“Bring up the house, Sid,” said Mrs. Fendever impatiently. Jenna looked at her expectantly and waited. “What, may I ask, was that?” Asher blushed and pulled his head quickly away from Jenna’s face. “Asher, you’re kissing Isolde, the woman you love, for god’s sake, not your grandmother! Make it big! This is a raw moment of passion!”
“Who kisses their grandmother on the lips?!” Asher demanded.
“Never mind that—Keep going, and during the next wet and sloppy, try to make it look less painful, would you?”
“We’ll try,” piped in Jenna. And she did try. It just wouldn’t work. Had it been private, had it been intimate, had her English teacher not been staring them down within an inch of their lives. Had Liv not been seated front and center on the first big rehearsal. Then, maybe.
They must have improved somewhat, because by the end of rehearsal, Mrs. Fendever simply told them, sipping her 8th mug of Chai, to remember breath mints for the rest of the week. As she left the theatre she checked to see if Liv sat waiting for her in the usual spot outside on the green. She had not. Jenna checked every other place on campus she could think of but by the time she reached The Brink, her advisor’s office lounge in the basement of the history building next to the boiler, she was out of breath. She stretched out on the puce leather couch, her head on a coffee stained arm.
She wasn’t settled for too long, however, when Asher opened the creaky door, his hair damp from the steady drizzle outside. He did not seem surprised to see her and plopped down next to her. She’d curled her legs under herself to make room.
“I talked to Fendever – she’s so confusing—she says we’ve got chemistry, right up till the kissing bits…” Asher looked at her, as if waiting for her to say something. She did not. “She told me she thinks we get all awkward. I wasn’t getting awkward—no, not awkward—were you?”
Jenna shifted so that the tips of her bare toes were touching Asher’s pants leg. “Well, I wouldn’t say awkward… More like, we over thought it. A lot.”
Asher prickled underneath her big toe. He put one leg up on the other’s knee and folded his arms over his lap.
“Really?” He said, “I didn’t think about it. Over-think about it. There were just a lot of stage lights and Fendever staring at us like a horny pig—”
“Eww—god—I didn’t mean like that stuff—”
“Well what did you mean?”
Jenna watched Asher’s blank face watch her blank face. Nothing about that face changed noticeably, yet he seemed more sober somehow.
Jenna grimaced. Asher shook his short blond hair and some fell in his eyes.
“She bolted the minute Fendever mentioned that today was makeout day.” He stretched out on the couch, picking up Jenna’s ankles to rest them on his knees. “Don’t worry, she’ll get over it after the show.”
The light didn’t reach his eyes.
“I guess we know she likes you. You must be excited.”
Asher tugged at a hole worn into the couch until a small pad of fluffy cotton came out. He twirled it between his fingers.
“That’s what you wanted, right?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” said Asher.
Asher’s gaze wafted past Jenna to the neon green lit clock behind her.
You know,” Asher continued, “Fendever’s right. We should go over our lines. I keep confusing the third and fourth scenes.” He paused. “We can skip the face eating for now, if you want.”
Jenna smiled but sat back in her end of the couch, where a loose spring was poking into her upper thigh. As she studied him, Asher pulled the little bits of cotton apart into smaller aerated sections.
“No.” She said, soft but firmly, “We want the audience to believe in the passion of our affair, right?”
Asher laughed. The lines, in this sepulchral space forced no echoes, forced no silences as the boiler across the hall clicked into fire. The poetry that had first stumbled and dragged itself from their mouths naturalized, and now, if a syllable lagged, if it wore on, if it stuttered itself, it did so with intent. Asher’s face went distinctly pink and his freckles glowed alongside the smattering of teenage facial hair. Jenna imagined a blotchy splotch of re spread like a rare and infectious disease on her own features.
Asher had been wrong. The kissing scenes were much stranger without the lights, the artifice, the mechanism of an English teacher bearing down on them. They sat in opposition, and moonbeams rang this time when their lips touched.
Well there’s your problem, guys.” Scoffed a voice from the doorway. Luke sauntered in, shaking his head in amusement. “Kissing scenes never work if you just wait around for the other person to start.” Luke sprang lightly onto the couch, his back sinking into the thinning faux leather, dividing the two, who had jerked apart at his appearance.
“If I may—“ Asher stared stonily at Luke. “You can’t just say to a girl, ‘Oh hey there, I’m going to molest your face with my tongue’—You need to take one of two tactics: you can build up the tension—“ his face was serene and his eyelids lowered dreamily. The whole of his eye was clear as if he could see through his target with the sliver and red flecks of his iris. His lips were parted just enough that the polished fronts of his teeth were visible. His face loomed closer and closer—to Asher—just as Asher did his best to sit, stony faced and leaning away.
“Develop the tension,” Luke said. “lead into a long…” his face was half a foot from a crimson Asher. “Dramatic…” his voice dropped to a hushed purr. “…forbidden moment…” His eyes almost closed, he paused so close to Asher that their noses almost touched. At the angle Asher was bent away from Luke, he should have fallen over. “Or,” Luke said in a normal tone, “You can take advantage of a situation and take her by surprise:” turning, Luke ran his right hand through Jenna’s hair and cupped her chin with his other.
His breath was hot and minty: Jenna tasted it moments before his mouth closed on hers. Why should she fight it? Her eyes closed instinctively and their lips moved in sync to a rhythm that was theirs alone. The drums hammered on. The warmth of stars, of fire, of ice, of all things that burn brightest just before they extinguish seeped through her lips, down to her center, spreading from her core to every extremity. Even her pinky fingers and toes tingled. Luke broke away and turned, smiling, towards Asher.
“I’d give a few more lessons but I’ve got soccer in ten.” And he left.
After straightening her blouse and brushing some of the messy strays of red hair back into place, Jenna watched Asher. She didn’t know how he looked. His face was still a deep red, and the bottom of his lip looked sucked in, as if he was on the way to biting his lip. His long dark lashes were downcast, blocking his caramel irises, and his hands were either clenching the sofa or ripping apart the cotton.Without looking at her, he said, “He is right about one thing; we need practice if I have to live up to that performance.
©2014 Lex Vex