Cover image for Soap opera
Title:
Soap opera
Author:
Fulton, Eileen.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
311 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780312203658
Format :
Book

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Status
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

From the soap star who plays the villainous Lisa on the ever-popular "As the World Turns" comes a dishy novel that takes place behind the scenes of a soap.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Art imitates television in this aptly named sudsfest by one of the reigning doyennes of soapdom, familiar to daytime viewers as Lisa Miller in As the World Turns. Stranded at the altar by her gambling-addicted, promiscuous fianc‚, unsophisticated Amanda Baker departs D.C. for New York, vowing never to let a man stand in the way of a career on Broadway. In the Big Apple, after a month of waitressing and despairing, she lands a job on Another Life, a popular daytime soap, playing the long-lost daughter of a beloved veteran. Not everyone is happy to have Amanda on board, however. Soon, not only is she coping with the less glamorous aspects of soap lifeÄthe grueling hours, the fans who confuse actor with characterÄbut also with bitchiness and blackmail. And, of course, romance. Encapsulating the multiple tragedies, flagrant coincidences and tear-streaked triumphs that define soap opera, Fulton includes such stock characters as the dashing hero, the ingenue, the idiosyncratic diva and the lecherous producer, as well as swarthy and quixotic lady-killers, beautiful na‹fs ripe for love and scandal, and lost children later found. There are enough car accidents among a small circle of people to completely defeat statistical law. True to its title, the plot moves briskly through assorted melodramas. But this is what millions tune in for on a daily basisÄthe campiness as well as the escapismÄand Fulton confidently delivers the goods. (June) FYI: Fulton is author of seven mysteries (Take One for Murder; Fatal Flashback) and co-author of two autobiographies (How My World Turns; How My World Still Turns). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One "Flight Number Twenty-three to New York's La Guardia Airport is now ready for boarding. All ticketed passengers please proceed directly to Gate Number Four."     The moment the initial boarding announcement rang through the loudspeaker at Washington's Dulles Airport, Amanda saw her father's eyes glaze over with tears. He tried to move his lips, but his throat squeezed tight, silencing him. Charles had fought with his stubborn daughter for days after the canceled wedding, trying to dissuade her from moving to New York. But she had made up her mind, and, as far as she was concerned, there wasn't a living soul who was going to persuade her to change it. When she first made the decision to leave, it was more out of a sense of wanting to run away from Will and the hurt and embarrassment of having been left standing at the altar. Will, of course, had telephoned repeatedly for days afterward. But Amanda had refused to speak to him each time he called. Will had tried softening her stance by sending a dozen red roses, every hour on the hour, with a handwritten apology attached to each bouquet. But whenever Amanda stared at the mounting wall of flowers she felt like she was being suffocated. She was determined to bury the unpleasant subject of Will and the wedding fiasco once and for all and get on with her life.     As she sat in her bedroom, staring at the pictures on the walls, Amanda began to think seriously of pursuing the dream she always had of being an actress. She had been bitten by the acting bug at a very early age. When she was five, her parents had taken her to see a local summer-stock production of South Pacific . For the next few weeks, her mother couldn't stop her from jumping in the shower, sudsing up her golden curls into a lovely lather, and roaming the neighborhood streets performing a rousing rendition of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair." A year later, Amanda began visiting Mrs. Romano, a newly widowed neighbor, who also taught drama at the local YWCA. Every afternoon, Mrs. Romano played "dress-up" with Amanda and indulged her in her world of make-believe. Eventually, Amanda joined the drama group at the Y. She continued studying and performing right through high school, and even won an acting award at a statewide competition during her senior year. Of course, once Will proposed, all thoughts of any serious career as a performer had quickly faded into the background.     But now everything was different. The more she thought about the idea, Amanda realized that she wasn't running away. She was running toward something of her own for the first time in her life. As far as she was concerned there was no reason to delay. Being an actress meant studying in New York City--the theater capital of the world!     "Attention please! Flight Number Twenty-three to New York's La Guardia Airport is now boarding. All ticketed passengers please proceed directly to Gate Number Four."     "That's my flight. I guess this is it," she announced stoically as she smiled at her father.     