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 email@example.com
Julianne closed her eyes, attempting to shut out the sounds around her. It wasn't the noise that bothered her. Rather, it was the inescapable feeling that despite her role in the film she was useless between takes; just another prop in a set littered with them.
"Julianne," a voice called, startling the actress.
Blue eyes opened at once to find Leigh standing in front of her.
"Look, I just wanted to apologize for ignoring you lately," Leigh said, her words sounding strangely rehearsed.
The apology caught Julianne off-guard. "You had every rightó"
"I know," Leigh interrupted. "But I shouldn't have done it. It was rude, and immature ... and it was just my way of dealing with an uncomfortable situation."
"I understand," Julianne replied.
Leigh nodded, moving over so she could stand closer to Julianne. "But I want to ask you a few things."
Julianne braced herself. "Shoot."
"Why did you do it?"
The actress shifted uncomfortably and looked down at the ground. A piece of paper caught her attention for no other reason than she wanted to avoid answering the question. "It's not an easy answer to give," she replied.
"Why? Because it doesn't make you look good?" Leigh asked sharply.
"How do you justify doing something you knew all along was wrong?" Julianne asked.
"Precisely," Julianne replied catching Leigh's gaze. "I could give you many reasons, but none would be good enough."
"Try me," Leigh challenged.
Julianne glanced around the set, looking for Naomi. She hoped the director would motion her away from the inquisition. Unfortunately, the blonde was busy talking to the assistant director. Resigned, Julianne turned back to Leigh. "I knew if I told her the truth that things would change between us. I was scared to lose her as a friend."
"You must lead a lonely existence if a stranger you met on the computer means that much to you," Leigh said.
Julianne lowered her gaze. "I do."
Leigh nodded, leaning her back against the wall. After a long moment, she finally spoke. "Kris, too," she said softly. "I mean, she's got me and all, but it's not the same." She shook her head. "She changed a lot when you entered the picture. She was happier. And I never really understood how you could be made happy by words on a computer screen, but ..." She waved a hand dismissively.
Julianne waited for Leigh to continue. She wasn't sure what the redhead was trying to imply, and even less what to say in response.
Leigh glanced up at Julianne's face and nodded. "I get it, I think; why you did it. At first, I figured it was a game to you, for fun. But looking at you now I think you look about as miserable as Kris does. And that's pretty miserable. So, that's got to mean you care."
Julianne looked away, embarrassed that her feelings were so transparent. She worried that if Leigh looked hard enough, she'd notice just how much Julianne cared.
"Anyway, I'm going to go have my daily argument with the wardrobe lady," Leigh announced, sounding less than pleased by the idea. "She has no taste, seriously. Take care, Julia." Leigh winked as she walked away. "Check your email when you get the chance," she said over her shoulder.
When I was six, I told my grandmother that it was my dream to become an actress. She said, "A dream is a memory of something that happened while you were sleeping. If you really want something, reach for it while you're awake."
When I told my mother that I was going to be an actress, she laughed and said, "Better start claming a spot under a bridge somewhere, because that's surely where you'll end up."
Looking back, I think it was a combination of my grandmother's faith, and my mother's mockery that got me where I am. Although, I think luck also had a lot to do with it.
For what it's worth, I'm glad you painted that picture. Otherwise, we never would've met. And I may be alone in this, but I'm really glad we met.
Kris wasn't sure if she was glad that they'd met. In fact, she wasn't sure of anything much these days except that Julianne Franqui occupied a grand portion of her thoughts. Her feelings see-sawed between uncertainty and excitement, between wanting to believe and not being sure what to believe.
So, in the end, it was indecision that led her to the Upper East Side. To a neighborhood where people had forgotten the value of money because they had too much of it, to a place where she could never hope to fit in. So why was she trying? What was so amazing about Julianne Franqui? Why did she care?
Kris didn't know the answers to any of those questions, but she intended to find out. She needed to find out why her thoughts yo-yoed back to Julianne at any given moment; why she felt compelled to check her email twenty times a day in the secret hope that Julianne had written back. There had to be a reason. There had to be a way to make it stop.
Julianne's bodyguard glanced up as Kris entered the building. Kris tried to remember his name. Tony? Toby? She gave up after a moment. She briefly wondered if he'd do a strip search before letting her up. "Hi, I'm here to see Julianne Franqui," she said, hoping she didn't sound like a psycho stalker.
How many times did this man hear those words? She half expected him to say, "What else is new, beat it!" But he didn't say that. In fact, he smiled. "Head on up, Miss Milano." The confusion must have shown on her face, because he added a moment later, "Miss Franqui cleared you. You're always a welcomed guest."
Kris wasn't sure what that meant, but she smiled politely and thanked the man. Julianne cleared her? Did the actress give him a picture with a post-it note saying, "Let this girl in at all times." Kris felt that stepping into Julianne Franqui's life was like doing a time warp to a different dimension. The song inevitably got stuck in her head, and she hummed, "Time Warp," all the way up to the top floor.
She wasn't sure what she would say to Julianne once the actress opened the door. She suddenly wished she'd rehearsed a speech of some kind. Only, what was there to say, really? "Please help me understand you," didn't exactly translate into an adequate greeting.
Therefore, she paused before knocking, hoping the next few seconds would lead to a revelation in brilliant dialogue. But it didn't, so she decided to wing it.
As her knuckles met the wooden surface of the door, she wished she'd taken another few seconds to decide what to say. A stream of possible one-liners filtered through her mind. But they merely flickered once before fading. And then they ceased all together when the door opened.
Julianne looked surprised to find Kris standing there. She blinked a couple of times before speaking. "Kris, hey," was her own witty opening.
Kris figured she couldn't do much worse than that. "I got your email. I wasn't sure how to reply."
Julianne tilted her head to the side. She grinned slightly. "You came all the way here to tell me not to bother checking my email?"
"That's part of it," Kris answered, and then reconsidered. "Actually, it's not part of it at all. I just feel ... strangely overwhelmed byó" She paused as a pleasant smell drifted in from the apartment. "What's that?"
Julianne appeared thrown for a moment, then answered, "Dinner. Oops." She excused herself and ran across the apartment to the kitchen.
Kris hesitated at the doorway for a moment before stepping inside. She closed the door behind her and followed Julianne. Whatever it was that the actress was cooking smelled incredible.
"Pasta primavera," Julianne said as if reading Kris's mind. "It's a recipe from the book you gave me."
Kris walked around to sit at the kitchen counter. She didn't want to be in Julianne's way. "Are you expecting someone for dinner? I probably shouldn't have just stopped by like this."
Julianne glanced up from the stove. "I'm not expecting anyone," she said quickly. "And I'm glad you stopped by. I hope you're hungry, cause there's lots."
Kris hadn't actually said she would stay. In fact, she wanted to say, "No thanks," but the delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen were making it hard to resist. So, she found herself admitting that she was starving. All she'd managed to eat that day was a Pop-Tart for lunch.
Julianne seemed pleased with Kris's concession. "I'm sorry, what were you saying about being overwhelmed?" she asked, looking around to make sure that everything was cooking properly. Then she gave Kris her full attention.
Kris glanced down, avoiding Julianne's blue eyes, which she could feel watching her. "Emailing was getting too confusing," she found herself saying. "It's too easy to get emotional and personal, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. I'm not sure what my emotions are."
"What do you propose instead?" Julianne asked.
"I don't know. I guess that's why I'm here. To see if you have any of the answers."
Julianne considered. "I don't have much in the way of answers," she admitted. "I have dinner, though. And I rented a movie, if you'd like to watch it." She paused for a moment, looking sad. "Kris, I want very much to be your friend. And I want you to be able to trust me. But the last thing that I want is to impose myself on your life."
Kris wondered if Julianne really felt that she was imposing. It was so strange to look at the person before her and occasionally forget who she was. But wasn't that what Julianne was always telling her? That nobody really knew who she was. "I want to be able to trust you," Kris answered, knowing that to be the truth. "I guess it's just going to take some time."
Julianne smiled. "Time we've got," she answered. "And dinner's ready."
Julianne wasn't sure what had possessed Kris to stop by, but whatever the reason, she was grateful. She was also grateful that she'd decided to make pasta for dinner, and not steak. In fact, she decided to make vegetarian meals from then on, just in case Kris made it a habit to drop by unannounced every time she was cooking.
