Falling for Hamlet - By Michelle Ray


“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Oh, thank you!” Zara shouts as she feigns surprise at the audience’s outpouring of affection and its standing ovation. She gestures for the audience members to sit down, though she smiles broadly when they continue to stand. “Please. Please,” she gestures, and since they have all been watching her for years, they know that she means business even when she’s giving a casual instruction. They settle into their seats as Zara flops precisely onto her overstuffed cream couch, smoothing her dark hair.

She leans forward and begins: “Today we have a guest who will amaze you.” She pauses to punctuate the drama and yells, “Ophelia is in the house!” Her tone sends the audience members to their feet again. They know how lucky they are to be in the audience on this day, and this is their moment to show it. The camera cuts to mostly middle-aged women in seasonal sweaters gasping, clapping, smiling. One even dabs a tear of excitement, or is it sadness? Who can tell, and who really cares? It’s a tear that some cameraman was lucky enough to capture, a cameraman who is planning, as he films, what he will buy with the bonus the segment producer will give him for catching an actual tear wipe.

The audience calms down after a last twitter and exchange of amazed glances. “Our nation has been so deeply saddened by the tragedies surrounding the royals of Denmark. Today, we will speak to Ophelia herself and find out how this young woman was caught up in the secrecy, the revenge, and the madness… madness that we all thought had consumed her.

“You are a lucky audience, indeed, to be here this afternoon. Ophelia has agreed to make one appearance, one exclusive appearance, to tell her story. So, ladies and gentlemen, here she is. Ophelia, come on out here, girl.”

Ophelia walks out onto the stage tucking her bobbed blond hair behind her ears. Her black turtleneck and jeans fit her perfectly, and she has the air of someone who looks great no matter how much time she does or doesn’t spend getting ready. She’s slim but curvy, and healthy-looking, except for circles under her wide green eyes. When she sees the crowd, she pauses to take a deep breath and raises her hand in a little wave. The crowd jumps to its feet again, and Ophelia winces. Zara reaches out an encouraging hand and guides her toward the couch. Ophelia looks at someone offstage and then looks back at the audience, clearly trying to smile. Zara, after prolonging the moment just a second longer, invites Ophelia, and therefore everyone present, to sit down.

“Welcome, Ophelia,” Zara begins, patting Ophelia’s hand.

Ophelia nods and says quietly, “Thank you for having me.”

“So, you’re not dead?”

“That… is true.” Ophelia smiles.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you will recall that on this show just a few weeks ago, we joined our kingdom in mourning what we thought was our guest’s shocking death. In fact, we will replay the video my incredibly talented staff compiled to commemorate her life, a life entwined with that of the royal family owing to her relationship with our beloved prince, Hamlet.” A montage begins: Ophelia as a newborn, Ophelia on the junior high swim team, Ophelia and Hamlet at the prom. As it plays, the music is quieted so Zara can continue. “Ophelia, we were all so amazed and relieved when you were found alive. What happened? Take us back.”

Shifting in her seat, Ophelia replies, “I really wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

[transcript #81872; Denmark Department of Investigations; interview room B; interrogators: Agent Francisco and Special Agent Barnardo]

Francisco: Ophelia, you are here because you’re being investigated for treason.

Ophelia: Is this a joke? Am I on one of those shows where they scare you and then film it? Okay, you got me.

Barnardo: Sit down. This is no joke.

Francisco: You vanish. Things go to hell. You return. Interesting timing.

Ophelia: I vanished because things had already gone to hell.

Barnardo: We think you conspired against the royal family.

Ophelia: That’s ridiculous. I’m innocent. You have to let me go.

Francisco: We don’t have to do anything. We’re the Denmark Department of Investigations. You’re ours until we are done with you. And we want to know what happened.

You wanna know the truth? Here it is. Not the truth I tell Zara or the truth I tell the DDI or anyone else. I’ll tell you, but no questions. I’ve had enough questions.


Zara leans in, looking like a schoolgirl sharing a secret. Her