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The Playwright

Exit Stage Right

By Bradley RamseyPublished 7 months ago Updated 7 months ago 5 min read
Image: Rob Laughter via Unsplash

Every writer knows that every story eventually takes on a life of its own. It’s a given, a fact of life, a law of nature. If it's inevitable, then why can't I accept it? I’m in control, aren’t I? I’m the writer; I should decide how it ends.

I leaned back in the rickety metal chair and looked up at the two actors on the stage, framed by raggedy velvet curtains on either side. The one on the left was chosen for the role of Alex. The one on the right I picked for Carrie.

They each held a copy of the script in their hand. My copy was rolled up tightly in my hand. I didn’t need to see it; the scene was already burned into my irises.

“I just don’t understand how you could make such a rash decision like this,” Alex said, glancing down at his script.

“Alex reaches for Carrie’s bag, and she slaps his hand away,” I said, watching the actors follow the stage directions.

“Stop, Alex, this isn’t some spur-of-the-moment decision. Deep down, you know that. I haven’t been happy in a long time, and I don’t think you have either.”

I leaned forward. “Alex goes to her, his fingers softly grazing the skin on her arms.”

The actor who played Alex followed the directions perfectly. My eyes shot over to Carrie’s actress. Her gaze remained stoic and stone-like.

“I want to make this work. I’ll do anything,” Alex said.

My eyes started to sting. I gripped the script in my hand tighter until my knuckles started burning. I waited anxiously for Carrie’s actress to deliver her line, but she stayed silent.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, standing up as my heart rate spiked inside my chest.

“I know she’s supposed to give him another chance, but I don’t see it, Rick.”

My jaw clenched involuntarily. The script fell as my hands clenched into fists.

“I don’t care what you see! That’s not how the story is supposed to end!” I shouted.

The air in the room immediately became thick and oppressive. Both of the actors on stage stood in an awkward silence. I never yelled; it took everyone by surprise.

“I’m sorry. Let’s stop there for today,” I whispered.

The actors and production team left without another word. I picked up the script from the floor and collapsed into my chair, plucking my glasses from my face and rubbing my temples to stop the pounding in my head.

“Hi, I hope I’m not too late for the audition?” a voice asked.

I looked up and saw a woman standing next to me. Her features were blurry until I slid my glasses back on, and her beauty came into focus. She had deep, auburn colored hair, vibrant eyes that seemed to shift between gray, green, and brown, and a smile that enraptured my gaze.

“I’m sorry, we’re not taking any new auditions,” I said.

The woman was holding a stack of papers; she looked down at them and then back to me. Those eyes sent lightning through my veins.

“Last I checked, you haven’t announced who will play Olivia.”

I shook my head. “There’s no character named Olivia; you must be mistaken.”

The woman extended the papers in her hand. I took them and looked down at the front page. It was a copy of my screenplay, but it was incomplete. It only contained one scene involving an interaction between Rick and Olivia. It described my outburst from moments prior down to the exact words I used.

“How is this possible?” I asked, my breath hitching as I saw a dialogue tag where my character said the same thing. The scene before me was playing out exactly as it had been written on the page.

“Do you mind if we rehearse it? You can have that copy; I’ve got my lines memorized,” Olivia said, walking towards the stairs on the right side of the stage.

I read those exact words in the screenplay before me. My mouth had long since gone dry. My mind was reeling. I felt like a stranger in my own body, but I was captivated. I took to the stage on shaking legs and stood across from her.

“Who are you?” I asked, reading my line on the page before me.

“I’m someone who has seen plenty of stories. Too many, you might say.”

“How did you get a copy of this? When did I write it?” I asked, following the script.

“That’s a difficult question to answer. In fact, why don’t we break from the script for a second? I know you like improv.”

My eyes obeyed her command, wandering from the page and over to her own. The colors in her eyes were cycling faster now, but that warm smile kept me grounded.

“I know this isn’t how you wanted your story to end, but I promise you’re on the right path.”

The tears came back with a vengeance. I could feel them rolling down my cheeks.

“How could you possibly know that?”

“Like I said, I’ve seen a lot of stories. You need to stop blaming yourself. Stop asking what you could have done differently. Recognize that some people are only meant to be in our lives for a season. A chapter, if you will. Don’t dwell on the ending. Celebrate that it happened, and embrace what’s next,” Olivia said.

I blinked, and my eyes shot down to the screenplay in my hand. There were only two lines left in the scene.

“Let’s say you’re right. What’s next then?” I asked.

“You’re the writer. You tell me.”

I dropped the script and looked up. She was gone. I stood alone on the stage, tears flowing in rivers down the sides of my face.

“Hi, I hope I’m not too late!”

I quickly wiped the tears from my face and looked to my right. A woman with auburn hair, green eyes, and a warm smile stood at the bottom of the stage, slightly out of breath.

“You’re here to audition for the role of Olivia, I presume?”

She nodded. “Yeah, how did you know?”

“Call it a feeling. I’ve got a scene here that we can use for the audition. You can have my copy, I’ve got the lines memorized. Let’s get started.”

Short StoryLove

About the Creator

Bradley Ramsey

Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.

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