After changing her clothes in the hospital bathroom, Lila walked to the sink to splash cold water on her face. As she patted her face dry she looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her makeup was still mostly intact excepting for the tear streaks. Her lipstick was oddly perfect.
The peek-a-boo hairstyle was in place. The dress was black and glamorous with a swooping neckline and a slit that nearly reached her hip. It was daring, but it was the perfect choice for the evening. A throw back to the 1940s, updated with modern sensibilities. She was looking at herself in the mirror as she applied her lipstick—Mahogany red—when Cordelia’s bedroom door opened. Lila gasped as the mirror reflected Cordelia as she emerged from her room transformed like a butterfly from its cocoon.
She turned immediately. It wasn’t Cordelia exiting that bedroom. It was Marilyn. She had so perfectly captured the essence of the Playboy centerfold turned movie star that it was eerily chilly in the room as if her ghost was present.
“Well, what do you think?” asked Cordelia, every bit the girl hoping for a positive response to a new hairstyle.
Lila couldn’t even answer her. She was drinking her in completely. The red dress with its sweetheart neckline hugged her body, her exposed shoulders soft and white. Her voluptuous breasts and hips accentuated in all the right places. Cordelia had used a slightly lighter makeup to go with her platinum blond hair. Her already large eyes leapt from her face as the false lashes made them appear even bigger. Her lipstick was Crimson. It was lighter than Lila’s, but matched her dress as if they’d been sold together as a combo. She had a delicate diamond necklace around her neck. It was slightly longer than a choker. If they had been awarding a prize for best costume, Lila couldn’t imagine anyone else at the party holding a candle to Cordelia.
“Oh my God, Cordelia. You look amazing,” Lila exclaimed. “It’s like Marilyn is actually here.”
Cordelia smiled the biggest smile Lila had seen brighten her face in weeks.
“Thank you,” said Cordelia. “I’ve been practicing the makeup for most of the week. Just trying to get it right.”
“You succeeded,” Lila responded as she walked over to her and they embraced.
“Now let me look at you.” Cordelia stepped back and took in the sleek beauty of the auburn haired Veronica Lake that stood before her. “You’re beautiful, Lila. Every ounce the glamour girl.” Cordelia smiled an almost sisterly smile at her friend.
They were truly happy. This night was already shaping up to be a memorable one.
Ryan came into the room and stopped cold. He stood shaking his head as he looked at the two girls talking. They hadn’t noticed his arrival. He cleared his throat and they turned to look at him. They were standing on a slight angle with their shoulders barely touching. Both smiled, then stood waiting with apprehension for whether he approved or not.
“Beautiful,” was all he could say. “You both look stunning.”
Both girls laughed and looked at each other, their apprehension dissolving into faces with looks that said, “Of course we do.”
“Cordelia, I never would have thought you could have pulled off Marilyn so well. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that with your dark hair I wasn’t sure you could pull off platinum blond. I was wrong. You look truly, breathtakingly sensational.”
“Thank you, Mr. Ladd,” she responded breathlessly, using the last name of his persona for the evening, with a purse of the lips connected to the rolling inward movement of shoulders that sent all eyes to her cleavage. She was Marilyn.
“Looks like somebody’s done her research.” Ryan laughed.
“I must confess, I watched some movies and interviews,” Cordelia responded.
“Wow, I did nothing more than look at some photos,” said Lila.
The ladies grabbed their bags and invitations. The three of them left the hotel room. The fates were on their side because the elevator door opened as soon as they pushed the button. Three floors down and they would arrive at the Stork Club.
The grand ballroom of The Clementine Hotel had been transformed into a replica of the Stork Club, one of the most popular nightspots in the world during its heyday. It had had several different locations in New York City before landing in its final one on East 53rd Street. The owner was Sherman Billingsley. His daughter, Shermane, once described the place as “the epitome of American glamour, sophistication and elegance.” It was an icon of the 20th century and reigned supreme from the 1920s to the 1960s when its doors finally closed for good.
There were only a few people attending the society ball that evening who would have been old enough to actually enjoy an evening at the real Stork Club. That didn’t matter. The Internet provided all the information one could seek for research purposes in knowing what it was like to have a Stork Club membership card.
The invitations were replica’s of those membership cards. They had to be presented at the door in order to gain entry. A golden chain blocked the entrance and was guarded by a tuxedo-clad man judiciously checking the list to keep out the riff raff.
Cordelia and Lila presented their invitations to the gentleman and waited as he checked off their names. Cordelia Boston, check. Lila Hayward, check. Ryan being the gentleman waited for the ladies then retrieved his own invitation from the inside pocket of his dinner jacket. Ryan Lake, check. The golden chain was unlatched and the doors to the Stork Club were opened before them.
©2011 Michael Rohrer