The next six months flew by in a flash. Gene’s newborn daughter Kerry was a joy beyond anything he thought he could experience. The three of them made a solid little unit in their small
house. Work at the studio was steady, but unexciting, but it allowed him to enjoy the time with his daughter and he was completely smitten with her. Normally, Gene was always itching to
work, but for right now, if nothing was required, he rushed home to his baby daughter. His next film, Pilot #5 was shot relatively quickly. He and Betsy read books on parenting as they truly
believed in an intellectual approach, but the tiniest cry melted him to the core. He was absolutely in love with his daughter and he would do anything to protect her. He and Betsy fell
into a comfortable routine; he loved her very much, but the relationship was lopsided; he saw her as something to be nurtured and he was the boss of the roost. It led to some friction, but their
mutual love of their daughter smoothed over the rough edges, at least for the moment. As happy as Gene was, memories of Judy, especially their last night together, often flashed in his mind and
when they did, it brought almost a physical pain. Occasionally he’d see her in the MGM cafeteria, and each time there was that familiar lurch. Apart from a slightly uncomfortable
appearance together at the Hollywood Bowl, they both kept themselves distant, only allowing the briefest of tender glances. He heard that things between David Rose and Judy were growing
worse, and he worried about her, but still kept his distance.
After For Me and My Gal, things in Judy’s marriage quickly disintegrated. She found herself pregnant. She fantasized that it might be Gene’s, but deep down she knew it was David’s. Still, she desperately wanted the baby. David, liking Judy’s paychecks, wasn’t thrilled about losing her income to motherhood, and the studio was even unhappier. It was hushed up, but the studio and David leaned on her until she had a procedure to end the pregnancy. Crushed, she pulled away from David even more and that ultimately that destroyed the marriage. It wasn’t publicly announced, but David had all but moved out of their house. They were now living separate lives. She knew that she couldn’t go to Gene, and when Tyrone Power had propositioned her, in a weak minute, she slept with him. But that wasn’t what she wanted or needed so the affair petered out quickly.
Dubarry was a Lady was Gene’s next film, and it was awful. He knew it and he simmered with frustration, but he knew he had to put in his dues. Luckily, the cast was a lot of fun to be
with. Lucille Ball was not only gorgeous she was also very funny. It was easy to share scenes and off screen laughs and her young husband, Desi Arnaz was a frequent visitor to the set. Zero
Mostel, an old New York friend, was new to MGM and part of the cast. That made the long times waiting to be called for scenes more agreeable. They horsed around and made mild trouble just to amuse
themselves. Gene also renewed his friendship with Robert Alton, spending time at the rehearsal hall, learning everything he could. It was an undemanding time and it made him wish
for more challenging work.
One morning, he exited his car; as he made his way to the set, he saw Judy at the entrance to the next sound stage. He waved and smiled. Judy waved back but looking distracted and a little upset; she quickly stepped away as she entered the next soundstage; it made him feel badly. At his next break, he stepped outside and bummed a cigarette from another crewmember. Lighting it, he lounged against the wall, keeping an eye on the door to Judy’s set.Eventually, she came out, trailed by a small group of crew and script girls. They moved one way, and Judy went to follow them, but hesitated before turning in Gene’s direction. She didn’t come closer; instead, she reached for a cigarette in her bag. Gene strode toward her, took her matches, and lit her cigarette.It was first time they’d been alone since that morning together.
“Hi Judy, it’s good to see you,” he said softly.
“Hello, how’s the baby?” her voice was measured.
“Wonderful. Unfortunately, she’s the picture of her old man. How are you? Everything ok?” his voice couldn’t quite hide his feelings.
“Fine.” She said softly; her eyes reflected back her feelings for just a second before she replied in a faux cheerful voice, ”Looks like we’re neighbors.”
