by Dallas Woodburn
CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)
GRACE:A college student and the play’s main character/narrator YOUNG JARED SAMPSON: A typical eighth-grade boy—not a dork, but not particularly cool either.
JASMINE:Grace’s roommate, also a college student. Self-absorbed and showy.
SASHA:Grace’s roommate. An art student in college.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM:An attractive, pleasant middle-aged woman wearing bright red lipstick and flower-patterned capri pants.
YOUNG HENRIETTA:Grace’s best friend in eighth grade.
YOUNG GRACE:A typical eighth-grade girl—pretty, well-liked, but not one of the fashionable popular girls.
YOUNG JARED’S FRIENDS:Two or thre eighth-grade boys.
SCOTT:A college student. Grace’s boyfriend.
BECKY:A college student. Scott’s friend. Pretty and flirtatious.
SETTING:An apartment shared by three college girls. Center stage is a couch, perhaps also a coffee table littered with magazines, textbooks, empty water glasses, an empty take-out container or two. The apartment is not filthy but has a lived-in feeling to it.Downstage right is a chair and table, representing a desk. This is GRACE’s bedroom. There may also be a poster on the wall, books and papers scattered on the desk, and a lamp.
Downstage left is an empty chair. This represents the area in GRACE’s imaginings and memories: where SCOTT will appear, in addition to memories with YOUNG GRACE, YOUNG JARED, and JARED SAMPSON’S MOM. To further differentiate GRACE’s memories from the present, the remembered scenes and imagined characters always appear here in a spotlight rather than full lighting.
Lights come up on the entire stage. GRACE is half-sitting, half-leaning against the front of the desk in her bedroom. Nothing is between her and the audience. She addresses the audience directly with her opening monologue.
GRACE: Yesterday, Jared Sampson’s mom died in a car crash. She was driving down Hawthorn Boulevard, past the strip mall with the Benihana’s, when her car suddenly careened across the center meridian into oncoming traffic. My mother calls to tell me. (She holds her cell phone against her ear.)
GRACE’S MOM’S VOICE: I just thought you should know, sweetheart. I know you and Jared were never close, but you did go all through school together. Nanette was such a lovely woman. I feel so sorry for Mike—and for Jared. (She sighs loudly.) She was only fifty-three. So young. I just can’t believe it.
GRACE: Me neither.
GRACE’S MOM’S VOICE: Maybe you could send Jared a message on that bookface thing.
GRACE (Speaking away from the phone, addressing the audience): I’m not Facebook friends with Jared Sampson. I haven’t really spoken to Jared since eighth grade, when I asked him to dance at the semi-formal and he said—
(YOUNG JARED has entered downstage left. He is wearing slacks and a collared shirt and tie.)
YOUNG JARED: Um—no thanks, I’m okay.
GRACE (Speaking to YOUNG JARED): That was the first time I wore mascara, and you were the first boy I cried over in a musty, cramped bathroom stall, and I unknowingly wiped mascara-tears all over the front of my new white dress.
GRACE’S MOM’S VOICE: Grace, sweetheart? Are you there? Are you gonna send Jared a message?
(Beat. GRACE holds the phone back up to her ear. YOUNG JARED exits.)
GRACE: Yeah, Mom. I’ll do that.
(Lights go down. Lights come up on the living room area. GRACE is sitting on the couch beside SASHA. JASMINE addresses them, wearing nothing but a lacy black bra and colorful patterned panties. She holds a pair of black panties in her hand, which she waves around as she speaks.)
GRACE (Talking to the audience): These are my roommates, Jasmine and Sasha. We met freshman year in the dorms. Sasha is a fine arts major. Jasmine is an only child.
JASMINE (Holding up the panties): If I wear this bra, do I have to wear the matching panties?
SASHA (After a few moments of careful consideration): I like the matching. But I wouldn’t feel constrained. It’s not like Zack’s gonna notice, he’ll be so busy tearing them off you.
(GRACE pulls her cell phone from her pocket and checks it for messages, then puts it back in her pocket.)
SASHA: If you wanna wear that bra, it doesn’t mean you have to wear the matching panties.
JASMINE: What do you think, Grace?
