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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo / (by Taylor Jenkins Reid, 2017) -

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo /     (by Taylor Jenkins Reid, 2017) -

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo / (by Taylor Jenkins Reid, 2017) -

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: 342
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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo / (by Taylor Jenkins Reid, 2017) -
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2017
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Taylor Jenkins Reid
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Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, Robin Miles
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/ / / upper-intermediate
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upper-intermediate
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12:11:04
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo / :

.doc (Word) taylor_jenkins_reid_-_the_seven_husbands_of_evelyn_hugo.doc [819.5 Kb] (c: 18) .
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: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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( , ).


For Lilah Smash the patriarchy, sweetheart NEW YORK TRIBUNE Evelyn Hugo to Auction Off Gowns BY PRIYA AMRIT MARCH 2, 2017 Film legend and _60s It Girl Evelyn Hugo has just announced that she will auction off 12 of her most memorable gowns through Christie_s to raise money for breast cancer research. At the age of 79, Hugo has long been an icon of glamour and elegance. She is known for a personal style both sensual and restrained, and many of Hugo_s most famous looks are considered touchstones of the fashion and Hollywood archives. Those looking to own a piece of Hugo history will be intrigued not only by the gowns themselves but also by the context in which they were worn. Included in the sale will be the emerald-green Miranda La Conda that Hugo wore to the 1959 Academy Awards, the violet souffl? and organdy scoop-neck she donned at the premiere of Anna Karenina in 1962, and the navy-blue silk Michael Maddax that she was wearing in 1982 when she won her Oscar for All for Us. Hugo has weathered her share of Hollywood scandals, not the least of which being her seven marriages, including her decades-long relationship with film producer Harry Cameron. The two Hollywood insiders shared a daughter, Connor Cameron, who is no doubt the influence for the auction. Ms. Cameron passed away last year from breast cancer soon after turning 41. Born Evelyn Elena Herrera in 1938, the daughter of Cuban immigrants, Hugo grew up in the Hell_s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. By 1955, she had made her way to Hollywood, gone blond, and been rechristened Evelyn Hugo. Almost overnight, Hugo became a member of the Hollywood elite. She remained in the spotlight for more than three decades before retiring in the late _80s and marrying financier Robert Jamison, older brother of three-time Oscar-winning actress Celia St. James. Now widowed from her seventh husband, Hugo resides in Manhattan. Preternaturally beautiful and a paragon of glamour and daring sexuality, Hugo has long been a source of fascination for moviegoers the world over. This auction is expected to raise upward of $2 million. CAN YOU COME INTO MY office?_ I look around at the desks beside me and then back at Frankie, trying to confirm to whom, exactly, she_s talking. I point to myself. _Do you mean me?_ Frankie has very little patience. _Yes, Monique, you. That_s why I said, _Monique, can you come into my office?_ _ _Sorry, I just heard the last part._ Frankie turns. I grab my notepad and follow her. There is something very striking about Frankie. I_m not sure that you_d say she was conventionally attractive_her features are severe, her eyes very wide apart_but she is nevertheless someone you can_t help but look at and admire. With her thin, six-foot-tall frame, her short-cropped Afro, and her affinity for bright colors and big jewelry, when Frankie walks into a room, everyone takes notice. She was part of the reason I took this job. I have looked up to her since I was in journalism school, reading her pieces in the very pages of the magazine she now runs and I now work for. And if I_m being honest, there is something very inspiring about having a black woman running things. As a biracial woman myself_light brown skin and dark brown eyes courtesy of my black father, an abundance of face freckles courtesy of my white mother_Frankie makes me feel more sure that I can one day run things, too. _Take a seat,_ Frankie says as she sits down and gestures toward an orange chair on the opposite side of her Lucite desk. I calmly sit and cross my legs. I let Frankie talk first. _So, puzzling turn of events,_ she says, looking at her computer. _Evelyn Hugo_s people are inquiring about a feature. An exclusive interview._ My gut instinct is to say Holy shit but also Why are you telling me this? _About what in particular?_ I ask. _My guess is it_s related to the gown auction she_s doing,_ Frankie says. _My understanding is that it_s very important to her to raise as much money for the American Breast Cancer Foundation as possible._ _But they won_t confirm that?_ Frankie shakes her head. _All they will confirm is that Evelyn has something to say._ Evelyn Hugo is one of the biggest movie stars of all time. She doesn_t even have to have something to say for people to listen. _This could be a big cover for us, right? I mean, she_s a living legend. Wasn_t she married eight times or something?_ _Seven,_ Frankie says. _And yes. This has huge potential. Which is why I hope you_ll bear with me through the next part of this._ _What do you mean?_ Frankie takes a big breath and gets a look on her face that makes me think I_m about to get fired. But then she says, _Evelyn specifically requested you._ _Me?_ This is the second time in the span of five minutes that I have been shocked that someone was interested in speaking with me. I need to work on my confidence. Suffice it to say, it_s taken a beating recently. Although why pretend it was ever really soaring? _To be honest, that was my reaction, too,_ Frankie says. Now I_ll be honest, I_m a little offended. Although, obviously, I can see where she_s coming from. I_ve been at Vivant for less than a year, mostly doing puff pieces. Before that, I was blogging for the Discourse, a current events and culture site that calls itself a newsmagazine but is, effectively, a blog with punchy headlines. I wrote mainly for the Modern Life section, covering trending topics and opinion pieces. After years of freelancing, the Discourse gig was a lifesaver. But when Vivant offered me a job, I couldn_t help myself. I jumped at the chance to join an institution, to work among legends. On my first day of work, I walked past walls decorated with iconic, culture-shifting covers_the one of women_s activist Debbie Palmer, naked and carefully posed, standing on top of a skyscraper overlooking Manhattan in 1984; the one of artist Robert Turner in the act of painting a canvas while the text declared that he had AIDS, back in 1991. It felt surreal to be a part of the Vivant world. I have always wanted to see my name on its glossy pages. But unfortunately, for the past twelve issues, I_ve done nothing but ask old-guard questions of people with old money, while my colleagues back at the Discourse are attempting to change the world while going viral. So, simply put, I_m not exactly impressed with myself. _Look, it_s not that we don_t love you, we do,_ Frankie says. _We think you_re destined for big things at Vivant, but I was hoping to put one of our more experienced, top hitters on this. And so I want to be up front with you when I say that we did not submit you as an idea to Evelyn_s team. We sent five big names, and they came back with this._ Frankie turns her computer screen toward me and shows me an e-mail from someone named Thomas Welch, who I can only assume is Evelyn Hugo_s publicist. From: Thomas Welch To: Troupe, Frankie Cc: Stamey, Jason; Powers, Ryan It_s Monique Grant or Evelyn_s out. I look back up at Frankie, stunned. And to be honest, a little bit starstruck that Evelyn Hugo wants anything to do with me. _Do you know Evelyn Hugo? Is that what_s going on here?_ Frankie asks me as she turns the computer back toward her side of the desk. _No,_ I say, surprised even to be asked the question. _I_ve seen a few of her movies, but she_s a little before my time._ _You have no personal connection to her?_ I shake my head. _Definitely not._ _Aren_t you from Los Angeles?_ _Yeah, but the only way I_d have any connection to Evelyn Hugo, I suppose, is if my dad worked on one of her films back in the day. He was a still photographer for movie sets. I can ask my mom._ _Great. Thank you._ Frankie looks at me expectantly. _Did you want me to ask now?_ _Could you?_ I pull my phone out of my pocket and text my mother: Did Dad ever work on any Evelyn Hugo movies? I see three dots start to appear, and I look up, only to find that Frankie is trying to get a glimpse of my phone. She seems to recognize the invasion and leans back. My phone dings. My mother texts: Maybe? There were so many it_s hard to keep track. Why? Long story, I reply, but I_m trying to figure out if I have any connection to Evelyn Hugo. Think Dad would have known her? Mom answers: Ha! No. Your father never hung out with anybody famous on set. No matter how hard I tried to get him to make us some celebrity friends. I laugh. _It looks like no. No connection to Evelyn Hugo._ Frankie nods. _OK, well, then, the other theory is that her people chose someone with less clout so that they could try to control you and, thus, the narrative._ I feel my phone vibrate again. That reminds me that I wanted to send you a box of your dad_s old work. Some gorgeous stuff. I love having it here, but I think you_d love it more. I_ll send it this week. _You think they_re preying on the weak,_ I say to Frankie. Frankie smiles softly. _Sort of._ _So Evelyn_s people look up the masthead, find my name as a lower-level writer, and think they can bully me around. That_s the idea?_ _That_s what I fear._ _And you_re telling me this because . . ._ Frankie considers her words. _Because I don_t think you can be bullied around. I think they are underestimating you. And I want this cover. I want it to make headlines._ _What are you saying?_ I ask, shifting slightly in my chair. Frankie claps her hands in front of her and rests them on the desk, leaning toward me. _I_m asking you if you have the guts to go toe-to-toe with Evelyn Hugo._ Of all the things I thought someone was going to ask me today, this would probably be somewhere around number nine million. Do I have the guts to go toe-to-toe with Evelyn Hugo? I have no idea. _Yes,_ I say finally. _That_s all? Just yes?_ I want this opportunity. I want to write this story. I_m sick of being the lowest one on the totem pole. And I need a win, goddammit. _Fuck yes?_ Frankie nods, considering. _Better, but I_m still not convinced._ I_m thirty-five years old. I_ve been a writer for more than a decade. I want a book deal one day. I want to pick my stories. I want to eventually be the name people scramble to get when someone like Evelyn Hugo calls. And I_m being underused here at Vivant. If I_m going to get where I want to go, something has to let up. Someone has to get out of my way. And it needs to happen quickly, because this goddamn career is all I have anymore. If I want things to change, I have to change how I do things. And probably drastically. _Evelyn wants me,_ I say. _You want Evelyn. It doesn_t sound like I need to convince you, Frankie. It sounds like you need to convince me._ Frankie is dead quiet, staring right at me over her steepled fingers. I was aiming for formidable. I might have overshot. I feel the same way I did when I tried weight training and started with the forty-pound weights. Too much too soon makes it obvious you don_t know what you_re doing. It takes everything I have not to take it back, not to apologize profusely. My mother raised me to be polite, to be demure. I have long operated under the idea that civility is subservience. But it hasn_t gotten me very far, that type of kindness. The world respects people who think they should be running it. I_ve never understood that, but I_m done fighting it. I_m here to be Frankie one day, maybe bigger than Frankie. To do big, important work that I am proud of. To leave a mark. And I_m nowhere near doing that yet. The silence is so long that I think I might crack, the tension building with every second that goes by. But Frankie cracks first. _OK,_ she says, and puts out her hand as she stands up. Shock and searing pride run through me as I extend my own. I make sure my handshake is strong; Frankie_s is a vise. _Ace this, Monique. For us and for yourself, please._ _I will._ We break away from each other as I walk toward her door. _She might have read your physician-assisted suicide piece for the Discourse,_ Frankie says just before I leave the room. _What?_ _It was stunning. Maybe that_s why she wants you. It_s how we found you. It_s a great story. Not just because of the hits it got but because of you, because it_s beautiful work._ It was one of the first truly meaningful stories I wrote of my own volition. I pitched it after I was assigned a piece on the rise in popularity of microgreens, especially on the Brooklyn restaurant scene. I had gone to the Park Slope market to interview a local farmer, but when I confessed that I didn_t get the appeal of mustard greens, he told me that I sounded like his sister. She had been highly carnivorous until the past year, when she switched to a vegan, all-organic diet as she battled brain cancer. As we spoke more, he told me about a physician-assisted suicide support group he and his sister had joined, for those at the end of their lives and their loved ones. So many in the group were fighting for the right to die with dignity. Healthy eating wasn_t going to save his sister_s life, and neither of them wanted her to suffer any longer than she had to. I knew then that I wanted, very deeply, to give a voice to the people of that support group. I went back to the Discourse office and pitched the story. I thought I_d be turned down, given my recent slate of articles about hipster trends and celebrity think pieces. But to my surprise, I was greeted with a green light. I worked tirelessly on it, attending meetings in church basements, interviewing the members, writing and rewriting, until I felt confident that the piece represented the full complexity_both the mercy and the moral code_of helping to end the lives of suffering people. It is the story I am proudest of. I have, more than once, gone home from a day_s work here and read that piece again, reminding myself of what I_m capable of, reminding myself of the satisfaction I take in sharing the truth, no matter how difficult it may be to swallow. _Thank you,_ I tell Frankie now. _I_m just saying that you_re talented. It might be that._ _It_s probably not, though._ _No,_ she says. _It_s probably not. But write this story well, whatever it is, and then next time it will be._ THESPILL.COM Evelyn Hugo_s Coming Clean BY JULIA SANTOS MARCH 4, 2017 Word on the street is siren/LIVING LEGEND/world_s most beautiful blonde Evelyn Hugo is auctioning off gowns and agreeing to an interview, which she has not done in multiple decades. PLEASE tell me she is finally ready to talk about all those damn husbands. (I can understand four, maybe even five, six if you are really pushing it, but seven? Seven husbands? Not to mention the fact that we all know she was having an affair with Congressman Jack Easton in the early _80s. Girl. Got. A. Round.) If she won_t come clean about the husbands, let_s pray she at least goes on the record about how she got those eyebrows. I mean, SHARE THE WEALTH, EVELYN. When you see pictures of E back in the day with her brassy blond hair, those dark, straight-as-an-arrow eyebrows, that deep-tanned skin, and those golden-brown eyes, you have no choice but to stop what you are doing and stare right at her. And don_t even get me started on that body. No ass, no hips_just huge boobs on a slim frame. I have basically been working my entire adult life for a body like that. (Note: Am very far away. Might be the spaghetti bucatini I_ve been eating for lunch every day this week.) Here is the only part that has me heated: Evelyn could have chosen anyone for this. (Ahem, me?) But instead she chose some newbie at Vivant? She could have had anyone. (Ahem, me?) Why this Monique Grant chick (and not me)? Ugh, fine. I_m just bitter it_s not me. I should really get a job at Vivant. They get all the good stuff. COMMENTS: Hihello565 says: Even people at Vivant don_t want to work at Vivant anymore. Corporate overlords producing censored advertiser courting bullshit. Ppppppppppps reply to Hihello565: Yeah, OK. Something tells me if the most well-respected, sophisticated magazine in the country offered you a job, you_d take it. EChristine999 says: Didn_t Evelyn_s daughter die of cancer recently? I feel like I read something recently about that. So heartbreaking. BTW, that picture of Evelyn at Harry Cameron_s grave? Basically ruined me for months. Beautiful family. So sad that she lost them. MrsJeanineGrambs says: I do not care about Evelyn Hugo AT ALL. STOP WRITING ABOUT THESE PEOPLE. Her marriages, affairs, and most of her movies just go to prove one thing: Slut. Three A.M. was a disgrace to women. Focus your attention on people that deserve it. SexyLexi89 says: Evelyn Hugo is maybe the most beautiful woman of all time. That shot in Boute-en-Train where she_s coming out of the water naked and the camera cuts to black right before you see her nipples? So good. PennyDriverKLM says: All hail Evelyn Hugo for making blond hair and dark eyebrows THE LOOK. Evelyn, I salute you. YuppiePigs3 says: Too skinny! Not for me. EvelynHugoIsASaint says: This is a woman who has donated MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to charities for battered women_s organizations and LGBTQ interests, and now she_s auctioning off gowns for cancer research and all you can talk about is her eyebrow game? Seriously? JuliaSantos@TheSpill reply to EvelynHugoIsASaint: This is a fair point, I guess. SORRY. In my defense, she started making millions by being a badass business bitch back in the _60s. And she would never have had the clout to do that without her talent and beauty, and she never would have been as beautiful without DEM BROWS. But OK, fair point. EvelynHugoIsASaint reply to JuliaSantos@TheSpill: Ugh. Sorry for being so bitchy. I skipped lunch. Mea culpa. For what it_s worth, Vivant won_t do half as well with this story as you would have. Evelyn should have chosen you. JuliaSantos@TheSpill reply to EvelynHugoIsASaint: Right????? Who is Monique Grant anyway? BORING. I_m coming for her . . . I_VE SPENT THE PAST FEW days researching everything I can about Evelyn Hugo. I was never a big film buff, let alone interested in any old Hollywood stars. But Evelyn_s life_at least the version on record as of now_is enough for ten soap operas. There_s the early marriage that ended in divorce when she was eighteen. Then the studio-setup courtship and tumultuous marriage to Hollywood royalty Don Adler. The rumors that she left him because he beat her. Her comeback in a French New Wave film. The quickie Vegas elopement with singer Mick Riva. Her glamorous marriage to the dapper Rex North, which ended in both of them having affairs. The beautiful love story of her life with Harry Cameron and the birth of