Crazy Sunday again. Joel slept until eleven, then he read a newspaper to catch up with the past week. He lunched in his room on trout, avocado salad and a pint of California wine. Dressing for the tea, he selected a pin-check suit, a blue shirt, a burnt orange tie. There were dark circles of fatigue under his eyes. In his second-hand car he drove to the Riviera apartments. As he was introducing himself to Stella's sister, Miles and Stella arrived in riding clothes--they had been quarrelling fiercely most of the afternoon on all the dirt roads back of Beverly Hills.
Miles Calman, tall, nervous, with a desperate humor and the unhappiest eyes Joel ever saw, was an artist from the top of his curiously shaped head to his niggerish feet. Upon these last he stood firmly--he had never made a cheap picture though he had sometimes paid heavily for the luxury of making experimental flops. In spite of his excellent company, one could not be with him long without realizing that he was not a well man.
From the moment of their entrance Joel's day bound itself up inextricably with theirs. As he joined the group around them Stella turned away from it with an impatient little tongue click--and Miles Calman said to the man who happened to be next to him:
"Go easy on Eva Goebel. There's hell to pay about her at home." Miles turned to Joel, "I'm sorry I missed you at the office yesterday. I spent the afternoon at the analyst's."
"You being psychoanalyzed?"
"I have been for months. First I went for claustrophobia, now I'm trying to get my whole life cleared up. They say it'll take over a year."
"There's nothing the matter with your life," Joel assured him.
"Oh, no? Well, Stella seems to think so. Ask anybody--they can all tell you about it," he said bitterly.
A girl perched herself on the arm of Miles' chair; Joel crossed to Stella, who stood disconsolately by the fire.
"Thank you for your telegram," he said. "It was darn sweet. I can't imagine anybody as good-looking as you are being so good-humored."
She was a little lovelier than he had ever seen her and perhaps the unstinted admiration in his eyes prompted her to unload on him--it did not take long, for she was obviously at the emotional bursting point.
"--and Miles has been carrying on this thing for two years, and I never knew. Why, she was one of my best friends, always in the house. Finally when people began to come to me, Miles had to admit it."
She sat down vehemently on the arm of Joel's chair. Her riding breeches were the color of the chair and Joel saw that the mass of her hair was made up of some strands of red gold and some of pale gold, so that it could not be dyed, and that she had on no make-up. She was that good-looking--
Still quivering with the shock of her discovery, Stella found unbearable the spectacle of a new girl hovering over Miles; she led Joel into a bedroom, and seated at either end of a big bed they went on talking. People on their way to the washroom glanced in and made wisecracks, but Stella, emptying out her story, paid no attention. After a while Miles stuck his head in the door and said, "There's no use trying to explain something to Joel in half an hour that I don't understand myself and the psychoanalyst says will take a whole year to understand."
She talked on as if Miles were not there. She loved Miles, she said--under considerable difficulties she had always been faithful to him.
"The psychoanalyst told Miles that he had a mother complex. In his first marriage he transferred his mother complex to his wife, you see--and then his sex turned to me. But when we married the thing repeated itself--he transferred his mother complex to me and all his libido turned toward this other woman."
Joel knew that this probably wasn't gibberish--yet it sounded like gibberish. He knew Eva Goebel; she was a motherly person, older and probably wiser than Stella, who was a golden child.
Miles now suggested impatiently that Joel come back with them since Stella had so much to say, so they drove out to the mansion in Beverly Hills. Under the high ceilings the situation seemed more dignified and tragic. It was an eerie bright night with the dark very clear outside of all the windows and Stella all rose-gold raging and crying around the room. Joel did not quite believe in picture actresses' grief. They have other preoccupations--they are beautiful rose-gold figures blown full of life by writers and directors, and after hours they sit around and talk in whispers and giggle innuendoes, and the ends of many adventures flow through them.
Sometimes he pretended to listen and instead thought how well she was got up--sleek breeches with a matched set of legs in them, an Italian-colored sweater with a little high neck, and a short brown chamois coat. He couldn't decide whether she was an imitation of an English lady or an English lady was an imitation of her. She hovered somewhere between the realest of realities and the most blatant of impersonations.
"Miles is so jealous of me that he questions everything I do," she cried scornfully. "When I was in New York I wrote him that I'd been to the theater with Eddie Baker. Miles was so jealous he phoned me ten times in one day."
"I was wild," Miles snuffled sharply, a habit he had in times of stress. "The analyst couldn't get any results for a week."
Stella shook her head despairingly. "Did you expect me just to sit in the hotel for three weeks?"
