Gene Marshall hurried home to her cottage on the cliff above Malibu clutching the script for her new movie. The early evening sky was filled with scudding clouds, promising a rainstorm some time soon. Which suited her fine, exactly what she needed this evening—cool breezes and the sound of rain -- the perfect atmosphere for all the reading that must get done before tomorrow’s meeting with the director.
Not that she was unaware of the story matter. The coveted script was a screenplay of her favorite book and the most recent bestseller, The Lily Saga. Gene resisted the urge to pinch herself to be certain that all of this was real, that she had truly been chosen to play the role of a character that meant so much to her. Humbly, she hoped her portrayal of Lily would be the finest possible. Tears filled the corners of her eyes as she reminisced about Lily’s mysterious adventure. The fact that Lily’s story took place at the turn of the century made the venture all that more exciting for Gene -- she absolutely adored the clothing from that time period.
“Oh, my—,” she exclaimed. “I wonder who they will cast for the TWO leading men?”
She privately did not envy the difficulty the casting director would face in selecting the actors for all the exciting male roles in this tale. Nor, for that matter, any of the rest of the especially strong women’s roles, either. If she had not been so taken with playing the lead role of Lily, she secretly would have enjoyed very much playing the juicy role of the rather villainous woman, Leticia. And although she was truly not suited for playing the role of the mystical Serena, Gene knew whoever landed that part would be a shoo-in for a shot at an Oscar, the character was that extraordinary.
Buoyed with excitement, she had little appetite for dinner. Instead she took a cup of coffee with her into the bedroom and prepared to spend the evening with the script. Gene threw the windows open to capture the sea breezes and sounds, then reached for the book on her bedside table. Lovingly, she brushed her hand across the cover and traced the letters of Lily’s name.
“I promise you, Lily,” Gene whispered, “that I will give the performance of a lifetime in telling your story . . .”
* * * * *
It was nearly midnight when Gene laid the script down, tears streaming down her cheeks much the same as the first time she read the book of The Lily Saga. The tale always tugged at her heartstrings. She changed into her nightgown and robe, then sat before her vanity to brush her hair.
Moments later, she stared into the mirror at the reflection of herself in a Gibson Girl hairdo.
Gene laid the brush on the dressing table and continued to stare with astonishment at the mirror. She raised a hand to touch the free-swinging hair on her shoulders and the reflection in the mirror patted its 1898 updo in place as well. Gene shook her head and blinked her eyes—and now saw herself instead of the Gibson Girl.
“Must get to sleep—have a long, long day tomorrow,” she murmured, then stumbled into bed. Exhausted, she pulled the covers up under her chin then realized the windows were still open. Too tired to get up and close them, she drifted off to sleep with the draperies gently dancing in the cool sea breeze and the sound of soft misty rain falling.
Gene’s dreams were filled with Lily and her adventure, the tangled mystery Lily had become involved in upon her arrival in the West and the years spent trying to unravel it—of the heroes and villains who affected Lily’s life so greatly and her courage in facing all her problems. She could hear Lily’s voice telling the story, could see her in the golden pink satin gown discovering the love of her life, then nearly losing him forever. Tears stained Gene’s pillow as she slept.
* * * * *
Morning came all too soon. Awaking, Gene felt as if she were still in her dreams—Lily’s presence lingered. She rushed through a light breakfast, then dressed for her early meeting. Turning to her mirror to inspect her appearance, Gene half-expected to see Lily’s image there once again. She was not disappointed.
Although Gene was dressed in a modern dress and jacket, the reflection staring back at her was that of a smartly dressed woman from 1900. She reached out to that woman in the mirror and touched the cool, clear surface—Lily’s hand extended toward her from within the mirror. And then she smiled at Gene, nodding her head in approval.
Gene picked up the script and the book. Looking again at the mirror, all she saw was her own reflection. Lily was gone.
* * * * *
Later that day Gene returned home, her head filled with costume sketches and fabric swatches and the faces of many possible candidates for the other roles in the film. The fact that the movie might be partly filmed on location in New Mexico thrilled her for she had been fascinated by the detailed descriptions in the book about that place. And the idea that she might actually be able to visit some of the places Lily had been was enticing as well, especially the prospect of seeing the majestic Montezuma Castle. She was as determined as ever that this movie would be the best possible performance of her career.
Gene had been hard pressed to keep her unusual experiences of the night before and this morning to herself. And she had the oddest feeling throughout the entire day that someone or something was guiding her all the while. She beamed with pride at the director’s exclamation over her dramatic reading of one of the most critical scenes in the script—he had actually accepted a few small changes that she suggested.
“Well, I think I made those suggestions myself,” Gene said aloud. She was still a little mystified over how she knew to make those changes. “No matter—this role is a dream come true. I don’t think I ever wanted to play a part so much as this one!”
* * * * *
Tonight she would be attending a most important event. And she must be ready on time. She had been so wrapped up in thinking about The Lily Saga film project that she had not chosen what to wear. Now, she was rummaging through her closet trying to decide on a gown. Nothing seemed to appeal to her—her mind was still centered on all the costume designs for the film.
She narrowed her choices down to three gowns. One by one, she lifted them from the closet and laid them on the bed. Turning to the mirror, Gene lifted a gown and held it up to herself. The image of Lily peered back at her, cocked its head to one side, then frowned.
“Okay,” Gene said to the mirror. “How about this one?”
Again, Lily’s image considered the proffered gown, then rejected it.
“Hmmm,” said Gene. “What about this one?”
Lily’s image brightened, her approval was instantaneous.
“I will be right back,” said Gene. “Don’t go away!”
Ten minutes later, Gene was dressed in the gown Lily had chosen.
She stepped up to the mirror and was not surprised to see that Lily was dressed in a gown of similar coloring, albeit a different era of dress. And then she understood why Lily had made this selection. Lily was wearing the most romantic gown from the The Lily Saga, every detail of it could be clearly seen.
Gene must make certain that the costume designer used the right details. Of course, it would never rival the French dressmaker’s art but Gene would make sure it was as accurate as possible.
“Thank you, Lily,” Gene said to the mirror. “Does it make you happy that a film will be made of your story?”
The Gibson Girl image smiled at Gene, then faded from view. Gene reached out and touched the mirror, sad to see Lily gone.
A phone was ringing endlessly. Over and over, the sound repeated itself. Drowsily, Gene reached for the thing and her hand bumped into the bedside clock—the face of the dial read six o’clock in the morning. The bedroom was chilly and damp, the sea scent strong on the air.
“Hello . . .”
“Miss Marshall? Sorry to call so early but I have the most wonderful news!”
“Yes, yes! I tried to call you last evening but the rainstorm must have knocked the phone service out.”
“Hmm—why are you calling?”
“You got the role!”
“Which role . . .?”
“Lily! The Lily Saga will be made into a movie and you got the lead role!”
Gene’s eyes flew wide open. She sat up in bed and looked around herself. A book laid half open on the bedcovers. It was The Lily Saga.
“Miss Marshall? Did you hear what I said?”
She reached for the book and turned on the bedside lamp. The book was open to the very page on which Lily wore the gown . . .
“Miss Marshall! Wake up! You have a meeting with the director at 9am!”
“Ohmygosh—dreams really do come true,” whispered Gene.
“Dreams? Sure they do—and this is one honey of a dream. Only the role of a lifetime—this will be bigger than Gone With The Wind! See you at nine . . .”