Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Two weeks in Vegas—that’s all it took for Eric to completely fuck himself over. Two weeks.
I loved Vegas. It was fun … for a weekend. Any longer than that and you started to go a little crazy, and it seems that Eric did just that. Pam had linked me to various things—mostly paparazzi videos—of him looking off his trolley most of the time and attempting to look as if he wasn’t. And the girls. Lots of them—different hotels, different clubs—and of course, Sandy. I just rolled my eyes and clicked the little x in the corner. I kept telling myself that he wasn’t my problem, his problems were his own, and I had nothing to do with him anymore.
But as it turns out that was a lie.
The premiere of Never Look Back was held in Los Angeles and it was a typical HBO affair. Mostly people from the network turned up, getting photographed and answering questions about their shows. It was great PR all around and it was very much in the vein of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.’ Eric was a no show, which left most of the questions up to me and Amy (my PR) as to why he wasn’t there. Everyone knew why he wasn’t. He was ass backwards in Vegas probably catching VD or something. Still, I smiled and posed for pictures even though the red carpet was one of the scariest places on earth. I felt okay because I had my dad with me. Everyone was thrilled to see him back in the States again and questions were thrown his way about his career, but he was a good daddy and made them keep the focus on the project at hand. It was late November, and even in LA it was becoming just a little bit chilly, especially since I was stuck in incredibly high and uncomfortable heels and a silk dress. Needless to say, I was glad when the questions and posing came to an end and I could sit and watch the finished product—again in my case—with my dad for the first time.
He was as proud as punch and it made me so happy to know that he could see my finished product. Dinner and drinks with him, Pam and Lafayette that night was so special to me. Lafayette was hilarious at first, treating my dad like he was the Holy Grail as far as actors were concerned … which I guess to some people he was. My dad was a legend, though he’d tell you differently. But in the superficial world that is Hollywood, he was revered. I loved that he didn’t buy into it. I loved that he took me away from becoming a Hollywood protégé when he did and gave us both a normal life. I can’t say how my life would be now if I hadn’t had that chance.
Maybe I’d end up like Eric—pissing my considerable talent down the toilet just because I didn’t know how to handle it. I wouldn’t know how to handle it because no one would have taught me. I pitied him, I did. Well, after I got done being fucking mad as hell at him for leaving me in the lurch when it came to the premiere, I’d be sure and make my anger known the next time I ran into him.
“Daughter, whiskey and I do not mix well,” my father said as we took our seats outside the popular little café on West Third. He had his sunglasses in place for his hangover—that he insisted he didn’t have—while I had mine in place because I was fully convinced that I was dying.
“Whiskey is the drink of the devil; vodka isn’t far behind,” I said, placing my order and inhaling my coffee.
“So, I was looking forward to meeting Eric again last night. Any particular reason he didn’t show up?”
He was a drunken idiot on God knows what else in Vegas having far too good a time to give a fuck about his career obligations.
“I don’t know and I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, he can go to hell.”
“Now, Sookie, that’s not very nice.”
I glared at him over my glasses. “So I need to coddle him because he’s an overgrown man-child who can’t get his head out of his ass? No, thanks.”
“Maybe he just needs a friend.” My father, always the bleeding heart.
“I’m sure he has plenty of friends.”
He shook his head. “Darling you know what I mean. A real friend, not a fair-weather friend that this town is so full of.”
“Eric has nothing to do with my life dad, not anymore, and really it just… wouldn’t be a good idea. I mean yes, he clearly needs a kick up the ass, but until he sees that, you know he won’t listen even if I talked to him.”
He shrugged. “I just thought I’d suggest it, that’s all. He used to be such a good kid from what I recall. I don’t know how his family let this happen.”
“Well, he doesn’t really talk to them I don’t think. His mom is married to some Wall Street dick and his dad… I don’t know, is all frolicking through fields in Sweden with his new wife. I don’t know…”
“Feel free to frolic dad, really. Speaking of which, I’m just going to come out and ask, what’s the deal with you and Maria?”
“What do you mean?” he asked, looking at his sandwich.
“I mean… do you love her?”
“Dad! It’s a perfectly acceptable question. You two have been together a long time.”
“She simply works for me, that’s all. You know this. She’s been working for us for a very long time.”
“Right, and that’s why she and Ames moved in and you treat Ames like a second daughter? Or why Maria looks at you like you hung the moon?”
He was blushing. My father was actually blushing.
“Fine, fine… be that way, then. But I will find out eventually. You know you can’t keep anything from me.”
“Sookie, there is a man taking our photos in the bushes,” he said, looking over my head.
“I know, just ignore them dad.”
“Them? As in there’s more than one?”
“Yep. There’s a guy to my left in a car, too. Please don’t—”
“Well, do we know them?”
“No, they’re paparazzi.”
“How odd. And they just follow you around for no reason?”
“Pretty much. It never used to be like this, but lately it has. And I guess since you’re like the Bigfoot of Hollywood, they’re cashing in on you being here too.”
“Oh… that’s very strange. I mean, these strange men… it’s unacceptable. How do we know they’re paparazzi and not just creepy men with cameras spying on young girls?”
He had a point.
“We… well, we don’t.”
He stood up and began to walk towards them. “Dad… Daddy what are you doing?”
“I’ll be right back.”
My mouth was agape as my dad walked over to the photographer. I saw him extend his hand and what I assumed was giving the guy the third-degree. I just rolled my eyes and drank my coffee. Pam emailed me to confirm my meeting with the producers of Fallen later on that day—I was signing my contract. It was exciting since I’d never been offered something so long term before, and I loved the plot of the pilot that I’d read. I decided that I needed a little more stability in my life and this offered me that. I hoped we got picked up after the pilot at least, but if not, I’d be sure and try and find something similar. I wanted to make a home and put down roots. As much as I didn’t like LA, I had come to the conclusion that if I wanted to act full time, I’d have to deal with it and get to know LA as an adult—find my feet as it were.
My dad returned a few minutes later. “What did you say? Really dad, it’s best to just try and get on with things and ignore them.”
“His name is John, he works for an agency, and he was sent here for you today.”
“Why? We didn’t even know where we were going to stop for food!”
“Exactly. He just said his boss sent him here and that they knew you’d be here. I found that rather odd, but anyway, he’s a cancer, he grew up in Connecticut and he moved to Los Angeles to be an actor but couldn’t catch a break. Also, he hates his job but it’s good money.”
