Chapter 1: Chapter 1
“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” ~ Marilyn Monroe.
“I don’t want to do this anymore,” I said, yanking down the corset of my dress. I was just eleven-years-old and already my growing body was a thing I was trained to hate. I was getting too wide, my breasts were growing too fast. Team all of that with a period drama that required corsets everyday for eleven hours—I was sick of it.
“Sweetheart, you know it’s your decision. I never wanted this life for you,” my father replied with a soft smile. And he was right. He had never pushed me into acting; it had always been something I’d wanted to do. It was something I had been doing since I was five, and then, here I am not even a teenager and I wanted out. I’d seen him—he and my mother both—acting or reading scripts, having meetings, or holding parties for as long as I could remember. It was just my life. I knew nothing else.
But I wanted to know other things.
“I want to quit. After we’re done here, can I just quit?” I asked my dad, the then fountain of knowledge and wisdom to a young girl. He just picked me up high in his arms and assured me that yes, I could do whatever I wanted.
So I did.
They lined us up on our set—it was a ship—an old, dirty ship. Of course, it wasn’t really a ship. Mostly everything in Hollywood was make believe and this was no different. It was a prop for interior shots, one that we were all thankful for, since the alternative was the location shoot in the North Sea just off the edge of Sweden. Beautiful, but not very comfortable or warm in mid-February, in a corseted dress, and not much else.
“I’m not doing any more movies after this one,” I told my co-star and friend of four weeks, Eric Northman. He was dressed in ripped clothes as the little ship hand to the captain who was played by my father, Earl Stackhouse.
“God, why? Isn’t this what you wanna do?” he said munching on some candy as we waited for the lighting change.
“I don’t know. I thought I did, but I don’t know anymore. I wanna go to school—”
He laughed out loud.
“You really are crazy! No one wants to go to school, not when you can get to play dress up and be on a pirate ship all day long.”
“But it’s just not fun anymore. It should be fun, right?”
“I have to do six more movies this year; my mom says it’s all signed. One of them, the director has already won three Oscars.” He shared his candy with me, but I wasn’t allowed to eat it. My chaperone Octavia made sure of that. Couldn’t have me ‘gaining any more weight’ as she would put it.
Eric was a nice kid. He was new to acting at almost thirteen, and he was taller than me—though that wasn’t very unique. I was a small fry and probably always would be. He on the other hand, I had a feeling would sprout up fairly fast.
“Mom says that I’ll get to travel. I don’t really care about that, but she does though. She’s super excited about shooting in the Caribbean. We’ve never been…”
“It’s nice. The dolphins are fun!” I said with a smile. I’d made a film there when I was eight. “Anything would beat here right?” I said shivering slightly even though we were inside.
“Hey now, you can’t diss Sweden.”
I should have know he’d give me a hard time for it. He was a Swede born and bred.
“It sucks; it’s too cold all the time!” I complained, freezing my little boobs off in that damn lace dress. “I’m glad I’m quitting. I just want to be a normal girl, with normal friends.”
“I’m normal,” he said.
I looked at him, then looked at myself and somehow we both laughed.
“Okay, so we’re not so normal, but Sookie normal is boring. Why would you want to be like everyone else? We get to be actors! So many people would kill for our jobs. I know I’d rather do this than sit in some stupid classroom all day learning stuff we’ll never need when we grow up.”
I disagreed, and by the end of the shoot I’d grown two inches, my chest had almost fully formed and I was officially sick of acting.
We packed up our things, my dad and I, and we left Sweden. We let go half of our ‘team.’ I was eleven-years-old and I had a team—that had to tell you how overwhelmed I was. There was a team of people depending on me for their livelihood, and the pressure was getting to be too much. I was getting too old to play the little girl roles, but I was too young to play the teenage roles. I was sick of period dramas, I was sick of corsets and fittings and makeup at five a.m. So I did it, I quit and became a normal girl.
Well, as normal as I was ever going to be. The ‘Oscar nominated actress’ tag followed me around like a bad smell for most of my life, as did the fame that came with having a famous family in Hollywood. But really, Oscar nominated as a kid? Overwhelming to say the least, and honestly even though most people didn’t believe me, I was glad I hadn’t won. If you win an Oscar that early, what else is there to aim for as an actress? Turns out for the next thirteen years I wouldn’t care, because at least in my own head, I wasn’t an actress anymore.
I’d moved from Los Angeles to Paris. I studied there until high school, and from there, when it came time for college, I was looking at film schools. I had taken an interest in photography, and had accidentally taken to directing like a fish to water. My father simply smiled when I would geek out over my cameras or small productions I had underway. Ultimately I chose New York for film school. LA would have been the most obvious choice, but I wasn’t so fond of it. I’d been back maybe once in twelve years. It wasn’t my kind of town, and since I was just that ‘child star’ to them, I was better off in a town a little more diverse. Enrolling in and completing the NYU Arts for Film and Direction was one of the best things I’d ever done. I met some of the most amazing friends I’d ever had in my life, real friends. Not just Hollywood friends—the ones who would smile with you in front of the camera, acting like your best friend, only to be the ‘source’ of your next rumor in the press. No, these people were real and down to earth and so close to my heart that I wondered sometimes what I’d even do without them. It was through my roommate Amelia, her old roommate Tara and her brother Lafayette that I met my fiancé. Alcide Herveaux. Bronx born and raised, a photographer by trade and a damn good one at that. He was offered a job as principle photographer for Vogue Magazine right after graduation. I, on the other hand, was wrapping up two off Broadway productions that I had going. Somehow my name was still a draw. I believed mostly it was because of my father that such attention was paid to me, but the reviews hardly mentioned him—or my past. But they were glowing nonetheless. It was through that work that lead me to keep the creative process going and nurture a script that I had been working on since my sophomore year. I’d written and edited, then re-edited, then scrapped it altogether… but without my knowledge Alcide had found the manuscripts, and sent them out for consideration to various production companies. It wasn’t until one Sunday morning when he came bursting back to bed with a smile on his face that I even knew about it.
“I have a surprise for you, and it’s a good surprise, so you can’t get mad,” he said nudging me over so he could get back in beside me.
