Second of the 'episode' stories.

#21 Performances


Angela Chase, burgundy backpack on her back, textbooks in her arms, walks down a Liberty High hallway on a Monday morning. 'So, Jordan Catalano had driven me home from school everyday last week. After being gone all that weekend I had woken Monday morning half afraid it'd all disappeared while I was away — that a night was all it took for what we'd tentatively worked out to fall apart and evaporate. But that morning outside my door, ready to intercept my short walk to the bus stop, there he was. And things, just, slipped into place. Me in his car. Him at my locker. Long drives home.' She wets her lips. 'Friday night he was going to take me to this thing,' Angela pulls her textbook closer to her chest and bites on her lower lip... 'But, we never made it.' She faintly smiles to herself as she replays the memory, but Angela remembers herself and moves past the images playing in her mind; regrouping, she tucks her hair. When she looks up she sees Rayanne turning a far corner into the hallway; when she sees Angela Rayanne kind of pauses, waiting for any sign of recognition, but Angela only looks away. She is still avoiding all contact.

Angela averts her eyes, pretends to look through her textbook, and waits it out. 'It had been close to two weeks since the letter; things with Jordan were getting close to normal, but I still hadn't spoken to Rayanne Graff. Not really.' Rayanne's reaction is immediate and self-preserving. Quickly she turns and leaves in the direction from which she had come. Angela covertly watches her as she does this; her eyes roll, she sighs, and walks away in the other direction. 'Things hadn't gotten worse, but I couldn't see them getting any better. It's like we're stuck; 'cuz, you can't just unknow someone. Or something.

'I can't unknow what I'm pretty sure I know about my father. Just like I'll never un-know what happened between Rayanne and Jordan. But on the same note I can't, however much I'd like to, unknow her entirely. She will never be a stranger to me. She will always be my former-best-friend. I will always know the things I knew about her. And even if I could somehow forget her, just leave it all in the past,' she runs into a school poster for Our Town, and blinks, 'the universe won't seem to let me.' Angela stands there, reading the copy, 'I know this play mattered to her.' She allows herself to study the poster a second more before she self-edits and looks away, moving on towards her next class. 'But I mattered to her too,' she rubs her forehead as if exhausted, 'I guess what I didn't know was how little what matters to her actually matters to her.'

Angela exhales and takes a seat in her still mostly-empty history class. Looking around Angela remains detached as she somewhat world-wearily flips her hair at the roots. 'Jordan'd said he didn't want to pretend, and we weren't. We weren't really talking about it at all. But not pretending it hadn't happened with him — if that's even what he'd meant — means I can't pretend it with her. Which makes any reconciliation that much harder to consider.' She rubs her eyes. 'But, the truth of it is, as much as I'd like to not pretend at all, and just be real with everyone about everything, behind that is still very real pain, and honestly, playing these roles we've somehow been cast in — acting like everything's fine; acting like it will never, could never, be forgiven — is keeping that pain at bay — behind the scenes, where eventually, I guess I'm hoping it will fade away.'

Traversing the Liberty High hallway before class Rayanne spots Sharon exchanging books at her locker. Initially Rayanne looks away, then gathers herself and her shoulder bag, and takes an exaggerated step in Sharon's direction. It's not a risk exactly. Sharon's been fairly clear where she stands on this: Rayanne messed up; she has Angela's back unquestionably; she's not fighting someone else's fight. But with every new conversation it does feel like there is a risk. Like enough time has passed that Sharon now sees she can't do both — she can't be Angela's best childhood friend and be friends with her.

Rayanne at first walks past Sharon before circling back to settle in, leaning against the adjacent lockers.

Still transferring things from her locker to her backpack, Sharon glances at Rayanne, "Hey."

Rather than looking at her Rayanne looks around her, avoiding initial eye contact as if she is still hesitant she wants to commit to such a public venue for a friendly conversation with Sharon Cherski. Though it's more complex than just that. Much more. "Hey."

Sharon is not interested in starting from square one every time she speaks with Rayanne and thus she ignores Rayanne's stand-offishness and makes conversation as she finishes locating her books, "How're rehearsals going?"

"Oh," Rayanne digs through her bag as a deflector, "you know, whatever." She pulls out, of all things, a leftover candy cane from December, broken in a few places but none the worse for wear. Rayanne offers it to Sharon who turns it down with a face, and so Rayanne unwraps it for herself, sticking a chunk of it way back in her mouth. "I don't know what it is, about December," she observes, "but the twelfth month rolls around and everyone's suddenly fall-all-over-themselves in love with peppermint. I got a million of these. They're everywhere." She lodges the candy in the hinge of her jaw, letting it jut from her mouth like some odd cigar stub. "Luckily, I like them." Rayanne uses her tongue to click the obstruction against her molar teeth and enjoys the sensation of her inner cheek drying out from the sugar. She turns, leaning right into Sharon's locker. "So," she begins lightly, "Angela's still not talking to me."

Sharon looks at her, and closes her locker. "I think," her voice is level and impressively impartial, "you have to consider the possibility that she never will." Sharon starts down the hallway and Rayanne, not ready to process or accept this, moves to catch up to her, completely changing the tone of the conversation as she does so.

"Okay Cherski, spill, what's been happening with you and Vinodick?" Sharon shoots Rayanne one of her amused and dubious looks. And so temporarily clear of land mines, the girls continue their now light-hearted conversation; as they round the corner the late bell rings.

Happily ensconced in Jordan's car Angela's ditched her after-lunch class and remains with Jordan in the student lot during her study hall period. Between kisses he asks, "What are you doing this weekend?"

"I'm, uh," she tucks her hair and backs away a little to answer. She's loving that he's already looking ahead — last Friday night must still be in his head too. "Uh," she glance into the rearview mirror, "I was kinda thinking of going to go see Our Town."

"Oh." He nods blankly. But she doesn't need to see his expression; Angela was already learning to discern Jordan's monosyllabic responses. There's the 'Huh' that says, 'I like that, that's pretty cool.' There's the 'Oh' that says, 'Really? I hate that, but — fine. Whatever.' This 'Oh' said, 'That meant nothing to me.' And it hadn't. 'Our town'? Is she talking 'bout Three Rivers?

"It's, this play," she explains, and sensitive about always positioning herself as the-explainer-of-things to Jordan, Angela mitigates her self-consciousness with another hair tuck. "At school."

"Oh. Right." Jordan scratches his jaw. "Think Tino might'a said he'll be goin'." Already having lost interest he changes the subject, "So listen—"

Angela though, unaware he was shutting down the conversation so quickly, starts in at the same time, continuing on about Tino and the play: "Yeah. Well, Rayanne's like, the lead, or whatever—"

Jordan flicks a speck of dust from the dashboard. "Rayanne Graff?" He's said her name oddly — and seemingly unnecessarily — and in a way that seems he doesn't want to have said it at all.

Angela's lips purse imperceptibly. 'Even though I had forgiven him, and we'd moved past it — the whole, thing — mostly anyway, it was still too weird to hear him say her name. Like, out loud. It was like, I wasn't ready to really live with the reality of them knowing each other — with them even existing in the same world.'

She looks away, "Uh-huh."

"_ Huh."

Angela glances at him. 'Guess I wasn't alone.'

"So," he clears his throat, the atmosphere between them shifting. "Are you, talking to her?" He looks away, looking like getting into this conversation's the last thing he wants to do. He scratches his head, "Mean," he glances back at her, "are you friends?"

Once more Angela can't tell where he's coming from with this. All the times they've circled around the topic — that night, what happened, the apologies — the conversation had never really made its way to her. Especially not under Jordan's direction. Angela feels she could count the number of times she's ever heard him actually speak Rayanne's name on one hand. Two at the most. He never asked her about her friends. Now this? Where is he coming from? Giving it thought Angela's distant as she answers, "I'm not sure." She purses her lips and swallows, and eyeing him, works up to her question. "Jordan? Can I ask you" he looks at her "something? About, all this?"

Jordan glances out the car window, watching classmates mill through the parking lot. He turns back and blinks. He fears where this is going. And wishes for some end-mark on the horizon when they might stop finding their way back here to this talk, to these unanswerable questions that, to him at least, only seem to make it harder to move forward. "Okay," he answers, though he's less than enthusiastic about the prospect of it.

Ever unsure of her footing during these talks, Angela continues tentatively in a small voice. "What did Tino say? After… You know… Rayanne and...?"

