Georgie missed the high note.
It happens to the best of them, but he’s still mortified. Choking on a high C right in front of Mrs Jackson and knowing that she’s still wavering on whether or not to make him an understudy or stick him in the chorus with the rest of the freshmen. He tries to rally, tries to throw a little flair into the last few bars, but he knows on some level that he’s blown it.
When his audition is finished, he slumps over to his chair at the back of the auditorium and waits for the next guy to start singing. The lights are all up so that even the chairs at the back of the room are illuminated. He tries not to let his disappointment show on his face – don’t want to look like a sore loser or like he’s trying to make people feel sorry for him. He runs a hand through his corkscrew hair, fluffing it up intentionally and plastering a smile onto his face as Bobby Newberry gets up on the stage.
“I’m auditioning for Angelica Schuyler,” he says, his voice clear and strong, bouncing off of the walls and hitting every seat.
Georgie doesn’t groan. But he wants to. Bobby is a senior so he’s bound to get the slot. Even if Georgie hadn’t messed up, Bobby would be getting the slot. Seniors always get the best characters.
He watches, leaning forward to hug the back of the chair in front of him, as Bobby completely owns the stage. Angelica Schuyler has a lot of technical leaps in her vocals, and usually Georgie could have managed them. Nailed them, in fact. He chews the skin on the edge of his thumb and wonders how he could have screwed up so badly.
“Don’t look so worried.”
Georgie swings around in his seat. It’s just Maggie, one of the other seniors who’d auditioned for Aaron Burr. A lot of the seniors went for that role. Georgie would put her odds of landing it at 30/70. Maybe she would have had more if she’d sung something other than ‘Dear Theodosia’; everyone sang ‘Dear Theodosia’.
“I’m not worried,” Georgie whispers back.
“Are you sure?” Maggie asks. She tips her head close so that he can hear her, and also count the freckles on her nose if he wants to. “Because you look worried.”
He shrugs, going for nonchalant but probably coming off as constipated. That is another problem with auditions – he’s never really sure how other people see him. He’s never really sure if he’s giving the right visual clues.
“Just annoyed that I missed that note.”
“It’s an easy note to miss,” she says. She gets comfortable in the seat next to him. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Georgie doesn’t shrug again. He’s read that repetition of body language seems strange. Georgie loves it if everyone would just stick to a couple of key moves so that he never has to wonder if there’s a nuance he’s missing, or if there’s something he’s saying with his body that he doesn’t mean in his mind. It’s hard enough keeping track of the words coming out of his mouth without worrying about how his flailing limbs and facial expression could be distorting them.
“I wanted to play Angelica,” he says.
Maggie pats his shoulder. Like he’s a puppy. “There’ll be other genderbent Hamilton musicals, Georgie. You’re still a freshman.”
He has to shove his face into the back of the chair in front of him to muffle the groan. She keeps patting him.
Bobby finishes on stage. The rest of the kids auditioning applaud him and Georgie pulls his face out of the faded seat cushion to do the same. Don’t want to seem like a sore loser. Georgie watches Bobby give a bow, his long legs bending slightly as he dips down, before half-jogging to the edge of the stage and high-fiving Peter McCall. Peter’s auditioning for Eliza. No competition there – just bromance.
People start talking as soon as Bobby is off the stage. There’s a group of freshmen right down the front next to Mrs Jackson’s desk, shoving each other and giggling, looking hopefully at the Drama teacher as though they can score a part with sheer enthusiasm. Georgie knows that most of them with be shoved in the back of the stage, singing the chorus out of the way of the real performers. They’ll be there for years until the seniors all leave for college, or wherever. Then they’ll be the seniors getting leads by virtue of their age.
Georgie shakes his head. That’s not fair. He messed up his audition. If Bobby Newberry hadn’t been a senior, he’d still deserve the part over Georgie.
“You might make understudy,” Maggie tells him. Mrs Jackson is taking notes and hasn’t called on the next singer, so it’s okay to use their normal voices for now. “Then you’ll be considered for the next play’s lead.”
Georgie looks at Maggie. Thirteen. There are thirteen freckles.
“Unless one of the seniors want it,” he replies.
She smiles. It’s a weird sort of smile, but that’s probably because her mouth is a bit lopsided and her teeth are crooked. Not badly crooked. Just enough to be noticeable. It doesn’t help that she’s taller than him so she has to look down her long nose at him, scrunching her chin and neck. Georgie wonders why she’s not sitting with the other seniors.
