It was morning now and the hospital was clamorously abuzz with activity. Dust motes danced deliriously in the bright light that shone clean and clear through the high barred window of Angelika’s room. Athena stared in mute horror as Angelika finished the story.
“My God.” she whispered.
“Yeah.” Angelika’s face was dark with the memory.
“What happened to the girls?” asked Athena.
“Jenna thankfully didn’t remember much, but Tiffany did. She tried to press charges, but Simon’s behemoth of a family lawyer bought them off and cheaply.” Angelika’s stomach spasmed in pain and residual disgust.
“Well that must have changed you.” said Athena.
Angelika nodded, “Suddenly I felt about a hundred years old. The mantra that kept spinning through my mind in disbelief was ‘These are my friends, these are my friends.’ I stopped everything right then. I never contacted any of them again, I destroyed their phone numbers and I deleted their phone messages. I stopped going out entirely in case I bumped into any of them.I spent a few weeks seriously detoxing, which wasn’t hard given the circumstance. All I wanted was to be washed clean of that night and all those memories.
“I auditioned for a play at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and against all the odds, I got the role and from that, wonderful things started to happen. I received my first good review in the trades and my stock suddenly went up. I wasn’t exactly on the A-List, but I was getting there.
“Then Debbie, my manager decided to become a director. I couldn’t blame her for her ambition, but I did find it more than a little amusing as she had the emotional sensitivity of a rampaging rhinocerous. I quickly was approached by another manager called Shelly who desperately wanted to represent me. It was OK, she got me leading roles in B movies, and the pay was really good. I should have known better, but I was so happy to be working and starring in films that I tended to convince myself that they had more artistic merit than they did. As you know, I was always quite brilliant at self-delusion.”
“Yes you were, my darling. But what of your lust for adventure, was that completely gone?” Athena looked at Angelika who smiled, mysteriously.
“No. Apparently it had been lying dormant, darkly waiting for its optimum moment to pounce.”
“And did it pounce?” nudged Athena.
Los Angeles: 1991
Angelika sat on her bed and stared transfixed at the television screen as Operation Desert Storm unfolded live on CNN. She looked fresh and scrubbed and her bedroom was now a testament to healthy living and an organized mind. An annotated script lay open at her side, at which she occasionally threw the odd distracted glance.
The phone suddenly rang and she reached and picked up the receiver, with her eyes never leaving the TV screen. “Hello?”
It was Athena. “Are you watching this?”
“Yeah, for days, now,” replied Angelika, “freaky.” On screen, another smart bomb succinctly impacted it’s fluorescent night-vision target.
“How's the film going?” asked Athena who couldn’t remember the title of her sister’s latest project, but she knew that Angelika was playing yet another slinky, husky-voiced femme fatale. It had definitely become her milieu of late, which was pretty bloody amusing considering what a scrawny, bespectacled and bookish geek her baby sister had once been.
“Not bad,” replied Angelika laconically, ”a couple more weeks of battling with the director to keep my clothes on and my tits covered and I should be done.”
Athena laughed, “Nothing new there, then.”
“Nope. Business as usual. How's hubby?” Angelika turned down the volume slightly as she couldn’t concentrate on Athena, what with all the explosions and the helicopters and everything.
“He's great.” Athena sounded really happy, and Angelika adored hearing that honeyed contentment in her sister’s voice. “How's your love life?”
Angelika snorted, “Again, business as usual. Not a sniff.”
“Darling, who are you waiting for?” laughed Athena, incredulously, ”Kevin Costner? It'll heal up, you know.”
Angelika replied as nonchalently as possible, given that she was desperately horny and felt about to erupt, “I never meet anyone, Athena. Only really bad actors. Can't go there.”
“I suppose you're right.” said Athena grudgingly, as she really wanted Angelika to meet someone amazing, “So what else is new?” Angelika, clambered off of the bed with phone in hand and went into the kitchen.
