“Nice hair Tia…”, shouted a girl from across the classroom.
She looked up and smiled back to the girl, acknowledging her compliment. Two months ago, Tia would have looked around to see who was being complimented for their hair if she’d heard the shout…
~Two Months Ago ~
Tia read the notice board twice, once before the school began and once during the lunch break. Tia was new to the school, her family had just shifted to this
new city some 10 days back, and she’d been admitted to this school a week ago.
Within one week she’d already made a friend, acquired a crush on one of the cute guys and made a rival. But all of that had taken a backseat as soon as she saw this notice on the board. Acting was her passion. She always wanted to be an actress, join a leading theatre and make the world her stage. A lead role in her high school play would look good on her resume when she would apply to join the local theatre. It would be so wonderful to bow in front of an audience at the end of the play and receive a standing ovation…
She was brought back crashing to the reality, her best friend Anupriya was running towards her.
‘Where have you been?’, Anu demanded.
‘I was just…’, Tia looked sheepishly at the notice board.
‘What? Oh the new school play is coming up, The Lost Princess? Sounds stupid to me…’, Anu saw the look on Tia’s face and stopped mid-sentence.
‘You want to take part in this play, don’t you?’ Anu asked, Tia just nodded.
‘I’ve already had a word with Miss Khanna, she said she’ll be looking forward to my performance, and I’ve already asked daddy to get me a beautiful princess dress from London….’, drifted the voice of a high pitched nasal girl across the corridor, which was followed by the girl herself, accompanied by her three loyal companions.
Roshni Sharma, rich and beautiful, the dream of every boy, and Tia’s rival from day one.
She stopped in front of the noticed board and pointed at the role of the princess and said loudly enough for all to hear, ‘This role is mine. There is only one princess in this school.. .’, then sneered at Tia and went on with a group of giggling girls following her.
The door bell rang, and soon there was a knock on Tia’s door. ‘Come in’, she said. And Anu entered all excited. She told Tia that she had gathered all the information regarding the auditions. For the major roles the auditions would take place first, there were already many names registered for the lead roles, after the cast of the lead roles was finalized the other auditioned actors/actresses would be cast into the minor roles in the play, all the students who registered would get a short script at the end of the week and they would have to manage their own costumes for the auditions. There were already favorites for certain roles; a senior girl was a hot favorite for the role of Queen Mother.
‘And guess who’s the favorite for the role of the Huntsman, the princess’s love interest? Its Rick, Tia, it’s Rick!’. Anu was jumping up and down as she said this. Rick, the captain of the football team, was a year ahead of Tia, tall with rugged looks, he was a heartthrob of many girls and Tia had a huge crush on him. Rick wasn’t his real name, it was a nickname, no one knew what his actual name was.
Tia did not look excited at all, if anything, she looked more depressed.
‘What’s the matter Tia, are you still upset about me calling the play stupid?’, asked Anu in a soft concerned voice.
‘It’s not that Anu, I just think I don’t want to register for the auditions of the play.’
‘Why not? I thought you loved acting!’
‘I do love acting, but didn’t you hear what Roshni said, she alone looks like a princess, and that’s the truth. Look at me, there’s nothing beautiful about me, I am not as tall as her, not as beautiful as she looks, she’s going to wear a costume bought specially from London for her, and she has those lovely locks of hair. Look at my hair, all thin and limp and dead looking. She’ll audition and she’ll win. And the rest of the girls will look like fools in front of her charm.’
‘Oh come on dear! They want an actress not some beauty queen who looks good only once she’s added 6 layers of make-up on her face!’
Anu was exaggerating, she knew even though Roshni did wear makeup to school it wasn’t 6 layers; it was just a subtle touch. But what could she do, she had to exaggerate to make her friend confident.
‘Listen to me okay’, Anu said, ‘You go and register yourself for the Lost Princess tomorrow and..’
‘Let me complete Tia! You go, register, get your copy of the script and leave the rest to me. Do your best with your acting skills and let me handle the rest. Deal?’
Tia was shocked, she didn’t say anything.
‘Deal?’, asked Anu again.
‘Deal’, said Tia with a hint of a smile on her face.
The next day Tia went to Miss Khanna and registered her name for the title role. She saw that there were seven other names for that role besides her. On Saturday that week she was given a two paged script. Sunday 8 o’clock in the morning Anu was banging on Tia’s door again.
‘Tia wake up! Tia we’ve gotta go wake up you lazy girl..’
Tia opened the door of her room and said groggily, ‘What’s matter Anu, why you up so early?’
‘No time to talk, get ready quickly we are going out!’
The girls left the room in half an hour and Tia saw Anu’s dad in the living room having the sandwiches and tea that Tia’s mom had served.
‘Let’s go daddy’, said Anu. And within minutes Anu’s dad and the two girls were in the car and on the streets. Anu explained to Tia that they were going to the mall to by a few things.
‘But I don’t have any money’, Tia just realized.
‘Well, when little Miss Tia was acting like sleeping beauty, I went and got your purse and made sure that your mom filled it with some cash!’, said Anu with a fake scowl on her face. Both girls started giggling and all the way to the mall they gossiped about school and TV shows and cute actors.
