Authors: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General
To Lydia, with love
The Glitter Baby was back. She paused inside the arched…
Belinda Britton lifted a copy of Modern Screen from the…
By the time Belinda met him, Flynn had gone through…
Alexi cruised with them on the Zaca and took them…
To Belinda’s surprise, her wedding night didn’t occur until the…
The man cracked an ugly black whip over his head,…
I’m going to meet my father today. The words tumbled…
“What are you doing here?” Belinda’s voice was little more…
Hollywood wanted Jake Koranda smart-ass and mean. They wanted him…
Belinda was waiting on the patio when Fleur got home…
Jake watched as Belinda gradually won over every male on…
Johnny Guy cleared the set of all but the necessary…
Fleur waited for Jake to invite her in, but he…
“You’re not talking me out of being pissed.”
Fleur tried to sleep on the plane to Paris, but…
Fleur cashed a check at American Express using her Gold…
They arrived at the ice hockey arena. The stage had…
Kissy’s apartment sat above an Italian restaurant in the Village.
Fleur rested her elbows on the deck rail and watched…
Dark, erotic dreams invaded Fleur’s sleep after she got back…
The bronze satin gown hugged her body with its high…
Fleur came to a stop halfway up the circular staircase…
To Fleur’s surprise, Jake was the first to arrive for…
The phone call from the security company woke Fleur at…
By Christmas, Fleur had picked up three great new clients—two…
Fleur found Jake by the garage, sitting on the ground…
They returned an hour later, shivering with cold from their…
“I wanted to be yours,” Fleur replied, “but you wouldn’t…
Belinda gazed at the suitcase that lay open on Fleur’s…
The young man’s body formed a perfect arc as he…
The Glitter Baby
was back. She paused inside the arched entrance to the Orlani Gallery so the opening night guests would have time to recognize her. The low buzz of polite party conversation mixed with the street noises outside as the patrons pretended to view the African primitives hanging on the walls. The air carried the scent of Joy, imported pâté de foie gras, and money. Six years had passed since hers was one of the most famous faces in America. The Glitter Baby wondered if they’d still remember…and what she would do if they didn’t.
She gazed straight ahead with studied ennui, her lips slightly parted and her hands, bare of rings, relaxed at her sides. In ankle-strap stilettos she stood more than six feet tall, a beautiful Amazon with a thick mane of hair that fell past her shoulders. It used to be a game among New York’s one-name hairdressers to try to identify the color with only a single word. They offered up “champagne,” “butterscotch,” “taffy,” but never got it quite right because her hair was all those colors, interwoven threads of every shade of blond that changed hue with the light.
It wasn’t just her hair that inspired the poetic. Everything about the Glitter Baby encouraged superlatives. Years
earlier, a temperamental fashion editor had famously fired an assistant editor who made the mistake of referring to the celebrated eyes as “hazel.” The editor herself rewrote the copy, describing the irises of Fleur Savagar’s eyes as being “marbled with gold, tortoise, and startling sluices of emerald-green.”
On this September evening in 1982, the Glitter Baby looked more beautiful than ever as she gazed at the crowd. A trace of hauteur shone in her not-quite-hazel eyes, and her sculpted chin held an almost arrogant tilt, but inside, Fleur Savagar was terrified. She took a deep, steadying breath and reminded herself that the Glitter Baby had grown up, and she wouldn’t ever let them hurt her again.
She watched the crowd. Diana Vreeland, impeccably dressed in an Yves Saint Laurent evening cape and black silk pants, studied a bronze Benin head, while Mikhail Baryshnikov, all cheeks and dimples, stood at the center of a group of women more interested in Russian charm than African primitives. In one corner a television anchorman and his socialite wife chatted with a fortyish French actress making her first public appearance since a not so hush-hush face-lift, while across from them, the pretty showpiece wife of a notoriously homosexual Broadway producer stood alone in a Mollie Parnis she had foolishly left unbuttoned to the waist.
Fleur’s dress was different from everyone else’s. Her designer had seen to that.
You must be elegant, Fleur. Elegance, elegance, elegance in the Era of the Tacky.
He’d cut bronze stretch satin on the bias and constructed a cleanly sculpted gown with a high neck and bare arms. At mid-thigh, he’d slashed the skirt in a long diagonal to the opposite ankle, then filled in the space with a waterfall flounce of the thinnest black
He’d teased her about the flounce, saying he’d been forced to design it as camouflage for her size-ten feet.
