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It's Just Acting
The black Times New Roman letters challenged my eyes to a staring contest in mockery of my fate. I scanned the case list repeatedly and blinked to make sure my contacts had adjusted, but no amount of denial could change the paper neatly tacked to the bulletin board. As more people squeezed into the hallway and crowded around the list, anything in my vision was blocked out except for one name: Aaron Davidson. Eventually, I noticed that he had been standing next to me and had been watching my facial expressions like a lion stalking a gazelle. Then again, I bet the gazelle would win any fight against him.
“Oh, it’s…you,” I turned around to face him, my mouth twisted into a scowl.
“You look glad to see me. Congratulations on getting Juliet,” he said sarcastically, “Ha! I’ll bet $100 that you’ll drop out of this play in the first month.”
“Okay, I’ll take that bet, Davidson. But let’s up the stakes a little bit. Whoever drops out first has to do anything the winner says for one day,” I narrowed my eyes. If there is one thing that anyone knows about me, it is that I NEVER LOSE even if it means I’ll have to act in love with my worst enemy for the next three months.
“Alright Isabella. I’m sure this will be no challenge at all for such a ‘great actress’ like yourself,” Aaron smirked, confident that annoying me would be a breeze. Romeo will learn his lesson about making bets against Isabella Taylor.
That night, I couldn’t find any way to fall asleep, so I stayed up wondering about the next day. Why did that idiot Davidson get so much sick satisfaction from watching me fail? “He must have been dropped on his head as a small child. Or maybe he was just born messed up,” I thought drifting into sleep. We have been enemies for as long as I can remember, starting sometime in lower school.
In third grade, we were doing a science experiment with eggs right before we got our pictures on picture day. All that I remember is wet, slimy egg yolk running down my head and face and then letting out a piercing scream while Aaron was laughing his head off. The teachers tried to clean me up before my picture, but unfortunately, I still ended up looking like a complete mess in the yearbook because of that immature boy. During the same year, he spread around a rumor that I still sucked my thumb, and whenever kids would walk by me for a few weeks, they would start sucking their thumbs and making jokes about me. I was completely mortified and wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone for a week after that dirty liar decided to mess with me.
In fifth grade, he took a fake snake and stuck it in my backpack knowing that my worst fear is snakes. When I unzipped it to pack up my binders, I shrieked and threw the backpack across the hallway, attracting the stares of everyone around me. Near me, Aaron was pointing and laughing with a group of his friends, and when a teacher walked by, he took the snake out of the backpack for me. The teacher thought that he was just so nice, and he got some candy from her. He NEVER gets in trouble for making my life miserable; actually, he gets rewarded. I have never forgiven him for that, and I still hold a grudge for this and many other similar things that he has done to me during the many years that we have known and hated each other. One time, he wrote a fake love letter and cackled like a hyena when I desperately tried to figure out my “secret admirer.” Nothing has changed over the years, and I still can’t stand to be in the same room with him; I expect to get some weird mental disease by standing next to him.
After school the next day:
Creating a herd of students rushing out the door, the final bell rang. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and forced a smile on my way to rehearsal; Davidson wasn’t going to gain any satisfaction from watching me frown. From the second he walked in, he was already helping Mrs. Perkins, the director, with moving props and hand out scripts.
“Suck-up,” I muttered with eyes trained on that sickeningly enthusiastic smile. I must have not noticed the script he was waving in my face.
“Earth to Isabella! Hello? Someone too busy staring at this gorgeous face?” Aaron did an overly dramatic hair flip and dropped my script in front of me on the floor.
“Shut up! More like blinded by your ugliness,” I yelled back as he strutted away, embarrassed that I let him off so easily. I picked up the script and began reading some lines, “O Romeo Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Yuck! This “Romeo” is probably dead somewhere because “Juliet” shot him. After reading more flowery lovey-dovey lines, I was about to throw up and started gagging on each line.
“You’re weak Isabella. But I thought you’d at least last the first day,” Aaron blocked the doorway for me to run out of the room. He simply raised one eyebrow in amusement when I gave him the death glare. Stabbing me like an icy knife, his comment echoed in my mind and haunted me for the rest of the day. I am not weak.
As practice went on and we read through more lines, Aaron and I got into heated debates over completely unrelated topics...sometimes right in the middle of a scene...
“What the heck are you talking about?! You would never survive a zombie apocalypse with only a gun, idiot!” I slammed down my script and rolled my eyes.
“Of course I could. Men are experts on survival. If there was a forest of bloodsucking tigers, men would survive, women wouldn’t. End of story,” he stated and looked at his watch, yawning.
“Well I wouldn’t be stupid enough to go into the forest of bloodsucking tigers!!”
“What if you had no choice? I’d last longer than you would.”
