© Clare London / 2009



Josh dropped his briefcase, stood at the kitchen door and stared. “What the hell are you doing?”

Matt spun round, his face etched with shock – and guilt.

Josh cleared his throat carefully. He lifted his gaze back up to Matt’s face and kept his expression deliberately clear. “I mean, this is your home too, Matt. But… maybe you should just warn me if this is the sort of thing you want to…” He pursed his lips, swallowing a smile. “That you want to spend your leisure time exploring.”

Matt flushed. “Don’t be so damned cute, Josh. Though you’re right, I should have explained before now. But the letter only came this morning with the times for rehearsal, so I wanted to get started right away –“

“You got through?” Josh’s eyes lit up.

Matt smiled broadly. “Yeah. I don’t know if my background in experimental improv was particularly useful – this is popular family theatre after all, anyway – but they were impressed enough at audition to offer me a part.”

“A lead part?”

Matt grimaced. “Well, not right off, not on my first production. It’s more of a…” He paused.

Josh leaned forwards, waiting to catch more. “More of a…?”

“A character part,” Matt finished, and flushed again. “But there’s plenty of opportunity for emotional development over the course of the play. Some action scenes, too. And I have a few double-header scenes with the female lead.”

“You do?” Josh’s voice had become a little sharp.

Matt smirked. A jealous Josh was always an enticing sight. The sex that night would be just that little bit more demonstrative, just that little bit more greedy. Not that Matt would ever play that card deliberately…

“Take that smirk off your face,” snapped Josh. “Else there’ll be no sex this side of summer season. I’m not likely to feel threatened by some vain, self-obsessed, over-made-up actress, am I?”

“Actually, she’s young and pretty,” murmured Matt. “Long blonde hair; cute frock and apron; dainty feet. She plays the wide-eyed ingenue extremely well.”

Josh muttered something about her playing the wide-eyed ingenue in a hospital bed with specific limb disabilities, but his heart wasn’t really in it.

“So do you need some help with the… costume?”

Matt frowned. “I told you not to be cute. I can manage.”

Josh watched his lover move clumsily across the kitchen floor, then he cleared his throat again. “No you can’t. It doesn’t… fit very well, does it? And it’s hardly suitable for the hot atmosphere in here. Come into the lounge and I can help you go through your lines.”

“I’ve already done a couple of read-throughs,” Matt said, shortly. But when Josh moved a couple of the kitchen chairs to one side, he shuffled out of the room quite gratefully and without mishap.

“Just dip your head a bit if you can’t get through the door,” called Josh, as he led the way into the lounge. “I mean, I’ve heard of method acting, but I confess I’m a little amazed that you’re in dress rehearsal mode already.”

“I wish I frigging wasn’t,” hissed Matt, then hoped Josh hadn’t heard him.

But he had. “What? You mean you’re not… shall we say… attired like that out of personal choice?”

“Very frigging amusing,” growled Matt. “I just thought I’d try it on before you got home. Before you came and laughed at me.”

“I wouldn’t,” said Josh, softening his voice. “I’m proud of you, having ambitions, finding a new way in life.”

“Even… this?” Matt leant against the wall as if exhausted with the short journey along the hallway. “I’m glad of the job, but it’s hardly Shakespeare.”

Josh shrugged. “Much overrated, in my opinion. Shakespeare himself was only looking to entertain, wasn’t he? Nothing more highbrow than that. And he had plenty of examples of characters playing someone – or something – against their nature.”

“Cute,” muttered Matt again, but he looked a little mollified. “So… you gonna help me get out of this now?”

“What’s it worth?” smirked Josh. “Maybe we should spend some more time on discussing motivation –“

“Get me out!” snarled Matt.

Josh let his laughter roll out gently, because he was sure he could see a rueful smile at last on Matt’s weary face. “Seems to me the experimental improv experience could pay dividends with this production. I have read the book, you know.” He fumbled away behind the other man’s back, releasing hooks and catches, and peeling thick fabric from his head. “And it’s not so bad, the costume,” he said, thoughtfully. “This could be quite stimulating…”

Matt tutted. “How come?”

Josh leaned in and whispered in his ear. “Because you know what they say rabbits like doing – and enthusiastically at that. Want to try that out after supper?”

“Rabbits-?” Matt groaned.

“Especially White Ones,” hissed Josh, laughing openly now as he pulled the long fluffy ears off Matt’s head. “My favourite!”