Friday, March 27, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #18

"This way," Audrey said, gesturing at the door between the scene shop and the back door of the house, which opened onto the stairs down into the basement of the theater. "We'll start with the kitchen. Maybe if their hands and mouths are full, they won't wreak too much havoc on the rest of the tour. Plus, I have to get back to setting up."

She led the way down the steep cement stairs. Kat was still amazed at how much had changed since the last time she had worked at Homespun. The dividing walls in the basement had been pushed back and part of the costume shop rearranged, storage moved elsewhere, to expand the kitchen to cater for the dinner guests once the dinner theater experiment got fully underway. Everything gleamed with stainless steel and scrubbed linoleum. The big old black cast iron stove in the corner nearly sparkled, as if it had been given a fresh coat of paint and then varnished for good measure.

"I always say, life is too short, so we should eat dessert first," Audrey announced, as she crossed the kitchen to the new worktable and uncovered a long aluminum tray, with frosted green and gold and blue cookies on them. "Help yourself -- take whatever you want." Something in her eyes made Kat think there was more than just getting rid of experimental cooking behind bringing them down here.

"Uh… okay, is that supposed to be a princess?" she guessed, pointing at one vaguely human-shaped cookie. That spiky thing on top of the head was probably a crown.

"And this is supposed to be a pea," Audrey said, nodding, and pointing to a three-inch-wide round cookie. "They'd be more believable if they were decorated to bring out the details. Something I didn't take into consideration when I ordered the cookie cutters. The wretched things don't come with design instructions or stencils or anything, to help with decorating. The klutz field sets in when I try fancy decorating. I leave that to the experts." Then she laughed as she looked down and saw that the children had taken her at her word. They had a cookie in each hand, and already had green frosting smeared around their mouths. Tiffany, for all that she dressed like a little princess herself with her flouncy skirts and lace edging on her little socks and patent leather shoes, was just as messy an eater as the boys.

"Morgan is giving credit to anybody who gets involved in the summer productions," Kat offered. "Maybe somebody in the class has some art training and would do this for you. I'll ask on Monday -- that's the first day of class."

"You are an answer to prayer."

Kat's heart did a funny flip. She should have realized that practically anybody who hung around at Homespun probably thought the same way that the Randolphs and Bekka and her parents did, adding God to the mix in every part of their lives. Sometimes she wished it were so easy and natural for her.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #17

Most of the ensemble from Homespun had come to the party, friends from church, and fellow professors from BWU. Kat was surprised to realize she knew most of the people, and then pleased. She hated parties where she felt like people were staring at her back, wondering why she had been invited or flat out wondering who she was. She wasn't the youngest person at the party, as she had feared. Dr. Holwood and his wife were foster-parents, and they had brought their current crop of children. When all three asked, nearly in unison, if they could see inside the theater, Kat volunteered to give the children a tour. It would keep them out of the traffic during the last-minute fussing and scurrying around to set up the party, and take pressure off Emily, who had been the target of the big-eyed pleas.

"You're a God-send," Emily said. "Thank you."

"Anywhere I should avoid?" Kat asked, as the little girl, Tiffany, caught hold of her hand and the two boys -- who hadn't introduced themselves yet -- raced for the door into the scene shop. Obviously they had been here often enough to at least know what was the entrance to the house and what let them into the theater proper.

"The costume shop is chaos, and I'd ask permission from Audrey before going into her kitchen --"

"Nothing dangerous," Audrey called from under the tent, where she was setting a gray bus pan full of crushed ice into a larger, covered bin. "In fact, I could use some help getting rid of some experiments." She wiped her hand on the towel tucked into the waistband of her shorts and hurried over to them. "You have to promise me it won't spoil your appetites, though."

Kat noticed she looked at Mrs. Holwood as she made that condition, eyes widening, clearly asking permission. The diminutive black woman muffled laughter and nodded, silently giving permission while the two boys let out cheers.

