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Subject: Chapter 228 - Part 2 (16 and above) (end of chapter 228)

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Date Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 06:52:04am
In reply to: Katherine Gilbert 's message, "Dreams in the Dark (chapters 221--?)" on Monday, February 13, 07:24:07am

She was fortunately interrupted from these fears by the announcement of the man; she managed a smile, as she forced herself to rise. It was a difficult task these days--the enforced cheer as well as the movement. More and more, her body simply ached to take a more permanent sort of rest; the sigh was undetectable, as she nodded to the actor. "Andrew." But there just wasn't time for that now.

The newcomer gave her a tentative sort of smile--not knowing all the details but having heard enough to understand how important this woman was. "Mrs. Worth," he nodded. For all he had heard of her, this was their first actual meeting. He could only hope that she would be able to make some things clear.

It had been Shears who had asked for this discussion, then, although the actress would have brought it about on her own, sooner or later, had he continued in his silence; she smiled pleasantly, as they sat. "Call me Adrian, please." It was never a good idea to have allies who didn't even know your first name.

He did, of course, but was a bit tentative about using it; he found himself repressing a blush. "If you insist." For all his time in the supposedly decadent world of the theater, he had been raised correctly; he nearly laughed. And any woman who had been a grand dame by the time your mother knew her should certainly be treated with respect.

She saw his intentions, admired them, in a distant way--but her needs here were more important than politeness. Her words didn't reflect this truth just yet. "How is Daisy? It's been awhile since I've had a letter."

The question nearly made the man blush again. There was just something about hearing his mother called by her pet name--about pondering the fact that the woman before him had had a large hand in his childhood for many years before he had ever heard of it. Still, he continued their polite preamble, not wanting to offend her by immediately asking about all the things he wanted to know. "She's well. She sends her love." The actress's eyes looked like she was waiting for more. "She's in a new play with Ethel Barrymore. She's doing fine."

"Good," his hostess nodded, leaving him in the dark as to any deeper motive. They both knew that his mother had never had a leading, or even a supporting, role on stage, was always somewhere in the distant background. But, even in her early forties, she was popular with her peers--if not quite the pretty girl she had once been, still quite attractive. While aging well wasn't necessarily mandatory for the stage--makeup and sheer distance from an audience covering a multitude of sins--for someone like Deloris Shears, it was about the only thing which kept the wolf from the door.

This had been true for many years--or, at least, so he had long believed. It was only within the last two that he had discovered Mrs. Worth's role in his childhood, had realized that it was anything other than luck and his own, desperate determination to make it, which was supporting himself and his mother. Even then, Mrs. Shears hadn't allowed him to contact their benefactor, wouldn't let her be disturbed--even for thanks. His mother kept up a pleasant sort of correspondence, apparently telling the other actress of Andrew's every, minor triumph; he had to smile. It was a little odd to finally be meeting the woman he had so long heard about, face-to-face.

This was slightly true for the woman as well--the man's youth definitely making her feel her full age. But she had no real desire for thanks from him, had never helped out Daisy for that reason. If anything, she had simply wished to see someone end up better off than herself. One mistake shouldn't have to lead to a false and dangerous marriage for every such girl alive.

She let out a very tired sigh, as these memories flowed through her, their silence only momentary. Still, she had been quite fond of the girl from the first--had enjoyed her presence in her plays, her unfailing cheerfulness. And she seen a great deal of herself in Daisy Williams, too, once the poor girl's downfall had come. It had been during the early years of the Great War--only the first one, she feared now--the young actress having fallen under the temporary spell of a dashing British flyer. The pair's one night together hadn't led to marriage--but it *had* seen to the creation of their son; Adrian's gaze took him in more deeply. But that just wasn't reason enough to ruin any girl's life.

The story after this point had proceeded in the typical manner; the flyer had been gone soon after that--the old "I could die tomorrow" line already having gotten him what he had, temporarily, wanted. And, even though it had all happened around the time when Adrian was starting her career in the new medium of film, far away from Broadway, she hadn't been too far away to help. After all, if the stage and Hollywood taught you anything, it was that, if you just pretended hard enough, things usually worked out. A little money, a change of last name, and a self-purchased wedding ring could make up for any number of missing husbands, for the world at large.

This had been the actress's advice, as well, her donations making the girl's life bearable. There had been a war on, after all--any flyer's life all too brief. All it took was a fake telegram, and the problem of an invisible husband was solved for good.

