Opening night was finally here, and from the other side of the stage curtain we could hear the hum of the auditorium filling up with people as they found their seats and chatted excitedly amongst themselves. We could also hear the sound of the last minute tuning of musical instruments coming from the band, who were set up directly in front of the stage, in an enclosed area between the cast and the audience.
Ben and I were standing in relative darkness in the stage wings, just near the control table covered with switches and leads that he and Guy had set up for themselves. I pulled back the curtain slightly, giving us a view of the rapidly filling hall.
Parents, students, teachers. They were all there for the big opening night, and suddenly I found myself getting extremely nervous at the prospect of the stage curtain opening and my having to face them all, let alone having to sing to them.
‘Are you all right, mate?’ I heard Ben asking me. ‘You look a bit pale.’
I managed a wan smile and said, ‘Just a few nerves, I guess.’
He slapped me on the back and said, ‘Don’t worry mate. You’ll knock ‘em dead.’
I wished that I shared his confidence.
The front row was mainly taken up with the important people, like the Principal and some of the teachers, and of course the obligatory members of the School Board. Mum and Dad and Jason were right there in the second row. And beside them were Ben’s parents.
I searched the crowd for other familiar faces and found some of our classmates scattered about the hall, no doubt waiting for me to fuck everything up, plus Guy’s mother. She was sitting about half way along one row of seats about four or five rows back from where my parents were. I still hadn’t seen Guy anywhere though, in fact I hadn’t seen him all day, as he hadn’t even been at school today.
I told Ben about what had happened last night and why I thought he hadn’t come, but he told me that he had called him earlier and been told that Guy would definitely be here tonight. That was something of a relief, but I knew that I wouldn’t be happy until I had seen him. I had so much I needed to tell him.
We watched the crowd for another minute, but just as I was about to let the curtain fall back into place I noticed Mum waving at me. Dad was sitting beside her, looking his usual hard-arsed self. Every inch of him was saying he didn’t want to be here.
I managed a smile and a wave for them, then let the curtain fall back into place and leant back against the wall, breathing heavily and feeling my hands shaking slightly.
‘Have you seen Guy anywhere yet?’ I asked Ben.
‘Don’t sweat it mate, he’ll be around here someplace,’ Ben said to me. ‘And don’t worry about who is out there either. I keep telling you that they will love you. And they will.’
‘Thanks,’ I said, as I rested my head back on the brick wall behind me.
‘Don’t mention it.’
After my argument with Guy the other day, the upshot of which was that I now knew that he was right and I was wrong, there had been an idea floating around in my mind about something that I wanted to do for him. I would need some help though, to pull it off, and Ben was the man to do it for me.
‘I need you to do something for me tonight,’ I said to Ben, knowing full well that he would be only too willing to help.
‘Yeah? What?’ he asked.
‘Can you have Guy standing right here when we start the last song?’ I asked, pointing directly to the spot I was standing on.
‘What the fuck for?’ he asked, his forehead wrinkled in a curious frown.
‘Just do it for me will you. Please?’
He just shrugged and said, ‘Yeah. Okay, I suppose.’
‘Promise me. It’s important to me.’
He laughed. ‘All right. All right. I promise.’
Just then we heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs behind us and we turned to see Snowy and Guy coming towards us.
‘All set, boys?’ Snowy asked us as they reached the top of the stairs.
‘Ready as we’ll ever be I suppose,’ Ben answered.
‘How about you, Tim?’
I held out my trembling hand and showed it to him.
‘If you weren’t nervous lad, then I would be worried,’ he said to me, as he slapped me on the back and kept walking, heading across the stage and calling out, ‘Places, everybody. Places, please.’
I turned back and faced Guy, who was standing there looking unsure of himself, or perhaps unsure of us.
‘You were right,’ I said to him. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘So am I,’ he answered. ‘I shouldn’t have pressured you like that.’
I reached out a hand towards him, which he shook, then we hugged briefly.
‘Knock ‘em dead,’ he whispered into my ear.
‘Thank you,’ I replied.
