Chapter 1: Casting Couch
Edina Monsoon lounged at her kitchen table wearing a white scoop neck t-shirt, a velvety blue and purple striped vest that came to her knees, and orange skinny pants that had the unfortunate effect of making her look rather like an overstuffed sausage. She was just finishing up a call on her mobile phone. Setting her gaudy, bedazzled phone case on the table, she yelled “Pats! Pats, darling, break out the Bolly! That was Bubble. The BBC have optioned my book for a mini-series!”
Patsy Stone sauntered in, flawlessly attired in a classic winter white pantsuit with her blond hair piled neatly on top of her head. She carried a bottle and two champagne flutes. “Oh, Eddy, that’s smashing!” Patsy popped the cork with a practiced twist and started to pour. “Where will they be filming? Do you think you’ll have to be on set much? I want to come along with you and then wander onto the wrong set and bump into that delicious Cumberbatch cupcake. And by ‘bump into’ I mean ‘bump into’!” Patsy leered, thrusting her hips to illustrate her point as she handed Eddy a glass.
“Isn’t he married now?” Eddy took a swig of her drink. “And it’s only an option, darling. We’ve got miles to go before they start filming anything. There’s contracts and casting and costumes and sets…”
Patsy slouched into a chair and lit a cigarette, taking a deep drag. “So, who do you want to play you?”
“I’m thinking Keira Knightly.” Eddy replied.
“She’s only a baby!” Patsy scoffed, waving her cigarette. “And besides, she’s flat-chested. You need someone with a little more va-voom.”
“Well, it’s not easy you know, picking someone. That’s why they have casting directors. They do actually do something, don’t they? They don’t just shag starlets. Who would you have play you?” Eddy asked as she took another sip of her champagne.
Patsy smirked. “I’ve always pictured myself as a Brigitte Bardot type.”
Eddy laughed and rolled her eyes. “Brigitte Bardot? Is she even still alive, darling? She’s got to be, what, 80? I know you’re older than I am, but you’re not that old, sweetie.”
“I meant Brigitte Bardot THEN, not Brigitte Bardot NOW.” Patsy backpedaled. “Blonde and leggy, darling, that’s me. What about Helen Mirren, then? You’ve got to admit she’s hot and everything she’s in is nominated for scads of awards. She’d be sure to nab you one of those BAFTA statues.”
“Well, darling, you’re closer but Helen Mirren is at least 70.” Eddy peered into her empty glass and poured another round of bubbly for herself and Patsy.
“Cheers.” Patsy raised her glass to Eddy and then downed it all in one long guzzle. “Ok, who else for you, Ed?”
Eddy considered this, fiddling with her necklace, which was a five-inch-wide carved wooden face of a Siamese cat with diamonds for eyes. “What about Helena Bonham-Carter?”
“Yeah, babe!” Patsy replied. “That’s better. Helena Bonham-Carter would be perfect for you! She’s got a bit of spirit to her, a little joie de vivre.”
Eddy pondered further, tapping the toes of her purple ankle boots. “And for you … Emma Thompson?”
Patsy recoiled. “Is that how you picture me? She’s so serious, all Shakespeare and warts. No, Eddy, try again.”
“Tilda Swinton?” Eddy suggested.
“She may as well be a boy! I do have curves, you know.” Cigarette dangling, Patsy leaned forward, pulling her jacket open to reveal a pink camisole and ample cleavage that was clearly artfully supported with the latest in body-sculpting foundation wear.
“Yes, I know.” Eddy stood up and started fussing, rearranging things that were already in their place, moving them half an inch here or turning them a smidge there. “And speaking of that, where were you last night, Pats?”
Patsy sat back in her chair, taking a drag on her cigarette with forced nonchalance. “What do you mean?”
Eddy turned to confront her. “You said you were going out to meet your dealer and then you didn’t come back until this morning. Were you with her? With your little wifey were you?”
