Lila lay wide awake in bed, blinking in the dark. The sound of traffic below the window served to keep her from sleep. Oh, bother. Why had she agreed to live in downtown Portland again? Because her roommate Susan had pushed it on her, saying that it would be nothing short of exciting. Two young women making their home in the heart of the city promised them many fun evenings out enjoying their youth and freedom.
But Susan had gone out with her new soldier boyfriend and hadn’t waited for Lila to come home from the theater. Instead, a hastily written apology left near the telephone had welcomed her home. And now, when it was well past midnight her friend still hadn’t returned. Lila rolled her eyes and turned over on her side. Men were nothing but trouble. Susan was her only friend in this new city and she was fast losing her to love and lust. However, she couldn’t help but wonder why that wasn’t her luck? Why did Robert have to be so darn difficult about forgiving her?
She’d long ago surmised she’d lost a good thing, as they say. They had once been engaged back in Boston. He’d doted on her hand and foot. Spoiled her rotten. Why had her sights been so high? Instead of marrying him she’d left him to go work on Broadway. Sincerely, from the top to the bottom of her heart she had believed he would follow her. But he hadn’t. Robbie had given up on her and moved back to Portland. Got himself another girlfriend in the process and now he was going to marry her.
It sickened her just thinking about it all.
Keys jiggled at the door and it creaked open. Laughter bellowed in from the living room. Lila groaned and kicked off the sheets. The dim street light shone faintly in through the open door and from the hallway she caught Susan making out with her boyfriend.
“I didn’t know you were still awake.” Susan yelped in surprise. His arms were fully wrapped around her hips. “Were we loud?”
“Not at all,” Lila said, sarcasm laced in her tone. “Good evening, Danny.”
“Hey.” He grinned at her, his dimples still visible in the low light. “How was your audition?”
Now, Danny might have been fully in the please-excuse-me-I’m-stealing-your-friend-mode but at least he cared and was always pleasant to be around. Or maybe he just knew how to keep the peace between roommates.
Lila uncrossed her arms. “Well, not so good. I didn’t get the part.”
Susan pried away from Danny’s arms and her mouth gaped open in horror. “You worked so hard to memorize those lines and tune up your voice. Geesh, friend. What will you do now?”
“Back up vocals.” Lila surrendered to the couch. “Seems to be my fate. How I long for the days when I was sought out for my talent. The problem is no one knows me here. I have no reputation and keep messing up all my plans.”
It was true. Some people had the Midas touch. She had the opposite effect, turning her plans and the people in her life to cold stone.
More like Medusa, she thought with a pitiful sigh.
“I’ll fix the drinks,” Danny said soothingly. He closed the door and walked over to the liquor cabinet. “Bourbon? Is that what Michigan girls drink?”
Lila pouted with a shrug.
He shrugged too and poured three bourbons on ice.
Susan sat next to Lila and frowned. “I’m sorry, dear. What disappointing news. Look, if you want we can take you to breakfast in the morning. Will that cheer you up? Our treat. It’ll help ease the pain. Besides, I owe for tonight.”
The pain of rejection. Why wasn’t she used to it already? It seemed “no” was all she experienced these days.
But instead of feeling sorry for herself she could find a way to make things better.
How? You’re no good at solving problems anymore.
Truth be told, she had not stopped to think about how she felt after losing the lead role in the musical. Just like everything else, just like she had when Robert stopped answering her letters, she had bottled the discomfort up and shoved it way down somewhere. In her heart? Her soul? Definitely, a place it couldn’t be reached.
She thanked Danny for the drink and let the bourbon burn its way down her throat. He plopped down on the loveseat and ran his hand through his mass of chocolate curls. “Better luck next time, eh?”
“And what sort of consolation is that?” Susan turned on him with a scowl. “You have no idea how successful an actress Lila has been. It must be devastating, huh friend?”
“Success is fickle,” he mumbled.
Lila tried to brighten up. For the sake of her friends anyway. If it were up to her, she’d have crawled under a stone so she didn’t have to think about anything. “You’re right, Danny. There will be other plays and future parts. Why wallow in sadness when life is already so short?”
Bourbon. How it soothed...nothing. Positively nothing.
Susan rested her warm hand on Lila’s arm. “It’ll be all right, friend. Maybe backup wasn’t your first choice but if you draw deep within that talent God has given you then you’ll impress some folks. Look to the future with hope and who knows what might happen.”
Whenever Lila had done such a thing her plans had gone up in flames. There were many things in her past she regretted, yet having been a failed optimist had taught her something. Plans are never quite enough. Readjusting, however, was.
“To better days,” she said, holding up her glass. A new year will start in two months. Maybe it has something good for all of us.”
“Whoa, nineteen forty-six isn’t over just yet,” Danny interrupted. “How about we toast to present blessings?”
“I like that.” Susan switched back to a warm demeanor. “To friends and bourbon.”
“Sure.” Lila squeezed out a smile. “And to who knows what else awaits.”
While she drank, an interesting thought came to the forefront of her mind.
Bored. She was bored with her life and could do with a little excitement. What better way of entertaining herself than by getting back at Robert? After all, he’d been responsible for her mess up at the audition. If he hadn’t come into that auditorium at the same moment she was trying out for the part of Luella—ooh! It made her so mad just thinking about it.
She swished the bourbon in her mouth, many wild ideas running through her head. If only she could figure something out to make the score even. He hadn’t seemed to care a lick she’d chased after him. But maybe...just...maybe...if she had supposedly moved on and found someone else then he might take notice.
It had to be someone he’d be furious about her landing.
Lila asked Danny to pour her another drink, all the while pretending to listen to Susan tell her all about her day working at the office. She answered with simple words and basic gestures, going through every man in her head she knew who might be a good candidate to help her with the task.
And after her third bourbon, as she slowly succumbed to the drink, a dreamy face came to her. Kent.