The first thing Christine was aware of was her own screaming.
Why was she screaming you ask?
Well, it’s hard to not scream when everyone participating in the play—and Michael too, even though he wasn't exactly in the play—starts screaming and then faints out of nowhere.
So yeah, she was screaming.
“Oh my God! Jeremy! Michael! Chloe! Guys wake up!”
The audience was applauding their “performance”.
The second thing Christine was aware of was her sobbing. She was screaming things that even she couldn’t understand and was flailing her arms around haphazardly.
She staggered around to each cast member since they were all on stage, and turned them so that they all lay on their backs.
“Call 911!” She screamed out into the audience, her voice hoarse. “That w-wasn’t scripted! Someone p-please call 911!”
Slowly, people began to realize that she wasn’t joking and they began pulling out their own phones to call 911 like she screamed at them to.
Unable to help herself, Christine fell to her knees and buried her face in her hands.
She fell into a haze and lost track of how much time had passed, vaguely aware of the presence of Michael and Jeremy in front of her.
Her thoughts were a jumbled mess, but she managed to pick out a few things she remembered from before the play.
Jeremy had offered her some weird pill from Japan called a Squip? She couldn’t remember. It was a supercomputer pill. One that essentially took away your freedom and forced you to conform to its demands. She was glad she didn’t take it. Then she remembered how he was holding a box full of them. She remembered how Jenna dumped something into the pansy serum. She was extremely glad she didn’t drink that now!
Christine hissed, only managing to think in that instant, He ruined my play!
Then she calmed down, knowing that he was probably under the influence of his own Squip. It wasn’t all his fault. Just…he had them so he probably was going to to Squip the entire school at one point. It just happened to fall on the day of school play.
Someone laid a hand on her shoulder and snapped her out of her thoughts.
There was a paramedic there, giving her a tentative smile. “Ma’am? Are you alright?”
“I…” Christine hesitated. “W-Well…not really, considering what happened. But uh, I didn’t take anything. I think they all accidentally ingested ecstasy o-or something!”
They knelt down to her level. “Well, even if you didn’t ingest anything, it’s probably best if you ride with one of them. You look like you’ll need comfort.”
“Oh, okay,” she said quietly. “Can I ride with him?” She pointed to Jeremy. “He’s my friend. Will he be okay?”
“Of course he will. C’mon, let’s go.” The paramedic straightened up, and the next thing Christine knows, she’s seated in an ambulance next to one Jeremiah Heere.
Christine suddenly realized that she was still in her theatre costume for Midsummer Night’s Dream with Zombies and the bag that contained her own set of clothes was still in the theatre.
Christine sat in the waiting room, mulling over her thoughts again. She wondered if she should contact Jeremy’s family, since he probably got the short end of the stick and went through the most pain.
I probably should.
She walked up to the receptionist, who gave her a tired smile.
“Hi, uh, I’m waiting for Jeremy Heere? But he, uh, I think I should phone his dad…”
“Sure. Is he your boyfriend?” They asked her.
“Eh…” Christine laughed awkwardly, silently cursing society for always assuming that a boy and girl were never just friends. “No he’s uh…just a friend. Plus I don't really know him all that well.”
The receptionist smiled at her again and turned to the phone and picked it up.
“Hello? Is this Jason Heere? Yes, I’m calling to inform you that your son is in the hospital…”
They finished the phone call before turning back to her. “Would you like something else?”
“Yeah,” Christine said. “Is Rich Goranski here? I’d like to visit him.”
Of course. He’s in Room 34. You can talk to him for a bit but we’ll transfer Jeremiah Heere into that room soon so you won’t be able to visit either of them for a while.”
She was led to a door and opened it, surprising Rich who was laying on the bed.
“Christine? Yo, what’s up?”
Christine sighed tiredly. “The entire cast was admitted to the hospital.”
“Er, Jeremy offered this weird grey pill called the Squip to me—”
“God-fucking-dammit Tall-ass. Oh, sorry, please continue.”
She rolled her eyes. “I refuse it, and he tries to convince me. Anyways somehow the Squip ended up in the pansy serum, which was made of Mountain Dew.”
“Well ain’t that shit problematic?”
Christine gave him a light glare. “Rich, I’m storytelling.”
“Anyways, everyone drinks it, including Mr. Reyes. Then Michael comes in with a bottle of Mountain Dew, but it’s red. He tried giving it to Jeremy but it was knocked out of his hands. Jake kicks it away and he’s walking without his crutches, which was weird,” she continued. “Poor Jake. His legs must be even more broken now.”
“That’s not ideal.”
“Anyways Michael managed to grab the bottle after they both made it through the whole crowd. Michael’s then mobbed by the cast—who all drunk the pansy serum—and he threw the bottle to Jeremy before Jenna Rolan forced him to drink the serum. Jeremy argues with himself for a while and then Michael comes in from the crowd and confesses his love to Jeremy in this really amazing heartfelt speech—”
“I fucking called it!”
