Stagecraft Chapter Seven
The note was hastily scrawled on a piece of yellow legal paper. Likely torn from Sarah’s clipboard.
Hannah listening through the backstage door. Sarah Young lectured her cronies. Hannah relished interrupting the castigation. After all, Hannah’s errand was a priority. Mr. Samuels needed the top hats. And he needed them five minutes ago.
The cast was rehearsing the second act of Stagecraft already. If nothing else, Aaron Samuels moved through rehearsals at a faster clip than the previous director. Everyone sang his praises.
“He’s just a hard ass. But we needed someone like him,” a junior commented.
And another, “He’s so passionate.”
Still another replied, “Passionate people misfire sometimes. It’s because he wants the show to be great.”
The cast even forgave Mr. Samuels for never bringing in that Broadway choreographer he promised in the first rehearsal. “Zach Cartwright is a dear friend of mine. And, despite his demanding schedule, he’s agreed to choreograph one number,” Mr. Samuels had beamed at the group, his eyes locking for a moment with Ms. Panzini’s.
But Zachary Cartwright didn’t matter anymore. Samuels had proven himself a formidable leader. Every minute of rehearsal time was utilized. The cast and crew felt empowered by it.
Whispering Hills had long been known for its stellar theatre program. “A Broadway farm team,” a local review once said. But this year would be spectacular. Hannah felt a difference in her body, now taut from pirouettes, hitch kicks, and endless 5678s.
Outside the door, Hannah listened closer. Now Sarah talked about the accident. Again. Ugh, I wish I wasn’t the reason for all the speculating. Then I could barge in and make a snide comment about how Sarah watches too much Criminal Minds.
“I’m telling you. It’s someone who lives around here,” Sarah said. Please someone debunk this theory. It’s someone else. Someone passing through. Just a tragic accident.
“We shouldn’t be talking about the accident so much. For Paige’s sake. She needs the distraction of the play,” another voice interjected.
Sarah cut her off, “No, the body mics don’t go there. And make sure you wind the cord around them neatly. It’s a nightmare if you don’t.” She huffed loudly then continued, “Seriously though, it wasn’t an accident. It was a crime. the police are close to figuring this out. Between the time and location, it has to be someone from Whispering Hills. Someone who lives on that street. If the police thought it was just an accident, the investigation would be over by now.”
Another voice added, “They need Zoe to wake up out of that coma.”
And another voice—male
this time—answered, “There’s like three
people who live on that street. The Wolcotts, the Stewarts, and Skylar Clarke.”
And that’s my cue! Hannah threw the door open.
“Hey Hannah,” the male voice was Tim Reilly, a senior and stagehand for the past four years. His dad built the bigger parts of the set.
“Hey, Tim. I need…”
“What are you doing back here? Panzini is rehearsing in the dance studio,” one of Sarah’s eyes opened larger than the other.
“Well, Sarah, since you know the Call Board so well, you’d know that we’re doing ‘All I Need Is a Stage’ today,” Hannah marched over to the stack of satin hats, “So…top hats.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. Okay, where’s my backtalk? You’ve got your posse. When Sarah didn’t respond, Hannah snarked, “Please don’t let me interrupt you’re in-depth discussion about the storage of body mics.”
A few crew members muffled a laugh. Sarah glared at them. “Screw you, Hannah,” she whined.
On the way back to the dance room, Hannah’s phone vibrated with a new text.
She hoped it was Brody. Just like she hoped it was Brody every time her phone made a noise. But he hadn’t even looked at Hannah for a week. And he unfriended her, unfollowed her, un-whatevered her on all social media. Hannah was coming unglued.
The text was from Greg, Hannah’s new best friend since the diner incident. Skylar had been a little distant. Too busy being amazing at everything to care. She was even awarded Most Compassionate Leader at the recent Student Council Assembly for her work on the softball team. I literally can’t even.
Oddly enough, Cynthia and Hannah were becoming closer. Now that Hannah wasn’t a threat to Cynthia’s borderline incest fantasy, the two could be friends.
Balanced the top hats in one hand, Hannah checked her phone. This is the twentieth text from Greg today.
