"Why are we doing this again?" Geoffrey asked, frowning at the mirror, as he applied his beard. He turned to face Ellen, who was sitting next to him in the small dressing room. "And why the beard anyway?"
Ellen shrugged, "I think it suits you."
"No you don't," Geoffrey said, smiling faintly and turning back towards the mirror.
"Not really, no."
They sat in silence for a moment, as Geoffrey fussed with his beard and Ellen laced up her costume.
"You never answered my question," Geoffrey accused, turning towards her again.
"Oh? Didn't I?" Ellen replied innocently, avoiding his gaze.
"No, you didn't," he said flatly.
"Sorry," Ellen said, "I guess I'm a bit distracted."
Geoffrey waited for her continue, and when she didn't, he asked again, "Why ARE we doing this?"
"For charity, dear."
"Yes, but why this?" he gestured towards his reflection in the mirror, "Why this amateur production, with it's fake beards and bad lighting? Why am I doing this?"
"Because I asked you to," Ellen smiled, reaching over to pat his hand.
"Okay," Geoffrey said, "Why are YOU doing it then? Why is this so important to you?"
"It's for charity."
Geoffrey said nothing, prompting her with his silence.
Ellen shrugged. "I wanted to act again, Geoffrey," she said, "REALLY act -- not just another television show."
"You could've done something at Theatre Sans Argent."
"I know, but it's not the same," she said, looking around the tiny room, "I wanted to get back to the root of it all, a small amateur production like this."
"You can't get much smaller than Theatre Sans Argent."
"You know what I mean."
Geoffrey nodded. "Well, they're definitely small, and they're definitely amateur. The lighting for Act 3 looks like something out of a music video."
"They do seem eager enough though," he admitted, "and some of them have talent."
"But these parts..."
"What about them?"
"We're really too old for them," Geoffrey said.
Ellen scowled darkly.
"I'M too old, I mean," Geoffrey quickly amended, "This part is really better suited for a younger man."
"Besides, I have too many other obligations," Geoffrey protested feebly, "I really don't have the time to be doing this right now."
Ellen shook her head. "You already tried that one, remember? Back when I first asked you?"
"You're just making excuses," Ellen insisted.
"It's this play," Geoffrey said, "If we had to do this, why not something else? Something..."
"Darker?" Ellen offered, "Something more tragic and moody? Something better suited to your brooding nature?"
"Something more... dignified."
"Admit it," Ellen said, "You just don't want to do a comedy."
"I do comedies," Geoffrey protested, "We did The Tempest just last season."
"That hardly counts," Ellen said, "Besides, I think it'll do you good to do something light and cheery, for a change."
"Is that what this is all about?" Geoffrey asked, "Your way of trying to get me to 'lighten up'?"
"We have a good life here," Ellen said, avoiding the question.
"Yes," Geoffrey agreed, "and I'm happy. Your career is going well, and the theatre is... doing okay. I'm happy, really."
"Good," Ellen said, "You should do fine then."
Geoffrey stared into the mirror, lost in his thoughts. The problem was that he just didn't feel very funny.
"You used to be funny," a familiar voice said, from the corner of his mind.
"That was a long time ago," Geoffrey mumbled.
"What?" Ellen asked.
"Remember the first time we did A Midsummer Night's Dream?" the nonexistent voice continued.
"A lot's happened since then."
"Geoffrey?" Ellen said, shaking him from his thoughts.
He turned to see her staring at him, clearly worried. He shook his head. "I was just thinking out loud."
"Geoffrey, are we... alone?" Ellen asked.
"You know," Ellen said, looking concerned, "Are we ALONE?"
"You mean is Oliver here?" Geoffrey asked, "Are you asking if I'm seeing Oliver?"
"No, Ellen," Geoffrey interrupted crossly, "I'm not seeing Oliver. I'm not hearing Oliver. I'm not talking to Oliver." He paused, then added, "There is no one in the room but you and me. We are alone. Okay?"
"Sorry," Ellen said, looking slightly hurt, "I just wanted to make sure you're alright."
The truth was that he hadn't seen Oliver in over year, not since that production of Lear, and he knew he wasn't really hearing him now. It was just his mind, dredging up old memories.
The fact that it still happened, from time to time, was the main reason that he almost believed that it had actually been Oliver he was seeing back then. If he could so easily distinguish these flights of his imagination, then what had happened before had to have been... something else.
Either he'd really been visited by his dead friend, or else he'd simply been mad for a time, which he reluctantly accepted might've been the case.
"Yea, but so I am apt to do myself wrong," he muttered quietly.
"Just going over my lines."
"You know your lines," Ellen said, smiling weakly.
"I know my lines," he agreed.
They sat in silence again. Their costumes and make-up were done; now it was just a matter of waiting for those last few minutes, before they were called to the stage.
"I think I've changed my mind," Ellen said, looking intently at Geoffrey, "I think maybe the beard does suit you after all."
Geoffrey laughed slightly, in spite of himself.
"There, see?" Ellen said.
"I just don't feel very funny," Geoffrey admitted, with a sigh, finally saying out loud what had been plaguing his thoughts for days.
"Well, dear, that's why they call it ACTING."
"She's right, you know," the memory of Oliver chimed in.
"I know," Geoffrey said, agreeing with them both.
"And, Geoffrey... Thank you for doing this."
There was a knock at the door. "Places!"
"Here we go," Ellen said, standing up.
Geoffrey reached over and took her hands. "Ellen..."
"I do love nothing in the world so well as you."
"Still working on your lines?" she asked, smiling.
"I mean it."
"I love you too, Geoffrey."
He kissed her gently, mindful of his beard, then pressed it down again carefully, as they walked towards the door together. "Let's go be funny."