“Sleep. Sleep is good, surprise later.”
“No, surprise now. Look.”
He handed me a letter; it was from one of the most prestigious and popular cable networks on the air. With my name and a congratulations underneath it.
“Cide, what is this?”
I looked at his beaming face, and he explained. I was mad at him, for a split second. But then I realized what had happened.
“They’ve accepted it. They want a meeting, and they want you on board. I guess that whole Oscar nominated thing isn’t so bad after all, huh?” He smirked knowing that I hated it.
“Yeah, sure… you know it means nothing, right? I mean, I didn’t even win, and I was a kid. It doesn’t really count.”
“Have you see some of the child actors today? It totally counts. You were awesome.”
I rolled my eyes. “Moving on. This says if the meeting goes well, they’ll allow me creative freedom? What the hell?” I bounced on the bed slightly.
“I may have erm, pretended to be you when I sent it. And it was one of the stipulations you insisted upon. This was like your baby, Sookie. I knew you wouldn’t be happy unless you were running the show, and a lot of places didn’t want that. But it looks like these guys do. I’d take the meeting.”
That was three years ago. It lead me back to Los Angles and back to a life I had spent so long running away from. But everything was different now. I was a grown up, I knew who I was, I knew what I wanted, and I knew that this production was going to kick everyone’s ass. I just needed my lead character to find a voice. It’s what had halted production for so long. I got the backing I needed, Tom Hanks was even on board for crying out loud, but I couldn’t find an actor to play my leading man that ticked all my very specific boxes. It’s what had me on Sunset, in midday traffic, with the top down on my rental car, heading to the Château marmot for this meeting.
Apparently Eric Northman was my leading man.
I checked in and was escorted to a poolside villa. Apparently, Mr. Northman practically lived here now, the bellboy told me in passing. Once we’d reached our destination I tipped him and thanked him and he left smiling. Mr. Northman, as he was now called, was nowhere to be seen. There was however a couple, laying on their sun-loungers, sunglasses in place.
“Eric Northman?” I asked. And he didn’t look up, nor did he even really move.
“Not now, Sweetheart. If you could leave the drinks by table, that would be great.”
Who the hell was this guy? He was skinny, long, by the looks of his legs hanging over the lounger, pale as hell, and his hair was almost touching his shoulders. His glasses hid his eyes, but the other half of his face was covered in a very scraggly beard and a scowl. I sighed. How the hell was I supposed to sell this guy as a Marine? He looked like a drug addicted mess if I was being honest. I just hoped it was a wrong assumption. His companion was still yapping away on her cell phone. She was obviously ignoring me—and maybe even him—as she talked loudly about how ‘awesome’ her new movie was going to be and just how much ‘interest the media’ had in her, so it was obviously going to be a ‘hit.’
“Um, no, Eric? It’s Sookie Stackhouse? Your manager said—”
“Sookie?” He got up then, and yes he was very, very tall. I had to look up as he stood to see his face, and once he took his glasses off, I’d wished he hadn’t. He looked like he was on the bad end of a two-day bender. Turns out I wasn’t far off.
“Jesus Christ, Sookie Stackhouse.”
I noticed his … girlfriend had stopped talking on her phone to listen in.
“Hi,” I said.
“You grew up nice,” he said, obviously fixating on my breasts.
“Um, thanks? Listen, can we take this meeting?”
“Sure… Sure. Um, come inside. It’s too hot out here … unless you want to change into something more … less clothing?” he said, and it was obvious to him that he didn’t get how inappropriate it sounded. Especially when the woman in question was offering you a job. One by the looks of him, he needed, big time.
“You in a hurry or something?”
“No, but I had agreed to this meeting at noon. It’s now almost twelve thirty, I’d like to get things done if that’s okay?”
“Sheesh okay, chill out.”
Seems he was chilled enough for both of us.
“I talked to your manager. She said you liked the script?”
“Oh yeah, really it was amazing. The best thing I’ve read in months, maybe years. I just… have to ask, I mean, I don’t get it.”
“Well, it’s set—”
“No, um, not the story,” he said, running his hands through his hair and pushing it off his face. “Why you want me to play Ryan. I just don’t get it.”
“Well, what’s not to get?”
“In case you haven’t noticed, Sookie, my career is basically done… I haven’t had a decent role in, maybe three years. None of the studios will hire me. I’m done,” he said swigging a drink of whatever was in his glass. It wasn’t water that’s for sure, and probably wasn’t the best idea for someone who looked like he was nursing one hell of a hangover.
While it was true, I had kept abreast of Eric’s career over the years, not in a hugely invasive way, but It was a little hard to ignore. For a long time he was a child star on the rise, then a teen heartthrob. But it was a mold I saw him struggling to break out of. One that, judging by the choices in his personal life, he was deeply unhappy about too. So the roles dried up, and he got older. There were new child stars to exploit, new teen heartthrobs to market, and here he was not even twenty-seven yet and apparently his career was over.
I went to continue talking but I was distracted by his girlfriend outside.
“Um, Eric, what’s she doing?”
We both looked out the patio doors to see her talking on her phone again, hand gestures here there and everywhere, as well as … what looked like poses.
She was posing. One arm, then the other, smiling then frowning. It honestly looked like she was maybe having some kind of fit.
“Oh shit, not again,” he said rolling his eyes, walking to the doors.
“Sandy? What the hell? We talked about this!”
She came over to him, still smiling as she hung up her phone. Apparently, she wasn’t even talking to anyone… Was this girl all there? It certainly didn’t look like it. I recognized her, only from getting a better look at her, and her poses. Famous for who she shared her body with rather than her body of work—an LA darling, social scene stealer and all round paparazzi sweetheart, with a not so sweet off camera reputation.
She was taller than me, again, not a shocker since it wasn’t hard being just over five foot five. But she sure as hell was thinner than me. Her bikini was barely covering her—and I use the term loosely—breasts, and her legs were just down right terrifyingly tiny. I assumed this girl made most toddlers feel fat.
“Smile. Just come out here and try to look… I don’t know, interested in … something.”
“We’ve talked about that, too. I’m not doing that shit anymore. How did they end up here?” he said nodding to the side wall. That’s when I noticed two guys with cameras.
