A Dropped Stitches Christmas (7 page)

BOOK: A Dropped Stitches Christmas
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Chapter Seven

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.”

—Pearl S. Buck

O
ur counselor, Rose, brought this quote to the Sisterhood one evening when most of us were about halfway through our chemo and we were so very tired of everything. We all tried to figure out if we had a private place like the one Pearl S. Buck mentioned where we could go to renew ourselves. Lizabett said she had too many brothers to ever have to worry about being really alone. Rose said she thought the place was more mental than physical. Becca said her mind was too busy for a place like that. Only Marilee and I seemed to have any sense within ourselves that we had a place like Pearl Buck mentioned. Not that my place was very refreshing. Some days it felt like it drained me more than it renewed me.

 

This is Carly. I’ve been to several rehearsals for the play and I’m looking forward to seeing it on the stage. I’ve seen how hard the cast members are working on their roles and I’ve decided I’m proud to be part of the cast even if I never set foot on the stage when there’s an audience in front of it.

This play made me think of that quote Rose brought to us. Something about the nativity story reminds me of the place of renewing that Rose was talking about. I started to read the New Testament last night so I know more about Mary than I did even after reading the other books.

Mary seems like a person with a quiet place inside of her. The Bible says she kept the things the angel told her in her heart. The place in Mary’s heart sounds like it was a warm and secure place like the one Rose was describing. I wonder if Marilee has a place like that in her heart now that she’s going to church.

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m sitting in class again. I’m having a hard time paying attention to the professor. I haven’t talked to Becca since Sunday, but I know she’s busy with her internship. It’s not unusual for her to go for a few days, or even all week, without talking to me. I left a message on her phone yesterday and she hasn’t responded. Ordinarily, she would have at least talked to one of us in the Sisterhood, but neither Marilee nor Lizabett have made any mention of calls they have received from her. No one has even mentioned an e-mail.

The professor assigns us a report to be written on a book from a different culture. We’re supposed to read the book and compare the culture we find in the book with our own. I wonder if the nativity story from the Bible would count. They certainly had a different culture back then. And since people are still making play adaptations from the Bible, the professor would have to classify it as literature.

Speaking of the play, I’ve heard rumors from the other cast members that a couple of big television producers are going to be watching on opening night. One’s working on a new prime-time comedy and the other is putting together a reality show. I knew when I heard those rumors that there would be no way the actress playing Mary would get sick and let her understudy go on. She would be there if she had to hide a broken leg under that long gown she’s going to be wearing.

I had to stand for the costume fitting so I know a person could hide a full plaster cast under the dress the wardrobe person is putting together. It’s all Depression-era clothing and I’m not sure anyone had stylish maternity clothes back then. Mostly it seems they just made tents and draped it over the woman. I guess if you were pregnant you wouldn’t be going any place fancy back then anyway.

The dress the costume designer made looked like it was made from old flour sacks. She was telling me that people really did make clothes out of the flour sacks and that the flour people obliged by printing tiny little flowers on some of the sacks. The dress for Mary had bluebells stamped on it. I think Mary would have liked bluebells.

I had a pillow strapped to me while the costume designer fitted the dress, so it’s not like the dress is any more stylish than other clothes of the era or anything. It’s made of coarse cotton and it scratches. Still, I have to admit I would like to wear the costume and be in the play instead of just standing on the sidelines.

I know a lot of people have to spend time on the sidelines. I’m not complaining; I’ve had more than my share of the spotlight over the years. I’m beginning to think though that I would trade a chance to walk across that stage as Mary for that time I was the Rose Parade Queen.

There’s just something about Mary that draws me to her.

I mean it when I tell Lizabett that it would be an honor to represent Mary in the play. Enough time has passed so that both Lizabett and I have taken a bus down to The Pews. We’re sitting at our table with some of Quinn’s books spread out around us.

“You should learn the lines so you can say them, just in case,” Lizabett says. “I have a feeling that this could be your special break. Especially with those producers coming.”