GRACE: Don’t ask me. I’ve never owned matching underwear.
JASMINE: This is my only matching set. Oh, and the pink ones. But I never wear them. I like this bra, but I want to wear my red panties.
SASHA: Oooh, yes, do it.
GRACE (To the audience): It’s funny, the things you remember. Jared Sampson’s mom always wore red lipstick. Bright red. The kind you never see in real life, only in lipstick ads. It made her smile seem even bigger. Jared Sampson’s mom was always smiling. Whenever I saw her, I would think, I hope I’m that happy when I’m grown up. (Beat.) She always seemed so happy.
(JARED SAMPSON’S MOM enters downstage left. She is wearing bright red lipstick and flower-patterned capri pants. She sits in a chair facing the audience and pantomimes holding a steering wheel to mimic driving a car. GRACE crosses over to her bedroom and sits at her desk. Lights go down on SASHA so only GRACE and JARED SAMPSON’S MOM are illuminated.)
GRACE: Jared Sampson’s mom was driving home from picking up nasal decongestant at the drugstore. She could have asked her husband to get it on his way home from work, but she liked to do things for herself. Just like she never asked Jared to help her bring in the groceries. He could help if he wanted, but she never asked him to. She felt that if you asked someone to do something for you, it cheapened the favor. On this day, she had a cold. She was feeling drowsy. She closed her eyes, just for a second, and then—
(We hear the sound of tires screeching and then the crashing glass and smashing metal of a violent car collision.)
GRACE: Jared Sampson’s mom was driving home from visiting Jared’s grandmother at the nursing home. She was heading down Hawthorn, past the strip mall with the Benihana’s, when her cell phone rang. Jared had given her a Bluetooth headset last Christmas, but she still hadn’t figured out how to work the damn thing. She reached down and fumbled through her purse, taking her eyes off the road for only a second, and then—
(We hear the sound of tires screeching and then the crashing glass and smashing metal of a violent car collision.)
GRACE: Jared Sampson’s mom was driving home from work, where she’d been chewed out by her boss for being late with the expense reports. Her husband had called to say he would not be home for dinner, again; after months of fighting her own suspicions, she was now fairly certain he was having an affair. She was lonely and tired and felt the beginnings of a migraine building behind her eyes. If she turned the wheel a little to the right, she thought for a second, then a hard sudden jerk to the left, and then—
(We hear the sound of tires screeching and then the crashing glass and smashing metal of a violent car collision. Lights go down completely. Beat or two of silence.)
(Lights come up on GRACE, still sitting in her bedroom, and YOUNG GRACE, YOUNG HENRIETTA, YOUNG JARED, and YOUNG JARED’S FRIENDS standing downstage left. YOUNG GRACE and YOUNG HENRIETTA are standing a few feet away from YOUNG JARED and FRIENDS. The girls wear nice dresses; the boys wear slacks and collared shirts and ties.)
GRACE (Watching the scene): The semi-formal was held the last week of the school year. Henrietta pilfered mascara from her mother’s makeup bag and we brushed it on our lashes in the bathroom before the dance. I’d never felt so grown-up.
(We hear the opening notes of an ’N Sync love ballad.)
YOUNG HENRIETTA: Grace, you should ask Jared to dance.
YOUNG GRACE: I’m too nervous. I can’t.
YOUNG HENRIETTA: Yes you can. Just do it, Grace.
GRACE (Watching): I told myself I could always change my mind and turn back around.
(YOUNG GRACE has reached YOUNG JARED and FRIENDS. YOUNG GRACE shyly touches YOUNG JARED on the arm. He turns.)
YOUNG GRACE: Hi, Jared.
YOUNG JARED: Hey.
YOUNG GRACE: Do you, um, wanna dance?
(YOUNG JARED glances at his FRIENDS, who are stifling giggles.)
YOUNG JARED: Um—no, thanks, I’m okay. (He turns back to his friends.)
GRACE (Watching): I felt like an egg yolk slipping out of its cracked shell.
(YOUNG GRACE, crying, runs offstage. Lights go down.)
