This Is Not Where I Belong! (Or Is It?)
"Mae Lee!" I turned at the sound of my voice being called, and saw my best friend, Tara. "Mae Lee, today's the big day!" Despite the fact that she was knocking over every student in the school hallway, she didn't stop running until they reached me. It can get her into trouble at times, but you can't help but love how much energy she has.
And it didn't help that today was a very important day for both of us: the day we got the results of school play tryouts. Both of us had tried out, along with many, many other students at our school.
"I know!" I said, getting just as excited as she was. "I'm sure you'll do great!" Actually, I wasn't sure. She'd done fine, but a lot of other students seemed pretty determined - and good. Hey, why should I worry? The girl was ready.
"Oh, but you'll definitely get the lead, Mae Lee! You always do!" Well, that WAS the truth. Not to be one of those bragging actresses, but I had gotten the lead in every school play since they'd been going on. And I was so sure I'd get the lead this time. There were so many roles that could be cast: Hani, Lila, Asuka, Marie, and a lot more! But I was confident I'd get the lead role of Maya. I knew, because my nose was stinging, and that must've been a sign that I was destined to play Maya.
"Well, the results are being posted right now, and everyone is checking them out! Let's go!" I said, and we ran to the auditorium. The halls were deserted; school was over, and it was a Friday. But then, when we got to the auditorium, there were kids flocking over the list. Tara and I made our way through the crowd. Tara checked the list first.
"Good luck!" I said. She smiled at me, then looked at the list.
"Oh... my... goodness," she said, her knees shaking. I was feeling sorry for her, because she must not have gotten a part. But then she squealed, "EEEEEE! I'm Maya! How did that happen! EEEEEE!!!" She was jumping up and down, then she ran to the director to get her script. For a moment I felt a pang of jealousy.
"That should be me, but without the jumping," I muttered. But then I held my head up. Saying that wasn't like me! "I should feel happy for her," I thought. "Besides, I kind of felt like the role of Hani was better for me." I checked the list. Nope, the role had gone to a Zafara named Annie. I then started to panic. Those were the only two roles suiting thespians of my stature. Heck, half the people here didn't even know the meaning of thespian! There must've been a switch of names.
Only, there was a problem - my name wasn't on the list. At all. I felt weak at the knees, and was ready to cry. The confident Mae Lee had melted away. I was ready to bawl, when something at the very bottom of the list I had missed caught my eye:
'Tech Crew: Mae Lee and Lucas'
Tech crew. The nobodies you couldn't live without, and didn't care about. Tech crew, who got stuck operating the spotlight instead of standing in it. Tech crew: the loser I was going to be for the next twelve weeks, while all my friends put on a show.
Now I really was bawling. Thank heavens everyone had left. Even Tara, who'd promised she'd wait for me. But she was too busy cheering over her big, IMPORTANT role.
"Mae Lee, stop it!" I told myself. I was being jealous and rude. Plus, I'd only sob harder if anyone saw me like this. So I just ran home, crying my eyes out.
By the next day, I felt better, but still dreaded 2:15 - the time we got out of school, and the time I had to spend being tech crew.
But soon enough, the time came. I dragged myself backstage, and looked for my partner.
"Lucas, Lucas, where are you, Lucas?" I muttered, praying that twelve weeks would be over already.
Suddenly, I heard, "Behind you." I shrieked and jumped around to find a startled Lupe behind me. "Sheesh, you can tone it down a decibel or two," he said, apparently cured of the startle I gave him. "I'm Lucas, your partner. It's just the two of us. Think you're tough enough, kid?"
I straightened my back. "For one thing, I'm the same age as you, so don't call me kid. And two, of course I am! This isn't rocket science." I pulled a rope as hard as I could.
"This is all we have to-" Suddenly, a light fell down, shattering. "EEK!" I cried, jumping away.
"Relax," said Lucas,"I'll sweep it up." He paused, and looked at me. "So, you're a green Xweetok, eh?"
"Yeah, what's wrong with that?"
"Nothing's wrong with it," Lucas said as he licked his lips. "They just always looked tastier than Chias to me!"
"AAAAAAAA! Leave me alone, creep!" I cried. I started to run, but Lucas grabbed me by the shoulders.
"Relax, I'm only kidding. What makes you so tense, ki--I mean, Mae Lee."
I sighed and turned around. "Nothing, just I'm stuck in dinky tech crew, instead of-"
"Excuse me, Miss Actress, but without tech crew, show wouldn't be POSSIBLE."
"I know, but it's not what I'm supposed to be doing! I should be in the spotlight!"
"Have you ever acknowledged how the people operating it feel when they can't get what they want?"
"Well..." I'd never actually thought about that. "They WANT to be here. I don't!"
"I don't either," said Lucas softly.
"I didn't see you at tryouts," I said, raising an eyebrow.
"I didn't try out," he said.
"Well, then, you missed your chance," I said. He suddenly looked hurt. I realized that I shouldn't have said that. "Lucas, what's wrong?"