I let them argue it out as she talked through closed lips, and he looked like someone shanked his grandmother, while I looked over the various scripts sitting on their kitchen table. Most had his name on them, and even by title alone I knew they weren’t of the highest quality. It made me a little sad because what I had seen of Eric’s work, when he was allowed to go there—to break out of the mold—he did it so well. That’s the hope I saw; that’s why I wanted him for my Ryan. I needed that shocking intensity to come out, but I also needed the kind of subtle acting that so far I could only see Eric pulling off.
“You say your career is over, that you don’t know why I’m doing this, what does it matter why? Do you like the script? Do you get what Ryan is about? That’s what I need to know. This thing is my baby, Eric and I won’t have some alcoholic on an ego trip screwing it up for me. You have the potential in you still, I see it and with a straight razor and tanning bed, the executives will see it too. The question is, do you see it in yourself? Can you be my leading man?”
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
My head was throbbing, an all too familiar feeling these days. It was just after eleven when I regained consciousness, and as tempting as it was to just kick back and sleep the rest of the day away, I had a script on my table that was calling my name, and a meeting scheduled for noon.
The script had been on my mind for days, weeks even. I was in love with it. The entire concept was just so fresh but so thought out and detailed in character. It was a real actor-friendly script about the main character Ryan and the twisted tale of how he goes from small town boy to hard-hitting marine deployed to Iraq. This story was his upon his return, how he, his friends and his family dealt with how war and being a warrior changed him. Considering how everything I’d been offered in the last three years ended with the phrase ‘this years best romantic comedy’ and had me wanting to gag at the sheer amount of recycled cheese that I was expected to eat up, this was the golden chalice of scripts—at least those being sent personally to me. Sookie Stackhouse was attached to the project; not as an actor like I thought at first, but as writer. And she was tendered on the page as being the director, too.
That was an interesting revelation.
On meeting her again, she certainly was nothing like the pale tiny eleven-year-old that I remembered, giving it her all on a makeshift pirate ship in the middle of a Swedish film set. She wasn’t that much taller, but she was a little taller than I remembered. She had soft looking natural blonde hair, she was tanned and curvy in all the right places. It had been a while since I’d been in the proximity of a woman with her natural breasts and a genuinely friendly smile. She’d tried not to smile but failed. She burst out laughing as I walked back into the office inside the Villa I was renting.
“Does she do that a lot?” she asked, still laughing.
“Eh… Sometimes they just show up without warning, but most of the time I think she knows.”
“She has camera radar, huh?”
“Apparently,” I sighed taking a seat again, and I noticed Sookie was looking me over.
“See something you like?” I asked, and she just rolled her eyes at me. She was refreshing in so many ways. That wasn’t usually how women reacted to me. Failing career or not, failing with women was never something that happened.
“Actually no. Not at all.” Her brows scrunched together slightly.
“No I … I’m sorry I don’t mean to be … well, mean. But I’m just thinking how the hell am I going to sell you as a marine?”
“I’m in shape.”
“Oh, I’m sorry you’re serious… Yeah, no you’re not. Not the way I want you.”
“Meaning what exactly?”
“Meaning, I’m putting my ass on the line by even suggesting you to my backers. You have a week till the audition.”
“So wait you come here and pitch to me and I still have to audition?”
“Don’t get prissy with me. I want you for this role, based on Side… and it’s that that I’m pitching to them.”
Side was a war thriller I’d done about four years before; it got me a Golden Globe nod as well as a lot of attention. I loved it and had hope for it to kick-start something better. I partied a little too hard, getting a little too ahead of myself, hooked up with the wrong people and generally ended up pissing that opportunity away. But it seemed like Sookie was giving me a second chance, or third or fourth or whatever chance I was on by now.
“What you asked before, I think I can do it. I think I can be your leading man. If they agree, I guess.” I shrugged.
“Make them agree; blow them away. I’ll be there at the HBO offices next Wednesday from about two. Your audition is at three. Don’t be late, or it’s over.”
“I’m never late.”
“Glad to hear it.” She put her sunglasses in place again and sighed. “Now, that I have you convinced—and I can’t believe I had to fucking convince you by the way—that script rocks.”
“Not to toot your own horn or anything there or nothing,” I smirked at her and heard her sigh.
“Sure, oh, and just for the record the nineties grunge look wasn’t really that hot in the nineties. You might want to fix that.”
“Meaning, is this how you see Ryan?” She quirked an eyebrow at me before lifting her bag and gliding ever so gracefully out the patio doors. I saw her waving to Sandy on the way out.
I looked in the mirror, and I mean really looked. I was shocked at what I saw. I’d gotten far too thin for my frame, I was extremely pale and my hair and face were just a mess. She was right. This wasn’t the vessel of a marine telling his story, this was the result of self-pitying failure.
That was going to change.
I remembered why I hated Los Angeles so much almost instantly—the sheer size of the place and the inability to walk. I hated driving; I sucked at it. Even in an automatic car with no gears to worry about, I still managed to stall. And really what was with all the damn hills? For real, it was just unnecessary.
I chugged my rental car up the hill, the third time around the three blocks that I seemed to be stuck in.
“This place is a millionaires fucking maze!” I said to no one in particular as I tried to reprogram my GPS.
“Annoying computer lady, you suck! This is not where I’m meant to be! There IS no left, it’s a wall! I don’t want to die!”
I’d wanted to rent on the beach. I loved the ocean and it was one of the few good things about California, but with the amount of meetings I would be having, sitting in on auditions, and dealing with managers and PR people, it would be a lost less hassle to be closer to the action. As much as I wanted to embrace my inner water baby, I had to suck it up and find a suitable rental in the Hollywood Hills. Find being the keyword, since I didn’t think I’d ever actually find the damn place. I pulled out my phone and did my best to scroll to my manager Pamela.
“Again? Sookie, there is a GPS in your car for a reason, you know. Fucking use it.”
“I fucking did! The little bitch is trying to kill me!”
“Where are you?” I looked backwards and forwards for a street sign of some sort. “Um… Montcalm Avenue.” Which I thought was ironic since I was anything but calm.
