tagExhibitionist & VoyeurSaturday Night School Ch. 09

Saturday Night School Ch. 09

byjessica_tang_vonharper©

"Do you really think I should make this film?" Charlie asked Ronni at lunch the next day.

Ronni considered the question. "I think it's a good script," she said. "And you're thinking about a career in film, right? I think it would be a good experience for you. Why? Are you thinking about dropping it?"

They sat at a table at the far side of the cafeteria. Ronni had been waiting outside his 4th period class when he emerged after the lunch bell rang. She asked if he wanted to get lunch, and he agreed. He had a few questions he wanted to ask her. In particular, he wondered how much of the night before Nick had described to her.

Charlie hadn't seen Michelle at all that morning. He was getting close to sending her a text and asking her if she had skipped school. Not that it mattered; he wanted to give her some space at school anyway, so having lunch with her wasn't an option for him even if she was there. Although he did want to ask her what she planned to do over the weekend.

"Yeah, I am," he told Ronni. "I keep thinking about what I need to do to make the film, and I already see all these problems that I'm going to have to solve."

"We're going to have to solve," Ronni corrected. "Producer, remember?"

"Right. We're going to have to solve. Our location is a garden where we can only film after 11 PM on weekdays. So, we need three actors who can be available late at night. I can't even be sure that Michelle is going to commit to that; she had to lie to her parents to be there last night, and afterwards she had to sneak into her house at three in the morning. On top of that, if I'm going to film it as written, with the nudity, I'll need the actors playing Max and Ingrid to be discrete. I don't want them coming to school and blabbing about the nude scene."

"Yes, we definitely have some hurdles to work around."

"There's also the possibility the movie will never be shown to anyone. I told Michelle that if she decided she was uncomfortable with her scene, we would never show anyone the film. Which is fine for her, but how do I convince the other two actors to commit to a film that might not even be shown to anyone?"

"And to do it for free, of course." Ronni grinned. "We don't have a budget to pay anyone. Although Nick might let them swipe drinks and chips from the snack bar."

"I mean, what do you think? Is the film good enough to be worth all this trouble?" Charlie stirred his mashed potatoes with his fork. "Or is it a lot of effort for nothing?"

"We'll never know how good it can be unless we try and make it," Ronni said. "It's a good script. Original idea, good dialogue. So we'll try to film it how you've written it. If we run into problems, we'll figure out how to work around them. I'm pretty sure that's how filmmaking is supposed to go."

"You really think it's a good enough script?"

"Sure. Even Nick liked it. He read the copy you gave him. He said he couldn't stop thinking about it."

"Really?"

"Yeah. He said so this morning. He wanted to talk to me about it and he kept asking what I thought the film was about. He said that if he'd read the script before he met Michelle, he would have interpreted it one way, but meeting Michelle made him think about it in a completely different way." Ronni leaned against the table. "Let's just think about who would be good to play Max and Ingrid. We can talk to them, tell them when and where we want to film, and maybe they'll say no, maybe they'll say yes. One thing I know about theater kids is they like to get cast in things. We're asking them to be the stars of this film. They might go for it, no matter if it's late at night. Have you heard anything from that Apex film program you interviewed for?"

"No, nothing yet."

"Doesn't matter. When we talk to our Max and Ingrid, you make it clear to them that this isn't a Pine Hills school project. You tell them it's a project for Jefferson University. It'll make it seem next-level. It'll also remove any expectations they might have that the film will be shown to anyone at this school."

Charlie nodded. "Good idea. I could see them accepting that."

"As for discretion... I don't know think we can ever be 100% sure that our Max and Ingrid aren't going to come to school and talk about Michelle doing a nude scene. That's just a risk she's going to have to accept, if she's going to do it. She either has to be okay with people knowing, or she has to be ready to deny it." Ronni shrugged. "Let's face it, she took the same risk with me. I haven't told anyone I saw her walking around naked last night. And if we're dealing with theater kids, they probably won't be as inclined to talk about it as others might. They would know how to separate an actress from her role."

Behind Ronni, towards the middle of the cafeteria, Charlie saw Vampire Vanessa sitting down at a table with several other girls. Charlie peered at the group of them, trying to pick out Michelle.

Ronni noticed his distraction and shot a quick glance over her shoulder. "If you're looking for Michelle, I don't think she came in today."

