Guy shared a room at the center with another actor, Anthony Hope. Anthony was a year older, a year more practiced in the art of seduction, the skills of acting, in the combination of work ethic and ethical restructuring. Anthony’s name wasn’t really Hope, it was Hopkins but that name had already been opted by a more successful actor so he had searched for an alternative. His mother had told him about the novelist whose romances had thrilled women for generations, Anthony Hope, and he had taken that name for his professional moniker. Thrilling women for generations had seemed the perfect career goal, especially for a blonde, 6 foot six, blue-eyed, olive-complected man with the voice of a Richard Burton clone. Without the accent, just the timbre. He had tried out the name on a series of easy conquests, women who worked in bars in Manhattan, mostly. He had bedded them every time. But here, in summer stock in The Berkshires, things were different, somehow. Only two women had bothered with him so far, and neither had come back for more, or indicated any need to follow up. Only the men, the gay men, had tried to turn the tables and seduce Anthony, and he just wasn’t buying into that particular program.
So, when his roommate, as straight as they come, came back from his encounter with Margaret Culver, he listened attentively to the report.
"She’s cold," Guy said, a pint of bitterness in two short words.
"She’s hot, actually," Anthony corrected him.
"It’s all surface, Tone, there’s nothing there, nothing inside but music."
"Music is hot."
"So you’re done with her, then?" Guy nodded. "Cool. My turn."
"She’ll freeze your little pecker off, I warn you," Guy said to him.
"Not little and no way," Anthony replied. "No way at all."
Anthony wasn’t attracted to Margaret. That wasn’t the point. She was there - and now, with Guy’s story in his pocket, she had history. Women with history were always more attractive. But it was clear, also from the tale of young Guy, that this woman was going to take some clever maneuvering. That, thankfully, was Anthony Hope’s specialty.
He waited for the opportunity to reveal itself for him to begin his conquest of this new "Mexico." With his Austrian/Welsh blood and his autocratic appearance he knew himself to be the perfect Hapsburg of love. He was a man who should rule in all things. He was the hereditary heir of all things manly: sports, politics, the behavioral sciences. And, as he pointed out to Guy, "not little, no way."
"I am the animal, the beast to be tamed," he liked to say to women he met. "I seek the one, the trainer who can teach me new tricks, make me dance at her command, make me perform whenever she wishes." It was a line that worked for him in a pick-up situation. He liked to say it, to hear those words coming from his mouth in his hot, sensual voice. He liked to stand close to the woman he pursued when he said these things. He liked them to feel the heat of his body, the stiffness of his body as he addressed them. It almost always worked for him, too.
He had, of course, been warned by Guy that Margaret was cold. For Anthony, "cold" was a word of challenge, a gauntlet to run, a glove to the cheek. For now he waited. The time would have to be just right, he understood, for him to make an impact on Margaret. He could wait. Summer was busy, but summer was infinite.
He didn’t have to wait long, as it turned out. Margaret noticed him one day and walked over to him during a rehearsal break.
"Hi," she said. "We haven’t really met, but I know who you are."
"Oh?" Anthony was taken aback, but too smart to let that show.
"Oh, yes. Anthony Hope. I’m Margaret Culver." She smiled and held out her hand. He took it, gave it a short, firm shake and returned it to the open air.
"You in this one?"he asked her making a slight gesture in the direction of the just abandoned rehearsal.
"Yes. Terribly boring, but yes."
"Boring? Really? Sorry to hear that."
"A mediocre part in a second-rate script," she said. "Lots of stage time but no reason to be there."
"So what do you do, then?"
"Just ... pay attention, try to look interested and pray for an audience that doesn’t throw things at you."
"Sounds like fun actually, like working in a shooting gallery."
"Yes, I suppose it does." She smiled at his analogy, thinking he was smarter than she had anticipated. "What are you doing for lunch?"
"I thought I’d head back up to the center. They’ve got omelets today," he said.
"Can I hitch a ride?" She was still smiling, but not in quite the same way.
"Yeah. Sure." He turned away from her and a smile spread over his face as he thought ‘this isn’t going to be difficult at all. She’s nearly mine now.’ "Come on," he said and they headed off to the parking lot.
He drove quickly up the road, passed the center and kept heading north. She never said a word about this, but kept on looking straight out the window of the car, her eye on the road. When he turned into a small, dark, tree-co vered side street that quickly turned into dirt road, she giggled. He heard her, paid no attention and just kept going, his car slowly decelerating until it slipped into a muddy pause in a field of rushes, some of them as tall as the car itself.
"Where are we?" Margaret asked him.
"In a swamp," he responded. "Probably in quicksand. In half an hour we’ll be history, barelymade and hardly recalled." He liked the use of words that emerged as sexual innuendo when he tried this maneuver.
"Anthony, don’t try anything," she said simply.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I know you’re making love to me. I can tell. I’m not stupid." She smiled at him again. "But don’t try anything."
"What gives? Are you a virgin?"
"My status isn’t the issue. Just your actions."
"Say, Babe, you came on to me, remember?"
"I remember everything," she said.
"Look, I’m not going to hurt you," he told her. "That’s not the goal here."
"Goal?" Her smile turned into a smirk. "You’re not the only one with goals."
"What is that supposed to mean, Margaret?"
"I have goals here, too."
"Oh, yeah, like what?"
"You really want to know the answer? Do you really?"
"I do. I guess." He knew he sounded as uncertain as he felt.
"You won’t like it. Men like you never do."
"What do you know about men like me?" He took a deep breath. "Frankly, my dear, there are no men like me."
"Oh, don’t kid yourself, handsome. You’re one of a kind of men who always think they’re the only one of their kind."
"You understood me. Don’t put on that strong, dumb act."
"Who the hell are you, anyway, Margaret? What is all this?"
"I’m the woman most guys think is easy, but I’ll tell you this much about me that you don’t already know: I’m not easy. I won’t be easy. Nothing that comes easy is worth having, and I’m worth a lot."
"I’m taking you back!" He said, whipping the car back to life with his foot on the gas peddle. He threw the gearshift into reverse and backed out of the sea of reeds.
"Not quicksand after all, then," Margaret said softly.
"That’s what you think! You’re down, sunk, up to your ears in it and you’re not coming back up for breath. Not really."
"Anthony, keep guessing. One of these days you’ll find out how wrong you’ve always been. The right answer will jump out at you and I hope you’re ready to catch it and ride it to heaven."
"Bull!" He shouted back at her as he hit the main road again, heading back down to the Center. He didn’t need this kind of crap from some cold, virginal bitch who only played him for a sucker. Had she known he was going to pursue her? Was that behind her game? Of course, he thought. She knows I room with Guy. She’d assume they talked about her. This was her game, a pre-revenge thing. He’d been an idiot. He slammed the ball of his hand hard against the steering wheel. He never took his eyes off the road ahead.
Margaret, in the passenger seat, also kept her eyes on the road. She had played it out her way, improvising the scene she hadn’t planned on making. She liked this one, was attracted to him, but she was unsure of how to make things right between them. ‘I’ve screwed it up’ she thought to herself. ‘But then don’t I always. Don’t I always make it wrong somehow. What do I do to do what I do?’ She thought about that for a moment, watching the road for the Center which was just around the next curve of the road. ‘Margaret never knows, does she?’ she thought. ‘Margaret never knows.’