By:  Dreams

 

Disclaimers: Nope, sorry, can't say there are any. All of the characters are mine. I take full responsibility for all of their actions. Hmm ... On second thought  ... I've never seen them before in my life. They just followed me home one day ... really ...

 

Violence/Sex: No violence, I don't think. I guess that would depend on what you mean by "violence" ...  I don't think there is any. You can decide for yourself.  And sex?  Umm ... I'll go on the safe side and say there will be. But don't go suing me for false advertisement if you can't find any. It really depends on what you mean by sex. As there are people in some cultures that show their affection by licking each other's eyeballs, it is possible that my definition of sex may be different than yours. Mine may involve cows in ballet slippers for instance ... wait, that doesn't sound right ...

 

Warning: This story involves an in-the closet actress, online relationships, Puerto Ricans, the Spanish language, Starbucks coffee, angels, boyfriends, sexual relationships between women .. and a ton of other random things that poured forth from my artistic loins. If none of the above things interest you, then you may not want to partake in this little tour of my demented psyche.

 

Dedication: to you and you and you you and you .. to people living with living with ... ::notices there are people watching:: Ahem. Sorry. Too much "RENT" for me. Strike that. There can never be too much RENT. Unless it's the kind you have to pay. But my point.. and I do have one .. is that this story is dedicated to you. Thank you for taking the time to delve into my madness. What a brave soul you are .. muahahaha <coughcough>

 

Special Thanks:  To Amber, Cindy, Camilla, Christy, Amy, and Robin. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't know what I'd do without you guys.

 

Write me: Cause I'd love to know what you think. I may be reached at amazonkiwi@aol.com


                                                                                    

 38

 

"Good morning," Kris greeted her roommate upon entering the kitchen.

 

Leigh didn't glance up as she mumbled a distracted, "Morning."

 

Kris noticed that Leigh was busy scribbling away on a spiral notebook. "Am I interrupting your 'dear diary' moment?"

 

Leigh muttered something that Kris didn't quite catch.

 

"Right," Kris agreed. "And in English, that would translate to . . .?"

 

Brown eyes lifted from the paper to meet with curious green ones. "I'm making a list of career options in case the acting thing doesn't work out," she explained, looking down sadly. "I mean I should be realistic about it."

 

Unsure of how to respond, Kris turned her attention to the coffee machine. Leigh occasionally went through phases of doubt and self-questioning. Kris understood the feelings all to well, but also understood the drive, which is why she was not all that worried that Leigh would lose her motivation and give up for good. Cup of coffee in hand, she sat down at the table. "What do you have so far?"

 

Leigh sat up straighter and cleared her throat. "Number one: work at Starbucks for the rest of my life," she read off, then sighed and glanced up. "That's it."

 

"What's the rest of that stuff there?" Kris questioned, motioning to rest of the list on the notebook.

 

"Groceries," Leigh answered, sitting back as if defeated. "I got distracted."

 

Kris smiled but covered it up with the mug at her lips. "Maybe you shouldn't give up on the acting thing, then," she suggested.

 

"I need an agent," Leigh said suddenly. "That would really help me out."

 

Kris simply nodded.

 

Leigh fell silent for a few minutes, staring thoughtfully at the kitchen table. Finally, she glanced up, and hesitantly asked, "Your friend works in Hollywood, right?"

 

"Video?"

 

"California," Leigh explained, somewhat needlessly, she felt. "The lesbian," she added for safe measure.

 

Kris stared across the table at her best friend, unsure of where the subject was headed. "Yeah ..." she confirmed slowly. "Why?"

 

Leigh's eyes lit up hopefully. "Maybe she knows how I can go about getting a good agent," she said. "Like, maybe she can suggest someone."

 

"I don't know if‹"

 

"Please," Leigh interrupted. "Just ask her. Worst that can happen is she says she doesn't know anyone, and I'm right back where I am now." Her brown eyes searched Kris's. "Please."

 

Kris frowned, torn between wanting to help Leigh and fearing that Julia would think she was using her. A glance over at Leigh's hopeful face tipped the balance. "Okay. I'll bring it up next time I talk to her," she agreed. "But I can't promise anything," she added quickly.

 

Leigh rushed over to envelop Kris in a hug. "Thank you thank you thank you! You don't know how much this means to me."

 

"I can't promise anything," Kris said again, but allowed herself a smile as she hugged Leigh back. Her friend's enthusiasm was contagious.  Guess I will be calling Julia later.

 

 

 

Julianne was not used to receiving packages that were not marked with studio names on them. She also was not used to receiving packages addressed under her real name. For these reasons‹and others that she couldn't quite get a conscious handle on‹she sat staring at the unopened box with a mixture of excitement and fear that overwhelmed her in a way that cardboard never had before.

 

"Just open it," she said aloud. Blue eyes crinkled in concentration as she contemplated the brown-ness and square-ness of the object.  "It's not like she's gonna pop out of it." She leaned forward in the couch and pulled the box down from the coffee table and onto the carpet. The name Kris Milano stared up at her in black permanent marker, and Julianne found herself tracing her finger along the outline of the letters. "So much for living simply," she voiced with a sigh.

 

Her fingers began peeling the edges of the tape, but the ringing of the telephone quickly interrupted her actions.  She grabbed the receiver from the table next to the couch. "Franqui," she breathed impatiently.

 

"Um, hi, is...Uh, Julia?"

 

Julianne froze at the sound of Kris's voice. Shit. "Hi! Sorry, I was waiting for my . . . uh, my ..." She looked around the living room looking for a quick lie. Finding none, she said the first thing that came to mind. "... pool man, Frankie. He's supposed to call me about ... chlorine products." She sank down on the couch and closed her eyes, shaking her head at her own stupidity. "How are you?"

 

"Good," Kris replied. "You?"

 

Mortified beyond redemption.  "Good," she answered instead.

 

"If you're busy waiting for a call ..."