Charles reached inside the pocket of his white-cotton jacket and pulled out an envelope and a small box wrapped in pink tissue paper. He stared at the fluttering items, embarrassed to see that he was trembling. He placed the gifts in his daughter's hands and gently kissed her fingers. "Go ahead, open the box."     Amanda carefully unfolded the delicate pink paper and lifted the lid. She discovered a heart-shaped silver locket which had hung gracefully around her mother's neck many years ago. When Amanda was seven, her mother had been driving home on a rainy night after attending a baby shower. She was hit head-on by a drunk driver, who suffered a broken nose and wrist. Her mother's small car couldn't absorb the impact of the truck: Her vehicle somersaulted several times and then crashed into a telephone pole. She died instantly, leaving behind a frightened little girl and a devastated husband. The locket was her mother's favorite piece of jewelry. It contained two pictures: One was a photograph of Amanda which Charles had taken through the viewing glass of the nursery on the day she was born; the other was a picture of Charles with his face pressed up against the viewing glass. Together, the small photos captured that first moment between father and daughter.     "Daddy, it's priceless. Are you sure you want me to have this?"     Charles gazed into his daughter's beautiful gray-green eyes and nodded.     "I always wondered what happened to it after ... Thank you! Thank you so much for giving this to me--especially now. I'll wear it forever!" Amanda hugged her father and felt his body convulsing as he tried to hold back the torrent of sobs. She knew that it was up to her to be the strong one. The scene required a quick ending. She grabbed the bag of magazines which he had purchased while they were waiting and lightly kissed him on the forehead.     "I love you, Daddy. Take care of yourself."     Charles tried to smile as he mouthed the words, "You, too."     Amanda gave her father one last hug and then walked toward the gate without looking back. She could feel his eyes through the back of her head as he gazed at her, trying to savor each precious final image. She was certain that he would wait until the plane was safely in the air before heading back to the car to begin the sixty-mile drive home. She knew that her aunts would take good care of him, calling him nightly on the telephone, and inviting him over for Sunday supper. But she couldn't help wondering just a bit if he felt like she was abandoning him. I only hope this turns into something good. And that I won't have left him all alone for nothing . Although she had never been on an airplane before, Amanda could sense that the jet was nearing the moment of departure by observing the movement of the flight attendants. Their once languid bodies which casually strolled the aisles like tourists on the Champs-Elysées were now marching with a sense of purpose and direction.     "Ladies and gentlemen," a soothing voice announced, "in just a few minutes we'll be closing the doors and taxiing to the runway. Please check to make sure that your seats are in an upright position, the table-trays are firmly locked in place, and your carry-on baggage is securely stored in the overhead bins or beneath the seats in front of you. Thank you."     Amanda took a deep breath. It's safer than riding in a car. There's nothing to be worried about . But her stomach began turning cart-wheels faster than a fourteen-year-old gymnast at the Olympics. She was surprised to see that a gray-haired businessman in the aisle seat across from her was actually sleeping! She tried to distract herself by watching one of the flight attendants, who was trying to find space in an overhead bin for a wicker basket.     "Roz, these are all stuffed. Do you have any room in back?"     Gazing at the sea of heads which surrounded her, Amanda realized that--except for the middle seat on her left--the flight was full. At least I have a little breathing space . She reached into the bag of magazines and newspapers her father had purchased and randomly began pulling out periodicals.     Town & Country? ... W? ... International Estates? I've never even heard of these--let alone read them. She tossed the rejects onto the empty seat next to her, trying to find something more familiar. Just as she spied a copy of People , she heard a commotion at the front of the plane. Amanda craned her neck to pinpoint the source of the distraction. Although the only thing she could see was a long aisle lined with bobbing heads, she clearly heard voices--and they were heading her way. "I'm sorry, sir, but you're going to have to check those bags. There's no room in any of the--"     "I can't. I'm sorry, too, but I can't . I don't have time to wait for checked baggage in New York. I'll squeeze them in somewhere." The voice was deep, husky and very agitated.     "Then please take your seat, sir. We're about to taxi to the runway, but we can't move until you're seated."     "I'm going, I'm going, I told you I was sorry."     