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“The strongest guard is placed at the gateway to nothing.”
-F Scott Fitzgerald, “Tender Is the Night”
Rosemary recognized the woman as soon as she came into the campus café, but she didn’t say anything. She was too amazed.
And then, even more amazing, the woman walked right up to Rosemary’s table, slid her sunglasses down, and said, “You’re Rosemary Hoit, aren’t you?” Perfectly casual, as if they’d planned this meeting all along.
In reply, Rosemary spilled her coffee. Just a splash on the tabletop, but enough to feel immediately embarassed. She began blotting it up with napkins. “I’m sorry! Did I get any on you?”
“Not at all,” the woman said, slipping into the seat next to hers. The café was half full on a Thursday afternoon, and because Rosemary picked a table right in front of the door it seemed no one else had seen the woman come in. She leaned in close to Rosemary and lowered her voice.
“Look, I have a car waiting outside and I can’t stay here long or other people will see me. We’ve only just met and I’m sure you have all sorts of questions, but would you like to go somewhere more private and talk?”
The question left Rosemary dumbstruck. “Um. Yes. Okay. Only—look, this isn’t a joke, is it? You’re…”
The woman put a finger to her lips. “Yes, but shhh. Don’t say it.”
And she winked.
Floating up out of her seat, Rosemary followed to where a steely black town car idled at the curb nearby. An equally nondescript driver opened their doors. Rosemary realized she’d left her books behind, but suddenly it didn’t seem to matter.
Once in the backseat, the woman tapped the glass divider to let the driver know to go, then took off the sunglasses and scarf around her head to let her black hair out. “Well, I’m glad that went smoothly,” she said. “No one is supposed to know we’re in town, but I really wanted to come get you myself. I wasn’t sure you’d come if I sent someone you wouldn’t recognize.”
“We?” Rosemary said. She realized she was staring but didn’t think to look away. The other woman was checking her reflection in a pulldown mirror attached to the roof of the car.
“Some friends and I,” she said. “I’ll introduce you when we get to where we’re going. Would you like a drink?”
The woman uncovered a wet bar in the console and poured them both scotch on the rocks. “I guess you have a lot of questions?” she said as she put the cold glass into Rosemary’s hand.
“I…” Rosemary looked into the older woman’s hazel eyes and forced herself not to swoon. “I don’t want to sound dumb, but you’re really you, right? You’re Demetria Guynes?”
“You can call me Dee. All of my friends call me Dee.”
Swallowing a deep breath, Rosemary let all of her words spill out at once: “I’m…such a big fan! I’ve seen all of your movies. Well, not all of them, some of them came out before I was born. Oh, that sounds awful, doesn’t it? All I’m saying is I love you, I really do!”
She was blushing. Rosemary always blushed easily; Mom used to call her “my little lightning bug.” It was an annoying tic for someone who wanted to be an actress.
But Dee just smiled. “That’s very flattering. I’m a big fan of yours as well.” Rosemary blinked. Dee helped by adding: “I saw you in the play.”
“The play? But I…you were there? Why?”
Rosemary had been the housekeeper in a production of August: Osage County. She was actually the understudy, and only went on for two days, and she hadn’t even been very good. Dee crossed her famous long legs; she was wearing a cream-colored dress that reflected light onto her diamond jewelry. Rosemary was wearing the same pair of three-year-old jeans she’d had on the day before.
“I was in town unexpectedly and I always like to take in local theater when I can,” Dee said. “I’ve seen that show lots of times, but I’ve never seen anyone do it quite like you did.”
“I…I wasn’t that great—” Rosemary started to say, but Dee leaned in and put a finger to her lips.
“Never say that you’re not good,” she said. “Plenty of people will try to say that about you for the rest of your life: the envious ones, the angry ones, the ones who’ll never have your talent. But you should never say it. Don’t give them an inch.”
Dee waited until Rosemary had nodded her understanding and then sat back. Rosemary took a sip of her drink to steady her nerves; the scotch was deep, hard, and strong, not like the cheap substitutes she was used to from parties.
“But of course, everyone feels the way you do when they get their first break,” Dee continued. “I was exactly same way at your age. How old ARE you, exactly?”
“How sweet it is. You’re majoring in theater?”
“Small town girl? First in your family to go to school?”
“Hey, did you do a background check on me or something?”
“I just know a lot about people is all. Well, you’ve got a gift; I’d like to help you. Introduce you to the right folks. Make sure your career goes the way it’s supposed to.”
