Hurst is complacent behind his desk, wearing a father-confessor look, confident that his tact will soften the blow.

"I convinced the board you earned this immediate leave of absence, Gillian. Our last production, thanks to you, was a huge success—thanks to Paul, Ben, and Janie as well, of course—but your contribution was above and beyond the call. Though taxing, eh? Disproportionately so? For which I blame myself; no need to excuse me." Gillian's look is not intended to excuse, nor to blame, for that matter; Hurst will do what Hurst will do, so be it. "I apologize. We've had our little differences, you and I. My job is to guarantee the theatre's success, the actors' as well as the audience's. N'est-ce pas? Private gripes aside, it's the public we have to please." Gillian's silent subtext goes unrecorded. "Your replacement, for the season, will be..." Annie. "...Annie. Naturally, she'll have her work cut out for her. But the effort to fill your shoes should certainly help her grow. Professionally, I mean. We're a company, first and foremost. Have to develop youth to keep veterans on their toes. N'est-ce pas? Though you, I hardly need lecture on ensemble theatre. Anyway, a good long rest is what you need. I'm sure, by next year's season, you'll be raring to go." Though you're not committed to using me. "Nothing is cast, of course, but you are being considered for some very choice roles. Oh, did I forget to mention? You'll draw your usual salary. With that, and unemployment, you should be secure. It's settled, then? You agree?" Do I have a choice? "You don't look pleased." Hurst is finding it difficult to deal with Gillian's silence. Actresses, in general, get on his nerves—temperamental actresses the very worst kind. "Well, again, I'm sorry. If you can't accept this decision as being for your own benefit, accept it for the overall good of the company. Your fellow actors are worried about you, Gillian. I've spoken to them all. Everyone agrees you need a rest." What about my contract? "Of course, if you decline our offer, the theatre's physician is prepared to draft a letter to Actor's Equity... though taking such a step, I had hoped, would be unnecessary."

 

 

"'N'est-ce pas, n'est-ce pas, n'est-ce pas,' I could have STRANGLED him, Mongo!"

Gillian is packing... knocked completely off balance, she can feel her reason sway... as she chooses clothes, at random: shawls, shoes, spring and autumn outfits, tossing each like ghosts, like disembodied husks... memories piling up, as well, each article evocative... assorted slacks and blouses—empty pant legs, empty sleeves... then books, a photo album, a collection of hand-bound poetry (Morgan's), poems inspired by her, by their affection, verses now as dry as last-Fall's leaves.

"Where, in the whole wide world, is Morgan now?"

 

 

He closes...

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