Smiling to herself, she followed Kris to the bedroom, plates and cups in tow.
"You should invest in a dining room table or something," Kris suggested, looking around the bedroom.
"I was thinking of putting it right next to the bed," Julianne said.
Kris nodded thoughtfully. She glanced up at Julianne and smiled. "You do realize you have a huge apartment right outside that door."
Julianne laughed and headed toward the bed. "I'll try to remember that when I finally go furniture shopping."
Kris smiled and followed Julianne, taking her place on the bed. "Don't you get worried you'll drop food on your sheets? What is this, silk?"
"Um," Julianne glanced down. "I'd have to go with 100% cotton. But close." She smiled. "I can get you a bib if you'd like."
Kris glared at her. "Funny," she said. "I could just drop some of this lovely sauce on your beautiful spread, here." She made a show of balancing some pasta on the fork. "Oh...ohhh...."
Julianne was amused. She half-hoped Kris would drop the food on her bed, though she noticed that Kris was being careful not to do that. "Haha," she said.
With a satisfied smile, Kris put the food in her mouth. Her teasing mood changed immediately. "Wow, this is so good," she said, taking another bite. "How'd you learn to cook like this?"
"Lots of Food Network watching," Julianne replied, relieved that Kris liked her cooking.
Kris nodded, her mouth full. After she swallowed, she said, "So what did you rent?"
Julianne hesitated for a moment. "Uh, Bound," she said. "But we can watch something else if you'd like."
Kris shrugged. "Whatever. What's Bound about? I haven't seen that."
"Gina Gershon is in it, and that's all that matters," Julianne replied with a slight grin. "Hotness personified."
Kris paused in her eating to look over at Julianne. "I know that movie. That woman with the annoying voice is in it, too, right?"
"Indeed," Julianne agreed, relieved that Kris didn't seem weirded out by her comment. "Up for it?"
Kris nodded, returning to her food. "Did I mention this is really good? Because it is."
Julianne grinned and rose from the bed to get the movie ready. She tried not to think too hard about the fact that Kris Milano was sitting on her bed, eating her food, and getting ready to watch Gina Gershon get it on with Jennifer Tilly. Was she dreaming?
"I like the frames," Kris said suddenly.
Confused by the statement, Julianne paused and turned around. "I'm sorry?"
Kris motioned to the paintings on the wall. "I like the frames you put around my pictures. They look all professional-like."
Julianne glanced up at the paintings. "Well, I happen to think the artist is going to make it big one day," she said, without turning. She focused instead on getting the DVD into the player, and turning on the TV. Then she returned to the bed to find Kris watching her curiously.
"Why?" Kris asked.
"Why are you so confident in my talent?" Kris asked seriously.
Julianne stared into curious hazel eyes, wondering how someone so beautiful and talented could possibly not know it. She glanced toward the paintings. "It's right there in front of me, how could I question something I can see?"
Kris lowered her gaze. "Thanks."
Fearing awkward silence, Julianne grabbed the remote control from the nightstand. "Ready for some lesbian action?"
Kris started coughing and reached for her glass of soda.
"I meant the movie," Julianne clarified a second later, slightly embarrassed.
"Right," Kris croaked through her coughs. "I knew that."
Julianne grinned to herself and hit play.
Lesbian action. Of course Julianne had meant the movie, Kris thought, attempting miserably to get her coughing under control. Well, so much for not embarrassing herself. She was lucky she hadn't dropped the pasta all over Julianne's comforter. What had gotten into her? One second she was prancing through New York City trying to figure out whether or not she was glad Julianne Franqui was in her life, and the next moment she was sitting on the actress's bed, coughing hysterically.
What did that mean exactly? Kris glanced up at the screen, worried that she'd somehow agreed to watch some freaky lesbian porno movie. Bound. Thoughts of leather and BDSM rituals flashed through Kris's mind. Whips and chains and handcuffs ... Oh my.
"Are you okay?" Julianne asked, concern plainly written on her features. "You look flushed."
Kris glanced up, not quite meeting Julianne's gaze. "Yeah, just swallowed wrong," she said. "Hate when that happens." She focused on the food on her plate, afraid to look up at the screen; afraid of what she might see there. She decided that if she concentrated on eating, it wouldn't look as suspicious.
Julianne stared at Kris for a moment, then turned her attention to the movie. "We don't have to watch this if it makes you uncomfortable," she said. "I've got plenty of other movies."
Was she that transparent? Kris wondered. She didn't like Julianne thinking that she was uncomfortable with lesbian ... stuff. She wasn't. She'd watched all of those other movies with Leigh. So, it wasn't that. It wasn't that at all. "No," she said a second later, hoping she hadn't hesitated too long. "I don't mind."
Knowing that she was acting ridiculous, Kris glanced up at the screen to see what was going on. Her eyes lingered on Gina Gershon's character, remembering Julianne's comment. Hotness personified. Was that the type of woman Julianne was attracted to? Kris couldn't picture Julianne with the bad-girl type. In fact, she couldn't really picture Julianne with anyone. It was too weird a concept.
"A bad ass clad in leather," Kris said out loud, not really meaning to. But since she'd already said it, ... She glanced over at Julianne. "That's your type?"
"I don't really have a type," Julianne said. "I just think she's hot."
"In this movie, or in general?" Kris questioned.
Julianne grinned, her gaze locking with Kris's. "Primarily this movie."
Kris smiled, turning her attention back to the movie, alternating between attempting to follow the plot and finishing her meal. It was quite the bizarre situation she'd wandered into. A part of her felt like she was intruding. Julianne didn't seem to mind her company, but it was possible that the actress was just being polite.
It was a bizarre situation indeed. A big nobody like her, sitting on Julianne Franqui's bed. Julianne Franqui, who had appeared on countless magazine covers, and talk shows. The same Julianne Franqui that Kris had disdainfully watched from her place outside of the two-dimensional world Hollywood stars existed in. That Julianne Franqui was sitting next to her, eating pasta primavera, and inwardly drooling over a different actress.
Bizarre was perhaps an understatement. Especially after one considered the events that had led to that moment. Or maybe it wasn't bizarre at all. Maybe it was just fate.
Remembering the movie, Kris snapped out of her thoughts, and nearly choked all over again. Unblinking, she stared at the screen. There wasn't any leather, chains, or handcuffs. In fact, there wasn't much of anything besides two women on a bed together. Naked.
Kris lowered her gaze, embarrassed for some reason. It wasn't quite the same kind of embarrassment as watching sex scenes with her parents ñ that bordered more on mortifying. It was a differently kind of embarrassment. Or maybe it wasn't embarrassment at all, just shyness.
Kris felt self-conscious all of a sudden. Like Julianne was watching her reaction, trying to decipher something about her. A quick glance at the actress proved otherwise. Julianne was busy eating her dinner. Kris looked away before Julianne caught her looking.
She risked another glance at the television, relieved when she realized that the scene was over.
"Here, let me take that," Julianne said suddenly.
It took Kris a second to realize that Julianne was referring to her empty plate. She handed it over. "Thanks," she said. "It was really good. You should've been a chef."
Julianne grinned crookedly as she rose from the bed. "Is my acting that bad?"
Kris glanced up at the actress. She was tempted to joke around and say she'd seen better, but Kris had noted a hint of self-doubt in Julianne's question. Was it possible that Julianne Franqui wasn't as confident as she appeared? "No, but it's not quite as edible," she said instead, hoping it was a neutral enough answer.
Julianne laughed. "I'll be right back," she said and walked out of the room.
Kris grabbed the remote and paused the movie so that Julianne wouldn't miss any of it. She figured that Julianne had already seen it before, but still.
Alone with her thoughts, Kris glanced around the bedroom. Besides the framed paintings, there wasn't much in the way of decoration. There wasn't much in the way of anything, really. If not for the fact that the television was a Phillips flat screen, Kris would never guessed that a rich person lived there. There was also the size, factor.
Besides that, however, there was just the bed and the nightstand next to it. Kris briefly wondered if Julianne had a goody drawer. Then halted in her thoughts averted their direction, cursing Sex & the City or perhaps Strictly Personals on Metro for corrupting her mind.