“Eddy! We just went to the casino, had a few drinks. And I did meet my dealer, my blackjack dealer. You know Luby enjoys a little blackjack.” Patsy smirked.
“Yes, and she likes some white Pat too. Did you put the mustache on for her? Hmmm? Did you?” Eddy demanded.
“Eddy, don’t be such a cow.” Patsy’s eyes grew wide. “Wait, wait! Are you jealous? You are! You’re jealous of Luby.”
“I am not!” Eddy denied.
Saffron Monsoon, dressed in a sensible wool jumper, baggy trousers and flat sturdy shoes, walked purposefully into the kitchen just in time to hear this proclamation. “You’re not what?” She immediately thought better of this. “Never mind. I’m sure I don’t want to know. I don’t know why I asked.” She crossed over to the sink and began to fill the teakettle.
“Saffy! Darling!” Eddy latched onto this opportunity, grateful to escape Patsy’s probing. “I have wonderful news! The BBC are going to make Mummy’s book into a mini-series!”
“How much are you paying them?” Saffy asked acidly as she set the kettle on the stove and turned on the gas.
“Ha, ha, darling.” Eddy replied. “Very funny. You can’t ruin my good mood that easily. I can’t promise anything, sweetie, but who do you want to play you?”
“What do you mean play me?” Saffy asked.
Eddy sat back down at the table. “In the film, darling. What actress do you want to play you in the film? How about Kate Beckinsale?”
A look of horror crossed Saffy’s face. “I’m in your book?”
A matching look of horror crept over Eddy’s face. “You haven’t read it? You haven’t read my book? My own daughter hasn’t read my book!” She covered her chest with her hands. “You may as well have shot me through the heart! I know you don’t think very highly of your old mother, darling. I know you think I’m just a fat, old nobody but I didn’t think I meant THAT little to you. Lola read it, you know. Did you know that? Hm? Lola liked it. She even did a book report on it for school. But her mother, my own daughter, can’t be bothered.”
As Eddy was winding up this tirade of self pity, her cell phone rang, playing The Weeknd’s Starboy. She broke off to grab the phone and snapped “Yes?” into it. “No. No, Bubble, I want producer credit AND screenwriter. But, yes, they can substitute the Tower of London for the Eiffel Tower.”
Chapter 2: Big Night
A whirlwind year of contracts and casting and costumes and sets and filming and editing and advertising later, Eddy was preparing for the star-studded, red carpet premiere of the show, which had been retitled Monsoon Season. She reclined in a chair in her home spa wearing her pink silk dressing gown as her hairdresser, Christopher, massaged a new cream into her face. Patsy, wearing a stunning black sequined evening gown, sat at a nearby dressing table. She carefully examined herself in the mirror, spraying her face with a little air wand attached to a hose running down into a white box on wheels on the floor next to the table. The mysterious wheeled box was covered in gauges and dials. Patsy adjusted one of them, turning up the air pressure on her sprayer. Saffron perched on the edge of a gold sofa across the room, her posture upright, her feet flat on the floor, typing on her laptop and largely ignoring the other two.
Eddy wiggled her toes, admiring her new sparkly silver pedicure. “You’re looking rather chipper, darling,” she said to Patsy.
Patsy paused in her spraying and grinned. “I took one of the blue pills. Makes things a touch trippy.”
“Blue pills? Aren’t those Viagra?” Saffy asked, still typing.
“Are they?” Patsy looked up from the mirror. “Well, that would explain some things. Is that a new cream, Eddy?”
“Bee venom.” Eddy replied. “It’s all the rage and very hard to get. I had to wrestle a blue haired old lady for the last bottle. Victoria Beckham swears by it and even the Duchess is rumored to use it.”
“Which Duchess?” Patsy asked. “Cambridge or Cornwall?”
“Both.” Eddy sat up as Christopher moved on to her hair, piling it on top of her head and decorating it with sequined roses. “And what’s that you’re having with your little sprayer?”
