Sweet Thyme Baby – 22

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

22

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 21 first)

 

Dee left the wagon full of hens and chickens on the path by the pepper tree and walked the long way back to the house, passed the largest pond and north to the path that connected the gate on Wood Road to the bluffs. She stopped on the way to check a field of cosmos where the first batch of pink and magenta flower heads had begun to wilt. She would gather seed in a few weeks and begin the fall seedlings.  Along the creek, the mounds of impatiens were doing well including the delicate triple pinks. These needed to be divided and potted. Impatiens were dependable sellers year ‘round. Or was she fooling herself, losing her anxiety in plans that would never came to fruition and if they did would be utterly wasted on the City Treasurer?

 

From her first days in the garden, the orderliness of the life governed by seasons for planting and gathering had soothed Dee; and when she had to, she could lose herself – her thoughts, her memories – by working in the woods and fields. In the garden, her pulse drew down and seemed to match another beat as if the earth itself breathed and the rhythm of that was more compelling than any anxiety the world could manufacture. Along the paths beneath the oaks and sycamores she existed as the garden did, entirely within the moment. But not today. Today regrets and worries for the future stuck to her like thistles and bored into her brain like fox tails. It wasn’t fair that when she most needed to escape her thoughts she couldn’t do so.

 

She closed the graveyard gate behind her and threw her tools onto the turf. As she did, she sighed and for a moment the ice in her chest melted; but when she inhaled, it was there again, freezing the air to her lungs.

 

She had come to the garden possessing no more than the contents of a shabby backpack and two movies of herself having sex. The rest she had burned. Why not leave the garden in the same way? For a moment, the symmetry appealed to her. She saw herself walking away with her back straight and her shoulders straight. Unencumbered. There was a song she recalled from a children’s book long ago, a frog or a toad singing something about the glories of the open road. Well, that was a lie she wouldn’t buy. No matter where she went, she would carry the burrs and foxtails of the garden with her.

 

Whiterose was not the only big nursery in the country. She ticked off the names of others she knew and immediately came up with half a dozen big outfits that might jump at the chance to lease all or part of the garden. But identifying these made no difference because there wasn’t time to contact them, no time to interview the representatives of Jackson and Perkins and Thompson and Morgan. No time to haggle. The taxes were due now.

 

She could make a list of all the people the garden had helped who had gone on to have productive, successful lives. More than fifty of these had attended Con and Carlotta’s funeral. She and Maggie and Pinkus and George could telephone and ask for help. After they’d found their numbers somewhere, after they’d listened to a hundred recorded messages. There had to be another way. If she could just think of it, if she could just make a space in her mind…

 

Did Victor actually believe she’d fall for his hard luck story? She who had heard it all before, she who had believed in him and trusted and closed her eyes to his faults because it had not occurred to her until too late that she could, if she chose, stop loving him. Of course he thought she’d believe. Victor Detroit: the master of illusion and delusion – his own and hers. He believed what he wanted to. He had always been like a child that way.

 

*

 

She and Victor had gone from Lodi to Los Angeles, from the reality of a ten acre orchard and chicken farm five miles east of the Interstate to the Hollywood of their dreams. He would be a movie director and she a star. Being a movie star was nothing Dee ever deeply wanted, not the way movie-making formed the core of Victor’s image of himself. As she had fastened on him in order to get through her childhood and teens, he had looped all his aspirations around Hollywood, movies and the big chance. It had not taken long – they had been in Los Angeles only a few months — for Dee to understand that Victor couldn’t always distinguish between reality and the image of reality he carried in his imagination. On the bad side, this trouble with distinctions was what made him continue to gamble though he often lost. On the good side, it kept him from being discouraged when one after another the doors of opportunity slammed. In all his fantasies, he was a big money, showbiz guy zipping along in the fast lane in a rocket-red Ferrari. So what if the Ferrari was a Mustang with a dented trunk, it wouldn’t always be. Dee went along with his ambitions because she loved him and because she had none of her own except to make a family with him to replace the one they both had lost.

 

“You’ll be a goddess,” Victor had said. “Like Marilyn Monroe.”

 

But Marilyn Monroe didn’t get pregnant the first month.

 

Victor wanted her to have an abortion but for once she had been able to refuse him.

 

“We’ll have a daughter. She’ll be beautiful. You’ll like being a father.”

 

But not as much as he liked fast cars and expensive clothes and meals out and the horses and craps and high stakes poker games.

 

Serena was born in Los Angeles General Hospital a few months after Dee’s eighteenth birthday. She was not a beautiful baby. When she was six months old, Victor said, “I think she’s a throwback. Is it too late to throw her back?” Dee didn’t care about Serena’s squashy nose and blotchy skin. She tied sateen ribbons in her hair that sprouted like crab grass.

 

“It’s better she’s not beautiful. It’s hard to be beautiful. People treat you different.”

 

Six weeks after Serena’s birth, Dee was back at work waitressing in an upscale restaurant in Burbank where television executives and entertainment lawyers lunched.

 

“Be nice to them,” Victor said. “It doesn’t matter how creepy a guy is, if he’s in the business and he likes the way you look it can maybe lead to something, a screen test.”

 

Most of them ignored her because Los Angeles was a city full of beautiful women, what was one more blonde?  But Eddie Mann did notice her and held out his embossed card. “You’re a gorgeous girl. One of these day’s you’re gonna need a lawyer. You do, you come see me.”

 

She had put Eddie Mann’s card in the box where she kept photos of her mother and father and of Victor when they were children.

 

Victor said he was just coming on to her.

 

“If you were a hooker, we’d be millionaires.”

 

When he wooed her into making that first sexy movie, she had done it because she loved him. Now, years later as she weeded the dandelions from Patrick Ryan’s grave it was hard to accept that she could ever have been such a fool. Bad enough to believe in her own dreams, stupid to get suckered in by someone else’s.

 

The first Triple X movie had been an amateur effort called “I Saw, I Conquered, I Came”. For the first forty seconds she and Victor had worn togas. Before they started shooting, Dee swallowed two Valium and a slug of Jack Daniels to blur the edges of her vision so she wouldn’t notice the cameraman six feet away. Being watched had turned Victor’s heat way up, and while the chemicals blurred Dee’s consciousness, he performed as never before.

 

The producer said the camera loved Dee and offered her a contract. Three more movies. She agreed, thinking Victor would again be her partner. Only afterwards did she learn about a side deal contingent upon her signature.

 

“I’m going to direct,” Victor said.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 23 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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