“Well go ahead. Get yourself killed and don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
“Oh, so you’re saying that you care about my survival?” Aaron smirked, knowing that it would infuriate me. Her left eye twitching and pencil rapping against the desk, Mrs. Perkins was obviously not pleased with the scene.
“NO! You can go and die in a hole for all I care,” I slapped myself for giving him an advantage.
“Really? Well then why are you blushing?”
“ENOUGH! I’ve had it with both of you,” Mrs. Perkins cut off the conversation, “I’m sick of hearing your pointless arguments that are helping us get absolutely nothing done. You two need to learn how to get along or at least act like it. If you keep this up, the show will be a disaster!”
We both formed something resembling a half-hearted apology, and it was enough to satisfy the plump, short red-head, so I left to go home, not feeling sorry at all for fighting with Davidson.
At play rehearsal a few days later:
“Good afternoon ‘darling’,” Aaron greeted me with mock endearment.
“Nice to see you ‘sweetheart’,” I throw the same thing back at him while imitating his exact tone of voice. I could play that game all day long.
After suffering through the dull warm-ups, we started work blocking the first few scenes. Doing my homework, I sat backstage, a familiar place that had become a second home to me. The cluttered back rooms were filled with everything in past shows from swords, top-hats, and an empty bag of chips to a sparkly dress and fake iguana. In fifth grade we signed our names on the wall and the fading marker remains to this day.
When I was finished reliving memories from past productions, I spotted Aaron’s iPod. “This should be interesting,” I said with a grin, noticing that there was no passcode, and began scrolling through the music, “Wait Onerepublic? Well, Davidson I’ve got to say that your music taste isn’t bad.”
“Not bad, eh?” he stood in the doorway, “I’ll take that as a compliment since you detest everything about me.”
As soon as it had set in that I had actually complimented him, my face turned completely red and I tripped over my own words trying to make some excuse for what I said, “But no. wait. Shut up I didn’t mean it! I, uh, I meant to say uh…uh…” and I looked at the floor, completely mortified. At this point, I expected him to hurl some sarcastic remark in my face and win today’s battle, but I was shocked by his next action.
“Hey it’s fine! One less thing for us to argue about isn’t that, and I actually wouldn’t mind not fighting sometimes,” he looked away, dropping the cool guy act, and paused for a few awkward seconds before giving me a smile, a real one, and leaving. I have no idea how long I stood there, frozen with my mouth open pondering the event that had just occurred. Had Davidson actually been NICE to me? The first time Aaron and I had talked without arguing, the day’s change left me wondering about weeks to come.
At practice a few days later:
I was still pretty shaken up about Aaron being nice to me, but I had decided that it was another one of his mind tricks and that I wasn’t going to let him get inside my head. However, when I was on stage spouting off some sickeningly passionate monologue about my “love” for him, I couldn’t help but glance to backstage left and see him…smiling: not like his signature “I am so much better than you smirk”, but the same smile that he had a few days ago. I’m just imagining all of this, right? “He was probably smiling about something else. I doubt he was even paying attention to the scene!” I tried to reassure myself, but I couldn’t deny the fact that he was staring directly at me.
Dazed, I walked off stage during the scene change and sat down. I slumped in a chair, still confused, and closed my eyes for a few seconds. I felt something brush against my nose, and snapped open my eyes: a snake was dangling right in front of my face! With a loud crash, I fell out of my chair and directly onto Aaron, who had been holding the snake. The world seemed to freeze during those few seconds. I even forgot about the snake for a split second because I was too busy being worried about my clumsiness…and the fact that Aaron managed to completely embarrass me.
About a week later:
“Hello ‘darling’,” Aaron sat next to me backstage and performed another exaggerated hair flip with his sandy blond hair. Telling him to shut up, I laughed and rolled my eyes. Neither of us had to go on stage for a while, so I picked up two fake swords and threw him one. In months, I hadn’t had as much fun as during our backstage sword fight. When I dodged a stab from Aaron, I backed into a costume rack and found a fake mustache that I instantly slapped on my face. Taking a step forward, I yelled in a Spanish accent, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” and chased after him.
“You’ve seen that?” Aaron dropped his guard, giving me the perfect opportunity to win.
I fake stabbed him and said, “Yeah, I’ve seen it. It’s the best line from the best movie of all time! Oh and by the way, never let your opponent distract you! Now act like you’re dying.” He proceeded to wink and drop to the floor, dramatically twitching a few times before completely going limp.
After I applauded his death, Aaron opened one eye and said, “You know, you’re really pretty. Especially when you’re smiling.” I stopped, completely confused, and he “killed” me with the sword, mocking my exact advice to “never let your opponent distract you.”
“Hey! Not fair, you were dead! Inconceivable!!” I pretended to die.
“Death cannot stop true love; it can only delay it for a while,” he quoted. It was another reference to a line from the Princess Bride.