Amanda instantly realized that the latecomer had the seat next to hers. She quickly unfastened her seat belt and leaned into the aisle. She glimpsed a large collection of black-leather bags swaying in every direction, bumping the seated passengers. Suddenly the troublemaker turned around. Amanda spotted a very tall, swarthy-looking young man as he stumbled down the low-ceilinged aisle, trying to find his seat. A pair of deep Mediterranean blue eyes darted from side to side, trying to locate the correct number. She decided the man must have been running to catch the plane because he had sweated through the red-cotton T-shirt that clung to his chiseled body like a second skin. She took one look at his tousled hair, scraggly beard, and thick black moustache, and decided he was nothing but trouble. She quickly refastened her seat belt and buried her face behind the magazine.     When the latecomer reached Amanda's row he stopped. His eyes darted between the empty middle seat and the ticket in his hand. He then pivoted like a basketball player on center court, continued a few steps forward, and returned to his original position--completely unaware that his cases had been rearranging her perfectly coifed hair.     I can't believe this jerk! She pulled the copy of People close to her face, trying to ignore the intruder. Within seconds, however, another bag bounced off of her head. She lowered the magazine and was startled to find the harried passenger hunched over her, out of breath, eyebrows scrunched.     "You're in ... my seat," he announced between gasps. A drop of sweat ran down the end of his nose and landed in her lap.     "No, I don't think so." Amanda didn't want to argue, but she was not about to be pushed around by some strange man who had arrived late.     "Of course you are. I always sit on the aisle so that I can stretch my legs."     Amanda didn't respond. She buried her face in the magazine, hoping the oversize brute would disappear.     "Look, Miss Whoever-you-are, even if it's not my seat--which it clearly is--what difference could it make to you? You couldn't be more than five-two. Your legs won't get cramped no matter where you sit. Please. Scoot over so I can sit down."     The dark-haired young flight attendant instantly appeared. "Sir, you'll have to be seated now !" she stated, pointing to the middle seat.     "But that isn't my seat! She's in my seat!"     Although Amanda felt like punching the raving lunatic in the stomach and telling him to act like a gentleman, she decided to remain silent. Fortunately, the head flight attendant arrived within seconds and informed the latecomer that unless he took the middle seat--which was the only one remaining--he would have to deplane. He was holding up the flight.     "Fine," he blurted out sarcastically. "No problem. It will be my pleasure!" As he crawled over Amanda and collapsed into the unwanted seat, one of the bags slid off his shoulder, landing in her lap.     I can't believe this prehistoric excuse of a man! Although she was seething, Amanda was determined not to let him get the best of her. I'll ignore him. I won't speak to him. He's not worth it!     The latecomer began stuffing his bags under the seat in front of him. After a considerable effort, he was finally able to fit two of the cases into place by crushing the sides. But a small leather duffel sat in his lap with nowhere to go. Amanda fought to ignore him as he crawled over her legs again to check the overhead bins. But when his elbow flew to within an inch of her nose she decided to break her vow of silence.     "They're full!" she announced with a voice of authority. "The flight attendant told you they were full. That gentleman on the aisle told you they were full. There's no room! Maybe if you had arrived on time like everyone else you wouldn't be having so many problems. And would you please be careful--you almost hit me in the face!"     The latecomer returned to his seat and began to brood. He stared at the vacant space under the seat in front of Amanda--the obvious solution to his problem. "Excuse me," he mumbled.     She refused to acknowledge his presence.     "You don't have to speak," he began with an exhausted voice. "You can just nod. Can I store this bag under the seat in front of you? You're not using the space--and I did give you the aisle. So as a consolation prize, what do you think?"     Still no response.     "Please," he urged desperately. "I promise I won't speak to you for as long as I live."     Amanda lowered the magazine just enough to reveal a pair of steely eyes. "Fine! And I promise to do the same!" The two travelers struggled to keep their promises throughout the flight. They sat stiffly in the navy-and-maroon-upholstered seats, unwilling to acknowledge each other's presence by even the slightest twist or tilt of the head. Although they never spoke or made eye contact, the antagonism between them grew. When the flight attendant asked if they would like something to drink, Amanda clucked her tongue in disapproval at the latecomer's "Jack Daniel's"; he, in turn, smirked when she asked for "iced tea with lemon." Midway into the flight, the young man nodded off. He lost his balance and began leaning on Amanda. When his warm snores began vibrating in her ear she bolted up and headed toward the back of the plane. With his seat belt unfastened and no one left to hold him in place, the sleepy traveler lost his balance and tumbled into the aisle.     