Kings & Queens

Kings & Queens

A Story by Valerie Hope Woodard
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used the "prefab" technique for this! slaved over it. I am very proud of this short story.

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“The cab is pulling up now. I’ll see you soon.” I spoke into the receiver of my cell phone before ending Reed’s call. I began to gather the scripts, playbooks, and brainstorming sheets that had been spread haphazardly across the back seat of the cab during the three hour commute from the airport to the McAllister hotel, where this year’s Stage Royalty competition was being held. I slipped all of the dog-eared, highlighted, and scribbled-on pages into my notebook as the driver slammed on his brakes, and jerked to a stop in front of the hotel. “That’s sixty bucks, honey,” said the driver. He was a middle aged man with a demeanor that conveyed that he had everything in life figured out. On the voyage to the hotel, he’d given me words of encouragement regarding the competition. I handed my fare to him over his seat, along with a $40 tip. “Enjoy your long weekend,” he said with a smile. “Thanks for everything,” I told him before slamming the door closed and scanning the street with my eyes.

I stepped onto the curb with my one carry-on bag and heard someone call my name. I turned my head to the left, expecting to see my scene partner and best friend, Reed. Instead, I locked eyes with my scene partner from last year, and also ex boyfriend, Logan. “Lucy! I’m so glad to see you here!” he shouted at me; my stomach churned with disbelief, discomfort, regret, and defeat. Realizing that I was standing on the side of the street in New York City gaping at this boy with my jaw on the ground, I spoke to him, not completely processing what came out of my mouth. “Uh, hey, I um, didn’t know you were going to be here.” He smiled a half smile, just barely showing the tips of his shining white teeth. “I didn’t know you would be either,” he admitted, “You found a partner?” he asked. “No. He found me.” I began coming back to my senses and rediscovered my ability to control my words. I made it a point to be very blunt with Logan, so that he knew I was just fine without him as my partner and my boyfriend. “Really? Sweet. I’m happy you didn’t have to give up. You’ve come too close to give up,” he said, reflecting on last year’s competition. I responded bitterly, “Yep, you have too. So, obviously you found a partner,” I said, fishing to see who he had come all the way from Gainesville, Georgia to New York City with.

Suddenly, an all-too familiar voice rang from behind me. “Oh, you’re kidding! Lucy Manders! How wonderful to see you again!” My stomach churned once again, but this time with disgust, envy, more disbelief, and once again, defeat. “Katie Warren, you Drama Queen, you! Oh, darling, how have you been?” I said in a shrill voice, determining that I could win an Oscar simply for acting like I cared. “I’ve been amazing,” Katie smiled, “I’m just so excited for the competition, aren’t you?” With a sarcastic smirk across my lips I replied, “Ecstatic. How is the crown?” The curls in her hair bounced as she clapped her hands. “Just as gorgeous as ever! I’m having it polished in my room right now.” There was almost nothing I wouldn’t give in that moment to beat down Katie’s scrawny, perfectly moisturized body right there on the curb, steal her room key, take the crown and hop on a flight back to Atlanta. Just then, I heard my name called a third time. “Hey, Luce! I’ve got your--” Reed stopped speaking and advanced towards Katie, Logan and I. “Katie, Logan, this is my partner, Reed Callahan.” Reed immediately shook Logan’s hand; Katie smiled and waved. “It’s nice to meet my replacement, I guess,” Logan said with a small chuckle. “Um, yeah.” Reed backed up and stood beside me. “I’ve got your bags in my room; you can get them whenever you need to.” “Thanks so much for driving them up here for me. You’re the best,” I responded. I hugged Reed, noticing the inquisitive looks coming my way from Logan and Katie. “I gave Reed my luggage. He drove instead of flying, so he brought my stuff with him so that I wouldn’t have to deal with airport security.” I said to them, hoping that was the only thing they were questioning. “Are you two together?” Katie asked excitedly. “Nope. Totally platonic,” I blurted immediately. The half confused, half suspecting expressions on their faces lingered, but were slowly disintegrating.

