Saturday, 19 February 2011

Leading Lady of the Night

Continuation of Vera Sunkissed-Virgin Spinster)

He was slightly aroused by the thought of seeing her again. It had been years since he'd heard her voice...softer now. They spoke only through their daughter. He referred to her as his ex-wife but, they were, in actual fact, still married. Neither one of them had had the energy or patience for a divorce. It was just paperwork.

"I'm coming over for a funeral. I'll be in town." She paused waiting for a "well, why don't you drop by?" or an "Oh."

He wasn't going as it was the guy she'd left him for....the hotel doorman. Such  a small part. He would have felt better if she'd have gone off with the leading man. They'd had a few scenes on a closed set. It would have been the natural conclusion, but it wasn't. It was the guy one step up from an extra with the girl one step up from an escort. That irked him. He hadn't pulled her from the usual casting call.

He was the director. He'd written it too...for her. Leading Lady of the Night working title. He changed it to Honeymoon later and dropped a few nude scenes. They were her forte, but he made it into a proper story, plot and all.

There was room service. Sunlight pierced the curtains. He lifted her and placed her on the mantle. The curtains fell like a wedding veil over her face and rose up her torso as he pulled her from the window back to bed. A light brunch before departing from a long week in Paris. "Pasta?" he asked. "What is pasta without the sauce?" she gendered. They'd gone over the scene many times over dinner, in the kitchen, in bed. There were just a few lines. The rest was blocking and choreography.

He wrote it into the film as it had happened. Their most private sacred moment. He didn't cast himself as the leading man. Perhaps that was the mistake. They'd both had affairs by the time it went into post production. They had an unspoken quota of offstage rehearsals that were allowed. But the scene with the doorman lasted too long. A fly on his arm he should have taken more seriously. Sometimes, you watch a fly, but you don't swat it because you don't want to spill your martini. You think it'll be gone by the time you put your glass down. He could have killed that fly. He should have zapped it.

"Are you there?"
"Yeah. I had a fly on my arm. Trying to kill it."
"Can't kill a fly and talk at the same time hey?"
"Not this one. It's a big one. Maybe you should drop by with some pesticide."
"I don't know if it's allowed on the plane, but I'll try."

She was born in Manhattan and raised in L.A. Her family had flown back and forth until they finally moved there. She had the mental rythyms of a New Yorker ready for a debate and the saunter of a beach bum in search of a wave. Fishermen lived next door. In San Pedro, having a group of long shore men as neighbors is statistically high. As her parents spent their lives glued to computers, she liked to say that she was raised by fishermen. It always got a laugh.

They'd often barbecue their catch over an oil drum. Better than a Webber grill. The smoke wafted over like an invitation. The R-rated banter was more stimulating than the talk at home. She knew more about fishing than she did about her parents and their computers. They talked in updates. In fact, she didn't even know what they did. They could be lawyers, journalists, or eco-planners. They never talked about work and she never talked about school. In fact, she remembered few conversations: the most memorable one being the one about them separating.

So here they were on speaking terms again. He hung up the phone and looked around. Even the spines of the books were dusty. He picked up the potted palm by its leaves; a dry cylinder of earth caked around the roots clung on like a rotting mousse. He took it immediately outside. He had three days. He'd hire a cleaner. He patted his stomach. Nothing he could do about that. It had been a long time since he'd given the mirror more than a passing glance. It needed dusting too.

There were plenty of people at the funeral- a few familiar industry faces. Some she knew from magazines and some she'd worked with. Everyone looked older, but not grayer. The producers had become rotund and their handshakes firmer. The actors remained puppet-like and gaunt still smelling of the grease from their day jobs. It was easy to see who worked behind the camera and who worked in front of it. The women had stuck to their regimes of pricey eye cream, light lunches and exercise. The ones who hadn't had obviously moved on to more stable careers and families.

The scent of lilies floated to the organ music as people filed in. The sermon was a brief everyman eulogy designed for those whose loved ones were either too grief stricken to put words together or just not bothered. His family had never approved of his career in film and theatre. Their disapproval only hindered his belief in himself as he served up platters of pasta in between roles. His agent had billed him as an everyman type character--a perfect background to a drama, comedy, or period piece. His life was a series of small parts.

Only a small part of her listened to the sermon. She was playing the entrance of their reunion in her mind. He'd booked a table at their favorite restaurant. That was fatal in itself. The funeral was the perfect excuse to meet him again. There was still no paperwork to discuss. He had paid all of Vera's college fees without her asking. Whatever winds had blown them apart had now died down to a gentle lull lulling her back to her husband. Unscripted.

They met at The Ivy. He could get a table without a reservation back in the day. "There's nothing for the next two weeks I'm afraid." He tried dropping a few names. Luckily, not all the staff had changed since then. Someone stopped him. "You don't have to do that. You still want the table by the window in the corner?" The trainee was ushered out of the way. "The wine list has changed." He smiled. He was still important enough.

He was sitting down with a glass of red and the bottle already chosen. He didn't stand on ceremony, but he stand to greet her and fell into an embrace at a distance usually reserved for a handshake. She smelled of the same perfume. He quelled a reflex to tap his wristwatch and wink, but then so much time had passed, twenty minutes was not a point to debate. They both sighed and a smile crept over them as they sat in silence reading the menus. It was a peaceful hushed hello.

Mmm. The noises they made while making love or eating were the same. Their shoes touched under the table. It was a tight space. Then their knees. It was a quiet truce. It had been a long intermission.

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