For Always - Act One of an original 1/2 hour pilot script.
An exasperating, compulsively truthful cosmetician lands a job with a Kentucky mortuary unaware that more than just bodies get buried in the cemetery out back.
NELL, twenty-nine year old African-American woman wearing eyeglasses, opens a piece of mail at her desk.
Everything begins with rejection.
She reads a rejection letter from a publisher about her novel, "The Chatter of Animals."
What we become is determined by how we adapt to it. I learned this lesson from my childhood friend, Lily, whose life has been a long path of rejection.
She runs the rejection letter through a shredder.
Nell picks up a photograph.
In the photo is Nell, an orange CAT, and a young WOMAN we are about to meet.
Pretty, twenty-nine year old LILY HELLMAN holds a makeup brush in her hand.
She looks at an UGLY WOMAN sitting in chair.
Darlin', I can make ya over, but ya need to lose fifteen pounds, get a cream for your hairy chin, and change your deodorant from mosquito repellent to somethin' more appealin’.
EXT. UPSCALE SALON - MOMENTS LATER
It's a verbal tick on Lily's part that she can’t help but be rude to everyone she meets.
ANGRY SALON OWNER shoves Lily out the doorway. Lily falls, landing on her butt.
HANDSOME YOUNG MAN races around the room, packing a suitcase.
You've got stop telling people horrible things about themselves, Lily.
I have to say what's true. Ya know that about me.
I can't take it anymore. I don't need to hear that I snort like a pig when I sleep, or the moles on my back are too hairy, and or that one of my balls sags in a weird way during sex.
He shoves the packed bag into Lily's arms, and opens the front door.
Here's what's true. I don't love you anymore. Our engagement's off.
EXT. APARTMENT COMPLEX - MOMENTS LATER
Tears stream down Lily’s face. She tosses her bag into the back of her beaten up hatchback.
INSERT BUMPER STICKER ON CAR
"COSMETOLOGISTS DO IT BETTER"
Still, our Lily's a survivor.
Lily's hatchback drives up to the side door of a mansion.
A "Delivery Entrance" sign hangs on the door.
Lily looks at herself in the rear-view mirror.
It's come to this, girl. Ya can't hold a job, or a fiancé, and now you're about to do the one thing ya always looked down on, “kitchen make-up.”
INT. MANSION - SAME DAY - LATER
But while Lily's compulsively truthful, she's also a uniquely talented cosmetician.
Make-up brush in hand, Lily circles a more than middle-aged UNPLEASANT LOOKING WOMAN sitting in a swivel chair.
Lily goes to work, applying makeup to Unpleasant Looking Woman as swiftly as a sushi chef slicing raw fish.
Lily swivels the chair around.
The chair stops, and BEAUTIFUL WOMAN—formerly the Unpleasant Looking Woman—appears in the chair.
Delivery door bursts open.
An ORANGE TABBY CAT flies through the open doorway. It leaps into an open window of Lily's car.
Lily races out the door to her car.
Beautiful Woman throws Lily’s make-up bag.
Lily catches it. It's a good catch, too.
I knew you were trash when you showed up in that metal heap.
Ya never looked this good, and ya know it. I want my money.
After you demean me in my own home? I'll pay you over my dead body.
Beautiful Woman picks up a potted plant, and aims it at Lily.
Lily jumps into her car. She speeds away, but not before the potted plant hits and cracks a car window.
EXT. HIGHWAY - SAME DAY - LATER
You'd think by now Lily would be used to rejection.
Lily's car drives along the interstate, passing a sign—
Lily's car exits the highway.
Lily's car drives along a road, until it comes to rest next to a river bank.
Lily sits in her car, tears streaming down her face.
Ya've done it now, Lily Hellman. Ya've alienated everyone. There’s no one and nothin’ left. Ya don't belong anywhere. Time to drive into the Ohio River... be done with it all.
As Lily's about to put her foot to the gas petal, the orange cat climbs out from under the passenger seat. The cat jumps into Lily's lap.
Oh. How'd ya get in here? What the hell do I do now? I can't drown a cat. Even a mean, ugly woman's cat.
Lily opens the car door, and puts the cat down on the ground.
The cat jumps back into the car, and onto Lily's lap.
Like my daddy used to say, never underestimate the well-timed appearance of a kitty cat.
The cat purrs and rubs against Lily.
Lily hugs the cat, and dries her tears on his fur.
Lily's car sputters along a tree lined street. The car slows, and the engine quits.
Lily pushes her car toward the curb.
Two YOUNG GUYS walking on the sidewalk, run over, and help Lily push the car.
I had it. I mean, thanks. Hey, if ya grow a mustache, it would cover that cleft lip pretty good.
Just tryin’ to help ya out. Ya might make it all the way to better lookin’.
Come on, man, it's her karma.
He spits at Lily's feet, and the two men walk away.
Lily climbs up a porch, hauling her makeup bag, a suitcase, and the cat wrapped in a sweater.
Nell types on her laptop.
The doorbell rings. She jumps, startled, and picks up a baseball bat.
EXT. PORCH - MOMENTS LATER
The chain still in place, Nell peaks out the door at Lily.
The door slams in Lily's face.
Nell, please don’t turn me away. My car broke down. My phone needs rechargin'. The day’s been horrible.
Lily exposes the cat under the sweater.