Still, Kris was curious. Not enough to go snooping, of course. That would just be ... wrong. But she wondered what Julianne Franqui kept in the drawers beside her bed. A diary? A Bible? Julianne didn't really seem like the Bible-reading type. Books, maybe? Or, maybe the drawers were empty. Just like the rest of the apartment.
Kris directed her attention to Julianne once the actress re-entered the bedroom.
"Oh, you paused it," Julianne said, surprised. "You didn't have to."
Kris shrugged. "Didn't want you to miss any Corky-goodness," she said. "I know how much you value her screen time."
"How thoughtful of you," Julianne said, sitting down.
"I still don't get what you see in her," Kris commented. "What about her is so 'hot'?"
Julianne grabbed the remote, but didn't un-pause the movie. "Are you asking because you don't understand how women can be hot, or just this one in particular?"
Kris smiled amused by the conversation, in spite of the fact that it was weird and kind of surreal. But then, so was the rest of the situation. "Just trying to figure out what you find attractive. Is it the tattoos, the muscles, the tough attitude...?"
"Hmm," Julianne said, looking thoughtful. "Yes."
"Yes to which part?"
"All of it," Julianne replied. "Would you like me to replay that sex scene in slow motion and go inch by inch, cause I could probably do that."
Kris knew she was blushing and hoped that it wasn't too noticeable. She knew that Julianne was just teasing, but still. "You seemed a lot more innocent online," she said. "You'd never volunteered such telling information without me having to pry it out of you." Kris didn't know why she was saying the things she was saying, except that the thoughts were in her mind and she was tired of answering her own questions.
The comment clearly took Julianne by surprise, and she took a second to respond. "Sorry, I guess I'm missing that convenient backspace button," she said, sounding shy all of a sudden. "It makes it harder to edit myself."
"Then don't," Kris said. She didn't want Julianne to edit herself. The last thing she wanted to see was the Julianne Franqui she'd been watching on TV all of this time. There was more to the actress than that, she could tell. Why else would she be sitting there? "I like it when you're ... yourself."
Julianne frowned. "You mean, make sexual references about hot women on television? Cause maybe it's for the best if I do edit myself."
Kris laughed. "I don't mind."
"Okay," Julianne allowed. "But, to be fair, later we'll have to rent a movie with some actor you think is hot, and then I get to ask you why."
"Deal," Kris said, feeling sad for some reason. What actor did she think was hot? Leigh would know. She'd have to remember to ask her best friend later. In the mean time, there was lesbian action.
Julianne stared blankly at the piano keys beneath her outstretched fingers. She knew she was supposed to be playing; she'd heard Naomi yell, "action," just moments before. She'd only stepped out of character for a second, a blink of an eye. But it had been long enough to notice that Kris had slipped into the set. It was enough to kill her concentration completely.
"I'm sorry," she apologized, turning slightly. She could see the entire crew watching her intently. The lights had been dimmed for the purpose of the scene. Elizabeth Doyle enjoyed playing in relative darkness. "Can we try that again?"
"Still rolling," Naomi called back.
Julianne turned her attention to the piano in front of her. She closed her eyes, attempting to access the part of her mind that didn't care if Kris was watching, the part that belonged to Elizabeth.
A second later, she began to play, her fingers gliding over the keys. Who would've thought that eight years of forced piano lessons would ever come in handy? But at that moment, she was grateful to her parents. Learning Elizabeth's music hadn't been as hard as it would've otherwise been.
She continued to play, ignoring the cameras around her and the eyes she knew were fixed on her performance; one pair in particular. Elizabeth Doyle was alone in that room, eyes closed, lost in the music. But Julianne knew that she wasn't alone. She knew that Samantha had entered, and was close behind her.
Yet, Elizabeth remained unaware of Emma's presence. So, when she felt the warm fingers touch her skin, her eyes flew open and her hands abruptly ceased their dance. The last key she hit was the wrong one, and the awkward note echoed in the sudden stillness of the room.
Julianne didn't turn, reveling in the comfort of her lover's touch.
"Why did you stop?" Emma asked softly. "It was such a beautiful melody."
"Some things are more beautiful than music," Elizabeth responded, finally turning. She stared at Emma for a long moment. "You shouldn't be here."
Emma trailed her fingers across Elizabeth's cheek. "I waited until everyone left."
The director's voice cut through the moment, shattering the illusion. Julianne blinked, returning to herself.
"Take five everybody," the director added a second later, her attention on the notebook in front of her.
"Thank God," Samantha muttered as she passed by Julianne.
It was then that Julianne remembered Kris, and nervousness crept up on her. Should she go talk to her? Should she pretend she hadn't seen her? Julianne knew that Leigh had finished early and left with Jeremy. So, what was Kris doing there? Waiting for her?
The questions continued to multiply in her mind as she made her way toward Kris. She wasn't sure when she'd made a conscious decision to approach the artist, but it was too late to make a U-turn.
Kris was smiling as Julianne approached. "That was really good," she said by way of a greeting. "And you look very nice in a dress."
Julianne had forgotten she was in costume. As a reflex, she glanced down at herself and laughed. She'd never thought she'd be standing in front of Kris in a frilly dress. "Yeah, I've always wanted to be a lady." She glanced up nervously. "So, what brings you here?"
"Oh, I'm just waiting for Leigh. We're having best friend bonding night. Movies, pizza, the works." She grinned excitedly, and glanced around the set. "Any clue where she's hiding?"
Julianne felt a mixture of emotions at that moment: disappointed that Kris wasn't there to see her, and angry with Leigh for standing Kris up.
"Is something wrong?"
Julianne cleared her thoughts, focusing her attention on Kris. "Uh, it's just that Leigh left about an hour ago. With Jeremy," she added quietly.
Confusion flashed across Kris's eyes, followed by disappointment. "Oh," she said. "I guess she forgot." She shrugged, and laughed, though it was clearly forced. "I should've probably waited at home."
"Sorry," Julianne offered, wishing there was something she could say to make things better. She came up blank.
Kris glanced up suddenly. "But, hey, what are you doing after this?"
Julianne ran her evening schedule through her mind, wishing that Karen were around to keep track of things. She vaguely remembered getting invited to a party by one of the other cast members, but she didn't recall accepting. "Nothing, really," she answered, fairly certain that was true. Nothing I can't cancel, anyway, she amended silently.
"Want to see a movie or something?" Kris asked sounding shy all of a sudden.
"I'd love to," she answered, hoping she sounded casual despite the fact that her heart was doing somersaults inside her chest. "I'm not sure how long this is going to run, though." She motioned to the cameras behind her for emphasis.
Kris shrugged. "I don't mind watching," she said. "Unless you mind having me here," she added quickly. "I don't want you to think tható"
"I don't mind," Julianne interjected. "It's nice having you here." She didn't add that it was also nerve-wracking as hell.
"Okay," Kris said, smiling slightly.
Julianne glanced behind her and noticed everyone resuming their posts. "I should get back," she said. "See you later?"
"I'll be here," Kris promised.
Julianne nodded and excused herself, glad that now, she had something to look forward to.
Kris watched the ongoing action from her place in the shadows. It was fascinating to watch Julianne switch so rapidly from one character to the next. She wondered how it was possible to be so many different people at once.
Her gaze traveled across the set until it came to rest on the director; Naomi Mosier. Kris mulled the name over in her mind, as she watched Naomi watch Julianne. There was something in the director's gaze that caught Kris's attention; that kept her from looking away.
Earlier, during her conversation with Julianne, she'd noticed the director watching them. Well, watching Julianne mostly. And she'd noticed a flash of something in those green eyes. Something alien yet familiar.
Kris thought back to what Anthony had said that one day, when he'd run into Julianne. She was walking with the movie director. Kris hadn't given it much thought at the time, probably because Anthony's wandering hands were distracting her. But now ...
Was there something going on between them? she wondered. The director was beautiful as far as Kris could tell. And Julianne ... Kris sighed, feeling sad all of a sudden.
The director's voice slashed through her thoughts, startling her. Noise and commotion followed, and it took Kris a moment to realize that Naomi had wrapped things up for the night.
Her sadness evaporated in an instance, replaced by anticipation. Hanging out with Julianne was rapidly becoming one of her favorite things to do. The actress was funny and smart and just being around her made Kris feel ...
