It’s 9:33 when I get into my car and drive away from Burbank Baptist. With the traffic lights in my favor I arrive in the parking lot of Jim’s Gym around 9:45. I have fifteen minutes to get changed before meeting Shay for our workout.
She’s here; I see her black Mercedes SUV parked next to a Bentley. My old Mercedes sticks out like a sore thumb as I ease it into the parking space in between her truck and a polished pearl white Lexus LS 460. I get out, lock it up, open up the trunk and grab my gym bag and I hurry through the lot. I enter the gym through the polished clear glass front door, fumble through my bag, swipe my membership card at reception, and rush down the teak hardwood floors into the locker room. I catch my breath as I drop my bag in front of my locker.
I twist the combination, pop my locker open and look across the locker room for Shay. The fit bronze skinned woman dressed in only a pair of powder blue terrycloth sweatpants flashes me a smile as she catches my eyes. I smile back at her and unbutton my blouse. I’ll be ready for her in a couple of minutes.
I’m wrapping a red scrunchie around my hair when I hear high heels storming across the locker room floor. I turn around and my brown eyes meet the cold blue ones of fellow platinum club gym members Natalie Jacobs and Holly Evans. Snobber Moms. Rich women who have it all. Kids, career, a home in Beverly Hills and a rich husband to pay for everything else. I’ll try to turn the other cheek and keep the peace.
The two toned, tanned, well-dressed bleach-blonde women lean on the lockers between mine and fold their arms across their chests. Natalie brushes lint off the lapel of her blue tailored Italian business suit as she scowls at me.
“Hey Holly, look. It’s the movie star.” Natalie mocks.
“Is the gym crowded?” I ask.
“No. Everyone else is at work.” Holly snarls rolling her eyes. “We have jobs to go to.”
Shay cuts me a concerned look as she gets into her matching tank top. I telegraph a look back to her. I’m handling it.
I take off my blouse and hang it on the locker door. Natalie snatches it away and holds it up in the air. “Oh, a poet blouse.” She teases. “I haven’t seen one of these since college. Fourteen years ago.”
“Y’know what I tell my butler to do with old rags like these?” Holly says taking the blouse from Natalie.
“Why I tell him to use clothes like these to wax the Rolls.”
“Hey, isn’t that what Nikki Desmond used to tell her butler Rumsfeld to do with crap like this?” Natalie quips taking my blouse from Holly.
Great. Now they’re using jokes from the show to rub it in. “It was for an audition.” I snap snatching the blouse back.
“Are you really an actress?” Natalie snarls. “Outside of that stupid show I never see any of your alleged movies at the theatre or on cable-”
I pay no attention to their catty insults as I stuff my blouse in the locker and kick off my sneakers. As I step out of my jeans, I feel Natalie and Holly’s eyes on my body. The claws come out when they get a good look at my cut stomach and defined legs. Got to remember what Bri told me years ago when I read a story in the Sun that made me look like a junkie. They’re just words. And words can’t hurt me.
“Oh wait Nat- we did find one of her movies.” Holly retorts. “Down at Ralph’s in the 99 cent bin.”
“Yeah, we laughed our asses off watching it Saturday night.” Natalie teases.
More royalties for me. Thanks for the support bitches.
“Was that supposed to be a drama?” Holly jokes. “Cause it was the funniest piece of shit I’ve seen in years.”
“You did a great job handing change to that customer in that store scene.” Natalie says. “Maybe you’ll be ready for the real thing in a couple of years.”
Holly checks her Rolex watch then storms over to her Italian leather attaché on the bench across from me. “Come on Nat. We’ve got to go to work. We can’t be like the movie star here working on our six pack and our tan all day.”
Natalie isn’t through with me. She pats on my six-pack. “Better lay off the abs movie star.” She ribs. “You’re starting to look like a dude.”
Dude? Heifer, you wish you had a body like this. I put my head down and clench my fists. Natalie smiles at me, and grabs her purse. She flashes the multicolored Louis Vuitton pattern at me and slings it over her shoulder. I count backwards from ten as toss I my jeans into the locker and unzip my gym bag. I quickly change into a red spandex crop top and shorts, step back into my sneakers and wrap a white towel around my neck. By the time I reach zero Natalie and Holly are out of the locker room.
That crack on my abs sticks in my head; I throw my bag and portfolio in the locker and vent my frustration by slamming it shut. The few hardbodies standing around getting changed look at me funny; I count to ten again to keep from losing it. Shay gives me an understanding look as I storm out of the locker room and onto the gym floor.
Thankfully, the action on the gym floor is light; most of the machines are available. Shay and I should be able to get through our circuit in time for her to pick up Thomas from Day care at three. I head over to the treadmill stations near the picture windows. I punch in the program and start jogging to loosen up. I’m building up a good stride when Shayla strolls over to the treadmill next to mine. She punches in a program and starts a light jog. She smiles at me and I start to relax.
