Marianne de Crois (formerly Marie Cross from Clapham) abandoned her suede pumps on the marble staircase as she ascended towards her room. Sliding open the double doors, she unpeeled Vivienne from her body and slumped into the velvet, studded chair. She had sunk into a wide-eyed fatigue when, out of impatient curiosity, she powered up the iPad. After a verbless internet search she was soon swiping through pictures of her and her scrunched up face clutching the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The jubilation of the evening echoed throughout the room and soon the din cajoled Marianne into a reverie – the past decade catapulted before her eyes.
Surging with desire she suddenly careened off the chair. Taking wide, certain steps she crossed the carpet, leaving imprints, and entered her wardrobe. Striding past the files of decommissioned shoes and coats, she lunged into the wall of chronologically stacked shoeboxes. She mined into the far right corner and identified the shoebox that acted as the foundation; the cornerstone that supported all the others.
Sifting through its contents of coasters, half finished tubes of mascara, a brittle ballerina Christmas tree decoration, and other frozen moments, she finally found it: the candlestick holder. She held the box before her as it rolled in a crescent-shaped to and fro. She carefully placed the box down before the makeshift altar. Outstretching her arm she slowly examined the unused ornament. The squat-dome base rested – not completely flat – on her palm.
The illumination from the chandelier in the bedroom behind her created a narrow strip that revealed the etchings on the base. She had remembered joking with the cast that they were prawn penny-sweets and sea shell bras. Now they appeared as circling wings and a platter of oysters.
It was made from a metal of a quality no higher than would be used for a belt buckle or buttons on a jacket. Unstained and smooth, the imitation gold prop was artificial enough never to stain, dim or naturally deteriorate since its last use ten years ago. Some discarded make up had accumulated in the ridges along the contracting and retracting stem.
She remembered on opening night at The White Rabbit. There was a struggle to find a narrow enough candlestick to stand in the quail egg-sized cup. She remembered the furious shaving with a knife; her dismay that the candle burnt too quickly. The candlestick holder could not elevate the candle high enough to sufficiently protect the tablecloth from the onslaught of wax.
Ah, the table. The final scene: the unexpected exposition as they sat for a seemingly placid final supper of invisible food. The moment she finally shook free of Marie and her inner-Esther materialised. The scene was the lynch-pin of the play. Esther realised she was bankrupt of mitigations, compromises and excuses. She slowly raised a wretched, quivering body and bade a last farewell to Derek before exiting, stage left. Marie returned to the stage and was met by a bellowing applause.
She stole a moment to herself on the desolate Stoke Newington Church Street and smoked a rolled-up cigarette. A man approached and uttered a few words of praise before placing an offering in her hand. He then disappeared into a waiting Adison Lee town car.
Marianne reached into the pile of upturned contents from the shoebox and surveyed the creases and faded ink of the card: ‘Des Hamilton Casting: Television, films and commercials’.
With all the contents of the box sealed back into the darkness, Marianne crept into bed and curled into herself. The smell of copper singed her nostrils. She wondered if anybody knew she had purloined the prop on that fateful closing night. Did the producer buy that one because he, against all odds, might have had use for the object that was barely disposed for its sole function? She wondered if it was part of a set; if there were any more out there. All similar, but none of them seeds.