Kris let the thought linger as she spotted the actress walking toward her. "Hey," she greeted, trying not to smile too brightly or widely even though she felt like doing so for some reason.
"Sorry that took so long," Julianne apologized. "I still have to get out of this getup."
"I didn't mind the wait," Kris assured her. "It's not every day I get to sit in on the production of a major motion picture." She chose not to comment on the "getup." Personally, she thought Julianne looked beautiful in it, all feminine and delicate. It wasn't quite as intimidating as Julianne's usual look.
"Well, follow me," Julianne instructed. "I'll give you a tour of my home away from home. You'll be happy to know it has furniture."
"I take it you didn't decorate it," Kris teased as she followed the actress to her trailer.
Julianne fidgeted in her seat. Her gaze was fixed on the movie screen, but her mind was miles away. She couldn't even remember what movie they'd agreed to watch. Actually, she didn't really care. She was too distracted by the fact that Kris was sitting next to her, close enough to be touching, but not.
So, Julianne made sure to sit perfectly still. Only, they'd agreed to share a big tub of popcorn, and Kris was holding it. What if their hands reached in at the same time? Julianne suddenly felt like a dorky teenage boy in the middle of a first date. She wasn't sure how else to feel. How did other twenty-three year old women behave at the movies with their friends? Friends they had huge crushes on. Friends they were possibly in love with.
"I hope you don't expect me to eat this all by myself," Kris whispered a second later.
"I thought you said you were hungry," Julianne teased, grabbing a handful of popcorn. She figured she could make that last for at least ten minutes. Then, after that, she could systematically calculate her popcorn-reaching cycle so that no hand-touching would occur. Satisfied with her plan, she relaxed slightly.
Julianne spent the next ten minutes trying to follow the plot of the movie, while nibbling slowly on the popcorn in her hand. But it was no use. Her thoughts kept drifting, and she felt anxious. And Kris's hand was tempting her from its place on the armrest. It would be so easy to cover that hand with hers, to feel the soft fingers interlacing with her own.
"Here," Kris said, handing the popcorn over. She leaned closer and whispered, "Maybe if it's in front of you it will entice you more."
Julianne stiffened, feeling Kris's soft breath on her ear. Her gaze fell on the bucket in her lap, hoping that staring at it long enough would still the beating of her heart. She turned her head to look at Kris, to answer her, not realizing that Kris hadn't moved. Suddenly she found her face so close to Kris's that if either of them leaned forward, their lips would inevitably touch. And Julianne totally froze.
Kris's breath caught in her throat at the suddenness of finding Julianne's lips so impossibly close to her own. It took her a moment ñ too longóto finally pull back, and she wondered at her hesitation. For a moment she'd almost considered ... almost wanted to...
The word echoed through the walls of her mind, silencing all other thoughts. No. She'd been caught off-guard. It had taken her a moment to react; that was all. She begged her heart to slow down, afraid that Julianne would hear it above the movie, and wonder what it meant.
Kris felt something soft and light bounce off her cheek, her thoughts instantly shifting. She glanced questioningly at the actress who was doing a poor job of looking innocent. "Did you just throw popcorn at me?" she asked, her brow arching.
Julianne gasped in mock surprise. "I would never do anything like that," she replied. "What if it got out?"
And here Kris had thought that Leigh was the only freak who threw popcorn. But, at least her best friend had the courtesy to aim it at the television screen. Kris grinned, relaxing slightly. If Julianne didn't feel awkward, then why should she? Her gaze fell on the movie screen. How much of the movie had she missed? She had no idea. It wasn't that good, anyway.
Kris grabbed a handful of popcorn and contemplated her next move. She could throw one so that things would be even. Or two. Or, she could be really daring and throw the whole thing. The thought made her smile. Her mother would certainly not approve of this behavior. But, her mother wasn't there.
She waited until Julianne appeared totally lost in the movie. Then, as subtly as possible, she drew her hand to the side and then let the popcorn fly.
Startled by the unexpected action, Julianne jumped in her seat, sending the bucket of popcorn flying into the air. It crashed on the floor several seconds later, its contents scattering across the floor.
Kris shrank down in her seat, unable to stop laughing. Several people shouted at them to be quiet, which only made Kris laugh harder, though she was trying her best to stop.
Beside her, Julianne was trying to hide her face. "Do you want to get out of here?" the actress suggested after a moment.
Through her giggles, Kris nodded. She followed the actress down the row, excusing herself as she bumped into random people's knees.
Finally, they made it outside and burst into laughter.
"I've never seen anyone jump that high," Kris teased, as they began their descent down the busy streets of Manhattan. "It was just popcorn, you know."
"Shut up!" Julianne said, laughing. "I only threw one at you, not a whole army of them."
"Oh, so you admit it, then!"
Julianne paused. "Um, admit what?" She smiled. "And anyway, I'm jumpy by nature."
"Well, you should've thought of that before you attacked me," Kris told her. "You can't just challenge me and expect to get away with it. It doesn't work that way."
"Fair enough," Julianne replied, grinning slightly. "So, what are we doing now that you ruined our movie-going experience?"
Kris stuck her hands inside her jacket pockets, wishing to warm them. "I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"Whatever you want."
"I'm kind of hungry," Kris admitted.
Julianne nodded. "Okay, what do you want to eat?"
"There's a great vegan restaurant around here," Kris suggested, hoping the actress didn't mind. "Unless there's something else you'd like to eat."
"I'm open to anything," Julianne replied. "So, how's school going?"
Kris shrugged. "It's school. I have a nice long paper to write for Monday."
"Shakespeare?" Julianne asked hopefully.
Kris laughed at Julianne's tone. "I never thought I'd say this, but I wish it were on Shakespeare," she answered, shaking her head. "But alas, I have to write it on Foucault. I hate Foucault. At least Shakespeare had fairies. Foucault has ..." She struggled to remember what her paper was on. "The author something."
"Function?" Julianne guessed.
"Right. The author function." Kris nodded. "I mean, how complicated is that? The author writes. That's his function, end of story. Why the need to complicate things further by writing long, pretentious essays that analyze everything to death?"
Julianne just smiled.
"You probably like all that stuff," Kris guessed.
"I think it's interesting," Julianne admitted. "But I think I'd like it less if I was expected to write papers all the time."
"I thought you were a Comparative Lit major."
"Yeah, for like three semesters," Julianne answered. "And then I got cast for Guardian, and other roles started appearing. I really hated college. It's not for everyone, I guess."
Kris nodded. Sometimes she felt like college was a waste of her time, but it was important. At least, that's what everyone kept telling her, so it had to be true. "Do you regret dropping out?"
"Can't say that I do," Julianne replied. "I mean, it's nice to have a degree in something, but I'm doing what I love to do. And if I ever stop acting, then I can easily go back to school. Study something pointless, like Latin."
Julianne smiled and shrugged. "I don't know. Why not?"
Kris nodded. "I guess it's nice, having that luxury," she said, not meaning it negatively. It was just a fact. "Not having to worry about money or anything."
"I've been lucky," Julianne agreed.
Kris motioned for them to turn the corner. The restaurant was close. "So, what do you think you'd want to do if you weren't an actress?"
Julianne considered the question for a long moment. "A poet."
"Aren't you that already?"
Julianne glanced at her. "What do you mean?"
"I just think, there's some things you're born being," Kris said.
"Like an artist?" Julianne guessed.
Kris simply smiled. She didn't think the question needed any confirmation. "Do you think you were born to be an actress?" she wondered.
"Yes," Julianne said without hesitation. "I guess you're right. Some things you just are."
"We're here," Kris said, stopping in front of the dingy little restaurant with its neon sign only partly working. She hoped it was okay. "I know it's not much, but the food is good."
Julianne glanced at her. "Hey, I survived a Grey's Papaya experience," she answered. "I'm ready for anything."
Kris laughed, pulling the door open. "Who took you there?"
"Naomi," Julianne answered, following Kris inside. "The director."
The sadness hit Kris again, this time stronger; this time tinged with something else, something she vaguely recognized as jealousy. But she dismissed it as rapidly as it had come, locking it up tight in a vault in her mind, right alongside her reaction to Julianne's proximity at the movie theater. Right where they should be.
