All the World's a Stage
A novel by Bronwen Welsh
Copyright© 2016, 2017 Bronwen Welsh
A sequel to 'The Might-Have-Been Girl'
Chapter 40 Mae Rose Cottage
We resumed our kiss, holding each other tight and it was very obvious to me that Richard was quite ready for the next step, as indeed was I.
As we started to undress I said “Please be gentle with me Richard, it's my first time.”
He looked down at me and smiled “Of course I will Harriet. I told you once before that I wouldn't do anything you didn't want, but now I believe you do want it.”
“Oh yes!” I replied.
I no longer felt the need to hide my body from him, and indeed enjoyed the way he was looking at me in such an admiring fashion. As he led me to the bed I frankly gazed at his body. He was an Adonis, a perfect man in every way, and I wanted him. When we lay on the bed and came together, it was everything I knew it would be and more, a man and a woman in a ritual as old as time. He skilfully took us both to the heights of ecstasy, and when we reached the climax of our love-making, a warm glow suffused my whole body as crying out with pleasure and every nerve-end tingling, I gave myself totally to him.
“Oh Richard!” I gasped “That was so wonderful.”
“You are wonderful Harriet, you truly are,” he replied, gasping for breath as we lay together, our hearts pounding.
We made love twice more that night and each was as perfect as the time before. It was very late when we finally went to sleep in each other's arms.
My alarm clock began to buzz at five o'clock. Richard slipped out of bed and began to quickly dress by the light of the bedside lamp. Then he leaned over and kissed me gently on the lips. “See you at breakfast,” he murmured and then he was gone, closing the door quietly behind him.
I lay snuggled up in bed for a while thinking about the night we had spent together. I felt like a real-life Mae Rose Cottage, with one significant difference - I had experienced what it was like to be with a man. I knew full well that my family would be surprised if not shocked if they learned that 'good girl' Harriet, who was so emphatic that she loved Reggie, had taken Richard to her bed. I don't know if they would have understood or accepted my reasons for doing so, but to me they were quite clear. Reggie was not available in the foreseable future and even if an opportunity arose, there was the small matter of him being married to Sophie. Even though she was in my eyes his 'awful wedded wife', it would not have seemed right to encourage him to cheat on her. Does that make sense? Perhaps not, but it was how I felt. Anyway, Reggie had given me implicit permission to spend time with other men, so why should I feel guilty?
As far as Richard was concerned, I was very fond of him and I knew the feeling was reciprocated. We never spoke of love, but we both knew how we felt about the other and what's more we were both single, so there was no impediment to us being lovers. You may wonder why I did not wait until such a time as Reggie was free and we could be together, but in my heart of hearts I didn't know if that would ever be possible. At that moment I needed to know that I was fully a woman in every way I could be. After that night, any lingering doubts I had were gone.
Richard was a masterful lover, gentle but strong and masculine. I knew I was not his first and indeed that was a positive in my eyes as I wanted to know that for him, being with me was exactly the same as with any other woman. I felt sure I would have detected the slightest hesitation on his part, but in fact there was none. If it sounds as though I used him, I can assure you that I did not. We had both wanted each other for quite a while, ever since we started playing 'Romeo and Juliet' together. Others had seen it and although we had both denied it, of course they were right. It just required the little matter of my surgery to make it possible.
Time was passing, so I got out of bed, had my shower, dressed and walked downstairs to the dining room. It was a few minutes past six-thirty and Richard was the only one there, seated at a table for two. I sat down on the chair opposite him and he smiled.
“Good morning. I took the liberty of ordering you a 'full Welsh breakfast' since you seemed to enjoy it so much yesterday. I must say you look very 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed' today, something must have agreed with you.”
He was trying to get me to blush and I knew it.
“It must be lack of sleep,” I replied. “Does it affect you in the same way?”
Richard opened his mouth to reply but at that moment the breakfasts arrived and he had to hold his tongue until the waitress had left.
“I think you're right,” he said. “Sleep is over-rated.”
I looked out of the window at the brightening sky. “The weather is looking a lot more promising today,” I said, changing the subject.
“I suppose if you finish your scenes today you won't be staying another night?”
“I'm afraid not. Hannah really wants me back in Stratford by tomorrow for rehearsals and only agreed to me staying one more day if I really had to.”
“That's a pity,” Richard responded, sounding very disappointed.
“Yes it is, but perhaps there'll be another time. What are you going to do after this?”
“I'm going for an audition at the Old Vic in London They're producing Marlowe's play 'Dr Faustus' and I'm going to try for his servant 'Wagner'.”
“I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with it,” I replied.
“I'm sure you know at least one quote from it where Faustus summons the ghost of Helen of Troy:
'Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium--? '”
I laughed “So that's where it's from. If I wasn't already committed at Stratford I might have tried for Helen.”
Just then the Assistant Director Tom walked into the dining room.
“Good morning Harriet, Richard. Dafydd's asked me to drive you out to the location. The weather's looking fine so I'm sure we'll get your scene done this morning.”
