By Ciarán Llachlan Leavitt
© 2000 by Ciarán Llachlan Leavitt.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The characters herein are fictional and any resemblance to a real person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Renaissance Alliance Publishing, Inc.
PMB 167, 3421 W. William Cannon Dr. #131
Austin, Texas 78745
"Do you even have the slightest clue what time it is?"
"Three-thirty a.m., and that was a rhetorical question. You dont actually care what time it is." Cait stifled the irritation. If Jae still had ask what the problem was with calling at 3:30 in the morning, there was no way to explain it to her.
Jae continued as though Cait hadnt spoken. "I want to pitch Chambers."
This was promising. Not that she didnt plan to make Jae work for it. After all, waking someone up from a pleasant sleep in a comfy bed with a very cuddly fiancé just begged for a little retribution. "And?"
"And I need budget projections."
Cait sighed, activating her palm pilot. Sometimes playing with the terminally focused was pointless. "Based on?" Right from the word pitch, shed figured that this was where Jae was headed. The first, last and best argument to use with a production company was money. If Jae were going to pitch Chambers to be allowed to replace Roan Pirsig as director and take over the project the dollars would need to make sense.
"Based on scrapping the script and everything Roans shot so far. And still coming in on time and under budget." There was a minute pause. "I need it by seven a.m."
"Jesus Jae. Everything?"
Jae laughed. "Look on the bright-side. You just got promoted."
Carefully, Cait eased herself out of bed so as to not wake Thom. "To what?"
"Assistant Director." Jae said, sotto voice.
"Im already your AD." She pulled the cupboard door open quickly to avoid the popping noise of the latch.
"Picky, picky." There was a rustle of paper, then Jae continued. "Ill fax over an outline - we need to make it fit inside the remaining shooting days."
Cait poured the first of many cups of coffee, adding cream and sugar for good measure. "Theres no way in hell youre getting that by seven."
"Use the budget projections from Sound of Autumn." Jae ignored her complaint.
"I cant use the projections from Autumn - it was a silent picture remember? And Jae, Im not kidding, there is no way that I am doing budget projections and revising your shooting schedule by seven a.m."
"P.M. Today." Jae confirmed. Either continuing to ignore or completely missing the mix of incredulousness and sarcasm. Cait wasnt sure she wanted to know which was true. "Cull it from the last draft. If everything that you know Id film out of that one will fit into the time frame, then well have no trouble with a new script."
Cait couldnt help it. "New script?" More coffee.
"New script. I have to go. I have a date with a book and some software." Jae hung up.
Shed listened to the dial tone for several seconds before everything caught up with her. Jae was going to write the new script herself. On a computer. Shaking her head in bemusement, Cait put the handset down and pondered her next move then opened a spreadsheet and looked at the columns of figures before setting the directors salary to zero. It wasnt like they were going to have to pay Roan. A careful look at the figures in another file gave her an idea, if she pulled the audio production costs from Dark Comes the Morning and combined them with the rest of the pre and post production costs from Sound of Autumn then the budget projection should be fairly straightforward.
But rearranging the shooting schedule would mean rearranging bookings and quite possibly changing a venue that might not be available if they waited too long. You didnt just commandeer an amusement park at a moments notice, for instance.
Several cups of coffee, 356 kb of notes and three hours later, Cait leaned back wearily for a moment then got up from the couch and walked over to the crowded bookcase that selfishly lined the one windowless wall of the living room. It took a few minutes to find amid the others, only the white letters of the authors name, WULFENDEN, allowed her to separate Tropical Storm from the rest. Not a perfect title, but a damn sight better than the semi-sensationalistic Balance of Power that was the current working name for the film.
The thick paperback made the trip with her into the kitchen, where she refilled the coffee press with more freshly ground beans and lit the burner under the kettle, beginning to read sections while she waited for the water to come to a boil.
Given the chance, Jae could make this into a killer movie all right. It was the kind of film that suited Jae very heavy on character and visuals. It helped that the raw material to balance the garish Hollywood script was in the book and she wouldnt put it past her boss to make the principals read it. Tropical Storm really was a good story - just a bad script. Pensively, she regarded the cast list, musing that she wouldnt be at all surprised to see a couple of last minute casting changes as a result of what Jae would do with the script.
Maybe theyd get lucky and Reed Lewis would be the first to go.
Jae stared at the screen, trying to decide how serious a fatal exception error really was. Pretty serious. Even after restarting the machine she couldnt find the document. Frustrated she shut the computer down, then carefully navigated the loft stairs, opting to continue working in the bedroom; the bed being more comfy than the austere linen clad couch in the living room. A pile of working notes littered the left side of the bed and she scooped them up before adding them to the pile already conquering her desk.
Absently she stirred cream into cold coffee. A row of videos lining one cabinet caught her eye - Campion, Rozema, Spielberg, Wertmuller, Scott, Nair. One title stood out, its plain white plastic case more noticeable in the mix of lamp and moonlight. Beyond the Setting Sun. A small budget film with a forgettable plot and equally forgettable locales. Yet somehow she and Roan had dug the most out of both the script and cast to create a memorable film that had allowed her to make the leap to directing on her own.
Unbidden, images of Roan filtered through the silence. She had been looking forward to working with him again. Not everyone had found him easy to work with, but hed been a good mentor, teaching her a lot before she moved out from under his wing and began directing independent films on her own. From him, Jae had learned that dedication and reliability were two essential keys to success in this business - well that and a Degree in Early Childhood Education. It was completely unlike Roan to leave a set for no reason and now he was gone. Tears warred with fatigue as she fought to remain in control, the finality of his death hitting again.
Out of habit, Jae looked over at the phone. The red light on her answering machine blinked eight times and she looked at her watch. Four a.m. That meant a call from Mother about dinner tomorrow - correction - tonight; one from Antonia, checking to see if she was needed tomorrow and who called like clockwork at eight oclock; one from Becky reminding her not to be late for dinner; at least two hang-ups or wrong numbers, leaving two unaccounted for. Most likely it had been Chambers or someone else from studio. Not worth it. Jae touched the rewind button, resetting the machine, deleting the messages unheard.
This was getting her nowhere. Wading in melancholia wasnt going to do Roan any good and it certainly wasnt going to help her finish a script outline or secure the support she needed to take over the film.
Undaunted Jae opened a notebook, determined to bring the same enthusiasm to filming this movie as she had to that first one. If played right, there were a few things working in her favour. Tropical Storm as it stood didnt have a complete script, and there was no way it should have even finished pre-production, let alone started filming. It was a promising story with good characters, but by no means the type of picture that Chamberss production company or its backers would stick with if there were even a chance they would lose money on it. Even if she hadnt done a lot of studio driven work, she did have a solid reputation as an independent, and not a single film that shed helmed had lost money.
For the first time in several hours a smile lit her face and she felt ready to meet the challenge.
Her eyes fell on a rented tape, and she fingered it thoughtfully. Keeping the cast intact would be another key issue, and Reed Lewis was the most key of them all. Jae slid the tape into the video machine. "Time to meet the Amazon Ice Queen."
Watching Reed Lewis across a crowded backlot or on the small screen of an editing bay monitor hadnt even come close to preparing Jae for the reality standing in front of her.
The camera often created the illusion of presence or height, but taking in the tall woman framed by the heavy timber door, she knew it wasnt an illusion. Reed Lewis had presence.
Intense blue eyes focused on her, and a low tenor cut the silence. "And you are...?"
"Jae Cavanaugh." She extended a hand.
Hesitation flickered briefly on the actress face before a manicured hand reached out and encased hers briefly in a warm firm grip.
The other woman remained in the doorway and made no move to invite her in so Jae tried again. "Im from RenFaire Productions," she faltered, hoping that the actress would at least recognize the name of the company that was filming the picture.
Surprise clearly showed on the chiseled features and an elegant eyebrow curved over Reeds left eye. "Ah. Roans lackey."
It didnt take a rocket scientist to read the dismissal. Oh boy. "Actually, Ms. Lewis, I was the second unit director." A piece of information that appeared to be met with impassivity that was in its own way worse than being dismissed.
One more try. "With Roans passing, the future of the picture is in question." It sounded a tad melodramatic to her ears, but wasnt far off the truth, and for some, like Cait, who were counting on the income for things like weddings it wasnt nearly melodramatic enough.
"So the lapdog has teeth. You want to be the new director." Reed asked, demonstrating perceptiveness to go along with the hostility.
"Yes." Jae answered honestly, ignoring the insult and mildly surprised that the other woman knew anything about her at all.
For the first time it seemed as though she had the actress undivided attention. Reed Lewis stepped back and waved her imperiously into the room.
Jae took a seat in the empty over-stuffed chair closest to the window. Feeling warmth where the rays from the rising sun touched her skin, she focused on the sensation, allowing the energy to bolster her.
"Theyd be better off scrapping the movie, not hiring a new director."
"Why is that?" Jae leaned forward slightly to keep the sun out of her eyes, glad of the natural opening.
"You have, I assume, at least read the screenplay?"
"A job requirement." Jae smiled, not letting herself be baited.
"Pirsig changed it a dozen times already."
Jae blinked. If that were the actress biggest problem with the project, keeping her might be easier than she had thought. "Thats what yesterdays argument was about?"
"Hardly, Pirsigs not the first director to shoot a fucked up screenplay." A soft snort accompanied the lilting words.
"That would be between me and the dead man." No hint of remorse accompanied the cold words. "Why are you here?"
Maybe she was getting used to Reed Lewis abruptness, but this time it didnt catch her so off guard, her bluntness oddly refreshing in a town known for its smarmy suck-ups. Or maybe it was just lack of sleep. "I pitch this afternoon, and I wanted to find out if you would be in or out."
"You could have done that over the phone."
Reed was watching her intently. "I could have. But I wanted to meet you. In person." After reviewing Reeds powerful performance in the role of Diana in Equilibrium, shed known that of all the cast members they had to work with - Reed was the lynch pin. It had been a demanding role, one that with a lesser actress playing the part, would have remained as one-dimensional on film as she had seemed in paperback.
"Well youve met me."
It was also becoming apparent why she was called the Ice Queen. The Amazon part had been a dead give away the second shed laid eyes on the nearly six foot tall actress.
The cold blue eyes alone were enough; add the demeanour and Jae could only imagine what she would be like to deal with under conditions less to the actress liking.
This was not going at all the way shed envisioned it, and it occurred to her that showing up unannounced at a complete strangers hotel at 5:30 in the morning, might not have been such a bright idea after all. "It would be nice if youd meet me half-way."
To her surprise the actress laughed. A low pleasant chuckle that spread to her eyes, warming them. "I let you in didnt I?"
"Point." Jae smiled slightly and leaned back in her chair. When the other woman didnt follow up her remark she took the opportunity to more closely study the actress. Reed was clad in the casual attire common to film sets. There was, after all, no real point to dressing up only to have make-up and costuming repeat the process in a completely new way an hour later.
The silence that stretched between them was no longer edgy, an unspoken truce of sorts having been reached, so she allowed her eyes to move beyond the clothing to study the woman beneath them and was again struck by the sheer presence Reed radiated, even in seeming repose. A tiny jump of the vein at the carotid artery was the only sign that revealed that the actress was not nearly as calm as she was projecting.
Jae could feel the first tendrils of excitement and anticipation catch fire in her guts as she watched Reed move, mentally comparing her to the characterization she had pulled from the script. Combined with the performance she had watched last night, Reeds aura made it obvious why Roan had cast her against type for the role. The trick would be to make it work.
Nothing ventured. "When I pitch Chambers Id like to be able to say I have your commitment to stay." No sense in mentioning that she planned on scrapping everything theyd already shot and if she had to, shed recast. Shed rather not. Reed was not only perfect for the part, but she came cheap.
Silence prevailed a minute while the other woman took her measure. Jae could feel the weight of the evaluative stare and imagined the wheels ticking over in the actress mind. There was something else there too, but Jae couldnt quite put her finger on it.
Finally Reed spoke. "One condition. I agreed to play a lesbian, not to do full body nude sex scenes."
Jae mulled over her response, thinking about how to phrase her answer. Judging from Reeds tone outing herself was probably not the way to go. "Im not known for directing pornography."
It was clear that the actress had expected a less congenial response.
"Cavanaugh...Cavanaugh...you directed the silent picture that took Sundance by storm last year didnt you?"
"Sound of Autumn, yes."
"Gutsy. I can work for someone whod film a silent picture in the twenty-first century." Grudging respect had replaced the antagonism that had marked most of the actress words to that point.
Jae nodded. "Thank-you." All she had so far was Reeds commitment and already possibilities were writing themselves across her mind. Ideas and angles setting the stage and painting the mental pictures that she would translate to film. Aware that the silence had gone on perhaps a tad too long she rose and extended a hand.
Reed hadnt indicated that there was an ongoing issue between them and Jae was feeling optimistic about having accomplished her goal - the actress issues seemed to be with Roan. Certainly she felt easier about the casting. "Thank you for seeing me."
She followed Reed to the door; content with the affirmative nod shed received. There was a soft click and an even softer snick as a bolt slid into place. Jae made her way to the car before she sagged against the car, some of the tension from the meeting draining from her body as she relaxed a little, taking slow steady breaths. One down, one to go.
Leaning against the inside of the door, Reed let out the tension induced breath shed been unconsciously holding since shed first opened the door. Aware that Cavanaugh was still in the driveway, it gave her a small measure of satisfaction to discover that the would-be director was not as calm as she pretended.
She wondered briefly if the objective of Cavanaughs visit had been met - if shed passed muster.
Sea-green eyes had roved over her and Reed shifted slightly under the memory of the intense gaze of the director. The motives of any other director who studied her that closely hadnt been hard to guess, but Cavanaugh had confused her. Male directors, no problem, but shed never worked with a woman director before and all bets were off.
Since she had been scrutinized so closely, she had availed herself of the same opportunity. Her first impression was that Jae Cavanaugh probably wasnt quite as young as she looked - but not by much. The short blonde hair that fell around her face gave her an almost waifish look, and Reed briefly considered how much steel might be hidden under the surface softness.
The sound of the car engine faded and Reed moved away from the door. It was too early to get a start on the day and too late to go back to bed. Her eyes fell on the script. A new director meant a new interpretation of the material, so she picked it up from the table and sprawled on the couch.
Several hours later, satisfied that, as long as no one changed them, she knew her lines cold for the next scheduled rehearsals she put the script down. It would, she reflected, be interesting to see the spin Cavanaugh put on things. One thing was for certain; she would rather work for Cavanaugh, than Pirsig. Hell, shed rather work for Cavanaugh than be unemployed. She couldnt afford unemployment.
The telephone rang and she waited until the second ring to pick it up, her stomach tensing involuntarily. "Hello." She relaxed, recognizing the caller, and listened to the bubbly rental agent launch into a standard greeting and satisfaction questionnaire.
Miss Bubbly hadnt realized it at the time, but as long as it had at least four walls, a roof and was quiet, Reed was going to take it. Her main concern was privacy. Los Angeles wasnt a city to be in if you craved solitude, but she was determined to find some place quiet enough to keep her nerves from fraying.
Walking back into the maelstrom that was filmmaking Hollywood style was hard enough without having to subject herself to the media circus and sideshow that came with it. Reed was going to stay as far away from the media as she could get.
Make the film - collect the paycheck - get out of Dodge. Simple.
"You cant wear that!" Cait exclaimed.
Jae looked up from her budget notes and film treatment to find Cait looming over the desk, hands on hips. "Why not?" Shed ironed. Mostly. And what exactly was the point of wrinkle free cotton pants and classic linen shirts if they werent multi-purpose?
"Because they dont want rumpled, artistic Jae Cavanaugh. They want savvy business woman cum director J.A.E. Cavanaugh."
"Oh." The lump that had been growing steadily in the pit of her stomach solidified and for a second Jae thought she might actually vomit.
It was too late now. Quickly she ran her fingers through her hair one last time then gathered her notes.
"Here." Cait held up a make-up brush.
"Right, so now you want me to go in drag?" Jae winced.
"Oh shut up. And hold still, Goddammit." A startling variety of powders were swiftly and expertly applied. "Youre welcome."
Cheeks swiped, eyes lined and lips highlighted Jae stepped out of her office and headed for the potential lions den. Chambers office was guarded by a young man in his early twenties, who looked up from the pile of mail he was opening, seemingly glad for the interruption. She caught sight of what appeared to be a script or story submission - a thick stack of purple sheets of paper - and rolled her eyes in commiseration. Shed gotten her share of unsolicited manuscripts.
"Yeah. Definitely one for the Thanks, but no pile." The sheaf of paper was set aside, exchanged for an appointment book.
"Cavanaugh." Jae supplied helpfully.
"Go on in, theyre expecting you." The admin picked up another manila envelope and slit the top, attention back on the large pile of mail.
"Thanks." Jae checked her portfolio one last time making sure that she hadnt forgotten anything. She hadnt.
A deep breath and she was in.
"Ms. Cavanaugh." Rod Chambers, President of RenFaire Productions, and more importantly, the executive producer of Tropical Storm / Balance of Power, was the first to greet her.
"Gentlemen." Jae nodded to them all in turn, absently casting their roles for a film version of the meeting. Maybe it would help if she pretended they were just a really intelligent version of the Three Stooges.
"Have a seat." Chambers gestured to an empty chair. "Ill be honest, Ive already spoken to the insurance company and they are willing to pay out on the completion bond."
Jae nodded. The ice had been broken so to speak and now she could just dive into the meat of why she had come. She passed out copies of the budget projections she had done along with a summary sheet of the films she had produced and directed, with the net profits highlighted. "As you can see from the figures, I can complete the project in the originally scheduled time frame and still come in on budget." Actually, she was sure that they would come in well under budget, but it was always smart to leave a little leeway where money was concerned. "Which means that instead of losing two and a half million dollars, youll be making a profit." Shed already checked the terms of the completion bond; it only paid out seventy-five percent of the insured budget.
"No. That means if we allow you to direct we risk losing the whole ten million. Theres no completion insurance for box-office failure." A thin, bird-like man to her left challenged. He had reminded her of Alan Ruck in Ferris Buellers Day Off, now he seemed more like Alan Rickman in one of his more malevolent roles.
Jae considered her reply carefully. They were already shooting a picture destined to fail. What little script there was couldnt make up its mind between being a comedy, thriller, romance or social commentary. It wasnt about not wanting to be seen criticizing Roan or anyone else - especially since she had no idea if one of the men in this room was the person whom originally gave the green light to the project. It just wouldnt be politic to point it out. Instead she opted for the direct approach. "I can deliver a film that wont lose money."
"You cant guarantee that." Chambers spoke again.
It always came back to money. There was no such thing as a 'cant miss' property in Hollywood - no matter what the industry wags claimed - but there were ways to avoid stinking. If nothing else all seven of her films had made money - even if none had been blockbusters. "Three of my films were critically acclaimed, and not one of them has ever lost money."
"Not one of your films has had a budget over a million dollars either." The last of the producers spoke, a man she recognized from a previous meeting as an accountant. "Its an economy of scale, there really isnt much risk overspending a couple of hundred dollars compared to a couple of hundred thousand."
"No offense. But when you dont have any extra money there is no difference between a hundred and a hundred thousand." Jae met his gaze, her mental casting agent giving her fits. For some reason she wanted to cast Keanu Reeves.
As frustrating as the lack of a simple yes or no was, it was a good sign. The longer the conversation wore on the more likely it was that she could convince them that she was the best choice. In fact, that they were having this conversation at all boded in her favour.
She waited, continuing to meet Chambers gaze, her relaxed posture a contrast to his folded arm, stiff shouldered one. But then, she thought, I have nothing to lose.
"Youre short a lead actress." He leaned back slightly, more she thought to get a better look at how his companions were reacting than out of any genuine ease.
If he had expected to catch her flat-footed with the information he was about six hours too late. Shed gone to see the actress whod been cast as Kerry Stewart, right after shed met with Reed Lewis, and been tersely informed that the contract had an out clause and it was being invoked. Cait had already made a series of calls and there were two contenders on deck, one of who had read for the part originally, and still wanted it, more so if Jae was attached to it.
"Ill worry about that." Jae smiled, suggesting with her tone that if the actress hadnt quit then she would have been replaced any way.
"I expect it on time and on budget."
"Let me film it my way and I guarantee it." Streamlining the script and losing the excess filler the last scriptwriter added would virtually guarantee that it came in on time and under budget. Scrapping the car chase alone would save them a week and four hundred thousand dollars. What is it with guys and car chases?
"And if I say no?" It was all Chambers now; the other two men were merely set dressing.
Jae kept her tone level and professional. "Then we keep talking until we reach an agreement that works."
For the first time since shed known him, Rod Chambers smiled, shedding ten years in the process. Jae still wanted to cast Warren Beatty in his role, but he was looking a whole lot friendlier now than he had when she first came in.
"I want to see the altered shooting draft on my desk in, he flipped through his Daytimer for show, " a week, and the first tape edits the week after that." Chambers looked up expectantly, putting the ball back in her court.
It was more than shed hoped for, half expecting to find Chambers wanting to stand over her shoulder and watch every step. She nodded acceptance.
Thered be a couple of days of tedious legal back and forth, as his lawyers and hers hammered out the final contract, but from this moment on she was the director. Now all she needed was a script, a lead actress and some sleep.
The order seemed right too.
"Jae Cavanaughs office; Caitlynn Waters speaking." It had taken a couple of seconds but shed finally located the phone receiver wedged under a cushion and further buried by a stack of papers on one of the mismatched office chairs. "Im sorry - could you repeat that?" The callers words had been lost under the thud of a box of paper hitting the throw rug topped hardwood floor.
The studio travel agent, responding to an earlier query about the scriptwriters flight from Miami detailed the itinerary and Cait dutifully copied it down. A look at the cluttered surface of Jaes desk prompted her to slip the paper into her pocket where it would be safe. Next shed phone for a car to pick the woman up at L.A.X. in the morning. It never hurt, Cait reasoned, to be prepared or make a good impression.
Not quite as prepared as Jae though. Her boss had been a very busy girl. Every available inch of wall in Jaes office was covered with rough story board drawings of scenes taken from a combination of the original script - dug out of a box in Roans old office - and the novel itself.
It was the quality of the original script that had led Jae to hire the books author to work with them in revising the dialogue in the teleplay. Often authors made lousy scriptwriters - they were afraid to jettison their own material, but Holly Wulfenden appeared to be an exception. Her original adaptation of Tropical Storm was tight. Cait was optimistic that by the end of the week, Jae and Holly would have hammered out a workable script and they could get moving on filming. Six weeks was not a lot of time to shoot a movie - especially one that involved location work.
Cait crossed the last item off her to do list and turned off her organizer.
"Jesus Jae!" Startled, Cait jumped. "Are you trying to kill me? Cause I dont think you want to that - at least not before I get your script entered into filmmaker."
Obviously in a good mood, Jae didnt respond, instead she threw herself into her chair and scribbled some notes on a pad.
Turn about could be fair play. Amused, Cait watched Jae add another handwritten page to the stack in her inbox, while the dormant computer screen looked on helplessly. "Have you ever considered the total irony of your shooting a movie about two cyber geeks in love?"
Jae took the teaser and arched a brow. "Which part do you find ironic?" The partial grin split into a mock glare.
"Is Becky still talking to you?" Cait asked, feigning innocence. The hook was set and in a minute shed have her payback.
"Yes. Well she was as of yesterday, anyway."
Cait lifted her own brow sagely. "Then its the cybergeek part, though if you dont start paying more attention to her ." She deliberately let the sentence trail off, having no wish to turn this into a lectured shed already delivered a thousand times over the years. Besides, it was time for the pay-off. "In fact. Arent you supposed to be at dinner with her and your parents."
Jaes face turned a very satisfying shade of white, her untidy mop of blonde hair seeming almost neon in contrast and she bolted from the office.
Cait laughed then scooped Jaes car keys from where they dangled on the ear of the stone gargoyle perched on the one clear corner of the desk and walked to the office door. She arrived at the door in time to watch Jae run pell mell back down the corridor. Taking pity on her friend, she flipped the keys to Jae, who deftly caught them in one hand, simultaneously turning around to head back to the car.
"Have fun!" She added, unable to resist taunting Jae a little more. As far as mothers went, Elizabeth Cavanaugh was okay, but not someone Cait could envision as a fun dinner companion.
Just before she would have disappeared around the corned Jae stopped, a slow grin spreading over her face. "Hey Cait, give Reed Lewis a call for me, ask her to come down to the studio Tuesday morning around eight." The slow grin became a flat out mocking smile. "Oh, and Cait?"
"Have fun." Jae waved and turned the corner.
Ego punctured slightly, Cait went back into the office she shared with Jae, wondering what part of tracking down the recalcitrant Reed Lewis was supposed to constitute fun.
