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“But what will your father say?”
“Oh, my aunt has taken care of the answer. She had to learn the truth. But I was her responsibility, so she must stand behind me. I shall say I was ill, that I had a tumor in my uterus and it had to be removed.”
“Was it?”nodded. “Yes, my uterus was removed—peritonitis had set in. But it is wonderful. I am no longer bothered with the monthly period.”wanted to say she was sorry, but she couldn’t offer sympathy to a girl who regarded the incident as a stroke of marvelous luck. “Well, at least you’ve got everything settled,” she said. “But I still have to return to Cleveland.”
“You do not have to return,” Maria said emphatically. “You are too beautiful to spend your life waiting to be mauled by the first available man.”
“But what can I do?”
“In two weeks the term is ended. You come back to Spain with me for the summer. We will think of something.”
“Maria!” It was too wonderful. “But I have no money—just a return ticket home.”
“You will be my guest—I have more money than I can use.”last two weeks in school had been a personal triumph for Jennifer. The news raced through school—Little Jeannette Johnson had been befriended by Maria. The girls stared in envy. Maria continued to keep her imperial distance, even with Jennifer, except to stop and chat briefly whenever they passed in the hall.moment they left school, Maria’s attitude changed. She became warm and friendly. It began when they took the cab to Lausanne. “We can’t leave for Spain right away. My father’s cable . . .” She handed it to Jennifer. It advised Maria to spend the summer in Switzerland. Spain was still feeling the devastation of the war. With one million dead and several hundred thousand injured, it was impossible to staff the house at present, so they had closed it and were staying at a hotel. But things would soon return to normal. Meanwhile she was to enjoy herself abroad. He had cabled the number of a Swiss bank account.
“We have plenty of money,” Maria said. “Enough to travel around the world and back. But the war is on in Europe, so France is out. So are Germany and England.”
“Let’s go to America,” Jennifer suggested. “We could go to New York. I’ve never been to New York.”
“How? I am not a citizen. Travel is impossible with Europe at war. You might make it on a Red Cross boat—as an American citizen you would have priority—but there would still be the mines and submarines. Anyway, I have no desire to go to New York. We shall stay here for the summer. Hitler will win any day and the whole thing will be over.”were to remain in Switzerland three years.became lovers the first night. Although Jennifer had been startled at the proposal, she felt no revulsion; in fact, she was even a little curious. Maria was still the exalted school-girl heroine. And Maria’s logical explanation removed any taint of abnormality. “We like one another. I want to make you know about sex, to feel thrilling climaxes—not let you learn about it by being mauled by some brutal man. We are doing nothing wrong. We are not Lesbians like those awful freaks who cut their hair and wear mannish clothes. We are two women who adore one another and who know about being gentle and affectionate.”night Maria undressed and stood before Jennifer proudly. She had a lovely body, but Jennifer felt a secret delight in the knowledge that her own was superior. She dropped her clothes to the floor shyly. She heard Maria’s startled gasp as she exposed her breasts.
“You are more lovely than I dreamed,” Maria said softly. Her hands stroked Jennifer’s breasts lightly and endearingly. She leaned over and rested her cheek against them. “You see, I love your beauty and respect it. A man would be tearing into it now.” She ran her fingers gently over Jennifer’s body. To her amazement, Jennifer began to feel a sensation of excitement . . . her body began to vibrate. . . .
“Come.” Maria took her hand. “Let us lie down. We will have a cigarette.”
“No, Maria. Keep touching me,” Jennifer pleaded.
