Norma thinks about her new tenant, fame and old Hollywood.
'Yes,' replied Desmond, turning his head to face her.
'You were miles away.' She looked at him, sitting there, in her kitchen and wondered whether she had already given away too much of herself. After all, her life had been pleasant enough before he arrived. She tried to regain a sense of equilibrium.
His jacket looked as though one step from becoming a rag and she suddenly felt a pang of sympathy and pity for this fellow creature. Oh Desmond. I hope you don't step on too many toes on your climb to the top. She had seen it before, this arrogance, this burning need to be a star. She had seen the anger turn on its host and tear it limb from limb. Blinded, maddened, lost, busted, broken; a corpse devoured by the maggots of memories. Silly girls, silly boys. And there was no saving them, actually. It could have easily been her.
She saw them everyday, sometimes with dazed mothers who had no idea what was at stake. Or alone with a suitcase. Pretty girls but so what? A pretty face is a dime a dozen.
She thought she had seen it all before she met Desmond. She had fully expected to continue her life as she had since Stanley's death. Taking care of the house, minding her investments, meeting her solid little group for lunch every Thursday.
And then Desmond knocked on her door and she fell for him like a silly school girl. Her heart still jumped when he was near her. How silly. Oh her mind was jumping all over the place. All the running off at the mouth she had been doing of late. As though trying to cajole him, charm him into loving her. Well one thing was clear: Desmond Furey loved only one person and everybody knew who that was.
She sipped her tea. He was still grinning at her. He crossed his arms on his chest, then uncrossed them and began taking off his jacket. He hung it on the back of the chair. Making himself comfortable. She suddenly got a flash of old Hollywood when you could drive out of downtown and suddenly hit a dirt track and it was all farmland and shrub. With each new change in the landscape, each new house and new road she felt an involuntary contraction inside herself.
She remembered driving through Hollywood soon after she and Stanley had arrived. She remembered the dust flying up and the landscape, somehow, and she didn't know why she thought this, how strange, but the landscape somehow felt as though it had been crying and was relieved and rested. There was no tension there, was how she felt it. It was terribly dry, of course. She had suddenly felt overdressed but she was glad for her hat since the sun was a mighty glowing orb and she felt beautiful in spite of her outfit.
They had travelled for days across the width of the country. As they neared Los Angeles, the sun sat high in a perfectly blue sky and orange orchards stretched out on both sides of the track. Oranges, oranges, oranges. Oranges as far as the eye could see and all she could think about was her new apartment and how it would feel laying with Stanley on fresh white sheets and him holding her and feeling his strength and imagining him inside of her and his taste and the way he turned his head
And still the green and orange landscape rolled past and she looked around the carriage at the other passengers, her fellow voyagers who had left the old world and, like adventurers and pioneers through the ages, were suprised, perhaps shocked into silence by their own foolhardiness. Who would choose to leave the familiar, the cosy, the happy, easy routine that formed a happy contented existence except mad people? Who would forfeit all they had built and learnt with no promise that the replacement would...? Oh dear. She felt a sudden momentary panic and moved closer to Stanley, who turned and looked at her.
'Lovely, isn't it?' he said, as he turned back to look out the window at the sun-drenched orchards.
'Yes. Oh yes, Stanley.'
'How are you, my love?'
'Oh, I'm happy. A little scared. But Stanley, I am happy.'
'I'm happy to be here with you. God you're beautful.'
He held her chin in his hand and they kissed and she felt so thoroughly modern and she felt so sorry - terrible, isn't it? - she felt so sorry for all her poor friends still stuck in their crowded routined New York lives.
'Oh don't you get too proud, Norma dear,' she heard her Mother say to her. Oh Mother, Mother! Can't I allow myself a few moments of rolling in it? To feel the absolutely blissful, incomparable feeling of having cracked the code?
'Pride goeth...' I know, I know but just this one moment, this perfect moment. And then the gloating feeling left as fast as it had come and she was back with her Stanley feeling the soft leather seat under her pretty bottom and she felt the intimacy of Stanley's elbow against her, and yes she knew it, lovely breast. She thought of Stanley's stomach and the tight band of muscle above his cock. She felt herself wetting and flushing. Her mouth moistened and her pupils dilated. She imagined again being in bed with Stanley but this time they are in a hotel room, the Waldorf Astoria perhaps, and have just had some champagne. She is on her back and the sheets, crisp, white, cool white sheets feel heavenly on her back. Stanley has her legs pushed open, and back, so her inner thighs are stretched and she is completely open to him. She squirms on the seat and the next thing she knows they are pulling into the station and there is Mack waving at them in his way. Oh Mack!
She knew, she just knew, that later that night they would all gather around a piano and demand, as they always did, that Mack sing some opera. And he would, as he always did, look faux-bashful, like a vaudeville school boy or school girl, more like it. And the room would hush and he would sing like the opera singer he trained as. Extraordinary if you turned it over in your head for longer than a minute. She was certain the man was a gifted artist and this gave her the confidence to put her future in his hands. The three of them had a lovely feeling when they were together. Stanley and Mack adored each other, they adored her, and she adored them.
'Stanley!,' she heard Mack shout. Stanley was leaning out the window waving. The train station was dusty and sun lit. So here she was! Here they both were. Their new life about to begin. Moving pictures. Her family had been in vaudeville so moving pictures was logical next move. She knew this world. She was sure that was one of things Stanley loved about her. He had said as much. Anyway they were all learning as they went. This place was an invention, an idea, a dream.
Oh look at him standing there in his suit and hair parted and his reliable face, waving his arm. Mack Sennett!
Clinton De Vere