Heads began to turn, and she saw the exact instant when the crowd’s curiosity changed to recognition. She slowly let
out her breath. A hush fell over the gallery. A bearded photographer turned his Hasselblad from the French actress to Fleur and caught the picture that would take up the entire front page of the next morning’s
Women’s Wear Daily
Across the room, Adelaide Abrams, New York’s most widely read gossip columnist, squinted toward the arched doorway. It couldn’t be! Had the real Fleur Savagar finally been flushed out? Adelaide took a quick step forward and bumped into a multimillionaire real estate developer. She glanced wildly about for her own photographer, only to see that
already bearing down. Adelaide plunged past two startled socialites, and, like Secretariat going for the Triple Crown, made the final dash to Fleur Savagar’s side.
Fleur had been watching the race between
and Adelaide Abrams, and she didn’t know whether she was relieved or not to see Adelaide winning. The columnist was a shrewd old bird, and it wouldn’t be easy to put her off with half-truths and vague answers. On the other hand, Fleur needed her.
“Fleur my God it really is you I can’t believe what I see with my very own eyes my God you look wonderful!”
“So do you, Adelaide.” Fleur had a vaguely Midwestern accent, pleasant and slightly musical. No one listening would have guessed that English wasn’t her first language. The bottom of her chin met the top of Adelaide’s hennaed hair, and she had to lean down for their air kiss. Adelaide pulled her toward the back corner of the room, effectively cutting her off from the other members of the press.
“Nineteen seventy-six was a bad year for me, Fleur,” she said. “I went through menopause. God forbid you should ever go through the hell I did. It would have lifted my spirits if you’d given me the story. But I guess you had too much on your mind to spare me a thought. Then, when you finally show up again in New York…” She shook her finger at Fleur’s chin. “Let’s just say you’ve disappointed me.”
“Everything in its proper time.”
“That’s all you have to say?”
Fleur gave what she hoped was an inscrutable smile and took a glass of champagne from a passing waiter.
Adelaide grabbed a glass of her own. “I’ll never forget your first
cover if I live to be a hundred. Those bones of yours…and those great, big hands. No rings, no nail polish. They shot you in furs and a Harry Winston diamond choker that had to cost a quarter of a million.”
“No one could believe it when you disappeared. Then Belinda…” A calculating expression crossed her face. “Have you seen her lately?”
Fleur wouldn’t talk about Belinda. “I was in Europe most of the time. I needed to sort out some things.”
“Sorting out I can understand. You were a young girl. It was your first movie, and you’d hardly had a normal childhood. Hollywood people aren’t always sensitive, not like us New Yorkers. Six years, then you come back, and you’re not yourself. What kind of sorting takes six years?”
“Things got complicated.” She gazed across the room to signal the subject was closed.
Adelaide switched direction. “So tell me, mystery lady, what’s your secret? Hard to believe, but you look even better now than you did at nineteen.”
The compliment interested Fleur. Sometimes when she looked at her photographs, she could glimpse the beauty others saw in her, but only in a detached way, as if the image belonged to someone else. Although she wanted to believe the years had brought greater strength and maturity to her face, she hadn’t known how others would view the changes.
Fleur had no personal vanity, simply because she’d never been able to see what all the fuss was about. She found her face too strong. The bones that photographers and fashion editors raved about looked masculine to her. As for her
height, her large hands, her long feet…They were simply impossible.
“You’re the one with secrets,” she said. “Your skin is amazing.”
Adelaide allowed herself to be flattered for only a moment before she waved off the compliment. “Tell me about that gown. Nobody’s worn anything like it in years. It reminds me of what fashion used to be about…” She tilted her head toward the unzipped producer’s wife. “…before vulgarity replaced style.”
“The man who designed it will be here later tonight. He’s extraordinary. You have to meet him.” Fleur smiled. “I’d better go talk to
before she burns a hole in your back.”
Adelaide caught her arm, and Fleur saw what looked like genuine concern on her face. “Wait. Before you turn around, you should know that Belinda just walked in.”
A queer, dizzy sensation swept through Fleur. She hadn’t expected this. How stupid of her. She should have realized…Even without looking, she knew every eye in the room would be watching them. She turned slowly.
Belinda was loosening the scarf that lay just inside the collar of her golden sable coat. She froze when she saw Fleur, then her unforgettable hyacinth-blue eyes widened.