Rosemary fındıkzade escort gulped the rest of her drink in one go. “That’s…that’s incredible, really,” she said once she caught her breath. “I don’t know what to say. But…”
“Is that really how it works? Some amazing person just walks into your life one day, says you’re talented, and boom? It’s…”
“Hard to believe. Yes, it was for me too. But you’ll learn soon that the world works very differently once you’re one of us.”
There was a kind of relish about the way she said “One of us” that gave Rosemary a chill. She thought about a million things at once: Her classes, her job at the café, the auditions she wanted but didn’t have time for, the messages her mother had left yesterday and the day before, the student loan deposits that hadn’t come through yet. Suddenly they all seemed like memories from the life of a completely different person.
Dee looked out the window at the swirling galaxy of headlights on the freeway and said, “Looks like we’re almost there.”
“Where are we going?” Rosemary said, realizing she’d never asked. She didn’t recognize the neighborhood.
“There’s a party tonight,” said Dee. “Very exclusive. A great place for you to start making the right kind of acquaintances.”
“Now?” said Rosemary. “But I’m not ready. I mean, look at me.”
“You look beautiful. I’d strangle my youngest to look as good as you do. Anyway, we’re here already. Just relax; this is going to be the first best night of your entire life.”
The car stopped the door popped and the night air rushed in, covering Rosemary in gooseflesh. The sun had gone down, and now she saw that they in the west side of town, near the inner harbor and standing in front of a tall, squarish house with a gabled roof that looked a bit like a gingerbread house. All of the windows were dark. Hugging her bare arms, Rosemary said “Is this neighborhood safe?”
“It is for us,” said Dee. Then she told the driver, “Take it somewhere no one will see it,” smiled at Rosemary again, and said, “Ready?”
No, thought Rosemary, but she nodded anyway.
The butterflies in her stomach were fluttering at monsoon-wind speeds. Dee actually took her hand as she led her up to the walk and Rosemary went weak in the knees. I can’t believe this is happening, she thought. Who could she tell about this? Who would believe her? She imagined calling home: “Hey Mom, about those private acting classes I wanted? You can stop shopping around.”
Or maybe Aunt Freda: “Hey, remember at Thanksgiving when you thought it was funny to tell me not to quit my day job? WELL GUESS FUCKING WHAT?”
They came to the door. It really didn’t look like anyone was home, but as soon as Dee knocked it opened and a very tall woman in a suit greeted them. “Password?” she said, clipping the syllables.
Dee paused for a second with the tip of her tongue clenched between her teeth. “Oh, which one is it again?” she said. And then after a second it came to her: “Denmark. And this one is with me.”
The tall woman looked at Rosemary but didn’t say anything. As soon as the door shut behind them she flushed again. It was very warm in here and the foyer was entirely dark, but she could hear lots of voices nearby, and music, and the sound of glasses. “Where are we?” Rosemary said, clutching Dee’s arm.
“Think of it as a private club,” said Dee. “It’s not as nice as the place we have back home, of course, but it’s fine for out of town. Ah, here we are.”
They stepped through a curtain. Here was an enormous living room furnished almost entirely in black and lit by a marble fireplace that roared like a dragon and cast an orange haze on everything. Twenty or so people were here, most of them were either very young looking or very old looking, but either way they all looked very, very rich.
An extremely tall, extremely dark, extremely handsome man greeted Dee, kissing her on both cheeks. Then he turned to Rosemary and in a deep voice said, “So you’re the one; Dee has hardly stopped talking about you. I’m Mark Sinclair.”
“Yes I know!” Rosemary said, and she knew she was gushing again but didn’t care. “I love you. I mean, I love your movies. I’ve seen them all.”
“Even the ones that came out before you were born?” Dee said, teasing.
They sat at a table and another tall woman brought them drinks. (“Whatever they’re having,” Rosemary said.) She peered around as she sipped her cocktail; most of the people were talking amongst themselves, although an odd scene played out near the fire, where a woman danced on a bearskin rug and some other women and men gathered to watch.
“This is something,” she said.
“A private place for private people,” said Dee.
“Why are you here? In town, I mean,”
“Business,” said Mark.
“A little side venture,” Dee added. “Nothing important. But it’s lucky I came and met you, isn’t it?”
This time Rosemary’s blush had florya escort some satisfaction in it. She looked back and forth between the two of them. “So you two are friends? That’s funny.” She realized she was getting quite drunk already. She wasn’t used to the strong liquor, but it was making her feel extremely relaxed and she didn’t want to stop. Nobody else seemed to mind.
