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“Tara Grant! You’re next!” the director of this year’s play yelled. She scurried up to the stage, grabbed the sheet with the text and stood on the mark. Inhale. There was a marathon of nerves racing through her body with no finish line in sight. Her hands jittered, legs fidgeted and forehead perspired. Her stomach was a greenhouse, butterflies hovering every which way. Exhale.
It was first the juniors and then the seniors that auditioned for the lead role of Juliet. Tara had never had any true acting experience; she had always just been a volleyball player and gotten by. But her mom wanted her to do something new, something original this year and El Mar High School’s production of Romeo and Juliet fit that perfectly, and more importantly didn’t conflict with the winter sports season.
“Deny thy father and refuse thy name!” Tara passionately belted, concealing her lack of familiarity with the theater. She radiated confidence of only a seasoned performer, and she was recognized for this. After she declared a few lines, the director and drama teacher evaluating the candidates thanked her and she walked away from the stage with pride.
“That was flawless,” Damien Fillmore announced, trying to keep his tongue and drool in his jaw-dropped mouth. Damien had just been cast as Romeo and had ironically always had a minor crush on Tara. Now that she’s entering his arena of acting, he knew he had a chance with her. “I mean, you should probably work on your annunciation, but besides that it was pretty okay,” he restated, attempting not to blow his smooth cover.
“Thanks Damien. You’ve always been such a great friend.” Damien twitched at the word friend, but knew that once he had his ways she would come around. But would it be in time…
The casting sheets were posted at eight a.m., and Damien arrived there ten minutes early. Of course, Tara popped in a casual fifteen minutes late. “Dame, what happened? Who got the lead?”
“Tara! You got it! You’re Juliet!” Damien quickly realized he was jumping around with an over-sized smile on and smacked himself out of it. “I mean, I can help you with your lines I guess. If you want...”
“That would be sweet,” Tara replied flashing one of her classic make-you-melt smiles; and oh, how it made Damien melt. “Let’s see who else got what parts, hmm...” George Bills is Mercutio, Leslie Darnell will be playing the Nurse, Dana Cartman is Lady Capulet… what? Dana Cartman? She was infamous for being that crazy girl that gets with every guy in the school. Dana strutted up to the list and spotted Tara’s name. She first hesitated, and then slowly looked over with the most evil glance; you could definitely tell she desired revenge for not being Juliet.
After that realization, it was time to head off to class. Damien and Tara ended up strolling to their first hours together, and Damien was trying with his every move to flirt or throw out a compliment. Tara was flattered, yet somewhat disturbed. Damien could tell he was going to fall for this girl, and it was going to be hard.
The first day of rehearsal Damien was like a young puppy, clinging to and following Tara where ever she went. Tara’s character didn’t say any lines until the end of the first act of the play, so she used this to her advantage and escaped Damien’s grasp while she could.
It was Damien’s turn to spit out the memorized lines, but hadn’t quite got them all down yet. “Is love a tender thing? Is it too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn,” he read off the paper.
George on the other hand, had his entire text down pat. “If love be rough with you, be rough with love; prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.” He spoke eloquently and seemed to actually be speaking directly to Damien and his problems.
Damien knew that this love thing wasn’t going his way, but he decided to keep persisting through like a weary traveler through a blizzard. Tara was bound to start liking him in return soon. He was confident in this fact.
But after weeks passed and the play progressed, he was getting tired of constantly giving without getting anything in return. It was taking its toll on him and he was beginning to change his mind about pursuing things with Tara. Not only could she not decide what she wanted, but she was flirting with Mercutio, and that was the final straw. Damien was determined to move past Tara and all of her games, even if it meant moving on to someone not as great.
It was two weeks before the debut of the show and everything seemed to be coming together. The set was glimmering in the spotlights, and the only thing still in the works was the balcony, which had to be good because it is probably the most well known scene. Nearing the conclusion of the play Tara was finally coming around as well. She was beginning to see that even though Damien could be slightly annoying in his affection, he was a great guy who was everything she was looking for. Someone to confide in and to trust. Only she had yet to realize that he was slowly fading away.
“What shall I swear by?” announced Damien distantly. He seemed somewhat detached today and Tara was starting to wonder why.
“Do not swear at all; or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self, which is the god of my idolatry, and I'll believe thee,” Tara returned, more involved in her character than ever. She was becoming increasingly devoted to Damien and it seemed as if he was doing the opposite.
