Take Five – Chapter 1
Summary: A group of high school theatre kids couldn't be more different. Expectations are subverted and friendships are formed as rehearsals begin and the cast moves towards opening night.
Trigger Warnings: None
Tagging: @jolieharkness @katherinerose64 (let me know if you would like to be added to/removed from the tag list)
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CHAPTER 1: DANI
Scrolling through her phone, Dani watched as her classmates posted selfies from their last days of summer vacation. Girls in swimsuits, guys in snapbacks, sunset photos from the ice cream shop or the skate park. Glancing up, she realized that those pictures had to have been posted just moments ago; the sun’s golden light streamed through her window and onto her toes, the same colour as that in the photos. On impulse, she slid off her bed and moved closer to the window, and snapped a quick photo in the light. Guiltily, she deleted the post as soon as it showed up at the top of her feed.
She heard the doorknob twist open behind her and sat back down on the pink quilt. “Hi, Dad.”
“Hey, hon.” Dani’s father sat down next to her, putting an arm around her shoulders. “Are you feeling okay about tomorrow?” The first day of school. It had always been a source of worry for her, something her father knew after years of psyching her up to go the day before.
Dani nodded. “I’m fine.” Her stomach was sick with nerves, her head felt like a loose screw, but she was fine. Totally fine.
“Daniela Flores-Walker, do not lie to me,” her father half-scolded, and leaned his head on top of hers with a sigh. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, Dad. I promise.” Dani pushed his head off of hers and looked up at him. Sometimes it struck her by just how different from each other they looked – his straight, greying blond hair stood in such stark contrast to her and her mother’s dark, thick red-brown hair, not to mention their contrasting complexions. People sometimes couldn’t tell they were related, but if she looked closer, Dani could see that she and her father shared the same nose, the same eyes, and the same slightly off-centre widow’s peak.
“Okay… well, your mom’s making homemade pizza for dinner. Come eat, huh?” Her father stood up and patted her back.
“Alright.” Stretching, she stood and followed her father down the stairs. There were so many variables looming out at her in the future, and Dani didn’t know what to do about them, or even what they were.
Dani watched with apprehension as kids walked past the car on the sidewalk, or looked at her from inside their own cars, probably wondering if she was headed to the same destination. She was.
Willcraft High School, a fairly small, impossibly stereotypical building, stood about fifteen minutes from Dani’s house, a drive that she shared every morning with her well-meaning yet talkative mother.
“–and if you see that boy again, I want you to tell him that he’s a–”
Dani cut her off. She really didn’t want to talk about that with her mom. “–Mom, mom, I love you, but please stop talking. I’m a sophomore now. I know what I’m doing.”
Dani’s mom side-eyed her. “Oh, okay, so tell me, little miss sophomore, are we auditioning for the play this year?”
“Musical, mom.” She sighed. “And no. I don’t think so. Well, I don’t know.”
The clicking of the turn indicator was the only sound in the car for a moment before her mother stopped the car and turned to her. Her huge, curly bun brushed the ceiling of the car, and it wobbled as she shook her head. “Dee, honey. I know you want to. You almost did it last year!” Her mom’s voice sounded hopefully optimistic.
“Yeah, almost,” Dani muttered, folding her arms over the front of her pink flannel. “Then I went and did set mechanics for the third year in a row. Might as well do a fourth rather than embarrass myself, right?”
Dani’s mother closed her eyes and lowered her head, clearly frustrated with her daughter’s stubborn stance. “You can do what you want, Daniela,” she said finally, exasperated, “but I believe in you. Seize the day, huh?”
“Sure.” It wasn’t that Dani didn’t want to audition; anxiety and a lack of training prohibited her from trying. Rolling her eyes at herself, she shifted her bag on her shoulder and went in the door along with a hundred other people.
The day had been a whirlwind of seating arrangements and new school supplies, and Dani was almost ready to quit at lunchtime and call home sick. Her dad would understand.
Near where she sat, Dani could see a black-and-gold poster on the wall by the garbage can. When she went to bus her tray, the lettering became clear.
THEATRE PERFORMERS! LOOKING FOR AN AUDITION OPPORTUNITY? COME TO THE STAGE AFTER SCHOOL TODAY FOR MORE INFO!
Through her afternoon classes, Dani did her best to psyche herself up. She didn’t even know what the show was yet! And if it turned out to be something she loved, where was the harm in going for it? When the final bell rang, she steeled herself on the way to the theatre department. She could do this. She wanted to do this!
Dani did not want to do this. Everyone was so pretty and talented-looking. And all these people could SING!? What was even the point? She knew some faces from doing tech crew in the years before, but she knew next to no names, and everything seemed to blur together.
Before she could argue against her own anxious thoughts, a short, stocky man with a dark brown beard came into the room, and most of the kids went silent. The ones who did, Dani included, knew better than to keep talking – nobody messed with Mr. G.
“Thanks, guys,” he said to stop those who were still talking. “Thank you.” Once everyone fell silent, Mr. G clapped his hands together and smiled. “Welcome to show season!”
