Actions

Work Header

Say You'll Remember Me

Chapter Text

Flashbulbs flickered, and spotlights illuminated the midnight sky. A smile. A wave. Blow a kiss. Duck into the automobile. Pull the skirt train in after taking a seat. 

A valet shut the door, and Anya let out the breath she had been holding too long. She slouched into the leather seat. Her shoulders and the small of her back ached from holding her posture all night. 

The glamour of a film premiere was enough to keep her head spinning. The fact this was routine with five major studios within blocks of each other was insane to her. Her gaze fell on photographers shouting and still snapping shots, restrained only by a barricade lining the street. A chill rippled down her spine as she watched their ferocity from the car window. 

Photographers were ravenous, and it was unsettling for a young woman like herself who was not used to being such an object of the camera. There was something in their black eyes that made her feel even a barricade wasn’t enough to hold them back.

"They love you," a sturdy voice broke her concentration. 

Anya turned to look at the man sitting beside her in the car. The car rolled away from the curb and the man beside her, veiled by a cloud of cigar smoke, seemed unfazed by the crowds, cameras, or buzz of a movie premiere. 

"I know," Anya replied, watching the overflowing crowd lining Hollywood Boulevard fade to only a memory as the car sped down the street. 

Her pulse raced, watching crowds that still wrapped around the block and flashing cameras flickering as the car passed through traffic lights. 

Igor took a drag from his cigar, barely noticing the strobe of the spotlights lights against the night sky as they dodged onto a side street. The driver had been instructed to do so at Igor’s request. He knew better than to let her leave a wildly successful premiere on her own. 

"I told you I would make you a star," he returned.

She pursed her lips at the steel confidence in his voice. 

Igor Malevitch was a solid man with a reputation that preceded him in Hollywood. As the driven executive behind Sunset Studios, he had a keen eye for fresh talent and boasted about the new age of Hollywood coming out of his single-handed work. 

He was good at what he did, turning civilians into movie stars in a matter of a supporting role or two. Even the name Igor stirred up controversy and hard feelings in the industry. 

"Do you have any arrangements for tonight?" Igor asked with an arched brow. 

Anya's lips parted as she pulled her eyes from the window, unsure what kind of answer he expected from her. She knew what he was prodding at, but feared he would only be disappointed in her answer. "Just going home to bed," she replied softly, a soft smile forming on her lips. 

She was still drinking in the night. Reporters stopped her and knew her name. She was dressed in a gown she would never dream of being able to afford. Her name was on the lips of people she did not know. It was the closest she might ever come to a fairytale. 

Igor was right when he sold her on the idea that Hollywood had a way of making outcast people feel right at home. Anya had never felt more wanted than she did tonight—it was overwhelming, to say the least. 

It made every hardship feel worth it. Every late night she spent waiting tables, every dollar she stowed away, every chance she had to sharpen her dancing. 

Her chest tightened. Anya hated that the validation came with guilt. She sought acceptance from others, and could only find herself in the reflection of others. 

"Rolling off that premiere, and you're just going to bed?" Igor let out a gravelly laugh. 

"Yes.” As soon as she said it out loud, it sounded silly. Anya was relatively private about her personal life. Still, after this premiere, it would be the only thing that was really her own—if even that. 

"And to think of that roaring crowd for you in a featured role," Igor replied. "What would they say if they knew you just went home and to bed after a premiere?"

Anya laughed, and her fingers fidgeted with her clutch. "I'm only as plain as the rest of them. You don't get extra stamina for signing a studio contract."

"Imagine what we could do with you starring," Igor mused. 

Anya coughed, choking on the cigar smoke and gripped by the thought of her name above the film title. 

"You could do it, you know," Igor said as he looked at her. "People love you because they relate to you. You're not one of these bombshell women dressed for sex. You’re as friendly as the girl who lives next door. Polite, charming, and just enough wit to keep her interesting."

Anya felt a heat rise in her cheeks and spread down her neck and shoulders.

"Listen, before you turn in for the night, Don tells me he has a script for a new film Sunset is pushing. After tonight, I think it's calling your name," he said. "Don't have details yet, but they want to do some sort of fairytale."

"Oh?" Anya turned to look at him. Her chest squeezed. She had always dreamed of a role where she would get to wear glamorous ball gowns on screen. "I'll read if they want to see me."

"Don wants you in the lead. A modern-day princess."

"A princess?" The words were uncertain on Anya's lips. "Without a screen test?"

"Something like that," Igor returned a smile. "Leave that uncertainty in this car. You can do it. You're perfect for an ingenue."

"I don't know," Anya replied. Her gaze returned to the window. Flickering city lights illuminated the sky, marquees, and spotlights still flashing through her mind. 

