Here is our story this week. Apologies for not having real names for the Drama Teacher and the History teacher. I think they are going to play a bigger role and I don’t know them well enough to give them names yet.
The History Drama
Prompt: A high school Drama student, discovers a conspiracy, poison.
In a small town, there are places where everyone goes. Like the dry cleaners. And the Pride Family Dry Cleaners, as the only one in Yonkers, Texas, was the way to get the pulse of the town. Felicity Pride said she could tell you when people were getting married, when funerals were happening, who got a raise, who lost their jobs, – all by the dry cleaning they brought in weekly. Myrt, Felicity’s sister and the tailor in the small alterations shop inside the cleaners, said she could go even further- she knew who was divorcing, who was sick, and who was in love, all by the requested alterations.
Leda sat at her workstation and pulled out the hem of a ball gown. Mrs.Rogers had no big life issues, she just had an upcoming Junior League Ball and wanted to wear lower-heeled shows. But listening to Felicity and Myrt gossip about the townspeople was entertaining, even if it only reminded her of the high school cafeteria. She sighed. Maybe the problem with small towns is that if you don’t leave the town, you never really leave high school. Her own family wasn’t going anywhere, and she herself pretty much set her life here forever when she decided to drop out of high school and be a full-time tailor.
The two older women hushed as the bell on the front door rang and Ms. Drama Teacher came in with an armful of dresses. Came in? More like she floated in on a breeze of Versace Eros for Femme. She glanced around the shop, but instead of stopping at the dry cleaning counter, she drifted over to Leda’s work table.
“Leda! How great to see you!”
Leda stood up. How did this woman even know her name? Drama was never her thing, and this woman was drama personified. She wore wide, flowy pants that nearly covered her pointy-toed shoes. An equally flowy jacket, topped with a bright flowered scarf, completed the ensemble. Leda wanted to alter everything so Ms. Drama wasn’t swallowed by the loud clothing.
Ms. Drama dropped the dresses on the table. “I was hoping you would be here. We are getting ready to put on a play, and I think you would be the perfect person to be in charge of costumes.”
“Um, I am dropping out, so I can work. I don’t have time…”
Myrt interrupted. “I think that is a great idea! You will learn so much doing the costumes.”
Leda turned and looked at Myrt. “But we have so much work here…”
“It’s a play,” Myrt said. “It lasts, what a month or two? You can drop out after that. The experience will be good for you.”
Did Myrt just wink at Ms. Drama? Leda suspected she was being set up. She looked at the dresses on the table. They all looked to be vintage silk and wool. But in pristine condition. It was hard to find vintage this new looking. She reached over and took a handful of deep green silk. Who would be wearing this beautiful piece? She dropped the dress and looked up. “Ok, I will do it, if Myrt thinks I should.”
“I do. Besides, you really do need friends your own age.”
No, friends her own age was the last thing Leda needed. Between school, work, and helping her mother care for her father and siblings, she didn’t have time for friends. She didn’t have time or money to hang out at the mall, or the coffee shops, or whatever the flighty high school girls were doing. She may as well be Myrt’s age – they had much more in common.
“Great!” Ms. Drama said. She started picking up dresses. “We are doing ‘The Poisoned Apple’, so there will be quite a few princes and princesses. I thought these vintage dresses might work, but they may not be vintage enough.”
Leda picked one on and held it to her shoulders. “This one is cocktail length. Is that what you want or do you want something longer?”
Ms. Drama sighed. “You’re right, longer would be better. I will have to see if my connection can get some longer gowns.” She scooped up the dresses.
“Your connection?” Myrtle asked.
“Kurt History, he teaches history at the school, but he has a side gig selling antiques, so he visits dealers all the time. He found these for me.” She hugged the dresses tighter as she spoke. “Leda, come to the drama room after school tomorrow and you can meet the cast and get to work.”
Leda looked at Myrt, “I work after school….”
Myrt shook her head. “I can manage a few hours tomorrow without you. We can figure out how to make up the time over the weekend.”
Leda spent the next day dreading the end of school. It was hard enough to tell her mother that she was doing work for no pay, but mom had lost it when she found out that Myrt wanted Leda to do that rather than come to work. And now, Leda sat in history class, watching the large clock over the door while Mr. History droned on about some war. There were always wars, she couldn’t remember a time that there were not. And unlike Mr. History, she had no interest in learning about them. Although she did find the changes in army clothing through the centuries was a bit fascinating. Time seemed to be moving slower like it did when she hand sewed with her grandmother’s thimble.
Leda snapped her head up. Mr. History had called her name. Oh no, did he ask a question?
He stared at her a moment, then took a couple of steps across the front of the room. “We were discussing the use of propaganda in World War II. And I was wondering if you had any opinions on the American use of propaganda.”
Leda realized that he had posters behind him from that war. A woman with a bandana and a wrench proclaimed ‘we can do it.’ Another poster said ‘our carelessness is their secret weapon.’ She felt her stomach lurch and her hands get cold and clammy. The only thing worse than having to speak up in class was having to speak up and having no clue what to say.