“You found all that out in those few minutes?”
“Yes. And I asked him if he and his buddy would leave us be for now, and he oddly complied. He told me he was a big fan of mine and asked for my autograph. I gave it to him, of course.”
I laughed, I had to laugh. My dad certainly had a way with people.
I walked into the production offices of my new favorite studios, meeting with the executive producer as well as the main writer, and the casting agent. Signed, sealed and delivered as it were, things were going fine—more than fine. I was just on the right side of excited.
“Sookie, we’re just so thrilled to have you on board, really, and I think it’s time you met your co-star, don’t you?”
“Matt told me that you guys weren’t sure last week. I didn’t know you’d cast him that quickly.”
“Ah, yes. Well, last week was last week. This guy we’ve had our eye on for awhile, and well, everyone makes mistakes, right? And besides, you’re both a package deal in terms of chemistry. We really couldn’t think of anyone better…”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” I asked, again as I followed him from one meeting room into another, where I met Eric.
What the fuck was going on?
Thankfully, Eric looked as confused as I felt, and as hungover as I’ve ever seen anyone, ever. Jesus, he was a mess.
“Charlie Morgan, meet Lucas Lott.”
Eric and I raised our brows at him, hilariously at the same time.
“Excuse me?” I said, clearly missing a beat somewhere in this tune.
“We wanted it to be a surprise!” The tiny man with dyed black hair and an over excited air of camp said, his eyes glistening.
“Well, it certainly is that,” Eric said, standing up to stand next to me. I didn’t look at him.
“I’m not sure I get this, we’re cast… together? As leads?”
So much for never seeing him again. Jesus.
“Signed and sealed as of ten minutes ago. This is quite a trick I have to admit. But the look on both your faces, it’s rather priceless.”
I scowled and Eric just rolled his eyes.
“Look guys, the press line for Never Look Back, all they did was rave about you guys in print and on TV—the chemistry, the connection on screen—and that’s what we’re after for Charlie and Lucas. That’s the core of the story, or at least it will be when we get down to business. Now we’re still scouting for the day players and such. We’ve pieced together some people that we love for the supporting cast but as of now, you two are the only two signed. If all goes well, we’ll begin shooting the pilot in three weeks time. You’ll both be brought in for fittings and makeup tests. Eric, I can see you’re losing your tan already and that’s good. Keep it that way.”
Shocking, since he spent the last half a month in Vegas, probably ass backwards in some hotel room off his face on God knows what. I stayed silent. I needed to not judge him. He was a big boy, it was his life and his talent that he was fucking with, and sure now he was fucking with my life again. Could I really deal with such an unpredictable co-star? I’d just signed a six-year contract, and I’m guessing he did, too. Whether or not I could deal with him wasn’t the problem, I had to deal with him now, like it or not.
“I’ll give you guys a few minutes to talk and then we’ll be meeting with the guys to talk you through what we’re expecting, okay?” He nodded to both of us before taking his leave and his annoyingly perky clipboard with him.
I sat on the edge of the large conference table as Eric sat back in his chair.
“Well, this is unexpected.”
“You can say that again,” I agreed. “Look, I don’t know why you didn’t bother showing up at the premiere the other night and frankly I don’t care, but it was fucking unprofessional, Eric. And if that level of unprofessionalism is what I have to expect should this show get picked up? Then I’m done right now. I won’t stand for that bullshit. You really let me down.”
“No, okay, no. I saw the pictures and the video. I know what you were doing in Vegas, and exactly WHO you were doing, and you know what, that’s fine, but you fucked up on work, and a pretty big work thing it was, too.”
“I’m sorry. I wanted to make it, I tried to make it. I was at the damn airport and everything, but there was a problem with the engine and the flight was delayed and I was hung-over as fuck and fell asleep in the VIP lounge… and missed the flight out. And by the time I’d managed to get a ride back to LA, well, it was too late.”
“So let me guess, you went to drown your sorrows in some brewery?” I looked at him. He was a total mess—his shirt wrinkled and untucked, his hair a mess and a three-day-old beard on his face. He looked so much older than his years.
“I had a party to go to. It was Godric’s birthday.”
“Of course. Look, I just need to know how serious you are about this?”
“You think I’d have signed a six-year contract if I wasn’t? One fuck up, Sookie and it was for a fucking premiere, talking bullshit and posing for photos!”
“Right. I forgot you only like to ‘pose’ when it’s candid and miserable.”
“Why are you being such a bitch? You survived it didn’t you?”
“Yeah I did, but it was my first in a really long fucking time and I was hoping to have my co-star there to back me up. But that was my mistake thinking that I could depend on you. I won’t make it again. You’ve signed, I’ve signed and we’re both not willing to budge, that’s fine. I want this project to go well. I loved the script—”
“So did I…”
“Good, we agree on something. We’ll do this, right? We’ll work together? I just don’t want any of the rest of it leaking through, not again.”
“Meaning what, exactly?”
“Meaning, we’re co-workers, casual acquaintances, nothing more. From now on, anyway. I can’t fuck this up and by fucking you, I most certainly will fuck this up.”
“You will thank me. You need to focus and so do I. So lets do each other a favor and focus on the work and not each other this time, huh?”
“So, no fuck hot sex then?” he grinned, looking me over.
“Didn’t we agree on that already? At least I thought you agreed since Sandy’s back on the scene.”
“She’s not back on—”
“You know, I don’t even care. Like I said, you’re a big boy, make and break your own messes. I’m just your co-worker.”
“An awfully hostile co-worker,” he pointed out, and he wasn’t wrong.
I was in panic mode. I felt sorry for him. I felt bad for him … I felt for him full-stop. That was my neon sign for panic. My own shit wasn’t straight and here I was emulating my father’s bleeding heart and wanting nothing more than to take Eric under my proverbial wing and make him all better. But how could I even think of doing that? He wasn’t mine, and he certainly wasn’t mine to save, in any shape or form. So I was harsh, yes—undoubtedly so—but I had to protect myself. And in turn, protect him. I couldn’t interfere, it wasn’t my place. It wasn’t up to me to point out the broken pieces of his life if he wasn’t even willing to look for them himself. Like I said, I was just his co-worker… No matter how much it broke my heart to keep my distance, that’s what I’d have to do.