“Later, I will touch you and hold you to your heart’s content. But I want you to feel comfortable with me. I will be gentle. . . .”had been gentle, and very patient—taking more liberties each night, slowly teaching Jennifer to respond, erasing any embarrassment. “You cannot just be loved, you must love back,” Maria would insist. “Make me thrill as I thrill you.” Each night Maria urged her on, until at last Jennifer found herself responding with equal ardor and reaching peaks of exaltation she never dreamed existed.enjoyed a dual relationship with Maria. At night she was eager for Maria, demanding and ecstatic. But during the day she regarded Maria as a friend. She felt no other personal attachment. When they shopped together or explored strange little towns, Maria was just another girl. She felt no involvement. Often they met attractive men—ski instructors, students—and Jennifer found these encounters quite difficult. Maria remained aloof to their advances, but Jennifer found some of the young men quite appealing. Many times as they danced, she felt her body thrilling to the touch of the strong masculine one that held her close. When a boy whispered an endearment, she found herself longing to respond.she had slipped out for a brief walk with a particularly handsome Panamanian boy. He was a medical student, and he was going to New York after the war for further studies. He wanted her. They kissed, and she found herself clinging to him, responding to his kisses with equal passion. It was wonderful to hold the strong shoulders of a man, to feel a man’s chest against her own . . . the strength of a man’s hand after Maria’s soft, tender one . . . the firmness of a man’s lips. She wanted this boy desperately, but she tore away from him and returned to the café. Maria had noticed her absence; there was a slight scene that night when they were alone. Jennifer swore it had been a headache, that she had just wanted some air. At last, in bed, Maria relented. . . .most of the time it was wonderful. Maria was wildly extravagant. She bought Jennifer beautiful clothes. Jennifer learned to ski. Her French grew fluent and effortless. When they grew bored with Lausanne they moved to Geneva.three years in Switzerland Maria’s father wanted her to return, but she refused. Then, in 1944, he stopped her checks. She had no choice.
“You will come with me,” she told Jennifer. “But we will have to cash in your return ticket to America. I have not enough money without it.”knew she was handing in her ticket to freedom. For the past year she had grown increasingly weary with Maria’s demands on her body, yet Cleveland and her mother were even less appealing. But Spain! She might find some handsome Spanish man of good family. She was twenty-three, technically a virgin. . . why not?remained in Spain over a year. She met many eligible men. A few were passable, but Maria kept a hawklike watch on all her activities. They were always chaperoned by one of Maria’s aunts. Maria repelled all advances and saw to it that Jennifer made no progress. Jennifer grew desperate. Maria’s possessiveness was stifling. For the first time she understood her mother’s fear of poverty. Money bought freedom; without it one could never be free. In Spain she could live luxuriously and wear beautiful clothes, but she belonged to Maria. If she returned to Cleveland she faced a different kind of imprisonment—marriage to some third-rate man who would also demand the use of her body. Whichever way you looked at it, without money you were someone’s captive. But there had to be a way out!began lying awake nights. She suffered through Maria’s lovemaking, returning an ardor she did not feel, feigning sleep until Maria’s even breathing assured her of safety. Then she would slide out of bed and sit by the window, smoking endlessly, staring at the stars, thinking . . .. She had to have money. The answer was in her body—it would work for her. It had carried her this far. She would go to New York, take a different name, lie about her age . . . maybe she could model. Somehow she’d get money. She’d never be trapped again.the atom bomb was dropped, everyone in Madrid was feverish for news. Even Maria sat breathlessly at the radio set, eagerly listening for bulletins. Jennifer took this opportunity to post a secret letter to her mother, instructing her to write and demand Jennifer’s presence at home due to illness.mother obeyed and Maria had no choice. They separated with promises of undying devotion, Jennifer swearing to return as soon as her mother recovered. She felt a twinge of guilt when Maria pressed a book of travelers’ checks in her hand. “It comes to three thousand dollars in American money. Try to save enough for your return here, but if you need more, cable me. I live only for the day of your return.” To erase any suspicion, Jennifer left most of her clothes in Spain as further assurance of her return. She had gone directly to New York and checked into a commercial hotel. She sent her mother five hundred dollars and told her to forward any mail from Spain, but under no circumstances to reveal her whereabouts or new name.the beginning Maria wrote every day. Jennifer never answered. Through a strange stroke of luck she had run into the Panamanian medical student the first day she was in New York. Fortunately he only recalled that they had met and that he had wanted her. He accepted the new name without question. She went to bed with him every night for three weeks, and then he introduced her to Prince Mirallo. . . .was seven o’clock—she crushed out the last cigarette. She had to sleep. She wanted to be really good with Robby. Then maybe she could get the gown and the money for her mother.