This was how poor Daisy had handled her little problem, then, raising Andrew with the sympathy of all. Those who knew the truth cared little--the stage frequently a different sort of place to the world at large. That the boy should ever discover the truth had been unnecessary, in the actress's eyes--but now that might well have changed; Adrian's gaze delved in, seeing what had to be. Given all that Nikita and Michael would soon go through, she was going to need all the allies she could get.

The silence between the two of them only lasted a few seconds, but even that was too much for Andrew--pushing the conversation on. He had tried to stay away, didn't want to embarrass the woman with memories of her generosity, or assume that such past help meant that he could call on her for any sort of problem he might now face. But too much was happening--too many things he didn't feel right about; his sigh went deep. He just needed to talk to someone who might be able to educate him further.

He started to question, then--was about to open his mouth--when his benefactor filled in for him. "How much do you already know about the studio's plans?" It would be far better, if they just came down to the issue at hand.

Her directness left him slightly dumbfounded at first, but he managed to pull himself out of his shock--meeting her approach head-on. She deserved all the respect he could offer. "I know they don't seem to like Michael and Kitty much--Michael especially." His head shook, confounded. "They almost seem like they're trying to match *me* up with her."

"They are," Adrian nodded, leaving him to look even more confused. "But don't let it go to your head just yet. They're using you. They want the appearance of an affair so that they can rid themselves of Kitty."

This information only confounded him more. "Why?" The thoughts swirled. The woman was affable, intelligent, talented, and almost knee-quakingly gorgeous. If she weren't so *very* spoken for, so utterly wrapped up in her husband, he would have been openly worshiping at her feet. But it had been made clear to him within moments of meeting her--even through the woman's politeness--that it was absolutely impossible that she would ever think of any other man. Any adolescent dreams either he or the rest of the male world might have would always belong to the realm of fantasy alone.

He understood this firmly, had since he had met her--if not long before. But, even if he was long past adolescence, was certainly older than she was, some lingering desires remained. They might always be distant dreams--but it was impossible to dismiss them completely.

He had accepted all of this from the first, understood the life they led too well. This was what the studios did, after all. They molded and shaped these fantasy figures, incubated the dreams of millions in the dark of their theaters. If any one man actually started to believe it could be him, that he was the one to make this goddess happy, he was simply suffering from a slightly heightened version of the delusions the studios had purposely created to begin with.

He let all of these thoughts go, then, waiting for his hostess's answer--but she merely shook her head. It was too difficult--too dangerous--to explain. "Would it make any sense, even if I gave you details?" She watched him, till his head shook--finally moving on. "Suffice it to say that you're all being used." Her snort was quiet, voice falling slightly with her gaze. "But that's what this town is about." The look found him again, far more serious. "And it's what I need your help with just now."

This pronouncement was surprise enough for him. While he had seen quickly that he was being brought in to Premier for some less-than-pleasant purpose, he had never quite imagined that there was anything he could do about it, now that he was here. The actors certainly didn't call the shots--"the lunatics running the asylum" was probably how the studio heads would have put it; his gaze dug in. But the world he had suddenly become part of was far crazier than he had ever imagined; his head shook, lost. And he had no idea at all of where he could begin to put it right.

He was correct, of course. One person's role in changing the natural order of Hollywood would always be small--especially when that person was only a newly-signed, barely-heard-of commodity. He could be tossed back to Broadway in a heartbeat--would have to hope anyone there would want him back. It just made it very difficult to fathom exactly what he could do.

She understood his skepticism, could only give him the smallest hints; anything larger was far too dangerous for him to know. "Certain things are going to happen soon. Don't ask what," she interrupted before he began, shaking her head. "I just need you to be more of a friend than an enemy to Michael and his wife."

The poor man had always intended this, never imagining why the studio--or Madeline herself, he was coming to suspect--would want things any other way. But those in power often made no sense--too wrapped up in their own games of control to see any real effects they might have. He focused back on the conversation, agreeing immediately. "How?" That was the only question which was left.

His benefactor smiled at his show of aid, felt something in her calming just slightly. Certainly, this man was less than wise in the ways of this town, as of yet, couldn't be trusted to be safe with any of the deeper knowledge she could give. But he *did* have a role to play--an important one, in the coming months. Especially with Nikita's ever-advancing condition, she would need a friend. Her sigh went deep. They could only hope that the poor girl would soon have her husband back by her side to be able to comfort her completely.

[End of Part 228]

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Chapter 229 - Part 1KatherineG.Monday, March 20, 06:59:21am

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