 

"No!" Julianne said quickly. "That's what call waiting is for. Um, what can I do for you?"

 

"I didn't know you had a pool," Kris said instead of answering.

 

Neither did I. Guess I'll put building a pool on my list of things to do. "It's one of those little plastic ones," she found herself saying, realizing too late that every time she opened her mouth around Kris her IQ dropped a hundred points.

 

"And you need chlorine for that?"

 

"Can't be too careful," Julianne replied, because she didn't sound like enough of a moron already. "Stagnant water and all; could attract bugs."

 

Kris laughed. "That's funny."

 

Julianne laughed too. She thinks I'm kidding, ha ha ... Help.  "So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?" she asked, trying to change the subject.

 

Kris paused and Julianne waited patiently for an answer. Finally, Kris responded with, "Actually, I was calling to ask for a favor ..."

 

Interested, Julianne sat up. "Favor?"

 

"Yeah," Kris answered, sounding deeply embarrassed. "I feel really awkward asking this."

 

"Go ahead," Julianne encouraged gently. She could not imagine what Kris could possibly want from her, but she was certain that whatever it was would be granted immediately.

 

Kris took a deep breath. "Well, it's actually a favor for Leigh," she began, and then paused again. "Feel free to stop me and say no at any time..."

 

"Go on."

 

"Well, as you know she's an actress and she's trying really hard to catch a break, but she feels this would be made a lot easier with the aid of an agent, and I know you work in Hollywood so I thought maybe you knew some people. I-I don't mean like get her an agent or anything, just if you knew of anyone she could call, maybe. Or, you know, if you have any tips for getting one or . . . something."

 

Julianne fell silent for a moment. Not because she was offended by the proposition, but because she was pondering the best way to offer help without giving herself away. "Tell you what, I'll see what I can do and get back to you."

 

"Please don't go out of your way," Kris said quickly. "I really didn't mean to put you on the spot and it was probably really inconsiderate to call you up and ask you‹"

 

"Kris," Julianne interrupted, laughing slightly. "It's okay. It's really no problem at all. I'll call you back tonight and let you know what I could find. Okay?"

 

"Okay," Kris answered, sounding a bit more relaxed. "Thank you so much."

 

"You're welcome," Julianne replied. "Talk to you tonight?"

 

"Talk to you then," Kris agreed. "Bye."

 

"Bye." Julianne clicked the 'off' button on the receiver and stared at it thoughtfully. Shrugging, she pressed the appropriate speed dial code and waited. "Eric? It's Julianne. I need a favor."

 

 

 

"So this is the source of your insanity," Adrian commented, staring at the picture in his hand. He winked. "Well, she's sure hot, I'll grant you that much, Jules." He flipped to the picture behind it and raised a brow. "Who's the stud?"

 

"That would be her ex-boyfriend," Julianne responded, not bothering to hide her disgust. "The asshole," she added for emphasis. "If I ever run into that jerk I swear I'll..."

 

Adrian leaned forward, suddenly interested in the conversation. "You'll what?"

 

"Kick his ass," Julianne replied matter-of-factly.

 

"How butch of you," Adrian teased, glancing back at the pictures. When he'd seen enough he placed them back on the coffee table and regarded his best friend with curiosity. "So, what are you going to do when she asks you for pictures of yourself?"

 

Julianne shrugged. "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it."

 

"So, what else did she send?" Adrian asked, sliding the box closer. He peeked inside and withdrew a cookbook. He frowned at Julianne. "Cookbook?"

 

"I told her I like to cook," Julianne explained with a grin.

 

"Well at least that much is true," Adrian agreed, placing the book on the table beside the box.

 

"Hey, it's not like I lie to her about everything," Julianne argued, hurt by the implication.

 

"Don't even get me started on the killer clowns from outer space movie idea."

 

Julianne frowned. "They were alien robots."

 

"Not helping your cause any," Adrian replied. "And anyway, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. If you didn't feel guilty about lying to her you wouldn't be overcompensating with random acts of kindness."

 

"I don't‹It's not because I feel guilty." Julianne couldn't meet Adrian's gaze. The truth was that she did feel guilty; how could she not? But that wasn't all. If guilt was all there was to the situation, Julianne would've put a stop to it a lot sooner. It was so much more than that. She just had no idea how to explain it.

 

Adrian stared at Julianne thoughtfully for a minute, and then retrieved the pictures from the table. He held one up in each hand. "Let's try a little test," he proposed. "Look at both of these pictures."

 

Julianne rolled her eyes but did as Adrian commanded. "Is there a point to this?" she asked.

 

"There's always a point to everything that I do, Julianne, you should know that by now," he replied. "Okay, so which of the two pictures is your favorite."

 

"That's easy. The one where she's by herself."

 

"And why?"

 

"Because then I don't have to see that jerk's smiling face."

 

Adrian nodded. "And what if he wasn't a jerk? What if he was the nicest guy in the whole world and they were both totally in love. Which picture would be your favorite then?"

 

Julianne frowned at the question. What was Adrian trying to get at?

 

He shook his head and put the pictures down. "It's not that hard, Julianne. It's the same answer to both questions. Why do you think that is?"

 

"Since you're the one with the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, why don't you tell me?" Julianne said.

 

"I don't need a Ph.D. in anything to understand the way you think, Julianne," Adrian replied. "And the answer is that seeing her with someone else makes you jealous."

 

Julianne sighed. "Please don't start this again," she begged.

 

"Why?"

 

"Because."

 

"Because you know I'm right."

 

Julianne rose to her feet and began putting things back into the box. Finally, she sighed and stared at her best friend. "What do you want from me?"

 

"I want to make sure that you're not plunging blindly into something," he answered. "I've never seen you so hung up on anyone else before, Julianne, and it scares me. This girl has no idea who you are.  If you end up falling for her, what are you going to do?"

 

Julianne picked up the box and started walking away without answering.

