Who knows what is good for the soul? Or the heart, for that matter? After finding and losing love, it is hard to make sense of it. It doesn’t make sense. Why go through love at all? Why bother if it ends in pain, suffering and even death?
But, of course, if it weren’t for love, we would never dance naked in the moonlight. And if we never lost love, we might never understand how valuable it is. Maybe we would take love for granted.
When I think about dating again–I mean really dating and not just finding a convenient companion or sex partner–I realize I have a long way to go before I have such free abandon to feel that innocent nakedness, the trust that is completely without a full armory of defense mechanisms and over-cautiousness.
I realize, now, I have been choosing fear over living more fully.
[Phoebe, Lucy and Cooper are sitting cross-legged on the floor in a circle or other business people. They all have their eyes closed. Sheila, their business landlord (and also mayor), is dressed head to toe in white and a gauzy, billowy white top. She walks slowly around the circle of men and women, who are dressed in work attire—some in suits.]
Sheila: …so breathe in…two, three, four… Out…two, three, four…
Phoebe (whispers to Lucy next to her): Why are we doing this again?
Lucy (whispers back): Sheila went to a leadership training thing in Savannah and now she’s all hot to help us reach our full sales potential.
Cooper (mutters): I’m thinking we can expect a rent increase soon.
Phoebe (whispers): This is my first store. Do other landlords do this?
Cooper (under his breath): That would be a No.
Phoebe (shrugs): To be honest, I prefer this meditation stuff to our usual meetings.
Sheila: With your eyes closed, picture a swirling green light and…in the center of it…breathe…in the center of it you see a thousand dollar bill.
Cooper (under his breath): Is that a real thing?
Lucy (whispers): Never seen one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Sheila (still walking slowly around the circle): The bill is growing larger…larger…
A businessman on the other side of Phoebe snores and then seems to be awakened by his own snore.
Phoebe (eyes closed, smiles): Mmm. I like this exercise.
Lucy: It just seems a little…
Lucy: True, yet we ARE store owners. We want to make money, right?
Cooper: Yeah, but…
Phoebe: (eyes still closed): Shhh. Picturing thousand dollar bill now.
Sheila: …and now the money is falling from the sky, like autumn leaves. The bills cover the parking lot, the roof. They fall into your hands, my hands, your hands and my hands…smell the abundance in the air!
Cooper: I smell garlic. (to Lucy) What did you have for lunch?
Sheila (claps her hands): Nice job everyone. I can feel the positive energy flowing. When you feel moved to do so, open your eyes. Meeting adjourned.
[Leaving the conference area and walking through shopping courtyard back to their respective stores—Lucy to her bookstore, Cooper to his hardware store and Phoebe to her gallery and studio… Suddenly Maude and Irving—Phoebe’s guardian angels, who pop in and out—are walking next to them.]
Cooper (jumps): Jeez!
Phoebe: Haven’t seen you guys in a while. Where’ve you been?
Maude: San Francisco.
Irving: Then we spent a few nights in Iceland. Such a nice time of year.
Maude: What have we missed?
Phoebe: Color me disappointed that my guardian angels have no clue what I’ve been doing.
Maude: We can be here and there at the same time, darling.
Irving: Actually we do know what happened. We are simply being polite.
Phoebe: Oh. Okay, well I think The Exam started because there was this freaky tornado storm.
Cooper: Don’t forget the Hitchcock moment with the homicidal birds.
Maude and Irving laugh.
Cooper: That really wasn’t meant to be funny.
Phoebe (to Cooper): Angel humor…
Lucy: And we’re now investigating those murders, like real detectives! Or…maybe not like real detectives. But almost like real detectives.
Phoebe: That reminds me. When are we going over to check out the other crime scene? (a double murder of a family man and his mistress had occurred at the man’s beach house)
Cooper: There’s always tonight.
Lucy: I’ve got nothing better to do. Divorce is good for that…having nothing better to do. You know?
Phoebe and Cooper nod.
Maude: So you’re detectives now, are you?
Irving (to Phoebe): How’s it working out with the wand? Been practicing, I hope?
Phoebe: Practicing? Practicing how? Is there a manual I can buy somewhere because even though I have negative dollars right now, I would buy the wand manual.
Maude: You simply visualize darling, that’s all.
Phoebe: Oo! Wait. Visualize. I can DO that! I mean, we were just doing that and I visualized all kinds of money raining down.
Irving: Ah, money. That’s nice dear. (He pats Phoebe on the head) But you know the rules on that.
Phoebe: No, actually. To know the rules I would need the illusive manual.
Maude (pinches Phoebe’s cheek): Only the natural world dear. That’s where you have your power.
Phoebe: Money is natural. It’s made of trees! Aren’t the paper fibers made from trees?
Irving (looks up for a moment in thought, then shakes his head): Nope, doesn’t work that way.
Maude: Phoebe! You have the entire natural world at your feet. That’s far more powerful than money.
Phoebe (frowns and mumbles): Really depends on a person’s point of view I suppose…
Cooper: Speaking of money, I’ve got to get back to the store. The new guy still doesn’t know where the hammer aisle is, and that’s despite the fact there is a giant sign that says, “Hammers on this Aisle.”