GT: where r u?
GT: we need hats
GT: SAMUELS = FLIPPING OUT.
Hannah hustled but when she arrived the director had completely forgotten about the top hats. He was at it again with Ms. Panzini. Furious whispers and gestures and students watching. Hmmph. Glad I rushed back to watch mom and dad fight again.
In the center of the floor, Paige showed a scorpion. She stood on one leg with the other arched behind her. One hand holding the foot as it grazed the crown of her head. Paige’s weak smile spoke her trained ability to acquiesce but her sunken eyes spoke her exhaustion. Her sister rotted in a hospital bed and she was here, a pawn for two grown-ups to use in their silly war.
I can do that move too.
Ms. Panzini interrupted a fuming Mr. Samuels, “Hannah! Show Mr. Samuels your scorpion.”
Hannah walked to center, feigning confidence. She swung her right leg around in an effort to loosen her hips.
“Well?” Mr. Samuels huffed impatiently.
Then Hannah nailed it. In the mirror, Hannah could see that she was just as graceful and impressive as Paige.
“Fine,” the director conceded, “but can Hannah do the turns into the that pose? It’s the final pose of the song.”
Oh, God. Turns into a scorpion? With a top hat on? And on my left leg?
Sarah Young walked in. Pressure was on. The dancers all stood against the ballet barre. The music started, and Hannah waited impatiently for Ms. Panzini to count her in. You can do this. It’s just you and the music. As she turned, Hannah concentrated hard on spotting, so she didn’t notice anyone else. But she could feel them. And many of them hoped for a fall.
Just as Hannah finished the last rotation and threw her leg back to catch it, Skylar shouted, “Get it, girl!”
Doesn’t she sound supportive? The star of the show who was both lead and leader. I know her too well. There are no friendships in theatre. She wants me to miss. Hannah gripped the muscles of standing leg even harder. And she hit the pose perfectly. Some people clapped.
Ms. Panzini turned to Mr. Samuels, “See? Hannah can do this stuff.”
The director’s lip curled upward. Now he had to give Hannah the feature. “Okay, but Paige does the rest of the solo bits in this number. I can’t leave it to chance with an unknown quantity.”
An unknown quantity? Hannah let out an audible sigh. Fuck my life if this guy is my future stepdad.
“Well, Aaron, perhaps if you held dance auditions like we’ve always done, you’d have known quantities.”
Samuels didn’t even react. “Let’s run it again from the top,” was all he said.
The cast found their places. This time Hannah wasn’t so lucky hitting the turns. Everyone danced, mugging fake smiles to the damp mirrors. Paige did her parts perfectly. The last beats of the song played, Skylar singing her heart out and Hannah turning. But her ankle buckled, and she fell out of the last turn.
“Thank you, Hannah,” Mr. Samuels uttered with a cruel sincerity. “Paige will do the scorpion. I believe your rehearsal time is over, Jill. I’ll speak to my cast alone now.”
“You won’t be happy until Paige is injured! That’s where this is going. I promise you.” Ms. Panzini slammed the door before he could answer.
Mr. Samuels muttered something to Sarah and then followed Ms. Panzini. Hannah shook her head and almost laughed. Teacher fights are the best. The assembled cast collected their belongings, but Sarah ordered, “Mr. Samuels said that I should talk to you before you’re dismissed.”
Why? Just Why? Why did Aaron Samuels endow such an ass with this much power?
Skylar looked pointedly at the clock, “You only have four minutes. People’s parents are outside already.”
But Sarah Young was ripe with interim power. She began solemnly, “This is super important, guys. There will be glitter EVERYWHERE after ‘All I Need is a Stage.’ So…some of you will need a second set of shoes. One for the glitter and one for all the other dances. My crew can get the floor clean but if your shoes track more glitter out on the stage, that’s not my problem.” Her hands propped on ample hips, Sarah went on, “And I’ll need three of the boys to help with moving props while the rest of my crew gets the glitter swept up.”
Cue eye roll from Greg. There it is!
“Greg. Thanks for volunteering,” Sarah winked at him.
“I have to change for—”
Skylar chimed in, “I can do it. Greg should change. I don’t have a costume change.”
