Southern California is warm all year, even in January. The studio, that built-up city, is warmer still. Helena feels her cigarette’s smoke enter her lungs as an almost uncomfortable rush of heat, then leave as a cooling relief. It soothes her, the predictable consciousness of breath that smoking provides.
She could have smoked in the script meeting, of course, but to far less calming effect. Helena hates being informed about who she is to become next. Better to simply show up each day on set and be surprised: no time to think, just time to inhabit, between “Action!” and “Cut!”, whoever the next improbable individual happened to be. The particular individual into whom she is about to step is even more improbable than usual: she is the lead in a remake of Garbo’s “A Woman of Affairs,” but her character and the plot she occupies have been diluted by censors into nonsensical unrecognizability.
Her only believable action, Helena thinks, will come at the end, when the ridiculous woman drives her car into a tree. Helena has already decided that she will play it as if the character is despairing over the fact that she bears no similarity to an actual human being.
Helena considers how long she can realistically stay away. Still a bit early in the day to play the spoiled star and simply go home… she decides, reluctantly, to save a tantrum, and the reprieve it brings, for another time. She drops her cigarette and puts her heel to it, grinding her frustration into the pavement.
She looks up, and as she does, she catches the gaze of a young woman. Tall. Very pretty. Her face wears the slightly stunned expression that suggests she is new. Helena quirks an eyebrow at that. She can barely remember her first days here.
The gaze grows into something like a stare between them, and Helena suspects for a moment that they might have met before… but no, she would have remembered this face. Perhaps it is her look’s fixity that leads Helena to feel a small deductive sting: it comes not from reasoning that could be followed, not from evidence that could be pinpointed, but from… well, like calling to like is the most she has ever been able to make of it.
Yet there is more; now she feels her awareness taking a step to the side of, or beyond, that. That, Helena is practiced at. This… this is new. And Helena smiles at the surprise she feels. She smiles at the girl, but only a little, because she would like to speak to her, but she cannot bring herself to speak to her. She feels that it would be difficult. Too much work. Something is at stake here, and Helena does not like to walk unprepared into anything important.
So she walks away. She will sit in and ignore the meeting, she decides, so that she can have peace during which to think of this girl. To consider all the things they will say, in words and in other ways, when the time comes to say them.