We both agreed to be professional and give the pilot our best shot. We were taken into a team meeting and told what was what. I was required to lose ten pounds. In order to look the weight I looked in real life, I needed to lose ten pounds. They wanted twenty and I told them to kiss my jiggly ass. Especially if was expected to gain muscle and look like I could kick a vampire’s ass. I wasn’t going to do that and fool anyone by being a size fucking zero and unable to run the length of myself in distance—so we settled on ten. Appointments were made for makeup tests and wardrobe fittings, then a third draft of the script was handed out, and Eric and I were expected to read through that together for the team of money makers and shit talkers sitting before us in the conference room.
Hungover, looking like shit and smelling like Amy Winehouse at happy hour, Eric was still able to blow just about everyone away with his quiet but intense portrayal of Lucas—both of us sparring well, understanding almost instantly what attracted these two polar opposites to each other. As we finished the backers were well… just about patting themselves on the back at their find, and Eric glanced at me—that twinkle suddenly back in his eye, that cheeky smile, that look of passion for what he was doing. He looked alive for the first time that morning. I knew then that no matter what he went through, that if he was able to hold fast to that look, that feeling that he was experiencing when he engulfed himself in a character like this? I knew he’d pull through just about anything. Well, I hoped just about anything. We’d soon see how right or just how wrong I was.
A/N: Posting in a rush since I’m late for my shopping date! But love that you guys love this and keep up the epic reviewing because it makes my lil Irish heart all happy! Xox
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
I was a disaster, a complete and utter idiotic disaster. I knew, better than anyone, that partying with Vegas girls, doing body shots, and a few misguided recreational drugs (along with those body shots), wasn’t the smartest idea that I’d ever followed through on. And yet I did it. I did it all—shots of whiskey and patron, a line or two of coke. Then I passed out with God knows who, after doing God knows what only to wake up and do it all again. By the start of the second week, I was feeling like I was caught in a limbo of sorts. Not between sober and shit faced, but between death and living. That’s how it felt. That hotel room, that city, those girls, those drugs… it felt like a purgatory of sorts. I know it sounds odd that a hotel room in one of the best hotels in Vegas could feel like that—so detached. Maybe it wasn’t the room, or the girls or the drinking, or the questionable shit we did. Maybe it was just me.
I’m pretty sure it was just me.
It hurt. I hurt, like this deep dull ache, somewhere inside me, but it wasn’t something I could seem to get rid of. Not with pills, not with alcohol and not with the series of colorful uppers or downers that I washed through my system.
By the middle of the second week, Sandy showed up. I had no idea how she found me, though it didn’t take a genius to guess that Bill had something to do with it.
I didn’t want her there, but apparently she had it in her head that we weren’t ‘done’ no matter how many times I told her the opposite and that we were in fact finished as far as I was concerned. She told me—in those rare moments of clarity and honesty—that she wanted to help me. And in those moments, I believed her. It came down to what it always came down to in my life, where she and all the others were concerned. Being with her, being with them, it didn’t matter that they didn’t love me like I wanted to be loved, nor did it seem to matter that I didn’t love them the way they probably wanted me to love them. No, with them for that time, it just beat being alone.
Needless to say, I hated myself for this circle of viciousness and yet somehow I seemed destined to do it, over and over and over again.
By the end of that second week I’d truly hit rock bottom. Rock bottom being waking up in bed, naked, with Sandy, no recollection of whether or not we’d fucked, and not really caring either way. As I showered and attempted to bring myself back to some kind of living, I knew I had a plane to catch, I knew I had to shave and clean up and be there for her, for the project, for myself. And as much as facing the crowds and critics scared the shit out of me and made me want to go back into the hole I’d spent half a month in, I knew I couldn’t. Not when I saw Sandy sauntering into the bathroom behind me.
“I hate that you’ve been with those girls, Eric. They’re such skanks,” she commented, brushing her teeth as I dried off.
“I don’t care.”
“You should care. I won’t stand for you cheating on me.”
“I’m not cheating on you. We’re not a couple anymore, Sandy, you know that. Why the fuck are you even here?”
“You know why I’m here.” She turned to me and attempted to touch me. “I care about you Eric, I care about us. And I want to get back what we had.”
She wasn’t serious.
“Sand, what we had was fucking toxic and you know it. Look, sweetheart, you weren’t happy, and I certainly wasn’t happy, and oh, right, it was a fucking set up from the start. Are you forgetting that part?”
“No…” She looked to the ground, “I mean okay, so at the start I wasn’t that into you. I mean, you were new and Swedish for fuck’s sake. I didn’t know who you were… but you worked well, and I found you hot and I don’t know, the arrangement seemed to suit you too for a while.”
“I didn’t really know what was going on. I thought you came on to me because you were interested in ME, not in what I could get you or where. I thought you liked me for me. Turns out you liked your business arrangement.”
“AT FIRST! I’ve told you this, but Jesus you know that’s changed now that I’ve gotten to know you.”
“I don’t care.”
“For me, or for this?”
“All of it. I don’t love you. Hell, most of the time I question if I even really like you.”
“You’re just being mean because you’re hung over.”
“No, I’m not Sandy. I hate this and I want you gone. From here, from the hotel, from my life. Please. I’m asking you. I don’t know what they’ve got you into, or what the deal is with us, but I’m telling you, I want out.”
“But… I need you.”
“No, you don’t. If it was so easy for them to hook you to me, they’ll find you someone else soon I’m sure. Someone better.”
“Look, asshole, I was there for you when you had nothing—no roles, no jobs lined up, no meetings. Nothing. Now you do; people notice you again and in turn they’re noticing me, and I’m not letting that go.”
She looked genuinely scary in that moment—totally and completely desperate to cling to her way of life—a way of life that clearly wasn’t working to her liking.
“I can’t do this.”
“Why? It’s not like you’re going to find anyone better, not with how you are.” She folded her arms in defiance.
“You disappear into yourself, into this hole of nothingness and it’s creepy, Eric. Who else is going to put up with your shit?”
“Maybe I don’t want anyone to just ‘put up’ with it. You do because it was convenient for you, just like I ‘put up’ with you because it was convenient for me. I guess it makes us both using assholes. Perfect really, when you think about it.” I moved past her to the bedroom where I did my best to find some kind of clothes that were clean before shoving the rest in my bags.
“You don’t mean that. I know you don’t. You say it because you’re angry but we both know you’ll come crawling back to me.”
