A Novel Excerptby Robert Stone
Lu Anne Verger chewed a piece of sugarless gum and brushed out her hair, hoping to see Rosalind and not some ugly thing. When she had been married to Robitaille he had accused her of constantly looking in mirrors. Because, she had told him, my face is my fortune.
They had told her to stay out of the sun, to keep the character’s genteel pallor. In the end it could not be done without the most rigorous efforts and they had relented and let her tan. It had been a good idea; with the right makeup and in the right colors, she photographed young and golden.
It was Edna in the glass now, not Rosalind. Lu Anne studied herself. Gone, that young Queen of the New Haven night. Sometimes it seemed to Lu Anne that she missed Rosalind the way she missed her children. She turned to study herself in profile.
Years ago in Boulanger, a judge who was one of her ex-husband’s relatives had called her “a lousy mother,” right out in court, in front of her daughter and in front of her own mother and daddy. Now she was Edna Pontellier. Of Edna, Kate Chopin had written:
She was fond of her children in an uneven impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them.
You lost it all anyway, Lu Anne thought. You lost the child inside yourself, then the person that grew there, then the children you never bore and the children you did. The boys, the men, the skin outside, the self inside. Feelings came and went like weather. You could not tell if they were real. You could not tell if they were your own. You could never even be sure that you were there. People pretended.
“She looks fine,” Lu Anne told herself in the glass. The unseen Friends buzzed. They were all guilty agitation, old-auntly admonitions.
Don’t say she look fine, she heard one whisper. Say she is fine.
Lu Anne smiled, lowered her head and put a finger across her lips.
“Lee?” It was the voice of the writer, Lowndes. “Your car is here.”
She stood up and went out; meeting his eyes, her own gaze faltered and he saw it.
At the door, Billy Bly, the stuntman, was waiting for her with the driver. Seeing each other, they both blushed.
“Hi,” he said, and glanced quickly at Lowndes behind her. “They told me to ride over with you. See if there was anything you wanted.”
“Just your good company, Brother Bly,” she said. She introduced him to Lowndes; they got in the hosed-down Lincoln that would carry them to the set.
Looking out the car window as they approached the sea, she was struck by the uncanny light. The sky seemed to threaten a storm out of season.
“You look fine, Lu Anne,” Billy Bly said. She laughed. They had sent him out as her protector, replacing Jack Best. A heavy-handed touch, she thought.
“I am fine, Billy,” she told him. She was aware of Lowndes, a watching darkness on the seat beside her. “I am.”