‘So, why didn’t you tell me you could sing?’ Guy asked as we drove across town and back to his place.
I simply shrugged. ‘You never asked.’
‘Fuck me . . .’
I raised one eyebrow at him and smiled.
‘You know what I mean, asshole,’ he said, as he gave me a sharp jab in the shoulder. ‘What about Ben? Can he sing?’
‘Trust me. You don’t even want to hear him try. This whole thing was nothing but blackmail. He dared me to try out for the show, or he’d tell Tom Jackson that I was perving on him in the showers after sport. I told him I would, but only on the condition he helped out as part of the stage crew.’
‘So I’m stuck with him helping me then?’
‘Something like that.’
‘And we just get to watch you strut your stuff on stage?’
‘Something like that.’
We pulled up at his house, parking on the street instead of going down the driveway, so that Guy could easily drive me home afterwards. When we went inside and shut the door, the first thing he did was grab me around the waist and pull me to him, holding me close to him and planting a kiss firmly on my lips. I kissed him back. Eagerly.
Clumsily, we made our way down the hallway towards Guy’s room, which wasn’t easy seeing as we were all over each other. But we managed to make it unscathed, except of course for the dried flower arrangement we managed to knock off the small table about half way down the hall.
Hell, as much as I loved the guy, afternoons with Ben were never this much fun.
* * *
That night I phoned Ben at about eight o’clock, but he wasn’t home.
‘Oh,’ I said to his mother.
‘Sorry, Tim dear. He called and said he was going out with some friends. To the movies, or something. Didn’t you go with them?’
‘Errr . . . no, I didn’t. I’ve been studying,’ I answered, lying though my teeth, and at the same time trying to control the jealousy that I could feel rising up inside me.
This was the first time that I could recall Ben doing anything and not inviting me. It wasn’t any big deal I suppose, but still it made me feel a bit strange, all the same.
‘I’ll let him know you called when he gets home, dear,’ she said.
‘Thanks,’ I said, then disconnected.
As I wandered through the lounge room, not really concentrating on what I was doing, I almost tripped over my brother, who was lying on the floor watching television.
‘Hey, watch it!’ he exclaimed.
‘Huh? Oh, sorry.’
‘You all right Tim?’ my father asked me as I crossed the floor, heading towards the door into the hallway.
‘Yeah. Why?’ I responded.
‘No real reason, I suppose. You just looked a bit down.’
‘Nah. I’m fine,’ I answered, then just as I was about to reach the safety of the hallway, he stopped me in my tracks.
‘Who is the guy you got a lift home with tonight? That’s a fancy looking car he drives.’
I stopped and slowly turned to face them all. Suddenly, all eyes were upon me.
‘Errr . . . j-just a friend from school,’ I managed to stutter. ‘His name is Guy. He’s new here.’
‘And what about Ben?’ my mother asked.
‘What about him?’
‘Aren’t you friends any more?’
‘Yeah, of course.’
I didn’t like this inquisition. I suddenly wanted out of there.
My parents exchanged a glance that I found difficult to interpret, then they both shrugged. I turned on my heels and beat a hasty retreat to my bedroom, feeling their eyes on the back of my head as I walked out.
‘Surely they couldn’t suspect anything?’ I asked myself as I shut my bedroom door. ‘Could they?’
* * *
The next morning I met Ben, as always, and he seemed much more chirpy than usual.
I could hear him whistling for half a block before he even reached me.
‘Christ. Did you get lucky last night or something?’ I asked him.
He just winked at me.
‘Sorry, but a gentleman never tells tales.’
‘Gentleman? Now you really are joking!’
He didn’t stop walking, so I fell in step beside him.
‘I tried to call you last night,’ I said to him.
‘Yeah. Mum told me. Sorry, it was too late to call you back when I got home.’
We just kept walking.
‘Samantha?’ I asked.
He looked at me with a puzzled expression.
‘Yeah, of course,’ he finally answered.
I grinned at him.
‘Oh, Tim, it was fantastic,’ he gushed.
‘I thought you weren’t going to tell?’
