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gutter

'Cigarettes and smeared lipstick'

Language > English
Type > Original fiction
Length > Short story
Notes > Sabine's prompt, which was exactly the same as the title: 'cigarettes and smeared lipstick'. I hope you like what I did with it ♥

For the record, I am by no means claiming scripts are written this way. I've really no idea, this is just my interpretation.

***


A woman walks home late at night.

Alexander knows that is a good start. Cue some mysterious music, to set the atmosphere, draw the viewers in. A lady walking dark streets, that could go anywhere, it would make people curious and wanting to see more, know more. Where does she come from, why does she come home so late?

A woman walks home late at night. Mysterious, but not spooky music plays softly in the background. She wears heels that make a clicking noise audible over the music, and a simple black dress that ends just above her knees. A coat is wrapped around her body.

He pictures her, the woman he just described, imagines which actress will play her. He knows who he wants to play the role, but his opinion isn’t final by a long shot. She appears in his mind’s eye, a lone lady walking a dark street towards an empty apartment. He gives her the looks of the actress he prefers, and immediately his fingers find the backspace key.

She wears heels that make a clicking noise audible over the music, and a simple deep red dress that ends just above her knees. A coat is

He pauses. His fingers hover above the letters, tap them without pressing, and then he hits backspace again. No coat. It will be summer. It’s late but the temperature is still pleasant. Just the dress and the heels, perhaps a purse too. And he will give the viewer some more things to wonder about.

A thin scarf is wrapped loosely around her shoulders, a small bag clutched in her right hand. The camera zooms in on her face – run mascara has left stains on it, and her fiery red lipstick is smeared. A cigarette dangles loosely between the fingers of her left hand.

Another pause, his fingers leave the keyboard and fumble for a cigarette, a lighter, his ashtray. He thinks for a moment, and frowns. Will this woman – his woman, because he considers every character he creates in his scripts his own – be a smoking one? And has he overdone the make up, was the mascara a bit too much, or the lipstick perhaps? As happens so very often when he’s writing, he hits backspace.

The camera zooms in on her face – her fiery red lipstick appears to be smeared, but her features are tightly set in an expression of determination.

No cigarette then – he takes a long drag from his own – and no tear-induced mascara stains either. But he’ll keep the lipstick, it’ll make the people wonder. Wonder what happened, and if she’s actually going home, or – as the determined look might also indicate – going to someone? And if the latter is the case, then what the hell happened with her lipstick? Alexander smiles, quite pleased with himself. He knows how to draw his viewers in and make them want to keep watching.

The music increases in volume as she approaches an apartment building. She unlocks the door

So she does have a key. Make them keep watching.

[the music gets even louder; still mysterious, but not spooky or eerie] and walks towards the elevators. The left one is already there, she enters and presses a button. Inside the elevator is a mirror. She sees the lipstick stains, takes a small, white silken handkerchief from her purse and cleans all of the lipstick away. Exactly when she’s finished, the elevator arrives at the right floor. She turns and exits it. Camera zooms in on her reflection and shows the shimmer of tears just before she turns her back on the mirror.

So his heroine is crying, or on the verge of it anyway. He takes another long drag from his cigarette, exhales slowly. Why is she crying? Did she get fired, did someone close to her die or get an awful disease, ordinary lover’s quarrel? Or maybe the lover just broke up with her. Lover’s quarrel, he has decided. That always sells well. But no ordinary lover – the lover will be female. Homosexual relations are very arthouse, and arthouse is hip at the moment. Alexander doesn’t particularly like it, but he likes fashion, and he likes money. And whatever is fashionable in Cinema World will bring in the money. So a lesbian lover it is.

[Flashback] Text, saying ‘Earlier that day’. An apartment, sunset visible behind the windows, the same woman in the same clothes, embracing another woman.

No, maybe he should omit the text. Arthouse rarely clarifies, it just shows a flashback without saying that it’s a flashback. And maybe he should omit the embrace too. Best just skip right to the quarrel.

An apartment, sunset visible behind the windows, the same woman in the same clothes. She stands opposite another woman, both look upset.
Red dress:


Oh, yes, that’s right. Names. Just ‘red dress’ and ‘other woman’ won’t really suffice. So what to call his lady and her lady lover? Another drag, and then he pushes the cigarette butt into the ashtray, amidst the other ones. Absentmindedly, he takes a new one out of the packet, but doesn’t light it just yet.

Sarah: What do you mean, ‘complicated’? It’s always complicated with you. Why can’t you just say you’re ashamed!
May-Linn: I’m not ashamed, it’s just co- Oh goddamn it, why must you make this into such an issue?
Sarah: Why shouldn’t it be an issue? No one is to know about us, but it’s not shame, it’s just complicated? You’re afraid to be yourself, you can barely admit to me that you’re gay – gay, May-Linn – let alone to the rest of the world. Have you even admitted it to yourself yet? Are the kisses we share [she wipes her hand roughly across her lips, smearing the lipstick] shameful too?


Yes, yes, that’s good. Alexander nods to himself, sucks on his cigarette, then realizes it isn’t lit yet. He quickly fixes that problem. So shame it is. Shame, a quarrel, some unresolved drama. Now the viewer knows how she got the red stains, but is left to wonder what happened in between the setting of the sun, and the obviously late time at which she arrived at what is, presumably (but is it?) her own apartment. And they will be wondering too how, or even if, this fight will be resolved. Did they break up, will they ever make up, will May-Linn come to terms with her sexuality? What was it to begin with that caused her to be so ashamed of it, that made it so difficult for her to admit it to anyone? His fingers find the keyboard again, and only when the faint smell of burnt plastic reaches him does he realize that the cigarette slipped from his grasp onto his desk.

She stops at a door [the camera zooms in on number 359] and searches for the right key for a moment, then unlocks it. As the camera travels through the room, the music dies down and we hear a sigh and the click of the door closing and locking. Fast forward to the woman [Sarah] coming out of the bathroom with wet hair and wearing a short white nightgown. She sits down on a large bed, sighs again, and looks wistfully at a picture on her nightstand. The camera zooms in on it: it shows two women [Sarah and May-Linn] embracing and smiling into the camera. A third sigh, then she lies down on the bed with her back towards the picture.

Alexander grabs his cigarette again, places it between his lips, but doesn’t inhale. So it is her own house, that much has been revealed. Now what, the viewers will be wondering. Will May-Linn call the next day, or will Sarah go visit her? Have they or haven’t they broken up? Were any other important things said during their fight that weren’t shown? Did they perhaps resolve things by deciding it would be best if they separated? Why was Sarah all dolled up in her dress and heels and make up in the first place? Would they be going out? Was there any special reason for that, perhaps their anniversary?

He smiles, finishes the cigarette and puts it out right next to the previous one. With one click, he saves the document, then shuts off his computer and walks towards a large window overlooking the city he lives in. It is past midnight and the town has transformed into a vast sea of multi-coloured flashing lights. He knows what will happen with Sarah and May-Linn. He knows what brought them to this point (he knows what ‘this point’ is) and he knows what is going to happen to them. Details will be filled in as he writes, such as the colour of her dress and whether or not she smokes and the lipstick was a nice touch too, but he knows the basic plot. All that is still missing, really, is a good title. But that can wait for tomorrow.

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