"You don't think so? How do you know?"

"My locker's not far from hers. I see her sometimes between classes. But I haven't seen her today at all."

"Just a sec." Charlie pulled out his phone. He found Michelle's name and sent her a quick text: "You in school today?"

A minute later, his phone buzzed. He read the message: "Home sick. I'll tell you later."

"She says she's home sick," Charlie told Ronni. "You think she's really sick? Or just tired?"

"You could ask her."

"No. She said she'd talk to me later. I don't want to say too much in a text. Anyone could read it." Charlie leaned over his phone. He sent a quick message: "Feel better!" A few seconds later, he received another message from her. No words, just a pink heart emoji.

"You're worried her parents will find out about last night?"

Charlie nodded. "She told them she was at Vanessa's house. Honestly, I don't think they even know I exist."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously. I think Michelle has lied to her parents every time she's been to see me. She's always told them she's doing something else."

"That's kind of weird."

"Yeah. I have to admit, I never thought I'd be anyone's secret boyfriend." Charlie grimaced. "Actually, that reminds me of something I have to do tonight."

"What?"

"My mom really wants to read my script. So I need to write a clean version of it. No nudity."

"How are you going to do that?" Ronni asked.

"I'll just switch it so that Gwen is wearing conservative clothes at the beginning of the film, and as Max and Ingrid get to know each other, Gwen will switch to brighter colors and shorter dresses. Same basic concept, really. Just less drastic." He frowned as Ronni started to laugh. "Is that funny?"

"It's just not quite as interesting to do it that way, is it?" Ronni tried unsuccessfully to suppress her grin. "Sorry... I'm just thinking about last night. I definitely had to change some of my preconceptions about Michelle. It's one thing for you to tell me stories about her... but my gosh, she didn't hold back last night, did she?"

"No, I guess she didn't."

"My brother wanted to look at my yearbook from last year, to see her picture. He said he didn't see her wearing anything, the whole night. She came in naked and she left naked. He was pretty amazed by the whole thing."

"Yeah. She got dressed in the parking lot before we left."

Ronni leaned forward. "The first time I read your script, I was skeptical. I thought, is this just his way of getting her to be nude on camera? But after last night, I really think she's not going to have a problem doing those scenes. In fact, I think she's going to be amazing in them. Do you think she can act?"

"Well... she's pretty good at lying to her parents, apparently."

Ronni grinned. "That's true."

"When I finish writing a clean version of the script, I'll give you a copy. In case your parents want to see it."

Ronni shook her head. "That's okay. I don't have a problem showing them the real script, if they want to read it. But they probably won't even ask."

"No?"

"We agreed my title is producer, right? I don't think my parents have any idea what a producer does. They just know I'm not writing, directing or acting. To them, that means I'm not really doing anything, just helping you out on your project. I told them I'll be going to Greenholt late at night to help with the filming, but it's not such a big deal for me, because Nick works there. I'm just hanging out with my brother while he's at work."

Charlie's thoughts strayed towards the adventures of the previous night. The garden paths, the starry sky, Michelle's body in the moonlight. "When do you think Nick will be cool about us coming by again?" he asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

Ronni leaned against the table, stirring her drink with her straw so that the ice clinked together. "How about we find some actors first?" she suggested. "Let's make our wish list. Who do you want to talk about first - Max or Ingrid?"

***

As soon as he came home, Charlie went upstairs and started working on the clean version of the script. He knew his mom would ask to read it that evening, and he didn't want to be scrambling to finish it.

He kept his phone by his computer as he worked, glancing at it frequently to see if Michelle had sent him a text. The rewrite didn't take very long, and he didn't need to change very much. The fact that none of the characters acknowledged Gwen's nudity worked in his favor. Aside from altering a few descriptions of Gwen, he didn't need to change much of the dialogue.

He saved the finished document and glanced at his phone again. Friday night. It was Friday night, he had a girlfriend, and yet he was all alone, with no idea what she was doing. He picked up his phone and wrote a quick text to Michelle: "Whatcha up to?"

He put the phone down and looked out the window at the sky. His phone rang a minute later. He picked it up and answered. "Hey."

"I'm just at home," Michelle said. "What about you?"

