“So, now that you know, what are you gonna do about it?” My friends had been asking me basically the same question every day since Amaya revealed that apparently, my best guy friend likes me.
I rolled my eyes. “Nothing, guys. He’ll get over it, and besides, I have better things to think about tonight.” They were on speakerphone while I got ready for the first showing of the play.
“I don’t know, Vali,” Emily said, “I think you should say something.”
“If you thought it was that important, you should’ve told me about it before,” I replied, slightly joking. I still couldn’t believe they knew he liked me for months and had the damn audacity to not say anything! Sure, I’m not gonna do anything about it now that I know, but they should’ve said something. Whatever.
“…sorry, Vali! We swore you knew,” Amaya replied.
I sighed, popping open my raspberry lipstick, inspecting the shimmery color. “You guys think metallic raspberry is too much for lipstick?”
“Aren’t theatre productions meant to be over the top?” Emi asked.
“Yes, and that’s why Vali fits right in,” Amaya giggled.
I snorted, picking up a handful of other lipstick colors. “Guys, I’m serious!”
“I think you should go with a sweet, innocent girl look,” Aya responded after a few seconds.
I laughed, setting down a few lipsticks on my desk. “Juliet isn’t exactly innocent… she’s naïve.”
“Alright, well, still!”
She was right, though, it did fit the play and Juliet’s character… and as seeing this was a school thing, they probably didn’t want me showing up with blue lipstick. Not like I give a shit, but I like theatre and I want to be allowed to keep performing.
“I’m going with it, Aya,” I said, picking out one of my simple lipsticks that barely saw the light of day and begun to go through my eyeshadow palettes to find something that wasn’t too crazy but would still look good on stage.
“Damn, how much makeup do you have?” Emily asked. The two of them could hear my palettes clinking against each other while I searched for – well, I didn’t know yet, but I would once I found it.
“A lot,” I replied with a grin, “I’ve collected makeup since I was, like, thirteen.”
“I remember that. Seventh grade,” Aya laughed, “you started watching some tv show where the main character was insanely good at makeup and you wanted to do it too.”
“And I sure got good.”
I heard the sound of one of their phones being moved around before Emily’s voice came through the speaker again. “Ok, I’ve gotta go, but I’ll see you at the play.”
“Eh, no problem, I’ve gotta perfect my makeup and it’s hard to do that while talking,” I replied, finally pulling out an eyeshadow palette that I knew would fit well with the style I was now going for.
“Guess I’ll be leaving the call too,” Aya said. The two of them said bye not long after and I heard the tone that signaled Emily left, then Aya. You can set people’s tones so you know who joined and who left. Most people only do it for their friends, though. People I never talk to don’t need their own tone, the basic one’s just fine for them. I did my makeup easily – it was way simpler than what I normally do.
“You all look great,” our theatre teacher grinned. We were all backstage, and as the neon blue digital clock on the wall clearly showed, it was 10 minutes until showtime.
“This is going to be so lit!” Lidia exclaimed, dancing throughout the small back room.
“Oh, I know, right?” Her friend Clare enthused, quickly whipping out her LED-lined phone – a bit 2549 if you ask me, but they seem to be making a comeback for some reason. The two 9th graders began taking a bunch of pictures together while I simply walked over to my co-star.
“Hey,” he said, nodding slightly as he noticed me walking up to him.
“Hey. Ready for this?” I slid into the chair next to his, smiling.
He grinned. “Of course I am. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I’m ready. And, knowing you, you’re ready, too.”
I laughed, looking back to the clock, which was flashing 8:54 now. 6 minutes. “Yeah, I’m ready. Have been since day 1.”
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” I said playfully, leaning against the back of the chair.
He blinked, playing with his outfit. “What? You’re really good at this stuff, so of course, you’ve been ready – ”
I punched him softly. “I was joking, calm down.”
“Oh.” His cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” I added, twirling around slowly so the skirt of Juliet’s dress fluttered up just a bit.
“Thanks. But, you’re better than everyone in the school at this and you know it, too.”
I grinned, looking into his very serious eyes. Sure, I was good. I knew that. It was the only thing I was good at in school, besides annoying all my teachers. And yeah, I was probably better at acting than everyone here. But it was fun to play around with Brett. “Eh, I dunno.”
“You can’t be serious, Valentina.”
“Valentina? Ooh, it’s serious, you’re using my full name,” I laughed.
Mrs. Wesson burst into the room just then, frantically announcing it was 3 minutes until the play started so everyone had better get ready. After that, it was basically chaos with everyone trying to figure out where they went and just what the hell was happening, especially the 9th graders and the new kids that weren’t in 9th but just had never been in a play before.
“Mrs. Wesson! We have a problem!” I had heard everyone in theatre’s voice enough times to know who they were by their voice, and though I couldn’t see her, I knew it was Sofia.