He blinks, a bit relieved — That could've been much worse. Jordan looks at her and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. A smile appears. "He said he was glad he wasn't you."

Angela allows herself a small smile as well, and a roll of the eyes in concession. "But," she persists, "did he, I mean — was he upset? Or like, uncomfortable? Because, he's, like, friends? With both of you?" The parallels are not absolute, but behind the anger and the hurt what Angela's been coming to is an unwelcome feeling of ambivalence towards Rayanne. It seems to her getting some idea of how Tino's dealt might be beneficial.

Jordan contemplates this, "I don't know." He gestures and shrugs it off, "I mean, we never talked about it." He pauses to partly consider it now, "It's kind of hard," he reflects, "to know what Tino's, thinking."

'To hear Jordan Catalano, say that, about someone else, was like, totally—'

"Ironic. Huh?"

She swallows. "Excuse me?"

"You and Tino. Like, in the same situation. I mean," he tilts his head, "not the same, but…"

"Yeah," she nods. Nearing discomfort Angela redirects the conversation. "And, uh, you guys are cool?"

"Who? Me an' Tino?" She nods. "We're cool."

"And Tino and Rayanne?"

"Yeah, they're okay."

Angela fidgets with the door handle, avoiding meeting his eyes, "But so, you two don't ever— You're not like—" He looks at her. "Are you talking? I mean Rayanne."

He could just say the truth, which would be 'No', but uncertain as he is of her intentions — wary that she's trying to monitor or control him, fearing that she's leaning towards suspicion, he only looks at her blankly. "How come?"

"No reason." She looks away again. Angela wants the answer, but she doesn't want to be asking the question. Out of everyone involved she had the least to do with getting them into this situation, and it's unfair she's now somehow the one to come across as paranoid and controlling.

Angela wants Jordan. She's come to terms with that — that despite everything, and everything that happened before Rayanne, she still wants him. So she's letting herself pursue this. And though she'd believed his eventual apology as sincere, and doubted he'd go to the trouble and awkwardness of it if it wasn't heartfelt, she's been caught offguards before and does not want to find herself in the dark again. If they are talking, which she doesn't think they are, she wants to know.

He inspects her for a little longer, assessing her motivations, seeing her vulnerability. Was answering this setting precedent? He exhales and relaxes a little; She's not like that. And if they're gonna do this, he guesses he's gotta give her something. "Not really." Of course the actual answer is 'Not at all.' He looks at her again, Jordan sighs; he doesn't want her feeling this way. "Angela, it wasn't— We didn't—"

She shakes her head, and keeps her face from wrinkling too much. "We don't have to talk about it anymore." 'The fact that I said that, after weeks of dying for an explanation, I couldn't believe it.' She is looking out the window, messing with the dashboard as he watches her. 'I think I'm just tired, of hating them. And—' Angela cuts off her internal monologue and turns back to him with new vivacity, "I mean, is it fair? That one night should like, control our whole lives?"

He hadn't seen this coming. She kisses him, and he, kind of not believing that Angela Chase, for once in her life, let a subject drop, like, on purpose, takes hold her cheek and begins to make out with her.

'I couldn't believe it,' and she runs her fingers through the soft spot in his hair at the back as he pulls her in closer.

That night, sprawled across her bed on her stomach as she works on homework, Angela's head lifts when she hears Patty call up the stairs to her. "Angela? Brian Krakow is here to see you!"

Angela pauses a minute before she rises and, picking up a book, moves out of her bedroom, up the hallway, and down the stairs. 'I had asked Brian Krakow to come over. I didn't know what to say to him, but he had barely spoken to me over the past weeks, and as unbelievably aggravating as Brian Krakow is, there is something about him you miss when he's not around. … And also—'

She stops at the base of the stairs. There stands Brian in the middle of her living room, waiting for her, but hardly looking at her. After what had been said between them — or almost said — and then not said, speaking now seems a little moot. 'How does one go back? Or move forward? Does a person simply act as though it hadn't happened? What's the kindest thing?' She smiles awkwardly, "Hi."

"Hey. Hi."

Curious, Patty looks silently from Brian to Angela and then back to Brian, then quietly makes her exit.

Once left alone Angela speaks. "So," she eventually steps off the stairs and moves further towards him, "here's your Catcher in the Rye. Thanks, uh," she holds it out to him, "for letting me borrow it."

He looks at her. His expression at first is stark stoicism, but it soon shifts to restrained indignant incredulity, "So, is that it? You just wanted to return my book?"

"Brian, no." Why is he giving her such a hard time? How many times had he come to her under the guise of a book or the like? She looks away; she doesn't know what to say. 'Why does everything have to be so painfully awkward? What is there to say that will make anything better?' They're not holding eye contact, but she gathers herself and looks at him now, "So," her smile is faint but she's trying, "how are you?"

"Angela —" he starts and his voice sounds tired; he doesn't let himself finish.

"Brian." She looks at him. "I'm sorry."

"What? For what?"

She wasn't expecting this. 'Does he not know or is this self-preservation?' Angela shakes her head, "I don't know." Lost for words she changes the subject. "So, I think I might try being friends with Rayanne again."

"Wow," is his dry response. "Congratulations. Great idea Angela." Angela's confused — she isn't accustomed to caustic irony from him, and though he does not seem to want an apology from her he does seem pretty resentful of a reconciliation between her and Rayanne. To Angela Brian Krakow's not concerned about the things she had assumed he would be. She watches as his eyes narrow, "Why are you telling me this?"

She's near stunned at this point. "No reason." 'I had no idea what to say to Brian, I didn't even know what I wanted to say. It just felt like if I couldn't carry this conversation with him now, things might never go back to normal. And I guess that's what I was trying to do, with everyone — get things back to, my so-called life. Even if that meant I could no longer pretend that nothing had happened.'

"Listen Brian, about th—" but he cuts her off.

"I have to go." It's way too late for any of this. Or too soon. He doesn't want to stand there in the Chase's living room through this, whatever this is. He knows it'll end no differently than it had that night in the street light between their houses. No differently than it had all the nights this year out there between their houses, or all these years.

When he's honest with himself he hadn't been expecting anything to change that night when he'd told her; it'd just happened. It'd just spilled out and he stood there, watching it happen — in the moment but not. To open it up again would only be more of the same, and he is smarter than that. She's made her choice, he gets it. There never was a choice, he gets that too. Brian Krakow does not choose for himself perpetual rejection and so he chooses, at least for now, not to engage — to move on. Brian walks toward the door. Turning as he opens it he sees Angela's face wrinkle. She bites her lip and he exhales, "So," he concedes a little ground, "I'll, see you on the bus sometime?"

'It was a small gesture. But so appreciated.' She smiles faintly and nods. "Uh-huh."

"Goodnight Chase." Brian takes his book and leaves the house, shutting the door behind him.

"'Night Brian." Angela doesn't move. She stands there, struck again by the absolute disparity between life's reality and her expectations. Nothing is as she would have imagined. She has Jordan, but that hardly came about how she would have planned. In less than a year Rayanne Graff has entered her life, changed everything, been a kindred spirit, only now to be relegated as the antagonist. And now even not being with Brian Krakow is not what it should have been. Somewhere in her there's a sense of confliction that bears no logical reason for being.

Her head turns when Graham enters from the kitchen. Looking around the living room he asks, "Brian gone?"

Angela nods. "Did I hear you and Rayanne made up?"

"Um," Angela evades, turning finally away from the door, "not exactly."

"Oh." He raises his brows as he observes her, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Uh, not really." She begins to remount the stairs but turns around a few steps up.

"Um, Dad, do you think it's wrong for me to be, uh, friends? With Jordan, but not with Rayanne?"

"Well, I don't know," he equivocates. "Are you and Jordan just friends?"

Angela's head cocks, "Dad."

"Sorry, sorry," he smiles. Kidding aside he tries to give her some perspective; "Well, it seems to me like Rayanne was always a pretty good friend to you, until…" Angela looks away and Graham mends his tack and begins again; "And I know this kid Jordan means a lot to you." Angela faintly blushes. "But you never had quite the same history with him, as you did," he meets and holds her eyes, "say, with your best friend. So," he scratches his head, "maybe it's easier for you to forgive Jordan, because it really wasn't him who betrayed you."

'It was truly amazing. In those few minutes, my father had, completely summed up the entire nightmare of my life starting since that night.'

