Romance Script posted September 26, 2021 Chapters:  ...15 16 -17- 18 

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Smells Like Pre-teen Spirit.

A chapter in the book Genius in Love

Genius in Love, Scene 17

by Jay Squires

The Previous Scene, in a Nutshell: Toloache, Phyllis, and Mr. Hallows are sitting in Phyllis's living room. She has invited them over so she could apologize for her earlier behavior when she had rashly promised Cornelius that Jennie would be back home in no more than a week. If she thinks it will be a one-and-done apology, Toloache has other designs: She wants Phyllis to understand the full consequences of lying to one of such emotional fragility as Cornelius. In time, the women reconcile, but then the phone rings and a reluctant Phyllis answers it, only to faint away in shock over the news her detective, Mr.Maneses, delivers.

CHARACTERS DESCRIPTION: Found in “Author’s Notes”

SETTING:  The playground at  Zachary Taylor Middle School. A towering green hedge Upstage, right to left. Grassy playground, Centerstage, right to left, with a few kids milling about or sitting with their bagged lunches spread out. Balls lying here and there, perhaps a tetherball pole awaiting use. Downstage, Center, a large boulder, flattened, and perfect for two or three people to sit on. A few flowering plants are growing to the boulder's sides and back.

Time: Spring, 1952. Lunchtime, one week before the 8th-grade graduation.

At Rise: CORNELIUS and JENNIE sit on the boulder, their unopened bag-lunches at their feet. CILILLA stands behind them, her head inclined toward them.

Did you pass the Constitution test?

[CORNELIUS nods rapidly, but doesn’t look up]

JENNIE (Continues):
They’re letting me take it over the Summer on account of—everything. I—they’re letting me graduate with the class, but my diploma will be blank.

(Cocks her head at CORNELIUS)
I heard three didn’t pass it. Mr. Hiney says if you don’t, you have to stay back a year. That’s just horrible.

[CORNELIUS blinks, and then his eyes dart about but don’t light on JENNIE’S]

JENNIE (Continues):
Mom got a whole armload of books from Mr. Hallows. He says it’s true what Mr. Hiney says, but if Mama helps me study them real hard, I’ll pass it. I don’t know what I’ll do if I fail. Was it—was the test hard, Cornelius?

(Still not looking at her)

Kids say you have a photographic memory—that’s why.

Eid-etic mem-o-ry.

(Skimming her eyebrows and away)

I mean, but your brain—it still has to have something to take a picture of. 

(Looking long at her eyebrows)
Cornelius read the books … Jen-nie.
(Continues staring at her brows until her body jerks and stiffens)
Sooor-eeee, Jennn-eeee!

No … it’s just—I don’t know …

(Lapses into silence. Shakes her head, looking down)

(Standing behind CORNELIUS, bending, giving him a little hug, unseen, of course, by JENNIE)
Whoa! Take a breath, Sweetie, be calm. You didn’t say anything wrong. There’s unexpected power in your eyes. That’s what startled her. It’s a good thing. You’ll grow to expect this, you know.

Cornie … I’m so confused. Nothing’s like—it was. Everything’s changing. I get so frightened ...

She really needs a hand to hold, Cornie. Can you give her your hand? You don’t need to say anything. Compared to a hug, this is a piece of cake ….

(With little jerky movements, he extends his right hand, brushing JENNIE’S knee)
Here—Jenn-nnie …

(Giggles; clasps her hands to her chest)
You always take it one step—one beautiful step further, my lovely Cornie!

[JENNIE looks down to his hand, up to his face, then down again. Tentatively, she picks up his hand in both of hers and holds it on her knees. She begins trembling. Her eyes glaze over and tears pour onto her cheeks. Removing one hand from his, she holds the sleeve of her blouse to her nose, but grips his hand tightly with the other.]

Tears of happiness, Sweetie. Don’t be confused. Don’t say anything. Don’t pull your hand back. Whatever you do—don’t pull your hand back.

[Angling his body toward JENNIE, CORNELIUS slowly extends his left hand; JENNIE removes her sleeved arm from her nose and grasps his newly offered hand, greedily, trapping both of them together on her knees.]

