They never even shared screen time.
And if she hadn’t come in early to go over some second unit blocking with the choreographer, they never would have even met: the background dancer and the young actress.
In this business, they say it’s all about who you know.
Well, one day they didn’t know each other, and, the next, there they were, standing on either side of a camera tripod, nursing coffees, watching the set crew move sidewalk scenery, side by side—knowing.
One look was all it took.
Had anyone else said as much, it would have sounded soppy, but when the actress whispered it into the dancer’s ear under the moonlight behind Studio B just days after that first meeting, it rang just right: “Fate’s hand,” she said, thrill and just the slightest hint of fear in her voice.
After that, it was all secret rendezvous behind the trailers and stolen moments on abandoned back lots and sound stages. In-between scenes, they would disappear behind curtains and press lips against each other’s necks and cheeks and eyelids, suddenly less interested in playing parts than they had ever been before in their entire lives.
They wiped away red lipstick stains from exposed skin with handkerchiefs and smoothed each other’s hair back into coifs after every kiss and hidden touch, appearing on set so often breathless, rushed. In some ways, it was easy to hide in plain sight. In other ways, it ached and strained at something bigger than both of them.
With cameras rolling, the actress sang her parts about forbidden love and that ceaseless pull which strings the heart in love along to its only and best destination. The directors raved about her work, predicting golden trophies and laurels come awards season. It was her performance of a lifetime and their secret. It was perfect, at the time.
As for the dancer, she quickly took her place at the head of the line. “Such a protégée,” the actress praised her as they disappeared, hand in hand, after another flawless take.
Of course, they couldn’t allow themselves romance by daylight or in the open. Even in Hollywood, that sort of thing would cause a scandal. The other girls in the chorus line probably suspected—the Chanel No. 5 clinging to her hair and clothes could never belong to a dancer; she could never afford it—but liked her well enough to keep quiet about it. Better than sleeping with the director, at least. Better than a lot of things a girl fresh out of conservatory could do with her body and her heart.
The movie wrapped in late summer, and, when it did, they made promises to see each other still. They’d both heard whispers about clubs in West Hollywood where maybe they could dance together under low lights, maybe if the actress arrived incognito, maybe if they drove in separate cars, maybe if nobody knew them… knew her… maybe.
But then that would-be Hedda Hopper found her and threatened full disclosure without the proper compensation.
Apparently, someone had seen something on the far side of the lot, illuminated by floodlights. Someone had noticed a new pretty necklace, diamonds that couldn’t belong to a dancer. Someone had seen a brush of fingertips, and, at the corners of the mouth, a kiss so much more than friendly.
Funny, how they had spent their whole adult lives fighting to get in front of a camera and now just a few photographs could—
On the last day of filming, the actress found a dozen roses in her trailer and a note signed just Love.
They never even shared the screen.
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