Exchange Student IX
I feel like I have forgotten every single line. The more I reach for them the farther they slip away and all of the words are lost. It’s opening night and I am beyond nervous.
Arthur Murphy rushes through the hall exclaiming, “Guy Ritchie’s out there.”
If possible, my face pales even more as I sit in front of the mirror applying makeup with the assistance of Eddie’s sister, Kate, who evidently is a “wicked” make-up artist.
She squeezes my shoulder. “You’re shaking. Is this your first show?”
“My first in England. My first really big one with a big part. I feel sick,” I say softly, wondering if I will be able to speak my lines without my voice trembling. I suddenly feel like a very little girl in a very big world, a very real world.
“Ah, wait. Eddie’s really good with this,” she says.
Moments later, Eddie raps lightly on the dressing room door and then enters. He’s wearing a dark blue suit. His hair is slicked back and he looks like a more mature version of himself. My heart stutters.
“Look at you,” he says, grinning. He touches my hair softly. “Kate says you’re a bundle of nerves. Don’t know why. You’re the best prepared of all of us.”
“And the prettiest,” he says before glancing in the mirror and fake-preening. “Although, I’m looking quite pretty too.”
My smile wavers.
He pulls me into a gentle hug, mindful not to mess up makeup or clothes or hair. He rocks me. “Once you get out on that stage and the lights are on you and Arthur and Anne start speaking you will shine, Posh. It’s in you. I’ve seen it. You’re prepared and you’re lovely and it’s all going to come together.”
He steps back and surveys my face and then takes my hand.
The way he looks at me in that moment, so unguarded and vulnerable, longing in his eyes that seeps into me, I feel as we have been taken from the same woven fabric, carefully stitched so that we could be fitted again.
He’s stilled most of my nerves, except for the ones that keep me alert, reacting when lines are spoken.
During our scene together, the tenor of the play alters ever so subtly as Eddie and I shift in our roles. The audience has a palpable reaction to him as he regards me, his voice, his gestures impetuous as he firmly says the line before he kisses me. And the kiss is different from all of the other practiced ones, a little longer, a little desperate, a little telling.
When he steps back, the unravelling begins as he says that he has a girl. He’s been going steady. And, I react as if I were truly the lame girl with the man she had a schoolgirl crush on, a brave front as a heart breaks like the glass unicorn.
As the audience begins to clap, I think this is what is meant by thunderous applause. It shatters something inside of me, the peace held together by gossamer strands of spider silk.