“Funny, since twice now you’ve been the one doing the crawling, sweetheart.”
I threw the rest of my shit in my case and found my wallet.
“I mean it this time, Sandy. I’m fucking done and I better not see you pulling this shit again, you hear me? Tell Bill I’m done, I’m through with contracts… whatever the hell you have going here? It’s over.”
She pouted before throwing something breakable at the door just as I closed it. I didn’t care that she was upset. There was only so much shit a person could take and I’d reached my limit where she was concerned. She might have been right. I might never find anyone willing to deal with my fucked-upness, but that was my issue, not hers. I certainly wasn’t going to buy into anymore of her lies like I had for so long. Running away from that darkness, as she put it, obviously did me no favors. Here I was two weeks later, a few thousand dollars poorer, with the biggest hangover I’d ever had in my life and I was still failing as much as I was before I’d attempted to bury my head in the sand of the Vegas desert.
The airport and all forms of transport were a complete mess between delays and then my unfortunate timing where sleep was concerned. I’d ended up fucking up—yet again—missing my flight and in the process, missing the premiere. I knew if I ever saw Sookie again I’d be catching serious shit for that.
When I finally got back to LA, I felt no relief like I thought I would feel. Instead that annoyingly familiar feeling of loneliness crept in again as I pulled up at my dark, empty, and far too large for one person, home. There was no one there. Godric had his band, Hoyt had Jessica, I… Well…
Maybe I’d buy a dog?
I’d been home all of five minutes when I got the call. It was Godric, telling me that I was an asshole for fucking off to Vegas the week of his birthday without him. So to make it up to him I decided to throw the most impromptu party I think I’d ever thrown. Booze was drank, laughs were had, and I was working on a two week hangover as it was, but it was worth it. The house was no longer empty and I wasn’t feeling that sinking feeling, for a little while at least.
After what felt like an hour’s sleep and the quickest shower of my life, I picked myself up and dusted myself off. Finally signing the contract for what I hoped would be the structure that my life needed. Six years was a very long time to commit to something—should it even take off, that is. But, I had a good feeling about it. I loved all the writer’s prior work and it was something new, something untapped that I’d never explored before. Sci-fi, drama, comedy, romance, all in one place? It intrigued me completely. They’d told me that my recent ‘behavior’ wouldn’t be tolerated and that if I insisted on living such a lifestyle that I’d need to learn to be more ‘discreet’ about it. Duly noted, as was their request that I needed to gain at least ten pounds in muscle and soon. Apparently, drinking myself to sleep for a period of time was hell on the muscles that I’d spent six weeks at boot camp building up. I accepted their terms and their conditions and signed on the dotted line.
That’s when the shock of the day, week, century, hit me hard.
Sookie Stackhouse—looking the epitome of professional, sleek, and well-rested—with her black dress and high heels and elegance, poise and bouncy blonde curls walked into that conference room.
I had no idea what was going on at first, but soon it became more than clear. Six years, co-star, show, expectations. She was pissed off at me—that was to be expected—and she drew her line in the sand right off the bat, and I could respect that about her. She, unlike ninety percent of the people in my life, was bullshit free most of the time and of all the people that could have walked in that door to star as the Charlie to my Lucas, the sparring partner and love interest potentially for the next six years? I was glad it was her, since she was that in my real life as well as now in my professional life. Weird huh? Weird how things worked out, or in our case how destiny, kismet, God, Buddha, whoever was pulling the strings, kept throwing us together. It was amusing if nothing else, seeing just how the wheels in Sookie’s mind turned.
I knew what she was doing and I knew why she was doing it, when it came to us—her rule and her hatred for Hollywood clichés… She was protecting herself, and I respected that too. Since I didn’t really have the best track record when it came to picking a co-star to date, or really with dating in general… I’d always just followed my dick. I see, I like, I do. There was very little thought involved, and that was just one of my many mistakes. But the idea of working with her, and for longer this time, watching her find this new character—one she didn’t know inside out right away—just like I would be finding Lucas, it was exciting to me. I knew she had it in her to be amazing, and somehow when I was on screen with her, she made me look better than I was. This had the potential to be something really great, and I wanted that. Hell, I needed that. I just wish I knew how to hold onto that feeling, that feeling of excitement and passion that I felt when she and I did our run through – just a stupid run through and already I had chills. Maybe, just like my lines, it was something that I had to learn. And maybe, just maybe Sookie could be my teacher.
I hated working out, hated it. Well, that was a lie—I loved it. I loved how focused it made me and how ideas just seemed to flow. When I got moving, apparently so did my brain power. What I hated though was the idea of working out. Once I actually got started, I was fine. But for those two weeks I hated it, mainly because I was on a restricted diet of shit that meant I was losing weight and building muscle, and not at all allowed to even look at the good stuff when I went grocery shopping. It sucked ass. When I had my last wardrobe fitting I was deemed eyebrow raisingly ‘plump’ by the wardrobe lady. I wanted to cry a little. I was a size four, on a good day a size two. I wanted to stay that way but I knew the demands for skinny blonde girls to remain skinny and blonde. In fact, the skinner the better, and I fucking hated it. I wasn’t fat, not by anyone’s standards but Hollywood’s. In Europe I’d have been deemed frail for crying out loud.
But I ignored her sighs of frustration as she measured me, flashing back to my very last wardrobe fitting as a child and encountering someone similar in the ‘Sookie’s too fat to live’ eye rolls of doom.
I worked out, had my protein shakes, my fruit and veggies, and I had the leanest of lean meat ever—no salt, no sauces, no nothing. Did I mention I was miserable?
Twice I’d encountered Eric at the gym. He didn’t see me the first time. He was running on the treadmill in front of me like his life depended on it, and while it would have been tempting to just take a stroll and watch his ass and legs move like they were—it was all very interesting let me assure you—I didn’t. Instead I opted for a run in the Canyon. The second time was at the door of the gym, and this time he did see me. But how could he not since I walked smack dab into him as he was going in and I was leaving.
“Hi,” he said from behind his ever present sunglasses.
“Hi, yourself. You look better,” I said.
“Funny thing: sleep is good for you. Who knew?” He smiled shifting his bag on his shoulder.
“Right? Isn’t that odd? And you know, not inhaling a brewery too, that helps.”
“It does. Or so I’ve heard. You look good… tired though.”
