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“Tyler, can I talk to you for minute?” Melaine looks so weird, like, nervous.
“Uh-sure, what’s up?”
“In private, Tyler,” she whispers impatiently, “can I talk to you in private?”
“Oh, uh- sure.”
Suddenly, she grabs me by the arm and half drags me into the dressing room.
She closes the door; locks it.
“What’s going on?” I say, but as soon as I get the words out, she puts her index finger to my lips and mouths for me to be quiet.
Her skin smells like vanilla.
She is very quiet for a second, as if she’s listening for something.
There are no sounds.
Slowly, she takes her hand from my face and exhales heavily.
“Okay, are you going to tell me what’s happening, now?” I complain.
Without saying anything she moves to the make-up counter and empties her pockets. She pulls out a bunch of folded up pieces of paper, and then begins to unfold them. Her sparkly green eyes flash over the text on the papers and then she seems to arrange them on the counter. When she is satisfied with their order, she turns to me.
“What I am about to show you cannot leave this room,” she tells me, her face grave. “Promise me.”
I walk over to the counter.
In front of me are five notes; love letters by the looks of them. Some of them have actual photographs of Melaine--one taken on her way out of school, another of her laughing with friends somewhere in publi; one looks as though it was taken through her bedroom window-- with little hearts drawn around her. The last one catches my attention. It says: Tonight, you’ll finally be all mine.
It’s written in bleeding red ink.
“What are these?” I whisper.
“You tell me,” she responds, “this one was pinned to my costume when I got in.” She points to the last note.
I feel like my blood’s freezing, “This is… Have you told anyone about this?”
Melaine looks down, “No.”
“Well maybe you should,” I say, “I mean, this is, like, stalker-ish, Mel.”
“What if this guy is some psycho?”
“What if he tries to hurt you?”
Melaine finally lifts her head, and I notice a tear slip down her smooth cheek.
“Sorry,” I mutter, “I‘m stopping.”
“No, you’re right,” she finally admits, “I should let someone know.”
“You want me to—“
She cuts me off, her eyes wide with horror, “Don’t! You told me you wouldn’t say anything. You swore!”
“Okay, okay. I won’t, just please don’t take this so lightly,” I warn her, “I’d hate to see you get hurt.”
As the words escape my lips I realize how much I mean them.
Even though Melaine is my ex-girlfriend, we’ve still remained pretty close.
“Okay, but I really mean it, Ty,” she says “If Blake found out…”
I hate that kid.
From his obnoxiously gelled hair, to his Nike high-tops; I hate him more than I’ve ever hated anyone.
“Yeah, I won’t say anything,” I say through clenched teeth.
She leans in and hugs me around my waist, “Thanks, Ty, I knew I could trust you.”
I let my arms wrap around her and rest my chin on the top of her head, just like I always used to. The strawberry scent of her blonde hair fills my nose.
Too bad I couldn’t trust you, I think to myself as I hold her.
When Blake came to Kennedy High two years ago, Melaine was mine.
I’d love to smash his perfect face inward with a bat and then feed the rest of his stupid girl-stealing self to a garbage disposal.
I just couldn’t handle the fact that she was leaving me for that piece of work; for my best friend. And what did I do? I pretended like I didn’t even care. I played the role of best guy friend to Melaine and loyal companion to Blake. I’ve bided my time, acting like I was totally over it.
But not anymore.
“You’re the best, Ty,” Melaine tells me, “you really are.”
“Always,” I reply, feeling a fake smile creep onto my face.
And with that she leaves.
As I pick up the cardboard box filled with the spring knives I brought for act three, I think about how much I still love Melaine.
And how I will never forgive Blake.
“Where’s my mic, Mac? I can’t find it anywhere?”
God, Blake is already complaining.
“It’s where it always is: in the booth,” I say impatiently.
“Oh, wow, yeah, my bad. Sorry, dude, thanks!” He stutters like a moron as he jogs off.
I shake my head, and Tyler breathes in a long sigh, “Actors,” he mutters.
Especially Blake, I think to myself.
What a tool.