(Lights come up on GRACE, in her room, and SCOTT, standing downstage left. SCOTT is holding a water glass and a dishtowel, pantomiming washing/drying the glass. GRACE is talking on her cell phone. SCOTT has his phone wedged between his head and shoulder.)
GRACE (Into the phone): I talked to Henrietta today.
SCOTT (Into the phone): Who’s Henrietta?
GRACE: My friend from home. I’ve told you about her. Don’t you remember?
SCOTT (Sighs): Are we really gonna argue about this? Okay, you told me and I forgot. I’m sorry. My plate’s been pretty full lately, you know.
GRACE: Never mind.
SCOTT: Baby, c’mon, don’t be this way. Finish your story.
GRACE: It’s not a big deal.
SCOTT: For God’s sake, finish your story, Grace. (Beat.) Please.
GRACE: It’s nothing—she just called because of a kid we went to school with. His mom died last week.
(A knocking sound offstage. SCOTT sets the glass down.)
SCOTT (Yelling to person offstage): Hold on a sec!
GRACE: What’s wrong?
SCOTT: Someone’s at the door. Just a minute.
(SCOTT sets the phone down and walks offstage hurriedly. Five, ten seconds pass. He walks back onstage and picks up the phone.)
SCOTT: Sorry, Grace, I’m back. So what were you saying? Your friend’s mom died?
GRACE: Not a friend, really. This boy from my hometown who I went to school with. We weren’t friends or anything—I haven’t talked to him in years—
SCOTT: How’d his mom die?
GRACE: Car crash.
SCOTT: That sucks.
GRACE: It still doesn’t seem real to me.
(One beat, two beats. The silence stretches into discomfort.)
GRACE: So, when can I come visit? You feel so far away.
SCOTT: I know. I have to check my work schedule. I’ll let you know, okay?
(GRACE hangs up the phone. SCOTT exits. YOUNG GRACE enters downstage left, running and crying, wearing her dress from the dance. She pantomimes opening a bathroom stall door and closing it behind her. She sits down hard on the chair and sobs into her hands.)
GRACE (Watching her young self): Like every middle school girl, I fled to the bathroom to cry. Minutes passed, I’m not sure how long it was, when I heard footsteps come in.
(JARED SAMPSON’S MOM enters, wearing a “Parent Chaperone” name-tag. She walks up to YOUNG GRACE’s bathroom stall door and pantomimes knocking.)
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Parent Chaperone. Are you okay in there?
YOUNG GRACE (Through sniffles): I’m fine.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: You don’t sound fine.
YOUNG GRACE: It’s not a big deal.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Here. At least let me give you a tissue.
(A few beats of silence. JARED SAMPSON’S MOM knocks again.)
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Please, honey, open up.
(YOUNG GRACE pantomimes unlocking the stall door. Upon seeing JARED SAMPSON’S MOM, she crumples anew into fresh tears.)
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Honey, it’s okay. (She hugs GRACE.) What happened?
YOUNG GRACE (Sniffling and wiping her nose with the back of her hand): I asked a boy to dance. And he said, “No thanks.”
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM (Handing GRACE a tissue): Oh, sweetheart. Boys can be stupid. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “No thanks” growing up.
YOUNG GRACE: I wish I hadn’t asked him.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Don’t say that—you should be proud of yourself. You were brave, and this boy was stupid. His loss. So move on. You don’t ever have to talk to him again.
(Lights go down. Lights come up on GRACE, sitting on the couch with a package of Oreos.)
GRACE (To the audience): If I eat them all now, I won’t be tempted to eat them later.
JASMINE: Oooh, Oreos! Can I have one?
(GRACE holds the bag out to her. JASMINE takes a handful.)
GRACE: How was your date last night?
JASMINE: It was fun. We went to dinner—he paid—and then to a movie—he paid—and then he took me back to his place. He has a really nice TV in his room.
(JASMINE’S cell phone rings. JASMINE rummages in her purse and pulls out her phone.)
JASMINE (Talking into the phone): Hi, babydoll! I’m so sorry I didn’t call last night—I was out on a date with Zack.
(JASMINE stands up and blows GRACE a kiss before disappearing down the hall to her room.)
JASMINE (Talking into the phone): It was okay, but he’s not nearly as fit as you are . . .