In the mall they first bought a regular makeup set and a few shades of lipstick, next they went to the footwear department and Tia started checking out different heels. Anu left her there saying she had something else to checkout and would return soon. Within 10 minutes Anu was back clutching a bag.
Tia was trying on a turquoise and silver colored studded heeled sandals when Anu asked her whether she liked them. Tia said she loved them, but one look at the price tag and her smile vanished!
'Lets buy these', Anu said. 'But these are too costly for me' replied Tia.
'I'm buying them for you!', saying so Anu walked towards the checkout counter before Tia could stop her. Quickly they were out and Anu's dad bought them ice-cream, Tia was very upset, she told Anu she would not be able to payback that much amount.
'Don't be silly Tia, you don't have to pay me anything back. What are friends for if they are not allowed to help you! And besides now that I've got you these heeled sandals, I'm not getting anything for you on your birthday!' On hearing that both the girls started laughing. It had been a good day. While dropping Tia home, Anu handed her a bag. 'It's for your hair!' she added with a wink.
Tia rushed into her room and opened her bag to find two bottles, a shampoo and a conditioner by Dove.
Days went by and daily Tia would practice her lines in front of the mirror, and wash and condition her hair with Dove. Her hair showed visible improvement, they weren’t limp and dead looking anymore. They were shiny and full of life. Her dialogue delivery and her confidence had also improved. Three days before the auditions Anu gave Tia a gift, Tia unwrapped the box and found a pretty turquoise dress in it. It had beautiful flowers and frills and a royal feel to it. Tia was very delighted, she came to know that her mom and Anu had secretly been working on making this dress for her auditions. She hugged her mom and Anu with many a thank you’s.
On the day of the auditions, Tia’s room was transformed into an actress’s dressing room. There was Anu’s mom working on Tia’s hair to turn them into a beautiful princess like hair-do, Tia’s mom applying make-up of Tia’s face and Anu adjusting and re-adjusting Tia’s dress. When all were done, Tia looked like a beautiful princess, her face was pretty and her hair shining and healthy. Anu’s mom couldn’t help but comment, ‘Tia, I haven’t seen your hair so beautiful and manageable before! What is your secret?’
‘There’s no secret aunty’. Tia replied, ‘Just use Dove shampoo and conditioner daily.’
‘I had lots of hair problems’, she continued, ‘…and that was the end of my hair problems!’, she added pointing at the bottles of her favorite shampoo and conditioner.
The auditions were spectacular. Tia’s performance was stellar, no one could come in her league. Her dialogs were flawless and her expressions impeccable, Roshni who had come in a golden dress with head to toe matching accessories was asked to stop mid-sentence, since she was delivering her dialogs with a lot of fake accent. To no one’s surprise, Tia was selected for the role of the princess, and Rick got the part of the huntsman. A friendly senior girl Neha was chosen as the Mother Queen, and another girl named Simpy got the part of the princess’s friend.
The next two months of practices were like dream, Tia’s acting and her hair kept improving. Tia overcame her crush on Rick and soon they become good friends. On the eve of the screening of the play, Tia got the news that the director of the local theater was invited as the chief guest. She was excited and hopeful of catching his eye.
On the D-day, the entire school and their family was gathered in the auditorium, the assistants working backstage told all the actors that the auditorium was houseful and that the chief guest had arrived. Tia was slightly nervous as a professional makeup artist was doing her makeup. This was her chance to prove her caliber, if she failed… These thoughts made her even more nervous.
‘And.. we are done ma’am!’ The makeup artist’s voice brought her back to reality. She saw her face in the mirror and couldn’t believe her eyes, she looked so ethereal, so beautiful, her hair looked like strands of the finest silk.
‘You are looking beautiful my princess’, Rick’s voice came from the door of the dressing room, and Tia’s fears vanished.
The play went on well, and all the actors gave their best.
Once the play was over and Tia was back stage, Anu came rushing to meet her.
‘You were fabulous Tia! All eyes were on you, and the way you sang out those lines! Goodness, it was all soooo amazing. And that hair-flip you did! Killed half the guys in the auditorium. Every single person is praising you…’
Tia received lots of compliments for her performance, and even found out what Rick’s real name was that evening! She heard his father calling him Rakesh. Rick pleaded to her not to tell anyone in the school, Tia agreed. but both Anu and Tia did keep teasing him whenever they found him alone!
The next day it seemed that the entire school had become her friend! The girl across the classroom had just complimented Tia for her hair and Tia was silently thanking Dove. Tia had never been happier in her life, when suddenly a senior prefect entered their class and said, ‘Tia, you are called to the principal’s office. Kindly report immediately…’
Nervously, trying to avoid all eyes, Tia walked towards the principal’s office. She knocked on the door and was asked to come in. The principal sir was smiling and holding the receiver of his phone.
‘There’s a call for you, Tia..’, he said.
‘Call? For me?’
‘Yes. It’s from Mr. Gupta, the director of Actorama, the local theater…’