Blonde

All characters are over the age of 21.

*****

I was new to the talent industry. My background in business and office management was strong, but I was completely clueless when it came to the entertainment field. When my new boss suggested I attend a public talent search, I jumped at the chance. Of course, it meant being out of town over the weekend, and because I hated traveling alone, I invited a girlfriend to tag along.

The talent search itself was about as exciting as attending a college orientation. The days were long, the interviews tedious, and the so-called talent numbered roughly one in ten thousand. By the end of the first day, we were both exhausted.

We rallied enough to have a late dinner and drinks together at a five-star restaurant near the hotel where we were staying. At the time, there was nothing notable about the evening, but it would come to pass that against astronomical odds, I would run into an individual who would have an indirect impact on my life.

Gina and I were having after-dinner drinks when I happened to glance at a couple seated nearby. I recognized the woman not as someone I knew, but someone I had seen earlier in the day. She was average looking, in her early forties, with short dark hair.

Her companion was an older stout man who represented himself as a small-time producer during the talent search. I wouldn’t have noticed either of them had they not been present at the search. The one thing that struck me as odd about them was how cozy they seemed. Most older couples don’t usually make a public display of their affection.

When he kissed her, I couldn’t help but feel a small pang of jealousy. The kiss was long and passionate. It had been quite some time since a man had kissed me that way. When the kiss ended, the woman turned her head and looked directly at me. I looked away quickly, embarrassed that I had inadvertently intruded on their moment of romantic bliss.

I immediately dismissed the incident and it was forgotten. At least for the time being.

*****

I stopped at the door to the acting studio and glanced up at the blinking red light overhead. It signaled filming was in progress, and I hesitated before cautiously opening the door and quietly stepping inside. I waited patiently, papers in hand, while the director continued his instructions to the cast.

Mr. Micheli turned his head in my direction and frowned. He had lost the attention of his audience as they were all staring expectantly at me. “What is it? Didn’t you see the red light on?” he snapped at me.

“May I have a word with you, sir?” I asked softly. Performance artists are temperamental in general. I had learned not to let their façade of rudeness dissuade me.

He nodded sharply and took several long strides towards me. “Make it quick, please. We’re in the middle of rehearsals.”

I cut to the chase. “You requested use of the center on these days,” I said, displaying the papers for his inspection. “I’m afraid the studio is unavailable for those particular days.”

“Impossible! I need those dates and only those dates. Reschedule someone else.” Already his focus was back to the cast as he barked orders at them, instead of listening to my explanation.

“I’m afraid you don’t understand, sir. We can’t reschedule anyone else.”

He turned his head slowly to look at me again. His dark eyes were piercing as he spoke. “I’m afraid you are the one who doesn’t understand, young lady. I begin teaching at the university again after that weekend, and I need the use of the studio before then. Just do your job and reschedule the other people,” he demanded hoarsely. “Never mind! I’ll speak to Richard about it myself in the morning. Go away now. I’m busy!”

I had been effectively dismissed. I sighed with resignation and let myself out of the studio.

I had only been working for Richard a short time, four months to be precise. Not everyone involved with the agency knew who I was, or the position I held. Being more reserved than most, I went out of my way to keep a low profile. My official title was Center Director, and I answered to no one other than Richard who did little to override my day to day decisions in running the business.

The acting department of the agency had undergone extensive changes over the past few months. It was headed by James who made all decisions based upon my approval. It was improbable that Richard would overrule any decision James made and I approved, but Mr. Micheli was naively unaware of that fact.

*****

The following morning, Richard met with me in my office to discuss business over coffee. He chuckled as I described my brief and unsuccessful meeting with Mr. Micheli the night before.

“Richard, the weekend he requested is ‘Showcase Weekend’. We have three casting directors flying in from Los Angeles for the showcase. Now, I’m sorry, but Mr. Micheli does not take priority over that,” I stated with a firm shake of my head.

“He didn’t even bother to discuss Anadolu Yakası Escort it with James first. He flew off the handle at me, and I guess, decided to go over my head to you about it.”

“Speak of the devil,” Richard grumbled with a smug look as he peered through the blinds into the reception area. “He’s here.”

A moment later, there was a sharp rap on the office door. “Come in,” Richard called.

