The cast and crew of the Fall Shakespeare Festival at Coal Hill had a bad case of the “Fridays”, and it was only Thursday, which did not bode well for rehearsal. The stage was chaos, with students milling about, set builders painting flats, and apparently Rory and Amy had decided no one could see them behind the side curtain making out. And was that Lauren Cooper writing out her lines on her hand?
David McCrimmon was beyond frustrated. It was far too late in the rehearsal process for The Tempest to be in that much of a...tempest. He glanced over at the art teacher, Rose Tyler, who was arguing with a couple of her art students. She was pinching the bridge of her nose, and pointing at the half-built set.. “Just staple the tulle draperies up there, and we’ll cut them to fit!” she growled, just loud enough for him to hear. At least he wasn’t alone in his frustration. She looked around and caught his eye.
Even frustrated, she was gorgeous. And distracting. He must have stared at her a bit too long because she smiled at him, shaking her head in amazement. He quickly forgot where he was. She had that effect on him at the most inconvenient times. He grinned back at her, and for a second the teens were spared the wrath of McCrimmon.
Then he caught Lauren elbowing Melody, smirking and nodding in their general direction.
The effect of the Rose Smile quickly wore off.
“FINGERS ON LIPS!!”
The action on the stage ground to a halt. Rose whirled around, glanced at David then put her own finger to her lips.
“I need everybody ready to go through Act 1 Scene 2, in three minutes….and oh, did you write the wrong lines on your hand, Lauren? When I said today was OFF BOOK, I meant it! Everybody in place, now!!”
Wide eyed and wary, the teens scrambled around to their places. Rory was trying to tame his hair and Amy ran past, licked her thumb, and rubbed a lipstick smudge off his face. Melody hurriedly scrambled up to the top level of the stage. Lauren crossed her arms and scowled. David supposed he was right about scrawling the wrong lines on her hand. “That's it, I’m dumping her and sticking Sky Smith in her role….” he muttered.
“No you won’t, because when Lauren’s on her game, she’s brilliant,” Rose whispered back as she joined him at the edge of the stage. “And I need Sky on the set crew. You can’t have her.” David rolled his eyes. Rose was right.
In the brief amount of time it had taken for Rose to join David at the edge of the stage, Lauren and Bill were nattering away and Alfie was texting. David took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes.
“Produce the Autumn Shakespeare play, they said,” Rose sighed. “It’ll be fun, they said. You’ll notice Danny and Clara are nowhere to be seen, yeah?”
Rory was making eyes at Amy again, and now Melody was texting. For all he knew, she was texting Alfie, who was four feet away, glued to his own phone. David shook his head in disbelief at the teenagers and murmured, “I really hope our kids aren’t like this.”
It took a second for his brain to catch up with what he’d just said. His ears were already heating up, so apparently they’d gotten the message from his central nervous system to be appalled at what he had just said. He ran his hand through his hair, making it even more disheveled than it already was.
They’d never been on a real date, other than the occasional chip binge after a meeting or a rehearsal, and being on the same team on Friday trivia nights. They’d chaperoned dances together. They’d even gone on the occasional overnight field trip with the Shakespeare Club at school. Not once had he’d ever mentioned that actually going out on an official date with Rose Tyler, the pride of the art department, would make him write sonnets the likes of which would top anything Shakespeare himself had written.
Rose was very quiet. Her cheeks were a bit pinker than normal. Of course they are, he thought. I’ve gone from being her best guy friend to partner in procreation in a matter of seconds. She is appalled.
David did the only thing he could do. He bellowed at the kids.
Rose was gathering her scenery sketches as the teens wandered off stage for the fifteen minute break David had just called. She highly doubted any of them would take his advice and learn their lines, not with the rumor fodder they’d just been given.
David stood at the stage, head bowed over the script. She was fairly sure he was avoiding her. His cheeks were still pink.
She could barely admit it, but hope had actually bloomed in her chest at his words. They’d been friends in adjacent classrooms for years. They’d gone to trivia nights and trips, and David McCrimmon was the best companion (and the best hugger) she could ever want. She was proud to call him her best friend. She had hoped, one day, there would be more. She was too afraid of ruining what they had to ask for it.
