"Curtain Call" - flash fiction
This is one of my flash fiction pieces that did NOT place in a contest, so I'm free to publish it here on my own blog. Enjoy!
I am in my Chartreuse Room. It's my favorite place, except for the stage itself. I have a little time before my next performance, and I am relaxing before a final check of my make-up and costume.
Reposing contentedly on my chaise, I let my eyes travel around the room. Framed sheet music and show posters on the walls. A rack in one corner hanging full with dresses and costumes, alternately shimmery, sweet, sparkly, or diaphanous. Yes, diaphanous. I did work burlesque for awhile.
Below the dresses rests a rack with shoes, some high-heeled, some with taps. In another corner my trunk stands open. Of course, I haven't needed it in awhile, since I've had a nice run here. But it's ready to go in case I go on the road again. You know, it could happen. It's only been, what, a few years? since I was the hit of the circuit.
Against the wall next to the door, my vanity dresser, the icon of an actress, holds the tools of her trade. A large jar of Pond's Cold Cream, hairbrushes, makeup case, several vases of dried flower arrangements, and a bottle of water are lined up as precisely as chorus girls. From the top of the mirror hangs a lapis-blue coin skirt, its silvery coins and beads glittering in the glow of the vanity lights.
I suppose it's time. I arise from the chaise and take the few steps to the small stool in front of my vanity. Sitting down, I peer into the mirror. It seems cloudy today, like one of those old-fashioned mirrors that has silvered. Why can't I see clearly in it?
There is a knock on my door, followed by the door opening a few inches.
“Miss Stella,” chimes a cheery voice. “Five minutes to showtime. Are you ready?”
“You know that I am, Debbie,” I reply through the open door to the volunteer usher.
“I knew you would be,” Debbie replies. “I have a new volunteer out here with me. Her name is Linda.”
“How do you do, Linda,” I say through the gap between the door and the jamb. But by the time I reply, they are beginning a conversation.
“Is she really--?” Linda is inquiring.
“Shh,” Debbie hushes her. “Don't let her hear you.” I hear them move back from the door a couple steps.
“She still has a wonderful voice,” Debbie says softly. “She remembers an unbelievable number of old vaudeville jokes, and her timing is spot on. On her best days, she adds a little soft-shoe to her performance, but I worry about her losing her balance and falling. Of course, I don't say so. You know, when we restored the theater, we had to work around her Chartreuse Room. She had had her own green room here for decades.”
My Chartreuse Room! They wanted to remodel it! But they started paying attention when I barricaded myself in here for a few days and wouldn't come out.
Linda says, “When I moved here recently, several people told me about how this was her home theater back in the day. How she nearly died from a broken heart when it closed down and she had nowhere to perform, because of her age. How she got a new lease on life when it was restored and reopened.”
Ha! They finally came to their senses!
“Yes, that's all true,” Debbie replies. “Since the theater reopened, we have her do a short matinee once a week. We go pick her up from the nursing home and bring her early enough that she can spend some time in her Chartreuse Room. Then the senior center bus arrives and the locals come. It's often close to a sell-out crowd. Stella is such a treasure!” She is speaking low and almost reverently.
I smile to myself. Well, yes, I do have a reputation.
I can imagine Debbie looking at her watch as she concludes the hushed conversation. “And yes, she is really 94 years old, although we never speak of her age to her.”
I have heard these whispered conversations before, of course, but I pretend not to notice. I pat my hair once more, peer into that cloudy mirror one last time, get up from the vanity stool, and saunter out of my dressing room. I have a show to do.