Stage Directions

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* Photo to the side is Susan Coffey playing Grace James

It was an interesting schedule that Nathaniel had to balance. He had full time classes in the local community college, work, his best friend and his always busy social schedule. He was just doing a general degree course, surprising no one at all when he’d been unable to dedicate himself to one course of study. Both Grace’s and Nate’s parents used to joke that he was a butterfly man: flittering from one pretty thing to the next. He needed someone like his best friend around to anchor him to reality and Grace desperately needed the sense of humor and adventure Nate brought into her world. She was cynical by nature and disturbingly bright enough to logic her way out of taking any risks. Although Nate knew not to underestimate her creative ability to get into trouble; he’d been on the receiving end too many times to take her evil genius lightly. Nate only needed to be dyed Smurf blue once before he learned to never start a prank war with the feisty red head: she would win. Always, and with vengeance. In fact, Grace had pulled a stunt on Nate when she first started college. He was pretty into photography and Grace had hunted down his class information so that when they were doing a nude shoot, she could volunteer. Nate had nearly gone ape s*** at the other guys in the class over looking at her in that state but it had back fired when it was Grace’s still life class’ turn to draw nudes and Nathaniel marched into her class and stripped right in front of her.

Shaking his head clear, Nate tried to focus on the task at hand, pulling his wayward thoughts back into order. It was hard, being there for the things he felt he needed to do. Although a lot of people thought that all you had to do was dangle something shiny or flash a pair of boobs at him to kill his focus, Nathaniel was paying his own way through college(encouraged and supported by his family) but fiscally independent. So he worked Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in the bar part of the Nightside from six to midnight, had Wednesday off to recover, worked the club and bar from six to two am Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He had classes Monday to Friday from eight am to four pm in topics ranging from Ophelia’s English Literature, to Behavioral Psychology, Business Management, Photography and Economics, and maybe a few others. Grace kept teasing Nate that he was trying to get all his living done at once so he can sleep when he’s old and reminisce.

Because Nate spent so much time at school or work, his life was actually rather disciplined. He was home a lot to visit his parents and sister, and over at the James’ house a lot to see how Grace and Opi were doing. It left very little time for him to go out and get into trouble, though his job helped him pick up as many easy lays as he could want. As Nate reminded everyone it left him unable to dedicate any time to a girlfriend but the secret was that he liked it that way. He knew the way he acted with Grace crossed a line, but he couldn’t stop and she wouldn’t take it further. But he knew that at least part of his best friend was as confused as he was and so life went on.

Everyone was looking forward to the Fall Ball. Although it wasn’t the most original of names for a Halloween dance, that’s how the college had called it since the very first dance. Good or bad, the title stayed, and it really suggested something a whole lot fancier than the end result turned out to be. It was a glorified costume slash frat house party, and everyone in the local college went. It was basically a drunk fest where all the bad clichés tended to come out and play.  But for some reason it was still a lot of fun to go to, because no one really ever took it seriously. The costumes yes, and the decorations! Nate had seen families spend a small fortune to turn their house front and yards into creepy homage to a night for the dead. Nathaniel loved it but it was Grace that usually really got into dressing up. He was more the guy to go around with the little ones.

Nathaniel had to tone down the smile on his face when someone in the hallways gave him a weird look. He’d been lost in memory and it showed on his face. When Grace was sixteen and Nathaniel was seventeen, they’d gone to the Fall Ball as Greek Gods. He’d loved how all eyes were on him wearing that toga. They’d gone the classy route and got silk like fabrics in opal white and made intricate togas. It’d made Nate feel nerdy as h*** but somehow Grace talked him into making their costumes. With Grace surprising no one when she chose to go as Athena, though Nate thought she’d looked pretty fierce even though she was so awkward. That was the night the vague sexual tension between the best friends had started to make the line between friend and more get very blurry.Her sandal thongs kept dropping. She tied them up to her knee but they kept pooling around her ankles and tripping her up.  Even in a toga, Nate had brought in a flask with him and Grace had smuggled in a bottle of Johnny Walker inside her corset; it was stiff leather and showed no sign of the bottle pressing painfully into her ribs. Her date had been pawing at her and she’d decked him in the face earlier. Not wanting to stay where everyone was watching, Grace went outside to sulk and Nate went after her. His date was later found on her date’s lap so no one seemed too put out by the night. But Nate had simply sat down with his best friend and passed her the flask that was hiding in his shorts.

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