I woke with a start. I'd had a bad dream, one in which I walked across stage in clacking high heels, wearing a constricting pencil skirt and holding a clip board. Hillary Hopkins, the side character. I said a few lines and Mr. O's voice boomed from below, That's all, Daphne. Get off my stage.
Looking around my room, I panted and found my bearings. It was just a dream, and I still had a chance at being Glory Girl.
I rolled out of bed, which was a simple white queen size with storage drawers underneath. I kept all of my clothes there so that I didn't have to take wall space for a dresser. I liked to keep things simple. Clutter just distracted me. The only other thing in the room was a desk, a bookshelf that was alphabetically ordered, a laundry basket, a poster of my favourite band, the Pulp Fictionals, and a full length mirror. This part was essential.
I lined myself up to it and looked inside the mirrored world. Slowly, I moved my hand up in front of my face, imagining that the tall Filipina girl in the mirror was not me. If Mom walked in right now she'd ask me if I was on drugs, and I admit that it did look like that, but really it was a drama exercise that is normally done with two people.
One person did the motions and the other acted as the mirror. You moved slowly, smoothly, trying to be in sync, and if you got it right it was as though they really were the mirror. Oddly enough, when you did it in the mirror, it felt like the person copying the motions was someone else entirely. I followed her movements—right hand up, forward, head tilted, forgetting everything. There was nothing to forget. I was clay to be moulded. I was a vessel for the character to possess.
Each morning I did this, trying to lose myself. But today, I didn't get there. I said the mantra over and over again in my head, but it didn't stick.
I bit the inside of the cheek and the girl in the mirror's mouth twitched. She looked concerned about something, and it took me a moment to realize what it was.
Casting was today. In a few measly hours I would know for sure whether or not I'd failed at last night's auditions.
Why couldn't Ashanti just move back to wherever she came from? It was obvious she'd gotten the role, because if anything could go wrong it would, and not being the lead seemed very, very wrong.
I went through my usual actions before leaving. I showered, threw my pyjamas in the dirty clothes, changed into sweat pants and a matching pull-over adorned with the school mascot, and looked in the mirror again. I remembered Ashanti, pretty as a doll, feminine, and elegant, and after a few seconds of hesitation I went to the bathroom and found some seldom used makeup to put on. It was nothing special, just a bit of a pick-me up.
It was only when I went to the kitchen that I realized I wasn't the only one awake. I went to school early to work out in the gym before classes, so normally everybody was still asleep. Today, however, Gabriel was up. The bags under his eyes were darker, and he chewed on the bagel I'd put in the toaster before I applied the last of my makeup. He was dressed and ready to go, his snapback tilted a bit off center. It annoyed me.
I eyed the bagel. He saw me looking, glanced at it, and rolled his eyes. "Sorry. Was hungry."
"Starving, I'm sure," I said. I opened the fridge door and searched through. There were some meat buns that Mom bought yesterday, but I was planning on eating those for lunch. I took out some leftover pinakbet and put it in the microwave.
A minute later I left the house with the vegetable dish steaming on a paper plate I'd found in the back of the cupboard. Gabriel, who happened to be ready to leave at the same time as me reluctantly walked nearby, hands stubbornly in his pockets. He hunched his back and kept his head down. Terrible posture. Gabe had never been graceful.
It had been a long time since we did this. The last time I could remember walking him to school was when we lived in an apartment downtown. Charlottetown wasn't a dangerous city, but Mom and Dad were still too nervous to let us walk alone. We were in elementary school at the time.
As I ate we walked in silence, Gabriel a few paces ahead of me. The morning was quiet and dewy, the blades of grass to the side of the cement glistening with cool moisture. It was a nice time to clear my mind, but I lingered on Ashanti, the look in her black eyes as she took my hand and told me she was looking forward to working with me. Was it a threat? I couldn't tell, which aggravated me.
"You're quiet," Gabriel said. I looked up from the ground and frowned. He wasn't a conversation starter. I was. "Normally you act like we're on a talk show when we're together."
"I've got things on my mind," I said. Lots of things, none of which I wanted to go into detail with my little brother. He slowed down so we were at the same pace, and out of the corner of my eye I saw that he was grinning.
"How did auditions go?" he asked.
"How do you know about auditions?"
"We go to the same school, don't we? They've been announcing them for the past month."
I sighed and shrugged. Why was I so paranoid? "They went fine."
"Really? It doesn't seem like they went fine. Let me guess, you didn't get the biggest role this time? Did that wack job drama teacher pick a girl who's actually pretty this time?"
I didn't know what he was expecting me to do. Yell at him like Dad? Gabe and I didn't know each other that well, otherwise he'd know how to come up with a better insult.
"My wack job drama teacher will pick the actor who is best suited for the lead. That's that," I said, completely deadpan. "What about you? Where were you last night?"
