“Wishing you were somehow here again . . .
Knowing we must say good-bye....”
A woman's dulcet tones floated from the stage to Germaine St. Justine in a sweet but hollow entreaty that made his teeth ache and stomach churn as if he'd ingested a giant cone of cotton candy.
Germaine knew better than to fault the woman. Her voice was technically perfect and she was quite pretty, in a plastic, theatrical sort of way. But she wasn't Lucy. At least not his Lucy.
As the last notes of Christine's lament trebled into silence, Germaine spoke into the mike that amplified his voice on stage. “Thank you, Ms. Lacey, that was very nice. We'll be in touch.”
The moment he flipped off the mike, William Hailey, his director, turned to him. “Well, what was it this time? Was her nose too long, her mouth too wide, or her legs too short?”
“None of the above,” Germaine answered evenly as he picked up the next resume in his stack. “She just wasn't right for the role.”
Hailey sighed as if he was being persecuted. “Why do you insist on pursuing this folly?”
Pretending not to hear, Germaine gazed at the picture he held without really looking at it. This would be the ninetieth hopeful they’d auditioned that week and, though he loathed admitting it, Germaine had the sinking feeling his stage director might be right. Maybe it was a folly.
“Serena Williams is hot right now,” Hailey continued, keeping his voice low although they sat too far back in the darkened theater for anyone on stage to see or hear them. “And she's expressed a keen interest in working with us. She'd be perfect for the role, Germaine. She's young, talented, a box office draw, and she's worked with Nick before. She'd make an excellent Lucy to his Dracula.”
Keeping his unkind thoughts about Serena Williams to himself, Germaine turned over the picture and scanned the next actress's resume beneath the lighted, desk-like ledge clamped to the seats in front of them. Not because he needed the light to see, but because disdaining it would only attract the kind of attention he preferred to avoid.
This next aspirant had a couple of major roles in college to her credit, but only a few bit parts and some chorus work Off-Broadway since then. Not very promising, but Germaine wasn't interested in experience. He sought something else. A unique quality that couldn't be taught.
“Please, Germaine, do us all a favor. Call an end to the auditions tonight, and let me phone Serena's agent tomorrow. They're so eager to discuss terms that I bet she'll even audition for you. Give her that much, at least. If you're still not satisfied, we can continue this torture next week.”
Germaine flipped the tiny red switch on his headset that connected him to his stage manager, John Percy, working backstage. Reading from the resume, he said, “Call Ms. Daniels in next, John.”
William Hailey groaned out loud. “Why won't you even give Serena a chance?”
“Because she's not right for the role. Lucy is an innocent whose love and spiritual strength shine forth so brightly that even the Prince of Darkness can't extinguish them. Serena Williams is an accomplished, young femme fatale who lost her innocence long before she knew she had any.”
“So she's been in the tabloids a few times,” Hailey murmured a little defensively. “She can still act, Germaine. She could give Lucy all the innocence you want.”
“You can't act innocence, Bill,” Germaine insisted as he watched the auditioning actress walk on stage. Her step was light, but confident as she moved across the boards with a grace more inherent than studied. She had the look he was after--a youthful visage with large, guileless blue eyes and long, lustrous dark-brown hair that cascaded like a waterfall of soft curls to her shoulders in a style that reminded him of the nineteenth century. Watching her, he had the distinct feeling they had already met. He glanced at her resume again. Claire Daniels. An attractive name, but not one that held any special significance for him. She lived in Manhattan. No surprise there. She'd studied at Julliard and Yale. Again, nothing remarkable. Putting his impression down to one too many auditions, he watched Hailey scribble notes over her sparse resume with his tooth-worried pen.
“As I was saying,” Germaine continued, “you either possess an aura of innocence or you don't. Once lost, it can never be regained, and Serena Williams never had any to begin with.”
“What about this one?” Hailey inquired, indicating the young woman on stage with a jab of his pen. “She certainly doesn't have any experience. Has she got this elusive quality of innocence you're looking for?” he asked, his frustration edged with sarcasm.
“Possibly. That's what we're here to find out.” Switching off his headphone to avoid the earsplitting feedback, Germaine leaned forward and spoke into the mike. “Before you begin, Ms. Daniels, I'd like you to tell us a little about yourself and why you want to play Lucy Seward?”
He could hear her softly in-drawn breath and see her blue eyes widen slightly, but even Germaine's extraordinary faculties couldn't determine whether it was surprise or stage-fright that prompted the reaction. Stepping forward, she peered out into the darkened house with her right hand shading her eyes from the spotlight and asked, “What would you like to know about me, sir?” Her voice was clear and perfectly modulated. His interest heightened, Germaine wanted to hear more.