GRACE (To audience): Jasmine has been dating her “babydoll” Anthony long-distance for three years. He goes to Ohio State, where they start classes a few weeks after we do, so he always flies out to help Jasmine move in. In the past, they seemed almost like one person, curled up on the couch together watching TV. They even held hands to walk to the kitchen for a glass of water. But on his last visit, they moved through the apartment on separate tracks. Anthony spent hours alone in Jasmine’s room, surfing the Internet, while Jasmine grabbed coffee with friends. On the morning Anthony left for Ohio, they ate bowls of cereal in different rooms, and Jasmine came back from the airport singing the new Fergie song instead of fighting her tears.
(JASMINE comes out of her room singing “Fergalicious” to herself.)
GRACE: I can’t believe Anthony’s okay with you dating Zack.
JASMINE: I told you, Grace. We’re dating other people.
GRACE: You always said you were going to marry Anthony.
JASMINE: I am, someday. I love him. I just wanna live the single life for a bit.
GRACE: So just because of that, you guys broke up?
JASMINE: Well, not really. Just on Facebook. You need to be single to get dates.
GRACE: Isn’t that kind of lying?
JASMINE: No. Zack knows we’re just dating casually.
GRACE: What if he wants to get serious?
JASMINE: Then I’ll end it with him. I told you, Anthony’s the man I’m gonna marry. I just want to sleep with other people in the meantime, while I’m still young.
GRACE: And Anthony’s really okay with this?
JASMINE: Why wouldn’t he be? He gets to live the single life, too. We’re both allowed to date three other people, and then at winter break we’ll reassess.
(JASMINE and GRACE freeze. The lights dim. We hear SCOTT’S VOICE and GRACE’S VOICE, representing a memory.)
GRACE’S VOICE: I’m gonna miss you so much, Scott.
SCOTT’S VOICE: I know, Grace. We just gotta make it to winter break. Then we’ll have three weeks together.
GRACE’S VOICE (Uncertain): Yeah.
SCOTT’S VOICE: Don’t worry. We can make it work, Grace. I know we can.
(Lights come up. JASMINE and GRACE unfreeze.)
JASMINE: Besides, there’s this girl at school Anthony’s really good friends with.
JASMINE: So he talks about her all the time. I’ve always been suspicious there’s something between them.
GRACE: Maybe they’re just friends.
JASMINE: Oh, Grace, you’re so naive sometimes.
GRACE: People can just be friends, Jasmine.
JASMINE: Well, Anthony said he’ll probably make a move on this girl now.
GRACE (Deflated): Aren’t you . . . isn’t there a little part of you that’s worried?
JASMINE: No. (Smiles radiantly.) I know he loves me best.
(JASMINE and GRACE freeze. The lights dim. We hear SCOTT’S VOICE and GRACE’S VOICE, representing a memory.)
GRACE’S VOICE: Scott, do you love me best?
SCOTT’S VOICE: Of course I do, Grace. I love you.
GRACE’S VOICE: But best? Do you love me best? Out of everyone?
SCOTT’S VOICE: Grace, I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you. How many times do I have to say it?
(Lights come up. JASMINE and GRACE unfreeze.)
JASMINE (Cups her breasts in her hands): Anthony definitely loves these best! (Laughs.) Anyway, I should get to work on that paper I’ve got due tomorrow . . .
(JASMINE gets up and exits. GRACE pulls her cell phone out of her pocket and dials.)
GRACE (Talking into the phone): Scott?
SCOTT’S VOICE: Hey, Grace, can I call you back? I’m at Becky’s.
(We hear laughter in the background and BECKY’S VOICE.)
BECKY’S VOICE: Who is that?
GRACE: Sure. Fine—okay, bye.
(GRACE gets up from the couch and walks downstage, addressing the audience.)
GRACE (To the audience): We met at summer camp last year. We were both counselors. Our cabins were paired up as a team, which meant we were on the same schedule for practically everything—hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, swimming in the lake. Trying to keep track of sugar-crazed ten-year-olds all day bonded us. We became inseparable. I’d only known him four days when he kissed me, the two of us wedged in the supply closet looking for extra Boondoggle lanyard for arts and crafts. A week later, we were officially dating. And by the end of the summer, Scott told me he loved me.
