YOU SPIN ME
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Like the first two books in the Boston Classics series, this book takes you on a journey. There’s great music (that I’m now listening to), a host of interesting characters, a world that some of us lived in and storytelling that is absolutely wonderful.” — Anna Reads Here
A nostalgic romantic comedy
BOSTON CLASSICS #3
Some scars go further than skin deep…
1988 doesn’t end well for Jessica Abraham. In just one week she turns thirty, loses her day job, and loses the role of Ophelia to a younger actress. Rallying, she goes after a part at a theater outside of the city, but the director’s plan to hide her beauty behind hair, makeup and wardrobe from Cosmo’s “Don’t” column shakes her confidence to the core.
For the first time in her acting career, she won’t be able to rely on her carefully managed physical charms. Only her craft will count.
On a snowy night early in January 1989, a woman calls into DJ Callihan Alonso’s alt-rock radio show at the end of her commute. He asks her to call back the next night, and the next, just so he’ll know she’s home safe. There’s something about her voice that has him wanting more, but the longer they talk, the closer she gets. Compromising each and every wall he’s built around his heart.
If two lonely people fall in love over late-night phone calls, will meeting face-to-face make them, or break them?
In this heartfelt, slow burn retro romcom, it may be the end of a decade, but it’s the beginning of a love story.
Content guidance for this book can be found at http://bit.ly/ContentGuidanceKarenGrey
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Jess and Cal’s story is an indelible ink that seeped into my subconsciousness. I felt every cheer in their triumphs and shed every tear in their disappointments.” – Currant 7 Recommends
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I just sat and felt this one long after I finished. Not many books move me that way.” – Kerri, Goodreads
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “…a well-crafted story, a story full of heart and soul as two people show themselves to be perfectly imperfect.” – Words of Wisdom from the Scarf Princess
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Fresh, bright, original, laugh-out-loud funny yet serious and thought-provoking.” – Sally, Goodreads
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “This book doesn’t gloss over difficult subjects, but there’s also a lot of humor, and the love story itself is great. It’s a slow burn, sure, but there’s a real and deep connection between Jess and Cal right at the beginning. Absolutely beautiful.” – Claire, Goodreads
When I get home from work at four-thirty in the afternoon on December 1, 1988, having spent the day teaching dance and aerobics to rich kids at a posh private school, it’s already dark outside. It’s as cold inside my apartment as it is outside, which means the furnace is on the fritz again.
My thirtieth birthday just gets better and better.
No messages on the answering machine, which means no auditions for me tomorrow. Nobody told me that ad agencies go into hibernation from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. I was really hoping for a chance to book something this month. Even doing background in a commercial would help pay the bills.
At least my heating oil charges will be low. Just as I find the super’s number in my day planner—which I should have memorized by now, I have to call him so often—the phone rings and I pick it up, hopeful for some good news. “This is Jess.”
“Hey, it’s Will. Happy Birthday.”
Will’s my best boy friend. Not boyfriend. We’ve played lovers at Shakespeare Boston too many times to count, but he’s as much of a brother as my real brother is. Plus, he has a pretty serious girlfriend.
“Thanks, but can you keep that under your hat? Last thing I need is everyone in town asking how old I am now.”
“So, old woman, did you get a call?”
“You mean about Hamlet?”
“Well, yeah. Duh.”
“Uh, no. I didn’t.” But he probably did. “Are you telling me you’re playing the Prince of Denmark?”
“I am.” The pride in his voice is laced with concern. “But I didn’t get to ask about the rest of the cast. Did you check your machine?”
“I’m standing right here looking at it. No messages.”
“Maybe they haven’t called everyone yet.”
“When did they call you?”
Which means there’s little chance I’m in the show. Pacing, swinging the phone cord, I have to work hard to keep the bitterness out of my voice as I congratulate him. “I’m really happy for you, Will.”
Part of being an actress is rejection. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid it at Shakespeare Boston. Until now, it seems. “Either way, it’s fine. Ophelia’s no Juliet. I mean, the part’s a challenge but mostly because there’s not a lot to work with. You just have to choose which kind of crazy to play her.”
“Well, you’d be great. I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
“That I just turned thirty? That I’m too ethnic for what they’re going for? Both, probably.”
