“Figured they would be better with me than the principal.” David said, smiling a bit as Adrian checked his phone. 41 missed messages, of course there would be.
He scrolled through them. Parents, Maria, some other close friends, Parents. “Why did you kiss me on Granville Island?”
David sighed. “Adrian-”
“No, you are not allowed to do that, David.” Adrian said, snapping his phone shut with a flick of his wrist. His expression was steely. “Why did you kiss me or lead me on or do any of that if you were straight? What could have possibly motivated you to mess with my feelings like that?”
When he said nothing at first, Adrian made a move to turn right back around and head to the school, but David spoke up.
“I just, I thought you were cute.”
It was a sort of horrible feeling that just erupted in his chest, just to whistle and die out before it even garnered traction. “So you were just trying it out then?” he said bitterly, trying to hold all the emotion he could out of his voice that was threatening in, edging itself right into his throat, into his lungs. He couldn’t look David in the eye, distracting himself with putting his phone back in his bag. Calm down, calm down, calm down.
“Honestly, I don’t know what I was doing,” David sighed. “But I do like you. I thought you were cute, I still think you are cute. But I dunno, for some reason it’s just not working out in my head…”
“Because I have a dick?” Adrian said bluntly.
“Well, lack of tits didn’t help either, if you’re going that route.” David said, smiling a bit as Adrian looked up at him.
He glanced away.
“I’m sorry, Adrian.”
“Shut up please.” Adrian said, but he didn’t move to turn away either, just balling his hands, his cold fingers up into fists, trying to think about the feeling of blood pumping through them rather than the blood pumping through his chest. “Please stop right now.”
David stepped forward, wrapping his arms around Adrian’s back, and it was all Adrian could do to keep himself from clinging on, burying his face against David like he had done last night. He raised his arms between them, fists balled in a muted attempt at resistance, but he didn’t try pushing them away. They just rested there, unmoving as David pressed his lips against his hair.
“You’re a special kid, Adrian.” he said, somewhat sadly. “You’re going to make some lucky guy very happy.”
Adrian gulped down a sob. “Would rather make you happy.” he cracked out.
David looked down at him, pressed a gloved hand against the side of his face, smiling a smile that wasn’t his usual carefree glow, but something more melancholic, sweet and sad all rolled up in one.
Adrian kind of expected him to say something, but he didn’t. Instead David turned around, walked over to the parking lot, and got into his car. He drove off as rain began to hit the sidewalk, sputtering and cold and miserable. Adrian stood there under the bike rack for a bit, watching the rain and cars move through the parking lot until he went back across the street to the school, his hands numb with cold and shoes soaked completely through.
It was nearly 2:30 pm when Adrian was finally called to the principal’s office. It came as a bit of a shock to get a messenger from him by the end of final period, when Adrian was just thinking he had gotten away scott free. When the messenger did hand him his note, Adrian noticed with a drop in his stomach that it was Amanda’s writing on the message.
Come to the office immediately.
Of course she would be involved in this. Amanda had invested her time in them from the start, and now that her group of musical theatre kids had essentially betrayed her direction, it was no wonder the principal was getting her assistance in doing the dirty work of punishment. When Adrian slumped into the principal’s office, note in hand, he was not surprised at all to see Amanda sitting in a chair next to the principal’s desk. Adrian stared at both of them before dropping his bag on the floor and taking a seat, feeling slightly awkward with two pairs of eyes watching him carefully.
“You’re looking tired,” said the principal, in a tone that could be considered caring but probably wasn’t. “Had a late night, I’m guessing.”
Adrian didn’t say anything. He wasn’t seeing any positive way that this conversation could go, but he already had the most likely outcome in mind. Suspended from school for weeks, mom sent into a fit of ragey deja vu. Dad wouldn’t be too pleased either.
Adrian looked hard at both of them, and bit the inside of his lip.
“Oh, don’t look so terrified, Adrian.” Amanda sighed. “This isn’t your execution.”
The principal cleared his throat, a tut tut tut to redirect his attention. “Amanda wants you to take on a lead role in the beginner musical theatre’s club”, he said, “Once their activities resume sometime next week. You would be up to that, wouldn’t you?”
“The reason I’m asking,” said Amanda “Is because the number of students with experience and knowledge in musical theatre have been banned from participation. Except for you, of course, since you were the only student in the Advanced club who wasn’t a part of the riot.”
Now this, he was not expecting this, his brain felt like it had short circuited. “ You called my parents.” he said, eyes flickering back from Amanda’s to the principals. “Aren’t you going to suspend me or something?”
“Are you saying we should suspend you?” Asked Amanda, her voice chilling – it was almost dangerous sounding for being so soft and quiet. “You were the only member of the Advanced Musical theatre group who wasn’t found in the theatre. There is no evidence that you were even there that night? Why should we punish you for something that we have no evidence of you doing?”
She looked at Adrian pointedly, whose gut had now grown cold. Adrian glanced at the Principal, and then back to Amanda, both of them wearing the same expression.
“So you want me to help make the in the beginners club more experienced?” Asked Adrian. His head hurt. He didn’t want to say it, but it almost sounded like The beginners club sucks, we need someone who was good enough to get into the advanced club to take a role in it. Honestly that seemed to be more like what they were getting at… “ I don’t think I would be very comfortable with that.”
“Why, because you would be the only member of the Advanced group in Musical Theatre?” asked the principal. “Do you think you would receive negative feedback from your peers if you did that?”