(SCOTT has walked up to GRACE during her monologue. He takes her hand.)
SCOTT: There’s no one else I want to be with. I really think we can make long distance work.
GRACE (Looking at him warmly): Me too.
(SCOTT kisses GRACE, then slowly backs away from her, still holding her hand, only letting go at the last possible moment when his arm can’t stretch any more. Still walking backward and watching her, he makes his way over to a desk and chair downstage left. He sits down.)
GRACE (To the audience): Looking back, I’m not sure I fully believed the words as they came from my lips, but I did love him, as wholly and deeply as you can love someone you’ve only known in an isolated camp-world for nine weeks. To my summer-self, armed with that steady, untested love, LA and Denver didn’t seem far apart at all.
(BECKY enters downstage left and perches on SCOTT’S desk, laughing and flirting with him.)
GRACE (Watching them): Then Scott went back to school and met Becky in his history class. Jasmine and Anthony started dating other people. Jared Sampson’s mom died in a car crash. Nothing seems certain anymore.
(BECKY exits. SCOTT takes out his cell phone and dials. GRACE’S cell phone rings. After two rings, she answers it.)
GRACE: Scott? Is everything all right? You haven’t returned my texts all day.
SCOTT (Talking into the phone): I’m having major trouble with this paper, Grace.
GRACE (To the audience): Scott is a world-class procrastinator. He has a paper due tomorrow. Eight pages. Twenty citations. It is 1:14 a.m. (Into the phone, to SCOTT): So what’s your thesis?
SCOTT: I don’t know.
GRACE: You don’t have a thesis yet?
(SCOTT puts down the phone. For the rest of the conversation he addresses GRACE directly, and she talks directly to him. But there is still a wide expanse of stage between them.)
SCOTT: I just—I’m having trouble focusing.
GRACE: What’s your paper about? Maybe if you talk things through, it’ll help clear your head.
SCOTT: I already know what I want to say, I’m just having trouble saying it.
GRACE: You’re overthinking it. You’re making this too big of a deal.
SCOTT: I know. (Sighs heavily.) I just—every sentence I write, I see everything wrong with it. All the ways they can rip my argument apart.
GRACE: But that’s how it is with writing. Every point you make can always be argued. You’re gonna drive yourself crazy trying to search for some airtight argument that doesn’t exist.
SCOTT: You’re right, you’re right. I just need to buckle down and do it. (Sighs again.) I’m never gonna get it done in time.
GRACE: Yes you will. You’ve got to. You have to turn in something.
SCOTT: You’re right. (Beat.) But, you know, if I don’t turn it in, I’ll still be okay. If I do all the other work in the class. It’s not like I’m gonna flunk.
SCOTT: I’m not gonna flunk, Grace.
GRACE (On the verge of tears): Why don’t you just talk to me? Just try talking it out to me. Please. I can help.
SCOTT: It’s no use—it’s not going anywhere. I didn’t give myself enough time. And I got the book late. Remember, how the mail took forever to bring it? So I’m behind on the readings . . .
GRACE: Maybe if you weren’t hanging out at Becky’s all the time, you’d have it done by now.
SCOTT (Tone hardens): What? What the hell does Becky have to do with anything?
GRACE: You’ve been spending so much time with her lately, that’s all. It seems like every time I call you, you’re with her.
SCOTT: I know you’re jealous of Becky, but seriously—
GRACE: I’m not jealous!
SCOTT: This is getting ridiculous. She’s my friend, okay? You’re my girlfriend. She’s the one who should be jealous of you. (Beat.) Plus, I mean, it’s not like you’re around to hang out with.
GRACE: You act like that’s my fault.
SCOTT: It’s nobody’s fault. It is what it is. (Beat.) Anyway, I’m gonna try, okay? But I just don’t think I’m gonna finish this paper in time.
GRACE (Whispers): Scott. I don’t think I can do this anymore.
(One beat, two beats pass in silence. SCOTT hasn’t heard her. SCOTT picks up his cell phone and holds it to his ear. GRACE picks up her phone and holds it to her ear.)
