Good evening, darlings, I am Cynthia Traumer and this is my life. You've all heard of me. I'm going to be the most famous actress in the world. Yes, I am still going to be, despite the mess I'm in. What a mess… And what a story it is! I'll start at the beginning. Let's recap.
I landed my first silver screen role two years ago – Facing the Frontier. The competition was stiff, but that was fine, it just made me want it even more. The heroine was the only role for me. My first big role and I was the leading lady no less! The advertising poster shows me on a motorcycle striking out across the desert, long pink hair fanning out in the wind.
Ach, I'm sorry for all those stars that never were; for those poor men who failed as actors and had to become clowns and those poor girls who never made it as actresses and became waitresses in cocktail bars. But showbiz is tough and there is only room for one at the top. Is it so wrong that I want to be better than other young women who dream the dream? Definitely not. I want to deserve to be better. I'm prepared to push myself beyond the limit and that is why I never give up.
My first director was a nice fellow, really. He had an indefinable aura of calm and never shouted or tore his beard despite some trying times. Looking back on it, the cast were all nice people to work with. It only takes one cast member to test everyone's patience. That one was me as it happens. I could get a bit upset at fellow cast members who did not give one hundred and ten percent like I did and when I got upset, I would screech at them and even break things and I'm sorry for that too, but if you don't believe in your dream isn't that like admitting you don't deserve it?
So, my dears, you all know my next big role was a huge commercial success – Livid Eyes. I was the heroine who gained a mesmerising stare. Appropriate, don't you think? I admit that the shooting wasn't without its problems. We had to do so many takes of the farewell scene, I almost lost count. Then there was the hero of Livid Eyes… I've had my share of heroes. Tom, my leading man in Facing the Frontier is a good person, if a bit full of himself. But the leading man of Livid Eyes was the one who said he loved me and then dumped me so that he could carry on with a billionaire's daughter… I hate liars! It does not show dedication to a dream to be so fickle. I don't even care to remember his name, I'm just going to pretend our affair never happened. I still have my dream. My dream to pursue still bigger and better roles.
Better roles, such as that of the leading lady in Dreams and Dolls. But darlings, I didn't get it and that rankled. We all know how Faye Dunn got it, even though it had been my dream role, hot hers. I suppose it's because she looks like a doll herself. She has such long, bright red hair (and it's natural, you can tell from her complexion) and she's so little and delicate.
Charli, my agent, tried to offer me a role in the next Mitzi film as a sort of consolation prize, but I wasn't having it. "A Mitzi movie?" I screeched down the phone, "isn't that the last stop before an actresses' graveyard?" I felt bad for yelling, but I couldn't apologise. Not until I'd calm down and that can take a while.
Just comparing myself with Faye got me thinking, darlings. She couldn't have worked as hard as me, or set her heart on the role like I did. Why would they choose her over me? Was it her doll like prettiness? Was that something I didn't have? Everyone has called me beautiful all my life and since I've been a star, so many young men have sent me marriage proposals… But did I let that go to my head? I don't look the part of a Dream Doll. I took a good look at the poster for Facing the Frontier. There I am, on the bike, pink hair loose and flying in the wind, my patrician features thrown into sharp relief in the light of the setting sun…
No! I will not allow the sun to set on my career. My mind was in a whirl. If my beauty could not be improved, could not something be added?
I scheduled a consultation with a surgeon in a high-end clinic. I won't tell you his name. I don't want to embarrass him. I was already a little cross that he kept me waiting past the appointed time, but I showed him my winning manner. I told him that I wanted a face that would fit any type of role, that I would not be type-cast.
The surgeon frowned. "What are you saying, Miss Traumer? Please start at the beginning."
"I lost out on the leading role in Dream Doll. The actress who got it has half my talent, but she has a face like a doll which is why she was chosen. I can change my persona at will to fit a role, so I want to be able to change my face at will too. Is that so much to ask?"
