Chapter 9- The Greatest

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Tuesday Afternoon

I didn't go to school again today.

The bruises on my face are beginning to turn black and purple. My ankle aches terribly and my entire body hurts. I feel like the train did hit me...

"You okay?" Chris asks me after his shower. I really enjoyed hanging out with him today... We sat by the fountain and played darts all morning before heading back to our room and watching a few episodes of Friends.

"I'm great," I smile at him, unable to quit staring at his naked torso. This guy looks like a Greek God statue...

"Cool. You ready for Taika's announcement?"

Right. Mr Waititi has called for a meeting in... fifteen minutes. I still don't know why but Chris and Scarlett have both told me he's excited to meet me.

"I am," I sigh. "What is it for again?"

"We're finding out what the annual assignment is going to be. Auditions are later tonight, too!"

He's so friendly, it's sickening. All romantic behavior he had previously exhibited has disappeared. I try not to let my disappointment show.

"Oh," I shrug, not really knowing what he was talking about.

We quickly get ready and make our way to the center of the apartments, where several rooms have been collapsed to make a bigger one. Dozens of teenagers are already swarming the place, laughing and joking in their respective groups.

A collapsible stage has been placed at the end of the elongated area with seven chairs lined up along the back wall.

There are no chairs on the ground but benches are placed along the sides for those who may need them.

"I need to get up there and speak to Taika," Chris nudges me and gives me a warm smile before disappearing in the thickening crowd. It obviously doesn't take long for Scarlett to find me. I swear, she is just like a bloody grey hound.

"Hiddles! Over here!" she screams, startling the kids from 5th Grade. They scamper away and suddenly, Scarlett has her very own personal bubble.

"I've missed you," I offer sarcastically. "Lords, it's been two hours since our last meeting. How have we survived?"

"Shut your mouth, pretty boy," she scoffs, kissing my cheek.

I squeeze her shoulders and smile. This has become our greeting.

"So... what is this? Chris told me something earlier, but I swear, that man speaks in riddles,"

"Huh, and you don't?"

"I believe I speak formally and correctly, with unintentional elegance and infuriatingly British colloquiums."

"...Yeah,"

"Anyhow, do you know why we're here?"

"Well, yeah. It's the announcement of the play we'll be performing this year."

"Oh, that's cool. So how many people are auditioning, then?"

Scarlett blinks at me and plucks a strand of blonde hair from her head in stress. "All of us, pretty boy. What? Did you think you were getting a free pass? It's nice enough of Taika to let you stay here for free. If you think you're just gonna sit this one out, then you're a dummy, for sure."

Oh... shit. Oh well, I could ask to play a tree or something.

Gulping, I turn around to stare at the exotic man on the stage.

His hair is raven noir with splatters of grey.... His eyes are kind yet analytical and his clothes are fashionably tasteless.

He catches my eye and his grin abruptly disappears.

Time seems to slow and Scarlett's voice quickly becomes background noise.

It's like in the movies, when the protagonist sees somebody important for the first time and the only thing that exists at that moment is them. I'm not a master of movie making but I'm pretty sure it's used to create tension.

And as of now, I'm pretty fucking tense.

"-Hiddles? You alright, man?" Evans interrupts my epiphany and I smile shyly at him.

"I'm great, Evans. Where have you been? I haven't seen you since... Monday morning."

"Right. Sorry about leaving. You scared me a little bit."

"I'm sorry too."

"We're still buds, right?"

"Always, Evans."

His smile almost blinds me. The way his eyes crinkle makes me feel warm inside.

These guys are my family.

"Could I have your attention, please," a warm voice quietens the crowd. I am stunned that such a soft voice can quell a room full of rowdy teens. Taika's accent is similar to Chris', although I recognize that he is a native of New Zealand, not Australia. "May I start by giving a warm welcome to Mr Thomas Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo, both 15 years old, and brand spanking new to the Performance of Ashes," Applause erupts from all around me and I blush furiously. "We all hope you fit in here well and unlock your true potential." He smirks. "Now, enough of the pleasantries, who wants to know what this year's annual is?"

People scream and whistle, widening Taika's smile further. He waves Chris over to the microphone and shoves the envelope into his huge hands.

"It's your time to shine, son," he splutters, dancing off the stage and out of the room.

People don't even seem bothered by his weirdness.

Chris clears his throat awkwardly. He's blushing. God bless his heart.

"SPIT IT OUT, HEMSWORTH!" somebody screams and I mirror his proud smile with my own.

He tears open the envelope and when everybody goes silent, he reads it and smiles.

"Oh, guys." He chuckles, throwing the letter at one of the other six directors. "We banked it," he looks right at me and winks. "This years annual performance is... The Greatest Showman!"

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