Kris stared blankly at
the document on her screen. After a moment, she typed in her name, the name of
the class, the name of the professor and the date. She sat back, feeling
productive. Why was writing an English paper such a difficult task? The cursor
blinked expectantly, reminding her once again why she was an artist and not a
She sighed, looking away.
Fortunately, the sound of the door opening offered a welcomed distraction. "Hey!" Kris greeted happily, from her place at the kitchen table. "You're home early."
Leigh stepped into the kitchen and dropped down on a chair across from Kris. "Naomi wanted to shoot some solo scenes with Samantha, so she let the rest of us go." She nodded toward the computer. "Email?"
"Paper," Kris corrected, her enthusiasm at seeing Leigh quickly evaporating at the unfortunate reminder. "Due tomorrow morning."
Leigh shook her head. "I don't get why you're always taking English classes. You're an Art major. What do you need ..." She paused as she looked at what Kris had been reading "...Foucault for?"
Kris shrugged. At that moment she didn't have a very good answer. Temporary insanity, perhaps? "I needed a class and this one was open. Who knew Literary Theory would be so boring?" She stared disdainfully at the copy of Foucault's "What is an Author?"
"Um, I'm going to go out on a limb, but I'd have to guess that the majority of the known world has been let in on the fact that Lit Theory equals snooze fest." Leigh reached forward and grabbed the Xeroxed copies. From them she read, "'In dealing with the "author" as a function of discourse, we must consider the characteristics of a discourse that support this use and determine its differences from other discourses.'" She arched a brow. "Um... right." She quickly handed them back. "Have fun."
Kris sighed again. "So, what are you up to?" she asked.
"I invited some people over," she answered apologetically. "Sorry. I didn't know you were doing homework."
"It's okay," Kris said, wondering how to ask whether Julianne was among the invited. "Who's coming?"
Leigh appeared thoughtful as she counted off on her fingers. "Jeremy, Steve, Kim, Ignacio and Summer."
Kris hoped she hid her disappointment well. "Is Julianne still at the set?" she found herself asking.
"Nope. I invited her, but she said she wasn't feeling well," Leigh answered, looking at Kris curiously. "Sorry," she added with a smirk.
Kris stared at the computer screen in order to avoid Leigh's gaze. Julianne wasn't feeling well? What did she have? A cold? The flu? Something worse? And she was all alone in that big empty apartment. Kris bit her lip thoughtfully, lost in thought. That is, until Leigh cleared her throat loudly.
"I said, anything new in your life?"
Suddenly, Kris perked up. "Anthony and I are going away for the weekend."
The shocked look on Leigh's face was priceless. "You're what?"
"Going. Away," Kris said, making sure to emphasize each syllable. "His parents rented a cabin in the woods up north. They had a change of plans and left it to us."
Leigh sat back in her chair, shaking her head in amazement. "I don't believe it. You're finally going to give it up."
Now Kris was confused. "Give it up? What are you talking about?"
"Don't tell me you slept with him already and didn't tell me." Leigh sounded upset.
Kris blinked. "Slept with ..." Then she realized what Leigh was implying. "Oh, no, no. I'm not going to sleep with him. We're just going to spend the weekend together. It should be fun."
"Erm .." Leigh coughed. "Hold on. So, you and Anthony discussed that there would be no sex going on up in the cabin of love?"
"Well," Kris frowned, "No."
Leigh nodded. "I see. So, he invited you to go away with him, alone, to a cabin in the woods--again, alone--and you don't think the boy has sex on the mind?"
Kris chewed on her bottom lip. "It didn't occur to me."
"Amazing," Leigh said, shaking her head once again.
Kris glanced nervously at the floor. "But I did tell him I wanted to wait until I got married."
Leigh rolled her eyes. "Kris, you watch Sex & the City. Do you want what happened to Charlotte to happen to you?"
"That's a TV show," Kris began, thinking that Leigh was being ridiculous.
"News flash: impotence happens," Leigh stated. "The last thing you want is to save yourself for however many years and then come home to a flaccid penis."
"Next thing you know, you're shagging your husband's parents' gardener," Leigh added, shaking her head. "It's a pity. Although, the gardener was really hot..." She got lost in her thoughts for a moment.
Glancing away from her best friend, Kris sighed softly. Was it foolish to wait? Was anybody waiting anymore? And what if she waited and it was a mistake? Maybe it wasn't so much about saving herself for marriage, maybe it was just fear. Turning back to Leigh, she asked, "Have you slept with Jeremy?"
"Not technically," Leigh answered. "But I probably will tonight." She winked.
Kris didn't bother to ask what the 'not technically' meant. She had a paper to write and this was not the place to do it. She closed up the laptop and packed it up in its case.
Leigh watched silently for a moment. "What are you doing?" she asked finally.
"I'm going to go to the library," Kris answered, though a part of her knew that's not where she'd end up. "I really need to get this paper done."
"Hey, if you want me to take everyone somewhere else, I can do that," Leigh offered. "I really didn't mean to make you leave."
Kris smiled. "Nah, don't worry about it. I would've probably ended up leaving anyway." She kissed Leigh's cheek. "Have fun tonight. Be careful," she warned, but winked. "I'll be home late, probably, so ..."
Leigh smiled. "Good luck with that Foofoo guy."
"Foucault?" Kris guessed. "Thanks." She laughed and headed out the door. It was true that the paper had to be written, but first, there was someone she needed to check up on.
Julianne woke to the subtle sound of knocking. She looked around her bedroom for a moment, trying to figure out why she'd fallen asleep. The pounding in her head was an instant reminder. The knock came again, and she groaned as she made her way across the apartment to answer it.
Her headache was momentarily forgotten as she stared at her visitor. "Hey," she greeted softly. She was certain that her heart had skipped several beats once her brain had processed who was standing there. "I wasn't expecting you."
Kris looked at her with concern. "Did I wake you?" she asked.
"No," Julianne lied, and then realized her disheveled appearance was a dead giveaway. "Yes. Kind of. I took a short nap."
"Leigh told me you weren't feeling well," Kris said.
Julianne wondered if Kris had come all the way there just to check up on her. The thought almost made her smile. She cares about me. "Just a headache," she answered.
"Is it bad?" Kris asked gently.
"It's getting better," Julianne lied.
Kris smiled. "You really are a bad liar," she said. "Are you going to invite me in?"
Julianne stepped quickly aside to allow her visitor entrance. She glanced at the bag Kris had strapped to her shoulder. "Are you moving in?"
"Ha," Kris said, smiling. She shook her head. "I have a paper due tomorrow and Leigh invited some people over. I figured I'd stop by and check on you and then head back to the library."
Julianne stared at Kris for a moment. "Kind of out of your way," she said lightly, hoping it didn't make Kris uncomfortable.
"I was worried about you," the artist confessed. "Is that weird?"
Julianne grinned, feeling giddy. Her headache started to fade. "I'm flattered, not that many people worry about me." She sensed an awkward silence approaching so she quickly added, "Have you eaten? Cause I haven't. I can make you some dinner. You can work on your paper here, if you'd like."
Kris appeared to mull over the idea. Finally, she said, "What are you making?"
Julianne grinned and led her guest to the kitchen. "What are you in the mood for? I'm pretty stocked."
"Pancakes," Kris answered.
Julianne turned, her brow arched in question. "You want pancakes for dinner?"
"Is that weird?" Kris smiled.
Julianne grinned. "Probably, but we can be weird together. Although, that's hardly well-balanced."
Kris slid the laptop case off her shoulder and leaned against the kitchen counter. "You know, I really don't get you. You like to eat healthy, but you can't last five minutes on an exercise machine?"
"Well," Julianne began, gathering the ingredients for her pancake feast, "it's really very simple. I have my very own nutritionist, but forgot to hire a personal trainer." She winked. "Now, what kind of pancakes would you like? Blueberry, chocolate chip, raspberry ..."
"I'll just take plain ones," Kris answered. After a pause she asked, "Are you making these from scratch?"
"Yup. Why? Is that weird?" Julianne smiled, risking a glance at those hazel eyes.
Kris smiled back, in a way that Julianne found disarming. "Where should I hook this up?" she asked, lifting up the case.
"You'll probably be more comfortable in my room. You can sit on the bed."
Kris stared at Julianne for a short moment. "Are you sure I'm not inconveniencing you?"