The door opened and Marc Micheli came striding purposefully into the office. Marc was a tall, lean and muscular man in his early forties. His black hair was beginning to tinge with grey at the temples and his dark eyes and swarthy complexion added to his mystique. On those rare occasions when he wasn’t snapping and snarling, he had an attractive smile.

While we had not been formally introduced, we had encountered one another, passing in the corridors or unexpectedly meeting in the break-room now and then. There was one incident that came about when I was transferring files from one storage cabinet to another; I inadvertently dropped a stack of important records and stopped short to bend over and pick them up.

Marc was exiting James’ office and he literally rear-ended me. Except for his quick reflexes, the force of our collision would have toppled me onto my head, but he steadied me by grabbing my hips. My clumsiness embarrassed me to the point that afterwards, I avoided looking him directly in the eyes. Up until the day before, that was the full extent of our contact.

Marc stopped short at the sight of me sitting in the seat behind the Center Director’s desk. “I’m sorry, Richard. I didn’t know you had company,” he hesitated as he frowned at me.

“Oh, it’s quite alright, Marc. I wouldn’t exactly call Cindy ‘company’. I guess you two haven’t met yet,” Richard said still looking smug. “Cindy this is Marc, one of our acting directors. Marc, this is Cindy. She’s the Center Director now,” Richard explained.

Marc stiffened, and surprise was clearly etched in his expression. “Center Director? You mean…” he began to stammer nervously.

“That’s right, Marc. I mean…meet your new boss,” Richard chuckled softly. “Cindy, I believe we’ve concluded our business for the morning. I think I’ll get out of your hair and let you two become better acquainted,” Richard said as he gave me a wink and turned up the last swallow of coffee in his cup.

“But, Richard…” Marc sputtered in response.

“Marc, for all practical purposes, I’m retired now. Anything you feel you need to discuss with me, you can now discuss with Cindy. She’s proved herself more than capable of speaking on my behalf,” Richard said firmly.

“Oh, but there is one thing, Marc. Your request for staff to fill the empty roles in your next workshop? I believe it begins this coming Monday,” Richard said with a worried look. “The only staff available to fill those spots are Gwen and Cindy. You’ll be sure you two are there, won’t you, Cindy? The acting program is depending on it,” he prompted.

“Richard, I’d really rather not,” I began to protest his suggestion while I uneasily eyed Marc. “I have too much to do around here already. I simply don’t have time to learn scripts and run lines.”

“Make time,” Richard retorted sharply over his shoulder as he flung the office door wide. “I expect you to fully support the acting program. That means, the two of you will find a way to work closely together. That’s my last official order.” He closed the door behind him leaving both Marc and I with our jaws sagging low.

Marc placed his hands on his hips and leaned his head back to stare at the ceiling. He let out a long sigh and said with resignation, “Well, I guess that’s that.”

“I guess it is,” I agreed with a sigh that matched his own frustration. “Would you care for a cup of coffee?” I asked with enthusiasm as I pushed back my chair and stood.

His attention returned to me. He narrowed his eyes somewhat and studied me in detail a moment. “Why didn’t you tell me you are my boss and not just some receptionist or secretary? Two weeks ago, you were answering phones at the front desk. You let me make a fool of myself,” he stated with obvious displeasure.

“I do a lot of things around here that aren’t in my job description. I do whatever needs doing, and that includes cleaning toilets as well as answering phones. It didn’t seem to me that you needed my help in looking foolish, Marc; I thought you did a fine job on your own. Black?” I snipped.

He scowled at me or perhaps more at my sarcasm.

I crossed the room and paused with my hand on the doorknob. “Your coffee…black?” I asked again. He nodded sharply. “Why don’t you have a seat? I’ll be back with your coffee.”

When I returned, Marc was seated in a chair across from my desk. His hands were clasped together between his knees and he was muttering aloud, seemingly to himself. He abruptly stood and cleared his throat when he heard the door hinges squeak as I entered. I was mildly impressed Pendik Escort by his manners as I placed a steaming cup of black coffee in his hands. I could feel his gaze follow me as I rounded the executive desk and seated myself behind it.

He stared at the cup in his hand for a moment. His face was flushed and he looked almost miserable as he said, “Deidre is going to kill me when she hears about this. Is there anything else I could possibly do wrong to offend you, Miss…uh?”