Reed stood facing the nightlife below, conscious of the humming traffic and quiet murmurs of the invisible insects surrounding her. She swirled the wine in her glass, the keys to the house and a bottle of red wine had been handed over cheerfully by the rental agent in exchange for a rent check, and studied the translucent liquid as it reflected the glow of the porch lights.
The rail creaked slightly as she leaned against it, but held firm allowing her to lean out and study the terraced lots below. The houses were stacked and arranged in such a way as to use as much space while providing as much privacy as possible. She could, if she strained her hearing, make out snatches of conversations drifting up from the nearby dwellings.
It wasnt perfect, but it would do for the two months they were scheduled to be shooting in Los Angeles. She made her way back to the small kitchen and rinsed the glass before setting it to drain in the rack.
She paced through the sparsely furnished living room and flipped on the TV. Mary Harts coifed blonde locks resolved onto the 28-inch screen and a picture of Jae Cavanaugh caught her attention. Reed upped the volume in time to hear a coming up next announcement from the plastic man - whatever his name was - that had replaced John Tesh.
The leather sofa squeaked under her weight as she eased down onto its soft folds. The subtle scent of leather and saddle soap clung to the ancient piece.
Pictures of Jae and Roan appeared in the top corner of the screen, but it was the caption that froze her gaze to the screen. "Director Dead at 47."
The rest of the clip mesmerized her, even though she already knew most of the details. Information and speculation were handed out and spun in the most lurid Hollywood fashion, her own name entering into the story more than once. It seemed their argument had become public fuel for the fires of speculation. Hart added that acclaimed independent film director and former student, Jae Cavanaugh had replaced Roan Pirsig on the set.
Pirsig was dead. It was the most perfect of outcomes. So why didnt his death make her happier?
Reed shifted to reach the remote and turned the channel, startled when the soft chirping of her cell phone cut in over the electric pulsing hyper activity of a car ad. The call display read Heidi Chappelle. Eager and trepidacious she extended the antenna then hit talk.
"Is it true?" Heidi didnt say hello - just demanded information.
"Yes." There wasnt a whole lot more to say really.
"Good." The vehemence in her friends voice a counterpoint to her own calm indifference. It should have been the other way around. "Why you agreed to work with that man again Ill never understand."
"He was the only game in town."
There werent many directors who would take a chance on casting an actress who had just walked off a set at the end of filming one day and had never returned, even if working for another director had been an option. Liz Kuiper had accomplished it though. The agent transmitting both the contract offer and the threat of Roan completely blackballing her if Reed didnt play the game his way, in the same phone call. So once more shed left her son in the care of her best friends and trooped off to Hollywood, trusting Heidi and Geoff to keep him safe.
"Rio misses you." Heidi changed the subject, voice softening in the process.
A lump formed in Reeds throat. She hated to leave Riordan behind, but she didnt have a choice. "How is he?" She whispered.
"Holding up. He slept a lot today, Maggies boys were over yesterday and I think it wore him out."
"Is he awake now?" Probably not, it was three hours later in Maine, but she had to ask.
"I could wake him." Heidi offered.
"No, let him sleep, he needs it. Tell him Mummy loves him and Ill talk to him tomorrow." Her eyes fell on the laptop balanced at the edge of the table and an idea popped in her head. Rio loved surprises.
"Will do. Take care of yourself okay?" Heidis worry was evident in the instructions.
She rang off and put the cell back on the counter. Focus. I have to stay focused. The laptop caught her eye again and Reed picked up the cell phone activating it even as she switched on the computer. Connecting via the cell link she navigated through some bookmarks before finding the one she wanted. She typed a quick message, then pasted the link into the email.
Clicking send she watched the status bar indicate her message was on the way then shut down. One hamster dance coming up.
She closed the cell phone and set it down for the second time in five minutes, only to have the house phone ring. Reed screened the call, listening to some assistant of Jae Cavanaughs ask her to come into the studio Tuesday. The day after Roans funeral would be.
Maybe shed be able to dance on his grave Monday.
Mutely she toasted the bare sliver of moon showing in the darkening sky then turned her attention to dinner.
The house was quiet. No music played on the stereo, and the thick panes of window glass shut out the noises of night. Moonlight fell in patches, where parted curtains gave it entry, but there were no other lights to interfere with the shadows.
Outside illuminated by the same moonlight, an opossum clung to the side of the large camphor tree that spread its leafy arms over the backyard. The last of the black fruit hung just out of reach of the small marsupial, her pouch distended by young nearly ready to enter the world.
Jae watched her climb, occasionally losing sight of the sleek gray body as the elongated leaves hid the animal from view. Food and shelter from the elements, daily tasks that left no room for confusion and the only regret in not having moved swiftly enough across a highway. At least that was the kind of regret that ended quickly and didnt have to be weighed looking for absolution.
The kind that didnt leave you sitting in the middle of the night staring outside, sorting through a pile of regret.
Regret that she had been late. Regret that shed even gone at all.
From the moment shed arrived, it had gone badly. The waiter had looked down disapprovingly at her somewhat rumpled jacket and slacks, the activity level of her day plain to be read in every crease. La Boheme had been packed, the famed Italian restaurant a noisy collection of the whos who and the who wants to be, and holding a prime table on a Saturday night hadnt been appreciated.
She could close her eyes and watch the whole evening unfold; a miniature movie she was powerless to affect. Jae could see herself smile at the waiter and follow him to the terrace table where her parents and Becky were waiting.
"There you are." Her fathers booming voice greeted her cheerfully.
"Hi Daddy." She kissed him on one cheek then leaned down to hug her mother. "Hello, Mother. Sorry Im late."
Her father pulled out her chair, kissing the top of her head as he guided the chair back into place. Good sign, if her parents werent upset then Becky would have a harder time sniping at her for being late.
Shed been wrong.
When shed reached under the table and squeezed Beckys hand, thered been no answering squeeze and no change in the icily polite expression on her girlfriends face, despite what shed thought was a suitably apologetic and endearing smile of her own.
From there, the evening had steamrollered into disaster.
"Surely you werent at work today?"
"Jaes always working, Elizabeth."
Becky had considered her returning to work for Roan to be selling out, trading her creativity for Hollywood exposure and she hadnt been able to convince her otherwise. Directing a commercial picture wasnt far up the scale. Though, she suspected, Becky would feel differently if shed been cast in one of the open roles. Jae ignored the gibe. Tonight was not a night for fighting.
It was, of course, her mother who broke the silence. "I know he was an important influence for you."
"Youll do fine Pumpkin." Her father offered reassuringly.
Her cell chose that moment to chirp. "Excuse me." She answered the call and made her way to the quiet area near the washrooms.
It was Roans executor.
A few numbing moments later she terminated the call and leaned back against the wall. Becky was not going to be happy. Tears threatened to well up and spill from her eyes, and only the curious stares of the watching diners kept her from giving into the impulse to cry. She took one calming breath, then another until she felt in control enough to go back to the table and make her excuses to her parents and Becky. Jae absently tucked the phone back onto her belt, unable to remember actually hanging up. She caught the other womans eye and waved Becky over.
Instead of approaching, Becky spun on her heel and left the restaurant. Jae stared after the tall brunette. Finally, the headlights of a sleek coupe flashed on the glass doors of La Boheme and she knew Becky wasnt simply making a point; shed left.
Jae turned back toward the table and imagined she could hear the exasperated Jacqueline in her mothers eyes. She preferred the bemused sympathy in her fathers, sort of a been there, done that, commiseration.
Jae broke the expectant silence. "I need to go." Couldnt find the words to say why. It had been hard enough to tell them about Roans death; the memorial service was impossible to contemplate, nevermind discuss.
Her father nodded in understanding. "Well be fine Pumpkin."
A weak smile replaced the worried tension she had felt frozen on her lips. "Thanks Daddy." She turned to her mother and saw she wasnt going to get off quite so lucky with her other parent.
"Is Becky okay?" Elizabeth Cavanaugh asked.
Not quite the question Jae had been expecting and definitely not the tone shed expected to hear it in. Tears began to spill down a cheek and her mother wrapped her in a hug, oblivious to the people watching them surreptitiously. Nodding into her mothers chest Jae whispered, "I dont know." She still didnt want to make Roans death real by speaking of it.
A gentle finger lifted her chin, "Call me tomorrow okay? And well talk, just remember your father and I love you very much, now go before youre late."
Jae smiled. "Love you too." She squeezed her mothers hand and pecked her cheek softly. "Thank-you."
"Night, Pumpkin." Her father added a kiss before sitting back down and picking up a menu, having she guessed, reached his sensitive chat limit.
That hadnt been the end though.
When shed arrived home the front door had been unlocked and the only noise she could hear was from the TV in the front room. Hanging first her coat, then her bag on the hooks by the door, she slid her shoes off and walked to the living room.
Becky was curled up on the lined couch reading, the Hollywood Reporter. She seemed unaware of her arrival so Jae stood and watched a moment,
Jae cleared her voice slightly, announcing her presence. The redhead looked up and Jae could see that she had been crying recently and felt her stomach clench slightly. This could get messy. She said the only thing that came to mind. "Hi." It sounded inane - even to her.
"Hi." Becky had put the magazine down on the coffee table and had drawn her knees up to her chin, wrapping both arms around her legs.
Jae was suddenly weary; her legs seemed incapable of holding her up. She moved to a large chair opposite her lover and sat down, feeling the stress of the last two days slam home all at once - aware that it was only going to get worse in the next few minutes - not better.
Silence prevailed for several heartbeats, then Becky took the bull by the horns. "Were done arent we?" Hurt and confusion mixed with despair, making her sound lost.
Jae nodded. "Yes." There, it was said. The unspoken made tangible by the forming of the words.
"Is directing this picture that important to you? That you would give up everything we had?"
Past tense. Had. Becky probably didnt even realize that she was no longer talking about what they used to share, but rather what theyd lost along the way. "Its already gone, Becky." That it saddened her didnt make it any less true.
"Is it someone else? No, forget I said that. Its the damned job. Fine." Anger had become the dominant emotion in the redheads voice and she had flung herself off the couch and was now towering over Jae. "A camera cant make love to you, cant hold you, but I wish you much joy of each other."
She didnt want to fight, didnt have the energy to even defend herself from the verbal attack, so she choose not to make a reply, remaining silent.
Becky stepped away, "Now I understand why your average relationship lasts about six months. I got a year, lucky me." She left the room and returned a couple of minutes later with a small suitcase and a cardboard box. "Ill have your things sent over tomorrow."
Jae didnt know what but she felt she had to say something, "Becky...I...."
"You what? Youre sorry? I dont think you are. It doesnt matter to you that I loved you, that always came second. I always came second. Now youre free. Enjoy it." She spun on one heel and exited the room, her footfalls fading in the hall, followed by the slam of the front door and the flaring to life of an automobile engine.
"Bye." Jae spoke to a woman who was no longer there.
Jae swiveled around in her office chair, stretching to grab the phone. "Cavanaugh speaking."
"Theres a delivery for you. Do you want it back there or up here?" The buildings front desk receptionist asked.
"Send it back Jennifer, thanks."
"No problem, it looks a little heavy to be carrying anyway."
Her stomach knotted immediately recognizing what was being delivered. She took a deep breath then stood to meet the delivery person at the office door.
It seemed like forever before she heard the slight squeak of the dolly wheels.
Two cardboard boxes sealed in packing tape were stacked against the red metal frame.
Sixteen cubic feet of relationship jetsam and flotsam.
"Sign here please."
The pen felt weightless in her nerveless fingers. She scratched her name over the electronic pad with the stylus. "Just put them over there please."
He dropped them next to the couch then left, and she shut the door behind him. Taking a pen knife from the desk she crossed the hardwood floor and sat down on the Aztec print throw rug in front of the couch, then carefully slit the packing tape.
Her hand rested on the lid, mind paused equally between wanting to open the boxes and find out if her CDs and books were in there, and a fear that the gifts of a birthday, a Christmas and two Valentines days would also be inside.
Twenty-four hours. Change beyond belief.
Things had gone wrong from the moment shed walked in the restaurant.
That would be one memory too many today, instead Jae reached for the first box.
The cardboard lid came off easily revealing a row of neatly packed books and video tapes, moving the top box aside she slit the tape on the bottom one, pulling its lid off.
A soft rap prevented her from looking at the contents, and she stood up. "Come in."
Reed Lewis poked her head around the door, long raven hair fanning out in the air and catching the light from the window behind her desk. The actress looked between her and the boxes and lifted an inquiring eyebrow. "Bad time?"
She shook her head. "Not really, just going through some stuff a friend returned." Her voice quavered on the last syllable and Reed regarded her intently so she gave a wan grin in return. "What can I do for you?" Jae seated herself on the couch and motioned for the actress to join her.
"Itll keep." Nevertheless Reed did take a seat on the end of the couch and stretched her long legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankles. "Were you together long?"
The astute question surprised her. Not only was it the longest unprompted statement shed gotten from Reed, but it was also the first time the actress had asked anything remotely personal about her in spite of the questions shed asked. Jae thought about how to answer. She didnt want to lie to Reed, but she wasnt about to go someplace shed regret either. "Just over a year." She leaned back into the cushions. "Sometimes I wonder why I bother."
She hadnt even been able to explain it to Becky. For what seemed like the thousandth time she replayed Saturday night over in her brain again.
A dull gray rock in the top of one of the boxes caught the corner of her eye and Jae leaned down and picked it up before settling back onto the couch and continuing. "Do you believe in soul mates and stuff?" Jae didnt know what prompted her to ask the question and she was prepared to hear the actress snicker.
"My grandmother used to tell a story about a race of mythological beings that were divided by the God Zeus. Once, a long, long time ago, all people had four legs and two heads. And then the gods threw down thunderbolts, and split everyone into two. Each half then had two legs and one head. But the separation left both sides with a desperate yearning to be reunited. Because they each shared the same soul. And ever since then, all people spend their lives searching for the other half of their soul."
"You dont sound like you believe it."
The purplish crystals inside the geode danced in the light. "I think I do too," Jae said unconvincingly.
"Then youll probably find it." The actress eased her lanky form off the couch. "Later."
Reed gave her a warm smile in return and left.
Jae watched the other woman leave, then realized that the actress hadnt actually told her why shed dropped by. A second later she realized that Reed had come by request - it was just after eleven a.m., Tuesday morning.
Reed was leaning against a post in a mock-up of a hotel room, eyes closed when she felt someone approach her.
"Hey yourself." Reed replied, opening her eyes and looking up at the director.
"Id like to talk to you about a couple of things, how about joining me for lunch?"
Reed thought about it a minute, she was not in the habit of socializing on the set, generally using her lunch breaks to recover from the stress of being on. Why not? Cavanaugh was no threat. "Sure. Ms Cavanaugh." She stood.
"Please call me Jae."
"Alright then Jae, but youre buying." It was a feeble joke at best, but all she could come up with to mask her tension, a part of her suddenly wondering what shed done wrong.
"Deal. The Chinese food will be here in a minute."
Her startled confusion must have registered on her face because the other woman laughed. "You didnt expect me to make you eat from the catering truck did you?"
Reed smiled in spite of herself and followed the director across the sound stage.
Chinese food was, reflected Reed thirty minutes later, not the best choice of meals to be eating if you wanted to appear in control and elegant. She looked down at her chopsticks. Well at least not for me.
Jae on the other hand was expertly twirling her chow mien noodles around her utensils and getting the food to its destination without so much as a drip going astray.
They were sitting in the directors office and Reed found herself looking interestedly at the various objects piled on every available inch. It was a pretty amazing amount of clutter considering that Jae had only had the office; what a month?
Theyd been exchanging bits of small talk and Jae had revealed a weakness for oriental dishes and spices, while shed copped to a fondness for hot dogs. The other woman laughed easily and often and Reed found herself relaxing and enjoying her lunch. Idly, she continued her survey of the room, spotting an intricately woven tapestry on the far wall.
"So we are doing a cattle call this afternoon." Jae was speaking and the actress turned her attention from the wall hanging to the director. "Id like you there."
Reed was surprised, she was used to being told point-blank what to do, and while Jaes request was in fact an order - it didnt put her hackles up. "You want to do a scene?"
"Yes. It may be a moot point - two of the actresses who originally read for the part have been contacted - so we may cast that way."
"What parts being recast?" The rumour mill already had it that Jess Miller had bailed, Roans departure being all the excuse she needed to get out of her contract as Kerrison Stuart.
"Kerry Stuart." Jae replied matter of factly, confirming the rumour. "We need to test you against the others and pick the combination with the most chemistry.
Her stomach tensed involuntarily as Reed wondered what scenes theyd use to test for chemistry. The chopsticks hung loosely in her hand so she carefully set them on the edge of the carton, as the comfort level shed been feeling just a few minutes earlier evaporated under the onslaught of uncertainty and fear.
She remained quiet, waiting for Jae to speak again.
"But thats not what I wanted to talk to you about."
Reeds stomach clenched again and she forced herself to answer. "What?"
"I want you to read this." Cavanaugh tossed her a thick novel.
"You want me to read a book?" She opened it and scanned a few lines, but Jae spoke before she could object.
"Its the novel the script is based on." She held another copy up for Reed to see. "Ive got one too. We cant present it all on film and since the script hasnt cleared rewrite yet, I was hoping it would give everyone an idea of where we are going."
"Youre rewriting the script?"
"Not all of it, no." The blonde smiled, running her fingers through her short hair. "Just the R-rated bits, the pseudo-political thriller add-ins and the car chase."
"And youre telling me this - why?" Reed was confused.
Intense green eyes locked on her blue ones and Reed had to fight the impulse to look away. "Because I need you behind me on this. I have to lay tape and hand over some film edits in ten days and it all revolves around you. Every scene."
This was not how it normally worked and Reed felt a vague sense of unease. The increased pace to get some tape down wasnt the problem, she just didnt know what to make of Jae.
The director was still studying her and Reed did her best to remain still, unwilling to let her mental argument show. The director backed off and broke their eye contact, turning instead to retrieve a sheaf of papers from one cluttered corner of the desk.
"This is the scene I want to do this afternoon." Jae handed over a copy.
Reed nodded, glad for the decrease in intensity.
"Hey, you going to eat that?" Jae was pointing at a prawn balanced precariously over the edge of a carton.
The sudden change in atmosphere caught her by surprise. "No, go ahead." Where the slim blonde was going to put it was beyond Reed.
A cell phone chirped and they both reached for one, Jae holding hers up and saying, "its me."
Reed took the opportunity to excuse herself and fled back to her trailer. She shut the white metal door behind her and took a deep breath. Part of her was excited about the approach she could sense Cavanaugh was going to take to the material, the other part warned her about getting emotionally invested in the picture.
She was impressed, Cavanaugh was playing to the strength of her existing cast, while buying herself time to bring the production under control and Reed found that she was looking forward to starting work.
The cell in her pocket rang and she pulled it out, dropping onto the settee before answering it. "Hello." She clipped.
"Rio." Her voice softened.
"Cool page, it had like 30 different animals, and that laugh, did you send it last night when I was asleep? Mark and . " He was off, excited words tumbling out a mile a minute.
"Slow down a sec, kiddo. Now what about Mark?" She listened indulgently as he recounted his friends visit, letting him tell the story in his own way, even if the chronology made it somewhat hard to follow.
"You going to play with me tonight?"
"Not tonight Rio, tomorrow okay? Ive got to shoot late tonight, but I promise to help you find the key to the next level tomorrow."
"Cross my heart." She drew her fingers across her chest, even though she knew he couldnt see them. He yawned into the phone. "Your Aunt Heidi around?"
"No she ran away with the milk man." He giggled.
"Smartypants. Put her on willya?"
"K. Love you." Rio was still young enough not to feel awkward telling his mother that he loved her.
"Right back at ya."
"Reed?" Heidi had taken the phone from her son.
"Hes not overdoing it is he?" She inquired, worried by his earlier yawn.
"No, he just woke up, no fever and his lunch stayed down."
Reed could feel the knot in her stomach loosen a bit with the reassuring news. "I told him Id do the RPG thing tomorrow so make sure he gets lots of rest okay?"
"No problem." Dishes clattered and Reed guessed that Heidi was preparing supper or cleaning up from a late lunch. "What time should he go on-line?"
"I dont know what the schedule will be like here so Ill phone first." It just occurred to her that the time difference might present an obstacle to keeping her promise.
"Sounds good. Talk to you tomorrow."
"Bye." She hit end and put the cell back in her pocket. "What now?" Reed asked of the empty room. Someone would come get her when she was needed and she evaluated her options.
The book was sitting on top of the notes for the cattle call and she took it as a sign, reaching across the length of the couch to retrieve it.
Why couldnt they put these things on disk? The small type was beginning to get to her, but she couldnt put the book down, reading on till she had finished a section. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, reflecting on the characters and the storyline. Her doubts about playing Dar were quickly evaporating. I can do this. She mentally pictured scenes and blocked shots, getting a handle on how she would approach various mannerisms.
Letting the scenes flow she watched the pictures unfold in her minds eye, imagining the first meeting of the two protagonists and the look on Kerrys face as she found out she was being assimilated. She could see the confused fear on Jaes face. Whoa. She sat up. Why on earth? Thinking, she chalked it up to having no lead actress to mentally cast, since Miller had backed out.
A soft knock interrupted her before she could dwell on it too long. "Theyre ready for you now Ms. Lewis."
She didnt respond, just grabbed her script and left the trailer, speculating on the quality of cattle in the call.
Jae smiled as Reed entered the room. Shed been sorry that their lunch had been cut short by a business call. The tall actress was no longer such an enigma to her - what others called ice, Jae was beginning to recognize as professional detachment.
"Reed Lewis this is Gwen McKitrick, Gwen meet Reed." She watched as the two women shook hands, each regarding the other appraisingly.
As disappointed as she had been to look up and see Reed had vanished from her office, she was equally ecstatic to find McKitricks agent was the person on the other end of the phone. She still wanted the part and was willing to come in and read for Jae that afternoon.
Over the course of the exchange Jae discovered that the only reason the actress hadnt been cast originally was a fear that she would be perceived as too young.
"Shall we?" She said. The blonde actress had arrived a little while ago and Jae had given her the chance to read over the section. She crossed her fingers, the reading would double as a walk through and if it worked out - this would be the first scene they filmed - hopefully as early as tomorrow night. Reed and Gwen both nodded and took up places opposite each other, with Gwen perching on the top of a table.
"Look, Ray, I told you. Um, sorry, I thought you were someone else." It was a good sign, Gwen wasnt just reading, she was trying to be Kerry.
"Kerry Stuart. Are you, um," she paused, "I mean, youre from the new headquarters, right? Im sorry. I must seem kind of daft to you. I wasnt expecting anyone until after lunch." McKitrick was hitting just the right mix of hesitancy and confusion.
"Yes. I am. I suppose my lunch doesnt quite match yours." Reeds tone was every inch as cool as Jae imagined the character being. "Sorry."
"Oh, right, well thats okay, because I - I finished lunch already myself, but my staff is still out. What, I mean, can I get you some coffee, or something?" Here Gwen added a touch of awkward apology.
"No thanks. Ive got things scheduled. Lets just get started, it wont take long. Sit down." Reeds body language had become commanding, firm, but not over the top rigid. Jae smiled and continued to watch and listen, sure that she had found her Kerry, but wanting to see where they would take the rest of the scene.
"You know why Im here, right?"
"I know you people are taking over, they really didnt tell us much about what was going to happen, no." Confidence began to creep into Gwens words.
"Im not going to play games or beat around the bush. Bottom line is, what we purchased was your business." This time it was Reed whose tone conveyed a touch of apology before regaining its confidence.
The blonde woman took a breath. "Okay, but what does that mean? We report to different people or you want things done differently? I have reports."
"It means were interested in the services youre providing. Not in how you provide them, or who does it. Theres nothing you do here we cant do better, and cheaper, which is the whole point."
Jae was impressed, they had the timing right, Reeds last lines having cut into Gwens perfectly. She looked over at Cait to get her reaction and received a small thumbs up.
"What are you saying?" Gwen asked softly. "Youre saying you dont need us, is that it?"
"You cant just come in here and fire everyone. Weve been doing this for years. You cant replace us just like that." So far so good, McKitrick had avoided appearing to whine.
"Yes, I can. Its what we do. I have a programming group in Huntingdon, a support group just west of the airport that can take your calls, and a hardware installers division all who already work for me. Your people are inefficient, they take two sick days a piece every three weeks, half of them are late every day, your programmers havent met a deadline in two years, and youve had eighteen workmans comp claims in the last four months." Reed was totally the corporate raider, explaining to the conquered just why they lost the war.
The director watched to see how the next set of lines would be delivered. Could McKitrick display the right amount of mettle?
"I guess John was right." She finally said, in quiet defeat.
"Right about what?" Reed had successfully switched from commanding to confused.