“So it does.” The air between them was awkward; falling mute, they stood side by side, smoking. Finally, Gene dropped his cigarette and crushed it out before reaching out to tilt up her chin as he gazed down at her. The string of pearls was at her throat. Looking deep into her eyes, he smiled at her and said softly,
“I’m glad that we are. I’ve missed your laugh. The pearls look beautiful on you.”
Judy fingered the pearls but made no reply. He moved to her side and nudged her. She tried to appear annoyed, but Judy couldn't resist his grin. He nudged her again. She tried to stifle a grin and gave him a little shove. He gave her a little shove back and smiled wider until Judy relented and chuckled. He was too charming and he wasn’t going to let her pout; it was one of the things she found so damned irresistible about him. They began to relax; just then, a production assistant approached and called to Gene. He turned and acknowledged the young man, and then moved back to Judy. He leaned over and whispered into her ear.
“Glad to see you smile.”
He quickly shifted away and gave her a wave. Hoping that he left her in a better mood, he strolled back to his set. Work on DuBarry continued, and they began shooting the dream sequences. Gene was portraying the Black Arrow and Mostel played his pal Taliostra.One day between takes, the two men lounged at the stage door. As they talked, Judy approached, looking beautiful in a lightly sequined gown. Her hair, now light blonde, was piled upon her head in an intricate style. Chuck Walters a dancer and budding choreographer accompanied her. Just then, a studio photographer snapped a picture of the Gene and Zero with Judy standing by. Seeing the photographer, they began to mug and make faces. The photographer took several pictures and then asked if Gene and Judy would do a few dance steps for him. They looked at each other, shrugged, and entered the soundstage. Making their way to the nightclub set, the photographer asked them to dance a few steps. Given Judy’s dress, it looked like a ballad; a ballroom number was in order.
Gene leaned in, wiggled his eyebrows and said, “let’s make like Fred and Ginger, after all, how often am I this dashing?”
Judy giggled her delicious giggle and agreed. Gene took her in his arms. Humming, he glided her across the floor, dipping and spinning her around. Being so close to each other felt wonderful and soon they were swept into a full dance number, ignoring the photographer who was snapping furiously.Too soon, the dance ended and Gene spun her out at arm’s length. Zero and the photographer applauded wildly, only to be shushed by an approaching production assistant. Still holding Judy’s hand, Gene hastily led them outside where they leaned against the wall, laughing heartily. The photographer thanked them profusely and headed off. Zero was called back in. Gene turned to Judy, beaming; his eyes were shining. He wanted to hug her, but there were too many people about.
“That felt great!” he exclaimed.
“It was fun, wasn’t it?” she smiled, and then cast her eyes downward. A blush covered her cheeks. “I didn’t want it to end.”
He leaned a little closer and took her hand. She looked up at him, her eyes searching his. He licked his lips, and his eyes grew soft. Holding her in his arms felt better than good. Until that minute, he hadn’t admitted to himself that he had missed her terribly; he pushed his feelings for her deep down inside him, but all it took was a few minutes for everything to come crashing back. Judy’s eyes filled up. She had missed him horribly as well; Judy knew what she wanted and what she needed, and that was Gene. She didn’t care if it was an affair and that was all he could give.She loved him, and that was what mattered. She asked tentatively,
“Tonight, after shooting, let’s have a drink? Please, come to my dressing room.”
Gene bit his lower lip. He shouldn’t, he knew that, but Judy’s eyes, huge and imploring, tugged at his heart. He didn’t respond, but reached up and ran his fingertips down the side of her throat. She took his hand and pressed it to her cheek.He looked around quickly and ducked his head to brush his lips on her cheek. Just then, he heard the A.D. calling him. He nodded his assent and quickly left. Judy touched her cheek. His lips were so warm, she could still feel him even after he’d gone.
At 6PM, Judy fluttered nervously around her dressing room. She had ice in the ice bucket, a bottle of whiskey, and a couple bottles of Coca Cola. Settling on the edge, nervously smoking,
she kept glancing at the clock on the table. Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five minutes passed before there was a small knock at the door. She flew to it and opened. Gene stood there in
street clothes, a sweater, and a pair of khakis.She smiled, relieved that he hadn’t changed his mind. She held out her hand and he took it, stepping into the room. His face was
serious but his eyes were soft.
