All that Glitters by Lilachigh
Winifred waited nervously outside the stage door. The winter wind howled up Shaftesbury Avenue and then seemed to turn at right angles down the little side street to find the gaps between her coat sleeves and the woollen gloves that had shrunk in the wash.
But she didn’t care. She’d had a lovely day in London - every year her birthday present was a day to do just what she wanted, all by herself. For someone who spent her whole life caring and worrying about other people, this one day off was a glorious experience.
The crowd around her was growing by the minute. The play had been so marvellous and the fans of Pauline Fossil were determined to see their idol, get her autograph, tell her how much they loved her.
Winifred didn’t want any of that. She’d just seen Pauline playing Viola on stage and she really didn’t want her autograph. And she didn’t love her! Did she even like her? She found herself being jostled to the back of the crowd and couldn’t find the strength or determination to push herself forwards again.
That had always been her trouble, of course. She’d thought she’d been strong and determined, but compared to the Fossil sisters, she’d been weak and feeble. Well, at least where performing was concerned. She smiled a little and hunted in her bag for a peppermint. She’d never doubted that Posy could out-determine anyone: that odd streak of genius made her a person whom Winifred admired but didn’t like particularly. Petrova had been nice enough but they’d had nothing in common.
But Pauline. Winifred could hear the rising murmur of excitement and knew her old school-friend was about to appear. So why was she waiting? To watch the adulation, to feel, what? Jealousy? Resentment? She wondered what would happen if she shouted out loud, “But that should have been my life? My career. I was the better actress. If you had given me a chance, I would be here now, playing Viola. “ And playing it better than the performance she’d just seen on stage.
Then the door opened and Pauline Fossil appeared - a fur coat draped over her shoulders, long blonde hair shining in the street lights.
Winifred turned away and walked back towards the brightness of Shaftesbury Avenue. But she’d only gone a hundred yards when a big car drew up sharply next to her, a window wound down and a voice said, “Winifred? I don’t believe it. It is you.”
She bent down to look in and the door swung open. “Jump in, quick. We’re causing a traffic jam.”
The inside of the car was all soft leather and smelt of jasmine.
“Hello, Pauline. How did you recognise me?”
“I thought I spotted you out in the stalls, but I couldn’t be certain. I thought you might come round afterwards and then I saw you walking. How are you? Did you enjoy the performance?”
Winifred smiled gently. “It was lovely. I’ve always liked Twelfth Night. You were very good.”
There was a pause and then, “Thank you. I was lucky to get the part. I’ve got another month here before I have to head back to the States for my next film. Look, I haven’t got time for a real chat now. I’ve got to go to some silly cocktail party. Let’s arrange to meet later in the week. Look, here’s my hotel phone number. Ring me and we’ll arrange it. I want to hear all your news. And I can tell you all about Posy and Petrova. Now, can I drop you off somewhere? Are you still living in your old house? And your mother....she was very frail.....I suppose.....”
“I lost her some years back. And no, I live deep in the country now. A village.”
“Oh! I don’t think I’d care for that. I’d miss the theatre too much. Do you...I mean, I suppose there are good amateur dramatic groups everywhere. So what are you doing? I know - you’re a teacher! Nana always said you’d become a teacher.”
Winifred hesitated. “No, I don’t teach. But I keep busy.”
She’d pulled off her gloves when she got into the car and now she heard Pauline make a soft exclamation and reach forward to take her hand. “You’re married! Oh Winifred, I didn’t know. Oh lucky you!”
“Lucky?” She was puzzled. “But you’ve been married. I read about it in a magazine.”
Pauline’s voice, altered. Some of the false sophistication fell away as she said, “Yes, but it didn’t last, did it?” She laughed but to Winifred it sounded harsh and almost bitter. “I believed in the happy ending and couldn’t believe it when it didn’t happen! I so wanted a family. Posy goes her own way and Petrova can hardly find time to speak on the phone.”
There was a silence, just the purring of the big engine and the distant sounds of the traffic outside. They were stopped at a traffic lights and the lights of a big shop next to them filled the car. Winifred gazed at the girl next to her and saw, to her dismay, that there were tear tracks on her beautifully made up face.
“Still, I mustn’t sound so dismal! You’ll think I’m the most ungrateful girl that ever lived!”
Winifred smiled. “Well, a home in Hollywood, one in New York and two Oscar nominations must make up for a lot. Not to mention all the wonderful parts you get to play.”
Pauline laughed again, the sophistication back in place. “Oh my dear, I wouldn’t change anything, of course. It’s a wonderful life. And now I’ll think of you living in your little village, all quiet and cosy. I can’t wait to tell the others.”
Winifred stood on the pavement outside Paddington Station and watched as the limousine drove away, a gloved hand waving from the window. She glanced at the clock. Just time for a cup of tea and a bun before her train left.
Then she would be home! Back to Jack, the man she loved so dearly, a vicar with a large parish. Back to the vicarage with its cold, rambling rooms that were full of the fun and laughter that four young children could bring. Back to a busy, hectic life without glamour and excitement but with so much love she could only bear to be away for one day a year.
And as she headed for the station cafe, she found herself remembering a line from The Merchant of Venice, a play they’d rehearsed at the Academy where she’d been a much better Portia than Pauline Fossil!
“All the glitters is not gold,
Often have you heard that story told.”