"A few years ago," he began, "I had gotten the lead role in a musical. I was so excited, I decided to tell all of my friends. But they laughed. At me. Because I was a good actor. They wouldn't stop teasing me. One day, I couldn't take it anymore, so I quit and joined tech crew instead. My friends stopped annoying me, but I wasn't happy." He gave a half- smile. "But now it's like backstage is my home. I still miss acting, though." He smiled a little more. "And my idol is the Nimmo actor, 'Rex Dynamite'. He was one of the greatest stage actors ever, and he got bullied 24/7. His inspiration keeps me going."
"Lucas..." I said, shocked. Even though I KNEW boys involved in theatre often got bullied, this still made me hurt. "Lucas, that's terrible."
"Aww, don't let me depress you, Mae Lee! Let me show you how to fix a pulley!"
The days went by, and the months went by. And with each passing day and month, Lucas and I became closer and closer. Sure, Tara would always be my best friend, but everywhere we went, we always heard "Mae Lee! Lucas! Come here!" even when we weren't together. I heard, "Hi, Mae Lee! Hi, Lucas! Oh, where's Lucas?" It got pretty funny after a while. Lucas was cheery and fun each day, and he always had a trick or joke to surprise me. And even though my moods varied throughout the day, after school with Lucas always made me 110% hyper. It was troublesome to others sometimes, but I felt like Lucas told me he felt: Like my home was backstage.
But then, something snapped in me. It was the day before opening night, which meant dress rehearsal. That brought on a lot of pressure. On top of that, I forgot to study for my huge test, and failed it, spilt what Lucas called "The Cafeteria Ooze" on my shirt, and tripped down two flights of stairs. And of course, there was the comment Tara made.
She was only trying to help and be nice. That's how she is - my perky, helpful best friend that finds the best in everyone. On my way backstage, she called, "Even though you don't have a big part, good luck, Mae Lee! And say hi to Lucas for me!" Now, by "a big part", she was only trying to encourage me and make me feel better because I didn't have a lead. But instead of saying "Break a leg!" or "Thanks!", I stormed through the backstage entrance.
"Mae Lee, Amazing Actress of Stature, how are you this fine evening?" That was Lucas. Now he DEFINITELY wasn't trying to insult me. That was how he greeted me for the past three months.
But instead of my usual greeting, "Quite fine, Mr. Lucas, Well Known Actor Across Neopia," like normal, I spat, "Oh, be quiet!" and ran out of the school.
The next day, I felt rotten. I knew it was because I yelled at Lucas and Tara the day before. I tried to tell myself that I had just caught the NeoBlues from my baby sister (she'd gotten a visit from Boochi a few days ago), but I knew it was guilt. I felt guilty very easily, for some reason. Maybe it's a theatre thing.
The play started at 7:00 P.M., but we still needed to come to practice at 2:15. My stomach was in knots at the thought of facing Lucas, but luckily the director stopped me.
"Ah, Mae Lee, I was looking for you. You were missing yesterday but Lucas told me you'd come over with a severe case of Neomonia. You seem fine now."
"Yeah, well, umm..." I said nervously. "Medicine does wonders."
"Well, good to see you're feeling better," he said. "But, Mae- or do you prefer your full name?"
"Umm, Mae Lee please," I said quietly.
"Yes, well, Mae Lee, I realize how much you wanted a part in the play, so I got you this." He handed me a picture of a red Nimmo in shades, with the name "Rex Dynamite" written on it. "An autograph for you."
Without warning, a light bulb went off in my head.
"Thank you, sir!" I cried, and darted backstage. He'd saved me, and after I treated him badly. Now I needed to pay him back.
When I found Lucas, I flung the picture in his hand. He looked down grimly, but then looked up grinning.
"Mae Lee," he said breathlessly. "Why? How?"
"Let's just say it's a thank-you and a sorry wrapped together." I said, grinning. In the joy of the moment, we hugged each other, and simultaneously said,
"Let's make this show happen!"
It was after the show, and the actors were done taking their bows. Lucas and I were sure that it was over. But then, our director said,
"And last, but certainly not least, the two students who made costumes, designed sets, and worked the effects all by themselves! The incredibly handy, wonderfully talented tech crew: Lucas and Mae Lee!" I was stunned. Lucas winked at me.
"This is our chance to shine brighter than any actor. Smile like you mean it, Sunshine!" He dragged me onstage with him.
It felt strange, being onstage in black T-shirts and jeans, while everyone around you is wearing dazzling outfits (and ones that you made, for that matter), and for a second I felt like running offstage.
But then, as Lucas held my hand, and we elaborately bowed together, I felt more like a star than I ever felt. A star with a friend for life. A star who'd worked hard. A star who'd learned something.
I felt like a backstage star. And let me tell you, it was the best feeling I'd had in a while.
Author's Note: To anyone named Rex Dynamite: my use of your name was entirely coincidental.