“I, I’m sorry it took me so long. I went back and forth several times on whether I should come. “ He said very quietly.
“I’m glad you did, but what made you decide?”
“ You…” he said simply. “I am crazy for this, but then, this whole thing is crazy.”
She sucked in her lower lip and smiled a little sheepishly. “I know, darling, I know.”
Hearing her call him darling enabled him to relax and he smiled. “I’ll take that drink, if you don’t mind – I could use it.”
She turned to the ice bucket and tray and fixed them both a drink. They sat down together and clinked their glasses.
“ Here’s to being crazy.” She offered.
“ You said it.” He tossed off the drink and set down the glass.
Judy asked him about Kerry and he beamed, telling her about his daughter. He seemed so in love with his life. Judy listened torn; she was happy for him, yet jealous that she wasn’t the one sharing it. Gene leaned back, bending his knee to rest his foot on the daybed and wrapped his hands around his knee. He gazed at her; she looked lovely, dressed simply in a blouse and slacks. Gene always thought she looked best this way, natural, freckles showing and her hair curling around her shoulders. His gaze made her suddenly shy and she looked down, a flush spreading across her cheeks. Gene leaned in and reached out to turn her face to him. Her eyes remained cast downward. Her conflicted emotions were clear upon her face. He lifted her chin. He smiled softly.
“You’ve been through a lot, honey? I’ve heard bits and pieces.” He said gently.
“ Oh, I don’t know, things haven’t turned out…..” she stammered, “I’ve really missed you.”
Gene sighed. He had missed her more than he realized, even with the great joys of the past months. Life as a father was lovely, but there was something missing. While he tried to deny it, he missed Judy. She filled something that no one else could touch.
“You and David,” Gene put his two index fingers together and then moved them apart.
She nodded. She sipped her drink and her shoulders slumped, and rolled her eyes.
“It’s hard to be married to someone who’s never there. You can’t even have a good argument!”
Gene chuckled. He knew Judy liked a good row. He stretched out his legs, and asked her quietly, “Did he know about you and me?”
“ No, he was oblivious.”
Judy began to talk and she told Gene about what had happened, omitting the procedure and Powers. In typical Judy fashion, the story was dramatic and tinged with humor. She summed it up with the story of their separation. At the end of the story, Judy brushed back a lock of hair that had fallen over her forehead. She looked down into her lap and, very quietly, told her she loved him. She went on to say that she wanted to be in his life, no matter the restrictions or the outcome. Her feelings were too strong to ignore. Judy finished and looked at him, uncertain of his response. Gene’s face turned serious and he pressed his lips together. He looked at the door, and rose. For a moment, Judy thought he was going to get up and leave, but he simply locked the door before returning to stand in front of her.
“ No more ADs.” He grinned.
Judy leaned back and laughed aloud. She reached out her hands and he pulled her up into his arms. Holding her to him, he felt her bury her face in the hollow of his throat. Sighing, he tightened his hold, loving the way her softness melted into his solidness. Gene kissed her hair and pressed his lips to her forehead, whispering her name. He told her how he missed her laugh and the way she fit into his arms. Snuggling in closer, Judy kissed the hollow of his neck. She reached up and stroked his face, her lips finding his. They kissed feverishly, sating the hunger that had been held in for so long. Gene’s lips devoured hers, his tongue pressing deep into her mouth. He kissed her cheeks, then her eyelids, before moving back to her lips. He pulled her lower lip between his and gently tugged until she sighed with pleasure. His hands explored her, through the thin fabric of her blouse, moving slowly and deliberately, savoring every inch of her body. Judy slid her hand under his sweater, eager to touch his skin. Groaning with pleasure, he unbuttoned her blouse and removed her bra, baring her torso to him. Sinking onto the daybed, he pulled her to him, kissing and caressing her breasts.Tonight they were determined to savor every moment. He trailed his fingers down her body, feeling her respond.