        Neely, 1946New York critics had been unanimous in their raves for Hit the Sky. Helen Lawson’s public adoration had reached new heights, and Neely had received several excellent notices—none strong enough to incur Helen’s animosity, but glowing enough to exceed Neely’s wildest expectations.one had been more surprised than Neely. One critic had actually called her the freshest new talent to come along in many a season. This accolade, coupled with the new apartment, made her almost believe she was someone.couldn’t get over the luxury of the apartment. Anne was just fabulous! She just ran into luck, that girl. And it always seemed to be connected with Allen. Only this time it was Allen’s father. Gino had dumped his girl friend Adele, who had gotten so mad she had booked herself into the Dorchester Hotel in London as a showgirl. Just before she left, Anne had run into her and gotten her scrumptious apartment. Neely kept touching everything—the bedspreads, the lamps . . . She never dreamed she’d live in a living room that had a white rug.course it was only a sublease. Adele would take it back from them June first. But by then Jennifer would probably marry Tony, Anne might marry Lyon and she would marry Mel. Especially if Mel’s new job worked out. What a Christmas present from the blue that was! Johnny Mallon giving him a two-week trial as a writer on a radio show! If he made good they could be rich. Radio writers made as much as five hundred a week, Mel said. Even more. Mel was starting at two hundred, and she was making two hundred—and the show had come in to New York three weeks earlier than planned because they didn’t need Boston. Geez, things were just perfect!was going to buy some fancy clothes, too. After all, everyone had seen the purple taffeta a hundred times. Geez, the way Jennifer came back from Philadelphia with a closet full of clothes. No wonder she was always broke. She said Tony Polar was tight, but how could she mean that with him giving her that gorgeous big blue ring for Christmas? Jennifer said it was only an aquamarine. Geez, she’d be happy to accept an aquamarine. Well, for a start she was going to get a new winter coat. Ohrbach’s was having a big sale.and Mel had been invited to Johnny Mallon’s New Year’s Eve party. But they’d seen the old year out in Helen’s dressing room. “You’ll never get out of the theatre and to a party before twelve o’clock,” Helen had insisted, pouring champagne.’s party had been terrific. Neely had never been to a party packed with celebrities. And they all knew her! That was the big surprise—everyone knew who she was! She couldn’t get over it. And then Johnny Mallon had told Mel he “could consider himself a permanent member of the team.” Geez, that was great. She had to stop saying “Geez” all the time. Several people had laughed when she said it. Oh, not nasty laughing . . . they’d thought she was kidding. But maybe if she mixed with these classy friends of Mel’s she’d learn some good expressions. She never heard anything backstage except words she didn’t want to say. And Mel had such a good vocabulary . . . he’d gone to college. Geez, a college man like Mel—in love with her!’d never forget that New Year’s Eve. Mel said he wouldn’t either. She’d hugged him that night when they reached his hotel. “I’m so happy, Mel—I’m scared.”
“This is really starting off 1946 with a bang,” Mel had said as they got ready for bed. “But you know, I felt a little sorry for Helen Lawson tonight. She looked so lonely when we left her dressing room.”had wrinkled her nose. “Listen, Helen never has a date. Tonight she was lucky she had that faggot designer to take her to a party. Geez, Mel, your hotel is really chintzy—there’s no heat and it’s practically morning. We get heat almost all night.” She’d climbed into bed and shivered in his arms.
“All right—name the day and I’ll move. We can get married any time you like. I’ll find us a nice apartment.”had snuggled up to him, wrapping her legs around his for warmth.
“How about it, Neely? You heard Johnny tonight. I’m set—I’m making two hundred a week.”
“So’m I.”
“Then let’s get married.”
“Okay. On June first.”
“Why do we have to wait until then?”
“Because I got the apartment with the girls till then. I’d have to keep kicking in my third of the rent if I left before. We all agreed to that kind of a deal because we’re all on the verge of getting married.”
“We can manage it. We’ll pay them.”
“Are you kidding? I should pay two rents?”
“But Neely, I want you.”giggled. “You got me. C’mon, take me. . . now. . .”
“But Neely—”
“We’ll get married June first. C’mon, Mel, make love to me. No, not that way—I’m not wearing my diaphragm. Do it the other way . . . please. Please, Mel. . .”, 1946and Jennifer stared in speechless disbelief as Neely casually directed the moving men in the placement of an enormous piano.
“I’ve just signed with the Johnson Harris office,” Neely announced.
“What happened to Henry?” Anne asked.
“Well, we had a long talk yesterday. I told him the Johnson Harris office had come to me, and he gave me a release right away. I’m not really big enough for a manager. I need a big agency behind me. Henry agreed. And look what happened . . .”
“They gave you a piano?” Jennifer asked.
“No, but they’re paying for the rental. And they got me into La Rouge—I open in three weeks.”
“But you’re in Hit the Sky,” Anne said.