His turned his face away. I narrowed my eyes. People didn't like looking at you when they were about to lie. "I was out with friends."
"Were you now?"
"What, you don't believe me? What are you, my mother?"
Gabriel kicked a stone and it bounced a few yards ahead. I looked him over again, carefully this time. He'd been getting more acne lately, and he was paler, too.
"Which friends were you with?"
His eye twitched but he kept his face neutral.
"Paulo and Katia."
I hummed in acknowledgement and took another bite of my breakfast. This seemed highly unlikely, but Gabe didn't know I paid enough attention to his personal life to see that. Paulo wasn't the sort of kid who would stay up so late, and as far as I knew they hadn't hung out since last semester. Katia stopped coming to our house as well, and Gabriel began skirting around questions involving her until my mother stopped asking them. I noticed. The nervous shift of his eyes, the impulsive tap of his finger, the hunched shoulders shrinking inwards, feet turned out and ready to carry him out of the room. They were all stage moves I would have made if I wanted to act anxious—anxious, or guilty.
"You know, Gabriel, you should be studying instead of hanging out. You wouldn't want to fail another class this semester. Besides, I don't have time to tutor you at home and Dad paid—"
"I know how much Dad paid. He tells me every god damned time," he snapped. "Just shut up about it. There can only be one perfect child and you've already got that role."
"Gabriel, don't freak out."
"Fuck off." He put his hands in his pockets and walked faster, storming towards the school. It waited for us in the distance, the parking lot almost completely empty. Again, I wondered why he'd left so early. Maybe to avoid a lecture from our parents about last night? Whatever it was, he really was acting strange.
I closed the distance between the school and I, chucking my paper plate in a garbage can beside the school, filled with yesterday's energy drinks, chip bags, and Tim Horton's cups. I opened the door and it closed slowly behind me, blowing a fresh breeze into the entry way. The halls were mostly empty, hundreds of red lockers lining the brick walls, each one locked. Some were dented and some had graffiti, the work of young Banksy's with sharpy markers writing, Fuk U and B + T surrounded by a lopsided heart. Most of the classroom windows were dark and silent, but once I got to the gym I heard people's voices. The basketball team practiced in the mornings.
I went into the girls locker room, changed, and jogged on a treadmill in the weight room.
Was Gabriel right? Would Mr. O choose Ashanti over me because she was prettier? She was prettier, no doubt, the type of pretty you saw and was just glad existed in the world. With her looks, acting skills, and professionalism, what were the chances that she wouldn't be Glory Girl?
After showering in the change rooms, which smelt like sweat and perfume, I went to my first class.
Ms. Yakamovsky had already opened up, and Caitlyn was there, sitting in the rolling office chair Yakamovsky kept by her desk for kids to ask questions. Caitlyn sat in it so much that it was like her second desk.
I took my seat without saying hello and drummed my fingers on top of the desk, my gaze searching for oblivion as students rolled in and class started. My mind flitted from scene to scene like I was skipping through a movie—Ashanti striding on stage, Valentina naked in my arms, dogs barking, Gwen sobbing, Ashanti smirking as she took the script labelled 'Glory Girl' from Mr. O—and I shuddered.
I shouldn't have been thinking like that. It wasn't like it was a bad thing that I was competitive, it was just that once I was the best at something I couldn't just not be the best at it anymore. It was one thing to never be that good but to strive forward anyway. It was another thing when everybody paled in comparison to you. When it came to that, being bested by someone else is mortifying. It's like everything your identity is built upon comes crumbling down. Well, I was the best actress on that stage, and I was the best daughter, and I was the best student all at once. I was the best at lots of things. Giving up just one made me feel like I was giving up everything.
"Please stand for O' Canada," the secretary said in a monotone voice. I stood, this time tapping my quads instead, tensing the muscle to the beat of the music.
Math class went by too slowly, which was normal. Caitlyn asked questions the entire time. Honestly, I didn't know how she kept up the determination to try so hard when she knew she could get a good mark by writing the tests with her eyes closed. I myself did enough to get above 95. That was enough for me.
Isabella, also in the show, slept at her desk a few rows down from me. Her headphones were playing indie music into her heavily pierced ears. I knew because I could see the album cover even from my seat near Yakamovsky's desk. It was a vintage Polaroid picture of a guy with a man bun wearing flannel in a wheat field.
"Remember the acronym, DAB-C. The 'D' refers to the movement of the centerline up or down..." Ms. Yakamovsky continued talking and my eyes travelled to the clock. It felt like we should have finished already, but we still had another half of the class to go. Just two and a half classes before lunch, and by then the casting could be up. My heart leapt.
When the bell rang I packed my things and went to my next class, history. We had a work period today, which meant time to catch up on gossip, and for me, time to work my ass off so I didn't have to take homework to the pool that night. But as soon as Byron mentioned the show to Lizzy my writing hand paused.