I started to get up but he said “No, finish your breakfast first. The crew has to set up the gear and camera, and the local farmer has to deliver the goats, so we've got plenty of time.”
Nevertheless I felt obliged to eat the rest of my breakfast without delay. Richard matched me and we both headed to our respective changing rooms while Tom helped himself to a cup of coffee.
“In case I don't see you later, thanks for everything, especially last night,” I said to Richard when no-one was in earshot.
He smiled at me. “Maybe we can catch up again sometime, I hope so.”
“Me too,” I replied, and glancing around to make sure we were not observed I kissed him quickly on the lips.
I changed into my dress with the buttoned front, and Sylvia the makeup artist worked on my face. “This lipstick is the same colour that you will use on your breasts, and I've got a spare,” she said. “Dafydd's asked me to come on location with you today as there'll probably be a few takes and we'll have to remove the lipstick after each one. He thought you'd prefer a woman to do that.”
“That was thoughtful of him,” I said.
She laughed. “Yes, he's nice like that. Anyway it's a break for me to get away from the change room.”
After she was finished, we went back to the dining room. There was no sign of Richard, but Tom was ready to drive us to the location. The sky was bright and clear and I suspected that Dafydd would like to get some shots with the sun low on the horizon. In the story it is supposed to be evening, but no-one was going to know that it was really shot in the morning.
The crew was just finishing setting up when we arrived, and the sun was on the point of appearing over the horizon. The tent which had kept the grass dry had been removed but there were sticks to show its previous location. That was smart thinking as the surrounding grass was wet with dew.
“Good morning Harriet,” said Dafydd. “At last we've got some decent weather. I'd like to get this shot just as the sun appears on the horizon. We're going to shoot with you in the foreground and the sun in the background.”
There was a big reflector set up next to the camera, presumably to reflect the sun back towards my face so that I wasn't seen as a silhouette. Dafydd indicated where I should lie on the grass and the sticks were removed. The goats were in position too, each one tethered to a stake in the ground so that they didn't wander off. They completely ignored the humans around and were busy chewing on the sweet grass. I wondered if the farmer had deliberately kept them hungry.
I had two sequences to record, but because we were using the sunrise as sunset, we had to record the second one first while the sun was really low in the sky, and then the first sequence later when the sun was higher in the sky. In the play, quite a lot happens in between the two sequences. These are the strange sort of things that happen when making a film.
Luke, the Standby Props man handed me the lipstick, which I placed on the grass beside me. His job was to provide all the props necessary for the day's filming. It's an important job as anything missing could result in a loss of time which would be very expensive.
Dafydd made sure I was lying in the right position on the grass. He would speak the words of 'Second Voice' which had been slightly modified for the scene.
The camera assistant walked up close to me with the clapper board.
“Under Milk Wood, scene one one four take one,” he said and smartly pushed the clapstick down onto the board to make the synchronising 'clap'.
Dafydd started to speak:
“Action. Down in the dusking town, Mae Rose Cottage, still lying in
clover, listens to the nannygoats chew, draws circles of
lipstick round her nipples.”
As he spoke, I half sat up, pulled open the top of my dress and began to draw a circle with the lipstick around my breasts, gazing down at them, speaking as I did so:
“I'm fast. I'm a bad lot. God will strike me dead. I'm
seventeen. I'll go to hell.” I looked at the goats. “You just wait. I'll sin till I blow up!”
Then I lay back in the grass as Dafydd said:
“She lies deep, waiting for the worst to happen; the goats
champ and sneer. Cut! Very good Harriet. I think we'll try it once more with a little more emphasis on the 'blow up'.”
Sylvia came up and cleaned the lipstick off my breasts.
The camera assistant produced the clapper board again. This time it was “Take two”.
We started the scene again but this time the lipstick broke as I circled my breasts.
“Damn,” I muttered, and Dafydd called out “Cut”.
Luke provided a replacement lipstick and the third attempt was much better, and after the fourth one Dafydd was satisfied. We had to wait for the sun to rise further in the sky so that we could record the afternoon sequence. Just then a truck bounced up the track and stopped by the gate of the field where we were filming.
“Oh good, that's the catering truck, right on time,” said Dafydd.
It seems that filming relies heavily on the supply of food. All the crew headed down to the truck where the driver and his assistant had opened shutters on its side. Meanwhile I buttoned up my dress.
“Would you like something?” said Sylvia, obviously thinking that I shouldn't go to the truck, bra-less as I was. I felt like a star, being the only actor there, and everyone seemed happy to do anything they could for me.
“Just a sandwich and a cup of tea please,” I said, sitting on a chair which the camera assistant thoughtfully provided.
The rest of the crew were obviously enjoying themselves, tucking into pies and sandwiches, and so an hour passed.
Then Dafydd and the crew came back up the field and the truck departed.
“Right, the sun's risen enough, we'll get started again,” he said.
Sylvia checked my makeup, and Dafydd prepared to read 'Second Voice' again. Luke provided me with a dandelion puffball; the camera assistant came up with the clapper board and read out the scene number and 'take one'.
