Rating : T for now (it shouldn't go up though)
Disclaimer: I don't own the movie Victor/Victoria nor the Broadway musical Victor/Victoria nor their Character. I don't make Money out of it. And even the main idea isn't mine since she came from a comment Julie Andrews made to Blake Edwards as they were commenting the movie (I just adapted it).
Summary: A few years after Victoria followed him to Chicago, he leaves her for another woman. She goes to Toddy to find moral support and a place to stay.
Warning: At one point there might be some confusion between he/she and his/her. It was done on purpose so be careful, both of them refer to Victoria.
She was lying in bed, wide awake for the second night in a row. She should have known that it wasn't going to last forever. Who was she kidding? Of course she had hoped it would last forever. But he had left a woman to be with her… it was just to be expected that he would leave her to be with another woman. Curiously knowing that she was just one among any other didn't make her feel better. Nor did it hurt less. Some more tears escaped her eyes.
The man next to her moved in his sleep. A sad smile grazed her lips: what was it with that man that relaxed her? She had even cried in his arms just a few hours after meeting him for the first time. She was glad that he had come to Chicago when she had followed him there. Of course at that time he was following his own lover but the fact remained that he had stayed there once his lover had found a younger companion. And if she was honest, he was the one who had changed her life, not him.
She sighed. There was no sense in torturing herself. And if the sleepless night before was of any clue, there was no point in staying in bed either. She kicked the cover and sat up, her legs hanging on the right side of the bed.
"The bed is still safer than the sofa," Toddy mumbled behind her.
"I didn't want to wake you."
"With you thinking that loud, no one could sleep."
"I am sorry."
He turned the light on and gave her his handkerchief. She accepted it gratefully and dried her cheeks before running a hand through her long and messy golden curls.
"I liked it better when they were short."
She remained still and silent for a short time before speaking a bit shy.
"Would you mind cutting them again? In the same fashion you did last time."
"But I thought…"
"I changed my mind."
"I'll get the scissors."
She brought a chair into the bathroom and sat down. Her reflection was looking back at her with puffy eyes and a red nose. With her messy shoulder length locks she looked like a clown… like a clown left behind and all alone after the Circus departure. No, that wouldn't do the hair had to go. Toddy came back and started cutting. She was grateful that he hadn't felt the need to ask her again if she was sure. She was maybe acting on an impulse but she was positive that she wouldn't regret it.
She watched with a cold face and yet growing interest the hair falling on the floor. If it hadn't been for her tear stained face she would have seen the Count gradually appear before her very eyes. She took a wet flannel and pressed it against her eyes and cheeks. The cold and soft material on her sore skin did wonders. Her heart slowed and she felt lighter as if each curl falling on the floor was a weight lifted off her shoulder.
"You look nearly human again."
She removed the cloth from her eyes to examine herself in the mirror. Her skin was still red and even damper but the golden halo was gone : more human indeed!
"Don't mention it. Now are you ready to sleep or should we stay awake all night long?"
She wasn't feeling so tired anymore : she might be able to sleep or at least she hoped so. She nodded and got up, dusting her shoulder to get rid of the last of hairs.
"Housekeeping will wonder what happened," Toddy noted.
"I can't find it in myself to care right now. Maybe once I've had a good sleep."
Was that tea supposed to be that bitter? Or was she merely too sour to enjoy it? The man across from her seemed to like it just fine. He was peeking at her behind his morning paper. He was doing his best not to show his concern but she knew better. She was grateful for both fact: she certainly didn't want someone to fuss over her but she was glad that someone was there for her, ready to take her cockroach, should she fail in getting it into her salad.
He had been there for her since they had met; had she done the same? She doubted it: she had been way too busy with her number to check on him when his American lover had left. It was too late to do anything about it now and if she was honest she wasn't sure she would have act differently could she go back in time. It was too late to do anything but she could ask nonetheless.
"How was it when Mr Bernstein left you?"
The question must have taken him off guard because he didn't answer right away. He neatly folded his paper next to his plate and tapped his napkin on his mouth.
"It stung. Like a needle on the skin. I knew I was his first official boyfriend. I was useful when he came to terms with showing his preference in the open but it was never more than that. It stung when he left but I wasn't devastated. How was it when you and your first husband broke up?"
"It was different."
"Because you weren't in love?"
"No. Because he hurt me on so many levels that I ended up hating him for so many thing that leaving me wasn't one of them."
He nodded and picked his paper again. Her bitter tea was cold now, she drained it making a face. She thought about her recent breaking up as she sat her cup down. The only thing he had done to her was changing his heart. She still had her job, she still had a place to stay and she still had money, enough money to consider quitting her job actually. She doubt she could work here all the while knowing that he wasn't looking at her anymore. Well she could if she had to, but there was no harm in looking for something else: she didn't have to quit until she had found another place. It wasn't exactly the right thing to do but spending months making Paris believe that she was a man wasn't either.