Not even, he’s the whole tool shed; him and his entourage of stupid jocks and overly ambitious kiss-ups who literally worship the ground he walks on.
Why do people even like him?
I can feel my face contorting into a grimace.
My fists clench.
“Whoa, man! What are you doing?”
Tyler’s voice brings me back to reality, “Huh?”
“You just crushed that glass in your hand. You’re lucky we have extras or De’Clotts would flip s***,” Tyler walks over to the corner of the stage and grabs a dustpan and a hand broom. He hands them to me, “Think, calm.”
“Yeah, calm,” I murmur, bending over to sweep the broken glass that litters the floor. I notice a small cut in my palm has produced a little blood, but I don’t say anything. Keeping my hands busy is the best thing I can do at this point.
“What happened here?” a voice says from over me.
I don’t even have to look up to know who it is.
My heart beat doubles in speed.
“Hey, Melaine, sorry, I just was-- uh, clumsy, I’ll get this out of your way,” I get up and half sprint to the trash can, “Do you need help? You have your mic tape, right?”
Melaine laughs her perfect angel laugh, “Well, someone’s a little jittery this evening.”
I swallow hard.
Stop being such a rambling idiot! I scream in my head.
“Baby, they need you for a mic check,” Blake appears from behind the thick red curtain. He leans over and kisses her porcelain forehead.
Burning acid rises in my throat.
What I wouldn’t give to just take that kid out.
Just one punch, an uppercut to the center of his face; he’d spit his unworthy blood all over as he flew through the air.
My knuckles go white as I dig my fingernails into my palm, feeling warm liquid trickle from my cut.
“Okay, I’ll be right there,” Melaine’s voice is like silk. “Don’t wait up.”
Blake finally disappears.
Melaine looks around then asks, “Have either of you seen Sean?”
My teeth grind together.
“I’m pretty sure he’s in the dressing room still,” Tyler answers.
My blood is boiling.
Blake’s back stabbing right hand.
What a punk. Even I know why Melaine’s looking for him.
“Thanks,” she smiles, “Later, guys.”
She winks, and I watch her perfect hips sway side to side as she walks to the door of the dressing room.
I picture Sean’s filthy hands resting on those perfect hips, while Melaine cheats, cheats, cheats.
It still amazes me that Sean and Blake even get along. It’s obvious Sean can’t stand him, though he tries to cover it up; trying to keep his spot in the high school food chain.
They make me so sick.
“Mac, can you get the props set up on that table over there?” Tyler asks.
“Sure.” I pick up a cardboard box filled with an assortment of plastic spring knives from the floor, noticing how heavy they are, “Wow, these look way real,” I say, mostly to myself. They’re five knives, one of which looks more intimidating than the others. “Who brought these in?” I ask.
“I did; I went all out and got the more— uhm, realistic ones. So, can you put those away for me? I have to get my costume on,” Tyler says quickly.
“Okay,” I turn and make my way to the table when suddenly Tyler calls after me.
“Make sure Sean gets the big one!”
I look down into the box again, eying the largest spring knife.
“Will do,” I murmur.
“You’re on in, like, thirty seconds, Sean, where have you been?!”
I adjust my costume, “Sorry, I was-- uh, I couldn’t find my prop,” I pick up my knife off the prop table. I hold it up, “Found it.”
“Just get your ass on stage,” Mac whispers angrily.
I run my tongue along my bottom lip.
I can still taste Melaine’s sugary mouth.
We’re finally at act three, and as I step out onto the stage, I watch Blake say his stupid lines.
“The ides of March are come,” he says with a smug grin.
God, he pisses me off.
To everyone in school, I’m second to Blake.
His less-cool best friend.
His right hand man.
When Blake came to our school two years ago, I took him under my wing, and how did he repay me?
He took everything from me.
I was the director’s favorite.
I worked my ass off to make it as captain of the varsity soccer team for practically my whole life and he got the spot instead.
Melaine should be mine, but I’m even second to Blake in her eyes.
“Look how he makes to Caesar,” I say robotically, “Mark him.”
