| Diary Serial |

Starring Role: Chapter 15

“…water! We need water!” Lucia says dramatically. That’s my cue. Baylee and I scurry forward, on autopilot, and I open my mouth


I look awful.

I sound worse.

I stare at my reflection in one of the cracked bathroom mirrors. I managed to keep most of my makeup as it was, but the makeup girls insisted that I needed more blush so I’d “look good under the lights.” Well, right now all I look like is a sick clown.

My voice has settled into a deep croak, which randomly cracks when I speak more than four words. I’m glued to my water bottle; sipping every few minutes as if my life depends on it.

“Anyone here from the play? We need you backstage!” Chaya throws open the door. “Rena, hey, we’re giving out the mics now. It’s haaaappening!”

Backstage is bedlam: girls rushing around in trailing gowns and badly-fitting costumes, teachers trying to keep order, the sound technician looking frazzled. Baylee and I receive mics, which we have to return after Scene Three, and have replaced before Scene Seven.

“Is mine working?” I ask, and then jump as my voice — hoarse and staticky — resounds through the auditorium. “Oh my gosh…” I fumble to turn it off.

“I guess you have your answer,” Baylee says.

I wander onto the stage. It’s set for Scene One, elaborate furnishings and mansion scenery.

“Girls! Backstage! You need to be backstage!”

“Opening choir, over here!”

“Lucia! Where is Lucia?”

I stand for a moment in the center of the stage, feeling the busyness swirl around me. For a moment, I picture what it would be like to be Lucia, wearing a gorgeous gown instead of a black and white maid’s uniform; I wonder how it would feel to stand here, waiting for the curtains to part, and the play — my play, my shining moment — to begin.

But I’m not Lucia. I’m Maid One, with my 22 lines and a voice that sounds like a frog with laryngitis.

“Positions!” Chaya whisper-shouts from the wings. “Everyone, sshhhh! The curtains are opening!”

I dash to the right, just in time, almost crashing into Mindy as she makes her way onstage. The curtains open with a flourish.

I know the play, know everyone’s lines by now, but something about seeing it that makes it come to life, spotlights and costumes and background music and all.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it,” Chaya keeps mumbling. “It’s really happening…”

The lights dim. Scene One is over. Lucia and the others join us offstage, beaming.

My head starts to hurt.

Opening choir. Scene Two. Maid’s song-dance.

And we’re on.

Baylee and I step onto stage, and I feel my face heat up under the burning lights. Somewhere out there, Ma and my sisters are watching. Somewhere out there, an entire audience is rapt, glued to the storyline unfolding before them. I suddenly feel very small.

“…water! We need water!” Lucia says dramatically. That’s my cue. Baylee and I scurry forward, on autopilot, and I open my mouth.

The voice that fills the auditorium is not mine. It’s harsh and rasping. I sound… horrible.

I say my lines, avoiding looking at any of the others. I feel like they’re all looking at me pityingly. Can anyone even understand what I’m saying?

“You did great,” Baylee mouths to me as we head back into the wings.

I shake my head, miserably.

There’s a long time until Scene Seven; we can go find seats and watch the performance. But when we finally collapse into two seats at the very back of the auditorium, Devora taps me on the shoulder.

“Finally! You guys. We need you to change costumes for the choir, we’re heading backstage in five minutes!”

“I’m out of it,” I say glumly. I can’t sing a word; there’s no way I’m going onstage for the choir.

Devora gives me a pleading look. “But Rena, the formation… and the harmony. I know you can’t sing aloud but maybe you can just be there to hum the right key and start everyone off? They always go flat without you…”

I looked at her, aghast. The formation, right, and those dance steps, it would look ridiculous with a random gap. But on the other hand…

“I’m not just — standing there! I can’t sing a single note,” I splutter.

“Please?” Devora asks. Her voice is beseeching. “We need you, Rena.”

I swallow. This whole production has been a string of disappointments, failures, shattered hopes. Everything hurts. But I don’t want to disappoint my friend.

“Okay,” I whisper.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 900)

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