“I can’t see anyone at Shakespeare Boston saying you’re too ethnic.”
Noting that he doesn’t say anything about the fact that I’m aging out of ingenue roles, I have to force the corners of my mouth up so I don’t sound angry. “Sometimes it’s about the picture, Will. And there are a lot of girls in town who can play Ophelia.”
“Yeah. I… it’ll be weird if you’re not around.”
“Well, maybe it’ll force me to stretch my wings. Good thing I sent out my headshot to all the theaters this fall like a good little actress.”
“Speaking of which, I heard there’s an open call up at Chichester Rep tomorrow.”
“An open call? Waiting all day for a two-minute audition where if you’re lucky they’ll be eating something smelly, and if you’re not, they’ll be asleep?”
“I’m going. Every audition is another chance to perform.”
“Make me barf, man.”
“I’m know, I know. Kidding. Sort of.”
Sucking it up, I get the details. Chichester is a bit of a haul, but Thursday is a shorter teaching day for me, so I can probably get up there before the five o’clock deadline. Unfortunately, Will and I can’t drive together because he has to bartend in the afternoon.
”Well, I should go. I have a class.”
While I do teach dance some evenings at a studio nearby, I don’t actually have to tonight, but I can’t take more of Will’s sympathy right now.
“I’ll make this quick, then.” He clears his throat. “Are you in town for New Year’s?”
“No. My family always spends it down in Florida with my grandparents. Are you having a party?”
“Yeah, but it’s more than that. We’re… kind of making an announcement.”
I know all the colors of this man’s voice, so I can tell this is good news. “Since I can’t be there, will you tell me now?”
“If I do, you have to keep it to yourself. Kate wants this to be a big surprise.”
“Oh my god. You’re not.”
“We are. We’re engaged.”
“Damn, Will. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“I didn’t either, but when it’s right, it’s right.”
“Well, congratulations. That’s awesome news.”
“Nineteen eighty-nine. I think that’s a good year to get married.”
“I have to go, but… good job, man. She’s a keeper. And congrats on Hamlet again.”
“Thanks. Bye, J. Let me know if they call.”
Proud of myself for mustering the goodwill to wish my friend well when I’m losing out on every front, I stare at the phone on the wall for a few minutes. I am truly happy for him and Kate. They’re great together. I mean, a part of me is a weensy bit jealous since I can’t seem to find a guy I’d actually want to spend more than a few nights with.
Maybe it’s like that Groucho Marx joke. I don’t want to be a member of a club that’ll have me as a member.
At the same time, it kind of pisses me off that I’m too old to play Ophelia, but Will’s not too old to play Hamlet.
My headshot stares at me from my desk, where the tools of my trade sit in neat and organized piles. A box of stationery, big brown envelopes, and my cute Apple computer. Everything’s set for me to send out the 8 x 10 photos of my carefully made-up face and painstakingly styled hair, the attached resumes—which I spent hours cutting down to size and gluing to the backs of photos—formatted in neat columns stuffed full of Shakespeare heroines.
It’s all a waste, all the time and energy and money I put into making this face as presentable as it can be, this body as attractive as it can be.
It doesn’t matter. I’m thirty. I can’t be an ingenue anymore. Yet I’m not old enough to play a matron, so I may as well not exist.
It’s too late to go to law school or med school, even if I didn’t have a learning disability which would make those pursuits impossible. My brother (lawyer) and sister (doctor) have both covered, anyway. I guess I could join the Peace Corps or something, but I doubt they’d have much use for a dyslexic actress.
I may not have a class to teach tonight, but there’s always a dance class to take. Better than staying home in this cold apartment, where I’d probably stress-eat. I may no longer be an ingenue, but if I want to have a chance at any acting work at all, I sure as hell can’t let myself go.
When I check the dance studio’s schedule stuck to my fridge, the date on the calendar brings back memories.
On my twelfth birthday, I got to start pointe classes in ballet.
On my eighteenth, I went out clubbing in downtown Boston with my drama-geek college buddies with a not-fake ID.
On my twenty-first, I finally got rid of my virginity.
On my twenty-fifth, I landed my twenty-fifth professional theater role: Hermia in Midsummer Night’s Dream (my fourth time playing the role).