“Oxygen mist. Recommended by Madonna. Supposed to make your skin as supple as a baby’s bottom.” Patsy waved her spray wand invitingly. “Want some?”
Eddy beckoned Patsy over. “Give me a spritz then. I could use some baby bottom.”
Patsy rolled her machine across the tiled floor and blasted some air into Eddy’s face as Christopher put the finishing touches on her hair. Eddy rose and disappeared into a closet. Patsy returned to the dressing table, powdered her face and applied a classic crimson lipstick, admiring her reflection approvingly. Saffy adjusted her glasses on her nose and typed. After a few moments, Eddy returned holding up a floor length strapless red dress with lacing up the back, saying “Zip me up, darling. This is that new space compression fabric. You pull on the laces until they close and then zip the zipper and it sculpts you into a whole new woman.”
Patsy obligingly pulled the laces. The dress tightened but there was still a good four inches of Eddy’s bare back showing. “Suck it in, babe,” Patsy encouraged as she tugged harder.
Eddy’s cheeks hollowed out and it looked like she was trying to inhale her entire body. Patsy threw her weight into it, leaning back at a precarious angle and teetering on the verge of tipping over. There were still three inches to go. “Christopher, Christopher, Christopher,” Eddy begged. “Come help Patsy. It just needs a little farther and it’ll zip.”
Eddy took hold of the edge of the spa chair. Patsy took one lace and Christopher took the other and they pulled, both grimacing at the effort. “That’s it! We’re almost there. We can’t let go to zip it, though. Oy, you!” Patsy called. “Nerd girl, come zip the dress.”
Saffy looked up, taking in the absurd scene in front of her. She slowly put her laptop down as Patsy and Christopher braced themselves to hold the laces. “Mum. Don't be ridiculous. That dress doesn’t fit you. You look like a volcano about to explode. Even if you get it closed, you'll never be able to walk in it. Or sit.”
“No, no, sweetie. It’s fine,” Eddy protested, hanging onto the chair for dear life as Patsy and Christopher continued to pull. “It’s space fabric. It was designed by NASA. Meteors bounce right off of it.”
“Just zip it,” Patsy snarled. She looked as though she couldn't hold on much longer.
Saffy rolled her eyes, sighed, and complied. Miraculously, the dress held. Eddy straightened up with a smirk. “There, see? It’s fine.” She checked herself out in the mirror, fastened a pair of giant orange crystal flowers to her earlobes, and grabbed her evening bag off of the dressing table. “Come on, Pats, the limo is waiting.”
After a brief ride, only long enough for two drinks each, the long, black stretch limo pulled up to a brightly-lit theater with gold ropes restraining hoards of camera-toting paparazzi. A giant marque proclaimed 'Monsoon Season - World Premiere' in three foot high letters. The car door was whisked open by a uniformed usher and Patsy stepped gracefully out onto the red carpet, pausing to leer at the tall, broad-shouldered young man holding the car door. Meanwhile, Eddy scooted across the seat to set her teetering platform heels gingerly on the pavement and carefully stood up. She heard a distinct ripping sound. Pasting a wide smile onto her face as she nodded and waved to photographers, she tried to discreetly feel the side of her dress without looking at it. “Bugger, bugger, bugger,” Eddy muttered under her breath. “Pats,” she hissed. “Pats! My dress. It’s split!”
Patsy struck a graceful pose for the cameras, her former modeling experience on display. “Don’t panic, babe. We can fix it up. Tuck your handbag under that arm to cover it up. We’ll duck in the powder room and put it to rights.”
Eddy did as Patsy suggested and the two proceeded down the red carpet, Patsy striding with perfect carriage and aplomb and Eddy mincing cautiously with a manic grin and a big fake “Hello, hello, darling” to anyone who might be anyone. Every ten feet or so they paused for the cameras, Patsy confident with a hand on her hip and Eddy alternating between striking simpering poses, throwing grins and peace signs, and trying to hide behind her friend. After what felt like hours, they managed to make their way into the theater. Eddy jerked her carefully coifed head toward a discreet sign pointing the way to the restrooms and they slunk, spy-like, around the edge of the large gilded foyer, past several side rooms, to a well-appointed ladies room antechamber with mirrors covering one entire wall and fainting couches lined up on the other. Fortunately, the room was deserted.