“Now why would that be funny?” said Mark, smiling with the corners of his mouth.
“I just mean, you’ve never done a movie together. And I never read about you together in, oh, tabloids or anything.”
Both of them laughed. “You’ll find out soon that the tabloids don’t know much about what really goes on,” Mark said. “Dee and I are friends through the Club.”
“This is the Club,” Dee said, gesturing at the room. “There are branches in almost every city. Everyone who is everyone is a member.”
“And all members are friends,” Mark added, clinking glasses with Dee. “It keeps things running smoothly. If everybody knows everybody and everybody gets along, everything is easy.”
“So it’s a club for movie stars?” Rosemary said, trying again to figure out if she recognized anybody else in the room.
“Oh, the Club is much older than the movies,” said Dee. “When was the founding again?”
“Nobody knows,” Mark said, shrugging. “Six hundred years at least. Anyway, it’s not just actors: There are bankers, lawyers, artists, singers, CEOs. Anybody it might be useful to know.”
“Not if we can help it,” said Dee. “We have standards.”
“The right people have always needed a way to meet the right people,” Mark continued. “You’re lucky you’re getting in early. You’d become a member sooner or later, the way Dee talks about you. But the earlier you do it, the easier things are.”
“I’m not a member already, am I?”
“No, but I’ll take care of that,” Dee said. “Someone just has to sponsor you for a little bit. And after that you’ll know where to go to find friends everywhere in the world.”
“As long as you keep it a secret,” Mark added. “Everything we do here is secret; it’s part of the tradition, and it’s more fun that way.” He smiled again. Every time Rosemary heard his voice she crossed her legs.
Dee sat back in her chair and said, “I suppose you’ve wanted to act all your life?”
“Yes,” Rosemary said immediately. “Since the first time my mother showed me a movie.”
“Everyone in the audience was feeling the same things while they watched,” Rosemary said. “It was like magic. I want to do that to people.”
“See?” said Dee. “She’s one of us.”
“You’re right,” Mark said, nodding. “I can’t believe nobody else has discovered you yet. Dee has all the luck.”
They talked some more. They drank some more. Mark and Dee asked everything about Rosemary’s life, and even the most ordinary things somehow seemed more interesting with how much attention they paid. After a while, Dee stood. “Let’s show you around?” she said. “It’s a nice place. You should see more of it.”
A little off-balance, Rosemary almost tipped over when standing, but Mark caught her and led her with one hand on her waist. A few people looked at her as they went by, but no one said anything.
“Dee?” Rosemary said.
“Why is there a big empty chair in the middle of the room?” She pointed as they passed. It was a black thing almost as tall as Mark, with a deep red cushion.
“Another tradition,” Dee said. “In the very old days the Club founders always left one seat empty at every party, in case the devil ever showed up.”
“That’s funny,” Rosemary said, slurring her words a bit and letting Mark lead her up the stairs, trailing her fingers over the curling banister.
“We’re funny people,” said Dee, leading them down a hall. “Ah, now look at this: the master bathroom.”
She turned on the lights, although things remained extremely dim. The room was all black and white tiles. In the center, sunken into a dais, was a gleaming marble bathtub with crystal spats, almost as big as Rosemary’s entire bedroom back in her apartment near Highland Hill.
“It looks big enough for all of us,” Dee said, turning and looking Rosemary up and down. “Why don’t we get more comfortable?”
“You’re all right with that, aren’t you Rosemary?” Mark said. One of his big hands was at the small of her back. “We all just want to be friends here. If you prefer to—”
Rosemary had to stand on tiptoe to reach his lips. He hadn’t shaved, and his stubble felt rough. She looped her arms around his neck and literally hung off of him. “I love you…” she murmured.
“You love my movies, you mean,” he said.
Dee was helping Rosemary out of her clothes. “You understand, of course? If you want to make the most of your opportunities, you have to be willing to do certain favors for people….”
“Makes sense,” Rosemary said, murmuring. Dee unbuttoned her blouse göztepe escort for her and Rosemary shrugged out of it. The older woman’s hands moved to the hooks of her bra.
“We love to meet new people,” Dee continued. “And we like a little variety.”
“I’m sure Rosemary understands,” Mark said, cupping Rosemary’s face in his hand. “She’s a very intelligent girl.”
“Uh huh,” Rosemary said.