I guess my thirtieth is when I stop celebrating birthdays.
It’s a much longer drive to Chichester from Boston than I calculated—I probably didn’t add up the little red numbers on the map correctly—so it’s almost five by the time I step inside the theater. Even though it’s the end of their day, there are still plenty of people waiting to audition. When I sign in, I’m dismayed to find sheet after sheet filled with the names of actors who got here before me. They must’ve seen hundreds of people today. If I hadn’t driven over an hour to get here, I’d turn right back around and go home. The casting director must be in a coma by now.
Worse, the gatekeeper hands me a selection of scenes to choose from, explaining that even though the audition notice said they wanted to hear a comedic monologue, the director wants us to read from the play he’s casting. Since I decided to do this last-minute, I didn’t have time to get a copy of it. All I know is that the playwright is known for farcical comedies and there’s a role for a woman in her thirties. A good little actress would have read the whole thing a few times so she could make informed character choices. Looks like I’m winging it today.
Since a quick read of the scenes is impossible for a dyslexic person like me, I give the woman my most conspiratorial smile and ask which scene fewer people have read today. She gives me a knowing nod and hands me a scene which is blessedly short.
After a quick scan of the room, I find a guy sitting by himself and looking bored. I sit down next to him and lean over, squeezing my boobs together with my upper arms. If I have to carry around these jugs, I may as well get something out of them. “I am such a silly goose; I left the house without my reading glasses”—a bald-faced lie, but whenever I tell people I have a reading disability, they treat me like an idiot—“so do you think you could read the scene with me?”
Man-gaze drops to cleavage first, then meets eyes. Score.
“Uh, sure,” he mumbles.
Pressing my palms together, I recite, “‘I can no other answer make, but thanks, and thanks.’” When he gives me an odd look, I clarify, “That’s from Twelfth Night.” Snuggling in closer, I add, “If you can read both parts the first time through, that’d be so totally awesome.”
He gives the tatas another appreciative glance. “No problem.”
Cue dramatic sigh. “You’re my hero.”
You may be wondering: How exactly does a girl who can barely read end up an actress who specializes in Shakespeare? Well, this particular dyslexic girl is a whiz at memorization. Taking one final deep breath—this time to clear my head rather than lure in my prey—I focus all my brain cells on listening as he reads through the scene.
The gods must be smiling on me because my buddy doesn’t get called before I’ve got the words locked in. Now I can use the rest of my wait to analyze the scene and make a few choices. Instinct tells me to play this character straight so that the humor comes from the degree to which she takes herself seriously.
When I hear my name, I follow the assistant into the room wearing my most winning smile because before I get to play the character, I have to play the role of easy-to-work-with and accomplished actress.
“Good afternoon, I’m Jessica Abraham. So nice to meet you.” Handing over my headshot and resume with my left hand keeps my right free to shake the director’s hand. Such a little thing, but it makes a difference to not start the whole thing off with an awkward fumble.
“Thanks for coming in, Jessica. I’m Miles Jacobs, and this is Carol, our stage manager, and her assistant, Larry.” The director is younger than I expected. Mid-thirties, maybe? Short with a pale, rarely-sees-the-outdoors complexion, he’s got kind of a nebbishy air about him.
Either Carol just took a vacation to Florida or she’s got a tanning salon membership, because there’s no way she’s maintained that golden skintone and blonde highlights through a Boston winter. By the way she’s tapping her pencil on the schedule, I’m guessing that she’s dying for a cigarette. She smiles politely and tips her head at Larry, a young-looking black guy. “Larry here will read with you.”
Larry waves. He’s the only one who gives me a real smile.
Miles takes a moment to scan my resume. “You’ve done a lot of classical theater.”
“I’ve been fortunate at Shakespeare Boston.”
He taps a finger on his temple. “That’s why I recognize you. I saw both shows this past summer.” He flips the resume to study my headshot before making eye contact again. “You seemed much younger as Juliet. And you made some choices that surprised me.”
I smile, deciding to take both comments as compliments. “Juliet has a lot more layers than most people think. I tried to find as much humor as I could in the early scenes.”
His attention drops back to my resume.
