Hidden qualities

“OK settle down now, class.  Turn to page 56 in your books.  Whose turn is it to continue reading?”

A deafening silence was heard around the room, where everyone tried to sink lower into their seats.

Finally, a tentative hand went up, Lesley, known as Piglet, because of her diminutive size and quiet voice, admitted to being the next in line.

We all had nicknames from Winnie the Pooh, in the sixth form, Tigger being the loudest and the bounciest, Pooh being the soppiest and Eeyore the most miserable and glum.  But Lesley aka Piglet was the epitome of her character, timid and quite anxious, even her stuttering reinforced the similarities.

Lesley looked around the classroom fearfully, dreading the moment Mr. Dawes would tell her to start.  She prayed that her stutter wouldn’t be too obvious and that she could read the words in her book, as she had forgotten to bring her glasses that day.

“Come on then Lesley, don’t keep us all waiting.”

Lesley breathed in deeply and began to read, her voice seemed different somehow.  Louder and more forceful.

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” The whole class sat up and took notice, impressed by Lesley’s reading.

She began to wring her hands together, as if trying to clean the blood from them.

“Why, then, ’tis time to do it. Hell is murky!  Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard?

Lesley looked into the distance and appeared to be speaking to someone else, we all sat transfixed.  Open mouthed, watching the transformation from little, shy Piglet to a strong Lady Macbeth.

When we all left the classroom and met up in the 6th Form common room, the topic of discussion was Lesley’s amazing performance.  She, however, had reverted back to her Piglet character, stuttering and playing down our praises.  She was uncomfortable being the centre of attention and soon left the room to take solace in the toilets, where no one could trouble her.

We hadn’t even noticed that she had gone, such was her presence, it was only when Mr Dawes came looking for her that we noticed she was missing.  We guessed where she was and sent someone to find her.  When her name was called in the ladies, a mixture between a squeal and a groan was heard from behind a door.

“Oh dear, what does he want with me?  Have I done something wrong?”

Eventually after cajoling and gentle persuasion she peered fearfully around the door of the common room.  Mr Dawes stood up, he was a giant of a man and he had to stoop down to speak to the pint-sized girl.  We couldn’t hear what he was saying but assumed it was about her reading in class.  When finally, he left, we all huddled round Lesley, eager to find out what he had said to her.

“Well,” Lesley looked down at her hands and looked very uncomfortable “He said that I should come along to his drama group on Wednesday after school.”

Rapturous approval was heard from us all but Lesley looked awkward and embarrassed.  “But I couldn’t possibly go, I hate speaking in public, especially with my stutter and I would hate everyone looking at me.” Lesley was almost tearful and very upset.

We decided to leave well along, but agreed that we would work on her over the next few days, and finally, after promising to go with her, myself aka Tigger and Jim aka Pooh stayed behind on Wednesday night.

Mr Dawes was delighted to see us all, but mostly pleased that Lesley had turned up.  He gave us all exercises to do, pretending we were different animals walking around the hall in the manner of that creature.  Lesley became a mouse and was excellent at creeping around the room, hesitantly moving from one place to another.  The next task was to give our animals voices and speak to each other in character.  When Lesley spoke to me, she was stuttering worse than ever and said that she has hating every minute, not the success we were all hoping for.

“Let’s finish there guys.” Mr Dawes said “Next week we can start the rehearsals for our end of term play.”  Pointing to the pile of books on the edge of the stage “Pick up your copy to read through, on your way out.”

Jim and I caught up with Lesley, who was scurrying out, avoiding eye contact with everyone.  “That was great, wasn’t it?” Jim queried.  Lesley mumbled something and then turned to us both and said “No I hated every minute and I am definitely not coming next week.”  Surprisingly for her she sounded quite forceful.

“Oh, we think you will, did you see what play we are doing?”  Lesley looked down at the book in her hand and glared at us both.

“We all know who will be chosen to play Lady Macbeth, don’t we?”

Lesley did come the next Wednesday and went on to give an amazing performance, which had the whole school standing applauding her at the end.  It was the beginning of her very successful career as an actress, but she still reverted to being Piglet in interviews, stuttering and looking generally terrified.

871 words – Sandy Bryson





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