“And then Jeremy almost gives in, and I’m pretty sure he realized he was in love with Michael? It looked like he was almost giving in but then he noticed something about Michael and whispers a question about Michael doing whatever Jeremy himself wanted him to do. Then he quietly asked Michael to drink the last few drops of Mountain Dew Red. And the Michael drank it and looked like he was powering down before he looked up and started screaming. The rest of the cast, Mr. Reyes, and Jeremy also copied him.”
“I remember that. Hurt like hell,” Rich mused. “Do you think they’ll end up together.”
Christine started at him incredulously. “I tell you a whole story about everyone ending up in the hospital and that’s what you’re worried about?”
Rich stared at her with a serious expression. “Chris, I'm also like, really worried about them, but I bet Jake $40 that they’d get together. I’m earning my win.”
A nurse came in. “Excuse me? But you need to leave. We’re transferring another patient.”
“Oh, sorry! Bye Rich!” Christine waved at him.
“See ya Chris!”
Christine wandered back to the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room and sat down, hoping that Jeremy’s dad would come soon.
Sleep tugged at her eyelids, and she began to doze off.
Jason Heere ran into the waiting room and made a beeline for the receptionist’s desk. The last thing he heard was that things would turn out alright. Of course, that was when he and Michael were planning to help Jeremy and didn’t know how things would actually turn out.
“Excuse me?” They turned to face him. “I’m in for Jeremy Heere? I heard there was an incident. Will he be okay?”
The receptionist furrowed their brow. “Mr. Heere?”
“He’s in Room 34, but unfortunately you can’t visit him right now. He’s fine—the doctors still say he’s recovering.”
They pointed to the waiting room, where a young girl in some strange clothes and makeup was nestled in a chair, sleeping. “You should probably go thank Christine. She’s the only one of the classmates that didn’t get admitted and got people to phone the ambulances.”
Mr. Heere thanked her and approached the young girl who was half-asleep. He reached out for her shoulder and gently shook her awake. She rubbed at her eyes and jumped when she realized there was someone in front of her.
“Excuse me? Are you Christine?” He asked politely.
Christine blinked tiredly at the man who shook her awake, glancing towards the clock and saw that it had been about an hour since she had fallen asleep.
“No, I’m Stephanie Hsu.” Immediately she cursed herself for allowing her sarcastic nature to pop up at the wrong time.
“Er, sorry miss—”
“Oh, uh, I’m Jason Heere.”
There was an awkward silence between the two for a few seconds before they both broke out into soft laughter.
Christine snorted and extended her hand, waving away the feelings of déjà vu. “Christine Canigula, nice to meet you.”
Mr. Heere took her hand and shook it. “I’m Mr. Heere, Jeremy’s dad. He sat down on the seat next to her. “I heard something happened at the play. They didn’t tell me what it was, but if it’s enough to put them in the hospital then it must be serious.”
Christine frowned. She couldn’t tell him about the Squips. “I’m sorry about the play. I think that one of the cast members spiked our pansy serum with ecstasy. It was supposed to just be a prop. Everyone except for me took a drink from it, and uh, there must’ve been something else mixed in there because they all started screaming before they passed out.”
“It’s fine—well, it’s not fine, but you seem like a sweet girl Christine. I don’t blame you. I blame the teenagers these days. Besides it’s only once and it probably won’t have too many long-term effects on everybody,” said Mr. Heere. “My son signed up for your play. He’s a good kid, I swear. He’s just a little anxious but he means well.”
She giggled. “He was so excited about being able to participate in the play. Kinda like myself. Of course, it was his first play. I’ve already done so much theatre before all of this. So when Jeremy and the others all signed up, I was overjoyed!”
Mr. Heere sighed. “Jeremy was excited about having signed up for the play. I wish I could’ve been a little more happy. I was in a slump that day.”
Christine gave a tentative smile. “I think he might’ve signed up because he saw me signing up. He most likely joined the play because of me…” She sunk down in the chair, wincing as she felt a sharp poke on her back.
Stupid, cheap costumes…
The man next to her laughed. “Trust me, even if he is attracted to you, that boy loves Michael even more.” Mr. Heere gave her head a rub. “I even bet my ex-wife Alice that he’d wouldn’t be straight. She owes me $30.”
Something dawned on Christine. “He’s…more attracted to Michael? You support this?”
He looked at her with mock disappointment. “Christine of course I do! My own wife realized she was bi and it doesn’t bother me. She, uh, broke up with me because she found a girlfriend and never told me. I was mad at her for keeping secrets, not because she was bi. That argument was part of the reason we finally separated.”
Christine sighed in relief. “Oh my god, that makes things so much easier!” She turned to the friendly man beside her. “Can I tell you something really important?”