"I think I should go back to the Opera."
Once again she had his undivided attention.
"Feeling nostalgic of your second rate Soprano days?"
"Not really but I miss my first class impostor's days."
"What do you mean?"
"I would make one heck of a good Quinquin*, don't you think? It would be so much easier to be a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man!"
"Last time it was the other way around"
"I know. But I think I've mastered the first part of the deception. I want to go back to being a man."
She ran a nervous hand through her new short hair.
"If you pretend that you are a man, the stage director will want you to appear shirtless. And there are two not so little things that will tell you off."
"I won't pretend that I am a man. I will just go back in dressing and acting and speaking like one. It is much easier. I will remain Victoria on my ID but I shall be Victor inside and to some extent outside."
He examined her in silence. She knew that what she was saying was crazy. She wasn't even known in the Opera circles anymore, if she had ever been. But on the other hand she hadn't been know in Musicals when she had started their charade. It would be nice to sing an opera again… And she wasn't that much of a Coloratura anymore, she could reach the Mezzo's notes quite easily now. Carmen had never been the kind of part she longed for but she had had her Cherubino's** days. Even if she wasn't young enough to be a teenage boy, she could pass for a man in his twenties without too much trouble. Toddy was still looking at her, seemingly deep in thought. She hoped he would understand what she wanted to do and why she wanted it. His approval was very important to her.
"Do you think it could work?"
"I don't know if the Opera is ready to welcome me back but I know I don't want to be Victoria anymore."
"Then I think we ought to try it."
The first thing they heard as they were ushered into the director's office was shouting.
"I don't give it a damn that she is sick! I want her ass on that stage tonight!"
The man behind the desk slammed the phone on the receptor.
"Mr Toddy and his friend are here to see you, director."
"How high can you sing?", he asked without looking up.
"I can easily hit high C"
"Do you know the Countess part in the Marriage of Figaro?"
"Perfect! You're singing tonight!"
Before they could react – even before he could look at them – the door banged open.
"I heard Miss Hushest is sick. I want the countess part."
"You can't sing both parts, Miss Hotalong" the director answered only looking at the newcomer for a second.
"Then find yourself another Cherubino. I want the Countess."
Toddy stepped forward.
"My friend here would be a terrific Cherubino."
For the first time since they coming in the director noticed Victoria's appearance. True to her word, she was Victor once again, from the men trousers to the scarf around her neck. She kept very still while he was detailing her.
"What are you? A man or a woman?"
"Have you ever heard about the Polish Count Victor Grazinski?" Toddy asked, taking charge of her future for the second time in her life. She simply had a mysterious smile confusing those around her even more.
"Never heard of him. And actually I don't care. I need a Cherubino and you seem perfect for the part. Tell your agent to contact me as soon as possible. If you do well tonight I might consider giving you a long term job. Off with you now. I have a billion things to do."
Everyone got out of the office. The other singer turned to Victoria and gauged her. She didn't move; Toddy's hand was comforting on her elbow. Both women were the same size so there shouldn't be any problem regarding the costumes. The look in the previous Cherubino's eyes was a mixture between worry – probably about her job – curiosity and mild interest. At least Toddy lead her trough the hallway and to the door. She had a lot of work to do if she wanted to do the part right in the evening. She had never been on a stage without previous rehearsal. It would be a first. Of course the part was vocally quite easy but she had no idea of the stage direction. And since the show was for the same evening there could be no rehearsing. One couldn't do two performances the same day. She'd have to trust people she didn't know to help her do she didn't know exactly what without anyone else noticing. It didn't seem such a good idea anymore. The arias she could handle – as long as she remembered the words… She jumped. She didn't even have the score. She slumped: she was doomed. There was no way she could be ready without rehearsing at least her part. Her friend noticed.
"Come on now. What is the problem?"
"How am I supposed to work on my part if I don't even have something to work with? I don't have the score."
"Don't worry we will send someone to retrieve it somewhere and in the meantime we will work with your memories. You didn't need a sheet when we where working on 'Le Jazz Hot'."
"The only thing I remember is that the first aria is in E flat major and the second in B flat major. Not much to start with."
"You know the tunes. I'll just play you the Chords. Once we'll have the score we'll move onto the duet, trio, quartet and quintet."
"It will work!"
"Do you trust me?"
"Of course I do but…"
"Then trust me. You're a first class Singer!"
"I'm a first class Musical singer."
"And you have been a Soprano since you were twelve"
"No. I had been a Soprano since I was twelve and then you came along."
"You still reach those high notes, don't you?"
"No buts. You are already in too deep."
* Quinquin is the main Character of an Opera from Strauss : Der Rosenkavalier. He's sung by a woman even thought it's a man.
** Another Opera character, a teenage boy this time. It's in Le Nozze di Figaro. I'll put some more explanation about this one in the next part.