The Perfect Daughter

mama2wCourtney stood in the doorway.  Her heart pounded with the frenetic energy of a trapped bird fighting for life.  She tried to concentrate on her breathing.

“Mama?” she whispered in the darkness.  “Mama? Are you awake?”

She peered into her mother’s bedroom hoping today would be a good day.  As she stepped into the disheveled room, with the smell of illness permeating the air, she approached her mother’s bed.  She held her breath. She could see her mother’s pale face upon the pillow and her chest rising and falling.  She leaned down and gently laid her hand lightly on her mother’s frail, thin shoulder.

“Mama?” she repeated softly.

Her mother slowly opened her eyes and focused on Courtney.

“And cut!” cried the director.  “Damnit Courtney!  What is with you today?  You moved off your mark again! Now let’s try it one more time and please do it like we rehearsed.”

Courtney cringed and felt her anger rise. She knew she hadn’t blown it. But, she didn’t argue and moved quickly back to her starting mark for another take.  This job was a nightmare.  Had she not been so desperate for the work, she would have quit. The director, Al, was sadistic in demanding needless takes and lighting changes.  He was deliberately malicious to crew and talent alike.  He had created an atmosphere of almost unbearable tension on the set.  Word had it he was a frustrated actor himself and on a steady diet of coke, and God knew what else.  At first, she thought he had bad allergies or a cold.  But on her second day of shooting she’d found out from a second-line-prop man it was drugs.

“Just try and stay under the radar kid, and you’ll do fine,” said one of the production assistants.

“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen,” she murmured.  She was in three more scenes today.

But, she made it through her second day, and then, her third and fourth.  Today should be her last day and she’d make enough to pay her rent and buy some food.  The utilities would have to wait a little longer.  God, how she hated living like this.  She was in a constant state of anxiety and there were times she had to concentrate just on breathing.   To make matters worse, she wasn’t feeling well, probably due to lack of enough sleep.  She moved to her first mark and concentrated on the scene.  Prop men and technicians swirled around her.   A makeup lady touched up Courtney’s face.

“You’re doing fine, honey,” she whispered to Courtney.  “Just hang in there one more hour and we’ll break for lunch.”  Courtney nodded. At least she’d get fed today, that was some comfort.  She had no food at home other than a can of tuna,  a couple pieces of bread and two tomatoes.

“Okay people!”  hollared Al.  “Let’s get moving!  Time is money!”   Courtney wiped her sweaty hands on her skirt and concentrated on her character. Al’s grating voice echoed through the soundstage. “Lights! Speed! And…ACTION!”  Courtney moved forward into the room.

“Mama?” she whispered in the darkness.  “Mama? Are you awake?”

And, as Courtney whispered her lines she was suddenly transported back to her own childhood in Illinois.  She was seven years old and walking into her mother’s dark, depressing, cave-like bedroom. Her mother had been drinking again. Courtney could smell the liquor.  The depressing aroma was forever hanging in the air.  How she dreaded those mornings.  She never knew what to expect.  The memories came flooding back.

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