At university this was one of our tasks: “Try ‘writing back.’ Borrow from another author and make it your own.”
I used the young girl, Dolores Haze, from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. In the book she goes missing for three years, but at the end the reader finds out she went with Clare Quilty, (despite the name, please note that this is a man) whom she was devoted to, and she eventually left him after he tried to make her, “blow all those dumb boys” whilst being filmed.
Dolores counted the cars parked outside the mansion. Ten. How come all these people are here when Clare hasn’t been home for at least a month?
Clare Quilty placed his hand firmly on her thigh before they got out of the convertible. “Now, don’t be overwhelmed; there will be a lot of people in there I should think. But that’s ok, they’ll keep you company while I catch up with work.”
“Oh, right.” I don’t want other people. I want you.
“Once I’ve got things sorted, we can concentrate on making you a celebrity. I’ve got the perfect role for you.” Clare kissed her forehead. “Ready darling?” Then he flung open the unlocked front doors, crashing them against the hallway walls.
Who’s she? A lady appeared at a blue door, tying up a silk dressing gown.
“He’s back!” she yelled into the room behind her, and a whole stream of people poured out. Faces appeared from other rooms around the house too, and Clare became surrounded with offers of cigars, whisky and girls.
Why are so many people in dressing gowns? And who’s that blonde girl scowling at me?
They herded into a large sitting room and Clare stood up on an armchair.
“Shh now everyone, thankyou for your welcome. I’ve been all around the country in pursuit of my new shining star, but I’m sure you’ll all agree she’s worth it. I’d like you to meet the new addition to our family, the lovely Dolores Haze.” He pulled her though the crowd and onto the chair next to him. Everyone stared.
Dolores looked back. This is some weird family. “Hi,” she said quietly, but it seemed to break the spell, and everyone began talking again.
“How old is she anyway?”
“Wonder what he’s told her?”
A middle-aged woman wearing a vest and a tiny skirt came over to her. “I’m Bertha. Come with me love; I’ll introduce you to everyone.” She took her hand and led her to the middle of the room. “That’s Brett over there, with all those lovely muscles. No doubt you’ll be working with him soon enough. He’s talking to Benny, the assistant cameraman. I’d bet my lucky white g-string he’ll try and crack onto you; he always does. He succeeds too sometimes, but I know for a fact he’s in a long term “thing” with Mitch with the funny moustache. Where’s Mitch gone?”
Where’s Clare? He can’t have left me with all these strange people.
“Hm, he was here just now,” continued Bertha. “Mitch is the guy in charge of productions while Clare’s away. Maybe they’ve gone back to work.” Bertha pointed at one of the small groups still left in the room. “You see that old fat guy with the bald head?”
“We call him Slimy Simon, but you’ve got to be nice and flirt with him, and, you know, because he’s the one doling out the money for all this. It’s worth it too I reckon – he’s got good contacts in this business.”
There’s no way I’m getting off with him, no matter how much I want to be a famous actress.
Dolores stood on tiptoe to look for Clare, but heard his voice first, from a room across the hall. Oh thank god. She made her way towards its blue door.
“Wait a moment, love,” Bertha ran after her and held her arms. “I’m not sure you should go in there just yet.”
“That’s the studio. Um, has he told you all about it yet?”
“What’s the big secret? I didn’t know he actually had his own studio but it’ll be good practice for when we go to Hollywood won’t it?”
“If you say so, love.”
They could now hear him talking to a girl who seemed to be getting more and more angry with him:
“I knew this would happen, I just knew it.”
“Relax, honey-pie, I told you, she’s not replacing you, she’s joining you.”
They’re talking about me aren’t they?
“How can she join me? She hasn’t even grown tits yet! There’s no way I’m getting shoved out of the starring roles for some underage tart with no experience.”
Dolores could hear Clare laugh loudly and tried to get to the door, but Bertha stopped her again.
“You can go in in a minute if you have to, but just listen, this is getting interesting.”
Dolores gasped. Did she just slap him? She looked at Bertha, who raised her eyebrows and tried peering through the gap by the door hinge.
“Well, I’m glad you think it’s so funny. But I’m off. I’m not going to do your stupid little films any more.”
“But honey, you’re right in the middle of a movie. You can’t walk out on us now.”
The door, inches in front of Dolores, flew open and the blonde girl stopped and glared at her. Then she walked off, calling over her shoulder,
“I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to find someone else.”
Dolores stood in the doorway and looked around the studio. Oh my god.
Clare was lounging on a chair and puffing on a cigar. “Ah Dolly, come here for a minute, darling, would you?”