The Wrong Side of the River
CHAPTER
19
What light through yonder window breaks?

Julian
When I got to Mrs. Kempf’s room, Romy was already waiting for me in the hallway.
“You ready?” she asked, raising her eyebrows, shrugging and making a funny face—probably in an attempt to make me not look like I was going to my execution.
“You’ve got this,” she said. “I’ll make sure she sees how perfect you’ll be.”
I smiled and nodded, took a deep breath and opened the door.
Mrs. Kempf was throwing pastel scarves all over the stage as she skipped and danced in circles. This was made even odder by the fact that she wore a fluffy Spanish dancer dress with long gold jewelry dripping from her neck, ears and wrists.
She finished her…dance I guess...and turned to us, her face not showing the tiniest sign of embarrassment.
“Well hello, darlings! Can’t wait to dabble in the greatest art form of all time?”
I grinned, because it was hard to do anything else when Mrs. Kempf got all drama-y.
“Actually,” Romy said. “We have an idea about how to make the play not awful.”
Mrs. Kempf sighed. “This has been a challenging cast. I’ll not deny it. But if you, Ms. Madison, shine as brightly as you always do, I’m confident we can prevail.”
“Well, that’s just the thing,” Romy said. “I think we might prevail better with a different Romeo.”
Mrs. Kempf looked confused. “But I thought you wanted Mr. Hendricks to play Romeo. You said his good looks would provide inspire…”
My insides squirmed. Had Romy really asked specifically for Parry?
“Yeah, well, we both know how well that worked out.” Romy rolled her eyes.
Mrs. Kempf sighed knowingly.
“But I think I can make that right. It just so happens that I know of a very excellent replacement.” Romy continued. “He’s got the part down backwards and forwards and already knows the blocking and gets along well with the cast.”
Mrs. Kempf’s eyes grew wide and hopeful. “Really? Tell me, who is this strapping lad who will swoop in and save our show from absurdity?”
Romy held out her arms and waved them at me, like one of those game show ladies waves at the car that people can win.
Mrs. Kempf scowled. “Julian? As Romeo?”
Heat traveled up my neck and engulfed my entire face in seconds.
“He knows the part. The whole thing. He’s been feeding Parry his lines—that’s the only reason Parry’s been able to do anything for the past few weeks. And we both know even with all that help Parry’s not going to cut it. Why don’t you just let Julian try a scene today and then see what you think.”
I was grateful to Romy. I was glad to have a friend who believed in me. But from the look on Mrs. Kempf’s face I was sure this was never going to happen. I was not Romeo material and even if Romy was nice enough to overlook that, Mrs. Kempf couldn’t.
Other kids filed into the classroom now and Mrs. Kempf waved them toward the stage. “I’ll think about it.”
The first part of class went exactly as every drama class had. We did some vocal exercises and an improvisation warm-up, which involved picking up the scarves Mrs. Kempf had thrown around and using them as props while we acted out what we’d do if a swarm of angry bees suddenly filled the stage.
Most of the kids used their scarves as swords or flyswatters trying to flick the bees away. I used mine as a face cover and pretended to be a beekeeper walking among the bees. Romy used hers to cover her head as she ducked beneath a table, which was actually the best idea of the lot. If there really were angry bees she probably would have been the only one to survive.
Parry skulked on the side of the stage, as he did every day during warm ups, clearly too cool to participate. Mrs. Kempf watched him and scowled.
When we finished our warm-up, and the pretend angry bees had been beaten, herded or ignored into submission, Mrs. Kempf spoke.
“Today, we’ll be doing Act II Scene II. And this time, just for variety, I’d like to see Julian try the part of Romeo.”
“What the he...” Parry shouted, stomping toward the stage.
“Thank you, Parry.” Mrs. Kempf said. “That will be quite enough.”
“But that’s my…”
“You will please take a seat and watch with the rest of the class. This is merely an experiment.”
Parry’s nostrils flared and he threw me a look that suggested he would like to beat me up. I was pretty sure the smart move would be to run out of there that second and never think about Romy or drama or Romeo and Juliet again. Then Romy grabbed my hand and pulled me over to our starting positions, and I kind of forgot who Parry was for the moment.
Romy climbed up our makeshift balcony and I stood below turned three quarters toward the audience.
I did the “What light through yonder window breaks?” speech. Then Romy opened pretend doors and stepped further onto the balcony.
We did the whole balcony scene without interruption. Romeo has a bunch of long speeches during that scene, so it probably wasn’t the easiest one to start with. But even though I slurred words a few times, and I messed up once when I said “afraid” instead of “afeared,” it went pretty well. I really felt like I understood Romeo. His words were my words.
Romy said Juliet’s lines back to me as if she meant them too, and for that magical forty-five minutes my life felt just about perfect.
When we finished, Mrs. Kempf stood up, clapped, and did one of those whistle things where you put both of your fingers in your mouth and make a sound loud enough to scare the kids around you right of their seats.
“That was lovely, Julian. Just lovely. I need no more persuasion. You will be our Romeo!”
Parry guffawed. “But Mrs. Kempf, I had…”
“You had your chance, Mr. Hendricks. Let’s just hope you are better at stage managing than you were at acting.”
Parry fumed.
I smiled.

Keep Reading

Chapter 20

Parting is such sweet sorrow . . . Romy

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