“I did quite a few more contemporary shows in college,” I mention.
“Brandeis. Cool. My older sister went there.”
“Mine too.” We spend a few minutes playing the do-you-know game. Turns out our sisters were in the same sorority. Always good to make a personal connection, especially in an open call like this one.
Carol doesn’t let us stray too far from the business at hand, however. “Sorry to interrupt, Miles, but you do have a design meeting at seven and you said you wanted a dinner break before that.” Plus, I need a smoke, I can practically hear her saying.
“Right. Thanks, Carol.” When he turns back to me, the relaxed smile I’d coaxed out of him has sadly disappeared. “Alright then, so let’s take it from the top. Whenever you’re ready.”
Even though I have the scene memorized, I hang on to the photocopy. An acting teacher once said that no matter how well-prepared you are, it’s best to have the words at hand. Even if it’s useless for me, it lowers expectations for my audience. The paper reminds them that what I’m performing isn’t a finished product.
My choices seem to play well—I mean, I even get a laugh from Carol—until Miles interrupts me. “Great, thanks. We’ll be in touch.”
Painting my professional smile back on, I do a little curtsy to make things fun. “Right, thank you.”
Once I’m out of the room, though, I can’t help but push my lips out in a pout. I drove all the way up here for that? I didn’t even get to finish the scene! As I layer back up to head out into the cold, I remind myself that it’s important to get out and meet new directors. Even if he doesn’t like me for this part, maybe there’ll be others in the future.
I’m exhausted by the time I get back to Boston, but I drive straight to the dance studio. Two hours of sitting in the car means my body needs to move. By the time the jazz class is over, I’m sweaty and the stress is gone. When I get home to a blinking red light on my answering machine, I don’t even stop to stress about what news the thing might reveal before punching the button. I hope it’s not the guy I went out with last weekend. He was an even bigger jerk than the one in the scene I read this afternoon.
BEEP. Jess, this is mom. Don’t forget, I’m hosting Shabbat dinner tomorrow night. Everyone’s hoping to see you to celebrate your birthday.
She whispers the last word like it’s a state secret. I wish it were so secret that it could be erased, but I dutifully circle the date in my day planner and send up a prayer to the gift gods that my parents will actually give me the Macy’s gift card I asked for. Turning thirty means I need to invest in some serious face creams.
BEEP. Jessica, this is Dr. Robertson. Can you come speak with me tomorrow morning before your classes? Thank you.
Oh dear. Getting called into the principal’s office. Even though I’m a teacher now, it’s as unappetizing a prospect as it was when I was a student. I make a note about that too.
BEEP. Hi, um… this is for Jessica… uhhh, Abraham? This is Courtney? I’m an intern up at Chichester Rep?
Even as my heart beats fast in anticipation, I can’t help thinking that this girl needs a voice coach. Her habit of turning every sentence into a question makes her sound like she’s unsure of her place in the world.
I’m, um, scheduling callbacks for Beyond Therapy? So can you call me at the theater to… do that?
After taking a moment to recite the phone number along with her, I let loose with a little pirouette. Then I pick up the phone to call right back.
Mellow-voiced Larry answers instead of the up-talking Courtney. He lets me know the other scenes I need to prepare, gives me a time for a Saturday-morning callback and tells me to dress frumpier. Translation: the director wants me to cover up the knockers.
I make a few calls to try and track down a copy of the play. Will has one, of course, so after a quick shower, I head over to his house, where I spend an hour hanging out with him. He didn’t get called back, but since he’s one of the few people who know about my dyslexia, he very kindly gives me a rundown of the play’s plot and reads through the scenes with me. Then other friends show up—Randall and Mike and Deb and Pam—all of whom will be working on Hamlet this spring. Without me. Normally, I’d stay and gossip but it’s been a long day and I’m not ready to hear all about the play I won’t be in.
Back home, even though I’m wiped out, I make myself cleanse and moisturize my face. When yawning makes it impossible to continue counting the new lines on my face, I give up and fall into bed so I can wake up tomorrow in time to talk to the principal before Friday’s long day of classes.
Not that beauty sleep will do me any good. Now that the crinkles next to my eyes have become permanent fixtures, it’s all downhill from here.
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