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The dark haired actress sat quietly at a corner table, enjoying her anonymity as she watched the coming and goings of the other patrons of the roadside diner. It had been a long time since she’d been able to enjoy such a simple pleasure and she wanted to make the most of it.
While not a major box office draw, she had been a familiar figure on the silver screen for almost a decade, but despite that the thirty-four year old had little fear that she’d be recognized. The face that movie goers associated with her was one created by skilled makeup artists, with every blemish carefully concealed. Additionally, her short, natural blonde hair had been dyed black for her most recent role – a performance that wouldn’t be seen until early next year.
Still, even without Hollywood magic, there was no denying that she was an attractive woman, one accustomed to drawing attention from even casual onlookers. The green and blue sleeveless print she wore, stylish but not expensive, accentuated her well developed form, so much so that it was her body that people usually noticed rather than her face – at least in a place like this.
Neither would a check of the register at the motel across the way shed any light on her identity. She had signed in as Constance Raymond, a private joke on her part as the name belonged to the character she played in her first credited screen role, in a film now so obscure as to be of interest only to trivia buffs. It amused her to use it whenever she deigned to travel incognito.
It hadn’t taken long after her arrival to see that both the restaurant and the motel it served had seen better days, as had the rest of the town, all eight blocks of it. Three years after the wars with Germany and Japan, the bulk of their clientele were still soldiers and sailors that used it as a way station between their Southern Arizona bases and the free wheeling towns on the other side of the Mexican border. It was also an occasional resting place for traveling salesmen and those waylaid by capricious fortune. It was among the last that the actress found herself.
After a month on location, living out of a trailer while they filmed at a mock western town southwest of Tucson, she had become tired of seeing the same people day after day. So when the long holiday weekend beckoned, she decided against heading north to Las Vegas with the rest of the cast and instead arranged to borrow a car and headed south, the solitude of the open road a more appealing prospect.
She’d gone about eighty miles down Route 86 when a cracked shock absorber had forced her off the road in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, she’d been found by the local sheriff, who’d arranged for a tow truck. The mechanic at the garage she’d been taken to assured her he could replace the damaged part, but as few townsfolk drove foreign cars it would be Monday before a replacement could be delivered.
Her initial response to being stranded was to call her agent and have him send someone down from Los Angeles with a replacement car, and let whoever he sent wait on the repair, the fact that it was a five hundred mile drive notwithstanding. Then she considered that, based on what Max had made in commissions the last year alone, he could well afford to send a plane.
But once she had calmed down a bit, she began to feel different. After all, she had set out on her little jaunt in search of a bit of solitude and adventure, and while this place might not offer much in the way of the latter, it certainly had plenty of the former.
But it was a decision that she was now starting to regret.
“Would you like a refill?” asked the redheaded waitress, a half filled carafe in her hand.
Constance looked up at the lithe young woman in the sky blue and white waitress outfit, noting again that it had to be at least a decade out of style. She smiled and then glanced down at her empty cup, indicating yes with a nod of her head.
The pretty girl, who the stylized script on her blouse identified as Mary, returned the smile as she poured the black liquid into the cup. That done, she looked back up at the woman and asked if she would like anything else, suggesting a slice of the diner’s homemade pecan pie.
Constance graciously declined and just asked for the check, turning her attention to the steaming cup as the girl flipped through her order pad and tore off the receipt, laying it on the edge of the table. When the older woman glanced back up, she was surprised to see the girl was still there, the expression of her face suggesting that she wanted to say something more. Constance was about to inquire what it might have been, when the girl simply smiled once again and walked wordlessly away.
As she did, the gentle sway of her hips and the way she filled out the bottom half of her outdated but still flattering uniform didn’t go unnoticed. The receding view, the actress decided, was just as enticing as the approaching one had been. For a moment, Constance worried that perhaps she spent a bit too long admiring casino şirketleri the display, but assured herself that even if she had, no one had noticed. After all, this was Fortune Creek, population three hundred and twenty-six, not Hollywood Hills.