 

Once in her bedroom, Julianne shut the door and sat down at the edge of the bed, placing the box on the floor before her. She stared at the phone for a long moment before picking it up and dialing.

 

"Hello?"

 

Julianne sat up. "Kris?" she said. "It's Julia."

 

"Oh hey," Kris greeted. "I didn't think you were going to call."

 

"Surprise, then," Julianne joked. "Listen, I'm going to email you later with a phone number you can give Leigh. Tell her to get in touch with Eric Moura and set up an appointment to meet with him."

 

"Is he an agent?" Kris asked.

 

"One of the best," Julianne confirmed. "He's going to be in New York for a couple of days so make sure Leigh calls as soon as possible."

 

"Wow," Kris breathed. "Thank you so much, Julia. I owe you one."

 

"Don't worry about it," Julianne assured her. "And anyway, the package you sent me makes us even."

 

"Oh you got it?" Kris asked, sounded excited. "Did you like it?"

 

Julianne smiled. "I loved it, thank you," she said. "It was really sweet of you." She leaned forward and withdrew the photograph of Kris standing by herself. "And I really loved the painting. I'm going to hang it with the others."

 

"Others?"

 

Julianne froze momentarily, forgetting that Kris only knew of the one. "Well, I have other paintings," she lied. "Of other artists."

 

"Oh," Kris said. "Well, I'm glad you liked it. I'm sorry the photos of me were kind of corny. I don't really have any other recent ones."

 

"I think you are beautiful," Julianne found herself saying. She was momentarily embarrassed by her blunt honesty but decided it was true enough. "Sorry."

 

"For?"

 

"Being so brutally honest," Julianne replied.

 

Kris laughed. "I'll get over it somehow," she assured her. "And thank you."

 

"You're welcome."

 

"Now you owe me a picture of yourself," Kris said.

 

Julianne felt herself sigh. "I'll see what I can do."

 

"Good enough," Kris allowed.

 

"Anyway, I should go," Julianne said, feeling depressed all of a sudden. "I just wanted to tell you about Leigh and thank you for the package."

 

"Thank you so much for doing that for me, Julia," Kris replied. "You don't know how much I appreciate it."

 

"You're quite welcome," Julianne told her. "I'll talk to you later."

 

"Bye."

 

Julianne hung up the phone and fell back onto the bed, the picture still in her hand. She stared at Kris' smiling face and sighed. What am I going to do?

 

 

39

 

"Leigh!" Kris called from the kitchen. "You're going to be late!" When there was no reply, Kris frowned and started toward Leigh's bedroom. She knocked lightly on the door. "Leigh?"

 

The door opened so quickly that Kris almost lost her balance and fell into the room. "Sorry," Leigh apologized. "I'm having a crisis."

 

Kris looked around the room and arched an eyebrow. Clothes lay scattered all over the floor. "Did your closet sneeze?"

 

"Worse. I don't know what to wear," Leigh replied, panic in her voice. "I've never met with an agent before. What does one wear to these things? Can we call Julia real quick and ask her?"

 

"What you're wearing is fine," Kris assured her. "And besides, you don't have time for another change. You're supposed to be there in twenty minutes."

 

Leigh turned to the mirror. "You're right. It'd be even worse to miss the appointment completely. But what if I show up and he takes one look at my outfit and walks away."

 

"They aren't that rude."

 

"How do you know?" Leigh demanded. "It's all about looks. Should I show more cleavage? Men like cleavage, right?"

 

"Not if they're gay."

 

Leigh turned round eyes on Kris. "Is he gay? Am I showing too much cleavage? Maybe he'll think I'm a total slut. What if he's married and his wife comes in, thinks he's cheating on her with me, and then throws our drinks at us and storms off. And before the whole meeting has begun, it's ended with the man chasing after his wife, yelling, 'It's not what you think, honey, I swear! I've never seen her before in my life.'"

 

Kris felt Leigh's forehead. "Well, the good news is it's not a fever.  The bad news is you've lost your mind." She grabbed Leigh's hand and dragged her out of the room. "Now, just be yourself; tone down the insanity; and try not to throw any popcorn at him if he says anything you disapprove of."

 

Leigh grabbed her purse from the kitchen table as Kris pushed her out the door. "Wish me luck."

 

"Good luck," Kris said as she managed to push Leigh into the hallway. "Now go get 'em."

 

Leigh threw her arms around Kris. "This might just change my life forever."

 

"Only if you decide to elope with him," Kris replied with a smile, hugging her friend back. She knew how much this meant to Leigh ... but what if nothing came of it.

 

Leigh finally pulled away and took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm ready." She turned and started down the hall.

 

"Good luck!" Kris called again. When Leigh was in the elevator, Kris walked back into the apartment and leaned against the door. "Please God, let this go well," she prayed.

 

 

 

*          *            *

 

"So what did you tell Eric?" Adrian questioned, stuffing a big spoonful of ice cream into his mouth.

 

Julianne watched him attack the banana split for a moment, and then replied, "I told him that I needed him to meet with this girl and then refer her to one of his buddies if he didn't want to take her on."

 

"And he said?"

 

Julianne shrugged. "It was something to the effect of, 'Huh?'" She shrugged again and stole a bite of Adrian's ice cream. "I had to talk him into it but he agreed. Said he had to go to New York this weekend anyway so he'd fit it in."

 

"That's it?"

 

"Well, then I had to make him swear on his job as my agent that he wouldn't mention me at all during his meeting with Leigh. And that if she said anything about a Julia Frank, to pretend he had no idea who that was. I told him to make something up. He's an agent so I trust him to lie convincingly."

 

Adrian chuckled. "Did he wonder what it was all about?"

 

"Probably," Julianne answered. She smirked. "But he was probably too worried I'd change my mind about the movie if he pissed me off."

 

"Must feel good to have so much power," Adrian commented with a grin.