“Hey, I’m just saying I don’t need you wasting away on me on set, now do I?”
I laughed because he wasn’t wrong. Size zero did nothing for me.
“Tell that to our producers, oh and the wardrobe lady, too.”
“Dawn? Dawn’s okay.”
“Yeah, with you she’s great. She gets to measure up the David, but with me, it’s the stumpy girl with big thighs.”
“I like your thighs and you’re not stumpy. I mean you’re a midget, but that’s not a bad thing.”
“Isn’t everyone that isn’t the Hulk a midget… to you?” I said, rolling my eyes at him and standing outside the door to let the other people in and out.
“So listen, Sookie… I was going to call you.”
“Ohhh. Well, if the burning when you pee doesn’t go away, you really should see a doctor.”
“Smart ass… no… I was thinking we should rehearse? Like going over the scripts and stuff together. I mean, that makes sense right? And since we live so close…”
It did make sense. We started shooting in five days.
“Yeah that’s… that’s a good idea. Jessica is back from her parents place this week too so…”
I don’t know why I felt the need to say that. Maybe it’s because I was worried about being alone with him? When I was alone with him it seemed my logic police just took the day off.
“Yeah, um, Hoyt… he’s always around usually breaking something or moving something. I don’t really know why he’s my assistant to be honest, since I do most of what he’s meant to do. But he’s a good kid.”
“He is… and isn’t he like a year younger than you? Who are you calling kid?”
He laughed. “Listen, I know this juice place does kick ass smoothies and juices. You want to go get one?”
“Aren’t you going to workout?”
“I can do that after…” he said, nodding his head toward the fruity smelling store a few buildings over.
“Eh, yeah I guess I could do that. We do need to work out a schedule after all.”
“And the paparazzi have already seen us,” I observed, since they weren’t even trying to be ninja about it anymore.
“What do you wanna bet that the Internet thinks we’re sleeping together now?” I laughed as we made our way over.
“Nah, this week I’m gay and you’re married to some French Prince on the sly.”
“Oh, cool! Do I get a castle?”
He just raised his brow at me.
“What? If I’m married to a Prince you bet your ass I want a castle!”
“Fine, you get a castle,” he said and I grinned, smug at my castle-owning-abilities.
“Damn right I do. And it’s pink.”
“Hee…” I smiled up at him, “And since you’re gay, who are you fucking?”
“Are you asking me if I was gay who I’d be gay for?”
“Pretty much,” I said as we grabbed our fabulously smelling fruit, hemp, full of healthy crap smoothies and took a seat on the metal seats outside in the sunshine.
“I’ve never really thought about it.”
“Not bullshit. I’ve just never looked at a guy and went ‘God I’d like to have his dick up my ass.’ It’s just never happened.” He looked so sincere in his statement that it made me giggle.
“There are guys I’d admire, but never ones with that thought involved. George Clooney is a handsome bastard, though… I’ll give him that.”
“He is, and suave too. That helps.”
“I guess? Who’d you go gay for?”
I thought about it and really it wasn’t something I’d ever put a lot of thought into prior, I guess. Like Eric, I just wasn’t interested.
“If I had to, I guess… erm… girl from Mad Men—the redhead.”
“Christina Hendricks?” he said, raising a brow.
“Niice! So many great boobs all in one room.”
I threw my napkin at him. “What? You do have great breasts. Personally, if I was a woman and had those, naturally too might I add, I’d be okay with compliments.”
I laughed out loud. “Eric, did you just say the words ‘if I were a woman?’ This conversation is odd. Let’s move on.”
“Fine, apparently, they’re late on casting a few of the regular characters still. They have your girl contact with the supernatural world—a witch—and the vampire that’s hunting me down. Pretty big roles to fill, too. Any ideas on who they might be looking at?”
“No idea. Though I sent my friend the audition info, so it would be pretty sweet if she got it. She was in a sitcom for CBS that just got canceled after like four episodes, so she’s pretty bummed about that. But if we do the pilot by the time we air and then get the word if we’re picked up or not, she’ll have outlasted her contract with them and be able to sign on full time. But really I have no idea what they’re looking for.”
He nodded “You know what’s weird, I don’t really have actor friends.”
“Was and is, not my friend.” He looked at me seriously, and sipped his juice.
“Why is that?”
“Long fucking story, and for another time. I really should get going before I get too lazy to bother with the gym.”
As he stood up to go, the air changed from what was playful but bantering conversation to something very awkward.
“Look, um, my dad … he’s in town…” I had no idea why I was doing this, but I was, “And he… well, he was looking forward to seeing you again.”
“At the premiere that I bailed out on? If you’re gonna yell at me again, can we at least do it in private?”
I stood up and sighed. Sometimes his hurt puppy look made me want to kick him. “Would you let me finish? Look, he wants to see you again. Why, I don’t know… but he does, and he’s leaving night after next and I’m having a bunch of people over for a dinner party thing… and well, I know he’d like it if you were there.”
He scratched the back of his head, obvious that he was unsure.
“I don’t know, Sookie…”
“I’m not cooking, it’s being catered, so you won’t die.” I smiled. I knew why he didn’t want to come. He fucked up and he was fucking up regularly, and Eric was a proud guy underneath it all. It was probably one of his biggest flaws and one of his biggest strengths too, which was rather annoying.
“If you have plans, that’s fine but if you’re gonna be home, sitting alone in your big ole house feeling sorry for yourself because you’re a fuck up, then, that’s just stupid when you could come and have good food and imported wine from France—straight from my dad’s cellar in Paris. And you’d get to see me, and we all know how you like me so much,” I grinned, making him smile too. “Just think about it and if you come, you come and if you don’t, you don’t. It’s no biggie,” I shrugged.
He nodded, blushing slightly—his awkwardness was awkward. “I promise, I’ll think about it.”
“Good, do, and if you decide to show, dinner will be at eight.”
We both noticed the paps outside the gym. Apparently someone else of note was making their way out so they were following him.
“That’s my cue to get in there in peace. I’ll see ya, Sookie.”
“Yeah, see ya.” He hugged me real quick—just a casual goodbye hug—nothing spectacular about it except it gave me chills. I know he felt something too, because when he pulled back it was like he forgot what direction he was heading in. I watched him walk away, then realize that the gym was to his left, so he turned to fix his directional fail. He was, underneath it all, just a big, giant, adorable dork. And there it was, that tiny spark.