"You are here just to rape us." Bingo, Perfect. Jae knew she had found her Kerry.
"Thats not an appropriate way to refer to it."
"What are you going to do, fire me?"
Jae broke in before Reed could deliver the next line. "Thats a wrap people. Looks like we found our Kerry." She knew she had a grin plastered across her lips but she didnt care. Finally things were going her way and she didnt give a damn about who knew how she felt.
Her enthusiasm must have been infectious because Cait was smiling as were Gwen and her agent. She looked to Reed, and arched a questioning brow, pleased when a twinkling blue eye raised a brow of its own in returned pleasure and approval.
It was, she thought, a good day.
Jae shoved aside the empty carton, and picked up her pencil. The computer stared balefully, their truce by no means certain. It had crashed twice already, each time swallowing calculations and budget figures. Finally, shed just printed the sections she needed and entered the information by hand; she had what she needed - the number of shooting days - 51. Fewer days than Roan had scheduled but still too many for the budget they had left.
She spread out a calendar and began blocking out the days. Jae circled the next day, Tuesday, then counting off the number of days theyd be in LA; she circled the October tenth. That would have them finished in Michigan on the twenty-third. No snow.
Leaning back in the chair, she looked at the calendar. They needed fewer shooting days and they needed to have snow by the time they hit Michigan. Instead of beating herself over the head with the schedule, Jae put it aside, content to let her subconscious work on it for a bit. There were plenty of other details to work out.
Three parts had been recast, the original actors no longer available. Jae dug out their bios and reread them. Theyd been especially lucky to get Jared Sykes. Hed lend a distinguished air to Kerrys father, Senator Stuart. Rafe Evans was a different story. Hed make a credible villain, but Jae wished that shed been able to recast the part of Kyle. Evans had a reputation and one potential prima donna on a set was enough. Rachel Muniz rounded out the new additions, and would play the part of Michelle Graver, a foil for the Reeds character Dar.
Yesterdays audition had added the final element; Gwen McKitrick had been cast as Kerrison Stuart. Blonde and five foot five she was a good contrast to a darker, taller Reed.
The audition had been great, but something was still missing.
So far, Reed Lewis had been the epitome of stoic professionalism - though somewhat aloof, and Jae was finding her pleasant to direct. What she lacked in enthusiasm for the role she made up for in sheer preparedness and talent.
It just wasnt going to be enough.
Jae didnt know how Roan had planned to handle it, but Reeds attitude was going to make shooting a lesbian romance very difficult. She hadnt come right out and admitted to being homophobic, but the implication had been strongly given. A political thriller with throw away sex scenes had little requirement for a connection between the leads, nor did it call for sustained emotional affinity. But along with Roans title Balance of Power, they had also scrapped the script, going with both the films original script and its title. Tropical Storm was a very different movie and would hinge on the audience believing that the actresses playing Dar and Kerry were a couple on screen, and she wasnt sure Reed could pull that off in her current state.
She turned the problem over in her mind, adding it to the her thoughts about the shooting schedule. Electrified, she grabbed a fresh set of calendar sheets and began marking off the shoot in a different order.
Satisfied, Jae read over the notes, double-checking the dates. Two more days in LA, since they were already scheduled to shoot the footage Chambers wanted, then five days in Orlando, two weeks in LA, five days in Miami, then home to LA for the final week.
While she had Lewis, McKitrick and Muniz in Orlando, Cait could supervise the second units footage of the supporting cast. Unorthodox, but in the end cheaper. They wouldnt even have had to go to Miami, except that the sun set on the opposite coast in the east and you couldnt fake that on the Pacific.
It was perfect - and maybe it would solve her other problem.
Jae held her arms over her head, rotating them around the shoulder joint trying to ease the burning ache that had settled in the muscles where her neck and back met.
"Looks like Ive gone about as far as I can for one night." She spoke to the squat stone gargoyle guarding her desk. He didnt disagree so she stood and grabbed her bag and keys.
Universal Studios was still abuzz with activity and she could see the bright shooting lights coming from Little Europe. Behind her, laughter and the sounds of busy nightlife activity reminded her that she worked in the middle of one of the largest commercial playgrounds in the world.
This was a lot different than shooting in remote locations or gathering background footage, and it was a lot different that shooting as primary director on her own pictures. For one thing, it was a lot noisier. She laughed, and much better funded.
She turned the corner from her office and stopped. Reeds Range Rover was still nestled in its spot. Reeds still here? Jae was puzzled, shed sent the cast home just after four and it was going on ten now.
The path to her right led back toward the sound stage and backlot trailers and she took the right hand fork, opting to check Reeds trailer first.
It was the right guess. Soft yellow light showed through the material of the curtains. She crept forward, unsure as to why she felt the compulsion to look in on the actress and with even less clue as to why she was tip-toeing along the asphalt.
Reed was sprawled along the length of the three-quarter length settee, one arm propped under her head, reading. She seemed totally absorbed by the novel, and Jae realized that she must have been reading for quite some time, if the still open curtain and the thickness of pages tucked between the actress thumb and the front cover were any indication.
Jae smiled reflexively as Reed smiled at something she had just read. The change in the actress face was amazing as unguarded enjoyment was allowed free rein. It transformed her and Jae sucked in an involuntary breath.
Not wanting to be caught invading Reeds privacy she backed away, returning the way she had come. Just in front of her a crowd had gathered at the lot snack shop and an idea took shape.
Fifteen minutes and three dollars fifty later she was safely ensconced in her Saturn, ready to leave the studio behind in favour of her own dinner and a hot bath.
Reed shut the book, sticking a slip of paper between the pages to mark her place, and got up to answer the rapping which had interrupted her reading. It was probably a studio security guard but she peeked through the curtain next to the door just to be safe.
It was a studio employee all right but not a security guard. Curious she opened the door, raising a questioning brow at the uniformed youth before her.
He swallowed nervously then handed up the brown paper bag she had only just noticed he was carrying. "Im supposed to deliver this," he mumbled, Midwestern drawl or laziness eating most of his words.
She handed him a crumpled one and took the bag in exchange, slightly confused by the delivery, and shut the door.
What in the hell? Opening the bag she removed a pile of napkins, a plastic knife, a coke and a Styrofoam container. After setting everything else down she picked up the glossy white container and opened it.
Hot dogs. The smell of moist bread mixed with the distinct aroma of raw onions and boiled wieners wafted through the trailer. A small square of paper was tucked between the container and the packets of condiments. Reed set the container back down and retrieved the note.
Thought you might be hungry.
Her stomach picked up the smell and rumbled in agreement with the directors note. She looked over at the small clock registering how late it was and how long ago lunch had been. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth - especially one that came bearing her favorite food - she began adding ketchup and mustard to the hot dogs, unaware of the smile lighting her face.
Reed took a large bite then sat back down. Chewing contentedly she picked up the coke and popped the tab. It was significantly later than she had meant to stay, and she was surprised that the book had held her attention as long as it had. She was not normally one for marathon reading sessions. She picked up the second hot dog, pausing to wash the last bite of the first one down, and idly reflected on the information that Jae herself was either still around the studio or had just recently left.
10:15. Should I? It would be the polite thing to do. Reed snickered softly at the thought. Like Ive ever worried about appearing polite. Truth was though, she found herself liking the young director in spite of her reservations.
Decision made she ate the last bite of the hot dog, briefly wishing there were one more hiding in the carton, and gathered up her stuff, tucking the novel into the pocket of her leather trench coat alongside her cell.
The hustle and bustle of the worlds busiest movie studio assaulted her senses the second she stepped from the trailer. Reed closed the door firmly, then locked it before heading across the back lot.
The Saturn was gone. She was surprised by the fleeting disappointment that she felt looking at the empty space. Tomorrow then. Reed moved to her own vehicle unlocking the rental with the remote. She tossed her notes and the script onto the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel.
It had been, she reflected, a good first day. Hectic and challenging - definitely - but also very satisfying. Tomorrow they would roll tape on two scenes and she was looking forward to seeing the dailies. Maybe it was the fact that most of the cast were TV actors, or that Jae herself wasnt a Hollywood name, but Reed hadnt sensed any of that Prima Donna bullshit she remembered from her last picture.
Tourque. That didnt really count did it? She hadnt finished it, hadnt gone to see the version theyd finally released either.
Her exit was coming up and she slowed the car in preparation for changing lanes, then moved across and turned on Cahuenga.
Whatever the reason for the different feel she wasnt going to question it too closely. Now if only Rio were here. She missed her son, hadnt wanted to leave him behind in Maine, but hadnt had any alternative. He needed to be close to the hospital and in a stable place. A film set was no place for a healthy child, let alone one facing major surgery.
She fought off the urge to phone and check on him. Heidi would not appreciate a two-thirty wake up call. Her friend had been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal half-decade. Childhood confidant and college roommate Heidi Chappelle and her husband had opened their farm to Reed and her son, asking no questions, giving no censure.
The dark outline of the driveway beckoned her forward and she hit the switch on the garage door opener, activating the mechanism. Five minutes later she had changed from her studio clothes to her bathrobe. Calling home was out, so she decided a warm bath was just what she needed.
The antique style tub was the perfect length and she stretched her long frame fully, reveling in the soothing warmth and buoyancy of the water. Reed closed her eyes and let the day dissolve, the water cleaning more than her body.
As was her wont during filming and rehearsals she replayed scenes in her head, mentally rehearsing. She wasnt sure of exactly when the shooting script metamorphasized into the book it had been adapted from, and she didnt fight it, continuing to let the water lap against her skin, carrying the tension away.
Nor was she aware of the exact point her mind chose to again cast Jae as Kerry, drifting off to sleep as she watched the images she had read come to life in her imagination.
Reed wasnt sure which woke her first, the cold water in the tub or the insistent pain in her lower back. Wincing, she stood in the tub, goosebumps covering her skin as the cool morning air brushed over her wet skin.
Her foot touched a solid object on the bottom of the tub. The book. Shed forgotten shed taken it to the tub with her, placing it on the edge in case she had wanted to read more of the story. A wry smile hovered over her lips as her perverse sense of humour kicked in. Good thing I didnt have it on disk, bubble bath is hell on hard drives.
She fished the soggy tome from the frigid water, stifling a shiver. Of all the stupid things. Falling asleep in the bathtub was not only dumb, but not terribly good for the back either. The novel had expanded to roughly four times its normal thickness and the back cover came away in her hand.
Reed wondered if she should ask Jae for another copy or search one out in a bookstore. Not quite halfway through the story, shed found herself thoroughly engrossed by the lives of two women who, the author professed, were simply ordinary people. Not a word she would have used to describe those kinds of people. On the other hand they were fictional characters, not real people, and she suspected real life was a far cry from the idyll presented in the book.
Finished toweling her hair, she studied her face in the mirror, surprised at the absence of the ever-present dark circles under her baby blues. "Make-up will be glad of that I bet."
Reed pulled a pair of pants off a hanger in the closet and reflected that at least she didnt have to dress like her character did to go to work. Not tucking in the white priest neck shirt, she exited the bedroom and headed for the coffee pot, only to remember that she hadnt bought coffee.
"Fuck." The appliance mocked her and she stared evilly at it. "Careful bucko or Ill make tea in you." That was, as far as she could tell, the one advantage of a hotel over a house. In a hotel you could always get coffee.
"Starbucks it is then." Did they have a Starbucks in LA? Of course they did - every town had a Starbucks - it was a constitutional right.
It was still dark, dawn barely cresting the horizon as she sped along the nearly empty freeway, though by the time shed found coffee and slid the Rover into her parking space the sun had come up and the day had begun.
It didnt surprise her in the least that the silver Saturn was already tucked in its slot. Jae had probably been here before dawn, so she made her way along the twisting path to the bungalow assigned to RenFaire.
Reed hesitated at the door, awkwardness overwhelming her desire to reciprocate last nights friendly gesture. Friendly gesture. Thats what it was, wasnt it? By returning it, was she accepting the offer? No. She was just being polite.
That decided she knocked softly on the door.
"Cmin." Jae sat at her desk, pencil held between her teeth as she stared in bewilderment at the computer in front of her. "What can I do for you?" The director asked without turning around. Then she perked up a bit. "Hey is that coffee I smell? Cait youre a babe."
"Its Reed." She moved closer to the desk and waited until the blonde had turned around before handing over a cup. "You struck me as a café latte kind of person."
Green eyes studied her intently, not making her as nervous this morning as they had yesterday. "Mocha java, chocolate milk, regular coffee instead of espresso."
"The smell could have given away the mocha bit - but howd you guess about the espresso?" The actress was impressed.
Jae laughed, "when we were going over the scene yesterday I remembered you flinching at the description of café con leche, and muttering something about it being worse than espresso."
Without talking they sipped their respective beverages, letting the caffeine do its job. It was Reed who finally broke the silent communion. "Thanks."
Jae held up her cup. "Likewise. What are friends for."
Friends. Reed found she liked the sound of that.
"What you think?"
"Good rough cut. You can still see the tension between them, with just a hint of something else under the surface."
Jae yawned and laid one arm over the film editors shoulder. "Thats all for today and thanks."
"Today was yesterday two and a half hours ago." The editor returned a yawn of his own.
"In that case take the rest of the day off. Ill shut down."
"Night Jae. "
Silence fell in the editing bay and Jae stifled another yawn. Four hours of taping reduced to a hundred and twenty-six feet, a lot of work for three and a half minutes of film. Shooting had gone surprisingly well and the crew had pulled together quickly, doing both the first and second unit footage. It had made for a very long, intense day, especially for the leads, but the scene was laid, and she was still conscious, so it had to be counted as a good day.
Hitting rewind she decided to review the footage one last time before calling it a night -question was - did she drive home or simply stay at the studio? Two hours was not a lot of time to drive home, sleep and get back to work. Jae flicked play and watched the scene unfold before her eyes.
Something was still off. That was the only word she could think of. Jae rewound the tape and watched it again trying to pinpoint at exactly which point the feeling began. Three more times she rewound the tape before it struck her. The book. The internal dialogue she remembered so clearly from the book version of Tropical Storm was missing from the scene, and without it, was the scene actually conveying the message she wanted it to?
Youre being silly, Jae mgirl. In spite of her self-admonishment she rewound the tape one last time. Closing her eyes, she leaned back in her chair and just listened to the scene. Reeds rich voice mixed with Gwens alto tones as they verbally sparred. Mentally Jae tried to match emotions to the tones, already happy with the body language and blocking.
Satisfied that Gwens animousity never crossed the line into hate and that Reed had managed the fine line between detached and intrigued, she shut the machine down. She caught sight of her reflection in one of the monitors. "You really need to lighten up Jae. Its just a rough cut." The director scolded herself, the clock on the wall giving lie to the sentiment.
Her office wasnt far from the editing and sound studios and she wondered through the crisp morning air, enjoying the quiet hmm of innumerable insects and the occasional whirring of wings that revealed the nocturnal stalkers of insects swooping on their prey unseen.
A lot of Tropical Storm was internal dialogue and that could make conveying her message more difficult. Real people didnt usually go around narrating their feelings into empty air. Pets were good devices for that, and Jae could picture Kerrys character talking to her goldfish. Hell, she herself talked to the gargoyle on her desk. Unfortunately, it was Reeds character whose internal dialogue revealed so much more of Dars emotions than her dialogue did.
Her footfalls reverberated through the empty hall, filling the silent space with the echoes. The office was equally quiet and Jae sank onto the couch pausing only long enough to kick off her shoes.
Still fretting at the problem of how to handle the internal dialogue she dropped into an exhausted slumber, the next days rehearsals overlaying the worry and painting pictures in Jaes dreams.
"God Lord Jae, please dont tell me you slept here all night."
One green eye opened under protest. "Okay I wont. Did you bring coffee?" The other eye reluctantly joined its companion in greeting the morning and Jae looked up at her slightly out of focus and bemused assistant.
"No, but I can do a coffee run if you want." Caitlynn had moved across the room and was booting up the computer.
"Salright Ill grab something from the food bar."
"Ill do it, now that youve mentioned it. I need one too. Back in a flash."
Jae stood, then bent over and slowly straightened, feeling each joint in her spine settle back into place, then looked at the gargoyle, "Remind me to get hide-a-bed for the office." She grabbed her toothbrush from the top drawer of her desk and headed for the washroom.
Much better. It was, she considered, amazing how much better the simple act of brushing ones teeth could make you feel. A last rinse and she shut off the light and left the small washroom behind. The delicate aroma of freshly brewed coffee assaulted her nostrils the second she neared her office door. Jae took a deep breath, savouring the smell, nerves already perking up in anticipation of a caffeine infusion.
She expected to find Caitlynn pecking away at the computer and a white Styrofoam cup of coffee waiting on her desk. But the office was still empty and instead of a plain cup of catering truck sludge, a brown and green Starbucks paper one waited instead.
Nestled right next to the cup was a biscotti, chocolate swirls marbling the cream coloured cookie. Reed. She didnt question how she knew it had been the actress. After removing the plastic lid, she dipped a finger in the frothy cream, then slicked it from her finger. " Umm." The full-bodied scent filled her lungs and a smile touched her lips.
"Here you go." Caitlynn broke off. "Where did that come from?" The brunette was holding two cups of steaming coffee and had a brown paper sack tucked under one arm.
Jae finished dipping the cookie into the coffee and took a bite before answering. "Found it on my desk when I came back in." She wasnt sure why, but she was reluctant to tell Cait who she thought the coffee had come from.
"Secret admirer hunh? All the more for me then." The bag opened to reveal two large croissants and a handful of butter pats.
"Oh I dunno about that." she scooped a croissant and some butter.
"Figures." Caitlynn sat behind her own desk and started to skim through email.
She was still thinking about how difficult it was to translate emotion and less tangible qualities to the screen. "Arrange a meeting for half eleven with the cast and crew."
"Aye-aye Captain." Caitlynn acknowledged with her standard the boss is in boss mode quip.
Theyd been co-workers a long time and friends even longer, and Jae stuck her tongue out, surprising a laugh from the other woman, before tackling the mound of documentation on her desk.
Shed gotten Chambers to give her the same degree of control that Roan had had over the picture and its production pending his approval of the revised shooting script. Reading through the fine print on the contract that had appeared on her desk yesterday her eyes widened in shock.
Chambers had left the salary the same, as well as the percentage profit clause. A hand scribbled note on a Post-it added the comment - you promised me a money maker - we make it - you make it. Hed even okayed the change in name for the film company, removing Roans company, Blackmon Pictures, from the marquee. From now on Tropical Storm would officially be a Pink Dishrack Film, in association with RenFaire Productions.
They had decided to break for an early lunch before having the meeting shed originally scheduled for half eleven. The catering firm Caitlynn had hired was a vast improvement over the original one, and Jae found herself enjoying the vegetable samosas and chutney. Few cast members were present today, most of their scenes and roles not beginning until later in the filming schedule, but a couple of the bigger names were present and almost all of them appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Reed, as usual sat off to one side, and Jae half expected her to disappear back to her trailer at any moment.
The actress got up and went to the buffet table and helped herself to another hotdog dressed it and returned to her place. Jae watched the fluid movements and mulled over her dilemma. Maybe it isnt about curing Reeds homophobia maybe I do have the right idea, and just need to foster an environment where Gwen and Reed can be friends. The circle of empty space between Reed and her coworkers was easily a twenty-foot radius. With any luck, going to Orlando first will help with that. Her internal narrator added its two cents worth, maybe she just needs to meet the right woman. Jae you are so bad. She chastised herself, more intrigued by that thought than she really wanted to admit - even to herself.
Putting that line of thought on hold, she stood and walked to the front of the group.
"Our second director arrived this morning and Id like to introduce him." Jae crooked a finger in his direction. "This is Michael Hurtowski, and he will be handling second unit filming as well as some of the more comedic scenes." She stepped back to allow him center stage and unconsciously drifted towards Reeds observation point.
Mike was outlining some of his credits and introducing himself to the cast and she took the opportunity to lean over a bit and whisper so that only the actress could hear her. "Thanks for the coffee, I needed it this morning."
"Youre welcome." Reed whispered back without turning.
"My treat tomorrow, mocha right?" She was determined to get Reed to speak to her in sentences longer than two or three words.
"Right." Then must have thought better of her distracted response, because Reed turned and met Jaes eyes. "With chocolate milk," she requested then added a barely perceptible smile.
She settled down next to the pillar Reed was leaning against the other side of and turned her attention to the reaction of the cast to the upcoming announcement.
"I flipped a coin with Jae and she lost so I get to announce this." He gave the group a boyish grin. "Were going to Disney World."
The whine of aircraft engines mixed with the roar of taxiing planes and the honking of impatient drivers. Miles of concrete and asphalt stretched out like a motionless ocean of gray broken occasionally by bright swaths of colour and flashing lights.
Reed stared out of the window as the airport limousine crawled through the early morning rush, the driver jockeying for position among the other cars and trams. To her left, jumbo jets dwarfed smaller commuter planes and the symbols of global residency proclaimed that no place was inaccessible in the modern era of flight. Countries with gross domestic products less than half of the cost of a Boeing 747 were proudly represented along with the domestic stalwarts.
They continued to move past terminals until finally they came to a stop at terminal six. Since they had arrived on time and alive, Reed tipped him as he let her out and grabbed her carry-on. Glad for the ticket tucked in her upper left pocket, Reed skipped the main line and headed for the Continental VIP counter to check her bag and receive her seating assignment.
"Anything to carry on?"
"Just this." Reed held up her laptop. The studio had taken care of picking up and checking the rest of her luggage.
"Does it work?"
Reed leaned over the counter and whispered. "Do you?"
The brunette smiled coldly and handed her a blue boarding pass. "Seat 2b, Gate 78. Enjoy your flight."
"Enjoy yours." Reed gave the ticket agent a plastic smile of her own.
"Good morning Reed. Miss out on morning coffee?"
Reed turned to find the blonde director quirking an amused brow at her and shrugged. She stood back and watched as Jae took her place at the counter.
They still had some time before their flight and Reed headed for the Starbucks kiosk centered between the gates. She sipped idly at the hot beverage and watched Jae take her own cup, gingerly cupping it in her palm. Looking more closely she could see the faux flesh coloured Band-Aids on the directors pinkie and ring finger. She turned her eyes away quickly when she realized Jae was watching her, feigning an intense interest in the bare plaster and gyprock walls under construction.
Slowly, Reed counted drywall screws waiting until an acceptable amount of time had passed before turning back around. Damn. Jae was still bemusedly watching her, green eyes flashing in mirth.
"Youre allowed to ask you know. It could be considered an opening to polite social interaction." Jae wriggled her bandaged fingers.
"So?" She motioned at the injured limb with her free hand.
It was a response so characteristic of her son that Reed smiled in spite of her tension. "How?" She clarified, somewhat unnecessarily she thought.
"Would you believe the high e-string on an electric guitar?" Jae admitted sheepishly.
"Been awhile since youd played?" Words to a Bryan Adams song flitted through her head. Bought my first real six-string...got it at the five and dime...played it till my fingers bled...was the summer of sixty-nine...
"And how. A bunch of us did a benefit performance last night...my body cant take three sets the way it used too."
Studying Jae, Reed tried to picture the slight, leanly muscled director playing in a rock and roll band. Somehow classical music seemed more her style but appearances could be deceiving. "Play anything I might know?" They had moved over and taken seats near the gate, waiting for the rest of their party to arrive.
"Guitar rock mostly. Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girls, that sort of thing. Our lead guitarist does a great cover of Building a Mystery."
"Sarah McLachlan right?"
"Umm humm, theres this one riff at the beginning - it took me a long time to figure out how she managed the pull off and slide combo."
Reed sat back and listened to Jae passionately describe the lick and then demonstrate with an imaginary guitar. It seemed to her that the director did everything with a passionate intensity, throwing herself fully into whatever she was doing. Shed been like that once; eager to claim the world and sure that it was hers for the taking.
But that was a long time ago.
The blonde had moved onto a discussion of alternate tunings and Reed allowed a small smile to show, not having a clue what the other woman was going on about. It was in tune or it wasnt. How could you have an alternate tuning? Not that she was going to get a word in edgewise, instead she let the sound of Jaes voice mask the drone of people around her, enjoying the wait despite crowed places being among her least favourite environments.
So lost was she in the sound rather than the meaning of the words that she was momentarily confused when she noticed Jae watching her again as though waiting for an answer. Embarrassed, Reed tried to think of something to say, before realizing that the reason Jae had stopped speaking was the arrival of the other members of the cast who were on the same flight to Orlando.
While Jae greeted everyone, Reed studied the group. Sarah had pulled her hair back into a loose braid and opted for the baggy no frills, "Im nobody look." Her companion, whom Reed recognized as one of the supporting actresses, was dressed more like Jae, in a casual business-like pair of khakis and a plain shirt. The others, Reed assumed were technical crew, probably the director of photography and the senior set designer.