their daughter, Connor. Their heartbreaking divorce and her very quick marriage to her old director Max Girard. Her supposed affair with the much younger Congressman Jack Easton, which ended her relationship with Girard. And finally, her marriage to financier Robert Jamison, rumored to have at least been inspired by Evelyn_s desire to spite former costar_and Robert_s sister_Celia St. James. All of her husbands have passed away, leaving Evelyn as the only one with insight into those relationships. Suffice it to say, I have my work cut out for me if I want to get her to talk about any of it. After staying late at the office this evening, I finally make my way home a little before nine. My apartment is small. I believe the most appropriate term is teeny-tiny sardine box. But it_s amazing how vast a small place can feel when half of your things are gone. David moved out five weeks ago, and I still haven_t managed to replace the dishes he took with him or the coffee table his mother gave us last year as a wedding present. Jesus. We didn_t even make it to our first anniversary. As I walk in my front door and put my bag on the sofa, it strikes me again just how needlessly petty it was of him to take the coffee table. His new San Francisco studio came fully furnished courtesy of the generous relocation package offered with his promotion. I suspect he put the table in storage, along with the one nightstand he insisted was rightfully his and all of our cookbooks. I don_t miss the cookbooks. I don_t cook. But when things are inscribed to _Monique and David, for all your many years of happiness,_ you think of them as half yours. I hang up my coat and wonder, not for the first time, which question gets closer to the truth: Did David take the new job and move to San Francisco without me? Or did I refuse to leave New York for him? As I take off my shoes, I resolve once again that the answer is somewhere in the middle. But then I come back to the same thought that always stings afresh: He actually left. I order myself pad thai and then get in the shower. I turn the water to nearly scalding hot. I love water so hot it almost burns. I love the smell of shampoo. My happiest place might just be under a showerhead. It is here in the steam, covered in suds, that I do not feel like Monique Grant, woman left behind. Or even Monique Grant, stalled writer. I am just Monique Grant, owner of luxury bath products. Well after I_ve pruned, I dry myself off, put on my sweatpants, and pull my hair away from my face, just in time for the deliveryman to make his way to my door. I sit with the plastic container, trying to watch TV. I attempt to zone out. I want to make my brain do something, anything, other than think about work or David. But once my food is gone, I realize it_s futile. I might as well work. This is all very intimidating_the idea of interviewing Evelyn Hugo, the task of controlling her narrative, of trying to make sure she doesn_t control mine. I_m often inclined to overprepare. But more to the point, I_ve always been a bit like an ostrich, willing to bury my head in the sand to avoid what I don_t want to face. So, for the next three days, I do nothing but research Evelyn Hugo. I spend my days pulling up old articles about her marriages and her scandals. I spend my evenings watching her old movies. I watch clips of her in Carolina Sunset, Anna Karenina, Jade Diamond, and All for Us. I watch the GIF of her coming out of the water in Boute-en-Train so many times that when I fall asleep, it plays over and over in my dreams. And I start to fall in love with her, just the littlest bit, as I watch her films. Between the hours of eleven P.M. and two A.M., while the rest of the world is sleeping, my laptop flickers with the sight of her, and the sound of her voice fills my living room. There is no denying that she is a stunningly beautiful woman. People often talk about her straight, thick eyebrows and her blond hair, but I can_t take my eyes off her bone structure. Her jawline is strong, her cheekbones are high, and all of it comes to a point at her ever-so-swollen lips. Her eyes are huge but not so much round as an oversized almond shape. Her tanned skin next to her light hair looks beachy but also elegant. I know it_s not natural_hair that blond with skin that bronze_and yet I can_t shake the feeling that it should be, that humans should be born looking like this. I have no doubt that_s part of the reason film historian Charles Redding once said that Evelyn_s face felt _inevitable. So exquisite, so nearly perfect, that when looking at her, you get the sense that her features, in that combination, in that ratio, were bound to happen sooner or later._ I pin images of Evelyn in the _50s wearing tight sweaters and bullet bras, press photos of her and Don Adler on the Sunset Studios lot shortly after they were married, shots of her from the early _60s with long, straight hair and soft, thick bangs and wearing short-shorts. There is a photo of her in a white one-piece, sitting on the shoreline of a pristine beach, with a large, floppy black hat covering most of her face, her white-blond hair and the right side of her face illuminated by the sun. One of my personal favorites is a black-and-white shot from the Golden Globes in 1967. She is seated on the aisle, her hair pulled into a loose updo. She is wearing a light-colored lace gown with a deep scoop neckline, her cleavage controlled but on full display and her right leg escaping through the high slit of the skirt. There are two men seated next to her, names lost to history, who are staring at her as she looks ahead at the stage. The man next to her is staring at her chest. The one next to him is staring at her thigh. Both of them seem enraptured and hoping to see the tiniest bit farther. Maybe I_m overthinking that photo, but I_m starting to notice a pattern: Evelyn always leaves you hoping you_ll get just a little bit more. And she always denies you. Even in her much-talked-about sex scene in Three A.M. from 1977, in which she writhes, reverse-cowboy style, on top of Don Adler, you see her full breasts for less than three seconds. It was rumored for years that the incredible box-office numbers for the film were because couples were going to see it multiple times. How does she know just how much to give and just how much of herself to withhold? And does that all change now that she_s got something to say? Or is she going to play me the same way she played audiences for years? Is Evelyn Hugo going to tell me just enough to keep me on the edge of my seat but never enough to truly reveal anything? I WAKE UP A HALF hour before my alarm. I check my e-mails, including one from Frankie with the subject line _KEEP ME UPDATED,_ yelling at me in all caps. I make myself a small breakfast. I put on black slacks and a white T-shirt with my favorite herringbone blazer. I gather my long, tight curls into a bun at the top of my head. I forgo my contacts and choose my thickest black-framed glasses. As I look in the mirror, I notice that I have lost weight in my face since David left. While I have always had a slim frame, my butt and face seem to be the first to pick up any extra weight. And being with David_during the two years we dated and the eleven months since we married_meant I put on a few. David likes to eat. And while he would get up in the early mornings to run it off, I slept in. Looking at myself now, pulled together and slimmer, I feel a rush of confidence. I look good. I feel good. Before I make my way out the door, I grab the camel cashmere scarf that my mother gave me for Christmas this past year. And then I put one foot in front of the other, down to the subway, into Manhattan, and uptown. Evelyn_s place is just off Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. I_ve done enough Internet stalking to know she_s got this place and a beachfront villa just outside of M?laga, Spain. She_s had this apartment since the late _60s, when she bought it with Harry Cameron. She inherited the villa when Robert Jamison died almost five years ago. In my next life, please remind me to come back as a movie star with points on the back end. Evelyn_s building, at least from the outside_limestone, prewar, beaux arts style_is extraordinary. I am greeted, before even walking in, by an older, handsome doorman with soft eyes and a kind smile. _How may I help you?_ he says. I find myself embarrassed even to say it. _I_m here to see Evelyn Hugo. My name_s Monique Grant._ He smiles and opens the door for me. It_s clear he was expecting me. He walks me to the elevator and presses the button for the top floor. _Have a nice day, Ms. Grant,_ he says, and then disappears as the elevators close. I ring the doorbell of Evelyn_s apartment at eleven A.M. on the dot. A woman in jeans and a navy blouse answers. She looks to be about fifty, maybe a few years older. She is Asian-American, with straight jet-black hair pulled into a ponytail. She_s holding a stack of half-opened mail. She smiles and extends her hand. _You must be Monique,_ she says as I hold out my own. She seems like the sort of person who genuinely delights in meeting other people, and I already like her, despite my strict promise to myself to remain neutral to everything I encounter today. _I_m Grace._ _Hi, Grace,_ I say. _Nice to meet you._ _Likewise. Come on in._ Grace steps out of the way and beckons to invite me in. I put my bag on the ground and take off my coat. _You can put it right in here,_ she says, opening a closet just inside the foyer and handing me a wooden hanger. This coat closet is the size of the one bathroom in my apartment. It_s no secret that Evelyn has more money than God. But I need to work at not letting that intimidate me. She_s beautiful, and she_s rich, and she_s powerful and sexual and charming. And I_m a normal human being. Somehow I have to convince myself that she and I are on equal footing, or this is never going to work. _Great,_ I say, smiling. _Thank you._ I put my coat on the hanger, slip it over the rod, and let Grace shut the closet door. _Evelyn is upstairs getting ready. Can I get you anything? Water, coffee, tea?_ _Coffee would be great,_ I say. Grace brings me into a sitting room. It is bright and airy, with floor-to-ceiling white bookcases and two overstuffed cream-colored chairs. _Have a seat,_ she says. _How do you like it?_ _My coffee?_ I ask, unsure of myself. _With cream? I mean, milk is fine, too. But cream is great. Or whatever you have._ I get hold of myself. _What I_m trying to say is that I_d like a splash of cream if you have it. Can you tell I_m nervous?_ Grace smiles. _A little. But you don_t have anything to worry about. Evelyn_s a very kind person. She_s particular and private, which can take some getting used to. But I_ve worked for a lot of people, and you can trust me when I say Evelyn_s better than the rest._ _Did she pay you to say that?_ I ask. I am trying to make a joke, but it sounds more pointed and accusatory than I intended. Luckily, Grace laughs. _She did send my husband and me to London and Paris last year as my Christmas bonus. So in an indirect way, yeah, I suppose she did._ Jesus. _Well, that settles it. When you quit, I want your job._ Grace laughs. _It_s a deal. And you_ve got coffee with a splash of cream coming right up._ I sit down and check my cell phone. I have a text from my mom wishing me luck. I tap to respond, and I am lost in my attempts to properly type the word early without auto-correct changing it to earthquake when I hear footsteps on the stairs. I turn around to see the seventy-nine-year-old Evelyn Hugo walking toward me. She is as breathtaking as any of her pictures. She has the posture of a ballerina. She_s wearing slim black stretch pants and a long gray-and-navy striped sweater. She_s just as thin as she ever was, and the only way I know she_s had work done on her face is because no one her age can look like that without a doctor. Her skin is glowing and just the littlest bit red, as if it_s been rubbed clean. She_s wearing false eyelashes, or perhaps she gets eyelash extensions. Where her cheeks were once angular, they are now a bit sunken. But they have just a tint of soft rosiness to them, and her lips are a dark nude. Her hair is past her shoulders_a beautiful array of white, gray, and blond_with the lightest colors framing her face. I_m sure her hair is triple-processed, but the effect is that of a gracefully aging woman who sat out in the sun. Her eyebrows, however_those dark, thick, straight lines that were her signature_have thinned over the years. And they are now the same color as her hair. By the time she reaches me, I notice that she is not wearing any shoes but, instead, big, chunky knit socks. _Monique, hello,_ Evelyn says. I am momentarily surprised at the casualness and confidence with which she says my name, as if she has known me for years. _Hello,_ I say. _I_m Evelyn._ She reaches out and takes my hand, shaking it. It strikes me as a unique form of power to say your own name when you know that everyone in the room, everyone in the world, already knows it. Grace comes in with a white mug of coffee on a white saucer. _There you go. With just a bit of cream._ _Thank you so much,_ I say, taking it from her. _That_s just the way I like it as well,_ Evelyn says, and I_m embarrassed to admit it thrills me. I feel as if I_ve pleased her. _Can I get either of you anything else?_ Grace asks. I shake my head, and Evelyn doesn_t answer. Grace leaves. _Come,_ Evelyn says. _Let_s go to the living room and get comfortable._ As I grab my bag, Evelyn takes the coffee out of my hand, carrying it for me. I once read that charisma is _charm that inspires devotion._ And I can_t help but think of that now, when she_s holding my coffee for me. The combination of such a powerful woman and such a small and humble gesture is enchanting, to be sure. We step into a large, bright room with floor-to-ceiling windows. There are oyster-gray chairs opposite a soft slate-blue sofa. The carpet under our feet is thick, bright ivory, and as my eyes follow its path, I am struck by the black grand piano, open under the light of the windows. On the walls are two blown-up black-and-white images. The one above the sofa is of Harry Cameron on the set of a movie. The one above the fireplace is the poster for Evelyn_s 1959 version of Little Women. Evelyn, Celia St. James, and two other actresses_ faces make up the image. All four of these women may have been household names back in the _50s, but it is Evelyn and Celia who stood the test of time. Looking at it now, Evelyn and Celia seem to shine brighter than the others. But I_m pretty sure that_s simply hindsight bias. I_m seeing what I want to see, based on how I know it all turns out. Evelyn puts my cup and saucer down on the black-lacquer coffee table. _Sit,_ she says as she takes a seat herself in one of the plush chairs. She pulls her feet up underneath her. _Anywhere you want._ I nod and put my bag down. As I sit on the couch, I grab my notepad. _So you_re putting your gowns up for auction,_ I say as I settle myself. I click my pen, ready to listen. Which is when Evelyn says, _Actually, I_ve called you here under false pretenses._ I look directly at her, sure I_ve misheard. _Excuse me?_ Evelyn rearranges herself in the chair and looks at me. _There_s not much to tell about me handing a bunch of dresses over to Christie_s._ _Well, then__ _I called you here to discuss something else._ _What is that?_ _My life story._ _Your life story?_ I say, stunned and trying hard to catch up to her. _A tell-all._ An Evelyn Hugo tell-all would be . . . I don_t know. Something close to the story of the year. _You want to do a tell-all with Vivant?_ _No,_ she says. _You don_t want to do a tell-all?_ _I don_t want to do one with Vivant._ _Then why am I here?_ I_m even more lost than I was just a moment ago. _You_re the one I_m giving the story to._ I look at her, trying to decipher what exactly she_s saying. _You_re going to go on record about your life, and you_re going to do it with me but not with Vivant?_ Evelyn nods. _Now you_re getting it._ _What exactly are you proposing?_ There is no way that I have just walked into a situation in which one of the most intriguing people alive is offering me the story of her life for no reason. I must be missing something. _I will tell you my life story in a way that will be beneficial to both of us. Although, to be honest, mainly you._ _Just how in-depth are we talking about here?_ Maybe she wants some airy retrospective? Some lightweight story published somewhere of her choosing? _The whole nine yards. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Whatever clich? you want to use that means _I_ll tell you the truth about absolutely everything I_ve ever done._ _ Whoa. I feel so silly for coming in here expecting her to answer questions about dresses. I put the notebook on the table in front of me and gently put the pen down on top of it. I want to handle this perfectly. It_s as if a gorgeous, delicate bird has just flown to me and sat directly on my shoulder, and if I don_t make the exact right move, it might fly away. _OK, if I understand you correctly, what you_re saying is that you_d like to confess your various sins__ Evelyn_s posture, which until this point has shown her to be very relaxed and fairly detached, changes. She is now leaning toward me. _I never said anything about confessing sins. I said nothing about sins at all._ I back away slightly. I_ve ruined it. _I apologize,_ I say. _That was a poor choice of words._ Evelyn doesn_t say anything. _I_m sorry, Ms. Hugo. This is all a bit surreal for me._ _You can call me Evelyn,_ she says. _OK, Evelyn, what_s the next step here? What, precisely, are we going to do together?_ I take the coffee cup and put it up to my lips, sipping just the littlest bit. _We_re not doing a Vivant cover story,_ she says. _OK, that much I got,_ I say, putting the cup down. _We_re writing a book._ _We are?_ Evelyn nods. _You and I,_ she says. _I_ve read your work. I like the way you communicate clearly and succinctly. Your writing has a no-nonsense quality to it that I admire and that I think my book could use._ _You_re asking me to ghostwrite your autobiography?_ This is fantastic. This is absolutely, positively fantastic. This is a good reason to stay in New York. A great reason. Things like this don_t happen in San Francisco. Evelyn shakes her head again. _I_m giving you my life story, Monique. I_m going to tell you the whole truth. And you are going to write a book about it._ _And we_ll package it with your name on it and tell everyone you wrote it. That_s ghostwriting._ I pick up my cup again. _My name won_t be on it. I_ll be dead._ I choke on my coffee and in doing so stain the white carpet with flecks of umber. _Oh, my God,_ I say, perhaps a bit too loudly, as I put down the cup. _I spilled coffee on your carpet._ Evelyn waves this off, but Grace knocks on the door and opens it just a crack, poking her head in. _Everything OK?_ _I spilled, I_m afraid,_ I say. Grace opens the door fully and comes in, taking a look. _I_m really sorry. I just got a bit shocked is all._ I catch Evelyn_s eye, and I don_t know her very well, but what I do know is that she_s telling me to be quiet. _It_s not a problem,_ Grace says. _I_ll take care of it._ _Are you hungry, Monique?_ Evelyn says, standing up. _I_m sorry?_ _I know a place just down the street that makes really great salads. My treat._ It_s barely noon, and when I_m anxious, the first thing to go is my appetite, but I say yes anyway, because I get the distinct impression that it_s not really a question. _Great,_ Evelyn says. _Grace, will you call ahead to Trambino_s?