Belinda was forty-five, blond, and lovely. Her jawline remained firm, and her knee-high soft leather boots clung to small, shapely calves. She’d worn the same hairstyle since the fifties—Grace Kelly’s sophisticated
Dial M for Murder
side-parted bob—and it still looked fashionable.
Without even a glance at the people standing around her, she walked straight toward Fleur. On her way, she pulled off her gloves and stuffed them in her pockets. She didn’t notice when one of her gloves fell to the floor. She was conscious only of her daughter. The Glitter Baby.
Belinda had invented the name. So perfect for her beautiful Fleur. She touched the small spinning charm that she’d
begun to wear again on a chain under her dress. Flynn had given it to her during those golden days at the Garden of Allah. But that hadn’t really been the beginning.
The beginning…She remembered so clearly the day it had all started. That September Thursday in 1955 had been hot for Southern California. It was the day she’d met James Dean…
Belinda Britton lifted
a copy of
from the magazine rack at Schwab’s Sunset Boulevard drugstore. She couldn’t wait to see Marilyn Monroe’s new movie,
The Seven Year Itch
, although she wished Marilyn weren’t making it with Tom Ewell. He wasn’t very handsome. She’d rather see her with Bob Mitchum again, like in
River of No Return
, or Rock Hudson, or, even better, Burt Lancaster.
A year ago Belinda had a terrible crush on Burt Lancaster. When she’d seen
From Here to Eternity
, she’d felt as if it were her body, not Deborah Kerr’s, that he’d embraced as the waves crashed around them, and her lips he’d kissed. She wondered if Deborah Kerr had opened her mouth when Burt kissed her. Deborah didn’t seem the type, but if Belinda had been playing the part, she would have opened her mouth for Burt Lancaster’s tongue, you could bet on that.
In her fantasy, the light wasn’t right or the director had gotten distracted. For some reason the camera wouldn’t stop and neither would Burt. He’d peel down the top of her sandy one-piece bathing suit, stroke her, and call her “Karen” because that was her name in the movie. But Burt
would know it was really Belinda, and when he bent his head to her breasts…
“Excuse me, miss, but could you hand me a copy of
Fade to waves pounding, just like in the movies.
Belinda passed over the magazine, then traded her
with Kim Novak on the cover. It had been six months since she’d daydreamed about Burt Lancaster or Tony Curtis or any of the rest. Six months since she’d seen the face that had made all the other handsome faces fade away. She wondered if her parents ever missed her, but suspected they were glad to have her gone. Every month, they sent her one hundred dollars so she didn’t have to work at a menial job that would embarrass them if their Indianapolis society friends ever found out about it. Her well-to-do parents had both been forty when she was born. They’d named her Edna Cornelia Britton. She was a terrible inconvenience. Although they weren’t cruel, they were cold, and she grew up with a faint sense of panic stemming from a feeling that she was somehow invisible. Other people told her she was pretty, her teachers told her she was smart, but their compliments meant nothing. How could someone who was invisible be special?
When she was nine, Belinda discovered that all the bad feelings went away when she sat in the Palace Theater and pretended she was one of the dazzling goddesses who shone on the screen. Beautiful creatures with faces and bodies a hundred times bigger than life. These women were the chosen ones, and she vowed that she, too, would someday take her place among them on that same screen, that she would be magnified as they were until she never again felt invisible.
“That’ll be twenty-five cents, beautiful.” The cashier was a handsome, Chiclet-toothed blond, too obviously an unemployed actor. His gaze slid over Belinda’s figure, fashionably clad in a pencil-slim navy cotton sheath trimmed in white and cinched at the waist with a poppy-red patent
leather belt. The dress reminded her of something Audrey Hepburn would wear, although Belinda thought of herself more as the Grace Kelly type. People told her she looked like Grace. She’d even had her hair cut to make the resemblance more pronounced.
The style complemented her small, fine features, meticulously enhanced with Tangee’s Red Majesty lipstick. She’d blended a few dabs of Revlon’s newest cream rouge just below her cheekbones to emphasize their contour, a trick she’d learned in a
article by Bud Westmore, makeup man to the stars. She kept her pale lashes touched up with dark brown mascara, which highlighted her very best feature, a pair of exceptionally startling hyacinth-blue eyes, saturated with color and innocence.
The Chiclet-toothed blond leaned over the counter. “I get off work in an hour. How about waiting around for me?
Not as a Stranger
’s playing down the street.”
