Sweet Thyme Baby – 23

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

23

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 22 first)

 

This was Victor’s big break. “I’ll get some experience, we’ll make money and we’ll be together. After this, things can take off for us, Honey girl.”

Victor was the only man she had ever made love with or ever wanted to.

 

“A guy’s a guy, Dee. Just close your eyes, open your mouth and imagine he’s me.”

 

“Victor, I don’t want to.”

 

The conversation had taken place on moving day. Thanks to the Roman epic, they were moving from a studio in Burbank to two bedrooms in the Silverlake District.  They were unloading boxes in the front room and Serena was in her playpen on the balcony. From the balcony, across the parking lot and over the roof of another apartment complex, the view was of the dun and green slope of the Hollywood Hills. That patch of color meant a lot to Dee for she missed the long horizon of the Central Valley, the sound of rain through trees, the smell of the soil and dank water in the irrigation ditches.

 

“You want to go back to Burbank?” Victor had asked. “You turn down this deal and we’ll have to. We can’t afford this apartment on what you earn waitressing.” He put a pile of magazines back into the box from which he had just unloaded them. “We may as well kiss our deposit goodbye and leave right now.”

 

“I’ll feel dirty having sex with someone else.” The way she did when Gramps came out to the chicken coop and grabbed her from behind, shoved his hand up under her skirt and pressed her back against his groin. His breath hissed through the space between his front teeth and sometimes afterwards she would feel dampness where he drooled against the back of her neck. “Don’t make me do it, Victor.”

 

“I won’t make you do anything.” He had completely reloaded the box and bent the flaps closed. As he stood and carried it to the front door, he said, “I don’t want you to feel dirty. I don’t want you to do anything you aren’t completely convinced is right. But you’re going to have to find someone to take care of Serena and get a better job. Either that or I quit my directing course. If that’s what you want, I’ll do it.”

 

“You love your directing classes.”

 

“Not the point, Dee. Without movie credits that class is the only thing I’ve got going for me now. I feel like if I quit that, we might as well go –.”

 

If she had fake identification she could work in a bar. “There’s plenty of jobs for cocktail waitresses and I’d make good money on tips and all. How much would a fake ID cost?”

 

“Where would I get cash for fake ID? We spent the movie money on this place, the new TV, my course.”

 

“I’ll use my savings. How much would an ID cost?”

 

“Honey girl, that’s your mad money.” Victor had heard Gram talk about her mad money; it wasn’t his phrase.

 

Victor knew a man who knew a man. It wasn’t difficult for him to buy phony identification to prove Dee was twenty one. She’d found a job in a cocktail lounge on the strip where her work costume consisted of black mesh stockings, three inch heels, black short shorts and a black sateen tee-shirt with two sequin bulls eyes strategically placed.

 

“Oh, Dee, baby,” Victor said when he saw her dressed for work. “I wish you didn’t have to wear shit like that. You’re so beautiful, I want you to wear the best. Jesus, honey, I don’t want you to be a cocktail waitress. A girl like you, you should be in movies. You deserve to be in movies.”

 

There were tears in his eyes. Later she would wonder if he’d been taking acting as well as directing classes, but at the time his emotions had touched her heart in a way no words would.

 

“I don’t mind, honest, Victor. It’s for a good cause. When you finish your course…”

 

No matter how hard she worked, no matter how she pushed the drinks and smiled at the customers and encouraged big tips by laughing good-naturedly when they tossed peanuts at her bull’s eyes, there was never enough money at the end of the week. She was with Serena during the day but at night Victor was often out on business so babysitting took a big chunk of cash. The car needed a rebuilt engine, the landlord assessed the tenants extra for termite control, Victor needed a suit for interviews, Dee got pregnant again and this time she had an abortion.

 

“We’ll have another baby,” Victor promised. “When I get my start you can stay home and get fat.”

 

Victor had too many drinks with his buddies and smashed the front end of the Mustang. He needed work done on his teeth. He lost at the track.

 

LA bus service was terrible but the run from work to home was direct and Dee was usually in the door by three a.m. Occasionally she had the car and sometimes one of the girls from work – they were all aspiring movie stars, singers and dancers hoping to be discovered – drove her home; but it embarrassed Dee to depend on these women. Like her, their cars were overdue for service and running on half-bald tires; like her they were worn out from eight or ten hours pushing drinks. Like Dee, most had boyfriends waiting and babies stuck with baby sitters they didn’t really trust.

 

One night as she was about to turn the key in the lock, she heard sounds from the front room. She opened the door and discovered Victor in the middle of the room surrounded by suitcases and boxes. He looked at her and his face streamed tears.

 

“Baby, what’s the matter?” He was her little boy cousin and they were orphans again. “What’re you packing for?”

 

“I’m not going to let you do this anymore.” He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “We’re going home to Lodi. I’m going to get a job, a regular job and do the decent thing. People know Gram and Gramps, they’ll hire me. I’ll pick fruit if I have to. We can live with Gram and Gramps while we’re getting started.”

 

She imagined Gramps picking Serena out of her crib, holding her against him.

 

“I heard on the TV, there was a wreck on the corner of Vine. A bus. The driver was drunk or something and hit the side of building, rolled. I thought how that could be you, you could have been killed. I started thinking about what it would be like for me and Serena without you.”

 

“But I’m here. I’m fine. See?” She opened her cardigan. “Bulls eyes and all.”

 

He didn’t even look. “Yeah, well, it was a wakeup call. I can’t take this city anymore.”

 

“What about your classes? You’re half way through.”

 

“Do you have any idea how many jerks come to LA wanting to be directors or producers? And how many of them sign up for shit-ass courses like the one I’m in? I mean, let’s face it, Dee. You’re not working to put me through USC film school. I’m a third rate amateur in a third rate course. The only person who’s gonna profit by it is the guy who cashes my tuition checks.”

 

“You have talent. Talent counts in this city.”

 

“No, it doesn’t. Who you know counts.”

 

“I thought you said you’d meet people taking this course. You read me that stuff in the bulletin about networking.”

 

“It’s all bullshit, Dee.” He dropped onto the couch and hung his head between his knees. “There’s no networking. The guys who teach my classes? They’re as hungry as I am.”

 

She knelt behind him on the couch and massaged his neck and shoulders. “Vic, I want you to be a director. I never cared much about being a movie star myself, I can take it or leave it, but you always wanted to work for the movies so that’s what I want too. There’s got to be a way.”

 

Victor never mentioned the XXX movie contract. But after watching him drag around the apartment for a week, when she was exhausted from trying to convince him they should not move back to Lodi, wasted by the empathy that streamed from her to him as if a vital artery attached them, then she had come up with the answer to their problems.

 

He said absolutely not. “You’re more important to me than anything. I won’t let you do something that makes you feel dirty.”

 

She laughed, feeling light-headed once the decision was made. “Having sex with some good looking hunk can’t make me feel any crummier than letting drunks throw peanuts at my boobs.”

 

Later, years later, she was standing on a street corner in San Diego. It was summertime and hot, she was hungry and her head itched with lice, and she wondered: that bus that careened into the side of a building and rolled, that drunk bus driver: had any of it really happened?

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 24 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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