_ Evelyn takes me by the shoulder, and less than ten minutes later, we_re walking down the manicured sidewalks of the Upper East Side. The sharp chill in the air surprises me, and I notice Evelyn grab her coat tightly around her tiny waist. In the sunlight, it_s easier to see the signs of aging. The whites of her eyes are cloudy, and the complexion of her hands is in the process of becoming translucent. The clear blue tint to her veins reminds me of my grandmother. I used to love the soft, papery tenderness of her skin, the way it didn_t bounce back but stayed in place. _Evelyn, what do you mean you_ll be dead?_ Evelyn laughs. _I mean that I want you to publish the book as an authorized biography, with your name on it, when I_m dead._ _OK,_ I say, as if this is a perfectly normal thing to have someone say to you. And then I realize, no, that_s crazy. _Not to be indelicate, but are you telling me you_re dying?_ _Everyone_s dying, sweetheart. You_re dying, I_m dying, that guy is dying._ She points to a middle-aged man walking a fluffy black dog. He hears her, sees her finger aimed at him, and realizes who it is that_s speaking. The effect on his face is something like a triple take. We turn toward the restaurant, walking the two steps down to the door. Evelyn sits at a table in the back. No host guided her here. She just knows where to go and assumes everyone else will catch up. A server in black pants, a white shirt, and a black tie comes to our table and puts down two glasses of water. Evelyn_s has no ice. _Thank you, Troy,_ Evelyn says. _Chopped salad?_ he asks. _Well, for me, of course, but I_m not sure about my friend,_ Evelyn says. I take the napkin off the table and put it in my lap. _A chopped salad sounds great, thank you._ Troy smiles and leaves. _You_ll like the chopped salad,_ Evelyn says, as if we are friends having a normal conversation. _OK,_ I say, trying to redirect. _Tell me more about this book we_re writing._ _I_ve told you all you need to know._ _You_ve told me that I_m writing it and you_re dying._ _You need to pay better attention to word choice._ I may feel a little out of my league here_and I may not be exactly where I want to be in life right now_but I know a thing or two about word choice. _I must have misunderstood you. I promise I_m very thoughtful with my words._ Evelyn shrugs. This conversation is very low-stakes for her. _You_re young, and your entire generation is casual with words that bear great meaning._ _I see._ _And I didn_t say I was confessing any sins. To say that what I have to tell is a sin is misleading and hurtful. I don_t feel regret for the things I_ve done_at least, not the things you might expect_despite how hard they may have been or how repugnant they may seem in the cold light of day._ _Je ne regrette rien,_ I say, lifting my glass of water and sipping it. _That_s the spirit,_ Evelyn says. _Although that song is more about not regretting because you don_t live in the past. What I mean is that I_d still make a lot of the same decisions today. To be clear, there are things I regret. It_s just . . . it_s not really the sordid things. I don_t regret many of the lies I told or the people I hurt. I_m OK with the fact that sometimes doing the right thing gets ugly. And also, I have compassion for myself. I trust myself. Take, for instance, when I snapped at you earlier, back at the apartment, when you said what you did about my confessing sins. It wasn_t a nice thing to do, and I_m not sure you deserved it. But I don_t regret it. Because I know I had my reasons, and I did the best I could with every thought and feeling that led up to it._ _You take umbrage with the word sin because it implies that you feel sorry._ Our salads appear, and Troy wordlessly grates pepper onto Evelyn_s until she puts her hand up and smiles. I decline. _You can be sorry about something and not regret it,_ Evelyn says. _Absolutely,_ I say. _I see that. I hope that you can give me the benefit of the doubt, going forward, that we_re on the same page. Even if there are multiple ways to interpret exactly what we_re talking about._ Evelyn picks up her fork but doesn_t do anything with it. _I find it very important, with a journalist who will hold my legacy in her hands, to say exactly what I mean and to mean what I say,_ Evelyn says. _If I_m going to tell you about my life, if I_m going to tell you what really happened, the truth behind all of my marriages, the movies I shot, the people I loved, who I slept with, who I hurt, how I compromised myself, and where it all landed me, then I need to know that you understand me. I need to know that you will listen to exactly what I_m trying to tell you and not place your own assumptions into my story._ I was wrong. This is not low-stakes for Evelyn. Evelyn can speak casually about things of great importance. But right now, in this moment, when she is taking so much time to make such specific points, I_m realizing this is real. This is happening. She really intends to tell me her life story_a story that no doubt includes the gritty truths behind her career and her marriages and her image. That_s an incredibly vulnerable position she_s putting herself in. It_s a lot of power she_s giving me. I don_t know why she_s giving it to me. But that doesn_t negate the fact that she is giving it to me. And it_s my job, right now, to show her that I am worthy of it and that I will treat it as sacred. I put my fork down. _That makes perfect sense, and I_m sorry if I was being glib._ Evelyn waves this off. _The whole culture is glib now. That_s the new thing._ _Do you mind if I ask a few more questions? Once I have the lay of the land, I promise to focus solely on what you_re saying and what you mean, so that you feel understood at such a level that you can think of no one better suited to the task of gatekeeping your secrets than me._ My sincerity disarms her ever so briefly. _You may begin,_ she says as she takes a bite of her salad. _If I_m to publish this book after you have passed, what sort of financial gain do you envision?_ _For me or for you?_ _Let_s start with you._ _None for me. Remember, I_ll be dead._ _You_ve mentioned that._ _Next question._ I lean in conspiratorially. _I hate to pose something so vulgar, but what kind of timeline do you intend? Am I to hold on to this book for years until you . . ._ _Die?_ _Well . . . yes,_ I say. _Next question._ _What?_ _Next question, please._ _You didn_t answer that one._ Evelyn is silent. _All right, then, what kind of financial gain is there for me?_ _A much more interesting question, and I have been wondering why it took you so long to ask._ _Well, I_ve asked it._ _You and I will meet over the next however many days it takes, and I will tell you absolutely everything. And then our relationship will be over, and you will be free_or perhaps I should say bound_to write it into a book and sell it to the highest bidder. And I do mean highest. I insist that you be ruthless in your negotiating, Monique. Make them pay you what they would pay a white man. And then, once you_ve done that, every penny from it will be yours._ _Mine?_ I say, stunned. _You should drink some water. You look ready to faint._ _Evelyn, an authorized biography about your life, in which you talk about all seven of your marriages . . ._ _Yes?_ _A book like that stands to make millions of dollars, even if I didn_t negotiate._ _But you will,_ Evelyn says, taking a sip of her water and looking pleased. The question has to be asked. We_ve been dancing around it for far too long. _Why on earth would you do that for me?_ Evelyn nods. She has been expecting this question. _For now, think of it as a gift._ _But why?_ _Next question._ _Seriously._ _Seriously, Monique, next question._ I accidentally drop my fork onto the ivory tablecloth. The oil from the dressing bleeds into the fabric, turning it darker and more translucent. The chopped salad is delicious but heavy on the onions, and I can feel the heat of my breath permeating the space around me. What the hell is going on? _I_m not trying to be ungrateful, but I think I deserve to know why one of the most famous actresses of all time would pluck me out of obscurity to be her biographer and hand me the opportunity to make millions of dollars off her story._ _The Huffington Post is reporting that I could sell my autobiography for as much as twelve million dollars._ _Jesus Christ._ _Inquiring minds want to know, I guess._ The way Evelyn is having so much fun with this, the way she seems to delight in shocking me, lets me know that this is, at least a little bit, a power play. She likes to be cavalier about things that would change other people_s lives. Isn_t that the very definition of power? Watching people kill themselves over something that means nothing to you? _Twelve million is a lot, don_t get me wrong . . ._ she says, and she doesn_t need to finish the sentence in order for it to be completed in my head. But it_s not very much to me. _But still, Evelyn, why? Why me?_ Evelyn looks up at me, her face stoic. _Next question._ _With all due respect, you_re not being particularly fair._ _I_m offering you the chance to make a fortune and skyrocket to the top of your field. I don_t have to be fair. Certainly not if that_s how you_re going to define it, anyway._ On the one hand, this feels like a no-brainer. But at the same time, Evelyn has given me absolutely nothing concrete. And I could lose my job by stealing a story like this for myself. That job is all I have right now. _Can I have some time to think about this?_ _Think about what?_ _About all of this._ Evelyn_s eyes narrow ever so slightly. _What on earth is there to think about?_ _I_m sorry if it offends you,_ I say. Evelyn cuts me off. _You haven_t offended me._ Just the very implication that I could get under her skin gets under her skin. _There_s a lot to consider,_ I say. I could get fired. She could back out. I could fail spectacularly at writing this book. Evelyn leans forward, trying to hear me out. _For instance?_ _For instance, how am I supposed to handle this with Vivant? They think they have an exclusive with you. They_re making calls to photographers this very moment._ _I told Thomas Welch not to promise a single thing. If they have gone out and made wild assumptions about some cover, that_s on them._ _But it_s on me, too. Because now I know you have no intention of moving forward with them._ _So?_ _So what do I do? Go back to my office and tell my boss that you_re not talking to Vivant, that instead you and I are selling a book? It_s going to look like I went behind their backs, on company time, mind you, and stole their story for myself._ _That_s not really my problem,_ Evelyn says. _But that_s why I have to think about it. Because it_s my problem._ Evelyn hears me. I can tell she_s taking me seriously from the way she puts her water glass down and looks directly at me, leaning with her forearms on the table. _You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here, Monique. You can see that, right?_ _Of course._ _So do yourself a favor and learn how to grab life by the balls, dear. Don_t be so tied up trying to do the right thing when the smart thing is so painfully clear._ _You don_t think that I should be forthright with my employers about this? They_ll think I conspired to screw them over._ Evelyn shakes her head. _When my team specifically requested you, your company shot back with someone at a higher level. They only agreed to send you out once I made it clear that it was you or it was no one. Do you know why they did that?_ _Because they don_t think I__ _Because they run a business. And so do you. And right now, your business stands to go through the roof. You have a choice to make. Are we writing a book together or not? You should know, if you won_t write it, I_m not going to give it to anyone else. It will die with me in that case._ _Why would you tell only me your life story? You don_t even know me. That doesn_t make sense._ _I_m under absolutely no obligation to make sense to you._ _What are you after, Evelyn?_ _You ask too many questions._ _I_m here to interview you._ _Still._ She takes a sip of water, swallows, and then looks me right in the eye. _By the time we are through, you won_t have any questions,_ she says. _All of these things you_re so desperate to know, I promise I_ll answer them before we_re done. But I_m not going to answer them one minute before I want to. I call the shots. That_s how this is going to go._ I listen to her and think about it, and I realize I would be an absolute moron to walk away from this, no matter what her terms are. I didn_t stay in New York and let David go to San Francisco because I like the Statue of Liberty. I did it because I want to climb the ladder as high as I possibly can. I did it because I want my name, the name my father gave me, in big, bold letters one day. This is my chance. _OK,_ I say. _OK, then. Glad to hear it._ Evelyn_s shoulders relax, she picks up her water again, and she smiles. _Monique, I think I like you,_ she says. I breathe deeply, only now realizing how shallow my breathing has been. _Thank you, Evelyn. That means a lot._ EVELYN AND I ARE BACK in her foyer. _I_ll meet you in my office in a half hour._ _OK,_ I say as Evelyn heads down the corridor and out of sight. I take off my coat and put it in the closet. I should use this time to check in with Frankie. If I don_t reach out to update her soon, she_ll track me down. I just have to decide how I_m going to handle it. How do I make sure she doesn_t try to wrestle this away from me? I think my only option is to pretend everything is going according to plan. My only plan is to lie. I breathe. One of my earliest memories from when I was a child was of my parents bringing me to Zuma Beach in Malibu. It was still springtime, I think. The water hadn_t yet warmed enough for comfort. My mom stayed on the sand, setting down our blanket and umbrella, while my dad scooped me up and ran with me down to the shoreline. I remember feeling weightless in his arms. And then he put my feet in the water, and I cried, telling him it was too cold. He agreed with me. It was cold. But then he said, _Just breathe in and out five times. And when you_re done, I bet it won_t feel so cold._ I watched as he put his feet in. I watched him breathe. And then I put my feet back in and breathed with him. He was right, of course. It wasn_t so cold. After that, my dad would breathe with me anytime I was on the verge of tears. When I skinned my elbow, when my cousin called me an Oreo, when my mom said we couldn_t get a puppy, my father would sit and breathe with me. It still hurts, all these years later, to think about those moments. But for now, I keep breathing, right there in Evelyn_s foyer, centering myself as he taught me. And then, when I feel calm, I pick up my phone and dial Frankie. _Monique._ She answers on the second ring. _Tell me. How_s it going?_ _It_s going well,_ I say. I_m surprised at how even and flat my voice is. _Evelyn is pretty much everything you_d expect from an icon. Still gorgeous. Charismatic as ever._ _And?_ _And . . . things are progressing._ _Is she committing to talk about any other topics than the gowns?_ What can I say now to start covering my own ass? _You know, she_s pretty reticent about anything other than getting some press for the auction. I_m trying to play nice at the moment, get her to trust me a bit more before I start pushing._ _Will she sit for a cover?_ _It_s too early to tell. Trust me, Frankie,_ I say, and I hate how sincere it sounds coming out of my mouth, _I know how important this is. But right now, the best thing for me to do is make sure Evelyn likes me so that I can try to garner some influence and advocate for what we want._ _OK,_ Frankie says. _Obviously, I want more than a few sound bites about dresses, but that_s still more than any other magazine has gotten from her in decades, so . . ._ Frankie keeps talking, but I_ve stopped listening. I_m far too focused on the fact that Frankie_s not even going to get sound bites. And I_m going to get far, far more. _I should go,_ I say, excusing myself. _She and I are talking again in a few minutes._ I hang up the phone and breathe out. I_ve got this shit. As I make my way through the apartment, I can hear Grace in the kitchen. I open the swinging door and spot her cutting flower stems. _Sorry to bother you. Evelyn said to meet her in her office, but I_m not sure where that is._ _Oh,_ Grace says, putting down the scissors and wiping her hands on a towel. _I_ll show you._ I follow her up a set of stairs and into Evelyn_s study area. The walls are a striking flat charcoal gray, the area rug a golden beige. The large windows are flanked by dark blue curtains, and on the opposite side of the room are built-in bookcases. A gray-blue couch sits facing an oversized glass desk. Grace smiles and leaves me to wait for Evelyn. I drop my bag on the sofa and check my phone. _You take the desk,_ Evelyn says as she comes in. She hands me a glass of water. _I can only assume the way this works is that I talk and you write._ _I suppose,_ I say, sitting in the desk chair. _I_ve never attempted to write a biography before. After all, I_m not a biographer._ Evelyn looks at me pointedly. She sits opposite me, on the sofa. _Let me explain something to you. When I was fourteen years old, my mother had already died, and I was living with my father. The older I got, the more I realized that it was only a matter of time until my father tried to marry me off to a friend of his or his boss, someone who could help his situation. And if I_m being honest, the more I developed, the less secure I was in the idea that my father might not try to take something of me for himself. _We were so broke that we were stealing the electricity from the apartment above us. There was one outlet in our place that was on their circuit, so we plugged anything we needed to use into that one socket. If I needed to do homework after dark, I plugged in a lamp in that outlet and sat underneath it with my book. _My mother was a saint. I really mean it. Stunningly beautiful, an incredible singer, with a heart of gold. For years before she died, she would always tell me that we were gonna get out of Hell_s Kitchen and go straight to Hollywood. She said she was going to be the most famous woman in the world and get us a mansion on the beach. I had this fantasy of the two of us together in a house, throwing parties, drinking champagne. And then she died, and it was like waking up from a dream. Suddenly, I was in a world where none of that was ever going to happen. And I was going to be stuck in Hell_s Kitchen forever. _I was gorgeous, even at fourteen. Oh, I know the whole world prefers a woman who doesn_t know her power, but I_m sick of all that. I turned heads. Now, I take no pride in this. I didn_t make my own face. I didn_t give myself this body. But I_m also not going to sit here and say, _Aw, shucks. People really thought I was pretty?_ like some kind of prig. _My friend Beverly knew a guy in her building named Ernie Diaz who was an electrician. And Ernie knew a guy over at MGM. At least, that was the rumor going around. And one day, Beverly told me she heard that Ernie was up for some job rigging lights in Hollywood. So that weekend, I made up a reason to go over to Beverly_s, and I _accidentally_ knocked on Ernie_s door. I knew exactly where Beverly was. But I knocked on Ernie_s door and said, _Have you seen Beverly Gustafson?_ _Ernie was twenty-two. He wasn_t handsome by any means, but he was fine to look at. He said he hadn_t seen her, but I watched as he continued to stare at me. I watched as his eyes started at mine and grazed their way down, scanning every inch of me in my favorite green dress. _And then Ernie said, _Sweetheart, are you sixteen?