It was while the great actress was taking a tour of the facility that the truth came out. The truth did not make her particularly happy.
"What do you mean the theater booked us for matinee performances?" she asked -- nay, demanded -- imperiously. "You know very well that I don't do matinees."
It was a Monday night when the theater was dark, so the only people present were the actress, her manager, her booking agent, her personal assistant, her director, her co-star (and current lover) and her understudy. Representing the theater were the owner and his secretary, who naturally felt overwhelmed by the actress's entourage.
"Er, yes," stammered the booking agent. "I tried to explain that when I first called the theater, but they insisted--"
The actress held up a gloved hand, instantly silencing him.
"I've heard enough," she said. "Bennett, you are excused."
"Excused? You mean..."
"Get out of my sight, you toad."
The booking agent hung his head down and shuffled out, the walk of a man going to the gallows. Once he was gone, the actress rounded on the theater owner.
"Well, what about it?"
"Miss Orlofsky, as I explained to your man when he called two months ago, this was extremely short notice for us, so we had to work around other shows and companies that were booked far in advance of yours to get the number of performances that you required in your allotted time. In addition, we have already pre-sold tickets for the entire run, so trying to reschedule all of the matinees now would be a nightmare."
The actress looked to her manager, lost.
"What does all that mean?"
"I think, my dear, it means we're stuck with what we have," he said.
"But this is an outrage! Check my contract!"
"Check your bank account, darling. You're lucky we got this booking after the place in Cleveland canceled out on us."
The actress looked adrift, despite the massive support system that surrounded her. Her co-star stepped forward and took her quivering hand in his.
"Do not fret, my precious," he purred. "A few matinees never hurt anymore. Besides, I will be with you the whole time."
He went in for a kiss, but she drew away from him at the last moment and turned on the theater owner again.
"Look, can't we arrange it so my understudy can go on in my place?"
The owner looked aghast. "For every matinee? There would be uproar. We would lose money."
"Then what about switching them to a late night show? Call it a midnight matinee. Say you got your a.m. and p.m. mixed up. Anything!"
"That is impossible," the owner said. "The late-night slot is already taken."
"By what, may I ask?"
"By Theater Gamez."
"And what, pray tell, is Theater Gamez?"
"It's a competitive improv comedy troupe. They've been renting from us for years. I couldn't just kick them out."
"Oh, couldn't you?"
He couldn't. And so, after making certain stipulations -- she would live at the theater for the duration of the show, she was not to be disturbed by anyone but her own staff, and under no circumstances would she sign autographs in the lobby -- the great actress agreed to go on. It was a three-week run and it went relatively smoothly until one night two weeks into it when the actress decided to check out the improv troupe that had taken her coveted late-night slot. She borrowed one of her understudy's outfits and wore a hat and sunglasses so she could attend incognito.
She sat at the back and understood little of what the rest of the audience was laughing at -- she had long given up on keeping up with popular culture -- but she was magnetically drawn to one of the performers, the youngest member of the troupe, in fact. He was gangly, inexperienced and not very quick on his feet. He was perfect.
After the show was over she sought the young man out with the intention of flattering the hell out of him. She succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Within minutes she had him eating out of her hands and before a quarter of an hour had passed he had invited her out for a drink. It was while he was getting his stuff out of the dressing room that the actress's personal assistant nervously approached her.
"Madame, I have some slightly alarming news for you," he stammered. People tended to stammer around her.
She didn't meet his eyes. Her attention was fixed on the door that her young admirer had disappeared into.
"Whatever could that be, Charlie?"
"Well... Normally we would have your bath, er, drawn by now, but unfortunately this evening we've had a singularly difficult time locating a virgin for you to--"
"Not to worry, Charlie. I've got it covered."
The light dawned on her assistant's face. "Wait, you don't mean that young boy? But he's in the other show! He's off-limits! He's--"
The boy came out of the dressing room and took her outstretched arm. They made their way toward the exit.
"We're just going to have a drink," she called out over her shoulder. "Don't wait up."
"A drink?" her assistant spluttered. "But he's not old enough to--"
"Charlie, hush. I'll do the drinking for both of us."
Her assistant waited until they were out the door -- and out of earshot -- before grumbling, "That's exactly what I'm worried about."
As these things tend to do, one drink turned into three and the actress even wrangled a couple for the boy by charming the bartender and convincing him to look the other way. The boy was barely 19 and responded readily to her probing questions. Yes, he was just starting out. Yes, he lived by himself. Yes, his studio apartment was nearby. And yes, he was a virgin. In short order she invited herself back to his place. There was one thing she had forgotten to ask, though.
"You don't have a bathtub?" she asked when she spied the shower stall.
"Oh, no," he said. "I don't have room for anything like that. Will that be a problem for you? I guess I've gotten used to showering standing up. Did you want to... go someplace else?"
"Where did you have in mind, my young gentleman?"
"Well, Mother's out of town, so--"
"Let us go."
His mother lived out in the suburbs. The boy didn't have a car, so they called a cab and were at the front door within minutes. It was barely two o'clock at this point -- plenty of time, technically, but she was already starting to fade.
The boy let them in with his key and they had just crossed the threshold when she pounced. Caught off guard, the boy stumbled and fell on his back, the actress on top. Expertly she removed his shirt and pants and he eagerly let her. After she had taken off the rest she leaned down, gave him a kiss and softly whispered, "Let's go take a bath together."
Several hours later, she was still luxuriating in the bathtub when she realized that dawn was imminent. Time had gotten away from her -- as it frequently did when she was bathing -- and she turned on the tap to wash off the boy's blood. Stepping over his lifeless body, she quickly dried herself off and got dressed, but it wasn't quick enough. She found a cordless phone and a dark corner from which to make a call. Her director answered on the first ring.
"Where are you? Where have you been?"
"Good morning to you, too, Harvey."
"That's funny coming from you. When have you ever considered mornings to be good?"
"Enough of this. I'm in trouble."
"Where are you calling from?"
"Out in the suburbs. Brandywine, I think."
"Where in Brandywine? Never mind. Even if we knew the address, we wouldn't be able to get out there and back before--"
"Yes, Harvey. I know."
"But... you have a matinee this afternoon!"
"Yes, I do. And this is why I have an understudy. Is Maria prepared to go on?"
"Of course she is!"
"Then you'll simply have to make an announcement telling my fans that I'm... indisposed. The strain of touring -- something like that. You always know the right thing to say, Harvey."
With that she hung up and found a closet to wait out the day.
"And this is why I don't do matinees."