“Anyways.. Katie, is James your partner again this year?” I asked with full intention of diverting the topic of conversation from Reed and I. “Oh, no darling, he isn’t. He had to spend this weekend with his father in Milan. You know, getting things ready for fashion week,” Katie answered as she filed her nails. “That’s so sad! The Drama Queen without her king…” I empathized. “Don’t you worry your pretty, little, frizzy head about me, Lucy. The reigning champ has a partner, I assure you.” Katie said smugly. “He’s right here.” She added, gesturing to Logan. Yet another churn in my stomach sent me into a dizzying nausea. “Oh.. oh. You two… know each other?” I stuttered. “I met Katie on the plane home last year, Luce,” Logan told me, as if I was expected to know. “Logan, you were sick the whole flight. You spent all your time in the bathroom. It was just a few days before you br-” I stopped abruptly, realizing that Logan was not sick that day, and that he didn’t end our relationship because of so called “problems” in his family.

I grabbed Reed’s arm and gave a quick glance to Katie and Logan. They locked hands and smiled semi-apologetically. “Well, it was great talking, you guys. Reed and I have to get practicing if I want to measure up second best, yet again.” I turned sharply to enter the hotel and Reed followed with his hand on my shoulder. “Lucy, it doesn’t matter. They’re both rude, self-seeking jerks,” he tried to console me. “That may be so, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m never going to be anything more than a runner-up.” I shot back. We came across a sitting area and I dropped my bag onto the floor as I slumped into an armchair. Reed sat down in the chair next to me, wiped a tear off of my cheek and with profound honesty in his eyes he said to me, “It is so. And you will never be second best to me.” I squeezed out the tears that had already welled up in my eyes, and no more came. “Come on, let’s get your stuff. Oh, and I want to see those great ideas you were telling me about,” smiled Reed, grabbing my bag with one hand and pulling me up with the other. A wave of deviance came over me, and I devised a plan. “Reed,” I stopped walking and turned to face him. “We are going to beat them.” We smiled at each other, and in that moment, we both knew that we were fully capable of winning this competition.

            ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

“We have been practicing this for three hours. It’s not happening.” I groaned, lying upside down on the couch in Reed’s room. “Luce, you’re not trying. Stop letting everything she does determine your attitude. Unless you’re going to let it determine you to be determined. This is an intense scene, it’s poignant; it’s emotive. You can’t perform some light and fluffy scene and expect to win this.” Reed scolded. I flipped over and crossed my legs and arms at him. “Pardon me, but who was the runner up of this competition last year? Which one of us has never been even interested in theatre until last semester?” Reed rolled his eyes at me and tossed down his script. “How in the world can you plot, script, and stage a performance that could be incredible, but not want to try to make it that way?” he demanded with frustration. “I’m not going to let you waste your potential, or my own.” I shrunk back into the cushions and pulled the sleeves of my oversize sleep shirt over my arms. “Talk to me, Lucy. I mean, what, do you want another partner? Are you too embarrassed not to be here with your extremely attractive new boyfriend, like Katie? Am I the problem?” I fidgeted with the ribbons on my shorts. “No.” I refused to make eye contact. “Then get over here and show me that you want me to stay.” My hormones raged, urging my brain to interpret his words to mean something other than practicing the scene. He took a step towards the couch in his pinstriped pajama set. It could only be left to dorky Reed to own and actually wear such a thing. I stood and crossed the floor, picking up his script on the way. He took it gently from my hand, with a slightly disappointed expression on his face. But in a millisecond, the look was gone and he had jumped into character.

“Molly, please just tell me what happened,” he said as his character, Jason. “I’m your sister’s boyfriend. You can tell me anything, you know that.”

“She had a check up on Tuesday,” I recited through faux sobs. “And it’s back. Elizabeth’s remission is over.”

“No, it isn’t. They said she would have at least two years, she-“

“They said up to two years, Jason… They told us that it doesn’t look good.” Reed maintained his character by holding his head in his hands, rocking back and forth, and shaking his head in denial.

“This isn’t happening. The doctors are lying to you. Or you had a dream about this, or something, but this isn’t real.”

“Do you think I would lie to you about this? For God’s sakes I am her sister!” I shouted. He continued to shake his head and began to turn his back to me. I reached out and grabbed his forearm to restrain him.

“Jason, look at me.” I pleaded as Molly. Reed swung his arm out of my grip and turned away.

