After the success of the first performance, Ms. Smith immediately called out the next pair. She went through the list and depended on who she spotted first. The ones that already finished felt more relaxed. Their nerves had evaporated as they watched the rest. The class made sure to cheer for each act—big or small.
They did have a number of favorites.
From the previous project, another showstopper had been Lauren and Max.
That also meant they made it to the favorite list.
When their names were called, they received excited applause. Everyone still remembered their previous performance vividly. Some of them would even say that was their pairing that pushed the others to do better. They saw how magnificent acting could be. A small group had considered auditioning for the upcoming school play.
They could only hope they could reach the same level.
Lauren strolled over to the front with Max following her. After they broke away from the chairs, Max turned around. He walked backwards and waved at their ‘fans’. Majority of the audience cheered louder. He sported out flying kisses to return the shower of affection.
Glancing over her shoulder, Lauren checked what the uproar had been about.
She rolled her eyes.
She pinched Max’s ear and pulled him away, uneasy footsteps shuffling on the floor. Neither his pained yelps nor his rapid complaints reached her. She tugged him towards the center. Max almost fell over. He caressed his sore earlobe and pouted.
No one sympathized with him. They even snickered softly.
Lauren gave him a playful glare, “Be serious, please?”
Max stared at her for a few seconds. Then, realization washed over his face. He clapped his once and cleared his throat, “Alright, I got this.”
Hands clasped over his chest, he stood with his feet apart and faced the audience. Awaiting expressions filled his vision. He wrinkled his nose and smiled with his mouth closed. He felt as if he was a babysitter in front of kids. Maybe he should expose his teeth and wave like a suspicious clown.
He instantly disposed of the idea. The reason being that Lauren wouldn’t find it funny. If it had been a different setting, he would have gone for it. Right now, she relied on him. He needed to deliver his best.
So instead of his original plan, Max bent backwards and spread his arms. Lauren moved away reflexively. Her eyes watched in horror while Max opened his mouth as wide as he could. He took a lungful of air.
Then, he threw it back out and startled everyone—including those outside of the room.
A hard smack hit the back of his head. Roaring laughter replaced his scream. Hands dropped away from previously covered ears. Their eardrums almost bursted from the sudden volume of Max’s voice. Nonetheless, they wore a small smile on their lips.
“Max!” Lauren scolded in his ear, “I told you that we’re not doing ‘The Lion King’.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry” he heaved a grave sigh, clearing his hoarse throat. His shoulders dropped dejectedly. He took baby steps towards her side. Then, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. His free hand waved over the air, “See, Lauren, everything the light touches is our kingdom…”
An elbow aimed for his ribs, forcing him to jump back. He held his hands up in surrender. An virtuous look covered his face. The blue hue in Lauren’s eyes merely intensified. Their flecks darkened and solidified her objection.
“Okay, okay…” Max scoffed playfully. He shook his head in disappointment. The room went quiet. What was wrong with recreating a scene from ‘The Lion King’? They had reported how they shared the same elements. He was also sure the others knew the movie better than Hamlet.
It took a short while but, eventually, Lauren relaxed her rigid stance. When she did, Max pointed to a dark corner of the room, “That’s beyond our borders. You should never go to that shadowy place.”
“MAX!” She shouted with an accusing gaze.
Max clapped again and pulled his feet apart. He shook his ‘jazz hands’ at her, his mouth breaking into a wide grin, “HAKUNA MATATA!”
He held the pose for a few more seconds. A glowering expression met his amused gaze. From his ears, he heard the delighted shrieks from their classmates. At least, he wasn’t the only one who found his tactics entertaining.
“What?” He shrugged, blinking innocently, “It means ‘no worries’.”
Lauren had none of his antics. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides. She would have hit him if she could. Too bad they had eyes on them, a pair belonging to their teacher. Oh, how she wanted to wipe off the smirk on his face…
Max watched her face dimmed into annoyance.
It seemed really bad.
He would have been 6 ft. under now if it was possible.
He shuffled his feet into a simple dance step, snapping his fingers. He couldn’t have his partner in a bad mood. Softly, he sang a tune, “For the rest of our days…!”
Lauren lost all will to go on.
She was done. None of these mattered anymore. She could fail this project for all she cared. What kind of stupidity was this? It only wasted her time.
Max continued with his mini performance. He moved around, using the same feet-apart-and-arms-spread pose. He’d tap his feet if he had the right shoes. The class egged him to go on. Their backing sounded like an addicting melody.
Who was he to deny their wishes?
“It’s our problem free…!” Max jumped from Lauren’s side to her other one, “Philosophy…!”
Sliding over the floor, Max widened the space between them.
He finished the song with a bow, bending at the waist. He sent another round of flying kisses. Then, he folded his arm as if he held a bouquet of flowers. His other hand fanned over his ‘wet’ eyes. He was a star… and he relished in that fact.
Nothing could spoil this moment for him.
Out of nowhere, a notebook flew and whacked the side of his head.
Audible gasps escaped a number of lips. They covered their mouths with their hands. Their attention remained on Max. His head tilted to one side like the notebook had broken his neck. The humours expression on his face vanished before their eyes. The once joyful and lively aura around him crumbled.
He was no longer the same guy from a minute ago.
“Now…,” Max exclaimed, repositioning his head. He spun on his heel and gazed at his partner. A scowl had appeared in his brows, “What is this all about?”
“Hamlet” Lauren hissed. The flare in her blood died down. Its temperature dropped until it became cold. She crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes shifting into ice crystals.
She channelled the arctic demeanor of a villainess.
“You’ve insulted your father.”
Max’s jaw dropped. He scoffed and took a step back. He could hardly believe his ears. Even when he answered, he continued to gape. It was probably one of the most ridiculous things that he had heard.
“Mother, you’ve insulted my father.”
Lauren clicked her tongue, “Come on, you’re answering me foolishly.”
Max clenched his teeth. He stared at the ground and shook his head slowly. He snickered through his nose, “Go on. You’re questioning me evilly.”
He turned his back on her. He rested his forehead between his index finger and his thumb. The palm of his hand shielded his eyes. Unfortunately, it could hide the low anguished smile on his lips.
“Hamlet, what?” Lauren fluttered her eyelashes. She seemed to have woken from a dream. She finally walked over to him, frowning in confusion. She focused on the back of his neck. The harsh lines on her face softened into concern.
Max figured she came closer from the volume of her voice. He threw his hand off his face and groaned. He turned back around and bared his teeth, “What’s the problem now?”
The harsh tone made Lauren jump. Her sympathy had exhausted itself. She stomped a foot on the floor. She presented Max with kindness and he repaid her with this?
She’d never felt more insulted!
“Have you forgotten who I am?!” Lauren demanded, her nostrils flaring. Her eyebrows knitted together. Her chest rose and fell deeply. She resembled a fire-breathing dragon.
“For God’s sake…!” Max cursed. He ruffled his hair in frustration, “No, I haven’t! You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife, and you are my mother.”
He let out a deep breath, relaxing his posture. His hands dropped to his sides. He had grown tired of these arguments. They wasted too much spit. Did she really need to ask that of him? He’d known her since he was born.
Max sighed. His violet gaze flickered away from Lauren. He changed the direction of his feet as well and faced the audience. A gloomy dark cloud hovered above him. His current poise mimicked a broken boy. A few hearts went out to him. The owners whimpered softly.
Ignoring the immense amount of attention, Max scratched the back of his head and used a mild tone of voice. With the silence in the room, it was enough for everyone to hear.
“Although, I wish you weren’t.”