Not looking forward to returning to her seat, Amanda headed for the lavatory in the rear of the plane. As she snapped the lock on the door the light over the sink flashed on, revealing a strange face in the mirror. She was startled by the instant realization that it was her own reflection. Leaning in closer, she eyed a remote yet intense young woman with an unfamiliar and sophisticated upsweep of hair. The eyes had a newly acquired trace of puffiness. The soft oval of the face was slightly pale, magnifying a spray of freckles across the nose. And yet, there was a firmness about the lips, almost grim.     I'm clenching my teeth! she scolded herself. Amanda carefully examined her face in the mirror. She noticed the flutter of her heartbeat at the base of her throat. My neck looks strange--almost naked , she thought as she tried to picture the small golden heart-shaped charm that had rested in that little spot for so long. Less than a week ago, Will had kissed it, allowing his lips to gently wrap around the small treasure. He had teased her by playfully seizing it between his teeth and growling, "Eat your heart out!" She had laughed at the time and wiggled away from his embrace. But Amanda had since removed the necklace. She buried it beneath a pile of sweaters in a dresser drawer--not yet ready to throw it away. The memory created a warm, tingling sensation in her cheeks. She reached for a paper towel and soaked it in cold water. She dabbed it against the barren spot on her throat, then over her eyes. She pressed firmly, acting as if by pressing, she could erase the events of the past few days. But the harder she tried, the more vivid the memories.     Amanda removed the damp cloth and suddenly noticed a red rose in a small vase, which had been placed next to the faucet to brighten up the otherwise dreary lavatory. The flower reminded her of the countless dozens of roses Will had sent to her at home--and it made her angry again. She had been so foolish and naive. But Will had been such a charmer--handsome, gregarious, from the best family in Greensburg, and, when he was on his best behavior, completely irresistible.     Amanda scrutinized her face in the mirror again, wondering if "it" showed. Could the entire world see that she was no longer a virgin? She squeezed her eyes shut once again, feeling embarrassed and ashamed. She even wondered for a moment if the wedding fiasco was some sort of divine retribution for a sinful act. It seemed so right at the time , she thought as she brushed her index finger against one of the red petals. That bright, shimmering morning danced before her mind's eye. She recalled how the dew sparkled in the early rays of sun, making the front lawn look like a jeweler's display of tiny engagement rings. Will had stopped by, and they were stealing a few early hours to visit their new home one last time before the wedding. She remembered the thrill she felt as he unlocked the front door, and the aroma of new wood and fresh paint which had surrounded her. She tried to stop herself from remembering the next moment, but mercilessly the scene once again unfolded like an unrelenting loop in a bad film. Upstairs--in what would have been their bedroom--they had stood in a rectangle of sunlight that stretched across the new plush blue carpet. Will started to kiss her, and when he began to explore her body she didn't hesitate or withdraw. Instead she returned his kisses passionately. They slowly sank to the floor and in a mixture of love and desire she finally entwined her body with his as if they were putting together the last two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.     But now nothing fit. She hadn't married Will. What felt so right had been so wrong. The tears of rage and humiliation clutched her throat and made her eyes burn. At that moment, the plane hit an air pocket, causing her to lurch against the edge of the small compartment--but she hardly felt it. Still holding the gaze of the person looking back, she asked in despair, Who are you? What do you think you're doing? I thought I looked so grown-up. I look pathetically prissy. Who am I kidding? I've never been to New York. I've never been anywhere except to Williamsburg on a high-school field trip. And now I'm going to live in New York? God help me!     The image before her no longer looked sophisticated but lost and forlorn. And almost too small for the smart linen suit she was wearing. I've got to stop this! Amanda quickly opened her purse, retrieved her lipstick, and applied it with a shaky hand. She then unsnapped the lock on the door and returned to her seat, her heart pounding with an ominous foreboding of what was to come. She wasn't certain whether she had the courage to face whatever was lying ahead, but she knew without a doubt that there was no turning back.     