Monday 6 July 2020

When will I be famous?

 by Rose McGrath


Agnes Flynn wanted to be an actress. She dreamt of being in films.   Admiring herself in her bedroom mirror, with her long blonde hair piled high on her head; she rehearsed her acceptance speech for her Academy Award, into her hairbrush. All she needed now was her first break.
          Sitting on her bed reading The Stage she circled the situations vacant. She auditioned as a dancer for the Wizard of Oz, joined the endless queue for a job on a cruise ship and auditioned for walk-on parts, but it was always the same, she was either too tall, or not quite what they were looking for. Most Saturdays she was on the ferry, then the bus into the city trying out for one thing or another. Then it was the waiting game.
          Dragging her sore feet from the bus stop, Agnes counted out her last few pennies into her hand hoping she had enough money for a latte. Waiting in line, her stomach rumbled as her eyes looked down at the assortment of muffins lined up on the counter. Each wrapped in soft chocolate-coloured paper to display golden sponge with tasty bits of chocolate and blueberries inside.
          Just think of the extra pounds, said her inner voice as she closed her eyes and dreamt of biting into a chocolate chip muffin. Looking down at her watch she threw her bag over her shoulder anxious that she might miss the last ferry. Rushing out of the shop she passed a group of lads heading for one of the nightclubs in the city. When they saw Agnes, they stopped their conversation in mid flow.
“Hey darling, where you going shouted one of the lads, can I come? “
          “Can I take you out for a drink?” shouted another.”
          “I’m in love with you?” shouted a tall spotty lad with thick red hair.
Agnes smiled, tossed her long blonde hair back and moved gracefully past.
Pushing her way through the crowds in Main Street, she passed the waitresses setting up the crisp white tablecloths on the pavement cafés. She watched as the candles were lit and the flames danced in the moonlight. People were enticed in to eat plates of tortellini stuffed with artichoke, Linguine, and pizzas alfresco under candlelight. The pungent smells of garlic and herbs filled the night air. She followed young bright-eyed girls pulling their wheelie bags behind them as they flagged down taxis and mingled in with the hustle and bustle of the city. She glanced at the newspaper seller shouting out the news of the day and heard the taxi drivers beeping their horns at the crowds of pedestrians that walked in front of their cabs. She watched the tourists in deep conversation in different languages, looking up at bronze statues doted around the city. Then her thoughts turned to Frank, the uncomplicated, easy going man in her life. Who didn’t like Jazz music, hated going to art galleries and didn’t much care for musicals, he never did understand her ambitions?
          When she put her key in the door her mother was waiting for her.
          “You’re back then, so what was it this time. Don’t tell me, they wanted you to pretend to be a chicken and lay an egg?” said her mum smiling.
“You look worn out, girl. Did you have any luck, or are you just waiting to hear?”
“They said they would let me know.”
          “Oh, Agnes, why don’t you forget this nonsense of being an actress? Let me tell you, girl, most of the time, actors are out of work and end up waiting tables or taking bit parts, which don’t pay the rent. Frank can provide for you, give you a comfortable life.”
          “‘I can’t give up my dream, what if— Mum. I’ve spent years learning my craft; I can’t just give it all up just like that clicking her fingers. I won’t.”
          “Oh don’t be so melodramatic, your father likes Frank. Grab him with two hands.”
“You mean Dad likes him because he’s rich.”
“Agnes that’s a terrible thing to say. Your Dad is a good judge of character.”
“Yes, sorry, I didn’t mean it, I’m just tired.”
“Frank, loves you Agnes, marry him, he won’t wait for ever.”
          This is a small town Agnes, people talk. I can’t look Father Dunn in the face knowing you are out all hours with Frank, mixing with the set from the golf club and you not having an engagement ring on your finger.”
“What will people think of us, Agnes?”
“I don’t care.” I’ve known him all my life; dependable Frank.
 “It’s always been our wish that you and Frank would be together. It’s what his parents hoped. They always saw you as family.”
“He’s my best friend. Of course, I was there for him when they died.”
“We made a lot of sacrifices so you could go to drama college.”
“I know and I’m grateful.”
“If you said yes to Frank, your good fortune would rub off on us. We would be something in this town. You could have one of those lovely sports cars. Take me out for a spin along the coast road. We could feel the wind in our hair, smell the sea air and walk up Adrian’s Peak. Mind you, the little car wouldn’t be very practical when you have a young family. Think about it, Agnes.”
“Why do you have to make things so complicated? I’m just having fun.”
“Just think about it, luv, and what it could mean for your family”.
Frank O’Reilly was in the motor trade. Every time he picked Agnes up for a date he was in a different sports car. The smell of the soft leather and the lush carpet under her feet made Agnes feel a million dollars. He showered her with gifts: jewellery and perfume which made Agnes have second thoughts about her dream. They often danced the night away at the local disco or had a candlelit dinner at an upmarket restaurant in town. He was ten year older than Agnes and was ready to settle down. Their home would be his family’s manor house, which came with a stable block and a farm.
          Then it all happened very quickly. The date for the wedding was set, bridesmaids were picked, the venue was booked, and her dress was bought. Standing in her wedding dress, it all seemed unreal. How had it come to this? Boxes of presents were piled high in the corner of her bedroom. She tried the veil on and looked at herself in the mirror. Agnes held her head in her hands and cried.
          I can’t do this; it’s not my dream, it’s theirs.
She picked up the veil and threw it across the room. Then checked the ferry timetable for the earliest ferry. In the early hours of the morning, Agnes closed her bedroom door for the last time. After she had dragged her large suitcase down the stairs, she stopped at the kitchen table and left a note. When she boarded the bus from the ferry terminal, her thoughts turned to Frank. Her hands were shaking as she dialled his number. When he answered she couldn’t get any words out, so she put down the receiver. Today should have been her wedding day.