"You don't have any scandals in your past, which makes it easy to make you likable," Igor added. "If we could get you paired off with a cunning man, though, you'd be in perfect shape. I'm telling you, your personality will win people over." 

Anya was quiet. Her fingers twisted into her stole as she gazed out the window. 

There was a beat between them. 

"What's the matter?" 

"Nothing," Anya replied. She straightened her shoulders out and dropped her stole from her fingers. "My head's just spinning. It's a lot, all at once."

"I know," he replied. "Things move quickly in this city."

Anya returned a smile. She caught a smile on Igor's lips as he took a drag. She knew he wouldn't be so candid with her if he didn't think she could handle it. 

The car came to a stop outside a humble apartment building. Anya and Igor sat for a moment in silence, like Anya knew if she opened the car door it would break the spell over the night. 

She let out a heavy sigh as she gazed out the window at her building. "This is my stop," Anya said quietly as she clutched her stole around her shoulders. The apartment complex was still. The residents here weren't out until all hours at movie premieres. 

"Remind me to tell the studio we need to find you a more suitable place, especially if you're starring," Igor said bluntly. "You can't live here forever."

Anya looked back at her humble apartment—the one she had scraped pennies together to be able to call her own. "Right," she murmured. She leaned across the backseat, kissed Igor's cheek, and slid out of the car. 

"Goodnight, Igor," Anya smiled warmly. "Give my love to Lily as well."

"Sweet dreams, Princess," Igor offered a genuine smile in return. "The night's just begun for the rest of us."

"You'll have to show me sometime," Anya quipped. 

He returned a paternal smile, and Anya shut the car door. She gathered the train of her gown and walked up the staircase to the second floor. 

After a fumble with her keys, she let herself into the empty one-bedroom apartment. It was humble, certainly, but it was the closest she had ever felt to having a home. 

It was removed from the bright lights of Hollywood itself, and it made her feel like she still owned a piece of who she was. When she got in town cars, sat in Igor's office, and stood on set, she was Anastasia Nikolaevna, starlet in training. She had dutifully signed to play the persona Igor had crafted for her. 

In her own apartment, she was just Anya—a girl who lived a quiet life and enjoyed a warm bath with a good book and danced around the kitchen to the radio, on occasion. 

Anya folded her stole and dropped it on the foot of her bed. With a sigh, her shoulders dropped, and she struggled with the fastening on the back of her gown. 

Her brow pinched into a frown. It seemed silly that these haute couture gowns required assistance to fasten and remove. She strained her arm, trying to unclasp a fastening and let out a small grunt as she craned her neck to look behind her. These gowns weren't made for career women. 

After a slight struggle, she managed the fastening and let the gown fall to the floor. 

Anya exhaled and stepped out of the pool of silk and tulle on the floor. She pulled her robe over her all-in-one and fastened it as she padded across the room in her stockings. 

Her fingers set to work removing the pins from her hair, and she paused at the sink to wash her face. That was better. She stared back at herself in the reflection, bare-faced and golden curls tumbling around her shoulders. This was the Anya she knew best. 

She slipped into a nightgown and let the silk fall over her small frame. 

Anya's hair fell over her shoulders and she paused to gaze at her reflection. She stood on her toes, wondering what it would be like if she had been about two inches taller. She squared her shoulders, wondering if her sharp clavicle made her look too thin. A soft sigh escaped her lips. She resigned that this industry had done enough poking and prodding at her for one night. 

On her way to bed, she plucked a book from her shelf and clutched it to her chest as she gazed out the window of her apartment. Spotlights strobed the night sky in the distance. Anya crawled into bed and settled under the covers. Her mind wandered and her gaze was fixed out the window, like a dream she had to convince herself was real.


In the morning, Anya woke from her deep slumber to her telephone ringing. She blindly reached out for the receiver and couldn't find it with her fingers. 

She groaned and rolled over, squinting and shielding her eyes from the sunlight coming through her curtains. Anya turned over and grabbed the receiver, "Hello?" She rubbed her temple and fixed the strap of her nightdress as she listened to the other end of the line. 

"Anya?"

"Yes, this is her," Anya said pointedly. Her head was pounding. She looked at the book lying gently beside her in bed.

"Anya," the voice repeated on the receiver. 

She paused as she listened. "Sophie!" Anya sat up in bed, the voice registering in her mind. 

"God! Did I wake you?" Sophie asked. "I didn't think you'd let the fame get to your head so soon you'd forget me."

"Sophie, it's early ," Anya groaned and flopped back onto her pillow. "Besides, I'm not anyone I wasn't before the premiere. I was a featured actress then. I'm still just a featured actress now."

She heard Sophie’s laugh on the other end of the line. "I heard a rumor from one of the girls on Sound Stage B that Don has you on a shortlist for a romantic comedy film. Is that true?" Sophie asked. "You would tell me if you were, right?"