_ I was fourteen, remember. But do you know what I did? I said, _Why, I just turned._ _ Evelyn looks at me with purpose. _Do you understand what I_m telling you? When you_re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn_t give things, you take things. If you learn one thing from me, it should probably be that._ Wow. _OK,_ I say. _You_ve never been a biographer before, but you are one starting now._ I nod my head. _I got it._ _Good,_ Evelyn says, relaxing into the sofa. _So where do you want to begin?_ I grab my notebook and look at the scribbled words I_ve covered the last few pages with. There are dates and film titles, references to classic images of her, rumors with question marks after them. And then, in big letters that I went over and over with my pen, darkening each letter until I changed the texture of the page, I_ve written, _Who was the love of Evelyn_s life???_ That_s the big question. That_s the hook of this book. Seven husbands. Which one did she love the best? Which one was the real one? As both a journalist and a consumer, that_s what I want to know. It won_t be where the book begins, but maybe that is where she and I should begin. I want to know, going into these marriages, which is the one that matters the most. I look up at Evelyn to see her sitting up, ready for me. _Who was the love of your life? Was it Harry Cameron?_ Evelyn thinks and then answers slowly. _Not in the way you mean, no._ _In what way, then?_ _Harry was my greatest friend. He invented me. He was the person who loved me the most unconditionally. The person I loved the most purely, I think. Other than my daughter. But no, he was not the love of my life._ _Why not?_ _Because that was someone else._ _OK, who was the love of your life, then?_ Evelyn nods, as if this is the question she has been expecting, as if the situation is unfolding exactly as she knew it would. But then she shakes her head again. _You know what?_ she says, standing up. _It_s getting late, isn_t it?_ I look at my watch. It_s midafternoon. _Is it?_ _I think it is,_ she says, and she walks toward me, toward the door. _All right,_ I say, standing up to meet her. Evelyn puts her arm around me and leads me out into the hallway. _Let_s pick up again on Monday. Would that be OK?_ _Uh . . . sure. Evelyn, did I say something to offend you?_ Evelyn leads me down the stairs. _Not at all,_ she says, waving my fears aside. _Not at all._ There is a tension that I can_t quite put my finger on. Evelyn walks with me until we hit the foyer. She opens the closet. I reach in and grab my coat. _Back here?_ Evelyn says. _Monday morning? What do you say we start around ten?_ _OK,_ I say, putting my thick coat around my shoulders. _If that_s what you_d like._ Evelyn nods. She looks past me for a moment, over my shoulder, but appearing not to actually be looking at anything in particular. Then she opens her mouth. _I_ve spent a very long time learning how to . . . spin the truth,_ she says. _It_s hard to undo that wiring. I_ve gotten too good at it, I think. Just now, I wasn_t exactly sure how to tell the truth. I don_t have very much practice in it. It feels antithetical to my very survival. But I_ll get there._ I nod, unsure how to respond. _So . . . Monday?_ _Monday,_ Evelyn says with a long blink and a nod. _I_ll be ready then._ I walk back to the subway in the chilly air. I cram myself into a car packed with people, holding on to the handrail above my head. I walk to my apartment and open my front door. I sit on my couch, open my laptop, and answer some e-mails. I start to order something for dinner. And it is only when I go to put my feet up that I remember there is no coffee table. For the first time since he left, I have not come into this apartment immediately thinking of David. Instead, what plays in the back of my mind all weekend_from my Friday night in to my Saturday night out and my Sunday morning at the park_isn_t How did my marriage fail? but rather Who the hell was Evelyn Hugo in love with? I AM ONCE AGAIN IN Evelyn_s study. The sun is shining directly into the windows, lighting Evelyn_s face with so much warmth that it obscures her right side from view. We_re really doing this. Evelyn and me. Subject and biographer. It begins now. She is wearing black leggings and a man_s navy-blue button-down shirt with a belt. I_m wearing my usual jeans, T-shirt, and blazer. I dressed with the intention of staying here all day and all night, if need be. If she keeps talking, I will be here, listening. _So,_ I say. _So,_ Evelyn says, her voice daring me to go for it. Sitting at her desk while she is on the couch feels adversarial somehow. I want her to feel as if we are on the same team. Because we are, aren_t we? Although I get the impression you never know with Evelyn. Can she really tell the truth? Is she capable of it? I take a seat in the chair next to the sofa. I lean forward, with my notepad in my lap and a pen in my hand. I take out my phone, open the voice memo app, and hit record. _You sure you_re ready?_ I ask her. Evelyn nods. _Everyone I loved is dead now. There_s no one left to protect. No one left to lie for but me. People have so closely followed the most intricate details of the fake story of my life. But it_s not . . . I don_t . . . I want them to know the real story. The real me._ _All right,_ I say. _Show me the real you, then. And I_ll make sure the world understands._ Evelyn looks at me and briefly smiles. I can tell I have said what she wants to hear. Fortunately, I mean it. _Let_s go chronologically,_ I say. _Tell me more about Ernie Diaz, your first husband, the one who got you out of Hell_s Kitchen._ _OK,_ Evelyn says, nodding. _It_s as good a place to start as any._ Poor Ernie Diaz MY MOTHER HAD BEEN A chorus girl off Broadway. She_d emigrated from Cuba with my father when she was seventeen. When I got older, I found out that chorus girl was also a euphemism for a prostitute. I don_t know if she was or not. I_d like to think she wasn_t_not because there_s any shame in it but because I know a little bit about what it is to give your body to someone when you don_t want to, and I hope she didn_t have to do that. I was eleven when she died of pneumonia. Obviously, I don_t have a lot of memories of her, but I do remember that she smelled like cheap vanilla, and she made the most amazing caldo gallego. She never called me Evelyn, only mija, which made me feel really special, like I was hers and she was mine. Above all else, my mother wanted to be a movie star. She really thought she could get us out of there and away from my father by getting into the movies. I wanted to be just like her. I_ve often wished that on her deathbed she_d said something moving, something I could take with me always. But we didn_t know how sick she was until it was over. The last thing she said to me was Dile a tu padre que estar? en la cama. _Tell your father I_ll be in bed._ After she died, I would cry only in the shower, where no one could see me or hear me, where I couldn_t tell what were my tears and what was the water. I don_t know why I did that. I just know that after a few months, I was able to take a shower without crying. And then, the summer after she died, I began to develop. My chest started growing, and it wouldn_t stop. I had to rifle through my mom_s old things when I was twelve years old, looking to see if there was a bra that would fit. The only one I found was too small, but I put it on anyway. By the time I was thirteen, I was five foot eight, with dark, shiny brown hair, long legs, light bronze skin, and a chest that pulled at the buttons of my dresses. Grown men were watching me walk down the street, and some of the girls in my building didn_t want to hang out with me anymore. It was a lonely business. Motherless, with an abusive father, no friends, and a sexuality in my body that my mind wasn_t ready for. The cashier at the five-and-dime on the corner was this boy named Billy. He was the sixteen-year-old brother of the girl who sat next to me in school. One October day, I went down to the five-and-dime to buy a piece of candy, and he kissed me. I didn_t want him to kiss me. I pushed him away. But he held on to my arm. _Oh, come on,_ he said. The store was empty. His arms were strong. He grasped me tighter. And in that moment, I knew he was going to get what he wanted from me whether I let him or not. So I had two choices. I could do it for free. Or I could do it for free candy. For the next three months, I took anything I wanted from that five-and-dime. And in exchange, I saw him every Saturday night and let him take my shirt off. I never felt I had much choice in the matter. Being wanted meant having to satisfy. At least, that was my view of it back then. I remember him saying, in the dark, cramped stockroom with my back against a wooden crate, _You have this power over me._ He_d convinced himself that his wanting me was my fault. And I believed him. Look what I do to these poor boys, I thought. And yet also, Here is my value, my power. So when he dumped me_because he was bored with me, because he_d found someone else more exciting_I felt both a deep relief and a very real sense of failure. There was one other boy like that, whom I took my shirt off for because I thought I had to, before I started realizing that I could be the one doing the choosing. I didn_t want anyone; that was the problem. To be perfectly blunt, I_d started to figure my body out quickly. I didn_t need boys in order to feel good. And that realization gave me great power. So I wasn_t interested in anyone sexually. But I did want something. I wanted to get far away from Hell_s Kitchen. I wanted out of my apartment, away from my father_s stale tequila breath and heavy hand. I wanted someone to take care of me. I wanted a nice house and money. I wanted to run, far away from my life. I wanted to go where my mom had promised me we_d end up someday. Here_s the thing about Hollywood. It_s both a place and a feeling. If you run there, you can run toward Southern California, where the sun always shines and the grimy buildings and dirty sidewalks are replaced by palm trees and orange groves. But you also run toward the way life is portrayed in the movies. You run toward a world that is moral and just, where the good guys win and the bad guys lose, where the pain you face is only in an effort to make you stronger, so that you can win that much bigger in the end. It would take me years to figure out that life doesn_t get easier simply because it gets more glamorous. But you couldn_t have told me that when I was fourteen. So I put on my favorite green dress, the one I had just about grown out of. And I knocked on the door of the guy I heard was headed to Hollywood. I could tell just by the look on his face that Ernie Diaz was glad to see me. And that_s what I traded my virginity for. A ride to Hollywood. Ernie and I got married on February 14, 1953. I became Evelyn Diaz. I was just fifteen by that point, but my father signed the papers. I have to think Ernie suspected I wasn_t of age. But I lied right to his face about it, and that seemed good enough for him. He wasn_t a bad-looking guy, but he also wasn_t particularly book-smart or charming. He wasn_t going to get many chances to marry a beautiful girl. I think he knew that. I think he knew enough to grab the chance when it swung his way. A few months later, Ernie and I got into his _49 Plymouth and drove west. We stayed with some friends of his as he started his job as a grip. Pretty soon we had saved enough to get our own apartment. We were on Detroit Street and De Longpre. I had some new clothes and enough money to make us a roast on the weekends. I was supposed to be finishing high school. But Ernie certainly wasn_t going to be checking my report cards, and I knew school was a waste of time. I had come to Hollywood to do one thing, and I was going to do it. Instead of going to class, I would walk down to the Formosa Cafe for lunch every day and stayed through happy hour. I had recognized the place from the gossip rags. I knew famous people hung out there. It was right next to a movie studio. The red building with cursive writing and a black awning became my daily spot. I knew it was a lame move, but it was the only one I had. If I wanted to be an actress, I would have to be discovered. And I wasn_t sure how you went about that, except by hanging around the spots where movie people might be. So I went there every day and nursed a glass of Coke. I did it so often and for so long that eventually the bartender got sick of pretending he didn_t know what gamble I was running. _Look,_ he said to me about three weeks in, _if you want to sit around here hoping Humphrey Bogart shows up, that_s fine. But you need to make yourself useful. I_m not giving up a paying seat for you to sip a soda._ He was older, maybe fifty, but his hair was thick and dark. The lines on his forehead reminded me of my father_s. _What do you want me to do?_ I asked him. I was slightly worried that he_d want something from me that I had already given to Ernie, but he threw a waiter_s pad at me and told me to try my hand at taking orders. I had no clue how to be a waitress, but I certainly wasn_t going to tell him that. _All right,_ I said. _Where should I start?_ He pointed at the tables in the place, the booths in a tight row. _That_s table one. You can figure out the rest of the numbers by counting._ _OK,_ I said. _I got it._ I stood up off the bar stool and started walking over to table two, where three men in suits were seated, talking, their menus closed. _Hey, kid?_ the bartender said. _Yes?_ _You_re a knockout. Five bucks says it happens for you._ I took ten orders, mixed up three people_s sandwiches, and made four dollars. Four months later, Harry Cameron, then a young producer at Sunset Studios, came in to meet with an exec from the lot next door. They each ordered a steak. When I brought the check, Harry looked up at me and said, _Jesus._ Two weeks later, I had a deal at Sunset Studios. * * * I WENT HOME and told Ernie that I was shocked that anyone at Sunset Studios would be interested in little old me. I said that being an actress would just be a fun lark, a thing to do to pass the time until my real job of being a mother began. Grade-A bullshit. I was almost seventeen by that point, although Ernie still thought I was older. It was late 1954. And I would get up every morning and head to Sunset Studios. I didn_t know how to act my way out of a paper bag, but I was learning. I was an extra in a couple of romantic comedies. I had one line in a war picture. _And why shouldn_t he?_ That was the line. I played a nurse taking care of a wounded soldier. The doctor in the scene playfully accused the soldier of flirting with me, and I said, _And why shouldn_t he?_ I said it like a child in a fifth-grade play, with a slight New York accent. Back then, so many of my words were accented. English spoken like a New Yorker. Spanish spoken like an American. When the movie came out, Ernie and I went to see it. Ernie thought it was funny, his little wife with a little line in a movie. I had never made much money before, and now I was making as much as Ernie after he was promoted to key grip. So I asked him if I could pay for acting classes. I_d made him arroz con pollo that night, and I specifically didn_t take my apron off when I brought it up. I wanted him to see me as harmless and domestic. I thought I_d get further if I didn_t threaten him. It grated on my nerves to have to ask him how I could spend my own money. But I didn_t see another choice. _Sure,_ he said. _I think it_s a smart thing to do. You_ll get better, and who knows, you might even star in a picture one day._ I would star. I wanted to punch his lights out. But I_ve since come to understand that it wasn_t Ernie_s fault. None of it was Ernie_s fault. I_d told him I was someone else. And then I started getting angry that he couldn_t see who I really was. Six months later, I could deliver a line with sincerity. I wasn_t great by any means, but I was good enough. I_d been in three more movies, all day-player roles. I_d heard there was a part open to play Stu Cooper_s teenage daughter in a romantic comedy. And I decided I wanted it. So I did something that not many other actresses at my level would have had the guts to do. I knocked on Harry Cameron_s door. _Evelyn,_ he said, surprised to see me. _To what do I owe the pleasure?_ _I want the Caroline part,_ I said. _In Love Isn_t All._ Harry motioned for me to sit down. He was handsome, for an executive. Most producers around the lot were rotund, a lot of them losing their hair. But Harry was tall and slim. He was young. I suspected he didn_t even have a decade on me. He wore suits that fit him nicely and always complemented his ice-blue eyes. There was something vaguely midwestern about him, not so much in how he looked but in the way he approached people, with kindness first, then strength. Harry was one of the only men on the lot who didn_t stare directly at my chest. It actually bothered me, as if I_d been doing something wrong to not get his attention. It just goes to show that if you tell a woman her only skill is to be desirable, she will believe you. I was believing it before I was even eighteen. _I_m not going to bullshit you, Evelyn. Ari Sullivan is never going to approve you for that part._ _Why not?_ _You_re not the right type._ _What_s that supposed to mean?_ _No one would believe you were Stu Cooper_s daughter._ _I certainly could be._ _You could not._ _Why?_ _Why?_ _Yes, I want to know why._ _Your name is Evelyn Diaz._ _So?_ _I can_t put you in a movie and try to pretend you_re not Mexican._ _I_m Cuban._ _For our purposes, same difference._ It was not the same difference, but I saw absolutely no merit in trying to explain that to him. _OK,_ I said. _Then how about the movie with Gary DuPont?_ _You can_t play a romantic lead with Gary Dupont._ _Why not?_ Harry looked at me as if to ask if I was really going to make him say it. _Because I_m Mexican?_ I asked. _Because the movie with Gary DuPont needs a nice blond girl._ _I could be a nice blond girl._ Harry looked at me. I tried harder. _I want it, Harry. And you know I can do it. I_m one of the most interesting girls you guys have right now._ Harry laughed. _You_re bold. I_ll give you that._ Harry_s secretary knocked on the door. _I_m sorry to interrupt, but Mr. Cameron, you need to be in Burbank at one._ Harry looked at his watch. I made one last play. _Think about it, Harry. I_m good, and I can be even better. But you_re wasting me in these small roles._ _We know what we_re doing,_ he said, standing up. I stood up with him. _Where do you see my career a year from now, Harry? Playing a teacher with three lines?