“You’re close. Down past the next corner and second left, then left again. Off Woodrow Wilson, big brown gate, pink toned house. Hurry the fuck up.”
“I’m trying.” I hung up and attempted to follow her directions.
Finally, I got there to find Pam making herself at home sprawled out on the chair in the living room, martini in hand.
“The house came with alcohol?”
“No, the manager came with alcohol. How’d the meeting go?”
“Can I see my new house, first?”
“What’s to see? It has everything you asked for, trust me. By the way, this is what assistants are for. Hire one, you tight bitch.”
“I will. I will. I didn’t expect to be this busy.” I looked around, fell in love with the kitchen, and my new bedroom, all amazingly spacious. Those acting paychecks were coming in handy now that I decided to dip into what had been deposited into a trust fund for me over the years.
“I hate wicker furniture,” I commented looking over the various pieces scattered throughout the house. “I’ll have to replace those, and I need a desk for the reading room—a proper one. I think I’ll use that as my office.”
“I thought you hated LA. Aren’t you always on a plane to New York whenever you can? Now you’re decorating?”
“Pam, I’ve lived out of my suitcase for three years, this project is finally happening, and I’ve accepted that I need to have some kind of solid base here. Might as well make it homey.”
“Homey? How were you educated in Paris?”
I laughed. Pam was obsessed with Parisian fashion and interior decorating. She didn’t understand my sense of ‘style.’ I was a no nonsense comfort, clean lines kind of girl but with a little dash of my own thing. You’d find me daily, in either shorts and a nice fitted tee or a dress and flats. I didn’t live for designers, though growing up in Europe I could do nothing else but love their work. I admired their art but I didn’t need to wear and show off that I owned a piece of it for other people to comment on for it to please me. I had a weakness for technology. I was a geek in that sense. I embraced the technological advances like my babies. I couldn’t live without my Twitter or my Facebook and I’ll fully admit that I was addicted to my little virtual farm for awhile before I got worried about myself and deleted it. It just wasn’t healthy getting up at three a.m. to harvest make believe crops!
“So, how was the ‘meeting’ with Mr. Meth?”
“He’s on meth?”
She rolled her eyes. “No, not that I know of. But he sure fucking looks like he is.”
“I think he just likes to party, which, isn’t a bad thing… but he needs to work hard to earn his harder parties.”
“That’s the problem sweetie, no one wants a washed up former child star.”
“Only you could make the words child and star sound like something you scrapped off your shoe,” I noted opening my laptop. “It went fine; he’s going to show at the audition.”
“And if he fucks it up?”
“I have to ask, did you fuck him or something? Fling? Affair? I mean, where is this faith coming from? I just don’t get it.”
“He’ll pull through, and when he does, you’ll see Ryan in him like I do.”
She just shrugged. “What are you doing now?”
“Where is he this week?”
“Milan-no,” I pronounced in an accent. “He’s shooting for the next issue.”
“When did you two last see each other?”
“I don’t know, a few months ago… why?”
Her eyes bulged. “Months?”
“So? Have you seen him? You’re letting that man waltz around the world with supermodels and you’re just all chilled about the fact that you haven’t seen him in … months?”
“Pam, I trust him. Completely. We’ve been together a long time.”
“And I’m just saying being together that long … might get boring to some guys. Some guys with access to lush supermodels and post-shoot parties.”
“Cide wouldn’t cheat on me.”
“What about you?”
“Well, I wouldn’t cheat on me either. I like me.” I smiled, sarcastically.
“You know what I mean, bitch.”
“No. I love Alcide. No one else even measures up to him. What we have is good; it’s easy and simple and no fuss. I like that.”
“Sounds like my idea of hell.”
“You’ve been in LA too long, sweetie,” I mocked. I hated the way people used that word in this town. It’s like ‘Bitch, I just met you. I am NOT your sweetie.’
“It works for us.”
“And you aren’t lonely?”
“A little…” I looked up at her. “Okay, so maybe a lot. Mostly here. LA is a really lonely town sometimes.”
“Well, that’s why I’m saying you need to get out more, go to some parties, meet some new people!”
“I have my people. I like my people.”
“Who are in New York.”
“Not all. Lafayette moved out here for that sitcom last year and we see each other all the time. Tara is working on some screenplays so she’s back and forth and she can come stay here now instead of a hotel.”
“How nice… you’re a bed and breakfast.”
“You’ve never had my breakfasts. They’re epic.”
“And carb filled, I’m sure.”
I gasped jokingly.
“Are you calling me fat?”
“For Europe? No. For New York? No. For LA?”
We both answered at the same time, for we both knew the answer. “Yes.”
“Bitch,” I said finally hitting send on my email to Alcide.
“Let’s go to dinner. I’ll even let you pick somewhere pap filled so we can watch all the car wrecks pretending they don’t want the attention.” I smiled.
Walking into the production offices was an unusual occurrence these days. I’d been trailed by the paps coming out of the hotel; not all that shocking since they practically camped outside in the hopes of getting various shots at their various targets. I wasn’t all that surprised honestly, but I was amused that they had to do a double take when they saw me drive out. I’d taken Sookie’s advice, or … orders, whichever way you look at it. And I re-read the script for maybe the millionth time. She was right. Physically, I wasn’t what the script called for, not even close. I’d lost a lot of weight and muscle with drowning myself in self-pity and beer, and shots, and vodka and whatever else I could get my hands on to numb the pain. But I could change it. Not only my body but hopefully my outlook as well. I’d found out where the auditions were being held, and I arrived with plenty of time to kill. I also found out that Sookie had a temporary office on the third floor. I walked right into her almost—accidentally. Her reaction when she saw me was priceless.
“Oh. I’m sor—” she looked up, and up. “Jesus Christ,” she said, then a smile crept onto her face.
She was in a white button up shirt, open just enough so the world got to appreciate her breasts I imagined—and I did, imagine and appreciate.
“You look… how did…”
“I took your advice, and I think Ryan would like this.” I had short hair, shorter than I’d ever had it in my life. Marine issue buzz cut. My long messy hair gone. I’d also taken a tanning session everyday for a week. It gave me ‘healthy glow’ as Sandy put it. I’d also de-toxed for a whole week with no alcohol. It damn near killed me, but I did it. I’d gotten a professional shave, too. I felt better than I had in years. Even if I didn’t get the part, I hoped I’d still feel as good.
