Jack McCann woke up with an erection sticking in his back. It ws a novel sensation, he thought, grimacing as his head started to pound and every muscle protested. He half-opened one eye, flinching at the bright sunlight that flooded the room. Gold furniture, luscious greenery, several marble columns. He must be in Archie’s Roman sun room.
At one point in the wee hours the previous night, a few of the party had broken away to come down here. Jack vaguely recalled sprawling on that chaise longe over there, champagne in one hand, Scotch in the other, gaily playing at Caesar and commanding everyone to dance for him or be thrown to the lions. He had no idea how they all ended up naked though.
Jack appeared to be curled around a woman, and spooned in turn by someone behind him — he had no idea who, other than the confirmation poking into his lower back that it was a he. The woman was olive skinned and voluptuous, her dark hair cut in a fashionable bob. She was a make up artist over at Fox, Jack remembered suddenly. He noted ruefully that despite the woman’s beauty he had not roused himself to give her a similar morning greeting; though given the alcohol he had consumed the night before it would have been a feat of epic proportions.
Jack shifted with a deep yawn, slowly extracting himself from the mass of sticky, sleeping bodies — he belatedly realised he was using another woman’s thigh as a pillow. A man, wearing nothing but a emerald green feather headdress, was snoring face down by his feet. Quite a few of the party must have followed them down eventually, Jack thought as he forced himself to a sitting position. One of the band members, his dark skin gleaming in the morning sunshine, snoozed in a chaise, still clutching his trumpet.
That new Italian just starting out — what was his name? Valentino? — was sprawled on the floor draped in a satin sheet. Jack could have sworn he had danced with Mabel Normand at some point the previous evening, but there was no sign of her now. She probably slipped away at dawn for a hot bath and hearty breakfast, and was now already hard at work on set at Paramount.
Jack needed coffee, but first he needed clothes. He vaguely recalled he had dressed in white tie and tails; the festivities having started with dinner at Pickfair, and Mary being such a stickler for formal dress. As usual, Chaplin hadn’t felt pressured by formality or courtesy to bathe before dinner, and Archie had been forced to smother a fit of laughter at Jack’s look of horror when he realised he was seated in the vicinity of the unpleasant little Englishman.
There was no sign of Jack’s suit now, but he spotted a pile of crumpled fabric beneath an enormous fern and pounced on it. It turned out to be a be a flapper dress of sapphire velvet. He tied it around his waist like a sarong.
‘Jack — Jack McCann, is it really you?’
Jack turned to see a flapper, stunning in a silver dress and pearls, her makeup somehow still flawless though she was wearing only one shoe, standing in the doorway, staring at him with wide, stunned eyes.
‘On a good day, perhaps.’
‘I can’t believe —’ she breathed, stumbling into the room — ‘I heard a rumour last night that you were here but I didn’t really — of course I knew you and Archie Tanner are great chums, I read all about it in Photoplay magazine but to see you standing here just like a regular Joe — Cecily!’
Cecily came clattering in, shorter and rounder than her friend, in a burnt orange dress and a tuxedo jacket Jack was almost certain was his. ‘Oh Mr McCann, you have no idea how I have dreamed of this moment — I came all the way to Hollywood to meet you and I just knew it would happen if I wished hard enough. We’re meant to be together, don’t you see? A psychic told me when I was just sixteen years old and —’
‘Well it sure is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.’ Jack grinned his patented movie star grin to cover the flutter of unease trickling over him. ‘I’ll be glad to sign —’
‘And me!’ The other woman was pulling at her dress, undoing the fastenings. ‘We’re meant to be together too.’
As the sliver of satin fell to the floor revealing her nakedness, Jack turned and fled.