Just then the flight attendant made the pre-boarding announcement. Maybe it wouldnt be a full flight Reed thought. Right and all these people are hanging out here hoping to sell cookbooks and earn tambourines. Not.
"You okay?" Jae laid a warm hand on her arm.
She blew the hair from her face and considered how to answer. Her instinct was to just brush off the gentle inquiry, but instead she heard herself replying. "I really hate small spaces. Especially small crowded spaces."
Two delicate brows knit themselves together, then parted. "One sec."
Perplexed she followed Jae with her eyes as the director approached two actresses, and chatted with them for a moment, then smiled and made her way back over to where she was waiting. Lifting an eyebrow she waited for the explanation.
"You were 2b, right?" Jae asked, as though just remembering that she might have missed an important detail of a plan.
Still confused Reed nodded.
"Good, now youre 4b. It means you have to sit with me, but as compensation youre in the last row of business class. The seats in that row are a little more spacious, and there is a partition behind you instead of people."
Jae was leading them toward the gate, taking her time and letting the other passengers on ahead of them. The director smiled up at her said teasingly, "This is the part where you either say get stuffed Im not sharing a seat with you or thank-you."
Typically Reed hated being teased, yet for some reason she continued to let Jae get away with it. Admit it. You like it. She returned a sly crack of her own. "Remind me that you didnt give me a third option after I get airsick." Reed ducked into the gate, handing over her boarding pass on the way through.
"You dont? Reed? Reed? You are just joking right? Right?"
Reed chuckled to herself. Two can play this game.
In the seat next to her, Jae had already buckled in and was watching the activity on the tarmac with avid interest. The whine of the engines increased in pitch and they began to move forward, the plane eating up the expanse of runway as it gathered momentum in preparation for take-off.
Watching the tarmac fly by over Jaes shoulder she saw the smaller womans jaw clench slightly and her fair skin lose a tone. Her own stomach dropped as the plane left the ground and she felt a small hand clutch convulsively at hers. Surprised, she froze, allowing Jae to nearly break her fingers.
The plane continued its ascent and then finally leveled off. Jae didnt seem to realize she still had hold of Reeds hand and the actress wasnt sure what to say, so she remained silent.
An electronic ping accompanied the dousing of the seatbelt warning sign and the director shifted in her seat, opening her eyes at last. Green orbs tracked their way from Reeds face to their joined hands and back again, a faint blush colouring the blondes cheeks.
"Sorry." Jae released her death hold.
Reed clenched and unclenched her hand, returning circulation to the abused limb. "No problem, I have a spare." She could still feel the ghostly imprint of the warm hand that had covered hers seeking reassurance and she found herself touched by the unconscious act and the casual contact. Shed noticed Jae touched people frequently but until now Reed herself had for the most part been exempt. At least she doesnt seem to think Im an ogre. It was a small crew and shed heard some of the grips and best boys impersonating her and speculating on her fight with Roan. Some of them blamed her for his subsequent overdose and his death, even without the autopsy results. Her reputation had apparently survived her hiatus from filmmaking.
A wicked idea planted itself in Reeds brain and she reached for the magazine pouch, flipping past the emergency instruction card before lighting on the object of her search. Slowly she drew the paper bag out of the cloth pouch, drawing on her acting skills to appear more than a little green around the gills.
Looking sideways out of the corner of one eye she saw Jaes eyes widen and the blonde shrink back against the window.
"Reed! Youre not serious?"
Bringing the bag to her face she opened the top and spit her gum into it then folded the top neatly down and grinned at Jae.
"You have a warped sense of humour." The other woman had settled back down in her seat, reclining it backwards and putting her feet out in front of her.
Reed made a show of looking from side to side before whispering conspiratorially. "Shhh, if they find out the sense of humour removal operation was a failure theyll come for me." Pressing on the button under the armrest, she released the catch on her seat and reclined it back to match Jaes.
She closed her eyes for a moment, smiling at the memory of the look on Jaes face. She didnt play often, usually only with Rio or more rarely Heidi, but she found those rigid self-imposed barriers crumbled around the woman beside her.
A sudden shadow made Reed open her eyes.
"Can I get you ladies something to drink?" Another of the ubiquitous uniformed Femme-bots leaned over them.
Jae touched her arm and gave her a slight smile and a shake of her head, as though saying, Be nice, so she nodded pleasantly. "Coffee please."
"Make that two." Jae chimed in.
Reed took the cup and rested it on her stomach, feeling the warmth spread over her body, a sigh of contentment escaping before she could pull it back. The captains voice cut through her reverie as he introduced himself, then revealed their altitude, airspeed and flying time to Orlando. Five more hours. She glanced at her companion. Somehow this flight didnt seem nearly as onerous as she had thought it might be.
Careful to avoid spilling the hot coffee, she maneuvered her laptop to the fold down tray and unzipped the case one handed. Booting up, she waited for the splash screen to appear before adjusting the monitor. Within seconds the machine began to beep. "Damn." She cursed.
"Whats up?" Jae looked up from her book.
"Forgot to charge the battery." She shut it down and began to put it away; maybe the trip was going to be longer than she thought after all.
"You could always read." The director held up her own reading material.
The actress shook her head, "Thats what the laptop was for," she paused, then sheepishly admitted, "I dropped the paper copy in the bathtub."
Green eyes crinkled in empathy and mirth. "Ive lost a few that way myself." She sat up a bit and turned toward Reed. "How far along were you?"
"End of Chapter 16 - just before Bosses day." Judging by the bookmark it looked like Jae had gotten at least that far. If not, then the director should be familiar with the scene from the script. It seemed to be shaping up as a pivotal part of the book and Reed had to admit she couldnt wait to see how Dar handled volunteerism Kerry style.
"Im not much past that part myself. I have an idea."
Warily she looked at Jae, trying to decide if the director was setting her up for payback from the earlier gag or if she was serious. "What?"
"We could take turns."
Hmm, that would be easy on her eyes, she could just rest them until it was her turn to have the book. "Okay."
"You want to go first or should I?"
"Go ahead its your book." She settled back in her chair to wait her turn, then sat upright as a soft, mellow voice filled the small space between them.
"The condo was very quiet, as Dar keyed the lock and entered, flipping on the hallway light. It was cool inside, for which she was grateful, but she was suddenly struck by the emptiness of the place, something that had never occurred to her before."
Shes reading to me. Out loud. Reed looked around nervously, afraid that someone else could hear them.
No. Of course Im not. You cant expect me to read that...that book out loud...in public. Reed didnt know what to say.
"This is really hard for you isnt it?"
Did she really want to discuss this? Jae didnt sound condemning, just concerned. "Yes." She admitted.
"Well, right now theyre still just friends. How about you read it and if you get to anything that makes you uncomfortable to read out loud well stop."
It sounded like a reasonable proposal except for the fact that she hated to read out loud. Out of the frying pan. She took the proffered book and stared at it for a couple of minutes, then started to read, unconsciously playing Dar as she did.
" Good. Dar handed her the cracker and went back to her own plate. The blond woman nibbled the lobster. Mmm. Kerry glanced up at the watching faces, startled to see quiet, knowing smiles there. I usually stick to shrimp. She explained sheepishly, giving them puzzled looks as they exchanged glances and started their own dinners. Wonder what that was all about? She mused, then shrugged, and went to work on her stubborn lobster."
Engrossed in the story, Reed missed the turn Dar and Kerrys relationship took from friendship into romance, the kiss inevitable and right as it came under the moonlight at Crandon Beach.
A chapter later, a soft breath rushed across her shoulder, and she broke off reading to check on her companion. Jae had fallen asleep and was slumped against the slight ridge that joined their two seats, since Reeds wasnt as far back.
Another couple of inches and the blonde would be nestled against her right side. As if making the observation had tempted fate Jae shifted slightly in her sleep and came to rest with her head pillowed on Reeds right shoulder. Unlike earlier when the director had unexpectedly taken her hand, she didnt freeze, just tucked a loose wisp of hair off her friends face. Must have had a late night. That or Im the most boring reader on the planet. Reed smiled to herself, remembering trying unsuccessfully to get Rio to sleep by reading to him. Yeah but face it, Where the Wild Things Are isnt exactly sleepy-time material.
Putting the book aside temporarily Reed fished the Skylink cell phone out of its retaining clip, careful not to disturb her slumbering friend and dialed the number for home. Waiting for it to pick up, she settled back into her seat, letting Jae snuggle in closer.
Sandalwood mixed with vanilla tugged at Jaes senses and she shifted against the pillow, trying to capture more of the pleasantly elusive scent. Pillow? Gradually, as she drifted up through the layers of slumber she became aware of the warm body she was snuggled against.
The crisp smell of clean cotton added itself to Reeds unique fragrance, bringing a lazy smile to her lips. Lingering between dreams and full waking, she contemplated staying put, letting Reeds physical presence anchor her. The murmuring of passengers and the clink of china joined forces to bring her closer to wakefulness and she lingered one last moment, savouring the contact before stretching slightly and shifting her weight away from Reeds shoulder.
Easing one eye open, she checked on the actress reaction to being used as a human mattress, only to find that her seatmate had joined her in the Land of Nod. Relieved that her physical violation of Reeds personal space had gone unnoticed she ran her fingers through her hair, returning it to its carelessly mussed state. With any luck you were asleep before I decided to use you as a pillow.
The airline drone was nearing their seat with the lunch offering and she wondered whether or not to wake Reed. Instead she slid the lunch trays onto her pull down table and happily poked through the contents.
"You going to share or were you just going to eat my chips while I slept unsuspecting?" Reeds voice was warm and friendly, and Jae was startled when the actress leaned over to poke in her lunch basket, allowing their bodies to come into casual contact as she did so.
"Umm no," Came her lame answer. The fact she was holding two oranges sort of spoke for itself and Jae sheepishly put one back.
"Indeed," Reed drawled, blue eyes twinkling.
Something in Reeds attitude toward her had changed. Not something, shes being friendly. The actress had been cordial enough during their previous interactions but there had seemed to be a look but dont touch barrier surrounding her. In fact, come to think of it, the only person she could remember seeing talking to Reed at all during down time on the set had been her.
"So you were actually going to eat that orange?" she countered.
Reed drew her thumb and forefinger across her chin several times. "Tell you what...spring for a decent cup of coffee in Houston and you can have the orange."
She pretended to weigh the offer and the orange. "Throw in the banana and you have a deal."
"I get the raisins too then."
Jae laughed. "Deal." She handed over the raisins and rescued the fruit from its place of banishment. Silently they ate, handing over the empty food bins to the efficient stewardess with the regulation smile.
Judging they had about twenty minutes before the plane began its descent into Houston, Jae decided a trip to the washroom might be prudent. Rising in her seat she stood and half-turned toward Reed. "Beep, beep."
The actress rose slightly and moved her knees to allow Jae to slide by. As she did Jaes back and thighs came into sliding contact with the taller woman. Quickly the director leaned forward, and nearly forced the reclined seat to the front upright. A strong hand caught her waist before she could fall into the aisle and Reeds blue eyes reflected genuine concern.
"Fine, just a little light-headed." Jae smiled wanly and turned for the washroom right behind them. Just a little air-headed you mean. Jesus, Jae what in blazes are you thinking? Her body very plainly knew exactly what she was thinking, and she was glad to be able to step out of view and into the small washroom.
Her skin still throbbed where Reeds hand had supported her. Looking at her reflection in the small mirror she could see the faint pink tint of arousal. "Youre going to be in very big trouble if you dont watch yourself."
Finishing up and drying her hands she looked again at her image to make sure all signs of Reeds unexpected effect on her body had vanished. Satisfied, she put the paper towel in the proper receptacle and headed back to her seat, then stopped. Sitting back down meant a repeat performance of how she got out.
Her dilemma was resolved when Reed stood and left her seat, moving past Jae and into the washroom herself. Relieved, she sank into her seat and buckled up anticipating the warning light for the planes descent.
No sooner had Reed returned than the warning chime sounded and Jae felt the pressure shift in her ears. Her left hand flexed convulsively. Usually Becky had held her hand during take-off and landing, and while Reed hadnt said anything about the take-off, Jae wasnt sure she could trust herself or her body to take the actress hand again so soon after her last reaction.
Mercifully it was a good landing and as she exited the plane into the hot Southern air she mentally patted herself on the back. Only one more take-off and landing and were home free. But man do I need a caffeine fix. That ought to hold her through the next take-off and the alcohol she could justify drinking during the afternoon portion of her flight should take the edge off the final landing. Ya, but admit it. Having someones hand to hold is a whole lot nicer. Her eyes flickered over the woman in front of her, especially that hand .
Shaking her head at her own audacity she followed the actress through the bustling terminal, wondering if Reed had a built in coffee sensor. The determined path the actress was charting through the throng left little doubt in Jaes mind that the actress either had a phenomenal sense of smell or had been to this airport during a layover more than once.
Overhead the airport sound system was piping in country music mixed with mellower 80s tunes and she smiled at the strains of music, just able to make out snatches of the lyrics. " We had it all...just like Bogey and Bacall...sailing away to Key Largo..." Unconsciously Jae sang along with the music.
"Are you sure you need coffee?" Reed asked teasingly.
"Unless you want me sleeping on your shoulder all the way to Orlando I do." It was out before she realized shed said it. Bright one Babe. To her surprise Reed didnt seem bothered by the remark at all.
"There are worse fates - you could be prone to airsickness." Reed joked in return.
"Who are you and what have you done with Reed?" The moment she said it Jae knew it was a mistake. Shed gone too far and she saw a cloud of hurt shadow the clear ice eyes, the barrier that had been so briefly dropped now firmly back in place.
The actress took her coffee from the Barista and left Jae standing there.
Damn. She watched Reed walk back toward the gate, long legs eating up the distance and it was all she could do to keep from running after her. And what would you say exactly? Sighing she took her own coffee from the counter and added a generous amount of vanilla sugar to it.
"Ice Queen diss you?"
Maybe it was guilt for having hurt Reeds feelings or the lingering glimpse of the woman the actress had briefly let her see, Jae wasnt sure, but she rounded on the speaker, not caring it was one of her lead actresses. "Dont ever let me hear you refer to Reed like that again, to me or anyone else on the set...is that clear?"
Sarah nodded, both actresses looking stunned at her defense of Reed.
"Good." With that Jae turned her back on the other two and made her way to the departure lounge where hopefully she would get a chance to apologize.
You expected her to be different why? Reed propelled herself through the busy airport traffic, idle passengers and rushing commuters alike moving out of her way. Locating a smoking lounge, she ducked inside the glassed in room. And that excuses your behavior, how?
Three left. Taking one of the remaining Dunhills out of the gold and burgundy packaging, she flipped the lid on the silver Zippo and struck the flint. The butane flame ignited the end and she inhaled the pungent blue smoke deep into her lungs. Four days of reduced nicotine intake had rendered the effects more potent and she immediately felt the light-headed calm she was used to seep over her.
Jesus, youd think what she thought of you mattered. She flicked gray ash into the sand filled ashtray. It does. Reed acknowledged, for some reason it does. A last drag on the cigarette and she stubbed out the butt, leaving it half unsmoked. Across the room a craggy, rumpled man watched her warily, waiting to see if she was going to leave before slipping over to rescue the remnants of the tobacco from the container.
"Youll need to find your own light." Reed tossed him the last couple of cigarettes and left the lounge, not bothering to check how her gesture was received.
"That was nice." Jae stood watching her, a tentative smile ready to flee her features.
She shrugged. "It happens."
"More often than you let on I bet."
The director fell into step next to her, and Reed resisted the impulse to stretch her stride and leave the other woman behind.
"Im sorry Reed...I dont know you well enough to tease you like that." Jae cut in front of her and stopped, putting a hand on the actress arm, green eyes becoming solemn. "But Id like too - if youll forgive me, that is."
You had your shot. Instinct warred with experience, instinct winning out. "No harm, no foul." She kept her voice deliberately casual; thankful that Jae didnt seem inclined to call her on her drama queen antics.
Instead the blonde gave her a wide smile and moved back to her side. "Cool."
And that was that. Together they unhurriedly walked back through the airport, occasionally stopping to poke in the various stores lining the busy corridors.
"Hey, check this out." Jae pointed at a Western Apparel shop. The indicated shelves were lined with flat, round pieces of felt in assorted colours.
Reed followed her friend across the width of the hall and leaned against a wooden post that was pretending to hold the shops roof up.
Jae was holding a brown felt hat in one hand and a black one in the other, holding them at eye level and looking speculatively in her direction. "Oh no. Dont even think about it." The grin on the other womans face was proof that the admonishment was about twelve heartbeats too late.
"Cmon, just try one on. You cant be in Texas and not try on a cowboy hat."
"Sure I can." Though the black one looked interesting.
"Please..." Jae cajoled, "Just one."
She caved and ducked her head allowing the blonde to place the black demonstrator on her head. It was a little too big, but not by much.
Jae whistled. "Nice."
Reed tugged the elastic from her ponytail and let her hair cascade over her shoulders, then adjusted the hat back a bit. "Why thankee Maam," she drawled.
"Its definitely you...add a black duster and you could be a gunslinger right out of the Wild West."
Playing along Reed ducked her head, adjusting the brim of the hat, then leaned back against the post assuming a posture she remembered from a movie poster. Add a tooth pick and its perfect.
"Add a stalk of hay and its perfect." Jaes comment mirrored her own, bringing a slight smile to Reeds lips.
"Take about ten minutes and I can fix you right up with one custom like." A lean, slightly bowl-legged man in full western apparel sauntered over.
"Yes," Jae answered without any input then must have seen the look on her face because the director hastily added, "consider it a gift for getting the tape laid." Then she grinned. "Or a bribe."
Recognizing the peace offering for what it was, Reed nodded. In the past, gifts from directors had usually come with strings or as payment for services rendered. It was nice, she reflected, not to have to worry about that. "And to think, I had my heart set on a pair of Mickey Mouse ears."
Jae burst out laughing. "Not that that isnt an interesting mental picture." she finally managed before adding, "But somehow I see you more as a Josie West, than an Annette Funicello."
This time she took the gentle tease for what it was and laughed along with Jae. "Hey I still have my Josie and Janie West dolls."
Jae looked sheepish, "Me too, plus the Bionic Woman, though it seems her clothes have vanished."
"Let me guess the first thing you did was take them off so you could roll up the fake skin and operate on her bionic implants." Reed handed a hat blank with the correct size crown to the avidly listening Hatter.
"Busted." Jae moved to stand next to her and together they watched the man place the hat upside down in the pressing mold.
He punched the felt into the depression, then steamed the material, pushing and shaping it as he went. Every so often he would lift his head and look up at her, squinting, then cocked his head to one side before going back to shaping the felt.
"Downward curve," Jae interjected.
"I dont rightly know." The Hatter had stopped and was rubbing his chin speculatively.
"Trust me," the blonde added, as she demonstrated with her hands what she wanted to see.
He continued to ponder the suggestion. Reed had had about all the sitting still and shopping she could take for one day, and there were still three hours of flight to come. Dropping her voice to its lowest register, she played outlaw. "If the Lady wants to see it down, curve it down, you got that?"
The alacrity with which he responded to her suggestion could have won him a gold medal if it had been an Olympic year. The final product looked like a cross between a drovers hat and Indiana Jones battered fedora, but it worked - Jae had been right.
"You going to wear it out?"
"No," Reed got in before Jae could say anything.
"Spoilsport." The director gave her a mock glare and pulled her wallet out of her backpack, handing Skip her Visa and signing the charge slip with a flourish, while the man packed the hat, tying a string handle around the hat box.
"Tough to wear a hat in an airplane seat - even in business class," Reed replied.
"Thanks." She placed a hand on Jaes lower back and steered her around a group of Japanese tourists. Too late. She didnt understand a word they were saying, but her name came through loud and clear.
Her Japanese commercials had kept the medical bills at bay and put food on the table, so even though she would rather have escaped notice she decided the easiest thing would be to sign as many of the books that were being waved at her as possible. Finally they escaped the throng, but only after shed posed with the group for a photo op.
"That was different," Jae commented as they neared their gate, where her other lead actress was being held under siege by a raucous crowd of teens. "Excuse me for a second." The director headed off to the stars rescue leaving Reed to hide behind a potted plant and a pillar. Maybe I should have worn the hat after all.
Four hours later, they each collected their bags from the revolving carousel and Jae was quite relieved to discover that for the first time in living memory, her luggage had traveled the same flight plan she had.
Outside the weather seemed only slightly less cloying than inside, a slight breeze moving the air enough to provide a small measure of relief from the humidity. A very small measure.
A smartly dressed Hispanic gentleman holding a sign with the name of the production company neatly stenciled across it was waiting patiently for them near the exit from the baggage claim.
"Over here," Jae called to the others. Gratefully she sank into the leather interior and turned up the dial of the air conditioner. As expected Reed climbed in next to her with Gwen and Rachel taking up seats facing them.
"Wow." Gwen was looking out the window and Jae turned to see what had caught her attention.
The Magic Kingdom stretched in front of them, majestic arches rising up to greet new arrivals. They were staying inside the park at the same hotel used by the characters in the book. Jae wanted to try and give Reed and Gwen a sense of atmosphere and hopefully capture some of it on film.
The filigreed Victorian structure was just coming into view. The afternoon sunlight reflected off the surface of the lake that stretched out in front of the hotel, adding to its elegant appearance.
Rachel added a low whistle. "Wow is right." The monorail flashed by, load of rapt passengers pressed against the windows trying to drink in every visual they could.
Reed was trying very hard to look unimpressed but the time they had spent in close quarters during the rest of the flight clued Jae in to the subtle telltale signs that revealed the actress was just as excited as the rest of them. It was funny - a bunch of jaded Hollywood people in awe of an amusement park. Disney magic, she guessed.
A blue eye winked lazily at her confirming her hunch and Jae quirked her own brow back in silent acknowledgement.
The car came to a stop and the driver let them out. Leaving their bags to the nattily attired staff Jae led the group up the stairs and into the hotel. Inside friendly, efficient ladies completed their registration and wished them a pleasant stay in The Magic Kingdom, along with an invitation to breakfast with Mickey and some other Disney favourites while they were there.
"Will Winnie-the-Pooh be there?" Jae couldnt help asking, quite unable to believe she actually had
A low whisper sounded to her left as Reed spoke softly. The air brushed Jaes ear tenderly, sending a pulse skittering along the nape of her neck. "Interesting image, but somehow I picture you more as a Tigger."
"Touché." Then she whispered back, "And that would make you whom? Eeyore?"
She and Reed had adjoining rooms on the left, overlooking the small lake in front, while the other two actresses were across the hall. "Meet for dinner in an hour?" Jae asked.
"Kewlege," Gwen responded, showing her pleasure at being in Disney World.
Likewise Rachel nodded assent before closing the door to her room behind her.
"What about you?" She asked Reed, hoping the actress wouldnt retreat just because they were no longer alone.
"Count me in." Then Reed vanished behind the hotel room door, leaving her and Gwen standing in the hall.
The blonde actress looked over at her. "About earlier, Im sorry...its just weve heard stories and stuff...I just figured you were too nice to let her be mean to." Gwen explained, referring to the incident at the airport in Houston.
That put a different spin on Gwens earlier words and Jae smiled. "To quote someone, No harm, no foul. Okay?"
"Very okay. Later then."
And then there were none. Jae laughed to herself as she entered her room Things are tough enough without you quoting from a murder mystery.
The stack of papers she removed from her briefcase reinforced her sense of how difficult things would be in the coming days. If Reed and Gwen didnt gel as a team, then Jae would have wasted time and money - neither, of which she had to spare.
Putting aside the interpersonal relationships of her cast, Jae separated the scenes they would be shooting in Orlando, and began to outline the camera setups she wanted in each one.
Jae walked back through the throng leaving the theme park. Reed was to her left and the other two women were roaming ahead of them. Maybe I should have cast Rachel as Dar. She certainly seems to get along with our Kerry well enough. Reed had managed to get through an entire meal speaking only when spoken directly to, or when the waiter appeared.
As far as plans went, tonights was misfiring horribly. Fireworks exploded in the sky above them and when she turned to address her companion she was surprised to find her blue eyes wide with wonder, a small but delighted smile playing on her lips. Such a contradiction, and admit it. Thats exactly why you find her fascinating.
"I love the way the silver stars look like giant weeping willows as they fall to the ground." Jae spoke softly, letting her own sense of wonder show in her voice.
Reed dipped her head in agreement. "I like the silver ones myself. Everything else seems so overdone."
They slowed their pace a little, craning their necks up wards to catch the last trails of fire as they descended earthward. By the time they reached the monorail that would take them back to the hotel the crowd had all but vanished.
Jae could see Reed visibly relax as the crowd around them thinned. Gwen and Rachel were no longer visible and she guessed that the two actresses had ditched them to find a bar or more congenial company.