 

"I can only do so much though," she answered, her voice suddenly taking a worried tone. "It's all up to Leigh from now on."

 

"Do you think Eric will take her?"

 

Julianne sighed and stole another spoonful. "Here's to hoping."

 

"Won't it be weird for you, though? The two of you having the same agent?"

 

She shrugged. "Probably. But it would make Kris really happy." Julianne smiled at the thought.

 

Adrian watched her for a moment and shook his head. "Women," he whispered. "So, why didn't you just ask Eric to send one of his buddies over to meet Leigh?"

 

"Because, as much as he annoys me, Eric is one of the best," Julianne replied. "I wouldn't trust Leigh with anyone else. If Eric chooses to refer her elsewhere, then at least I know that I tried."

 

"Of course."

 

Julianne smiled. "Do you know what my favorite thing about Kris is?"

 

Adrian rolled his eyes. "Here we go," he muttered. "Um, let's see. Her eyes, her lips, the way she frowns...?"

 

"Hmm," Julianne considered. "I've never seen her frown, but she has amazing eyes. And her lips are‹" She stopped herself and coughed. "It's her accent. It's this interesting blend of Spanish and English ... and something else."

 

"Amazing how you manage to make her sound like a brand of coffee," Adrian replied dryly.

 

"Do you believe in fate?" Julianne asked suddenly.

 

Adrian looked up at the sky. "Dear God, I promise to cancel my Playboy subscription if only you'll give me back my best friend. You know the one; tall, beautiful, didn't care much about other people. I liked her."

 

Julianne punched Adrian's arm. "I'm serious."

 

He frowned. "How do you know I wasn't?"

 

"Because there's no way you'd give up your Playboy subscription," she answered with a smile.

 

"Well, you've got me there," Adrian agreed. "Um, fate. Well, I think it was pretty amazing that of all the people you could choose to sit beside at an independent film festival, you went and sat beside me."

 

Julianne smiled. "That's true."

 

"And of all the films you could've insulted, you chose to insult mine."

 

Julianne scrunched up her nose. "I'm really sorry about that."

 

Adrian looked up thoughtfully. "What was it that you said? Oh yes, 'Whoever made this film should be committed.'"

 

"It was a film about how chickens make model citizens," Julianne argued.

 

"And I still stand by that argument," Adrian responded. "Regardless, if you hadn't insulted my movie, I might've asked you out for coffee instead of insulting your films; I might've never seen you again."

 

"So you do believe in fate?" Julianne asked.

 

"No. I simply like taking any opportunity I can find to remind you that you insulted me first."

 

"You don't believe in fate?" Julianne said, sounding disappointed.

 

"Fate is etaf spelled backwards."

 

"So?"

 

Adrian caught Julianne's gaze. "Etaf is a reminder that 'fate' is simply four random letters placed together for the solitary function of conveying an abstract concept."

 

"Do you pull this stuff right out of your butt or do you actually think about it beforehand?" Julianne wondered.

 

"A little of both."

 

"Well, I believe in fate," Julianne responded.

 

"And fate is going to lead you to your soul mate?" Adrian guessed.

 

"Allegedly."

 

"So your soul mate is a straight girl in New York who has absolutely no idea who you are?"

 

"Stranger things have happened," Julianne replied.

 

"Like?"

 

"You and I becoming friends."

 

 

 

Kris nervously flipped through the channels without stopping at any particular one. She'd been at the same activity since Leigh left for the interview. Her eyes blindly drifted with the channels before her but she didn't register any of the images displayed there.

 

Finally, she decided to stop at a random channel and pick up her laptop. She could always waste time by emailing Julia. That was always a productive pastime, far more productive than staring blankly at the television screen.

 

Kris got as far as writing, "Dear Julia," when she heard the door open. Email message forgotten, Kris jumped to her feet and rushed to greet Leigh. "How did it go?" was the first thing she said.

 

Leigh entered the apartment with a broad grin on her face.  "You won't believe what just happened," she stated.

 

Kris made hand motions to convey her impatience. "Go on!"

 

"Patience is a virtue, ever hear of that?" Leigh joked, plopping down on one of the kitchen tables. She waited until Kris was seated down before continuing. "Okay, so I get to the little café place where Eric wanted to meet me."

 

"Eric?"

 

"That's what he told me to call him," Leigh explained proudly. "Two hours and we're already on first name terms."

 

"Wow," Kris replied. "So what happened?"

 

"Well," Leigh began once more, "I get there and I see this dorky looking man with glasses and messy hair looking totally impatient and annoyed. And I think, 'Oh shit, this is already not going well.'  But I suck it up and walk over. I introduce myself to him and give him my headshot and resume; he doesn't even bother looking at my credentials. He's staring at the photo and at me. So far the only thing he's said to me is, 'Hi, I'm Eric Moura.' So, I'm sitting there trying to figure out if the man's insane or if I did something wrong. Maybe I wasn't supposed to give him my headshots or something.

 

"Anyway," Leigh continued, "I'm waiting for him to say something else when his cell phone starts ringing. He excuses himself and walks over to the back of the café. I can't hear a word he's saying but he's looking really frustrated at whomever he's talking to. And the weird thing is that I catch him glancing at me like every two seconds. Finally, he gets back to the table and apologizes for the interruption.

 

"Here's when things start getting interesting," Leigh announced, leaning slightly forward. "So, he asks me if I've ever done any film before and I'm thinking, 'why doesn't he just look at the back of the picture; it's all there.' I didn't want to be rude or anything, so I tell him that I've done a couple of low budget commercials for local shops, but that mostly I've just done theater work. So, he sits back, looking all pensive. I'm expecting him to start scratching his chin thoughtfully or something, but he doesn't.

 

"So, then he asks me if I have any nudity issues‹"

 

"Just like that?" Kris asked, appalled.

