|Subject: Chapter 195 - Part 2 (end of chapter 195)
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Date Posted: Monday, July 11, 07:16:31am
In reply to:
's message, "Dreams in the Dark - Chapter 193 and onwards" on Thursday, July 07, 07:06:24am
She was still smiling at these dreams, when the older woman--Mrs. Quinn, was it?--finally spoke; the sound surprised her a little. "I guess she'll do." That critical look sized her up again, confusing and irritating her, as the secretary continued to speak to Mr. Bauer. "Have her on the set in a week and be sure she knows what to do." She started to leave.
Sondra's benefactor was smiling pleasantly at this pronouncement, but his discovery was too stunned to share his feelings. This wasn't the sort of welcome she expected with a contract. She hadn't even been introduced to any of her fellow stars! Her voice stopped the woman, timid though it was. Even if this secretary was rude and out of line, she was still older, should have been addressed with respect, she knew--but she wasn't feeling very kind, at the moment. "Shouldn't you wait for your boss, before you tell me what I'll be doing?"
This seemed a reasonable enough question to the girl, but the look Mrs. Quinn caught her with froze her to the bone--making her realize just why she had been so frigidly cold all morning; it didn't seem to have much to do with the temperature outside. The woman's arms were crossed in front of her now, her gaze clearly telling the newcomer that she was no more important to her than some small insect she had accidentally stepped on. It was the sort of look which kept Sondra from even thinking of saying anything else--the kind her Daddy gave her, when he was upset by something; without knowing it, it set off a long-instilled understanding that she should obey absolutely. The woman's words didn't help her any further. "It hardly takes the head of a studio to choose a stand-in." Her ironic gaze found Mr. Bauer's. "I think you need to teach her that." Then, she began to walk away.
Sondra was left stunned, her mind in too many places to be able to respond--leaving her able to listen to every word of the next conversation. It was audible only through her elevated breathing, and only because of her excellent hearing--"the bat," her father had called her, more than once, with that slightly disconcerting laugh of his. Mrs. Quinn and Mr. Bauer were talking, and her own, absolute stillness allowed her to hear every word. But none of them helped her believe that her dreams were going to come true.
It was the woman who had called the man over, her look still so distant and cold. "I'll need her for at least a few months." Her eyes seemed to be probing him. "Do you think she'll be around for that long?"
This was a horrible question, but, to her surprise, her benefactor didn't defend her, his look suddenly becoming something she didn't like at all--no matter how hard she fought to keep the sensation at bay. "I couldn't promise it. You know how quickly girls go through Hollywood."
Her heart was beating so hard it almost muffled the next words, the woman looking resigned--making her mind spin. "That's too bad. I was thinking of discussing your project with Mr. Wolfe this afternoon. But whatever you want." The maybe-not-a-secretary's eyes were so cold, her next words making no sense at all. "Whatever you do in your own time is none of my business."
The conversation got no better after this. There was a laugh from the man who had offered to make her a star, the light in his eyes suddenly seeming more like a hyena's than a man's. "I'll see what I can do."
All of this had horrified her, but anything they said after that was lost to her, as the photographer came to her side, his eyes more kind than before, his voice very quiet. "Look, honey. They only want you as a stand-in. Don't push it."
It was so difficult for her to answer, her mind still spinning with the conversation she had heard--with the decided lack of interest in her both the secretary and her benefactor had shown--and that was saying nothing of the hundred different, fearful images she was repressing from its hints, knowing they would never happen to her. It took her a second to even focus on him. "B-but . . ."
He looked at her more deeply for a moment, clearly bemused by her, before a flare of surprise showed in his eyes, his head shaking. "You don't understand it, do you? A stand-in isn't an actress. She just stands in for the star, while the crew is setting up the next shot." She could tell that her confusion showed to him, his head still shaking. He seemed to be trying to find a way to define himself more clearly--and she had to repress some tiny spring of anger at being talked at like she was two. "You're kind of like a live mannequin--like those in the store windows. You stand where they tell you, till the crew is ready. Then, *you* leave, and the star comes on and plays her part." His gaze ran over her. "They only want you, because your hair's the same color, so don't do anything to ruin it." Then, seeming to feel that he had made his point, he started to walk away.
She couldn't quite take this in, her heart in her throat. She only caught him a second before he was gone, finally managing words--a moment before her supposed benefactor reached her again. "The same color as whose?"
He looked back at her, barely concerned. "Kitty's--Sash's? Who knows?" Then, seeming to think it really didn't matter, he walked away.
She was left stunned, reeling quietly through this information, as Mr. Bauer put his arm around her, leading her off the stool and away, his soft voice not seeming quite so pleasant to her anymore. "Hey, lighten up. It's just a start, kid." He hugged her to him, making her repress a shudder--and she started to understand, just slightly, the fears it rose from. "Lots of stars start out this way."
She looked up at him a second before she paused, catching the words before they could make it out of her mouth. Just now, looking in his eyes, she realized that telling him that she had overheard his conversation would be the worst possible thing she could do--her mind flashing back. Once, when her father had thought that she had been listening in on his conversation with a woman on the phone--with her aunt, he had told her later--he had spanked her until she couldn't sit down easily for a week. She tried to smile at Bauer, not wanting to make him angry. Of course, when her Daddy had realized that he had made a mistake, he had bought her fresh roses to make up for it, so she knew she shouldn't be mad; her gaze focused more deeply on her benefactor, still repressing the shudder. But she had no idea why she was thinking about this now.
She had managed the smile at last, as he led her out of the room, telling her again how big she would be--and only the tiniest part of her mind managed to question him. After all, it didn't seem likely that someone would start out as a mannequin and end as a star--but she wasn't an expert on this town, was she? She pulled herself back into line. She would just have to believe him like a good girl should.
The sun was shining, as they came outside, just like they had always said it did here; she made herself believe that it was a sign from God. This town, these people, they all lived to make girls' dreams come true; there was no reason to doubt them. This was probably just part of the process the magazines had forgotten about.
She walked away with the man, trying to ignore the rather sickened feeling in the pit of her stomach which having his arm around her caused--reminding herself of her future. Soon, she would meet Kitty Ward and Michael Samuelle, and they would be nice to her and help her get her contract. This was only the start. One day, when she was finally a big star, all of this would seem very far behind her. Then she would look back on all her silly fears and laugh.
Extra note: For anyone who might not remember her, the original Sondra appeared in the episode, "Hand to Hand"; she was the innocent girl in the brothel whom Nikita tried to help. Obviously, I've taken many liberties here (the original Sondra being much more likeable), as I have with all these characters, to put her into this setting. This is just the way the story went. As always, I mean no infringement by writing about any of them.
[End of Part 195]
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