"Pancakes and your company, what more could a girl want?" Julianne said, before she could edit herself. Quickly, she added, "I should probably make the bed, though. I left it all a mess."
Kris held up her hand to stop her. "You make the pancakes, I'll take care of the bed." And then she disappeared toward the bedroom before Julianne could argue.
Julianne grinned to herself, feeling dorky but happy. Pancakes for dinner, she mused. What a strange but interesting woman. Oh, and hot, too. Can't forget that. Headache all but forgotten, she turned to the task at hand.
"You've never had pancakes for dinner?" Kris asked, torn between being aghast at the revelation and wanting to moan at how good the pancakes were. She opted to keep both reactions at bay for the time being, and focused on taking another bite. If she could afford her, Kris would hire Julianne as her personal chef.
Julianne shrugged from her place on the bed. "I think Mother would flip out if she knew this is what I was eating," she answered. "She wouldn't be too pleased with the fact that we're eating on the bed, either. She's rather fond of that intrinsic object known as the dinner table."
Kris smiled, unable to believe that Julianne's mom could be that exacting. "Maybe if they were Ralph Lauren pancakes," she suggested.
"I don't think Ralph has ventured into the pancake-making business," Julianne replied with a smile.
"I just found out the other day that he makes paint," Kris said, amazed still. "Paint. I wonder what kind of people actually buy that."
Julianne glanced down guiltily and concentrated on the remaining pieces of her food.
Kris pointed her fork at Julianne. "You bought Ralph Lauren paint?" she asked incredulously. After a moment, she laughed. "Well, I guess that answers my original question."
"Hey, it was Adrian's idea," Julianne said defensively. "And it looks nice."
Kris smiled and finished the last of her dinner. There was something she was meaning to bring up, but she wasn't sure she'd reached that level of comfort with the actress yet. Still, it was either Julianne or her brother. "Um, can I ask you a personal question?" she found herself asking, wondering if she'd actually manage to get through the subject without blushing.
"What's up?" Julianne asked, staring at Kris curiously.
"How long would you wait to have sex with someone if you were in a relationship with them?" Kris blurted out.
Julianne blinked several times before answering. "Uh... I think I'm definitely the wrong person to ask."
Kris studied the actress for a moment, amused that Julianne seemed embarrassed by the question. Guess I'm not the only one. "You've really never had sex?" she asked. It was one thing for mysterious Julia to be a virgin ... but Julianne Franqui?
"Only on film," Julianne answered with a shy smile. "I've never found someone I'd like to date, let alone sleep with."
"Never?" Kris found that hard to believe.
Julianne looked down at the comforter. "So, uh ... why did you ask me the 'how long' question?"
Kris sighed. "I made plans to go away with Anthony for the weekend," she answered, trying to decipher Julianne's reaction. "Leigh said he probably thinks we're going to ... And, I'm thinking maybe we should."
"Oh," Julianne said. "Well, um, do you love him?"
The question caught Kris off-guard. She'd never thought of Anthony in terms of love. Was she in love with him? She wasn't sure. Maybe after this weekend she'd know. "Ask me again after the weekend," she answered. "So, what do you think?"
"About me sleeping with him," Kris clarified.
The ringing cell phone interrupted Julianne's answer. "Excuse me," she said, taking the object from her nightstand. "Franqui," she greeted, rising from the bed.
Kris grabbed her laptop and made a point to look like she wasn't eavesdropping, even though she was. She couldn't help it after she realized it was Naomi on the other end.
"Friday?" Julianne was saying. "Sure, I'd love to. What time? ... Okay. See you then ..." Laughter. "I don't think so ... Okay, bye." Click.
Quickly, Kris deleted all the gibberish she'd been typing and did her best to look busy.
"How much do you have done?" Julianne asked, sitting back down on the bed.
"Approximately nothing," Kris replied, sighing. "I'm never going to finish this."
Julianne went to get up. "I'll leave you alone, then. I don't want to distract you."
Without thinking, Kris grabbed Julianne's hand. "Stay," she said. She stared down at her hand, which held the actress's, then let go. "It's your bed. And you're not distracting me. I just can't write papers." She sat back with a sigh. Before she could talk herself out of it, she said, "So ... you have a date or something?"
"Um," Julianne said, looking shy again. "Kind of. I'm not sure what's going on."
Kris nodded, her stomach doing odd things at the confirmation. "Do you like her?"
"She's beautiful," Julianne said thoughtfully. "I donít know her well enough to know if there's anything there yet, though."
"Maybe you'll find out on Friday," Kris said with a smile she didn't quite feel. What is wrong with me? Her gaze landed on the computer screen. Stupid paper.
Julianne pulled down the covers on her side of the bed and got in. "I'm taking a nap," she announced. "My headache is coming back."
Kris nodded. "I should go. I can finish this at the library."
Julianne frowned. "You're not bothering me. Finish it. I promise not to snore too loudly."
Kris laughed at that. "Deal."
Julianne smiled at her and turned on her side.
Kris bit her lip, her gaze resting on Julianne's form for a second longer than necessary. She loved it when Julianne smiled at her. The actress had the most beautiful smile. Shaking her head, she turned back to the paper, determined not to let anything else distract her.
When Julianne opened her eyes, the first thing she noticed was the time glowing bright and red on her alarm clock: 6:46. Had she really slept all night? Well, at least her headache was gone; that was the second thing she noticed. The third thing came a second later when Julianne turned over and found herself face to face with peacefully slumbering Kris.
Julianne's breath caught in her throat and she felt her heart skip several beats. She waited several moments to see if Kris would wake up, but the artist didn't stir. Julianne relaxed slightly. She knew she should get up and take a shower, but the view from her current position was far too beautiful to ignore.
Unable to resist the temptation, Julianne pushed several strands of hair from Kris's face. She pulled her hand away quickly, afraid that she'd get caught, but Kris continued to sleep. Stop staring at her, she commanded herself. Get up. Get up. Get up. Stop being creepy and stalkerish.
Julianne sighed quietly. In spite of her screaming conscience, she couldn't help but enjoy the moment. It wasn't every day she got to wake up beside the woman she loved. How did I get myself into this mess? she wondered. And why is she so beautiful? The actress quietly studied the gentle features of Kris's face, her gaze locking on soft, full lips long enough to regret it. What am I doing?
Angry with herself, Julianne rose quickly from the bed and headed for the bathroom.
Hazel eyes slowly fluttered open. Kris stared around for a moment, trying to figure out where she was. Julianne's. The paper. Oh, shit, the paper. Kris sat up with a start, grabbing her laptop. She'd only closed her eyes for a second, or at least, she'd thought it was a second. She glanced at the time. Crap!
She stared at the computer screen, trying desperately to figure out how to write four more pages by nine o'clock. She still had to get back to campus. After a moment of freaking out, she gave up and put the computer down. There was no use. She'd just have to hand the paper in late.
With that matter resolved, she yawned and settled back into the covers. No wonder she'd fallen asleep. Julianne's bed was so comfortable. It was like sleeping on a fluffy white cloud. Mmm...she thought blissfully, her eyes closing. I don't know how she gets up in the mornings. Speaking of which...
Tired eyes opened once again, this time narrowed slightly. She listened intently to her surroundings, trying to decipher the actress's location. The sound of running water was a clear enough indicator.
Satisfied with knowing where Julianne was, Kris let her eyes close. But her thoughts drifted instantly to Julianne and Julianne was in the shower. And ... why was she picturing Julianne in the shower? Kris shook her head, trying to clear the images from her mind. Her heart was pounding and she wasn't entirely sure why. God, I must be really tired.
But the images floated back into her subconscious. Drops of water cascading over soft, soap-covered skin. Her eyes snapped open. She blinked at the ceiling, feeling ridiculous and aroused and ... aroused? "What the hell?" she wondered. "I need coffee. Lots of coffee."
Julianne stepped out of the bathroom feeling refreshed. The hot water had helped to clear her thoughts, but she was still annoyed with herself. She was going to have to find a way to set her romantic feelings aside. Somehow.
Finding the bedroom empty, Julianne went in search of her guest. She found the artist in the kitchen a moment later. "Sleep well?" she asked, tightening her bathrobe around her waist.