"At home. I just finished writing a clean version of my script. My mom wants to read it and I don't want to show her a version with nudity in it."

"You took out the nudity?"

"Yeah. In this version, you start off wearing a conservative dark-colored dress that covers your arms and legs. With each new scene, your dresses become shorter and the colors become brighter. By the time it reaches the last scene, you're not nude, you're just in a short sexy dress. Here, let me read it to you." Charlie turned to his computer and clicked down to the beginning of the last scene. He read, "Gwen is wearing a short, tight dress that clings to her body. The dress is bright pink."

"Bright pink?"

"Yeah. That's what I wrote." He gazed at the line on the screen, tempted to change the color of the dress to yellow, but then he shook his head dismissively. "Anyways, it doesn't matter. It's just to show my mom. It's not like you have to run out and buy a new dress just for this scene. "

"I know," she said matter-of-factly. "Because in the actual script, I'm naked."

"Ah. Right."

"Are you done with that clean version?" she asked. "Can you send it to me?"

"Yeah, sure. I can send it. I'll send it right now."

"Thanks."

Charlie opened up his e-mail and created a new message to Michelle. "You weren't in school today?" he asked, as he looked for the document to attach to the message.

"No. It's kind of funny, actually. You know how I told you I was going to sneak into my house last night, and if my mom or dad caught me, I would tell them I was at Vanessa's house and had to leave because I wasn't feeling well?"

"Yeah."

"Well, they caught me. That is, my mom did. She was wide awake when I came home, sitting in the kitchen. So I told her my stomach hurt and that's why I came home. She believed me, but I guess I overdid it because the next morning she insisted I had to stay home from school. To be honest, I was tired from last night anyway, so I didn't give her much of an argument. But since I stayed home from school, now I'm stuck at home tonight. My mom doesn't want me to go out."

"You had plans tonight?"

"Uh huh. The cheer team is making an appearance at the spring alumni dinner. I had to tell Vanessa I couldn't make it. And that was an awkward conversation, because I couldn't tell her why I was pretending to be sick, so I had to tell her I really was sick. I felt so bad lying to her. She was so concerned and wanted to take care of me and I felt like the worst friend ever."

"Maybe you could tell her that you felt sick last night, but it passed quickly, it's just your mom is being cautious..."

"That's pretty much what I said. I kept reassuring her. No, no, I feel fine now. No, no, it's just my mom. She won't let me go out. Stay home from school on Friday, stay home Friday night, that's the rule, right? But still, Vanessa was trying to give me all this advice about how to feel better."

"It's not like you could tell her the truth."

"No. I never could. But I hate having to lie to everyone. And I hate sitting at home perfectly healthy instead of being with the cheer team like I'm supposed to."

"Are you doing anything tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow night?"

"Yeah."

"Nothing too important," Michelle said. "Why?"

"Let's go out. Let's do something."

For a moment, Charlie heard silence in his ear, and the sound of his own breathing. "Okay," Michelle finally answered. "What did you have in mind?"

Charlie realized he didn't have anything in mind. If he was honest with himself, he hadn't really expected her to say yes. Where would he take her? He didn't have much experience with actual dating. "Let's get out of Pine Hills," he suggested. "We'll just get in my car and drive north for a while. You know how there's all those little towns you pass through. We'll go for a while, and then look for someplace to get dinner, in one of those towns."

"So, no particular place in mind? We're just going to drive until we get tired of driving?"

"Yeah," Charlie said. "Drive until we're someplace where no one knows us."

Michelle didn't speak for a moment, and Charlie knew that she understood the significance of his words. Someplace where no one would recognize them. That way, they wouldn't be seen by anyone from the high school, and no one would spread rumors about them being together.

And if Michelle felt like doing something risky, she could do so with the knowledge that no one would know who she was.

"It'd be nice to get out of this town for a bit," she said.

"Yeah, it will." Charlie leaned back in his chair, gazing out the window at the darkening sky. We'll drive until we get tired of driving, he thought to himself, and maybe we'll never get tired of driving. We'll drive and drive through the night and we'll just leave this place far behind.

"When should I pick you up?" he asked.

"How about 6:30? Just pick me up at the school."

"The school?"

"Yeah. That's where I'll be. I have some spirit squad stuff to do in the athletic center. Are you going to do any editing in the AV room?"

