“Hello,” Chris says, and Trevor shakes his head as he takes another puff of his cigarette.
“No,” he says.
“I haven’t even said anything,” Chris says.
“Don’t need you to. You’re going to ask me to do lighting for one of your stupid shows again, and my answer is no, you’re mental.”
“Stage manager, actually,” Chris corrects, “Annie’s joined the cast.”
“Even worse,” Trevor retorts, “I’m not a fuckin’ babysitter.”
Chris does the thing he does, where he furrows his brow in a way that makes him look thirty years older than he actually is. Trevor resists the urge to puff smoke into his face.
“Trevor, come on,” he says in a wheedling voice, “We’ll pay you.”
“In what? You have a budget of negative four hundred pounds.”
“Max is funding it.” That, unfortunately, gets Trevor’s attention.
“Max?” Trevor says, “He’s still a member?”
“Yes,” Chris says, looking torn between regret and relief, “He likes it.”
“You said he can’t act,” Trevor says.
“I never said that,” Chris replies. He has said that. Trevor doesn’t have enough hands to count the amount of times he’s said that.
“Why would you want someone who can’t act in your acting group?”
“He’s rich,” Chris says, “He has a trust fund .”
Trevor doesn’t reply. He takes another drag of his cigarette and looks away, because if he looks at Chris, who can guess more from an expression than bloody Sherlock Holmes himself, he’ll just be signing himself away.
“I told him you’re doing it,” Chris suddenly says anyway. The bastard.
“You -” Trevor starts, then stops and groans. “Don’t do this to me, Chris.”
“He was very excited,” Chris adds, and Trevor imagines him getting run over.
“Stop trying to guilt trip me,” He says, “It’s not going to work.”
Chris looks at him, and Trevor squirms. Chris is an idiot and so far up his own ass that he’s speaking out of it, but he’s got the observation of a hawk when it comes to getting his way. Even in the most underhanded way possible. It’s like being cross-examined on the witness stand.
“Alright,” Chris says, and fishes out his phone. Trevor watches him tap his screen a few times, and then Chris lifts it up and shows it to him. Trevor squints at the screen. It’s a conversation between Chris and Max.
Chris: We start rehearsals in two weeks.
Max: Have you found a new stage manager yet?
Chris: No. Still looking.
Max: Ask Trevor!
Max: He’s cool
Trevor just stares at the screen, completely at a loss. He’s pretty sure he’s gaping. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Chris looking smug.
“Is it working yet?” He asks, and Trevor tears his eyes away from the screen and angrily takes another puff of his cigarette. It’s no longer lit, so there’s no effect, but he does it anyway.
“Fuck you,” he says, “When do I have to start?”
Trevor steps into the rehearsal hall - currently Cornley Polytechnic Squash Court 1 - fifteen minutes late and is immediately hit in the face with a fake stuffed parrot.
“Jesus Christ ,” he manages to say, and then Robert is picking up the toy off the floor and continuing to deliver what seems like a completely improvised monologue from the parrot’s point of view while Dennis and Jonathan listen intently. He sidesteps them, nearly getting whacked in the face again by Robert’s grand gestures, and cranes his neck trying to look for Chris.
Despite the fact that they’re all, well, squashed into a squash court, it takes Trevor more time that should have been necessary to find Chris. He doesn’t know if the society had, by some miracle, gained more members, or whether the three people in activewear currently attempting to skateboard lying down in the middle of the room were just there because the skate park was under construction again.
“There you are!” Chris barks at him as soon as Trevor manages to make eye contact with him. He reaches over and picks up a massive black folder from a rickety folding table before shoving his way around Sandra and Annie doing some sort of warmup that could only be described as “nonsensical taxi mimicking”.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Chris says, throwing the folder as Trevor once he’s close enough. Trevor tries and fails to catch it. He quickly drops and picks it back up, and Chris pretends he didn’t see.
“I need you to memorise the first ten pages of cues by next week,” Chris says, and Trevor nods. Then he opens up the folder.
“Chris,” he says, “Why are we doing Peter Pan?”
“It’s a Christmas Classic,” Chris replies. Trevor can already see the countless childhoods they were going to ruin. Well, the childhoods of everyone who would go and see it. Around twelve childhoods. Countable childhoods.
“But we’re shite,” Trevor says, and Chris just glares at him.
“We are not shit, thank you,” he mutters, “Just. Have to work harder, that’s all.”
“ Work harder - have all your previous productions taught you nothing? Who’s Peter?”
“Oh Christ - this is gonna be a disaster -”
“Shut up, don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts -”
“Hey guys!” Max suddenly says into Trevor’s left ear, and Trevor jumps a little.
“Hello, Max,” Chris says.
Trevor turns to look at him. Max is beaming, as if this is the best part of his day.
“Hello, Chris,” Max says, and then looks at Trevor, “Are you doing lighting again, Trevor?”
“No,” Trevor manages to say, “I - no. I’m stage manager now.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Max says, and gives him a pat on the back. Trevor feels his stomach churn. His lunch must’ve been off.
“Good,” Chris says, “Cues. Next week, Trevor. See the lady in the corner there, the one that’s currently taping that man to the wall? She’s Grace, your ASM. The man being taped is Lincoln, the other ASM. Go and make friends. Max, you wanted to speak to me?”
“Yes,” Max replies, and with one last smile at Trevor turns to follow Chris, nearly tripping over a runaway skateboard, “Actually, I wanted to ask you about casting…”
His voice fades away as Trevor flips through the folder. He’s not a stage manager, but his mum was one for a bit before she went into competitive fishing, so he reckons he can ask her if he needs help, or even Annie. He looks at Max, weaving his way through the crowded court, gesticulating wildly at Chris until he hits him in the face, and realises that there's a smile threatening to break out onto his face. He shakes his head and turns around.
“Right,” he says, striding over to the couple, “You’re Grace?”
“Yes,” Grace says, smiling. The man on the wall tries to wave, but his hand remains firmly stuck to the side of the court. “And that’s Lincoln,” Grace adds.
“Hello,” Lincoln says, and Trevor nods.
“Hello. I’m Trevor, the stage manager,” he says, sitting down next to Lincoln’s dangling feet and opening his folder. “Who’s got a highlighter?”