“No, Molly! I can’t look at you! I see her every time I look at you,” he turned slowly to face me again, “You have her chin, her narrow nose, the same radiant smile, the same agonizing frown… you have honest, sympathetic brown eyes-”

“The script says green,” I interrupted, abruptly and almost breathlessly. His performance was mesmerizing, but not quite enough for his ad lib to go unnoticed.

“But,” he started, his first time jumping out of character. “Yours are brown.”

Dazed and unbelieving, I met his green eyes. He appeared to be entranced, as if he would soon fall fast asleep.

“Reed,” I whispered as he stepped closer and wrapped his arms around my waist.

“Lucy,” Reed breathed, letting out a laugh and flashing the most precious and genuine smile. I began turning up my chin, and suddenly the door to Reed’s room flung wide open.

            “Hey, you mind if I borrow some ice from your fridge?” Logan asked, peering into the room. Reed and I jumped apart and I pushed my bangs out of my face, trying to act natural. “Sure, man, I’ll get some for you.” Reed walked over and grabbed the bucket from Logan. As he went into the kitchenette to fill it, Logan stepped into the suite. “How did you get in here?” I demanded. “The door was cracked. How did you two end up in the position you were in when I got in?” I met Logan’s eyes with a sharp glare. “That is absolutely none of your business.” I passed by him and sat on the leather ottoman. “Totally platonic, huh?” Logan pried, believing he had a chance of weaseling some sort of confession out of me. I straightened my posture and spoke to him sternly. “This weekend is not about you. It’s not about Katie, and it’s not about Reed. It is about me winning this competition and taking that crown home with me.” Reed brought back the ice bucket and handed it to Logan. Logan took the bucket and thanked Reed. “Good luck,” he snarled at me. “To you the same,” I replied as he left.

            I stood from the couch and double checked that the door was closed. When I turned, Reed was right in front of me. He laid a hand on my shoulder and asked, “You want to pick up where we left off?” I held up my script and followed down the page with my finger. “Sure,” I answered, watching the smile diminish from Reed’s lips. “That’s not really what I meant,” he admitted. “Well, that’s what I mean.” He let his hand drop back to his waist and slipped it into his pocket. “Lucy, we-” I held up an open palm to signal that I was not finished. “I think that things will go much more smoothly if we keep this professional for right now.” At first, he didn’t seem to be angry. “Come on, Lucy, we are spending the weekend in New York! This is where dreams come true!” he exclaimed with delight. He tried to slip his fingers between mine and I pulled my hands away. “My dream is to win this competition and win that crown, okay? Let’s work on making that dream come true before we worry with any other ones. Then after I’m crowned Drama Queen, you can be my king,” I proposed, a bit more harshly than intended. Reed held up his hands in surrender. “You know what? That sounds like a great idea. We should keep this ‘totally platonic.’ Your wish is my command, your highness. Let’s work on making your dream come true for the rest of the weekend, separately. You rehearse your lines; I’ll rehearse mine. We don’t even have to see each other until they call us to the stage. How would you like that? Run along now.” Reed said condescendingly. “Look, don’t be irrational,” I fired back. “Lucy, please leave.” Reed gestured towards the door and took a step back. I gaped at him incredulously and scoffed. “Fine. I’ll see you Monday.” I lifted my satchel from the ground, slung it over my shoulder, and stomped into the hall without giving Reed another glance.

                                    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Ugh,” I moaned as the sunlight crept through the gap of the hotel curtains. It was Sunday morning; at least I thought it was, until I glanced at the digital clock. “Two o’clock?!” I yawned in disbelief. I rolled over in bed and felt around for my phone. After discovering it under the bedspread at the edge of the mattress, I checked to see if Reed had tried to reach me. I had no missed calls, no texts, no emails, Facebook notifications, or even any new mentions on Twitter. I flung the phone back onto the mattress and watched it bounce before resting on its face. I dragged my fatigued body into the bathroom and examined myself in the mirror. My eyelids were swollen and heavy, and my eyes were dry and bloodshot. The dark circles under my eyelids closely resembled those of a panda bear. “Lovely.” I directed my eyes to my toiletry case set next to the sink, knowing that the afternoon must be committed to undoing the damage done of my face the previous night.  I used cream upon cream, and nothing seemed to improve the conditions. I had room service bring up a plate of cucumber slices and a bowl of wet tea bags.