The train opened its doors and they clambered aboard, Reed dropping into a front facing window seat. Jae slid in next to her and leaned her head back against a post, shutting her eyes against the glare of the overhead light.
Finally the lights dimmed and the monorail pulled out of the station and began to wend its way through the park, dropping passengers at various hotels. Jae opened her eyes and glanced at Reed. "I always thought actresses talked more."
"Only the ones with nothing to say." Reed moved her body so that one shoulder was leaning against the window and she was facing Jae.
Jae mulled over the actress observation, agreeing with the sentiment. "Would you like to go see Phantasmic tomorrow night?"
"Laser light show over the lake. Its timed to music and has some live action bits." She knew Reed liked fireworks. Hopefully this would interest her, draw her out a little. It didnt hurt that it would also be an opportunity to get to know the actress better before the pressures of filming swept over them. "Maybe we could even try out some of the rides for fun." This last was a dig at the fact that Reed was going to have to spend some time in various roller coasters filming scenes.
"Anything but Space Mountain." The train was nearing The Floridian.
"Chicken," Jae teased.
"Nope. Purist," came the retort as they exited the car.
"Purist huh? Or afraid of the dark?" Reeds back stiffened and Jae mentally slammed her head against the faux stone pillar they were passing. What a walking minefield you are Reed. Gotta learn not to do that. Covering her lapse and pretending not to notice the other womans reaction Jae pointed at the hotel bar. "Cmon Ill buy you a drink."
They took a back corner seat, just out of the path of patrons to the bar. For some reason it didnt surprise her in the slightest when Reed turned her chair so that she was facing most of the bar. A bouncy waitress approached them asking for their order and Jae asked for a Becks.
"Guinness, if you have it, Becks if you dont." Reed placed her order and then looked at Jae questioningly. "What?"
"Dark beer?" Jae shuddered.
"Sure. That way it counts for two food groups."
"Ill take your word for that."
The waitress sat their drinks down in front of them and Jae had to admit that the tall glass of dark beer with its creamy head of beige foam looked appealing.
"Here." Reed slid her glass across the table and motioned for Jae to try some.
In the background the lounge singer had picked up her guitar and was tuning it, preparing Jae guessed, for her last set. "My daddy always said never drink a beer you cant see through."
"Purist huh? Or afraid of the dark?" Reed sat smugly watching her, having neatly turned their earlier banter back on her.
Two could play at this game. Jae leaned forward running a finger through the condensation on the side of the glass. "Tell you what, Ill drink one of these - if youll go on Space Mountain with me." She let the challenge fall on the table.
Blue eyes flickered between the beer and her face and Jae arched a blonde brow, pushing the gauntlet a little harder.
"Deal, but you have to finish the whole pint." With that Reed neatly swapped their beers, taking Jaes Becks.
"Deal," she confirmed lifting the glass and touching it lightly against Reeds.
Two pints and an hour later the lights came up around them and Jae stood from her chair, wobbling slightly from the combined effects of exhaustion and alcohol. A strong hand caught her waist and steadied her.
"I hope Im in better shape after Space Mountain than you are right now," Reed drawled, steering her toward the elevator.
Jae shook her head in denial. "It wasnt the beer - that was surprisingly good."
"See, dont knock it till youve tried it. Ten million Irishmen cant be wrong," Reed said smugly.
"Hey Cavanaugh is a foine, foine Irish name." Jae did her best imitation brogue, which was, admittedly, not very good.
"And what would it be then lass?" The actress played along and spoke in a County Claire lilt
"Late night and air travel. Does me in every time," she explained, then added with a smile, "Not that the beer helped any."
They had reached their floor and moved down the corridor. Jae opened her door and paused, reluctant to say goodnight. The stiffness of the early part of the evening had been more than made up for by the banter and light conversation they had shared in the bar and Jae was afraid that if she ended the evening the sense of camaraderie they were developing would vanish with it.
Reed dug her own keycard out of her pocket and took a half step toward her room before pausing. "Tap on the inner door when youre ready for breakfast, I hear Pooh is gonna show." A last smile and she was gone, leaving Jae no chance to give an answer.
As she climbed into bed, Jae looked at the door adjoining their two suites. Wonder if they still have that banana stuffed French toast on the menu? As she drifted off to sleep she tried to figure out which idea was making her happier. A sunrise breakfast with Pooh in Disney World, or a sunrise breakfast with Reed in Disney World.
Good thing she didnt have to choose.
"Reed!" A frantic pounding timed itself to the fists pounding in her dreams and for a second Reed thought the nightmare was real, made manifest by virtue of having been dreamed vividly over the span of years.
"Reed! Are you okay? Reed?"
Heart pounding from the nightmare induced adrenaline she took a deep breath before swinging her feet onto the floor and standing. The air conditioner cut in again, its soft hum stealing the quiet from the room. Reed turned the bolt and opened the door that connected her room to the directors.
A pale fist flashed in the dim lighting and connected with the side of her head. A sharp pain exploded in her temple and Reed vaguely became aware of the rug rising to meet her.
Reed opened her eyes at the sound of the worry in the younger womans voice. "Is it breakfast time already?"
Her friend barked out a surprised laugh, "No. Not yet..."
Uncomfortable with discussing the reason Jae had most likely been pounding on her door, Reed tried to keep the topic off of her nightmare. "Thats good because Im pretty sure you are a little underdressed - even for Florida."
The blonde was clad in a pair of baggy boxers and the shirt she had been wearing earlier in the evening, though its unbuttoned and unwrinkled state suggested that Jae had probably only tossed it on minutes ago.
A faint blush was just barely visible creeping up Jaes neck, reddening her face as she hastily fastened some buttons. "Ya, well in California this is overdressed on most beaches."
"That would explain the lack of tan lines." This time it was her turn to blush as Reed realized what shed said. Jae didnt appear to be offended and Reed propped herself up on one arm. "Thats quite a right hook youve got."
A small palm snaked out and gently touched the side of Reeds head. "Kick-boxing. You sure youre okay?"
"Fine. And now I know what a knock up-side the head feels like."
Jae laughed again, then they both stood up. The blonde gave her another concerned look, but didnt press the issue, for which Reed was grateful.
"You going to be able to go back to sleep?" Jae asked.
"No. Ill read or something. You?"
Jae shook her head. "No, Ive had my allotted four hours for the day. Its my turn to read isnt it?"
Reed could have mentioned that since they were in a hotel room, it wouldnt be a problem to boot up the laptop and read from there, but the idea of being alone right now didnt appeal to her and Reed was glad of the excuse to avoid being by herself.
When she didnt protest, Jae smiled. "Ill grab the book. Wonder if room service is awake?"
"Lets find out." Reed picked up the black phone on the desk and touched a combination of numbers, waiting for someone to answer. "What do you want?" She called back through the open door between their rooms.
"Steamed milk." Jae answered as she came back into Reeds room, having exchanged her shirt for a sweater. "With lots of honey."
"Alright Pooh." Reed ordered two and hung up the phone. Jae had crawled onto the king-sized bed and propped herself up with pillows. The extra blanket from the foot of the bed was tucked around her knees and the book was already open.
"I think if my fondness for Hundred Acre Wood characters is going to get me saddled with a nickname, Id like to opt for something other than Pooh."
"Thats the funny thing about nicknames - you dont get to pick."
"Okay Eeyore," Jae teased, patting the bed.
Reed regarded her somewhat suspiciously for a minute, and decided that Jae was perfectly serious about referring to her as Eeyore if the Pooh name stuck. Well once in a while wont get me killed.
There was lots of room for both of them on the bed so Reed stretched out next to Jae, stealing a corner of the blanket to cover her legs. "Just until room service shows." She explained after seeing Jaes brow arched as if to say mine.
"Maybe we should wait before starting." Jae suggested.
They must have been the only ones bugging room service in the middle of the night because within minutes a polite knock sounded on the door. Steamed milk in hand Reed returned to her side of the bed, licking some of the spilt froth off her finger.
"Thats my favourite part."
"The froth." Jae laughed and made shaking motions with the book. "I even shake milk cartons to make the milk all bubbly."
"Ill remember that next time I buy you coffee. One latte, hold the coffee," she deadpanned, handing Jae her mug of steamed milk.
She settled into the covers, and waited for Jae to begin to read. Eyes closed she listened to pages being thumbed through. Most likely looking for the part where she had fallen asleep. That had been a surprise, not that Jae had fallen asleep, but that she had managed to follow suit herself with the younger woman nestled on her shoulder.
There were a lot of things about her friendship with Jae that surprised her. What - besides the fact that she likes you? Next to her, Jae began to read, her lilting voice describing the events of Global Volunteer day. Since she remembered that part, Reed continued to let her mind drift, enjoying the company.
How about the fact that she moves in and out of your personal space like it was an airport? Only one other person did that. I can give him a call in the morning. That was one advantage of being in Florida. It meant that she and her son were back in the same time zone, for a while at least.
Shed called Heidi from the restaurant earlier and Rio had been cleared to return to some schoolwork and light exercise, having successfully fought off the pneumonia. His heart had weathered the last infection, and he continued to gain weight, so plans for the valve replacement werent going to be affected. That was probably a good part of the reason she was in a better mood after dinner than before it. That and the change in company.
Reed couldnt help it. Being around Gwen made her nervous. It was one thing in a closed studio where everyone knew they were just acting, but what if someone got the wrong idea in public and the paparazzi started set romance rumours? So the movie sells a few more tickets, she wryly observed, all too aware of what drove box office in Hollywood. Big names. And if you couldnt get a big name, get a scandal.
Jaes voice cut in and out of her thoughts. Paint was applied to walls and dinner plans were made. She continued to drift along. Apparently, Kerry was singing to Dar.
"Half way up the stairs...is a stair, where I sit...there isnt any other stair...quite...like it. Half way up the stairs isnt at the bottom...."
Reed drifted back up through the haze for a few seconds. Funny, I dont remember Kerry singing in the book.
"...it isnt really anyplace its someplace else instead...." The pillow cradled her head as unrecognized, Jaes voice cradled her dreams.
The sheets rose and fell in time to the gentle exhalations of the woman nestled within the cotton confines. Dark hair splayed over a plump pillow, partially obscuring the high cheekbones and sun-kissed skin. One hand was wedged under the pillow, cradling the head that rested on its surface, while the other was resting on Reeds side, fingers hanging loosely.
"...it isnt really anyplace...its someplace else instead." Jae let the words fade out. Reed had dropped off into sleep, the words of the ancient childrens song doing for the exhausted actress what it had done for her own little sister when they were kids. I cant believe I just did that. Shed noticed Reeds eyes fluttering as sleep tried to claim her and on impulse Jae had shifted from reading to singing the soothing Pooh song.
So now what? Did she go back to her own room and bed? Or did she stay put, in case her movement woke Reed? Waking Reed was something she was loath to do, and the actress had pinned the covers under one leg, which would make it difficult, if not impossible for Jae to slip from under the sheets at the moment.
Reed shifted, a lock of hair falling away from a high cheekbone, the faint purpling of a small bruise beginning to show. The director winced. I cant believe I did that. I can just see Hard Copy now - Director Pummels Actress. Well at least Reed realized it had been an accident.
Jae wondered whether or not Reed realized how chilling her scream had been. What haunts you so? Her friend tossed fitfully again, and Jae ran a soothing hand over the other womans brow, then stopped, aware of what she was doing. Speaking of Hard Copy. Whether or not she should have touched Reed, the actress responded to Jaes gentle caress and seem to sink back into restful slumber.
The strong angularity of Reeds usual expression had melted under Morpheus touch, blending the features to a soft innocence which Jae found intriguing. It was as though the stoicism she showed the rest of the world was a mask, tightly controlled and rigidly presented, designed to hold unknown hurt at bay. Reed had let the mask slip a little around her, allowing Jae to see for the first time just how beautiful Reed was - not Reed playing someone else - but the actress herself.
Not wanting to take advantage of Reeds vulnerable state, Jae pulled her hand away, and leaned back against the pillows she had originally propped behind her back. You need to be very, very careful Jae mgrrl...this is not a woman to be falling for.
That was going to be a problem. Should she tell Reed? Or was it really not important? They were just friends, and Reed was as safe from her as a child would be. Jae laughed to herself remembering a college friend, Kimberley. They had been curled up in Kims bed after a late party, Jae too drunk to drive home.
Talking and chatting, the conversation had turned to relationships and Kim had asked her if she had anyone special. "Yes," shed answered. Kims eyes had lit up in excited anticipation of hearing some juicy details and asked who?
Jae and Kim had been friends since freshman year, and Jae didnt want to lie, so she steeled herself against the possible rejection and answered "Corrina."
"Corrina?" Then Kim had moved as far over on the bed as she could. "Kim...Im not...." She had been at a loss for words. "Its not contagious you know."
"Being gay - its not contagious. And youre going to fall off the bed if you get much further over there."
Kim had crept a little closer, pulling a pillow into her lap as she did. "How long?"
"Always, I guess. So if it were contagious youd have caught it already." Shed shrugged and Kimberley had laughed, breaking the tension.
"So like every time you slept over...or we went to the gym?"
"Was I checking you out?"
Kim had blushed.
Dark eyes looked at her skeptically. "Really?"
That had floored her, and Jae remembered just sitting there for what seemed like an eternity before answering. "Would you believe youre not my type?"
Kimberley had burst into tears, leaving Jae thoroughly confused. She had moved across the bed on her knees, and let Kim cry it out on her shoulder, the way she had for the previous four years of school, life and man troubles. The sniffling and sobs finally subsided and Jae looked at Kims dark eyes, the rims red from her tears. "What was that all about?"
And they had had a long heart to heart about the difference between friends and lovers, Jae admitting to having had more than her fair share of the latter over the last few years, but no real relationships. "Lovers," shed said, "come and go, friends are forever."
It had been funny really, Kim going from being upset that she was gay to being equally upset that she couldnt even get a lesbian to fall for her. Two years later, Jae had gone to her wedding, reluctantly squeezing into a dress in order to stand as a bridesmaid, and then nine months later the christening.
Somehow Jae doubted shed get the same reception from Reed, some things just had to be on a need to know basis, and right now the actress didnt need to know. Reed rolled over, burrowing deeper into the pillow, releasing the sheets that had been pinned under her leg.
Jae eased herself out of the bed, and padded across the thick carpet, enjoying the feel of the pile against her bare feet. At the door she paused, taking a last second to drink in the unguarded form of the woman sprawled on the bed, feeling privileged that Reed had trusted her and allowed the intimacy into their developing friendship. She left the door between the two rooms open. Just in case, she told herself. Un-huh, you keep telling yourself that and you just might believe it.
Two women, one tall with sandy brown hair, the other with dark brown hair and what looked to be a green belt pouch were making their way through the lobby to where Reed sat with Jae and Rachel. Gwen had gone off to explore the park some more, hoping shed said to, "get over that little thing she had about roller coasters."
Reed didnt move, though she recognized the taller of the two from pictures, as being Holly Wulfenden, the author of Tropical Storm. The coffee in her cup swirled clockwise around the circumference as she rotated it in one hand, scrutinizing the moving contents rather than staring at the new arrivals.
"Reed, Rachel, Id like you to meet Holly Wulfenden and ..." Jae gestured at the shorter of the two.
"Maribel Lunato," the other woman supplied, shaking Jaes hand warmly. Reed wondered who she was and what she was doing here.
Jae looked over at her imploringly and Reed stood, cordially greeting both women before sitting again. The two new arrivals were apparently going to join them during their filming time in Disney, and then Holly would accompany the cast back to Los Angeles, before they returned to Miami to complete filming.
Which didnt really make a whole lot of sense. She would have thought they would film all the Florida stuff in one go, rather than split the filming. But then she wasnt the director and didnt need to understand. Most likely, it was an artifact from the change in directors. Reed caught the waiters eye and indicated that he should refill the directors cup along with her own. Stretching across the table to retrieve the cream, Reed caught the writer studying her speculatively.
"Something I can help you with?" she drawled meeting Hollys amber eyes. Jae looked up, worried frown on her face and Reed resisted the impulse to bait the author. "Then could you please pass the cream?" she finished, trying to sound a little less antagonistic.
Hollys eyes flickered between Reed and Jae, and then she passed the small porcelain jug of cream, placing it on the table next to Reeds coffee cup.
"Thank-you," she acknowledged and Jae gave her a quick smile then returned her attention to the script and Rachel. An awkward silence descended over the table and Reed was surprised to find that she wanted to break it. What exactly did you talk to a lesbian about anyway?
Over the rim of her coffee cup, she took a close look at the woman who had written Tropical Storm and decided that it wouldnt kill her to actually talk to the woman. She really was enjoying the book the movie was based on, and had some questions about it.
Most people wrote her off as aloof. The rest assumed that because she was both beautiful, at least by current standards, and an actress, that her brains were lacking. They would have been surprised to find she had been well on her way to a degree in English from Georgetown, until circumstances had turned her attentions elsewhere.
"She likes Pooh, too." Reed pointed at Jae. It wasnt the best opening line in a conversation, but she was out of practice, and it would have to do.
Holly looked down at her overalls, where an embroidered Winnie-the-Pooh sat among bright flowers and the ubiquitous honey pot and chuckled.
Maribel giggled. "She actually looked everywhere for Tigger ones but they were all out."
"She tells me Im more Tigger than Pooh too," Jae chimed in, joining the discussion. "And something tells me shes not an Eeyore like I first thought, more a Roo."
"Right. A six foot Roo. Can you imagine how big Kanga would need to be?" Rachel added, and smiled, surprising Reed. For an instant, she wanted to put the supporting actress in her place, then thought better.
In fact, maybe shed been approaching this film all wrong. From the moment Jae had taken over things had felt different, less Hollywood. Reed smiled back at Rachel, accepting the overture. The conversation continued to flow around her and she learned that Holly was using vacation time from her regular job as a systems administrator in order to participate in the filming being done in Orlando and LA then would return to Miami and pull double duty for the remainder of filming, while for Mirabel, a librarian and reviewer, this was a vacation.
"So you work for the company you wrote about?" Reed was curious, a minor in computer science had rounded out her degree program and the technical end of computers fascinated her.
"Not exactly, I work for SBS. It was a running joke though among some of the first people to read the book that I worked for a company called not-SBS. I never got around to coming up with a name for it until after it went to be published." Holly laughed again, a low pleasant sound whose vibrancy told you that this was a woman genuinely in love with life and where she was in it. "Names were never really a strong suit."
"Shes not kidding," Maribel corroborated, before continuing, "main characters would change names between updates. Sometimes we thought she did it on purpose just to see if the pups were paying attention."
"Pups?" Jae asked.
"Her on-line fans," Maribel clarified.
"Can I ask you something?" Reed looked at Holly, who shrugged as if to say go ahead. "Why is the print edition different from the one on the web?"
"Basically, length. Print houses have different limitations than web publishing does...I had to edit it for length, then I had to edit it even more when the script was first optioned." Holly reached for her iced coffee. "Youve read the on-line version?"
Reed nodded. "Had an accident with the print copy, but your name came up in a search engine. So I downloaded it."
"That would make you a pup then," Jae teased, stealing a corner of the chocolate croissant that was resting on Reeds plate.
She thought about that. While downloading Tropical Storm, she had also saved the three sequels and some other stuff. She was enjoying the story and the orientation of the characters was fast becoming irrelevant. Well, except for the fact that eventually she was going to have to film some of the romantic scenes herself.
There was a poignancy to the way that Holly wrote which fully engaged you with the daily lives of her characters. Reed had to admit that although she knew how the story ended - having read several versions of the script - she was looking forward to reading the way Holly resolved the events in the book.
The actress looked over at Holly, then at Jae, and crossed her arms over her chest before leaning back in her chair. "Yeah, Tigger. I guess it does."
A couple of hours and a quarter of the Magic Kingdom later, they were standing in line waiting to ride the boats through the Its A Small World ride. Jae had insisted that they couldnt consider that they had properly done Disney until riding it. The sun was beating down on them, and if for no other reason than to get out of the sun, Reed had agreed to go. Gwen and Rachel were just ahead of them in the line and Holly had slipped off, Maribel in tow, promising to be back, before they got to the ride.
"You really need to stop looking at her like that." Jae whispered into her ear.
Reed turned around, startled. "Who?"
"Gwen. You keep looking at her like she is going to bite you or turn into some sort of mythical beast."
"Reed, you look at her and your brow crinkles right here." Jae reached up and touched the place in question.
"Oh." She couldnt help it. Tomorrow they would begin filming in earnest and that meant it was time to begin performing.
"You should talk to her." Jae suggested.
Jae leaned against the rail, the cotton of her shirt stretching over her shoulders as she laid her arms along its length, one hand coming to rest behind the actress. "Gwen had to go through the same thing, when she filmed Callous Plans. Heard she was pretty hinky about kissing Ruth Everson."
"Yeah?" Reed leaned back next to Jae, letting her weight rest on the wooden rail, one arm across her chest, the other holding her chin in her right hand, rubbing the sides of her jaw. Is this as weird for McKitrick as it is for me?
"And I hate to put to fine a point on it, but part of the reason behind coming here was to get you two comfortable with each other. You havent been within five feet of her."
"I was in the elevator."
"That is not what I meant." Jae looked at her over the rim of her sunglasses, amused twinkle in the blue-green eyes.
Reed took a second look. Her eyes change colour. Before they could discuss it further Holly and Maribel returned, each laden with huge cones of ice cream.
"Yo, Reed." Holly handed over a dark waffle cone stuffed with what looked to be three scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Flecks of brown speckled the surface nestled in and among the ancient ivory coloured cream. The brown bits were pieces of vanilla bean and swirls of nutmeg and Reed smiled appreciatively at her benefactor. This was almost enough to make up for the fact that they had been listening to that stupid song for over half and hour now. "Thanks."
I am so going to pay for this, well the hotel has a gym, and maybe a good workout will help me sleep. Jae had been gone when shed woken up, and the younger woman hadnt mentioned the nightmare or the bruise that the actress had had to hide under a layer of foundation. The only sign that the night hadnt progressed as planned had been the open door between their rooms.
She glanced over at Jae who was eagerly attacking what looked to be a pistachio, chocolate and, my gods, was that strawberry, cone. Reed wasnt sure she wanted to see what combination of flavours everyone else had gotten. Though, she smiled to herself, Jaes ice cream was as quirky as the director.
Gwen looked at her cone, then at the one in Reeds hand then over at Jaes, before looking back down at her own completely strawberry one. "Please tell me that you didnt do this by personality?"
Holly chuckled, sucking at her own cone. "Yep. Ice cream is kinda like that."
Reed looked at the cone in Hollys hand and lifted a dark brow. "Really?" The author had three scoops of double-chocolate fudge chunk ice cream balanced precariously in a chocolate dipped waffle cone.
"You are so busted Hol," Maribel grinned evilly, taking a swipe at the melted cream escaping down the side of her chocolate mint cone.
"Alright Ladies, if you want to step this way." A young boy, who didnt look quite old enough to have to worry about Disneys facial hair policy, led them to the boats that would carry them through the infamous attraction.
Jae looked at her and lifted both blonde brows in a silent question.
"You owe me," Reed muttered dropping into a seat next to Gwen, leaving Jae to ride with Rachel.
"Big time," Jae happily agreed, munching the remains of her cone.
Not much later, Jae settled back into her seat, enjoying the slight bobbing of the boat and the trickling noise of the water as it ran over the exhibit. In front of her, Reed was trying to get comfortable on the hard plastic and stealing surreptitious looks at her co-star. She nearly laughed when the actress raised a hand up to her brow and checked for the telltale crinkle. Reed was so damned cute when she was trying to behave. Freeze. Ixnay on the utecay.
She looked up from watching Reed, to find Holly looking back at her knowingly, and unaccountably Jae blushed. But the authors gaze remained friendly, so she offered a smile in return. A woman with her gaydar in full operation. The director turned her attention back to the miniature children moving around the landscape of what could only be someones nightmare. Every musical bone in her body cringed, as the refrain echoed one more time through the chamber. Even changing the language didnt help.
Some of the figures spun closely to the boat and she wondered if any one had ever decapitated one out of some primal instinct to save their sanity.
"You owe me two," Reed mouthed, pointing at the dancing dolls kicking their mechanical legs into the air. Before she could think of anything to say, Gwen said something and Reed turned to answer her. Judging by the hand gestures it had something to do with the animatronics.
Well that was something anyway. If nothing else Reed and Gwen were talking to one another, so this ride wasnt a total bust. After what seemed like forever but was the regulation time, they floated out of the caverns and back into daylight.
When she scrambled out of the swan shaped boat it was to find five women all staring at her, identical looks of suffering on their faces. "What?"
"Youre so fired," Reed announced. "Holly is the new bus driver."
