My Life After Now - By Jessica Verdi


Back to Before

The drama club homeroom was buzzing with post-summer chatter, but I didn’t look up from my copy of Romeo and Juliet. Auditions were this afternoon, and there was no such thing as being too prepared.

I closed the play and ran through the monologue by memory. “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” I whispered to myself, my long hair hanging like blackout curtains around my face. I got so into it that it wasn’t until I got to the part about it is not hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man that I realized I was no longer whispering. I giggled and looked around quickly, embarrassed. But the only person who seemed to be paying me any attention was Ty. My beautiful, talented boyfriend.

“What part of a man might you be referring to, my dear Juliet?” he teased, a dark eyebrow raised.

“Why, the ears, of course,” I said, all innocence. He laughed and put an arm around me. I snuggled into him and promptly turned my attention back to my work.

Ty was a senior, the president of the drama club, and one of the club’s few straight male members. He’d been the leading man in every Eleanor Drama production for the past three years, and the leading man in my life for the past year and a half. We were each other’s firsts—when it came to pretty much everything. I’d never even kissed a boy offstage before Ty.

Andre, our director, called the homeroom to attention. “Good morning, all you gorgeous thespians!” he said, clasping his hands together dramatically. Andre spent what he called his “sexy years”—aka the 1980s—in the New York theater scene. Eight shows a week for five years, he wore the now-iconic jazzercise unitard and striped face makeup in Cats. But it wasn’t until after his five-performance run in the chorus of the ill-fated Carrie that he quit and shifted his attention to directing. “So many new faces, so much fresh talent,” he said with an approving nod. “Welcome to Eleanor Drama, everyone!”

I glanced around the room. Andre was right—there were a lot of new people in the club this year. And anyone who’d watched the local news or picked up a newspaper at all in the last month knew why.

What happened was, three towns over from my hometown of Eleanor Falls, some moronic nineteen-year-old on the five-year plan thought it would be hilarious to plant a homemade bomb in his high school gym. It went off at three a.m. in the middle of August, so no one was hurt, but Brighton High was officially closed. Which left the school’s administration scrambling to place their eighteen hundred high school students before the start of the school year. The athletes were sent to the districts with the best sports programs, the science kids went to the schools with the nicest lab facilities, and the drama and music kids came here. Eleanor Senior High.

Eleanor’s performing arts department was well known across the lower half of New York State. Our state-of-the-art auditorium was often compared to a Broadway theater, and our drama program produced fifteen alumni in the last twelve years who had gone on to Juilliard.

The only problem was the new kids included Elyse St. James. The world’s most loathsome, repellent, horrid excuse for a—

“Lucy, why don’t you go next?” Andre said to me, snapping me out of my reverie. We were doing dumb introductions, and it was my turn.

“Hi, everyone,” I said. “I’m Lucy Moore, I’m a junior, and my favorite show is Rent.”

My lifelong best friends Courtney and Max named their favorite shows as Pygmalion and The Rocky Horror Show, respectively, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about them, and Ty quoted Twelve Angry Men as his. Apart from the five Brighton transfers, the new additions included the three lucky freshmen who’d actually made it past Andre’s rigorous audition process and a senior named Evan who’d just moved here from California.

And then it was her turn. Elyse and I had competed for the female leads in every Proscenium Pines theater camp summer production since fifth grade. She was one of those musical theater princesses you see at auditions in the city who show up with rollers in their hair and wear character shoes with their dresses even if it’s a nondancing audition.

Oh, and Elyse St. James was not her real name. Well, I guess it was now, since she’d had it legally changed, but when