Her father and a flamboyantly sexy young woman were kissing, while cooking dinner together. They giggled with childish embarrassment while Angelika poured herself a glass of water. She then pointed to the receiver. “It's Athena.”
Her Dad cooed gooily down the phone to Athena, “Hi baby!”
Angelika then rolled her eyes, grapped the phone back from her father and said “Get a room...” Her father and the young woman laughed as Angelika tossed her head and exited dramatically to her bedroom shutting the door behind her. Angelika continued to Athena, “God, they're at it like rabbits.”
“I think it's sweet.” responded Athena, knowing full well that only someone who’s actually in love can stomach that kind of gut churning public display of affection from another couple.
“She's my age, you know.” said Angelika, in mock disapproval, although it didn’t really faze her at all.
“So?” replied Athena, “I'm glad he's happy.”
“Yeah, me too.” said Angelika, who with a start realized that she actually meant it. Suddenly, another call beeped in and Angelika excused herself and clicked over. “Hello?”
“Superstar?” It was Shelly, her manager.
Angelika grinned, quietly relishing the Hollywood toadying, “That would be me.”
“Amazing news.” gushed Shelly. What other kind of news would a Hollywood manager impart?
Shelly could barely contain herself, ‘Night at the Red Lantern’ is going to Cannes!”
Angelika nearly fell off the bed from shock and excitement, “No shit!”
Shelly then continued without drawing breath, “Yes, darling. It's not an official selection or anything, but there'll be a press screening and they'll pay all your expenses so you’d better start shopping!” Those must be the most beautiful four words in the English language, thought Angelika.
“Fuckin' A! Brilliant news, Shelly. I'll call you tomorrow, OK?” Angelika clicked off and did a spastic victory lap around the room. Suddenly she remembered that her sister was waiting patiently on the other line, and she clicked back to her.
“Athena? Guess what, I'm going to the Cannes Fucking Film Festival!” This last bit was shouted at top volume. They squealed at each other like a couple of helium drunk imbeciles for several minutes and then finally, Angelika rang off. She then immediately started rooting through her wardrobe like a creature possessed.
Cannes: May 1991
Angelika, swathed in Gucci’s iconic white, liquid-jersey column, sat on the scratchy, worn-velvet seat with her hands firmly over her eyes as the movie played on a dusty cinema screen in an antiquated, flea-bitten movie theatre that was unfashionably situated to the far north of the Croisette. Angelika had rarely observed her own face and heard her own voice magnified to that superannuated degree and she found that the experience was not an entirely comfortable one. Christ, did she have to keep raising her eyebrows like that? They were like two horny caterpillars let loose on prom night on the Colossus rollercoaster at Magic Mountain; up and down they went, then up and down some more. It was excruciating. Angelika tried to tear her focus away from the offending creatures, but then her shoulders captured her attention. Her posture was really fucking terrible, she should have listened to her aunt after all.
Samantha, who was now heavily pregnant, sat to one side of Angelika while Shelly, Angelika’s manager sat on the other. Samantha had been pissed off at her husband, Jon for having the audacity to go on tour with his new band during her pregnancy and she had decided to come to Cannes to support her friend and also to spite her husband, who was currently stuck in a malodorous tour bus somewhere in the mid-west of America. But Samantha, who even if she had been about to give birth would never have missed the opportunity of a possible celebrity encounter, had cannily booked herself into the rather upscale Hotel Majestic which was right in the fabulous thick of things on the Croisette.
Angelika on the other hand, was sharing a tiny twin-bedded room with Shelly, a skinny, plummy-voiced English woman, in a rather unfashionable, insect-ridden and relentlessly noisy pension that the producers of the movie had so generously booked for them. Even optimistic Angelika knew that this was a less than stellar accommodation for their so-called leading lady but she had blithely put her gripes to one side and had decided to go along for the ride. It’s not every day that a girl gets to go to her own screening at Cannes, after all. She could sleep when she got back to LA, she rationalized as there wasn’t much else to do there these days, anyway.