Did Skylar Clarke just offer to help the crew? Where were the police when you needed them? We’ve got a guilty conscience on display.
As she left, Hannah overheard Sarah threatening her crew about the glitter again. Will we ever hear the end of the glitter situation? “If we don’t get all of it up, Paige could seriously injure herself. Do you want that on us?”
In the hallway, Paige broke down. A few sophomores ran over to her.
It’s never “nothing.” The information reverberated through the throng of students leaving rehearsal. Mrs. Kellogg had texted. Paige’s aunt would be picking her up from rehearsal. Zoe got worse.
What does worse mean? I’m relieved. Is that horrible? But if Zoe is gone, then I can put this behind me. Just like I did with Katie Greco. It will be just like Skylar said. Hannah mind bounced around though. Zoe. Katie. Skylar. And then I can’t believe I just lost that feature. I had it. And then I screwed it up. Hannah wished everyone knew how good she really was. When will they see it?
Hannah found herself at her locker. A voice came from down the hallway but when Hannah looked up, the place was empty. She put her hand on the locker next to hers—the one that belonged to Will. She wished he was there now. Making small talk and not dead.
Then another ghost laced its arm around Hannah. Skylar started in about how much she hated her dad’s girlfriend Trina. “You know she’s from the Bronx, right? From the Bronx to Whispering Hills, that’s some social mobility for you. That’s America,” she smirked and fixed her bra. “I mean, really. I’m waiting for Trina to come in with gold hoop earrings on.”
“You have hoop earrings. I do too. Really Skylar. Maybe your dad is happy. Doesn’t he deserve someone? I mean, with your mom gone.”
Skylar recoiled at the last sentence. Hannah regretted it. Hannah looked at Skylar’s eyes and paused. She saw the years they’d spent together, bodies entangled during sleepovers, secret plans, and inside jokes. Hannah was Skylar’s right hand since freshmen orientation at Whispering Hills.
“My hoop earrings don’t say ‘Skylar’ on the side in ghetto script. But I’m sure lots of your friends from Pembroke Middle School had earrings like that. Sorry if I hit a nerve.”
Hannah threw her bag over her shoulder, “My mom is waiting outside.”
“Okay, friend. Talk to you later,” Skylar yelled sarcastically as Hannah rounded the corner.
Screw this! Hannah turned right back around and marched toward the queen, “Speaking of people from Pembroke, what the hell was Derrick Sullivan doing at your place after midnight?”
“Well, look at you. Someone stole mommy’s van went stalking. Jealous? Do you want to be our third now that Brody ghosted on you?”
Skylar’s voice pronouncing Brody’s name stung like hell. I’m not going there with her. “I’m not jealous. I’m disappointed. Can’t you do any better than Derrick?”
“You should be thanking me for Derrick.”
“You lied to me,” Hannah’s voice trembled, “You told me there was nothing on your car. I saw it at the funeral home.” Of course, Skylar lied to me. She’s a pathological liar. Maybe Hannah was angrier with herself than her friend?
“And when you saw the Rover at the funeral home, there was indeed nothing there. Derrick fixed it. You’re welcome. I’ve been selling my body to save your ass.”
Hannah scoffed, “Thanks Mother Teresa. And you think Derrick’s graffiti spray paint will cover up the dent in your car? The one that likely matches the dent on Will’s car?”
“He used auto paint, Hannah. They sell that shit at Home Depot,” Skylar looked at her friend incredulously.
Like you’ve ever been to a Home Depot. Hannah shook her head, “We have to go to the pol—”
Hannah turned to see a freshman walking toward them.
Skylar moved right in the freshmen’s path, “Are you lost, froshy?”
“I was just cutting through to get the gym. I have practice,” she waffled and looked at Hannah for support. But Hannah just sucked her teeth and effortlessly fell into place behind Skylar.
Skylar lifted her chin ever so slightly, “This is the senior hallway. Only seniors. Go back the way you came and take the long way.”
“But it’s after school hours. I’ll be late for practice.”
“But, but, but,” Skylar mimicked, “Vanish, frosh. Have fun running those suicides.”