“ You bring out the sensualist in me, Miss Garland. There isn’t an inch of you that I don’t want to touch or taste.” He growled.
“ I’m so very lucky you feel that way, Mr. Kelly.” She smiled and stretched out next to him. “I’m beginning to become quite the hedonist myself and I think it’s your fault.”
They undressed the rest of the way. He nuzzled her neck as she lightly ran her index finger along the length of him.
“Judy…”He breathed into her ear, “Oh babe.”
“ I think it’s time you made love to me, Mr. Kelly.”
“ Believe me honey, I will.” He grinned.
That night, their lovemaking took on a tenderer note. Gene was more passionate than ever, he held her closer and caressed her body with a light, tantalizing, gentle touch. When he entered her, he moved slowly, taking his time in bringing Judy to an orgasm of such intensity that she felt like she was losing control. Her head thrown back, she pressed hard against him as the spasms of her pleasure that gripped him told Gene that he could let go and soon after, his own body shuddered violently. He gasped and collapsed on her, breathing hard. Judy wrapped her arms and her legs over his back; she was so moved she began to cry softly, overcome with all of the emotion that she had held in for so long.
“Shhh, baby, don’t cry,” he crooned, pressing his face into the side of her neck, “I’m here, right here.”
“ I’m not sad,” Judy gasped through her tears. She smiled and stroked his hair, “I’m just so happy to be here with you. I cry when I’m happy and I cry when I’m sad, I’m a mess….”
Gene rolled to his side, and rose up on one elbow, supporting his head with his fist. The daybed was small; they had to press together to fit. Looking down at her, he wiped away her tears with his thumb, and then moved his hand down to caress her arm. Judy sighed contentedly, her eyes closed.
“Did I make you sleepy?” He asked in a gentle, teasing voice.
She smiled, “You’re a tiger, darling. You could do this for a living.”
“Well, if the dancing gig doesn’t work out…. this could be a whole new line of business. Kelly Escort Services…”
“You could the All-American boy type, or maybe lusty truck driver that carries very special cargo…” She was giggling now.
They laughed together for a bit, then his eyes turned serious, and he stopped smiling. He gazed down at her; the intensity in his eyes made her stop smiling. The emotion and intimacy displayed was overwhelming; Judy grew quiet as she reached to caress his cheek. He grasped her hand and kissed her palm before gazing at her again, murmuring softly,
“I love you, Judy. I know it’s not a perfect situation, but I do love you.”
Sliding her arms around his neck, she hugged him tightly,
“Oh my darling, I love you, too.”
Their respective films finished, but they saw each other frequently on set, at parties and at the MGM canteen. Gene knew that Judy loved yellow roses and he took to leaving one in her dressing room. They occasionally returned to the little cottage on the cliff they'd found. It was the only place where they could relax and make love. Gene often felt as though he were juggling a dozen flaming torches, but whenever he saw Judy, all thoughts of that faded as soon as she was in his arms. Both of their careers began to speed up; the familiarity and shared experience deepened the friendship aspect of their relationship. There were many times they would just sit and laugh together, communicating their love for each other with their eyes.
As the months wore on, finding time to be together became more and more difficult. They both went into other movies. Gene was sent into a drama and Judy in another musical. These films kept them at opposite ends of the studio and often on different schedules. Kerry was growing quickly, and Gene was reluctant to spend much time away from her, as she was very much Daddy’s Little Girl. Now that David was out of the picture, Judy’s life had become a whirlwind. She hated to be alone, and went out as often as she could to avoid it. Soon, she began to see Joe Mankiewicz, a writer and producer.At first, she kept her new relationship from Gene; she wasn’t ready to share; she wasn’t sure how to broach the subject and selfishly, she wanted to hold on to her time with the man she held so dear. Soon enough, however, word of Judy and Joe’s relationship reached him. When he heard, he was in a quandary. One the one hand, he was jealous and upset, and on the other, he hoped that Joe could give Judy what he couldn’t. If they couldn’t be together, then he wanted Judy to have someone to love her as she deserved to be loved.At night, after Kerry would go to sleep, he would brood in his study, but he knew he had no right to.