“Might want to give Romeo the message that there is such a thing as mostly dead and all he needs is a chocolate pill to bring Juliet back to life!”
Later, I wondered if Aaron actually meant what he said when he called me pretty or if he just wanted to mess with my mind. Trying to figure him out is like trying to figure out Calculus: impossibly confusing. I was beginning to feel as if things were changing between us; I wasn’t sure what it meant, but it didn’t feel that bad. Acting like I loved him wasn’t that difficult anymore.
At the next practice:
Backstage, Aaron and I were going over lines, and after my extremely over-dramatized fake suicide, neither of us could take ourselves seriously, so we competed to see who could be the most ridiculously bad actor. I started talking in an extremely southern accent, and then we decided that Romeo was actually a secret agent from another planet and Juliet was actually a vampire who was planning on taking over the world. Unable to breathe because I was laughing so much, our parody of “Romeo and Juliet” continued until the plot was resolved with Juliet biting Romeo, turning him into a vampire, and terrorizing a local town.
“You really aren’t that bad of an actor when I’m not distracting you,” Aaron said, still laughing.
“Really? Well, you aren’t that bad yourself, Mr. Vampire Romeo,” I was still dying of laughter; I never knew he could be that funny.
“I might have some competition…but I know your once weakness,” he mischievously smiled, acting like a super villain. Out of nowhere, he pulled a snake from behind his back and yelled, “SNAKE!”
I jumped back, obviously, and yelled, “GET THAT THING AWAY FROM ME! Not funny, Davidson!”
He smirked, “Snakes are the great Isabella’s kryptonite! Don’t you need someone fearless to protect you from ‘terrifying creepy snakes’?” I was too freaked out to come up with a witty comeback, so I just ran off talking about how I would get my revenge. Somehow I would figure out what he was scared of.
1st Dress Rehearsal:
The buzz and chaos of dress rehearsals had arrived and Mrs. Perkins had no time to rest because of the massive amounts of preparations to do. The makeup crew prepped everyone’s faces for the bright stage lights, actors helped put together the set and arrange props, and no one was left standing still…except for Romeo.
“Aaron what do you think you’re doing?” I asked him while balancing a stack of costumes.
“Eating an ultimate snow cone, duh,” he ate a spoonful, “Brain freeze!”
“Yuck! Why would you put every single flavor? Lime is disgusting!”
“I didn’t. I have everything except lime. It isn’t even a flavor, it’s just a fail.”
“You can’t argue with that! Well, if you plan on being lazy, at least let me in on the fun,” I stole the snow cone and ate the last few bites, “Not bad. Good thing you didn’t put lime in it”
Later during rehearsal, I grabbed my sketchbook and started doodling without paying any attention. I looked at the paper and saw a picture of Aaron look up at a balcony. “Psh, only because I didn’t have any ideas,” I denied any other reasons for drawing. It was about this time that I started to not mind talking to him or pretending to be in love on stage; I wasn’t sure who was changing: me or him.
Opening night performance:
At this time, it was getting more difficult to tell the difference between what was acting and what was real. Aaron and I had been getting along really well lately, and we actually had a lot in common. Things had changed; I actually didn’t want the play to end.
“You nervous?” he asked after I had gotten my stage makeup and costume on.
“A little bit, I guess. I just hope that I don’t embarrass myself on stage,” I said. Stage fright wasn’t new to me, but I always have been nervous on the opening night of a production.
“Nothing wrong with that. And if you mess up, we’ll just improv our way back to the script. That’s the fun part about live theatre!” he sat down next to me and tried to make me less nervous. A few weeks ago, it would have seemed completely out of character for him to not make fun of me, but now it seems totally normal. I think I like this better.
During the scene where Juliet meets Romeo on the balcony, I almost forgot my lines because I was too busy looking at Aaron and zoning out. He really wasn’t that bad-looking, and I had been so focused on hating him that I never noticed how good of an actor he really was, how funny he was, and how we have actually gotten pretty close.
At the final performance:
A crowd’s applause makes months of work seem completely worthwhile. The cheers from the audience as I took Aaron’s hand to give our final bow made me never want to give up on my dream of acting. The curtain closed, and I got the relief and pride from a successful play.
“Hey Romeo!” I said, running up to him.
“Great job tonight. At first I never would have thought you could pull it off.”
“Yeah. So we made a bet, didn’t we?”
“It’s a tie since neither of us dropped out. So tell me something,” he took a deep breath and paused for a long time then whispered, “In that last…uh…scene with that stage kiss,” and shuffled his feet, looking down. It was the first time I had seen him unsure of himself, “was that…acting? Or…oh whatever. Nevermind.”
I paused, completely surprised, but I managed to take a deep breath and admit the truth, “No, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t acting…at least, not for me.” Now, when we say “I love you” it isn’t sarcasm or a joke…it’s truth.