‘Well, I’ll tell you this much. She’s smart and funny and beautiful. And we . . .’
I cut him short, holding up my hand.
‘You don’t have to tell me that.’
‘I was going to tell you we had a great time. That was all.’
‘Oh. Well, it’s about time then.’
‘Look who’s the pot calling the kettle black now, huh?’ he said, punching me lightly in the shoulder.
I just grinned at him, and punched him back.
We ended up making it to school under our own steam, as there was no sign of Guy and his car. I kept looking around every time I heard a car approach, but I was only to be disappointed time after time.
‘He’s probably just running late this morning,’ Ben said, trying to reassure me. ‘Maybe you wore him out yesterday afternoon and he’s too tired?’
At two minutes to nine, just as we were about to go in for the first class of the day, Guy came hurrying up the path from the car park, huffing and puffing.
‘We thought you must have died or something,’ Ben said to him cheekily.
‘Nah. I’m here,’ he answered, giving me a wink.
We went inside and ended up spending most of the morning being bored out of our brains, although we did have one bright spot when, while making our way from the science block to our English class between first and second periods, we passed the music room.
We could hear a number of students practicing as we approached, but didn’t immediately recognise what it was they were playing. We were about to walk past when Guy suddenly grabbed my arm.
‘What?’ I asked him.
‘Sssshh. Recognise that now?’
We listened for a moment, then I smiled at him and nodded.
‘It’s one of ours,’ I said to him. Well, to be more precise, it was one of Paul McCartney’s and Michael Jackson’s. A song called The Girl Is Mine.
We stopped at the open doorway and listened for a moment. Snowy spotted us standing there and gave us a wink, then we moved on, feeling pleased with ourselves, but not sure why.
Have you ever tried studying Shakespeare with the sounds of Michael Jackson ringing in your ears? If you haven’t tried it, then let me tell you this. It ain’t easy.
At lunch time we found our usual spot in the shade of some trees and were soon joined by Samantha and Cameron.
Samantha sat down right next to Ben, but both of them were fairly quiet for the whole lunch break. I did notice them however, glancing sideways at each other and smiling quite often, like a couple of lovebirds. And every now and then one or the other would touch the other person in a gentle, almost loving kind of way.
We chatted about this and that for the whole hour, but one way or another the subject always seemed to return to the upcoming show.
‘So, are your families excited about you guys being in the musical?’ Samantha casually asked.
Ben just shrugged. ‘Haven’t told them anything yet. Besides, I’m not actually in the musical, am I? Me and Guy are just the roadies.’
‘How about you, Tim?’ she asked me.
‘Nah. I haven’t told them yet either’ I answered. ‘I suppose I should, but knowing them as I do, I also know what their reactions will be, and that just isn’t someplace that I wanted to go to just yet.’
They all just nodded. I didn’t know if they understood what it was I was getting at, but I had a feeling they did.
During lunch time I also noticed that Cameron was often glaring at Ben in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. And I wasn’t the only one to see it, as Guy kicked me in the leg once to get my attention and jerked his head in Cameron’s direction.
I gave him a pained sort of expression, which he returned in kind. It was clear that both of us knew that there was going to be some sort of trouble.
When lunch was over and Samantha and Ben left us, I whispered to Ben,
‘Can we talk?’
‘What about?’ he asked.
Ben looked at me, puzzled. ‘What about him?’
‘Man, didn’t you see him glaring at you?’
‘No, he isn’t,’ Guy answered for me. ‘I noticed it too.’
‘You’re both imagining things.’
Guy and I both shook our heads and said, ‘No,’ but we were quickly dismissed and Ben stormed off towards our next class.
* * *
For the rest of the afternoon Ben was a bit cool towards us both, obviously not wanting to think that we may actually be right, but we managed to make it through to the end of the day and still be talking to each other.
After the last lesson we headed for the auditorium, where we found an anxious Snowy pacing up and down in front of the stage.
‘Sir?’ I enquired as we approached him.
When he spotted the three of us he stopped pacing and looked us up and down, as if he were sizing us up for something, then smiled broadly.