“Why aren’t you sitting with the other seniors?” Georgie asks.
She’s still smiling. “Probably for the same reason that you’re not sitting with the freshmen: none of them like me.”
“They don’t like me because I’m on the spectrum,” Georgie tells her. “You’re not – are you?”
Because usually kids with special needs know each other, but he’s only been at this school a few weeks. It could be that he’s been flying so low under the radar that he missed the seniors with the same problems. Not that he has too much sympathy for those ones. They’ve only got to suffer through one more year of social bullshit and then they’re off to college.
Maggie shakes her head at him. “Not autistic. Just weird.”
They fall silent. Jamie Jackson climbs onto the stage and declares that she’ll be auditioning for Washington. Georgie thinks that she’ll make a great Washington – when she talks, everyone in the room turns to watch her, even when she’s not on a stage.
“You know, when she was a freshman she played Peaseblossom. They cut her lines in the end. She just had to stand there.”
“Better than the chorus,” Georgie replies as Jamie Jackson launches into ‘One last time’. She’s got a great voice. Georgie feels a grumble of jealousy roll through his chest and tries to push it out. He notices Bobby and Pete nudging each other and watching Jamie with grins on their faces.
“Not really,” Maggie whispers. “Better to be in the chorus than to have a speaking part and get your lines cut.”
“I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
Maggie sighs next to him. Georgie can see her wringing her hands out of the corner of his eye. When he takes a closer look, he sees the scrunched up eyes and wrinkled nose that he’s learned to associate with anxiety. Maggie is anxious about something. Should he ask? He thinks he should ask, but he’s not sure how to do it in a way that doesn’t seem insulting. Is there a way to ask without being insulting?
“You seem… stressed?” he whispers, aware that the acoustics in the room could make his voice carry.
Maggie snorts, then quickly muffles it – glancing around to make sure that no one heard. “A little,” she tells him. “Just a little.”
She falls quiet. They watch Jamie perform. Georgie almost forgets that Maggie’s there as he watches the performance, and the room. Most of the seniors are looking excited, bobbing their heads in time with the beat, a couple even moving their lips in time with the lyrics. But there are two girls who don’t look like they’re enjoying the show. They’re watching Jamie with their lips pursed and their noses wrinkled like they smell something bad. Georgie can’t remember their names.
He imagines getting back onto the stage, demanding another chance to sing for Mrs Jackson, maybe even getting a standing ovation afterwards. Georgie knows that there are some things that only work in the movies – running through the airport to catch the love of your life, interrupting weddings, and getting second chances at auditions are only a couple of them.
When Georgie was a kid, he would watch movies to try and figure out how he’s expected to behave in certain situations.
His stepdad started watching movies with him, pointing out what’s okay and what’s not, after Georgie got dragged to the counsellor for singing about his homework and scaring some kindergarteners. That’s another thing that’s only okay in the movies: randomly bursting into song.
When Jamie finishes her song, the audience applauds and Mrs Jackson makes some notes. Jamie strolls off of the stage and high-fives Bobby and Pete, pointedly ignoring the two girls who’d sneered throughout her performance. Nobody high-fived Maggie when she’d climbed off stage.
“It’s just that this is my last year,” Maggie says, in lieu of nothing.
Georgie pulls away from the back of the chair to look at her. She’s still looking anxious, and there’s an odd look in her eyes as she stares at him, like he’s expecting him to understand exactly what she’s saying. He doesn’t. Or, he does, but he doesn’t understand how the fact that she’s a senior is making her anxious.
“And that’s… bad?” he offers.
“Well, I mean, no,” she says, “and yes. But mostly no.”
“This is my last chance to get a speaking role,” she says. Then Georgie understands. “So I guess there’s a lot riding on these audition.”
Georgie nods to show that he’s listening, though he doesn’t understand what she’s so worried about. A senior has a better chance of getting a part than a freshman. Georgie would give anything to have this be his last chance – Mrs Jackson might be more willing to overlook the high C he’d fucked up if she’d seen him sing a few times and knew that he could do better.
“I just wish I could have had a few more years,” Maggie says, still wringing her hands. “There’s a lot I would have changed.”
“Like what?” Georgie asks.
She shrugs. “Just… some of the stuff from freshman and sophomore year. Things I cared about then but don’t care about now. You know?”
Both Maggie and Georgie spin around in their seats. The two girls who had their noses wrinkled during Jamie Jackson’s song are standing at the end of the seat row. The brunette has a wide smile on her face, but it’s the sort of smile that Georgie usually sees on the faces of boys right before they punch him in the gut or shove him on his ass.
