Monday, April 28, 2014

Pride and Princesses Rocco and Julie

Chapter 24

Rocco and Julie

    It was opening night.

   “I just want to apologise for my crazy aunt and uncle,” Mark said from the shadows as I was about to enter the dressing room to apply my stage make-up.

   “That’s okay. The whole experience was...kind of fun.”

    “Just as long as they’re not your family, huh...” Mark said, master of the obvious.

    He had repeatedly apologised for his “unwelcoming family” even going so far as to tell me that he “can’t wait to turn eighteen so I can be out of there.” It was way harsh for him to have to live with such stuck up bores and you had to hand it to him for trying to overcome his circumstances. His personality had really improved too, or maybe he’d just finally revealed himself once we got to know him better. Perhaps we’d been too quick to pass judgement.

    The dating game had pretty much been played. We all had our favorite dates and an entire locker filled with “gifted” treasure as well as a subway map of New York and a trophy with a blank metal space ready to be engraved with the name of the winner. The yet-to-be-uploaded blog was designed and edited with out-takes, quotes and images from our many months of intense research. The research was all contained in the second Boy Rating Diary – the one we fully revealed amongst ourselves. The original diary was hidden. Mouche and I hadn’t glanced at it for days but we knew it contained early, unspoken secrets.

    We were all very proud of our game and busy acting like best friends. Teegan was still mildly in disgrace since all of us suspected her of the riding sabotage. She had apologised profusely, admitting that although she had groomed the horse, given him an extra brush, she had not noticed the pebble under the saddle and would never have let Mouche ride if she had.

    We kind of believed her.

    After all, we were besties now.

    Although, let’s face it, no two friends could ever be as close as Mouche and I.

    Everything changed on opening night.

    Gossip and chatter filled the backstage area along with tulle and denim jackets, the staples of the costume department. Nervous actors with parts both big and small gathered in the wings before the curtain came up. My costume was amazing for the last act but quite understated for the first two. I couldn’t  wait to get into it as I ran my hands over the pink tulle ball dress designed and made to fit perfectly (thanks to Mouche), and the vintage blue denim jacket and boots that would complement the tragic scene when Julie gives her life to be with Rocco in death.

    Conversations gathered in the air: talk of Act One moved on to the topic of Miss Love and Mr Frame’s upcoming wedding, Wednesday’s audition for a potentially lucrative baby commercial – these were all topics for discussion. Mouche and I are totally going to be Wednesday’s managers if she wins. Teegan even offered to put in a good word for Wednesday to get back on side with us.

    The Princesses were all acting so supportive, in pursuit of the greater good, like little Godmothers. The future Boy Rating Blog had taught us all a thing or two about female friendship.

    “Like,” Teegan repeated, “If girls truly supported one another, the way groups of boys seem to, the world would be a very powerful place for us.”

    “It’s like playing soccer,” Tory continued.

    “For example, last home game, when all the boys actually seemed to work together as a cogent team, the girls were jostling on the sidelines for the best view,” Brooke added.

    “Is it because the view is so hard to get?” Freya asked.

    “Wouldn’t we have had a better afternoon if we’d made space for everyone instead of trying to exclude some girls? Or better yet, shouldn’t we have worked to make our own team more athletic?” Mouche stated.

     “Who cares if no one wants to cheer us on. It’s time we stopped being happy just sitting on the sidelines!” I suddenly announced.

     “So true,” Tory said.

    “Yes,” Brooke added, “girls need to stand together. I’ve learnt so much about how boys behave just from comparing stories with everyone else.”

     Of course, it helped that by this stage, everyone had blown it with Mark, everyone except Mouche and me. Try as they might, they disregarded the rules and paid him far too much attention until he seemed completely fed up with being tailed by the Princesses and started directing all his energy towards me and Mouche.

      “Geez,” Freya said, “do you think He’s gay or what?”

      “He’s so not gay,” Brooke said.

      “Definitely not gay,” Teegan added.

      “I have it on good authority,” Tory concluded.


      “I kissed him in the rotunda but all he wanted to do was talk about Mouche and Phoebe. I don’t think he can make up his mind which of you is his favorite.”

       “Me too,” Teegan added, “I mean, I kissed him as well: another time, another place, of course. He has strong arms and for sure a big...”

       “...jacket?” Mouche finished the sentence for her.

       “That’s just what I was about to say,” Teegan said mischievously. 

       “He didn’t even try to kiss me. I think Jet told him I’m planning on becoming a nun,” Brooke said.

