This past Sunday would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 85th birthday. The day before, I had serendipitously rewatched Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which she famously starred with George Peppard. I didn’t do this because Audrey Hepburn is gorgeous (though she is). I didn’t watch it because she has a lovely voice (which she does). I didn’t even watch it because Givenchy and Hepburn are a match made in sartorial heaven (which they are). I watched it for the premise.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, like the Truman Capote novella on which it is based, portrays characters who would not be good role models for your children. Hepburn’s Holly Golightly uses her charms to get money from rich men as a means of support, and Peppard’s Fred is a kept man in the service of an older married woman. Despite this, I think there is something moving in the way Fred grows past his situation in an effort to rescue Holly from her chosen lifestyle, and the way Holly clings to hers because she’s afraid of real love. It’s a story I’d love to tell.
At the same time, I don’t want to be writing clichés, nor do I have any hope of matching Truman Capote, so I asked myself what would happen if this tale were gender swapped. What if Fred were the running woman, and what if she wants to rescue a kept man who isn’t sure he wants to be rescued? That question led me to gigolo Harry and young poet Persephone.
Persephone is young, but she has lived far more than a girl her age should be forced to do. Her mother’s business partner, Alex, had insisted she call him Uncle Alex, but subsequently tried things that an uncle shouldn’t do. When it became apparent that no help was coming from her mother, Persephone renamed herself Pip, lied about her age, and joined the crew of an interstellar freighter.
My story begins with Pip taking a job as resident poet for wealthy landowner Isobel and her seventeen cloned daughters on a distant planet. There she meets Harry, who was hired to provide entertainment and genetic material for the young women in the family. It’s the closest thing I can conceive to Holly Golightly’s café society lifestyle, justified by my claim that truncated telomeres will keep cloning from being useful for multiple generations in a row.
Because of her background, Pip wants to rescue Harry from what she interprets as an abusive situation. Isobel, on the other hand, has invested a lot in keeping Harry and his genome intact, and doesn’t want to lose that. I find myself doubting that either one will ask what Harry wants.
For my own part, I think I have a pretty good handle on Harry’s emotional state and motives, but Pip’s are tougher for me. Harry doesn’t have any experience with “normal” romance, and is going to make dumb mistakes. Would she run away from him as well, or would she react in anger? What kind of words or actions would be most likely to set her off emotionally? That answer will drive the events of my plot.
Either way, I don’t think it’s going to end in a Hollywood happy ending, the way the movie did.