_ Harry walked past me and opened his door, ushering me out. _We_ll see,_ he said. Having lost the battle, I resolved to win the war. So the next time I saw Ari Sullivan at the studio dining hall, I dropped my purse in front of him and _accidentally_ gave him an eyeful as I bent down to pick it up. He made eye contact with me, and then I walked away, as if I wanted nothing from him, as if I had no idea who he was. A week later, I pretended I was lost in the executive offices, and I ran into him in the hallway. He was a portly guy, but it was a weight that suited him. He had eyes that were so dark brown it was hard to make out the irises and the kind of five o_clock shadow that was permanent. But he had a pretty smile. And that was what I focused on. _Mrs. Diaz,_ he said. I was both surprised and not surprised to find that he had learned my name. _Mr. Sullivan,_ I said. _Please, call me Ari._ _Well, hello, Ari,_ I said, grazing my hand on his arm. I was seventeen. He was forty-eight. That night, after his secretary left for the day, I was laid across his desk, with my skirt around my hips and Ari_s face between my legs. It turned out Ari had a fetish for orally pleasing underage girls. After about seven minutes of it, I pretended to erupt in reckless pleasure. I couldn_t tell you whether it was any good. But I was happy to be there, because I knew it was going to get me what I wanted. If the definition of enjoying sex means that it is pleasurable, then I_ve had a lot of sex that I didn_t enjoy. But if we_re defining it as being happy to have made the trade, then, well, I haven_t had much I hated. When I left, I saw the row of Oscars that Ari had sitting in his office. I told myself that one day I_d get one, too. Love Isn_t All and the Gary DuPont movie I_d wanted came out within a week of each other. Love Isn_t All tanked. And Penelope Quills, the woman who_d gotten the part I_d wanted opposite Gary, got terrible reviews. I cut out a review of Penelope and sent it by interoffice mail to Harry and Ari, with a note that said, _I would have knocked it out of the park._ The next morning, I had a note from Harry in my trailer: _OK, you win._ Harry called me into his office and told me that he had discussed it with Ari, and they had two potential roles for me. I could play an Italian heiress as the fourth lead in a war romance. Or I could play Jo in Little Women. I knew what it would mean, playing Jo. I knew Jo was a white woman. And still, I wanted it. I hadn_t gotten on my back just to take a baby step. _Jo,_ I said. _Give me Jo._ And in so doing, I set the star machine in motion. Harry introduced me to studio stylist Gwendolyn Peters. Gwen bleached my hair and cut it into a shoulder-length bob. She shaped my eyebrows. She plucked my widow_s peak. I met with a nutritionist, who made me lose six pounds exactly, mostly by taking up smoking and replacing some meals with cabbage soup. I met with an elocutionist, who got rid of the New York in my English, who banished Spanish entirely. And then, of course, there was the three-page questionnaire I had to fill out about my life until then. What did my father do for a living? What did I like to do in my spare time? Did I have any pets? When I turned in my honest answers, the researcher read it in one sitting and said, _Oh, no, no, no. This won_t do at all. From now on, your mother died in an accident, leaving your father to raise you. He worked as a builder in Manhattan, and on weekends during the summer, he_d take you to Coney Island. If anyone asks, you love tennis and swimming, and you have a Saint Bernard named Roger._ I sat for at least a hundred publicity photos. Me with my new blond hair, my trimmer figure, my whiter teeth. You wouldn_t believe the things they made me model. Smiling at the beach, playing golf, running down the street being tugged by a Saint Bernard that someone borrowed from a set decorator. There were photos of me salting a grapefruit, shooting a bow and arrow, getting on a fake airplane. Don_t even get me started on the holiday photos. It would be a sweltering-hot September day, and I_d be sitting there in a red velvet dress, next to a fully lit Christmas tree, pretending to open a box that contained a brand-new baby kitten. The wardrobe people were consistent and militant about how I was dressed, per Harry Cameron_s orders, and that look always included a tight sweater, buttoned up just right. I wasn_t blessed with an hourglass figure. My ass might as well have been a flat wall. You could hang a picture on it. It was my chest that kept men_s interest. And women admired my face. To be honest, I_m not sure when I figured out the exact angle we were all going for. But it was sometime during those weeks of photo shoots that it hit me. I was being designed to be two opposing things, a complicated image that was hard to dissect but easy to grab on to. I was supposed to be both naive and erotic. It was as if I was too wholesome to understand the unwholesome thoughts you were having about me. It was bullshit, of course. But it was an easy act to put on. Sometimes I think the difference between an actress and a star is that the star feels comfortable being the very thing the world wants her to be. And I felt comfortable appearing both innocent and suggestive. When the pictures got developed, Harry Cameron pulled me into his office. I knew what he wanted to talk about. I knew there was one remaining piece that needed to be put into place. _What about Amelia Dawn? That has a nice ring to it, doesn_t it?_ he said. The two of us were sitting in his office, him at his desk, me in the chair. I thought about it. _How about something with the initials EH?_ I asked. I wanted to get something as close to the name my mother gave me, Evelyn Herrera, as I could. _Ellen Hennessey?_ He shook his head. _No, too stuffy._ I looked at him and sold him the line I_d come up with the night before, as if I_d just thought of it. _What about Evelyn Hugo?_ Harry smiled. _Sounds French,_ he said. _I like it._ I stood up and shook his hand, my blond hair, which I was still getting used to, framing my sight. I turned the knob to his door, but Harry stopped me. _There_s one more thing,_ he said. _OK._ _I read your answers to the interview questions._ He looked at me directly. _Ari is very happy with the changes you_ve made. He thinks you have a lot of potential. The studio thinks it would be a good idea if you went on a few dates, if you were seen around town with some guys like Pete Greer and Brick Thomas. Maybe even Don Adler._ Don Adler was the hottest actor at Sunset. His parents, Mary and Roger Adler, were two of the biggest stars of the 1930s. He was Hollywood royalty. _Is that going to be a problem?_ Harry asked. He wasn_t going to mention Ernie directly, because he knew he didn_t have to. _Not a problem,_ I said. _Not at all._ Harry nodded. He handed me a business card. _Call Benny Morris. He_s a lawyer over in the bungalows. Handled Ruby Reilly_s annulment from Mac Riggs. He_ll help you straighten it out._ I went home and told Ernie I was leaving him. He cried for six hours straight, and then, in the wee hours of the night, as I lay beside him in our bed, he said, _Bien. If that_s what you want._ The studio gave him a payout, and I left him a heartfelt letter telling him how much it hurt me to leave him. It wasn_t true, but I felt I owed it to him to finish out the marriage as I_d started it, pretending to love him. I_m not proud of what I did to him; it didn_t feel casual to me, the way I hurt him. It didn_t then, and it doesn_t now. But I also know how badly I_d needed to leave Hell_s Kitchen. I know what it feels like to not want your father to look at you too closely, lest he decides he hates you and hits you or decides he loves you a little too much. And I know what it feels like to see your future ahead of you_the husband who_s really just a new version of your father, surrendering to him in bed when it_s the last thing you want to do, making only biscuits and canned corn for dinner because you don_t have money for meat. So how can I condemn the fourteen-year-old girl who did whatever she could to get herself out of town? And how can I judge the eighteen-year-old who got herself out of that marriage once it was safe to do so? Ernie ended up remarried to a woman named Betty who gave him eight children. I believe he died in the early _90s, a grandfather many times over. He used the payout from the studio to put a down payment on a house in Mar Vista, not far from the Fox lot. I never heard from him again. So if we are going by the metric that all_s well that ends well, then I guess it_s safe to say that I_m not sorry. EVELYN,_ GRACE SAYS AS SHE comes into the room. _You have a dinner with Ronnie Beelman in an hour. I just wanted to remind you._ _Oh, right,_ Evelyn says. _Thank you._ She turns to me once Grace has left. _How about we pick this up tomorrow? Same time?_ _Yeah, that_s fine,_ I say, starting to gather my things. My left leg has fallen asleep, and I tap it against the hardwood to try to wake it up. _How do you think it_s going so far?_ Evelyn asks as she gets up and walks me out. _You can make a story out of it?_ _I can do anything,_ I say. Evelyn laughs and says, _Good girl._ * * * _HOW ARE THINGS?_ my mom asks the moment I pick up the phone. She says _things,_ but I know she means How is your life without David? _Fine,_ I say as I set my bag on the couch and walk toward the refrigerator. My mother cautioned me early on that David might not be the best man for me. He and I had been dating a few months when I brought him home to Encino for Thanksgiving. She liked how polite he was, how he offered to set and clear the table. But in the morning before he woke up on our last day in town, my mom told me she questioned whether David and I had a meaningful connection. She said she didn_t _see it._ I told her she didn_t need to see it. That I felt it. But her question stuck in my head. Sometimes it was a whisper; other times it echoed loudly. When I called to tell her we_d gotten engaged a little more than a year later, I was hoping my mother could see how kind he was, how seamlessly he fit into my life. He made things feel effortless, and in those days, that seemed so valuable, so rare. Still, I worried she would air her concerns again, that she would say I was making a mistake. She didn_t. In fact, she was nothing but supportive. Now I_m wondering if that was more out of respect than approval. _I_ve been thinking . . ._ my mom says as I open the refrigerator door. _Or I should say I_ve hatched a plan._ I grab a bottle of Pellegrino, the plastic basket of cherry tomatoes, and the watery tub of burrata cheese. _Oh, no,_ I say. _What have you done?_ My mom laughs. She_s always had such a great laugh. It_s very carefree, very young. Mine is inconsistent. Sometimes it_s loud; sometimes it_s wheezy. Other times I sound like an old man. David used to say he thought my old-man laugh was the most genuine, because no one in their right mind would want to sound like that. Now I_m trying to remember the last time it happened. _I haven_t done anything yet,_ my mom says. _It_s still in the idea phase. But I_m thinking I want to come visit._ I don_t say anything for a moment, weighing the pros and cons, as I chew the massive chunk of cheese I just put in my mouth. Con: she will critique every single outfit I wear in her presence. Pro: she will make macaroni and cheese and coconut cake. Con: she will ask me if I_m OK every three seconds. Pro: for at least a few days, when I come home, this apartment will not be empty. I swallow. _OK,_ I say finally. _Great idea. I can take you to a show, maybe._ _Oh, thank goodness,_ she says. _I already booked the ticket._ _Mom,_ I say, groaning. _What? I could have canceled it if you_d said no. But you didn_t. So great. I_ll be there in about two weeks. That works, right?_ I knew this was going to happen as soon as my mom partially retired from teaching last year. She spent decades as the head of the science department at a private high school, and the moment she told me she was stepping down and only teaching two classes, I knew that extra time and attention would have to go somewhere. _Yeah, that works,_ I say as I cut up the tomatoes and pour olive oil on them. _I just want to make sure you_re OK,_ my mom says. _I want to be there. You shouldn_t__ _I know, Mom,_ I say, cutting her off. _I know. I get it. Thank you. For coming. It will be fun._ It won_t be fun, necessarily. But it will be good. It_s like going to a party when you_ve had a bad day. You don_t want to go, but you know you should. You know that even if you don_t enjoy it, it will do you good to get out of the house. _Did you get the package I sent?_ she says. _The package?_ _With your dad_s photos?_ _Oh, no,_ I say. _I didn_t._ We are quiet for a moment, and then my mom gets exasperated by my silence. _For heaven_s sake, I_ve been waiting for you to bring it up, but I can_t wait any longer. How_s it going with Evelyn Hugo?_ she says. _I_m dying to know, and you_re not offering anything!_ I pour my Pellegrino and tell her that Evelyn is somehow both forthright and hard to read. And then I tell her that she isn_t giving me the story for Vivant. That she wants me to write a book. _I_m confused,_ my mom says. _She wants you to write her biography?_ _Yeah,_ I say. _And as exciting as it is, there_s something weird about it. I mean, I don_t think she ever considered doing a piece with Vivant at all. I think she was . . ._ I trail off, because I haven_t figured out exactly what it is I_m trying to say. _What?_ I think about it more. _Using Vivant to get to me. I don_t quite know. But Evelyn is very calculating. She_s up to something._ _Well, I_m not surprised she wants you. You_re talented. You_re bright . . ._ I find myself rolling my eyes at my mother_s predictability, but I do still appreciate it. _No, I know, Mom. But there_s another layer here. I_m convinced of it._ _That sounds ominous._ _I guess so._ _Should I be worried?_ my mom asks. _I mean, are you worried?_ I hadn_t thought about it in such direct terms, but I suppose my answer is no. _I think I_m too intrigued to be worried,_ I say. _Well, then, just make sure you share the real juicy stuff with your mother. I did suffer through a twenty-two-hour labor for you. I deserve this._ I laugh, and it comes out, just a little bit, like an old man. _All right,_ I say. _I promise._ * * * _OK,_ EVELYN SAYS. _Are we ready?_ She is back in her seat. I am in my spot at the desk. Grace has brought us a tray with blueberry muffins, two white mugs, a carafe of coffee, and a stainless-steel creamer. I stand up, pour my coffee, add my cream, walk back to the desk, press record, and then say, _Yes, ready. Go for it. What happened next?_ Goddamn Don Adler LITTLE WOMEN TURNED OUT TO be a carrot dangled in front of me. Because as soon as I became _Evelyn Hugo, Young Blonde,_ Sunset had all sorts of movies they wanted me to do. Dumb sentimental comedy stuff. I was OK with it for two reasons. One, I had no choice but to be all right with it because I didn_t hold the cards. And two, my star was rising. Fast. The first movie they gave me to star in was Father and Daughter. We shot it in 1956. Ed Baker played my widowed father, and the two of us were falling in love with people at the same time. Him with his secretary, me with his apprentice. During that time, Harry was really pushing for me to go out on a few dates with Brick Thomas. Brick was a former child star and a matinee idol who honest-to-God thought he might be the messiah. Just standing next to him, I thought I might drown in the self-adoration cascading off him. One Friday night, Brick and I met, with Harry and Gwendolyn Peters, a few blocks from Chasen_s. Gwen put me in a dress, hose, and heels. She put my hair in an updo. Brick showed up in dungarees and a T-shirt, and Gwen put him in a nice suit. We drove Harry_s brand-new crimson Cadillac Biarritz the half mile to the front door. People were taking pictures of Brick and me before we even got out of the car. We were escorted to a circular booth, where the two of us packed ourselves in tight together. I ordered a Shirley Temple. _How old are you, sweetheart?_ Brick asked me. _Eighteen,_ I said. _So I bet you had my picture up on your wall, huh?_ It took everything I had not to grab my drink and throw it right in his face. Instead, I smiled as politely as possible and said, _How_d you know?_ Photographers snapped shots as we sat together. We pretended not to see them, making it look as if we were laughing together, arm in arm. An hour later, we were back with Harry and Gwendolyn, changing into our normal clothes. Just before Brick and I said good-bye, he turned to me and smiled. _Gonna be a lot of rumors about you and me tomorrow,_ he said. _Sure are._ _Let me know if you want to make _em true._ I should have kept quiet. I should have just smiled nicely. But instead, I said, _Don_t hold your breath._ Brick looked at me and laughed and then waved good-bye, as if I hadn_t just insulted him. _Can you believe that guy?_ I said. Harry had already opened my door and was waiting for me to get into the car. _That guy makes us a lot of money,_ he said as I sat down. Harry got in on the other side and turned the key in the ignition but didn_t start driving. Instead, he looked at me. _I_m not saying you should be dallying around too much with these actors you don_t like,_ he said. _But it would do you some good, if you liked one, if things progressed past a photo op or two. The studio would like it. The fans would like it._ Naively, I had thought I was done pretending to like the attention of every man I came across. _OK,_ I said, rather petulantly. _I_ll try._ And while I knew it was the best thing to do for my career, I grinned through my teeth on dates with Pete Greer and Bobby Donovan. But then Harry set me up on a date with Don Adler, and I forgot why I would ever have resented the idea in the first place. * * * DON ADLER INVITED me out to Mocambo, without a doubt the hottest club in town, and he picked me up at my apartment. I opened the door to see him in a nice suit, with a bouquet of lilies. He was just a few inches taller than me in my heels. Light brown hair, hazel eyes, square jaw, the kind of smile that, the moment you saw it, made you smile. It was the smile his mother had been famous for, now on a handsomer face. _For you,_ he said, just a bit shyly. _Wow,_ I said, taking them from him. _They_re gorgeous. Come in. Come in. I_ll put them in some water._ I was wearing a boatneck sapphire-blue cocktail dress, my hair up in a chignon. I grabbed a vase from underneath the sink and turned the water on. _You didn_t have to do all this,_ I said as Don stood in my kitchen, waiting for me. _Well,_ he said, _I wanted to. I_ve been hounding Harry to meet you for a while. So it was the least I could do to make you feel special._ I put the flowers on the counter. _Shall we?_ Don nodded and took my hand. _I saw Father and Daughter,_ he said when we were in his convertible and headed over to the Sunset Strip. _Oh yeah?_ _Yeah, Ari showed me an early cut. He says he thinks it_s going to be a big hit. Says he thinks you_re going to be a big hit._ _And what did you think?_ We were stopped at a red light on Highland. Don looked at me. _I think you_re the most gorgeous woman I_ve ever seen in my life._ _Oh, stop,_ I said. I found myself laughing, blushing even. _Truly. And a real talent, too. When the movie ended, I looked right at Ari and said, _That_s the girl for me._ _ _You did not,_ I said. Don put up his hand. _Scout_s honor._ There_s absolutely no reason a man like Don Adler should have a different effect on me from the rest of the men in the world. He was no more handsome than Brick Thomas, no more earnest than Ernie Diaz, and he could offer me stardom whether I loved him or not. But these things defy reason. I blame pheromones, ultimately. That and the fact that, at least at first, Don Adler treated me like a person. There are people who see a beautiful flower and rush over to pick it. They want to hold it in their hands, they want to own it. They want the flower_s beauty to be theirs, to be within their possession, their control. Don wasn_t like that. At least, not at first. Don was happy to be near the flower, to look at the flower, to appreciate the flower simply being. Here_s the thing about marrying a guy like that_a guy like Don Adler, back then. You_re saying to him, _This beautiful thing you_ve been happy to simply appreciate, well, now it_s yours to own._ Don and I partied the night away at the Mocambo. It was a real scene. Crowds outside, packed tight as sardines trying to get in. Inside, a celebrity playground. Tables upon tables filled with famous people, high ceilings, incredible stage acts, and birds everywhere. Actual live birds in glass aviaries. Don introduced me to a few actors from MGM and Warner Brothers. I met Bonnie Lakeland, who had just gone freelance and made it big with Money, Honey. I heard, more than once, someone refer to Don as the prince of Hollywood, and I found it charming when he turned to me after the third time someone said it and whispered, _They are underestimating me. I_ll be king one of these days._ Don and I stayed at Mocambo well past midnight, dancing together until our feet hurt. Every time a song ended, we said we were going to sit down, but once a new one started, we refused to leave the floor. He drove me home, the streets quiet at the late hour, the lights dim all over town. When we got to my apartment, he walked me to my door. He didn_t ask to come in. He just said, _When can I see you again?