Staff Feature: Jennifer Purcell
Charity tripped over her petticoats as she burst into her dressing room, barely catching herself on the back of a chair.
Stupid dress. Stupid role.
As she plopped down on the sofa, her eyes landed on the picture sitting on her dressing table. Five-year-old Charity tap dancing with Fred Astaire, golden curls framing a cherubic face.
She groaned. All she’d wanted was to break free from the shadow of child stardom. For people to take her seriously in adult roles. And now she’d ignored Walt Johnson, the director, calling her name and abandoned set. All because her schoolmarm character was supposed to kiss the sheriff.
She had told herself time and time again it was just a kiss. That it wasn’t a big deal. But then her co-star had wrapped his arms around her, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. So she turned and ran away, leaving chaos behind.
Of course she would forget to shut the door. And now Clint Baxter stood in her dressing room, his mop of brown hair giving him a boyish air. But at least it was the quiet scriptwriter and not her bigger-than-life co-star. Clint had become her closest friend on set. They’d donned silly disguises and snuck off to have a milkshake at the drugstore. Rode around town in his Cadillac. Talked about their careers and the friends who never came home from war. Talked about everything, really.
“Are you all right?”
She picked at imaginary lint on her black skirt. Black. What a dull color. Just like her. Sheltered by a mother and a publicist worried about protecting her “America’s Darling” image, she’d never even been on a date. How pathetic was it to be twenty-two with no husband or children? To have never had a man even show interest in her?
And now, mere weeks after asserting her independence, taking over her own career, she was right where Mother had predicted.
Alone and humiliated.
She looked up at Clint. His glasses were slightly askew, framing brown eyes that studied her like a doctor might a patient. Judging from the furrow in his brow, he was worried about her.
“I’ve never been kissed,” she blurted. She wrung her hands as her face heated.
His shoes clomped against the floor, and then he sat beside her. “Well, that explains it. All the cameras and the people.” He shuddered. “Not very romantic.”
The foolish notion had her shaking her head. “I’m not worried about romance. My best friend Darlene Fitzherbert said the first kiss is always dull.” She sighed. “I’m worried about making a fool of myself. Rhett Buchanan’s always got a girl on his arm. He’ll know if I don’t…do it right.”
Clint studied her. “Maybe we can tell them you’re overtired. Need some rest. And I can convince Walt that a schoolmarm wouldn’t kiss a man. Propriety and all that.” He smiled. “I am his best friend, after all. I’ll tell him my script needs changing.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I’d do anything for you.” As the whispered words left his lips, his brown eyes widened.
“Thank you, Clint.” She touched his arm. “That means a lot to me.” She studied him a moment. “Have you ever kissed a girl?”
His face reddened as he cleared his throat. “Yes. I had a girl during the war, but she, uh, she married someone else.” He tugged at his collar as he turned his gaze away.
“Perfect! I mean, not that she chose someone else. But you … you could teach me.”
Even more color seeped into his face. “What?”
“Please? If I know what to do, I won’t be so nervous. And you’re my friend. I trust you.”
When he didn’t reply, she scooted closer to him. “There are no cameras.”
“No, there’s not.” His Adam’s apple bobbed.
She rested a hand on his shoulder. “And no people.”
Leaning forward, she slowly closed the distance between them. When her face was a breath away, she hesitated. “I don’t know how to do this, Clint. Will you…” She licked her lips. “Will you please teach me?”
He took a shaky breath, and then he brushed his lips against hers. At first, his kisses were gentle, almost reverent. But as she began to reciprocate, they became more fervent.
Her head swam. Her heart pounded in her chest. And wasn’t that silly? This was Clint. Sweet, unassuming Clint. She’d never considered him as anything more than a friend. More than the quiet screenwriter with boyish good looks and smile lines. More than the friend who made her laugh or encouraged her when she was nervous. More than the one who convinced the director she was perfect for the role he’d written.
He broke the kiss, and she blinked up at him as her mind raced. When her surprise abated, one thought stood out more than the others.
“Darlene Fitzherbert is a liar!”
Clint let out a guffaw that echoed through the room.
Her face heated, and she tucked her bottom lip between her teeth.
The movement brought his gaze to her mouth again. “Maybe changing the script isn’t such a bad idea after all,” he murmured.
She released a breathless chuckle. “I’d like that.”
His eyes returned to hers. “Is that so?”
“Mm-hmm.” It made sense now. The camaraderie. The friendship. It was all a stepping stone for something more. Like an audition to make sure the fit was right.
And this was a role she was excited to play.
She smiled and intertwined her fingers with his. “After all, even the best scripts could use a bit of tweaking.”
When Jennifer’s not writing, reading, or blogging, she enjoys watching Hallmark mysteries and daydreaming about happy endings.
Jennifer serves as the social media manager for Spark Flash Fiction. Connect with her at her website, or on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.