"I don't care what role I get, but I think it would be sort of cool to be The Remarkable Racer," he said. He laughed. "Who came up with that name? Mr. O's plays are always so cheesy."
"He does write them himself," Lizzy said. I could tell she was only half listening.
"What I do care about is the story. I mean, I know it's going to be a romance comedy—"
"It's always a romance comedy."
"But what's with the cat sacrifices? That's a bit dark, even by Mr. O's standards. What do you think, Daph?"
"I'm trying to focus, guys," I said.
Byron laughed. "I'm trying to focus. Yeah right. You're so nervous to see the cast list you look like you're gonna pee your pants. You're going to be Glory Girl. That new girl is good, but Mr. O will always choose the better person over the better actor."
I flinched. Did he just say I wasn't the better actor? Byron didn't notice he'd said anything wrong. He went back to his worksheet and I hurried to finish it before the bell.
My afternoon was all spares, so my last class of the day was French. I was fairly good at it, mainly because I knew some Tagalog. I'd lost most of it, seeing as we moved to Canada when I was five, but it had lots of Spanish influence which in turn made French easier to learn.
I put my back pack in the seat beside me. Nobody had picked it when we made seating arrangements at the beginning of the year. This was the only class in which I didn't know anyone, at least, not well enough to talk to them like I did with Caitlyn and Lizzy.
I bent over my history sheet. I was on the last question: What was the name of the fur traders of the Hudson Bay. I wrote Coureurs de bois, and set my pen down just as Madamoiselle Berry walked into the room, her high heels clacking on the tile floor. I looked up checking if she'd written anything on the board yet, but she was just talking to a student by the—
Oh my god. It was Valentina.
I stared. The black haired white girl rolled on the back of her heels and bit her lip. She wore ripped leggings and a black hoodie too big to fit her properly. When I first saw her, I thought she looked like her aunt—same green eyes, hooked nose, and high cheek bones—but now she wore so much make up that it was difficult to recognize her. Except for the cuts on her arms—they were a dead giveaway. She didn't try to cover them up.
Madamoiselle pointed to two sides of the room; the seat beside me and a seat behind Laura Smith, a blond haired, blue eyed white girl with a mild case of OCD. I ducked my head, but it was too late, Valentina had already noticed me. She said something to our teacher, who nodded, and then she made her way over to the seat beside me. I pretended not to notice.
"Can you move your stuff?" she asked. I looked up, feigned a look of surprise, and grabbed my pack with one hand. She sat down, and I waited with a thumping heart for her to say something that would in turn spur an awkward silence. She didn't. The minute hand got closer and closer to twelve and Valentina just sat there with her clamped shut. She didn't look at me, only tapped her pencil and wrote down notes.
What the hell was going on between us? I was a complete stranger to her, sure, but I'd seen her at her weakest. Surely she couldn't just ignore me. I mean, why else would she sit next to me unless she wanted to make some sort of contact?
What was I thinking? I didn't want her to make contact. I was perfectly fine not being bothered by her.
We got an assignment in French to write an email to our parents, just hypothetically speaking of course, about an arguments we'd gotten into, and when the bell rang I packed up my stuff and went to my locker.
It was on the other side of the school, in a section were the druggies and wannabe gangsters hung around before they went outside for smokes. It was always rowdy and smelt like Axe body spray.
On my locker there were the words, Back Kids scratched in with a key. It appeared there in my second year, which was so long ago that I barely noticed the blemish in the red paint. Sometimes, though, I'd stare at it and wonder who wrote it, who thought the Back Kids were so important that they needed to be immortalized on my locker.
Isabella rummaged through her things a locker down. Huffing, she looked in her magnetic mirror within and patted her face with a confused expression.
"Everything alright?" I asked, throwing my backpack around my shoulders.
"I think I lost one of my piercings. Shit, I probably left it in the change room."
Something glinted on the front of her shirt and I smiled, closed my locker, and picked it off—a shiny stud. I had no idea where it was supposed to go. She laughed. "That's embarrassing. Thanks."
Isabella put the little piece of metal into her nose and closed her own locker. "Oh, by the way, congrats on the show."
I smiled. "Thanks."
She waved goodbye and I waved back. But then I paused. Congrats on the show. Then my eyes widened. The castings.
I booked it down the halls, weaving through students leaving their lockers. I ran into the cafeteria so that I could get to the other side of the school. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten about it!
I skidded around the hall corner and slowed, approaching a group of theatre kids who were crowded around a piece of paper taped to the brick wall beside the theatre door. Mr. O was standing out there too, holding a huge stack of duotangs in one of his muscular arms. My heart raced as I approached the listing.
"Hey, good job!" said Woods. He was just leaving the throng of people. I tried to bite away the smile, my anticipation rising as I looked down the list of names. I didn't have to look far.