“Let’s see the damage,” Patsy demanded.
Eddy lifted up her arm to display a large gap along the seam running down her right side. “It’s a disaster! I’ll be a laughingstock! It'll be worse than than that time at school.” she wailed. She had a vision of herself as a teenager, slumping furtively into school wearing a gold vinyl, bell bottomed jumpsuit with its zipper opened dangerously low. She was surrounded by other kids laughing and pointing at her as she hung her head and tried to disappear. The scene gradually morphed into her adult self walking into the theater with the roomful of people they had just passed through pointing, giggling, and whispering to each other.
Patsy assessed the situation with a practiced eye. “I’ve seen worse. We had a model turn up once who’d gained eight pounds between the fitting and the fashion shoot. Had to stuff her into a Chanel and it burst two seams. But we pinned her back together and took her picture and put it on the cover of a magazine and nobody noticed a thing. You can do this, Eddy. I’ve got a safety pin in my purse. We’ll just pin the seam up and Bob’s your uncle. Keep your arm down and if you have to wave or something do it with your left hand.”
Patsy produced her pin. Eddy sucked in for all she was worth and Patsy pinned the middle of the hole. As she did so, they could hear ripping from the other side of the dress. Eddy turned. The hole on the left side was even bigger. “Bugger, bugger, blast and damn!” Eddy shouted. "Bloody NASA! Bloody meteors!"
“Right. I have one more safety pin.” Patsy reached into her bag again. Eddy braced again. Patsy pinned again. The dress ripped. Again. This time down the back, exposing Eddy's derriere and a black lace thong.
Eddy began to cry. “Bollocks! This is doomed. Doomed! What am I going to do?”
“Well don’t cry,” Patsy advised. “You’ll smear your mascara.”
Eddy grabbed a tissue from her purse and began to dab her eyes gently. Suddenly she perked up. “Trade dresses with me. That’s it! We’ll trade. And while I’m making my little speech before the show, you can stay here and Bubble will bring you over a new dress.” Eddy began to circle around to Patsy’s back, searching for the zipper on her dress.
Patsy swatted her away. “Are you insane? I am at least six inches taller than you are. My dress will never fit you.”
“Fine, fine.” Eddy retreated. “Then we’ll have to find someone more my size. You go see if you spot anyone suitable in the hallway and try to lure them back here. Offer them a blue pill or something. I’ll wait here and jump them when you come in.” She looked around for a likely weapon and headed over toward a floor lamp, hefting it experimentally.
“Eddy, calm down. Here, have a little something to steady your nerves.” Patsy reached into her purse and produced a flask. “Absinthe. The good stuff with the real wormwood.”
“What else do you have in that purse?” Eddy asked as she took a gulp.
“I was a boy scout for a while,” Patsy explained. “Be prepared and all that.”
Eddy took another swig from the flask. “Do you have a spare dress in there?”
“No. But I have an idea. Not in my purse,” Patsy explained, “in my head." She grabbed the booze from Eddy and guzzled some. "You remember the parlor we passed off the entryway? The cozy little one with the fireplace? There were windows in there with white silk curtains. All we have to do is quietly rip down a curtain and voila! You’ve got a marvelous evening wrap that’ll cover your back and sides.”
“Pats, you’re a genius. I could kiss you!”
Patsy grinned. "Later, babe. Don't want to smear your lipstick until after your speech."
Eddy peeked furtively out the door. “The coast is clear. I’ll keep my arms down to cover my sides, no waving, no hugging. You walk right behind me so that no one can see the back of the dress. Ready? Go.”