As the plane began its descent into New York's La Guardia Airport, Amanda opened her white-leather purse to retrieve the baggage-claim stubs. She eyed the small box containing the locket and the envelope, which still remained unopened. Seeing them now, a great wave of sadness and apprehension engulfed her as she remembered everyone and everything that she had left behind. She opened the envelope and her heart instantly lightened: It contained a Polaroid of Charles, standing on the front porch, waving good-bye. She flipped the picture to read the inscription on the back and some paper fell out of the envelope onto the floor. Amanda was shocked to discover hundred-dollar bills! Five of them! She delicately handled the crisp green slips as if they might bite.      After they landed and as soon as the captain turned off the FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT sign, Amanda scooped up her belongings and stepped into the aisle. She was anxious to begin her journey into Manhattan--and relieved to be away from the scruffy gentleman who had made the flight so tense. She followed the signs to the baggage-claim area on the lower level and said a brief prayer of thanks when her blue-leather cases burst through the flaps of the luggage carousel. But the moment she walked through the exit she was overwhelmed by the chaos: an endless sea of strangers pushing, running, shoving, and shouting. She carefully followed the series of overheard signs and eventually joined a long line of travelers at the taxi stand. While she was waiting in the hot afternoon sun, she spotted the latecomer once again as he hopped into a yellow cab, his black-leather cases still bumping into anyone within a two-foot radius.     At least I'll never have to lay eyes on that jerk again! The moment Amanda glimpsed the Manhattan skyline through the cab's grimy window a surge of excitement shot through her body. She marveled at the way the spiky tip of the Empire State Building pierced the summer sky like a hypodermic needle. And she couldn't believe that the famous sights which had always been images in films and magazines were about to become a part of her everyday environment. Radio City Music Hall. The Statue of Liberty. Times Square. And, of course, Broadway.     The traffic was heavy--even for a Thursday afternoon in June. No matter which direction Amanda turned she witnessed a never-ending surge of pedestrians, pets, taxis and trucks--all moving with a "life-and-death" urgency. Cars and cabs weaved between lanes without warning; bicyclists brazenly ignored stop signs, streetlights, and even the direction of the traffic. As Amanda tried to absorb the collection of characters that surrounded her she realized that New Yorkers approached everything they did--even crossing the street--with a sense of purpose that frequently bordered on the reckless. Every act appeared to be a declaration of independence. Although it was a bit intimidating, she had a sudden urge to jump out of the taxi and join the crowd.     The moment the cab turned onto Barrow Street and stopped in front of a small redbrick apartment building her face lit up. In a matter of minutes she would be standing in her own New York City apartment--thanks to her father's help. Charles had telephoned an old college buddy whose daughter had just begun a two-month backpacking adventure through Europe; Amanda could sublet the fifth-floor studio until the young woman returned. The $525 monthly rent sounded like a fortune, but Charles had agreed to help his daughter out until she landed a job.     "That'll be twenty-eight thirty-five, including tolls," the driver announced in a lilting West Indian accent.     Amanda quickly paid the fare and hopped out of the cab. She stood on the front stoop and closed her eyes for a moment, allowing the hot afternoon sun to wrap itself around her body. She was convinced that she could hear the sound of birds mixed with the laughter of children. If it were not for the burning pavement under her feet--instead of the more familiar cool blades of grass--she might have thought she had been transported back to her father's yard in Virginia. The blaring car alarm which suddenly went off across the street, however, was an instant reminder that she wasn't in Greensburg anymore.     Amanda took a deep breath and rang the buzzer marked SUPERINTENDENT. An elderly woman wearing heavy eye makeup and large gold hoop earrings stuck her head out of one of the ground-floor windows.     "Who's there? What do you want?" the woman barked between puffs of a cigarette.     As soon as Amanda introduced herself the suspicious-looking woman tossed an envelope out of the window. "Catch! The keys are inside. I'm on the phone, but if you have any questions, stop by later. Apartment One-A. Mrs. Renaldi." Amanda opened the small white envelope and read the notepaper that was enclosed: From the Desk of George Henderson . A small brass key ring with three keys attached was taped to the bottom of the page; each key had a white, typewritten label: Front Door; 5B Top Lock; and 5B Bottom Lock."     That seems clear enough,she thought, ready to embark upon the new adventure.     