"No, I'm not. You must be confusing me with someone else." Maxine tried to pull Ann away from the sales person.
"No, no, it's you. I loved you in 'Surrender'. That's one of my favorite movies."
Maxine looked desperately at Ann. "Listen, you got me, but I'm here shopping with my friend, and I'd like a little bit of privacy. Can you do that for me?" Maxine tried to sound friendly.
"Sure, I can." The woman smiled, looking Ann up and down. "I guess your friend needs a little make over." She chuckled to herself. "Please let me know if I can help you with anything. My name is Heather."
"Thank you." Maxine pulled Ann away. "Well, that was annoying," she whispered into Ann's ear.
Ann laughed. "You talked your way out of it though."
"Yes, I did, didn't I?" smiled Maxine. "Come on let's get this shopping out of the way." She roamed through the store and picked up a few things on the way: jeans, shirts, a sweater, mostly dark colors. She didn't want to force
Ann into too drastic of a change. After fifteen minutes of picking up items she handed them to Ann. "Let's try some of those."
She directed them into the fitting room and left Ann to her privacy. "Call me when you're ready."
Ann nodded and closed the door. She took off her habit and put on a pair of black jeans Maxine had picked for her, matching them with a dark green shirt. She looked at herself in the mirror and had trouble identifying the person staring back at her. Gone was her uniform and veil. Her long red hair was flowing gently to her shoulders, and the clothes gently flattered her curves. She popped her head through the door and called for the actress, who came rushing back.
"Come on out. Show me."
Ann timidly stepped out.
"Sister Ann!" Maxine whistled approvingly.
"Stop teasing me." Ann was a little insecure after Maxine's response.
"I'm sorry. I wasn't teasing. You look amazing," she paused and smiled.
"You look beautiful."
"Thank you." Ann blushed at Maxine's compliments. She had made a vow of humility, but at this moment the compliments filled her heart with warmth.
"I guess I'll take them."
"Definitely. Try something else on."
After another twenty minutes Ann came out with three pairs of jeans, a few shirts and sweaters and a long gray skirt. Maxine insisted on paying, even after Ann argued with her that Mother Clarence had given her a little bit of money before she left. Maxine objected and without further ado paid for the items. She smiled at Ann almost teasingly as she pulled out her credit card and handed it to the cashier. Ann picked up her shopping bag and shook her head, amused at Maxine's silliness.
They stepped into the street and were suddenly blinded by dozens of flashes. Ann covered her eyes. "What's happening?"
"Photographers. Shit." Maxine grabbed Ann and tried to walk past the crowd of paparazzi.
"Miss Johnston, when did you get out of rehab?"
"Miss Johnston, I heard you have a new movie deal with MGM, can you tell us more about it?"
"Miss Johnston, since when did you start hanging out with nuns? Is she your new girlfriend?"
Maxine stopped in her tracks and turned around to face the offending reporter. "What did you just ask?" She looked menacingly at a young man, barely old enough to shave. "Mind you own business." She them shouted down a cab and pushed Ann in, climbing in behind her in a hurry.
"Fuck," she cursed aloud.
"Are you all right?" Ann was a little concerned. Everything had unfolded quickly and she could still see flashes in front of her eyes.
"What was that about?"
"Welcome to celebrity hell." Maxine sighed and passed her hand trough her hair nervously. "I swear I wasn't followed as much when I was a big shot. It's like the more miserable my career is the more press coverage I get." She slammed her fist into her thigh. "Damn it. I thought laying low for all those months would have done it, but of course not!" She was now extremely angry. "This fucking sales associate, she couldn't keep her mouth shut." She looked at Ann's bewildered expression and calmed down. "I'm sorry."
"What do you think is going to happen?"
"Who knows." Maxine stared out the window, dark thoughts running through her mind. She didn't mind publicity in general, but it was the type of publicity she was going to get that worried her.
The following morning the bell rang continuously for a few minutes before Maxine emerged from her sleep. She grabbed her robe and, still half asleep, went to see who was at the door. She almost didn't see Ann who was also stepping out of her bedroom.
Ann had been awake for a few hours and had stayed in her room quietly writing in her journal. She had heard the bell, but waited to see if
Maxine was going to get it. Maxine had barely reached the door when it opened.
"Jerry! What are you doing here, it's..."
"8 o'clock. I still have my key." He walked rapidly to the living room and threw a pile of magazines onto the coffee table. "What were you thinking?" He looked at Maxine angrily.
"I'm sorry, but I had no idea it would happen." Maxine picked up one of the magazines. There she was on the cover angrily shouting at a reporter. Another one had a picture of her with her arm around Ann leading her out of the way. She read headlines such as "Maxine Johnston dating a nun," or "Another angry burst from Maxine Johnston."
"Great publicity Maxine!"
"You know what Jerry, go to hell! I've done my part, I've cleaned up my act, no drugs, no alcohol, that was the deal, right? Now do your job and get me an audition. Maybe then they can follow me for the good god-damn reasons."
Jerry sighed heavily and picked up the pile of magazines. He walked to the kitchen and dropped it into the garbage can. "I also brought you this." He took out a manuscript from the inside of his jacket and handed it to Maxine.
She reached for it and looked at it briefly. "A script?"
"Yeah." Jerry sat down and motioned for Maxine to do the same. "It's an independent film, but I think the script is pretty good."
"You want me to make an independent movie?" She threw the script back on the table. "I don't think so."
"Maxine, you have to prove yourself all over. Read it, would you? I think you'd like it. You need a movie to show the big guys that you still have it because right now none of them is willing to give you a chance."
Maxine stared at the script on the table. "Fine. I will."
"Good. I'll call you tomorrow to get your opinion." He got up and turned to Ann. "Sister, you look very different," he commented on Ann's change of wardrobe.
Ann smiled shyly. "Thank you...I guess."
"How do you like New York so far?"
"It's been interesting."
"I'm sure it has." He smiled at her. "Maxine. Tomorrow," he said before leaving.
"Yeah, yeah, tomorrow," she mumbled to herself.
"That's exciting. A new script." Ann picked up the manuscript. "'No Matter What'. Good title, I like it."
Maxine took the script away from Ann's hand and threw it on the table. "Leave it alone, would you?"
Ann sat next to Maxine. "Explain something to me. Isn't that what you wanted? A chance to prove to Hollywood that you are still the best?"
Maxine glanced at Ann, slightly annoyed. She really didn't feel like listening to Ann preaching to her. "Drop it."
Ann opened her mouth to reply, and stopped. "Fine." They stayed silent for a few minutes. "I'd like to find a church."
"I'd like to go to church in the morning."
"Maxine, I'm a nun, so yes every morning."
"All right, there's one a few blocks from here. I'll take you to it."
"Thanks. Let's go."
"Yes, now. Go get dressed and let's go."
"Would you stop bossing me around?"
"Somebody has to. I'm not going to let you wallow in self pity about how you used to be great and now the only things you're able to do are independent movies...yada yada... Come on, get moving." Ann was only half joking; she had no intention of letting Maxine feel sorry for herself. She knew what self-pity could do to someone who was already inclined to substance abuse; it could only lead down a path of self-destruction. She was not about to allow that, not after having seen Maxine through all those months of rehab.
Maxine looked at Ann with amusement and got up. "Fine. Let me take a shower."
"Good." Ann flopped back on the couch and flipped the TV on.
To be continued
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