“You really did. Wow. Jesus this is… you look like a different person! And, you know, alive. Which is helpful,” she said grabbing my chin and turning my head to the left. Had anyone else done it, I’d have lashed out. But I was okay with her touching me.
“Oh no, no.”
“I’m not your babe, or your sweetie or your honey. Okay? You are not my boyfriend and you are not my mother,” she pointed out.
“Sure thing, sweetie,” I said smiling as I left her glaring in her office.
I walked into the audition room and the panel of people before me consisted of Sookie in her tight ass shirt and sexually suggestive black rimmed glasses, that soft hair of hers in a ponytail to the side of her neck, smiling encouragingly. The others were the head of the network and one of the producers and backers of the project.
I gave it my best shot and Sookie’s reaction was the only one I cared about. She was smiling and whispering with the other people on the panel before she spoke up.
“Thank you, Eric that was great!” The others at the table reiterated her sentiments before I was told they’d let me know within the next twenty minutes. Apparently it was between me and some British guy. I was shitting myself, to be quite honest.
My phone rang while I was outside the offices. It was my PR guy, Bill. I hated him, but my manager had insisted that I needed him a few years back. Personally, he made my life hell, all in the name of improving my rather tarnished image. So, I liked to drink and socialize with my friends, there was nothing wrong with that. But somehow the tabloids turned a few beers in a bar into a night with hookers and strippers and drugs. I’d never done a hooker and I wasn’t all that impressed by strippers. I liked to touch; where was the fun in the no touching? And as for drugs… I may have experimented growing up but in truth, I liked control over my life and drugs took that away. I may have socialized with people who thought differently but who was I to judge what made a person happy?
“What?” I said not beating about the bush.
“Calvin told me you had a meeting with Sookie Stackhouse. What about?”
“A project she’s working on.”
“She’s getting back into acting?”
“No, not that I know of. She’s directing.”
“Directing? She’s a kid.”
“She’s almost twenty-four.”
“So, elderly for this town, then.” He smirked. He was a creepy little bastard but I was told he was one of the best creepy little bastards in the business.
“You called why?”
“Well, I was surprised you, or Sandy didn’t fill me in. Want me to leak this?”
“Because it’s not in the bag yet and I’m sick of them knowing my every move. Let’s surprise them for once.”
“So you think it’s in the bag then?”
“I fuckin’ hope so. I need this.”
“Yeah, you really do.”
“Thanks,” I said, clipped.
“You know what I mean. I can only leak your location to the paparazzi so many times in a week before it starts looking shady.”
“It already is shady, and I told you man, I don’t want them everywhere I go. It’s stupid and unnecessary.”
“Necessary for you to stay fresh in the medias mind though, since you haven’t been doing a whole lot lately…”
“Yeah well, things are gonna change.” I hoped. Jesus Christ, did I hope things would change. Just at that Sookie came out of the large room looking around for me.
“Gotta go, Bill. No leaks, you hear me?”
“So what’s the word?” I asked as she approached me.
“I fought for you in there, just letting you know that now.”
She smiled. “They agreed, and since this was my project from the start, they trust that I know my characters and their needs better than they do. So, you’re in. You’re Ryan.”
There was that feeling again, the one of being worth something. It shot from my toes all the way into my brain. I could stop smiling.
“No shit! Seriously?”
“Yeah, seriously. They were heavily looking at the other guy, but … his voice annoys me…”
“And mine doesn’t.”
“When you’re not whining about what a terrible hard life you have, no it doesn’t. But you have to work at this, you hear me? We’re talking boot camp, dialect coaching, the whole nine.”
I nodded. “You got it, boss.”
She just rolled her eyes. “If you say so, but I swear to God, Northman, if you fuck this up in any way, just once, you’re done. You’re out and annoying voice guy will replace you. Understood?”
I knew what was on the line here. I understood her fear.
“Great. I’ll be in touch with the details but know that the actors boot camp is starting at the beginning of next month. I expect you all to be there, all sober and on time.”
I nodded again.
She went to shake my hand but I was just too damn happy to care about professional courtesy. I yanked her hand into a hug, and considering our size difference it was one hell of a big bear hug. She was soft, so soft and warm and just womanly—a lot different from what I’d been used to lately. She laughed as we both let go.
“You’re a goof, still. It’s nice to know some things never change.”
“Every guy is still just a thirteen-year-old kid inside.”
“Apparently so! Congratulations, again.” She smiled, genuinely, warmly, sweetly.
“You too, this is going to be one hell of a production, now.” I smirked.
“Not to toot your own horn or anything,” she echoed my words to her before.
“Not to do that. Of course not. But I am, Sookie. I am your leading man.”
It wouldn’t be for a few weeks, but the realization that I wanted to be her leading man would hit me—and I’m not just talking about on the on screen kind—and it would hit me hard.
We were so screwed.
A/N: Hi guys! So are you with me for Cali Bound? I’m really looking forward to taking these two on a nice little bump filled journey! Let me know what you’re thinking so far, reviews are love! Xox
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
“Stackhouse, you’re drunk!”
“I am not, thank you very much!” It might have helped my case had I not hiccupped mid- sentence.
“Yeah, okay, but it’s okay to be drunk. You’re among friends!” Tara said with a smile and I hopped up off my couch.
“That’s true I am, and I love you all!” Alcide pulled me back down again, going in for a cuddle.
“You love everyone when you’re drunk, you lush,” Alcide said, pulling me close to him.
“But you guys, it’s happening! It’s actually happening! After all this time and all this work, I get to do it! I get to direct.”
“Yeah, we know. We’ve heard it nine thousand times and that’s just tonight,” Pam chided.
“Shush you. I can’t believe it though.”
We were heading to Namibia in two days time. I was so excited and scared it had led to much debate and even more alcohol.
“I have my actors, I have my crew, I have my producers. My baby is going to be born in Namibia! I feel like Angelina Jolie!”