The play opened to mixed reviews. There it was in black and white, her first review.
Agnes Flynn who played the busty waitress in ‘The Café’ gave a promising performance.
The Evening Standard
 With a shortage of advanced bookings, the play closed. Her first real acting job came to an abrupt end.
          Agnes peered into her kitchen cupboard and stared at the one and only tin of baked beans. The bread was mouldy, and her rent was due. Her mum was right, she saw the same faces at auditions, looking for work. Rejection had become an all too familiar word.
          On her way back from an audition, she took a shortcut, passing through the more salubrious part of town, full of bars, lap-dancing clubs, and Gentlemen’s Clubs. When she walked past Diamond Lil’s, she saw a sign in the window for bar staff. Swallowing her pride, she stood up straight, rolled her skirt up, flashed her long slender legs and unbuttoned her shirt to show some cleavage. She painted a thick layer of red lipstick on her lips and ruffled her hair. At the bottom of the stairs, she entered the bar. The painted red walls and a leopard skin carpet gaped her lips and she could feel the heat rising in her face. She took a sip of water and steadied her wobbly legs. She couldn’t stop staring, when she saw pictures of nudes that filled the walls.
What would Father Dunn say?
          In the middle of the floor was a circular stage with a spotlight on it. Tables and chairs were dotted around. Red and mauve strip lights glowed around the well-stocked bar.
          As she looked around a voice shouted out, “Can I help you?”
          “I’m here for the bar job you advertised outside,” said Agnes looking around the bar.
          “That’s filled,” said a man puffing on a long cigar sitting at a table next to the
          “I need dancers,” he said looking her up and down. “Take it or leave it.”
          As Agnes turned to walk back up the stairs, she thought of her unpaid rent.
          Reluctantly, she turned around, and thought about what she had sacrificed to follow her dream.
          “So, what do I need to do?”
          “Watch June then you do it with her,” said the man shouting at the bouncer to play the music.
          As the music started a small thin lady with bandy legs and enormous boobs took to the stage. Dressed in a skimpy black bra and a black G-string that exposed her saggy bottom, she took her place centre stage. As she moved her body to the sound of the 80’s classic her neon-orange stilettos glowed. As she kicked her legs in the air and crawled on all fours across the stage suggestively, she rubbed her hands over her boobs. Nothing was left to the imagination. She finished her turn curled up on a chair. The spotlight disappeared. Then it was Agnes’s turn.
          I can do this with all my dancing training. I might get noticed.  It might lead to a film role, she said to herself as she wiggled her body up and down on the stage and ended with doing the splits.
          The rough voice shouted, “You’re hired, start tonight. Joanne will find you a costume.”
          Once she stepped through the doors of the club, Agnes Flynn disappeared.
 Joanne found her a red bikini, red wig and black stilettos and told her she was now called Candy. She gritted her teeth, looking at herself in the mirror wearing her costume.
          It was just a job, a means to an end
she told herself.
          She wished Frank would turn up and take her away.
          She danced to the 80’s classics. One by one the punters beckoned her over and pushed notes into her G-string. At the end of the night she pulled the £20 notes out of her knickers and stuffed the money into her bag. She had made more money in a night than she had ever made in acting.
          At the back were the booths for the private dancers. Joanne said she could double her money if she didn’t mind being groped from time to time. The money was her motivation. The punters wouldn’t see the sadness in her eyes. Her moves were staged; her smile was plastic as she worked as Candy the good-time girl. Once she brought a ticket for the ferry determined to go home, but she couldn’t take the final step to get onboard.
 Agnes wiped off her thick makeup and pulled off her false eyelashes. A middle-aged lady was now looking back at her. Deep wrinkles were embedded in her forehead. Her once slender body was now plump. There was a scar on her back from where a punter threw a bottle at her, a reminder of the fights that used to take place over the girls. These days Agnes ran the office in the back for Terry the owner.
          As she kicked off her shoes and sat reading the early morning paper, before she cashed up the tills, a young girl wandered into the club asking for a job behind the bar. She recognised the look of desperation in her voice.
          “Yes, I can find you a few hours’ work in the bar if you have some experience. It can get a bit rowdy here though, can you handle it?”
          “Yes, I’ve done bar work before.”
 “I need a job to pay my bills, you see I’m an actress.”
“We get a lot of actresses here, hoping to be discovered. Be here at nine sharp,” said Agnes with a smile.
           Looking at the fresh-faced girl dragging a suitcase made Agnes think of her parents. More than once she had written a letter to her mother but before she got to the end, she would rip it up.
Guilt has kept me away all these years, I should have tried to make it up with them. Is it too late?
Looking down at her healthy bank balance, she knew it was time to make amends. She made a lot of money from buying and selling property in London. So, she could go back and hold her head up high.
           Agnes took a deep breath and breathed in the fresh sea air as she made her way up the gangplank. She fiddled with a piece of tissue, pondering what she would say to her mother about how she made her living.
          I’ll tell her the truth, she said in a whisper.
          As she left the ferry dock, she pulled out the old newspaper clipping from the Evening Standard and carefully placed it in an envelope for her mother.
          As the ferry came into port, she spotted an old lady with a walking stick waiting by the gate, waving to her. A youngish man in a smart suit that resembled her Frank stood next to her.
          Agnes was home.

About the author 

Rose, originally from South London now lives in Banbury in Oxfordshire with her partner.
She has had a passion for writing since an early age, but over the year’s life has got in the way. As the family are now grown, she has found more time to write and complete her BA in Creative Art.
These are her first published short stories in CafeLit.

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