 

"Just like that," Leigh confirmed. "I'll demonstrate." She cleared her throat and adopted a deep voice. "Do you have any nudity issues?" She chuckled. "I couldn't decide whether to answer the question or to slap him and walk out the door. I decide to just go with the flow of things. So I ask him what sort of nudity issues he's referring to and he goes, 'Do you have a problem being naked in a film and if so, how naked is too naked?'"

 

"Leigh, please don't tell me you got cast in a porn movie," Kris begged, suddenly feeling sick to her stomach.

 

Leigh started laughing. "I know, that's what I thought too. Just hear me out. So, I'm thinking, 'is he flirting with me? Does he want me to do pornography? What's going on here?' I tell him that I don't have any particular issues with nudity as long as it's a tasteful environment. I was trying to explain in as few words as possible that there is no way I would do porn. He starts laughing; like really laughing. I can't decide if he's laughing at what I've just said or if there's something tickling his bottom.

 

"He finally stops laughing and he smiles at me and says, 'they're looking for a red-haired girl, around your height and build for a movie that's shooting in the fall. Interested?"

 

"Oh wow," Kris breathed.

 

"I know! But, I was still a little concerned about all the nudity questions so I ask him what the role entails. So he explains that there are a few roles open and that a sex scene is required for one of the parts. However, he says that if they cast me it probably won't be for that role. I guess he was just testing me to see how far I was willing to go."

 

"So what did you say?" Kris wondered.

 

"Well, he asked again if I was interested and I said something like, 'hell yes!' He gave me a sample scene and told me to memorize both parts. The audition is in a week."

 

Kris shrieked excitedly and hugged Leigh. "This is unbelievable!"

 

"I know!" Leigh replied hugging Kris back. "A week from now I could be on my way to becoming a movie star."

 

"Let's celebrate," Kris suggested.

 

"A wonderful idea, dah-ling," Leigh agreed happily. "But first, I want to call Julia personally and thank her like she's never been thanked before."

 

 

*          *            *

 

"Thank you so much, Miss Franqui," the man stated for the billionth time in two minutes. "You don't know how much this will mean to my daughter. She absolutely loves your show."

 

Julianne smiled at him and quickly scribbled her signature on the handkerchief the man was holding. "Tell your daughter I said thank you."

 

"Oh thank you, thank you," he stated before walking away.

 

"There's no way that man has a daughter," Jan commented. "He's probably going to go masturbate with that handkerchief."

 

"Jan!" Susan and Timothy Frank chorused.

 

Jan looked up from her plate of salad and shrugged. "It's true. He was all but drooling on her."

 

Julianne shifted in her seat and attempted to focus on the food before her. She still didn't understand why her parents insisted she meet them for dinner. It was probably so her mother could keep up the façade that they were a happy little family. Julianne speared a piece of steak and stuffed it in her mouth.

 

"So, Julianne, how's your publicity schedule going?" her mother asked.

 

"I've done a couple of photo shoots and interviews so far," Julianne responded. "I'll be traveling to a few select cities in about a week. Fifty or so interviews a day; fun."

 

"You're so ungrateful," Jan told her, shaking her head in disgust. "When I'm a famous star I'm going to love doing interviews."

 

"I wish you all the best with that," Julianne replied casually.

 

Jan rolled her eyes and returned to her dinner.

 

"So what's your next project?" Timothy asked his daughter.

 

Well, at least the damn movie will be good for something. "I'm starring in another film," she replied. Ask me what it's about. C'mon, ask me. Please. Please. Please.

 

Susan leaned forward. "How much are you getting paid for that one?"

 

"A lot," was all Julianne said.

 

Jan's curiosity got the best of her. "So, what's this one about?"

 

Julianne almost smiled but covered it with a glass of water. "I play a young woman who‹" Her cell phone interrupted the rest of the plot summary. "Excuse me," she said to her parents. "Franqui," she spoke into the phone.

 

"Hi Julianne, how are you doing?"

 

Julianne recognized Eric Moura's voice immediately. "Hi Eric," she greeted, glad for any interruption. "What can I do for you?"

 

"Naomi Mosier, the director of Summer's End asked me to get in contact with you," Eric explained. "She'd like you to be at the next auditioning session. They'd like you to help with the casting of Emma's role."

 

Julianne sighed. "Tell you what. You can call Karen and tell her where I need to be and when and if she says she can work it into my schedule, I'll do it. If she starts cursing you out, kindly explain that you were just kidding. Then, call Naomi Mosier back and tell her that Julianne Franqui's schedule will not permit her to be of assistance at this time."

 

"Julianne, it's very important that you're there," Eric insisted.

 

"Tell it to Karen," Julianne replied casually. "Goodbye Eric." She hung up before he had a chance to argue further. She put the cell phone down and shook her head. "In about five minutes my assistant is going to call me," Julianne predicted, though nobody around the table was paying much attention to her.

 

Four and a half minutes later, the cell phone rang. Julianne smiled. "See?" she asked her inattentive audience. "Hello Karen," Julianne said into the phone.

 

"Hi, Miss-Uh, I mean, Julianne," Karen greeted. "The only way I can fit in the audition is if you reschedule your interviews for Saturday."

 

Julianne considered. "Is rescheduling a big problem?"

 

"Well, you're due in Miami on Monday morning and you have interviews all day Sunday," Karen explained.

 

"Do I have any days off?"

 

"Not for another few weeks."

 

Julianne thought about it for a long moment and finally said, "Okay, call the Saturday people and see if you can fit some of the interviews in my Sunday schedule. Then whatever's left over, schedule for Monday morning. Call the Miami people and tell them I'll be late and promise them that I'll stay there until they've all gotten their interviews."

 

"You're going to go insane," Karen warned.

 

"I'm already insane, Karen," Julianne replied. "Call me back and let me know if things got settled okay."

 

"Will do," Karen agreed. "Bye."

 

"Must suck being you," Jan commented dryly when Julianne hung up the phone.

