Red lacquer on her toenail, in the exact colour of the Duesy parked outside. One good thing about putting up with Fritz, was the cabbage.
“Money, money” she mouthed mutely; placing the cupid-bow stencil on her lips. Painting them to match the car and the nails.
Another good thing was that a man was never going to replace her in this business; no matter how wonderful the Maybelline; no one will ever want to see scantily clad men in the movies.
She thought about this as she slipped into her shoes, carefully doing the straps to protect the perfection of her fingernails. And if he ever fancied himself a woman’s experience, knowing Fritz, he’d have to have real blood. All for the ‘authenticity’…
Blood’s what the lip-paint was really all about… The blood-filled flesh of a man’s desire. Under the lipstick. Like the nipple tassels only draw attention to that which they are covering.
She marvelled at the strength of the adhesive, gently pulling the long shiny threads.
It had its advantages, putting up with Fritz.
“Alright, damn it!” Fritz’s voice exploded from below the planks. Muffled somewhat like when a man’s palm smothers a woman.
He knocked. And paused. And knocked again. But Brigitte twisted shut the metal lipstick-lid, savouring the satisfying click.
“Is it time, baby?” She asked.
(Sometimes, the paint was all about losing one’s humanity… Quite literally, ‘dolling up.’)
There was a delicious sensation associated to the idea of standing on Fritz, even if a plank of wood would separate them. She imagined digging her heel into his cheek, and a red mark lingering—like a man’s handprint often does on a woman’s face. But remembering the way his eye had last looked through the square hole, she thought of him as a dog; vulnerable, innocent.
… And she’d always give a dog his water. Nevertheless, she took her time rubbing her small lips together, careful not to smudge the lipliner perfection.
“Ready for some bread then, baby?” She asked him, eyes fixed on the mirror.
She looked like a real movie star. She was a real movie star. Well on the way to becoming one. Wooden legs screeching on the floorboards, she pushed herself on the stool. Maybe… She was a different kind of star.
“Smoke! I’m ready for a smoke!”
Brigitte turned and looked at the large cushion bobbing awkwardly and heavily on the planks, as Fritz poked it from inside the vault, with the three fingers he could fit through the hole. Fritz had cut it, but she’d nailed the planks to the floor herself, where a trapdoor had once been, following the instructions he shouted at her from his would-be prison—Before she’d done her nails. Like she needed direction to use a hammer.
She stood up, slightly repulsed by the idea of his fingers wriggling through the hole, looking at the fine lines of light, like threads of gold, shimmering between the old floorboards. She kicked the cushion out of the way; strings of tiny gold beads dangling on her thighs.
“Didn’t you say, ‘a minimum of food and water only’? It’s not even been two days, baby. And you’re not supposed to turn the light on until bread time.”
His mouth appeared in the square. It reminded her of the lip-stencil.
“I know what I said,” he said. “I don’t give a damn.”
“The lost wouldn’t get any cigarettes, would they?”
“Butt me quick, Brigitte. I mean it. I feel enough of their despair alright. I can have a damn fag.”
He’d nearly set her on fire, all for the ‘authenticity’ of the film. Of course, he’d never take it too far on himself. He’d never deem it “necessary” for the director to understand a character’s ordeal, if it didn’t suit him. He didn’t give a damn what suited his actors. Broke Bill’s teeth so his speakeasy scene would look authentic. She stepped away for the cigarettes.
“How’s the costume?” His eye replaced the mouth, but she wasn’t there to see it. Nor to be seen.
“Oh, you’re going to love it,” she answered from the vanity.
“Rudy seen it on you yet?”
“It’s just you and me here, baby. No one else is crazy enough to come to work before production officially resumes. Not even Rudy. Just that runaway gal… Bonnie.”
“Let me see you.”
“That Bonnie gal with the southern accent… She came looking for you.”
“Don’t know who the hell you’re talking about…”
“And I don’t know what ‘an extra’ thought she was doing here, in between production runs. But there you have it.”
(She knew. It had all come together by now.)
“C’mon. Let me see you. Our first film, Bearcat.”
“There’s not much of it to see. Besides, isn’t that bending the rules? Again?”
“They’re my rules, don’t you forget. Hurry up with that smoke.”
Brigitte lit the cigarette, taking a deep slow puff. The smoke bounced on the mirror as she exhaled, a foggy highway stretching before her—nothing else before her in the dead of night. Fritz always kept plenty of gasoline cans; that was another good thing about him.
Brigitte’s heels clicked on the floorboards. She stood on the plank, covering the hole completely with her sole.
“Just pass the damn cig.”
She removed her foot, watching his fingers pop out again.
“Let me see your mouth, baby,” she said.
The fingers disappeared; his eye glared at her in its place.
“Pass the damn fag, Brigitte.”
She crouched down, hovering upon him—Her face darkened by the ceiling lamp.
“I said ‘your mouth’, baby. You have no rights, remember? Remember what you wrote? You’re not Fritz Weber anymore. You’re nothing but a cog in a great big machine. Worthless on your own. Replaceable. Scum of society, put to the good use of the enlightened. So, when I tell you I want your mouth, I want your mouth…”
The eye widened. The lips took its place.
“Atta boy. You know I only wanna kiss it.”
Brigitte lowered her face and blew a full breath of smoke in through his lips. Fritz held it. Fritz exhaled. Smoke like a steam-train blowing out of the square as she stood up and disappeared out of view.
Fritz never suspected that was the last he’d ever see of her. Brigitte herself didn’t know what had come over her when she saw Bonnie, but she soon came to think of her as an angel. It was all part of a larger plan. A higher plan.
She hadn’t been jealous, just humiliated, once again; not that she wasn’t used to that. She didn’t even think about it at the time… She only saw the road, and the fog, and then the Bonnie head like a broken mask under a brick—hair like muddy grass because of the blood—and she knew that was the future… Mostly, she believed in her own strength right then. And that had to mean something. She visualised the adhesive on the dresser, because of the hair all stuck together maybe, and that was that; ended up gluing Bonnie’s lips shut until she gathered the courage to give it to her with the hammer. Duck soup. People will do anything for a movie star.
She dragged her slight corpse easily into the dressing room, despite being just as small; pretty much her exact same build. All that dancing, before Fritz discovered her and brought her to the studios, had sure paid off. She was strong; but mentally strong too. The incessant knocking—Fritz’s incessant screaming she dreaded—she didn’t even hear it… Screaming and screaming her name but that wasn’t her name anymore. Listened to the soothing sound of Bonnie’s body sweeping the floor.
Sweeping is always so satisfying because you see the results immediately; kind of like painting your nails. Other things take time, patience. Resilience. Not this. This was immediate. Retribution. The gurgling of the gasoline, the flame flaring on the match, the highly flammable celluloid… by far the most penetrating sound. The erasure of Brigitte’s character, Molly; the erasure of the enlightened and of all the lost; the erasure of Brigitte; piercingly satisfying. The moment when an inhale becomes an exhale. The moment when Brigitte puts on Fritz’s raincoat but it’s Bonnie who climbs into the Duesy. Poor doll even had her papers with her—angel fallen from heaven probably wasn’t there to have an affair with him after all but, if she did, least they’re ‘dead happily ever after’. His cabbage in the pockets, the knowledge that the nail lacquer matched the car. The knowledge that no one would recognise Bonnie’s charred remains as Bonnie’s.
Headlines told of a cursed film, feeding the prudes. Always starved for arguments to supress the making of motion pictures.
Others put it on the mob.
Bonnie… She eventually ran out of gasoline. Met a nice fellow with puppy dog eyes; a nice fellow Clyde, in the gas station.