Hours before their nuptials occurred, Lillian lay awake in the enormous bed she shared with Garrison and reflected on their six month courtship. The romance developed so quickly that it sometimes seemed like a mere fling rather than a serious relationship. One minute the aging actress was a guest on his nightly radio program, and they were living together the next.
Never one to make rash decisions, she found herself instantly drawn to Garrison, who was two decades younger than Lillian. One wouldn’t have guessed this from looking at him. He resembled a man who was much older. Perhaps this was why she did not mind being seen in public with Garrison. He did something Corbin Chadwick, her previous husband of fifteen years, had not been able to do. Garrison made her forget about getting old in an industry that thrived on youth and beauty.
He wasn’t the greatest lover, but this did not matter to Lillian. Victoria Valentine, a close friend and frequent costar, was shocked to hear her say one afternoon while they rehearsed their lines for a scene in their latest film, “Garrison is nowhere near as physically exhausting as Corbin was.”
“Why are you so attracted to him?” she asked Lillian.
“He makes me laugh, which Corbin never did. And when Garrison is away, I know he is either working or bowling with his buddies. I spent every day of my married life wondering where Corbin was. With Garrison, I don’t have to do that because he would never be unfaithful to me.”
This trust prompted Lillian to agree to marry him when Garrison proposed to her during a walk along the ocean just three months after they became a couple. The weeks of searching for the right caterer and sending out several hundred invitations whizzed by as the important day approached.
Still lying beside Garrison, Lillian's blood turned to ice as the realization sank in that she was about to marry for the second time.
I can get into that stunning red gown the wardrobe department at the studio was kind enough to lend me and walk down the aisle today. I’ll just think of it as a role I am playing, she told herself.
No amount of convincing Lillian did, alleviated the continuous bout of nausea she experienced that morning.
“I haven't felt this queasy since 1955, right before my last miscarriage,” she confided to Gertrude, her live-in maid and secretary of ten years, while putting on her makeup.
“I hope your being ill is not an indication of another impending birth.”
“Oh, it would be wonderful if Garrison and I were blessed with a child of our own. However, I think I am too old to bear children.”
“I should hope so. A woman your age doesn't need a baby. And that man of yours does not know anything about raising kids.”
“Garrison is about to become my husband, Gertrude. That means for life. I wish you would stop referring to him as just another person around here.”
“Forgive me if this sounds rather rude, Miss Bennington, but I'm just not that fond of Mr. Malone.”
Lillian put down her eyebrow pencil and turned to look at Gertrude. “Hasn't he always been respectful to you?” she asked.
“And wasn't Garrison the one who suggested I increase your weekly paycheck by a dollar?” Gertrude nodded. “Then, what is it about him that you don't like?”
“If you insist on knowing, I'll tell you. I do not approve of the way he moved in so suddenly and took over. And since we are on the subject of Mr. Malone, let me also add that the twenty year age difference between the two of you bothers me.”
“I don’t see why it should bother you. You're not the one who is getting married.”
“I am afraid he will hurt you the way the playboy you picked up in that Paris pizza parlor did,” confessed Gertrude.
“Garrison is nothing like Corbin. He has values, whereas Corbin does not possess one ounce of sincerity.”
“But that didn’t stop you from marrying him, did it?”
“I was a different person then.”
Gertrude rolled her eyes. Bored with the conversation, she said, “I think I’ll go out to the kitchen and see if the caterers need anything. I will let you know when the minister and the guests arrive.”
“Thank you, Gertrude. Sometimes I wonder what I would do without you,” Lillian replied and resumed applying her cosmetics.
Gertrude found Garrison waiting outside of the bedroom.
“I was just about to check in on my future bride, Gertie. Is she almost ready?”
“The name is Gertrude, and I don’t think she will ever be ready. You’d think she was preparing for the wedding of the century.”
“Lillian just wants to look her best for the photographers. She has an image to maintain, you know.”
“You Hollywood folks are all the same. I’m glad I never got into show business. All of that glitz and phoniness is not for me.”
“We might be glamorous, but we are not phony.”
She ignored his comment and headed for the kitchen.
“That woman is impossible!” Garrison exclaimed, entering the room and throwing his arms up in frustration.
“Is Gertrude getting on your nerves again?”
“Yes. Sometimes I think you should just fire her.”
“Oh, she’s not that bad. You just aren’t used to her yet.”
“At the rate things are going, I don’t think I’ll ever be.”
Lillian, now standing, laughed. “Put Gertrude out of your mind today, darling. In approximately one hour, you and I will finally be husband and wife.”
“That is the best news I’ve heard all day. I love you,” Garrison said, embracing her.
“And I love you. I fell in love with you the night we met.”
"I promise you won’t want for anything. You are a star, and you shall be treated like one.”
“I am the luckiest woman in the world.”
“And by far the most beautiful,” Garrison added before taking her in his arms and kissing her passionately.
Corbin, looking dashing in a black tuxedo, tapped on the open door. When he failed to get their attention, he cleared his throat and said, “I hope I am not interrupting anything.”
“Only an intimate moment.”
“It’s alright, Corbin. Come in. Honey, why don’t you see who else is here?”
“Good idea. I suddenly have the urge to leave the room.”
“Nice to see you again, Garrison. The suit matches your greying hair.”
And your green eyes go perfectly with your jealous nature, Garrison thought as he exited the bedroom.
“Alone at last.” He shut the door. “You always did look ravishing in red. Seeing you in that gown makes me want to throw you onto the bed and make love to you.”
She blushed. “Don’t do this, Corbin.”
“Do what, my luscious Lillian?”
“Waltz in here and seduce me with your charm.”
“I have no intention of doing any such thing.”
“Then, why are you standing there with that silly smile on your face?”
“I see how happy you are, and I cannot help feeling happy for you.”
“Corbin, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me. Thank you,” Lillian said, kissing him lightly on the lips.
But the kiss turned into a full liplock.
Feeling flushed, she pulled away after several minutes.
“What just happened between us?” Corbin asked.
“I don’t know. Suddenly, I’m wondering if I am doing the right thing by marrying Garrison.”
“Are you saying you still have feelings for me?”
“I’m not sure what I am saying. That kiss brought back a lot of memories.”
“For me as well. But I think what we just shared was a tender moment between good friends.”
“You’re right. It was a brief reminder of the magic that used to be. Garrison must never know about this, Corbin.”
“Hey, I’ll never tell him.”
“Good. I feel less guilty now.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Gertrude, Miss Bennington.”
“You may enter.”
“Everybody is here, including the minister,” she informed Lillian.
“Thanks for letting me know, Gertrude.”
“I guess that means I’d better get out there with the others.”
“Thank you for being so supportive, Corbin.”
“Anything for my Lillian,” he replied before leaving.
She smiled. Who said their love had to end?