Everyone laughed at me, but it was true. This story meant a lot to me but I could never figure out why. I related to Ryan—doing what he thought he wanted to do, only to realize he hated it, then finding a love for it further down the road. I had hoped I’d find a love for acting again, but the fear of failing kept me from trying. I missed it from time to time and that release that it used to give me, that excited feeling that nothing since has matched, that’s what I missed most.
“You’ll come out to visit, right?” I asked Alcide, not caring that Lafayette was whistling in the background.
“You know I will. These last two months have been too long without you, Sooks. We just have to try a little harder.”
“Told you,” Pam said refilling her glass.
“Shush,” I simply said to her.
“I know, Cide, I just…”
“I know you’re scared, but I have faith in you.”
I kissed him, chaste as it was, on the lips.
“Thank you, sweetie.”
“Thought you hated the use of the word Sweetie?” Pam inquired.
“From and to someone I just met while air kissing their cheeks, I hate it. Not when he is my sweetie,” I laughed. “I need to sleep. I can sleep now, right?”
The previous two days had been hectic, to say the least. All my actors were cast, four main marines—one of which I cast Lafayette for. I just had to; he was a perfect Ronny. Since Eric would be playing an English marine working with American forces, he’d have a dialect coach on set with him as well as having to go to boot camp. For the previous month the studio put all the ‘marine’ actors to work, training to look, act and sound like the real thing. They wanted, and I wanted, everything to look as authentic as possible. We’d spend four weeks on location, then head back to LA for another three weeks. The plot follows Ryan’s life through his service—where we’ll be using the location shots in lieu of shooting in Iraq—then his time after his service ends. The plot focuses more on his time afterward dealing with his old friends, as well as his marine buddies, and how his time in the war changed him. Not to sound too cliché about it or anything, but he goes to war a cocky boy, and comes back a man. I hoped that Eric would do him justice, and judging by how hard he’d been training with the other actors, I had a good feeling.
“He’s fine, Sooks. Fine…” Lafayette said with a swirl of his wine. Laf was as straight as a circle and all of his friends knew. However, this was Hollywood, and while they preached about how open they were and love was love, there was still very much a need to stay in the closet if you wanted to get straight roles. Since Lafayette was still just starting out n this side of the coast and was making the transition from theatre to movies and TV, his well decorated closet was used well. He hated it. We hated it, but he understood the choices he made regarding his career. He wanted a career so he accepted his personal life and it’s limitations.
“Who?” I asked finishing off my wine.
“Mmmmmm…” he said as if he’d tasted something amazing. “Stunning. Really, tall, lean, built like a brick shit house… The transformation is happening and it’s happening because of you baby girl.”
I just rolled my eyes. “Hardly.”
“He’s been singing your praises at camp. Well, once. But still.”
“What’d he say?” Alcide asked.
“Just that she was a great kid, great actress and that we should all have a little faith that she’ll be a great director, too.”
“Which one of those assholes is doubting me?” I sat up.
“No one! Chill yo’ tits.”
“What were they saying, Lafayette?” My tone told him I meant business.
He looked at the floor. “I don’t know, some of the guys were saying that maybe you were there just because you fucked the president of the production company, and you were some stupid little girl who knew nothing about war, or business.”
“I want names.”
“I can’t do that, Sook. We’ve got like a whole band of brothers thing going on—”
“Tell me, or I will shank you.” I glared, not totally serious.
He gave me the names, and I decided I’d get them back in good time. Assholes. I’d show them I could play with the big boys, and I could play better.
“So, who’s the new assistant?” Pam asked, since I’d spent the better part of two weeks interviewing for the position to be filled. I never had an assistant, and other than Octavia when I was a kid, the ‘people’ under me were few and far between. I was bossy but in some ways, I hated being ‘the boss.’ I’d given in and realized I needed an assistant. There were just so many things that needed to be done and I was just one person.
“Jessica Hamby. She’s from Louisiana.”
“Aww… a lil country girl,” Pam mocked. “And why oh why didn’t you hire the hot guy with the six-pack like I asked?”
Alcide just stood up and Pam’s eyes followed him.
“Oh, right, that’s why.”
“So what’s the country bumpkin like?” Lafayette asked, taking the last of the wine off Tara for himself.
“She’s not a bumpkin, she’s very sweet. She’s just turned twenty-one; she’s a sociology major from CSU and uh, she’s allergic to seafood.”
“Are you hiring this girl, or dating her?” Tara asked.
“What do you want? I’ve never hired someone to … do my personal life things before. I wasn’t sure what to ask. All I know is that she’s nice and kind and we could talk—she can handle multitasking and she knows LA better than I do because she’s lived here for four years. She’ll fit right in with us misfits,” I assured them, because she really was a sweet girl. They might deny it outright but they’d grow to like her, too.
As everyone said their goodbyes and Tara made her way to the guest room, it left Alcide and I alone.
We just laid on the couch—some call it snuggling, I called it quiet time. Listening to his breathing helped to calm me down. It was comforting.
“You know we’ve been together six years in three weeks,” he commented.
I smiled, “I guess we have. It doesn’t seem like that long.”
“It doesn’t, and in some ways, it does. So much has happened to us since we met, you know?”
“Don’t you mean when you knocked me down?”
“It was an accident!”
“Hey, you can’t help your gigantism. It’s okay. I understand.” I petted him and he just chuckled.
“It’s just…” he sighed.
“It’s just what?” I asked, not looking up at him, instead focusing on our beautiful crackling fire.
“Do you think maybe we should be more… I don’t know, couple-y?”
“Is that even a word?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Your mom been asking about babies again?”
He smirked. “She’s always asking about babies.”
“She has to understand we’re not like your brother and his wife. Our jobs are a lot more demanding and we’re traveling and that’s just how it is. Bringing a kid into this life, right now? It would be so unfair. And besides, I don’t think I want kids—not yet—and I know you don’t either.”
“What if I did?”
Then I looked at him.
“Is this a talk? Are we having a talk?”
“No, Sookie, I’m not saying I want them right now, but … I do want them. I never really get a straight answer from you.”
That was true. I’d become the master at avoiding the question.
“Cide, you’re doing this now? Two days before I leave, after everything? Really?”