Lucy: I’ve got to get going, too. But are we still on for tonight?
Phoebe: Yes. My place 8 o’clock.
[McClellan beach house, house of the murdered house owner (Trip) and his mistress (Melissa)]
Phoebe, Lucy and Cooper pull up the sandy side road in a golf cart and stare at the dark windows. Ernesto (the alien who, by default, is Phoebe’s housekeeper–really the housekeeper for the owner of the house–and Phoebe’s benefactor of sorts since she stays for free) is at the steering wheel.
Phoebe: What’s the wife’s name?
Cooper: Good customer, Cindy. I miss her.
Phoebe and Lucy look at Cooper and he shrugs.
Cooper (in a low voice): Remind me why creepy, crazy guy is with us, again?
Ernesto: I can hear you.
Cooper: Oh, sorry man. But, you know…
Phoebe (turns to give a pointed look at Cooper and then smiles at Ernesto): It was nice of Ernesto to drive us.
Ernesto (seems unaffected): It is my day to clean.
Cooper: That’s great, but it’s nighttime now, Big Guy. And we are in a golf cart, far, far away from the house.
Phoebe frowns at Cooper and Cooper shrugs like, “What?”
Ernesto: As official cleaner, it is my job to protect Miss Phoebe.
Phoebe (to Ernesto): Phoebe. It’s just “Phoebe.” And even though I appreciate your help, you really don’t need to feel obligated to…
Cooper: Did you just say “official” cleaner?
Ernesto looks in rear view mirror and lowers brows at Cooper, who sits in the back seat. At the same time, Lucy elbows Cooper.
Cooper (to Lucy): Ow!
Lucy (to everyone): Do you think Cindy’s here? The house is so dark and quiet.
Phoebe: Cooper, are you tall enough to see into the garage window?
Cooper: I can try.
Cooper goes to window, stands on toes and peers in.
Phoebe: Ernesto, maybe you should park down the street a little bit until we are done. No need to attract too much attention by parking right next to the house.
Ernesto: No. I cannot do that.
Phoebe: Why not?
Ernesto: I must protect you.
Phoebe: Ernesto, that’s really sweet and…loyal, I guess, but no one is here. I’m fine.
Ernesto: I will move the cart, but Ernesto will come back to protect you.
Phoebe: Um…swell. You do that.
Cooper: (still peering into garage) It’s too dark. Can’t see a thing.
Cooper digs in his pocket and pulls out phone. Shines phone light in window.
Cooper: Something is blocking my view, a surf board.
Phoebe (mounts stairs to the front deck): Looks deserted to me. Hey, where did it happen? Anybody know?
Lucy: I don’t know for sure, but I heard something about the garage.
Cooper makes a noise and jumps away from the garage window. Lucy and Phoebe startle.
Cooper: Could you mention the garage thing before I look in the window?
Phoebe, Lucy and Cooper tip-toe up the wooden stairs that lead to a wrap-around porch and deck. They move to the back deck that overlooks the ocean, which reflects the moon. The windows of the house are completely dark.
Cooper (in a fairly loud voice): The lights are off and nobody’s home!
Lucy and Phoebe (in unison): Shhhhhh!!!!
There’s a rustle below, in the sawgrass on the dunes. Phoebe, Lucy and Cooper peer over the deck railing to find Ernesto looking up at them.
Ernesto: I told you I am here to protect! I stay here. Keep lookout. (he crosses his arms over his chest)
Phoebe (quietly to Cooper and Lucy): There’s no point fighting with him. Just let him stay.
The three of them look around the deck, a hot tub at the far end under a pergola, the expensive-looking lounge furniture. There are three sets of French doors and they walk slowly toward the French doors in the middle. Cooper reclines onto a padded lounge chair and puts his hands behind his head.
Cooper: I could get used to this. What a moron to jeopardize all of this and his family life.
Lucy rubs the top of a lounge chair as though sizing it up in a store.
Lucy: They spared no expen….(Lucy gasps and grabs Phoebe’s arm).
Lucy: The pads are on the chairs.
Phoebe: Yep. Even their butts are pampered in softness.
Lucy (flutters her hands anxiously and whispers): I mean. The pads are on the chairs, the chairs are upright and pulled out from the house, there’s a beach towel right here and…and, look, the hot tub is uncovered!
Cooper: And soon we find Goldilocks. What’s the point, Lucy?
Lucy: This (she flutters her hands at the deck, the chairs and the hot tub) is not how you leave a house when you are not really here! I think someone’s here!
Cooper jumps up from the lounge chair, and the three of them scan the house. Phoebe taps both Lucy’s and Cooper’s arms and points to the far set of French doors, which are ajar. A little wisp of a white curtain flutters out in the breeze. They stand like statues and look from one to the other.
Ernesto (loudly, from the dunes): Is Miss Phoebe okay? I cannot hear you anymore.