There might just have been hope for him yet.
A/N: Hey peeps! On a tiny CB roll at the moment hope you’re all still enjoying the ride. I have no idea how long this story will end up being, but just know that I have tons planned for these two! 😀 I encourage you to review mainly because that encouragement is … well… encouraging. Hehe! xox
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
I’d spent the night reading. The house was surprisingly busy most of the day. I’d had my manager come over and give me some well-rehearsed spiel of how Bill was only working to do me a ‘favor’ and how it couldn’t hurt since Sandy was so much more ‘recognized’ than I was, and blah, blah, blah. Calvin and I rarely agreed on anything, if ever at all, and this was no exception. The only reason I stayed with him was because his company had been his father’s and my management since I started out. I was loyal if nothing else, but it seemed that my loyalty was one sided in the sense that he wasn’t doing what was best for me—not at all. I’d put my foot down with him just like I had done with Bill. I didn’t want anymore of their games interfering in my life. I was going to do things my way, and if I fucked up, at least I knew I was fucking up on my own. I told him that both he and Bill were on their second strike—one more and I was out. It scared me though, the idea that I might have to start over. I didn’t have an easy time of trusting people, and for good reason. It seems that since I was a kid someone wanted to get to know me or get close to me, not for me, but for what I could do for them. It was like that growing up—kids my age befriending me because I got to travel and would bring them along if my parents agreed, or girls who knew that I could get them into the right parties or meet the right people to influence or further their careers. Hell, it was still happening. Look at my mess with Sandy. I think I stopped caring somewhere along the line why these people were in my life, and what they wanted from me. If I could give it, why wouldn’t I? It meant that I got to have a good time and meet interesting people, right?
I thought so, at least at the time. But then you see people like Sookie. You would think she should be entitled and snobbish considering her upbringing and who her father is—she had every right to behave like a spoiled brat—but she didn’t. It didn’t even seem to cross her mind that that’s why everyone is so interested in her. She’s famous—she’s been famous since she was born because of her parents. But they don’t seem like that kind of family. I mean, her father, he’s one of the most respected and talented actors of his generation—and honestly a few other generations too. It never went to his head. In fact, from all accounts he’s a salt of the earth kind of man, just with an insane talent and eye for great film making. I envied that. I didn’t have half the talent that man had and somehow I had three times the ego.
I showered and shaved and decided on some old but clean jeans and a black sweater. I figured it couldn’t be too formal a gathering if it was just her father’s dinner party with some friends. I didn’t know what to bring so I settled for wine.
“Oh… it’s you,” she said, raising her judgemental brow at me, with an overly large glass of red wine in her hand—the other popped at her hip. “What no Skank Barbie or Billy Goat with you tonight?”
“Always nice to see you, Pam.”
“Yes, damn right it is. I’m delightful. You on the other hand… after your shenanigans in Vegas you aren’t allowed to sit near me tonight. Last thing I need is to catch something from you.”
“I’m as clean as a whistle I’ll have you know.”
She smirked. “Somehow, honey, I doubt that. I’ve seen where that thing … has been.” She shuddered slightly and it made me make a mental note for a very thorough doctor’s appointment.
“She’s on the phone upstairs; she’ll be done shortly.”
“Come in, make yourself at home, I think is the phrase.”
I walked in and left the wine in the kitchen and when I turned around I was greeted by a very big hug from a very big Lafayette.
“How you doin’ Northman?”
“I’m good man, how’re you?”
“Great! Just got offered a part in CSI. It’s a six episode arc, I’m pretty excited.”
“Aw that’s great dude, congrats!”
He nodded. “So listen, Sookie’s dad has this wine… it’s amazing.”
“Had some did you?”
Yeah he was on his way to drunk. What the hell was in that wine?
“Lil bit. It’s yummy.”
Six foot black guy using the word “yummy?” Yeah, it was going to be a weird night, that’s for sure.
“Eric Northman. Well damn, you got tall,” came the slightly English slightly American accent from the doorway of Sookie’s kitchen. Earl Stackhouse wasn’t a small man himself. He was a tall almost lanky guy in his late fifties with salt and pepper hair—more salt than pepper—and his blue eyes bright and shining, similar to Sookie’s. He looked tan and relaxed in a white shirt and navy pants, as he embraced me in a hug. “Last time I saw this guy, he was thirteen and had a mouth full of sweets. Lanky little thing he was too. You’ve gone up well.”
I smiled. “Thank you, Sir.”
“Sir. I see you haven’t completely forgotten your manners, unlike Lafayette who simply calls me his… what was it Lafayette?”
“My brotha,” Lafayette laughed before sipping his wine again.
“That.” He rolled his eyes laughing, “Come Eric, would you like a glass of wine? It’s mine, you know—I made it myself. This bottle is almost fifteen years old.”
I took the wine he gave me, and I had to admit it did taste amazingly good. Sookie had laid out snacks and appetizers in the living room and she was still nowhere to be seen.
“You’ll have to forgive Sookie, she’s got a phone call from her mother; lovely but rather flighty woman that she is, has just gotten back from a six month trek in the Indies.”
“Oh, wow. That’s impressive.”
“Well, yes it is, for her. I mean, this is a woman that got lost in a small town once when we were dating. I shudder to think what her poor tour guide had to put up with.”
Pam, Laf, and his cousin who’s name escaped me but I thought was Mara? Or Tara? Well, we all sat in the living room talking and enjoying the finger food for a little while longer before Sookie appeared in the doorway.
“I’m such a horrible host. I’m so sorry but my mother… well, she can talk even more than I can if you can imagine that, and well she was feeling very chatty tonight. I’m sorry!”
She looked beautiful, not that that was anything new, but this was a different kind of beautiful. She was wearing very little makeup, her hair was in a braid at the side of her neck and she was in light blue skinny jeans and a simple white tank with no shoes on her feet. She looked stunning.
“Eric, you’re here. You got something to drink and eat, right?”
“I did, thanks. It’s great.”
She nodded. “My dad has a vineyard on his property. It’s really amazing…”
“What wasn’t so amazing was finding Sookie and her first boyfriend in my wine cellar when she was merely fifteen, staggeringly drunk.”
Everyone laughed, including me. Her blush was adorable.
“Now, it’s funny but then – I was livid!”
“Yeah, I remember you grounded me for a month and forbid me from seeing Jacques again.”