He sees her contemplating this and continues. "I guess it comes down to whether you lose more by never being friends with Rayanne again, or by forgiving her and moving on." He leaves it there, like dads do, for her to figure it out.

A little dazed, she nods her head, "Thanks..."

"You bet." Graham smiles and watches her turn and climb the stairs.

DAY 2 (It's now Wednesday, the story skips over a calendar day)

Moving down the east hallway talking, Angela and Rickie eventually end up at Rickie's locker. As he searches for his algebra homework, Angela shifts her weight and adjusts her backpack straps. "Has there been any news on your living situation?"

Rickie, as there's a part of him that feels like if he talks about it he's tempting fate, is uncomfortable with the topic. The truth is he's happy where he is. And the group home is kind of a scary prospect to him and he'd rather just not talk about it. His response is relatively closed off, especially for him, "What do you mean?"

Looking at him Angela wonders if she's crossed a line, but she has no option but to continue. "Didn't you say that Ms. Krysenowski had mentioned a place? Pride House?"

"Yeah. So?"

"Nothing," she shakes her head. "I was just wondering if you had heard anything more about it. Is that still happening?"

"I don't know. Maybe not," he reflects a bit wistfully. "Why?"

"Well," Angela tucks her hair, "you're not going to spend the rest of high school living with," she lowers her voice, "living with Mr. Katimsky are you?"

Rickie is reluctant to say this out loud, but he puts up a front, "Angela, of course not."

Now feeling a little funny having brought this up, Angela senses she's unwittingly made Rickie upset; she looks at him, "You don't want to, do you?"

He sighs and avoids looking at her, "I don't want to—" Rickie swallows. "I don't really feel like talking about this." But afraid he's come off as harsh, Rickie qualifies this, "Right now. Angela."

They stand there awkwardly. At this point Rickie doesn't really want to look at Angela, and she's left feeling unsteady and embarrassed.

From across the hall Corey approaches. He smiles, "Hi."

In the presence of Corey and his fanatically painted shoes Rickie compels himself to be upbeat, "Hi."

Following suit, Angela looks away without being too obvious, "Hi." They all three stand there, smiling, awkwardly for a while. Angela clears her throat. With everything with Jordan, Brian, and Rayanne, the residual awkwardness between herself and Corey Helfrick hadn't even crossed her mind. After that cringe-inducing encounter, one she can hardly abide to let her mind settle on without wishing herself dead or buried beneath a toppled mountain, it hadn't really occurred to her that he would still be a presence in her life. But, with Rickie and all, she now guesses she won't be that lucky. 'Life, it seems, is the act of learning to navigate around the humiliating moments without imploding.'

"Well," Corey says, looking from Rickie to her, "bye."

"Yeah," Rickie smiles, "bye."

"See ya at tech."

Angela tucks her hair, looking to the floor briefly, "Bye." While he walks away Angela turns a bit and looks down the hallway in the opposite before slowly redirecting her focus back to Rickie. She bites her lips, and slowly and tentatively starts up the conversation again, "So, the play opens this weekend, huh?"

"Mm, hm."

Still easing back into the swing of a normal conversation after the awkwardness of Corey entering the scene, Angela purses her lips, "'Cuz," she scratches her eye, playing it down, "I thought I might go." Rickie looks at her, he registers no response, but rather he just listens. "You know," she qualifies so as not to leave herself too exposed, "since Mr. Katimsky's offering extra credit and all."

"Sure," Rickie nods, allowing her this bit of delusion. He shuts his locker and they start walking.

Taking her time, wary of being too obvious, Angela fishes, "So, does Rayanne ever—" But, as though she's caught herself, Angela stops short and awkwardly laughs this line of questioning off. "Never mind," she covers up, "forget it. I'll see ya." Angela walks away and Rickie watches after her for the few remaining steps before she turns the corner. Left behind he stops there and purposelessly opens the textbook he's carrying. As he flips through the book and inserted notes, Delia, all smiles and energy as always, fins him. "Hi."

Rickie double glances at her as he smiles vaguely and shuts his world history text. "Oh, hi." Their conversation continues.

Down the hallway at the opposite end, Rayanne is visible talking to some guy. Glancing at the interaction while keeping up a friendly discourse with Delia, Rickie sees he only knows the guy by sight, and he's never seen Rayanne speak with him before, though from the look of things they're getting to know each other pretty well. But when Rayanne happens to look up and spot Rickie watching, and Delia Fisher chatting him up and laughing, she abruptly detaches herself from the unnamed distraction and walks away, crossing the hallway to approach the twosome.

"Excuse me," Rayanne says dryly as she seamlessly disrupts their conversation by moving in between them, leaning against the wall of lockers, thereby forcing Delia back a few steps. Rayanne's decided she resents this new thing with Rickie and Delia Fisher and she's resolved to be a bit of a bitch about it.

Delia gets the hint and excuses herself, tactfully brushing away the awkwardness, "Okay, I guess I'll see you later."

"'Kay by-e," Rayanne emits in mock enthusiasm.

Delia closes her lips in a polite smile. "Bye Rickie."

"Bye Delia." His intonation carries in it a slight apology. Which only further irritates Rayanne.

Rayanne watches as Delia walks away. "That girl is on some serious Prozac."


"What?" She's so good at feigning innocence. Rayanne tugs Rickie along as she starts moving up the stairwell. "Do you ever not see her smiling? It's spooky."

"She's nice."

"That's just it," Rayanne looks at him pointedly, "it's the nice ones you have to watch out for. I'll bet she killed someone at her last school."


"It'd at least make her more interesting." Rickie gives her a look. "I'm just saying. I mean, she hangs with Cherski;" Rayanne shrugs her general conclusion, "you've gotta be nuts."

"Rayanne," Rickie points out, "you hang out with Sharon."

Rayanne skips over this. "I bet her hair's fake."

"It's not fake," he shakes his head with an amused smile.

"I don't know…" Rayanne prances, "I heard it's a wig."

"Rayanne, shut up," Rickie says with tolerance. But Rayanne is on a kick and is enjoying that she's actually once again having a semi-normal moment with her oldest friend.

"I mean, I don't know what Krakow saw in her," Rayanne grumbles, "she's too boring, even for him."

Rickie's eyes narrow as he takes in what Rayanne isn't saying. He smiles dryly, "I'll see you later."

"Can't you take a joke? Where's your sense of humor Vasquez?" But Rickie, who for weeks now has been trying to walk the tenuous line between supporting Angela and not abandoning Rayanne, is not hanging around for these games. He heads off. Rayanne stays for a moment then rushes to catch up with him. "Wait, Rickie, I gotta tell you about the cast party! It's going to be wicked. Tino has this connection with—"

Rickie stops her and looks at her, "Rayanne, do you really think that's such a good idea?"

She stops and asks flatly, "What do you mean?"

"I just mean... Look at the things that have happened when you drink." Rayanne resents very much having the past shoved in her face like this. Rickie regrets doing it but he pushes on, though with a little less assurance. "You've been doing so well, with the play and everything, why mess it up?"

"Mess what up?" she responds defensively. "I'm not messing anything up." Rickie makes no reply. In answer Rayanne pulls a flask out from somewhere and roguishly unscrews the cap with her right forefinger, daring Rickie to protest as he watches. Rickie, who's only partly surprised to see she's taken to carrying flasks to school again, only sighs.

"Never mind," he says defeated. Adding before he walks away, "Just— be careful."

"I don't need to be careful," she calls after him. "What I need are some better friends." She doesn't mean it. If she could say it, she would have said what she needs is to go back to the friendships they all once had, way back in October. But of course that cannot be done. And besides she cannot say it. Nor can she even allow herself to think it. What Rayanne does do is move to take a drink from her flask, but—

"Rayanne!" From out of nowhere Sharon's moving towards her. Covertly Rayanne tucks away the flask before Sharon ever sees it and before she ever takes a drink. Beside her now Sharon is all energy and Rayanne, surreptitiously tightening the screw-on cap with her forefinger, fixes her face to match. "You will NOT believe what I did last night!"

Sharon's energy draws Rayanne into the conversation, "Oh yeah? Kyle?"

"Hey Shorty. What'ya doing?"

Patty looks up from the couch, surrounded by order forms and client files. She looks at him wryly with a pencil in her mouth, "I hate it when you call me that."

Graham leafs through some of the papers, "Wow. The high-speed copiers. You're doing it."