The room erupted into applause. A few of the older members of the group whooped and hollered, but Dani just clapped along halfheartedly. She’d never been in the room for the season starter before – the tech crew didn’t start work until about a month after rehearsals began. Across the room, Dani noticed a boy her age not clapping at all. He looked bored behind a pair of silver wire-rimmed glasses, which gleamed against his cool, dark brown skin. Everything about the boy’s posture suggested he didn’t want to be in the room, maybe didn’t even like theatre at all. Dani wondered why he was there.
Mr. G. cut the applause off like a conductor with an orchestra. “I’m proud to announce our fall musical. Drumroll, please!” Everyone started to stamp their feet on the ground to mimic the sound of drums. They stopped when Mr. G shouted, “Mary Poppins!”
Some erupted into cheers. A few put their heads in their hands. Dani just smiled a little, still too anxious to really take it all in. It wasn’t like she didn’t like Mary Poppins, she just felt like there wasn’t a role in there for her. Unless, of course, she wanted to go for the titular character. Which she didn’t. Right? Yes, that’s right, Dani told herself, don’t take the role away from someone more deserving.
And speaking of deserving.
Once the noise and chatter died down, a short blonde girl in black fishnets raised her hand. “Um, Mr. G.?” Jasmine Davis. Everyone knew Jasmine Davis, the girl who got every lead, every year. She would get Mary, for sure, Dani thought.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
“I thought we were going to do Legally Blonde.” She laughed a little. “You said we were going to do Legally Blonde.” Jasmine was short, but a little taller with a black pair of Doc Martins on her feet, boots that could probably turn Dani into a splotch on the pavement if Jasmine so wished.
Mr. G. sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, but it was clear he wasn’t truly angry with her. “Jasmine, I said I was thinking about it. But I changed my mind over the summer.”
Jasmine frowned a little, tilting her head to the side. Dani laughed internally as she imagined Jasmine’s many ear piercings getting stuck in her long, straight hair. “I just thought, you know, with my brother gone…”
“Give some of the other boys a chance!” Mr. G. exclaimed, starting to pace around the room. “Like Connor.”
“He graduated, sir,” last year’s dance captain said from across the room.
“Oh.” Mr. G. looked around again. “Mac?”
Their director scanned the room, eyes landing on the bored boy in the back Dani had seen before. “You! What’s your name?”
Startled, the boy looked up, before realizing he’d been called out by the director. Dani guessed he’d never dreamed of being put on the spot in front of everyone before, and judging by his expression, he really didn’t want to be. A coily thatch of hair covered the tops of his ears, covering the arms of his silver glasses. Behind those glasses were a pair of wide eyes, eyes that were currently flicking around the room, looking for an escape.
“Uh... Kay.” He shifted in his seat, clearly uncomfortable with the attention.
“Are you new here, my friend?”
Kay kept his russet eyes on the floor. “No, sir. My brother’s Felix. Miller.” Felix Miller, Willcraft Middle School’s golden boy. Theatre prodigy, volleyball star – and he was only in 7th grade. Dani had no idea he had an older brother. “I’ve been here since eighth grade. I’m a sophomore.” Kay spoke in a monotone sort of way, all of his voice the same level and quality.
“Well, nice to meet you, Kay.” Mr. G. turned away from him and went up to the chalkboard, and Dani couldn’t help but feel a little bad. For Mr. G., yes, but for Kay especially. He seemed to have a sad sort of apathy that Dani hated to see in kids her own age. After her own uncaring apathy had been replaced by hyperactive anxiety, Dani could never tell which she preferred, but at least with anxiety she actually paid attention.
After Mr. G. had spoken a bit about costume ideas and set designs, he changed the subject to casting. “Raise your hand,” he began, “if you think you’d like to audition for Michael Banks.”
Felix Miller raised his hand proudly, and he was the only one who did. That would be one benefit of a smaller theatre department, Dani supposed; if you were good (and if the director knew you), you would get the role. Which was why she’d probably end up as a chimney sweep.
“Awesome, Felix, thank you. Next, Burt?”
Not a single hand went up. There weren’t many boys in Willcraft Theatre – in fact, by Dani’s count, it was just Kay and Felix.
“Alright, um…” Mr. G. tapped his index finger against his palm. “Jane Banks?”
A few hands went up, mostly from the shorter girls in the room. Dani still did not raise her hand. She knew the role she wanted but she knew she wouldn’t get it. What was the point, when Jasmine Davis would get it anyway?
Once he’d gone through most of the main characters, their director said, “and the title character, Mary Poppins herself?”
Dani paused. She could raise her hand. Nerves made her stomach ache, and her mind went blank and still in a scared-stiff sort of way. She stared at Jasmine’s beaded bracelet-clad hand in the air and felt dizzy, the ground swaying under her chair.
Suddenly, a confident force took hold of Dani. On impulse, she raised her hand, still not really taking in her surroundings. She couldn’t hear Mr. G. speaking, and there was nothing except for the rushing in her ears. To someone else, it might not have seemed like a big deal, but to Dani? This was like choosing to jump off a waterfall. A waterfall that previously had been the source of all her anxiety, one that had good and bad things in store, depending on how you looked at it. She just had to jump.
Jumping would be better than falling. And jump, she did.