Chapter 3: Elseif

The days pass with no further contact with Tim. Jilly begins to think she’s imagining his interest in her. The Wednesday matinee with her murder at Tim’s hands is normal – not too rough or tender. He doesn’t even seem to see her anymore, as he is reaching down with the stage knife to slit her throat. Jilly goes home for her usual, between shows nap, and then returns to the theater for the 8 PM performance.

Just as Tim is about to deliver the normal coup de gras to her throat, he unexpectedly leans down and whispers in her ear. “I think you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met, and I’d be very interested in meeting you after work some time.” He gives her a light peck on the cheek, and then uses the fake blade to slash her throat. The stage blood spills out, and all over her Victorian costume. Tim stands up, gives the audience a wave, and then walks over to stage left to wait for the actress that plays the woman who finds Annie’s body next to the wall. As the actress lets out her usual, piercing scream, Tim walks over and stands behind the woman, as the script requires. Three other extras surge out from the wings to point and talk amongst themselves. Tim exits, stage left.

Jilly drives home about 11, after a prolonged discussion with the wardrobe mistress about the difficulty of getting the fake blood out of the lace on the front of her dress bodice. The details of stagecraft always fascinated Jilly, who hoped one day to make it to the real stage. Her classes in Drama at UCF were nearly complete, and she had applied to The Actor’s Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York for a seat in the fall class. She’d hoped she’d saved enough money to survive the three years, and that she would find work in the New York theater. But as she parked the Prelude in her slot at the apartment, her mind drifted to what Tim had whispered in her ear just before their final scene. It was flattering to think that an attractive guy like Tim – who was clearing going to be successful in the business, given his looks and the stage-door following he had – not to mention his popularity with some of the other actresses there at World Studios. He had that ‘something’ you find in young actors on their way up. Even without formal training like she had, Jilly figured he’d end up in New York before she’d get there the hard way – with her degree in Drama from UCF and three years of graduate work. Acting didn’t come as naturally to her as it did to Tim. The thought that hitching her star to his..maybe..She dismissed the thought.

“I’ll just end up one of his one-night stands,” she thought with a touch of anger.

Jilly made herself a little piece of skirt steak and a salad, then watched Nature and Nova on public television. At 10:30, she turned in for the night.

About 2:45 AM, she awoke with a start. She’d had that dream again, about getting turned down by the New School and seeing herself waiting tables at a deli in New York, run by a fat Armenian. It was her worst nightmare, and she awoke with a start, sweating even though the A/C was set at 74. She instantly knew it was going to be ‘that kind’ of night, where sleep eluded her until after the sun came up. She got up and put on her cotton robe. Going into the kitchen, she made herself some warm vanilla milk, then went out the kitchen door to sit on her front balcony facing the parking lot. The night air was cooler than her apartment, and she was enjoying the quiet until a pair of headlights glared into her eyes. The car parked in the slot next to hers. The driver’s side door opened, and in the dark, she could barely make out that it was Tim, going into his downstairs apartment immediately below hers. She heard him open the door to his apartment, and quietly shut it. Leaning over the balcony, she saw he’d turned on the kitchen light. Jilly heard the sound of water running, which seemed to go on for several minutes.

Curiousity got the better of her, and Jilly quietly slipped down the concrete steps. She turned, and stood in front of the shrubs neatly trimmed in front of the kitchen window to Tim’s apartment. He was standing shirtless in front of the sink, hunched over and apparently scrubbing something. He lifted it up – it was his shirt. Putting it back down and applying more effort, Tim scrubbed harder. When he raised the shirt again, Jilly got a better look at it. A rather large stain filled the front of it. It was dark brown and appeared to be a real blood stain. But this shirt in no way resembled the fancy ruffled shirt Tim wore as Jack – and besides, it was the wardrobe mistress’s job to get the stain out. Jilly looked at Tim; his face was calm as he focused on the exertion of his laundry effort. But just then, Tim glanced up and appeared to stare directly at Jilly. She instinctively ducked down, thinking to herself she had no business spying on her neighbor. But as she carefully looked at him through the shrubs, she realized he’d gone right back to scrubbing the shirt. Clearly he hadn’t seen her peering into his window.

After a couple more scours, Tim picked up a plastic hanger from the counter. He put the shirt on the hanger, and put it on the cabinet handle next to the stove. He turned off the light, and left the kitchen. Jilly tiptoed back up the steps, and quietly closed her front door.