Still, even though this wasn’t Los Angeles, it was never a good idea to be too obvious about some of your interests, especially those not shared by the mainstream – even if they were almost commonplace among your peers. It only took one careless mistake to destroy all that you’d spent years building.
Studios invested considerable amounts in promoting their stars and were correspondingly willing to go to great lengths to hide indiscretions that might negatively impact careers, and more importantly industry profits. But even then there were limits and the possibility that smaller fish might be sacrificed for the greater good.
Only a year before, a promising young actor, one who fancied the company of other men, hardly uncommon in the industry, had been thrown to the wolves by the same studio executives that had cultivated his career. He’d been a valuable commodity, but not as valued as a more veteran star that’d been just a little bit careless in making sure his bed partner of the evening, who was at least in the public’s eye the right gender, was also of legal age.
Constance spent another few minutes watching Mary tend to a few other customers, feeling a bit of envy as one, obviously a local, spent half that time in conversation with the waitress. As she rose from the table, the recently filled cup of coffee left practically untouched, the temporary brunette noted that a new waitress had appeared at the edge of the counter. She looked to be about the same age, but, at least in her opinion, nowhere near as cute.
It was always the cute ones that drew Constance’s attention, the girl next door type rather than the safer would-be starlets, willing to do most anything for that big break. The latter provided a veritable candy store of delights for both genders of the Hollywood elite. Then of course there were always her peers, a surprising number of whom shared both her peculiarity and the need to keep any suggestion that they weren’t the conventional leading ladies they presented themselves to be out of the tabloids. But again, few of them drew her attention.
She left a tip far in excess of what she had spent, compensation perhaps for the thoughts she’d been entertaining about the young woman. Thoughts which she was sure the girl would have found unsettling, to say the least.
Stepping out into the warm evening air, Constance considered her options. Hanging around the motel’s recreation room, little more than a makeshift bar, with a collection of half drunken soldiers, and sailors, held little appeal. The town was too small to have a movie theatre, and even if a television set were to be found, the strongest signal barely reached this far south and she couldn’t stand watching double images on snow filled screens. So back to her room to listen to the radio seemed her best bet, even though the one local station that came in clear seemed obsessed with the songs of Dinah Shore and Perry Como.
She’d taken a few steps in that direction, but paused at the edge of the curb, the beauty of the overhead stars in the cloudless night sky catching her attention. It was a view she rarely saw since moving to Los Angeles.
“Pretty, aren’t they?” a quiet voice said from behind her, startling the older woman.
Constance turned to find herself face to face with the waitress from the diner. It took a moment for her to collect herself, but once she did, she agreed that that were indeed pretty.
‘But not as pretty as you,’ she thought but dared not say.
The street lighting outside was paradoxically more illuminating than that in the diner, allowing Constance to get a much better look at the young woman. About the same height as Constance, who was five six in her bare feet, the long haired redhead, who wore it pinned up into a bun, had medium sized breasts and long, smooth legs visible beneath the hem of her uniform. She was also older than the actress had originally thought, and not the high school girl she had first taken her to be.
“Joan,” the young woman said, extending her hand. “Joan Cooper.”
“Joan?” Constance repeated, a momentary confusion on her face, “I thought your blouse said Mary.”
“It does,” Joan laughed, “but the diner owner isn’t about to spend fifty cents to have the name redone every time he hires a new waitress.”
“Constance Raymond,” she said, finding it funny that the waitress was working under an assumed name as well.
For a fleeting moment, Constance thought she saw the same hesitation on Joan’s face that she had seen earlier, but then it faded and was replaced with a smile as she reached out and accepted Constance’s hand.
“So what brings you to our fair town, Constance?” Joan asked as she released her hand. “Other than our fine view of the stars.”
“Car casino firmaları trouble,” she replied.
“Oh, you’re the lady with the fancy car,” Joan said, adding when she saw the surprise on Constance’s face, “Curtis was in the diner earlier to pick up his dinner and he was all excited that he finally had a chance to work on something more than the beat-up hulks around here.”
