Indigo cleaned up her station, pressing her final chair drawing gently in between the last page and the cardboard backing of her Bristol pad before putting it away in her locker. She buttoned up her jean jacket and raced out the studio toward the theater, running through the coolness of the approaching night down the path lined with evergreens. When she got to the theater, it was packed.
“Indy! Over here!” Indy landed her eyes on Yvonne Bremis, who was sitting in an aisle seat in one of the back rows. Yvonne tapped the empty seat beside her.
“Oh my god, Indigo!” Yvonne exclaimed as Indy took her seat. “Are you excited for Puja? Are you nervous for Lucy? This is crazy!”
“Silver Springs women!” Lillian practically shouted from the stage. “We are truly blessed to be treated to tonight’s very special evening activity: a production of Puja Nair’s brand new play, Torment, starring our own C-I-T with the M-O-S-T, Lucy SERRANO!”
Applause nearly drowned out the second half of Lucy’s name. She was clearly a fan favorite. More applause scored the dimming of the house and theater lights, and a single spotlight landed on the center of the stage. A hush fell over the crowd. Lucy walked onto the stage and took her place in the light. And then, over the course of the next hour and a half, she stayed out there. And the whole time, no matter who else was onstage, it seemed all eyes were on her. Lucy would always be the one who was looked at, Indy realized, and Indy the one who did the looking. The Actress and the Artist—like it was some kind of sad Silver Springs fable. Why had she even tried to compete?
At the end of the play, when Lucy sprung up to take her bow, the standing ovation lasted five full minutes. The camp was under her spell.
As the houselights came up, Indy weaved in and out of the human traffic of audience members clearing out of the tiny space. She hopped over seats, drifting toward the exit, cutting in line and trying to be as inconspicuous. Once she was outside, the cool night air made her jean jacket feel thin on her shoulders and arms, and the breeze blew through her hair for extra dramatic effect. Indy looked into the distance, but soon the exiting mass of upper-hill campers and staffers blocked her view.
Then Indy noticed Nick exiting the theater. Her body reacted the way it always had when she saw him—with intense waves of prickly warmth, like how it felt when you first realized you were drunk, combined with the chilly coldness of her fingers and toes losing circulation. She couldn’t help staring. He looked so good to her—it was like she hadn’t seen him in forever, and only in that moment did she truly feel how much she missed him. How she was still attracted to him. How it wasn’t up to her to decide who she was not supposed to want. The realization was almost a comfort.
“Hey, Indy—are you OK?” Megan appeared, putting her hand on her shoulder.
“Sure,” Indy said, feeling tears welling up behind her eyes and in her throat. She had to get out of there, to get back to her bunk, where she’d finally be safe from the endless drama of this day.
Then she heard loud laughter and saw Lucy walking out of the theater with Tiffany Melissa Portman, a fellow actress who claimed to be Natalie Portman’s Protestant second cousin. They were shouting and giggling and squealing, clearly sharing a high from tonight’s performance.
“Indy!” Lucy waved and shouted. “This is so nuts, right?!”
Indigo couldn’t bear looking Lucy in the eyes, so she kept walking, pretending she hadn’t heard her. It was loud, after all.
When she finally arrived at the Beat cabin, Indy made a beeline toward the bathroom, where she washed her face and tried to collect herself before her suitemates arrived.
Suddenly, a crazy scream pierced the silence.
Puja, screaming dementedly at the top of her lungs, burst through the hallway and past the bathroom entrance with her eyes lit up like some kind of psychedelic campfire.
“Indy! Hi! It’s so good to see you! Do you know I wrote AN IMPORTANT PIECE OF THEATER?” Puja was still shouting from the hallway, but the sight of Indigo near the sink had caused her to stop in front of the open bathroom entrance. Gradually, girls from the other suites, curious about whatever exactly was going on, drifted toward the shared bathroom.
“HEY, GUYS!!!” Puja, her eyes still manic, greeted the rest of Beat cabin.
“Are you feeling OK?” Indigo asked, because somebody had to.
“I AM FEELING GREAT, INDIGO!” Puja exclaimed at the top of her lungs. “Do you know WHYYYY?” She swept all of the soaps, toiletries, and towels above the row of sinks onto the floor with a giant swoop of her right arm. They clattered satisfyingly to the floor.
“Why?” Indy asked calmly.
“BECAUSE I wrote a HIT PLAY! And I am the BEST!!!”
Puja began to dance like an old-timey cartoon of a giraffe, moving her neck to the left and to the right in silly, exaggerated motions. Then she Suzie-Q’ed her way over toward the showers and back.
Yvonne looked concerned and slipped out of the bathroom while Puja continued to dance and lecture her cabin mates.
“DON’T YOU GUYS UNDERSTAND THE POWER AND MAGIC OF THIS PLACE?” Puja continued with grand, sweeping arm gestures.
“The bathroom?” Eleanor asked, looking around.
“NO! Camp!” She finally stood still. “For TWO MONTHS out of the YEAR we are able to MAKE OUR ART and NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE COMMERCE ELEMENT OF IT! I don’t have to sell out a room! I just have to FOCUS ON BEING GREAT! Which I AM! I AM THE GREATEST AT WRITING PLAYS! I’m Vishnu and Kali and Jesus and Bathsheba and Katniss FRICKIN’ Everdeen all up in one hot little package!!!”
The rest of the girls exchanged WTF looks. Finally, Yvonne returned to the bathroom, waving a manila envelope that had been ripped open. She shook her head in disappointment.
“Puja? Did you happen to eat this entire nutmeg that your parents sent you?”
“SO WHAT IF I DID?” Puja yelped. “I AM THE GREATEST AT WRITING PLAYS!” Puja made eye contact with the girls closest to her as though she were about to reveal a great secret. “You know,” she whispered, conspiratorially, “being a writer is basically like being God. You can control all the people you create, and they live in your world, which you also created.” She got loud again. “ISN’T THAT BANAY-NAY???”
“Jesus Christ,” Yvonne said, sticking her nose into the empty envelope. “She’s as high as a kite.”
“Nutmeg makes you high?” Eleanor crinkled her nose.
“If you eat enough of it,” said Indy as they all watched Puja help herself to one of the bathrobes that hung outside the shower stalls. She put it on, then topped off her guru look with a string of gauze she wrapped across her forehead and tied in the back like a hippie headband.
“Let. Us. Go. SWIMMING!” Puja shouted.
“Sure!” exclaimed Eleanor, who Indy realized hadn’t even tried to make eye contact with her since she came into the bathroom. Soon all the other girls agreed that night swimming seemed like a great idea.
“Follow me, my disciples!” Puja shouted, and led the way out of Beat and toward the heated pool for an impromptu group baptism at the hand of a spice-fueled prophet. Indigo followed, in part to save face with the others, and in part because she had nothing left to lose. ♦
Adapted from the book Art Girls Are Easy by Julie Klausner, which comes out May 7. Copyright © 2013 by Julie Klausner. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Julie Klausner is a New York City-based writer/performer. She is the author of a memoir called I Don’t Care About Your Band and the host of a weekly podcast called How Was Your Week. She tweets @julieklausner and her website, predictably, is julieklausner.com. Art Girls Are Easy is her first book for young adults.