Patty smiles, "Looks like it. Oh Graham, it's going to make such a difference—" She's getting excited, and kind of gets up on her knees to start explaining it, but it is interrupted when the phone rings.

"Dad!" Danielle calls from upstairs. "It's that Hallie person on the phone."

Graham eyes his wife and laughs briefly as if to say, 'What're you going to do?', then calls up to Danielle, "Okay—" He rises and moves into the den, picking up the phone. With nothing else to do Patty settles down again and returns to her papers, but she looks up from them and watches Graham covertly as his conversation continues. She cannot hear what he's saying but he's growing more animated as the minutes pass. She can tell they're joking and at one point he bursts into that great laugh of his. When he hangs up Patty looks down at her papers once more — No, she hadn't been watching, she hadn't been listening. Graham renters the living room, very excited to share what he's just heard, "Patty!" She looks up and smiles sedately. "It's all happening! The bank, the money, the space! They're starting renovations early next week! — We're deciding on the logo and the graphics — and decor — I'm going shopping for a stove — and with Hallie's connections, she's in the position to get us great advertising!"

"Well. Honey, that's wonderful." She means it, she just says it kind of quietly.

Graham is clearly swept up in the rush of it all and takes no note of her muted congratulations, "God! This 's so amazing. It's like everything is changing, it's a whole new life. I mean, this is something I've dreamed about — haven't even dared to dream about — for years!" Now a little less immediate Graham becomes more reflective, "I just can't believe it's actually happening, to me. Can you imagine?" Patty smiles through closed lips.

"I'm glad sweetheart."

"I'm sorry Patty, what were we talking about, before?" Patty opens her mouth

"Dad!" Angela calls from the kitchen. "Where's that chowder you made?"

Patty shuts her mouth then answers for him. "It's in the fridge!" Patty turns back to Graham, opening her mouth once more to re-begin their conversation when Angela shouts again, "I can't find it!"

"The top shelf."


Graham smiles weakly at Patty, sighs, and rises, "I'm coming." He walks through the dining room and pushes through the swinging door into the kitchen.

"Ah wait a minute" Patty starts. She turns her head back to the kitchen door, "Angela! What happened to eating dinner as a family?" The kitchen door's swung closed already and Patty is left there, sitting by herself.

After wrangling her family Patty's managed to get them all seated round the dining table. Now the Chases are mid meal. Patty turns to Angela, "Angela, doesn't your school's play begin this weekend?" Graham looks up, not really liking where this conversation may be leading to.

Angela tucks her hair, "Uh, yeah." She stabs a carrot with her fork. "I think so."

"You 'think so'? Angela, weren't you supposed to be selling tickets?"

"Okay: Yes, it opens Thursday night."

"Tomorrow?" Angela nods. "Well," Patty smiles her Patty Chase smile and looks around the table, "maybe we should all go." Graham gulps.

"No," Danielle protests. "Why do I have to go? Can I at least bring a friend?"

Patty ignores Danielle's complaint. "You've been attending the rehearsals, right, Angela? How is it?"

"Uh, Patty," Graham coughs, "maybe we should hold off a bit? Angela didn't even say she was going."

"Of course she's going; why would she do all that work just to walk away?" It's safe to assume Patty'd meant nothing more by this than what she's said, but still something in the way she's said it make Graham's eyes flash to her.

'I hadn't told my parents that I was too embarrassed to continue painting sets. I couldn't face Corey, and I couldn't face everyone in the cast and crew falling all over themselves over Rayanne. Plus it happened to make the perfect excuse while I was with Jordan.' Angela hesitates before answering her mother's original question, "Uh, I don't really know; mainly we're backstage."

"Well, I'm sure it will be wonderful."

"I don't know," Graham reigns her in. "Maybe we should wait for some reviews. I mean, we're talking high school drama. How 'wonderful' could it really be?" He flashes a conspiratorial look at Angela. Patty throws her cloth napkin at Graham.

'For obvious and some less obvious reasons, I really didn't want my family to see the play. I wasn't even sure I wanted to see the play. But I kind of felt like I had to. Not out of any obligation to Rayanne, but… I don't know; I just felt like I had to see her. But I couldn't stand the thought of my family actually applauding for her.'

"Um," Angela tucks her hair again, "I already sold all of my tickets."

Patty looks at her incredulously, "You sold all fifty of your tickets?"

Angela hesitates, looks around at her family members, and then kind of cracks. "Actually, I'm not sure I want you to go. See, Rayanne's in the play… And I'm not even sure if I'm going to go." She pauses, and looks from her father to her mother, "Could you guys, just like, not go."

"Of course," Patty nods, "we understand."

But suddenly Danielle's perked up, "Rayanne's in it? I want to go."

Angela exhales, rises and leaves the table.

Graham attempts to smooth things over, "Ah, Danielle" but he stops when he's not sure how to put it.


When the bell rings to end the period Mr. Katimsky is still speaking to his sophomore English class as they noisily pack their materials and slowly migrate to the door all the while he endeavors to keep command of their attention, "Okay, uh, if you want extra credit for seeing Our Town, then you need to respond, uh, in writing, to the prompt on the board. In, uh, complete _"

A student interrupts the characteristic pause in his delivery, "Don't you have it on a handout?"

"Yeah Mr. K., can't you Xerox this stuff?"

"Ah, see, it's ah, extra credit. Copy it down _ or don't."

Students grumble and whine as they exit, but Angela, Brian, and several other students do stay past the bell to copy down the prompt.

As he writes, Brian sneaks a glance in Angela's direction, he studies her but when her eyes catch his and she in turn looks at him, he quickly looks away.

Rayanne pops her head into the classroom, "Yo, Mr. K., what time tonight?"

"Ah, curtain call is, ah, 5:30, Rayanne."

"Cool." Rayanne moves to pop back out but catches a glimpse of Brian and Angela. Angela had been watching Rayanne ever since she entered the room, but now immediately she looks down. Rayanne picks up on this, and responds by noticing Brian: "Krakow, you heartbreaker, I better see you tonight." She disappears and then reappears, pointing a finger at him with determination, "You're going to the cast party."

Witness to this Angela is well irritated. Why does Rayanne have to be the center of everything? What gives her the right to go around ordering people about, telling them what they will and will not do? And why does it seem like Rayanne Graff is systematically commandeering each of her friends? Angela can think of no other reason why Rayanne would bother with Brian Krakow other than to irritate her, and to draw attention by talking to him that she was not talking to her. Which just makes her angrier What right does Rayanne have for being pissed, or for avoiding her? Quickly Angela shuts her notebook, and rises to gather her things; Rayanne notes her ire but despite it, or because of it, she persists with the flirtation, "You're not getting out of it." The last part of her sentence she calls out as she continues down the hallway, "I want to see you there Krakow." Brian's wide eyes follow after her.

Making her way toward the exit Angela passes Brian's desk, "She doesn't mean it, you know. She doesn't mean anything she says."

Brian looks up at her, a little defiant, "Well, congratulations." He too stacks and packs his books in annoyance. "Looks like 'being friends again' 's really worked out for you."

Angela brushes him off in cold irritation, "Just, forget it." And she exits the room.

Rickie stands outside Ms. Krzyzanowski's office door. He looks around from side to side before knocking with trepidation. This is not a conversation he's wanting to have. He waits. Rickie tries the handle, but it's locked; she's not in. He sighs and then, no longer caring if he's seen, turns and leans against the door. Delia approaches.


Realizing someone is there Rickie straightens himself and forms a smile. "Uh, hi."

Delia, as always, smiles in return, "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," Rickie covers, playing everything off.


Delia and Rickie have moved to the school's second floor, and are seated on the window ledge to the north fire escape. Having skipped their next period Rickie has been telling Delia about what's been going on.

"And so Ms. Krzyzanowski said she would try to get me a place in this group home, only the wait is kind of long, so I," he hesitates, "so I moved in with Mr. Katimsky."

"Mr. Katimsky. The English teacher?"

Rickie looks at her, and swallows, "Uh huh."

"Wow." She scratches her brow in disbelief. "I had no idea all that was happening."

Uncomfortable with the sympathy, Rickie tries to deflect the situation, "Well..."

"So," she asks, brow furrowed, "when we were all over there the other night...?"

"Uh huh."

"And," she starts, taking the pressure off and keeping the conversation going, "now how are things going?"

"Good," he smiles slightly. "Great really. I feel like I Like I'm"

"Settled?" she offers.