“No, thank you.” Belinda picked up one of the Bavarian chocolate mint bars that Schwab’s kept displayed on the counter and handed over a dollar bill. They were her special treat, along with a new movie magazine, on her twice-weekly trips to the Sunset Boulevard drugstore. So far, she’d seen Rhonda Fleming at the counter buying a bottle of Lustre-Creme shampoo and Victor Mature walking out the door.
“How about this weekend?” the cashier persisted.
“I’m afraid not.” Belinda took her change and gave him a sad, regretful smile that made him feel as if she would remember him forever with faint, bittersweet regret. She liked the effect she had on men. She assumed it came from her uncommon looks, but it sprang from something quite different. Belinda made men feel stronger, more intelligent, more masculine than they were. Other women would have turned this power to their advantage, but Belinda thought too little of herself.
Her gaze fell on a young man sitting in a back booth, shoulders hunched over a book and a cup of coffee. Her
heart flipped, even as she told herself she would only be disappointed again. She thought about him so much that she imagined she saw him everywhere. Once she’d followed a man for nearly a mile only to discover he had a big, ugly nose that didn’t belong on the face of her dreams.
She walked slowly toward the back booth, excitement, anticipation, and almost certain disappointment churning inside her. As he reached for a pack of Chesterfields, she saw fingernails bitten to the quick. He tapped out a cigarette. Belinda held her breath, waiting for him to look up. Everything around her faded. Everything except the man in the booth.
He turned a page of his book, the cigarette dangling unlit from the corner of his mouth, and thumbed open a match pack. She’d nearly reached the booth when he struck the match and looked up. Just like that, Belinda found herself staring through a cloud of gray smoke into the cool blue eyes of James Dean.
In that instant she was back in Indianapolis at the Palace Theater. The movie was
East of Eden.
She’d been sitting in the last row when this same face had exploded on the screen. With his high, intelligent forehead and restless blue eyes, he’d roared into her life larger than all the other larger-than-life faces she’d ever seen. Fireworks exploded inside her and Catherine wheels spun, and she’d felt as if all the air had been punched from her body.
Bad Boy James Dean, with the smoldering eyes and crooked grin. Bad Boy Jimmy, who snapped his fingers at the world and laughed when he told it to go to hell. From the moment she saw him on the Palace Theater screen, he meant everything to her. He was the rebel…the lure…the shining beacon…The tilt of his head and slouch of his shoulders proclaimed that a man is his own creation. She’d transformed that message within herself and walked out of the theater her own woman. A month before her high school graduation, she lost her virginity in the backseat of an Olds 88 to a boy whose sulky mouth reminded her of
Jimmy’s. Afterward, she packed her suitcase, slipped out of the house, and headed for the Indianapolis bus station. By the time she reached Hollywood, she’d changed her name to Belinda and put Edna Cornelia behind her forever.
She stood in front of him, her heart thumping in a crazy dance. She wanted to be wearing her tight black pedal pushers instead of this prim, navy-blue cotton dress. She wanted dark glasses, her highest heels, her blond hair pulled back on one side with a tortoiseshell comb.
“I—I loved your movie, Jimmy.” Her voice quivered like a violin string drawn too tight. “
East of Eden.
I loved it.”
And I love you. More than you can imagine.
The cigarette formed an exclamation point to his sulky lips. His heavy-lidded eyes squinted against the smoke. “Yeah?”
He was speaking to her! She couldn’t believe it. “I’m your biggest fan,” she stammered. “I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen
East of Eden
Jimmy, you’re everything to me! You’re all I have.
“It was wonderful. You were wonderful.” She stared worshipfully at him, her hyacinth-blue eyes luminous with love and adoration.
Dean shrugged his fine, narrow shoulders.
“I can’t wait for
Rebel Without a Cause.
It opens next month, doesn’t it?”
Get up and take me home with you, Jimmy. Please. Take me home and make love to me.
Her heart was racing so fast she felt dizzy. No one understood him like she did. “I heard
’s really going to be something.”
Love me, Jimmy. I’ll give everything to you.
Success had made him immune to hyacinth-eyed blondes with star-worship emblazoned across their pretty faces. He grunted and hunched back over his book. She didn’t consider his behavior rude. He was a giant, a god. Rules that applied to others didn’t apply to him. “Thank you,” she murmured, as she backed away. And then, in a whisper, “I love you, Jimmy.”
Dean didn’t hear. Or if he had, he didn’t care. He’d heard those words too many other times.