“Of course I’m going to learn the lines,” I say. I frown as I think about it. “It’s odd that the director hasn’t asked me to learn the lines already. Shouldn’t he do that?”

Lizabett shrugs. “Maybe he’s getting to it.”

“There’s not that much time until opening night.” The more I think about it the more I wonder. “Maybe I should ask him.”

Randy brings in a couple of bowls of soup and two just-ripened imported pears for us. The pears are all cut up on a plate with a few small slices of imported cheese.

Lizabett watches the tray as Randy sets it in on the table. “Wow.”

“I don’t usually see fruit like this at Uncle Lou’s,” I say. “Thank you. Is this part of the menu change thing?”

Randy shakes his head. “No, it’s just for you. You mentioned your mother buys the fancy fruit.”

I look at Randy. “I’m very impressed.”

Randy looks pleased. “If you need anything more, let me know.”

Then he leaves the room.

“Wow,” Lizabett repeats as she turns to me. “I’ve never had a guy buy me an imported piece of fruit before.”

I shake my head. “He didn’t need to do that.”

“But he did,” Lizabett says as she reaches for a piece of a pear.

We eat every single piece of pear and cheese on the plate and then Lizabett goes off to make a phone call as I turn my attention back to the journal.

 

I’m picking up where I left off. Well, maybe not right where I left off as I have something else I want to say. It’s about the pear. I think there’s something twisted about me. Not twisted in a horror movie kind of a way, but in the different-than-what-most-people-are kind of way. I’m thinking just the opposite of what Lizabett is about that pear.

So Randy brings me an imported pear, cut into perfect little wedges. What could be wrong with that? A few months ago, I would have said there was absolutely nothing wrong. But I’m not so sure anymore. My mother has given me imported fruit for years now and all it has done is make me feel I need to keep silent about who I really am. I’m not some princess who can’t be happy with a regular pear. I don’t want Randy to treat me like that.

In San Marino I see a fair number of women who fit the stereotype of trophy wives. They look sleek and expensively dressed. We’re talking really expensive here. They spend their days at the gym or the spa. They don’t have jobs, but everything they want is given to them anyway. They take it as their right to be served imported fruit on a dainty platter without even needing to worry about who’s going to wash the platter after they finish with it.

I’m not saying that all women in San Marino are like that. Or even that most of the women are. But my aunt and her friends are. My mother tries to be.

If Randy wants to put me on some princess pedestal, we are going to have problems. It’s not just the pear, either. It’s also the apartment. I don’t think he has an ulterior motive in offering me the apartment, but I’m not going to ever be a grown-up if I don’t learn to take care of myself.

I feel as though I’m one of those glass ornaments my mother collects for Christmas, something packed in tissue paper and only brought out on special occasions.

I want to live a life with more mess in it. Even Mary wasn’t carried along on some feather pillow; she had to ride that donkey and it couldn’t have been too comfortable.

I look at my watch and see I need to sign off now. I promised Lizabett I would meet her back here after the rehearsal session this afternoon. She is going to her ballet class right now. If she wasn’t, she’d probably want to come with me and watch this rehearsal as well. Oh, well, I’ll tell her all about it when I see her later. I expect the director will have some new poses for me today.

 

I don’t get back to The Pews until dark. My body hurts in places I didn’t know I had. The director wanted me to ride in the back of the old pickup to see if the actress playing Mary would be okay when she did it. The director wanted Mary and Joseph to be in the back of the pickup so the audience could hear the two of them making comments as they drove down the dusty old road. Besides, he had some great special effects going in the background that made one scene look like a thunderstorm.

I’m beginning to think Mary knew what she was doing when she rode on the donkey. Any animal would have a smoother gait than an old diesel pickup.

I met the woman who is playing Mary today. She came by when I had finished the test run in the pickup.

“At least you won’t have to ride in that pickup in front of an audience,” she said after she’d told me she was playing Mary. I could tell she was sizing me up and she looked a little worried about what she saw. I recognized the signs from my Rose Queen days.

