Short Story Saturday #2 – Different sides of the coin

Welcome to Short Story Saturday, where I practice my skills in writing shorter fiction pieces. My aim is to get myself out of the habit of overthinking the prompts I’m given, and to instead just start writing. These pieces will likely not be polished or proofread, they will instead be posted “as is”, almost like flash fiction, though in many cases, a bit longer than the average flashfic.

This story was inspired by a prompt that for reasons I can’t remember now, made me think of the song “Some Enchanted Evening”, which then led me to want to set something in a theatre, and somehow I ended up trying to convey two very different points-of-view of the same experience. I hope you like it!

~*~

Sam is on the way to an audition the first time he sees the woman of his dreams. He turns to watch her after she’s passed him on the stairs and he nearly loses his footing. One part of him says he should go after her. Life gives you moments like these to chase after. The other, larger, part tells him to stop being a romantic fool and go up to the audition room like he’s supposed to. It’s not even romantic, anyway; chasing women you’ve never met before out of buildings and down the street is how to get yourself arrested.

 

She’s come from the second floor, the floor he’s headed to. In theory, he knows there could be more than one audition process taking place in the several numbered doors that line the corridor when he reaches the landing. But for the little while that he can, he’ll cling onto hope that they’re both auditioning for the same show and that he might see her again.

Somehow he makes himself focus on the task at hand. He imagines himself speaking the lines of Shakespeare to the woman on the stairs. The panel are impressed. He comes out of the audition feeling he did a good job.

*

Natalie felt him watching her all the way down the stairs. She shuddered. He was staring really intently. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled. When she reached the door of the building, she looked back. He was only just heading up the rest of the stairs now.

She shook herself as she headed towards the bus and tried to get back the good feeling she’d had when she walked out of her audition.

*

He tried not to stare too much during the first rehearsal. He had patted the seat next to him and she had taken it, but try as he might, he couldn’t catch her eye.

*

Great, it was him again. She hadn’t run into him in call backs, but there he was at the read-through. The seats were filling up by the time she arrived. He looked at her with that eager puppy expression and patted the seat next to him. It would have looked obvious if she’d made for another seat. Maybe he was fine and she was just being paranoid. She took the seat, but busied herself with her script and didn’t look at him.

*

Sam supposes Natalie was too good to be true. She can’t act. She doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing. How she got this role he will never know. Did she even read the script? He sighs inwardly, and tries to follow the director’s instructions. This is supposed to be a love scene, but how can you do a love scene when the person you’re acting next to is so stiff and wooden?

*

He’s such a diva. He keeps arguing with the director, telling her that she doesn’t understand what’s going on in the script. Natalie almost feels second-hand embarrassment for him but he’s making her job so difficult it’s hard to feel much sympathy. He keeps glaring at her, too, like she’s wasting his time. She can’t quite decide whether it’s better or worse than the lovesick puppy look, though she’s glad that seems to have gone by the wayside.

*

By the time opening night comes around, neither of them can stand the sight of the other. They warm up in their separate dressing rooms and run lines with assistants rather than each other. How they get into character and actually react to each other properly onstage is anyone’s guess, but somehow, they manage it. The reviews are glowing. Perhaps the magic of theatre turns the tension into chemistry in their performance.

*

Closing night arrives a few weeks later. The crew are relieved that the tension seems to have eased over the run of performances. Maybe they realised that what they were creating together was good. One crew member suggests they slept together and got all the animosity out of their system that way, but the rest of the company thinks that’s unlikely. Natalie doesn’t seem the type.

*

Natalie doesn’t drink so she’s a completely sober observer of Sam’s drunken rant at the after party. She films him on her phone as he insults her acting skills, and tells her they only got good reviews because he made her look good. He compliments some of the other men in the cast, but then he outs Tim as gay to the entire company. Natalie had already known but many of the others didn’t. Tim looks like he wants to punch Sam in the face, but he contains himself and leaves soon after. It’s when Sam starts on a tirade about their director that they decided it’s time to send him home and push him into a taxi. Natalie can’t believe her feelings towards him had mellowed. He was just as much a jerk as she’d always thought.

*

Sam wakes up the next day with a raging headache and not much of a memory of the night before. He checks his emails and finds one from the theatre company. He assumes that it’s one of those post-closing-night feel good messages and opens it straight away. Instead, it’s a message from the company president telling him he won’t be working with them again. He swears loudly. He still doesn’t remember the night before but he has a sinking feeling he doesn’t want to.

*

Natalie stars in the company’s next production, again to rave reviews. She and her new leading man, Daniel, decide to make it public that they’re dating a week before opening night. It comes as a surprise to no one. They had instantly clicked when rehearsals had started and the chemistry translated into their performance.

*

Sam hears about Natalie and Daniel from one of the few theatre people he didn’t piss off and is still friends with on Facebook. He goes to see the show, and he can see exactly what everyone is raving about. Their performances are brilliant. Natalie is stunning, as always. Now that he’s stopped looking for acting work, he can watch others perform more objectively. He was an idiot to think he knew better than everyone else, and he’s much better off away from the stage.

Published by Emily Wrayburn

She/Her. Writer. Reader. Blogger. Hufflepuff. Theatre nerd.

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