The surgeon looked a little uncomfortable for some reason. "Miss Traumer, you need a different type of doctor. Maybe a psychiatrist."
Of all the cheek! I suppressed my anger with an effort. "Absolutely not. So are you saying you cannot help?"
"I am a mere mortal. My practice is bound by the laws of nature."
I calmed down. "Well who could ask for more than that?"
"That depends. Have you heard of…" here he stood up. I noticed for the first time that there was a camera near the ceiling. He switched it off. "Have you heard of Dr Alb?"
"No. Should I have?"
He handed me a card with the name and an address. "No, not many have. Dr Alb works outside the rules of nature, Miss Traumer."
I had to find out more! I set out to find Dr Alb that evening.
The address led me to a dingy back alley where the street lights burned low, casting flickering shadows over the grimy walls.
"Dr Alb?" I called. The alley looked like a dead end. I had been assured there was a practice here. Was it a trick? The feeble light of the street lamps cast flickering shadows. In my agitated frame of mind, I thought they resembled leering faces.
I called louder. Then I heard a grating sound. A heavy steel door I hadn't noticed before, one that was set into the blank wall of the alley began to swing open.
A silver haired older lady with a purple robe wrapped tightly around her emerged. She had such piercing eyes…
She stared at me balefully. "You called?"
"Oh my gosh. I didn't expect you to be a lady."
"Is it so surprising? You think my profession is not ladylike?"
"No… listen doctor, I was told you can help. You know who I am of course. I want… I need to get to the top. You've been highly recommended."
She beckoned me to come inside. I stepped over the threshold and found myself in a small, gleaming surgical theater. Such a contrast to the alley outside. Ugh, I hate those places, darlings. The smell of disinfectant, the constant whir of machinery… and doctors and surgeons are usually such creepy people…
Dr Alb told me to remove my coat and then gestured for me to sit on her padded reclining chair. It looked a good deal like a dentist chair. I was liking this even less.
"Listen, doctor," I began, "I've lost out on the leading role in Dreams and Dolls. And to a girl with half my talent. It wasn't because my heart wasn't in it. My heart is always in it. It can only be that I'm not a real doll."
She was watching me impassively. Was it a trick of the light, or did I see a purple glint in her eyes?
"You are a strikingly beautiful girl," she said without emotion. "Do you really want to change?"
"I was told you can work outside the rules. Can you add something to my face?"
"I can. Free of charge and without surgery."
My heart leapt. This seemed too good to be true. The thought of going under the knife had been scary.
She pointed at a little metal table nearby on which there were laid out an array of surgical instruments and a white mask. The mask was a round, doll's face, with a button nose and poofy red lips like a rose bud.
"A night and a day in the mask and you will appreciate your beauty more," she said cryptically.
For free, I was definitely willing to give it a go. She held up a mirror in which I took one last look at my familiar features and then she lifted the mask and placed it over my face. I thought it felt really cold for an instant and then seemed to burn, but perhaps that was my imagination.
She showed me the mirror a second time. Now the dead white porcelain face of a stranger stared back. Scary how well the mask fit. Now all I saw was its round cheeks, the tiny little red mouth, pert nose and small chin… and those blank eyes. I couldn't even see my own eyes through the mask.
"Okay, right, a night and a day it is," I agreed.
A night and a day. That didn't seem hard. But when I went back to that alley twenty-four hours later, the lights were dimmer somehow… and there was nothing there! Just a blank wall. I called out and no one answered. I poked the wall. Just bricks and mortar. No door, not even a crack. I grabbed at the mask and pulled, but it didn't come off. It's the strangest thing. It didn't even hurt when I tried, it just wouldn't move. The mask won't come off!