“I know,” I assured her. “The director already told me not to expect to go on. Don’t worry.”

She nodded in relief. “It’s just that there’s going to be a producer from the new reality show coming to one of the performances. I don’t know which performance he’s coming to, so I won’t be missing any of them.”

“I had heard there were going to be some producers showing up.”

The woman had chin-length black hair and a tattoo of a butterfly on her hand. She used her hands a lot when she talked.

“I’m a nervous wreck. I’m trying so hard to make a go of this acting thing. It could be my big break if a producer notices me. I’m not sure I’d fit the comedy thing, but I’m hoping for the reality show—it’s filming in Cancún, Mexico, you know. In the meantime, I’m taking every little show I can find.” She started to thaw even more as she talked. “My boyfriend and I are both performing in a couple of shows right now. He’s Joseph in this one.”

“That’s great that you can work together.”

The woman leaned in toward me to speak low and confidential. “It really works well because our other show is up at Big Bear. I wouldn’t want to drive those mountain roads by myself this time of year. We do a morning rehearsal up there and have just enough time to get back for our rehearsal here.”

I nodded. I wouldn’t want to drive those roads in the winter either. The town of Big Bear is in the San Bernardino Mountains, about an hour and a half east of Pasadena. It’s the place everyone goes for skiing, but it has a good sized theatre community as well.

The woman took a deep breath and continued. “I know you probably want to get seen by a producer, too, but—”

I assured the woman again that the director had told me I wouldn’t be seeing any time on the stage. Which made her feel good, but, after she walked away, I began to wonder why the director had hired me to be the understudy in the first place. My height and build didn’t match hers at all. Surely, there was someone else in that line at the auditions that would have been a better match.

I got the answer to my question after rehearsal that day. The director asked to talk with me a minute. It turns out he recognized my home address from the forms I filled out. He knows my uncle and was hoping my uncle would allow the cast to have an opening night party at his house.

“I know Harold and Susan,” the director said. That’s my aunt and uncle. “I’ve seen them at charity events over the years. But, since you live with them, I’m hoping you might put in a good word. You’ve probably heard there’s going to be some big Hollywood names here for our opening night and a good party sets the tone for getting some media buzz. You know how it is. We have family financing for this production, but we’re hoping to get the real thing for next year.”

“Oh,” I said, trying to think of a way to tell the director that I didn’t have any influence with my uncle unless we counted the fact that he might be worried he’d look bad if he refused to hold the party. Or cheap, which would have been worse in my uncle’s opinion.

“Oh, gotta go,” the director said as he looked over my head at something else. “I had my assistant call your uncle today, so if you get a chance to mention it to him again that’d be great. I want him to know it’s the play you’re working on.”

The director left before I could say anything else.

The woman who is playing Mary walked back over to me. “I thought you said you weren’t going onstage at all.”

“That’s what he told me,” I said even though the woman kept looking at me suspiciously.

“But he knows your uncle.”

“Believe me, that’s not going to make a difference. Honest.”

I smiled at her to be reassuring. She walked away and that was that. I hope she doesn’t stay up nights worrying about something that isn’t going to happen.

Lizabett and Marilee are both waiting for me when I get back to The Pews.

“What’s wrong?” Marilee says as I limp into the room.

“Where do I begin?” I manage to make it to a chair. “I had to try out the back of the pickup so Mary wouldn’t be bumped around too much as she and Joseph hitch a ride to Bethlehem. It’s on account of her being pregnant. The director doesn’t want her to be jostled too much.”

Marilee looks at me. “Is the actress who’s playing Mary pregnant?”

“I don’t think so. She’s rehearsing another play up in Big Bear.”

“Then why do you have to be bumped around so she isn’t?”

“Because I’m the understudy.”

I know it sounds strange, but I don’t mind being the one who makes the ride easy for the princess for a change. I think a lot of that is because I picture the real Mary in the role in the play and I don’t mind making the road easy for her.

BOOK: A Dropped Stitches Christmas
5.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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