Eddy walked stiffly out of the powder room door, her arms firmly pressed to her sides. She was about as subtle as a walrus and anyone watching would've immediately known that she was up to something. Fortunately, there was no one there to watch. Patsy strolled after Eddy. “Closer,” Eddy urged.
Patsy closed in so that she was on Eddy’s heels, practically pressed up against her. Their feet became tangled and they stumbled, barely managing to catch each other before falling. Eddy looked around frantically, relieved to see no one else in sight. Patsy got back into position behind Eddy and they gave it another try, getting into a rhythm of stepping at the same time, muttering "right, left, right, left" to each other. They waddled their way down the hall and into the parlor without being seen by anyone.
Eddy gestured at the curtains, “Go for it, darling.”
“Me?” Patsy asked. “It’s your dress, Ed. If anyone is going to commit drapery vandalism, it ought to be you.”
“But I can barely move a muscle without putting another rip in this bally dress,” Eddy pleaded. “Help me, Patsy Stone Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”
“Is that some kind of geek reference?” Patsy asked suspiciously. “Have you been bonding with that twerp daughter of yours again?”
“Please, darling? Pleeeaaase?” Eddy stuck out her lower lip and made her best puppy dog eyes at Patsy.
Patsy relented. “Oh, very well.” She took hold of a curtain and yanked. No luck. As Patsy was preparing to try again, Kate Moss appeared in the doorway of the parlor, tall and willowy and impeccably dressed in low cut, body-hugging, shimmering golden gown.
Kate seemed pleased to see them. “Oh! Eddy, Patsy! There you are. Everyone’s waiting for you to start the show.”
Eddy, arms still clutched to her sides, made kissy mouths at Kate. “Darling! Mwah! Mwah! So wonderful to see you! I’m so glad you could come and thank you again for playing yourself in the show. I’m just grabbing my wrap, darling. Be a dear and go tell everyone I’ll be right there.”
“Blue pill?” Patsy offered, reaching into her purse.
“Thanks.” Kate accepted the pill and swallowed it dry.
"Fabulous dress," Patsy commented.
Kate smiled. "It's Stella McCartney. I'd better get back and let everyone know I found you." She turned to leave. “I’ll see you in the theater. Don’t be long.”
After Kate was safely out of the room, Eddy sagged in relief. Patsy passed around her flask, which they quickly finished off, and then they got back to business. Patsy produced a corkscrew from her purse, climbed up onto a chair, and managed to start a rip in the curtains. A few strong yanks later, Patsy had a heap of white silk at her feet. She looked smugly pleased with herself. “Here you go, Ed.”
Eddy, practically limp with relief, reached down to pick up the curtain, which, of course, set off further ominous ripping sounds from the rear end of her dress. She froze immediately. “Sorry, Pats, but could you drape it around me. I don’t think I can bend over to get it.”
Patsy wobbled a bit as she bent over, but she successfully retrieved the curtain and slung the silk over Eddy’s arms. “Let me see the back.”
Eddy turned. Patsy adjusted the silk. The curtain covered Eddy from her ribs to her knees, hiding all the rips. The sides were a bit too long, puddling onto the floor. “It’s fantastic, babe,” Patsy said. “By spring everyone will be wearing it. You just need to sell it a little bit, play up the elegance of the trailing edges, give it a little swagger, a little wow.”
“Elegance, got it.” Eddy tried to sweep elegantly forward and managed to almost stumble into the fireplace as she tripped on the trailing white silk. Patsy grabbed her elbow just in time to catch her. Steadied, they started off again, this time with less swagger and elegance.
Eddy’s nose wrinkled. “Do you smell that?” she asked. “What is it?”
Patsy sniffed the air. “I don’t smell anything.”
“It smells like smoke,” Eddy said. The two of them looked around. Patsy froze.
“Ed, I don’t want to alarm you, but your wrap is a little bit on fire.” Wispy curls of smoke rose from behind Eddy.
“What?!?” Eddy spun around, trying to see her own back. The whirling fanned the embers of burning silk and the smoke thickened.