After showering, around 5:30, I left my room to fill my ice bucket before I ordered pizza. Katie passed me as she headed back to her room from the ice machine. “Hey, girl! How is everyth-” I shoved past her and maintained my path. “Darling, are you okay?” Without a glance backward I said, “Save it, Katie.” When I finished getting ice, I turned the corner and she was there waiting. “Okay,” I started, without giving her a chance to give one of her condescending, insincere compliments. “I am done with you, do you hear me? I’m finished. I have had enough of trying to one up you ever since you moved to Georgia in the first grade. I’ve had enough of you pretending that you care about how I am. I’m not oblivious to the way that you phish for things to tear me down with, Kaitlyn. It’s what you’ve done our whole lives. It ends now. I’m going to win this, and I’m taking that crown home with me. You can keep Logan, alright? I don’t care anymore. Even if I don’t win this competition, I’m the one who’s earned the real prize. I’m free from all of your fake, manipulative, and discouraging crap.” I breathed heavily, impressed by my audacity. Katie stood, frozen, leaning against the wall. It appeared that for once in her life, she was speechless. There was nothing she could say that would make her feel bigger or better than me; she had no more ammunition, because I had stolen it all and used it on her. “Now if you’ll excuse me, that burn is going to melt my ice.” I giggled before strutting down the hall.

I was the happiest that I could recall ever being, until I remembered that Reed and I weren’t speaking. I rehearsed my lines alone in my room for the rest of the evening. I memorized my blocking, my facial expressions, and my vocal tones. I even perfected my technique for inducing tears in the scene. All I had to do was cry. I constantly checked my phone, and still I never got a thing from him. I forced myself to sleep, knowing that staying up late and sulking would do nothing but ensure the fact that, whether I won or lost, I would look awful doing it. I had my A game prepared, and I was going to bring it. I could only hope the same for Reed.

                            -------------------------------------------------------------------------

I awoke that morning to plenty of texts, tweets, and Facebook posts wishing me well in the competition. I blasted upbeat, happy, danceable pop songs while I primped. There was nothing that didn’t go smoothly. My makeup looked precisely the way I wanted it to, every blemish concealed and every lash lengthened. I used a large barrel curling wand, with not one hair singed and not one little burn anywhere. Each thick curl bounced lightly when I moved, and never let go of its shape. I had picked out my outfit prior to leaving Georgia- and had perfectly coordinated Reed’s with it- so there was no stress in that department. I had the look of an angel. The glow of a goddess. The confidence of a winner. The attitude of a Drama Queen.

I paced in circles backstage. I had called Reed three times and sent him five text messages. I still had not gotten a response. “Alright ladies and gentlemen, let’s all give them a hand! It has been a wonderful evening so far. Up next is our reigning Drama Queen, Kaitlyn Warren, from Oakwood, Georgia performing a scene called ‘Behind the Clouds’ with Logan Vance, who was a part of the runner up team last year!” I heard the emcee’s booming, clear voice announce. Reed and I were up after Katie. My nerves shot through my veins and every muscle in my body clinched. I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to their scene. A few moments later, a stocky black woman, one of the stage managers, found me and began rushing me to the wings. “Get over there, you’re on next,” she said. “No, you don’t understand, my partner, he-” I frantically tried to explain to her that I had no idea where Reed was. “Don’t worry about it, honey, we got his message. The emcee knows you changed your title,” she interrupted. “Now go on over there.” She turned and left me standing with my mouth agape. “Changed the title?” I asked aloud, panicking. I wondered to myself if Reed had rehearsed a completely different scene without telling me, and then let the judges know so that I would wind up looking like a complete fool and bombing the competition. He certainly was intellectually capable of conjuring a scheme like such, but I couldn’t let myself believe that he’d be vindictive enough to do that to me. Applause roared from outside the curtains and my head began to spin. My phone vibrated in my pocket and I opened the message immediately. Reed wrote, “Just go with it.” And not a word more. Katie shoved past me on her way backstage, and I breathed deep breaths to release my anxiety.

“What a mighty fine performance, huh folks? This year’s Stage Royalty competition is going to be a close one. Now for our last act of the night, one that I am particularly excited to see. This is last year’s runner up, Lucille Manders, and her new partner, Reed Callahan from Gainesville, Georgia, performing ‘The Apology.’ Enjoy!” the emcee gushed. Another message came in. “Let’s do this.” I put my phone back in my pocket and walked out to center stage.