Rose had dated Mickey and David had dated Astrid and they’d commiserated when both relationships failed. She cheered him on when he asked out Christina (and cheered privately when that didn’t work out. She’d been very ashamed of herself for that one.) Not once had they discussed dating or being more than friends, and here he was imagining them as parents. Together. With the same children that he, himself, would father. Rose found herself quite intrigued by the thought of it.
She glanced over to the stage, where David was trying to bury himself in the script. Maybe he hoped William Shakespeare would have some word of wisdom for him.
And maybe, just maybe, if she didn’t jump start things, nothing would ever happen. So she put down her sketches and walked with purpose down to the stage.
“What are the chances they'll actually be off book when they come back in? Or at least, that Lauren’ll have the right lines written on her hand.”
Rose reached out and squeezed his hand. She smiled up at him. David stopped mid-sentence and looked at their clasped hands and her smile. His mouth was slightly ajar. Rose let go of his hand when she heard footsteps approaching the stage area.
“Y’know, generally I go out on a date with a bloke before I start planning the family,” she quipped, grinning.
His mouth opened and closed and he finally muttered, in a rush, “Here I go doing everything out of order.”
“Sounds like something you’d do.”
“Would you be interested?” He breathed.
“In what?” Rose swallowed down her nerves and went on, “The date or the procreating?”
David began to stammer. “The date of course…..I suggest we table the other part of the discussion, until we know if we could possibly be going in that general direction...the direction being on a trajectory that would take us to….that place of...knowing.” He winced. This was why he needed Shakespeare to write for him. He ran his hand nervously through his already disheveled hair, making him look even more like a distressed hedgehog.
“I agree,” she stated. She wanted to cut to the chase. They’d waited long enough. She pulled him closer to her, so that they were toe to toe. She heard David gasp. “But I think I already know.”
“You know?” David’s eyes were glazed over, as he pondered the implications of her admission.
Rose nodded, smiling brilliantly. She stepped away just as the students began to wander out onto the stage. She didn’t miss the triumphant smile from Lauren.
“The sight of lovers feedeth those in love,” Lauren brashly announced.
Rose’s cheeks went a bit rosy. David held together his composure enough to admonish his student, “Great job, except we’re doing The Tempest, not As You Like It.”
“I think Ms. Tyler likes it,” Lauren announced, just loud enough to carry, making Melody and Amy snicker.
“All right, you’ve wasted enough time! Places!” David ordered. Then he glanced at Rose. He spoke lowly, so as not to call attention to them. “Talk later?”
“How about chips later?”
David beamed. He turned to the stage, only to see that everyone stood still, waiting to see what happened next. He schooled his features into the stern frown they’d come to expect at this stage of a theater production. “Put the phone away, Alfie!”
“Going back to my classroom,” she informed him. She grinned cheekily, unable to resist poking her tongue out a bit.
“Oh fine, abandon me,” he growled. She snickered.
As the auditorium door closed behind her, she was sure she heard Lauren Cooper ask, “Do you fancy Ms. Tyler, sir?”
An hour later, David finally dismissed the students, mainly out of frustration, ordering the cast to be ready to rehearse off book tomorrow.
He found that the frustration melted away at the thought of chips with Rose Tyler. He’d shared chips with her before. She liked to steal his when she finished hers. She used too much vinegar. He could forgive all these things tonight, though. This time she’d be stealing his chips and drowning them in vinegar as his date. His plus-one. His romantic partner, if he was very fortunate.
It put a spring in his step.
Rose was balancing precariously on a chair, trying to reach a canvas stored on a high shelf when he came into her art room. “Oi, let me do that,” he admonished. He stepped up behind her, reaching for the canvas. She leaned back against his shoulder briefly.
“Wouldn’t do to crash to the floor before the chips,” she agreed.
“Not at all, Rose Tyler. You might bump your head and develop amnesia and forget you agreed to chips with me.” He reached out a hand to help Rose down. Mainly it was an excuse to hold her hand.
“I don’t think I’d ever forget us actually making a real date,” Rose pointed out.
“S’about time, I should think,” he commented. He hoped he sounded casual, but he suspected he’d failed. He was convinced of it when she smirked.
“Quite,” Rose grinned. “So….does that make all those times we went for chips after rehearsals and staff meetings not dates?”
David smiled. “Wellllll…...I should think not. Mostly due to the distinct lack of….”
