Derek fantasizes about Norma Jean… or Karen? How will Ivy and Rebecca fit into this unexpected predicament?
Disclaimer: Smash is not mine.
He was having vivid awake fantasies about Marilyn. Actually not about Marilyn. About Norma Jean, would be more accurate, he thought, his pencil tracing absently half circles on his note pad. That was certainly a first in his long and successful career.
He was appreciative of the late star as much as the next man, but Monroe had never been on the list of his sexual fantasies. Should she be alive today, she would be what now, three hundred years old? A dinosaur from the lost era, a shadow in the wake of a murdered charismatic President, a remnant of the past, she would turn in her grave if she were aware of how much her image had been stomped upon repeatedly for the last decades. It was sort of appalling. As much as she wanted to be loved, she would not be scatting poo-poo-pee-dooo now, he guessed.
Still. He was having fantasies about Norma Jean. He had tried his best to be nice to Karen, thinking that Ivy knew better. Even when she was not very subtle into manipulating him to achieve her own agenda, she was right. He was not stupid. His current girlfriend was trying to have him fire Karen, but ultimately, she was right, Cartwright ought to be handled like China. As a result, he found himself trapped. He had been the reluctant victim from then on of the most tiresome hallucinations each and every time Karen had performed.
The first time, it was unexpected. He just stood there like an idiot under Linda's scrutiny, vaguely aware of his surroundings. He dismissed the futile event, blaming money consideration, endless meetings with Eileen and Tom and Julia and who knows who, and the strain of having to wait for their providential new star, wondering how he could have been overworked at such an early stage of production.
The second time around, he was shocked. He had braced himself against the unlikely occurrence that it could happen twice, but it had happened anyway. And it had swept him off his feet like a storm, leaving him senseless and panting inside.
"Let's take a ten," Tom's voice had boomed right beside him. And just like that, it had been over. But he knew that he had closed his eyes for a few seconds, probably even more. To have no control over his reactions was not something he was willing to condone one way or another.
Unfortunately, despite his proclivity to mute his feelings, and his natural self-control, his constant dismissive attitude did not protect him from the tsunami of images induced by her singing. That was the worse part. He did not even have to look at her. The closing of eyes, that was only the blatant consequence. Karen was not the problem. He was. He should have backed up Ivy from the start.
No question, she could do the part, she was exceptionally talented, and a blonde, he sneered in petto. Instead, he felt compelled to keep the Cartwright girl. Why? He had no idea. Well, he had some, but irrelevant to the play anyway at the time. In an ideal world, Ivy would play Marilyn and Cartwright, Norma Jean.
But that was pure fiction. Now he was stuck with a stupid obsession and an extra performer. As if he needed a shiny movie star while he was still processing what he was going through.
To make matters even worse, Ivy was questioning his involvement, and she was half right. He never promised her anything to begin with. They had fallen into an easy domestic arrangement which did not mean anything to him but seemed to mean a lot to her. He knew it was wrong to spend so much time at her place but it felt more comfortable and safe than his empty anonymous pristine loft. For some mysterious reasons, he worked better at her tiny girly apartment.
On the other hand, he was wrong to spend too much time with Duvall. He had tried to rationalize their relation, deeming it as strictly professional and the good way to go to smooth everyone's ego. Obviously that did not work either. He was torn between two demanding women and having fantasies about a third one.
Adverse circumstances, so to speak.
These fantasies were absolutely irrelevant, and worse, they tended to pop up randomly in a very detrimental manner, unfitted for his Dark Lord status. It was all the more annoying since the Cartwright girl was not exactly the spitting image of the troubled star and barely a pale carbon copy of the aspiring starlet before Norma Jean was even a footnote on Zanuck's schedule planner.
First, she could have used some pampering, he thought, observing the ensemble girl standing next to the piano, absorbed in her thoughts. Something was clearly wrong with her hair. Her make-up was terrible most of the time, mediocre some days and he suspected that in the clothes department, she had a lot to learn from Ivy or from anyone in the ensemble not to mention from the flamboyant Rebecca. She was currently rummaging through a purse that had seen better days with an enticing pout.
Enticing? Where did THAT come from?
Still, as he watched her talk to Bobby and Jessica, she was exuding an ineffable grace and a true gentleness that made him wince and melt inside. He closed his eyes, deliberately ignoring Linda's inquisitive looks. "Karen," he shouted, making her jump like a stalked doe, "would you mind getting some work done, please, if only to share with us your significant experience in the theatre."
Her face went blank and pale as she walked to the centre of the room like in a daze. Too harsh, he thought to himself. No need to be mean to her if you want the job done. He knew that his commanding voice was enough to unsettle her for hours. And when she was distraught, she was useless… and hot. That is exactly why you cannot stop torturing her. God. This "Bombshell" was a nightmare.
Keeping her as Duvall's understudy was another mistake. Tom and Julia were stubbornly refusing on a daily basis to take back Ivy after having done the exact opposite for months. Bad timing. "Take it from the top," he said. She opened her mouth and fluttered her eyes.
"You want me to…"
"For crying out loud, Karen," his voice boomed inside the studio. "It is not exactly rocket science, it's a damned musical!" He stood up abruptly and was in front of her in a few strides. He put his hands on her shoulders and she recoiled under his touch. "Oh, come on!" he spat. And, "Breathe," his voice was barely audible, "you're fantastic in this number, loosen up, for god's sake, before Duvall's back from wherever she is. Enjoy the moment." He leaned forward, his thumb gently rubbing her arm. "You don't have to project that inner poise all the time. Look at me, please. Imagine there's no one else but you and me. We're alone. Now, sing for me." Did I just say that out loud?
Her eyes darted up and finally met his. She exhaled softly. It smelled of chlorophyll. He nodded briefly and she smiled back. Suddenly aware of the silence around them, he pressed her arm and stepped back. Being kind when directing a rehearsal with Cartwright had become a tantalizing prospect with unforeseen effects, albeit an interesting experiment nonetheless.
He shoved his hands in his pockets, staying at arm's length from her. He cocked his head and watched her intently as she began to sing.
And as much as he was prepared, nothing happened. The sentence "My toy is broken" flashed in the back of his mind. He frowned and his right hand moved swiftly to his chin, his elbow supported by his left hand. Attempting a casual retreat, he turned around and walked back to the mirror. Only then he saw her, Norma Jean. She was hugging him from behind, one arm over his shoulder and the other across his chest. Indifferent to the curious stares, he grinned to the uncanny reflection. Letting himself go, he sank into her arms, engulfed in the delicate fragrance of Chanel no. 5.