 

Julianne smiled and focused her full attention on the food before her. "It could be worse," she answered. "I could be you."

 

 

 

40

 

 

"It's too bad Adrian wasn't able to come this time around," Karen commented from her seat beside Julianne.

 

Julianne responded with a noncommittal grunt and focused on the view outside of the airplane window. There were too many other things going around in her mind for her to worry about Adrian. First and foremost, there was the issue of the audition. What if they wanted her to kiss a bunch of different girls?

 

Karen stared at the actress with concern. "Are you okay?" she asked gently. "Julianne?"

 

Julianne glanced over at her assistant and forced a smile. "Just don't like flying," she explained lamely and turned her gaze away.

 

"Are you nervous about making this movie?" Karen asked softly.

 

Frowning, Julianne turned back to Karen. "What do you mean?"

 

"You just get really tense whenever it comes up," Karen replied, attempting to sound casual. 

 

Julianne paused, unsure of how to approach the subject.

 

Karen sighed. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I'm always ... I'm sorry."

 

"It's fine," Julianne assured her. "Karen, after two years you have a right to ask questions. I just don¹t always know the best way to answer them." She sighed. "And yes, I'm nervous about making this movie."

 

Karen simply nodded and looked away.

 

Julianne didn't know what else to say on the subject so she remained silent. Thoughts and worries beckoned her attention. There was more than just the movie. At the root of every insecurity and fear lay the one thing she was most concerned about: Kris. The fact that she had no idea what to do about the situation was a constant reminder of the hole she'd dug herself into.

 

"You know," Karen began, breaking Julianne out of her reverie, "I'm told I'm a good listener ... when I'm not talking, that is. So, if you ever want to talk about anything ... I promise not to run to the press with it. I'll sign another contract."

 

Julianne smiled at her assistant. "Thank you, Karen. I just might take you up on that one of these days."

 

Karen smiled brightly in return.

 

Julianne stared out of the window once more, watching the clouds in the distance. Without thinking she said, "Do you believe in fate?"

 

"Sometimes," Karen replied at once. "Why?"

 

"No reason," Julianne answered, her gaze still on the clouds beyond. "No reason at all."

 

 

 

 

"So, what is this movie about?" Sari Serrano asked passing the bowl of chicken in her hand over to Kris.

 

Kris passed it right along to Leigh without bothering to look at the contents.

 

Leigh grabbed the bowl and helped herself to fried chicken. "I'm not exactly sure," she answered. "They just gave me a couple of parts to memorize so I haven't read the whole script."

 

Kris nodded. "We've been trying to figure it out from the clues in the dialogue but it's pretty vague." She shrugged. "But we're pretty certain it takes place sometime in the early 1900's or so."

 

"Yeah, it's definitely not present-day stuff," Leigh agreed, her mouth full of rice and chicken.

 

Kris focused on eating her food for a moment, trying to get enough courage to say what she wanted to say. Finally, she opened her mouth. "So, I talked to William today."

 

Sari glanced up from her food; Carlos merely grunted.

 

Kris took the grunt as a sign to continue. "He's doing really well," she said as casually as she could muster. "He got a job."

 

"As what, a hair stylist?" Dimitri quipped.

 

Kris waited for one of her parents to chastise her brother. She was shocked when neither of them said anything. She glanced quickly at Leigh who shrugged. Angered, Kris said, "He got a job at a computer company in Manhattan. They're going to pay for him to get a business degree."

 

Silence.

 

Finally, her father spoke. "Sari could you pass the potatoes?"

 

Kris frowned.  Hadn't they heard a word she'd said? Didn't they care? She was so shocked and angry that she couldn't even eat. A moment later, she felt Leigh's hand on her arm. She glanced quickly at her best friend who smiled slightly in support. Kris took a deep breath and attempted to focus on her dinner. Time, she told herself. They just need more time.

 

After a few minutes of silence, Carlos spoke again. "So, Leigh, what time is your audition tomorrow?"

 

"It's at nine in the morning," Leigh replied. "I'm not sure how long it will last. I was told to plan on being there all day."

 

"Nervous?" Sari asked gently.

 

"Very," Leigh confirmed. "I've never been so nervous in my life."

 

"You'll do fine, Leigh," Dimitri assured her. "Just picture them all naked."

 

Leigh laughed. "Thanks, D."

 

Kris rolled her eyes. She was annoyed at her brother and him being nice to Leigh wasn't going to make up for what he'd said about William. She sent him a look that she hoped conveyed that very thought. He merely shrugged at her and returned to his meal.

 

After dinner, Carlos and Dimitri left to rent a movie and the girls stayed to help Sari clean up in the kitchen.

 

"Have you heard from Nathan?" Sari asked.

 

Kris had been waiting for that inevitable question. "No," she replied. "And I doubt I will again."

 

Sari shook her head and handed Kris another dish to dry. "I don't know what you were thinking turning down that poor boy's proposal."

 

Kris didn't say anything.

 

"He's handsome, he's rich, and intelligent as anything," Sari stated. "What more do you want?"

 

"I just didn't love him," Kris explained. "He's all those things, but he ..." Kris stopped herself. The last thing she wanted was to open up a discussion on the events of prom night.

 

"He what?" Sari asked.

 

Kris glanced quickly at Leigh who was busy clearing the rest of the table. Leigh stopped working in anticipation of Kris's possible confession. "He just isn't what I want."

 

Leigh rolled her eyes and went back to what she'd been doing.

 

Sari sighed. "Well, I sure hope you figure out what you want soon," she told her. "You can't spend the rest of your life breaking young men's hearts." She smiled slightly at her own comment.

 

Kris smiled too and focused on drying on the dish in her hand. It was true that Nathan wasn't what she wanted. But what did she want?

 

 

 

*          *            *

 

"Coffee or tea?" Naomi Mosier offered.

 

Julianne stifled a yawn. Karen was right: she was insane. It was only Saturday morning and already Julianne was ready to collapse from exhaustion. "Coffee, please," she answered. And make it a double.