The door widens. Using her baseball bat, Nell waves Lily and the cat into the house.
Nell sets down a bowl of food for the cat.
The cat jumps from Lily's arms onto the floor, and eats the cat food.
Cats don’t care what food looks like. What are you doing with Frank, anyway?
That still creeps me out, Nell. That whole hearing what the animals are sayin’ thing you got goin’.
I didn't invite you here.
I've no place else to go.
The cat rubs against Nell's leg.
Shit. No way. I don't care.
Okay, creep me out, but what’s Frank the cat sayin’?
Come on, I'll show you where you both can sleep tonight.
Nell turns the light on. Lily dumps her bag on the bed, and Frank jumps up onto it.
You don't need to unpack. You won't be staying more than the night.
EXT. FOR ALWAYS FUNERAL HOME - DAY
Storm clouds gather over the For Always Funeral Home.
At a stainless steel sink, a latex-gloved MARY MARTIN, a handsome, serious woman in her forties, wears her mortician scrubs, and a heavy duty face mask over her mouth and nose.
She inserts a syringe through a rubber top of a medicine bottle. Mary withdraws some clear liquid.
She picks up another bottle. It’s an ink bottle labeled as “ink for fountain pens.” She squirts the liquid from the syringe into the ink bottle.
JANET GAYNOR, pretty woman in her thirties, tries to open the door to the prep room. It’s locked. She rattles the door knob.
Mary jumps slightly at the sound at the door.
Mary? Why’s this door locked?
Mary pulls her face mask down so that she can answer.
Mary picks up both the ink bottle and the medicine bottle, and carries them as if they might explode in her hands.
A loud knock on the door, and—
Mary jumps, and loses her grip on the medicine bottle. It shatters when it hits the hard floor.
Mary holds her breath and pulls her face mask back on. She slowly steps away from the broken bottle, and spilled liquid.
A louder pounding at the door.
What’s going on in there? Mary? Mary? Are you all right?
INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE PREPATORY ROOM - MOMENTS LATER
Janet steps back from the door, as it opens. Mary slips out, quickly closing the door behind her.
Sorry, love. It’s gruesome work today.
Janet pulls Mary’s mask down from her face.
Janet puts a finger to Mary’s lips.
It’s hard not to worry about you. You’re so secretive sometimes.
A new body today? Do you need me to—
Mary grabs Janet’s arm to prevent her from opening the door.
No. Closed casket case. You don’t want to see this one.
Did you want something, Janet?
My father's in the hospital.
He fell. Broke his pelvis. I knew he would eventually. Fall, that is. I've got to go. Now. Immediately.
That's awful. Of course, you must go.... What of Mrs. Swanson?
She's set, ready for viewing.
Good. When will you be back?
That's the thing, I don't know. I'm leaving you a bit in the lurch.
I know you’re not comfortable with the aesthetic part of things.
Don't worry about me for one more minute. It’ll work out.
As soon as I've assessed his situation, I'll call.
Right. If there's anything?
Mary nods, smiles a sort of smile.
Janet gives her a kiss. It’s an intimate kiss.
When Janet disappears down the hallway, Mary puts her face mask back on.
The only body in the room, living or dead, is Mary’s, and she’s cleaning up the liquid and the shattered bottle from the floor.
She disposes the mop head into a bucket marked as “hazardous waste.”
EXT./INT. LOUISVILLE - DAY
- A salon door slams in Lily's face.
- A residential door slams in Lily's face.
- An apartment door slams in Lily's face.
- A different salon door slams in Lily's face.
- Lily's pushed out the door of another salon.
- Lily shakes hands with MANAGER of car wash.
- Lily with rag, cleaning the outside of a car, alongside THREE CAR WASHING MEN.
- Lily's sprayed with a power hose by the three men, sending her out to the sidewalk.
EXT. NELL'S FRONT PORCH - EVENING
Nell sits on a comfortable porch chair.
Frank jumps up to the porch railing.
She picks up Frank, and plops down in a chair.
No one wants to rent to someone without a job, and no one wants to hire someone without an address.
Why didn't you just use mine?
Why would I? Ya clearly want no part of me, Nell.
Frank moves to a table between the two women.
Lily reaches out to pet Frank. He nips lightly but pointedly at Lily's hand.
Nell... When we last saw each other, you know before I left town... as usual, I said some things.
You're my best friend in the world. More than my friend. But not in that sexual way ya'd like.
Stop right now, Lily. Tread softly.
I mean, like, we're sisters. Family. Like that. Since we were little, stuck in that foster home together. You used to think so, too, didn't ya?
Stuck in juvenile hall, you mean.
Not always. Okay, a lot. My fault. Usually.
Nell raises an eyebrow at her.
Ya egged me on a lot of times.
Frank rubs against Lily’s legs.
Frank says I should lighten up. Give you a break.
He said that? Thanks, cat. I mean, Frank.
The wind picks up. Leaves fly across the porch.
Didn’t say I agreed with him. Storm's coming. I'm going in.
The wind flings a flyer across the porch. It lands smack on Lily's face.
Nell removes the flyer off Lily's face.
I believe this flyer is for you.
She hands Lily the flyer.
INSERT FLYER IN LILY'S HAND
URGENT! EXPERIENCED COSMETOLOGIST NEEDED IMMEDIATELY. APPLY AT FOR ALWAYS, 3839 BARDSTOWN ROAD.