Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")
Links to: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6
Wow, I can't believe that we're into the 4th week of the serialization. Are you ready for Chapter 7, because here it is!
Julie and Viv sat in the darkened theatre watching the play unfold before them. They were in a converted church that held an audience of two hundred. The set was decorated and lit to represent a garden at dusk, with a pool and flowers in the foreground and a short bridge in behind. The actress playing Tuptim darted out from the wings, looking frightened. A man emerged from the shadows to meet her.
“There’s Josh again,” Julie said, elbowing Viv. He had appeared fully dressed in an earlier scene when Tuptim was presented to the king. This time he wore only breeches with a sash tied round his waist.
“Wow,” Viv whispered, her eyes widening. Josh’s muscular upper body was impressive. His calves were shapely, too, not like the sinewy legs of some runners she knew. He wore make-up to darken his skin, and a black wig flowed over his shoulders. He looked exotic and sexy, a look that Viv appreciated.
Tuptim was breaking the news to Lun Tha that Mrs. Anna could not help them to meet anymore, and he looked crestfallen. The downcast couple sang “We Kiss in the Shadows,” and Viv was pleasantly surprised by Josh’s voice. It was light and flexible on top and rich at the bottom. When the duet finished, Viv clapped enthusiastically with the rest of the audience.
The couple appeared again when Lun Tha told Tuptim of his plan for them to run away together. They sang “I Have Dreamed” clasped in each other’s arms, making Viv wonder what it would feel like to be pressed against Josh’s chest. Pretty fine, she imagined, with a little thrill she hadn’t felt for a long time. Not since she and Kyle had begun dating, in fact. Thoughts of Kyle brought back the familiar pain, but soon she got caught up in the story again and forgot all about him.
When the show ended and Josh stepped forward for his bow, Julie sprang to her feet and whistled. Josh seemed to hear her and grinned, somehow looking both boyish and sexy. Viv felt another flutter and leapt to her feet, applauding just as loudly as Julie.
After the show, Julie and Viv waited in the auditorium to meet Josh for a celebratory drink while the rest of the audience filed out. The stage crew were cleaning up the set when Josh bounded down the spiral staircase connecting the upper level to the auditorium and loped over to greet them. His hair was wet and the make-up was gone, but the glamour still clung to him, or so Viv thought.
“You were great,” Julie said, sweeping him into a hug.
“Thanks,” he said, his eyes closing, and then Julie was out of his arms and pushing Viv toward him. They hesitated, and Josh hugged her. With her face pressed against his shirt, Viv could feel the muscle beneath the fabric and smell the clean, soapy scent of his skin.
“The show was terrific. You were really impressive,” she mumbled into his chest.
“Yeah?” Josh pulled back to gaze into her face.
“I almost cried when you sang ‘I Have Dreamed.’” She stared back at him, mesmerized by his eyes.
“Are you hungry?”
“Great. They ordered pizza between the shows, but I didn’t get enough. There’s a pub two blocks from here that makes great fish and chips, if that sounds good?” He turned to include Julie in his invitation.
“Lead the way,” Julie said, smiling at Josh and Viv.
The threesome spent the next hour chatting about the show and Josh’s cast mates before the conversation turned to family life. Josh came from a family of six with two older brothers and a sister four years younger. After three sons, his mother had almost given up on having a daughter, but Josh’s father had persuaded her to try once more, and the couple had finally succeeded.
“I bet your mom was thrilled to have a girl after all you boys,” Julie said. She dipped a french fry into her puddle of ketchup and took a bite.
“Yeah. I had to bunk in with my brothers after Mary was born so that she could have her own room. I still remember my mom painting my old bedroom walls pink with little white clouds and a rainbow. She even bought Mary a princess bed when she was big enough to move out of her crib. Mom and Mary are still really close ‒ they quilt and scrapbook together.” Josh speared his last bite of fish into his mouth and chewed.
“It must have been hard on you when your sister was born,” Viv said. “You weren’t the baby anymore. Suddenly, your sister was getting all the attention.”
“It was hard,” Josh said with a nod. “My brothers didn’t like having me around much. There was five years between us, and both of them were jocks. I couldn’t keep up with them, at first, and I was a real pain, always trying to compete.” He smiled ruefully. “But later, when I was in high school, I grew, like, five inches one summer. It got to the point where my brothers couldn’t keep up with me. Now they’re married and have children. They keep asking when I’m going to get married.” He looked at Viv. “Do your parents do that to you?”
Viv shook her head. “My mom and dad are separated. She lives in New York, so I don’t see much of her. My dad used to ask me about getting married and having a baby, but my boyfriend and I broke up just a few months ago, so that’s not going to happen anytime soon.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Josh said.