"Because no way, no how are you getting us into Imagination Land or whatever its called." Gwen tugged her blonde ponytail through the back of her baseball cap and settled it onto her head. "Id rather ride a roller coaster."
"That can be arranged," Jae quipped back. Off to the side a flash caught her eye. Oh cripes, just what Reed and Gwen need, someone chasing them around the park taking pictures. Protectively she moved between the two actresses and the short photographer.
Jae had noticed the same woman earlier, and had admired the wolfpup on her sweatshirt. Thinking nothing of it, she had chalked the woman being in the same vicinity as they were most of the morning up to coincidence. Now the director wasnt so sure.
"Well if you want to do a roller coaster how about heading for Frontier Land?" Holly suggested.
"Sounds good," Jae agreed. "Thats the one with Brer Rabbit right?"
"And the fifty foot drop," Gwen added, just barely loud enough to hear.
They were winding their way through the crowds, leaving Mattels ride gone awry behind them. Jae stopped to finger the soft fleece of an embroidered vest. Glancing at the shops window, a familiar reflection caught her eye. The female photographer from earlier was no longer alone; she appeared to have a small pack of friends clustered around her. Maybe it was just a coincidence after all.
"What do you keep looking at?" Reed leaned over her shoulder and Jae caught the bare hint of sandalwood that she remembered from the plane.
Should I tell her? The woman and her friends appeared to be watching them again and Jae decided that it was no coincidence. "I think you and Gwen have been spotted." She nudged her head in the groups direction, pointing them out to Reed.
Reed looked at them, most likely evaluating what kind of threat they represented. "You know," she drawled, "they dont appear to have noticed me and Gwen at all. But you, they keep pointing at."
"Take off your hat." Reed said.
Jae complied, looking at Reed in confusion. The actress still had all her hair pulled up inside a baseball cap, and a dark pair of Ray Bans rested on the bridge of her nose, all but obscuring her identity. The group of photographers had drifted a little closer and was excitedly snapping pictures of them.
"See. I told you they were real."
"But how come she has short hair?"
"Is that really them?"
"Cant be...shes too tall."
"Yeah and look, shes got a tattoo."
Jae looked down at the Celtic knot-interlace running around her left bicep. Why on earth did it matter that I have a tattoo?
"Ooo look...isnt that...."
Jae braced herself for the onslaught, and next to her Reed tensed.
"Excuse me," The first lady that Jae had noticed addressed them. "but is that really Holly Wulfenden?"
Jae dropped her jaw and Reed began to chuckle. "As a matter of fact it is," the actress helpfully supplied.
"Oh cool." The young woman started taking pictures, her finger clicking rapidly on the shutter.
"You might want to try it this way." Reed reached over and tugged the lens cap from the lens.
"Oh wow." She pocketed the cap that the actress had handed her and turned to her mates. "See, I told you they were real. Dar just fixed my camera."
Reed just quirked an expressive eyebrow. "Yo, Holly."
The author turned around, breaking off the discussion she had been having with Maribel, Gwen and Rachel. "Yo, Reed," she answered, continuing the running joke that seemed to have sprung up between them.
"I think these are yours." Reed pointed out the photographers. "Theyre internet pups."
"Can we have a group shot?" the apparent leader of the, a woman in her mid to late thirties sporting a penguin tattoo, asked Holly.
Jae watched in quiet fascination as the author accommodated the group, posing for pictures, first alone, then with Maribel, who as a reviewer of some note, drew nearly as big a reaction from the group as Holly had. The unnerving part was that every time they thought the director wasnt looking they would be studying her.
Reed had taken the opportunity to fade into the background a bit, and Jae marveled that so tall and magnetic a personality could just melt from view if she chose.
"Okay, now you with Dar and Kerry." Ten cameras suddenly came to the fore, two in the hands of a woman wearing a sweatshirt that said Sydney 2000 or Burst.
Gwen gamely stepped forward, a bemused smile on her face. No doubt having done a successful television show for four years, she was used to being confused with her character.
Reed had moved up behind Jae, and leaned down to whisper in an ear, "Looks like I get closer than five feet, hunh?"
"Mmm, looks like." Jae fought the desire to lean back into Reed as the taller woman continued to hover just behind her apparently hesitating slightly about whether or not to pose.
"Perfect." A flash went off, then another.
Jae blinked against the sudden barrage, confused. What in the name of Father Peter, was that about? More flashes went off and it struck her. They think Im Kerry. "Guys, wrong person. She plays Kerry, not me."
One of the taller women smacked the shorter one on the shoulder teasingly. "You and your, see theyre real."
The group wandered off, tucking their camera equipment away. "Shame, they looked kinda cute together."
Jae hastily looked at Reed to see if she had caught the offhand remark, but the actress was focused on some anecdote that Maribel was relating. She looked over at Holly. "That happen to you a lot?"
"Sometimes. The merpups are really sweet, and fun so I dont mind." A spark of mischief appeared in the dark eyes. "And theyre right - the two of you do look cute together."
For the second time in as many hours Jae felt her cheeks go bright red.
Engrossed, Jae had lost track of time, and didnt realize at first that she had been found until a familiar silhouette darkened the sketchbook.
"What are you doing?" Reed leaned over her, moving out of the light and rested one hand loosely on Jaes shoulder.
"Storyboard." Jae continued to sketch bold lines across the page, wanting to capture the way the shadows fell over the ride in the waning light. Shed played most of the day, and there were some things she needed to finish before dark. When the director of photography arrived tomorrow, Jae wanted to have roughed out most of the storyboard in preparation for refining the shooting script.
If they could take advantage of some of the natural lighting, that would reduce the amount of setting up they would have to do for the daylight shots, and that was important because they had only been given two small windows on each ride with which to work. Everything else would need to be shot during the night under full lighting, and if possible that was something shed rather get done in one night.
Reed had settled companionably next to her on the wooden bench, quietly watching her sketch the mountain. Jae finished that and roughed out a series of small action scenes indicating at which points on the ride she wanted the cameras to switch vantagepoints. They would run the cameras, speeding up the tape speed, on the ride several times to capture as many details as they could. By slowing the tape down, they would be able to show the audience a clear picture of the ride, in more detail than if they had actually ridden it themselves.
They key would be to draw the audience into what Dar and Kerry were doing, involve them in the lives of the characters before springing the romance on them. The side plot with Rachel Munuizs character, Michelle Graver, would bind the audience temporarily, and give them something to root against - unwittingly joining emotional forces with the protagonists. That was tough to do in a two-hour film, and tricks of action like the roller coaster provided a shortcut. The storm would be another. Storms tapped into the collective unconscious and she would use the Fisher Island one to mirror both tension and attraction.
"Sorry to bother you. I just needed to know what time well break for dinner tomorrow...roughly?" Reed was holding one fine boned hand over the mouthpiece of her cell phone.
Jae had been so absorbed in the storyboarding that she hadnt even noticed Reed talking on the phone. Mentally she went over what she wanted to accomplish and estimated the time that Reed would have between finishing one set of shots and when the cameras would be allowed to roll on the rides. "Probably around seven. Most of our shooting tomorrow night will be after the park closes." One merciful advantage of using Space Mountain; it was dark - twenty-four hours a day.
"Thanks." The actress shifted around slightly, her back to Jae.
She wasnt trying to listen in on Reeds conversation, but even over the din of the happiest place on earth she couldnt help but to overhear some words.
"Love you too. Right, around half seven. Bye." The antenna was pushed back into the body of the phone and the slim plastic device was slipped into the front pouch of Reeds brown backpack.
Not wanting to be caught staring, Jae quickly returned her attention to the sketchpad, turning to a crisp, clean sheet. She twirled the drafting pencil in the sharpener, twisting it around until the point was sharp. Of course, Reed had someone, which was for the best....
So why did she feel a twinge of disappointment? Probably for the same reason that she had just unwittingly drawn Reeds eyes. Hastily she turned the page.
"Whered everyone else get off to?" Jae broke the silence.
"Holly said something about needing a mask of some sort, with feathers; some shrunken heads and something about mouse ears. Gwen conned Rachel into another trip down Splash Mountain."
They both laughed. Once she had actually tried the ride, Gwen had loved it. Their Disney Liaison had finally caught up with them, providing the extra pass for Maribel, and apologizing for not giving it to them earlier. Which meant no more waiting in line. Jae had refused to let the group use the special passes until they all had them. "Whats that, her fourth trip?"
"Sixth," Reed deadpanned. "Maribel headed that away."
Jae looked over where the actress had pointed and could see the librarian cum reviewer snapping photos of Simba. She wondered if the woman realized that the group from earlier was taking pictures of her taking pictures. Her ears pinked as the memory of the packs parting observation flitted through her mind.
"Get too much sun?"
"Unh...no....yes..." she stammered, further embarrassed.
"Which is it?" Humour swam in the actress eyes.
"Yes. Which I think makes for a good excuse to break for dinner."
"Break? As in take a temporary respite from an activity?"
"Precisely." Jae grinned back, wicked gleam of her own lighting her eyes. "You owe me a trip down Space Mountain, remember?"
"Not the type of thing Id forget. But I was thinking, I really should do some prep work for tomorrow."
"It is prep work, and if you want I can always help you rehearse, later."
Reed looked slightly panic-stricken, then relaxed. "No way out is there?"
"No way but down. Two-hundred and seventy-five feet." Jae laughed. She couldnt help it. The sudden look of terror that crossed Reeds face was priceless. "Dont worry, Ill hang on tight. You wont fall out." She laughed even harder as Reeds expression shifted to narrow-eyed revenge mode, nearly missing Reeds rejoinder.
"Paybacks are a bitch."
"The real question is...do you want to eat before or after." Jae pressed her advantage, sensing that she wouldnt often have one.
Reed looked over at her and drawled, "Oh, I think before. Definitely before."
That sobered her up. "You were just kidding right - on the plane - about being motion sick?"
Without batting an eyelash, Reed responded. "The question you gotta ask yourself is this...do ya feel lucky?"
"So? I promised not to let go of you - not the other way around."
"Ill squish you." Reed knew she was clutching at straws and looking at the director she could see that it was all Jae could do not to giggle. The actress stood like a recalcitrant child, her arms folded defiantly across her chest, feet set shoulder width apart.
The ride attendant coughed politely. Their VIP passes had bought them a measure of indulgence, but the ride had a schedule to maintain. "Would you like to wait for the next go around?" He finished locking the bar of the passengers in the second seat and looked at them expectantly.
"No, lets get this over with."
"Reed. Stop." Jae held out a hand and held the older woman back, waving the next passengers to board ahead of them. "Well take the next one."
"What?" Reed barked.
Jae flinched. "This is supposed to be fun. Im sorry if I pressured you into something you hate," she said regretfully, her tone low, the words coming slowly.
The actress demeanor changed instantly. Reed let her shoulders drop and she looked down at her shoes, scuffing one back and forth on the concrete loading platform. The noisy din of excited tourists and the awed screams of keyed up children faded to the background as she tried to think of what to say. She wanted to pull the sharp words back. The look of hurt that had flashed over Jaes eyes had torn straight through her.
The black coaster train disgorged its load of passengers and still she hadnt figured out what to say. Jae gave a sad smile and turned away, making for the turnstile.
"Jae wait," she swallowed, the words not coming. Instead she stepped over the edge of the car and slid into the front space, leaning forward to allow Jae to sit in behind her. It was hard, trusting her fears to someone she hardly knew; who hardly knew her. And still another part of her craved the contact, wanting, for once, not to have to be strong, to let another human being touch her, protect her.
The director leaned over and laid a hand gently on Reeds shoulder; concern radiated through the warm skin of Jaes soft palm. The tentative brush became more confident as Reed didnt pull back, turning instead to meet the eyes of her friend. Even in the half-light of the attraction, the blondes eyes were luminous, and held hers for a long moment before their owner nodded and eased in behind her.
The younger woman wedged her legs against the side of the car, careful not to kick her companion as she settled into position. Jaes fingers crept around Reeds waist and pulled her back against Jaes surprisingly muscular body.
The director then leaned forward, resting her chin on Reeds shoulder, and the actress fought back the urge to pull away. "Ive got you. I promise," Jae breathed more than whispered.
The ride started, dropping suddenly before she could pull away, gravity forcing her to either fight to separate their bodies, or just accept the quietly reassuring and comforting presence for what it was. They rounded another curve and the rushing air swept the tantalizing scent of vanilla into her nostrils. As Jae leaned forward, balancing the two of them against the sudden shock of another sheer drop, Reed realized the perfume was Jaes.
Another sharp drop threw her against the side of the car, but before she could hit the metal walls, Jaes arms tightened around her and the blonde absorbed the impact, a soft groan barely audible over the rushing of metal wheels over the track. They descended into the pitch black and Reed squeezed her eyes shut.
A sense of vertigo replaced the slight safety Jaes grip was providing so she flung her eyelids open again just as a bright red and white pinwheel loomed at her from the left. Reed flinched away from it, and Jae wrapped her in strong arms. "Easy, Roo. Ive got you."
And Reed knew she did. Another twist threw her in the opposite direction the car was travelling in and this time she relaxed into Jaes powerful embrace and gave herself up to the unexpected safety she found there.
Jae felt Reed relax in her arms, and reflexively tightened her hold, wanting to be worthy of the trust being placed in her. Soft raven hair tickled her nose and she slid her cheek against Reeds head, inhaling the warm scent of cotton mingled with sandalwood. What haunts you so my friend? Who has hurt so you badly that it reaches across time and binds you in chains still? What is it that lives in your nightmares and steals your sleep? She shook her head a little and smiled wryly at her own inner response. And why exactly, mgrrl, do you wish you could spend five minutes alone in the ring with whoever it was?
Her muscles ached from the effort of keeping the two of them from bouncing around the car; the strain making itself felt between her shoulder blades. Jae rolled her arms slightly to alleviate the pressure and Reed nestled in deeper, the actress body melding to hers.
The blonde let her frame curl around the longer one of the actress and they began to move in sync with the ride, now that Reed was no longer fighting it or her. With guilty pleasure she gave herself permission to enjoy the weight of the woman in her arms. In the middle of the wildest ride, in the busiest theme park in the world, Jae found a sense of peace wrap around her - one that she usually only found alone on a wave pummeled beach.
She savoured it for a long moment until a stifled gasp from Reed turned her mind back to the roller coaster. The actress had actually given a slightly hysterical laugh at the end of the last curve and drop combination. They rounded the last bend and Jae leaned back, aware that Reed would probably prefer not to be seen cuddling with a woman. Casually she let her hands drop to Reeds waist, lightly holding the sides of the white cotton shirt in her hands.
The car screeched to a halt, metal atoms evaporating under the immense pressure of the wheels. Reed didnt make a motion to get up, and Jae tried to keep her smile a secret, but the ride attendant caught her eye and Jae had to lift one hand quickly over her mouth.
"I think I need one more rehearsal, just to make sure."
"Right. I did say Id help you rehearse." Jae winked at the ride operator. "Once more round the block if you dont mind, Jeeves."
Three rides later they were giggling like schoolgirls trying unsuccessfully to regain their balance. Finally they found their way out of the crowded ride and into the densely packed park.
"I need to sit on something that isnt moving," Jae admitted, laughing.
"What about that Phantasmic thing you mentioned?"
Jae shook her head. "Thats Disney Land, I checked earlier, here its something called IllumiNations, over at Epcot."
"Oh." Reed sounded disappointed, so Jae thought for a minute.
"Cmon." She took Reeds hand weaving along through the crowd, and it was only when she caught sight of their reflection in a shop window that she realized that she was still pulling the actress along, hand in hand. Pretending to shift her backpack, she dropped Reeds hand, her own feeling cold and empty for the loss of warmth.
"Where are you hauling me off to now..." Reeds voice trailed off as she spotted the large ornate carousel. Detailed wooden horses moved gracefully along the mirrored plains, a sea of motion on a bed of colour.
"Oh yeah," the actress agreed, wonder filling her tone.
They filed onto the platform looking for riderless mounts, both coming to a stop before a beautiful buff coloured mare. "Go ahead." Jae watched Reeds blue eyes widen, becoming almost violet in her excitement. "You ride her." When she turned to find a horse of her own, they had all been taken. Only a chariot on the far side remained empty. Jae reached to take hold of the pole in front of her, content to ride standing.
"Hey, Tigger." Reed was holding a hand out to her, eyebrow raised in invitation.
Jae smiled and met Reeds eyes. Sometime during the wild roller coaster ride, their relationship had changed imperceptibly; by the time they had finished she no longer pulled away from Reed the moment the ride began to stop. She took the proffered hand; surprised with the effortless way Reed lifted her into the saddle. The blonde leaned back slightly, nestling into the hollow formed by Reeds arms when the actress reached for the leather reins.
The motion of the horse on the pole felt old and new and right, the presence of the woman behind her a part of that feeling. The music twinkled its agreement and fireworks over the Plaza of Nations punctuated the night like the hoof beats of a horse.
The ride came to a gradual halt and the world settled back into reality as the magic ride ended. The same warm smell of vanilla and cotton that Reed remembered from the roller coaster hung in the air.
It had been a long time since she had let someone other than Rio this close, even Heidi was careful about invading her space, but Jae, Jae moved in it as though she belonged there. Reluctantly she let go of the younger woman. The sensation of Jae tucked against her lingered, ghost-like long moments past the parting of their bodies and for an instant Reed wished the ride had been just a little longer.
Confused, the actress swung down from the saddle, letting Jae balance a hand on her shoulder as the director hopped off in turn.
"Hungry?" Jae inquired, as she tugged a strap on her pack tight.
"A little." They had been munching off and on for most of the day, sampling various tempting treats and exotic confections.
They made their way out of the ride compound and turned along Main Street in search of something edible.
"How can you eat another one of those?"
Reed looked up from the line of red she was carefully painting down the center of the Pluto Dog. "Easy. Just like this." She took a large bite, rolling her eyes and patting her stomach in exaggerated enjoyment.
They were wandering back through the park, heading for the monorail station. Both still had a lot of work to do before tomorrow and had decided to call it an early night.
The wooden saloon style doors of The Emporium creaked in the evening breeze.
Jae had heard them too and made a beeline for the shop. Reed groaned. She was all Mickied out. If she saw that inane silhouette one more time she was going to go postal all over someone. Reluctantly she followed the younger woman inside the crowded store, stepping around a pack of last minute shoppers.
A rack caught her eye and she smiled to herself when she saw the variety of characters embroidered on the cotton. Jae had vanished and Reed took the opportunity to edge over to a till. The experienced sales lady recognized the signs of a customer buying a gift and removed the boxers from sight. "Thanks," she said, taking another look around for Jae.
"Are you sure about the size?"
She paused and thought. "Yeah. I think so."
"Your husband will love these, lots of wives buy them." The wrapped package was set back on the counter. "That will be twenty-one thirty please."
Reed swung her pack off her shoulder, and took out her wallet.
A warm hand brushed against her waist as Jae came up behind her. "Whatd you get?"
"If I told, it wouldnt be much of a surprise now would it?" She handed the clerk three tens and tucked the package into her bag. "You can have it after we get back to the hotel."
"Tease." The director moved off to look at a collection of porcelain miniatures.
"Heres your change." The sales woman brusquely handed her a few coins along with a five and some ones, no longer friendly.
Puzzled the actress put the bills into her wallet and pocketed the change. "Thank-you." When she looked back up, the disgust on the clerks face floored her. "What is your problem?" she growled.
"You, and your kind." The saleslady turned on her heel and moved to serve another patron.
"My kind?" Then it hit her. The clerk assumed that she and Jae were ... together. Had everyone thought that tonight?
Angry she stalked out of the store.
"Reed? Reed!" Jae called out.
The actress kept moving, her longer legs eating up the distance to the platform. She managed to slide through the doors of the monorail just as they were about to close. The train pulled out and she could see a confused Jae standing on the platform. Looking back she could just make out the director run a hand through her short hair, then almost angrily fling the hand in the air. Jae faded from view as they left the lit station behind and Reed continued to stare out of the window into the darkness.
Two girls were sitting toward the back of the car, leaning against each other and giggling - a lot like she and Jae had been earlier in the evening. So were they? And what if they were? Reed chewed her lip, mulling over the unexpected question her inner voice had posed. The doors hissed and opened and the young women left. Just as they pulled out Reed caught a glimpse as tall blond man lean down to kiss one of them. Guess not.
So there was nothing unusual in her behaviour with Jae. Right?
And if someone misinterpreted their friendship that was their problem. Like you have enough friends that you can toss them away over what some fucking store clerk thinks. Get used to it, this film is not going to help. It had been one thing to read about Dar and Kerry, they were fictional, engaging yes, but fictional none-the-less, but Holly. Meeting Holly had turned a couple of assumptions right on their ear. She didnt leer at every woman she saw, though Reed couldnt help but notice her flirting with the ice cream stand clerk; Reed had found the woman to be intelligent with a wicked sense of humour. Pretty normal in fact. Did Holly get treated like she had? Thoughtfully, she continued to watch the park flit by under the incandescence of a thousand lights, hidden shadows revealing pockets of merriment as the train moved past them.
It still made her mad that someone would jump to such an idiotic conclusion about her or about Jae.
She was going to owe the director a big apology. The announcer called the stop for The Floridian, and Reed prepared to disembark, barely waiting until the doors had opened before exiting the car.
Two more trains unloaded their passengers and still no Jae. Discouraged, Reed made for the elevator that would take her to her room. The white plastic key card admitted her into the darkened chamber. Not bothering with lights, she opened the curtains, letting the outside lighting from the castle and lake, filter into the room.
She heard the soft click as Jaes room door shut, the sound transmitting through the open door between their rooms.
"Hey." Jae stood framed in the doorway.
"Hey." Reed answered.
Intense green eyes searched her face for a moment then broke contact. "Good night." The younger woman retreated back to her room.
"Good night," she whispered back, not moving from her spot facing the connecting room. Reed could hear the sounds of water running as Jae went about her nighttime routine. The blonde passed by the door a couple of times, then on her third trip looked over at Reed, seemingly surprised to find that the that actress had yet to move.
"Reed?" Jae moved back to the door.
"I shouldnt have left you there."
"You want to talk about it?"
Reed shook her head.
Jae moved inside the room, stopping an arms length from where Reed was standing. "You need to talk about it. You cant just keep bottling stuff up inside."
"The clerk --"
"Im not talking about the clerk. I know what happened with her. I went back and asked. Shes probably out looking for work now."
"Looking for work?" Reed wasnt sure what caused the biggest surprise - the fact that Jae went back to check - or that she had obviously taken some sort of action on her behalf.
"Um-hmm. Pavement pounding time. Disney has some pretty strict guidelines about how to treat guests. Rule number one - dont tick off the VIPs."
"Remind me not to piss you off."
"Ill add it to your contract." Jae had moved and taken a seat on the couch. "So talk."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that. Its rule three in the friendship handbook." She opened an imaginary book, running one finger down the non-existent page. "When the friend of the first part...thats me..." Jae tapped her own chest. "...makes it known to the friend of the second part...thats you..." This time pointing at Reed. "...that the friend of the first part..."
"How come you get to be the friend of the first part?" Reed settled her weight on the bed, stretching out lengthwise and resting her back against the headboard.
"Its my rule book."
"Right then...carry on."
Jae made a show of finding her place before she continued, "...first part is willing to listen, then the party of the second part shall make at least a token effort at allowing the friend to listen." The director crisply shut the imaginary book and leaned back to put it on the end table.
Reed opened her mouth, then closed it again.
"Okay. I can see we need another approach here." Jae rotated slightly and sat crossed-legged. "Lets start with something easy. Do you have nightmares every night?"
"No. I think you should go ahead and ask a tough one," Reed muttered sarcastically. "Not every night, no."
"There now was that so hard?" Jae grabbed the phone from the night table. "Two steamed milks, one with extra honey. Thanks. Wait, and some cookies too please, Oreos if you have them. Thanks again."
"I like my Oreos better in cold milk." Was that it? End of the chat? Jae was calmly lounging on the sofa, short blonde locks sticking up where she had been running her hand through the bangs, and Reed waited for the other shoe to drop. Nothing. "All your sensitive chats come with food?" she asked to lighten the mood.
"Nope. Some come with a two-by-four." The director gave her a saucy wink. "Now what scene was it that you needed to rehearse?"
"Roll Camera." Jae leaned forward in her chair.
Jae didnt even glance at the man operating the soundboard. "Speed."
"Speed." Sound acknowledged the command.
"Scene 24. Take 7." The slate snapped shut.
"Action." Jae stood up, unconsciously mouthing the words along with Gwen. In fact, given Reeds tendency to over rehearse, Jae figured she knew the scene better than McKitrick did. Shed enjoyed it though and helping Reed prepare had given her a different perspective on the material they were shooting.