“I don't think I'd ever be able to return Jeremy's feelings romantically,” Christine said, “I think I’m aroace. That means I don't experience romantic and sexual attraction. I’m sure it probably sounds really weird to you, but I’m pretty sure that that’s what I’m like. I tried dating Jake for a while to feel normal, but…nothing. I’ve come to terms with it, but I’m not sure how Jeremy would react…”
Mr. Heere stroked his beard. “Hmm. I think someone that I knew of in high school was aroace like you’re talking about. I think her name was Betty Finn? I don’t remember—she was one of the nerds at school. There was a scandal at my highschool back when I lived in Sherwood, Ohio. Yes, well, she never fell in love with anyone, always stayed single. She just remained good friends with people. I think her best friend works as a lawyer. If she'd known that term back then she then she definitely would've used it."
“So…you’re fine with me being aroace?” Christine asked hesitantly.
“Of course! Did you really believe I’d think differently of you? I don’t. You're still you.”
She burst into tears. “T-thank yo-ou! I’m so ha-a-appy! I-I really ne-eeded acceptance from someone!” Mr. Heere pulled her into a hug and waited until she was better able to compose herself.
“I-I w-was goi-ing to tell Jeremy a-after he got o-out of the ho-ospital. But t-this is good t-too.”
Christine fiddled with her outfit. “Yeah. I just hope they get better quickly. I really need to change out of my costume. It's not really that comfortable.”
Mr. Heere took notice of her clothes. “Do you need me to drive you home? I have a car.”
She shook her head. “No. But do you think you can drive me to the school? My bag has clothes in it.
Christine sat in the passenger seat in front, rambling about how cheap the costumes for the play were. “Mr. Reyes means well, you know? He actually really loves his job as the drama teacher. But sometimes the school doesn’t let him have a budget for the play and we have to make do with the costumes from Hobby Lobby. It’s okay but it’s not ideal. I’d love it if we were able to have a bigger budget—”
“Uh, Christine? Which way is the school?”
“Oh, turn left here!”
“Is that a police car?”
“That wasn’t there before.”
They were back in the waiting room, after sneaking into the theatre, finding Christine’s bag, and sneaking back out while also managing to avoid the police.
“Why don’t you tell me about your love of theatre for now, to get your mind off all of this?” He’d asked, in order to help the time pass quicker. It taken them an hour to retrieve Christine's bag, and an extre 10 minutes for her to change.
Christine giggled. “I got started when I was in kindergarten. I just loved participating in the little plays they had us do, and I always played with the puppet theatre in the corner. Nobody else did so I guess that’s where everything came from.” She waved her hands around to emphasize her story. “So I grew up loving theatre like that. But in highschool everything about theatre was different. There just aren’t enough strong roles for women in the theatre these days. Most of the time we’re just relegated to being the love interest. Like, if I myself were a character in a play or musical, I’d just be the girl who loves theatre who also dated Jake for a while and ended up with Jeremy in the end. I wouldn’t really have too much character development. That stuff would be given to Jeremy or Michael or even Rich—he’s a classmate, by the way.”
Mr. Heere nodded solemnly. “I complete agree with that statement. I love Broadway too. Thankfully, they’re getting better at including women in their plays.”
“Hey, enough about me. What about Jeremy and Michael?”
“Oh that. He doesn’t notice it, but Jeremy always talks about Michael. Usually it’s something they did, or how Jeremy noticed something about Michael that he didn’t see before. It’s very endearing, but also very frustrating since he never realizes it. Hopefully they realize soon,” Mr. Heere said. “That boy, I swear. He’s been changing over the past few weeks. Always rebelling. Even Michael was left behind, which honestly makes me want to ground him.”
Christine nodded absent mindedly, a certain set of memories coming to the front of her mind. “It wasn’t all his fault. Jeremy was…bullied by his classmates for a long time before all of—” She waved a hand. “—this. He saw a chance to become popular and took it. He hated being looked down on. He wanted to do more than just pass through highschool without being able to actually live his life.”
Mr. Heere gaped at her. “I had no idea.” His expression saddened. “I should’ve been a better father to him. I should’ve seen that he was struggling.”
She patted his arm. “It’s not all your fault. Jeremy was baited, but he made conscious decisions about leaving others behind.”
A nurse entered the room, holding a clipboard. “Is anyone in for Jeremiah Heere?”
Christine and Mr. Heere both stood up and rushed to them. “Will he be okay?”
They nodded. “He’s fine. Would you like to visit him?”
“Yes please!” Christine said.
The nurse led them down the hallway to a door with the number ‘34’ on it. They nodded and left the two of them to their devices.
Mr. Heere and Christine shared a glance before Christine opened the door and entered first, Mr. Heere right behind her.
“Hey Jeremy. Hey Rich. Are you guys okay?”