Belinda spent the rest of the week reliving the magical encounter. His location shooting in Texas was over, so he was sure to be at Schwab’s again, and she’d go there every day until he reappeared. She wouldn’t stammer, either. Men had always liked her, and Jimmy would be no different. She’d wear her sexiest outfit, and he’d have to fall in love with her.
But it was the respectable navy-blue sheath she wore the following Friday evening when she walked out of the shabby apartment she shared with two other girls and went off with her date. Billy Greenway was an acne-scarred sex fiend, but he was also the head messenger for Paramount’s casting department. A month ago, she’d gotten an audition at Paramount. She thought she’d been one of the prettiest girls in the waiting room, but she didn’t know if the assistant casting director had liked her. As she left the building, she’d met Billy, and by their third date she made him promise to get her a copy of the casting director’s memo if she’d let him touch her titties. Yesterday he’d called to tell her he finally had it.
They’d nearly reached his car when he pulled her against him for a long kiss. She heard the rustle of paper in the pocket of his checked sports shirt and pushed him away. “Is that the memo, Billy?”
He kissed her neck, his heavy breathing reminding her of all the raw Indiana boys she’d left behind. “I told you I’d bring it, didn’t I?”
“Let me see.”
“Later, babe.” His hands moved to her hips.
“You’re going out with a lady, and I don’t appreciate being mauled.” She gave him her coldest look and got in the car, but she knew she wouldn’t see the paper until she’d paid his price. “Where are you taking me tonight?” she asked as they drove away from her apartment.
“How’d you like to go to a little blast at the Garden of Allah?”
“The Garden of Allah?” Belinda’s head came up. During
the forties, the Garden had been one of the most famous hotels in Hollywood. Some of the stars still stayed there. “How did you get an invitation to a party at the Garden?”
“I got my ways.”
He drove with one hand on the steering wheel and the other draped over her shoulder. As she expected, he didn’t take her directly to the Garden. Instead he wound through the side streets off Laurel Canyon until he found a secluded spot. He turned off the ignition and flicked the key over so they could hear the radio. Pérez Prado playing “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.” “Belinda, you know I’m real crazy about you.” He nuzzled her neck.
She wished he would just give her the memo, then take her to the party at the Garden without making her go through this. Still, it hadn’t been too bad last time, not once she’d closed her eyes and pretended he was Jimmy.
He thrust his tongue in her mouth before she caught her breath. She made a soft, gagging sound, then imprinted Jimmy’s face on the backs of her eyelids.
Bad Boy Jimmy, taking what you want without asking.
A small moan escaped at the feel of the rough, invading tongue.
Bad Boy Jimmy, tongue so sweet.
He began tugging at the buttons of her navy sheath, his tongue stuck deep in her mouth. Cold air brushed her back and shoulders as he peeled the dress down to her waist and pushed her bra away. She pressed her eyes more tightly shut and pretended Jimmy was looking at her.
Am I beautiful for you, Jimmy? I like it when you look at me. I like it when you touch me.
His hand slid up her stocking and over her garter onto bare flesh. He touched the inside of her thigh, and she eased her legs open for him.
Touch me, Jimmy. Touch me there. Beautiful Jimmy. Oh yes.
He pressed her hand into his lap and rubbed it against him. Her eyes flew open. “No!” She pulled herself away and began straightening her clothes. “I’m not a tramp.”
“I know that, babe,” he said tightly. “You got a lot of
class. But it’s not right the way you get me all worked up and then turn off.”
“You got yourself all worked up. And if it bothers you, stop dating me.”
He didn’t like that, and he peeled out onto the dark street. All the way down Laurel Canyon, he sulked in silence, and he was still sulking as he swung onto Sunset Boulevard. Only when he’d eased the car into the parking space at the Garden of Allah did he reach into his pocket and pull out the paper she wanted. “You’re not going to like this.”
The pit of her stomach lurched. She snatched the paper from him and ran her eyes down the typed list. She had to scan the page twice before she found her name. A comment was printed next to it. She stared at it, tried to make sense of what she was seeing. Gradually she absorbed the words.
, she read.
Great eyes, great tits, no talent.
The Garden of Allah was once Hollywood’s favorite playground. Originally the home of Alla Nazimova, the great Russian film star, it had been turned into a hotel in the late twenties. Unlike the Beverly Hills and the Bel Air, the Garden had never been completely respectable, and even when it first opened, there’d been something slightly seedy about it. But still the stars came, drawn like silvery moths to the twenty-five Spanish bungalows and the party that never seemed to stop.