image of women sitting in armchair writing

Fever

Diane reaches across the bed, fingertips skimming rumpled red sheets, as if she could summon the long-gone warmth of another person. She shifts closer to the middle, burying her nose in the scent that lingers on the pillows and all around her. Roses and musk and the bittersweet tang of sex. She presses her thighs together, savouring the uncomfortable dampness that clings to her, trying to prolong the illusion.

If she closes her eyes, she can still feel phantom fingers on her skin, painting her, creating her. She is nothing except when moulded by those hands. A kiss, a touch, and she becomes real, and the beautiful world that exists only on celluloid becomes real also. The drab everyday things of grocery shopping and bills and the never ending treadmill of auditions seem to slip away like water through her fingers.

She hates herself. She hates this twilight existence – the waiting and waiting and waiting. Sitting by the phone, never leaving the apartment for fear of missing a call, except for work, when her tormentor is tantalisingly close. Secret glances and too-casual touches sustain her for days. And there are the days when she starves, when she feels like her heart is caving in and all she can taste is the black bile in her throat when she thinks about the glittering world that she orbits but will never be part of.

It's only when the pillow becomes sodden that she realises she's crying again. She wants to pull herself together, she really does, but some days she can't even get out of bed. Lying in twisted sheets with that maddening *scent* surrounding her and it's almost like being in the womb again.

Then Camilla calls and Diane is reborn. The husky lilt of that voice raising her to the light and banishing the resentments she hoards, at least for a while, and the cycle of love and hurt continues. Diane always forgives because Camilla is her silver screen goddess, her enduring obsession.

This room, this bed, and what they do in it, is the centre of her world. She never opens the curtains any more. Prefers to languish in the baking hot half-light that seeps through the heavy fabric because with the darkness comes dreams of Camilla.

Sometimes she's feverish – sweating and shaking, hot and cold. She burns for Camilla but Camilla is cold and cruel. Sometimes she wonders why Camilla sees her, or rather fucks her, and sometimes she doesn't care. It's enough but it's not enough and the wanting is driving her crazy in the meantime.

Camilla came back yesterday. Stood on the doorstep in expensive sunglasses, a silk scarf, and some designer dress that hugged her Jayne Mansfield figure perfectly. Barefoot and blonde hair bedraggled, Diane felt unsightly in her cut-off denim shorts and t-shirt. But Camilla smiled that movie-star smile and the memory of their last blazing row seemed suddenly very distant and unimportant.

Camilla said she was sorry, said she'd missed Diane so very much. She'd taken off those sunglasses and focused dark, smouldering eyes intently on Diane and Diane was, of course, rendered defenceless. All harsh words and resistance were drained from her with humiliating ease. Within seconds they were kissing and within minutes they were entangled on this bed.

Within hours Camilla was gone.

The forgotten silk scarf on the bedside table was the only obvious indication of her presence here. But there were secret signs: the sweet, cloying scent of Camilla on Diane's skin and the few lost strands of dark hair caught on the pillow.

She hasn't moved for hours, maybe. She has this fantasy that she'll wither away, lying here, nursing a desire that she's afraid she'll never quench, and one day someone will find her, wrapped in red sheets, having died of despair.

Well, melodrama seems her constant companion these days.

The End