The studio held a command performance gala that every contracted member had to attend. That night, they stood in a cavernous sound stage done up for the event. Gene hated these things and usually tried to avoid them at all cost, but tonight, he couldn’t. He and his wife stood with Arthur and Stanley chatting idly, when he saw Judy across the floor being greeted by Lana Turner. Gene broke away from his crowd under the guise of getting a drink and approached Judy who was now talking with a small group. As soon as she saw him, she made excuses and drifted from them. He reached her and leaned in to kiss her cheek. His lips felt like fire, and they lingered against skin; Judy closed her eyes. They stood close, but not close enough to bring attention. It was loud enough that Gene had to lean in very close to speak with her. The air between them became electric, as it always did. His breath was warm and slightly whiskey scented.
“I need to see you,” He was smiling, but the tone in his voice was serious.
“ I know,” she replied, her look also belying her tone.
“I know you’re busy,” Judy couldn’t help but detect the underlying anger in his tone, “Do you have time this week? Can you meet me at the cottage?”
Her hear sank, she hoped it was to make love, but the fact that he approached her here so seriously, she knew he must have found out about Joe and wanted to talk about it in absolute private.She looked at him, her eyes large, and nodded. Judy’s eyes gave everything away. She was afraid and he knew it.
“ Tuesday?” his tone was clipped and short.
“That’ll be fine. I’ll see you at 2.” Her tone was soft and wary.
Gene squeezed her arm gently and headed to the bar. She watched him order a large whiskey and toss it back.That shook Judy, for it wasn’t like Gene to do that. She couldn’t return to the group, it unnerved her too much, so she left the room to gather herself. Gene returned to his group, but stood a little apart, his jaw muscles clenched. He soon left.
Tuesday came too quickly for Judy; for Gene it seemed to take forever. As he pulled up to the cottage, her car was already there. Amazing, he thought, she’s never early. It made him
wary. Knocking softly on the door, Judy answered immediately, as though she was waiting behind the door. She stepped back to allow him to enter; he passed without glancing at her and
walked into the room. Judy had opened the doors to the balcony; through the opening he could see a bottle of wine chilling and a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray. Judy watched him
gaze around the room; she wondered if he was trying to commit it to memory. Their times here were beautiful, filled with passion and love. They both wondered if it would all be destroyed this
afternoon. He raked his hand through his hair nervously, and turned to Judy, who was still standing by the door looking so wretched, it made his shoulders drop with resignation. His eyes
softened as he spoke,
No matter what would happen, he loved her and wanted her happiness – even it hurt. He opened his arms to beckon her. Seeing his invitation, Judy flew across the room; she needed to feel the warmth of his embrace. They didn’t kiss, but they held each other for a long time. She motioned to the balcony and together they went to sit in the low Adirondacks. Gene opened the wine and poured them each a glass. They sat side by side and looked over the water, Judy stealing long sidelong glances at him. The muscles in his jaw were working the way it did when he wasn’t pleased. She knew that it could either lead to a thunderously obscene outburst or to a dark silence, but his face was placid, almost unreadable. She sipped her wine. Finally, he spoke.
“ Look Judy, I know about you and Joe….”
“It’s, it’s new.” She stammered.
“ Is it? I’ve been hearing it for months. You two haven’t exactly been sneaking around.”
Judy was annoyed by his words. “No, we haven’t.save that only for you.” She clamped her hand on her mouth, mortified that what she was thinking slipped out.
Gene’s eyes widened, but he restrained himself. In a measured tone he said,
“I know that our relationship is …challenged. I know that it gets under your skin. As much as I’d like to, I can’t split myself in two,”
He looked down at the wine glass that he was rubbing back and forth in his palms.
