I grab my files from the locker and slam it shut. I am getting late for History class and Mrs Santos is a nightmare if you come late to class.
I wipe the sweat glistening on my forehead, and hasten up my pace.
"Cassandra! I was just looking for you. May I have a word?"
I look up tensely, hoping it's not Mrs Santos. But it's not. It's my sixth-grade teacher from last year, Ms Malory. "Ms Malory!" I gasp.
She smiles and pats my hand. "Would your teacher mind if I took you for a minute?"
"Um...sure?" I manage a fake smile as the teacher steers me away.
She brings me into a room packed with all sorts of children. There are a lot of sixth-grade children, some seventh-grade children and...
"Maya! You're here too?" I cry as I spot the one and only eighth-grader except for me standing timidly there.
She looks grateful to see me. "Yeah, Ms Malory needed me."
Maya and I have been best friends since sixth grade. Ms Malory was our sixth-grade teacher. Our English teacher to be specific.
"Okay everybody, I've brought you here to announce an important thing. All of you here are excellent at acting."
I gulp. What did she mean by that? It was true that Maya and I were good actors. Ever since we were asked to put on a Shakespeare play in the class, and we were voted the best, Ms Malory spoke to us as if we were celebrities.
"The school is thinking of putting on a play, "Peter Pan" and I was thinking that y'all would be great actors in the play." she shoots a smile directly at Maya and me.
Mum smiles at me. "Hey Cassie, you're back! How was school?" she asks me, tapping the keys on her laptop.
"Great," I answer, puckering on an over-dramatic smile.
She looks up and grins. "Lunch is on the table." she points to the kitchen.
Mum frowns and stops typing. "What's wrong?
"I got picked for a production play," I mumble, dumping my bag on the couch and staring at the audition list.
Mum smiles widely at me. "But that's great! What play is it?" she chuckles.
"Peter Pan," I mumble.
"Ooh! Tiger Lily was always my favourite!" she squeals.
She takes one look at my face and stops abruptly. She closes her laptop and sits beside me, stroking my hair gently. "I don't get it, honey, you've always liked acting in Miss Malory's class."
"How did you know it was Miss Malory directing the play?" I ask, surprised.
She looks astonished. "It is? I didn't know, it's just that you used to look forward to putting on a play in her classes." she shrugs.
I nod. "I'm perfectly fine with acting in front of a class. But this is a play. There'll be hundreds of people I don't know. And besides, there'll be a big crowd. I don't want to act!" I cry.
Mum shrugs. "I've always loved it, but I'm not forcing you, Cassie. The decision is yours," she says softly.
Oh great, I always hated making decisions myself. Every time I did, I always seemed to make the wrong ones. I decided to make the obvious one, audition for the play.
"I'm auditioning," I say, sighing.
Mum looks up, astonished and glad. "Wow!"
Principal Clark trudges up the steps to the assembly stage. "Okay, before you get dismissed, we have a few things from the Lost and Found department," she announces and clicks her heels over to a table where it held a box.
I scratch my chin. I can't wait to get back to class. There is a lost wallet with over five pounds, a faulty watch, a bright Yellow DuckLand cap and a left-out, grimy school blazer. A few students huddle up to the Principal to retrieve their lost items, some eager to find their belongings back and some trembling violently near the principal.
"Before I dismiss you, Ms Malory has an important announcement to make." she smiles directly at Ms Malory who excitedly jogs up the stage.
I straighten and stop fiddling with Maya's plaits. We shoot each other anxious looks.
Ms Malory clears her throat and taps the microphone slowly. The crowd of bustling students fidget impatiently waiting to go back to class.
"The English department is thinking of holding a play. Peter Pan. If you wish to audition for any roles, please proceed to the English sixth-grade class. You will each be given a script and asked to read out a line from any character. After you are accepted in the first step, you will then be asked to audition for a particular role that you wish to be. Any late-comers will not be given a choice of roles. Auditions are at the sixth-grade room, I repeat. The second room to the left of the canteen." she says brightly.
Principal Clark smiles. "Thank you, Miss Malory. Now, any questions?"
No one raises a hand.
"Good, now...coordinators, please guide your students back to their classes to start the first period."
The students file off. "Are you auditioning?" Maya asks hopefully.
"Yeah, my mum would be mad if I didn't," I explain.
Maya looks surprised. "Really? I thought it was your own choice."
I laugh shakily. "Kind of, but I know my mum would be disappointed in me,"
Maya smiles. "I'm auditioning too. I'm hoping to be Wendy. She's the main character. How about you?" she asks, squeezing my hand.