Angelika peeped through her fingers while simultaneously uncovering her ears. It was brutal. ‘You could never love me the way Mickey does...’ That was her speaking; her lingerie clad, Uzi - toting character, anyway. Also, she really couldn’t remember if this was meant to be the good twin or the evil one. The lead actor, a once brilliant, but now drug–addled middle-aged wreck of a closeted homosexual replied,
'Mickey only loves two things, sweetheart – his '57 Custom 'Vette and his Kalashnikov...’
Angelika cringed again and after determining that she might actually be developing a duodenal ulcer, whispered to Shelly. “I can't watch any more, Shel. I'm out of here.”
Shelly glanced at her reproachfully. “But, darling...”
Angelika suddenly realized that Shelly was actually enjoying this unspeakable pap that was so patently made for a market where nobody spoke any discernable English. Thailand, maybe? Maybe in Thai it sounded Shakespearean. Angelika sensed that Shelly might have previously been toking the herb, just a wee bit. Couldn’t blame her for that, Angelika thought. It made even the most unwatchable shit just that little bit more bearable, especially if one has access to unlimited quantities of salty buttery popcorn, cheesy orange Doritos and scrummy Gummy Bears.
Angelika stood and after pulling a grumpy, but quietly grateful Samantha out of her seat, said to Shelly, “I'll catch up with you at the party, OK? C'mon Sam...”
The girls pushed their way past a couple of fat, snoring foreign film correspondents, who were finally catching up on the many cumulative hours of coke- and alcohol-induced insomnia, and they tottered out of the theatre.
Outside the cinema, the streets were thronged with myriad forms of film business lowlife. Every studio dweeb who claimed never to drink alcohol and who regularly attended AA and NA meetings on the off-chance that they might make a connection with a newly vulnerable A-list player, was carousing drunkenly in the cobbled French streets looking for the next party, hooker or gram of cocaine. It was actually quite refreshing to see them reveal themselves finally, as grotesque as their true selves might be. At least it represented a twisted kind of honesty that was rarely apparent back home in Hollywood.
Angelika immediately slumped in front of the garish film poster featuring her own sluttishly dressed twin images, which was emblazoned with the words, ‘Un Nuit de la Lanterne Rouge.’ She hungrily lit a cigarette and then she groaned heavily.
“It wasn't that bad, love.” Samantha was trying her best, albeit not very convincingly.
Angelika, smoking furiously, didn’t respond. Samantha pointed to her belly. “Can you please not smoke? Well, it wasn't …Lady Macbeth, sweetheart, but you did a...nice job.”
Angelika looked daggers at Samantha, “Please. I could die.”
Samantha, who had never had much talent as a liar or as an assuager of bruised egos, continued, “Angelika - they're French. They have no idea how bad you were. Now in London, you might have a slight problem."
Angelika laughed and said, “Fuck you, bitch.”
“That's my girl.” replied Samantha.
Angelika toyed briefly with the idea of extinguishing her cigarette, but figured that they were outside, it was France and bloody hell she needed it now more than ever so she kept smoking, and looked quizzically at her friend, “You guys are happy there, huh?” she asked.
Samantha decided to let the smoking thing go, just this once, as it was great to see Angelika again and hey, all relationships are built on compromise, so she responded,
“Yeah, London's really cool. I wish you'd think about coming to stay with us. There's a great vibe.” Samantha then looked through her elegant Prada purse and pulled out
two colourful laminated invitations, which she waggled in front of Angelika’s troubled face, “Now. I have two words for you. Brad Pitt.”
Angelika delicately sidestepped a clearly inebriated William Morris agent who looked like he was about to hurl on her brand new silver Robert Clergeries and groaned, “Don't do this to me again, Sam...”
“Honey, Brad's a pussy-cat. Trust me.” Even though she was pregnant, Samantha still managed to look disturbingly libidinous.
“Famous last words.” replied Angelika, stubbing out her cigarette while trying to orient herself in the dense swarm of slathering wannabees, “His hair's normal, right?”