03 Aug 09

Star and Scribe, Chapter Six

Logic couldn’t persuade Jane. Begging couldn’t get her to budge. But a hot bath, a yogurt-cucumber-honey facial, and three mimosas seemed to do the job, though. With just a bit of seductive coaxing and the revelation of a pair of shimmering silver strappy shoes, Stefan convinced Jane to don her rustling Marchesa gown.

“Look how pretty you are!” he purred, luring her to have a look at herself in the enormous mirror by her walk-in closet. She stared at herself and felt hollow guilt at the lack of excitement she felt, despite the fact that this was the best she had ever looked for any event, including her own wedding. The shimmering gold threads embedded in layer after layer of rustling brown and cream lace gave her an unearthly aura. She was Cinderella and the fairy godmother.

“Stefan, thank you, really,” she said, making an attempt to sound gracious. “I’m sorry I’m not more cheerful–-”

“Hey, it’s okay, sweetie.” He held her chin gently, kissed his fingertips and patted them softly on her forehead. “I’ll just be happy when I see you on the cover of every magazine and all they can talk about is what a fabulous artist I am.”

Jane smiled for a moment and felt a flicker of optimism. But the moment faded as she thought of Edmund. “Does he know what happened?”

“Uhh . . .”

“Is he coming?”

Stefan pinched his lips together and twirled a hairbrush between his fingers. Jane nodded slowly and turned and left the room.

She found Edmund in his movie room, laying back in his enormous leather recliner. The lights were off and two empty bottles of Guinness sat on the coffee table beside another nearly empty bottle. He was wearing his nasty old Miskatonic University t-shirt and a faded pair of jeans. A DVD of old Red Dwarf episodes was playing on the enormous plasma screen mounted on the wall, making noise in the background as he scribbled away on a draft of the script.

“Ed, it’s the Awards tonight,” she said casually, softly.

He didn’t budge from the seat, but crossed his feet and rested them on the ottoman in front of him. “Thank you for reminding me,” he sassed.

She changed her mode of attack. “I need you to go,” she insisted in a bored tone. “It’s important.”

“Why, because the PR guys think it’s a good idea?” he sassed at her, tossing his pen across the room. “I think I prefer the TV, thanks. At least I can turn off the fiction I see there when I get sick of it.”

She stood in silence for a moment. This wasn’t going to be easy. As he sullenly stomped over to retrieve his pen, flopped back into his chair, and fixed his gaze on an episode he’d seen a thousand times, her mind traced back over the first time they went to an awards ceremony together. She wore a gold sheath dress, and he’d picked out a tie to match. They had held hands. She remembered the intense look in his eyes as he helped her out of the limousine, and the hot desire in his lips when he’d kissed her on the red carpet. Their appearance that night had been what prompted the press to call them “Hollywood’s Royal Couple.” She tried to remember what it felt like to want him by her side simply to have him there, cameras or no cameras.

“If you don’t come there will be more stories about us.”

He didn’t answer.

“Don’t you care about that?”

More silence.

“Ed!” she snapped.

“Huh?” he asked, looking up from the paper he was scribbling on.

“If you don’t go,” Jane said very slowly, loudly, and in a patronizing tone, “The tabloids will create bad PR.”

“It isn’t a surprise that I wouldn’t want to go!” he whined. “Remember? I’ve been pretty vocal about not liking awards ceremonies. Nobody will think anything.”

“You worked on at least a dozen of the films that have nominations! It’s ridiculous not to go!” Jane pleaded.

“It’s ridiculous if I do.”

“You’ll look ungracious toward the people you’ve worked with,” Jane jabbed with a low voice, switching to a guilt trip tactic.

“Yes, well, you’re a model of thinking of others, aren’t you then?” he laughed.

Jane pinched her lips and folded her arms. “That doesn’t mean it’s not important for you to come.”

“You didn’t care when I missed last year,” he snarled.

“Yes, well, last year,” she snapped.

“Last year what?” Edmund prompted.

“Last year,” Jane sighed, “I thought you were sleeping with my stunt double.”

Ed wouldn’t drop it. “Until what?”

Jane didn’t answer.

“Until what, Jane?”

“Until I realized out my stunt double was just Larry.”

“Until you realized your stunt double was just Larry, whom we’ve been friends with for ten years.” He punctuated the air with the remote control as he spoke. “If you’re going to accuse me of adultery, at least pick a gender I’m interested in, and at least make sure the person I’m cheating with isn’t a good friend who would never do that to you.”

Jane bit her tongue. She wanted to shout at him that it was all a mistake, it happened a year ago, and for him to bring it up once a week so he could win a fight more easily made her want to smash his entire collection of Rolling Stones LPs. But she needed him tonight.

“You’re right, and I’m sorry,” she said in a clipped tone. “I’ve said I’m sorry. Now will you please put on your tux and come with me?”

“Nope.” He settled into his armchair.

“Ed, I can’t go without you,” she gasped with sudden nervousness.

“Why should you care what they think? I don’t.”

“Yes, well, I’m not you, am I?” She snapped. “Your whole thing is that you’re artsy and witty and have no patience for formal events. I have to be perfect, or they’ll eat me alive.”

“Wouldn’t that be terrible,” he crowed at her.

There was a brief, swallowing silence. “Ed,” she said, her voice frail and low. “Please.”

Edmund finally turned back and looked at her. He opened his mouth to say something snarky but was frozen by the sight of her. From head to toe she was polished and gleaming. Her head was high, but she looked tired. Lovely and exhausted and beaten and defiant. The golden threads in the skirt of her gown glistened. Her hair was soft and gleaming in the dark, flickering light from the television, and the curve of her neck made his eyes linger. Her eyes, shining with tears, pleaded with him. She was holding a bag containing his freshly cleaned and pressed tuxedo in her gloved hands, and around her neck were the pearls he had bought her for their first anniversary.

The cynic in him wanted to dismiss it all as theatrics; her beauty was a distraction and her desperation was just crocodile tears. But there were no tricks in her expression. She was desperate. His stubbornness crumbled, but was not swept away. He knew it would be cruel to make her beg, but he refused to give her the satisfaction of showing enthusiasm. He would do this once, and then no more. They had to stop lying sometime.

He stared at the floor for a moment, and then stepped over to Jane. Without a word, he took the dry cleaning bag from her and went to change his clothes.

© 2009 Stella Quinn

Star and Scribe — a novel by Stella Quinn
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