Just as we separated, we heard the band start up with their introduction and Snowy rushed back across the stage towards us.
‘Boys, boys, boys. Come ON, will you,’ he said to us, rather testily.
‘Keep your shirt on teach,’ Ben replied. ‘Me and Guy are right where we’re supposed to be, and Tim is on his way.’
With that, Ben gave me a shove and pushed me onto the stage.
‘See?’ Ben added.
I managed a smile for them, then followed Snowy out onto the middle of the stage, where I joined Samantha and Cameron and all the other kids involved in the first scene.
As the band played on, from the other side of the curtain, Snowy gathered us all together.
‘Whatever happens tonight,’ he said, ‘I am proud of the effort you have all put into this production. Everything worked well in the rehearsals, so I know that the show will go well. I won’t say break a leg, but good luck, and knock ‘em dead. Right then. Everyone into positions and we’ll get this show on the road.’
There was a mad scurry as everyone hurried about the stage, leaving just Cameron and me standing in the middle of the stage with Snowy. Behind us a few other kids milled around in their positions, and from the stage wings we could Ben and Guy sitting at their control centre.
One by one the coloured stage lights came on, then the two projectors set up behind the two large screens behind us sprang to life, casting the images of a suburban street that we needed for the first scene up onto the white sheets.
Someone suddenly remembered the picket fences that were supposed to be on stage, and a couple of kids grabbed them from the wings and plonked them roughly where they should be.
Apparently, we were now set. Snowy looked across at Ben and Guy, then nodded. I noticed Ben get up from his seat and walk to the ropes which controlled the stage curtains.
‘Good luck, boys,’ Snowy said to us, then started walking towards the control centre, leaving us standing there.
As Snowy walked away from us the curtain started to open, almost as if it were following him, and by the time he reached the side of the stage we were standing there in front of a darkened hall, listening to the wild applause that had started.
‘Shit,’ I thought to myself. ‘We haven’t even done anything yet.’
* * *
Everything flowed smoothly for opening night. My nerves, and those that everyone appeared to have started with, were long gone by the time we finished the first number.
From time to time I looked across at Ben and Guy and found them smiling broadly, their bodies seemingly rocking to the beat of the music. I was guessing that that was a good sign!
I was forever seeing Snowy flitting around the edge of the stage helping out, fussing over everyone like an overprotective hen, trying to make sure that everything went smoothly. The only glitches however were a blown light in one of the projectors about half way through the second act, which Ben soon scurried onto the stage and replaced, and a couple of forgotten props that ended up being almost thrown on to the stage at the last minute.
Samantha even managed to forget some of her lines in one of the pieces of dialogue between songs, but between Cameron and me whispering them to her as we went along, we all seemed to make it through the scene unscathed.
The entire cast was having a great time rocking their way through the musical numbers. And from the sound of their applause, the audience was enjoying themselves as well. I was certainly glad of the stage lights, which tended to block out any light that may have been in the hall, which meant I couldn’t see anyone in the crowd, and after a few songs I had almost forgotten that there was an audience there at all.
And then it was almost over. The images on the background screen changed. Then Samantha and I were the last two people left on stage.
It was now or never, as far as I was concerned. I was about to do something that I never ever thought I would have the courage to do.
I glanced across to the control center and neither Ben nor Guy were there, instead, one of the other kids who had been helping with the sets was in control. I shifted my gaze to the spot where I had asked Ben to have Guy standing and sure enough, there they both were.
It was a spot I had chosen, right behind the drawn back curtains, because no one else but Samantha and I would be able to see anyone standing there, and I would make sure that Samantha would be facing me, so only I would be able to see Guy. I hoped.
‘Please just follow my lead,’ I whispered to Samantha as we positioned ourselves on stage.
She gave me a quizzical look in reply.
‘Please?’ I said, almost pleading with her. She winked at me, which I took to be a yes.
I knew this was going to be tricky, but after the night that I had felt that I had had, I knew nothing was beyond me. The adrenalin was coursing through me and I was on a high.