I smile to myself. "Tiger Lily isn't bad," I say.
There is a crowd in front of the sixth-grade room. We are ushered in and given a place to sit. Malory and I help pass scripts to the students. I glance at it.
Miss Malory grins at the crowd. "Okay, can we start?" she asks breathlessly.
We nod our heads.
"We'll start with Cassandra?"
I groan inwardly. Oh great. The last thing I needed was for Miss Malory to think I was some kind of role model to the kids.
I clutch the script and stand up. I am shaking from head to toe. "Please read the first line from Micheal and John please." Ms Malory instructs.
"I can get you! I'm better at playing pirates than you!" I cry, reading Michael's line.
Ms Malory's smile widens. "Very good, read Mrs Darling's line as well please." she grins.
"Boys, boys, it's time for bed now. Wendy put back the book and everyone say goodnight to Nana and Papa." I say realistically.
Ms Malory smiles and turns to the next child.
"How was it?" Mum asks me excitedly.
"Good," I answer. "There wasn't much to do today Mum. We'll only be doing the major auditions tomorrow." I explain, rolling my eyes.
"What are you auditioning for?" she asks.
I grin. "Tiger Lily."
The next day at lunch, I am in the sixth-grade room clutching my script nervously. It's my turn next, and I am shivering.
Maya squeezes my hand gently. "You'll ace it," she says.
My name is called and she gives me an encouraging smile. I inhale and walk in the room. Ms Malory smiles. "I don't need to ask your name, of course. Who will you be auditioning?"
Ms Malory beams. "Wonderful! You may begin. The stage is yours."
Nervously, I take one glance at my script and take a deep breath.
"How'd it go?" Maya asks me quickly as I come out of the room.
I smile. "It was great. At first, I was kinda nervous, but then I got the hang of it. And guess what, I got the part!"
We rehearse for months. Sometimes, things don't turn out so good, but sometimes we act marvellously. Maya gets Wendy in the end.
Sometimes we all mess up and Ms Malory would lecture us, but sometimes, we end up with a choco bar and a pat on the back.
Time flows by and we have memorized our lines by then.
Before we know it, it is a few days before the play, and we finalize our parts and perfect scenes.
"Darling Peter, you wouldn't be so lucky to have Wendy and the lost boys all safe." Captain Hook cackles.
Peter who is the eighth-grade boy, Jackson pretends to struggle against the imaginary ropes. "I will get you Hook. This is not the end!" he declares and they leave the scene.
Ms Malory claps. "Excellent! Okay, now gather up everyone! We have to talk about your places on stage."
"Mrs Darling, when you enter on stage, you will start talking on the right side. Nana the dog, crawl on your hind legs, remember...and enter at the left stage. Remember to keep eye contact with the audience..."
"Okay, scene four, Tiger Lily. You will enter in the right side, and continue to say your lines. You will then exit at the left side." she instructs.
I take a deep breath and nod, "Okay." I say confidently.
I practice for ages in my room and I try practising out my lines on my little brother, Nate and Mum. I even go to Maya's house so we can perfect our lines.
We are sometimes asked to stay back a little late to practise too. But I felt that it was going to be worth it.
Soon enough, it is Performance day. Everyone is bustling around the main characters and putting face paint and makeup on them. I nervously pull on a feather band and wear some anklets. A makeup artist is busy pecking makeup onto my face. I inhale. I can feel butterflies in my stomach.
Ms Malory is all tensed up. She is busy fixing microphones on us and showing us our places. Maya is wearing a shimmery blue gown, she has light makeup on and she grins nervously at me. "Are you scared?"
I nod, "Yeah,"
Soon it is time for the play to start. Parents are filing into seats and that's when my heart is fleeting out of my throat. The butterflies are swarming and I feel nauseous.
The play gradually starts and the scenes flow swiftly. I can't believe that time had flown so fast. Before I know it, Ms Malory huddles on stage. "Cassandra! You're on in about one minute! Get your position!" she cries, her face turning red from running like a cheetah.
My face tenses up. "I can't do it! I only did this for my mum! I'm too scared!" I cry as the tears start rolling down my flushed cheeks.
Ms Malory looks horrified. "Cassandra, you didn't do this for your mum. You're a wonderful actor! Just believe in yourself!" she says, stroking my blonde hair fondly.
I peek in the curtains and spot my mum. She's wearing a hat with feathers and clutching my baby brother who has face paint all over his neck and his face.
I take a deep breath and step slowly onto stage.