“What are you doing?” I asked Reed, projecting so that the crowd could hear. I winked at him with my upstage eye so that he knew I was playing along.

The corner of his lips curled up and then he answered, “I needed to apologize. I thought that this could be the only way.”

“Okay, well we’re here. So talk.” Aloof, I placed a hand on my hip and tipped my head to meet his gaze.

“That’s exactly it, though. I’m tired of talking,” he said, extending his upstage arm to touch my waist.

“Then what is it that you want?” I demanded, exasperated. I laid my hand over his. I saw him begin to snicker.

He laughed aloud, then returned his gaze back to my face. “You.” Reed placed his downstage hand on my other hip and loosed an elated and toothy smile. “I want your chin, your narrow nose, your radiant smile, your agonizing frown… I want your honest, sympathetic brown eyes.”

I grinned and blushed, thankful that he at least memorized part of my script. I let my downstage hand wander up and down his arm. “Apology accepted.”

Reed stepped back and held onto my hand. “Look, you’re my best friend. I just want you to know, that you’re so much more to me than that. You’re like my other half.”

“I know,” I said thoughtfully, looking at our hands. “I’m the one you tell your secrets to. I’m the one that you would never let waste their potential,” I drew my face up again.

“Because that would mean I’d be wasting mine. I don’t want to do that, so… will you be my girl?” I knew at that moment that this wasn’t just an improvised scene. Reed was serious. I put one hand on his shoulder and the other on his cheek. His eyes darted from my lips to my eyes as he stepped in and wrapped his arms around me.  I grinned and then pulled him into a kiss. Seconds later I pulled away and asked, “How’s that for an answer?” Reed chuckled and leaned to kiss me again.

The audience erupted with applause, and also a few whistles and hollers. Reed and I separated and laughed. He rubbed his thumb across my cheek, and then we both turned to exit. The emcee shot me two thumbs up on his way out of the cave. I signaled back and exited to the wings. “Alright, I believe the judges have come to their decision. I mean, it wasn’t all that difficult to choose the winner, was it?” The crowd whistled and yelled. One of the judges handed the emcee two envelopes from offstage. “And the runner up is, everyone,” he paused as he opened the envelope. I closed my eyes and crossed my fingers. My phone buzzed with a message from Reed. “Nothing changes, win or lose. Deal?” “Deal.” I texted back. “‘Behind the Clouds,’ Logan Vance and Kaitlyn Warren!” Katie stomped back out to the stage bitterly. An excitement bubbled up inside of me and it was all I could do not the scream. After Logan and Katie accepted their second place sashes, the emcee directed attention to the last envelope. “How about a round of applause for our beautiful and incredibly talented Drama Queen, Lucille Manders, and her Drama King, Reed Callahan for their scene ‘The Apology’! Congratulations everyone who participated in this year’s Stage Royalty competition. Goodnight everybody!” As Reed and I ran onstage, confetti and balloons dropped from up on the catwalk. One of the judges placed the crown on my head, and my eyes welled up with tears. The other judge crowned Reed, and he held my hand as she did so. The entire atmosphere was filled with joy; the audience, all the other teams, and even Katie and Logan were yelling and clapping and dancing. Reed and I embraced each other and blew kisses at the crowd. Suddenly, someone tapped me on the shoulder. Logan shook Reed’s hand and said, “Good job, Luce. Just for the record, I prefer being a runner up with you over Katie any day,” he gestured to the wing. Katie had ripped off her sash and was throwing a fit. “I guess the loss started to sink in,” he laughed. “Thank you,” I smiled.

“Well, you did it,” Reed said, poking my crown.

“We did it,” I replied poking his. “I guess I’m not second best anymore.”

“Lucy, you never were.” Reed kissed me again, and we bowed to the audience before running offstage together.

© 2012 Valerie Hope Woodard


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Added on April 22, 2012
Last Updated on April 22, 2012
Tags: acting, ex boyfriend, best friends, competition, hidden love, new york, second best, new boyfriend, frenemies

Author

Valerie Hope Woodard
Valerie Hope Woodard

Cumming, GA



About
I am an aspiring writer, worship leader, and actress with a heart set on revival. more..

Writing