The lights were dimmed, then two spot lights came shining down on us from above, illuminating center stage.
It was time.
I moved my position slightly, so that I had a clear view of Guy, with Ben standing behind him, his hand on my lover’s shoulder, almost as if to make sure he stayed in that one spot.
This made Samantha move as well, but she didn’t block my view. My plan was to be able to sing this final song not to Samantha, but to Guy. To anyone in the audience they would be none the wiser, as to them, I would still be looking at Samantha.
The music started and I took Samantha’s hand in mine, then opened my mouth and let the words flow.
‘Never knew I could feel like this… ‘Like I’ve never seen the sky before… ‘Want to vanish inside your kiss… ‘And every day I love you more and more… ‘Listen to my heart… ‘Can you hear it sing… ‘Telling me to give you everything… ‘Seasons may change… ‘Winter to spring… ‘But I’ll love you until the end of time… ‘Come what may… ‘Come what may… ‘I will love you… ‘Until my dying day…
Samantha pulled away from me at that point and turned around, taking a few steps away from me, then returned. I was trembling. This was really the moment of truth.
When she returned to me and gazed into my eyes, her own eyes were agog. She had figured it out. Then she did something for which I will love her forever. She winked at me, then started singing her part to the song, and when it was time, I joined back in as well, gazing not into her eyes, but beyond her, directly into Guy’s.
‘Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place… ‘Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace… ‘Suddenly my life doesn’t seem such a waste… ‘It all revolves around you… ‘And there’s no mountain too high… ‘No river too wide… ‘Sing out this song and I’ll be there by your side… ‘Storm clouds may gather… ‘And stars may collide… ‘But I’ll love… ‘I love you… ‘Until the end of time… ‘Come what may… ‘Come what may… ‘I will love you… ‘Until my dying day… ‘Oh come what may… ‘Come what may… ‘I will love you… ‘Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place… ‘Come what may… ‘Come what may… ‘I will love you until my dying day…
I don’t know about Samantha, but I can tell you that I sang my heart out for those last few verses, and as we finished, the audience erupted into an applause so deafening that I couldn’t hear what it was Samantha was trying to whisper to me.
The curtains closed and we were alone on the stage for just a second before other cast members and Snowy came at us.
‘What?’ I asked.
‘Go to him,’ she said quietly, grinning at me.
I kissed her on the cheek and said, ‘Thank you,’ then almost ran to the side of the stage, here I found Ben absolutely beaming, and Guy wiping back tears.
‘There. I’ve said it,’ I said to him.
He opened his mouth to try and say something, but no sounds came out. Then he started crying.
I could hear people behind us, but thankfully Ben stepped past me and blocked them, then, taking Guy by the arm I gently guided him into a darkened corner, where there was even less chance of our being spotted.
‘I meant every word of it,’ I whispered to him, taking him in my arms and pulling him to me.
‘Thank you,’ he replied. ‘I know you did.’
I leaned in and kissed him, and just as I did so there was a commotion behind us and I turned to see Ben and Samantha standing there, smiling madly at us with their arms draped around each other, and with Snowy standing beside them grinning.
‘Keep these kids out of here,’ Snowy said to someone behind him, then he came over and placed his hand on my shoulder.
I looked into his kind eyes and thought I saw a tear form. I smiled at him. Guy looked terrified.
Snowy opened his mouth, as if to say something, then closed it again. Gently, he simply squeezed my shoulder, then nodded and turned and walked away.
‘What’s going on? And when did that last song get changed?’ we heard Cameron asking from somewhere on the other side of the curtain.
‘Nothing, Cam, just take your position on the stage for the curtain call, will you please?’ Snowy boomed.
Samantha and Ben were still there, grinning at us.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ I asked Ben.
‘Nothing at all, mate. Nothing at all. I told you that you’d knock ‘em dead.’
I grinned back at him and said, ‘Yeah, you did.’
Then Samantha reached out her hand towards me and said, ‘Time for the curtain call, Romeo. Sorry, Guy, but I have to steal him away from you for a few minutes more.’
