By Walter Howard

FADE IN

INT. JOHN BURGERON’S OFFICE-EVENING 1925

A pretty, young black girl dressed in ragged clothing opens the door and stands in the center of its frame. The door is directly lined up so that it faces JOHN’S desk as soon as you enter. JOHN BURGERON, a black gentleman about 40 years old, sits upright behind the desk in high-priced clothing of the day: double-breasted vest and fedora.

JOHN

(voice over)

It seems like every other night, she walks in. Right through the door of my office and into my life.

THE GIRL walks over to JOHN. As his voice over continues, she moves over behind his desk until she stands beside him. He turns towards her.

JOHN

(voice over continued)

Pretty little thing too. The kind of face you can dedicate time to, and a body to occupy a man’s mind through the waning hours. Her mouth betrays a decent soul, but her eyes reveal it. All my eyes reveal is a half a lifetime of bad egg. I’ve tried to change. My whole life, I’ve tried. Forty years in and a world of change in circumstance, but no change in me.

THE GIRL gets on her knees facing JOHN, and removes his socks and shoes. She begins kissing his feet with her head down.

JOHN

(voice over continued)

I should have been the one to help her. Maybe I still can. Maybe she can help me.

JOHN lifts her head gently and sees tears flowing from her eyes down her face as the opening narration concludes. Her scattered mascara is frightening and along with the film’s score changes the dream from a fantasy to a subtle nightmare.

OPENING CREDITS

A knock interrupts the credits and brings the previous setting back into play. JOHN snaps awake sitting behind his desk. Instead of a pretty young black girl, JOHN finds an attractive older black woman has entered in an elegant evening gown. The woman, through wealth and attention, has maintained her good looks, and keeps them on display. She stands just inside the door’s frame just as the young black girl did.

WOMAN

Still dreaming John?

JOHN considers.

WOMAN

I thought perhaps you would have outgrown that aspect of yourself.

JOHN

I’ve tried.

WOMAN

No sense in teasing you about it. Teasing you was always my mistake. They used to say God gave you an extra brain where your sense of humor was supposed to be.

JOHN

That was you. You used to say it.

THE WOMAN smiles.

WOMAN

Can I come in, John?

JOHN

Then you really are there? I wonder. As you say, my mind runs away with me at times.

THE WOMAN strides to the desk and sits across from him.

WOMAN

Pinch yourself.

She smiles again.

JOHN

I can’t imagine what kind of trouble you must be in to be here right now.

WOMAN

I’ll confess to needing your help, but I did hope that maybe we could pick up some of where we left off.

JOHN

Pick up the pieces, you mean? No. Have you forgotten? I’ve seen you desperate before. I know it’s been a while, but it was the last time I saw you. It seems I’m only worth seeing when you’re desperate. As for where we left off, that’s not any place I plan to be again.

WOMAN

Don’t be like that.

JOHN

It’s like that. 15 years it’s like that.

WOMAN

It’s not for my sake that I’m here. It’s about Celia.

JOHN stills.

JOHN

Celia.

WOMAN

Celia, John. She’s run away. To tell the truth, we’d been heading towards it for some time now. She’d taken up with a man, a Cedric Timmons. A grown man.

JOHN

She’s stuck on him, and you disapprove.

WOMAN

Don’t you?

JOHN looks down.

WOMAN

He’s too old for her. Celia’s still a young girl in the ways that count.

JOHN

What does that mean? What ways?

WOMAN

Ways that count with boys.

JOHN

And he’s changed that? This Cedric Timmons.

WOMAN

No.

JOHN

You’re sure.

WOMAN

She’s the same girl she’s always been. All sweetness. Mind full of Prince Charmings. I’ve done everything a mother can to keep it that way. She thinks he’s going to marry her.

JOHN

I don’t enjoy being the naive one, but what makes us sure he’s not going to marry her?

WOMAN

Experience.

JOHN

Ah, that’s right. And now Celia’s run away. Possibly to elope. She is old enough for an unlawful wedding.

WOMAN

How can you joke about this?

JOHN

What else am I supposed to do? I don’t know her, and let’s not forget whose fault that is.

WOMAN

I don’t blame you for being angry with me. Hold the whole world against me if it makes you feel better, but I promised you I would take care of that girl, and I have to this point. Without any real help from anybody. It seems I’ve gone as far as I can by myself. I’m afraid.

JOHN

Afraid? I can understand worried, but why afraid?

WOMAN

I don’t like the way we left off. We were both angry and not ourselves. The maid found this after we untangled.

Places a note on the desk. JOHN reads it.

WOMAN

Now I hear she’s out galavanting here in Harlem with my car. After all I did to make sure she’d never have to set foot in this part of town.

JOHN

There are worse places than Harlem.

WOMAN

Not to me.

JOHN

Why not have the police fetch her?

WOMAN

So you agree with my husband?

JOHN

Apparently. Unfortunately.

WOMAN

He thinks it all a silly game. Something cooked up by Celia for attention. But what if it’s not? And what if it is? Should we just leave her. I want my girl back, and police would only make it worse. Dragging her away like some criminal. How awful. She’d never forgive me.

JOHN

Your husband, Clive Aubrey, he’s a man of means. Surely he has one or two or twelve guys with better reputations than me that can bring Celia back to you.

MRS. AUBREY

What do you know about my husband?

JOHN

I know that he’s as rich as he is fat. That he’s fat as hell. I know that he’s never lent a bead of sweat to this Earth as long as he’s been alive. That he’s been living off retirement since birth, thanks to a railroad tycoon dad. That he’s younger than me.

MRS. AUBREY

A lot of people are younger than you.

JOHN

That he has a black wife, and a black daughter, which makes him the talk of the town.

MRS. AUBREY

Wow.

JOHN

So why me?

MRS. AUBREY

I don’t suppose I have any right to be mad that you would even ask that?

JOHN

You don’t. So answer. Are you looking for a discount? Am I expected to do this one for old times sake?

MRS. AUBREY

In spite of old times. For Celia’s sake. Some things should stay within the family.

MRS. AUBREY pulls an envelope of money from her purse and passes it to JOHN. He opens it and sees his salary from the past few years combined tucked in neatly.

MRS. AUBREY

Bring her back, John. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Besides you.

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