An Occurrence at the School Auditorium

Julia Crane looked nervously at the clock on the wall. A quick calculation told her that there were still three minutes and twenty-seven seconds until class was over. Her left knee was bouncing rapidly, until she realized what she was doing and forced herself to stop. But, her nervous energy was transferred to her hand, and she began to tap her pencil on her desk. This caused several students around her to glare angrily, and she was forced to stop.
Belatedly, Julia realized that her science teacher, who was never one to waste the last few minutes of class, was talking about the upcoming test. Julia scribbled a few things in her notebook, lest the words go in one ear and out the other. Another quick glance to the clock showed that only forty-two seconds had passed since the last glance.
Julia tried to focus on what her teacher was saying, but she was too jittery to pay attention. To pass the time, and to expend some of her energy, she tried doodling in her notebook. First, she drew spirals, each of which grew to several inches in diameter before she forced herself to stop. Then, partially inspired by the swirls, she drew fireworks around the edge of the page. Finally, she drew little hearts, accompanied with the words "I love Michael Brome."
Miraculously, when Julia turned the page and began decorating it with smiley faces, the bell rang. She jumped up, as if the bell was a sudden, loud surprise. She quickly threw her stuff into her backpack and left the classroom. Julia walked almost mechanically through the hallway, hardly paying attention to who else was there. She did, however, take special notice of Becky Richardson. As soon as they passed, Julia began to mutter, "I have a feeling that today's the day, Becky. Today's the day I'm going to beat you. I'm going to beat you and I'm going to secure my long-term victory of our rivalry. Of course." Julia trailed off a little, "you have no idea we're competing."
"But," she continued, quickly gaining confidence, "that only means that I have more motivation, more determination to win. And win I will, because-" Julia stopped suddenly. No more than fifteen feet in front of her were the auditorium doors. And she could see, very clearly, a sheet of paper taped upon the doors. In a sudden onset of fear, Julia turned away. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to build up enough confidence.
Finally, she faced the doors again. Slowly and carefully, she walked to the doors. Time seemed to slow down, and she was aware of each step she made. She closed her eyes again, and held out her hands to meet the door. Then, when her face was only a foot away from the paper, she opened her eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~

Julia sat nervously in the fifth row of the auditorium. She looked around at all the people who had gathered there with her. Among them were the usual thespians of the school, those who had been in every single school play since sixth grade, and were practically guaranteed to make it into every production they wanted in. They were the loudest bunch; every one of them was chatting merrily about past productions and what parts they might get this year.
Julia also saw the big hams of the school. They were good enough on stage, and had no qualms about getting up and performing for an audience. Then, there were people like herself, who were closet actors. She could hardly handle giving a five-minute speech to a class of twenty-five kids, let alone an entire play in front of a full house.
"What am I doing?" Julia wondered aloud. She was about to give in to her second thoughts and leave when a man got up on stage.
"Hello everybody, I'm Mr. Leggett, the director of the plays here." He put a hand over his eyes so that he could see out into the house better, and surveyed the students sitting there. "I'm glad to see so many familiar faces. I'm also excited to see so many new faces as well."
Having no more to say, introduction-wise, he got right to the point. "This year's play is a romantic comedy called 'A Date With Death.' It's about a not-so popular girl, Maria, and a handsome stranger who asks her to the upcoming school dance. Maria gloats about it to everybody in the school, and is finally enjoying a little bit of popularity when the stranger dies. Maria is afraid of what the school will think of her, after she bragged so much about her date, so doesn't tell anyone that he's dead. Instead, she tries to make it look like he's alive as she takes him to several public places, including the dance. Of course, there's a surprise ending, but I wouldn't want to spoil it just yet."
Mr. Leggett clapped his hands together. "I assume you're all filled out and turned in the try-out sheets." There was a hum as the students all agreed. "Okay, good, that helps me so that I can match students up with their best physical character match." He looked around at all the students, some eager, some nervous. "Well then, let's get started!" He hopped off the stage and sat down in the front row.
Julia watched as he called up students in groups, and had them read off of the script. Each time he called names, she was afraid that he might call hers, and prayed that he wouldn't. But, once the students were on stage, her thoughts changed, and she wished that it could be her up there instead.
