A/N: In the middle of keeping (or trying to keep) Russian Doll on track, I felt the urge to write something unconnected to anything. So I present you with this little one-shot.
Ginger thinks about life in Hollywood before the shipwreck, and Gilligan adds his own insight. I hope you like it!
All GI characters belong to the late, great Sherwood Schwartz, who keeps inspiring us all.
"You were wonderful, Miss Grant!"
Ginger Grant deigned to the little man standing in front of her with his autograph book outstretched in his tiny, trembling hands. Pools of light glimmered on the ground, fresh from the recent rain. Smaller pools of light gleamed on the man's bald head, the dome of his skull shining pinkly like an island rising from a sea of thinning hair.
"I mean, I've seen all of your movies. The Hula Girl and the Fullback, Sing A Song of Sing Sing, Rain Dancers of Rango Rango..." the little man looked up at the dark sky where deep black clouds huddled around a waxing moon, spitting out their last few drops. "Guess Rain Dancers of Rango Rango always has that effect, huh."
Ginger laughed, a tinkling musical sound. She took the autograph book from the man's shaking hand and poised a pen over the very first page. Which was blank, she noted with satisfaction.
Reserved for a star of her stature.
She smiled warmly. "To whom should I make it out?"
"Oh! Ah, to Lorna, my darling wife," the little man said, almost giggling in his awkwardness. "She's almost as big a fan as I am."
Ginger looked down on the little man's head. She must be very small, she thought, but not unkindly. "And what's your name?" she teased.
"Ummm..." the little man tugged at his collar, loosening it so that he could breathe. "Melvin. My name's Melvin. But you don't have t..."
"'To Melvin and Lorna. May the sun shine down on you, always. Best Wishes, Ginger Grant'." The smiling actress murmured her words through glistening red lips as she wrote elegantly across the page and signed her name with a flourish. "There," she smiled, handing back the book. "How's that, Melvin?"
Melvin gulped and stammered, lost for words at the sound of his name falling from those beautiful lips that had moulded around such eloquent sentences as 'My darling, I promise to love you for the rest of my life, come rain or shine, hell or high water, snow and ice, hot and cold, through thick and thin, through good days and bad, through all those times when nothing's really happening at all and we're sitting around the house picking on each other over silly things like who used up the last of the toothpaste. For my love is boundless, endless, fathomless as the deepest depths of the farthest flung oceans. Have a good day at work, darling. I packed you a baloney sandwich.'
Ginger watched the little man blend back into the crowd, shuffling backwards, lowering his head in gratitude until his face was almost on the ground, thanking her over and over again. She waved with her fingertips and then finally, just as she thought he was going to keel over in a dead faint, she blew him a Marilyn style kiss and laughed as he stumbled into a terracotta plant pot that was standing on the sidewalk.
There were a million Melvin's in Ginger Grant's life. Nervous, shuffling men who approached her only after being cajoled for half an hour by an increasingly desperate spouse, usually in restaurants, sometimes on the street, sometimes even right outside her apartment if they were lucky enough to be around as she emerged for her day's appointments.
And so many appointments there were! The hair stylist's, for example. Ginger Grant had her hair coiffed and teased by the best in town. Daily. For there was always a recalcitrant curl that needed taming, rising from her head like a fiery solar flare emanating from the sun. On her way to her appointments, Ginger would wear a glamorous headscarf and huge, white-framed sunglasses which set off the dazzle of her perfect Hollywood smile, but she was always recognised. Always. Her figure and her beauty were simply impossible to disguise!
A wide-eyed reporter had once described Ginger Grant as 'a fully formed idea', and while she hadn't been sure what it meant at the time, a quick phonecall to the Editor of the newspaper in question had assured her that the reporter had meant she was perfect in every way. Of course, she hadn't expected to hear that the reporter had been fired as soon as she put down the phone, but she was sure that he would find a new job soon enough. Besides, she would have preferred to have simply been called 'perfect in every way'. For all the work that she put into it, she deserved to be!
There was always someone on hand to drive Ginger Grant wherever she needed to go, without her having to lift a finger. Even if she wanted to go somewhere at 3am on a Sunday morning she'd only have to place one phonecall and someone would be there in seconds, as if they had been parked around the corner all along. Waiting outside her apartment block would be a sleek limousine that purred like a panther at the curb. A handsome be-suited man, one in a long line of many, would hold the rear door open for her and smile as she glided in, tucking her long legs against the leather upholstery in ladylike fashion, never showing any more of herself than she absolutely needed to.
Of course, Ginger never did need to go anywhere at 3am on a Sunday morning, but it was nice to know that she could do, in complete comfort and safety, with no questions asked, if that was what she wanted. For those were the breaks in this town, if you were one of the lucky ones.
Ginger Grant was one of the lucky ones. Her days and nights were full of happy events. Elegantly casual lunches with friends by day, and expensive champagne dinners with handsome men almost every night. Not to mention the star-studded movie premieres and first night parties. Her handsome, tanned, perfectly groomed escorts would bring her to one dazzling event after another, allowing her to steal the limelight as the flashbulbs popped and the fans adored from afar, herded like happy sheep into cordoned off areas, their arms held out imploringly as she floated up the red carpet. We love you, Ginger! We love you! We love you!
As she bestowed her smile upon them, their pleading voices would reach a crescendo, joined into one single chant, over and over and over.
"Ginger! Ginger! Ginger! Ginger!
"Ginger? Hey, Ginger, wake up! Wake up!"
