Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and The Goodbye Girl characters are the property of their original owners.
Innocent of what was to come, Rupert Giles happily sank back into his audience seat. He looked around in clear satisfaction at the off-off-Broadway theater filled up for opening night. The Englishman approvingly noted to his companion in her own chair on his right, “It’s nice to end our contest with a little culture, Vi. While not on the same level as Hamlet
or King Lear,
the play known as Richard III
is one of Shakespeare’s better efforts. The title character’s quite different than what’s historically accurate, but with the right actor, this role can be an indisputable triumph for whomever portrays that monarch.”
“Uh-huh,” merely responded this young woman.
Despite her disinterested tone, Vi wasn’t actually indifferent to her current surroundings. Rather, the Slayer was every now and then biting the inside of her cheek to avoid bursting into impolite laughter. Tightly pressing her lips together to further keep the mirth bubbling away inside from escaping, Vi read her playbill once more to check who they’d come to see was really going to appear tonight. Yes, there it was in black and white:Elliot Garfield as Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Looking up when the house lights dimmed, Vi hastily passed over the playbill to Giles, who cheerfully accepted this. From the corner of his eye, he observed his charge stealthily remove a video camera from her pants pocket, and hold it ready in her lap. The New Council’s Director mentally nodded in approval at his game partner about to speedily accomplish half of the required task for what seemed to be their final challenge. All she had to do was to film a part of the play, which should be simple enough seeing how dark the theater was now, with only the stage lights on. Nobody would be likely to pay any attention to Vi, with their eyes fixed on where the curtain was opening.
Just before the play began, Giles took a moment to muse about his own task. It should be equally straightforward to get this Mr. Garfield’s autograph on the playbill he was now holding. The former Watcher was sure that actor wasn’t someone famous, or even anybody he’d ever previously heard about during the late seventies. All it’d need was a quick trip to the actors’ dressing rooms in back when the play was over--
Onstage, a gaudily-dressed figure flounced into view, waved a supremely limp-wristed hand, and he declaimed in a heavy lisp: “Now ith the winter of our dithcontent/Made gloriouth thummer by thith thun of York--”
“Oh, dear Lord,” Giles groaned under his breath, unable to tear his appalled gaze away from where a legendary New York theatrical disaster was in the making. This meant he failed to notice where Vi the Vampire Slayer and also devoted fan of Neil Simon’s 1977 award-winning film comedy The Goodbye Girl
was grinning like a loon while she kept her camera pointed in her boss’s direction to capture his hilarious reaction.
A few hours later, Elliot Garfield huddled in his dressing room chair, gloomily staring at his haunted reflection in the mirror after a numb removal of his stage makeup. He just couldn’t find the courage to get up and leave the tiny room to face the other actors. Or even worse, Paula and her daughter Lucy, who’d also been in the audience.
Not when they’d all seen him basically destroy his acting career by playing Richard III as such a queer to make Liberace resemble Ernest Hemingway. Yes, it’d all been done at the behest of the play’s director, but who was going to care? He might as well as go back home to Chicago and take a job for life in his uncle’s barbershop. That’d be good, steady work. Peoples’ hair would always grow, right?
Elliot flinched at the sudden knock on his door, but his apprehension abruptly changed into confusion at the sound of the cultured voice speaking his name through the panel, “Mr. Garfield?”
The dressing room was so small that Elliot didn’t even have to arise from his chair. Instead, he leaned over to the side and pulled open the door. Standing there in the doorway, a complete stranger with a very interesting face and a commanding presence was carefully regarding him. Elliot gazed blankly back at this unknown person, until this other man came to some sort of decision. Reaching into his tweed suit’s front pocket, he pulled out a playbill and offered it to a bewildered Elliot.
Gaping at what he’d just accepted, the actor barely registered listening to a true upper-class English accent asking, him, “Sir, if you’d be so kind, would you please sign your name to this? I’d be most appreciative, thank you very much.”
“What the hell for?!” exploded from Elliot, who just didn’t care any more. He continued with all the fatalism of someone already at the halfway mark after jumping off the Empire State Building, “You can’t tell me you enjoyed tonight’s disaster, not when it’s all my fault!”
There was a momentary silence in the room, causing Elliot to at last look up into the very intent gaze of the newcomer. After a few more uncomfortable seconds, this manifest Englishman slowly replied, “I do have to say, it was an exceedingly…unique event in my experience. Which is why I’d like a memento of it. Whatever emotional turmoil or actual loss of income may be the result of your performance, no tangible harm is likely to occur to those of us who were here tonight, you included. On the contrary, it’ll be part of our lives to one day be remembered and enjoyed. I have all too many memories of the opposite kind, Mr. Garfield, which is why I’m nonetheless requesting your autograph, please.”
His mouth falling open, Elliot couldn’t help but to memorize every bit of that speech and its delivery, just in case he still could be an actor in spite of his recent debacle. If he ever played a leader of men in war and peace, that’d damn well be perfect--
A throat was politely cleared, making Elliot frantically snatch a pen off his dressing room table, and instantly sign the playbill. Passing it over, the stranger nodded in appreciation, only to abruptly stiffen and say with absolute exasperation, “Violet, stop poking me!”
Elliot blinked at what he’d just heard. Which then involved another happy voice coming from behind the man, “Well, move over then, Giles! I want to see him, too!”
Giving the startled actor still in his chair a very wry look, this Giles-person edged to the side of the narrow outside corridor, revealing a pretty young woman standing there and grinning at a yet-again baffled Elliot. This second stranger cheerfully waved at the character in the film she’d watched numerous times, telling him with clear enjoyment, “Don’t worry, fella! Both of them still love you!”
A moment later, Elliot was gawking at the closed door, almost thinking it’d been all a dream. The seriously weird encounter had just ended with the two people out there saying goodbye and the older man gently shutting the dressing room door. Except…
He looked down at the pen still in his fingers. Giving an incredulous headshake, Elliot nevertheless found himself feeling a bit better, despite it all. The new apartment owner who’d fallen in love with the mother and child found living in his sub-let home even thought he was now able to face Paula and Lucy. Who knows, they might actually laugh about tonight, someday. A long, long time from now, but, yeah…