Dafydd began to read 'Second Voice' from the script:
“The afternoon buzzes like lazy bees round the flowers
round Mae Rose Cottage. Nearly asleep in the field of
nannygoats who hum and gently butt the sun, she blows love
on a puffball.”
I followed the action, blowing gently on the puffball, then spoke lazily, pausing to blow between each line and making sure that the final seeds drifted gently away on the last line where I emphased the word 'loves'.
“He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me!--the dirty old fool.”
I lay back in the grass as Dafydd said:
“Lazy she lies alone in clover and sweet-grass, seventeen
and never been sweet in the grass ho ho. Cut! Excellent Harriet, but I'd like you to do it just once more, and a little more emphasis on the last 'loves'.”
I was handed another puffball by Standby Props. I wondered how many of them he had on hand. We went through the sequence twice more and finally Dafydd was satisfied.
“Well done Harriet, that's your part completed so we can release you now. Sylvia will take you back to the pub. Thank you very much for your contribution to the production. I know it's only a small rôle but every part is important as you know.”
With that we shook hands and Sylvia and I walked back to the car where Tom was waiting for us. My moment of stardom was over, and the crew were already packing up to move to the next location.
Back at the Carpenters' Arms I went to the changing room to put my own clothes back on and cleaned off the make-up. Then I returned to my room and took out my case to apply my own make-up, then finished my packing, went downstairs and checked out. I was hoping that I would see Richard but he must have been still out on location, so I walked to where 'Bluebird' was parked out the back, loaded up my suitcase and started the engine.
As I drove back home to Stratford, well I was starting to think of it as my second home, I mulled over the events of the weekend. I realised now why films and television programs cost so much to make. I had been paid quite a reasonable sum, and the total running time of my contribution was about one to two minutes at most. Of course the weather hadn't helped, and I was relieved that I would be back in Stratford for rehearsals on Monday morning in a nice dry theatre where the weather wasn't a problem.
At one point during that morning, while we were waiting for an inconvenient cloud to clear away from the sun, I had had a chat with Luke, the 'Standby Props' man.
“Do you ever get bored with all this waiting around?” I asked.
“No I don't, because I'm watching everything that's going on. I don't intend to be 'Standby Props' for ever, but it's handy because I'm there every time a sequence is shot and I learn what everyone else is doing. I'm hoping to become an Assistant Director next and eventually a Director. In the meantime I get my name on the credits and my experience goes on my C.V., a bit like you I guess? In fact I was wondering why you took such a small part. I can see you're a good actress, in fact you wouldn't be performing in Stratford if you weren't.”
I smiled. “Well like you I'm building my career and all this goes on my C.V. I get my name on the credits too. When I took the part I wasn't sure if I'd get the part I wanted in 'Othello'. As it turns out I didn't get it but I was given another part instead, so it all turned out alright.”
Luke laughed. “Acting can be a tough life.”
“Yes it can,” I agreed. “And the irony is that first you have to get good rôles in order to be considered for other good ones. I've been very fortunate so far and I hope the good luck doesn't run out.”
Naturally I thought about the night with Richard too. I knew I would be forever grateful for the wonderful way he had treated me. Now I was convinced that I was not only physically but also emotionally a woman. This didn't mean that I would be searching for another lover to repeat the experience, Richard had given me what I needed and that was enough. Of course if the opportunity arose to spend another night with him, it would be hard to say 'no'.
Taking part in 'Under Milk Wood' had been an interesting experience. My one disappointment was that due to the way it was shot in numerous small scenes, I hadn't met the principle cast members. Perhaps their parts had already been completed.
I arrived back in Stratford mid-afternoon. Dale was out and returned a short time later with Frank.
“Hi Harriet, back already,” said Frank. “How are you feeling?”
“Much better thank you Frank. I suppose Dale told you I was in Wales performing a cameo in 'Under Milk Wood'? It was one of those 'blink and you'll miss it' parts.
“It all adds to your C.V.” said Frank. “Please let me know when it's being shown; I wouldn't want to miss it.”
“Frank, you're one of my most devoted fans and I really appreciate it,” I said. “Now there's a delicious smell coming from the oven, what are you two cooking up?”
“Shepherd's pie,” said Frank. “I know it's one of your favourites and I was counting on you returning today.”
“We were lucky. It rained all day Saturday but thank goodness it cleared today or I'd still be there.”
We sat down to a delicious meal which I really appreciated as I'd only stopped for a cup of coffee on the way back from Laugharne.
That evening I logged onto my computer. I hadn't bother to check my emails for about a week, and there was one from Reggie written a few days previously. I confess my hand was shaking as I used the mouse to highlight it and click 'open'.
To be continued.
I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Louise Anne in proofreading the text and giving me a great deal of useful advice about modern-day Britain to incorporate in the story, also Julia Phillips for picking up my punctuation errors and any typos Louise or I missed. I'm very grateful to them both.
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