Now I was panicking. My heart was really thudding. It won't come off! There's no strap or anything, it's just stuck. I had to lean against the wall to steady myself and get my breathing under control. Okay, it was time to focus, just to focus. Like when I'm stepping into the role of heroine, I compartmentalise. Standing up, I made my way back to my Mayfair flat. I left Charli a garbled, hysterical message that said I was cancelling my presentation at the summer solstice event. I'm not even telling you how much I lose from that, dears. But I can't let anyone see me like this. That's why I headed straight for my Wimbledon house. Charli knows where it is, so does my mum, but that's all. I can get some privacy from the paparazzi here. The place is a backwater compared to Mayfair.
I still couldn't move the mask. I actually tried to make myself pretty in spite of it. Yes, really. I plastered rouge on the colourless cheeks and even tried to add eyeliner. My heart was really thudding and I felt hysterics coming on. I sat down and tried to envision the surface of a calm, blue ocean. That sometimes works.
Ach, this place doesn't have a very lived in feel. I'm having second thoughts about the pink colour scheme in the living room. Still, no one will see me. I'm sorry darlings, but I don't want any visitors.
First Entry Supplemental
Well dears, I did say I could not accept visitors at this time, but never mind that now. I'll update you. I had switched on the movement sensors and was alerted to someone at the front porch. I checked the security monitor and there was a boy with auburn hair, dressed in a cheap cotton shirt and rather baggy jeans. He was arranging a bouquet of pink and violet flowers, my favourite kind. I had thought this address was unknown!
Well I was going to keep quiet until he went away, but then I thought it was too dangerous for him to be wandering the streets at night. Oh gods, what to do? Finally I stormed to the front door and threw it open.
"I'm not accepting visitors at this time." I began. He looked up and gave a start, green eyes wide. It was because of my mask. That's why I had startled him. I felt like I was going to burst into tears and just stood there as he stared.
"Cynthia? Um, this is really great to meet you, I'm a big fan..." he said in a rush. "Erm…" obviously he had questions about the mask.
"Oh, come on," I growled, grabbing his forearm and pulling him over the threshold. "Does your mum even know you're lurking here invading my privacy? I'm getting you a taxi home."
"This is exactly like I dreamed it would be… almost…" he stammered.
I ignored that and picked up the phone. "What is your name, my boy?"
"I'm Terrell, Cynthia. Um, please call me Terry."
I took a deep steadying breath. "Terry, celebrities are people too and sometimes we just want to be alone. But thank you for the flowers."
His eyes were downcast. I recovered my poise. "The taxi should only take a few minutes to get here. I don't think you should be wondering around alone at night."
I motioned for him to sit on the sofa and phoned for a taxi. Then I put down the receiver and turned to him. "Tea, Terry?"
"I don't want to be any trouble."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'll decide what's too much trouble." I brewed him some strong tea and then sat down beside him. I think he was nervous, so I took one of his hands in both of mine. "Tell me, how did you find this address?"
He bit his lip. I gazed at him, but couldn't give him my winning smile because of this wretched mask. "I'm not angry. You're not in trouble. But I must know." I couldn't stand the thought of a hoard of journalists on my case, this night of all nights.
"I traced where you latest blog post came from. I thought you might be in some kind of trouble. I – I know you can't really do the amazing things you did in Facing the Frontier. But I've always really wanted to meet the real you."
I laughed. "That's sweet, darling, but there really is nothing you can do. Could anyone else have traced my blog post?"
"It's possible. You've touched so many people's lives and they're all curious. Your last post made them curious."
"Oh gods," I groaned aloud covering my masked face with my hands.
"It's alright," he said, putting an arm around my shoulder. "Listen, remember in Facing the Frontier when you struck out to lead the pioneers…"
We spent a pleasant few minutes discussing my first star role until the taxi came. "Now you really must be going, I do need my privacy," I told him.
At that moment the lights flickered. I turned the light switch up, but it had no effect. "Bother! A power cut."
That was when the lights turned a murky purple. And then... my heart thudded in my breast and there was the sour taste of fear in my mouth... I saw a shadowy figure standing in the corner. It was watching me, I just knew it…
I grabbed hold of Terry. "Please don't leave me," I begged.
The hooded figure pointed at me.
And then it spoke…