Home > The Actress and the Aristocrat

The Actress and the Aristocrat
Author: Katie Ashley

 


Chapter One: Charlotte/Charlie

 

 

If you happened to poll most up and coming actors or actresses, many would tell you there isn’t anything they wouldn’t do for their big break. Okay, maybe that isn’t entirely true. Let’s say anything that might land you in an unflattering orange jumpsuit behind bars was definitely out of the picture. Or any film that might be screened on Pornhub, rather than Netflix, was out too. Well, at least it was for me. I might not be opposed to a nude scene or two with strategic angles, but anything hardcore just wasn’t happening.

It should go without saying that the road to stardom sure isn’t easy. It’s paved with broken dreams and lots of blood, sweat, and tears, and I mean that literally and figuratively. Now that I’d potentially gotten my career-making role there wasn’t anything I wasn’t willing to do to keep it. That was precisely why I was currently in the sweat and potential tears aspect of the road to stardom because I was allowing myself to be tightened into the equivalent of a medieval torture device.

I’ve learned there is a true hell on earth that few twenty-first century women have had to endure, and that is an old-school corset. Sure, there might be a small subgroup who have donned one in anticipation of some sexy time, but it’s not like the torture device stays on long…at least I hope for their sake and their internal organs’ sake it doesn’t. I thought underwire bras were heinous. I mean, they’re an epic pain in the ass as well, or I guess I should say pain in the tit. You count on them to keep your girls corralled, and then some errant stave pops out of line and stabs you for no apparent reason.

Underwire bras just wrap themselves around your breasts and back. But this dreaded artifact digs itself into your ribs and waist. It leaves you breathless while also shoving your boobs under your chin, which forms a perfect chitit or chin tit.

“Oomph,” I muttered as the principal dresser jerked the threads of my corset tighter, cinching my waist further. Yes, my corset. The torturous device I’d wear for twelve to fifteen hours.

Leaning over my shoulder, she asked, “Too much?”

While my ribs screamed in protest, I wheezed, “Maybe a little.”

“No problem. I’ll loosen them a bit.”

Since I didn’t want to be perceived as a diva, I quickly replied, “Oh no, I don’t want to be a pain. I just need to toughen up and get used to it.” I’m not sure how convincing I sounded since I sounded like I’d just run a marathon.

With a smile, she shook her head. “While they’re not supposed to be overly comfortable, they’re not supposed to be overly painful either. After all, we can’t have you passing out or unable to say your lines.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Groaning, I added, “I can’t imagine how absolutely horrifying it would be to face-plant on my first day of filming.”

The dresser, whose name was Marjorie, laughed. “Now that would be a memorable first impression.”

Once she adjusted the strings a bit, I exhaled a relieved breath. “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been in one of these medieval torture devices.”

“I thought this was your first time shooting in England?” Marjorie asked.

“Oh, it is. This was for a made-for-television movie that we filmed in Canada.” I couldn’t help wrinkling my nose at the thought of some of my earlier work. While I might have twenty-plus titles on my Internet Movie Database page, they were predominantly supporting roles. I’d done everything from a literal snack for some zombies on a popular post-apocalyptic show to being a demon who got staked by two very handsome supernatural slayers.

Then I’d found a niche as the quirky best friend. After that, I segued into a few leading roles in made for TV movies à la Lifetime and Hallmark. Like the bridesmaid who is never the bride, I waited patiently for my prince, aka the perfect role, to come along. And two months ago, it finally did.

Ankle-deep in various animals’ excrement wasn’t exactly how I pictured the moment that would change the trajectory of my career and subsequently my life, but when you go back home to help out on your parents’ cattle farm, that type of shit happens.

“Ready for the dress?” Marjorie questioned, sweeping me out of my thoughts

Getting into costume always helped transform me into my role. In this case, I embodied an aristocratic young woman at the turn of the century who was attending a dinner party. Back in the day, said dinner parties meant a full regalia of intricately beaded dresses, glittering jewels, and elbow-length white gloves. I don’t know why donning the duds made it all so real. Somehow, I was just Charlie Monroe when I was in my street clothes or my robe. But once I was strapped into the corset and I slipped on an evening dress, I became Lady Rowena Avondale.

Tilting my head at my reflection in the mirror, I said, “Lord Winthrop, you do flatter me with your proposal.” When I’d first read the script, I’d worried if I could pull off a British accent well enough, especially one of the upper class. The fact I’d grown up in the backwoods was somewhat problematic when I first started acting, and I’d worked hard to lose my accent. Like my fellow Georgia peach, Julia Roberts, I’d ended up with a very neutral accent.

My secret? I’d ended up spending hours listening to recordings of the modern British royals, especially Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. It wasn’t just their pronunciation I emulated, but it was also their delivery.

When a knock came at the door of the wardrobe trailer, I once again found it hard to breathe. This time it wasn’t from the corset but from my nerves about being called to the set. After opening the door, I found it wasn’t one of our AD’s in their headset preparing to deliver me to the scene. Instead, a very dignified older woman stood before me.

“Ms. Monroe?” she questioned.

“Yes.”

A smile curved on the older woman’s lips as she extended her hand out to me. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m Maude Newbury—Randall Whittingham’s personal secretary.”

As she extended her hand, I shook it. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“I apologize I wasn’t able to meet you all earlier this week when you began rehearsals. I assume Mrs. Shaw took care of you.”

Mrs. Shaw was the housekeeper of Sutherlin House. She’d already garnered a nickname with the crew as the “Silver General” because of the ferocity with which she barked out warnings of what rooms were restricted and what furniture was absolutely off limits. Biting my lip to hide my smile, I replied, “Yes. She did.”

“His lordship has just come back from London, and he’s extending private audiences to the cast leads.”

I glanced over at Marjorie. Did I want a private audience? All of this was so new to me. While I wasn’t the only American in the cast, my lack of knowledge of aristocratic social norms had me on edge. I certainly didn’t want to do the wrong thing and insult the lord of the manor. There was also the fact I imagined I’d be called to set at any moment, and I didn’t want to piss off my director either. “I believe Peter met him earlier this morning,” she replied.

Peter Dewsbury was a household name in the UK. He was playing my father who was a duke. “Then sure. Why not?”

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