Amanda felt the adrenaline rushing through her body as she slowly turned the key. The instant she stepped into the building's entranceway, however, her energy and enthusiasm were put to the test. She was surrounded by a sea of chocolate walls that were peeling at the top, revealing a dirty gray undercoat. She walked the short length of the dark and dingy hallway several times in search of the elevator. With a sense of apprehension, she stared at the long winding staircase that appeared to provide the only passageway up to the fifth-floor studio. It was not quite the quaint West Village apartment building she had been dreaming about.     At least my legs will get a good workout!     She quickly unzipped her suitcase and tossed her purse and the bag of magazines inside. With a sense of determination and commitment to the task at hand, she hoisted the blue-leather bag with both arms and began the long climb. The pitch of the stairs was so steep, however, she had to stop several times. Eighty-two steps and eighteen minutes later, Amanda finally stood in front of the door leading into her new "home, sweet, home." She sat on the fifth-floor landing for a few minutes to catch her breath and remove the white-leather pumps that had made the climb so difficult. As she was rubbing the heels of her feet, wondering what she was about to find behind the next door, a sense of dread spread through her body like a drop of dye in a glass of water.     The keys! Where did I put the keys?     Like a mad beggar woman rummaging through the trash, Amanda began pawing at everything in sight, turning pockets, bags, suitcases and shoes inside out and upside down. She quickly retraced her steps back to the ground floor, eyes firmly fixed to the dirty gray cement stairs. After twenty-five minutes of diligent detective work she had uncovered a ticket stub from The Bottom Line, a small red card with the name Mistress Karlita: Astrologer/Sex Therapist/Beauty Consultant inscribed in black letters, a white capsule that looked like a vitamin, twenty-eight cents in change, a used piece of gum wrapped in the fortune from a Chinese cookie, and several dead bugs. But no keys!     Back on the fifth floor, Amanda collapsed into the pile of clothes she had tossed onto the floor and kicked her feet in frustration. Feeling hot, tired, and terribly defeated, she lay motionless for several minutes, trying to mentally retrace her steps.     "All right, Dorothy," the voice blared like a trumpet. "Let's pack it up and park it inside or catch the next balloon back to Kansas."     Amanda bolted up from the floor and stared straight into the dark and piercing eyes of a short, stocky woman who was built like a fireplug. Without battling an eyelid, she twirled a key ring on her right index finger and flashed a wicked smile, revealing a mouth full of dazzling white teeth.     "Lost something, kid?" the stranger asked playfully as she tossed the keys.     Amanda caught the brass ring and immediately recognized the labels. "Where did you find these? I searched everywhere!"     "You're one of the new Munchkins who's taken up residence in this part of Oz?" The woman had raisinlike eyes that crinkled in the corners when she smiled. She didn't miss a trick--or an opportunity to speak.     "Yes, why?" Amanda nodded with warring concern. "Who are you? And what are you doing with my keys?"     "I don't know where they hide their keys in Kansas, but leaving them in the lock of the front door of this building is not an inspired choice. I'm an actress. Selma. Selma Gold. Used to be Goldman, but I shortened it. Less ethnic. Making inspired choices is a way of life for me."     The phrases shot out of Selma's mouth like missiles from a great battleship--each one landing with a small explosion. "I'd love to play `Welcome Wagon' but I gotta run, kid. I've got an audition. Miss Hannigan in Annie . I first played the part in summer stock when I was only twenty-one! And now, two decades later, I'm finally growing into it! See you later, kid!" Selma climbed over Amanda's clothes and cases, heading toward her own apartment. She quickly unlocked the door, turned the handle, and, twisting sideways, gave it a thrust with her sizable hip. "It sticks. From the humidity. You'll get used to it." And, with a royal wave, she disappeared behind the door.     Amanda felt like a tornado had just blown through the area. Selma was certainly not like anyone she had ever met back home. But she had the keys, and she had met her first New Yorker--an actress, at that! Amanda was convinced that her luck had once again taken a turn for the better. The moment she stepped inside apartment #5B, however, she realized it was more like a U-turn. A layer of grime mixed with dust and bits of food covered every surface. The cramped kitchen contained a large white bathtub with a piece of plywood across the top which was supposed to transform it into a dining table. A small arch led into a ten-foot-by-twelve-foot studio that featured a single bed, two canvas-covered directors chairs, and an enormous bright orange bean-bag cushion balanced between two windows. And old newspapers and beer bottles covered every inch of the floor.     Amanda glanced at the cases and clothes behind her and the furniture and filth in front of her. She certainly had her work cut out for her.     But none of it mattered. She was on her own. In New York City. Ready to begin a new life.

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