HOLLYWOOD HILLS—Her head swimming with Mylanta's platitudes, Candy entered, almost against her will, Suzanne's bedroom. It had a four-poster bed from Phyllis Morris the size of a rugby field. The canopy supports were big as minarets. The young TV starlet, freshly returned from Italy, reclined under silk sheets and stared dumbly at a laptop.
“Sorry to disturb you, madame.”
“Isn't he gorgeous?” she swooned over a picture of her fiancee, Bruno, in her laptop screen. “He's a count. You know, you can confer the title. So I will be Countess Suzanne after we get married.”
“I confess something to you,” Candy said, barely audible. “When you hire me, I lied to you. I told you I was from Mexico.”
“Countess Suzanne,” she purred, eyes glued to the laptop. Oblivious. “That sounds like a line of designer clothes.”
Candy leaned down to Suzanne's ear and shouted:
That knocked Suzanne from her cloud. She glared at Candy, startled and dismayed.
“I said I'm from Mexico,” Candy said. “I am really from El Salvador.”
“El Salvador. Mexico. Aren't all of you the same country?”
Candy laughed. She was so relieved—she had borne the painful charade of being a Mexican long enough. All because of a geographical blunder.
“We are DIFFERENT countries. El Salvador is MY country,” Candy said and looked away from Suzanne. “You're not going to fire me?”
“Why would I do that? You've done so much for Kit. Taught her Spanish. Taken her to school. Held her in your warm arms when I was on a movie set,” Suzanne clenched her lips. “You know, I'm not a good mother.”
On the edges of her eyes clear drops formed. Candy cupped Suzanne's head. Stroked her fine blond hair.
“It's O.K.,” she said, “It's O.K.”
“When did your hair turn black?” Suzanne said at last, tilting her eyes upward. “It used to be blond.”
“Used to be.”
“Why don't you dye it again? You look better blond.”
“I really can't afford to dye it. If you give me some cash, I could do it.”
“I'm sorry, Candy. I'm really strapped for cash after Italy. Why don't you ask Jason?”
* * *
A bad-luck streak beset Jason on the heels of his mom's visit. Jason was rattled;
his will to face the evil forces of the universe and Mom naked, unashamed, and alone, was severely tested. He took Helene home after morning rehearsal at San Anselmo. The mail was already in the box. Sticking out was a large white envelope from the school district. Odd. He hadn't been expecting any new contracts or paperwork.
He tore it open. Mom's hawk eyes, drunk or sober, missed very little. She saw Jason's throat tighten and his face go white.
Jason did his best to deep-six the matter, but mom would cling to something the moment she got ahold of it. Just like Kit. An Aries.
“It must be some really bad news,” his mom said. “Do you have something to drink around this place?”
The truth is he'd received a pink-slip. The pink-slip was neither pink nor was it a slip, but a whole sheaf of pages in single-spaced legal gobbledygook.
“What's wrong, Jason?”
It boiled down to fired, canned, bumped, sacked, dismissed, getting the ax, being let go, given walking papers, terminated, laid off. Yes, laid off.
“What's wrong?” his mother insisted. “Something is wrong.”
She wore him down. Jason made a manly choice, although he dreaded where this conversation was going. But he didn't want to burden Mom with night school troubles: she was vacationing in sunny California. She deserved a break.
“It was an audition,” Jason mumbled, and braced for the next question.
“Did you get the part?”
“Nope, but I got called back. Only five out of fifty people were called back.”
“How much does that pay?”
“It's an honor.”
“Yes, but how much does honor put in the piggy bank?”
Jason stared, silent. Helene sighed one of her sighs that sank 1000 dreams.
“Oh, Jason, you're spinning your wheels with acting. Come to the real world. You spend all your time talking about movies and movie people you never knew. Most of them had such filthy lives.”
“Mom, I've got to . . . go to the bathroom.”
(to be continued)
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