As a makeup artist at Sunset, Sophie was often busy touching up the most flawless faces in Hollywood and operated in the trenches of industry gossip.

A self-proclaimed outcast from her family of New York brokers, Sophie felt right at home in Hollywood. She was assigned to Anya's chair on Out of the Past , and the pair became inseparable. Sophie was the closest thing Anya could remember to having a sister. 

"How was last night? Dolly said she saw you leave with Igor after the film?" Sophie asked. Her voice muffled and Anya knew in an instant she was touching up her lipstick. 

"Oh," Anya murmured as she adjusted her grip on the phone. "Yeah, I did."

"You couldn't find anyone more interesting to take you home than Igor?" Sophie teased. 

Anya opened her mouth to reply and then closed it. "I was going to go home alone, but Igor offered to ride with me to make sure I got home alright," Anya replied. 

"You're the name on everyone's lips!" Sophie protested. "Carey Grant should have been offering to take you home!"

Anya laughed. "I don't think Carey Grant wouldn't blink twice in my direction, Soph. I'm not even sure he was there." And then she yawned. 

"We need to get lunch—Marguerite's on Vine, on Monday! I want to hear everything about the premiere!" Sophie said quickly before Anya could finish. "And don't you dare leave out a single detail! If you kissed that new Brando fellow I've seen around town, I want to hear all about it!"

"I didn't kiss Marlon," Anya laughed as she rolled over and twisted the phone cord around her finger. She admired Sophie’s enthusiasm. 

"But you know of him?" Sophie teased. Anya could almost hear her eyebrow wiggle. "Actually, no, don't tell me! Save it for lunch!"

Anya smiled. It was people like Sophie who grounded her in this fast-paced industry. Sometimes she forgot they weren’t two teenage girls dreaming of film stars while they flipped through gossip magazines. 

She ran her fingers through her messy hair and glanced in the mirror across the room. She had forgotten to set rollers last night. What a mess that would be to style into something presentable. 

"Anyway, I gotta go, I have an appointment, but I'll see you on Monday!" Sophie said quickly. The line cut off before Anya could say goodbye. 

Anya smiled as she hung the receiver up. An appointment for Sophie could have meant a number of things, but usually meant she had a lunch date.  

Anya plunged back into her bed and held the covers close. There was a Givenchy gown draped over a chair across the room, her name was up in lights, and she had a best friend who was equally, if not more, enthusiastic than she was about the whole thing. She couldn’t have asked for anything more.


The following Monday, Anya stepped into Igor's office at Sunset Studios, her fingers clutched tightly around the handles of her purse. She was acutely aware that this could all disappear in a second. The sterile walls of the executive offices made her feel small, and very aware that her livelihood was in the hands of the studio. 

"Anya!" Igor bellowed as he swiveled around in his chair, a cigar smoldering between his fingers. "Come in, come in," he asserted and gestured to the chair across from his desk. 

Anya gingerly took a seat across from him. She didn't usually come up to the executive office when she was on the lot. Everything seemed so pristine and formal, and she simply wasn't. 

"Don sent this for you," Igor said as he dropped a script on the desk and slid it to Anya. 

Her eyes scanned over it. Parisian Love . Anya's eyes flicked up to Igor. "This is it," Anya said softly, the realization settling in her mind. 

"You're welcome to look at it," Igor laughed. 

Anya delicately flipped through the first few pages. "I love it," she breathed. "I would see it in an instant." She let the pages flip back and carefully placed the script back on the desk.

"Well, that's good to hear,"

"Sunset is going through with it?" Anya asked. 

"You're going to be starring in it," Igor gave her a warm smile. 

Anya's lips gaped. Her pulse began to race and she reached for the script again. 

"That's your copy, actually," Igor said. "We'll fill out the rest of the cast soon enough. Table read should start shortly after that."

"Who is costarring?" Anya asked. 

"We'll be casting a fresh face. If he's any good, the studio will give him an offer to sign after the film."

Anya clutched the script. This film was going to be a big deal for the studio. 

Igor's office door opened and closed, and a woman stepped inside. Anya turned to look at her. 

It was Igor's wife. In his office on a weekday morning. 

Lily was short, but her presence commanded the room. She wore a signature pair of stiletto heels, and Anya winced just looking at them. Lily's burgundy hair was perfectly curled and set, and a stylish dress hugged her frame. She seemed dressed for quite an occasion.

Anya's fingers played with the clasp on her purse, and she held her breath. The air in the room seemed to change in Lily's presence. Igor, on the other hand, seemed indifferent to the unusual appearance of his wife.

"You told me I had nothing to worry about when you went to the studio," she chided as she eyed Anya. "I'm not so sure I trust him with a fresh-faced blonde." Lily’s hand grazed Anya’s shoulder. Her skin prickled at the sudden touch.