‘Boys. Boys. Boys,’ he said. ‘I need your brains again.’
The three of us just looked at each other in surprise.
‘Errrr . . .’ Guy managed to say.
‘We’ve just had a Staff Meeting and I’ve been told that the budget for this show has been cut in half . . . yet again.’
‘So? How do you think we will we be able to help?’ Ben asked.
‘It means that we won’t have any money to splash around on fancy sets and costumes. And seeing as you boys were the first ones here, and two of you are my star stage-hands anyway, I figured that you might have some ideas. We’re all going to need to talk about it over the next few weeks, all right? Have a think about it and see what you can come up with please.’
Ben and Guy glanced at each other and simply shrugged. This was going to test them, I thought.
Just then a few of our cast mates entered the hall and started walking down the aisle towards us. They were soon followed by a few more and then more still. Pretty soon most of the cast and the entire school band, complete with instruments, had arrived.
‘Think about it please, boys. We are all going to have to come up with a few ideas.’ He then turned his attention to the steadily growing crowd of students that was gathering, while Ben and Guy and I went and sat in our usual seats in the front row, where we were soon joined by Samantha and Cameron.
‘All right, people,’ Snowy called out over the noise that everyone was making. ‘Can we all take a seat please?’
There was no immediate reaction, so he clapped his hands together loudly and called out again.
Slowly the crowd quieted and sat down to await his instructions.
‘Thank you,’ he said, when he had finally gained control of the group. ‘Now, as some of you are already aware, I’ve selected Tim and Cameron and Samantha to play the three main characters in this musical, however we now need to finalise a few more parts. What I would like us to do this afternoon is work through a few of the songs, with a view to selecting a few more of you for other characters. Therefore, I have invited the band along to this practice, as they have already been working on learning some of the pieces of music that we will be using.’
There were excited rumblings from amongst everyone who was seated, as they took in what Snowy was saying. During this little speech all eyes turned from our teacher, firstly towards us, then towards the school band, who were gathered together off to the right of the stage.
‘Right then,’ Snowy said. ‘Just as soon as we get the band set up we’ll begin.’
He opened a box that he had sitting on the stage and pulled out a bundle of stapled sheets of paper, which he then started handing out to everyone.
I looked at what he handed me and read the front page. It read . . .
MACARTHUR CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
2001 SCHOOL MUSICAL.
No title. No names on it. Nothing there to get your attention. I turned the page and then found something which did get my attention.
FROM AN ORIGINAL IDEA BY GUY HARDING, TIM PATTERSON AND BEN WALKER.
I turned another page and found a list of songs that were all very familiar to the three of us. Suddenly I felt quite proud of what we had put together.
Just then the first sounds of musical instruments being warmed up filled the hall and before long we were all listening to an instrumental version of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
Pretty soon there were kids bopping around to the music on the floor in front of the stage. Some of them were even singing along, while a rather patriarchal looking Snowy stood back and grinned at the whole scene.
‘This could end up being fun after all,’ Ben leant across and said to us.
‘Yeah, maybe,’ I replied.
Now that things were warming up, it didn’t take long for Snowy to drag Samantha and Cameron and myself up onto the stage, along with a few of the teeny-boppers who were having so much fun on the floor in front of us.
Each of us were clutching our music sheets, but getting us to break out in song was going to be something else. Well, for me at least it would be, as having never been involved in any sort of musical before I wasn’t sure exactly what it was that I should be doing.
By the time the music had stopped we had almost the entire group of people assembled on stage, all clutching lyric sheets and wanting to know what to do next.
Ben and Guy, being the true ‘roadies’ that they were, remained glued to their seats, grinning at me like a pair of fools.
I watched as Snowy walked over to the band and discussed something with Jay Green, one of our classmates who was acting as band leader, then as he turned and faced us once again they started playing the Abba song, Ring, Ring.
Kids soon joined in, singing along, and I found the atmosphere to be infectious. If this was what was known as a jam session, then I was finding that it was fun. Any hesitation that I had had when we started soon disappeared and I found myself getting caught up in the whole scene.