“ I know that Joe is separated, and if he can give more to you, okay. I want you to be happy. I’ll step aside.”
Suddenly hot, Judy held the icy glass to her forehead. Joe was so different than Gene. Both men were intellectuals, but while Joe was very cerebral, Gene was very earthy. She had fallen in love with Joe quickly; it was her way.She was given to dramatics and her actions with Joe were very much in line. Joe made her think differently, act differently and Judy was always entranced by something new. He forced her to look at herself in a way that she felt was positive, and most importantly, she didn’t have to sneak to see him nor did she have to hide their relationship from the public. It wasn’t easy to explain her conflict; she loved Gene. Intellectually, he challenged her; he certainly wasn’t a bore. He was solid, making her feel safe every time she was in his arms. Physically, he was perfect for her; he made love to her like no one else. Emotionally, his protective nature was comforting; they could talk for hours and he could make her laugh like no one else. But Joe was somewhat free and she would never have that with Gene. As much as it pained her, her mind was made up.
“ I want to continue seeing Joe,” she began.
Gene didn’t say anything. Staring down at his glass, he nodded.He blinked rapidly, feeling a lump rise in his throat, but he fought it down. Feeling Judy’s eyes on him, he couldn’t meet her gaze; he had to keep control. He his eyes down and clenched his jaw; his voice got very quiet and hard for Judy to hear over the surf.
“ Okay, I’ll go,” he paused for a beat,” if it’s better for you.”
“ Gene, it’s not better, it’s just.....” Judy couldn’t find the words to finish as her eyes filled with tears.
She was angry; the last thing she wanted to do was to cry. Try as she might, she couldn’t hold back, and large tears began to trace down her face,
“I don’t want to leave you, but I’m so confused about us,” she finally got out as she fumbled for a handkerchief.
“Judy, if you want a chance with him, you can’t still hold on to me.”
“It makes it easier for you, doesn’t it?” she sobbed.
Gene voice thundered, startling her. He quickly scrambled to kneel in front of her, gripping her arms tightly, shaking her in order to get her to look at him. Judy’s hair fell loose from its
soft bun and it draped across her face as she lifted her eyes to him, tears streaming down her face. Gene gently pushed her hair back, took her handkerchief, and wiped her cheeks.
“ It will be absolute hell for me,” he said, his voice husky with emotion, “I love you very much – in every way. You’ve made me look at love in a way completely different than what I thought possible. But I have a baby at home, and my child is the most important thing to me. If I weren’t committed to that, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. We’d be in that bed making love and making plans. I know that Joe is separated from his wife and is in a better position to potentially make a life with you. It kills me, but I know it, and I won’t take that away from you, no matter how much it hurts me right now.”
Judy reached out and touched his face, seeing how the pain radiated from his eyes. Burying his face in her lap, she stroked his hair before bending to lay her cheek on his head. Quietly, the tears started again; almost afraid to move, they held each other for a long time. Eventually, Gene pulled away and stood, going to the rail of the balcony. He leaned over and looked over the water, feeling raw inside. Judy came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist; turning he faced her. Her eyes were red and puffy, her lips a little swollen. he raised her shoulders in a helpless shrug. Taking her hands in his, he held them to his chest and kissed them before folding her into his arms and kissing her deeply, hoping that kiss would say everything that he couldn’t. Breaking away, he whispered his love one more time.
“ I have to go.” Gene whispered, his voice thick.
He left her on the balcony and walked toward the door. He heard her sobbing hard, but kept going.
He hesitated and tightened his hands into fists. He dropped his chin to his chest for a minute, and then he straightened up to leave the cottage. Judy collapsed to the deck, crying openly, the sobs shaking her entire body. Gene got into his car and lit a cigarette. Taking a deep drag, he exhaled fiercely. Placing his hands on the steering wheel, he sat very still for a second and felt his eyes fill. Rubbing them and swallowing hard, he started the car and slowly drove away.
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