When I got home I found Mum in her sewing room and told her that we were doing ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as an end of year play.
‘Oh, really?’ she replied with a smile. She didn’t seem surprised at all and kept poking pins into the fabric she was holding.
‘I thought I might put my name down to help with props.’
‘Oh Molly, you should be Juliet.’
‘No! There’s no way I would ever get it. Besides, that part is meant for Virginia Williams.’
‘You should audition anyway. You never know what might happen.’ She stopped sewing and looked at me thoughtfully. I squirmed and looked away, because I didn’t want to tell her that I wasn’t game to try out for the part, but I think she knew that anyway.
After Mum kissed me goodnight that evening I lay in bed in the darkness with my hands behind my head and kept thinking about being Juliet. My heart was racing with excitement and I couldn’t get to sleep, but I also knew that I would never ever be able to do it.
For the rest of the week I kept thinking about the play and every time I walked past the notice board I quickly checked out who had written their names down for the auditions. Most of the kids had put their names down to help out with props, while a few had put their names under the minor roles. By Friday, only one boy had put his name down for Romeo, and of course that was Joel Kemp. I had a feeling that none of the other boys were game to put their names down against Joel because he was too popular.
There were only three girls that were trying out for Juliet, but everyone knew that Virginia was going to get the part. The other two didn’t stand a chance.
We had already started building sets in class and Mr Norris had said he wanted to keep the stage simple so that the emphasis was on the acting and the words. The class was split up into groups and each group was given a different part of the set to work on. My group was doing the scene for the party and we all had to paint trees and flowers on a canvas backdrop to make it look like a garden scene. Some of the boys were painting tables and chairs white and Mr Norris was busy walking around the room to make sure everyone was doing the right thing.
As I worked away at painting some flowers, I couldn’t help overhearing Virginia and her friends talking.
‘It is going to be so romantic when Joel and I are Romeo and Juliet.’ I grimaced because I still couldn’t stand picturing her being Juliet.
‘You two make such a cute couple.’
‘We do, don’t we?’ Virginia replied. She stood up with her hands raised and a pained look on her face which was meant to be Juliet pining away with love. Virginia looked to me more like she had a pain in her stomach rather than being in love. She wasn’t doing any work to help out with the props because she was too busy prancing around the room and pretending to be Juliet. I kept my head down and just tried to ignore her but it still annoyed me that someone like her would get the part without even having to try.
When the bell rang for the end of the day I grabbed my bag and started walking out of the classroom, but Mr Norris called me back.
‘Molly White, can I see you for a moment?’
I stopped in shock because no teacher ever wanted to see me, except when I was in trouble.
I turned around and walked nervously over to his desk. He looked at me over the top of his glasses with those beady black eyes and I felt tiny and helpless. I stood there and fidgeted while he stared at me for a moment.
‘I notice you haven’t put your name down for the auditon. I want you to try out for Juliet.’
‘Me?’ I was incredulous.
‘Yes, you. I know you have been reading the play, and I think you could do a good job of the role.’
My mind was whirling, and I didn’t even have time to think about how he knew that I was reading ‘Romeo and Juliet’. I had tried to keep it secret from everybody.
‘But Mr Norris, I couldn’t. Everyone knows Virginia is going to get it,’ I blurted out.
‘Not necessarily,’ he said. ‘She needs some competition, and I think you are the one to do it. Think about it, Molly. I will be expecting you at the auditions tonight.’