I stopped beside him and looked into the mirror across from us, lit up by high wattage bulbs. It felt safer to look at him there, direct but indirect.
My, how his face belonged there, framed by the lights. Never you mind my pale one with my dark hair, how I contrasted horribly with him. He was such a delight to look at. He knew it too, I could see the way he lifted his chin as if he was used to being admired so.
“So,” he began, then smiled again instead of saying anything.
I knew I had to start talking even though my tongue was tied.
“I’m just going to put some powder on your face,” I said, sounding unintelligent and completely young.
“You’re not going to put me in my clothes first?” he asked. “What if you decide the green robe would better go with green shadow on my eyes?”
“Oh, you’re right,” I said stupidly even though he was joking. I put my makeup kit down on the counter and made my way to the racks where I had put his costume the other day. I had his measurements given to me, but this would be the only time he’d be fitted.
Fitting men in costume wasn’t something I particularly minded (with the exception of Frederick) but now I felt uncomfortable, not professional by any means. I was very much reminded that he was a man and I was a woman.
Ludie, however, gave no hint of anything except unending ease and charm. I took in another deep breath and brought his Prince Hamlet costume off of the rack and walked it over to him.
“Here you go,” I told him. I held it up and he eyed it carefully.
“You won’t help me?” I searched his face for sincerity and found none.
“How old are you?” I asked.
He finally looked surprised about something. “I’m 25-years old. Why?”
“Well, then I guess you know how to dress yourself.”
I placed the costume in his hands and headed for the door.
“Call me when you are properly attired,” I said and stepped out into the hallway, shutting the door behind me.
I let out the breath I was holding and shook out my arms and legs. He was already doing a number on me. Still, I showed him I wasn’t going to fall for any lothario type advances. This was my job and I had to treat it as such.
That didn’t stop me from grinning to myself until I heard him call me back in.
He looked rather ridiculous in the costume. It was all green. The velvet robe, the high-waisted pants, the shirt. Even the pointy shoes.
“How is it?” he asked as he eyed himself suspiciously in the mirror.
“You look like a tree,” the words escaped my lips.
I thought he would take offense to that. If it had been Frederick, I would have never heard the end of it and he would have probably demanded some other woman work on him, one who didn’t compare him to plants. But Ludie wasn’t like that.
Ludie laughed. It was loud and calming at the same time. Uninhibited.
“You’re quite right Pippa, I do look like a tree,” he twirled around so we could get the full effect of the cape. He paused and pondered his reflection. “But what kind of tree? That is the most important question. What kind of tree would Hamlet be…or not to be?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his corny joke. “That is the question.”
After that, things got easier between us. I should say it got easier after I poked him in the eye with my makeup brush. I felt so terrible about it but Ludie said the only way he wouldn’t tell Lisbeth that the makeup artist tried to blind him was if I agreed to go out for dinner with him the next night, before the round of shows began.
You know I said yes.
I won’t go into too much detail for the sake of you both. I know the last things you want to hear about are the sordid thoughts and actions of this woman in love. Yet, I also want you to understand just what Ludie did to me – and why our affair would affect me for the rest my life.
Needless to say, I was fretting about the apartment all of the next day. I hadn’t been with a man in years and part of me was afraid that it would be just like the time with Stäva. That I would feel nothing and, because of that, there would be something very wrong with me.
The other part of me was excited, a feeling that was scary in its own right. What if I fell for this man? What if he broke my heart? What if the date went wrong and he never wanted to see me again and I’d have to spend the rest of my career working under him?
Luckily, Anne was around to talk me down and make sure I had enough to eat. She dressed me up in the finest dress I had, one I had snatched from the theatre, and for once I had my own hair and make-up done. I wanted to wear my hair down – it was long and shiny– but she put it up with curls which highlighted my cheekbones and eyes. She nixed my usual red lipstick in favor of something more “kissable.”
Then she gave me a round of advice on how to be a lady. Let the man open doors for you. Laugh at his jokes. Try not to drool over him like a fool. Don’t talk down to him or poke fun of him.
Also, when she thought I wasn’t looking, she slipped a condom into my dainty purse. I was shocked and a bit abhorred by her actions. Condoms were for sailors and dirty prostitutes. They weren’t for young ladies like myself and Anne.
I could tell from the look in her eyes though, she was just trying to prevent another pregnancy with me. I had broken down drunk with cognac one night and told her everything that had happened. I was dying of shame still and it helped to have someone else know what I had been through. Anne was looking out for me and far ahead of her time when she whispered, “The man may rule the date, but don’t count on him for everything.”
Truer words had never been spoken.
Ludie rang the buzzer five minutes early, cutting into my preparedness time. I slammed back a shot of vodka hoping to relax myself in a hurry and danced on pins and needles until he arrived at the door.