“Yes, because the rest of them managed to get themselves banned from the club for something that I think is a relativity minor offence.” Adrian said, carefully watching the reactions of Amanda and the principal. It was like tiptoeing around glass, this conversation.
“I wouldn’t say abusing school property was by any means a minor offence,” Amanda shot back, and Adrian was shocked to hear what almost sounded like a quaver in her voice. “There is protest, and then there is acting out for the sake of acting out. Look, I worked with you kids for months, but this protest, or whatever it was; it was not constructive in any way. They could have arranged for student votes, or-or letters to the newspaper or anything like that. Holing themselves up in the theatre…it did nothing for anything they were standing for….”
Amanda trailed off, and for the first time in however long Adrian had known her, he realized with a start at how upset she actually was. Not steely, rage-encased upset, but something much more human, more down to earth than anything. She had put hours of her life into teaching them to become better performers, she had coached and slaved away and criticized, dealt with all she could for them, and this is how the club repaid her. This entire time Adrian was just furious about the censorship, a bit guilty about how the beginners musical theatre was also being punished, but he had never stopped to consider what impact their actions had on Amanda of all people.
He looked away.
“Okay look,” he said carefully, “I understand if you want to suspend David and Jessica to make a point, since they are very popular role models. But you should at least let the rest of the kids try out for theatre again. It truly means everything to them here. They really did the protest out of passion for this program, and if you took it away from them I think you would pretty much ruin the rest of their high school careers.”
He sincerely hoped that got across to them at least. Crime or no, everything was really done out of passion. And if he had to throw David or Jessica under the bus well, it’s not like they deserved it. But he had a feeling that they were the ones that Amanda was primarily mad at, for organizing the protest in the first place.
“We can’t give everything that the musical theatre club wants.” The principal said, almost equally carefully. “They can’t protest and damage the experience of other students. They can’t hold a play that many students and their parents would balk at the concept of. It’s just the way things are done.”
That just made Adrian mad. “How about inviting a suspicious member to join the new club in order so it doesn’t suck so badly, is that how things are done?” He shot back.
Amanda gave him a grim look. Adrian sat back in his chair.
“I’ll do it,” he said, with a resigned sigh of defeat. “But only on one condition-”
“If you’re thinking about getting David or Jessica back into the club it’s pretty out of the question.” said Amanda. “And not because we won’t let them back in, either.”
He didn’t know what that meant. Well, he had an idea, but he didn’t want to give it any more thought.
“Well then,” Adrian stumbled, “I’ll do this if you let the old Advanced kids try out again. If you don’t want to put them front and centre after this, then just give them chorus roles, keep them low-key.” He hoped there wasn’t desperation seeping into his voice, but really he was feeling that way.
“You already destroyed their entire play and club, you might as well let them have something before they turn to hard drugs and skipping class.”
Amanda stared him down, her eyes chipped from glass and expression unreadable. The principal looked between them, saying nothing.
“I’ll consider it.” Amanda said. “You can go now.”
In a week, the suspended students in the Advanced musical theatre club had been allowed back to school. It surprised everyone, even the other students themselves. Nobody expected to be coming back this quickly, especially not after such a public case of disobedience.
But the news that followed that was even more surprising.
“Beginner musical theatre is starting up again!” squealed Maria one afternoon in late December, launching herself around Adrian’s neck as he tossed books into his locker. She did a good job of putting him in a hug that felt suspiciously like a choke hold. “I can’t believe it – I thought it was banned for good! What did you say to them?”
“Nothing, really,” Adrian said, patting her on the back. “I think they were planning on keeping your club around anyways.”
“I’m sure you helped.” Maria said. “All the Advanced kids are back in school now, even though their club is apparently banned. I guess that makes this just the Musical Theatre then, right? That’s kind of depressing.”
“Heh,” said Adrian. “At least its less of a mouthful.”
“Musical theatre,” said Maria, smiling a bit sadly. “It’s condensed. Tidy? Oh, I heard David’s leaving.”
Adrian fought to keep his face neutral. So she had heard that too.
“Yeah, I can sort of see why.” Adrian said as casually as he could. “I heard from Amanda and some others that he’s living with his brother downtown, taking classes online.” The corner of his mouth twitched. “I can see why he would do that.”
The moment hung in the air and in Adrian’s lungs, before Maria patted him soundly on the back. She got it.
“Shouldn’t dwell on it.” She said. “You’ll ruin the moment.”
“Maybe.” said Adrian.
He didn’t mention it, but he had received a text since he got his phone back. Yesterday, after school, Adrian had opened his phone to see a message from David blinking on his screen.
Adrian had stared at it. Closed his phone, opened it again. Considered reading the message, considered deleting it, unread.
He didn’t delete it. He didn’t read it, either. Instead Adrian just let it sit in his inbox, and unopened text message, curious enough to not just delete it but not masochistic enough to actually read it.
He slammed his locker shut.
“Come on, you giant sap.” Maria said, “The cafeteria is serving curly fries today. I think you deserve some.”
“For being generally awesome?”Adrian asked, a smile tugging at his face despite everything.
“Sure, why not.” she said, linking her arm with him and taking him down the hall. “You’ve earned that at least.”
Adrian smiled evenly and put his head against her shoulder. He felt better, but better was only relative. His chest was compressed, his head felt muddled. More than that, his cell phone that was sitting in his coat pocket felt like it was a dead weight. A bomb with a soundless ticker. A kilogram of iron sentiment that he couldn’t shake off, dragging him down into the earth.
He walked with Maria, arm and arm, and did his best to put all those thoughts behind him.