ENTER SUSANNA

29 Jun

Marianne poured herself a cup of black coffee and sipped it with a grimace. There was a tap on the door. ‘Excuse me,’ it was Jeff, the stage Manager, there’s someone to see Jason, Do you know where he is?’ ‘Isn’t he rehearsing on the stage?’ ‘No, he went to the dentist. Shouldn’t be long.’ ‘Then get the visitor to wait.’ Jeff looked anxious. ‘I don’t know where to put her. She’s… (Jeff indicated a big belly) Preggers. – very – looks like it might drop any minute.’ ‘Oh Lord, better wheel her in here. Get Icy to give us some tea, will you? I can’t drink this filth any longer. Tell the cast I’ll be with them after the coffee break.’ ‘They are all right. The MD is just rehearsing the music for the finale.’ Then I won’t be needed for a while anyway.’ Jeff turned to go. ‘Oh, and Jeff.’ He turned back ‘And tell Ivy – some chocolate digestives, wouldn’t go amiss.’ ‘I hope they are for the visitor and not for you.’ he replied warningly. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t touch a morsel.’ she said wincing. Jeff showed in the girl, who was indeed heavily pregnant. A pretty dark girl with huge grey eyes. Fringed with thick brisling lashes and a sweet childlike smile. She didn’t look old enough to be a mother, but she obviously was. Marianne helped her to a chair. ‘You are visiting Jason?’ askedMarianne. The girl spoke in a high upper-class voice. ‘I’m Susanna – Jason’s cousin, do you know Jason well?’ Marianne smiled to herself. ‘Oh yes,’ she said ‘I know Jason very well, and his mother and father.’ ‘Oh, you would, of course. Mummy and Daddy aren’t too keen on Aunt Jess, you know, but I think she’s rather fun.’ ‘You could say that. Jessica is a very amusing person.’ ‘And so clever. I intend to e an actress when When…’ ‘When you grow up?’ laughed Marianne. ‘Yes,’ said the girl,’ making a funny little face. I am huge, aren’t I?’ Mariann nodded ‘A bit huge’ she said. Ivey arrived with two cups of tea and a [late of biscuits, the girl pounced on them with delight. ‘Oh, golly,’ Susanna cried, ‘choc digestives. my faves.’ The girl reached out greedily for a biscuit. Marianne looked at her left hand as she did so. No Ring, so what, that meant either that she didn’t like wearing rings, or that she wasn’t married. Either way, it didn’t matter these days.’ Marianne put out her hand to take one of the biscuits but was saved by the reappearance of Jeff. She snatched her hand away, guiltily when she saw his reproving look. ‘Bit of a crisis Marianne. Some of the music appears to be in the wrong key. Can’t think how it happened, we had it all transposed. ‘I’ll be along in a minute,’ she said. Jeff left giving her a piece of mime which meant ‘NO BISCUITS’ She began to wish she hadn’t told them all about her problem, they watched like a gang of hawks. I’ll have to run along now,’ she said,’ why not sit here, have a look at Spotlight, that’s always fun. I’ll put it on the desk, so you don’t have to hold it.’ Golly, all those millions of photographs.’ ‘Yup – all actors are trying to make a living. It costs them quite a lot to get their picture in there, not to mention the price of the photographs themselves. But somehow they all manage to find the money – and sometimes it pays off. I use Spotlight myself when I’m casting.’ ‘How interesting. I suppose I’d better do something about getting into it.’ ‘Well, certainly if you are going to be an actress, certainly. Did you have any training?’ ‘Yes, I was in the middle of my course at Central when this happened,’ she indicating her stomach’ Not that I mind about it. In fact, I think its rather fun. Do you have children?’ Marianne bit her lip, the pain still seized her at times, she envied this little creature with all her heart, but she wasn’t about to admit it, not even to herself. ‘Not yet, Just as well. I have too much to do here.@ ‘My mother’s not very keen on this’ she indicated her bump, but Aunt jess has been fantastic. She’s awfully kind, you know.’ Marianne laughed lightly ‘You could have fooled me.’ she said The other girl laughed ‘No really, I’m very grateful to her.’ ‘Anyway, I must go. Stay and enjoy yourself. I’m sure your cousin won’t be long.’ Marianne made her way to the auditorium. So that was Jason’s little cousin, Suze. She certainly was a pretty little thing. What a pity about the pregnancy, so young. Still, if the family was rolling in money, it wasn’t really a problem. Suze would e up and back at Central before you could say, Jack Robinson. But Marianne felt kind of sorry for her despite her assertions that she was having fun. She seemed so tiny and yet so huge. Perhaps her feeling of sorrow was not so much for the girl, more for herself. She still missed the baby she had never had. She saw Jason looming into view. His face swollen from the novocaine. ‘Hi Jace,’ she said, how’s the tooth?’ ‘I’ll live.’ ‘Your cousin is here.’ ‘Cousin?’ he asked, ‘which cousin?’ A dear little thing. Susanna.’ ‘Good grief, the one at Central. Haven’t seen her for months.’ ‘Then you are in for a surprise,’ Marianne carried on down the corridor, ‘She’s in my office.’ For the next hour, Marianne was busy working out the music. It ha da ll been written in a key far too hight for the soprano and all had to be transposed. Unfortunately, the musician had made an error, and it was now much too low. The Muso was sent away to try again, and Marianne stayed to watch the choreographer put the actors through their movement for the finale. Jason arrived at rehearsal apologising profusely for the delay. He had a strange expression on his face, but he carried on with the rehearsal as usual. When lunch was called, he left without speaking to anyone. Marianne was still giving notes to Laurea Jensen when she saw him leave the auditorium and the last she saw of him was when she left the theatre and saw his car disappearing down the road in a belch of smoke. Marianne kept the afternoons free at this stage in rehearsals so that the actors could learn their lines, and she could get on with her ever-present duty of reading scripts. She would be seeing Jason this evening. He had not seen the current production as he had been away on location since it opened. He would be out front tonight, and she looked forward to finding out why he had rushed off in that impetuous manner. She was not unduly perturbed. Jason’s behaviour was eccentric more often than not, and it was nothing for him to go off without saying goodbye to anyone – and unless he was actually working, he could be missing for weeks at a time. He would just drive that car of his all over the country, stopping at little inns along the way. Always it seemed to Marianne, he was trying to escape from something but had never discovered what it was. Marianne suspected it had to do with his mother, Jessica. He had such a love/hate relationship with her. He avoided her whenever possible. Would not be seen at theatrical parties or first nights if he thought she would be there. It was as if he didn’t want to be alongside anybody in his life. He had to be able to make his life on his own. Be alone when he needed it. Marianne understood this.She had moments like that herself, but they did not hold such a priority in her life that she felt it necessary to hurt and offend her friends. Jason just never seemed to notice the effect he had on other people. Marianne always put it down to upper-class arrogance. She cared enormously about other peoples reaction to her. That evening Marianne arrived to see the show. A charming little musical play which he had dug up from a pile of eighteenth-century music. It had been presented before, and the music had been rewritten. It had been a while ago since it was last shown, but she had heard about it from so many people she thought it deserved another run. Marianne looked for Jason as soon as she arrived, but couldn’t see him anywhere. He tended to turn up just as the band was playing the overture – a miracle of timing. She always had a feeling that Jason might sit outside until he heard the first bars of music so he could make his entrance in the nick of time. Maybe it was for effect, perhaps it was just that he didn’t want to talk to anyone. However the body that plonked itself next to her in her favourite seat at the back of the tiny balcony was not Jason’s, it was Charles Granville. He kissed her on the cheek as he slid in beside her. ‘Hi.’ he whispered. She whispered back, ‘You here again.’ He nodded and gave her a wink. ‘I love this play – and I love what you have done with it.’ ‘Oh, thank you.’ When the interval arrived, Marianne and Charles went into the bar for a drink. As Charles was fighting his way through the crowds, Marianne looked for Jason, but couldn’t see him anywhere. Maybe, after all, he’d decided not to come. She was disappointed. But, there were still opportunities for him to watch the play. Charles arrived, carrying glasses. ‘That Laura has really got a message for the audience,’ he said, ‘Who’s her agent?’ ‘Bruce Coptic’ ‘I might have known. He always had a good eye.’ ‘Yes he saw her in View from the Bridge and signed her up on the spot.’ ‘I expect you dragged him here by the bootstraps. ‘Wel, I did drop a word in his shell-like. But he was very impressed. Went for her like a bolt from an arrow.’ ‘She certainly has a strong sexual message.’ he said. ‘Don’t tell her that. She refuses to be a sex symbol.’ ‘Then, she;’s loony. She might take advantage of what she’s got While she’s got it. I think we should try to find a West End Play for her..’ Marianne looked at him with narrowed eyes. ‘For all of us.’ she said hissing through her teeth. Charles burst out laughing. ‘It’s just about time, is’t it?’ and he put his arm around her and gave her a squeeze. ‘Don’t worry Marianne. I’m looking – as soon as I find the right vehicle for you and your chosen few. And yet it must be commercial. You may have to lower your standards a bit.’ ‘I don’t see why. They do a lot of good stuff around town these days’ ‘Yes, well I want a real smash hit commercial success. Scrub around the art for the moment. We’ve had plenty of that.’ ‘t would be nice if we could have both.’ ‘Later, my dear, when we’ve got well and truly established. Bear with me and trust me in this.’ As she spoke, Charles put his hands on her shoulders and looked deep in her eyes. She knew he was going to kiss her, and she knew she would like it a lot. There in the middle of the crowded bar, with people all around, Charles kiss was light as a butterfly. He was the kind of a man who was in charge of himself and his emotions. A man who has specific intentions and is going to make sure to get what he sets out for. Marianne suddenly felt a little dizzy and without a word, allowed him to escort her back to their place on the balcony. As soon as the show finished, she whispered to him. ‘Sorry, have to fly – early rehearsal’ and giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, left him no opportunity to change her mind. He watched her go with a puzzled expression, shook his head and made his way round to the stage door.

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