3. Madeleine Mary Montgomery
“You may know my older sister, but I’m still your First Daughter.”
I cannot believe she’s pulling this stunt on me! Fifteen minutes late and counting. I thought in show business that meant FIRED! It’s our second rehearsal and my star, my Vladmir, is M.I.A. Miss Indomitable Arroganthole.
Daddy would never stand for this malarkey. Demonstrate the slightest incompetence in his service, and YOU ARE FIRED! Your pathetic corpse of a career is dragged through the mud. Daddy’s ruined lives and taken down the best.
That’s why he’ll be the next President of The United States.
And, for the record, I am not bitter that I’m here at Slug Brook Academy while my half-sister, Danica, is on the campaign trail by Daddy’s side. I promise, I don’t want to gouge out of my eyes when I imagine photos of Danica on the cover of The Times— poised as Miss America, in a dry-clean-only dress from her own fashion line, Favorite Daughter— waving to the sea of Daddy’s jean-wearing, straw-chewing, inbred supporters. It doesn’t bother me at all. I swear.
I trust Daddy’s decision. He’s right. I need to fully focus on my studies so I can achieve my dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice. First step: Slug Brook Academy. Second step: admission to an Ivy League College—Cornell, obviously, just like Daddy, then third step: Harvard Law.
All to lead to step four: judicial domination.
I’ll save unborn fetuses. Restore the sanctity of marriage between a husband and wife. I’ll give back this country to whom it rightly belongs. Oh, oh! Lightbulb moment: what if I rewrite the Constitution so there’s no Presidential term limits?
Then, he’ll really love me.
So, whenever I’m frustrated or annoyed that I’m stuck in this backwards boarding school, I recite my mantra: First step: Slug Brook Academy. Last step: Daddy’s conditional love.
Daddy is not hiding me away. Despite what those half-baked late-night talk show hosts say. They think it’s funny to go after a teenager in their monologues. They laugh and say I’m like climate change because Daddy denies my existence. Not true. Daddy sends greeting cards for all the major holidays.
Sure, Slug Brook Academy is tucked away in the mountains, far, far away from the conventions, rallies, and fundraisers at which Danica rubs shoulders with Republican Royalty and smiles for press photos. No press can bother me at Slug Brook Academy. It’s near impossible to so-much-as reach the outside world on the antiquated rotary telephones in the privacy booths of our student lounge. I’m unavailable to pester. Unreachable by DM and pigeon carrier alike. All so I can focus on my studies.
This has nothing to do with my mother.
True, Daddy hates it when the press brings up my mother—his second and least favorite of four wives. I don’t blame him. They met at a Las Vegas nightclub. My mother was a….server. Disgusting, I know.
Last I heard, my mother sold her condo in Fort Lauderdale and joined a cult. Not just any cult. Obviology. The weird doomsday cult with the leader who looks like the token “hot one” of a forgotten boy band. Listen, I don’t like talking about my mother either.
But my mother is no reflection on me. Daddy loves me for who I am: a picture-perfect portrait of the American Dream. Oh, did I misspeak? I meant the American Gene. Blonde hair, blue eyes, whip smart, with the drive of a Clydesdale. I’m Daddy’s little girl, and he loves me as much as Danica, no matter what the trolls and liberal elites say.
“Why did I cast Poppy?” I lament. “She’s a typical Hollywood diva with no work ethic whatsoever. Just because Miss Sierra’s got a hard-on for her, doesn’t mean she’s any good.”
My grip tightens on the playbook. I unintentionally crinkle its front cover. My other two actors—Arya, my Lucky; and Sunny, my Estragon—emote zero concern. Arya’s hunched in a theatre chair, her crooked nose in a textbook on Quantum Physics, buggy glasses fogged-up from her asthmatic breath. Sunny is listlessly lying on the stage, spread-eagle like a heathen without a worry in the world.
“Don’t either of you care where Poppy is?” I ask, desperately. “Slug Brook Academy’s first performance of Waiting for Godot is on the line!”
“Waiting for Godot, more like Waiting for Poppy,” Arya peeps up from her textbook and snorts with a wicked grin.
Arya is so unfortunately awkward, it’s painful to endure. Her joke falls flat. She lacks the charisma of an actor, but she is exceptional at maintaining a hunched position for long periods of time which is exactly what is required of the role of Lucky. For most of the play, Lucky is leashed with a noose around his neck, hunched over, controlled like a dog by my character, Pozzo. Arya’s always hunched over a book or cafeteria plate. She’s perfect for the part, however demoralizing that may be.