 

Naomi Mosier repeated the order to her assistant and turned kind green eyes on Julianne. "I'm really glad that you could make it, Miss Franqui. I've been a fan of your work for some time."

 

"Thank you," Julianne said smiling in appreciation. So far, Julianne couldn't decide if she liked the woman or if she didn't like the woman. She was younger than Julianne had expected. Or maybe she just looked younger.

 

Naomi nodded, pushing a strand of short blond hair behind her ear. "You've read through the script, right?"

 

Julianne nodded.

 

"Okay, I'm just going to need your help casting the role of Emma," the director explained. "We've narrowed it down to a few girls and we have a couple coming in that we haven't met with before. I'm sure you've done this before."

 

Julianne nodded again.

 

"Any questions?" Naomi asked.

 

Julianne started to shake her head and then realize it would probably be best if she uttered a word. "No," was the word she uttered.

 

Naomi smiled. "Rough night?"

 

"Rough month," Julianne said, smiling back. "What scene are we doing?"

 

"I want to try a couple," Naomi answered. "The one where Emma and Elizabeth meet, and one further along in the script. Maybe the one where they first kiss, if that's okay with you?"

 

Julianne was certain she'd paled considerably in the past few seconds. "Fine," she said, although it sounded forced even to her own ears.

 

Naomi studied Julianne for a long moment and had opened her mouth to say something when the door opened.

 

"Coffee anyone?" Naomi's assistant, Jeremy Stills asked.

 

Gratefully, Julianne accepted the cup and took a long sip. Caffeine was a wonderful thing.

 

When Jeremy had left once again, Naomi said, "Eric told me you were hesitant about taking this role."

 

Julianne looked over at the director.

 

"Any particular reason?" Naomi questioned.

 

Julianne finished the coffee and placed the cup on the desk. "I wasn't sure if it was a wise career move."

 

Naomi nodded. "So why did you take it?"

 

Julianne met the director's gaze. "I like a challenge," was her answer.

 

Pleased with the response, Naomi smiled. Julianne was beginning to warm up to that smile. "Ready?" she asked, standing.

 

"As I'll ever be," Julianne replied softly, standing as well.  She followed the director out into the hallway.

 

Karen was talking on her cell phone and quickly got off when she saw Julianne. "Everything okay?" she asked, falling into step beside the actress.

 

Julianne nodded. "Just peachy."

 

"You look a little pale," Karen whispered.

 

"New York weather," Julianne explained. "I'll be okay; just waiting for the caffeine to kick in."

 

Karen smiled.  "Let me know if you need a refill."

 

"Count on it," Julianne assured her assistant.

 

Naomi opened the door to a different room and Julianne stepped in behind the director. The room was set up with three rows of chairs at both sides of a middle isle. One side was filled with similar-looking girls; the other consisted of a couple of business-type people and some casually dressed individuals. Everyone stopped talking the moment Naomi and Julianne stepped into the room.

 

Naomi led Julianne to the side of the room with the executive-types. "Julianne Franqui, meet Ed Barring and Martha Jacobs, our esteemed producers."

 

Julianne smiled and shook their hands accordingly. "Nice to meet you," she said to both.

 

Naomi moved on to the more casually dressed of the lot. "This is Rhea McKee, my assistant director; and Jordan Silver, our casting director."

 

Pleasantries were once again exchanged.

 

A small murmur broke out on the other side of the room the moment Julianne Franqui was spotted.

 

"Take a seat, Julianne," Naomi told her.

 

Julianne let Karen sit first and then took the seat beside her. She figured she'd be getting up more frequently than Karen would.

 

Naomi walked to the front of the room and introduced herself to the small group of anxious actresses. "Today we'll be auditioning for the roles of Emma, Janna, and Kim," the director explained. "Those auditioning for Janna and Kim will play off of each other and probably switch off. Those auditioning for Emma will play off of Julianne Franqui."

 

Julianne could tell a number of the girls were staring over at her, but she kept her own gaze focused on Naomi.

 

"We're going to audition for the roles of Janna and Kim first," Naomi continued. "If I call your names please come up front. The rest of you may wait outside in the lobby until you are called. Any questions?"

 

Nobody raised her hand.

 

Julianne sighed. It was going to be a long day.

 

"Jean Hannon and Leigh Radlin," Naomi called.

 

Julianne froze. She felt the blood drain from her face. It can't be. She looked to the group of girls and saw Leigh making her way toward the front of the room. Oh. My. God.

 

"Are you okay?" Karen asked, suddenly concerned. "You look like you're about to pass out."

 

Julianne blinked a few times, then managed to gaze at Karen long enough to say, "Excuse me," before rushing out of the room. Once out in the hallway, she grabbed her cell phone and dialed.

 

"You've reached Eric Moura's office," the answering machine began, "please leave‹"

 

Julianne hung up the phone and tried a different number. "Please pick up," she begged the ringing object.

 

"Talk to me," came Adrian's voice.

 

"Adrian," Julianne said. "I have a problem."

 

"What's up?"

 

"Guess who's auditioning for my movie," she said.

 

"Brad Pitt?" Adrian guessed. "Did you decide you're straight now?"

 

"Kris's best friend," Julianne informed him.

 

"The cute red-head?"

 

"That'd be the one," Julianne confirmed.

 

"Of all the times I can't go with you to New York," Adrian said. "I always miss the fun stuff. So, is she the one you have to make out with? Cause that'd be hot."

 

"Adrian!" Julianne whined. "What do I do?"

 

"Tsk-tsk, Julianne. Now, you know you can't depend on me to solve all of your problems."

 

"Ugh. You're fired as my best friend," she said, and hung up on him. Then she banged the phone against her forehead a couple of times and took a deep breath. I just have to remain calm, see the audition through, and act like I have no idea who she is. I'm an actress. I can do this. She took another deep breath and reentered the room.