“Nikki Desmond would have told both those bitches off.” Shayla says.
“I start acting like her and I’ll never be myself.” I reply.
“And the fantasy will become your reality. One of the Catch-22’s of being typecast.”
“The other is being popular enough to be recognized, not popular enough to find work. I’d love to just get away from Nikki once and for all. Find a character that makes the world forget she exists.”
“You still wouldn’t be yourself.” Shay quips.
“I’d be working.” I retort.
“You still wouldn’t be yourself.”
“I’d be somebody to them.”
“But you still wouldn’t be yourself.”
“I can never be myself Shay. I play other people for a living.”
“You’re yourself with me.”
“You don’t watch TV anymore.”
“That’s why I’m so well-balanced. So how has life been treating you Marilyn?”
“Kicking me in the tits as usual.” I sigh. “Sabrina is retiring.”
Shay takes the news in stride. “I’m sorry.” She says as she picks up her pace to match mine.
“You know what’s funny?” I continue. “I come out of the meeting and her latest assistant starts pitching to me. Says she’s going to get me a part in a movie.”
Shay gives me a look. “Sounds like standard business in this town. Watch out.”
“I’ll give her a shot. I want to do one last job.”
“Marilyn, this girl doesn’t have a SAG Card-”
“I just want enough money to pay for college-”
“You’re talking like you’re retiring-”
“It’s not like I have offers pouring in lately.” I continue. “I’ve had what-three auditions in six months. Out of the three I only got one job.”
“Still, you’re just a little young to be talking retirement-”
“I’ve got what five six good years left on my acting career. I really need to start thinking about my future. And I always wanted to go to college when we were kids-”
“But you were taping the show back then. By the time I was finishing Grad School you were shooting that movie-what was it called - Dark Ride?”
My stomach turns hearing the title. It was the single worst experience I ever had shooting a movie. No, scratch that. It was the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life. In between takes there were drugs, alcohol, and more drugs. The rest of the cast and crew were so stoned I swear that’s what they spent most of the production budget on. If it weren’t for God being with me I would have wound up a junkie like everyone else on that set.
Not too many people remember that steaming pile. I think it went direct to video-”
“I read the box. It sounds like something out of a MST3K feature.”
I give Shay a look. She smiles back at me slyly. I think she also found a certain DVD at the Burbank Ralph’s. “Don’t tell me you found it-”
“I was buying fruit for Thomas and they had it on the bargain video rack. I had to buy it.”
Thanks for the support Shay. I’m eager to gauge what an intellectual like Dr. Shayla Sims thinks of my acting in such a wretched mess.
“So what did you think Dr. Sims?” I ask.
“You better go to college girl.” Shay laughs.
Can’t argue with a professional opinion. “That bad?”
“That bad. Look, why don’t you come out to New York with me?” Shayla requests. “You could stay with us-”
I’d love to take Shay up on her offer. But she’s going to have her hands full juggling her four-year-old, her husband and her new teaching job in the city. She doesn’t need me getting in the way. Besides, if I moved out there I wouldn’t be able to work at all. Outside of the theatre, there aren’t too many auditions to go to on the East coast. I need to be here if I’m going to work.
“You know Terrence wouldn’t go for it.” I quip. “I can hear him ranting right now. “I don’t care how many TV shows the heifer been on she ain’t stayin in my house!”
Shay lets out a laugh at the dead-on imitation. “Come on Marilyn, back in the day we used to invite you in our house every Monday night. This wouldn’t be any different.”
That was TV. This is real life. “I left when you changed the channel.”
“I don’t want to leave you like this-”
“This is something I have to do for myself. Sink or swim, it’s on me.”
Shay gives me an understanding look as we pick up the pace. I hear my heart beating a mile a minute. We’re ready to do our circuit.
“Want me to spot you on the bench?” I ask as we get off the treadmills.
“Yeah.” Shay replies catching her breath. “How long are we staying?”
“Until two. We’re going to do a circuit.”
Shay glares at me as she slides off the treadmill. “Am I going to be in one piece when it’s time to pick up Thomas from day care?”
Okay, I know my workouts are kind of- grueling. But she can’t complain about the results. Four years after starting the Marilyn Marie workout plan she’s lost all her baby weight, gone from a size 12 to a size 4 and looks better in a bikini than I do. If I had my certification I could probably package my workout secrets on an infomercial and become a millionaire. But there’s no market for a workout video from a black woman. Sistas love their fried chicken and collard greens too much.
“I’m not going to work you too hard.” I tease as I ease off my treadmill.
Shay and I head for the weight training equipment across the room. It’s ten twenty; I’ll try to get everything in by around one-thirty for both of us. That’ll give us enough time to shower before she goes to pick up Thomas.
*Chapter 5 will be up next Thursday!*