“Stop, stop. It’s only smoldering a little. I’m sure the curtains are fire retardant. Just hold still and let me get it.” Patsy, holding the skirt of her gown safely out of the way, began to stamp on the ends of the curtains.
“Have you got it?” asked Eddy, panicked and holding the silk as far from her body as she could.
“Yeah, yeah, babe. It’s fine,” Patsy reassured, amidst increasing billows of smoke, before she was drowned out by the shrill beeping of a smoke detector. Water began to rain down from sprinklers on the ceiling, soaking Eddy, Patsy, and the curtains. As the mascara ran down Eddy's face, mingling with tears, Patsy reached into her purse for another round of blue pills for both of them.
Chapter 3: Aftermath
The next morning, Saffy stood in Eddy’s bedroom wrapped in a thick, gray terry cloth dressing gown, her hair neatly braided. In her hands she held a stack of morning newspapers. “Are you sure you want me to read the reviews to you, Mum? It’s ok not to look at them. Many very well-known artists are famous for never reading what is said about them in the papers. What’s important is whether you liked it.”
Eddy, visible only as a quivering, shapeless mound under a pile of bedcovers, groaned a muffled reply. “No, darling, what’s important is ratings. Ratings, awards, and sequels, darling, those are what’s important. And you’re not so clever, sweetie, trying to keep the reviews from me. You may as well have taken out a billboard saying that they’re complete crap and I’m complete crap and they all hate me.”
“Mum! You’re acting like a spoiled child. Stop it. I will read them to you.” Saffy dropped the stack on a nightstand, opened the top paper, and began to page through.
There was another anxious groan from underneath the covers. “Well?”
“This one’s quite good, actually.” Saffy began to recite “After a slight delay in starting, the premiere of Edina Monsoon’s autobiographical memoir was rollicking fun. Imelda Staunton will certainly merit a BAFTA nod for her satiric turn as the battle-hardened middle-aged protagonist navigating the competitive and sometimes catty waters of PR…”
“Battle hardened? Middle-aged? That makes me sound like I’m some sort of dried-up old prune!” Eddy wailed, surfacing from under the blankets. “Here, let me see that.” She grabbed the paper out of Saffy’s hands and began to read out loud. “’Helena Bonham Carter contributes an understated and restrained performance as Monsoon’s stuffy daughter Lavender.’ Stuffy! Well, they got that right, didn’t they? I don’t know why the BBC writers insisted on changing your name, though, darling.”
Patsy appeared suddenly from the other side of the bed, sitting up out of nowhere, still wearing her evening gown and with a lit cigarette dangling from her lips. “I know why. It’s because the little toad threatened to sue them for libel.”
“Saffy!” Eddy protested. “Did you?”
Saffron rolled her eyes, ignoring the question as she grabbed another newspaper from the stack and opened it.
“She did, Ed. Does it matter? Saffron, Lavender, who cares. They’re all pestilential little weeds. What does the paper say about me?”
Eddy settled herself comfortably onto a stack of pillows and read. “’Meryl Streep, almost unrecognizable in a padded push-up corset and mile-high heels, gives a masterclass in comedy as buffoonish sidekick Patsy Stone.’”
“Buffoonish?” Patsy took a drag on her cigarette, considering. “I’m not a buffoon.”
Eddy looked up. “Certainly not, darling.”
“This one calls you a trollop.” Saffy offered.
“That’s better.” Patsy declared. “Trollops have more fun. Whatever happens, we always have plenty of fun, don’t we Eddy?”
“Loads, darling.” Eddy crumpled up the newspaper and tossed it across the room.
Patsy reached under the bedcovers and pulled out a bottle of Stoli. “Let’s drink to fun!” she said uncapping the vodka and taking a swig.
Eddy retrieved a matching bottle from under her pillow and tapped it against Patsy’s. “To fun and BAFTA nominations!”
Wheels on fire,
Rolling down the road.
Best notify my next of kin,
This wheel shall explode.