During their break, Tara said, “Damien, what are you up to after rehearsal today? Do you wanna go over the lines for Act IV again? They were a little shaky when we just did ‘em.” She asked, almost as if she were making an excuse to spend time with him.
“Sorry, but I’ve got a ton of homework and then I have to eat dinner with the fam. So I’m thinking it’s just not going to work out.” Tara was devastated and wasn’t quite sure why Damien was so isolating. Once she had finally discovered that she was ready for the commitment of something more than a friendship, Damien began to move away from it. She thought back to the day of auditions for the play. When she discovered that she got the lead, he congratulated and helped her with everything, absolutely treasuring every one of the moments they spent together. This made her think. Had she lost her chance at something that could have ended up being truly meaningful?
At the dress rehearsal before the first day of performances, the whole stage crew and cast were frantic. The chaos of trying to put together an elaborate production was getting to the students. Damien and Tara had not talked that whole day until they began running over the lines. Their relationship of fun and enjoyment had mutated into one of tension. This was not the way that either of them had wanted this to conclude.
Tara lay on her big hard box that the set crew decided was a bed and pretended to be poisoned. Then, Leslie Darnell, playing the Nurse announced, “Look look! O heavy day!”
Out of the crack of Tara’s eye, she saw Dana Cartman, also known as Lady Capulet run over, almost somewhat sarcastically. “O me, O me! My child, my only life, revive, look up or I will die with thee! Help, help! Call help,” she belted, then looked over at Leslie and winked, canceling out any affection she just displayed towards Tara’s character. Tara knew Dana was keeping a small grudge towards her because she got the lead, but didn’t know of any other reason for the rudeness. Rehearsal ended for the night and Tara went home to get some rest before her big theatric debut.
The next day, Tara was a little girl on Christmas morning. She was extremely excited because she had never performed on a stage before, in front of an audience. Damien however, had done this dozens of times, and the stage nerves didn’t even exist anymore with him.
The curtain went up. Juliet and Romeo stood offstage and peeked into the audience. Packed house. Tara’s nerves had never gotten to her more than now. Then she looked over at her Romeo. She didn’t want things to be awkward onstage, so she decided to take matters into her own hands and talk to him about what was going on between them.
“Dame? Now I know things between us over the last few days have been kind of weird. So I was just wondering what…” Dana rudely interrupted Tara’s confession and pushed her away.
She paraded up to Damien, grasped his shoulder, said, “Good luck tonight babe,” and kissed him on the lips. Tara was shocked and in awe. As Dana’s lips pulled away from Damien’s, Tara was flooded with envy, jealousy and need for retaliation. She could feel the passion in Dana’s eyes following the peck, but there was nothing she could do about it. Dana then detached her eyes from Damien’s and locked onto Tara’s. That same wink she saw in yesterday’s rehearsal resurfaced and all had undoubtedly connected in Tara’s mind. Dana then strutted back to her dressing room to finish getting ready; meanwhile her motive behind that smooch was becoming blatantly obvious to Tara.
“Tara! I can explain…” Damien stared longingly at the girl who previously had been the object of his affection. But Tara just walked away, tears welling up in her bold, green eyes. She had nothing to say to Damien, because it was her fault that she hadn’t realize he was the one earlier. Her indecisiveness and hesitancy got the best of her and now the guy that was really good for her has slipped out of her reach, and moved on to the school whore. Damien had grabbed her arm, but then realized that he had to go onstage. Tara sat on the box bed and curled up, clutching her legs tightly. The regret from not acting early on engulfed her as one lonely tear streamed down her cheek.
Tara approached the stage trying to shake all of this off. She pranced out with a faux-confidence that she had mustered up and attempted to move on with her life. After a few lines, she began to move past what had occurred offstage. Towards the end of the play the artificial chemistry that Romeo and Juliet had going on was working and the audience believed it.
Towards the end of the play, it was time for the big, dramatic kissing scene and Tara was concealing her nervousness quite well. When she leaned in for the kiss, she hesitated. Was Damien going to finally feel for her or was Dana clouding his thoughts? As their lips touched a jolt of shock went through both of their bodies. Damien’s love for Tara returned; the fire burning stronger than ever. But would this electricity be enough to push each of them past their mental barriers?
Once both Romeo and Juliet had both died, the chorus restated from the beginning of the play, “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed loves take their life, whose misadventured piteous overthrows, doth with their death bury their parents’ strife… O, I am fortune’s fool!... Then I defy you, stars.” The curtain slowly was pulled shut, but there was hope that the spotlight still might be shining on Damien and Tara’s relationship.