They had lied. Time was not a friend that healed all wounds; it was the enemy that ravaged and murdered youth. The seasons came and went and each season brought a new crop of Product to Hollywood. The competition hitchhiked and came on motorcycles and trains and planes. They were all eighteen years old, as Jill had once been. They were long-legged and lithe, with fresh, eager young faces and bright smiles that did not need caps. And with each new crop that came in, Jill was one year older. One day she looked in the mirror and it was 1964 and she had become twenty-five years old.

At first, the experience of making the pornographic film had terrified her. She had lived in dread that some casting director would learn about it and blackball her. But as the weeks went by and then months, Jill gradually forgot her fears. But she had changed. Each succeeding year had left its mark upon her, a patina of hardness, like the annual rings on a tree. She began to hate all the people who would not give her a chance to act, the people who made promises they never kept.

She had embarked on an endless series of monotonous, thankless jobs. She was a secretary and a receptionist and a short-order cook and a baby-sitter and a model and a waitress and a telephone operator and a salesgirl. Just until she got The Call.

But The Call never came. And Jill's bitterness grew. She did occasional walk-ons and one-liners, but they never led to anything. She looked in the mirror and received Time's message: Hurry. Seeing her reflection was like looking back into layers of the past. There were still traces of the fresh young girl who had come to Hollywood seven endless years ago. But the fresh young girl had small wrinkles near the edges of her eyes and deeper lines that ran from the corners of her nose down to her chin, warning signals of time fleeting and success ungrasped, the souvenirs of all the countless, dreary little defeats. Hurry, Jill, hurry!

And so it was that when Fred Kapper, an eighteen-year-old assistant director at Fox, told Jill he had a good part for her if she would go to bed with him, she decided it was time to say yes.

She met Fred Kapper at the studio during his lunch hour.

"I only got half an hour," he said. "Lemme think where we can have some privacy." He stood there a moment, frowning in deep thought, then brightened. "The dubbing room. Come on."

The dubbing room was a small soundproof projection chamber where all the sound tracks were combined on one reel.

Fred Kapper looked around the bare room and said, "Shit! They used to have a little couch here." He glanced at his watch. "We'll have to make do. Get your clothes off sweetheart. The dubbing crew'll be back in twenty minutes."

Jill stared at him a moment, feeling like a whore, and she loathed him. But she did not let it show. She had tried it her way and had failed. Now she was going to do it their way. She took off her dress and pants. Kapper did not bother undressing. He merely opened his zipper and took out his tumescent penis. He looked at Jill and grinned. "That's a beautiful ass. Bend over."

Jill looked around for something to lean against. In front of her was the laugh machine, a console on wheels, filled with laugh-track loops controlled by buttons on the outside.

"Come on, bend over."

Jill hesitated a moment, then leaned forward, propping herself up by her hands, Kapper moved in back of her and Jill felt his fingers spreading her cheeks. An instant later she felt the tip of his penis pressing against her anus. "Wait!" Jill said. "Not there! I - I can't - "

"Scream for me, baby!" and he plunged his organ inside her, ripping her with a terrible pain. With each scream, he thrust deeper and harder. She tried frantically to get away, but he was grabbing her hips, shoving himself in and out, holding her fast. She was off balance now. As she reached out to get leverage, her fingers touched the buttons of the laugh machine, and instantly the room was filled with maniacal laughter. As Jill squirmed in a burning agony, her hands pounded the machine, and a woman tittered and a small crowd guffawed and a girl giggled and a hundred voices cackled and chuckled and roared at some obscene, secret joke. The echoes bounced hysterically around the walls as Jill cried out with pain.

Suddenly she felt a series of quick shudders and a moment later the alien piece of flesh inside her was withdrawn, and slowly the laughter in the room died away. Jill stayed still, her eyes shut, fighting the pain. When finally she was able to straighten up and turn around, Fred Kapper was zipping up his fly.

"You were sensational, sweetheart. That screaming really turns me on."

And Jill wondered what kind of an animal he would be when he was nineteen.