Arya’s “lucky” I cast her at all.
I’m not trying to be mean, but between you and I, Arya is a nobody. She’s a boring bourgeois who has no business at a boarding school for the elite. Her mom’s a doctor or something. I heard Arya’s here on scholarship. You can’t afford tuition at Slug Brook on a mere doctor’s salary.
“This school might as well be Alcatraz,” Sunny groans, staring aimlessly at the stage lights. “Poppy can’t be far.”
I consider Sunny’s comment. “This is Poppy Adams we’re talking about. Leave it to her to steal Headmistress’s car and escape to the Sundance Film Festival.”
“Maybe she caught the Pig Flu.” Sunny rolls over to sit up. Her limp hair is messy, stray split-ends wild, and her sweater is wrinkled. She looks like she hasn’t slept or bathed in days. With crazy eyes she adds, “Hopefully you have an understudy in mind? Once that Pig Flu infects you, it fries your brain like a hamburger in hot oil.”
Pig Flu? I roll my eyes. That’s ludicrous. Pig Flu is Fake News. I know this as a fact because Daddy says so.
Leave it to Sunny to buy into that nonsense. She’s just as awful as my mother.
“Maybe you should have gone a bit easier on her in our last rehearsal,” Arya offers, needlessly.
“You want me to lie? She was acting like a talentless hack, so I called her a talentless hack. Just because you’re a Hollywood actress doesn’t mean you have the depth for Samuel Beckett. If she can’t handle the truth—”
The theatre door opens letting in a sliver of light from the hallway, illuminating Miss Sierra like an angel as she frantically saunters to the stage. “Miss Montgomery! Miss Montgomery! Rehearsal is officially over.”
Miss Sierra is plump, with tight, brown curls on her football-shaped scalp. She catches her breath and with concern says, “It’s Miss Adams, the star of our production! She’s in the infirmary.”
“Did she overdose on glue fumes?” I ask, forgetting to exude an expected level of faux concern. “I mean, oh no, what happened? Is she OK?”
“She was found under a pile of books in the library, I’m afraid,” Miss Sierra shakes. “It seems she was looking for a book, and accidentally knocked over a whole bookcase. She suffered a concussion.”
“Well, that seems unlikely,” I note, “Poppy doesn’t read.”
“There’s an infirmary?” Arya interjects. “Since when do people get sick or hurt around here?”
“Just you wait,” Sunny warns. “Pig Flu. It’s coming.”
Where there is chaos, there is opportunity—that’s a quote by Daddy. He’s so wise. I can use Poppy’s dumb accident to get what I want: Poppy kicked out of my play.
“My condolences…” I chose my words with the precision of Daddy’s speech writers. I want to sound empathetic but also pragmatic as I continue with, “I wish Poppy a speedy recovery. It’s both obvious she needs rest, and that to meet our dramatic deliverables, I will have to unfortunately recast the part of Vladimir. It’s with regret I must find someone to take over Poppy Adams’ part.”
“Miss Montgomery!” Miss Sierra gasps with her hand held to her heart. “We cannot do that! She’s Miss Poppy Adams! She’s irreplaceable! Besides, remember what it is I always say? Theatre’s essence is hope. Let’s stay positive, shall we?”
“Can we see her?” interrupts Sunny. All of the sudden, Sunny isn’t listless as a corpse. She’s hungry, like a zombie. What she craves, I don’t know. It’s not like she’s friends with Poppy or anyone for that matter. She’s a weird loner I prefer to leave alone. Though in Daddy’s words, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I don’t want Sunny on my bad side. She knows too much.
I snap, unintentionally losing my politician-level of composure. “What about rehearsal?”
“Let’s bring rehearsal to her.” Sunny jumps from the stage, ready to go.
“Miss Adams isn’t herself right now,” Miss Sierra cautions. “Our exploration of the fine art of drama will continue once she’s recovered. She needs rest.”
“What she needs, is to rehearse,” Sunny walks past Miss Sierra towards the auditorium doors. She looks back, at Arya and I. “Come on,” she urges. “Slug Brook Academy’s first performance of Waiting for Godot is on the line.”
Go on to…Chapter Four.