Ginger's dream faded. There was still an expanse of red before her, but now it was attached to a rather clumsy hand that waved rapidly back and forth in front of her face, clicking its fingers and annoying her into full wakefulness. She blinked slowly, like a cat. She looked around, reorienting herself to find that she was no longer sailing up the red carpet to the sounds of her admirers cheering. She was on her own, by herself, just leaning up against a palm tree.
Well, she had been on her own. She wasn't any more.
"Oh," she said in a small voice, disappointed. "What happened?"
"You were asleep," her tormentor said. "Standing up!"
"I must have drifted off for a few moments." A warm breeze tickled Ginger's skin and her hand went immediately to her hair to pat her shimmering curls into place.
"Were you dreaming?"
"Why do you ask?" Ginger looked at the boy who stood before her. He was almost a Melvin, standing there in front of her with that expectant look on his face. Only he was younger, much younger, and he wasn't bald. Or five feet tall. In fact, he was nearly as tall as she was, and slender, so slender, like the trunk of a young sapling.
"Because you kept saying 'thank you', 'thank you'."
Ginger smiled, remembering the flashbulbs. "Well, then. I suppose I must have been."
The boy shuffled his well worn sneakers in the sand, making them even scruffier than they already were. "You looked real happy, too."
"Aren't I always happy, Gilligan?" Her green eyes twinkled at him, daring him to contradict her.
Gilligan smiled, almost knowingly, but he didn't respond to her question. She was glad that he hadn't, because it wasn't really one that required an answer, and even if there was an answer, she wasn't sure that she wanted to hear it.
The two castaways stood in slightly awkward silence for a couple of moments. Ginger noticed that Gilligan had one hand behind his back. She half expected him to whip out an autograph book and stand there like Melvin, shuffling and giggling nervously while she scratched his name across the paper with the end of a cheap ballpoint pen. But when he brought his hand out, he surprised her completely.
"Here, Ginger, I brought you this." Gilligan presented Ginger with a pearl. One perfect pearl, nestled snugly into his palm. When she took it gently from him with her fingertips, it burned in her hand like a tiny sun. "I found it this morning. I figured Mrs. Howell had enough of them already."
Ginger marvelled at the pearl's simple beauty, its perfect symmetry. It glowed almost iridescent, polished to a shine by Gilligan's own skin. A single tear fallen from her eye, slightly opaque and misty, for a long ago dream she'd once had and an ambition yet to be fulfilled.
She had no idea how Gilligan always knew when to bring someone the perfect gift, but somehow, he always did.
"Thank you, Gilligan," she whispered. "It's just what I needed."
Gilligan stood silently in front of Ginger while she admired the pearl for a few more moments, and then gallantly looked away as she tucked it safely into the tiny purse she kept hidden in her cleavage.
"Mary Ann says lunch is ready. You want to walk back to the huts with me?" He was still staring at the ground, but looked up at Ginger when she replied more enthusiastically than he (or even Ginger herself for that matter) would have expected.
"Why, I'd love to, Gilligan. Thank you!" Ginger clasped her hands under her chin and smiled her beautiful Hollywood smile, the one she bestowed on a million Melvins, dazzling them into trembling, speechless wrecks. The one she bestowed on a million handsome escorts, ensuring that they bought her glass after glass of intoxicating champagne. The one she bestowed on all the leering producers, securing her the lead role in their next Box Office draw.
But this time Ginger Grant smiled with her heart, not just with her mouth. She smiled in a way that not many people had ever seen her smile; with genuinely deep affection for a clumsy yet gallant young man that any Hollywood actress would be proud to have as a fan. Or even as a true friend- someone she could trust in a world full of Melvins and wolves.
"Uh...you're welcome!" Gilligan sounded astonished, but quickly regained his composure and held out his arm towards her. "Shall we?"
"I believe we shall," Ginger laughed.
Ginger took Gilligan's proffered arm. She stepped away from the palm tree, out of the shade and into the light. In her mind she heard the cracking of flashbulbs as she climbed from her limousine; the applause and wild cheering of hundreds of flush-faced admirers, all her adoring Melvins and Lornas who had come out of their homes in the hopes of catching a glimpse, however fleeting, of the beautiful, flame-haired woman that they loved.
And then the carpet of leaves beneath Ginger Grant's feet transformed into a velvet pathway of red, leading the actress to another wondrous night of glory on the arm of her handsome young escort, resplendent in his crisp, freshly laundered tuxedo.
Okay, creased rugby shirt, battered hat and faded jeans.
But no less handsome for it.
They passed a hibiscus bush. Gilligan stopped briefly to pluck the biggest bloom he could find and gave it to her. "Can't have too many nice things, right?" he grinned.
Ginger took the flower from him and stuck it in her hair.
"How do I look?" she asked, wrinkling her nose at him.
"Like a movie star shipwrecked on an island with a flower in her hair," Gilligan replied. "Which I guess is what you are."
Ginger Grant stared at him for a moment, unsure whether she approved of such unadorned directness. What about the fawning adoration? What about the unfulfilled yearning? The Melvins of this world who shuffled nervously, swallowing past the lumps in their throat while she wrote her name in their crumpled, slightly sweaty autograph books?
What had become of all that?
Instead this goofy, dark-haired boy was grinning at her, daring to suggest she was anything other than perfect, but with more sincerity in his eyes than anyone she had ever met.
Which pretty much made everything perfect.
Ginger Grant threw her head back with a laugh like a crystal clear waterfall. She vowed right then and there that no matter what happened, no matter what her circumstances were in the future, she would always hear the pop of flashbulbs. She would always hear the wild cheering. She would always enjoy the company of the people she had dinner with, be they handsome escorts or slightly rumpled castaways.
She would let the sun shine down on her.