“Miss nothing. Call me Cindy, please. What have you done now, Marc?” I asked sounding mildly amused.

“You mean besides assuming you were a secretary? And, threatening to go over your head? Now, I’ve got you fetching my coffee! Like I said, Deidre is going to kill me,” he said dejectedly. “Why didn’t you tell me you are our new boss?”

I sat back in my chair and said, “Marc, let’s get a few things straight between us, shall we?” I could see him squirm in his chair as he looked at the floor. “You didn’t give me much of a chance to tell you anything last night. I’m not your ‘boss’. I have a title, but just between you and me, it means absolutely nothing. And, as for me getting you coffee, I’ve been bringing men coffee for most of my life. That’s nothing new for me, and it isn’t about to change now. I’ve been bringing Daniel and James coffee every morning since the day I started working here.”

“The ‘Center Director’ sign on the door along with the fact you sign my paychecks, does sort of indicate you are the boss around here,” he argued.

“I sign the checks for convenience sake, Marc. Not one penny out of my pocket goes into yours. Besides, you’re contract labor; that makes you your own boss.”

He sipped his coffee and sat back in the chair. “Deidre keeps telling me that I’m a male chauvinist pig. She’s going to kill me if she hears how stupid I’ve been,” he said shaking his head in self-recrimination. “You won’t tell her, will you?”

“I take it Deidre is your wife?” I asked with an arched brow. He nodded looking embarrassed again. “I should have guessed. Same last name and all,” I smiled weakly. “Deidre and I met last week, but I didn’t realize she was your wife. As much as I would like to gossip with her about you, I promise, I won’t say a word,” I said as I mockingly made the sign of a cross over my heart.

“I’d really appreciate that. She rags me enough about it as it is. She doesn’t need to hear about this to make me feel like a complete idiot.”

“Micheli. That’s Italian if I’m not mistaken, isn’t it?” I asked with an effort to redirect the conversation.

“Yes, very. You even pronounced it correctly. Do you speak Italian?” he asked curiously.

“No, but I’m from New Orleans. I picked up on a few of the inflections while I was there.”

“I thought New Orleans is all French-speaking people.”

“Not at all. It’s a diverse culture. I’ve known a few Italians in my time. They’re very…interesting,” I said as I averted my gaze to the schedule laying on my desk. “Now, about the use of the studio…the weekend you requested is completely out of the question, Marc. It’s ‘Showcase’ weekend.”

His frown deepened. “Oh, I see. Well, I begin teaching again the following week, so what can we do?”

“I can give you any other dates except that weekend. You can schedule for as many dates as you need, day or night, or both if you like.”

“I can stretch it into three or four sessions?”

“Certainly. Tell me what you need, and I’ll make it happen,” I assured him.

“No one has ever allowed me to use the studio for more than one session before.”

“That was the past, Marc. I’m running the show now, or haven’t you noticed the changes?”

“Now that you mention it, I have noticed some recent changes. Did you know, for the first time since I came to work here, we have complete scripts? It doesn’t take days to pull the scripts anymore either. When I come in now, my class outline and the scripts are ready and waiting for me. That’s certainly new and improved protocol,” he declared with a snort. “I asked James about it and he said you are responsible for reorganizing the entire filing system. Of course, I didn’t realize when he said ‘you’, he meant you, as in our boss.”

“I’m glad to know my efforts have paid off a little. But, would you please stop calling me your boss?” I pleaded. “It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Sorry. I’m having a little trouble seeing you as anything but the boss now.”

“Maybe it would help if you try to think of me as your assistant. I’m not here to tell you how to direct. I’m here to assist you in directing more efficiently. You shouldn’t have to worry about pulling scripts; your job is to direct and evaluate. My job is to see to it you have all the tools available to succeed…that and to bring you fresh coffee,” I laughed.

Marc smiled at me for the first time. “Is that really how you see it?” he asked looking infinitely more relaxed.

“Yes, that’s how I see it, and I’d appreciate Kurtköy Escort it if you would make the effort to see it my way, too. It will make our relationship much easier and much more pleasant.”