(Dancing, twirling about, tossing her arms in the air)
Yes! Yes! Oh-ho, Cornie, yes!

Ohhh, thank—thank you, Corn-el—

Cor-nie …

Thank you, Cornie.

(Blinking her eyes that are still seeping tears, she makes little spasmodic stiffing sounds)
Cornie? Can I—C-can you … can you keep your hands r-right here—right here … while I—please, Cornie?
(Pulls one hand free, plucks a handkerchief from her skirt pocket, drags it across her eyes, then blows her nose. Shoving her handkerchief back in her pocket, she immediately grabs again for CORNELIUS’S free hand, and imprisons both of them in hers)

(Barely able to contain her excitement)
This is V-day, Sweetie-Pie! Your own personal V-day! Now … 
(Regaining serious control)
Now, just listen to her. That’s all. She has something she needs to tell you. I don’t know, either, Sweetie, but keep holding her hands and just listen.


(Grimacing painfully, looking down at their joined hands, then at CORNELIUS whose eyes are jittering to either side of her, but not directly at her)
Daddy’s dead, Cornie.
(She follows the movement of his eyes to her right and left and then continues speaking to their hands)
Mama told me he died—there in Socorro. It was while I slept over at Aunt Fawnelle’s house. Aunt Fawnelle woke me in the night; she took all my things, threw them in her car and we headed out to California.
(Shaking her head and continuing as to herself)
I kept telling her she forgot Daddy. Daddy would be mad at us for going without telling him. But she told me Daddy wouldn’t be mad. And besides, Mama missed me. And Mama told her there was someone else …
(She glances at CORNELIUS, then down, and a fleeting smile replaces her serious expression)
someone else missed me.

Corn-elius missed—Jenn-ie.

Mis-ter Jax—died?

Careful, Cornie. Careful, now.

Sorr-eee … Jenn-ie.

(As though studying CORNELIUS’S face)
Thank you … Cornie.
Mama says that’s why Aunt Fawnie brought me back here.

Aunt Fawn—Fawn-nee?

(Looks at her eyebrows, the corner of his mouth crinkling)

(Watching CORNELIUS’S mouth, a small smile forms on her own)
Sometimes I call her that, Cornie. 

(After an oddly aborted chuckle, a rare burst of energy and bubbly excitement overtakes him)
But-but-but herrrrr name’s not—not fuuuun-eeeeee?

(A look of puzzlement)
No, it’s FAWN-ie. That’s what I—
(Puzzlement switching to sudden understanding)
Oh! ohhhhhhh! Oh, I get it!

[CILILLA is holding her head like she is trying to keep it from exploding]

(With a full grin)
Her name’s not fuuun-neee?

No, her name’s not funny, Cornie—But you are funny! Oh, Cornie … I—I don’t want this to ever end. I think—I think I—

(Her face suffuses with redness)

(Apparently anticipating something in JENNIE’S words, or a look on her face, she bends down toward CORNELIUS)
Tell her, Sweetie-Pie—quickly—tell her what Mr. Hallows asked you to do. Quickly now …

(Casting an impatient glance at CILILLA)
Mis-ter Hallows—he w-wants Cornelius …

Go on, Sweetie!

… to p-play piano on graaaad-u-aaashun night.


(Impulsively giving CORNELIUS’S held hand a quick kiss, then straightening up with a full grin and glee that seems to take possession of her)
Oh, yes! Everyone’s going to-to-to LOVE you … Cor-nelius!

Corn-nie …




CORNELIUS PLUMB: An autistic, musical genius child, age 12. He is uncommonly handsome, well-groomed, well-dressed. His speech is clipped, with a beat, between each word, as though he is forcing himself to slow the flood of experiences bubbling from inside. His best friend is Jennie.

CILILLA QUEEZ: An actualized part of Cornelius's deeper mind, there to guide him through rough emotional patches. Only Cornelius can see and hear Cililla.

JENNIE JAX: Cornelius's classmate, age 12, physically not yet blossomed. Emotionally tossed and turned by events in her young life. On the shy side, she is kind-hearted, but still a child and swayable. She has been attracted to Cornelius from the beginning.

Much gratitude for the photo by Daniel on Upsplash
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