"Yeah," he nods. "'Settled.' And now, I'm worried that they're going to find a place for me in the home, and I want to tell Krzyzanowski not to bother, or at least find out how long I have but what if she's forgotten? I don't want to remind her. And I don't exactly want to have to tell her where I've been staying."

"She doesn't know?"

"I don't know. Mr. Katimsky hasn't told me not to say anything, but just the same, I haven't really told anyone. It's not exactly – usual."

"Well, no..."

There is a pause in the conversation, and then Delia begins laughing at herself. This surprises Rickie and he looks over at her, "What?"

"Nothing. I just feel so painfully usual and boring next to your life." He cracks a smile.

"Trust me, it's nothing to envy. There's nothing painful about being normal. People leave you alone, you can just, be yourself."

"Well, it's always hard being yourself. Everyone struggles with that." She looks at him. "In a way, I think you're lucky; you know who you are. Most people have no idea."

"Maybe." It's a sweet thought but he doesn't really buy it – still, he's flattered and touched by her attention.

As it nears 5:30, Rayanne, still in street clothes, stands at a pay phone outside the school auditorium. She is trying to place a call and is clearly getting agitated over whoever she's calling not picking up. Twisting around in the cabled phone cord, she hops from one foot to the other and kicks at the phone stand. She hangs up. Rayanne drops in another quarter and dials a second number. At this point she is getting antsy. No one answers this call either. She slams the phone down, and turning away kicks back behind her to kick the dangling phone book. Now pacing, Rayanne kind of talks to herself and clenches her fists she's in the process of wigging out.

She begins to dig through her bag for her flask when Brian appears on the scene. Riding his bicycle in lazy circles he approaches slowly, studying her without Rayanne noticing that he is there. Failing to find her flask she cusses to herself.


She looks up, conscious that she has been caught in a moment of weakness, "He-y."

Brian looks at her, "How's it going?"

"Ah, you know," she cavalierly kicks the phone book one last time for good measure. "Fabulous." Brian silently nods. Rayanne's brow furrows as leans forward to squint at him skeptically. "What're you doing here?"

Brian doesn't let her intimidate him. Maybe for the first time. "I came to see the show."

"Yeah? Well you're an hour and a half early." Brian just shrugs. Rayanne, however, plenty nervous herself at this moment, wants to see him squirm; "What's that about?"

"I wasn't doing anything. I figured Rickie might be around," she scoffs, "figured I'd tell you to break a leg. If I saw you."

"You got something against my legs?"

Brian swallows. "No."

She looks at him, hard, then a smile breaks and she shakes her head. "Krakow, why are you like this?"

"Like what?"

Rayanne knows she should tell, it'd do him goo to hear it, but she figures he's too much in his already and she lets it drop. "Nothing. Forget it." Maybe he'll outgrow it.

Brian hasn't stopped watching her. He'd seen her freaking out as he'd ridden up. He'd been there that night at that coffee place too. But if he's honest with himself, concern's not the only thing keeping him looking. She's fascinating to him.


"Nothing." He glances at the pay phone behind her. "Not home?"

Rayanne loves that didn't ask if she was 'okay' or if 'something's wrong'. Maybe he's learning. She loves it and so she lets her guard down. Rayanne exhales and sits on the curb. "Ah, my mom. She was supposed to be here tonight. She was supposed to be here, to see me..."

Brian, still perched on his bike, looks around the near-empty parking lot. He keeps his focus off her, as if there is a delicate balance of how much he can look at her before she tells him to get lost or goes back behind that wall she's always got up. "Well, it's still early. Like you said, the performance won't start for another hour or so."

Rayanne's incredulous, "Hmph."

"She could still show."

Rayanne's eyes roll. "The thing about my mom is, she tends to get side tracked. She'll have every intention of showing up somewhere, but then something, happens. Like, tonight, she'll probably end up going for drinks with people from work. If she's not with her low-life boyfriend." Rayanne distracts herself by returning to digging through her bag. "She's kinda like Tino in that way. Whatever," she mutters. "No biggie. It's not like tonight's the only night or anything. There's plenty of other nights she can come." Brian nods again. "And Tino," she scoffs. "Who knows where he is. He was supposed to be here twenty minutes ago. But," she grumbles, "that's nothing new. Been avoiding me for weeks." Searching again through her bag she finds the flask. She holds it in her hand, hard, and cold, and solid, but something stops her and she does not produce it. "Damn it." From Brian's perspective he cannot see the flask.


"Me?" She stands, "Krakow, get real."

And Brian gives her this; "I didn't think so."

Dropping her head, she stands on the sides of her feet and lets her bag drop to the parking lot blacktop. To make space in the conversation Brian does a small circle on his bike and returns to where he was, looking up at her through lowered brows, "Rickie says the show will be great." He hesitates to continue but says, "You're really good." She makes a face, picks up her bag, and by mistake the flask falls out, clattering to the ground. She picks it up quickly, making momentary eye contact with Brian before she readjusts herself into a composed version of her self, and walks away. "Uh hey, Graff," he starts, knowing he'll sound stupid if he continues, "Break a leg. Or whatever. _ You'll be great."

This gives Rayanne pause; she turns, inexplicably winks at him, and, even more unpredictably, tosses the flask to him. He drops his bike in the effort to catch it, and though she doesn't see it, she clearly hears it happen and laughs. "See ya Krakow. Try an' relax." He stands there, wide eyed, looking at the flask and watching her walk away.

Seated at the Chase dining room table with a ton of paper work more color-coaded order forms, client files and invoices, Patty drinks her now lukewarm coffee. At the coffee table Danielle sits doing her homework while Graham reclines behind her on the sofa reading through a French cookbook. All three look up when there is a knock at the door.

"I'll get it!" Danielle rises and rushes to the door. The enthusiasm with which she's answered the door fades as she sees who it is, "Hey Uncle Neil." She leaves the door open for him to pass through and returns silently to her work.

Neil smirks at his younger niece and closes the door. "Hey everybody."

Graham rises from the sofa, "Hey!"

"Hi Neil," Patty says from her paperwork.

From a small paper sack Neil produces a bottle of scotch, "For my brother, the restaurant man."

"Ah, Neil, you didn't have to do that."

"Are you kidding, this is huge. I'm so impressed." He turns back to Patty still at the dining room table, "Patty, I'm like, I'm in awe of your husband."

"We all are, Neil."

Graham accepts the bottle and reads the label, "Wow, this is great, Neil. Thanks." He sets it on the hallway table.

Neil crosses to the bar to grab some glasses, "You know, when Patty How's it going? Working hard? first told me about this, I thought it was a joke. I mean, you're not exactly big on following through on things."

"Hey!" Graham chuckles.

Neil glances back at Patty as he opens the bottle, "Back me up on this Patty."

"Uh, you know, tonight's, really not the best night for all this, Neil I've got all this work, Danielle's doing her homework, it's a week night…"

"Oh. Yeah," Graham equivocates. He scratches the back of his head then gestures, "I mean, it's not even opened yet. You know, it's probably kind of premature. But hey, listen Neil, thanks."

"No, no, no, we've gotta toast this."

Patty drops her pen. "Danielle, go upstairs and finish your homework."


Patty's at a loss. "So you can do your work and so Daddy and I can do ours. And then everyone can go to bed."

"Dad's not doing work; he gets to just hang out with Uncle Neil. And that Hallie Lowenthal." At this Patty gives Graham a pointed look and Neil's brows raise knowingly to the ceiling.

Neil steps in, "Uh we'll take this somewhere else." He pulls on his coat and pushes Graham towards the door, "See you, Patty. Later Munchkin."

Patty looks up at Graham with a critical eye but he only shrugs at her as if to say 'What can I do?' "We won't be out too late."

Neil opens the front door and hands Graham his coat, "My brother the restaurateur. You know I'm bringing all my dates to your place. I've always wanted my own reserved booth"

Graham shakes his head, "No booths." Pulling on his coat he pauses and says to Patty, "You're welcome to come."

Ignoring for the moment that that would mean leaving their twelve-year-old home alone, Patty forces a rigid smile, "No, no, go ahead. I've got," she looks around at all the papers surrounding her, "too much work to do." Her tone conveys something very different than her words, but still she smiles up at him. "Enjoy yourself."

Neil's already out the door, "Graham, are you coming?"

Graham looks at Patty, then heads out the door. "Yeah, I'm coming."