"I'm in love with your bed," Kris answered, leaning against the counter. "I didn't want to get up."
Julianne smiled, suddenly envying her own bed. "Did you finish the paper?"
Kris lowered her gaze. "No," she answered with a sigh. "I'll have to hand it in late. I fell asleep. I blame your bed."
"Sorry," Julianne said, feeling guilty. Perhaps Kris would've been better off going to the library after all.
Kris waved her hand in a dismissive manner. "It's okay." She glanced around. "You don't appear to have a coffee maker."
"I can run out and buy one," Julianne replied with a grin. "I usually just drink Coke or Sprite in the morning."
Kris gave a half-nod. "Oh, right," she said, remembering. "Got any of that?"
"Fridge," Julianne answered. "Help yourself. Are you going to class?"
"Nope," Kris answered, grabbing a can of soda. "No point. Well, I mean, there's a point, but the fact that I don't feel like going kind of counterbalances the point, and so ..." She shrugged, taking sip. "What time do you have to be at the set?"
"I don't," Julianne answered. "I'm not in the scenes they're shooting today."
Kris paused in her drinking. "Why in the world are we awake at seven o'clock in the morning then?" she wondered, setting the can on the counter. She walked over and took Julianne's hand, pulling her toward the bedroom. "Let's be lazy."
Julianne let herself get dragged into the bedroom, wondering what Kris meant by "lazy." She had a fairly good idea it involved her bed somehow, and had no complains on the matter. Unfortunately. "I take it you're not a big morning person?" she guessed with an amused smile.
Kris climbed on the bed, letting go of Julianne's hand. The actress instantly missed the contact. "I value sleep," Kris confirmed, grinning up at her.
Julianne stood by the bed for a second. "I should put some clothes on," she said, realizing she was a little too naked under her robe to get into a bed with Kris. "I'll be right back." She grabbed a pair of shorts and a tee shirt from her closet, changed into them, and made her way back to the bed.
Kris had made herself comfortable, and something inside Julianne ached at the sight. But she pushed the feelings away and climbed in beside her friend, trying not to question the situation. She just wanted to enjoy the reality of it.
"What's the next scene you're shooting?" Kris asked softly, shifting her head on the pillow so she could look at Julianne more clearly.
Julianne ran the shooting schedule through her mind, trying to pinpoint where they were. "Unless Naomi changes her mind, I think my next scene is the one where Emma tells Elizabeth she's getting married."
Kris was quiet for a second. "That was sad," she said.
"It was a different time," Julianne offered, studying Kris's face, unsure of how to feel at that moment.
Kris considered. "I guess," she answered. "I bet it's not really easy these days either." She stared at Julianne for a moment. "Do you wish you were straight?"
Caught off-guard, Julianne hesitated. Did she? Maybe. Sometimes. Oftentimes. But not at that moment. "I wish I didn't sometimes feel like I wished I were straight," she answered finally. "But given the opportunity, I don't think I'd change who I am."
"That's good," Kris said. "I wouldn't change you either." She closed her eyes briefly, then opened them again. "Will you be making breakfast later?"
Julianne smiled slightly. "What would you like?"
Kris yawned and focused sleepy hazel eyes on Julianne's sleepy blue ones. "Surprise me," she replied.
"Okay," Julianne agreed softly, running various breakfast ideas through her mind. She kept her gaze fixed on Kris. The artist had closed her eyes again. She watched and waited until Kris's breath evened, until she was certain that Kris was asleep.
"I love you," she whispered, barely audibly, into the world where unheard thoughts resided. She hadn't meant to say it; hadn't wanted to think it. But she was tired and her mind was clouded again. It was too much, being there with Kris by her side; too much, and not quite enough. Still, it was enough for now.
She closed her eyes, willing her mind to rest.
"Oh man, you're probably gonna get this one," Julianne muttered, looking at the Trivial Pursuit card she'd picked. It was hours after their nap, and after a hearty breakfast of fruit and croissants, Kris had suggested they play a board game. Trivial Pursuit was the only one Julianne had brought, so it won by default.
But, Kris had changed the rules of the game slightly. Instead of a slice of pie for a correct answer, they'd get to ask the other a personal question. "An intellectual truth or truth game", Julianne had called it when Kris had suggested the idea. The artist had simply smiled. And now, Julianne was certain she was about to get asked something she probably wouldn't want to answer.
"Ooh, does it have to do with art?" Kris asked excitedly. "Sweet. Let's hear it."
Julianne cleared her throat. "What Botticelli painting do some wags call 'Venus on the Half-Shell'?"
Kris grinned. "The Birth of Venus," she replied smugly.
Rolling her eyes, Julianne returned the card to the back of the deck. "Okay, fine, smarty pants. What do you want to know?"
Kris was thoughtful while she thought of a question. "Do you have any birthmarks?"
Julianne felt herself blush. Where had that question come from? "Yes," she answered.
"Really? Where?" Kris asked curiously.
Julianne was about to answer, but shook her finger at Kris. "Nu-uh. You only get to ask one question. And you did, and I answered. So, it's my turn."
Pouting, Kris relented. "Fine, I'll get you next time."
Relieved for now, and hoping there wouldn't be a next time, Julianne rolled the dice. She landed on green. She groaned. "That's sports, isn't it? I don't know the first thing about sports."
"Good," Kris answered with a satisfied smirk. She took a card from the box and read, "What pro sports team is nicknamed 'the Broadway Blues'?"
Julianne thought long and hard. "Broadway... that's New York. So, um, the New York some things. Er, the Braves!"
Kris blinked at her. "That's insulting. The New York Rangers." She put the card back and shook her head. "The Braves? They're not from New York."
"I did mention the not knowing anything about sports thing, right?" Julianne said. "I could've sworn I did."
With a laugh, Kris took her turn. "Yellow."
"Which two founding fathers graced the first two stamps sold in the U.S., in 1847?" Julianne asked, hoping that Kris was as adept in history as she was in sports.
"Ben Franklin," Kris said, "and ..." She scrunched up her face. "George Washington?" she ventured uncertainly.
Julianne frowned. "How do you know this stuff?" she asked, impressed in spite of the fact that she was losing.
"Should've stayed in school, Miss Franqui," Kris teased. "Hmm, so where was I? Oh, right. Your birthmark. Where is it?"
Julianne sighed. "It's on my butt."
Kris grinned. "Oh really? Interesting."
Julianne hoped that Kris's next question wouldn't be, "Which cheek?" With a resigned sigh, she rolled the dice and landed on pink. "Yes! Good."
"What Broadway play sold tickets from a Zoltar fortune teller machine in FAO Schwartz?" Kris read off.
"Big," Julianne said confidently.
"Damn," Kris cursed.
Julianne rubbed her hands gleefully. "Hmm, what can I ask?" she wondered. It had to be something evil. Very evil. "Have you ever had a dream in which you were more than friendly with another woman?"
Kris blushed at the question and looked intently at the game board. "Uhh ... yes."
Now Julianne was intrigued. "Oh, really? When?"
"Nope, you used up your question. My turn," Kris said quickly. "Blue."
Julianne narrowed her eyes. She'd get her on the next one. "Okay, what Asian country boasts the largest Muslim population in the world?"
"Uh," Kris looked around as if hoping to pluck the answers from the air. "China?"
"Tsk tsk, Indonesia," Julianne replied. She took her turn. "Yellow."
"Let's hope you suck at history," Kris mumbled. "Who told Milk Wallace in 1964: 'They're going to kill me ... I know too much about Elijah'?"
"Malcolm X," Julianne answered.
Kris narrowed her eyes. "I hate you."
"Right. So, what happened in this dream?" Julianne asked, grinning.
Kris shook her head. "I'm not telling."
"Then you'll have to take a dare," Julianne replied matter-of-factly.
With a sigh, Kris agreed. "Fine. What's the dare?"
Ah, there were so many possibilities, Julianne thought smugly. "I dare you to dance with me at a lesbian bar on Thursday night."
Kris cocked her head to the side, gazing at Julianne curiously, and smiled. "Okay," she answered. "Sounds interesting. I thought you were going to make me put underwear on my head and run through the second floor screaming 'fire!'"
Julianne's eyes widened and she grinned brightly.
"Don't even think about it," Kris warned, grabbing the dice. She rolled. "Yay, pink. Go art."
