Chapter Eighty: “And also he’s covered in dirt”

Bernie had received six tickets in the mail for her ex-boyfriend Callum’s latest theatrical endeavour. She couldn’t tell why she’d been sent them. As far as she had managed to decipher, it was for one of three reasons. Firstly, it was a peace offering, a way for him to make the first move into becoming friends. Secondly, he had done it as a symbolic “fuck you”, a way to show her how well he was doing without her around to stifle his creativity. Or lastly, it was just a way to fill seats for what would undoubtedly be a poorly attended, disastrous spectacle. Most likely it was a combination of the latter two. Callum had a bitter streak that ran deeply throughout him and generally prevented him from being gracious or conciliatory.

Fortunately, Bernie was unable to attend because she had to go to her mother’s spring choir recital. She made her friends go instead, passing her tickets to an enthusiastic Lawrence. He was so kind and so optimistic because he hadn’t yet experienced the horrors of Callum’s acting career. Bernie wanted her friends to scope out the situation and determine the intention behind the tickets. Priscilla laughed in her face and Tallulah told her to fuck off. Neither of them, they both claimed, ever wanted to speak to Callum again so long as they lived. They hadn’t liked Callum, which wasn’t unreasonable because he had spent a lot of the time he spent dating Bernie poncing around in a scarf. That was according to Iggy. None of it was overly flattering.

Lawrence met Bernie’s friends outside of the theatre to get their tickets. She had managed to convince both Priscilla and Tallulah, despite their many protestations, Tallulah’s boyfriend Chad, their new roommate Rosalyn, and Iggy. Iggy had only come because Priscilla had threatened to hurt her if she didn’t. Priscilla only wanted Iggy to come because she smuggled candy with her everywhere she went. She supposed she could’ve just bought her own candy, but this felt more like a triumph. Priscilla was all about triumphing,

Priscilla sandwiched herself between Lawrence and Iggy when they took their seats. Tallulah had hip-checked her in an attempt to get next to Iggy and, more specifically, Iggy’s candy, but Priscilla had pushed her out of the way. Lawrence and Chad looked a tad startled by this show of aggression, but Iggy and Rosalyn didn’t bat an eye.

“They do this shit all the time,” Rosalyn explained, calmly taking a seat two away from Iggy, leaving room for both Tallulah and Chad to sit.

“Just sit on the other side of her, Potato Face,” Priscilla ordered her sister, rolling her eyes.

“I’ll sit wherever I please,” Tallulah returned haughtily, even as she sat down on the other side of Iggy. “And, by the way, we have the same potato face.”

“Mine is less potato than yours, though,” Priscilla retorted immediately, having anticipated Tallulah’s comment.

“Yeah, more like a radish,” Tallulah replied.

“Radishes and potatoes don’t even look alike,” Priscilla countered.

“What the hell is happening?” Chad cut in, looking bewildered. “None of this makes sense. Neither of you have the face of any kind of root vegetable.”

“That’s kind of you to say,” Priscilla told him graciously.

“But patently untrue,” Tallulah added.

When the play actually began, Lawrence was still excited. He told Priscilla that he liked the theatre. When she pointed out that it was a production of Oliver! he replied that musicals were his favourite kind of theatre. Apparently Grease was his favourite movie. Priscilla questioned that deeply. She liked Grease as much as the next person, but she would in no way ever profess it to be her favourite anything. It wasn’t even her favourite musical, not in a world where Cabaret existed. She tried to talk Lawrence into dialing back his enthusiasm, knowing that he would be nothing but disappointed by Callum and anything theatrical he was involved with, but there was no swaying him.

Until, at least, the curtains rose. Then he dialed it all the way back without hesitation. The sets weren’t full sets so much as shoddily painted murals taped to the backdrop at the back of the stage. That backdrop, Priscilla strongly suspected, was just a white tarp. And that wasn’t even the worst part. The entire cast was made up of downtrodden, weary adults, even the roles that were supposed to be children.

