The fallen curtain muffled the sound of applause. Jessie struck Brad with her bouquet, the red petals dripped to the ground.
“You pig,” she exclaimed as she stormed into the wings, “You didn’t have to stick your tongue halfway down my throat for that final kiss.”
Brad stood stunned for a moment then chased her into the wings.
“You can stop being Kate now, Jessie.”
Jessie retreated and barrelled out the stage door. Brad followed close on her heels, but got tangled in the ropes from the block and tackle. He ran to the door and flung it open. His retort died on his lips. A solitary street light flickered as Jessie ran toward a dark blue station wagon.
“Hurry it up,” a man shouted.
“I’m moving as fast as I can, Dad. The curtain just went down and... ”
“Shut up and get in the car,” her dad interrupted.
“Look at the flowers,” Jessie held them out excitedly to her father. He took them into his hands and shook his head.
“You’re just like your mom – a dreamer – a stupid dreamer. Now get in the car – we’ve got to go.”
Jessie climbed in dejectedly and slammed the car door. The car pulled away, and a crunching sound announced the demise of the flowers.
Brad felt humbled sharing Jessie’s experience. He let the stage door close quietly behind him and wandered through the halls. The voices of the opening night guests led him to the hall outside the auditorium, where he found the rest of the cast.
“There you are, Brad,” his mother said as she pulled on his elbow. “We were looking for you.”
“We?” asked Brad. “I thought Dad had a big meeting tonight.”
“You’re my big meeting, son,” boomed his father’s voice. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything.” His father grinned at Brad’s surprised expression. “Congratulations Brad. Well done,” he pumped Brad’s hand up and down.
“Way to go, Brad,” Allan punched his shoulder. Brad winced.
“Congratulations,” said Jim.
“But where is your leading lady, Brad?” his mother asked.
“She ummm… she had to go,” Brad flushed with the memory of the scene that had unfolded before him just moments ago.
“Oh, what a shame,” his mother said.
“Yeah,” Allan piped in, “I wanted to ask her out.”
“I saw her first,” Jim said playfully. Brad shook his head at his brothers.
Backstage, Brad mused as he changed into his street clothes. I might not be smart like little Jim and I’m not a jock like Big Al, but I guess Mom and Dad love me just the same. He thought about Jessie, about her smile and her sense of humor that had helped him so much during the hours of rehearsal. He thought of her then when he’d seen her getting into her dad’s car. How beaten-down she looked. And he knew that he had to do something to bring that smile back.
The school bell rang. Jessie climbed out of the car and slammed the door shut.
“Don’t you keep me waiting tonight, Jessie,” her dad hollered.
Head-down, Jessie made a beeline for the front doors of the school. She took the stone stairs two at a time until she met with an unexpected obstacle and landed in a heap. She was tangled in Brad’s long skinny legs. Furious, she rose and was about to hit Brad with her books when she did a double-take. He was wearing a plastic pig-nose and holding a single daisy.
“Oink,” he squealed.
“What do you think you’re doing, Brad?” Jessie asked.
“I’m saying I’m sorry.”
“For last night – you’re right, I really was a pig. I was nervous and I embarrassed you.”
Jessie looked at him. A smile spread across her face.
“Yes, you really were a pig last night.”
“What am I now?” He extended the single daisy to her.
Jessie twirled the daisy in her hands and stared at Brad thoughtfully.
“A peach?” Brad said, winking. “Where will I find a peach costume to please my lady?”
“I don’t know,” Jessie said, threading the daisy in her hair. “All I know is that we’re late for Drama. Race you.”
“Come, Kate, we’ll to bed – we three are married but you two are sped. ‘T’was I won the wager, though you hit the white; And, being a winner, God give you good-night.” Petruchio and Katharina bowed to Horatio and Lucentio and parted company.
The curtain fell and the cast rushed back onstage to take their curtain calls. Smiling, Brad took Jessie’s hand. The audience thundered their appreciation. Out of the corner of his eye, Brad could see that a single daisy adorned her hair and an open smile adorned her face.