“It’s just a question, it’s not like I’m looking for you to get pregnant right now…”
“Then… honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if having kids is something I want. I don’t know if our lives are suitable for kids, right now or ten years from now. I want to be in the business again, I want this directing gig to go well, I want to start up the production company like we talked about… and I don’t know, I’ve been thinking about acting again. I can’t see myself doing all those things and having kids. I can multitask till the cows come home but that doesn’t mean I should, nor does it mean that our kids should be viewed as a ‘task’ I have to manage. And I would be the one managing it, because I know you love your job too much to quit.”
He went quiet. It was never good when Alcide stopped talking, mainly because he wasn’t the strong silent type. He always, and I mean always, said what was on his mind. We had that in common. It led to more arguments than anything else with us.
“What? Say something,” I said, getting up from the couch finally.
“What is there to say? You made it clear you don’t want kids with me.”
“Not ‘with you,’ I’m just not sure if I want kids at all, that’s all.”
“And you’ve known this, all this time?”
“Alcide, come on, you know me. I’m not that girl. I’m not the girl that needs her guy there twenty-four seven to feel secure in a relationship. I’m not the girl that needs constant reassurance my boyfriend still loves me, and I’m not the girl who’s been planning her wedding and picking baby names since she was twelve, okay? You know this about me; you always have. Why now? Why when I’m about to pack to leave for weeks on end do you bring it up?” My stress level had gone from zero to sixty in as many seconds.
“I don’t know, okay? I missed you. I haven’t seen you in months, Sook.”
“You knew I was stuck here. You were the one in New York for two weeks and didn’t bother coming out here, so don’t lay this on me, Mister. You know just as well as I do that your job takes you away, too.”
“I know. I’m just saying, all this shit from my mother and then not seeing you for so long and when I do finally get a week off to come here, you’re working, or Pam is here, or your friends are here…”
“Holy shit! Where has all this passive-aggressiveness come from?” I said, lifting our glasses and stomping into the kitchen.
“It’s not pass— You know what, fine. Maybe it is, I don’t know. I just have questions, Sookie. Valid questions about the state of our relationship and I want answers while I get to see you alone for the first time in a long time. I’m sorry if it’s freaking you out, but there it is.”
Every time he went back to his family he came back wanting us to ‘commit.’ I swear they brainwashed him each damn time.
“You say you want us to be more committed or whatever to our relationship. That means you moving here, that means you finding a job here, or a transfer, because with ‘Rationale’ finally getting off the ground, I’m stuck here.”
“You know I can’t do that. I’ve worked just as hard as you to get where I am in my career.”
“And I’m not stopping you! Just like I thought you weren’t stopping me, but here I find that my post-feminist boyfriend is actually hiding the values of a 1950’s husband underneath his chilled Abercrombie wardrobe.”
“Then what? What exactly do you want from me?”
“I’m sorry I brought it up,” he said, clearly exasperated, running his hand through his shaggy dark hair.
“I’m not. Clearly we have a whole lot more fucking issues than I was aware of. So tell me, Alcide, what do you want here? Tell me. If I can, I’ll give it to you.”
Jesus Christ, I hated this job already. Well, that was a lie, but the boot camp kicked my ass six ways from Sunday. Every week, three times a fucking week, for a month. I was dying and we hadn’t shot an inch of film. If I wasn’t in boot camp hell, I was recuperating with Sandy.
Sandy Brown, my girlfriend of eight months. She and I met on the set of one of the disastrous low budget pseudo-intellectual-indie films that my manager and my PR had insisted was the right move for me. It wasn’t. It was a remake of a classic that shouldn’t have been touched, and while I understood and liked my character, some of his choices when it came to Sandy’s character left me scratching my head. She and I hit it off instantly. On the surface we seemed perfect for each other. Same taste in music, same—according to my assistant—horrible taste in fashion trends, same background, similar upbringing…
I had a pushy mother who enjoyed the benefits of my fame—she had a pushy mother who liked being rich and noticed, who shoved her only daughter into every beauty pageant along the East coast before she got noticed by a casting scout. She’s been addicted to the attention ever since. And when I say addicted, I mean addicted. She was like Tinkerbell, only instead of applause, it was camera flashes that seemed to keep her perky. We’d go days, weeks, without it and honestly, she was like a different person. Almost like a drug addict waiting on a fix.
Why put up with it, right? That was the question I didn’t seem to have an answer to. She wasn’t a bad person. In fact, there were moments when she was a great person. She and I did have a lot in common, so there was that, but there were just so many other outside influences on us that made the relationship—if you could even call it that—extremely rocky, at best. I think, ultimately, we were both convenient for each other, and Hollywood was a lonely town. I’d spent enough time alone to know that. She was a handful, but it beat being lonely.
“You all packed?”
“Yeah, mostly, I think. Just can’t find my iPod charger…” I said, looking around the room as she decided to sprawl herself on the bed. “Any plans for when I’m gone?” I finally found the white charger underneath a lot of crap in a drawer.
“Not really. I have a few meetings, then I have to go shopping with my stylist for this charity thing, then I have that English Film Festival red carpet, then the dinner for Elton John red carpet, then I have to meet this, like, majorly popular blogger guy I think I can strike a deal with for … you know, my fashion, obviously. And um, I think I have a few more events before you get back. Maybe we could go to something when you get back or something.”
“What’s the charity?”
She fidgeted with the zipper of my bag. “Um, I don’t know? I want to say kids? Or sick whales? I don’t know. All I know is I was told to turn up looking hot, which is why we can’t go out to dinner tonight.”
“Uh, hello? You know that I limit my portions before an event. I can’t look podgy in the photos, silly.”
“I’m starving and we’ve been cooped up here all day. And for the nine hundredth time, you are not podgy!”
“Well, I offered to go to the Ivy for lunch. You declined.”
“The Ivy is pap central and you know that shit annoys me when I’m trying to eat. No one looks good while they’re eating.”
“That’s my motto. Seriously eating, it’s just disgusting. Power shakes are so the way to go.”
“But… I like food, and those shakes are for building my muscle tone back up and they suck. That shit you drink is just vile.”
