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Subject: **Chapter 200 - Part 1**

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Date Posted: Monday, July 25, 07:14:10am
In reply to: KatherineGilbert 's message, "Dreams in the Dark - Chapter 193 and onwards" on Thursday, July 07, 07:06:24am

Extra warning: This part contains discussion of some very disturbing and unpleasant events, but, as they're talked about only in hints and insinuations, I don't think they merit a higher rating than usual. Still, I just wanted to warn.

Dreams in the Dark (200/?)
by Katherine Gilbert

It was another premiere, another glamorous night. The searchlights were turning, the bystanders shouting, the human stars far outshining any celestial ones which might have lingered somewhere out there in the night. Still, for all the more experienced figures in this town, it was the usual process--the forced smiles, the courteous greetings of fans and foes, the need to seem cheerful and stunning all in one. Anyone who had done this before knew the, rather tedious, routine of it all. But for an innocent outsider, it was all just as glamorous as she had dreamed.

Sondra was nearly beside herself at the moment, utterly enraptured with the fact that she was even here. Just the movie's title, *A Time to Dance*, sounded so exciting. She couldn't wait to see it on the screen, all these important people around her--the movie's stars in the very same theater with her. It was a dream come true; some joy within her dimmed a little. Or it would have been, if only . . .

She didn't let herself finish this thought, was spending her time in a corner of the room where all the stars were greeting each other, smiling madly at anyone who happened to look at her twice--praying that someone important would start up a conversation with her. But, so far, no one had--unless you counted the studio man who had pointedly asked her how she had gotten in without an invitation. Fortunately, she had been able to point out her benefactor across the room, moving her interrogator away; it was something of a relief. But she did really wish that someone important would pay attention to her now.

This wish wasn't coming true, but it had no ill effects on the girl's starry-eyed awe. She was still amazed, looking around--a little stunned at all the famous people who were gathered here. Among the ones she could recognize were Susan Sash, escorted by a very handsome man she had been thrilled to find out was her brother; Adrienne Worth, looking every bit as aristocratic and refined as she had imagined; and the stars of the picture, Kitty Ward and Michael Samuelle, the actor looking even more dreamy than normal in his tuxedo. She was spellbound by them, regardless of how ignored she was. All that mattered was the constellation of stars around her.

She was smiling, liking that phrase, even if she knew she had heard it somewhere before; it fit this night--God undoubtedly not half so creative in making the sky as this town was in presenting its best. She didn't even feel particularly sacrilegious in thinking this, especially not after the last week or so. Mr. Bauer was showing her things, after all. And, as little as she liked much of his instruction, she was coming to realize that he was right.

She didn't want to think about many of her lessons now but had little else to do, as her benefactor roamed the room alone. She knew better now than to go up and introduce herself to the actors, or any of the other important people in town--not that she knew most of the studio heads and producers by sight yet, anyway. Besides, Perry had said that he would show her around later. She was certain that all she had to do was wait.

Her unoccupied mind, then, started to move back, as little as she actually wanted to remember much of the past couple of weeks--one night in particular. While she was coming to accept that her dreams would be much longer in arriving than she had expected, some of her other lessons were harder to deal with; something in her shuddered. And there was one night of instruction in particular which still seemed to grate against her soul.

It was this one she couldn't forget, no matter how hard she might try. It wasn't like Perry would let her, even if she wanted to--the pattern of their nights out becoming clear. As he had told her, for every favor, one should be given in return. Nothing in this world--and certainly not in this town--ever came for free.

She had accepted this fact, had had to, her final education coming the night after her first day of studio work. Mr. Bauer--Perry, she reminded herself again--had taken her out to dinner, just as he had promised, had even bought them a wine he said was very good. She wasn't so certain about that, the taste not as much like grape juice as she had expected, but she had still been impressed at the money he had spent on her. Apparently, she really was the investment he had always said.

This part of the night hadn't been so bad, then, had given her her first chance to really see the town. They had been in one of those glamorous restaurants, the type where everyone around you seemed like a star. Only one or two of them really were, but everyone else had looked important, nonetheless. It had been amazing--just what she had expected of this city; something in her froze. But that had been before she had realized where the evening was going to lead.

She took a deep breath, forcing another smile at a passing star who barely noticed her, reminding herself to be sensible, to remember her lessons. Not only was Perry probably right that she owed him something--he had done a great job of getting her a place at the studio, had started her on her way--but he had also pointed out that the real hindrance to her rise to stardom was the fact that she didn't yet have that "It" factor, that indefinable something which made men want to come back to see more. While she had been offended by this remark at first, she had come to see its truth. Every actress in this town was wanted by men; it was what made them watchable, was why girls like her wanted to see them too, to figure out their secrets--or so she had been instructed. Well, Perry knew it, had told her; something in her cringed. She only wished she could stop being so silly and see that he was telling her the truth.