“Of what?” Rose asked, stepping closer, nearly toe to toe now. She smiled up at him.
He caught a glimpse of pink tongue sticking out and he felt his knees weaken a bit. Finally, this was happening, and all it took was a Freudian slip about having children with her to make it so. He would have done this ages ago if he’d known it would have been this simple.
“Snogging,” he stated simply.
“We need to fix that.”
And so they did. He leaned down and she went up on her toes a bit and their lips met in the middle, finally. Ever mindful of the fact that they stood in her classroom, they kept the kiss light and gentle. He cupped her cheek and he could feel her sigh. Her hand slipped up into his hair and quite suddenly they weren’t being mindful of their location at all.
A noise in the hall which sounded suspiciously like the caretaker clearing his throat interrupted them. They pulled apart but didn’t stray far from each other, holding hands and laughing. “At least it wasn’t Lauren and Amy,” Rose chuckled. “Although they probably already know, or have speculated.”
“And started rumors,” David added. “Little ginger spies.”
“You know they have. It’ll be all over school by first bell tomorrow.”
David cupped her cheek again. “Does that bother you?”
Rose beamed. “Glad to finally be giving the rumors some credence.”
David shook his head, incredulous. “How did this happen?”
Rose laughed. “Do you mean, how did we get our heads out of our arses?”
David wrapped his arms around her, a gesture that was at once familiar and wonderfully new all at the same time. “That’s one way of putting it. I suspect I was just done with hiding how I felt.”
“Same here. I didn’t want to ruin our friendship before. But what could be better than lovin’ your best friend?”
“Being in love with your best friend,” David answered. Rose beamed, nodding. She pulled him down to her, capturing his lips until once again, the caretaker knocked over something in the hall. They chuckled. “Rumor has it the caretaker’s gotten tired of walking in on Danny and Clara and he’s a bit anti-romance at the moment. Shall we get chips?”
They left the school building hand in hand, laughing like the teens they taught. “What’s that line from the play? And don’t give me that look, the kids have to be off book, not the art director. We’ve an agreement of…” Rose misquoted.
“Ah yes, I think you’re referring to Act 4….a contract of true love to celebrate.”
“Quite right!” Rose laughed as he opened the door of his old blue car.
He couldn’t resist kissing her again as she got in
“Making up for lost time,” he commented.
They spent the next several months making up for lost time. In that time, the play was a success. Lauren had gotten it together, and she had been brilliant. The entire cast made the school proud and their parents gush. David’s direction earned him many accolades, as did Rose’s set design. But more importantly to their students, the speculation over whether Mr. McCrimmon and Ms. Tyler were in love evolved into “when will Mr. McCrimmon propose?”
A year later, David and Rose stood, watching the chaos that was the staging of act four of Much Ado About Nothing. Pulling his hair in frustration, David moaned, “I hope our bloody wedding is better than this disaster.”
Rose’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline and David averted his eyes, choosing to stare at her left hand, where she wasn’t wearing a ring. The room had gone silent, right at the most inopportune moment.
Lauren was grinning from ear to ear. David barely restrained himself from yelling at her, “Why haven’t you graduated yet?”
Instead, he took Rose’s hand and pulled her into the hall between the stage and the scenery shop. “Wait! Stop! Don’t wander off!” He demanded, running to his office. A moment later he dashed back, mumbling “No time like the present.”
Rose’s eyebrows still hadn’t lowered. He took her hand, dropped to one knee, and brandished a diamond ring. He hadn’t decided on what to say to her in that moment, so he spoke without rehearsal, saying the first thing that came to mind. “When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew,” he announced, because that Shakespearean quote always made him think of Rose. His voice shook when he asked, “Marry me, Rose Tyler?”
Rose began to cry and laugh at the same time and pulled him to his feet. “Yes, yes of course,” she cried, throwing herself into his arms. A cheer went up from the backstage area.
Their rehearsal was suspended for the evening, due to the celebration that ensued.
Two years after David’s impromptu proposal, rehearsal for the spring musical was interrupted, this time by Rose. She’d gone into labor with their first son. By then the theater department had gotten used to the McCrimmons’ life events interrupting their rehearsals. The stories had become legendary with each successive class. David and Rose wouldn’t have expected any less.