He looked absolutely gorgeous, wearing a dashing dark blue suit that illuminated the golden tones in his hair.
“Ladies,” he said as he took off his sharp fedora and did a slight bow from the waist. “I am here for the beautiful Pippa Lindstrom.”
Forget about the vodka – just being in his presence made me feel drunk. Thank goodness for Anne who put my coat on my back, my purse in my hands and led me to the door like an invalid.
“I expect you’ll return her at a reasonable hour,” Anne said. Her voice was hard but her eyes were good-humored.
“A reasonable hour by my standards or by your standards?”
Anne pursed her lips. “Well, I’m going to guess they are the same.”
He winked at her, happy with that response and held his arm out for me. I had enough sense and power to oblige and together we stepped out of the apartment. I looked back one last time at Anne but the door was closed and I was alone with Ludie once again, about to embark on an evening that was very much on the table. This wasn’t about work. I wasn’t with him because I had to be. I was with him because he wanted me to be.
Outside, Ludie’s car was waiting. It wasn’t new but it was shiny and sleek like it had been painted with a million pounds of chrome. It was also sky blue and extremely eye-catching in a time where decadence and frivolity was frowned upon. Ludie didn’t care though and as I stepped into the car, he informed me that he had bought it after his first big theatre gig. It cost more than his living expenses, so at first he was sleeping in it until he could afford an apartment again. But to him, he worked hard and he deserved it and it was a sign he was living his dream.
That was always Ludie’s philosophy in life. There was much to be admired about that, taking what you knew was yours and enjoying the finer things. Later on I would realize how selfish that way of thinking could be. Everything was always owed to him and there never were any consequences, at least not for him. If he thought he deserved something, he went for it, even if it meant trampling over other people.
But I will get to that later. For now, I was enthralled with him and his dashing looks and mannerisms. He took me to a fine seafood restaurant on one of the upper class streets I never walked down because it inspired too much envy in me. He wasn’t recognizable yet, not the way Frederick was, but women stopped to stare at him just the same.
They also stared at me and unlike the doe-eyed girls that fawned over Stäva in school, these were full-grown women with hearts full of jealously and hate. I was their enemy just for being on the young man’s arm and though I knew I wasn’t too bad looking myself, it brought upon feelings of being inadequate.
Ludie did his best, however, in making me feel like I was the only one in the restaurant. He asked me many questions about myself and always kept his bright eyes tuned to mine. Oh, he wasn’t mysterious either and would gladly answer any questions I had about him. I learned about his upbringing (in Gotland), his family (father died when he was young, he was still close with his mother and two younger sisters), his love for performing arts (he was a dancer before he moved into acting). The night flew by in a whir of clinking cutlery, smoke, coffee and brandy. Our talk was easy, the flow between us was effortless. As first dates go, this one could not be topped.
I am sure you don’t want to know how the night continued but I can tell you that I was very much a lady and I was home at a reasonable hour – even by my own watch. I burned inside for Ludie, feeling flames that I had never felt before but that night I had listened to the caution in my heart, that feeling that I had to approach things slowly and carefully.
If only I kept on listening to the whisper inside, the one that knew of things to come. The next time Ludie and I were together we made love. Love, right in his dressing room, a ferocious and consuming sort of love making that both surprised and scared me. It turns out my fears were unfounded and there was nothing wrong with me at all. I had found the one I was meant to spend the rest of my life with and my body responded in kind.
And so began our very messy, passionate affair. Things were easy at first. We couldn’t get enough of each other and were intimate every chance we got. As we would emerge from the back looking rather untidy, it soon spread like wildfire that we were an “item.” Lisbeth had a few words for me, mainly not to get too close to a man like Ludie and to be aware of our working situation, but I was reckless and stupid and didn’t listen. What did Lisbeth know about men anyway? I knew Ludie and he was mine.
But Lisbeth was right. Ludie was a performer, an actor, and as such he not only attracted a great deal of attention from the opposite sex (indeed, the looks he got on our first date were nothing compared to the ones he received while reciting Shakespeare on stage), he was moody, selfish and insecure by nature. He demanded time and attention, not just from me, but from everyone. He was jealous of every man who talked to me, including the other actors, yet he enjoyed the flirtations of other women. He would be in a joyous, generous mood one night, and depending on how much he drank or how well his performance was perceived, he would turn angry and cynical the next.
I wasn’t the sort of woman to take things lying down, either. Despite the rules that Anne had told me, I did often poke fun at him and I often talked down to him. It was hard not to when he was behaving like a child. What resulted were nights of constant fighting – fighting that would eventually combust when we found ourselves in each other’s arms again.
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