He saw that she was bleeding. "Get yourself cleaned up and come over to Stage Twelve. You start working this afternoon."

After that first experience, the rest was easy. Jill began to work regularly at all the studios: Warner Brothers, Paramount, MGM, Universal, Columbia, Fox. Everywhere, in fact, except at Disney, where sex did not exist.

The role that Jill created in bed was a fantasy, and she acted it out with skill, preparing herself as though she were playing a part. She read books on Oriental erotica and bought philters and stimulants from a sex shop on Santa Monica Boulevard. She had a lotion that an airline stewardess brought her from the Orient, with the faintest touch of wintergreen in it. She learned to massage her lovers slowly and sensuously. "Lie there and think about what I'm doing to your body," she whispered. She rubbed the lotion across the man's chest and down his stomach toward his groin, making gentle, circling motions. "Close your eyes and enjoy it."

Her fingers were as light as butterfly wings, moving down his body, caressing him. When he began to have an erection, Jill would take his growing penis in her hand and softly stroke it, moving her tongue down between his legs until he was squirming with pleasure, then continuing down slowly, all the way to his toes. Then Jill would turn him over, and it all began again. When a man's organ was limp, she put the head of it just inside the lips of her vagina, and slowly drew him inside her, feeling it grow hard and stiff. She taught the men the waterfall, and how to peak and stop just before an orgasm and then build again and peak again, so that when they finally came, it was an ecstatic explosion. They had their pleasure and got dressed and left. No one ever stayed long enough to give her the loveliest five minutes in sex, the quiet holding afterward, the peaceful oasis of a lover's arms.

Providing Jill with acting parts was a small price to pay for the pleasure she gave the casting men, the assistant directors, the directors and the producers. She became known around town as a "red-hot piece of ass," and everyone was eager for his share. And Jill gave it. Each time she did, there was that much less self-respect and love in her, and that much more hatred and bitterness.

She did not know how, or when, but she knew that one day this town would pay for what it had done to her.

During the next few years, Jill appeared in dozens of movies and television shows and commercials. She was the secretary who said, "Good morning, Mr. Stevens," and the baby-sitter who said, "Don't worry now, you two have a good evening. I'll put the children to bed," and the elevator operator who announced, "Sixth floor next," and the girl in the ski outfit who confided, "All my girlfriends use Dainties." But nothing ever happened. She was a nameless face in the crowd. She was in the Business, and yet she was not, and she could not bear the thought of spending the rest of her life like this.

In 1966 Jill's mother died and Jill drove to Odessa for the funeral. It was late afternoon and there were fewer than a dozen people at the services, none of them the women her mother had worked for all those years. Some of the churchgoers were there, the doom-saying revivalists. Jill remembered how terrified she had been at those meetings. But her mother had found some sort of solace in them, the exorcising of whatever demons had tormented her.

A familiar voice said quietly, "Hello, Josephine." She turned and he was standing at her side and she looked into his eyes and it was as though they had never been apart, as though they still belonged to each other. The years had stamped a maturity on his face, added a sprinkling of gray to his sideburns. But he had not changed, he was still David, her David. Yet they were strangers.

He was saying, "I'm very sorry about your mother."

And she heard herself replying, "Thank you, David."

As though they were reciting lines from a play.

"I have to talk to you. Can you meet me tonight?" There was an urgent pleading in his voice.

She thought of the last time they had been together and of the hunger in him then and the promise and the dreams. She said, "All right, David."

"The lake? Do you have a car?"

She nodded.

"I'll meet you there in an hour."

Cissy was standing in front of a mirror, naked, getting ready to dress for a dinner party when David arrived home. He walked into her bedroom and stood there watching her. He could judge his wife with complete dispassion, for he felt no emotion whatsoever toward her. She was beautiful. Cissy had taken care of her body, keeping it in shape with diet and exercise. It was her primary asset and David had reason to believe that she was liberal in sharing it with others, her golf coach, her ski teacher, her flight instructor. But David could not blame her. It had been a long time since he had gone to bed with Cissy.