"I don't expect anything. I admit that I'm jealous. I try not to be. I worked on that with Dr. Bridgebane, but it didn't do any good. I was jealous of Joel this afternoon when you sat on the arm of his chair."
"You were?" She started up. "You were! Wasn't there somebody on the arm of your chair? And did you speak to me for two hours?"
"You were telling your troubles to Joel in the bedroom."
"When I think that that woman"--she seemed to believe that to omit Eva Goebel's name would be to lessen her reality--"used to come here--"
"All right--all right," said Miles wearily. "I've admitted everything and I feel as bad about it as you do." Turning to Joel he began talking about pictures, while Stella moved restlessly along the far walls, her hands in her breeches pockets.
"They've treated Miles terribly," she said, coming suddenly back into the conversation as if they'd never discussed her personal affairs. "Dear, tell him about old Beltzer trying to change your picture."
As she stood hovering protectively over Miles, her eyes flashing with indignation in his behalf, Joel realized that he was in love with her. Stifled with excitement he got up to say good night.
With Monday the week resumed its workaday rhythm, in sharp contrast to the theoretical discussions, the gossip and scandal of Sunday; there was the endless detail of script revision--"Instead of a lousy dissolve, we can leave her voice on the sound track and cut to a medium shot of the taxi from Bell's angle or we can simply pull the camera back to include the station, hold it a minute and then pan to the row of taxis"--by Monday afternoon Joel had again forgotten that people whose business was to provide entertainment were ever privileged to be entertained. In the evening he phoned Miles' house. He asked for Miles but Stella came to the phone.
"Do things seem better?"
"Not particularly. What are you doing next Saturday evening?"
"The Perrys are giving a dinner and theater party and Miles won't be here--he's flying to South Bend to see the Notre Dame-California game. I thought you might go with me in his place."
After a long moment Joel said, "Why--surely. If there's a conference I can't make dinner but I can get to the theater."
"Then I'll say we can come."
Joel walked his office. In view of the strained relations of the Calmans, would Miles be pleased, or did she intend that Miles shouldn't know of it? That would be out of the question--if Miles didn't mention it Joel would. But it was an hour or more before he could get down to work again.
Wednesday there was a four-hour wrangle in a conference room crowded with planets and nebulae of cigarette smoke. Three men and a woman paced the carpet in turn, suggesting or condemning, speaking sharply or persuasively, confidently or despairingly. At the end Joel lingered to talk to Miles.
The man was tired--not with the exaltation of fatigue but life-tired, with his lids sagging and his beard prominent over the blue shadows near his mouth.
"I hear you're flying to the Notre Dame game."
Miles looked beyond him and shook his head.
"I've given up the idea."
"On account of you." Still he did not look at Joel.
"What the hell, Miles?"
"That's why I've given it up." He broke into a perfunctory laugh at himself. "I can't tell what Stella might do just out of spite--she's invited you to take her to the Perrys', hasn't she? I wouldn't enjoy the game."
The fine instinct that moved swiftly and confidently on the set, muddled so weakly and helplessly through his personal life.
"Look, Miles," Joel said frowning. "I've never made any passes whatsoever at Stella. If you're really seriously cancelling your trip on account of me, I won't go to the Perrys' with her. I won't see her. You can trust me absolutely."
Miles looked at him, carefully now.
"Maybe." He shrugged his shoulders. "Anyhow there'd just be somebody else. I wouldn't have any fun."
"You don't seem to have much confidence in Stella. She told me she'd always been true to you."
"Maybe she has." In the last few minutes several more muscles had sagged around Miles' mouth, "But how can I ask anything of her after what's happened? How can I expect her--" He broke off and his face grew harder as he said, "I'll tell you one thing, right or wrong and no matter what I've done, if I ever had anything on her I'd divorce her. I can't have my pride hurt--that would be the last straw."
His tone annoyed Joel, but he said:
"Hasn't she calmed down about the Eva Goebel thing?"
"No." Miles snuffled pessimistically. "I can't get over it either."
"I thought it was finished."
"I'm trying not to see Eva again, but you know it isn't easy just to drop something like that--it isn't some girl I kissed last night in a taxi! The psychoanalyst says--"
"I know," Joel interrupted. "Stella told me." This was depressing. "Well, as far as I'm concerned if you go to the game I won't see Stella. And I'm sure Stella has nothing on her conscience about anybody."
"Maybe not," Miles repeated listlessly. "Anyhow I'll stay and take her to the party. Say," he said suddenly, "I wish you'd come too. I've got to have somebody sympathetic to talk to. That's the trouble--I've influenced Stella in everything. Especially I've influenced her so that she likes all the men I like--it's very difficult."
"It must be," Joel agreed.