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Terri Sanders paused, her hand frozen at the dressing room door. She was about to confront the woman who had stolen her husband and she was determined to keep her poise. Gathering up her courage, she knocked softly. A throaty voice answered, “come in.” Terri swallowed hard and hoped her face would not break out in an annoying nervous rash. She straightened her back and lifted her chin to feign the confidence she wasn’t feeling as she strode through the door to confront her nemesis. The beautiful woman seated at the dressing table startled then glared at her.
“Pardon me, Margaret, but this won’t take but a minute or two,” Terri said, looking the more mature woman directly in the eye. Margaret was only partially costumed and coiffed, but Terri still felt like a schoolgirl in her presence. Anticipating a catfight, Gloria the hairdresser dashed out the door, leaving the shining black locks half curled and disheveled. Margaret was filming on set, and Terri’s visit was a nervy intrusion into studio time as well.
Margaret Colton, the Hollywood superstar, was often called the world’s most beautiful woman, She had a perfect oval face, and her raven hair and green eyes were striking. In costume for an Old South role being filmed in the studio, she could have easily played Scarlet O’Hara in a remake of Gone with the Wind. A younger actress who had not obtained superstar status should have held her in awe, and she was taken aback by the visit from the cuckoled starlet.
“Ah yes, Terri Sanders,” replied Margaret coolly, “ You’ve come to ask me not to take Hunter away from you.”
“Oh, no, quite the contrary,” Terri spared her a smile. “I’ve come to thank you.”
The sophisticated Margaret was caught off guard but recovered quickly. “Thank me, but I’ve just broken up your marriage and stolen your husband. Why would you want to thank me? What kind of game are you playing, Terri?” Margaret asked suspiciously.
“No game, Margaret, I mean it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you didn’t really steal my husband. Hunter and I were never suited for each other,” Terri explained. “I don’t think we ever loved each other. We were just in love with love and with the moment. The studio pushed us into this marriage because Paul thought it would be good publicity,” she said. Paul was Paul Gaylord of Gaylord and Major Studio. Because of his uncompromising manner, he was sometimes called “Lord Gaylord” behind his back.
On the surface the marriage was a good publicity stunt. Terri was a pretty starlet who hit it big in a couple of beach movies and her popularity was rising. She was not beautiful, but her cuteness, the short strawberry blond hair and blue eyes appealed to teens and preteens. The studio took a chance by casting her in Take a Chance, a romantic comedy aimed an adult audience, and the movie scored big at the box office. At age 20 Terri Sanders became a household name, moving in the circles of Mitzi Gaynor and Doris Day. She still had not reached the superstar status of Margaret Colton, though. Then Hunter Morgan invaded her world.
Twelve years Terri's senior, Hunter was a singer turned actor. At the box office, his ruggedly handsome face overcame his mediocre acting and he was beginning to be noticed. When his agent convinced Paul to cast him in one of Terri’s movies, the two clicked and became the talk of Hollywood. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for them, Paul saw an opportunity in their chemistry, especially when Terri appeared to be developing a crush on Hunter. Hunter basked in the media attention, and according to the tabloids, all was heaven in Hollywood between the two lovebirds. Paul pushed for the marriage, Terri mistook her crush for true love, and Hunter, well, who knew what Hunter thought, agreed.
“I just know that Hunter said …,” snorted Margaret.
Terri interrupted, “Hunter can say what he wants about me, but I’m not going to badmouth him. I think we might have even thought we were in love at first, but I just know that when the soup got cold, neither of us wanted to eat any more of it.” Margaret wrinkled her nose, maybe at the thought of cold soup. “Don’t pride yourself, Margaret, you can’t steal from me whom or what I freely give to you!”
An awkward silence followed Terri’s soliloquy. Margaret was skeptical, but considered the possibility that Terri might be telling the truth. Rumors were circulating that the marriage was going sour before she and Hunter became an item. She carefully weighed her words, “You are a good actress, Terri, but if you are acting now, you have me fooled. You actually mean that, don’t you?”
“I’m not acting, Margaret. I’ve been miserable with Hunter, and it’s a relief for you to take him off my hands, so … thank you.”
“Hmmm, not a very flattering picture of the man I love. You’re not trying reverse psychology on me?” questioned Margaret.
“No, Hunter’s not a bad person. I just don’t love him and I don’t see any other way out. Paul and the others went ballistic when I told them that Hunter and I had agreed to divorce. Paul should be very happy with the publicity of your affair, though,” Terri exclaimed.
“You are sure you mean it?”
“Yes, positive , and despite all to the contrary, I would like for us to be friends,” Terri replied sincerely.
Margaret was warming to Terri. “I would like that, too … I think,” she replied.
“I would ask only one thing of you,” said Terri.
“You ask a favor of me?” Margaret queried suspiciously. A frown wrinkled her normally smooth forehead.
“Not for me, for my girls. Just be a good stepmother to them, please, that’s all I want.” Hunter and Terri had two young daughters. The marriage had started sliding downhill after the birth of the first child and fallen into the ravine when the second one was born.
“Of course I will, I promise,” Margaret smiled in relief. “I love children. I regretted not being able to have any more after Michael.” All Hollywood knew the glamorous Margaret to be a good mother to her nearly grown son from her first marriage. Michael practically worshipped his mother.
“And … and, please,” by now Terri was almost stuttering with the excitement of things going well, “Don’t let Hunter be too hard on them when they visit. They get on his nerves and he can be quite stern. He gets really angry and sometimes I have to calm things down.”
“I won’t,” Margaret rose from her chair and, to Terri’s surprise, stepped forward and hugged her. “I glad you want to be friends. Let’s keep this between us. Okay? What Hunter doesn’t know won’t hurt him. And as for Lord Gaylord, let him have his pound of flesh.”
Terri turned toward the door. “Do you want me to call Gloria back in?” she asked.
“No, dear, I’ll call her myself,” Margaret sat back down and smiled coyly. “Remember, we have an image to maintain.”
“Oh, yes, indeed, excuse me while I go play the cuckolded wife,” Terri exaggerated the words. She yanked open the door and screamed, “I’ll see you in Hell, you harlot!” She slammed the door. Heads turned at the angry clicking of her stiletto heels as she marched out of the building, scowling all the way to her car. She opened the door and sat down in the driver’s seat.
She slammed the door, and only then did she allow herself to smile.