“Deidre doesn’t see it that way. She’s constantly reminding me of how chauvinistic I am. She gets mad when I ask her what’s for dinner for God’s sake,” he complained.

“Umm,” I murmured in sympathy. “Would you like some more coffee?” I offered. I was not eager to engage him in conversation about his wife.

Marc glanced at his nearly empty cup and grunted. “No. Thank you. I’ll get some more on my way out.” He paused before he added with vehemence, “I love my wife, but I don’t understand all this women’s lib crap these days.”

“Perhaps we’re both just a little behind the times,” I suggested quietly.

“You feel that way, too? That’s a little surprising what with you running this place now.”

“I have a great supporting staff, Marc. Most of them are men, and they make doing this job a lot easier for me. I couldn’t do my job without any one of them. James heads the acting program, of course, and Vince is my technical adviser when it comes to photography issues. Tim is my choreographer. Then there’s Kelsey, William, Ron, and yourself. You each have your own areas of expertise. I swear, sometimes, I feel like the token female around here,” I sighed.

“So, am I out of Dutch with you now?” he asked.

“You were never ‘in Dutch’ with me in the first place, Marc. Let’s just start from scratch, shall we?”

He remained uneasy but said, “I’ll look at my schedule and check with the cast. I’ll let you know tomorrow what dates and times that we need the studio.”

“That’s fine. I’ll keep all the slots open until you let me know,” I assured him. “Now, would you please get out of my office so I can get some real work done?” I teased.

He grinned and headed for the door.

“Marc?” I called as he made his exit. He paused and looked back at me over his shoulder. “Anytime you feel the need for a cup of coffee, stop by,” I said without looking up.

“You can bring me one Monday night when you show up for my workshop,” he retorted before closing the door behind him.

*****

The following day, Marc marched into my office unannounced. He laid a piece of scrap paper on the desk in front of me. I was busy reviewing accounts.

“Those are the dates and times I need the studio,” he said gruffly.

“Done!” I proclaimed without averting my attention from the records I was examining.

“You haven’t even looked at them,” he objected.

“I don’t need to look at them right now. I’m busy. Whatever they are, you’ve got them,” I said assertively. His continued presence made me glance up at him. “Was there something else? Did you want coffee?” I asked with an edge of sarcasm.

“I’ll get my own fucking coffee, thank you,” he snapped before he retreated in a huff. I laughed silently at his irritation. “Just don’t forget about the workshop,” he cautioned as he closed the door with a loud thud.

*****

Gwen and I were both reluctantly in attendance at Marc’s Monday evening workshop. We were each given a copy of the script. She and I shared a scene in a play called Laundry and Bourbon. It was written by James McClure and was set in the small Texas town of Maynard.

“Have you ever done any acting?” Marc asked as he handed me a copy of the script.

I shook my head and glanced at Gwen.

“Well, you have five minutes to read it over. We’ll do a cold reading then. Just see what you can do with it,” he said sounding dubious.

I studied the scene while we waited. When Marc called us up in front of the others to read the scene, I laid the script aside and lounged back on the risers at the foot of the stage.

I stretched my legs and crossed my ankles while I propped against the edge of the top step.

Gwen had the opening line and I casually peered at my long nails as I waited for her to begin reading. Before she could deliver the first line in its entirety, Marc suddenly waved his arms and shouted, “Cut! No, no! Cut!”

He paused in front of me with his hands on his hips and he stared down at me. I noted that his gaze flitted to my legs and where the hem of my skirt barely covered my thighs. “What are you doing?” he asked sharply.

“Me?”

“Yes, you. You’re supposed to be delivering a cold reading. The operative word in that phrase is reading. Where is your script?”

I shifted my weight and pulled the script from under my right butt cheek. I held it out for him to see. “Here it is. Do you need it for something?” I asked.

He narrowed his eyes at me. “You’re supposed to use the script to reference your lines.”

“But, I don’t need the script. I know the lines.” I stifled a yawn of boredom.

Marc promptly snatched the script from my hand. “We’ll see about that,” he said rolling the script into a tube and slipping it in his back pocket. “Why are you laying all over the stage?” he demanded.

“The script says we’re supposed to be folding laundry. There’s no laundry to fold, so I interpreted the scene a little differently. I figured it would play just as well if we were lounging around drinking without folding laundry.”

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