Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 6

After Troy's drama class, everybody knew.

The scene that brought it all out was a two-hander that Reardon had assigned to Troy and Doris Schwartz. Troy had been proud of the fact that he'd managed to learn both parts, but this proved to be his downfall; even though it was only an unblocked rehearsal, he saw the faces of his watching classmates and from the very opening was subject to perfomance nerves. He took Doris's lines by mistake, prompted her when she paused, and forgot his stage directions.

Dave Reardon could see a disaster in the making, and knew that it had been a mistake to put Troy on the spot so early. But what else could he have done? The whole point of the move had been to bring Troy more into the circle of the school, not to single him conspicuous and set him apart.

So Reardon told them to relax, take it from the top again and use their scripts, and this was another mistake. Troy couldn't find his place, and it slowly became obvious that it was because he simply couldn't get the words; the harder he tried, the harder it got. Finally he just froze. Reardon moved the class along, but it was too late. Troy said nothing for the rest of the lacklustre session, and he left before anyone could speak to him.

Bruno found him sitting on the hall steps. He wasn't in tears or upset, but he was as alone as it's ever possible to be.

'Hey,' Bruno said, sitting alongside him and forcing himself to be bright, 'you're going to be late for music.'

'I can't go to music,' Troy said.

'Why not? You belong there.'

'No. I don't belong in music.' Troy looked around the stairway. 'I don't belong in this school.'

'Troy,' Bruno said carefully, 'you have talent. A lot of talent.'

'I have a place to sing,' Troy said evenly, as if he'd thought it through and was facing the facts. 'It's a special group. For the educationally handicapped.' He'd almost mananged to keep it out, but the bitterness started to come through on the last words.

'That's okay,' Bruno said, 'but I think you want more than that.'

Troy shook his head. 'It's the kids in this school . . . I don't know how to act with them.'

'Why not just be you?'

'Because I'm not good enough. They're perfect, they're normal.'

'Troy, perfect or normal are two different things, believe me.'

'Well,' Troy said, as if it was a matter that only perfect and normal people could ever dismiss so lightly, 'I'll never be either.' He got to his feet. 'I don't belong here. I belong in the Chase School for the Educationally Handicapped.' Without looking back and without saying goodbye, he walked down the stairs.

'Hey,' Bruno said, 'Hey, Troy, wait a minute!'

But Troy was already across the hall and on his way out of the door.

Watching herself in the dance studio mirror, Coco Hernandez could see the dance teacher coming around behind her. Lydia Grant stopped at Coco's place in the line and watched for a few moments, and the reflections showed that she wasn't exactly thrilled by what she was seeing.

'Coco,' she said, 'you're asleep.'

Coco lost the beat, tried to pick it up again. She got it wrong and almost tripped Leroy, who was working next along the line.

'Child,' Lydia said, 'you're dancing with rocks in your feet.'

'Im' doing my best, Miss Grant.'

'Honey, I've seen your best. And that ain't it.'

Lydia looked down the line; the distraction was taking effect, and one or two of the others were falling out of step. 'Okay,' she said, 'two-minute breather.'

The line instantly collapsed, and the dancers sank to the floor. As the teacher went across to end the music, Leroy tried to get a reading on Coco.

'That's a drag about Troy,' he said, watching her. 'His folks took him out of school this morning.'

Coco, leaning back on her elbows and breathing hard, looked up in surprise. 'Why?'

Leroy shrugged. 'Now they'll have to set up the festival auditions all over again.' Coco was frowning. 'Well, now you've got a shot at it. Isn't that what you wanted?'

'I wanted a shot at it,' she said frowning harder. 'But not this way.'

She went looking for Bruno Martelli; after all, Bruno had been the one who'd more or less taken Troy under his wing, shown him around, introduced him to people. Nobody had seen Bruno for a while, but Danny Amatullo suggested that she should try around the drama studio or the dressing rooms. Bruno had been assigned the part that Troy had so spectacularly blown, and he and Doris Schwartz were probably working on it together in order to have it ready for the next session. Danny, meanwhile, had his own problems; his wooing of Diana Huddleston had been going fine until pressure of work had forced Doris to call a halt to has supply of matinee-idol dialogue. Thrown back on his own inventions, he wasn't doing half so well.

Coco looked in on the drama studio, but it was occupied by a freshman class lying on the scuffed floor and pretending that they were hovering inches above it as Reardon strolled around the gaps between them and talked them through. Even he looks sick about this whole business, Coco thought, and she went to check the dressing rooms.

The dressing rooms were empty, but there were voices coming from makeup next door.

'What gets me,' she heard Bruno saying, 'is that of all the schools, we should have been the one to accept him.'

'We tried.' the second voice belonged to Doris Schwartz. Coco hesitated, not wanting to eavesdrop, not wanting to butt in, unable to turn around and walk away.

'You call what we did trying?' Bruno was saying. 'We find out the guy has a disability, and we treat him like a freak. Then Coco completely flips out over the auditon.'

At the sound of her own name, Coco knew that she couldn't wait outside any longer. She pushed open the door and stepped through.

Bruno and Doris were at the far end of the room, sitting in the fairground glare thrown by the lightframes of the makeup mirrors. Their backs were towards Coco, their playbooks open and unread before them. Doris said, 'Let's face it, none of us handled this thing the way we should have. None of us.'

They both gave a little jump as Coco spoke.

'But I'm the one who made him feel like he didn't belong,' she said. 'I'm the one who hurt him.'

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