Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘The Companion’: chapter 19 (content warning: rude words)

My name is Cinderella.  Not really.  My real name is Jessica Springer.  I passed the audition to be in the pantomime we are putting on.  The director wants it to be ready in time for Christmas, and so we are rehearsing every day – it really is a full-time occupation, which is great, because I have been going out of my mind recently.  We are only being paid a tiny salary at the moment, but some of the cast have been given shares in any profit we make, and I got the most shares because I have the biggest part.  We are hoping it is going to run and run until every-one on the ship has seen it.  The writers are even working on some variations in the dialogue and the songs to try to encourage people to come more than once.  I really hope it will be a smash. It would be wonderful to make some money.  I hope to produce my own plays, some day. 

What you are all dying to know, of course, is who is playing Prince Charming.  Do you even have to ask?  They didn’t even bother with an audition.  The director just asked Kelvin if he wanted to do it.  I say “asked”.  When Emile Bourdelle asks some-one to do something, he makes it jolly difficult to say no.  If the truth be told, most of the cast are scared to death of him, but he is a joy to work with.  We are really making progress and I am sure we will be ready in time for the opening night.  I don’t know whether Kelvin wanted the part or not, but Emile was single-minded about it, as usual.  He said he could not fill the theatre if Kelvin was not in the production and, if Kelvin were in the production, there was no  point in his taking a minor part because people would be looking for him on stage all the time.  Somebody tried to ask whether Kelvin had any previous acting experience (which I don’t think he does) but Emile threw something at her.  He is quite hot-blooded sometimes. 

You must excuse his artistic sensibilities.

The venue is not a proper theatre.  It is a lecture-room which had been made bigger by taking out the wall where the whiteboard used to be.  It seats four hundred people, and so it is quite cosy and intimate.  There is a projector we can use for some of the special effects.  The other facilities are a bit basic, but we are all used to working there now and the company has a good team spirit. 

To begin with, I was a bit disappointed with Kelvin’s acting.  His heart did not seem to be in it, particularly the romantic scenes.  I was not the only one who was worried.  You could see that Emile was not happy, and some of the other members of the cast.  I think Emile took Kelvin on one side and gave him a little talk, including some tips on how to think about his motivation, and his diction, and that sort of thing. It was a transformation: he has been much better ever since, and what is encouraging is that he improves with every day of rehearsal. 

I must admit that, once I realised he was getting more into his stride, I asked him to stay behind a few times when every-one else had gone back to their rooms.  I told him that I wanted to go over some of the more difficult scenes.  I hope that doesn’t sound too obvious and contrived.  If you think that some of the scenes I had in mind were the ones which included a kiss, you would be right.  I gave him a story that kissing some-one when you are not in love with the person is artificial, but I did not want the performance to look artificial: I wanted it to look natural, and so we needed to practice.  Kelvin heaved a sigh of wearied resignation that almost made me want to slap his face, but I will admit that he went to the task with spirit.  He made my head spin a few times, I can tell you. 

That awful woman who doesn’t speak much and has mousy hair is making most of the costumes, and I must admit she is very efficient.  Kerr McLean is providing the trades-people who build the stage and the scenery and do the lights and everything.  He never visits the set, thank god.  For a man who is supposed to be rolling in money, he smells funny, his clothes are simply a disaster – he looks like a homeless person – and you can’t understand a word he is saying. 


Several people told me I was a bloody fool for getting involved in this pantomime business, but Emile Bourdelle was very persuasive, and told me that people would be expecting me to do it.  It was very difficult at first.  The woman who is playing Cinderella is a shallow and gushing air-head of the kind who thinks that having tresses of spun gold tumbling about her shoulders entitles her to a privileged position.  Personally, I would have preferred a more down-to-earth actress for the part who could, in case of necessity, just wear a wig. 

I don’t wish to sound like an egotistical fantasist, but that woman has a crush on me.  She told me she wanted to “go over” some of the scenes.  I said fine.  She then procrastinated by pretending to be re-doing her precious hair for the tenth time until every-one else had gone home.  The leader of the lighting team was asking me if he could switch everything off, but I had to tell him to leave some of it on, and show me where the master switch was.  Lo and behold, the scenes she wanted to rehearse were the ones with kissing in them.  She gave me some story about how she wanted everything to look “natural”, but I could not make out the difference between “natural” and over-rehearsed.  After a while, I just thought, “To hell with acting – let’s just snog each other’s faces off.”  She seemed quite appreciative.  It was like pleasure and work at the same time.  I must admit that the kissing was fairly pleasurable, but I did have to concentrate on not getting carried away.  She has had me doing this three or four times now.  It is almost getting boring. 

Don’t ask me why, and, again, I don’t want to sound as if I am going soft in the head, but during a few of these after-hours sessions I have had a strange feeling that we were being watched. 


I did briefly consider murdering Jessica Springer, and changing my appearance to pose as her, but I have definitely abandoned the idea.  The two things that have saved her are the difficulty of accounting for Pamela’s disappearance, and Jessica’s vacuous personality. Any fool can see that Kelvin has no feelings for her, and never will.  He has gone along with her childish schemes partly because he feels flattered, and also for the sake of a quiet life. 

I did get angry when I saw them slobbering over each other.  I was angry with her for the ridiculous charade she was acting out.  Why she could not just come out and tell him she fancied him, I don’t know.  I was angry with him for being too enthusiastic.  You can tell after a while that he is itching to start fondling her tits and who knows where else.  There is no way they are going to be able to kiss like that during the production: there just won’t be time.  People will have got bored and gone home before they have finished. 



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