“Yeah, Viv’s boyfriend was a real jerk. He broke it off after they’d lived together for six years,” Julie said.
“That’s rough,” Josh said with a frown. “I’d never live with someone that long without getting married. After a couple of years, you’d know if you were compatible or not, so why wait? Either it works, or it doesn’t.” He glanced at Viv. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to say that your way of doing things is wrong. That’s just the way I see it.”
Viv nodded while drawing patterns on the dewy table top where her iced soft drink had sat. “No, you’re right. I shouldn’t have let it go on so long without getting a commitment from Kyle.” She glanced at Julie, who made a show of checking her watch.
“Gee, look at the time,” Julie said. “It’s almost midnight. I’ve got to get home before the babysitter starts charging double. Josh, can I ask you a favour? Viv lives fairly close to you. Would you mind giving her a lift home?”
“Sure, no problem.”
“That’s all right with you, isn’t it, Viv?”
Viv wondered if Julie had planned to ask Josh to drive her home all along, but she didn’t mind. Julie was right; Josh was a nice guy, and she liked the idea of spending some time alone with him. “If you’re sure I’m not putting you out? I can always take the streetcar home,” Viv said.
“Nah, I’d be happy to give you a lift.”
“That’s great,” Julie said, taking some cash out of her wallet and handing it to Viv. “That should cover my part.” She kissed Viv’s cheek and gave Josh a quick hug.
“You were great tonight. I’ll see you at the ball game next Wednesday. Bye.” A moment later she was gone, and Viv and Josh were alone.
“Do you want anything else?” he asked.
“No, I’m good.”
It was drizzling, and they jogged the three blocks to the public lot where Josh had left his car. He unlocked the vehicle and waited for Viv to slide in before closing her door and running around to the other side. Viv was shivering when he climbed in next to her. Now that her clothes were damp, she was chilly.
“You cold? I’ve got a jacket in the back seat, if you want it,” Josh said, reaching behind her.
“You sure you don’t want it? Your shirt is damp.” And sticking to your chest, she thought, trying not to stare.
“No, I’m fine.” He drew the jacket over her shoulders.
You sure are. “Thanks,” she said, snuggling into it. She could smell the light, spicy scent of his aftershave.
Josh was a good driver, taking his time and leaving plenty of room for the drivers who cut in front of them as the rain pattered down. The air smelt fresh and clean, and the wet pavement reflected the reds and greens of the traffic lights.
“So, you’ve only got one performance left,” Viv said.
“You going to miss the show when it’s over?”
“I always do, although it takes a few days to come down from the performance high. Mostly I miss the camaraderie of the rest of the company. We get together for a barbecue during the summer, but I won’t really see them again until the fall.”
“Why don’t you invite some of them over?”
Josh shook his head. “I’m not the outgoing type. I would feel kind of weird doing that.” Viv didn’t realize just how shy Josh was until that moment, and wondered if he were lonely. It seemed bizarre that such a nice, good-looking guy could be so insecure.
“Did you ever think of acting professionally?” she asked after a pause.
He nodded. “I took a theatre class in high school, but my brothers razzed me about it all the time, so I didn’t take another. Not that I thought I was good enough to become a professional actor or anything, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be happy with a desk job when I got out of school. That’s why I went to teacher’s college and became a Phys. Ed. teacher.”
“I’m sure you’re a good teacher, but it’s too bad about not pursuing theatre. You seem to love it, and I think you’re talented.”
“Thanks,” he said, looking at her. “That means a lot.”
He pulled up to the curb beside her building and said, “Say, would you like to come to our game next Wednesday? Julie will be there, of course, and we go out for food afterward. It’s usually fun, if you’re not busy.”
“I’d like that,” Viv said, looking back at him across the darkened interior.
They were silent as the wipers chased the rain drops across the window.
“Oh,” she said, recollecting the jacket, “you’ll want this back.” She wiggled out of it and handed it to him.
“Thanks.” Their hands brushed as he took it from her, and Viv felt a little thrill. Knowing that Josh wouldn’t make the first move, Viv leaned over and kissed his cheek. His skin was warm and a bit bristly. Viv liked the masculine feel of it.
“Night,” she said, taking hold of the door handle and letting herself out. She scurried across the wet sidewalk and into the lobby, pausing to glance over her shoulder. Josh was waiting for her to get safely inside. He tapped the horn softly and pulled away.And he’s a gentleman, too, she thought, heading for the elevators.
Hmm, things seem to be going well for Josh and Viv. Check back on Wednesday, April 15, to see what happens in Chapter 8.
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