Line after line we get closer and closer to the climax of the scene.
How ironic is it that I got the part of Brutus? I say in my head as I think back to my time spent in the dressing room with Blake’s girlfriend.
I watch Blake move around the stage as the famed Julius Caesar, with his chin held high and his face cold like stone.
He has no idea what goes on behind his back.
He has no idea that I hate his stupid perfect guts; that I wish nothing more than to run over him with a monster truck, or watch him slowly choke as I strangle him with my bare hands.
To watch him beg and plead for my mercy.
Tyler’s line as Casca has finally come, “Speak, hands, for me!”
I grip my knife as I watch the scene we’ve rehearsed a hundred times finally set into motion:
Tyler lunges at Blake, spring knife raised high in the air, followed by a flurry of other actors, who all take turns stabbing at the mighty Caesar. Too red corn-syrup blood bursts from within the folds of Blake's royal toga.
I can feel my knuckles wrapping around the grip of my knife, so tightly I can feel my heart beating in my palm. With two long strides, I take my place in front of Blake.
I look him dead in the eyes as he fake winces from the fake pain.
I lift my knife and grin.
A grin that’s never found my face until now.
Blake’s eyes widen in fear, and I relish the moment.
In one swift motion, I drive the blade into the heart of the best friend I never wanted.
A dark crimson leaks from his lips.
I watch in unmasking satisfaction as Sean holds steady the knife he’s driven into Blake’s chest. His eyes are filled with fiery rage as Blake gasps and blood drips from his mouth.
One of the actors whisper to Blake that it’s time for him to utter Caesar’s famed last words: Et tu, Brute?
Then fall, Caesar, I finish in my head.
Blake chokes on his own blood and collapses to his knees. Sean tugs at the knife only to find that it won’t budge. The color in his face suddenly drains as he realizes what he’s done. He let’s go of the knife and Blake falls to the floor.
At first, no one reacts.
There are no piercing screams from the crowd.
No one on stage moves.
The only sounds are Blake’s final ragged breaths.
And then silence.
Sean drops to one knee and lifts Blake’s limp hand, checking for a pulse.
He find’s nothing.
“Blake?” he whispers, but there is no answer.
A thick and uneasy silence fills the entire auditorium.
Sean lifts his head to the others, “He’s… He’s dead! He’s dead for real!”
There’s a collective gasp from the crowd, and suddenly actors lean in close and tech members hidden in the blackness of the wings rush onto the stage, crowding around Blake’s bleeding body.
“Someone call 911!” Tyler screams.
“Oh, my God!,” Melaine shrieks, dropping to her knees beside Blake, “Oh, my God, he can’t be dead! Blake! Blake, please!”
I feel now is the time I make my entrance.
I run from the booth and put on my best nervous face, “What’s happened?”
I step up behind Melaine and look down on the fallen Blake.
My greatest accomplishment.
“Oh, God,” I feign my astonishment.
Out of nowhere, Melaine shoots across the circle, grabbing Sean by the front of bloody toga costume, “You stabbed him! The knife is real! It’s real, Sean!” She makes an effort to punch at him and curses wildly. He grabs her by the wrists. Then he turns to Tyler, “You planted the knife! This is all your fault!”
“I’m going to call an ambulance!” I yell, just as an all out brawl brakes out within the cluster of cast members. At this point, the audience is in a panic and people are screaming and running around.
Some join the fistfight on stage.
Once I’m back inside the booth I lock the door.
I sit in my chair.
I put my feet up on the counter.
The chaos beyond the two-way mirror window is building as I pull my cell phone from my pocket.
I take my time dialing: 9-1-1.
“911, what’s your emergency?” someone answers.
I feel my lips curl into a smile as I think about how smoothly everything went tonight: the switching of the knives Tyler provided, watching Sean maliciously drive the very shiny, very sharp, very real knife right into Blake’s heart.
I watch Melaine’s tears stream from her face as she screams at Sean and think about the note I left for her earlier this evening.
She’s all mine now.
“My name is Mac,” I say into the receiver slowly, “and I’ve just witnessed a murder.”