“So which of these people is Bernie’s ex-boyfriend?” Chad asked, leaning over Tallulah to ask Priscilla and Iggy as well. Beside him, Rosalyn was eating from a bag of Skittles that Iggy had passed her, totally enthralled. She had always enjoyed watching a disaster. It was that quality that had led her to take up amateur storm chasing as a teenager. She used to drag Tallulah out of the house during thunderstorms so that they could drive around in Rosalyn’s parents’ silver Dodge Grand Caravan until her dad threatened to make her pay for gas.

“Well, he’s one of the street urchins,” Priscilla answered, picking Callum out easily from the chorus of singing, dancing, Dickensian orphans by his scarf.

“So, to summarize, her ex-boyfriend is one of the many members of a chorus line of adults pretending to be small, orphaned children,” Chad replied as Lawrence looked on in horror and Priscilla fantasized about Callum tripping over his own scarf and falling off yet another stage. “And also he’s covered in dirt.”

“This is not good,” Lawrence said after a moment. He looked truly crushed. Priscilla genuinely felt a little bad because he was earnestly disappointed that the all-adult, clearly poor production of Oliver! hadn’t turned out to be the theatrical masterpiece he’d been looking forward to.

Intermission came after a long two hours. Priscilla loathed to think that they still might have another two hours to go until the end. She was now absolutely certain that Callum had sent Bernie the tickets to torture her. He was exacting his revenge for her dumping him and it was in the form of watching him dance. Amazingly, even after all the experience he’d had as a member of various unfortunate chorus lines, Callum’s dancing still had not improved. She was beginning to think it was his sense of rhythm or, as was becoming increasingly likely, his complete lack of rhythm. His coordination wasn’t great either. He’d managed to trip one of the other street urchins during the final number before intermission. Regrettably, they’d all been holding hands at the time and they’d toppled over like human dominoes. It was by far the most entertaining part of the entire first half.

“Well shit,” Chad remarked as the curtain came down on the stage and the house lights came on. “She dated the one in the scarf?”

“The one who dances like he’s just had both his knees and a hip replaced, yeah,” Tallulah nodded.

“She did not have very good taste prior to Lawrence,” Iggy chimed in unkindly, but conversationally. “Remember that dude she dated who had designs shaved into his back hair because he thought it would take off as a trend?”

Lawrence was stunned and Chad looked horrified.

“In case you can’t already tell how that turned out, it did not take off as a trend and obviously they’re no longer together,” Iggy concluded.

“To be fair, he dumped her,” Priscilla pointed out. “Which is deeply unfortunate because now she’s the girl that got dumped by someone who had a shark shaved into his back hair.”

“I just don’t think it’s worth it,” Tallulah cut in thoughtfully. “If you have back hair, just have back hair. Stop trying to dress it up. No matter how many seafaring mammals you have shaved into your back hair, it’s still back hair.”

“It’s nice to know where you stand on back hair,” Chad remarked dryly.

“I have learned so much,” Lawrence said with wide eyes. Priscilla couldn’t tell if it was a good thing.

As predicted, the second half of Oliver! was absolutely no better than the first. The only positive was the finale and strictly because it had finally come to an end. It was sweet relief. Callum came out to see them in the auditorium after the final curtain call. He explained that he had seen Priscilla and Tallulah’s matching faces from the stage. Both of them whispered “potato faces” under their breath when he said it. He seemed disappointed that Bernie wasn’t there, but Priscilla couldn’t tell whether he was disappointed because he didn’t get to see her or if he was disappointed that he didn’t get to gloat or rub her face in his many successes.

“So what you’re saying is that we sat through that garbage musical for absolutely no reason at all,” Chad summarized as they began filing out of their seats, Callum having disappeared backstage somewhere.

“Yes,” Priscilla nodded bluntly.

“Awesome,” was Chad’s dark response.

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