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Read My Lips(11)

By:Daryl Banner

“Auditions are this Friday,” Victoria reminds me between bites of a very aromatic plate of basil pesto chicken fettuccini. “I hope you have two contrasting monologues prepared. Oh, I didn’t even ask! Which role are you gunning for?”

To be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought. My mind’s been circling thoughts of a certain someone so much that I forgot about auditions for Our Town. “I was considering the wife, maybe?”

“Myrtle? That’s Emily’s mother,” explains Victoria. “Maybe try for Mrs. Gibbs, George’s wife, if you want to play a wife. Oh, you’d be cute as her! Go for whichever you want, just as long as it’s not Emily.”

“The lead? But she has the look,” protests Eric.

“That’s my role,” Victoria insists. “I’ve waited two years for it, and I shall claim it. Besides, Nina basically already told me I got the part.”

“Nina the acting prof,” Eric clarifies for me.

“I know. I have her for acting class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And it’s okay,” I insist with a nervous titter. “I don’t want any leads. I should really, uh … reread the play.” For all my “Theatre background”, I sure feel so uneducated right now.

“Not to mention Dessie’s experience,” Eric goes on, despite Victoria’s annoyed snort. “You’d make a great Emily. You have world experience. You’ve been to Italy and shit.”

“Yeah,” I admit, “but that was a small black box theater, and it was more of a training camp, and—”

“You studied in New York City,” he goes on, despite Victoria’s look of disbelief. “You already know the life. You have so much to offer us. Really, it isn’t unheard of for freshmen to land roles, and you’re technically not a freshman, so …”

“I already said the role is mine,” Victoria interjects, her eyes playing back and forth between us. “I like you, Dessie, I really do. We’re hall mates and we’re becoming friends and all that, but I think—”

“I think auditions will determine it,” states Eric. “I mean, if you’re meant to get the role of Emily—”

“I already have it in the bag,” she retorts.

“Then you got nothing to worry about, do you?” With that, he gives a light shrug, then forks another sauce-drenched ravioli past his lips.

I smile at my new friends, hoping the mask of my smile adequately hides all my misgivings. They think so highly of me, just for the ritzy school I half-attended and the fact that I’m from New York City. If they knew who my family was, I’d certainly be ruined. Spoiled, they’d call me. Privileged snob, they’d think of me. I’d become my sister before their eyes, a girl who’s been handed everything she ever wanted.

What’ll they think when they learn the truth?

“Your résumé has to be a mile long,” Victoria jokes with a shake of her head. “I bet you have to leave stuff off of it just to make it fit on one page. Wish I had that sort of problem.” The comment earns a chuckle from Chloe and Eric.

The truth is, since high school, I’ve only been cast in a single production. It was an original two-act play at Claudio & Rigby’s called Quieter The Scream. By some remarkable twist of circumstance, I was cast as the leading role. Claudio could not easily mask his disappointment in me during every single rehearsal, which led me to speculate how I’d landed the role in the first place. My speculation ended the day Claudio threw his favorite mug and I quit the school.

Even still, the whole situation confounds me. “You’ll be a famous actress someday just like your sweet mother.” That’s what Claudio said the first day he met me. My, how quickly that opinion soured. The truth is, I never fit the skin my parents and sister tried so ruthlessly to put on me. I needed to find my own.

While the others finish eating and start bantering back and forth, I listen to a tune that comes on the restaurant sound system and catch myself smiling. It’s a song I know. Finishing my linguini, which isn’t half bad even compared to Chef Julian’s masterful cooking, I hum along with the melody. I wonder if normal-people food is growing on me, or if I’m simply forgetting already what it’s like to be … me.

A couple hours later, everyone goes their separate ways and I’ve returned to the theater to sign up for auditions. In a short, closed-off hall that connects the lobby to the theater, I stare at my phone in my palm, dreading what I’m about to do. This is never easy.

I tap her name. My phone chirps at me. I bring it to my ear.