_ _Call Harry and make a date,_ I said. Don put his hand on the door. _No,_ he said. _Really. Me and you._ _And the cameras?_ I said. _If you want them there, fine,_ he said. _If you don_t, neither do I._ He smiled, a sweet, teasing smile. I laughed. _OK,_ I said. _How about next Friday?_ Don thought about it a second. _Can I tell you the truth about something?_ _If you must._ _I_m scheduled to go to the Trocadero with Natalie Ember next Friday night._ _Oh._ _It_s the name. The Adler name. Sunset_s trying to squeeze all the fame out of me that they can._ I shook my head. _I don_t think it_s just the name,_ I told him. _I_ve seen Brothers in Arms. You_re great. The whole audience loved you._ Don looked at me shyly and smiled. _You really think so?_ I laughed. He knew it was true; he just liked hearing it come out of my mouth. _I won_t give you the satisfaction,_ I said. _I wish you would._ _Enough of that,_ I told him. _I_ve told you when I_m free. You do with it what you will._ He stood tall, listening to what I_d said as if I_d given him orders. _OK, I_ll cancel Natalie, then. I_ll pick you up here on Friday at seven._ I smiled and nodded. _Good night, Don,_ I said. _Good night, Evelyn,_ he said. I started to shut the door, and he put his hand up, stopping me. _Did you have a good time tonight?_ he asked me. I thought about what to say, how to say it. And then I lost control of myself, giddy to feel excited by someone for the first time. _One of the better nights of my life,_ I said. Don smiled. _Me too._ The next day, our picture appeared in Sub Rosa magazine with the caption _Don Adler and Evelyn Hugo make quite the pair._ FATHER AND DAUGHTER WAS A huge hit. And as a show of just how excited Sunset was about my new persona, they credited me in the beginning of the movie as _Introducing Evelyn Hugo._ It was the first, and only, time my name was under the marquee. On opening night, I thought of my mother. I knew that if she could have been there with me, she would have been beaming. I did it, I wanted to tell her. We_re both out of there. When the movie did well, I thought Sunset would certainly green-light Little Women. But Ari wanted Ed Baker and me in another movie as fast as possible. We didn_t do sequels back then. Instead, we would essentially just make the same movie again with a different name and a slightly different conceit. So we commenced shooting on Next Door. Ed played my uncle, who had taken me in after my parents died. The two of us quickly fell into respective romantic entanglements with the widowed mother and son who lived next to us. Don was shooting a thriller on the lot at the time, and he used to come visit me every day when his set broke for lunch. I was absolutely smitten, in love and lust for the very first time. I found myself brightening up the moment I set eyes on him, always finding reasons to touch him, reasons to bring him up in conversation when he wasn_t around. Harry was sick of hearing about him. _Ev, honey, I_m serious,_ Harry said one afternoon in his office when the two of us were sharing a drink. _I_ve had it up to my eyeballs with this Don Adler talk._ I visited Harry about once a day back then, just to check in, see how he was doing. I always made it seem like business, but even then I knew he was the closest thing I had to a friend. Sure, I_d become friendly with a lot of the other actresses at Sunset. Ruby Reilly, in particular, was a favorite of mine. She was tall and lean, with a dynamite laugh and an air of detachment to her. She never minced words but she could charm the pants off almost anybody. Sometimes Ruby and I, and some of the other girls on the lot, would grab lunch and gossip about various goings-on, but, to be honest, I would have thrown every single one of them in front of a moving train to get a part. And I think they would have done the same to me. Intimacy is impossible without trust. And we would have been idiots to trust one another. But Harry was different. Harry and I both wanted the same thing. We wanted Evelyn Hugo to be a household name. Also, we just liked each other. _We can talk about Don, or we can talk about when you_re green-lighting Little Women,_ I said teasingly. Harry laughed. _It_s not up to me. You know that._ _Well, why is Ari dragging his feet?_ _You don_t want to do Little Women right now,_ Harry says. _It_s better if you give it a few months._ _I most certainly do want to do it right now._ Harry shook his head and stood up, pouring himself another glass of scotch. He didn_t offer me a second martini, and I knew it was because he knew I shouldn_t have had the first one to begin with. _You could really be big,_ Harry said. _Everybody_s saying so. If Next Door does as well as Father and Daughter and you and Don keep going on the way you have been, you could be a big deal._ _I know,_ I said. _That_s what I_m banking on._ _You want Little Women to come out just when people are thinking you only know how to do one thing._ _What do you mean?_ _You had a huge hit with Father and Daughter. People know you can be funny. They know you_re adorable. They know they liked you in that picture._ _Sure._ _Now you_re gonna do it again. You_re going to show them that you can re-create the magic. You_re not just a one-trick pony._ _All right . . ._ _Maybe you do a picture with Don. After all, they can_t print pictures of the two of you dancing at Ciro_s or the Trocadero fast enough._ _But__ _Hear me out. You and Don do a picture. A matinee romance, maybe. Something where all the girls want to be you, and all the boys want to be with you._ _Fine._ _And just when everyone is thinking they know you, that they Filtered_ Evelyn Hugo, you play Jo. You knock everybody_s socks off. Now the audience is going to think to themselves, _I knew she was something special._ _ _But why can_t I just do Little Women now? And they_ll think that now?_ Harry shook his head. _Because you have to give them time to invest in you. You have to give them time to get to know you._ _You_re saying I should be predictable._ _I_m saying you should be predictable and then do something unpredictable, and they_ll love you forever._ I listened to him, thought about it. _You_re just feeding me a line,_ I said. Harry laughed. _Look, this is Ari_s plan. Like it or not. He wants you in a few more pictures before he_s gonna give you Little Women. But he is gonna give you Little Women._ _All right,_ I said. What choice did I have, really? My contract with Sunset was for another three years. If I caused too much trouble, they had an option to drop me at any time. They could loan me out, force me to take projects, put me on leave without pay, you name it. They could do anything they wanted. Sunset owned me. _Your job now,_ Harry said, _is to see if you can make a real go of it with Don. It_s in both of your best interests._ I laughed. _Oh, now you want to talk about Don._ Harry smiled. _I don_t want to sit here and listen to you talk about how dreamy he is. That_s boring. I want to know if the two of you might be ready to make it official._ Don and I had been seen around town, our photos taken at every hot spot in Hollywood. Dinner at Dan Tana_s, lunch at the Vine Street Derby, tennis at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. And we knew what we were doing, parading around in public. I needed Don_s name mentioned in the same sentences as mine, and Don needed to look like he was a part of the New Hollywood. Photos of the two of us double-dating with other stars went a long way toward solidifying his image as a man-about-town. But he and I never talked about any of that. Because we were genuinely happy to be around each other. The fact that it was helping our careers felt like a bonus. The night of the premiere of his movie Big Trouble, Don picked me up wearing a slick dark suit and holding a Tiffany box. _What_s this?_ I asked him. I was wearing a black-and-purple floral Christian Dior. _Open it,_ Don said, smiling. Inside was a giant platinum and diamond ring. It was braided on the sides with a square-cut jewel in the middle. I gasped. _Are you . . ._ I knew it had been coming, if only because I knew Don wanted to sleep with me so bad it was nearly killing him. I_d been resisting him despite his very overt advances. But it was getting harder to do. The more we kissed in dark places, the more we found ourselves alone in the backs of limousines, the harder it was for me to push him away. I_d never had that feeling before, physical yearning. I_d never felt what it is to ache to be touched_until Don. I would find myself next to him, desperate to feel his hands on my bare skin. And I loved the idea of making love to someone. I_d had sex before, but it had never meant anything to me. I wanted to make love to Don. I loved him. And I wanted us to do it right. And here it was. A marriage proposal. I put my hand out to touch the ring, to make sure it was all real. Don shut the box before I could. _I_m not asking you to marry me,_ he said. _What?_ I felt foolish. I_d allowed myself to dream too big. Here I was, Evelyn Herrera, parading around as if my name was Evelyn Hugo and I could marry a movie star. _At least, not yet._ I tried to hide my disappointment. _Have it your way, then,_ I said, turning away from him to grab my clutch. _Don_t be sour,_ Don said. _Who_s sour?_ I said. We walked out of my apartment, and I shut the door behind me. _I_m going to ask you tonight._ His voice was pleading, nearly apologetic. _At the premiere. In front of everyone._ I softened. _I just wanted to make sure . . . I wanted to know . . ._ Don grabbed my hand and got down on one knee. He didn_t open the ring box again. He just looked at me sincerely. _Will you say yes?_ _We should go,_ I said. _You can_t be late to your own movie._ _Will you say yes? That_s all I need to know._ I looked right at him and said, _Yes, you dumb fool. I_m mad for you._ He grabbed me and kissed me. It hurt a little. His teeth hit my lower lip. I was going to get married. To someone I loved this time. To someone who made me feel the way I was pretending to feel in the movies. What could be any further from that tiny sad apartment in Hell_s Kitchen than this? An hour later, on the red carpet, in a sea of photographers and publicists, Don Adler got down on one knee. _Evelyn Hugo, will you marry me?_ I cried and nodded. He stood up and put the ring on my finger. And then he picked me up and spun me in the air. As Don put me back down, I saw Harry Cameron by the theater door, clapping for us. He gave me a wink. Sub Rosa March 4, 1957 DON AND EV, FOREV! You heard it here first, folks: Hollywood_s newest It Couple, Don Adler and Evelyn Hugo, are tying the knot! The Most Eligible of Eligible Bachelors has chosen none other than the sparkling blond starlet to be his bride. The two have been seen canoodling and cavorting all over, and now they_ve decided to make it official. Rumor has it that Mary and Roger Adler, Don_s oh-so-proud parents, couldn_t be happier to have Evelyn joining the family. You can bet your bottom dollar that the nuptials will be the event of the season. With a Hollywood family this glamorous and a bride this beautiful, the whole town will be talking. WE HAD A BEAUTIFUL WEDDING. Three hundred guests, hosted by Mary and Roger Adler. Ruby was my maid of honor. I wore a jewel-necked taffeta gown, covered with rose-point lace, with sleeves down to my wrists and a full lace skirt. It was designed by Vivian Worley, the head costumer for Sunset. Gwendolyn did my hair, pulled back into a simple but flawless bun, to which my tulle veil was attached. There wasn_t much of the wedding that was planned by us; it was controlled almost entirely by Mary and Roger and the rest by Sunset. Don was expected to play the game exactly the way his parents wanted it played. Even then I could tell he was eager to get out of their shadow, to eclipse their stardom with his own. Don had been raised to believe that fame was the only power worth pursuing, and what I loved about him was that he was ready to become the most powerful person in any room by becoming the most adored. And while our wedding might have been at the whim of others, our love and our commitment to each other felt sacred. When Don and I looked into each other_s eyes and held hands as we said _I do_ at the Beverly Hills Hotel, it felt like it was just the two of us up there, despite being surrounded by half of Hollywood. Toward the end of the night, after the wedding bells and our announcement as a married couple, Harry pulled me aside. He asked me how I was doing. _I_m the most famous bride in the world right now,_ I said. _I_m great._ Harry laughed. _You_ll be happy?_ he asked. _With Don? He_s going to take good care of you?_ _I have no doubt about it._ I believed in my heart that I_d found someone who understood me, or at least understood the me I was trying to be. At the age of nineteen, I thought Don was my happy ending. Harry put his arm around me and said, _I_m happy for you, kid._ I grabbed his hand before he could pull it away. I_d had two glasses of champagne, and I was feeling fresh. _How come you never tried anything?_ I asked him. _We_ve known each other a few years now. Not even a kiss on the cheek._ _I_ll kiss you on the cheek if you want,_ Harry said, smiling. _Not what I mean, and you know it._ _Did you want something to happen?_ he asked me. I wasn_t attracted to Harry Cameron. Despite the fact that he was a categorically attractive man. _No,_ I said. _I don_t think I did._ _But you wanted me to want something to happen?_ I smiled. _And what if I did? Is that so wrong? I_m an actress, Harry. Don_t you forget that._ Harry laughed. _You have _actress_ written all over your face. I remember it every single day._ _Then why, Harry? What_s the truth?_ Harry took a sip of his scotch and took his arm off me. _It_s hard to explain._ _Try._ _You_re young._ I waved him off. _Most men don_t seem to have any problem with a little thing like that. My own husband is seven years older than me._ I looked over to see Don swaying with his mother on the dance floor. Mary was still gorgeous in her fifties. She_d come to fame during the silent-film era and did a few talkies before retiring. She was tall and intimidating, with a face that was striking more than anything. Harry took another swig of his scotch and put the glass down. He looked thoughtful. _It_s a long and complicated story. But suffice it to say, you_ve just never been my type._ The way he said it, I knew he was trying to tell me something. Harry wasn_t interested in girls like me. Harry wasn_t interested in girls at all. _You_re my best friend in the world, Harry,_ I said. _Do you know that?_ He smiled. I got the impression he did so because he was charmed and because he was relieved. He_d revealed himself, however vaguely. And I was meeting him with acceptance, however indirectly. _Am I really?_ he asked. I nodded. _Well, then, you_ll be mine._ I raised my glass to him. _Best friends tell each other everything,_ I said. He smiled, raising his own glass. _I don_t buy that,_ he teased. _Not for one minute._ Don came over and interrupted us. _Would you mind terribly, Cameron, if I danced with my bride?_ Harry put his hands up, as if in surrender. _She_s all yours._ _That she is._ I took Don_s hand, and he twirled me around the dance floor. He looked right into my eyes. He really looked at me, really saw me. _Do you love me, Evelyn Hugo?_ he asked. _More than anything in the world. Do you love me, Don Adler?_ _I love your eyes, and your tits, and your talent. I love the fact that you_ve got absolutely no ass on you. I love everything about you. So to say yes would be an understatement._ I laughed and kissed him. We were surrounded by people, packed onto the dance floor. His father, Roger, was smoking a cigar with Ari Sullivan in the corner. I felt a million miles away from my old life, the old me, that girl who needed Ernie Diaz for anything at all. Don pulled me close and put his mouth to my ear, whispering, _Me and you. We will rule this town._ We were married for two months before he started hitting me. SIX WEEKS INTO OUR MARRIAGE, Don and I shot a weepie on location in Puerto Vallarta. Called One More Day, it was about a rich girl, Diane, who spends the summer with her parents at their second home, and the local boy, Frank, who falls in love with her. Naturally, they can_t be together, because her parents don_t approve. The first weeks of my marriage to Don had been nearly blissful. We bought a house in Beverly Hills and had it decorated in marble and linen. We had pool parties nearly every weekend, drinking champagne and cocktails all afternoon and into the night. Don made love like a king, truly. With the confidence and power of someone in charge of a fleet of men. I melted underneath him. In the right moment, for him, I_d have done anything he wanted. He had flipped a switch in me. A switch that changed me from a woman who saw making love as a tool into a woman who knew that making love was a need. I needed him. I needed to be seen. I came alive under his gaze. Being married to Don had shown me another side of myself, a side I was just getting to know. A side I liked. When we got to Puerto Vallarta, we spent a few days in town before shooting. We took our rented boat out into the water. We dived into the ocean. We made love in the sand. But as we started shooting and the daily stresses of Hollywood started fracturing our newlywed cocoon, I could tell the tide was turning. Don_s last movie, The Gun at Point Dume, wasn_t doing well at the box office. It was his first time in a Western, his first crack at playing an action hero. PhotoMoment had just published a review saying, _Don Adler is no John Wayne._ Hollywood Digest wrote, _Adler looks like a fool holding a gun._ I could tell it was bothering him, making him doubt himself. Establishing himself as a masculine action hero was a vital part of his plan. His father had mostly played the straight man in madcap comedies, a clown. Don was out to prove he was a cowboy. It did not help that I had just won an Audience Appreciation Award for Best Rising Star. On the day we shot the final good-bye, where Diane and Frank kiss one last time on the beach, Don and I woke up in our rented bungalow, and he told me to make him breakfast. Mind you, he did not ask me to make him breakfast. He barked the order. Regardless, I ignored his tone and called down to the maid. She was a Mexican woman named Maria. When we had first arrived, I was unsure if I should speak Spanish to the local people. And then, without ever making a formal decision about it, I found myself speaking slow, overenunciated English to everyone. _Maria, will you please make Mr. Adler some breakfast?_ I said into the phone, and then I turned to Don and said, _What would you like? Some coffee and eggs?