SCOTT (Talking into the phone): Grace?
SCOTT: Grace, I’m having trouble hearing you. Hello? Grace? Are you still there?
(Fade to darkness, except for a light on GRACE. We hear the screech of tires and the sickening crash of a car.)
GRACE: The driver’s door crushed like a beer can. The windshield shattered into a sickening spider web. Blood everywhere. Her body slumped lifeless against the steering wheel. (Beat.) I’m having trouble sleeping.
(GRACE crosses to the couch and lies down. She tosses and turns and finally sleeps for a few moments. Then, she wakes up. GRACE sits up and addresses the audience. The stage remains darkened except for a light on GRACE.)
GRACE: I dream of Jared Sampson’s mom.
(JARED SAMPSON’S MOM enters, wearing the same flower-print capri pants, bright red lipstick, and “Parent Chaperone” name tag from earlier. She is carrying a tea set on a tray, along with a small bowl of eggs. She sits beside GRACE on the couch.)
GRACE: I’m so happy to see her that I start to cry. She thinks I’m crying over something else.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Honey, it’s okay. It’s his loss. (She hands GRACE a cup of tea.)
GRACE: I feel better. But then I realize we’re sitting in the bottom of a pit. Earthen walls rise up around us. Shovels of dirt begin to rain down from above. (Looks up. Then, turns to address JARED SAMPSON’S MOM.) We’re in a grave. We’re being buried.
(Beat. JARED SAMPSON’S MOM smiles at GRACE.)
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Here, honey, have a hard-boiled egg. You’ll feel better. (Hands GRACE the bowl of eggs. Grace takes one.)
GRACE: Dirt covers my shoes, my socks, the cuffs of my jeans. (Cracks an egg open on a plate. The egg is raw.) This egg is raw! (Wipes her hands on her napkin and pushes the plate away.)
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Don’t worry, Grace. You don’t ever have to talk to that boy again.
(JARED SAMPSON’S MOM hugs GRACE. Then she takes the cup of tea, bowl of eggs, messy egg-plate, and napkin from GRACE and puts them back on the tray. She gets up and exits offstage, carrying the tray.)
GRACE: Moist, heavy dirt presses down on my limbs. It fills the grave, rising up past my shoulders, my chin. I close my eyes. Dirt up to my nose, my forehead. I can’t breathe. I’m going to suffocate.
(Lights come up fully. SASHA, wearing a shirt covered with red sequins, enters.)
SASHA: Grace! You’re awake!
GRACE (Subdued): Good morning to you, too.
SASHA (Preening): How do you like it?
GRACE: Like what?
SASHA: My new shirt! (She raises her arms, turning from side to side.)
GRACE: It’s very . . . very . . .
JASMINE: Hey! Cute shirt, Sash. Can I borrow it for my date Friday?
(GRACE gets up off the couch and leaves JASMINE and SASHA admiring the shirt. We hear SCOTT’S VOICE and GRACE’S VOICE, representing a memory. As the voices are speaking, lights go down on JASMINE and SASHA. GRACE walks slowly toward the audience.)
SCOTT’S VOICE: You look good in red, Grace. You should wear it more often.
GRACE’S VOICE: I don’t know, Scott. It’s not really my color. Too flashy.
SCOTT’S VOICE: Red’s not flashy. It’s vibrant.
(When they finish speaking, GRACE is at the front of the stage.)
GRACE: There’s this one picture of Becky on Facebook that I really hate. She’s with Scott, of course. They’re standing very close together. His arm is around her. She’s wearing a red dress.
(GRACE takes her cell phone out of her pocket. She holds it up to her ear.)
GRACE: Listen, Scott. I don’t think things are working out.
SCOTT’S VOICE: No, Grace—please—don’t do this—
GRACE: I know it’s hard, but I really think it’s for the best—
(We hear the sound of tires screeching. Beat.)
GRACE: Listen, Scott. This long-distance thing is just too damn hard.
SCOTT’S VOICE (Emotional): I’ll try harder. We can make it work. Come visit me next weekend.
GRACE: I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it—
(We hear the sound of tires screeching and BECKY laughing. Beat.)