Dee stripped her old jeans off and tossed them away, leaving Rosemary perfectly naked in the soft light. Turning, Dee walked up the short steps to the giant bath and fingered the crystal spats, watching Rosemary over her shoulder as she bent over and turned the water on. Steam rose up almost instantly.
Rosemary was still unsteady on her feet, so she let Dee help her in. Rosemary reclined against the marble, which felt cool on her naked ass and back even as the hot water crept up around her. Dee lay on the dais at the side of the tub, tracing fingertips over Rosemary’s bare shoulders and arms.
“Such beautiful skin,” she said. “I remember being that young.”
“You’re always that young,” Rosemary said in a dreamy murmur. “Put on one of those movies and poof, there you are, just the same. All made of light. Like an angel…”
Dee pulled her into a kiss, their open mouths meeting as Dee cupped Rosemary’s face in both hands. The older woman’s black hair fell around Rosemary and enveloped her. Rosemary met Dee’s probing tongue with small darts and touches of her own, until they melted together into a long embrace.
Dee slinked out of her clothes and slid down into the bath, the weight of her body on top of Rosemary’s relieved by buoyancy in the steaming water. Both women’s wet skin prickled with goosebumps every time they rose up, turning this way and that in the water with arms and legs wrapped around each other, their breasts pressed together.
Rosemary felt a flush that went all the way down, her blood burning hot. Her head lolled as Dee kissed the lines of her neck. Her mouth tasted like lip gloss and the dark, rich flavor of the expensive liquor they’d all been drinking.
“You’re the angel,” Dee said. She was fondling Rosemary under the water, her filed nails gracefully steering clear of cutting or scratching Rosemary’s body while her fingers explored her curves, groping and squeezing and pinching to make Rosemary gasp or sigh of laugh.
“Soon we’ll lift you up above all the others,” she said in between kisses. “Make you more than human. To be a goddess, not to earth confined, ascending to heaven…”
“Mmm. But I won’t be as good as you, will I?” Rosemary said, putting her arms over her head and draping them outside of the tub. Water streamed from her bare skin and down the tile steps. She pictured the crystal-clear drops as diamonds, scattering them with a wave of her hand.
“If not equal, then equally free,” Dee said, twining her limbs even tighter around Rosemary.
“That’s pretty,” Rosemary said. “Who said that?”
“The devil,” said Mark, reappearing, his voice sounding like a heavy stone landing in a still pond. Rosemary started when she realized that he’d left without her noticing, but now had returned with more drinks, which he set by the side of the bath.
Rosemary rolled over and took one, drinking nearly half in one go. Then she sat up and slipped her arms around Mark’s legs, not caring that she was soaking his clothes. Her face wavered right at the level of his crotch.
“I want to see it,” she said (or made her best attempt; words were increasingly difficult). “I bet it’s big…”
“There are no small parts,” said Mark. “Only small actors.”
“Just the same, I bet it’s big…” said Rosemary, cupping a hand against him and rubbing. Then she gasped when Dee’s luscious mouth closed over one of her breasts and sucked tight and hard. “Ohhh,” she said. “Not quite so hard…”
“You like it,” Dee said, and did it again. Rosemary twisted and squirmed.
“Yes,” she said, drawing out the S. “But I don’t want you to leave a mark in case…”
“In case what?” said Mark, who was unbuttoning his shirt and revealing his famously smooth and muscular physique. Rosemary eyed him up and down.
“Nothing,” she said after a moment. “Come in with us. There’s lots of room…”
Dee snatched Mark’s belt off almost in one single motion. He made a point of draping his clothes over the back of a chair in the corner and then ascended the steps. Both women sat up to greet him; Rosemary circled three fingers around his dangling prick, squeezing as if to test that it was real. Then, her mouth still smeared with Dee’s lip gloss, she tried to take almost all of it in at once.
“You’ll hurt yourself,” Dee said, grabbing a handful of Rosemary’s wet hair and tugging her back. She’d nearly choked. “Let me show you.”
Mark sat on the edge with his legs in the water as Dee slid between them, sucking her way down the length of his cock with slow, easy, measured movements. He leaned back, and Rosemary put a wet hand on his chest so that she could watch the water trickle down the front of him.
His body wasn’t as hard underneath her kiss as she’d imagined. His touch was soft when he stroked her hair and face, although the size of his hands and the musculature bulging in his arms made her think about how hard he could be if he wanted to. Under the water she gushed.
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