“What?” Our teacher asked loudly through everyone’s side conversations and last-minute dress changes.
“Dimitra’s freaking out,” Sofia replied, and I mentally face-palmed. Dimi’s the narrator and she’s in 10th grade. She was in the play last year as an extra, one of the dancers. She’s a really good dancer but yeah, she’s never had a speaking role before.
“I didn’t know Dimitra had stage fright,” Brett whispered to me.
I shrugged. “Neither did I.”
“Is she going to be able to get up there in 30 seconds, Sofia? Cause if not, we need somebody up there stat,” Mrs. Wesson said simply. I don’t know how she can be so chill in all of this. Seriously.
“Um…” Sofia rushed back behind the curtains of the dressing room Dimitra was assumedly in. “Yeah, that’s not happening.”
“Do you know the prologue, Sofia?” Our teacher asked her.
Sofia shook her head. “No…”
Mrs. Wesson glanced at the clock which now glowed 9:00. “Guys, who knows the prologue by memory?”
“Me!” One of the senior guys quickly replied and he rushed on stage before anyone could say anything.
“Please tell me he actually knows it,” Mrs. Wesson sighed.
“He does,” replied the senior girl he’d been talking to.
It felt like forever before it was finally time for me to get on stage… but once it was time, everything else melted away and I let myself get absorbed into the role, into the moment. The lights pointed at the stage shown so brightly that I could barely see the audience – the blazing white glow coming from the lights was all I could see and the warmth they emitted was all I could feel.
I turned towards the others on the stage, saying my lines like they were my actual words; like I was actually Juliet. We’ve done this scene so many times over the months, and yet it seems totally different now that everyone’s in costume and the set is all there. No, it doesn’t look perfect, it’s not a million-dollar production for goodness sakes, but it’s easy to imagine the real thing. I’ve imagined probably thousands of distinct separate universes and characters ever since I was little. I spent hours upon hours playing with my dolls as a kid and even a toddler – which I barely remember, but my moms have told me stories about it many times. And this? This is, in a way, simply a bigger dollhouse, a more real one. I don’t play with dolls anymore, I haven’t since like, sixth grade, but I guess I never stopped imagining. I was so consumed into the moment and being my character that I almost didn’t recognize that the audience had started clapping – this scene was over. Had it really gone so fast? I blinked and instinctively turned towards the audience, but was simply met with the blinding light.
I quickly rushed off the stage after that, following the others.
The rest of the play went by just as fast and before I knew it, we were all back on stage, bowing to an elated audience. I could do this a million times over.
“You did wonderfully,” Brett whispered to me the second we got back backstage.
I smiled, resting my hands against the fabric of my dress. “Thank you.” I would’ve said more, but his hand moved to hold mine and I stopped, staring at him incredulously.
We had become pretty good friends through the course of the year, but…
He noticed my surprise and began to move his hand away – but I held onto it, and it was his turn to be surprised. I may not have considered us a thing before, but why the hell shouldn’t I give it a shot? He’s cute and we have a lot in common.
“Vali – ”
I took ahold of his other hand, smiling. “So… you like me, huh?”
He blushed. “Well, yes… but I didn’t think you liked me.”
I paused for a second, not sure what to say. I hadn’t, at least not in that way. Well…maybe a part of me did. We’d kissed for the play before, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t enjoyed it.
“But,” he continued as his eyes looking down at our hands, “it would seem like you do…?”
I leaned forward suddenly, pressing my lips against his. Oh, he’s definitely hot.
“I’d say why shouldn’t we try?” I replied with a grin, and I could easily tell he was still shocked.
He beamed, laying his arms around my shoulders and kissing me again. We’ve done this many times, but not as ourselves – and that makes all the difference.
As we parted, I suddenly became aware of all the other kids back here and realized this was certainly all over social media by now. Ehh, but why should I care? People were going to know anyway, might as well have it become a big thing. Wait –
Shit. It’s not like he knows I know he likes me, though. And I don’t like him that way! He’s basically my brother.
“Valentina?” Mrs. Wesson peeked backstage, and I nodded.
“Someone out there is asking about you.”
She looked back out there, then back to me. “I have no idea, but he looks important.”
What? I shrugged, walking out – and I instantly noticed exactly who she was talking about. A business dude with his fancy suit and a new phone. He looked up. “Valentina Clemonte?”
“Yes…” What the absolute hell was going on here? I hadn’t done anything bad enough to get fucking arrested!
“You just played Juliet?”
“Um, yes. What is this?”
He pulled out some sort of flyer out of his suit. “I’m with Del Sol Valley’s prestigious theatre program, Crystalline Academy, and I’m offering you an opportunity to be in our summer program. It’s June 3rd through August 7th, and the rest of the information is on here, ” he said, holding out the flyer. “Contact us by May 17th with your answer. We hope to see you there. Lovely performance tonight, by the way.”