I gave Guy a quick hug, then took Samantha’s offered hand and we both walked back out onto the stage, the cast parting to let us through us we headed towards where Snowy and Cameron were standing in the middle of the stage.
‘Well done, you two,’ Snowy said to us as we reached him.
‘That last song was awesome,’ Cameron said to me, giving me a slap on the back.
‘Thanks,’ I replied, as I glanced back over my shoulder to see Guy and Ben standing in the wings watching me.
As we straightened up our line of cast on the stage, Snowy gave a nod to Ben and the curtains parted. Once again the applause deafened us, but this time I could see everyone in the hall, on their feet and clapping for us.
In the second row I saw my parents and Jason, so I gave them a wave. They were on their feet, clapping. I think mum was crying. But best of all, so was my father.
We all joined hands and took a step forward, then as one we all bowed, then stepped back and the curtain closed.
‘Your turn now,’ Snowy said to Samantha and me, pushing us both forward of the line of cast members.
We were holding onto each other, almost afraid to let each other go lest we may be swallowed up by the hordes of people in the audience.
The curtain opened and we were hit by a fresh wave of applause. Samantha and I stepped forward and bowed to the audience, then straightened up and stepped back.
From somewhere, one of the female teachers suddenly appeared carrying two bunches of flowers, presenting one to Samantha, and then one to me.
‘Flowers?’ I said to her. I must have looked horrified, because people starting laughing.
‘Throw them to your mother,’ Samantha suggested, which I quickly did.
I turned to look at Guy and found him laughing at me. I just grinned back at him.
When the applause started to quiet down a little, Samantha then stepped to the edge of the stage and motioned for everyone to stop clapping, leaving Snowy and Cameron and me looking at her with uncertainty.
‘Thank you all very much for your applause,’ she said, almost yelling and her voice obviously straining. ‘We are all really pleased that you appreciated the amount of effort that went into this production, and are glad that you enjoyed it.’
Snowy and Cameron and I all looked at each other with blank expressions. This bit wasn’t in any of the scripts.
‘The thanks for this wonderful show you have seen,’ she said, ‘should go to the four people whose idea it was.’
She turned towards Ben and Guy and motioned for them to come onto the stage with us. They both shook their heads, so Cameron walked over to them and dragged them both onstage, much to everyone’s delight.
When they had joined us, Cameron stepped back and joined the rest of the cast, leaving Snowy, Ben, Guy and me standing in the middle of the stage.
‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ Samantha said. ‘Would you please thank Mr Snowden, Ben, Tim and Guy. This whole show was their idea and they deserve all the credit.’
Once again, everyone started clapping, so the four of us gave a little bow and then stepped back, with the curtain then closing in front of us.
‘We did it,’ Snowy said to us.
‘Yes sir, we certainly did,’ I answered.
Everyone dispersed fairly quickly after that, no doubt all wanting to see their parents and families, but Ben and Samantha and Guy and I stayed around for a little while, with Snowy, as we started doing some cleaning up.
When we got the chance, Guy and I went over and said thank you to our teacher.
‘What for?’ he asked.
‘For earlier, sir.’
He straightened up and looked down at us both and smiled.
‘That’s OK,’ was all that he said, with a slight nod, before bending back down to pick up some rubbish from the floor.
We turned and started to walk away, then we were stopped as he said, ‘You know something?’
We turned around again and faced him.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘It’s been my experience that true love is something that is pretty hard to find, and I believe that very few people ever really do find it. When you do find it though, you’ll know it, and if you have it, just don’t let go of it, okay’
Guy and I just looked at each other.
‘What you did tonight Tim, was very brave,’ he continued. ‘I’m kind of proud of you.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
He then turned towards Guy and said, ‘You are a very lucky young man. I hope you know that?’
‘Yes sir, I do.’
With that, Snowy just smiled and nodded, then turned and walked away, leaving Guy and me just staring at each other.
‘So, what do you girls want to do now?’ asked Ben, who was now standing behind us, his arm around Samantha.
‘I want to party,’ Guy answered.
We all laughed, then headed for the door.