The cast encircled the bad-faced witch. She spoke sotto voce. I waited at the double doors.
They became aware of my folded-arm presence. And so the witch's voice fell away further. The circle broke; the cast, as one, acted as if they were simply having a coffee and chatting 'bout nuffin. I strode over, pointing:
“Witch, are you bitching about my shorts?” I asked, not unreasonably.
“What if I am?” she responded with spike.
“My cycling shorts,” I said, turning to address the rest of the cast. “I didn’t choose to wear them. There had been an accident … I’d lost my trousers. Ignore her.”
Nobody responded, instead the twenty turned back to the doughnuts in silence.
I could feel my anger blistering. Since rehearsal number one, there had been only two civil people. One was Macduff and he was a weirdo, and the other was Rosalind and she was gorgeous.
I studied the space for her. She hadn’t been listening to the ugly witch diss me. I found her in the far corner. She sat in a plastic chair, legs gracefully crossed, drinking coffee from a disposable white cup. She listened to Macbeth, in a chair beside her, bang on about something. Her face was blank.
I wasn’t rude. I waited. Macbeth was instructing Rosalind how to read the letter that he sends to Lady M early on. His advice was flawed. I didn’t offer my opinion. I waited. Rosalind was wearing a vintage dress (brown) with many a-bead around her neck. She looked yummy.
“What do you want, Richardson?” Macbeth said, finally noticing me.
“Sorry to interrupt,” said I, teeth-sharpingly polite. “Could I have a quick word with Lady M?”
Macbeth waved his hand towards her in acquiescence. My heart beat double-time. The words I’d planned to utter stuck fast in my gullet.
For this was Rosalind’s attractiveness, Reader. She blew sentences from your mouth. And I came close to nervousness for the second time in ten days.
Then, suddenly, I’d spunked out the words:
“You wanna go for a drink tonight?”
Rosalind smiled (and it was as if the temperature of the room had increased slightly), she blushed (Yes! Yes! Yes!) and turned to Macbeth. He sneered and made as if to speak. Rosalind cut him off.
I was expecting her to respond negatively, so didn’t know quite what was expected now. I looked at my feet (Converse trainers). Macbeth spoke.
“This is a rehearsal. Not a speed date. Molest women in your own time.”
I was close to swearing, but my wrath towards Macbeth cleared my mind. I ignored him and read Rosalind my telephone number. She granted me her digits, and I drifted off to the coffee with a promise to text message.
It was fantastic, Reader. I felt so alive that I wanted to write poetry. I wanted to skip naked through wheat fields. I wanted to speak with children and teach them of the magic of woman.
I could do none of these, however, as we were to run through Acts Three and Four. This was shit as Malcolm has nothing to do until the end of Act Four. I planned to sit at the edge of the space and watch Rosalind. Fate, in the guise of the fat director, intervened.
Having asked Macbeth to take control of directing duties for a few minutes, she escorted me outside. The foyer was darkly lit and we waited for an inexplicable group of chattering old ladies to pass before speaking.
“This is awkward, Kay.”
“Don’t date Rosalind. Really.”
Whack! A smacker punch! Right across my chops!
“And why not?” I bellowed.
The director looked over her shoulder and told me to keep my voice down. She continued:
“She’s three years younger than me. So what?”
The bitch wouldn’t look me in the eyes. She spoke quickly.
“It’s Rosalind’s first professional performance and she doesn’t need your distraction. For the next six months, she should see herself as Macbeth’s wife. Nothing else. I don’t want you distracting her. That’s it, Kay. Don’t argue. There’s no discussion.”
The director nodded. I shrugged. The director said ‘sorry’. I asked whether that fucker Macbeth had put her up to this.
“It makes no difference,” she whispered and returned to the rehearsal room.
I punched the wall, yelped in pain, and followed her.
I was seething, Reader. I’m sure that if I’d taken a picture of my face at that precise moment, veins would have been prominent on my distinguished forehead. I was determined to go for a drink with Rosalind, whatever.
On returning to the rehearsal space, the cast had used the hiatus to perform the gift-exchange ceremony. Almost forgetting my anger, I rushed to Manbag, ready to throw the wrapped dildo into the rough circle that the cast had formed. But everyone had already claimed their presents before I could pull out its long, black box. A solitary gift lay in the middle of the ring. ‘Kay’ was written upon its pale blue tag.
“I’ll get something else,” I said, the full weight of the situation falling upon my (broad) shoulders. The humour of buying Macbeth a dildo relied on my anonymity. And now it was tear-summoningly clear that it was I, and only I, who was left to give present.
“For me?” he said, in his stupid voice, and snatched the coffin-like box from my hands.
“Open yours first,” said Rosalind, smiling and so betraying her purchase of my middle-of-circle-lying present.
Macbeth realised his enthusiasm for gift-taking jeopardised his ‘coolness’.
“Yes, of course, open yours first,” he said and pointed.
I did. The sky-blue crepe paper fell away to reveal a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver.
“The other day, when we chatted, you said you liked his stuff,” said Rosalind, blushing and quickly adding: “Not that I bought it.”
They all laughed. Even Macbeth. I felt a step closer to death.
Macbeth stood tall. He held my long box with both hands. It was roughly wrapped in cheap wrapping paper bought in Woolworth’s. It displayed a few Reindeer chasing a sexy Santa Claus (female).
“Really,” I said. “I want to take it back. Get you something else. I’ve misunderstood the whole thing.”
Rosalind told me not be stupid. Macbeth said that it was bad form to demand return of gifts as yet unopened. I surrendered myself to Fate, praying somehow that the box would miraculously not hold an elephantine dildo. Macbeth’s feminine hands pulled the paper from the box and let it drift to the floor. The black cardboard remained, still yet to betray its filthy content.
“What could it be?” said Macbeth and shook it next to his ear. “It’s rather weighty.”
His quick fingers finally opened the box and out slid the two foot by six inch black beast. The impact of the shock-dropped cardboard upon the floor reverberated. The dildo wobbled slightly in Macbeth’s tight grip.
We seemed to stand still, silent for minutes upon minutes. The first person to react was a witch. She screamed:
Macbeth remained unmoving, staring at the still-wobbling phallus in utter disbelief.
“What the fuck?” said somebody.
“That’s not funny,” said somebody else.
I pushed my way out of the rehearsal space without looking back.
When I returned to the flat I found that I had an unread text message waiting on the ‘phone. It was from Rosalind. And it said:
Jules is upset. Prob best for us to leave drink for a while. R x’.
I tensed to threw my telephone at the wall, but remembered it was very expensive and swore instead.