Finally, Mr. Leggett called, "Why don't I have Julia Crane read the part of Maria." Julia gave a small cringe, and walked onto the stage. She picked up a script with trembling hands, and turned to the page that Mr. Leggett had directed them to.
The boy next to her started. "Let me get to the point. Maria, will you go to the dance with me this Saturday?"
"I.I." Julia read. There were a bunch of stage directions following her line, so she skipped down to the boy's next line. It was only when he didn't speak that she realized that there was more to her line. "Yes, of course I'll go to the dance with you." Julia tried to read the line dramatically, but she had a feeling that she didn't quite get it right.
Her and the other kids on stage read for several pages before the director stopped them. "Okay, that's great. Have a seat." All the students got off the stage, and Mr. Leggett got back on. "Wow, we have a lot of great actors today. This is going to be a very hard decision. I'll have the results posted on the auditorium doors on Friday."

~~~~~~~~~~

When Julia opened her eyes, she wasn't sure if she wanted to look at the list or not. She started reading the names from the bottom on up, with such fear that she almost looked away. When she was half way up the list, her fear was starting to be replaced by disappointment. She was about to turn and walk away when she saw it: at the very top of the page were the words "Maria - Julia Crane."
"What?" Julia asked aloud. "I-I'm Maria?" She looked around, full of disbelief. But, when she looked back at the list, her name was still there. "I'm Maria" she repeated, as the news began to sink it.
On an impulse, she opened the stage door, as if to announce to the stage that she had the lead role. But, instead of finding the great room empty, it was full of people. And when the people saw her, they began to applaud. "Congratulations!" several people yelled.
"I-I-thank you!" Julia stammered. "Thank you everybody!" With a bright smile on her face, Julia walked from the back of the auditorium to the stage. As she walked up the stairs on to the stage, she said to herself, "This truly is my home." Indeed, she felt right at home as she stood on the stage.
When the applause stopped, Julia turned to the audience to say thank them again, but was suddenly moved to say something else. "So, now you know," she said almost sadly, as other people got onto the stage.
"Yes," said one girl, "and I can't believe you. I mean, it's one thing to date a dead guy, but to lie to the whole school about it? Maria, I'm disgusted."
"Bethany, you don't understand," Julia said, pleadingly. The words were just tumbling out of her mouth, like she had known them her whole life. "You don't understand the pressure that was on me to date him. When he died, I couldn't just let him be dead. I had to do something."
"Well," the girl playing Bethany said, staring at Julia, "there's nothing you can do now. The whole school's going to find out about how you lied."
"Oh, but there is something," said a male voice from behind Julia. She turned, and there was Michael Brome, the boy she knew she was destined to marry.
"You! But you're-you're-" Julia said, shocked. The girl playing Bethany was stammering as well.
"Dead?" Michael suggested. The two girls nodded. "Ah, but no. You see, he who is dead is Raymond. I am Richard, his twin brother."
Still stammering, the other girl turned back to Julia and managed to say, "But, the whole school's still going find out!"
Julia opened her mouth to speak, but Michael was the one who answered first. "What will the school know? If nobody knew my brother's name, and we look alike, who could tell the difference? In fact, we even have the same thoughts concerning other people." To prove his point, Michael gently turned Julia to face him, and kissed her.
When the kiss ended, Mr. Leggett was clapping. "You guys are just amazing," he said to the cast. "This is going to be the greatest production ever." Everybody on stage beamed.
"Well," Mr. Leggett continued, "that's all for today. But, before you guys leave, there's a sheet on the wall back there that I want you to check. It's for the program, and I want to make sure your names are all spelled right."
Obligingly, Julia went to go check her name. She didn't anticipate any problems, since her name was so easy to spell. But, as she looked at the paper, she noticed that something was wrong. She didn't see her name at all. She looked up and down several times, but it just wasn't there. Then, she looked for where her name should have been, next to the part of Maria. But, instead of her name, it read: "Maria - Becky Richardson."
Julia stepped back from the paper, which was no longer posted on a backstage wall. Instead, it was hanging on the auditorium doors. With one final, unsuccessful check of the list, Julia turned away. She hadn't made it into the play, after all.