The Wrong Side of the River
Two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
Having Parry play Romeo seemed like a fabulous idea . . . at the time. But as we took the stage for our second read-through, I realized that a free opportunity to kiss Parry Hendricks in front of the entire school might not be worth it.
We started with Romeo and Juliet’s first scene together.
Parry cleared his throat and stood with his feet apart like he was about to begin a boxing match. His eyebrows lifted in the middle and he thrust one arm into the air. “If I pro—pro—something with my unwor—wor—thiest hand. This holly shrine, the gentle fine is this: My lips, two blushing pil—pil . . . Mrs. Kempf, what does this stuff even mean?”
Mrs. Kempf stared up at us over the top of her glasses. “Basically, you’re flirting with Juliet. Just read the lines as they are, and say them like you’re flirting.”
Parry wiggled his eyebrows at me and adjusted his stance. “Oh, I can do that. Am I right?” he grinned and lifted his brows at the other boys like he expected a high five.
I noticed Julian Griffin in the wings with his lip lifted in a disgusted sneer, and it made me grin. His nose had gone down a couple of shades and turned a sickly yellow sort of color. His glasses still balanced a bit weird on the swelling, but things were definitely improving.
Again, Parry’s arm shot up in the air. “My lips,” he puckered at me and chuckled, “two blushing pilgrims, ready to stand—I mean—just stand. To smooth that rough touch with—with a tender—ooh, kiss!”
I stood, blinking at him. I completely forgot I had lines because his were so not even close to the real ones.
“Juliet—Romy, let’s hear your line, please?” Mrs. Kempf asked from the front row.
I shook my head to clear it, and started in on my lines, which I already knew by heart. Professionalism is important if you want to get ahead in theater. “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in . . . Mrs. Kempf, Parry’s still puckering at me!”
Mrs. Kempf groaned. “Fine, fine. Enough for today. For goodness sakes, Parry. Go home and read the script, will you? Watch the movie or something. You are supposed to be a hero!”
Still looking proud of himself, Parry climbed down from the stage and grabbed his skateboard. He saluted a goodbye at us all and ran out, pumping his fist in the air like he’d just delivered an Oscar-worthy performance. Mrs. Kempf gave me a disappointed look, and I wished I had never asked her to let Parry play Romeo. In fact, I sort of regretted a lot of things about Parry.
The rest of the read-through went great without him. When I noticed Julian looking at me, I smiled and waved. This time he didn’t faint or throw up, he just sort of stared at me with a startled look on his face.
He spooked way too easily. At this point, I wasn’t sure which would be harder, befriending Julian or getting Parry to act. I waited until my part in the rehearsal was over and wandered into the wings where I had last seen Julian. He had his back to me, busily reading through the pile of stage managing notes.
I leaned close to his ear and tapped his shoulder. “Boo.”
The papers flew into the air and rained down over us like a pile of extremely large snowflakes. Julian spun around, hands clasped to his nose like he thought I might punch it.
“That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” I said, grinning.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I can call you Rosemary if you’d prefer, or just not call you any—”
I laughed. “Don’t be such a nerdo. I was kidding.”
He made an awkward sort of chuckling sound. “Kidding. Of course. Ha ha.”
“How are you liking the busy world of stage management?”
I caught a glimpse of something that looked a lot like disappointment on his face, and it was gone. “It’s good. It’s okay. It kind of sucks. I hate it.”
Grinning, I said. “I understand. Sorry you were away for casting.”
Julian shrugged. “Ah, well. It worked out good for Parry, anyway.”
“Yeah. Didn’t it, though?” My nose wrinkled up, and it was hard to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “Would have been cool to see you audition.”
“Me?” His eyebrows shot right up, wrinkling his forehead. “You wanted me to audition?”
“Sure, why not? You could hardly be a worse Romeo than Parry.”
Julian did that thing where his face went all green around the edges. I took a step back because there is literally no way to get puke off a velvet skirt. “I—I would have to kiss—you.”
This situation was starting to look more like a danger to designer-wear by the second. “That’s—um acting. It’s okay.”
“Even acting. I mean—kissing you—I think—would be—I mean.” He stopped trying to complete his sentence. Even as big a mess as he made of it, it was still a better speech than anything Parry attempted. It also made a little warm swirl of happiness start up right in the middle of my chest, just knowing I could make someone stammer that bad. Sure, boys liked me. Parry, the most popular boy in the school, for one. But the way Julian acted was more—honest, somehow. It felt like a lot less stress.
“Thank you,” I said. “I guess we’ll never know.”
His face fell. “No. I guess not.”
I bent to collect my things and Julian followed me. “I could—you know—walk you to your locker if you like?”
Sensing victory on the Julian-taming front, I smiled. “Sure.”
We waved to Mrs. Kempf as we walked by, and Julian seemed at least a few inches taller than usual. It was a powerful thing this—whatever it was I was doing with, or to, Julian. It felt a lot bigger than just revenge on Mom. Still, she had to be taught a lesson.
Julian didn’t chatter away like Parry did. He walked beside me, quiet, waiting for me to say something first. In the end I didn’t say a word until we reached my locker.
“Kitten pictures?” Julian asked with a chuckle when the photos of persian kittens I taped to the inside of my locker door were in full view.
“Sure. I love kitties. I want one just like these, all fluffy and sweet.” I tickled a silver tabby kitty’s nose.
“That’s very cute,” he said, and I wasn’t sure if he meant me or the kittens.
“That’s very cute,” said a sneery voice from behind us. We both spun around, Julian whapping his elbow on the lockers as he did.
“I thought you went home?” I said.
“I wanted to pull a few moves outside on the steps,” Parry said, stepping his board up into his hands. I started to wonder if that was the only move he actually had. “Then I saw you two getting all cosy and thought I better come in and see what’s going on.”
“I’m talking to my friend Jules,” I said.
“Jules? Did he tell you how he ran to his papa and told him I broke his face?” Parry sneered. “Lying little scuzzball.”
I looked at Julian. “True?”
“Sort of.” Julian nodded. He looked like he would melt into the floor, then, something changed. He lifted his head back up and looked Parry straight in the eye. “But it was also true that Parry hit me in the face with a door.”
“An accident!” Parry hissed.
“Maybe,” Julian said.
“Wow,” I said. “Way too much attitude, boys. I’m going home.”
It wasn’t until I was out the door and halfway home that I realized leaving Julian and his fragile face alone with Parry might not have been the best idea I ever had.

Keep Reading

Chapter 9

Do you bite your thumb at us sir? Julian

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