Phoebe, Lucy and Cooper lean over the railing. In unison, they shhh him. Phoebe looks up from Ernesto and catches sight of a figure on the beach. Because of the moon light, the figure is visible. It seems to be a woman and she seems to be dancing.
Phoebe (to Cooper and Lucy in a whisper): Look!
The three of them watch the figure swaying on the beach. She appears to have a wine bottle in her hand and… she’s naked.
Lucy: Guys. I think we’ve just located Cindy.
Cooper: And just for the record let me say that I’ve always liked Cindy, and not just because of her dancing, naked body. I want to be clear on that.
Phoebe and Lucy each roll their eyes and walk past Cooper toward the stairs to the beach. Phoebe grabs the beach towel. Cooper brings up the rear, and the three of them make their way through the dunes toward the sound of the ocean.
Ernesto: I come, too!
Phoebe: No….oh, fine.
Once on the beach, they can make out that the woman is singing something unintelligible. Phoebe stops suddenly causing Lucy to bump into her, Cooper into Lucy and Ernesto into Cooper.
Cooper (glares at Ernesto): One more move like that and…
Ernesto (narrows his eyes at Cooper): I no like you.
Cooper: You and me both. Wait…did I say that right?
Phoebe and Lucy look at each other and seem to come to some sort of sisterhood, girl-agreement. They walk together toward the dancing, naked woman. When they get just a few strides from her, Lucy clears her throat. The woman, bottle in hand, glances over at them and stops dancing.
Phoebe: Um, hi.
Cindy blinks at them and squints.
Lucy: We just wanted to know if you are okay. Can we help you with…
Phoebe: …your nakedness. (Phoebe holds out the beach towel)
Cindy takes the towel but does not cover herself. She holds it limply by her side.
Cindy: Hey, I know you.
Lucy: Who me?
Cindy: You’re the lady from the book shop.
Lucy: That’s me. (Lucy gives a nervous wave)
Cindy (indicates Phoebe): Who’s she?
Lucy: Oh! This is Phoebe. Phoebe…Cindy.
Phoebe (reaches to shake hands then thinks better of it): Um. Nice to meet you.
Cindy seems still oblivious to the fact she is naked or to the presence of Cooper and Ernesto, who must have blended with the shadows behind Phoebe and Lucy.
Lucy: Cindy, I just want to say how sorry I am that…
Cindy (waves her off, and sways): Stop…no need for that. We all know it’s (she manages to do some air quotes) complicated. (Cindy laughs maniacally)
Lucy: Uh… (Lucy looks to Phoebe for help)
Phoebe: So, Cindy…may I call you Cindy?
Cindy: Why the hell not?
Phoebe: Okay… So, Cindy, I wondered if we could ask…
Cindy: Yep, that’s me. That’s so very me. “Cindy.” Did you ever notice how it’s not Romeo and Cindy?
Lucy and Phoebe open their mouths a little and look at each other then back to Cindy.
Cindy: See? It’s true. (to Lucy) Name one major heroine in a love story who is named Cindy. Just one!
Lucy: Well…let’s see…there’s…um….
Cindy: You can’t! And you know what? Part of me is glad he is dead! Glad!
Cooper (in a whisper to Phoebe and Lucy): Who…is dead? Wait, never mind. Adultery guy. Just had to catch myself up.
Cindy tilts the empty bottle up and drinks the last drops of wine. Phoebe and Lucy exchange glances.
Lucy (whispers to Phoebe): Maybe we should put a stop to this.
Phoebe (in a whisper to Lucy): No. She needs this. She feels raw…naked. Alone. I know what that feels like. Maybe this is good for her?
Lucy: Oh, you mean like art therapy? Kind of a performance art?
Cooper (leans in to whisper to Lucy and Phoebe): I can go to the house and get her another bottle of wine, if that would help her, you know, heal. She’s not offending me. (Cooper watches naked Cindy dance)
Lucy and Phoebe roll their eyes at Cooper and return their gaze to Cindy. When Cindy finds the bottle empty, she curses, and throws it over her shoulder, toward the waves.
Cindy: I really miss dancing. You know? (here she begins to sway back and forth again) Trip was the best dancer. We could dance together all night.
Cooper (under his breath): Trip. Does anyone else see the irony of that name?
Phoebe: Cindy? Did the police ever identify who…what…killed your husband?
Cindy (still swaying, her eyes closed): No. But I think it was a vampire.
Cindy (stops for a minute and opens her eyes to look at Phoebe): You heard me. I had to identify the body, you see. He had two distinct bite marks on his neck. You could tell he’d lost a lot of blood because…you could just tell. (her voice trails off and she begins to sway again).
Lucy: So you actually believe in vampires?
Cindy (holding her arms out like she is dancing with someone): Such a good dancer.
Ernesto walks from behind Phoebe and Lucy and taps Cindy on the shoulder.
Phoebe: Ernesto! What are you…
Ernesto: May I have this dance?
Cindy blinks for a minute, smiles, and holds out her hand. Ernesto deftly lifts the towel dragging from Cindy’s hands, loops it around her small frame and he and Cindy begin to dance.
Cooper: Oh, like he’s the first person to think of that. I was just about to do the same thing!