In the beginning, he had really believed that she would give him a divorce when Mama Kenyon died. But David's mother was still alive and flourishing. David had no way of knowing whether he had been tricked or whether a miracle had taken place. A year after their marriage, David had said to Cissy, "I think it's time we talked about that divorce."

Cissy had said, "What divorce?" And when she saw the astonished look on his face she laughed. "I like being Mrs. David Kenyon, darling. Did you really think I was going to give you up for that little Polish whore?"

He had slapped her.

The following day he had gone to see his attorney. When David was finished talking, the attorney said, "I can get you the divorce. But if Cissy is set on hanging on to you, David, it's going to be bloody expensive."

"Get it."

When Cissy had been served the divorce papers, she had locked herself in David's bathroom and had swallowed an overdose of sleeping pills. It had taken David and two servants to smash the heavy door. Cissy had hovered on the brink of death for two days. David had visited her in the private hospital where she had been taken.

"I'm sorry, David," she had said. "I don't want to live without you. It's as simple as that."

The following morning, he had dropped the divorce suit.

That had been almost ten years ago, and David's marriage had become an uneasy truce. He had completely taken over the Kenyon empire and he devoted all of his energies to running it. He found physical solace in the strings of girls he kept in the various cities around the world to which his business carried him. But he had never forgotten Josephine.

David had no idea how she felt about him. He wanted to know, and yet he was afraid to find out. She had every reason to hate him. When he had heard the news about Josephine's mother, David had gone to the funeral parlor just to look at Josephine. The moment he saw her, he knew that nothing had changed. Not for him. The years had been swept away in an instant, and he was as much in love with her as ever.

I have to talk to you.... meet me tonight....

All right, David....

The lake.

Cissy turned around as she saw David watching her in the pier glass. "You'd better hurry and change, David. We'll be late."

"I'm going to meet Josephine. If she'll have me, I'm going to marry her. I think it's time this farce ended, don't you?"

She stood there, staring at David, her naked image reflected in the mirror.

"Let me get dressed," she said.

David nodded and left the room. He walked into the large drawing room, pacing up and down, preparing for the confrontation. Surely after all these years, Cissy would not want to hang onto a marriage that was a hollow shell. He would give her anything she -

He heard the sound of Cissy's car starting and then the scream of tires as it careened down the driveway. David raced to the front door and looked out. Cissy's Maserati was racing toward the highway. Quickly, David got into his car, started the engine and gunned down the driveway after Cissy.

As he reached the highway, her car was just disappearing in the distance. He stepped down hard on the accelerator. The Maserati was a faster car than David's Rolls. He pressed down harder on the gas pedal: 70...80...90. Her car was no longer in sight.

100...110...still no sign of her.

He reached the top of a small rise, and there he saw the car, like a distant toy, careening around a curve. The torque was pulling the car to one side, the tires fighting to hold their traction on the road. The Maserati swayed back and forth, yawing across the highway. Then it leveled off and made it past the curve. And suddenly the car hit the shoulder of the road and shot into the air like a catapult and rolled over and over across the fields.

David pulled Cissy's unconscious body out of the car moments before the ruptured gas tank exploded.

It was six o'clock the next morning before the chief surgeon came out of the operating room and said to David, "She's going to live."

Jill arrived at the lake just before sunset. She drove to the edge of the water. Turning off the motor, she gave herself up to the sounds of the wind and the air. I don't know when I've ever been so happy, she thought. And then she corrected herself. Yes, I do. Here. With David. And she remembered how his body had felt on hers and she grew faint with wanting. Whatever had spoiled their happiness was over. She had felt it the moment she had seen David. He was still in love with her. She knew it.

She watched the blood-red sun slowly drown in the distant water, and darkness fell. She wished that David would hurry.

An hour passed, then two, and the air became chilled. She sat in the car, still and quiet. She watched the huge dead-white moon float into the sky. She listened to the night sounds all around her and she said to herself, David is coming.

Jill sat there all night and, in the morning, when the sun began to stain the horizon, she started the car and drove home to Hollywood.