Not knowing what to do with the flask, Brian enters the auditorium lobby hiding it within the sweater he's removed. There he runs into Delia who, dressed in all black with a white button-down shirt, is working as an usher. Sharon Cherski is standing there talking with her as Brian makes his way through the large room awkwardly, looking about him and conspicuously crumpling his sweater into a rumpled ball, holding it tightly in a less than natural fashion. Brian, a little giddy from his exchange outside, does not seem quite his usual self. The girls look at him critically with raised eyebrows and narrowed eyes as he passes.


Delia answers giving him a weird look, "Nothing."

First looking down at the sweater he holds and then back to the girls, Brian Krakow gets defensive, "It's nothing. It's just a sweater." The girls exchange glances and give him a strange look.

"That's nice Krakow," Sharon says in somewhat sour condescension. Delia only half-heartedly holds a program out to him, barely extending her wrist thereby forcing Brian to make an extra effort to take it. He does and then enters the auditorium to find a seat. For a few steps the girls follow him with their eyes before breaking out in laughter and forgetting him completely.

"Tell me he wasn't always that weird," Delia asks, starting to really be embarrassed about that new girl crush she'd harbored.

Sharon makes a noise but has no actual verbal response to this. "I better get backstage." There to write an article for The Liberty Tribune on the performance, Sharon shoulders her bag and makes for the back exit.

Backstage the lofted girls' dressing room is cramped with costume wracks, a long table with folding chairs pulled up to it, and bags and bags of street clothes, makeup, hair spray and hair pins. The table is pushed up against a wall and has long mirrors propped up length-wise running across it. Makeup and hair supplies cover the table/ There is a radio playing and backpacks and shoulder bags and street shoes are stashed wherever they can fit. Rayanne sits at the long table doing her makeup, understated and neutral. Her hair too is all her natural color and is pinned half-up this is a Rayanne few have ever seen. Sharon stands at a nearby table searching through her large handbag for her materials.

"Errrh... I know I put my notebook in here. Where is it?"

"Cherski, relax. Aren't I the one who's supposed to be wigging?"

"But I'm writing up the play for the school newspaper. All my research on Thorton Wilder, and my interview with Katimsky were in there!" She stops mid-panic and lifts her head, "You're going to be great, so just stop that." Rayanne's eyes bulge the way they do when she's given a directive she finds amusing. Sharon resumes her search but does not find the book. Her palm flies to her forehead, "Oh God!"

"Look, I'm the one with something to be nervous about. I mean, you're just writing the article, I'm the one it'll be about." Her voice lowers and slows as this realization hits her. Rayanne sneaks a contemplative look in the mirror, starting to actually get a little nervous.

Sharon, too distracted to be really paying attention, with sublime satisfaction lifts the notebook into the air, "Found it." She looks to Rayanne for a reaction, but seeing her resting her face in her hands, paying her no attention, Sharon moves closer. "Graff." Rayanne looks up and her eyes meet Sharon's in the mirror; for the first time Sharon really sees her, "Wow."

"What? Cherski?"

"Nothing, it's just, you look normal. I mean you look really good."

"Yeah?" She throws down her blush brush. Rayanne exhales and changes the subject, "So you drag Kyle here?"

"Kyle? Please."

Rayanne picks at a clump in her mascara, "So, who are you here with?" Sharon raises an eyebrow, she knows where this is going Rayanne's lack of eye contact is telltale. "I mean, is An" Rayanne cuts herself off. Why even go there? She mutters, "I mean, yeah, she's probably not coming." Rayanne's hand drops to the table, "Did she say anything to you?"


And up goes Rayanne's front, "Yeah, I figured. Just as well." Her tone changes slightly here as she allows herself a little more honesty and relishes the self-indulgence of her own self-pity. "I mean why would she. She like, hates me forever. Right?" she asks, fishing for confirmation.

"Look, Rayanne. Don't start thinking about all of that now. You're going to do great. Aren't you excited?" Several girls in costume enter the dressing room, all laughing and excited. They consume Rayanne in their conversation and Rayanne shifts her mood and perks up.

A bodiless voice crackles through the antiquated intercom speaker: "Places!" Rayanne glances once more into a mirror and swallows. Maybe she shouldn't have given up her flask.

Though he's not quite sure what got him there Jordan follows behind Angela as she takes a seat in the school auditorium for the opening performance of Our Town. They're a little late and the play has already begun. Jordan, who most of the time doesn't have the patience for movies, does not have high hopes for the evening, and really can't remember why or how he'd agreed to go in the first place. It's strange to him to see classmates up there dressed as they are in ankle length dresses and suspenders and the like. He tries to pay attention but he ends up just watching the light cues and marking the times there's a late cue, a mic glitch, or a noticeably flubbed line there aren't many of those, at least as far as he can tell, but there was one spectacular screw up when the kid who used to live one block down from him entered, slipped, fell, and played it off like it hadn't happened. Jordan thought it was the cover up and not the fall that made it so funny, but still people hadn't really laughed, so he hadn't either, just kind of chuckled silently into his sleeve-covered fist.

He'd almost forgotten Rayanne was in the play until she made her first entrance. When she does, he grows a little uncomfortable. Things were better between him and Angela since all that, but not solid. (There was still room to fail.) And sitting there silently beside his new girlfriend as they watch her old best friend in some weird play about he-doesn't-know-what wasn't helping. He shifts in his chair, but that only makes him self-conscious about how she's interpreting his reaction. He stays motionless and tries to watch. He almost wouldn't have recognized her. Rayanne. Her hair is tamed and traditional, her makeup is natural and flattering, her dress is old-fashioned but at least in some century it would've been considered normal; she's pretty. And she's not half bad in her performance. But he can't sit there watching her, next to her.

She's doing Angela. He sees it now the hair tuck, the big eyes, the crossed ankles, the jutted chin and just-so delivery of certain lines when she's excited. He wonders if others see it, if Angela sees it. Will she get the cry right too? There's the head bow and eye lift. It's too weird. Rayanne Graff is the farthest thing from his girlfriend he doesn't want to see her playing his girlfriend. Jordan looks around the audience for a while, then leans into Angela's ear, "Gonna head out for a smoke." She nods to indicate she's heard, but doesn't take her eyes off the stage.

Angela remains frozen. Watching Rayanne with some difficulty.


Still in the first act, the scene on stage is a conversation between 'Emily' and her 'mother', in which Emily rushes to her mother to ask if she is pretty enough to make boys notice her. Grudgingly, her mother admits she is and then tries to turn her daughter's mind to other subjects. Angela closes her eyes almost as if in pain.

Meanwhile backstage, splitting his attentions between the cues coming over his headset and the controlled chaos that exists behind the curtains of a live theater performance, Rickie scurries to re-pin somebody's wig back in place. "Good enough," he says. "Just, don't move your head too fast. Okay, you're on."

Katimsky appears backstage. When they spot him, two actors rush over to speak to him and hug him quickly before their entrances. Surveying the activity, he addresses Rickie in a low voice so as not to be heard by the actors performing just feet away. "How's it going?"

From where he stands in the wings, Rickie smiles and nods, only briefly pulling his eyes from the action onstage, "Really well."

Katimsky gently sets his hand on Rickie's shoulder, "You're doing a great job, Enrique." Rickie registers only a meek smile, but it is evident that this actually means a great deal to him. Katimsky pats Rickie on the shoulder and leaves to return to the light and sound booth at the back of the house.

Exiting off stage after a scene Rayanne is giddy with excitement. Corey, dressed as a stage hand in all black, nods at her, "How's it going?"

"Didn't see anybody leave their seats." She can hardly keep both feet on the ground she's so pumped.

"Good job on the monologue."

"Really? This is like, the BEST feeling." For the hell of it, or maybe because of the stage high, or some messed up residual thing of the Angela-Rickie triangle, she gives him a more purposeful smile. Corey smiles politely, and then averts his eyes.

Angela doesn't end up making it to intermission. She figures she made the effort. She finds Jordan in the parking lot sitting on his car hood. He sees her approaching and pulls the unlit cigarette from his lips. "It over?" Angela shakes her head. "Tino ever show?" She shakes her head again. He moves and stands before her, holding her by her hips, "You okay?" Angela shakes her head a third time and Jordan pulls her in and holds her, kind of resting his head on hers. Angela shudders a deep breath, and takes a step back, quickly wiping a single finger under each eye.