_ Our maid back in Los Angeles, Paula, made his breakfast every morning. She knew just how he liked it. I realized in that moment that I_d never paid attention. Frustrated, Don grabbed the pillow from under his head and smashed it over his face, screaming into it. _What has gotten into you?_ I said. _If you_re not going to be the kind of wife who is going to make me breakfast, you can at least know how I like it._ He escaped to the bathroom. I was bothered but not entirely surprised. I had quickly learned that Don was only kind when he was happy, and he was only happy when he was winning. I had met him on a winning streak, married him as he was ascending. I was quickly learning that sweet Don was not the only Don. Later, in our rented Corvette, Don backed out of the driveway and started heading the ten blocks toward set. _Are you ready for today?_ I asked him. I was trying to be uplifting. Don stopped in the middle of the road. He turned to me. _I_ve been a professional actor for longer than you_ve been alive._ This was true, albeit on a technicality. He was in one of Mary_s silent movies as a baby. He didn_t act in a movie again until he was twenty-one. There were a few cars behind us now. We were holding up traffic. _Don . . ._ I said, trying to encourage him to move forward. He wasn_t listening. The white truck behind us started pulling around, trying to get past us. _Do you know what Alan Thomas said to me yesterday?_ Don said. Alan Thomas was his new agent. Alan had been encouraging Don to leave Sunset Studios, to go freelance. A lot of actors were navigating their careers on their own. It was leading to big paychecks for big stars. And Don was getting antsy. He kept talking about making more for one picture than his parents had made their whole careers. Be wary of men with something to prove. _People around town are asking why you_re still going by Evelyn Hugo._ _I changed my name legally. What do you mean?_ _On the marquee. It should say _Don and Evelyn Adler._ That_s what people are saying._ _Who is saying that?_ _People._ _What people?_ _They think you wear the pants._ My head fell into my hands. _Don, you_re being silly._ Another car came up around us, and I watched as they recognized Don and me. We were seconds away from a full page in Sub Rosa magazine about how Hollywood_s favorite couple were at each other_s throat. They_d probably say something like _The Adlers Gone Madlers?_ I suspected Don saw the headlines writing themselves at the same time I did, because he started the car and drove us to set. When we pulled onto the lot, I said, _I can_t believe we_re almost forty-five minutes late._ And Don said, _Yeah, well, we_re Adlers. We can be._ I found it absolutely repugnant. I waited until the two of us were in his trailer, and I said, _When you talk like that, you sound like a horse_s ass. You shouldn_t say things like that where people can hear you._ He was taking off his jacket. Wardrobe was due in any moment. I should have just left and gone to my own trailer. I should have let him be. _I think you have gotten the wrong impression here, Evelyn,_ Don said. _And how is that?_ He came right up into my face. _We are not equals, love. And I_m sorry if I_ve been so kind that you_ve forgotten that._ I was speechless. _I think this should be the last movie you do,_ he said. _I think it_s time for us to have children._ His career wasn_t turning out the way he wanted. And if he wasn_t going to be the most famous person in his family, he surely wasn_t going to allow that person to be me. I looked right at him and said, _Absolutely. Positively. Not._ And he smacked me across the face. Sharp, fast, strong. It was over before I even knew what happened, the skin on my face stinging from the blow I could barely believe had come my way. If you_ve never been smacked across the face, let me tell you something, it is humiliating. Mostly because your eyes start to tear up, whether you mean to be crying or not. The shock of it and the sheer force of it stimulate your tear ducts. There is no way to take a smack across the face and look stoic. All you can do is remain still and stare straight ahead, allowing your face to turn red and your eyes to bloom. So that_s what I did. The way I_d done it when my father hit me. I put my hand to my jaw, and I could feel the skin heating up under my hand. The assistant director knocked on the door. _Mr. Adler, is Miss Hugo with you?_ Don was unable to speak. _One minute, Bobby,_ I said. I was impressed by how unstrained my voice was, how confident it seemed. It sounded like the voice of a woman who had never been hit a day in her life. There were no mirrors I could get to easily. Don had his back to them, blocking them. I pushed my jaw forward. _Is it red?_ I said. Don could barely look at me. But he glanced and then nodded his head. He was boyish and ashamed, as if I were asking him if he_d been the one to break the neighbor_s window. _Go out there and tell Bobby I_m having lady troubles. He_ll be too embarrassed to ask anything else. Then tell your wardrobe person to meet you in my dressing room. Have Bobby tell mine to meet me in here in a half hour._ _OK,_ he said, and then grabbed his jacket and slipped out. The minute he was out the door, I locked myself inside and slumped down against the wall, the tears coming fast the moment no one could see them. I had made my way three thousand miles from where I was born. I had found a way to be in the right place at the right time. I_d changed my name. Changed my hair. Changed my teeth and my body. I_d learned how to act. I_d made the right friends. I_d married into a famous family. Most of America knew my name. And yet . . . And yet. I got up off the floor and wiped my eyes. I gathered myself. I sat down at the vanity, three mirrors in front of me lined with lightbulbs. How silly is it that I thought that if I ever found myself in a movie star_s dressing room, that meant I_d have no troubles? A few moments later, Gwendolyn knocked on the door to do my hair. _One second!_ I yelled out. _Evelyn, we have to move quickly. You guys are already behind schedule._ _Just one second!_ I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I couldn_t force the redness to go away. The question was whether I trusted Gwen. And I decided I did, I had to. I stood up and opened the door. _Oh, sweetheart,_ she said. _You look a fright._ _I know._ She looked more closely at me and realized what she was seeing. _Did you fall?_ _Yes,_ I said. _I did. I fell right over. Onto the counter. Jaw caught the worst of it._ We both knew I was lying. And to this day, I_m not sure whether Gwen asked me if I fell in order to spare me the need to lie or to encourage me to keep quiet. I wasn_t the only woman being hit back then. A lot of women were negotiating the very same things I was at that moment. There was a social code for these things. The first rule being to shut up about it. An hour later, I was being escorted to set. We were to film a scene just outside a mansion on the beach. Don was sitting in his chair, the four wooden legs digging into the sand, behind the director. He ran up to me. _How are you feeling, sweetheart?_ His voice was so chipper, so consoling, that for a moment I thought he had forgotten what happened. _I_m fine. Let_s get on with it._ We took our places. The sound guy mic_ed us. The grips made sure we were lit properly. I put everything out of my head. _Hold on, hold on!_ the director yelled. _Ronny, what_s going on with the boom . . ._ Distracted by a conversation, he walked away from the camera. Don covered his mic and then put his hand on my chest and covered mine. _Evelyn, I_m so sorry,_ he whispered into my ear. I pulled back and looked at him, stunned. No one had ever apologized for hitting me before. _I never should have laid a hand on you,_ he said. His eyes were filling with tears. _I_m ashamed of myself. For doing anything at all to hurt you._ He looked so pained. _I will do anything for your forgiveness._ Maybe the life I thought I had wasn_t so far away after all. _Can you forgive me?_ he asked. Maybe this was all a mistake. Maybe it didn_t mean anything had to change. _Of course I can,_ I said. The director ran back to the camera, and Don leaned back, taking his hands off our mics. _And . . . action!_ Don and I were both nominated for Academy Awards for One More Day. And I think the general consensus was that it didn_t matter how talented we were. People just loved seeing us together. To this day, I have no idea if either of us is actually any good in it. It is the only movie I_ve ever shot that I cannot bring myself to watch. A MAN HITS YOU ONCE and apologizes, and you think it will never happen again. But then you tell him you_re not sure you ever want a family, and he hits you once more. You tell yourself it_s understandable, what he did. You were sort of rude, the way you said it. You do want a family someday. You truly do. You_re just not sure how you_re going to manage it with your movies. But you should have been more clear. The next morning, he apologizes and brings you flowers. He gets down on his knees. The third time, it_s a disagreement about whether to go out to Romanoff_s or stay in. Which, you realize when he pushes you into the wall behind you, is actually about the image of your marriage to the public. The fourth time, it_s after you both lose at the Oscars. You are in a silk, emerald-green, one-shoulder dress. He_s in a tux with tails. He has too much to drink at the after-parties, trying to nurse his wounds. You_re in the front seat of the car in your driveway, about to go inside. He_s upset that he lost. You tell him it_s OK. He tells you that you don_t understand. You remind him that you lost, too. He says, _Yeah, but your parents are trash from Long Island. No one expects anything from you._ You know you shouldn_t, but you say, _I_m from Hell_s Kitchen, you asshole._ He opens the parked car_s door and pushes you out. When he comes crawling to you in tears the next morning, you don_t actually believe him anymore. But now this is just what you do. The same way you fix the hole in your dress with a safety pin or tape up the crack in a window. That_s the part I was stuck in, the part where you accept the apology because it_s easier than addressing the root of the problem, when Harry Cameron came to my dressing room and told me the good news. Little Women was getting the green light. _It_s you as Jo, Ruby Reilly as Meg, Joy Nathan as Amy, and Celia St. James is playing Beth._ _Celia St. James? From Olympian Studios?_ Harry nodded. _What_s with the frown? I thought you_d be thrilled._ _Oh,_ I said, turning further toward him. _I am. I absolutely am._ _You don_t like Celia St. James?_ I smiled at him. _That teenage bitch is gonna act me under the table._ Harry threw his head back and laughed. Celia St. James had made headlines earlier in the year. At the age of nineteen, she played a young widowed mother in a war-period piece. Everyone said she was sure to be nominated next year. Exactly the sort of person the studio would want playing Beth. And exactly the sort of person Ruby and I would hate. _You_re twenty-one years old, you_re married to the biggest movie star there is right now, and you were just nominated for an Academy Award, Evelyn._ Harry had a point, but so did I. Celia was going to be a problem. _It_s OK. I_m ready. I_m gonna give the best goddamn performance of my life, and when people watch the movie, they are going to say, _Beth who? Oh, the middle sister who dies? What about her?_ _ _I have absolutely no doubt,_ Harry said, putting his arm around me. _You_re fabulous, Evelyn. The whole world knows it._ I smiled. _You really think so?_ This is something that everyone should know about stars. We like to be told we are adored, and we want you to repeat yourself. Later in my life, people would always come up to me and say, _I_m sure you don_t want to hear me blabbering on about how great you are,_ and I always say, as if I_m joking, _Oh, one more time won_t hurt._ But the truth is, praise is just like an addiction. The more you get it, the more of it you need just to stay even. _Yes,_ he said. _I really think so._ I stood up from my chair to give Harry a hug, but as I did, the lighting highlighted my upper cheekbone, the rounded spot just below my eye. I watched as Harry_s gaze ran across my face. He could see the light bruise I was hiding, could see the purple and blue under the surface of my skin, bleeding through the pancake makeup. _Evelyn . . ._ he said. He put his thumb up to my face, as if he needed to feel it to know it was real. _Harry, don_t._ _I_ll kill him._ _No, you won_t._ _We_re best friends, Evelyn. Me and you._ _I know,_ I said. _I know that._ _You said best friends tell each other everything._ _And you knew it was bullshit when I said it._ I stared at him as he stared at me. _Let me help,_ he said. _What can I do?_ _You can make sure I look better than Celia, better than all of _em, in the dailies._ _That_s not what I mean._ _But it_s all you can do._ _Evelyn . . ._ I kept my upper lip stiff. _There_s no move here, Harry._ He understood what I meant. I couldn_t leave Don Adler. _I could talk to Ari._ _I love him,_ I said, turning away and clipping my earrings on. It was the truth. Don and I had problems, but so did a lot of people. And he was the only man who had ever ignited something in me. Sometimes I hated myself for wanting him, for finding myself brightening up when his attention was on me, for still needing his approval. But I did. I loved him, and I wanted him in my bed. And I wanted to stay in the spotlight. _End of discussion._ A moment later, there was another knock on my door. It was Ruby Reilly. She was shooting a drama where she played a young nun. She was standing in front of the two of us in a black tunic and a white cowl. Her hood was in her hand. _Did you hear?_ Ruby said to me. _Well, of course you heard. Harry_s here._ Harry laughed. _You both start rehearsals in three weeks._ Ruby hit Harry on the arm playfully. _No, not that part! Did you hear Celia St. James is playing Beth? That tart_s gonna show us all up._ _See, Harry?_ I said. _Celia St. James is going to ruin everything._ THE MORNING WE STARTED REHEARSALS for Little Women, Don woke me up with breakfast in bed. Half a grapefruit and a lit cigarette. I found this highly romantic, because it was exactly what I wanted. _Good luck today, sweetheart,_ he said as he got dressed and headed out the door. _I know you_ll show Celia St. James what it really means to be an actress._ I smiled and wished him a good day. I ate the grapefruit and left the tray in bed as I got into the shower. When I got out, our maid, Paula, was in the bedroom cleaning up after me. She was picking the butt of my cigarette off the duvet. I_d left it on the tray, but it must have fallen. I didn_t keep a neat house. My clothes from last night were on the floor. My slippers were on top of the dresser. My towel was in the sink. Paula had her work cut out for her, and she didn_t find me particularly charming. That much was clear. _Can you do that later?_ I said to her. _I_m terribly sorry, but I_m in a rush to get to set._ She smiled politely and left. I wasn_t in a rush, really. I just wanted to get dressed, and I wasn_t going to do that in front of Paula. I didn_t want her to see that there was a bruise, dark purple and yellowing, on my ribs. Don had pushed me down the stairs nine days before. Even as I say it all these years later, I feel the need to defend him. To say that it wasn_t as bad as it sounds. That we were toward the bottom of the stairs, and he gave me a shove that bumped me down about four steps and onto the floor. Unfortunately, the table by the door, where we kept the keys and the mail, is what caught my fall. I landed on it on my left side, the handle on the top drawer getting me right in the rib cage. When I said that I thought I might have broken a rib, Don said, _Oh, no, honey. Are you all right?_ as if he wasn_t the one who pushed me. Like an idiot, I said, _I think I_m fine._ The bruise wasn_t going away quickly. Paula burst back in through the door a moment later. _Sorry, Mrs. Adler, I forgot the__ I panicked. _For heaven_s sake, Paula! I asked you to leave!_ She turned around and walked out. And what pissed me off more than anything was that if she was going to sell a story, why wasn_t it that one? Why didn_t she tell the world that Don Adler was beating his wife? Why, instead, did she come after me? * * * TWO HOURS LATER, I was on the set of Little Women. The soundstage had been turned into a New England cabin, complete with snow on the windows. Ruby and I were united in our fight against Celia St. James stealing the movie from us, despite the fact that anyone who plays Beth leaves the audience reaching for the hankies. You can_t tell an actress that a rising tide lifts all boats. It doesn_t work that way for us. But on the first day of rehearsals, as Ruby and I hung out by craft services and drank coffee, it became clear that Celia St. James had absolutely no idea how much we all hated her. _Oh, God,_ she said, coming up to Ruby and me. _I_m so scared._ She was wearing gray trousers and a pale pink short-sleeved sweater. She had a childlike, girl-next-door kind of face. Big, round, pale blue eyes, long lashes, Cupid_s bow lips, long strawberry-red hair. She was simplicity perfected. I was the sort of beautiful that women knew they could never truly emulate. Men knew they would never even get close to a woman like me. Ruby was the elegant, aloof sort of beauty. Ruby was cool. Ruby was chic. But Celia was the sort of beautiful that felt as if you could hold it in your hands, like if you played your cards right, you might just get to marry a girl like Celia St. James. Ruby and I both were aware of what kind of power that is, accessibility. Celia toasted a piece of bread at the craft services table and slathered it with peanut butter and then bit into it. _What on earth are you scared of?_ Ruby said. _I have no idea what I_m doing!_ Celia said. _Celia, you can_t really expect us to fall for this _aw shucks_ routine,_ I said. She looked at me. And the way she did it made me feel as if no one had ever really looked at me before. Not even Don. _That hurts my feelings,_ she said. I felt a little bit bad. But I certainly wasn_t going to let on. _I didn_t mean anything by it,_ I said. _Yes, you absolutely did,_ Celia said. _I think you_re a bit of a cynic._ Ruby, that fair-weather friend, pretended to hear the AD calling for her and took off. _I just have a hard time believing a woman the entire town is saying will be nominated next year is doubting her ability to play Beth March. It_s the chewiest, most likable role in the whole thing._ _If it_s such a sure thing, then why didn_t you take it?