“I’m gonna double. I’ll just do a midnight show at La Rouge. And for that I’ll get three hundred a week! Isn’t that terrific? And guess what? The Johnson Harris office got me Zeke Whyte—and they’re paying for him—and he’s gonna make my arrangements and stage my act. Zeke only works with the biggest stars. When he heard me sing he said with a little work I could be great. He said I’m a cross between Judy Garland and Mary Martin.”
“Well, just don’t let any Helen Lawson creep in or we’ll throw all three of you out,” Jennifer said with a wink at Anne.
“Isn’t the piano gorgeous?” Neely asked, running her hand lovingly across the scarred Steinway. “Zeke insisted on this one. It does something for the room, doesn’t it?”nodded. “Sure does. Gives it a real air—like a rehearsal hall.”’s childish face looked chagrined. “Gee—do you mind it being here?”smiled. “No. I’m just wondering where you plan to put the ballet bar. That does come next, doesn’t it?”laughed. “Let her be ambitious, Jen. It’ll be nice having a star in the family.”made a wry face. “I’m doing it strictly for the money. In June, when Mel and I get married, I wanna have enough cash saved to furnish a place as nice as this.”
“When does he get a chance to write for Johnny Mallon?” Jennifer asked. “He seems to be working full time as press agent for you. I’ve never seen anyone get so much publicity.”
“Why shouldn’t he?” Neely insisted. “After all, everything I earn is for our future.”
“You really don’t care about making it—the star bit?” Jennifer asked.
“For what? To wind up alone on New Year’s Eve with some faggot as a date? Oh, I’ll keep working after I’m married—but my marriage will always come first. And you’re a fine one to talk—didn’t you just turn down a contract at Twentieth because of Tony?”shrugged. “It wasn’t a good contract. Only one-fifty a week.”
“But Henry thought you should have taken it,” Neely insisted. “If it had been bigger would you have signed?”
“Maybe . . . I guess so. But I have no talent, Neely, and you have.”
“Yeah, but it takes more than talent. Hey, let’s clean up this place. Zeke will be here any minute.”
“It’s neat as a pin,” Anne insisted.ran around emptying ashtrays. “Jen, you use every ashtray in the place. Zeke says he’s glad I don’t smoke. Even in a room, smoke hurts a singer’s voice.”raised her eyebrows. “Will cigarettes be barred at your club opening?”
“No, but why do I have to have my home contaminated?”the next three weeks Zeke Whyte took over the apartment. He rehearsed Neely relentlessly. Anne and Jennifer never arrived without finding him there. He was femininely attractive, aware of his own importance, a hard taskmaster and an excellent musician. He drove Neely unmercifully.
“What does he want from me?” she’d demand, bursting into the bedroom in tears. “I never had a singing lesson in my life and I’m doing okay. All of a sudden he’s trying to turn me into a Lily Pons—in three weeks! Anne, go in and tell him to get off my back!”Zeke would appear at the doorway. “Okay, Neely . . . hysterical time over. Let’s get back to work.”
“I can’t,” she would sob. “You expect too much.”
“Of course I do. Why be good if you can be great?”would always go back . . . the scales would continue . . . there would be more hysterics . . . more scales . . . it seemed endless.the loudest argument came at the end of the second week. Neely came tearing into the offices of Bellamy and Bellows. “Where is he?” she demanded of Anne.
“Where is who?”
“Henry! I want him back as my manager. I need him. He’s got to get Zeke off my back.”
“Henry’s at N.B.C. What’s Zeke done now?”
“He wants me to burn all my clothes!”
“What?”
“You heard me. Burn them! He says he won’t even let me give them away, they’re so awful. Including this new coat.” She stroked the red fox collar lovingly. “I paid seventy dollars for it at Ohrbach’s.”hid a smile. “Well, the coat is a little sophisticated for you.”
“Look, all my life I’ve worn my sister’s hand-me-downs. I have a right to pick my own clothes now.”
“What does Zeke want you to wear?”
“Who knows? I’m supposed to meet him later at some designer’s place. That’s why I need Henry—to talk to him—to tell him I have some rights.”
“Now Neely, you don’t need Henry. You can tell him yourself.”
“No, I don’t want to fight with him. He might walk out. Geez, Anne—he’s done such great things with my voice. Sometimes I don’t even believe it’s me. And in just two weeks. You know, for the first time I feel maybe I could be great. I can hit notes I never dreamed existed, and hold them with real power. He’s a genius.” 1 ... 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 ... 45 2010-07-19 18:44 Читать похожую статью
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