“It’s healthy! My stylist totally swears by it. Detoxing the whole body helps you drop that pesky ten pounds like that!” She snapped her fingers. “So really, just order something in if you’re still hungry or whatever.”
I decided to get a dinner delivered to the Villa from the hotel. I was starving, and leaving for weeks for Africa the next day didn’t do much to help my nerves. This felt like the last shot. Like the really last shot. If I fucked this up, I may as well give up hope of becoming the actor I wanted to become all my life. It’s a terrifying prospect—holding onto something so tightly for so long, only to watch it wither away before your eyes due to bad decisions again and again. I was so angry with myself, with my ‘people,’ with the misconceptions in the press. Apparently, because I don’t smile when going to the store, or I like to have a beer with my friends, I was a ‘moody’ asshole.
Which, okay, I was some of the time. But honestly, you try having three or four guys appear out of nowhere with cameras and questions when you’re just trying to buy bread, for fucks sake.
Getting to the airport was dramatic. Sandy had insisted on coming with me, which lead to a string of photographers following us from the hotel to the check in desk. I was so embarrassed since I’d spotted a few of my cast mates already checked in and watching the commotion.
“Okay, sweetie…” Sandy said, rubbing my back excessively as we stood in line. “I’ll speak to you soon, okay? Kiss me.” she said standing on her tiptoes, almost speaking into my neck.
“Here?” I looked around. There were kids in the line and an elderly looking woman who was most bemused at the two two-hundred pound guys with cameras asking us questions that we were ignoring.
“Are you guys jetting off to get married?”
“Are you leaving her, Eric?”
“What’s going on guys?”
Seriously, what told them this was an interview?
I kissed her quickly on the lips before she hugged me just as quickly. Flashes, everywhere. I may be blind now.
Before we broke apart, I heard wheels of a suitcase wheel up in the line next to me. It was Sookie.
“If you two are done making yourself look like something out of Jackass, we do have a plane to catch, Eric.” She addressed me icily before turning her attentions to Sandy. “Oh, hi again, Sandy.”
“Hi, Sookie. I meant to tell you the other day when you at our Villa at the Château Marmot.”
What was she doing? “I just loved your movies when I was a kid. You made me want to be an actress.”
The camera guys were still standing there and it was obvious their intrusion embarrassed Sookie. I saw her cheeks flush under her over-sized glasses.
“Oh, well, that’s sweet. Thank you, I guess.” Her neck started to go red, don’t ask me why, but it was kind of sexy.
“No, really and honestly, you were robbed of that Oscar! It must feel so horrible to fail so hard at life like that, and so young, too…” Sandy said, with no malice evident in her voice. Which meant she actually thought this was an okay topic to talk about like this; here of all fucking places.
I closed my eyes, hoping she’d stop. I opened them to see Sookie’s eyebrow quirk before she laughed.
“Well, better to have failed and realized I was better than a failure at age eleven, Sandy, than being a washed up, desperate, fame-whore clinging to just any ounce of so-called ‘fame’ and celebrity, right? If you’ll excuse me.” She handed in her ticket and went through the necessary procedures, as did the tall redhead next to her who looked shocked by the whole thing.
The photographers seemed extremely happy with their find, leaving eventually with a curt thank you. Like we could do shit to stop them in a public place.
“What the fuck, Sand?”
“That’s my boss!”
“Oh please. She’ll be fine.”
“Jesus. Look, I have to board. I’ll see you in three weeks.”
I cringed. I hated that pet name, or pet names in general. She kissed me on the cheek and made her way outside while I checked into the flight. I was exhausted already and we hadn’t even taken off.
I’d managed not to pack the entire contents of my wardrobe, which in itself was shocking. Jessica had been an amazing help in that department. She’d been so Zen and chilled out, I wanted whatever she was having. She had finished university and really unsure of what to do, and with no money for Grad school, and not wanting to leave California, she’d applied for a bunch of jobs. She’d ended up at Pam’s management agency as a temp. Pam had seen her and apparently thought she and I would mesh. Of course, Pam sent me three models and an ex-Playboy bunny as well, so perhaps her judgment was a little off on what one needed in an assistant. I’d told Jessica she wasn’t my slave, that I wasn’t any better than her and I’d like us to be friends. If she and I got along, it was important to me to establish trust first, then friendship. I was loyal, and fiercely protective of my friends. If she proved herself in the trust department, then I’d think of asking her if she wanted the pool house since I knew she was trying to save on rent. But I’d have to see how it went first.
Alcide had left the previous morning, not that I blame him. Things were just too… awkward. I’d asked him what he wanted, and he didn’t know what he wanted and he thought I didn’t know what I wanted either. So we both agreed we’d take a break from whatever it was we were at that point. Break, break-up, breaking down, I didn’t know what the hell was happening. All I knew was that I felt so lost and so alone, and to make things ten times worse, it should have been the happiest time of my life. All my hard work was coming to fruition. I should have been elated. Instead I was bitchy, sad and angry, and all I wanted was to curl into my duvet and cry for a few days and eat my body weight in ice cream. Instead, what I walked into was Barbie and Ken having a goodbye fest in front of the fucking paparazzi. It made my blood boil, and in equal parts made me want to cry, since I was now single, or not single, or soon to be single—I had no fucking idea what ‘on a break’ meant.
Barbie bitched me out in front of the paps, and in such a underhanded manner it made me question if I was actually hearing her. Sure, an eleven-year-old can fail at life.
She’d managed to sour my already fucked over mood. As Jessica and I got settled into first class, I noticed the network didn’t spring for everyone to travel that way. It sucked, but that’s just how it went. I did, however, see my tall, blond lead actor make his way into our section, iPod in place, script in hand. I had nothing to say to him, or anyone really, until we landed and until then. I was going to take one of my last opportunities to fully relax. I reclined my chair, replaced my sunglasses with my eye mask, unpacked my fleece blanket and laid back. I would sleep until it was time to eat, or until we landed, whichever came first.
Yeah, like I’d actually get peace long enough to sleep. Of course not. I’d get a few hours before I’d wake up to find Eric where Jessica had been, and a smirk in place of his former scowl.
Not good, not good at all.