       “Are you?” Teegan asked.

       “No,” Brooke whined, like it was obvious that she was about to change image and lighten up for senior year.

       Well, he needn’t tax himself, I thought, because he is just the pawn in my game of chess.          

      “Funny how it’s always the men who think they control the game of love,” Mouche said.

     “The game of love is a game of chance,” I repeated as I was about to go on and pretend to only have eyes for Peter Williamson.

    And then the curtain and lights came up and there I was, front stage centre, saying my lines and pretending to be the most famous lovey-dovey teenager in history.

    It all went very well and we had a huge cheer after Act Two as the curtain came down. During interval I ran to the backstage dressing rooms to pick up a prop that Brooke had ‘forgotten’ to place onstage. I would have made do except the vial of poison was vital to the plot ( the part where Julie pretends to be dead so that she  and Rocco can run away together – except Rocco thinks she  actually has killed herself and stabs himself because he can’t live without Julie. Mr Sparks uses this plot point as a message about the futility of self-harm).     

    It was, however, Miss Tartt’s idea and Mouche and I were impressed to see her flicking through The Good Girlfriend Guide last rehearsal and insisting on being included in decision making as well as standing up for herself. We’ve noticed she’s nicer to girls and other women, and, she’s applying for a promotion.  Instead of just giving certain students an evil glare when Mr Sparks is speaking, she will stand there with an almost beatific smile on her face, spreading the mental love just like The Good Girlfriend Guide suggests.

     “Not exactly normal,” Mouche would comment, “but a step up from how she was before.”

     “Absolutely,” I agreed. That night Miss Tartt was being helpful, desperately searching with me for the poison prop vial. 

     It was the same week Teegan pretended to self-harm (feigning a mild overdose of her mother’s tranquilizers) to get Jet’s attention (it worked, but he still hadn’t asked her to the prom and she  was considering a pity date with Jack Adams, who’d bothered to visit her on the one day she  took off school (also to get Jet’s attention).

    “You are sure to get invited by Mark,” Mouche whispered backstage as she  was going over my lines as part of her jobs as prompt, dancer and now understudy. “Now might be the time to give him a little encouragement,” Mouche suggested and she was usually right.

    So I was pretty surprised when I ran up the backstage stairs yelling out, “I’ve got it” with the tiny clay prop in hand and stumbled upon Freya kissing Mark on the lips. Mark seemed to be really into it and how could I imagine Freya was not willing to do anything to win the game?

    Wasn’t he supposed to be making sure the stage was lit properly?

    I backed up straight away and tumbled into a pile of props that Brooke – who’d offered to help Mouche, had forgotten to put away. I fell splat on the floor. Having tripped over my own ankle, I then managed to fall flat onto Peter Williamson who was doing up the buttons on his Act Three trousers.

     I was mortified as my Rocco was carried off on a stretcher. What a disaster. Not only was my heart almost entirely broken but the people from Julliard had probably given up on me ever getting back on stage when Mark ran over to help me.

     “I’m so sorry Phoebe, she just grabbed me,” he said.

     “Yeah right,” I said softly.

      I backed off, pretending not to care about him and Freya. Freya gave me a smug smile and an insincere, “oh no, what can we do to help you Phoebe?”

    “You could get off my prize!” I wanted to snap but stopped myself just in time. The Good Girlfriend suggests, “Never reveal your jealousy. Sift through those issues by working on your self-esteem.”

    “That’s so true,” Teegan agreed when I told her. “It’s like, if I feel fat I should just work out more instead of coveting some other girl’s muscle tone.”

   “Exactly,” Brooke said. “We should try to be the ones who build the building instead of the ones who knock it down.”

    “It’s going to be okay,” Mouche suggested.  And I’m sure she meant it. 

     Empathy for me didn’t stop her from shining in my place.

    Of course, I realize a true friend would have been happy for her and I was. It’s just that when the final curtain fell I was registering the long and passionate kiss Mark had given Mouche. Both were understudying the leads by then and Mark had to carry his script onstage with him. It was hard to feel charitable as their lips touched.

     “What a man-slut,” Teegan whispered to me.

     “Bet he’s enjoying that, mwoah, mwoah...” Tory’s little sucking noise mocked my chagrin.

     Thankfully, Mouche was such a great performer; she managed to save the play. It was not just my imagination, looking on from the wings, that Mark particularly seemed to enjoy sucking Mouche’s rosy mouth before her character woke only to find Rocco lying still, poisoned. When the character of Julie (my character!) tastes the poison on Rocco’s lips, well that’s when self-doubt started to sink in.