“That doesn’t sound too reassuring,” Constance said, remembering her reluctance to trust the expensive sports car to the mechanic when he arrived with his tow truck. “Should I be worried?”
“About Curtis?” Joan inquired.
“Don’t let his appearance fool you,” Joan smiled. “There isn’t a car around he can’t fix and he learned a lot about European cars when he was stationed in Germany.”
“That’s reassuring,” Constance said, hoping that the girl’s confidence was justified.
“He’s good, he really is,” Joan insisted, seeing the concern still on Constance’s face.
“Are you done for the evening?” Constance asked, changing the subject as she decided that good or bad, Curtis was all she had.
“Oh yeah, a shift and a half is enough,” Joan answered. “I just want to get home, kick off my shoes and have a good cup of coffee.”
The comment seemed strange, seeing that the girl worked at and had just come out of the diner. Guessing Constance’s reaction, Joan answered the unasked question.
“I said a good cup of coffee,” she laughed. “I noticed that you didn’t finish your refill so you know what I’m talking about.”
“I guess it was a bit lacking,” Constance said.
“That would be a charitable description,” Joan grinned. “Tell you what, if you have no plans, I’d be glad to share. I only live a few blocks from here.”
“I think that’s the best offer I’ve had all day,” Constance said, brushing aside the tiny voice of caution in the back of her mind.
Joan’s apartment was a two room affair, situated over a radio repair shop; you actually had to walk up an outside staircase to reach it. Simple but functional, the larger room was split between a living area and a small kitchenette. The furniture was a hodgepodge of styles, lending the impression that it had come with the lodgings. Still, you could see she’d put a lot of effort into fixing it up, evidence that she’d been here a while and expected to continue.
“Be it ever so humble,” Joan said as she led Constance inside, “and I do mean humble.”
“I’ve lived in worse,” Constance said without thinking, comparing her surroundings to her apartment when she’d first come west, the shoebox she’d shared with three other girls. “I’m sorry, that was uncalled for,” she added a few moments later, feeling her comment had been a bit judgmental.
“It’s okay, I’m not under any illusions about what it is,” Joan said as she walked over to the kitchen counter and filled her coffee pot before putting it on a hot plate, “and what it is, is cheap and more importantly, mine.”
“From the way you said that, the last seems a lot more important to you than the first,” Constance noted.
“You caught that, did you?” Joan smiled. “Yeah, it’s really important for me to have a place of my own. Not that I haven’t had a number of offers to share a space, but most of them usually involved a very short term cohabitation.”
Constance just nodded her head. It didn’t take much imagination to figure out that it was more than rent the temporary roommates were looking to share.
“Given that car you were driving, I figure you must have a really nice place back home, wherever that is,” Joan added.
“It suits me,” Constance said, leaving out the details of the ten room split level she owned, “and the car actually belongs to a friend; I just borrowed it for the weekend.”
“Must be one hell of a friend to lend you something that nice,” Joan pointed out.
Constance just smiled, not wanting to explain that the friend was an actor whose name was not only instantly recognizable, but for whom the expensive car was just a shiny bauble – one that he had already grown tired of and was planning to replace.
“Where did you say you were from?” Joan asked.
“Los Angeles,” Constance replied, keeping her answer more generic than specific.
“The big city, huh, what do you do there?” Joan asked as she took out a few pastries from a box and laid them on a tray next to the hot plate.
“I work in the entertainment industry,” Constance said, still trying to sound vague.
“Are you an actress?” Joan asked, excitement in her voice.
“Well, yes,” Constance replied, wondering why she hadn’t simply said she was a secretary or something. She certainly knew enough about that, since she had once been one.
“Oh wow,” Joan said in the same tone. “How many pictures have you been in? Would you have been in anything that I’ve seen?”
“I don’t know; what have you seen?” Constance asked in return, ignoring the first part of the question.
“A lot, I guess,” Joan laughed. güvenilir casino “My older sister used to work in a theatre back home. It mainly showed older movies, but she used to get me in just about every day after school for free.”
“Lucky you,” Constance smiled.
