James Hartley

“James! I’m ready!” Jenna called from my front door; I donned my jacket and picked up the car keys.

“I’m here,” I smiled as I opened the door; Jenna was leant against the wall with a clipboard in her hands.

“You’re late,” she muttered acidly,

“You’re annoying,” I fired back rather childishly,

“I’m the stage manager, seriously James don’t you know what that means?” she asked incredulously,

“I don’t really care,” I said locking the door, “but what I do know is that the longer we stand here arguing, the later we’re going to be,” I pushed her along the corridor and down the stairs. I lived in an apartment in New York City. Jenna, my twin sister, lived a few blocks away in an apartment with a roommate. I worked in the city as an apprentice banker but as this got me next to nothing on the money front I moonlighted as a DJ at a nightclub. Jenna on the other hand worked for a theatre company; they were good I’d seen all their performances ever since Jenna joined, but it was too intense for me. They rehearsed six days a week, when the performances began they did two a day, every day. I just couldn’t live like that.

“What play is it this year?” I questioned,

“We do more than one play a year,” Jenna told me,

“Whatever, what is it?” I asked stopping at some traffic lights. Jenna brought out her clipboard,

“Aladdin,” she replied,

I can show you the world…” I sang, Jenna slapped my arm,

“Not the Disney version, dufus!” she grinned, “It’s a lot better than that,”

“Reckon you could score me some tickets?” I asked,

“If you’re nice…” she muttered,

“I’m always nice; I drive you to and from every performance and rehearsal, that should count for something.” Jenna looked away as if I’d slapped her in the face, her mouth drooped and she wiped a tear from her eye. Jenna couldn’t drive. Jenna couldn’t do anything which required pure concentration. She couldn’t dance very well, couldn’t turn her head around very far, couldn’t breathe in too much. It was all my fault.

*

It was senior year at high school, Jenna and I were prom king and queen; kinda embarrassing since we were brother and sister. That’s beside the point. We were popular, iconic figures of our school. I was field hockey captain, I had previously dated a girl on the cheerleading squad (and consequently dumped her when I realised she had no more brains than a slug) and I was hoping to go to Stanford to do accountancy. Jenna played lacrosse, swam on the swim team and was the lead role in the school’s senior production – Swan Lake. She hoped to dance in London’s Royal Ballet School once she’d graduated.

As I was saying, we were prom king and queen, living in the prime of our lives. It all changed that night, prom night. After the prom king and queen dance which was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, I went to get some punch and downed two whole cup’s full because I was thirsty and the punch was really good! By midnight the prom had ended and Jenna and I made our way home, she called shotgun which meant I had to drive across Queens to where we lived. I began to feel funny as I pulled out onto the main road which took us home, my eyes began to swim and my head began to thump.

“I’m not feeling so hot,” I murmured, Jenna just looked at me,

“Well you can lie down when we get home,” she smiled, “it’s late and I’m tired.” I could hear my heart in my head and I began to sway slightly in the seat, my eyes began to see odd things like clouds and butterflies which were clouding my vision. Jenna’s phone beeped, she read it. “Meagan said someone spiked the punch with drugs, they don’t know who it was but…” she trailed off, “Slow down James, there’s a red light ahead.” Her voice was calm but commanding, “Slow down James. JAMES SLOW DOWN!” Jenna yelled, she reached over but by now I was out of it. My head was pressed against the steering wheel and my foot over the accelerator. “JAMES!” That was the last word I heard before it hit us. The truck smashed right into the left side of our car, Jenna was hit by a ton and a half of heavy metal at 60mph. It was enough to collapse a lung, break her neck, leg and collar bone and give her occasional epileptic-like fits.

*

Jenna’s dream of dancing in the Royal Ballet had been shattered, her pre-planned life smashed in one journey home. I didn’t go to Stamford that September; I was still visiting the hospital regularly with bruises, burns and breaks. Jenna didn’t come out of hospital until October. There was no explanation to her fast recovery. After a lung transplant her body had refused the organ and she’d fallen into a coma which was for the best because the breaks in her neck and leg would have given her a lot of pain. She came round after a visit from the chaplain in the hospital, I don’t know how but I’m sure God had performed one of those miracles you only hear about in the bible. She could walk 3 months after the accident and her miraculous recovery had given her the optimism to live life to the full. Now her dream of dancing in the ballet had been destroyed, she began to search for other ventures. New York Theatre Company, NYTC, was the next best choice, not to stand on the stage and perform as she had once loved but to work in the backstage area making sure everything was perfect and she was darn good at it too.

“See you at ten?” she checked before getting out the car,

“It’s a short rehearsal, mind if I just sit in and watch?” I asked, I’d only have half an hour at home before I came back to get her, plus it was cheaper on fuel.

“Sure,” she smiled and I climbed out after her, we walked into the theatre and I took a seat in the audience whilst she went backstage. Ten minutes later nothing had happened and I started to get bored, I made my way backstage hoping to find some action or at least see someone belly dancing or something… Jenna saw me and shook her head slowly,

“Would you believe it? Our lighting manager has only gone and got himself arrested,”

“What did he do?” I asked,

“He stole some equipment from CNN,”

“Nice,” I smiled, the crew looked at me, “I mean, what a dweeb,”

“So now we need someone to work the lights, James you’re in the nightclub industry, do you know anyone?”

“We can’t offer much money; we’re on a tight budget this year because of the costumes and staging,” a man chimed in,

“Hang on,” Jenna said raising her hand at the man who’d just spoken, “James, you used to work the lights in high school…” she trailed off,

“Oh no, I’m all about the sound,” I held up my hands,

“Seriously dude, the lighting is way more exciting, I mean you should see the circuit board we have and the…”

“Why don’t you work the lights then?” I asked him,

“I spilt water on the last circuit board, I’m not allowed, I’m on toilet cleaning duty,” he hung his head in shame,

“Come on James, you’d really save our butts,” Jenna begged, she did that puppy eye thing which I hated because it always worked.

“Fine!” I cried, “But you owe me Jenna Hartley, you owe me big!” 

The End

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