Senior Year; a time for tying up loose ends and getting
ready for new beginnings. That is, unless you’re Theo, of course. It’s hard to
move on from high school if you’re at risk of not graduating. It’s even more
embarrassing when the class that could make or break your future is English,
the only language you’ve spoken for all 18 years of your life.
Theo is an average student with average struggles, but for some reason, English is really kicking his butt. Maybe his grade is dropping because of missing homework assignments, or maybe because he hasn’t read the past 2 assigned books. Regardless, Theo knows he’s bound to be in hot water with his parents if he doesn’t clean up his act fast.
It’s the end of January, and though Theo graduates in May, the fact that he might not graduate among his peers has yet to sink in. However, while he sits in his English class unaware on this particular Wednesday afternoon, Mrs. Reba intends to open his eyes after the dismissal bell rings.
“Don’t forget that the homework questions are due tomorrow, up to number 15!” Mrs. Reba shouts to her class as they file out of her room. “Theo, if could you hang back a second?”
Theo’s ears perk up at the mention of his name, though he doesn’t know what she could want from him. As the last few students head off towards lunch of their next classes, Theo approaches her desk.
Mrs. Reba is a middle-aged, plump woman who reminds Theo of Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast. She wears thick glasses with thin golden rims that make her eyes look twice their actual size. Today she wears a button-up purple floral blouse, black slacks, and a thin grey cardigan.
“Uh, is there something wrong?” Theo asks with an arched brow.
“Nothing too major, hun,” Mrs. Reba responds while flipping through her gradebook, “other than the fact that you’re failing my class.” She points to his name on a long list, with the letter F next to it. Theo winces at the very direct confrontation.
“Oh. Um, about that…” Theo starts, but Mrs. Reba holds up a hand to stop his excuses.
“You’re not the first student to procrastinate on their assignments during their senior year,” she says with a calm smile, “but this is the first time that I have an extra credit opportunity that could save you from repeating this class during the summer.”
Theo is confused. He knows from the syllabus that Mrs. Reba’s extra credit opportunities are few and far between. What could she have to offer him? And why is the offer for him specifically? She reads the confusion on his face and answers before he can ask.
“As you may know, I am in charge of the Drama Club here at school,” she begins, “but since this is such a conservative little town, we have no boys who are willing to participate in the spring play.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense. Boys who do theatre on purpose are g-” Theo stops himself before he can finish his thought, hoping that it’s not too late and he didn’t already offend his teacher.
“Gay?” She finished for him with a slight chuckle. “I know. The play we are doing is called ‘Traintracks out of Portland,’ and we need a male lead. The background characters can be played by girls, but we need at least one boy as the lead since it’s a romantic show.”
“And you want me to be the lead?” Theo asks, somewhat incredulously.
Mrs. Reba nods while fishing a copy of the script out of her desk drawer.
“I don’t mean to be rude miss, but why me?” Theo asks, compelled to step backwards at the sight of the script, like he and the small book are magnets repelling each other.
“Because when I read your essays, I know you have a passion unlike my other students. I know you act indifferent, but when I assign something that catches your interest you put your heart into it. And I want someone who puts their heart into their work to be in this show.”
Theo thinks about this for a second before slowly stepping closer to her desk, looking at the little purple book in her outstretched hand. The title is written in bold black letters with the playwright’s name written underneath, the cover without illustrations. He cautiously accepts the book and flips it over in his hand.
“Um… can I have some time to think about it?” he asks, still reading the synopsis on the back.
“Of course, dear. Rehearsals start next Monday after school, and we practice until 5 each day. Since it’s a three-month commitment, I’m willing to bump your grade up to at least a B-, as long as you’re still putting effort into my class. I do hope I see you there.” She gives him a small smile which he returns before muttering a quiet ‘thank you’ and heading out the door.
Theo stands outside the classroom for a few minutes, flipping through the pages of the script. It seems like a serious drama with a small cast. He wonders why she chose him, of all people. Don’t teachers prefer to play favorites with kids who actually give a shit about their classes? Theo has not once gone above and beyond since he first sat in her class last August, and he is 100% sure that he isn’t the only guy in her classes with a failing grade.
Regardless, he slings his bag in front of him and shoves the script into the front pocket as a tan boy walks past him. The boy enters Mrs. Reba’s room without knocking and announces his presence, even though Theo knows the teacher is the only other person in the room. Why didn’t she ask that loudmouth to be in the show? He definitely seems like a theatre kid.
“Babe! What are you standing around for?” Theo hears Jessica shout out to him from the end of the now empty hallway. Her long red hair is in a neat braid that falls down her back and she wears a striped romper with a black sweater to avoid being dress coded. He turns to face her and smiles as she approaches and she wraps her arms around his neck, kissing him quickly.
“Hey, uh, Reba was just telling me I’m failing her class. She offered me some extra credit,” Theo explains as he snakes his arm around her waist. They start walking to the cafeteria slowly.
“Really? I heard Reba’s a stickler when it comes to extra credit. What does she want you to do? Wash her car?” Jessica jokes.
“No, she wants me in the spring play. They need a guy to be the lead since no boys auditioned,” Theo while opening the cafeteria door for her.
“I guess that makes sense. Only the gay guys are into theatre,” she says, “I mean, unless they’re forced into it like she’s trying to do to you.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Theo responds loudly to be heard above the roar of the students, though he isn’t listening super closely. He has already started thinking about what it would mean for him if he did the show. What it would mean if he really was passionate about it, like Mrs. Reba had said.
“So, are you going to do it?” Jessica asks as she sits down at their usual table. He sits down next to her and pulls a sandwich out of his bag before answering.
“I don’t know. I asked her if I could think about it,” he responds as he takes a bite of his lunch, “but it would be stupid to give up extra credit that could help me graduate, right?”
“It’s up to you, babe,” Jessica says before checking her social media, officially tuning Theo out for the rest of the lunch period.
Theo takes the script out of his bag again and starts reading through the first scene. Even though it’s kind of boring, he feels himself becoming invested in the story. Something inside him already knows he wants to accept the offer, and an even smaller part of him is already excited to be in the show.
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