    “Mouche does seem to be lingering unnecessarily,” Teegan stated.

     My ankle was throbbing. How had I managed to become such a cliché of my own life? The nurse had wrapped the bandage around my foot like a tourniquet. I tried so hard to feel happiness for my friends but I’d started to doubt the game, Mark, the Princesses and especially my friendship with Mouche. The Princesses were clapping wildly and whistling on the sidelines along with the standing ovation the audience gave (made up mostly of families but also the precious Julliard judges).

    Now that the Princesses had accepted Mouche, I was beginning to feel weird about her. I was unsure about everything to do with our stupid boy-rating idea. It was okay for us to round robin date in the beginning, but suddenly I was mad at my best friend.

    “Face it,” Tory whispered, “Mouche has “accidentally” stolen your man...”

    “Your part...” Teegan added.

    “And, quite possibly, your life,” Freya continued.

    “Not to mention the future,” Brooke added, fixing her nurse’s apron.

     Looking back, all the resentment came to a head during the final scene of Rocco and Julie.

     In this scene Julie speaks her soliloquy (rather dramatically) over Rocco’s body,



Farewell... God knows when we shall meet again. 

This, I have to do, alone.

Julie takes out bottle and drinks.


    Julie’s mother runs in (and here Mr Sparks copied the exact text) where the mother is played by a very smug Freya, (who’d demanded dual roles to show off her “versatility”). Freya is plastered in ageing make-up (with talcum powder in her hair to make it look grey and tries to shake Julie awake. Of course the talc began snowing all over the floor by this point and its lucky Mouche didn’t turn her ankle as well).


The scene continues:


Who has done this? A jealous hood! A jealous hood!

Quick, call for help.

Rocco hears Julie has been killed. He fights and kills Paris, runs to Julie who is lying on the floor.


Oh my love, my wife.


Here’s to my love. The drugs are quick Thus with a kiss I... (Julie falls down)

Rocco kisses Julie, Julie starts to stir, and she wakes up as music starts. Julie shakes Rocco but he doesn’t stir, as the curtain falls and anti-suicide, smoking, drugs and drinking slogans are projected on the wall behind the slain lovers...


    “This was so not in the plan.” Teegan comforted me after the curtains had been lowered as the audience clapped madly and I was left waiting in the wings sans date even for the after-party. I figured I could safely kiss Julliard goodbye.

    “Gosh,” Brooke said, “I had no idea Mouche was such a wonderful actress. I knew she was a great dancer.”

    “Oh hush,” Teegan said, “can’t you see Phoebe is suffering terribly? Her one chance at college might be down the drain (now this made me angry, who were they kidding?) but what is worse, she had to witness Mark kissing Mouche. He’s obviously in lust with her – Mouche, I mean.”

   “It must have been so hard for you,” Brooke said patronizingly.

   “It was just a play!” I interjected. “Besides, no one owns anyone and we’re not even together. They were acting.”

    “Didn’t look like acting to me,” Teegan said.

    I must admit, they did seem to have some serious chemistry. I should’ve stalked and claimed my prey in Sunrise Park when I had the chance (according to Chapter Nine of Mrs Robinson’s Guide).

    Oh, I was ready to weep like a heroine from one of the old-fashioned movies Jack Adams and Teegan and Mouche and I had watched together. And, of course, the show had to go on, so it was not officially Mouche’s fault. She’d only reluctantly agreed to don my costume.

    And here I was back stage, freezing and miserable as my best friend took my place during the deserved standing ovation. All the plans I’d had for prom and even my post high-school life suddenly seemed ground into the dust.

    “You’re such a drama queen,” Trey had once said, when I was delegating roles in our neighborhood Christmas pageant almost ten years ago. I was only six but I liked to be in control almost as much as Mouche.

     Not quite as much. Mouche had outsmarted me. Here she was, acting up a storm in place of me, a shining star. I’d wept as I watched her perform her scenes.

    “I’m so sorry, Phoebe,” Mark said again later that night, “Freya was just helping me practice the scene. I know that sounds like a line but I really mean it.”

    “Well, it seems like she did her job so well, she forgot to tell her friend how to place the props correctly and ah...I can’t move my foot.”  

     “I’ll get the nurse,” Freya added helpfully. Don’t you just love that? That part where girls pretend to be nice in front of boys they are trying to impress? It makes me so annoyed.