For the next hour we worked through songs as a group. Sometimes sounding great (well to my untrained ears it sounded that way), sometimes sounding not so great. Sometimes doing a song only once. Sometimes doing it three or four times.
I noticed Snowy cringe a few times, but on the whole he seemed fairly pleased. When we had all finished singing You’re The One That I Want I noticed Snowy turn back towards the band and tell them something, then come over to the stage and beckon Cameron and myself towards him.
We looked at each other, both obviously wondering what he was up to.
‘Boys, I think we’ll wrap this up now, but before we do I want to hear just the two of you sing. Just to hear how you sound together.’
I quickly glanced around at everyone, who were all watching us.
‘Just us?’ I asked.
Snowy grinned. ‘I think you’ve warmed up enough now, Tim, don’t you?’
‘What are we singing?’ Cameron asked.
‘Let’s try Pleasant Valley Sunday,’ he said, then nodded towards the band, who immediately struck up the tune.
It took a little while for us to get into it, and both Cameron and I had to keep referring to the lyrics, but with a little urging from Snowy and some quiet backup from everyone else who was still on stage, we were soon going all right.
As I sang, I glanced down at Ben and Guy, who were sitting there in the front row looking up at us. They were both staring at me, their mouths wide open, as if they were surprised by what they were hearing.
I gave them both a wink, then noticed Ben look at Guy and then lean over and whisper something into his ear, who responded by quickly closing his mouth and looking back at Ben rather guiltily.
We finished the song, with Snowy beaming at us, which we took to be a good sign, and a short while later everyone was dismissed and we all made a mass exodus from the school hall.
‘Fancy a milkshake?’ Guy asked us as we piled into his car. He didn’t get any arguments from either Ben or myself, so we drove out the school gates and headed downtown.
‘Hey, Ben. What was it you said to Guy when I was up on stage singing and you leaned over and whispered into his ear?’ I asked as we headed down the main street.
Ben remained silent, preferring instead to just sit in the back seat grinning at us.
‘He told me to put my tongue back in my mouth or people would notice.’ Guy answered.
I snapped my head back towards Ben.
‘Did you?’ I asked.
‘Well, I couldn’t have him making a fool of himself now. Could I? Or of you for that matter?’ he answered.
‘Is that right?’ I asked Guy.
‘Mate. I had no idea you were that good,’ Guy said to me as he pulled into a parking space near the arcade that we were heading for. ‘I was just . . . spellbound.’
‘Yeah. I could see that.’
As we got out of the car I glanced at Guy. He quickly turned away, but I was almost certain that he was blushing.
* * *
That night at dinner I finally mentioned to my parents that I was going to be in the school musical. Because I knew how they would react it was something that I had been putting off for quite some time now, but seeing as Samantha had brought the subject up earlier that day, I thought it was about time that I got it off my chest and told them, whatever the consequences might prove to be.
Mum said, ‘That’s nice dear. What are you going to be doing?’
‘Errrr . . . I got one of the lead roles,’ I replied.
For a long while there was stony silence, before Mum said, ‘Well, congratulations.’
So far so good, I thought, but just then Jason, my younger brother, started laughing. While my father put his knife and fork down on his plate and just glared at me.
I glanced around the table, feeling myself turn red. Predictable reactions from all concerned. At least they didn’t disappoint me.
I looked at my father again. He was scowling at me.
‘You’re going to be in a musical?’ he finally asked. ‘Singing and dancing and all done up in make-up and shit?’
‘Yeah, I suppose so,’ I answered. ‘What’s wrong with that?’
‘Well, I think it’s nice dear,’ mum said to me, patting my hand reassuringly. I jerked my hand away from her, then glared back at my father.
‘So? What’s wrong with that?’ I asked him again. By this time my blood was starting to boil.
‘You are supposed to be going to school to learn. To get yourself ready for the real world. I don’t pay all those exorbitant Catholic school fees so you can go and play nancy boy games, singing and dancing and carrying on. What the hell are you? A bloody poofter or something?’