"The scene shop is still fairly safe. No equipment plugged in or half-finished scenery sitting out and ready to collapse on anyone," Emily added. She made a shooing gesture at the scene shop door. "Why don't you finish the tour with the fireman's pole?"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #16

"It's not that." He sighed again and finally turned to look at her, meet her gaze. He tried to smile. "Just got a lot of stuff going on. But I've got tomorrow off. How about I pick you up really early and we head out, take the day for just us, get to Cedar Point as soon as the gates open? I know things are kind of lame before the official Memorial Day opening, but that's the fun of it. Hardly anybody'll be there, no standing in line. We'll bring a bunch of junk food with us, have a picnic on the beach. It'll be great."

"Yeah, it sounds great. I wish I could go." Kat adjusted her grip on the box of papers, wishing it were heavier than it was. Forty copies of a thirty-page course outline wasn't that much paper. She had handled three or four times as much without a problem.

The odd thing was, she didn't wish she could go to the amusement park for the day with Marco.

Always listen to your gut when it disagrees with people's words. You can always depend on you, Bekka had advised her more times than Kat could count. She always trusted Bekka's sense of people and situations. After all, Bekka had guessed before anyone else what a scumsucking, lying, self-righteous jerk of a wannabe child molester Mike Tyler had been, and she had been there for Kat through all that misery and shame last year.

She wanted to go to Bekka right now for some advice on Marco.

"I can't," Kat finally said. "We have plans for tomorrow."

"You and your roommates? Tell them to grab their boyfriends and come with us."

"I promised my folks I'd go to church with them tomorrow…" Kat backed up a step when Marco's mouth tightened and flattened and he looked away for a few seconds. "And we're going over to the Randolphs' for lunch. Max and Tony are back from their honeymoon."

"When are you going to stop remaking yourself to suit your parents?"

"Huh?" Now she did back up. Kat's gut told her to run for the Green Room. It wasn't that she thought Marco would hit her, or even start yelling, though that was bad enough.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #15

Climbing the stairs, watching Marco stand there with his back to her, as if he couldn't hear her, Kat decided she wished he hadn't shown up tonight. Everything was great until he reminded her what a jerk he had been all winter and spring. Should she pretend she didn't see him, pretend nothing was wrong, or give him the cold shoulder and keep walking?

"Hey," he said, when she reached the top of the stairs.

Kat paused, despite the load of papers to haul to the Green Room to hand out. He looked like the Marco she used to know, with mischief in his eyes and a gentle hint of a smile on his mouth. The one she thought she understood.

"Hey. You're kind of late. You missed Murder, and there's not much food left." She gestured toward the hall to the Green Room with a lift of her elbow, since her hands were full. "Morgan just started talking about what we're doing for the summer program. It's going to be pretty cool."

"Morgan." He snorted. That hardness came back to his face.

"Uh, yeah? Since he's teaching the class. All of a sudden you don't like--" Kat swallowed hard, stunned by that twinge of guilt -- and anger at that guilt -- when she tripped over referring to Morgan as her father. There was nothing to be ashamed of, so why did she hesitate, especially when Marco knew about their relationship?

"What? All of a sudden I don't like your dad?" He sounded tired instead of tense or sarcastic. That was an improvement. Marco sighed. "It's not him. He's still a great guy."

"Even though he's my father?" she asked, her voice going so soft she wondered if he could hear it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #14

Marco stood at the top of the stairs in the theater lobby, leaning against the railing with his back to the stairwell. Kat slowed when she saw him. She hated the feeling of knots filling her stomach. Why hadn't she taken a lesson from Amy and Joe's stormy relationship that had played out in front of her all last year? True, her former roommate had ended up marrying Joe and moving to Nashville with him, to try to make a career writing lyrics, but that didn't guarantee Kat would have a happily-ever-after. She had vowed long ago, she would never let a guy drag her up and down the roller coaster of emotions like those two. That vow hadn't changed even after she realized Amy had done most of the dragging. Was having a guy in her life worth the turmoil? Why had she been so stupid to try to talk things over with Marco and fix their relationship?

