Rachel hated the advertisements.
Mrs. Wintle's Little Wonders
Trainer of Acting Sensation Rachel Lennox!
She'd been a terrible Wonder. And Aunt Cora had hated her for her success until she figured out how to use it for her own purposes.
When she complained about the advertisements, Hilary laughed and told her that was what she got for being ambitious, Uncle Tom said he couldn't interfere, and Dulcie said, "That's Mum for you."
She would know. There was another set of cards that read, "Trainer of Theatre Sensation Dulcie Wintle!"
Dulcie brought a stack of them over to Rachel's flat. "I haven't appeared on stage in years."
"You could go back," Rachel said. They sat at Rachel's dining room table, tea in front of them.
"And be known as Mrs. Wintle's little terror again? Dulcie-Pulsie? Theatre isn't like movies. It has a long memory." Dulcie shook her head.
Dulcie-Pulsie. For all that Rachel was twenty-three and had made enough movies to be called a veteran, the nickname made her feel twelve years old again. Dreading going on stage, despising Dulcie and pinning all her hopes on Hilary.
But that was a long time ago. She stirred her tea and smiled. "Theatre people never hated you, Dulcie."
"Just everyone else?"
"You had everything," Rachel said. She didn't want to say the words, but, yes, they had hated her. For her mother, for her talent, for being spoiled. So little of it had been under Dulcie's control.
"I can't remember," Dulcie said. "I don't remember if I ever said, 'Mum, I want to be a Wonder.'"
It wasn't a new conversation. The first time Dulcie had confessed that to Rachel, they were fifteen years old and on the set of Rachel's newest movie. When Rachel had been cast, Aunt Cora suddenly started talking to her again.. She'd came to her room, and told Rachel that now that she was a success, it was her responsibility to look out for her relatives.
And so Dulcie had gotten a part in the movie. Just a small one, but it was more than she'd been able to achieve on her own. What Rachel remembered most about those early days on set was how quiet Dulcie had been. No acting cute for the director. No smiles for the crew. She showed up when she was supposed to, said her lines, and spent the rest of the time in her dressing room.
Eventually, Rachel had grown curious enough to seek Dulcie out. They had avoided each other for years at that point. Ever since Rachel had became Vera.
"Hullo," Rachel had said, hovering in the doorway.
And Dulcie looked up from her dressing table and said, "Hullo."
The simple exchange of greetings had done far more to help then get along than Pursey and Mrs. Storm's efforts ever had. After a few days, Dulcie had asked Rachel when she knew she wanted to be an actress.
"I don't know. I don't think I ever thought I could be."
Dulcie had sighed. "I always thought I would be. But I can't remember when I first started wanting it or if it was my mum all along."
That had surprised Rachel. She'd never thought of Dulcie as much more than her mum's prodigy, almost never ever considered that she was separate from her mum at all, that she might want something different than what everyone expected of her. It was like Hilary and the ballet all over again.
When Dulcie had turned eighteen, she'd enlisted her father's help and dropped out of the theatre world entirely. And now Mrs. Wintle's advertisements brought it all up again.
"I always thought you loved it," Rachel said. That wasn't a new line for her either. She'd said it countless time over the years, though she sometimes wondered if it were even true. Nobody had thought of Dulcie as enjoying anything, really, back then. She was talented and ambitious and everyone assumed that meant she enjoyed her work.
"I think I did." Dulcie wrapped her hands around her tea cup.
Rachel looked at her, but Dulcie kept her eyes on her tea. This was a new version of the conversation. Dulcie usually went on to say she wanted to know what she wanted, not what her mother wanted. That she wanted to create her own life, not the one her mother laid out in front of her.
"I think maybe I was supposed to be on stage," Dulcie said. "And I was just lucky or maybe unlucky to be born into the Wonders. The decision was made for me when I was a baby, but I think it's what I would've always wanted."
It made Rachel wonder what it would've been like if her father had lived. If she'd grown up with everyone knowing she was the daughter of a film star. If acting had been chosen for her, if she hadn't had to reach out and grab it and learn to be ambitious for herself.
"I still dance," Dulcie said.
"I didn't know that."
"If you don't practice, you lose it. And I didn't want to lose it. I guess it took me a while to figure out what that meant."
"So what are you going to do?"
Dulcie grinned. "Well, I'm not going back to Mrs. Wintle's Little Wonders."
Rachel laughed. "I could find you a part in one of my movies?"
Dulcie shook her head. "No. That one was Mum's thing. I'm not meant for the movies."
"I have another suggestion."
"Rachel, we still don't get along," Dulcie said.
"She doesn't hate you," Rachel said. It was just harder for Hilary to forgive everything Dulcie had said to Rachel back then.
"Anyway, I thought she was quitting."
"Not yet," Rachel said. Hilary was engaged. She planned to dance for a while after she got married and then quit to raise all the babies she still wanted. Her fiance was a doctor, who had told her "the more, the merrier." But, in the meantime, she was Rachel's only real contact in the theatre business.
"She won't do it."
"Of course, she will," Rachel said. "We Little Wonders have to stick together."
And Dulcie laughed and shook her head. "Okay. Call Hilary. Tell her Dulcie-Pulsie is back."