“God, his name was Jacques? You really were in France, huh? Did he wear a beret?” Tara asked laughing into her glass.
She blushed again. “What! It was the nineties! Jesus,” she exclaimed before turning on her heel to exit the room. “If you’re all done making fun of me, dinner is served.”
“Oh excellent! I’m starving and wine on a empty stomach won’t make for a promising flight,” her father said as we all made our way into her kitchen, everyone making chitchat about this, that or the other. It felt nice. It felt homey almost—an atmosphere that was seriously lacking over at my place.
The food was amazing and admittedly catered from Sookie’s favorite restaurant, and we all tucked in to various helpings.
“You know what sucks? That diet, it sucks. I mean, I don’t get how girls can do this for so long. I love food… and it loves me back, she said, smiling at her fork. “No really, how awesome is this pasta and the sauce? Damn, it’s the best part!”
“Sookie, I’ve been on a restricted diet for years, it’s just the way it is,” Tara spoke up.
“But it’s not right or fair. How many girls think that being a minus zero is okay? I liked my butt and now it’s not like it was. They can kiss my ass with this zero bullshit. If we get picked up after the pilot, I’ll be a size four with muscle and if they don’t like it they can fire me.”
“It must be nice to be so proud,” Tara snarked.
“It’s not pride, Tara, it’s principle.”
“Yeah, yours, not theirs. And it’s their game and their rules, we just play when they say we can play.”
She wasn’t far wrong there.
“You know it’s the same for guys, too.”
The table fell silent. What the fuck did I say?
“Really, Eric? Really?” Sookie challenged. She was clearly riled up on this issue.
“Yes. I mean, we might not be expected to be a size zero, but we can’t be too heavy and we can’t be skinny either. If we are, we get pigeon-holed just like the girls do, in my opinion,” I said tucking into my meal again. “Before you offered me Ryan you told me I wouldn’t do as I was, remember?”
She blushed and her father shot her a look.
“You were hung-over, pale as death and skinny as hell. Does that yell Marine to you?” she justified.
“No, it doesn’t, but that’s my point. Maybe you being a size four is fine for you, but it’s not fine for Charlie. Maybe Charlie is a size two or zero, and maybe that’s just how it has to be for that role to be yours. As a matter of fact, if I recall you told me I was replaceable and I didn’t want to be replaced so… I worked hard and built myself to marine standards for Ryan without complaint.”
I noticed the blush in her cheek deepen and really the last thing I wanted to do was embarrass her.
“Sookie, I’m just being honest.”
“I like honest Eric,” Pam spoke up. “I’m not so fond of drunk and annoying Eric, but honest Eric I could get on board with.”
“I guess you’re right,” Sookie admitted. “I just hate it, that’s all.”
“I hated it too. I’m naturally a beanpole so it was just as hard gaining weight for me as it is for you to lose it, I guess. But I think that’s when you know you’ve found something great, something amazing… when you’re willing to change yourself to fit that role because you can’t see anyone else in it but you. That’s the stuff worth fighting for.”
“Well said, Eric,” Earl piped up as he chomped on his steak. Sookie simply smiled and nodded in agreement.
“And that attitude should be taken behind the camera too, I feel,” Earl said. “If you find a person who inspires you to change for the better? Those are the ones I’ve found are the ones worth hanging onto.”
“Who was that person for you?” I asked him and everyone seemed interested as he looked thoughtful for a moment.
“For me it was my daughter.”
I left it at that since it wasn’t my place to pry, but his proud face told me everything I needed to know and that was enough. For the rest of the dinner I listened in and made comments where necessary, but mostly just enjoyed the insanely mixed company that was that dinner party. Pam and Tara could not have been more different, and yet they got along famously. Lafayette and I were reminiscing about our teenage years and different music that we liked then versus now, whereas Sookie seemed to be like me in that she was happy to just take it all in. Her home was just that—it was a home. Even though she hadn’t lived in hers much longer than I’d lived in mine, somehow it was warm and inviting—much like its owner in that respect. She loved her candles and her low lighting made everything look romantic and beautiful. I noticed her looking at me a time or two when she thought I wasn’t going to notice, and I noticed that she’d blush when I caught her. Of course, I was looking at her too. How could I not? It was an interesting silent game of cat and mouse throughout the evening. I’d never silently flirted with someone before.
“Hey,” I said, walking up behind her as she loaded some dishes into the dishwasher.
“Hey. We didn’t really get a chance to talk tonight, just you and me,” she pointed out. “Pam and Tara and … well everyone, can be a bit overwhelming at times.”
“I really enjoyed it, though. Your dad is a real master at telling a story.”
“He is. When I was a kid it was a problem, though. My mom would always be mad because one bedtime story turned into three… I never got much sleep.”
“Cool reason for insomnia.”
“You want coffee or tea or something?”
“No, I probably shouldn’t. I should be going. Actually, I just wanted to say… thanks. You know? For inviting me and being so cool about everything. I know I let you down as far as the premiere was concerned, and if I left you to it on your own that wasn’t fair to you…”
“Eric, I’m over it, really. I mean sure, I was mad then, but I don’t really hold grudges. And besides I had my dad and all my friends there, and it wasn’t so bad. I mean, the flashing lights freak me the fuck out still and I’m never really sure where to look or if I’ll trip on my ridiculously high heels, but it was fun in the end.”
“And that’s the main thing, right? That’s it’s fun.”
“Exactly, or what’s the point, you know?”
“I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
“Do, and besides you’re my co-worker again. No sense in being a total bitch to you when I don’t need to be.”
“And when you need to be?”
“Hmm. Expect me to be a total bitch. But you’re used to that by now, right?”
“You’re not half as scary as you think you are, Stackhouse.”
“Is that a challenge?” She raised her perfect brow at me.
“No. No, it’s definitely not a challenge. I think you’re one of those people that doesn’t back down when challenged and I’m not going to make that mistake,” I laughed, holding my hands up in defense.
“What mistake would that be?” her dad asked, coming in with some empty wine glasses.
“Challenging Sookie and expecting to win.”
“Ah. My daughter is a sore loser when she doesn’t get her way,” he grinned.
“Dad! I am not.”
“Well, you used to be. Though, I tried to teach her how to be gracious under pressure. Have you grown?”
“You know I have, and that one time I was like nine, so it doesn’t count.”