The freshman left. When she was a safe distance, Skylar turned to Hannah, “Were you about to suggest that we go to the police? Are you insane?”
“Zoe got worse. I want to be done with this. Even if it means coming clean. It was an accident.”
“If you want to be done with this, you shut the hell up about it. Katie Greco never squealed. She messed with you. I handled it. And we never heard from her again.”
Well, everything did turn out okay with Katie. Hannah looked at the floor for a pregnant moment. She hoped the tiles would rearrange themselves and show the answer to the problem at hand. Then a wave fear came over her body and she shook, “Was Derrick in school today?”
Skylar shrugged, “I don’t know, Hannah.”
“What about yesterday?”
She sighed, “I don’t know. Who cares? He’s probably home crushing up opioids and putting them in his addict mom’s yogurt.”
He does disappear every now and then. Still, Hannah couldn’t shake the feeling that the dots were connecting in front of her. If she could just think on it. If these damn rehearsals weren’t so long and exhausting. If the show wasn’t so important. I’ll deal with this after the show is done, Hannah told herself.
Hannah finally made it out to the parking lot. The cold, damp March wind hit her hard. The sky was a dark gray. It defied the sun to come out after this winter that never seemed to end. Please don’t let mom ask about the rehearsal.
Aaron Samuels was sitting shotgun when her mother pulled the beat-up minivan around to the theatre entrance of the school. Good God. Give me a break.
“Hi sweetie. How was rehearsal?” Without waiting for an answer, Gillian Cross bubbled, “Aaron says you’re doing great. We’re dropping him at the train station.”
Neither of them noticed Hannah the whole ride.
* * *
Police stopped by rehearsal the next day. Mr. Samuels was in the middle of changing the opening number according to his new cuts. Harmonies drilled over and over. Samuels played Cynthia’s part on the piano harder and harder until she finally got it through her tone-deaf ears.
The blue uniforms were a welcome distraction from the dreariness of relearning music. At least they were for Greg, Cynthia, Sarah, and even Skylar who made eyes at the younger cop.
“Sorry to interrupt,” the officer said unapologetically. His large belly hung over his utility belt.
“Not a problem. How can we assist you, officers?”
The younger one said nothing. He stood erect with feet hip-width apart, eyes like a Marine. His head was cylindrical, shaped like battery.
The fat one made
his way to the piano. “You’ve probably seen some detectives around the school. Detectives
John Barry and Terrell Jones are leading the investigation about the accident
that killed, er, I mean, the accident in which one of your students died. They
asked us to come around. They want everyone to know that anyone with any
information—anything whatsoever—should give the precinct a call.” He
handed Mr. Samuels two cards, “There’s a number for the precinct on there. And
a direct number to Detective Barry. One
for Jones too. Would you share it with your students, sir?”
“Of course. Are the detectives at school now?”
The younger one piped up, voice much lower that Hannah expected, “No, sir. They’re at the station questioning a suspect.”
The fleshy officer shot him a look.
Cynthia blurted, “A suspect? So, you’ll find out who did it? Who murdered Will Bartlett?”
Murder. Really? Great choice of words. It wasn’t a murder. It was an accident.
The fat uniform coughed, “We’re all working on it. Everyone wants to get to the bottom of this.”
Greg, emboldened by Cynthia’s outburst, responded for the whole group. “You clearly don’t think it was just an accident though. You’ve ruled that out.” He looked around the group, “Someone murdered Will.”
Jeez, Greg I didn’t murder anyone. Hannah gritted her teeth.
The policemen looked at each other. The younger one sighed audibly, “If you have any information that can help, please call the number on those cards. We won’t take up anymore of your time.”
They left as unceremoniously as they walked in. Samuels handed the cards to Sarah. She wrote the phone numbers on the board. She bubbled the text and then wrote in red Expo marker DO NOT ERASE.
Without saying a word, Samuels played the song again.
On her way out, Hannah slipped one of the detective’s business cards into her pocket. She had no idea what she was going to do with it. But she realized Derrick hadn’t been in school the last two days.
Copyright ©️ 2019 Kristin Sample All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written consent of the author.
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