AN: For this contest, and a backstory about the main character of my current work in progress. Not sure how well it stands on its own, so honest thoughts are appreciated. ;)
Judy twisted the music box in her hand, and let the familiar tune comfort her. She sang it softly to herself, knowing the lyrics by heart.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?
It was still three days from New Years’, and Hanukkah had only ended the day before. It was a quiet day, one that seemed to exist outside of space and time. It had snowed the night before in their little Michigan town, and everything outside was so peaceful that Judy thought that someone could encase it all in glass and make it into a perfect little snow globe.
She set the music box down. Sam Levy was due to arrive any minute now. He wanted to take her skating, but Judy suspected that wasn’t all he wanted. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that, because she didn’t want to turn him down again. She liked Sam, and in another life, he would have made a fine husband. But they were headed down different paths.He would never leave Michigan. He’d marry a nice girl and have a few kids and take over his father’s candy store.
In less than a week, she would be going to Los Angeles. The sun would be shining and it would feel like summer even though it was January. When they’d spoken on the phone, Mr. Armstrong had hinted that while she was talented and magnetic, certain things would have to change. Judy Goldstein could never be the name of a movie star, so that would be the first thing to go. Her eyebrows were too thick. Her hair was about twenty years out of date and made her seem like a Victorian schoolgirl. But her eyes. Her eyes were so lovely they’d capture everyone, and soon, there wouldn’t be a person in America that didn’t know or love her. That’s what Mr. Armstrong had said.
Judy wondered what her new name would be, and if she’d ever get used to it. Just then, she heard someone walk into the room. She sat up, startled. It was her mother.
“When is Sam coming?”
“Any minute now,” Judy replied.
“What’s wrong?” Her mother asked.
“Nothing,” Judy said curtly. She looked at the door, hoping that Sam was close, because she didn't want to endure another lecture on why it was a bad idea to go to Hollywood.
“Sam’s a nice boy,” her mother said. Judy nodded.
“I’m going to start dinner,” she continued. “Do you think you’ll be back by then?”
“I should be,” said Judy.
A moment later, Sam knocked at the door. He was dressed for skating, and had a bouquet in his arm. He smiled when he saw her.
“For your table,” he said. Judy thanked him and put them in a vase. Her mother said hello from the kitchen, but went back to her cooking. “Have fun,” was all she said.
“Do you have your skates?” Sam asked.
Judy took them from the foyer, and Sam helped her with her coat.
The drive to the pond was short and quiet, but Judy noticed Sam stealing looks in her direction every chance he had. Judy kept her gaze squarely out the window. The snow covered trees. The quiet stillness. It wasn’t even that cold, and the sun was out, but barely anyone was out. It could almost be the backlot of a movie studio.
They parked close to the pond. It looked like one other person was there, but other than that, they’d have it to themselves.
“I was thinking we could get hot cocoa after.”
Judy nodded. “Yes, that would be nice.”
“Will you be here for New Years?” Sam asked her next.
“Yes, I leave on the 2nd.”
“So, when am I going to see you in the movies?”
“Soon, I hope,” Judy said, a smile creeping onto her face. “They have to change my hair, my name. Then when Mr. Armstrong has a picture coming up and a part for me, he’ll put me in it.”
“They’re going to change your name?”
“Sure, why not? Judy Goldstein’s plain, anyway,” Judy said nonchalantly. She twirled a strand of her long, thick hair with her finger. “And I wouldn’t mind a haircut.”
“But I think you’re beautiful just the way you are,” Sam said. He really was sweet, and he was going to make some girl really happy one day.
“Ginger Rogers changed her name,” Judy remarked, slightly playfully.
“Let’s go skating,” said Sam.
Once they were on the ice, Judy let herself glide away, and for the briefest of moments, all of her fears evaporated.She closed her eyes and thought back to a few short weeks earlier, to the closing of King Lear. Each night, she’d only had a few short scenes to make her impression as Cordelia. Yet, one Andrew Armstrong had been in the audience. Visiting his sister in Detroit. But wanted to find new talent while he could. Talent for his new studio. Had she ever thought about being in pictures? He’d make her famous… he’d take her out to Los Angeles, to do a screen test, but that would mostly be a formality. He knew she had the talent, and knew she could shine on stage.
She’d had a right to distrust him, at first. Vitaphone Pictures was new and didn’t yet have any credits to its name. But he was changing that. Building a roster. He’d worked for a while at Universal and could get her a few walk-on parts while they were still building their pool of talent.
Her mother had filled her head with stories about what would happen if it didn’t work out. But what if it did?
It would be nice, Hollywood….
Red carpets, nightclubs, gowns prettier than she’d ever worn…
She caught herself and found herself inches from Sam’s face. He had her in his arms.
“Hello,” he said. “Didn’t want you to fall.”
“That’s all right,” said Judy.
“Don’t go,” Sam asked. “You don’t even like movies. And I love you, Judy.”
Judy felt a lump in her throat. While she’d half expected this, she’d hoped that it wouldn’t happen. Sam was so nice, and she supposed he was handsome. If he was her romantic lead, she wouldn’t have minded kissing him. “Sam…” She trailed off, unable to find the words. He wasn’t entirely incorrect about how she didn’t like movies. She found most of them trite. But the ones that were good were really good. And while she always imagined herself on stage in New York, maybe the movies could help her get there. “I’ll always care about you,” she finally said.
Sam nodded vaguely and released his arms from her, realizing what her words meant. “You’ll come back and visit, won’t you?”
“I’ll try,” said Judy.
for a moment they stood there on the ice, facing each other, letting the soft winter wind rustle their clothes.
“Sam, I don’t want to forget who I am.”
“Then don’t,” Sam replied.
Judy smiled at him vaguely and started to skate on the ice again. She thought of the music box, and the song, and how it had always comforted her, and sang it to herself.