(photo by nassau on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/nassau/)
There is no doorbell and no knocker, just the giant brass face of a lion roaring silently. Drew glances back over her shoulder between the white columns at the stiff green lawn. She is about to knock when, inside the lion’s jaws, she spies the button. She pokes her finger between the brass teeth and an intercom crackles overhead.
“Hi? I’m Drew Andrews? I have a meeting.”
A female voice. “The writer?”
“Come on in. We’re out back by the pool.”
The door glides open and Drew is startled by the incongruity of the interior space. Inside, everything is white—eggshell white, glossy white, paper white, transparent; white leather, white plastic, white tufted wool and sky- high cielings.
The only color is in the artwork. The walls are crowded with paintings whose frames circle the foyer and run down a hall toward a wall of sun-filled window. That must be where the pool is, thinks Drew, and as she walks she tries to focus peripherally on the painted women in various recognizable styles: one is clearly a Lichtenstein and another might be Lempica. A life-sized Cindy Sherman lolls lewd over a divan. A doorway reveals a Khalo over the mantelpiece and although Drew doesn’t stop to look she could swear that Frida was wearing a blonde wig. Ahead, the expanse of glass reveals a sculpted bronze reclining by the pool and a line of palm trees beyond. The statue moves: one slim arm beckons Drew through the glass, back out into the heat.
For today’s meeting, Drew bought a new notebook. She had stood in the store, vacillating: plain black moleskine seemed too serious for a project like this; maybe she should get the one with tacky leopard-print? But she didn’t want to be too snooty, she reminded herself, she should approach with an open mind. She bought the plain black one and filled it with meticulous notes from her research so now she knows what almost everyone knows about Mae: very little. The librarian had directed her to a shelf of entertainment magazines and grumbled that Google would probably suffice, but even the trashiest magazines had been unable to dig up much more than this: nearly three years ago, an alleged twenty-two year old from somewhere in Washington state showed up at an audition without an appointment or a résumé but somehow managed to talk her way in and nailed the role as a truck-stop waitress, sassing her lines and snapping her gum with such brio that her part blossomed from one line to many and she won an Oscar for supporting actress. Her breakneck evolution from best friend to action figure to romantic interest had taken everyone by surprise and reporters are still scrambling for the full scoop.
But Mae Beacon is hard to pin down. On more than one occasion she had been quoted as saying “That’s for me to know and you to find out.” In all the interviews Drew read, the starlet revealed a knack for saying a lot about nothing. The reporters disagree about whether she is flirty, dense, crafty, or perhaps just immature, but they all seem to agree about her charm. Drew had chuckled as she copied down the line, “She has a black-hole beauty that sucks you in” in her notebook, wondering if that had been an underhanded insult. One besotted co-star said, “Could you serve food or sell clothes if you looked like that? I don’t think so. There is only one thing you can do with looks like that: become a star.” How nice for her, thought Drew. How nice to have one’s role in life so clearly defined.
Drew walks deliberately slowly toward the supine starlet. As she walks, she checks that her fly is closed and shoves her nervous hands into her pockets. Really, Mae’s story is frankly hyperbolic, Drew thinks, and it certainly lacks realism. Drew prefers stories with sad endings where complicated and imperfect characters get tangled up in beds piled high with tragedy. And here lies Mae, naked (naked!) as Aphrodite glistening on the half shell with an all-over tan, her arms stretched over the back of her chaise, hair slung over one shoulder to veil one of her amazingly round and bouncy breasts, and a towel draped demurely over her lap: the caricature of beauty.
The luscious lips part: “Please excuse my lack of modesty. I’m preparing for a love scene.”
I have reserved the rest of this chapter for interested readers, agents, and publishers. If you want to read more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.