GRACE: Listen, Scott. I know you’re cheating on me with Becky.
SCOTT’S VOICE (Crying): It was a stupid mistake. I’m never seeing her again. You, Grace. You’re the one I love. You’re the one I love best—
(We hear the sound of tires screeching, BECKY laughing, and a car crashing violently. Then, all is silent. After a few moments, GRACE slowly dials. The phone rings and rings and rings and rings. SCOTT does not answer. The phone is still ringing as the stage lights fade to darkness.)
(Lights come up. GRACE is sitting on a chair downstage right.)
GRACE: Jared Sampson and I used to ride the same bus. One day in eighth grade, it started to rain just as school was getting out. My hair got drenched as I ran from the classroom door to the bus. At my stop, I climbed down the bus stairs, gripping the railing so I wouldn’t slip.
(YOUNG GRACE enters downstage left, wet-haired, wearing a backpack.)
GRACE: Jared Sampson climbed down right behind me.
(YOUNG JARED enters downstage left.)
GRACE: I gathered up all of my courage . . .
YOUNG GRACE (Turns and waves to YOUNG JARED): Bye, Jared!
(YOUNG JARED nods at her and exits. YOUNG GRACE quickly turns and crosses along the front of the stage, towards GRACE.)
GRACE: I resigned myself to a bone-soaking walk up the hill to my house.
(YOUNG GRACE walks, head bowed against the rain and wind. Before she reaches GRACE, she turns and walks back the other way. Downstage left, three chairs are set up in two rows—one in the front, two in the back—facing the audience, to create a car. In the front chair sits JARED SAMPSON’S MOM, pantomiming holding a steering wheel. Behind her sits YOUNG JARED. JARED SAMPSON’S MOM sees YOUNG GRACE walking toward them. She pantomimes rolling down the passenger side window.)
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Grace, honey. Aren’t your parents picking you up?
YOUNG GRACE: They’re at work.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Oh, sweetheart. Get in. We’ll drive you home. Jared, open the door for her.
(YOUNG JARED pantomimes opening the door. YOUNG GRACE gets in and pantomimes shutting it behind her.)
GRACE (Watching the scene unfold): It was a green minivan with wood paneling on the sides. The middle row was a bench seat, with only room for two.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: You’re half-soaked already. I’ve got the heater on high. Jared, make room for Grace.
(YOUNG JARED draws his knees together. YOUNG GRACE slings her backpack on the floor next to her feet.)
GRACE: Eighth-grade Jared had shaggy blond hair and wore cargo shorts with lots of pockets. Even on cold rainy days, he wore cargo shorts. He had a quiet way about him. When he smiled at me, I felt a personal sense of accomplishment.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Now Grace, remind me what street you live on?
YOUNG GRACE: Hayward. Keep going up this street and take the fourth left.
JARED SAMPSON’S MOM: Okey-dokey. Buckle up, kids!
(YOUNG JARED moves his arm out of the way. YOUNG GRACE pantomimes snapping in her seatbelt buckle.)
GRACE: We were sitting very close. I was acutely aware of Jared’s steady breathing, his boy smell, his right knee inches from my left. In that moment, life was limitless. I wished I could stay in that minivan forever, warm and out of the rain, sitting beside Jared Sampson on that narrow bench seat. At one point, as we turned a corner, his body leaned my way and our knees and shoulders touched. I wanted us to just keep driving, past my house, my street, my neighborhood, going around lots of turns. I didn’t know where we’d end up. But Jared Sampson’s mom was driving, so I felt . . . safe.
(Slowly fade to BLACKOUT.)
Dallas Woodburn, a former Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University, has published work in ZYZZYVA, The Nashville Review, The Los Angeles Times, and Monkeybicycle, among many others. Her debut short story collection Woman, Running Late, in a Dress (Yellow Flag Press) won the 2018 Cypress & Pine Short Fiction Award and is available at www.dallaswoodburnauthor.com. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her plays have been produced in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and New York City. In addition to her own writing, Dallas also serves others as a writing coach and “book doula” helping people give birth the books that are burning inside them; learn more at www.yourbookbreakthrough.com.