Dinner Theater

“You’ll never get me to tell you where the jewels are.”

Mom’s little party is popping. Candles, wine, drunk wannabe writers. Mom-the-truly-awful-playwright likes to get buzzing and have people “bring her writing to life.” Now, Sci-Fi-Eddie is fending off the advances of Lydia-the-memoir-writer. Eddie’s taken the role of Clyde Clisbee, a down on his luck cowboy from my mom’s latest scrawling. Lydia’s playing a flirty old spinster, not much of a stretch.

Jewels and bandits. Enough already, I make for the exit when I find Kylie, the-out-of-my-hemisphere-girl-next-door in the foyer. She motions back at the door. “I tried the doorbell, but I guess you guys didn’t hear me.”

Kylie’s got that same, innocent expression in her eyes that’s been there since the sixth grade, only now my attention falls elsewhere–to her tank top, khaki shorts, the glow from porch light shining off her shoulders–but I’m still cracking up about Eddie in that cowboy hat.

Kylie smiles, leaning forward as she approaches. “What?”

“You’ve got to see this.”

An eruption of laughter. Kylie grabs my arm. “What’s going on?”

I lead her to the living room, just at the doorway where Lydia sips from her flower vase Margarita glass, smacks her lips, and holds her hand to her throat in mock terror, “Okay, I’ll tell you, just please don’t ravage me.”

Kylie snorts so loud that everyone turns to us. She ducks behind me as Mom stands.

“Kylie?”

“Hi Mrs. Reams. I was just stopping by, I…”

“I’ve told you, it’s Miss Reams, now. Oh, over here, both of you.” She turns to the guests. Walter-the Editorial-guy smooths what hair he has left over his scalp. Mom flutters our way. “This is our neighbor Kylie, isn’t she something? She’s headed to Wake Forest this fall!”

The guests all nod and appraise her. True-Crime-Carol rattles her gin and tonic. I roll my eyes. But Mom yanks Kylie and I into the room. “Okay, I have just the lines for you two.”

“Mom, we’re not, no.”

“What, you don’t want to partake?”

Kylie arches her brow, gives me a nudge. “Yeah, don’t you want to partake, Nat?”

Nat-the-loser, played by me, is suffering from a critical case of leaky armpits as suddenly the living room is a stage. Mom, the tyrannical director, suggests one of her little sappy romance scenes.

“Okay, Nat, you’ve just returned from Denmark. You’ve made your fortune and now you yearn for what you sacrificed.”

I look around the room. “Mom, really?”

Mom shushes me and turns to Kylie, clasping her hands, eyes welling like she’s watching Streep on the Globes again. “Kylie, you, my love, are Victoria. A woman left in the lurch, now engaged to an oil tycoon but still deeply in love with Bartholomew. Your one true love.”

“Bartholomew? Mom, I—”

This time it’s Kylie shushes me. A smile spreading like wildfire behind her finger.

Mom claps. “Now, lines.”

I close my eyes, take a breath and re-enter the room, jerking back dramatically. “Victoria!”

Mom whispers something to Kylie, who gasps. “Bartholomew?”

I approach Kylie, reading from the wine stained script. “I thought I’d never see you again.”

Kylie leans forward to read. She smells like flowers. I’m kind of lost in the shine of her hair when she takes my forearm and looks up at me. “Oh Bart, I never, I thought you were gone.”

Mom, sipping wine, whispers, “Pull her close.”

Kylie scoots closer so I pull her in. Her waist in my grasp. She stifles a giggle, but sweaty pits or not, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so happy in my life. Back to my lines. “No my dear, I was caught up in the war.”

Kylie leans back to Mom, her neck all sorts of perfect. “What war?”

“The Freedom War.”

Kylie, flings herself back to me. “Huh.”

My heart finds a new gear as I wonder how we’re supposed to manage the inevitable kiss. That’s when Mom, her voice low but clear, gives direction. “Okay Kylie, now you stab him.”

We both look at Mom. “What?”

I look at the script.

*Stabs Bartholomew.

Kylie plunges the imaginary knife in my gut. I fall to the floor.

“I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.”

 

–PeteFanning/2017

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