"Huh... you know what's funny? I haven't even thought about going to work in the editing bay this weekend."

"Is that funny?"

"Yeah! For me, it is, anyway. I'm always in there on the weekend. There's always something I need to work on." He considered what footage he had on the editing bay computer. "Yeah, I'll be there editing."

"You will? So maybe at 6:30, I can just meet you at your car?"

"Sure. That'll work." He paused. "I'll have my window rolled up this time."

"What?"

"You know... when I left my window open? And you put your clothes through the opening?"

"Oh..." Michelle sounded embarrassed. She spoke quickly, "I wasn't going to..."

"Yeah, I know, I didn't really mean..."

"It was just kind of an impulsive thing that time..."

"I know. I know. Just a joke. Sorry."

She laughed nervously. "Okay."

"6:30, then."

"6:30," she confirmed.

He expected that to be the end of the conversation, but it wasn't. Michelle was stuck at home with nothing to do, and Charlie was alone in his house with nothing to do, and they talked on the phone until the sky turned dark and moon rose high above the trees.

***

Daryl stopped by the editing bay the next day. "Did you hear back from that film program at Jefferson?" the security guard asked.

"Not yet," Charlie said.

"Got my fingers crossed for you. So, you let me know when you hear, okay?" Daryl grinned. "I just walked through the athletic center. Saw your girl in there. She's painting signs with a few of the other cheerleaders."

"Yeah, she told me she'd be here. We're going out later."

"You're taking her out? Where you going?"

"I don't know. Dinner. We'll find someplace."

"Someplace?" Daryl looked at him sternly. "Treat her right, Charlie. Don't take that one for granted."

"I won't."

Daryl went on his way and Charlie turned back to the editing computer. He tried to focus on what he was doing, but the clock in the corner of the screen frequently drew his attention. Charlie knew he had a tendency to lose track of time while he was working, and he didn't want it to happen this time. He watched the numbers on the clock count up slowly to 4:00 PM, then to 5:00 PM.

Daryl came by shortly after 5:00 PM. "You still here, Charlie?"

"Yeah. Still working."

"I thought you and Michelle would leave together."

"Yeah, that's what we planned." Charlie frowned. "Why?"

"I went by the athletic center and it's all quiet now. All the cheerleaders are gone."

"Really?" Charlie checked the clock again. He still had more than an hour until 6:30. "Is her car still here?"

"I don't know, I didn't look. I don't know if I remember which is hers, anyway. A bunch of cars are still here."

"We're supposed to meet at 6:30."

"Oh." Daryl shrugged. "I guess she's somewhere, then. Or she left and she'll be back."

"Probably." But Charlie felt anxious. He wanted to get up from his seat and check the parking lot, to see if her car was still there. But what would that say to Daryl? That Charlie thought Michelle might not show up for their date?

6:30 was more than an hour away anyway. Charlie told himself he would focus on his work. He would keep doing what he was doing, and he would keep checking the clock. At 6:30, he would go outside to his car, and Michelle would be there.

Or maybe she wouldn't. Maybe he would find a heart drawn on a paper, sitting in the front seat.

Either way, he didn't need to worry about it until 6:30.

***

At 6:15, he started saving his work and closing the windows on his computer. At 6:20, he shut down the computer. He leaned back in his chair and stared at his phone, gazing at the numbers on the display, waiting for them to say 6:30.

At 6:25, he got up and walked outside.

Michelle waited for him, leaning against his car. She wore a dark jacket with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and underneath, a loose grey shirt that flared around her hips. Tight black leggings accentuated her long legs, and she wore open-toed tan heels that wrapped around her ankles.

"Wow," he said. "You look amazing."

She smiled. "So do you!"

"Me? I look the same as always."

"No." Michelle glanced at his button-up shirt and dark jeans, nodding in approval. "I can tell. You spent some time getting ready for tonight."

"Well..." Charlie didn't know what to say. He might've put on slightly nicer clothes than usual, but Michelle looked like she was about to stroll down the runway at a fashion show. He wondered if that's where she had disappeared to for the last hour. Maybe she wanted to find someplace to get dressed.

Michelle walked around the back of the car to the passenger side. "Let's leave this town behind," she said. "If we don't go now, we might be stuck here forever."

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