She breathes in, "Let's go." Jordan takes her hand and walks her to the passenger door, opens it, and closes it after her. He gets in and they drive away.

After intermission Sharon's left the wings backstage and walked round to the front of the theater. She enters the auditorium and makes her way down the far left aisle and in the darkness moves to slip into the seat beside Brian. "Hey Krakow," she whispers.

Caught off guard Brian's awkward in making room for her, "Hey. Hi," he whispers. He moves his still-balled-up sweater from the cushioned seat, and hopes she doesn't notice the slight sloshing noise it makes when he does. Sharon pulls out a notepad, pencil, and tiny flashlight. "What, are you doing?"

"I'm watching the play Krakow, is that alright?" Hearing herself she sighs then provides further explanation, "I'm writing the review for the newspaper. I watched the first half from backstage." There is a pause, and then she asks in an overly formal manner, "Do-you-mind-if-I-sit-here?"

"Go ahead."

"Thank you," she says curtly, as only Sharon Cherski can do. Eventually her eyes drift from the action onstage back to him, she studies him, "Why are you acting so weird?"

"What? Weird how? I mean, I'm not." Sharon gives him a slow 'If you say so' nod of appeasement, then redirects her attention to the show. After a bit, his eyes also on the actors, or, one in particular, he leans in to her and whispers, "So, what do you think?"

"It's good," Sharon nods, biting the tip of her pencil. "She's really good." No one needed to say who the 'she' was.

Brian's having a difficult time reconciling it, but despite his preconceived expectations, she is good. "I know," he whispers. "It's kind of disturbing." Sharon looks at him strangely again.

After the curtain closes for the final time Sharon once more makes her way backstage and stands waiting with Rickie for Rayanne to come out of the dressing room. When Rayanne does emerge Sharon gushes, "Rayanne, you were unbelievable!"

"Seriously," Rickie says, "you were amazing."

"Really? It kind of felt amazing." Rayanne's expression shifts and she tries to come off nonchalant, "So," she hedges, "I guess Chase didn't come."

Sharon tilts her head softly, "Rayanne"

But Rayanne shrugs it off, "No biggie." She looks away, takes a second, pops her lips, and fakes it. "So, Cherski, coming to the cast party?"

Other actors rush up in excitement to congratulate Rayanne and each other, and she disappears within them, leaving Sharon and Rickie on the sidelines. They exchange awkward smiles.

After the initial frenzy of post-show euphoria and the actors and crew have received and greeted their friends and family, the audience members there to congratulate them thin out, and the kids collect their things and start organizing themselves to head out. Nearing the exit with a group of other actors as they prepare to leave for the cast party, an exuberant Rayanne breaks away when she catches sight of Brian.

"Krakow!" Rayanne is beaming.

Caught off-guard by the enthusiasm she displays in seeing him, Brian stands there, a little uncomfortable, staring, "Hi." He's never seen her look like this so alive, so clear-headed, and happy, and pretty beautiful all at the same time. It's almost like it isn't her.

"What? What are you looking at?"

But it is her. "Nothing. I just, didn't know you could look, like that." Rayanne gives him a medium-length knowing glance.

Finally spotting her Rickie comes closer and calls to Rayanne, "Hey Rayanne, let's go. Hey, Brian."

Rayanne turns and flashes at Brian, "Coming?"

She'd been serious? Rayanne Graff's really bringing him to a party? A drama party sure, but a party nonetheless, one to which she was inviting him, not mocking him or ignoring him, or abusing him. For a moment his mind churns over all the ways she might be using him or playing him, but when he glances at Rickie he sees no indication he should be worried, and when he looks back at Rayanne her large dancing brown eyes are delightedly earnest in their intent. Brian kind of swallows and without his knowledge his eyebrows raise. What could he be getting himself into?

In his car outside her house Jordan and Angela are making out. If not everything between them has yet fallen into place, this part certainly had. Between kisses Jordan whispers her name with intensity, "Angela." He pulls her closer. Slipping his hand through her shirt collar he pushes off her bra strap and clutches her shoulder, moving his hand lower to her chest.

She kisses him once more but then pulls back, "I have to go; I'm going to be late."

Jordan's not letting her go; he kisses her neck, her ears, "But you're home…" he rationalizes.

"Well," she kisses him, "yeah, but—" More kissing.

"Can," he stares at her lips, then looks longingly and devilishly into her eyes, "we go up to your room?"

"What for?" She bites into a smile. He loves the way her eyelids fall and lift when she thinks about the two of them together. He loves the way everything is new to her that her skin tingles when he touches her and her breath shudders when the tension builds too high. And the way her face flushes when he tempts her. She's right there, in his arms, beneath his hands, and all he wants is to get just a little bit closer.

"You know what for..." he utters and moves in and kisses her. "...Too soon to end the night," he manages between kisses. "I ... hate your curfew."

She manages a giggle. More kissing. "You're going to get me in ... trouble."

Jordan looks at her with the mix of mischievous sincerity he's mastered, and grins lustily at her, "No trouble." Just then the porch lights turn on.

Suddenly sobered Angela pulls away. "I better go."

Jordan takes one last kiss. "Goodnight."

"'Night." Angela exits the car, walks to her door, and having opened the door turns to watch Jordan drive away. He flashes his headlights then she quickly enters the house. Across the street, the windows in Brian Krakow's room are dark.

The cast party is at Ronald Everstein's house, the boy who played George Gibbs. His parents have gone to bed, Mr Katimski has gone home, and now it's the kids of the cast and crew hanging out in that odd high school mix of the sheltered kids who never party, some who wished they did and are ready to go nuts if given half the chance, and the others who just aren't there yet, and possibly never will be, and the kids who have a life outside high school drama and see this as the tame affair it is. There are people on the back patio, in the basement, in the living room, kitchen, hallways and darker corners. Some kids are drinking, but not everyone. Sharon's innocently flirting with some boys, and Brian and Rickie stand together observing the room. When Rickie walks away to talk to someone else, saying he'll be right back, Brian's left standing there alone.

Rayanne, who Brian hasn't seen for more than an hour, bumps into him as she passes. She stops, looks at him, looks away, and rolls her eyes before she decides to speak to him. "Past your bedtime yet?"

"You're always so nice."

"What're you doing here, Krakow? You're not even part of the play."

Brian's in shock. "Are you serious? You asked me here."

Rayanne chuckles. "You're so easy." Although she is standing beside him speaking to him, Rayanne is avoiding eye contact and instead surveys the party. "Where's Tino? Did you see him at the play?"

"I, uh, don't know."

"Krakow," she looks at him, "you even know who that is?"

"Yeah. I met him at a party, like, two weeks ago." Incredulous Rayanne inspects him through narrowed eyes. "Well, kind of," he amends.

She laughs like he's a lost cause, "Krakow." Amused she shakes her head, "You ever get tired of being you?"

Brian looks at her, "You have no idea."

Rayanne holds his gaze; her large brown eyes verge on a twinkle but then settle as they really take him in. Holding steady Brian does not blink. Nor does he look away or swallow, nor does he do anything else to mitigate the connection between them. Who would have thought there'd be something within them they had in common? Rayanne Graff's eyes narrow, then, from the corner of her mouth and somewhere hidden in those two deep chocolate pools there sparks a twinkle. And then a conspiratorial grin. She leans in a bit closer, "You still have it?"

His brows lift, "The, uh, the 'flask'?"

She looks at him with widened eyes this should have been obvious "Yeah." She laughs at him again, almost maternally, "Yeah." Now more direct she asks again, "You got it?"

Brian nods. Though whatever this night holds in it, he wishes them sober when they reach it.

In Patty and Graham's bedroom Patty sits in bed with business papers. On the television, playing in the background is the scene from It's a Wonderful Life when brother Harry goes to college with George's savings and he, once more, is left behind. Patty looks up from her papers, sighs, and looks over at Graham's side of the bed. Empty. After checking the clock, again, she tosses aside the papers. Patty now leans back, looks around the room, turns up the volume with the remote, decides she doesn't want to watch this scene, shuts it off, sighs again, then in time re-gathers the papers and returns to her work.

In a back hallway at the party, Rayanne and Brian are standing beneath a recessed light engaged in something close to something like an argument. She'd been halfway enjoying the evasive come-and-get-it run-around he'd been giving her about the flask, till she got that he'd never meant for her to get it.

All day it had been someone or something getting between her and that drink, and it hadn't been that big a deal, but now she wants it and is finished with delaying gratification. The push for the liqour though, had grown into something bigger than that, and now Brian's confronting her over latent grievances he's been storing up against her for months.