"Cut." Jae walked over to the set, leaning down over the table where the actors were seated. "Okay once more from, Can I ask you a personal question?." She turned to the camera man, "This time I want medium length on them, then well reverse and repeat on Gwen."
The restaurant was all theirs, peopled only by cast, crew and extras. It was cheaper to shoot it here than to recreate it in the studio and unlike the rides the camera and lighting set up was fairly straightforward.
"Scene 24. Take 8."
Gwen had the first line. "Can I ask you a personal question?" A soft, slightly shy inquiry.
"Um, I cant guarantee Ill answer it, but yeah, go ahead."
McKitrick leaned forward and this time Reed didnt back away. "Is your name short for something, or is it just Dar?"
"Well, my mother was is - I suppose, still, an addict of Spanish romance novellas. She had a favorite character, Paladar. Im named for that. I hated it. I had it legally changed when I turned eighteen." Jae smiled to herself, Reed had gotten the director to fess up that Jae was short for something. Shed smirked and told Reed that she would trade her name for something about the actress in return.
"Paladar. I dont know. I kind of like it, nice ring." Reed put the same panic-stricken look on her face that she got whenever Jae called her Eeyore in public, and Gwen responded to it. "Dont worry, though, I wont use it. Not if you dont like it."
"What about you? Is Kerry short for something?"
"Kerrison. I dont use it much, even my resume has Kerry on it and all my official work documents." Gwens timing was perfect, her tone a cross between amused and embarrassed.
Okay Reed, lets see a smile here okay, please? Jae mentally pleaded with the actress.
"Mmm, I know, thats why I asked." Reed glanced up with a grin. "I could have just logged in and found out otherwise."
YES! Jae pumped a mental fist. That just left one tough part to go. Maybe they would get out of this in only a couple more takes. Even if Reed froze up the rest of the scene they could start from much further on the next time. Jae hated chop and paste filming, preferring to film conversations continuously using a single master.
"Thats so weird. You know all that stuff about me, and I its just strange. I mean, its not like I can just log in and find out about you."
"Kerry, you already know more about me than youd find in the company computers. Your co workers would be astonished to know what my house looks like or that Im a diver, or what my real name is, for instance." Reeds tone had become quiet, pensive. It reminded Jae of her conversation with Reed the night before; only unlike Kerry with Dar, Jae knew nothing of Reeds personal life.
"Well, that makes me feel better." Gwen blushed and the director found herself wondering what the younger actress was thinking to achieve that particular shade of pink. Well it sure beats having to have Make-up paint it on. "You know, not to bring up a sore subject, but your real name reminds me of something."
"Whats that? A package of marshmallows? That was a popular version when I was younger." Reed gently swirled the wine in her glass around, successfully trying to look disinterested in the answer.
Jae held her breath, here it was - the first signs that things were turning - without the inner dialogue of the two characters to fill in the gaps, the energy of this scene was crucial. It had to be comedic, serious and sweet all at once. Cmon Roo, I know you can pull this off.
"Oh, like Mallomar?" Two beats passed before Gwen continued, "Well, its sweet and tasty." A deeper blush coloured Gwens face, impressing Jae. Then the actress changed her tone to one of flustered awareness. "Um, thats not, I mean, I wasnt, um."
Cmon Reed, Jae mentally encouraged, play back.
Reed chuckled softly. "Yeah, yeah, I know what you meant... relax." She paused. "What else were you thinking of?"
"Um... " Gwen rubbed her face, under the guise of brushing back a non-existent stray lock of hair, as though trying to rub the flush away. "Paladins, actually."
Jae had no worries about the next lines. They could have been written just for the actress
Reed dropped her voice a register and leaned in. "Kerry, I am not any kind of good guy, trust me, okay? I eat people for lunch. I fire people at the drop of a hat. I restructure companies to maximize profit for our company - everyone hates my guts. So try to remember that, huh? Or youre in for a shock when we go into those meetings."
"Not everyone." Gwen supplied the next line, Jae again silently mouthing the words.
"Hmm?" Reed looked at her questioningly, the same look of disbelief on her face that had been there during their rehearsal the night before. Jae was beginning to realize that Reed drew on real life reactions to every day events, copying her own behavior, then reflecting it back on to film. The director found more of Reed showing up on film than Dar.
"Not everyone hates you. I dont."
I dont. Jae echoed silently, mentally finishing the scene. She let silence fall for a few seconds. "And Cut."
Reed looked up and met her eyes, one brow lifting in question. Jae grinned back and gave her a thumbs up. The actress nodded then removed herself from the table so they could shoot Gwens dialog again from a closer angle.
Jae didnt even need to look at the tape to know that they had nailed it that last time. It had been the right decision to film the roller coaster stuff first, and allow Reed to get comfortable with the other woman before making them interact on film as friends.
"From Prime rib, larger prime rib. Jae gave Gwen an encouraging squeeze on the shoulder. "You repeat this the way you handled the last bit and well wrap this in one."
"Now thats something to shoot for." Gwen finished stretching and settled back into the chair. Then allowed the distance to be measured off, ensuring that the chair hadnt moved too far back to affect continuity.
"Ha haa." Jae groaned, the later the hour the worse the puns got.
Reed was lounging against a post, script in hand. Wonder what it would take to get you to read lines to Gwen for these shots? Jae mulled the idea over as an assistant moved in to give Gwen her vocal cues.
"Roll Camera." Then Jae forgot about Reed as she concentrated on what was happening in front of the camera.
"Can you get that?" Jae shifted into the bridge, wanting to play through the transition before stopping.
Reed put her script on the side table and rose out of the large armchair she had been curled up in, studying her lines. It had become a routine of sorts between them. The actress would study lines while Jae played the guitar shed carted from Los Angeles, mentally working through problems until Reed was ready to rehearse the scene.
"Hello. No, this is the right number, hold on." Reed handed her the phone, mouthing Ms. Waters.
"Hey Cait. Whats up?" If it had been an emergency, the assistant director would have called on the cell phone.
"I could ask you the same thing." Curiousity was evident even over the clanking noise in the background.
Jae rolled her eyes. "Dont go there, Cait."
"You are no fun at all. Laura Regis just called, ET wants to do an on location fluff piece."
Jae could barely hear the assistant director over what sounded like a loudspeaker. "Where are you?" She was almost afraid to ask - Caitlynn had multi-tasking down to a science.
"QFC grocery, Aisle 7, pasta and rice." The AD paused, then spoke slyly, "want me to pick you up a toaster oven?"
The director felt her cheeks go crimson and she unconsciously looked to the door Reed has disappeared through moments before. "Id settle for toast."
Cait laughed, then changed the topic. "You have enough left to film down there to make it worth sending them?
Trapping the phone between her ear and shoulder Jae continued to pluck away at the guitar, thinking. It should be her decision, based solely on what was good for the movie - and publicity was good. Entertainment Tonight definitely qualified as publicity, and generally, they put happy spins on their pieces.
Once again, her eyes were drawn to the open door connecting her room to Reeds. The actress had gone to her side of what they had come to consider their room, leaving her script behind and giving Jae some privacy. How would Reed react? Cmon Jae, forget Reed, its not your job to protect her. Whats best for the film? She laid the guitar aside, getting off the bed to pace around the room. "If they can be here tomorrow for prep and shoot the next day, then yes. Otherwise no, because were gone the day after that." After a week, even she was beginning to tire of the Magic Kingdom and its head rodent.
"Ahead of schedule?" The tail end of Caits words was muffled by the sound of packets rattling against the metal shopping buggy.
"Yep. Just exterior and a few establishing shots left." Jae paused again, mulling the shoot over in her head. Yeah that would work - Reed and Gwen wandering through Disney World. Oddly enough, the one person who remained entranced by the nightly fireworks and rides was Reed. It was like she needed an excuse to let herself play but once she had one Reed used it to the max.
"They were hoping for The Kiss."
"Oh Piggy wonks, that stupid kiss."
"Piggy wonks?" Her assistant snickered into the phone. "Why cant you just swear like a normal person?"
"Sorry. Hollyism." Maybe playing Kerry in rehearsal to Reeds Dar was rubbing off a little too much. Now she was talking like Kerry. Thats not the only effect and you know it. Quiet! She stilled the inner voice. She sighed, if there was one place in the continental US that Jae could cheerfully blow up, it was Crandon Beach. The location of Dar and Kerrys first kiss had taken on mythic proportions, the place now synonymous with the act. "Closed set for that scene. Tell them it still hasnt come up in the shooting schedule." She could just imagine Reeds reaction to having to film the kiss while ET was present.
"Everything else under control up there?" Jae asked. She had wanted to bring Caitlynn to Florida but they had decided that her skills would be needed in Jaes absence. The little voice chimed in again. And you got a much more interesting roommate out of it too.
"Marguiles and Ward have shot most of their scenes and close ups, so we can finish that when you get back." The AD confirmed.
Jae ticked the script over in her head. Did they need the Mariana and Dreyfus characters in Miami? No. And they were finished with Rachel Muriz too. She had made a very convincing Michelle Graver. The air between her and Reed crackled with tension masquerading as subtext. "Good I shipped up the footage weve shot so far. Let the editing team and Chambers know its coming. Ive packaged the shooting notes and storyboards with it. They should have tons to work from."
"Hang on a sec." The intermittent clacking of the carts wheels stopped, and the general noise level was muffled for a minute. "Kay. Got it."
"Two words for you - Palm Pilot." Cait boasted.
"Square that. Not in this life." Jae shot back four words.
Caitlynn laughed. "Never say never Babe."
Jae shook her head, bemused. "See you in a couple of days." She hit the off button and slid the phone back into its cradle.
Walking across the room she stood and looked out the window, and studied the pattern of the light dancing over the man-made lake. Frankly, she was surprised that there hadnt been more media coverage already. It wasnt everyday that a film combined the sensationalism of controversial subject matter, a dead director and a reclusive star. Come to think of it, that would make a hell of a movie on its own. She chuckled to herself.
Turning from the view she picked up Reeds copy of the script and flipped through it until she found the Crandon beach scene. Should I get it out of the way? They had some time to play with. Or shoot it last? The mischievous inner voice that sounded remarkably like her Grandda piped up. And would Reed be wanting to rehearse that one with you too Jae mgrrl. She closed the script. I should be so lucky.
Reed could hear the intro notes of the song Jae had been working on earlier begin again. When the director began to sing, she knew it was okay to return to the armchair and her prep work. She had worked with a dialogue coach all morning, and was preparing tomorrows scenes, confident that she had removed the last vestiges of her accent and the word been wouldnt sound like a legume.
"I met you before the fall of Rome. And I begged you to let me take you home. You were wrong, I was right. You said goodbye, I said goodnight, woo hoo hoo. Its all been done, woo hoo hoo. Its all been done, woo hoo hoo. Its all been done before." Jaes strong voice echoed between the rooms, picking up depth as it resonated between the chambers.
Reed found it amazing that the director could think and play at the same time, let alone sing too. Over the last few days, they had settled into a routine. She would study her lines. Jae would play the guitar, occasionally leaping up to scribble something furiously on a note pad or sketch in her book. Then they would read through the scene together a couple of times, while she tried various approaches to the material. At first shed worried that she was wasting Jaes time, but the director had assured her that while they may not be able to keep rehearsing together once they return to Los Angeles, she was finding it useful, giving her a new way to look at the material.
"If I put my fingers here, and if I say I love you dear. And if I play the same three chords, will you just yawn and say Aaaah, its a bit dated? Woo hoo hoo. Its all been done, woo hoo hoo. Its all been done, woo hoo hoo. Its all been done before."
She continued to listen to Jae sing, not quite ready to go back to work just yet.
"Alone and bored on a 30th century night. Will I see you on The Price Is Right? Will I cry, will I smile, as you run down the aisle? Woo hoo hoo. Its all been done, woo hoo hoo, Its all been done...woo hoo hoo...Its all been done before."
Maybe after they got back to Los Angeles, shed go check out Jaes band one night, assuming they played again while Reed was there. One thing was for certain; she would definitely miss the time she spent with Jae. Part of her felt like shed known the younger woman forever. I met you before the fall of Rome. She laughed. Even her mental signing voice was slightly off key.
"Its all been done, woo hoo hoo. Its all been done, woo hoo hoo. Its all been done before."
Reed sobered. If they werent able to rehearse together in Los Angeles, that left her with a bit of a problem. She snorted. A bit? Try a whole gigs worth. Just exactly whom was she going to rehearse that scene with. Crandon Beach. Well those scenes. The actress was well aware that they were approaching the end of the purely platonic material, and that except for some ensemble pieces and then whatever Jae needed to film back in Miami, her remaining scenes with Gwen carried a huge amount of overt Lesbian content. Overt Lesbian Content. Sounded more like a dessert food label than a disclaimer.
She leaned against the doorframe joining their quarters, watching Jae finger pick a complex melody that she vaguely wanted to ascribe to Clapton, but couldnt quite place. Reed noticed her script was lying shut next to the director and briefly wondered what Jae had been looking for. Probably related to the phone call.
The blondes fingers moved fluidly over the fret-board of the twelve-string guitar and Reed watched as Jae moved in time to the music, her brilliant green eyes shuttered in concentration. You could just ask you know, Jae knows its creeping you out. Oh yeah right. Excuse me Jae, but I was wondering, could I practice the Crandon Beach scene with you? Shed be lucky if Jae didnt smack her for that.
Reed felt her stomach clinch. She didnt want to offend Jae, but there was no way she could do that scene cold. I should find one of those bars; maybe Holly knows one. Then, if she threw up during the kiss, it wouldnt be all over her co-star.
Jae stopped playing and slowly opened her eyes, a small smile lighting on her lips as Reed met her eyes.
"Been listening long?"
"A bit." She hesitated, and Jae spoke again before she could think of what to say.
"Ive got good news and bad news."
"Ill take the good news."
"ET is coming to do a spread."
"If thats the GOOD news. Im not sure I want to hear the bad news."
Jae studied her, putting aside the guitar. Emerald points of intensity searched her eyes for something; Reed didnt know what. "After ET is finished you, I and Gwen fly to Miami."
Reed let the implication sink in. Oh shit. There could only be one possible reason they were going to Miami. Crandon Beach. She wasnt ready for those scenes yet. Afraid to say something that she would regret later, the actress turned on her heel and re-entered her room. The deep pile carpet muffled her footsteps, preventing the room from filling with the noise of her frustration. Shed thought that she had had time. Time to work into this, it had already seemed less daunting than it did a week ago. Now that time was gone.
"Why are you in this film?" Jae had followed behind and stood in the doorway, mirror image to the way she herself had just been standing. "You need to make a choice Reed. Film it properly...with everything I know you are capable of giving it. Or quit wasting time."
Now she had her excuse. "Is that what I m doing?" Jae flinched at the intensity of her words, but Reed didnt back off. "Wasting your fucking time?"
And Reed knew she should. Knew deep down that Jae was wearing the blame for things that happened long ago. But better it ended right here, right now - on her terms.
The directors head seemed to shrink in the distance; Jae appearing to be much smaller and further away than she really was. Reed could feel her pulse jump, the vein at her left temple throbbing in time to her increased heart-rate. Everything slowed down, the air around her felt heavy, and her words had an inevitability to them. "Melt the Ice Queen, was that on your list of projects?"
"Reed," Jaes voice was low, warning, "dont make this about me. Why this film?"
Jae approached her like she would a skittish colt, moving into the room but not coming too close. Reed could feel her muscles quivering, the urge to lash out warring with the unexpected desire to talk. Why was Jae doing this?
"Why make this film?"
"Money. Simple as that." Reed tried to inject as much venom as she could into her tone.
"You were making money in Japan."
Her head jerked a little in involuntary surprise, and Reed swallowed nervously. Jae wasnt playing the game; the director refused to be baited. The more she yelled, the calmer Jae got. It was maddening and reassuring at the same time. Before she could think of a response, Jae changed tacks again.
"And if its just money, then a simple kiss shouldnt be a problem. Its just acting, right? Youre an actor act."
Reed could feel her whole emotional house of cards shaking, and she wondered if Jae knew how many secrets had their answers in that last exchange. Ironic really, Roan had presented his own set of dangers to secrets long buried, dangers that she had thought died with him. They hadnt died at all. Things were stirring to life inside that she had thought better buried and forgotten.
"Its more complicated than that."
"Then explain it to me Reed, help me understand."
Green eyes unflinchingly met hers. There was no distaste or judgement, only concern and curiousity. And something else. Reed hadnt seen it in so long she almost missed it. Friendship. Jaes eyes said more clearly than any words could have. Im here.
Question was - for how long?
The slamming of a room door sounded in the quiet impasse and drew Reed back through the years to the sound of a stage door slamming closed behind her, taking with it her hopes and dreams...but in the end leaving her with something of infinitely greater value.
"It must be pretty important if youre willing to make a film you hate so much."
Reeds words echoed her thoughts unconsciously as she whispered, "the most important thing in the world."
"Whats that?" Jaes soft voice wrapped around her and Reed stared down at the floor, letting the gentle inquiry pass unanswered.
Images of a tow-headed baby in diapers merged with the curly haired child waiting for his chance at a future and swam in the tears clouding her eyes. Coming to make the film had been a catch-22. She made the film and the paycheck bought Rio his chance and things would work out, or she made the film and it would have cost her the time he had left. Having the money didnt guarantee him anything; it just bought him an entry ticket.
Reed knew that was part of her frustration. That, even by making this film, that even by discarding the beliefs of a lifetime it might not be enough. And then to have to re-evaluate those beliefs on top of everything else was too much.
"Let me in Roo...you cant keep shouldering this on your own."
Strong arms enveloped her, and it was all Reed could do not to sag into Jaes embrace and the safety her body remembered finding there. Can I? Can I trust this woman? Do I want to? Yes. But still something held her back. Some last instinct for self-preservation kept her from stepping over the abyss. Her knees buckled slightly, tension undermining her strength and Jae guided her to the floor, not letting her fall. "Ive got you."
And Reed stepped over. The familiar words forming a bridge between them. "My son." Then the burden of unshed tears crashed over her swallowing the rest of her words in their torrent and she burrowed into the shoulder cradling her head, anchoring herself again to the slight blonde.
Of all the things Jae had expected to hear, this hadnt even been in the running. Her son. That raised more questions than it answered but suddenly a lot of little things about Reed made sense. It didnt explain the homophobia, but it did explain why the actress had agreed to make a movie for a man who by all accounts she hated...a man whos set she had walked away from, all but destroying her career in the process.
Shed been worried that she had pushed the actress too far. That she had let her frustration get to her. But the actress hadnt run, and Jae had hung in, probing for information. The odd part was that she had had to put her directors hat aside and just be Jae. It usually went the other way when she got herself into sensitive type chats, her professional mask allowed her to weather the storms of intimacy and kept the personal stake in events to a minimum. Jae knew shed done it with Becky, had let the other woman blame it on her job and then had played the part expected of her.
The silent sobs of the woman in her arms were beginning to subside and Jae tried to think of what to say next. It was important that Reed not feel vulnerable or embarrassed. The actress had probably been hit with too many questions already, so as much as she wanted more details, Jae sensed this was not the time to ask for them.
They must have been talking and sitting there for longer than she realized because the natural light in the room was throwing long shadows into the corner. Jae shifted slightly and leaned so her back was against the bed, drawing Reed with her. The new position freed one arm and she wrapped it more securely around the other woman. The phone rang in her room and she let its shrill ring fill the quiet air, and moved her hand in small circles over Reeds back, hoping that the phone would stop ringing before the mood was lost.
Time lost all sense of meaning for Jae as she sat in the gathering darkness. The slow measured beats of her own heart at odds with the ragged rhythm of Reeds breathing, yet strangely tied together by the insistent pounding of the actress heart, which Jae could feel beating against her side.
The sense of peace that she had glimpsed during the carrousel ride was back, stronger this time and Jae tilted her head back and let it claim her. Shallow breaths filled the room, hers and Reeds chests rising and falling together as the actress calmed in her arms.
Her mind wandered, tripping along paths that twisted through her mind, as she allowed free rein to her imagination. It was so easy to translate the immediate weight of the woman in her arms to scenery of a future. Ruthlessly she thrust those thoughts away, and drifted instead into a kata, letting her mind perform the exercise routine that her muscles knew by heart.
Reed stirred, and the spell broke. Jae realized she still hadnt figured out what she should say. Raven tresses spilled across the blondes shoulder as Reed slid back a little, no longer burrowed into Jaes chest. But she didnt pull completely away either, leaving her head pillowed on Jaes shoulder.
Jae turned her head slightly. Blue eyes rimmed with red looked back at her solemnly so she smiled gently. "Jacqueline," she whispered.
Reeds brow furrowed in confusion.
Chuckling she spoke louder, her voice sounded full and loud to her ears after the quiet of the recent past. "Its short for Jacqueline."
The low laugh that rang out through the room warmed her unexpectedly and Jae knew she had found the right thing to say.
Light steam filled the airspace in front of the bathroom. Tiny droplets of water condensed on the mirror hung on the wall, the small beads running down the polished face in haphazard trails of clarity on the mostly obscured surface. Even more steam filled the bathroom, hiding the occupant of the bath from view, even though Jae could clearly hear the water lapping against the sides of the tub as Reed moved around.
Careful to balance the two mugs in her left hand, she rapped lightly on the open bathroom door, not wanting to startle Reed. "Cocoas here, want it now or later?" Jae hovered at the edge of the small room, wary about intruding on the actress privacy.
Water slapped against metal and flesh as Reed moved in response to her summons. "Cmon in."
Jae shook her head then entered the room. Yet another inconsistency about Reed. Modesty did not appear to be a problem. She inadvertently glanced down as she handed over the mug. Her hand touched Reeds momentarily and she was glad that the actress had taken a firm grip on the cup.
Laid out in the tub was the most erotic form Jae had ever seen. Hastily she averted her eyes and tried to erase the lingering image of the woman from her minds eye. Cmon Jae, she trusts you, this is no time get moonstruck. She took a seat on the toilet, facing the same direction as Reed, and took a slow sip from her own mug. Her pulse returned to normal and she was able to push aside the sight of Reeds body barely hidden by opaque water and migratory bubbles.
Silence prevailed and Jae tried to figure out how to broach the subject of Reeds son.
"You could just ask you know. In fact, it could be considered the opening to polite social conversation." Reeds tone was matter of fact, almost offhand, but Jae could read the humour colouring the words as the actress turned one of her own arguments against her.
Laughing she looked sidelong at Reed. "Busted, hunh?"
"Well I think its the longest youve gone without asking a single question since I met you." Reed had rested the mug on her stomach, just above her navel, palms cupping the stoneware, elbows resting comfortably at her sides.
"Whats his name?"
"Nice. Gaelic?" Thats it Jae, stick with easy ones. She took another swallow from her mug while waiting for Reed to answer.
Instead, the actress took another drink, the water sloshing around as she moved, and just nodded.
It was nice, Jae reflected to spend time with a woman and not have to worry about all the things involved in being romantically entangled with them. When silences broke out between her and Reed, she no longer felt the need to fill them, to entertain the actress. She crossed her legs and leaned back into the small divider in the wall behind her, resting her weight on the wall instead of the silver hardware and fixtures.
"Howd you get from Jacqueline to Jae?"
"Cross my heart," she did so solemnly. "There were three other Jacquelines in my class so I jumped at the excuse and shortened it."
"I still dont see it."
"Ah, but let me tell you what I shortened it from - Jacqueline Anna Elizabeth," she waited for Reed to catch on.
A warm chuckle reverberated from the three walls around the tub then filled the room, and Jae laughed along with her, the memory of her mothers reaction to her shortened name, sparking her own mirth.
"Riordan likes to be called Rio."
"How do you get from Rear-den to Rio?" She sounded out the name, its unfamiliar syllables giving her trouble.
"First three letters, R-I-O." The cup was placed on the floor next to the tub and with a sudden heave Reed stood, water sluicing from her body.
Jae stood, trying to find somewhere, anywhere else to look. "Ill leave you to dry off and stuff," she mumbled, then made for the door.
She froze, hoping that when she turned around, Reed would already have draped a towel around her body. Reed was perfectly safe, Jae would never touch her, but that didnt mean the director wanted any more detailed pictures to add to idle fantasies either.
The bath had done wonders for Reed. The actress eyes were no longer puffy and her body had taken on a healthy glow, the steam and heat stimulating the pores in the golden skin. Aqua gems smiled at her, and Jae felt her sense of reality slide a little further beyond her control.
"Thanks." Reed smiled at her, an honest to goodness open smile and Jae nearly forgot to breathe. The smile transformed the stark angularity of Reeds face, revealing an unexpected depth of warmth.
"Youre welcome," she said, the left, closing the door slightly behind her.
