Grace and Tad were circling, almost dansing around each other, cross-firing their lines. Grace's Ganimede was playing a double game. The brave Orlando was not aware that the self-declared connoisseur of women in front of him, was actually Rosalind herself. In Shakespeare's time, the role of Rosalind/Ganimede most probably would have been performed by a male actor, and there were additional subcurrents and inside jokes the modern viewer - or the actor, for the matter - was now completely missing.
Tad was more or less playing himself, running his usual routine of a handsome boy, constantly in trouble despite his noble intentions, breaking the hearts of the local female population with his naive charm. Grace was responding very appropriately.
- '...Ay, of a snail; for though he comes slowly, he carries his house on his head; a better jointure, I think, than you make a woman. Besides, he brings his destiny with him,' declaimed Grace/Ganimede spottingly.
- 'What's that?'
- 'Why horns; which such as you are fan to be beholding to your wives for, but he comes armed in his fortune and prevents the slander of his wife...'
He watched on, thinking of his ridiculously indiscriminate love for theater. Theater in general, and school theater in particular. He knew that some teachers, in fact, most of them didn't not like wasting their time on something that amateuristic, - and it was exactly what a school drama club was - and he could perfectly understand that. You simply were a 'theater person', or you weren't. There was this complotting, buccaneering, hopping around with a bunch of kids who were all catastrophically neglecting their home work and family obligations in the meantime. A mild form of civil disobedience, and that's how he liked it. When he heard his new school kept a proper Parent Information Meeting about the theatrical activities of their offspring, he felt as if he had become the new king of Barataria, finally. And he had a good team this time.
Nothing and nobody was perfect, though. Of course, there was Alexa. But there were also people who stopped coming; fortunately, there were no important drop-outs. Some people came regularly, but kept forgetting their lines; such as Tad. Others came and knew their lines, but remained unsure and anxious, like Jessie and Warren. And there was Grace, who came regularly and was present everywhere at the same time, knew everyone's lines more or less by heart, and had no fear whatsoever. She ignored Jessie benignly. she inevitably fell out with Alexa on a number of occasions. Pale with rage, Alexa appealed to him to restore order. He interferred with a soothing 'Ladies, ladies' and backed up Alexa, as he couldn't afford to compromise the authority of his stage manager. Grace, who was unusually complacent at the time, shrugged and seemed to forget the whole incident right away; Alexa didn't forget anything, or at least he had this impression.
And there moments things were going as it was supposed to, - just like now, - and he was enjoying it.
- Virtue is no horn-maker, and my Rosalind is virtuous,' Tad formed 'horns' with his two fingers and pushed them playfully against her forehead, and Grace cracked up. 'And I am your Rosalind...', were her last distinguishable words.
He sighed, and commented: 'And that of course where Rosalind begins to giggle uncontrollably.' Grace protested, rather unconvincingly. It was getting late, so he decided to round up things, after a formal conclusion:
'Okay, since we've stopped - comments?
Ajay's hand went up.
'Tad was being the typical player. I mean, Orlando,' he brought up, approving and reverent. It looked like that he would have been as reverent and approving just about anything Tad did, whether he played Orlando or baseball, - which Tad did, by the way. Actually, Tad was smart enough to admit he played the latter better than the former. It was rather doubtful Ajay and co. was aware of this; as far as Mr. Dimitri knew, Tad was never too modest in public. Neither was Grace.
'What about Rosalind's wear? Alexa?'
'It seemed like she lost her wear,' declared Alexa with cold satisfaction. Alexa never lost her wear.
He exclaimed: 'I hate when that happens!'
Tad's hand shot up.
'Yeah, where it says "though he comes slowly," is that like another reference to sex?'
'What do you think?' His eyes intinctively went to Grace. To see he blush like a bride on the eve of her wedding night, Grace who normally was as indulgent as Germaine Greer when it came to sexist remarks. This was the moment he should have put two and two together and asked himself how such a benignness was still compatible with Grace.
'Dude!' Tad high fived with the neighbour, his gang shrieked, laughed, groaned in utmost delight.
'Good God, it's almost six- !'
The kids started to gather their bags and papers. He reminded them of the schedules and the meeting.
He dismissed the rehearsal with the words: 'A huge leap forward, people!' and thanked Alexa. Grace lingered behind. He didn't mind; Grace had been terrific, and he liked the idea of a little chat with his leading actress.
'I'm sorry I laughed, I just-,' she turned away, and then again to him. 'He was practically - nevermind.' 'He? Who is he? Tad?' He looked up, seated again with his bag on his knees. Intrigued.
'He was practically what?'
'Nothing. I don't actually mind.'
'That he keeps- you know!.' She lowered her voice. 'Flirting. With me.' He stared out, not sure what baffled him more - what she just said, or that she said it to him. It looked like he himself had been missing quite some subcurrents lately. Especially the ones running right under his nose.
He controlled his thermos, - empty - put it away into his briefcase, anything, just to avoid looking at her.
'Now you look - shocked, or something.' Oh boy. He murmured: 'I wake up looking shocked; ignore it'. Then the whole absurdity of the situation finally got through to him, and as always, it made him feel better. Poor Grace, she definitely didn't expect Mr. Dimitri get so touchy about flirting right after he was so light-hearted about sex. He stood up.
'I've heard of flirting,' he said softly, looking straight at her this time, this funny little girl who probably thought life was over right after your twenty fifth birthday. 'Is it not, my dear little August? Shut up, Chris.' He grabbed his jacket and briefcase.
Grace blushed and went bussinesslike: 'I just didn't want you to think - that I don't take this serious.'
He interrupted her: 'You know, giggling is permitted. In Shakespeare.'
'No flirting, though.'
'Tell Tad, he's the one who keeps - Oh.'
She broke off, realizing she was being kidded.
He left, wordering how it was possible such a straightforward person as Grace kept putting him on the wrong track time after time. And he was annoyed by the role Grace seemed to have assigned to him in her 'affair', that of an elderly - sexless - confidante, a Mrs. Penniman.