“I have to say, you do look a bit familiar, but if you were someone famous I’m sure that I’d have recognized you already,” Joan said as she laid two cups and saucers on the same tray as the tiny cakes.
“Well, we can’t all be Loretta Young, as much as we’d like to be,” Constance noted, mentioning this year’s Academy Award winner for best actress.
“Oh, I loved “The Farmer’s Daughter,” Joan gushed, going on for a bit about the film the actress had won her Oscar for. “Have you ever met her?”
“I’ve seen her a few times,” Constance replied.
“What’s she like in person?” Joan asked.
“Well, I’ve really only seen her on the lot,” Constance lied, ignoring the fact that she’d twice shared a dressing room with the award winner during USO shows during the war.
“Still, it must be exciting,” Joan said, “working and being around all those glamorous people every day.”
“Sometimes,” Constance replied with a smile. “but it isn’t always fun and games; most times it’s hard work. Also, you have to understand that the people you see up on the screen are just characters in a story; the actors playing them might be very different in real life, with very different personalities.”
“I guess you’re right,” Joan said as the water in the pot began to boil, “I mean, you’d be in a better position to know than I ever would. Anyway, the coffee’s almost ready, so why don’t you have a seat on the couch and I’ll bring it in when it’s done”
Grateful to end the subject, Constance leapt at the suggestion.
“So what’s your story?” Constance asked after coffee and cake had been served, steering the conversation away from Hollywood. “From what you said before, I’m assuming you’re not from around here.”
“I don’t think anyone in this town is really from around here,” Joan said as she sipped her coffee. “People just sort of show up and some wind up staying.”
“And why did you stay?” Constance asked.
“I guess I needed to sort some things out and this seemed as good a place as any to do it,” Joan replied.
“Why do I feel that there’s something more to that?” Constance said.
“Because I guess there is,” Joan said.
“Forgive me, it’s really none of my business,” Constance offered, quickly changing the subject. “This really is good coffee, by the way.”
But Joan didn’t seem to want to change the subject. Having someone to talk to that wouldn’t be in town a few days from now appealed to her.
“I’m originally from a small town about a hundred miles northwest of here,” Joan said, adding with a laugh, “although after being here a while, I think I really have to redefine what a small town is.”
Joan smiled; she’d made pretty much the same observation.
“Last April, my boyfriend, Roy, and I stopped off here on our way to Mexico,” she continued. “Actually, I should say my fiancé since we were planning to get married once we were there. He’d just gotten out of the Army after being away for three years.”
Constance nodded her head in understanding. From what she’d read, the number of GIs and sailors tying the knot as soon as they got home was reaching epic numbers. A few sociologists were even predicting a baby boom in the near future.
“The problem was, the nearer we got to the altar, the more I began to wonder if that was the place I really wanted to be,” Joan went on.
“That’s understandable,” Constance said. “I mean, the two of you were apart for three years – a lot can happen in that time. People change, especially when one of them has gone through things like I’m sure Roy did.”
“Roy spent the last year of the war and afterwards working in a supply depot in England and later in France,” Joan said, “and he was pretty much the same guy I knew before he was drafted. No, I was the one that was different.”
It still was a story that Constance had heard many times of late. The social order had indeed changed as many women, forced to assume more non-traditional roles and make decisions for themselves while the men were off to war, now found themselves unwilling to simply fade back into the shadow of home, family and being the good little wife.
Joan went on to explain that she had been seventeen when Roy, who was already nineteen, was drafted. They had only been a year apart in high school, Roy having had to repeat an early grade, and it was assumed by everyone that they’d get married after she graduated.
“People used to tell me that they admired me for waiting for Roy, and not going out with anyone else while he was gone,” she went on. “Not every girl did. Especially once some of the men started coming home.”
“That is admirable,” Constance noted, thinking of how many women felt, patriotic duty notwithstanding, that a 4F between their legs was preferable to a 1A who could only mail it in from overseas.
“Not really,” Joan confessed. “I think I was just grateful for the excuse. Like I said before, I’d really begun to think that marriage and motherhood were not for me.”
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