It’s a predator’s smile.
Next to them, Maggie looks way younger. She looks like a sophomore, or maybe a well-developed freshman, but she doesn’t have the look of assurance that so many seniors have. That these two girls have. She’s not wearing makeup either – the two girls standing beside them seem to be wearing enough that they could share with Maggie if they wanted to. They probably don’t want to.
“Great song,” the brunette says. “Did you finish the English paper?”
“Yeah,” Maggie replies. There’s an edge of caution to her voice.
Her hands are wringing so hard that Georgie wonders if she’s trying to unscrew one of them. That image makes him wonder what it would be like if they could screw hands and feet onto their bodies. If people could swap out faces and hairstyles, putting their bodies together like Ikea furniture. That would be weird. He’d probably get himself different hair. Corkscrew hair is a pain in the ass.
Georgie brings himself back to the present in time to see the brunette smiling sweetly down at Maggie.
“Do you think I could take a look at it? I’m worried that I might have missed something.”
Georgie snorts. “That’s bullshit,” he says.
All three of the girls glare at him. He notices Maggie’s cheeks are red.
“Nobody asked you, freak,” the brunette tells him. Then she smiles like she was joking.
Georgie decides that this is not the time to tell her that calling someone on the Autism spectrum a freak is kind of a dick move.
A sophomore whose name he never learned is climbing onto the stage and declaring that she’ll be auditioning for Lafayette. A hush falls over the room. That’s a daring role. Georgie clenches his jaw and leans back in his chair, propping his legs up on the back of the one in front of him.
Maggie whispers to the other girls: “You can look at my paper. Come by my locker after auditions.”
And then the other girl and her friend leave. Georgie watches them go out of the corner of his eye, noting the look they share like they’ve gotten something they wanted. Maggie isn’t watching them – she’s got her eyes glued to the stage as the sophomore races through ‘Guns and Ships’.
“They’re going to cheat off you.”
“I know,” Maggie whispers back. “I know. But it’s not worth fighting over it anymore.”
She glances over at him and smiles. “Because it’s our last year,” she says. “Soon I’ll never have to see those girls again.”
Georgie’s eyes flicker over to the group of freshmen in the front of the auditorium. Most of them have looks of awe on their faces as the girl on stage battles through her lines, never missing a word, and making those cool hand gestures that Georgie’s never been able to pull off. She’s a very good rapper.
He wonders what it would be like to never see any of those freshmen again. He’s known most of them since elementary school, though it might be a bit disingenuous to say that he knows them since they make it a point to avoid talking to him whenever they can. He can’t imagine a life that doesn’t have them on the fringes of it. But he would like to.
“You’re lucky,” he tells Maggie.
She smiles. It comes out more like a grimace. “Yeah,” she says. “Now I have to go to college, or somewhere. Meet new people. Make… friends…” She sighs and leans back in her chair, staring at the ceiling. Georgie looks up too, wondering if there’s something up there that is worth look at. It’s just the lights. “I’ve never made new friends before,” Maggie says.
Her whisper is so quiet that Georgie almost doesn’t hear her.
“Me neither,” he says, because he feels like he should say something. That silence felt like it ought to be filled.
She looks away from the ceiling and back down to him. “Maybe you should practice now,” she says. She gives a significant look to the group of freshmen at the front of the room, currently cheering on the sophomore as she bows.
Georgie just grimaces. “Maybe I’ll just wait until college. Get a fresh start, you know?”
“It’s up to you,” Maggie replies. Her tone sounds like she’s holding something back. At least, that’s what he’s learned that tone means. It’s the tone he hears in movies and TV shows when a character knows something that other people don’t – but they’re keeping it to themselves for whatever reason.
Georgie wants to ask. But he also doesn’t want to ask. This conversation has dug into his spoons enough for one day. Instead, he turns back to the stage. He can see Maggie watching him in his peripheral vision, but he ignores her.
Another senior takes the stage and Georgie stifles a groan when he announces that he’s auditioning for Angelica Schuyler. Looks like Georgie won’t be getting the understudy gig after all.
Author’s note: Sometimes, I think about what I would say to young kids entering high school. Then I remember how much I, as a younger student, absolutely did not care about people talking about their regrets.
Also, I don’t think that I can overstate how much I love Hamilton. This story is set in America because Australian schools aren’t really interested in American history. We’re not even interested in our own history!
PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee? 🙂