Lily lit a cigarette and held it to her lips. The end smoldered as she inhaled. 

Lily was mesmerizing, quite a character herself. Her perfectly painted lips grimaced as she gave Igor a pointed side-eye. 

"I'm settling our retirement," Igor protested as he gestured to Anya. 

Anya was silent as her gaze fell across the room to Lily. Lily returned her gaze. Her lips pursed as she watched Anya fidget with the clasp on her purse. 

"Darling, you're sitting here with Anastasia Nikolaevna," Igor said as he gestured to Anya. Anya was pretty sure Lily was aware of her recent success, though hearing the name was still unnerving. "Future starlet," he added.

Anya offered a smile. Lily didn’t seem impressed.

"I still don't know why you gave her that name," Lily said bitterly. She took a drag from her cigarette as she leaned on Igor's desk. 

"It's memorable!" Igor protested. 

"Almost too memorable," Lily muttered. 

"She's going to be a star," Igor brushed Lily’s comment off. "She's just signed her first leading role today."

Lily reached out and traced her fingers over Anya's cheek. Anya sat as still as she could. The tension between Igor and Lily was so thick, the slightest breath could disrupt it. 

Lily’s fingers traced Anya’s jaw, and she tilted her chin up. 

Anya's heart raced, feeling like she was under some intense interrogation. 

"Cash in on that face while you've still got it, Dear," was all Lily said. 

A chill rippled down Anya's spine. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair at the release of Lily’s grip. 

Anya had only met Igor's wife a handful of times, mostly at evening events. She didn't seem to have a maternal bone in her body. 

Lily smiled at Igor and rounded his desk. Her hands ran over his shoulders and she caressed his cheek. "I think you struck gold with this one," she smiled as she looked at Anya. 

"I know I did," Igor grinned. "We’ll be seeing her name in lights for years to come. She’s sensational.”

Anya swallowed hard at that. When she had taken on her first supporting role, she had never considered what it would feel like to have a sudden rise to fame.


On her way to Marguerite's to meet Sophie, Anya paused outside the studio's gates. Overnight, a new advertisement for Out of the Past had been plastered across the street from the studio. 

Her breath caught. Somehow seeing the cinema-size poster felt so strange. In the corner, she could see an image of herself and the words And featuring Anastasia Nikolaevna below the title. 

Anya wasn't sure she'd ever get used to that. Her lips gaped as she looked up at the poster. She was in a real Hollywood film. 

Then she remembered she was about to be late to meet Sophie for lunch. 

Anya hurried on her way, her eyes still on the poster. Her fingers absently clutched the strap of her purse as she walked.

And then she hit something hard, and heat rose in her cheeks. She was usually not so absent-minded as to not watch where she was going. 

Anya's eyes flicked up to see she had clipped shoulders with a man leaving a payphone. His brow had pinched, and he looked rather surly, a cigarette caught between his lips. 

"Excuse me," she murmured absently. She cast her eyes away as if her gaze had already overstayed its welcome. 

"Are you alright, Miss?" he asked, straightening up his broad shoulders on his tall frame. His voice was warm with a slight drip of jest. 

Anya realized her jaw was hanging open and quickly snapped it shut. She cleared her throat as she looked down at her fingers clutching her purse so tight her knuckles had turned white. "Yes, quite," she replied, feeling her cheeks flush. 

He didn't seem very shaken by her long gaze or apologetic manner.

His eyes studied her for a moment, and his fingers ran through his messy hair. He reached for a lighter from his pocket. 

"Sorry," Anya smoothed her skirt and, at a loss for words, bowed her head and started on her way. "I was just going."

She heard him mutter something about her as he turned back to look at Anya. She clutched her purse a bit tighter as she quickened her step. Anya stole one more glance at the film poster, sure a flush had run down her neck. 

She rounded the street corner onto Vine and saw Sophie sitting in their usual booth in the window. Anya turned back around, her cheeks still warm from her encounter with a stranger. 

She was a real Hollywood star. There was no going back now.


Helena's Hollywood

September 4, 1948

Anastasia Nikolaevna to Lead Sunset Studios' Next Romantic Comedy

Rolling off her success in Sunset's Out of the Past this summer, rising starlet Anastasia Nikolaevna has booked the lead of Sunset's newest project.

Nikolaevna, known for her demure manner and sharp tongue on screen, became a fast audience favorite as Hollywood's new girl-next-door. Sunset is running with the young star's potential after a successful premiere on Friday night. She instantly captured hearts on the red carpet, arriving in a one-of-a-kind Givenchy gown.

Sunset is rumored to start casting for a costar, seeking fresh talent to play opposite Nikolaevna.

Studio executive Igor Malevitch is steering the Sunset ship into fast and witty comedies of manners. Moviegoers show no sign of slowing on ticket sales.