The Creative Peak

New inspired writing from an independent publisher

Cocktail of Men

T A Cherry

Contemporary Fiction

Amber is a fiery actress desperate to be a star. Her lucky break has come and she’s starring in a West End theatre, with one of the leading actors of the day. She’s heard rumours that they will close early. Stress is getting to her and she lavishes her temper tantrums on anyone who gets in the way. Don’t they realise she is taking the first steps towards stardom! Her outlook takes a different turn when her life begins to collapse around her. She’s at her lowest point ever. Suddenly having no money hits her hard. The glamour has gone! What can she do to get back on the stardom track? Will the men in her life be a help or a hindrance? That is what she must find out!

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Chapter One

She stood on the pavement, looked upwards, and twirled her curly auburn hair through her fingers. A few drunken revellers in London’s theatre land wandered past singing, but it didn’t affect her staring at the lights above the entrance to the theatre. It had gone eleven o’clock. The theatre goers had long since left in their taxis or on the tube. It was a patient wait, but within a few minutes, the main theatre signs, that displayed the performance to those walking along Shaftesbury Avenue went out. She peered intensely at her name, Amber Raven, as it gradually turned from the bright red six foot high letters to black. Her name had gone!

Emotion gripped her. She had hoped for so much with this role. It was her first extended run as the leading lady in the West End. When they had all started out with enthusiasm, it was going to be a long run in London, a tour of Australia and then onto Broadway. She would have loved that. They had been let down by the management, but she secretly thought that her leading man wasn’t really up to it. It didn’t matter, she was happy. It had been a good time and she had learned a lot.

‘Move on!’ she said out loud. ‘It’s expected of you as an actress.’ With a sombre face she walked slowly and deliberately to the Stage Door. Everyone in the theatre company was so deflated about the show coming to an early end, that they didn’t have the heart for an end-of-run party.

As she opened the door to go in, so a group of the young bit-part actors, all about her own age, came laughing and joking towards her. One of the men shouted with enthusiasm, ‘We’re off to a club! Are you coming Amber?’

‘I’d love to, but I want to go and thank Benjamin.’ He was a very experienced actor and she had enjoyed working with someone, who had been well-known for years. He was in his early forties, about fifteen years older than her. While he was a renown actor, she didn’t think that he had concentrated on the role and they had had a few difficult moments on some evenings. She knocked on the door of his dressing room and went straight in as she always did. It was the same every night, the last person she would speak to was Benjamin.

She was surprised as her agent Jenny Tranter was in the dressing room. Benjamin was standing, tall and erect as usual, with his back to the door. ‘I’m never going to work with her again!’

‘I hope you don’t mean me, darling!’ said Amber.

Benjamin spun quickly round, looked her up and down and said, ‘Oh, it’s you! I thought you’d gone!’ Amber was a little taken aback by his manner, but took no notice as he had his morose moments.

Jenny immediately added, ‘We’ll talk about it later. Here’s Amber. It’s been a difficult run and everyone is edgy.’ She looked intently at Amber and added, ‘Come on, let’s go and have a drink. The men are all irritable tonight.’

Before Amber could reply, Jenny caught her arm and turned her out of the dressing room. ‘Let’s go, I need a drink even if you don’t.’ It wasn’t long before they were seated in a quiet corner of an exclusive club with a bottle of wine.

‘I saw some wonderful Choo shoes in Bond Street,’ said Amber as a way of starting the conversation.

Jenny smiled, ‘How much?’

‘Only £400,’ said Amber with a smile, but continued, ‘they would only be for a special occasion.’ Then a twinkle came into her eye as she added, ‘For any red carpet events you have me lined up for.’

The conversation then took its usual turn and the gossip about the acting world of London became the focus of their attention.

They started their second bottle of wine. Their chatting had gone into a lengthy pause. Amber had calmed down as the adrenalin from her evening’s performance had drained away. She said, in a quiet voice, ‘Was Benjamin talking about me, when he said he was never going to work with her again?’

Jenny took a deep breath as the question had clearly caught her unawares. Amber could see in her face that she was going to lie.

‘No, of course not.’ But it wasn’t convincing and Amber just stared at her. ‘Well, yes, it was you he was talking about. But he’s tired after the run. You’ve both done a matinee and evening performance today.’

Amber replied, ‘That’s not an excuse, and you know very well it isn’t.’

‘You seem to have rubbed him up the wrong way.’