This was the best part of a bath, the rapid pass of the slightly rough fibres over her skin. The motion reddened her skin in a different way than the hot water of the bath had and left every inch within reach tingling and alive. Reed threw the towel on the recently vacant toilet seat and pulled the shower curtain closed. A side benefit to hotel room showers was the unlimited hot water.
Turning the water on full blast, she stood under the pulsating spray, letting the jets of liquid fire wash away the day and anything the bath or towel hadnt. Reed sensed her reprieve from Jaes questions was nearly over and she weighed how much to tell the other woman. How much? How far do I trust you? It would though be nice to not have to be so secretive about calling Rio, or his calls to her. Would Jae, if she knew the reason, help with the time difference? Or do I want to owe her anything? The water beat down on her face, as she tilted her head up to meet the blast.
Ill answer her questions about Rio, but nothing about the past or about Roan. That was a piece of information best buried with -- With who, his father? Angrily she rubbed the water out of her eyes. You were never his father you bastard. Reed turned the water up, increasing the temperature, then grabbed the soap and began to lather her body again.
Gingerly she poked at the core of anger, surprised to find it there at all. The memories had been locked down so tightly that even when she thought about the night that Rio was born, she felt nothing, not even on the night shed heard Roan was dead. Heidi had seemed to feel more than she did...and her friend didnt know the half of it.
Would Jae accept half the story, half the truth? I hope so. She smiled then spit the water that filled her mouth back into the shower, it would probably be just like Jae to hit the Emporium and send souvenirs back to Rio. And what would be so terrible about that? Nothing. She finished her mental conversation and turned off the water, then stepped out of the tub.
The terry cloth robe barely came to her calves and she cinched the belt tight, wishing her own powder blue one was lurking about. Reed canted her head to one side and squeezed the excess moisture from the long black tresses. By habit, she scanned the flattened hair, eyes sharp for signs of the first gray. God only knows I should have been gray long since. None. She gave herself a satisfied smirk in the mirror and winked. Blue eyes twinkled back at her in surprise, the heavy lines of tension that she expected to find lining her eyes were gone, and if Reed didnt know better shed have said she looked almost happy.
"Happiness isnt in your cards. Remember?"
"You say something Reed?" Jae called from the sitting room.
"Just mumbling to myself." A quick flick of the wrist and the towel was over the shower rod and the light was off. "Anymore cocoa?"
A huge carafe was held aloft. "I figured it was going to be a long night." The director clarified, smiling.
"You going to share?" She held out her mug imperiously, haughtily standing at her full height, a smidgen under six feet.
"You do know that Amazon Ice Queen isnt a rank right?"
Momentarily she flinched before catching the humour in Jaes lilting remark. Youre the one that brought it into the open, so deal. "That depends entirely on your point of view."
The blonde laughed, and Reed found herself glad that she had let the joke slip by. Her eyes narrowed slightly. The next crewman who uses it might not be so lucky though. It would be just her luck to have Jae add it to the growing list of nicknames.
"So tell me."
Reeds stomach clinched. Here it comes.
"What are little boys into these days?" Jae finished, then patted the couch next to her.
She eased down onto the upholstered surface, the large cushion giving gently under her weight. "I dont know about most little boys, but Rio has a thing for computers and Kinex."
"Easy things to play with when youre sick."
The mug nearly crashed to the floor, the relaxed grip she had on it not almost not enough to keep the cup and its contents balanced on the arm of the forest green sofa. "How...?"
The director shrugged. "I listened Reed, as much to what you didnt say as to what you did."
"Oh." She took a gulp of the cooling drink, buying time to respond. That was different. Someone was listening.
"You dont have to talk about this tonight." Green eyes danced with humour. "We could rehearse instead."
"You know that being caught between a rock and a hard place is just a proverb right?" Reed deadpanned.
"Only in Newfoundland, Roo, only in Newfoundland." Came the sober pronouncement.
The incongruity of it struck her and Reed laughed, once again clutching the cup to keep from spilling its contents onto the floor and anything else within reach. "Rio would like you."
"Really? How come?"
"Cause you make me laugh." The remark was off-hand, but the truth slammed home. Jae did make her laugh, more than anyone except Rio. Suddenly the idea of sharing with this woman wasnt nearly as frightening a prospect as it had been. "Can I have a rain check on the rehearsal?" she asked softly.
Jae took a long sip obviously relishing the flavour of the rich cocoa. Cheeks bulged slightly as she swirled it around her mouth. "It doesnt waste my time," she said.
It took Reed a moment to mentally catch up to the director. Like the blondes body, it seemed her mind was in constant motion. Even now in a time of seeming repose, Jae wasnt completely still. Reminded of her earlier angry words, Reed rubbed her thumb along the rim of the mug. "Okay," she mumbled.
A hand brushed her collarbone where small drops of water were still pooled the last remnants of the water seeping from the inky tresses. "But you got to admit, it does look like you are melting."
"Just one more." The location director for Entertainment Tonight was pushing for another set of shots, and had pushed her patience to the limit in the process.
"Were done. I have work to do."
"But Ms. Cavanaugh."
The protest fell on deaf ears as Jae flipped through the storyboards. Shoot this one, this angle is wrong for the sun, shoot this. The director looked up at the fading light. They had all the romping shots they needed, thanks to Entertainment Tonight, but she was running out of time for the rest.
"Marks," she called before her temporary assistant could issue the order. The actors obediently took their places and waited for the cue to begin moving. Reed and Gwen were just out of camera range, ready to stroll through the framed shot when cued.
Filming a crowd scene wasnt as simple as aiming the camera at a crowd and taking footage. The details were important and needed to be staged in order to standout. Little things like team logos on baseball caps were important to help the audience feel part of the movie. It didnt matter that the odds of seeing some one they knew were beyond miniscule - what mattered was the illusion that those people could be your friends or neighbors. Normally they could have incorporated crowd shots from the park, since entering Disney World itself was implicit permission to be photographed or filmed. It wasnt a good idea for this film, all they needed was for someone in the crowd to object to being in the film and release could be held up months while the legal tangles were sorted out or the scenes were re-edited.
Jae studied the human composition, decided it didnt need any tweaking and motioned to Reed and Gwen. "Roll Cameras."
Sound wasnt involved in this, the dialogue and crowd noises would be added later in the studio. The scene unfolded in her monitor, and she tracked the movement of the leads through the crowd, careful to ensure that the extras werent simply moving back and forth around them. There. Damn. "Cut." A young boy had crossed in front of Gwen and Reed for the third time.
The assistant, an anxious young man, materialized at her shoulder. It wasnt his fault he wasnt Cait, so she kept her voice calm. "Reset the crowd, and if you have to keep using the same kid, at least get him a different hat or shirt."
"Yes, Maam." He sped off, clipboard in hand.
The Director of Photography, Erich Weiss, joined her, sketchbook and loose drawings bundled under his arm. "Going to be a gorgeous sunset."
"What have you got in mind?"
"Well weve lost the natural light for the next scene, and unless you want to come back tomorrow, why dont we shoot it this way...from here." He traced his finger along the original drawing then quickly added details with a piece of conté.
"Right, and have the medium range shots come from this direction." Jae added some lines of her own and nodded her approval. "Lets get this one finished and squeeze the next one off."
"Ill get the third camera prepped and ready to move." The Director of Photography was already turning to find a Foley operator. His gray hair neatly tied back in a ponytail; the DP was a walking advertisement for the 60s style artist.
"Marks." Everybody returned to his or her places, and Jae counted off mentally. "Roll Cameras."
"Rolling." The cameraman and focus operator tracked the movement, slowly panning across the group. To her left, another camera recorded the scene, the lens moving with the traffic flowing in the opposite direction to the leads.
Finally. They had it. "Cut and print." Jae rolled her shoulders to relieve the tension that had built up between her shoulder blades.
The grips and best boys swung into action, rapidly dismantling the minimal lighting and camera set-up. Two Gators were hitched up to the small equipment trailers and Jae popped into the passenger seat of one of the small green all terrain vehicles. The engine throbbed making the small vehicle vibrate and conversation difficult, so she opted to wait before calling Cait.
She was racing full dark, but Erichs plan was a good one. "Got to remember to thank him for that." The DP could have walked away when Roan died. Like Jae herself, Erichs contract had been with Roan personally. In fact, a lot of the crew still had vacancies in the senior positions; the rest cobbled together with a mix of friends and people who had elected to stay.
They stopped and the techies began unloading and setting up, some of the work already accomplished by Erich and the foley crew. That had turned out to be one advantage of the upheaval and vacancies, the crew was less rigid about tasks and the set had a team atmosphere.
"Are the stand-ins ready?" Jae asked.
"Yes, Ms. Cavanaugh."
"Get them to the tables, well do the angle checks and lighting." Her attention was already back on the storyboards. Her assistant mentally dismissed, Jae ran invisible tape in her imagination, mentally capturing each shot she wanted from this last series. The close up shots had been filmed earlier in the week, and they needed to make sure that continuity held between the exterior ambiance shots and the detail sequences. "Are Lewis and McKitrick through wardrobe yet?"
"Ill check." The young man moved with a sense of urgency that had been lacking earlier and returned swiftly, slightly out of breath. "Just finishing."
"Were ready Jae." Erich called across the tangle of wires that connected the cameras to the huge batteries. The whole process had taken them less than twenty minutes, and Jae began to relax a little. In spite of the time lost with ET, it looked like they might finish up tonight after all.
"Places." The young AD called, and the director took a second to flash him a smile and a nod of approval.
A waiter approached the couple seated at the table, both women smiling as the order was placed. Jaes monitor focused more tightly on the action than what the other cameras were actually shooting. The wind ruffled Reeds hair slightly and Jae smiled to herself. In contrast to the tension of shooting the news magazine footage in tandem with regular shooting earlier the actress seemed more relaxed in her role than ever.
It showed on the tape too. For a moment, Jae was tempted to reshoot the close-up footage. Let it go Jae, its two minutes of the movie - and thats if it stays in. Thats what the whole week came down to, seven and a half minutes of screen time, or less.
"Cut. Hold places. That was good people. Just one more time to make sure we have it all." Jae made some notes on her shooting draft, already editing the footage in her mind. "Reset, and on my mark." The prop crew whisked the original drinks away from the table and the waiter returned to his place in the shadows.
"Set." Props signaled they were ready.
The action unfolded again, a near replica of what had just been shot. Out of the corner of her eye, the director could see the sound-effects team making notes about the noises around them. Like the other exterior shots the sound track for this segment would be laid down in the sound studio.
The monitor showed only the steady progress of the scene, no hitches. Good. "Cut. Thats a wrap."
Around her the crew erupted in a flurry of activity. Lights, cameras and batteries disappeared leaving only the splendor of a twilight sky in a brightly decorated theme park behind them.
Distracted, the beauty was lost on Jae. "Cait, what did Paramount say?" She clasped the cell between her shoulder and ear, and scribbled noted with her free hands.
"Hello. Im fine, thanks for asking."
"What? Okay, hello Cait, how are you, hows Thom? Now what did Paramount say?"
"They can give you three hours. Editing bay two."
"Thanks. Knew I could count on you." She traded the pencil for the phone, ready to ring off. Her right hand found its way to her hair, and Jae leaned on her elbow, fingers entwined with her hair, thinking.
"Wait. I chartered the plane. Ill fax the details through to the hotel. Flight leaves at one."
Caitlynn chuckled, "right. Howd the shoot go?"
"Lousy. Next location shoot youre coming too."
"Next location shoot is Michigan in winter, and Im thinking you will be just fine on your own.
"Wuss." She playfully accused her assistant.
"Do you have any idea what a hat does to my hair?"
"Worse than rain?"
"You know it hon. Speaking of which, I have a date with Raoul the Stylist and some silk therapy." Unlike Jaes short blonde locks, Caits long hair refused to behave and needed taming on a regular basis.
"What colour this time?"
"Same old basic black, goes with anything."
"We could rename the colour. Something like, filme noire." The location equipment had all been packed away and a crewman loitered to her right, ready to steal her chair the second she moved. Co-operating, Jae stood.
"That stunk even for you."
"Yeah well, we all cant be Ellen. I have to go. Ill send the new film up tonight after I check the dailies and do a preliminary cut."
"Ill warn editing. Chambers was impressed with the roller coaster footage by the way."
"Good. Night Cait."
Mood improved Jae pocketed the cell phone and joined the DP and her assistant. "Ready?"
"Totally." Erich answered.
The assistant also nodded, and followed behind them as they made for one of the secret park entrances and their ride to Paramount.
A twinge in the back of her mind made her pause before she joined the others as they piled into the rental car. Jae slumped against the passenger door and tried to put her finger on the tenuous feeling. Nothing came to mind and she shrugged it off as fatigue from a long day that was only going to get longer.
Jae wasnt going to show, shed been stood up. Reed tried to shake-off the disappointment. She dug in the pocket of her pants until she felt the leather strap of the Timex Atlantis watch. Ten oclock, now what?
Holly and her friend Maribel made their way through the crowd to where she sat at a table overlooking an artificial lake. Originally shed assumed the two were lovers and been amazed to discover that they were just friends. Maribel had joked that the author wasnt her type, and Reed had wondered for a split-second just what her type was before the librarian had revealed that she was straight.
Forcing herself to be polite, Reed stood and gestured at the empty chairs. Around her, excitement swelled as families and assorted groups of people awaited the first volley of the laser light show. A quick computer search had verified that Disney World did indeed have the same laser light show as Disney Land - Jae had simply misspelled it. So much for that surprise.
Holly took a long look at her, and Reed was left with the uncomfortable feeling the other woman had seen more than the actress had intended to reveal. Whatever it was, the author didnt comment, and took a seat next to Reed, facing the water. Likewise, Maribel eased her chair around the end of the table to bring the action on the lake into view.
Music filled the air then a bright flash of light revealed the Sorcerers Apprentice as the dance between the forces of light and dark began.
An entirely different brand of music spilled onto the street where, two hours later, she stood outside a nightclub, flanked by Holly and Maribel.
"Are you sure about this?"
"No." In spite of her denial, Reed moved toward the wooden door.
The pedestrian traffic moved around them, no one pausing to spare them a second glance. Neon signs glowed eerily in the lamplit night, diffuse colours garishly reflecting from walls and windows. The lettering above the awning read RUMOURS, gold nearly faded into the black canvas.
Startled she jumped slightly, then turned to look at Holly. The other woman wore an enigmatic grin. "What?" she asked, drawing out the word?
"Youve been staring at the door for five minutes."
Without replying, she tugged on the door. A long flight of red carpeted steps stretched in front of her, terminating in a gaping maw of night. Periodically flashes of light revealed that there was more beyond the foot of the stairs.
Cmon Reed its a bar, not a jungle. There are no lions, tigers, and bears. The actress steeled her resolve and barreled down the stairs and into the room beyond. Oh my. She stopped eyes wide.
Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined what the inside of a womans bar would actually be like. Not even close. A pool table stood in one corner, a dozen or so women gathered around the field of combat. Almost not quite, she thought wryly. Holly and Maribel moved past her and Reed dug herself out of examining the bar long enough to follow them to a back corner.
She locked eyes with Holly as they silently argued over who got the catbird seat, the other woman letting her win. "Thank-you," she acknowledged sitting on the sofa, Holly settling in next to her, while Maribel perched on the edge of a chair across from them.
Reed continued to study the surroundings. Every available inch of wall space was either painted black or covered with a variety of framed posters. Some of which were interesting. She snorted, interesting is an understatement. To her left Melissa Etheridge displayed her back along with her guitar, sans shirt, while to her immediate right two women - at least she thought there were only two - were engaged in some form of tantric yoga.
The dance floor teemed with wriggling bodies in various states of dress...or undress, depending she supposed, on your point of view. She blinked, as her point of view revealed more of a dancing blonde than she really needed to see.
That was though, to her surprise, the exception rather than the rule. Most of the women were just sitting and chatting, some were dancing, and some were draped over the pool table, but no one was making out in the corners.
"What can I get you girls?"
"Whiskey sour." Reed ordered, adding hard liquor the three beers she had consumed earlier. The waitress eyes lingered on hers a moment before the brunette turned to Holly.
"And you?" Her eyes darted back to Reeds, though she was taking the librarians order.
"Pepsi, please." Maribel got up and made for the opposite side of the bar where, Reed presumed, the facilities were located.
"No problem." The woman left with one last look back.
"This is the last time I bring you to a womens bar." Holly shook her head.
"Never bring a babe magnet to a womans bar when you, yourself, are single. Reed, she was checking you out."
"She was not." Reed muttered. Was she? She replayed the brief encounter over in her mind trying to pinpoint what Holly was talking about. I dont feel like Ive been checked out. Christ. Now I sound like a library book. The woman hadnt leered, there was no whistle, no how do you like your eggs?, nothing, or at least nothing she was used to getting from men. She decided that Holly was pulling her leg.
The music throbbed and hummed. Acoustic rock poured over the dancers and spilled out to the edges of the bar. Sheryl Crows tribe was busy doing it on a Saturday night just to see what it was all about. Which pretty much summed up why she was here. Okay. So. Now what?
The brunette waitress sat on the arm of the loveseat, one leg almost, but not quite, touching hers. Reed swallowed and looked at Holly.
The author leaned in and draped an arm across Reeds shoulders. "Let me."
Almost instantly the gap between her leg and the servers widened. The woman made change for Holly, then left without a backward glance.
Holly leaned back, smiling. "No problem."
Reed shot her a suspicious look. "What?"
"Fine okay. She was checking me out."
"Who was checking you out Reed?" Maribel asked as she returned.
"The waitress." Holly answered.
Maribel nodded. "She was cute."
"I thought you were straight?" Reed asked, dumbfounded.
"I am. Havent you ever found a woman aesthetically pleasing? Not sexually, but just easy on the eyes?" Maribel had settled back into her chair and was stirring the ice in her glass around with the straw.
Reeds first instinct was to say, No, of course not. But having lived and worked in the industry she knew she evaluated the way a woman looked all the time - if for no other reason to she how she compared. Hollywood was driven by The Look - you had to know how you stacked up. "Yes. I suppose," she hedged.
"No, not the meat market stuff of Tinseltown. Aesthetics." Maribel looked around the bar. "Look at the short woman standing by that pillar. See how her features are balanced, how when she smiles it lights up her eyes?"
Reed looked, trying not to evaluate the woman by the standards of Hollywood competition. She could see what Maribel meant, the young woman had vitality, a lot like Jaes, and it did make her attractive.
She looked around the bar, amazed at the variety of women present.
"Youre staring." Holly was watching her with that enigmatic grin again.
"Well youve been observing the blonde in the corner for the last few minutes."
"So, shes headed this way." The enigmatic grin became a full smile. "Welcome to Method Acting 201."
Oh shit! Now what? The blonde had threaded her way past the line of women waiting for bar service and Reed felt her stomach tighten. What the hell do I say? "Hello. Im not a Lesbian but I play one in a movie." She was out of time and the woman smiled down at her.
"Dance with me?"
"No?" Maribel echoed the question. "Come on Reed, itll be fun." The dance mix of Chers newest chart-topper poured from the speakers and the parquet dance floor teemed with women.
"Ya Reed. Itll be fun." Holly stood and moved next her friend waiting for Reed to make up her mind.
"Please," the stranger added, then offered her hand. "Names MJ."
Maribel cut in smoothly and performed the introductions. "Im Maribel, this is Holly and thats Reed."
"Cool. Shall we?"
Reluctantly the actress trailed them to the dance floor and tried not to think about what she was doing. What the hell am I doing here? I am in a womens bar. She used the same term Holly had used. Dancing with a woman - who is checking me out. More alcohol. Definitely need more alcohol. The song ended and Reed bolted for her seat, disappointed to discover she had finished her drink.
"Would you like another?" MJ asked. The tall blonde was leaning against the arm of the sofa and had picked up Reeds empty glass.
She nodded in acquiescence.
"A woman of few words. I like that." She held the tumbler under her nose and sniffed at the remains. "Whiskey sour, Ol Granddads." The other woman squeezed her shoulder, and it was all Reed could do not to flinch. "Be right back."
"I cant do this Holly."
The author stared at her a moment before speaking. "What did you think was going to happen? Its a gay bar Reed. Women are going to hit on you. That was the point wasnt it?"
Holly cut her off. "Get over it Reed. Its just a kiss. Its not contagious and even if it were its not life threatening. And for the record, if you plan to get drunk enough to let her kiss you, then youre worse than any man."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
The author leaned forward. "She might be a dyke Reed, but believe it or not she has feelings. Just like you, and just like me or Maribel or Jae or any other human being."
"Dont compare me to them."
"Its not a them anymore Reed."
"Fuck-you," she spat.
Holly laughed, "that would be a little hypocritical of you wouldnt it?"
She took the stairs two at a time, unconcerned with the incoming traffic she shouldered her way through the throng and escaped onto the street.
"There." Jae leaned back in her chair and hit play. The tape was still disjointed, but the majority of what she wanted to convey came across, with plenty of extra material as fudge space.
Her assistant snored softly in a corner. His tousled black hair fell over his eyes as he slumbered in a chair tilted against the wall, the nineteen-hour day having proved too demanding.
"Carll be around in a moment." Erich re-entered the room.
"No problem. Have you decided how you want to frame Crandon Beach yet?"
"The basic blocking. But I want to see the beach for myself first. If it werent for the issue of sunset and moonrise, Id shoot it in LA." The horizon position was wrong to be shooting the East Coast scenes on the West Coast. And there was no way that she was going to use a cheesy CGI moon.
The DP nodded. "I had a look about two months ago. Nice beach, plenty of room for lighting and equipment."
"Thats a blessing at least. One less thing to worry about."
"How many takes do you figure?"
She thought about it. To get the action itself? Not more than six or seven. But to get the emotion of the scene? I dont even want to think about it. But it might be a plan to order lots of extra tape. Jae ran her fingers through her hair. "Put me down for twenty."
Erich laughed and made a note in a little blue pad. "Optimist."
"Yeah well, its bad for morale if the director bets too high." Truth was, shed be happy to get it shot in less than fifty. It was a time-honoured tradition for the crew to bet on the number of takes that some scenes would require though the director was supposed to turn a blind eye to it.
"Cars here Maam." Their driver stuck his head in the room, to let them know he had arrived.
"Thanks." Jae picked up her backpack and walked across the room. "Wake-up." For her assistant it was after mid-night, for her it was still early, her circadian rhythms still marched to LA time. Groggily he got up and followed them out to the car.
Jae leaned against the locked door and mulled over the upcoming shoot. How do I get the fireworks to...Oh, my God...the fireworks. Jae sat up and hooked her fingers in her hair. I cant believe I did that. Why Not? Her internal narrator asked, calling her on it. You did it to Becky all the time.
The drive to The Floridian seemed to take three times as long as she remembered, and it was with equal measures of relief and anxiety that she greeted the sight of the familiar lake and Victorian architecture.
The elevator was in league with the roads and took twice its normal time to descend to the lobby. In perfect symbiotic application of Murphys Law, the car filled with other passengers, at least one of who got off at every floor between the lobby and their room on the six floor.
Jae paused before she slid the keycard into the slot, mustering her courage and arguments. Right. Its not like you dont have practice with this. Her internal voice popped up again. Its not like shes your girlfriend or anything, now is it Jae mgrrl? The room was dark, no lights were on, and there was no sound coming from Reeds half.
She found the light switch and illuminated the room. The connecting door was shut. "Not good Jae. Not good at all." Not since their first night in the hotel had either one of them shut the door and Jae stared at it in disbelief. Now what? She didnt dare try the handle, to see if it was locked or not, in case she woke Reed.
"Ill grovel." One boot hit the floor with a thud and she struggled with the other one before sitting down on the bed to remove it. Question was, how? Girlfriend groveling she had down pat, and for the most part it worked. And for the rare occasions it failed, there was always flowers, or home cooked dinners.
But what would Reed accept? Try this Wunderkind, the truth. Would Reed understand the truth? Jae flopped back onto the bed, still wearing her chinos and shirt. Would she accept that sometimes when Im working I just lose track of the time...that I get so excited by the way that images come together that everything else gets pushed aside? Her fingers again crept through her hair, the silky touch of the strands felt soothing against her palm. No one else had.
Even Becky, who worked in the industry, hadnt understood that she honestly lost track of things when she was working. The actress had accused her of doing it deliberately and nothing Jae said could convince her otherwise, so eventually shed quit trying. Her girlfriends eyes would glaze over when technical talk came up and Jae had given up trying to share her work.
Yeah, thats the ticket, try the truth first. Jae smiled to herself and pulled her sketchpad off the nightstand. And if that doesnt work, try a Guinness and a half dozen cheese dogs.
The telephone pealed shrilly and Jae fumbled for her cell before she realized it was the one on the nightstand. "Hello?"
"Is this Ms. Cavanaugh?"
"Yes," she answered. What in the world?
"Im the bartender at Tuckers, do you know a Ms. Lewis?"