“After a rather rambunctious game of baseball—to which Sookie lost to the neighbor’s kid—she proceeded to chase the little boy around the field with her bat in hand, convinced he’d cheated somehow.”
Sookie just rolled her eyes. “He was a little douche and he deserved it. But I wouldn’t do that now.”
“No, dear, you wouldn’t. For one thing Eric’s legs are much longer than yours; you’d never catch up,” he laughed at her and then looked at me.
“She tells me you live next door?”
“Convenient…” he smiled.
“I mean… for work related things. Now that you two will be working together again that should make things… easier. Or more difficult depending on how you two get along, but based on tonight I don’t think that’s the issue.”
He smirked to himself before continuing, “Anyways, Eric I’d love to see your home. I’ve always enjoyed the inside of Hollywood homes, mainly because I love spotting over the top décor. May I see yours?”
“Dad, did you just insult his decorating tastes?”
“No, don’t be silly dear. I insulted everyone else’s, of course. Gaudy and over the top. Money doesn’t buy taste you know.”
“Thank you, Interior Designer of the Year. This is a man that has a turquoise shell shaded bathroom in his French mansion, might I add. Pay his ‘refined tastes’ no mind, Eric.” She laughed.
We made our way over to my place, talking of the weather and the traffic in LA as well as other drip and drab pieces of conversation that held no real meaning. Showing him around, it was obvious he was just being polite and that he had other things on his mind as far as I was concerned. I found out what those other things were when we got back down to the living room again.
He took a seat on the arm of my couch and looked at me like he was trying to figure me out.
“Eric, how are you?” he asked, clasping his hands together.
“I… um I’m fine?” I had no idea where he was headed and his quiet stare was freaking me out.
“I ask because I can see you’re not fine. I mean, you do a good job putting up that wall son, a real good job. But you’re not okay. So I just thought I’d ask and see what you’d say.”
“And I answered wrong?”
“No, not wrong, not wrong at all. Just, interesting that you’re fine to everyone—I’m guessing—but yourself.”
I just shoved my hands in my pocket.
“It’s been a tough couple of months.”
He smiled. “Yes, I remember that excuse.”
“Eric, the reason I’m asking… hell, the reason I wanted to see you again in the first place … son, I see so much of what I went through, in you.”
“I don’t know that I understand, sir.”
He gestured for me to sit on the chair opposite him, so I did.
“Eric, when I fell into acting, it wasn’t as acceptable a profession as it is today—at least not for a poor working class English family from the east end of London—not when my dad was a factory worker and my mother worked the markets. Not at all. But I fell into it, and I did well despite my father’s protests. And when I came to America on my own at sixteen, well, you can imagine the shame my family felt at me up and leaving them when I was expected to hard graft for what we had. My father never approved, not even when I won my Oscar before I was thirty-five. It just wasn’t his world and as far as he was concerned it wasn’t meant to be mine either.”
He laughed, “Yes it does… suck. That’s what Sookie said.”
His English accent was faded. I guess after forty odd years in America, acting as an American in his movies, that might happen. Had I not Wiki’d him I would have never known that’s where he came from.
“My point is, I spent my life waiting for his approval, and I never got it. So, I acted out when I was your age.”
“I’m not seeking my father’s approval.”
“Horse shit and you know it.”
I just looked at the floor.
“Eric, before Sookie was born I was… in all honesty, a different man. I was a whore to be quite blunt. I thought very highly of myself for a time, indulging in my ego and the ego of those around me. I don’t have to tell you how unhealthy that is.” He just raised his brows at me and I nodded. Clearly he knew then.
“I just… I can’t explain it. I just thought it would make that feeling go away.”
“What feeling is that?”
I hated to admit it to someone, especially someone as accomplished as him, but he seemed to have an air of understanding that most people I talked with didn’t have. So I just came out with it.
“Like I’m not good enough, which is kind of true. They’ve spent years telling me as much.”
“Do you really believe that? I don’t think you do.”
“Sir, no disrespect but you don’t know me.”
“I know enough. I know that if you truly felt like you were shit at your job, if you really felt that useless as an actor, you’d move on eventually. But you haven’t. You’re still here and you’re still fighting for those parts and those roles that matter to you. Everyone has to trawl through their piles of shit in life Eric, but it’s what we do when the shit goes away that counts. You have this opportunity now, with my daughter, and I know you don’t want to fuck that up.”
“So, don’t. Prove them all wrong by kicking so much arse they won’t know how to take you.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“It is. You believe it, and pretty soon, they’ll believe it, too. Isn’t that what we do? It’s all make believe, Eric. Just know that the make believe stops when the cameras do. You have a life to live outside of this world too, you know.”
“Is that why you moved?”
“Yes and no. Yes in the sense that I grew tired of Hollywood and it’s ridiculous standards, and since Sookie didn’t want that life, it gave me an out, it gave me a restart in a way. And that was in the days before the paparazzi got out of control with their entitlement money making and YouTube took over the world. When I did, I found my passion for acting and found that my writing skills weren’t half bad, either. It’s not that Paris is any less fucked up than here, it’s just that it’s less likely to make its fucked up nature known to millions so easily.”
I stayed silent, not really knowing how to follow up that or any of his advice really.
“Eric, you’ll get it. Eventually, you will. But for now, the only other piece of advice I’ll give you is this: as a father, Sookie’s my child—fully grown as she is—she’s still my little girl. If you fuck with her, you fuck with me.”
His soft eyes and plain expression now in full on protection mode, he could be a scary bastard when he wanted to be, that’s for sure.
He smiled then, big and genuine.
“Good. Well, on that note I’ll bid you goodnight and bid you farewell. My flight leaves in a few hours and Sookie is nothing if not a stickler for time keeping. Look after yourself boy, you hear me?”
“I hear you, and sir?”
“I don’t intend to fuck with Sookie. It’s not like she’d let me screw with her world anyways, she’s too smart for that.”
He just laughed. “She has soft spot for you, Eric. What you two get up to is really none of this old man’s business, just know that if you hurt her, you and I aren’t going to be on such friendly terms.”
I got that. I got that loud and clear.
He patted me on the back before he left, a hop in his step as he made his way down my driveway, leaving me with a lot to think about.
A/N: Not as action packed as previous chapters or as high on angst (Really have no idea how hard it is for me to write non-angst lol). But I hoped you all liked it just the same. Eric is making slight progress, no?