She was looking a little like a cornered animal at the moment, the memories of that night still far too intense, but she couldn't get out of them enough to know how people might view her. It seemed that what men wanted was someone they could . . . well, no, she wouldn't use the word that Perry had, wouldn't even let herself think it; it wasn't ladylike. Still, they wanted someone they could look to as a wife, in some ways--if not necessarily marry. That was why he had done what he had. He was teaching her; her breath shook a little. And she would just have to learn to accept that she had asked him for the help.

She knew this was her fault, that it always would be; she shook her head a little, coming back to herself. Or, rather, that it wasn't a fault at all. It just seemed that good girls and stars weren't quite the same thing. And Perry had been good enough, as always, to show her the way toward her goals.

She was reminding herself of these truths, needed to often; he was right to do what he had--had been on each of the nights he had taken her out. He was teaching her. Soon, she would be the kind of girl men *really* wanted--whatever her mother had once told her. It seemed that the kind they wanted on the screen was not necessarily the kind who wore a wedding ring.

She knew this now, reminded herself of it--trying her best to forget the details of that night; she almost shook, however unconsciously. But they were etched into her brain, as though he had used a knife to carve them inside her mind, the scars of her memories--of his continued lessons--keeping them very fresh; she had to shake her head again, pulling herself out of this thought. But she was being silly again. It was important to learn what would get her a contract, if she ever hoped to be like one of her idols.

She still wanted this too, desperately, would do anything for it--rather felt like she had--but she wouldn't let herself remember this fact. She shifted a little, her determination useless. More than anything, she just wished the lessons didn't *hurt* so much; she had to grimace a little. She really wasn't looking forward to another one tonight.

Her head was shaking, as she tried to talk herself out of what almost felt like regret once more--knowing she had to accept the truth. She had already overheard her mother talking to her older sister just before Susie's wedding day, should know that there was nothing there to look forward to. Her Mom had made it clear that such . . . relations were never pleasant, especially the first time. For women, they would always be painful, embarrassing, and unpleasant. Her mother had even had an answer for Susie, when she had asked why men wanted such things--and it made sense. There was something about it, apparently, that men liked. But good girls never asked questions to try to figure out why.

She understood this now, more than she had ever thought she would, but was still stumped by one lingering puzzle. Why had girls like Aurora always gone after boys, let them do to them all of . . . this? Sondra had to swallow heavily, a little sickened. Maybe there was just something about it that bad girls enjoyed; she had to shudder. But it certainly wasn't a factor she ever wanted to figure out.

These thoughts refused to leave her, were always pounding somewhere in the back of her mind. In fact, there were many potential troubles to plague her, if she allowed any of them to, but she was doing her best to block them out. Among them was the fact that her mother had always said that being a bad girl led to . . . well, to being in a family way; she forced her smile to return, settling her mind. But she knew she didn't really have to worry about that. She wasn't a bad girl enough to get anything like pleasure out of these nights--and only bad girls had to face punishments like that.

She left this thought behind her, then--certainly tried to--would have done nearly anything to wipe out the scarring images of that first night. And the ones since it hadn't been much better; there was a deep breath. She really didn't get it. Even for someone as unhealthy as a bad girl, just what on earth could they find appealing about men?

She didn't understand this now, far more than she would have imagined before, but she told herself not to ponder it--the truth returning. Good girls didn't question--especially not about that. It was up to her to simply learn and then find a way to use her knowledge to get where she wanted.

She was trying to focus on this goal now, needed to; it was what good girls should do. And she was a good girl still--regardless of her lessons; she had been wrong about that before. Maybe in Iowa she could have waited till she was married to discover all these facts, but, here in Hollywood, the timetable simply moved up a bit. Good girls still did what they should--and got their rewards; she saw Mr. Bauer returning to her and put back on her smile. And he would be certain to give her everything she deserved.

She believed this now, had to if she hoped to go on living--although she would never have consciously understood this fact. Any pain she might feel was her imagination, was the result of her lack of knowledge about this town. Once she understood it a little better, all of that would certainly go away.

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Subject Author Date
Chapter 200 - Part 2 (end of chapter 200)KatherineG.Monday, July 25, 07:15:51am
    Wow, 200 chapters!jabWednesday, July 27, 09:30:01pm
    • {{{jab}}} -- KatherineG., Thursday, July 28, 02:50:57pm

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