Not quite aware of how they ended up here, Brian feels the irritation within him rising and there he is, almost, kind of shouting at her, ending with, "You are so self-centered. You know that? Life does not revolve around you."

"Krakow, just" and out of nowhere she's kissing him. This is a sudden movement. It just all at once happens. He is totally amazed. She has surprised herself as well her eyes go big as she moves in and, after a passing moment of disgust, he totally goes for it. Brian Krakow wraps his arms around her, catching his fingers in her tamed and fragrant hair. Caught in inexplicable passion they fall back against the wall, turning one another against the stuccoed wall more than once.

Brian and Rayanne are no longer kissing but are now standing, looking at each other, trying to catch their breaths and wrap their minds round what just transpired. Rayanne has that hunched over, wide-eyed expression, just kind of observing him as Brian proceeds to kind of freak out.

"Oh my God! What just happened?!" He paces. "You don't even like me."

Rayanne appears less than bothered by any of this and she shrugs off-handedly. "You don't like me either." Her eyes follow him like he's some foreign being strange and of interest, but entirely impossible to predict. Her eyes widen in detached amusement with his next eruption.

"I know! What was I thinking?"

"Krakow," she reasons with him, never moving from where she stands, "you don't have to think all the time. See what can happen when you're not so uptight?"

Suddenly what she's saying to him makes sense. "Oh my God you're right." Brian stops, and turns to her; he looks at her, almost in awe.


Brian blinks. "It was incredible." Had he given her the time, she would have thought how dumbly sweet that little moment of self realization was, but he's lunged in to kiss her again, and without a thought she laughs and meets him halfway. They kiss, holding each other's faces, passionately and sloppily. Once more they break away.

He looks her in the eye, studies her pretty, freckled face, his mouth just inches from her own. "This doesn't change anything?"

"You're still Brian Krakow," she assures him.

"You too," he breathes, hardly believing it is him saying and doing these things. They kiss again. Tangled into one another they pull each other out of sight into an opened door that is quickly shut behind them.

"Krakow!" Rayanne laughs her exclamation of impressed surprise from behind the particle wood door. On the other side can be heard the muffled sounds of impassioned fumbling; straps are pushed away and a zipper is tugged down.


In the morning Patty and Graham are in the Chase kitchen preparing breakfast. Patty is dressed for work whereas Graham, a little wan, still wears a t-shirt and navy sweatpants.

Drinking her coffee as she puts the girls' lunches together, Patty asks coolly, "Did you have a good time last night?"

"Yeah," Graham looks up from the eggs he's preparing, "it was okay."

"Nice of your brother to go to all that trouble," she remarks evenly.

"No trouble," Graham brushes off. Spooning a scoop of goat cheese into the pan and drizzling in a little truffle oil, Graham livens up, "Hey, listen, you'll never guess who showed up last night."

Unamused, Patty responds dryly, "Who."

"Hallie." Graham works the spatula through the thickening eggs; behind him Patty's face deadens, but she puts her reaction on hold as Angela, still in her robe, enters the kitchen.

"Hey..." She shuffles in, still a little groggy. Angela looks first in the fridge, opens a cabinet, inspects the bagels, meeting everything with vague disinterest.

"Morning." Patty, who (though not menacing) remains silent during this general exchange still working over that last revelation, manages at least a smile.

Graham however, at best only slightly aware of the repercussions of his words, betrays nothing of the current tension between himself and his wife in his interactions with their daughter. If anything he is upbeat. And for that Patty is all the more conflicted: as always he is a great father so there and present with their girls, but... Where is that for her? Does he even hear himself? Does he see what he is doing?

"Hey there," Graham greets his older daughter as she pulls down two plates from a shelf. "How's your night? What've you been up to?"

Leaning her hip against the counter Angela purses her lips to the side before answering, "Saw less than the first act of Rayanne's play."

Graham's brow lifts in surprised confirmation and he glances at her as he shuts off the burner, "You did? Good for you."

"Was it?" she remarks acerbically.

Graham 'hmphs' appreciatively. "Well," he reasons as he pulls open the refrigerator to pull out the orange juice, "you never know what it'll be that'll reforge a friendship." Patty's eyes narrow as she listens to Graham speak these words. Angela pulls out glasses and passes them over. "'S good you went."

"I had to walk out."

"Baby steps." Graham winks at her as pours, "Rome wasn't burned in a night."

Angela shakes her head with a rueful smile, "You love that one."

"It's a classic," Graham chuckles, and hands over the glass he'd poured for her. Patty meanwhile finishes her coffee and moves past them to soak her oatmeal pan in the sink. Graham notes her silence and so directs his attention back to Angela, keeping the mood light and conversational as he plates the eggs and hands some over to his daughter. "So, how was the play?"

Having no utensil Angela picks at the eggs, "Fine."

Graham swallows a forkful of his own eggs, "Lot's of people there?"

"I don't know," she says dully, "I guess." She finds a fork and pushes at her food, takes two bites, then hands the plate back to her father. "Thanks." Exiting the room Angela selects a piece of fruit to take with her, "I have to get dressed."

Graham chuckles and pushes the remainder of her eggs onto his plate.

"Find out what is keeping your sister please." Angela nods and Patty waits for her to exit earshot before preceding, then looks directly at Graham: "Hallie Lowenthal was at the bar with you last night?"

Graham, at this point taken a little aback by this, glances at her. "Yeah. I mean, not 'with' with." It seems as though Patty's stopped blinking; he plays it casual, takes another bite. "I don't know how that happened. Strange coincidence, huh?"

"Very strange." Patty's delivery is flat and dry.

"So, anyway" Graham takes another bite of eggs then offers her a forkful; she shakes her head "it was a great time."

"Good." Patty's nod of affirmation is insincere, as is her tone. "Great."

To this Graham arches his eyebrow, and sets his plate on the counter, "That was convincing. Work on your delivery next time." And with that he exits the room.

At school, Rickie and Rayanne move through the central hallway together. They are engaged in conversation as they walk but additionally each is simultaneously having his and her own experience as they do.

Rickie smiles at Delia as they pass while Rayanne doesn't even register she's there. A few steps further when they pass Brian Krakow at his locker, Rickie gives a simple head nod and smile and moves on, meanwhile Rayanne and he seemingly ignore each other completely, though imperceptibly his body goes on alert in her presence Brian unwittingly stands straighter, blood rushes to his ears and cheeks, there is a faint humming in his head.

From somewhere within his lips seem to reverberate from their overuse the night before. Now several paces beyond Rayanne turns back her head slightly for a covert glimpse and finds he, like a heliotropic blossom, has oscillated his head to watch her. Has she ever been looked at this way before? With fascination and appreciation and naive desire? She feels alive.

Against experience and her judgement, for a split second Rayanne's left eye shuts in a solitary wink. Then she's turned round again, talking to Rickie, and all is as though nothing at all had happened. Brian blushes, looks around the hallway, sees no one has witnessed this but him, then turns back to his locker.

Closed within the confines of the three rusted walls of his mid-century institutional locker, a slow inward smile spreads across Brian Krakow's face. This is an expression he's never till now worn, because novice though he still very much is, there is knowing behind it that's never been there before. Admittedly now more confused and conflicted than ever, Brian's coming to see the upside of living a life than watching it. The observer has, at least for some part, become a player, and with that the paradigm of many things has shifted. With a heavy metallic finality, Brian shuts his locker door.

Leaning against her locker, Angela passively observes the activity of the hallway. 'So, going to the play wasn't exactly a success. Maybe it's a bad idea to think about making up with Rayanne.' Her eyes shut and Angela combs her fingers through her roots. 'I don't know; it could be totally unrealistic. And I'm not exactly sure where I am with Brian. We might just have to pretend that things are normal before they actually get that way.'

Jordan approaches. Breaking away from Laurence and Kirk to be with her, he smiles as he nears. "Hey." He too leans against the lockers and she smiles as he closes his eyes.

Angela turns her head minimally and glances at him. 'As for Jordan, things were good. Not that everything was perfect, but it seemed like we were getting more comfortable with each other.' He turns his head to her, his eyes reopening as his faces melds sedately into a vaguely contented smile. 'Like we could just kind of relax, and be ourselves.' Jordan straightens, takes her hand, and walks with her down the hallway.

Posted 5/22/13