So the Actress was at a party one night in Beverly Hills. She had gone to a lot of parties since moving to the Los Angeles metropolitan area almost twenty years ago—though not as many of them as she used to.

And the reason was simple: she wasn't getting as many invitations.

But the Actress couldn't say she was surprised. With each passing year she was in less demand for movie roles; it only followed that her social status would diminish as well. The Actress was quite pleased, then, to have been invited to tonight's soiree—even though she did not care much for the Big Time Director throwing tonight's party. But she knew better than to let this unfortunate fact be known, for she had gotten not her first, but her second big break from him—and it was the second break that had really made her career. The Big Time Director had spotted her in a supporting role in a romantic comedy that turned out to be a huge hit. She had played the best friend of the main female character, and had delighted in the reviews that came out afterward, for in those reviews the critics had gushed over how the Actress had stolen the show from its two leads. The Big Time Director, also seeing these notices, insisted she join the cast of his next movie, this time a romantic drama, which turned out to be even more successful. Looking back, the Actress could easily describe the early trajectory of her career. That first major film had established her as one of Hollywood's up-and-coming actresses, but it was the second one that had transformed her into a star. The Big Time Director knew this too, and was always finding subtle ways to remind her of it.

There were times she really hated him.

Nevertheless, he was doing her a favor. She knew it, and surely he knew it too. All the major Hollywood players were going to be at the party. The Big Time Director's career, unlike hers, had only gone from strength to strength, and she viewed tonight's gathering as a chance to network, rather than to just have a good time. Plenty wealthy, the Actress could have retired from the motion picture industry and lived a life of leisure for the rest of her days. But that wasn't good enough. She wanted back into the limelight. She wanted to be a star again. All she needed was the proper role and then the fabulous ride, which had ended much too soon, would start all over again. She felt certain of it.

And yet, as tonight's party—held in the Big Time Director's Italianate mansion—wore on, the Actress began to feel she wasn't getting anywhere. She could not help but think, during some of her conversations tonight, that the men to whom she was speaking looked at her as a potential mistress, and in some cases one-night stand, rather than a leading lady. Their eyes always gave them away: the hunger in those eyes, the way they darted up and down her body, across her breasts, to her mouth. It offended her deeply. At least a couple of these assholes she spoken to had been married to their wives for more than twenty-five years.

Then again, the Actress thought, maybe she wasn't one to judge. While still struggling to break into movies, she'd undertaken affairs with several married men. She had also cheated on her now-ex-husband. Did it somehow make her a nobler person that she'd engaged in these dalliances primarily to advance her career, whereas the guys with whom she cheated just wanted to satisfy their sexual urges? From a moral standpoint, the Actress found it hard to argue that she was much better than the men with whom she'd gone to bed.

Oh, well. That was the past. There was no changing it.

Anyhow, while getting a drink at the poolside bar, the Actress had run into a Sort-Of Friend with whom she'd worked on a picture a few years ago and seen frequently on the Hollywood social circuit since then. The Sort-Of Friend now had a recurring role on a popular sitcom. She too had experienced a lot of success years earlier but had since migrated to television, which she claimed was a more enjoyable and supportive working environment. The Actress had guest-starred on a couple of sitcoms back in the early nineties when she was still an unknown. Maybe, she sometimes thought, she should attempt to go the same route as the Sort-Of Friend. Maybe…

Darling, said the Sort-Of Friend, how are you doing nowadays? I've wanted to get in touch with you but my schedule has been so hectic, what with my new television show.

The Actress was amused to hear the Sort-Of Friend refer to the sitcom as her television show, when she actually played the mother—yes, the mother—of one of its three young male leads, and did not even appear in every episode. But the Actress just nodded and smiled and said she was doing well.

I hope so, said the Sort-Of Friend, and I must say you certainly look wonderful. But then you always have.

Thank you, said the Actress.

I struggled a lot with my appearance, the Sort-Of Friend continued, especially when I hit my mid-thirties. My career took a real downturn. It was a very tough time. When I split up with my boyfriend of five years, I hit rock-bottom. I had never felt so awful. No, I didn't tell you. I didn't tell anyone, not even my family back in Arkansas. I just bottled up all the pain and suffered in silence. Then, luckily, I found a solution that worked for me. It's a solution that'll work for anyone. It's truly life-changing.

The Actress wondered: Why is she telling me this? What makes her think I need some kind of self-help program?

And then she put the question to herself: Well, what exactly makes her wrong?

Observing the Sort-Of Friend, the Actress had to admit, if only to herself, how good the woman looked; how happy; how content. The Actress had always found the Sort-Of Friend neurotic and needy—the latter trait being why she'd always kept her at arm's length—but tonight she seemed confident, optimistic. And what a marvelous smile she wore as she spoke about her success with this program, whatever it was. The Actress did not smile like that much anymore—unless a part required it.

Well, I'm glad to have seen you, the Sort-Of Friend said finally. Here's my new number. Let's have lunch sometime. Take care.

Yes, responded the Actress. Take care.