_ she asked me. _I_m too old, Celia. But thank you for that._ Celia smiled, and I realized I_d played right into her hands. That_s when I started to take a liking to Celia St. James. LET_S PICK UP HERE TOMORROW,_ Evelyn says. The sun set long ago. As I look around, I notice the remains of breakfast, lunch, and dinner scattered across the room. _OK,_ I say. _By the way,_ she adds as I start to pack up. _My publicist got an e-mail today from your editor. Inquiring about a photo shoot for the June cover._ _Oh,_ I say. Frankie has checked in on me a few times now. I know I need to call her back, update her on this situation. I_m just . . . not sure of my next move. _I take it you haven_t told them the plan,_ Evelyn says. I place my computer in my bag. _Not yet._ I hate the slight tint of sheepishness that comes out when I say it. _That_s fine,_ Evelyn says. _I_m not judging you, if that_s what you_re worried about. God knows I_m no defender of the truth._ I laugh. _You_ll do what you need to do,_ she says. _I will,_ I say. I just don_t know what, exactly, that is yet. * * * WHEN I GET home, the package from my mother is sitting just inside my building_s door. I pick it up, only to realize that it_s incredibly heavy. I end up pushing it across the tile floor with my foot. I pull it, one step at a time, up the stairs. And then I drag it into my apartment. When I open the box, it_s filled with some of my father_s photo albums. The front of each is embossed with _James Grant_ in the bottom right-hand corner. Nothing can stop me from sitting down, right on the floor where I am, and looking through the photos one by one. On-set still photos of directors, famous actors, bored extras, ADs_you name it, they are all in here. My dad loved his job. He loved taking pictures of people who weren_t paying attention to him. I remember once, about a year before he died, he took a two-month job in Vancouver. My mom and I went to visit him twice while he was up there, but it was so much colder than L.A., and he was gone for what felt like so long. I asked him why. Why couldn_t he just work at home? Why did he have to take this job? He told me he wanted to do work that invigorated him. He said, _You have to do that, too, Monique. When you_re older. You have to find a job that makes your heart feel big instead of one that makes it feel small. OK? You promise me that?_ He put out his hand, and I shook it, like we were making a business deal. I was six. By the time I was eight, we_d lost him. I always kept what he said in my heart. I spent my teenage years with a burning pressure to find a passion, one that would expand my soul in some way. It was no small task. In high school, long after we had said good-bye to my father, I tried theater and orchestra. I tried joining the chorus. I tried soccer and debate. In a moment of what felt like an epiphany, I tried photography, hoping that the thing that expanded my father_s heart might expand my own. But it wasn_t until I was assigned to write a profile piece on one of my classmates in my composition class freshman year at USC that I felt anything close to a swelling in my chest. I liked writing about real people. I liked finding evocative ways of interpreting the real world. I liked the idea of connecting people by sharing their stories. Following that part of my heart led me to J school at NYU. Which led to my internship at WNYC. I followed that passion to a life of freelancing for embarrassing blogs, living check to check and hand to mouth, and then, eventually, to the Discourse, where I met David when he was working on the site_s redesign, and then to Vivant and now to Evelyn. One small thing my dad said to me on a cold day in Vancouver has essentially been the basis of my entire life_s trajectory. For a brief moment, I wonder if I would have listened to him if he hadn_t died. Would I have clung to his every word so tightly if his advice had felt unlimited? At the end of the last photo album, I come across candids that don_t appear to be from a movie set. They were taken at a barbecue. I recognize my mom in the background of some of them. And then, at the very end, is one of me with my parents. I can_t be more than four years old. I am eating a piece of cake with my hand, looking directly into the camera, as my mother holds me and my father has his arm around us. Most people still called me by my first name, Elizabeth, back then. Elizabeth Monique Grant. My mom assumed I_d grow up to be a Liz or a Lizzy. But my father had always loved the name Monique and couldn_t help but call me by it. I would often remind him that my name was Elizabeth and he would tell me that my name was whatever I wanted it to be. When he passed away, it became clear to both my mother and me that I should be Monique. It eased our pain ever so slightly to honor every last thing about him. So my pet name became my real name. And my mother often reminds me that my name was a gift from my father. Looking at this picture, I am struck by how beautiful my parents were together. James and Angela. I know what it cost them to build a life, to have me. A white woman and a black man in the early _80s, neither of their families being particularly thrilled with the arrangement. We moved around a lot before my father died, trying to find a neighborhood where my parents felt at ease, at home. My mother didn_t feel welcome in Baldwin Hills. My father didn_t feel comfortable in Brentwood. I was in school before I met another person who looked like me. Her name was Yael. Her father was Dominican, and her mother was from Israel. She liked to play soccer. I liked to play dress-up. We could rarely agree on anything. But I liked that when someone asked her if she was Jewish, she said, _I_m half Jewish._ No one else I knew was half something. For so long, I felt like two halves. And then my father died, and I felt like I was one-half my mother and one-half lost. A half that I feel so torn from, so incomplete without. But looking at this picture now, the three of us together in 1986, me in overalls, my father in a polo, my mother in a denim jacket, we look like we belong together. I don_t look like I am half of one thing and half of another but rather one whole thing, theirs. Loved. I miss my dad. I miss him all the time. But it_s moments like this, when I_m on the precipice of finally doing work that might just expand my heart, that I wish I could at least send him a letter, telling him what I_m doing. And I wish that he could send me one back. I already know what he would write. Something like _I_m proud of you. I love you._ But still, I_d like to get one anyway. * * * _ALL RIGHT,_ I say. My spot at Evelyn_s desk has become my second home. I_ve come to rely on Grace_s morning coffee. It has replaced my usual Starbucks habit. _Let_s pick up where we left off yesterday. You_re about to start Little Women. Go._ Evelyn laughs. _You_ve become an old hand at this,_ she says. _I learn quickly._ A WEEK INTO REHEARSALS, DON and I were lying in bed. He was asking how it was going, and I admitted that Celia was just as good as I_d thought she_d be. _Well, The People of Montgomery County is going to be number one again this week. I_m at the top of my game again. And my contract is up at the end of this year. Ari Sullivan is willing to do whatever I want to make me happy. So just say the word, baby, and poof, she_s out of there._ _No,_ I said to him, putting my hand on his chest and my head on his shoulder. _It_s OK. I_m the lead. She_s supporting. I_m not going to worry too much. And anyway, there_s something I like about her._ _There_s something I like about you,_ he said, pulling me on top of him. And for a moment, all my worries completely disappeared. The next day, when we broke for lunch, Joy and Ruby went off to get turkey salads. Celia caught my eye. _There_s no chance you_d want to cut out and grab a milk shake, is there?_ she asked. The nutritionist at Sunset would not have liked me getting a milk shake. But what he didn_t know wouldn_t kill him. Ten minutes later, we were in Celia_s baby-pink 1956 Chevy, making our way to Hollywood Boulevard. Celia was a terrible driver. I gripped the door handle as if it was capable of saving my life. Celia stopped at the light at Sunset Boulevard and Cahuenga. _I_m thinking Schwab_s,_ she said with a grin. Schwab_s was the place everybody hung around during the day back then. And everybody knew that Sidney Skolsky, from Photoplay, worked out of Schwab_s almost every day. Celia wanted to be seen there. She wanted to be seen there with me. _What kind of game are you playing?_ I asked. _I_m not playing any game,_ she said, falsely insulted that I_d suggest such a thing. _Oh, Celia,_ I said, dismissing her with a wave of my hand. _I_ve been at this a few more years than you. You_re the one who just fell off the turnip truck. Don_t confuse us._ The light turned green, and Celia gunned it. _I_m from Georgia,_ she said. _Just outside of Savannah._ _So?_ _I_m just saying, I didn_t fall off a turnip truck. I was scouted by a guy from Paramount back home._ I found it somewhat intimidating_maybe even threatening_that someone had flown out to woo her. I had made my way to town through my own blood, sweat, and tears, and Celia had Hollywood running to her before she was even somebody. _That may be so,_ I said. _But I still know what game you_re running, honey. Nobody goes to Schwab_s for the milk shakes._ _Listen,_ she said, the tone of her voice changing slightly, becoming more sincere. _I could use a story or two. If I_m going to star in my own movie soon, I need some name recognition._ _And this milk shake business is all just a ruse to be seen with me?_ I found it insulting. Both being used and being underestimated. Celia shook her head. _No, not at all. I wanted to go get a milk shake with you. And then, when we pulled out of the lot, I thought, We should go to Schwab_s._ _ Celia stopped abruptly at the light at Sunset and Highland. I realized at that point that was just how she drove. A lead foot on both the gas and the brake. _Take a right,_ I said. _What?_ _Take a right._ _Why?_ _Celia, take the goddamn right before I open this car door and throw myself out of it._ She looked at me like I was nuts, which was fair. I had just threatened to kill myself if she didn_t put on her blinker. She turned right on Highland. _Take a left at the light,_ I said. She didn_t ask questions. She just put on her blinker. And then she spun onto Hollywood Boulevard. I instructed her to park the car on a side road. We walked to CC Brown_s. _They have better ice cream,_ I said as we walked in. I was putting her in her place. I wasn_t going to be photographed with her unless I wanted to be, unless it was my idea. I certainly wasn_t going to be pushed around by somebody less famous than I was. Celia nodded, feeling the sting. The two of us sat down, and the guy behind the counter came up to us, momentarily speechless. _Uh . . ._ he said. _Do you want menus?_ I shook my head. _I know what I want. Celia?_ She looked at him. _Chocolate malt, please._ I watched the way his eyes fixed on her, the way she bent forward slightly with her arms together, emphasizing her chest. She seemed unaware of what she was doing, and that mesmerized him even more. _And I_ll have a strawberry milk shake,_ I said. When he looked at me, I saw his eyes open wider, as if he wanted to see as much of me as he could at one time. _Are you . . . Evelyn Hugo?_ _No,_ I said, and then I smiled and looked him right in the eye. It was ironic and teasing, with the same tone and inflection I_d used countless times when I was recognized around town. He scattered away. _Cheer up, buttercup,_ I said as I looked at Celia. She was staring down at the glossy counter. _You_re getting a better milk shake out of the deal._ _I upset you,_ she said. _With the Schwab_s thing. I_m sorry._ _Celia, if you_re going to be as big as you clearly want to be, you need to learn two things._ _And what are they?_ _First, you have to push people_s boundaries and not feel bad about it. No one is going to give you anything if you don_t ask for it. You tried. You were told no. Get over it._ _And the second thing?_ _When you use people, be good at it._ _I wasn_t trying to use you__ _Yes, Celia, you were. And I_m fine with that. I wouldn_t have a moment_s hesitation in using you. And I wouldn_t expect you to have a second thought about using me. Do you know the difference between the two of us?_ _There are a lot of differences between the two of us._ _Do you know the one in particular I_m talking about?_ I said. _What is it?_ _That I know I use people. I_m fine with the idea of using people. And all of that energy that you spend trying to convince yourself that you_re not using people I spend getting better at it._ _And you_re proud of that?_ _I_m proud of where it_s gotten me._ _Are you using me? Now?_ _If I was, you_d never know._ _That_s why I_m asking._ The guy behind the counter came back with our milk shakes. He appeared to have to give himself a pep talk just to give them to us. _No,_ I said to Celia, once he was gone. _No what?_ _No, I_m not using you._ _Well, that_s a relief,_ Celia said. It struck me as painfully naive, the way she so easily, so readily believed me. I was telling the truth, but still. _Do you know why I_m not using you?_ I said. _This should be good,_ Celia said as she took a sip of her shake. I laughed, surprised by both the world-weariness in her voice and the speed with which she spoke. Celia would go on to win more Oscars than anybody else in our circle back then. And it was always for intense, dramatic roles. But I always thought she_d be dynamite in a comedy. She was so quick. _The reason I_m not using you is that you have nothing to offer me. Not yet, at least._ Celia took a sip of her shake again, stung. And then I leaned forward and took a sip of mine. _I don_t think that_s true,_ Celia said. _I_ll give you that you_re more famous than me. Being married to Captain Hollywood can have that effect on a person. But other than that, we_re at the same place, Evelyn. You_ve turned in a couple of good performances. So have I. And now we_re in a movie together, which both of us took on because we want an Academy Award. And let_s be honest, I have a leg up on you in that regard._ _And why is that?_ _Because I_m a better actress._ I stopped sipping the thick shake through the straw and turned myself toward her. _How do you figure that?_ Celia shrugged. _It_s not something we can measure, I suppose. But it_s true. I_ve seen One More Day. You_re really good. But I_m better. And you know I_m better. That_s why you and Don almost had me kicked off the project._ _No, we didn_t._ _Yes, you did. Ruby told me._ I wasn_t mad at Ruby for telling Celia what I_d told her, the same way you_re not mad at a dog for barking at a mailman. That_s just what they do. _Oh, fine. So you_re a better actress than me. And sure, maybe Don and I discussed getting you fired. So what? Big deal._ _Well, that_s just my point exactly. I_m more talented than you, and you_re more powerful than me._ _So?_ _So you_re right, I_m not very good at using people. So I_m trying this a different way. Let_s help each other out._ I sipped my milk shake again, mildly intrigued. _How so?_ I said. _After hours, I_ll help you with your scenes. I_ll teach you what I know._ _And I go with you to Schwab_s?_ _You help me do what you_ve done. Become a star._ _But then what?_ I said. _We both end up famous and talented? Competing for every job in town?_ _I suppose that is one option._ _And the other?_ _I really like you, Evelyn._ I looked at her sideways. She laughed at me. _I know that_s probably not something most actresses mean in this town, but I don_t want to be like most actresses. I really like you. I like watching you on-screen. I like how the moment you show up in a scene, I can_t look at anything else. I like the way your skin is too dark for your blond hair, the way the two shouldn_t go together and yet seem so natural on you. And to be honest, I like how calculating and awful you kind of are._ _I am not awful!_ Celia laughed. _Oh, you definitely are. Getting me fired because you think I_ll show you up? Awful. That_s just awful, Evelyn. And walking around bragging about how you use people? Just terrible. But I really like it when you talk about it. I like how honest you are, how unashamed. So many women around here are full of crap with everything they say and do. I like that you_re full of crap only when it gets you something._ _This laundry list of compliments seems to have a lot of insults in it,_ I said. Celia nodded, hearing me. _You know what you want, and you go after it. I don_t think there is anyone in this town doubting that Evelyn Hugo is going to be the biggest star in Hollywood one of these days. And that_s not just because you_re something to look at. It_s because you decided you wanted to be huge, and now you_re going to be. I want to be friends with a woman like that. That_s what I_m saying. Real friends. None of this Ruby Reilly, backstabbing, talking-about-each-other-behind-our-backs crap. Friendship. Where each of us gets better, lives better, because we know the other._ I considered her. _Do we have to do each other_s hair and stuff like that?_ _Sunset pays people to do that. So no._ _Do I have to listen to your man troubles?_ _Certainly not._ _So what, then? We choose to spend time together and try to be there for each other?_ _Evelyn, have you never had a friend before?_ _Of course I_ve had friends before._ _A real one, a close friend? A true friend?_ _I have a true friend, thank you very much._ _Who is it?_ _Harry Cameron._ _Harry Cameron is your friend?_ _He_s my best friend._ _Well, fine,_ Celia said, putting out her hand for me to shake. _I will be your second-best friend, next to Harry Cameron._ I took her hand and shook it firmly. _Fine. Tomorrow I_ll take you to Schwab_s. And afterward, we can rehearse together._ _Thank you,_ she said, and she smiled brightly, as if she_d gotten everything she_d ever wanted in the world. She hugged me, and when we broke away, the man behind the counter was staring at us. I asked for the check. _It_s on the house,_ he said, which I thought was the dumbest thing, because if there is anyone that should be getting free food, it isn_t rich people. _Will you tell your husband I loved The Gun at Point Dume?_ the man said as Celia and I got up to leave. _What husband?_ I said as coyly as possible. Celia laughed, and I flashed her a grin. But what I was really thinking was, I can_t tell him that. He_ll think I_m making fun of him, and he_ll smack me. Sub Rosa June 22, 1959 COLD, COLD EVELYN Why would a beautiful couple with a gorgeous five-bedroom home not be interested in filling it up with a brood of children? You_d have to ask Don Adler and Evelyn Hugo that question. Or maybe you_d just have to ask Evelyn. Don wants a baby, and certainly we_ve all been waiting with bated breath to find out when the progeny of those two beautiful creatures will make his or her way into the world. We know any child they have would be sure to send us into fits of swooning. But Evelyn_s saying no. Instead, all Evelyn talks about is her career, including her new movie, Little Women. More than that, Evelyn doesn_t even attempt to keep a clean house or mind her husband_s simple requests, and she can_t be bothered to be kind to the help. Instead, she_s out at Schwab_s with single girls like Celia St. James! Poor Don_s at home, yearning for a child, while Evelyn_s out having the time of her life. It_s all Evelyn, Evelyn, Evelyn in that house. And she_s left a very unsatisfied husband. IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?_ I said as I threw the magazine onto Harry_s desk. But of course, he_d already seen it. _It_s not that bad._ _It_s not good._ _No, it_s not._ _Why didn_t anyone take care of this?_ I asked. _Because Sub Rosa isn_t listening to us anymore._ _What do you mean?_ _They don_t care about the truth or access to stars. They are just printing whatever they want._ _They care about money, don_t they?_ _Yes, but they will make way more by pontificating about the ins and outs of your marriage than we can afford to pay them._ _You are Sunset Studios._ _And if you haven_t noticed, we aren_t making nearly as much money as we used to._ My shoulders slumped. I sat in one of the chairs facing Harry_s desk. There was a knock. _It_s Celia,_ she said through the door. I walked over and opened it for her. _I take it you_ve seen the piece,_ I said. Celia looked at me. _It_s not that bad._ _It_s not good,_ I said. _No, it_s not._ _Thank you. You both are a pair of aces._ Celia and I had finished shooting Little Women the week before. The two of us, along with Harry and Gwendolyn, had gone out for celebratory steaks and cocktails at Musso

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