Chapter 16: The Talent Show
"And now we have Erik Langston and Veronica Meyer performing a duet!" Principal Watts announced. The audience clapped with what little enthusiasm they had left. The talent show was almost over and I think most everyone was just ready to be done.
Veronica strode confidently onto the stage and Erik trailed behind her. I could see he was a bit tense at the prospect of performing on stage for such a large (and apparently unappreciative) audience. I stood in the wings and anxiously twirled my hair around my finger as Veronica adjusted the microphone. "We'll be performing 'Two is Better Than One'" she said and smiled. She turned to Erik and gave him a reassuring smile.
The song started with Erik playing as well as singing. He had a wonderful voice and I thought back on the first time he'd song for me. I smiled as I watched Veronica join in the song as well. While she couldn't play a guitar - she had a wonderful voice. She always had but it wasn't a talent she shared often.
So maybe it's true
That I can't live without you
And maybe two is better than one
But there's so much time
To figure out the rest of my life
And you've already got me coming undone
And I'm thinking two is better than one
As the song continued, I could tell that Erik was tuning out the audience and the tension rolled away from him. "They're good. Has she always been able to sing like that?" Timothy asked quietly.
I tried not to jump as his voice and presence jolted me out of the song. "Hmm? Yeah, yeah she has."
"How did I not know that?" Timothy asked looking annoyed.
"She doesn't share it often. The last time I remember her singing in public was in third grade." I said with a laugh, thinking back to the third grade performance. Veronica had wowed the audience with her solo and then tripped and fell as she returned to her place in the crowd of awkward third graders.
"Ah. Anyway, we're up next and I don't know where Todd is." Timothy said.
"What?!" I said a bit loudly. I peeked around the corner but none of the audience seemed to have heard me so a wheeled around to face Timothy. "What?" I hissed. He just shrugged. I hurried away from him in hunt of my Romeo. "Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo?" I muttered to myself as I pushed through the backstage crowds of acts - most of whom had already gone. "Have you seen Todd?" I asked several people but most only shrugged or shook their heads.
I found him crashed out in one of the side dressing areas. I knelt down beside him and prepared to shake him awake when I caught a strong whiff of alcohol. "Damn it Todd!" I hissed and whacked him on the shoulder but he didn't so much and grunt.
If he weren't snoring loud enough to be a freight train I would have checked his pulse to make sure he was still alive. I was standing there trying to figure out what to do when Timothy walked in and spotted us both. "Oh there he is!" Timothy said. "Hey Todd! Wake up!" Timothy said reaching down to shake Todd.
"No! Leave him." I said quickly, hoping Timothy wouldn't notice the smell of alcohol. Todd couldn't go on stage. "You know Romeo's lines right?" I asked.
"What? Well yeah I do but...why?" Timothy asked looking confused and a little frustrated.
"Todd doesn't look like he's up for it, we'll cut the Friar out and you can be Romeo. Come on." I said ushering Timothy out of the room and closing the door firmly behind us, hoping no one would stumble on Todd.
We were back in the wings just as Erik and Veronica were finishing up their duet. They looked like a couple in love as they sang the final lines to each other as opposed to the audience.
'Cause, baby, two is better than one
But there's so much time
To figure out the rest of my life
But I'll figure it out
When all is said and done
Two is better than one
Two is better than one
"Are they...?" Timothy asked, leaving the question hanging.
"I don't think so...are they?" I asked looking at him.
He shrugged. "Not that I know of...I thought you would know."
I shook my head and looked back at Erik and Veronica as they received much more enthusiastic applause. "I don't know." I said feeling another sting of jealousy. 'I'm seeing James, I'm seeing James - I shouldn't be jealous....' I told myself over and and over again as Timothy and I rushed in behind Erik and Veronica to set up our little tomb set. Erik put his guitar down and helped us, a few times our hands brushed each others' and I fought to urge to giggle or blush. 'James James James...'
The last of the set was staged and Erik jogged off stage as I took my place in the fake tomb bed and quickly draped the blanket over myself. Timothy was waiting just off stage to make his entrance and I could hear him whispering his new lines as Romeo to himself.
Timothy entered the stage and took in the sight of me as his departed Juliet. Considering he should have been playing a different role entirely, he had the lines memorized and gave his speech well.
Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here's to my love!
He took a drink from an imaginary bottle in his hand then and started to fake stumble.
O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.
Timothy leaned forward and gave me a quick, gentle stage kiss before pretending to fall to the side of my tomb and die. I ran through the lines that should have happened between Juliet and the Friar in my head quickly and began to rise from my bed, looking happy and refreshed to meet Romeo.
Leaning forward from the bed I gasped at the sight of Romeo on the ground and hurried to the floor beside him.
What's here? a cup, closed in my true love's hand?
Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end:
O churl! drunk all, and left no friendly drop
To help me after? I will kiss thy lips;
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make die with a restorative.
I leaned forward to return the kiss Timothy had given me before. "Thy lips are warm." I looked up, pretending to hear a noise from outside the tomb. "Yea, noise? then I'll be brief. O happy dagger!" I said snatching a pretend dagger from Romeo. "This is thy sheath;" I thrust into my chest to stab myself, "there rust, and let me die." With a final, perhaps dramatic, flourish, I collapsed into Timothy's arm and played dead.
I kept my eyes closed and tried to feign death for a moment or two. Slowly the audience began to clap and Timothy and I got to our feet and took a few quick bows. The clapping got a little more enthusiastic as we got up and Timothy and I grinned at each other and then cleared our set for the last act. "Not bad...considering." I said with a smile.
"You did great." Erik said as he helped get the tomb setup back stage.
I left Timothy and Erik to deal with the setup and went back to the dressing area hoping to find Todd awake - or gone even. When I walked in he was moving at least so I jabbed him a few times. "Get up!" I said loudly.
"Gah, wha?" Todd muttered as he rolled over and put an arm over his eyes.
"You need to get out of here or pretend to be sober, you're at the talent show damn it!" I said poking him again just because I was upset with him.
"Could you stop poking me?!" Todd shouted, now fully awake. "I am sober..."
"Yeah right!" I said as I heard footsteps and the door opening. I stood and smiled as Erik, Veronica and Timothy came in laughing together. "Good show everyone! You two were incredible!" I said to Erik and Veronica, trying to ignore Todd.
"We were weren't we?" Veronica said with a laugh and gave Erik a hug as James came in holding flowers.
"Ah there is my fair Juliet." he said with a smile. I turned to him and grinned, trying to keep my focus from Todd or Erik. He held out the flowers to me.
"They're beautiful." I said taking them. "Thank you, and thank you for coming." I said taking his hand in mine.
"You are beautiful." he said leaning into me and whispering in my ear.
"And you're a charmer." I said with a laugh.
"Always." he replied pulling me into a tight hug.
"Why don't we all go out for a late dinner." he suggested, squeezing my hand and addressing my friends. "Or just a late snack."
"Sure." Timothy and Erik said at the same time. I caught Veronica looking from me to James and then to Erik and back again. I wasn't sure what was going through her mind and I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to know.
"We'll get changed." I said looking around and most everyone was nodding, Todd was holding his head and looked like he was in pain. 'Good' I thought to myself. "We'll meet out front." I said aloud to everyone as they dispersed to change as needed. Veronica threw a coat on and walked out of the dressing area with Erik and Timothy. Okay maybe it was really only me that needed to change...I smiled at James, "I'll be out in a flash." I said as he left and Todd soon dragged himself out as well.