 

Naomi was in the process of giving the two girls instructions. Julianne sat back down beside Karen.

 

"You okay?" Karen asked.

 

Julianne nodded. "Just remembered I had to make a call."  She listened to Naomi for a moment and then leaned toward Karen. "Who's that girl with the red hair?"

 

"Leigh Radlin," Karen answered. "She hasn't really been in anything. That's really all I know right now."

 

"Hmm," Julianne commented, turning her attention back to the girls auditioning. She recognized the scene the moment the first line of dialogue was uttered. Julianne wouldn't have admitted it, but she'd read the script so many times she pretty much had the whole thing memorized.

 

It wasn't long before Julianne realized that Kris hadn't been biased in her opinion of Leigh's acting abilities. The girl was good, really good. A glance at the rest of the casting ensemble confirmed that she wasn't the only one who thought so. Mixed emotions played at the corner of Julianne's heart. What have I gotten myself into, she wondered.

 

When the scene ended, Naomi spoke up. "Thank you very much," she said. "Jean, good job. We'll be in touch with you. Leigh, we'd like to see you stay and play the role of Emma."

 

This could not possibly get any worse, Julianne thought. She almost considered faking a stomach ache, anything to get her out of this mess.

 

Naomi turned around to face her. "Ready?" she asked.

 

There are no words for how not ready I am. Julianne forced a confident smile and rose to her feet. Dear God, please get me out of this, she prayed as she approached the front of the room.

 

"I don't have this scene prepared," Leigh was saying.

 

Naomi nodded and handed her a couple of pages from the script. "Do your best," she said.

 

A cell phone rang somewhere in the room and Julianne prayed that it was hers. Unfortunately, it proved to be Naomi's. The director excused herself and left the room.

 

Julianne wasn't sure whether to return to her seat or remain standing. In the end, she opted for the latter. She stole a glance at Leigh, who was looking through the script with a look of utter trepidation. "Would you mind telling me what scene it is?" she found herself asking.

 

Leigh glanced up, looking confused by the question.

 

"Scene?" Julianne tried again.

 

"Oh," Leigh said and immediately handed the pages over to Julianne. "Sorry."

 

A quick survey of the dialogue confirmed Julianne's suspicions. What did I do to deserve this? She handed the pages back. "Thanks," she said.

 

"You're welcome," Leigh said, and went back to reading the script. A moment later, she glanced up. "I didn't know this was a ... a ..."

 

"Lesbian movie?" Julianne provided.

 

Leigh nodded.

 

"If you want to run away I can tell them you were suddenly hit by the flu," Julianne said.

 

Leigh smiled. "I appreciate that," she said. "I think I'll tough it out, though."

 

"If it helps, you were really good in that first scene," Julianne found herself saying.

 

Leigh opened her mouth to say something, but Naomi chose that moment to walk back in. "Sorry," the director apologized. "Are we ready to continue?"

 

Julianne and Leigh both nodded.

 

"Alright," Naomi said, taking a seat. "This is the scene where Emma and Elizabeth first kiss. There are a lot of conflicting emotions going on in both of the characters, just try to remember that. Leigh, we know that you're playing this cold, so just do your best. Julianne, do you know the lines for this scene?"

 

Like the back of my hand. "Yes," she said instead.

 

Naomi gave her that smile again. "Good." She exchanged a few words with the assistant director and nodded. She then turned back to the front. "Questions? No? Okay ... action."

 

Julianne was instantly in character, though it felt strange. She'd never rehearsed this part with any one else before. "What are you doing here?"

 

"I got your note," Leigh replied, also in character. "I was afraid you would be gone by now."

 

Julianne made sure to avoid eye contact and remain silent.

 

"I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner," Leigh apologized, walking closer. "I got ...delayed."

 

Julianne simply nodded, trying to control her emotions. She knew her character was angry but refused to show it. "What delayed you?" she finally asked.

 

Leigh paused mid-step. She didn't answer.

 

Julianne turned to face her with tears burning her eyes. "You're marrying him, aren't you?"

 

Leigh didn't glance away. "I have to," she answered softly. "You know that."

 

Julianne let a tear fall down her cheek. "It doesn't mean that I have to accept it," she replied, attempting to sound more confident than she felt.

 

"Liz," Leigh said, stepping closer and wiping away the tear.

 

Julianne moved away.

 

"Why did you want to see me?" Leigh questioned, taking a step back, her voice full of pain. When Julianne didn't answer, she stepped closer. "Liz?" When there was still no response Leigh stated, "I should go."

 

Julianne watched her walk away for a couple of seconds and said finally, "Emma, wait."

 

Leigh turned around slowly and Julianne quickly closed the gap between them. Before either of them had time to register what was happening, their lips were pressed together.

 

"Cut!" Naomi called from her seat.

 

Julianne instantly pulled away. She was certain that she was blushing to the roots of her hair.

 

"Excellent job," Naomi stated.

 

Julianne focused on the director, avoiding Leigh's gaze at all costs. She was pretty certain Leigh was equally embarrassed by the situation.

 

"Leigh, thank you for your time," Naomi was saying. "We'll be in touch with you."

 

Leigh thanked everyone, including Julianne, and made a hasty exit.

 

Julianne watched her leave with a mixture of disappointment and relief. She wasn't sure which was greater.  She started toward her seat.

 

"What did you think?" Naomi asked Julianne as she passed.

 

"She's really good," Julianne replied honestly.

 

"She is," Naomi agreed. She turned her attention to the rest of her crew and discussed a few things with them before sending for the next two actresses.

 

Julianne sat down, feeling incredibly anxious and more than a little ill. Karen didn't say anything and Julianne was thankful. I should have faked illness this morning, she decided. Nothing could have prepared me for kissing Kris's best friend. She sighed and slid down slightly in the seat. I'm never going to hear the end of this.

 

                                      

continued...


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