DRESS REHEARSAL by Herschel Cozine

His hands were around her throat. His face was twisted in hate as he choked the life out of her. She struggled. She kicked at him weakly, and tried to scratch him. Slowly she weakened. Her eyes fluttered and her head fell backwards. He released her and she fell to the floor.

“Cut,” the director shouted.

Quickly she rose to her feet and patted him on the arm. “Wow. I wouldn’t want you mad at me.”

Brad laughed. “No problem there,” he said.

“Take five,” the director shouted. “Then we’ll try it again. I want more hate on your face, Brad.”

Turning to Marcia, he said, “good job. Just give me a little more struggle, particularly with your hands.” He patted her on the shoulder.

Marcia and Brad walked over to the couch and sat down.

“How are things at home?” Marcia asked.

Brad shrugged. “About the same. It’s never going to get any better.”

“Sorry to hear that. Does it make it worse that we’re working together? Janice certainly doesn’t like that. Especially since I’m…”

Brad cut her off. “It doesn’t matter who I work with,” he said.

“Why do you stay with her?”

Brad leaned back and sighed heavily. “Remember the hullabaloo when we got married? We were America’s sweethearts. We were on every magazine cover in the country.”

He gave a humorless laugh. “Janice fell in love with the adulation. She doesn’t want to lose it.”

“Is it worth it?”

“It is to Janice. She’ll put up with a lot of unhappiness to keep it.”

He frowned at the floor. “It’s not just that. There are religious reasons. Personal. Financial. Divorce is out of the question. For the moment, at least.”

Marcia nodded sympathetically. “I’m so sorry.”

He gave a huge sigh. “It can’t go on forever. Something’s got to give. We’re both miserable. I dread going home at night.”

He waved a dismissive hand. “Let’s talk about something more pleasant, which is just about anything.”

He stood up and started for the food table. “How about a croissant?”

Marcia shook her head and smoothed her dress. “No, thank you. I have to watch my fabulous figure.”

The director called from across the room. “Save it for later. Right now you have to strangle your co-star. Let’s go!”

Marcia nudged Brad as they found their spots.

“Be gentle,” she said.

He put his hands around her throat and curled his mouth into a snarl.

“Action!” the director shouted.

* * *

Janice had been drinking, which came as no surprise to Brad. She had been doing so more frequently in the past year. He had long ago quit talking to her about it. But he hated it. She was even more difficult to live with when she drank.

“Well, lover boy is home,” she said as he walked through the door.

“What is that supposed to mean?” he said.

She gave a humorless laugh. “You spend the whole day with hot pants Marcia Jameson, and act innocent when I talk about it.”

“Well, you’re wrong, as usual, Janice. Yes, we spent the day together. On the set. With dozens around. Not much of an opportunity there.”

“How about the steamy love scenes?”

Brad laughed. “Love scenes? Is that what you think?”

“There are always love scenes,” she said. “I was an actress, once, remember? I gave it up to marry you.”

“You gave it up because you weren’t getting parts, my dear.”

She slapped him. Hard. “How dare you!” she shouted. “I’ve been on enough sets to know what goes on. I’ve had men stick their tongue down my throat during a love scene.”

She made a face. “Their hands were all over me.Don’t play innocent with me.”

“I told you. There was no love scene. Why would it matter to you anyway?”

“I’m your wife. I don’t want to be humiliated.”

“Do you want me to show you what we did today?” Brad said.

“Not if it means you have to kiss me.”

Brad snorted. “God forbid.”

“Do you take her to bed?”

“I told you. No love scenes.”

Janice picked up her drink, and took a swallow.

“All right, then. Tell me. What did you do today?”

Brad took a deep breath and flexed his fingers.

 “I’d rather show you.”

This time there would be no retakes.

Herschel Cozine has published extensively in the children’s field. His stories and poems have appeared in many of the national children’s magazines. His mystery stories have appeared in print magazines AHMMEQMMGreat Mystery and Suspense and Woman’s World. Wolfmont Press has used his work for several of the Toys for Tots Christmas anthologies, as well as The Killer Wore Cranberry anthologies published by Untreed Reads. Other of his stories  appear in Orchard Press Mysteries, Page Of Stories, Mysterical E and others. His story, The Phone Call, was the winner of the 2017 Derringer Award.

Copyright © 2020 Herschel Cozine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.