As she cleared her throat, the bell rang and her classmates started packing up their notebooks and leaving the class.
“The bell isn’t saving you, Leda. I’d like you to come back at the end of the day and tell me your opinion.” Mr. History was soft-spoken, but he still scared Leda.
“I have to be in the drama room after school.”
“Drama? That is a bit surprising. The girl who never speaks in class is starring in the school play?”
Leda stared at the tiled floor. “I’m doing costumes.”
He nodded. “Very well. I will see you tomorrow in class.”
Leda wasn’t sure what changed his mind about coming after school but she wasn’t going to argue either.
The drama room was on the far end of the school. Leda had never been down that hall before, and she wasn’t sure she belonged around the art, band, orchestra, choir, and drama students. But she would find the drama room.
The room was a normal-sized room, but instead of desks in a block, there was a wooden platform in the center of the room, and old sofas lined the edges of the room. There were posters from Broadway plays and movies covering the walls leaving only a portion of the standard-sized whiteboard showing. But the familiar smells of the boys’ body spray let her know that she was still in her high school.
Ms. Drama came right up to her. “Leda! So glad you came. I told everyone you would get their measurements. And our photographer, Tessa, said that she would take photos of everyone for you so you can figure out what would look best for each character.” She handed Leda a bound book. “Here is the script and there are costume notes in the beginning.”
Leda took the book, “The Poisoned Apple,” and nodded. Notes? Was she going to have to design and sew the costumes?
“And Myrt said that if you bring everything to the shop with you, she would help.”
“Ok, thanks.” Leda bent down and put the script in her backpack. Maybe that meant she could leave as soon as she got the measurements. She picked through the books and papers, looking for the measuring tape she always kept in her bag. Myrt said that a good tailor always had a measuring tape handy.
Ms. Drama smiled. “I’m sure Myrt has told you all of her Broadway stories.”
Leda started to nod, but wait, what? “Myrt has Broadway stories?”
“Lots of them. She was a costumer for some really big shows in the 80s. Les Miz, Into the Woods, Dreamgirls. She was even nominated for a couple of Tony Awards.”
Myrt had definitely not told her that she was a Broadway costumer. Now that she thought about it, Myrt usually asked questions, not told stories. That was changing this afternoon.
“Anyway,” Ms. Drama said,” I am going with Mr. History to look at some more gowns. Would you like to come with us?”
“No, I really do need to get to the shop.” Myrt definitely had some explaining to do. “As soon as I get all the measurements done.”
Most of the cast was over on the other side of the room, lounging on sofas, snacking on a huge shared bag of popcorn, and laughing. Leda put the measuring tape around her neck, as she’d seen Myrt do with alterations customers. “Um, hi, I need to get your measurements for the costumes.” Ugh, that was dumb. Why else would she be measuring them?
A tall brunette smiled and jumped up from the boy’s lap she was sitting on. “I’ll go first! I’m Snow White!”
Of course she was. Leda dutifully wrote down her measurements, 34-28-36. What would it be like to live in a body type that it seemed the world worshipped?
There were 27 people altogether, and it took a good two hours to get everyone’s numbers. While she working, someone was snapping photos. She had two cameras, one that looked fairly new, and one that looked totally vintage.
Mr. History came into the room, spoke to Ms. Drama and the two of them left. Probably to go get those vintage dresses. Mr. History wore expensive suits, unlike the rest of the male teaching staff, who tended towards school-branded polos and wrinkled khakis – seriously, could they not afford irons? Or a handheld steamer?
The cast drifted out of the room once Leda was done. She packed her things into her backpack and noticed the photographer was still there. She was staring at the screen of one of the cameras as if something was very wrong.
“Are you okay?” Leda walked over to the sofa where the photographer said. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
The photographer looked up, eyes wide. “Maybe I have. Look!” She held the camera up for Leda to see. On the screen, two people appeared to be at a dress shop. There was a man, who looked exactly like Mr. History, holding a dress up in front of a woman who was the spitting image of Ms. Drama.
Leda looked at the photographer. “Is that really them?” She looked back at the camera. “They were just here, did you use some kind of filter?”
“It’s my grandfather’s old lens. It takes very weird photos.”
“I’ll say.” Leda sat on the sofa.
“The really weird thing is that Mr. History told us 150 years ago, this area of land was the town’s Main Street and all the shops were here.” The photographer said.
Leda tried to remember her name. She was in one of Leda’s classes freshmen year, health class maybe? Teresa, Tonya, Tessa? Yes, Tessa, that was it. “You know what is really strange? Ms. Drama brought me some vintage dresses to use for the costumes. They were beautiful silk dresses in like-new condition. She said Mr. History got them for her” Leda reached in her pocket and touched her grandmother’s thimble. No, nothing was stranger than the thimble. “Maybe he found a way to travel back in time and get the dresses new?” Or maybe she was just crazy. Leda jumped as she heard a crash.
Tessa had dropped the camera.