Bottom line: it took two to fix a relationship, but only one to break it. Marco wasn't trying. Her evidence? He had said he was coming to tonight's kick-off party, but didn't. He hadn't registered for the summer term class like he said he would. Most telling of all, he hadn't come to help her set up for tonight. Last year, Marco had been there every time she turned around, even when he should have been somewhere else, like playing in his friends' band.

Marco used to be happy just being with her, even when all they did was work. Ever since January, it seemed like all he wanted was for her to drop everything she was doing, break all her commitments, and go somewhere with him, do what he wanted to do. He got angry, like she had broken some promise she couldn't remember making, when she wouldn't abandon her classes, her job as student assistant, or time she had promised to her parents.

All last fall he had insisted they were going to get married someday, but after she got back from Christmas in New York with her parents, he had stopped. What had brought on the change? Something had happened while she was away -- but of course, when she asked him what was wrong, he either said nothing was wrong or he got even angrier and wouldn't talk to her for days.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #13

Kat and Mac met each other's gazes and muffled laughter. When she turned back to watch the other players gather around and argue over who would be the new District Attorney, Kat found both the General and her father watching her. The big Bohemian head of the theater department studied her with narrowed eyes, looking more suspicious as the moments ticked by and the other players argued louder. That, she could handle. It was the faint hint of a smile, the lack of any threat or silent communication in Dr. Daniel Morgan's expression that made her nervous. She looked away.

"So, what's it like with Dr. Morgan for your stepfather?" Mac asked, nudging her with his elbow. "Doesn't it just suck, losing your job as his student assistant, because your mom married him?"

"Nope. I couldn't keep the job anyway, with the writing internship I'm starting in June."

Kat wondered how long the rumor mill would keep tangling the facts of the case until people who knew the truth slapped some sense and courtesy into people who wanted to make a federal case or a scandal out of everything. Morgan was her biological father, her parents had been college sweethearts, broke up before she was born, and now they were back together. True, she had to step down from her position as Morgan's student assistant because it was against the rules for family to work in the same department as faculty. The Humanities department head, Dr. Holwood, was a friend, as well as very understanding and supportive, and he had recommended to the university administration that Kat be allowed to keep her position for the remainder of the school year. While she geared up for her internship she would spend the summer training her replacement. The internship had been arranged with friends of her father in New York, writing screenplays and stage plays and critiquing new screenwriting students, everything handled through the Internet and phone calls, with weekend trips to New York every other month. It most definitely did not "suck" to have Dr. Daniel Morgan for her father.

Monday, March 9, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #12

Kat caught Shane's gaze and tipped her head toward the stairwell. It just showed what a smart guy he was that he didn't have to be given a stronger hint. He hurried through the door, let out a bark of laughter, and a moment later shouted, "Body!" A few seconds later, he and Mac followed Kat and Bekka down the hall to get behind stage to the Green Room, which served as the Morgue.

"Wow," Bekka murmured, as they met up with other teams hauling in the Dead. "This is going to be one short game, if the Murderer hits that many every time."

"Don't suppose you corpses have any clues to give us?" Shane added.

Kat and Mac just looked at each other, wide-eyed, then shook their heads. It took all her self-control not to burst out laughing.

Fortunately, there was still room for the growing number of Dead on the various couches pushed against the wall in the corner of the Morgue. Bekka and Shane handled their corpses with a little more care than the others who found victims throughout the theater building, settling Kat and Mac down in seated positions, instead of giving them a shove or leaving them sprawled on the floor.

"Excuse me?" One of the newly Dead sat up -- Gabe Hunter. "You have to designate a new DA. Again."

"We have an extremely diabolical Murderer among us today," the General grumbled as he settled down on a bench within reach of the refreshments table. "This is only the second round of the game, and the District Attorney has been killed each time."

"Are you volunteering for the job?" Lynnette said, as she settled down on the arm of the couch where Morgan had taken a seat just a few seconds before.

"Me? And mark myself for death? Tell your husband to take the job."

"Me?" Morgan drew himself up in perfect imitation of his fellow theater professor. "Mark myself for death?"