return – prologue

RETURN FOR ME

By: Jeff Rivera

PROLOGUE

It had been a long time since someone asked Miss Beverly Dubois for an autograph. Requests didn’t happen as often as they did decades ago when she won her first Oscar, but they still brought her pleasure.

“To whom should I make this out to?” she asked the blond young man behind the perfume counter. The blend of pricey fragrances filled her nostrils.

As pretentious and immaculate as the Neiman Marcus he worked in, he handed her an elegant pen, pursing his lips with excitement.

“To Kitty,” he said, his brown eyes anxious. The attention was welcomed. There was a time when she had to beat the men off with a stick; a time when one man in particular held her heart, but now those days were gone. She pushed the thought away. Now, she was alone and probably would be until the day she died. “She loves your TV show, Miss Aldridge,” he said.

Miss Aldridge? His words made her want to vomit. His mix up only reaffirmed her doubts that she would be forgotten and her life hadn’t made any lasting impact.

Lowering her her oversized Chanel sunglasses she said, “I think you mean Miss Beverly Dubois, not Miss Aldridge.”

The embarrassment on the young man’s face wasn’t payment enough, but she kept her composure. “I’m sorry, ma’am. It’s for my great great grandmother.”

She conjured up a smile, reminding her that her fans were crawling out of a grave didn’t make it any better.  She slid her fingers along the crystal glass that displayed the imported fragrances. Maybe she overreacted. “Well, I’m sure it was an honest mistake.”

He smiled again. “She loves your television show.”

“Television?” She said the word ‘television’ as if she tasted dung.

He chuckled over the Beethoven soundtrack playing throughout the boutique. “She’s over 100-years-old. I just thought if she got something from an old star her age

Her nostrils flared. “Over 100-years-old. Star her age? Young man, I’ll have you know, I have not, nor would I ever do television.” Miss Dubois lifted her chin in defiance. “I don’t think this pen is working after all.”

She handed the pen back to him and readjusted her sunglasses. Walking away in her Manolo Blahniks, they echoed across the marble floor as she swayed her hips like the diva she was and always would be.

“Miss Dubois.” A young woman caught up to her, exiting toward the brass-plated doors as she weaved her way through the store’s posh clientele. The movie star hoped it wasn’t someone else who would upset her. “Nana,” the young woman said.

Miss Dubois lowered her voice at her 20-year-old assistant and granddaughter, hoping no one else noticed. “I told you not to ever call me that in public. People will think I’m old. Is the limo ready, Wendy?”

“Yes, Miss Dubois,” Wendy said with a sarcastic curtsy. The younger woman was a spitting image of Miss Dubois at that age; petite body, light-colored eyes, delicate features and dark hair. Wendy opened the mall door as they stepped out on to the busy street where the black stretch limo waited.

The gust of California smog made her press her hand against her wool tweed Chanel blouse to keep it from opening. Miss Dubois narrowed her eyes at her granddaughter. She missed the days when she could bend her over her knee and spank some sense into her. “Any mail?”

“Just a letter addressed to the wrong person,” said Wendy, shuffling through the correspondence and speaking over the stream of traffic passing by. “Some Joanne Apple and then one from

Miss Dubois froze. Had she heard that correctly? “From whom?”

“Why? Did you forget to pay for your subscription of Playgirl magazine. Her name is Joanne

She gasped, snatching the envelope and sliding her manicured fingers through its narrow opening.  As Miss Dubois scanned the letter, her knees buckled and she leaned on the side of the limo for balance. She recognized the handwriting. This couldn’t be real.

Dear Joanne, I never stopped loving you. I stayed away all these decades just like you asked me to, but not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of you. I’m coming to Beverly Hills on March 2nd and

Her delicate fingers rubbed over the imprint he’d made on the paper. Panic ran through her body as the limo driver opened the door and the two ladies slid inside. “What day is today?”

“March 1st. They say ginkgo biloba is great for the memory.” her granddaughter said with a smirk. The squeak of beige leather seats as she slid closer, woke Miss Dubois from her thoughts. “Nana, are you all right?”

“I just need a beverage,” she said. Her fingers trembled as she held the paper that connected her to the man she thought she’d never hear from again. She whispered. “I thought he was dead.”

Her granddaughter poured her a glass of brandy, her favorite. “Nana, who’s Joanne Apple?”

Miss Dubois hadn’t heard that name in decades and hoped she could leave it behind. It brought with it as much danger as it is did mystery and could unravel a secret she’d kept hidden all these years. She had to lie. “I don’t know.”

“Who is this letter from, Nana?” asked Wendy as her grandmother sipped the brandy. The warmth of the liquid brought Miss Dubois no comfort. Though she told herself she had long moved on, the lone tear which streamed down her cheek said otherwise.

She lifted the letter to her nose and inhaled its fragrance. It even smelled like him.

“Someone who changed my life,” said Miss Dubois, her throat strained. “Someone who … I never stopped loving.” NEXT>>