Amber snapped back, ‘His heart wasn’t in this play. He didn’t want to go on tour. So he didn’t try hard enough.’ She was fighting back the tears as she thought of her name in lights on Broadway.

‘Amber, we’ve got to have a long chat. But not now.’

‘What about?’ snapped Amber, ‘Now is as good a time as any. If you’ve got something to say, then say it!’

Jenny looked around in alarm as people were staring at them, because Amber was almost shouting.

‘Calm down! Calm down, Amber!’

‘Out with it,’ hissed Amber, as she took a long swig of her wine. Jenny knew she was cornered and had to give Amber an answer. She hesitated. ‘Stop trying to think of something bloody diplomatic to say. Come on! Out with it!’

As her voice was rising, Jenny was trapped. ‘That’s the third leading man, within the last year, who has said that they would not work with you again.’

‘I don’t care,’ replied Amber irritably, ‘They were crap.’

Jenny quietly replied, ‘You know you don’t mean it. They were all very experienced actors, who are popular with directors and actresses.’

Amber could feel the tension rising, but she just managed to control herself. Suddenly she realised how much of an outsider she was. Jenny had only been her agent for about a year. It was the only agency that would take her on, because she was so volatile. She shouldn’t argue with Jenny.

Amber said, ‘Okay! Okay! Point taken. I can be a bit of a pain in the arse at times. I just want to make sure everything is right.’

The relief spread over Jenny’s face as there wasn’t going to be an argument.
Amber added buoyantly. ‘What’s next? Is anything arranged yet? We’ve known we were going to close for weeks.’ She looked expectantly at Jenny.

The smile drained from both of their faces at the same time. ‘Not much going on at the moment, Amber,’ said Jenny quietly.

It just wasn’t true. Amber knew that practically everyone in the cast, except Benjamin, was moving to some other role. Her leading man had said he was going to take a rest for a few months. It wasn’t a lie, as she’d heard him turn down at least two firm offers.

Both of them now felt embarrassed as they had nothing positive to talk about. They gulped down their wine and Jenny quickly left. Amber was in no hurry to go, but there was no one to talk to. She decided to get a taxi home. At least her boyfriend would be there by now, as it was gone midnight, and she could do with some sympathy. She had lived with Matt, in his flat, in the Barbican for about a year. She walked out of the club and easily got a taxi.

She sighed because they had argued again that morning. It was before he left for his job in the City. It hadn’t been good recently between them, but she really liked him, and hoped it wouldn’t be long before he popped the question. She would make a positive effort from now on.

It was only a few minutes later that she went up in the lift. As she opened the door with her keys, she realised how exhausted she was and just wanted Matt to hold her. The flat was only small and the front door led straight into the lounge.

She couldn’t believe her eyes. There was a very pretty blonde woman, of about Amber’s age, with her arms wrapped round his neck. Matt was hugging her closely as she rested her head on his shoulder.

‘What the bloody hell is this?’ screamed Amber. ‘And who is that whore?’

The woman stepped back just in time. Amber marched up to Matt and with an almighty swing slapped him hard across the face. The woman tried to grab Amber, as Matt had collapsed from the impact and the shock of being hit. Amber only vaguely heard the woman’s soft Australian accent as she shouted, ‘She’s a bloody nutcase!’

Amber wasn’t interested in the woman, she just wanted to take revenge on Matt for going behind her back. He’d obviously expected Amber to be at an end-of-run party and so she wouldn’t be home until the early hours. Amber renewed her attack on him, trying to kick him with her high heels, but he had regained his feet and stepped sideways as he shouted, ‘Amber! Amber! What the hell’s wrong with you?’ As he spoke he moved in front of the other woman.

That was all to much for Amber and she picked up the cup of coffee that was on the table and threw it at them, the cup as well.

‘She’s lost it! She’s crazy!’ shouted the blonde.

Matt was now back in control. He pushed Amber so that she lost her balance and fell back onto the couch. He then grabbed the blonde’s hand and said, ‘Come on, we’ll leave her to calm down. I’ll stay with you.’ They had opened the front door of the flat, but by the time Amber had picked up the next weapon, the china coffee pot, the door was closing behind them. The pot hit the door in the middle at head height and shattered into pieces with the coffee spraying over the wall and carpet.

Amber went to follow them, but by the time she reached the door, the will had left her. She kicked off her shoes, grabbed a bottle of vodka and slumped on the sofa sobbing her heart out.