"What 1991 road movie was originally intended for Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn?"
"Thelma & Louise," she answered easily. "Leigh tells me all of this random stuff."
Julianne mumbled under her breath. "Okay, shoot."
"Who was the last person you had a crush on?" Kris asked.
Julianne froze at the question. She wanted to tell her. It was so tempting. But she couldn't. She didn't want to deal with the consequences that would follow. There had been enough of those lately. "I plead the fifth."
"Aw, come on," Kris said. "Tell me. Naomi, right?"
"My lips are sealed," Julianne replied, her heart aching. How would Kris take it? Would she freak out? She wasn't strong enough at that moment to find out.
Disappointed, Kris sighed. "Okay. Then, I dare you to sign up for a lesbian porn website."
Julianne stared at her. "You're kidding."
"Nope. It's one or the other, Sparky," Kris replied, smiling.
Julianne groaned and grabbed her computer. "I can't believe you're making me do this."
"Better get your credit card ready," Kris snickered. She crawled across the bed, pushing the game board to the side, and sat slightly behind Julianne so she could stare at the screen. "I must supervise."
Julianne was distracted by Kris's nearness for a moment. She wanted to lean back, to feel more of the warm softness she was sure to find there. Instead, she went into Google and typed in "lesbian porn". After a lot of clicking and closing of pop-up windows, she managed to find somewhere to register. "If this appears on the front of The Enquirer tomorrow, I'm gonna ..."
"Gonna what?" Kris challenged, leaning forward to rest her chin on Julianne's shoulder.
Kiss you, Julianne thought, her heart hammering in her chest. "Are you ticklish?" she suddenly wondered.
Kris pulled back. "Uh, no," she answered.
"Somehow I don't believe you," Julianne replied, typing in her credit card digits. A few seconds later, she was registered. A world of lesbian porn lay at her fingertips. "Now, what am I supposed to do at this website?"
"I'm sure you'll find something to keep you entertained," Kris teased, moving over slightly.
Julianne put the laptop on the floor and turned to Kris. "Like?"
"Threesomes between big-breasted, sweaty blondes," Kris answered laughing.
"I prefer brunettes," Julianne replied, grinning. "And how do you know about these blondes? Go there often?"
Kris nodded in mock seriousness. "Yup. I'm addicted to lesbian porn. You've found my dirty little secret." She laughed. "Is the game over?"
"Yes I think we've embarrassed each other enough for one day," Julianne replied, closing the board and throwing the game pieces into the box. After clearing the bed, she lay down and stared up at Kris who was sitting cross-legged next to her. "So, now what?"
"I don't know," Kris answered. "I've had fun today."
"Me too," Julianne replied, hoping that wasn't Kris's way of saying she had to leave soon.
Kris looked down at her curiously. "Hey, are you ticklish?"
"No," Julianne lied.
A mischievous smile appeared on Kris's lips. "Oh really? Are you sure?"
"Remember I'm taller and stronger than you are," Julianne warned, sitting up. She needed to be on the defensive in case Kris tried anything.
"Taller, maybe, but not stronger," Kris argued.
"I am, too, stronger."
"Prove it," Kris challenged.
Julianne arched a questioning brow. "And how do you propose I do that?" she wondered.
Kris looked around thoughtfully. Then she brightened. "We'll wrestle. First to pin the other one down, wins."
Is she trying to kill me? Julianne wondered. "Fine," she agreed, because she was a masochist. A dirty, dirty masochist. "But we'll do it by the bed. I don't want to hurt you when I take you down."
Kris rolled her yes. "You're far too cocky for your own good," she said, rolling off the bed. "Come on, Sparky."
"What's with the Sparky?" Julianne asked, getting off the bed and joining Kris at the foot of it.
Kris smiled. "It's cute."
"You're so weird," Julianne said. "Now, how are we doing this? I don't want to hurt you."
"I don't know, I've never wrestled before," Kris answered lightly. "But I do have two brothers, so I think I have an advantage."
Julianne laughed. "Well, that's true. I kept my sister back with crosses and holy water." She paused. "Okay, so all I have to do is pin you down on the bed?"
"You have to try," Kris corrected.
Julianne scratched her chin thoughtfully. Okay. She stepped forward swiftly and started tickling Kris's stomach. As she'd expected, Kris started doubling over with laughter. Julianne ignored Kris's pleas and carefully, but efficiently got Kris on the bed.
"You cheater!" Kris cried, struggling to escape Julianne's tickling hands.
Julianne laughed, and grabbed Kris's hands with one of her own and pinned them down behind Kris's head. With her free hand, Julianne continued to tickle Kris. "Admit I'm stronger," she said.
"No!" Kris refused, while laughing uncontrollably. "You're a cheater!" Somehow, she managed to get one of her hands free, and that was all of the advantage she needed. Kris started tickling Julianne, which distracted the actress from her own attack. That got Kris's other hand free, and she pushed Julianne over, rolling on top of her. She laughed, pinning Julianne's hands down with both of hers. "I win."
Julianne was laughing and gasping for air, but she was still aware of the fact that Kris was straddling her waist. "You win," she admitted, smiling, though she was having trouble concentrating on anything besides the nearness of Kris's body. She swallowed.
Kris stared down at her, her laughter simmering down to a chuckle. "I should get off of you now."
"You," Julianne said, not thinking.
"What?" Kris answered.
You're the last person I had a crush on. "I don't know," Julianne responded, feeling embarrassed. "I don't know what I'm saying."
Kris smiled and let go of Julianne's arms. "Let's get something to eat. Loser's treat."
"Fair enough," Julianne answered, noting that Kris was still on top of her. She tried not to focus on the points where their bodies were touching. But she was losing that battle. Baseball. Snow. Cold water. Bill Clinton naked on a cold day. Ew.
Kris jumped up, suddenly, as if realizing she'd been there too long. "Sorry," she quickly apologized, blushing.
Julianne noticed a change in Kris's demeanor and she worried at its meaning. Can she tell how I feel? She sat up, trying to decipher Kris's mood. "For what?"
Kris paused before answering. "For popping your mighty bubble."
"Well, sometimes I need to be brought down back to earth," Julianne replied.
Kris lay awake many hours later, staring lazily at her own ceiling. Her gaze traced patterns along the glow-in-the-dark stars, in the hopes of encountering an accidental constellation.
Meanwhile, a series of random thoughts ran laps around her brain. The process was making her dizzy. She wished there was a way to make it stop. But her eyes continued to seek order in the randomness of chance.
Kris's unanswered question haunted her. Have you ever dreamed... Yes, she had admitted. No, she would not tell more. How could she? How could Kris tell Julianne that she had been the star; that all day long she kept going back to the details of the dream, half ashamed, half excited.
Her eyes closed of their own volition, and she was back in the memory of the dream. The vividness of it made her mouth dry.
Kris remembered candles; white, glowing candles surrounding a large bed. Everything else was dark. Soft, undecipherable music played from somewhere far and somewhere near. Kris couldn't tell where it was coming from. Perhaps her heart was singing. But she was alone. No. Not alone. Waiting.
And suddenly, she wasn't alone anymore. Julianne was there, staring at her with curious blue eyes. She seemed to be asking an unspoken question. And Kris didn't know if she had the answer.
Everything shifted. The candles were gone. Darkness dressed in moonlight bathed the sparkling tresses of Julianne's hair. And Kris was mesmerized. She wanted to paint a picture of that moment. But she was stirred from her wish by Julianne's fingers on her lips.
Julianne spoke, but Kris hadn't listened. She'd been too focused on the movement of the other woman's lips. Pressed together then apart, murmuring questions that folded themselves across the canvas of Kris's memory.
The bed was soft, Kris had somehow noticed. But Julianne's skin was softer as her fingers trailed across the smoothness of Julianne's arm. She quickly pulled her hand back, unsure of her actions, her intentions.
And then Julianne's lips were closer, moving toward her with an impossible slowness that spoke of timelessness and doubt. But Kris didn't move away, couldn't move away. And the space closed in around her, making her gasp as soft lips brushed ever so briefly against her own.
Kris's eyes opened, her heart pounding. She wanted to stop thinking about the dream, but couldn't. It was alive in her thoughts; as vivid as any memory powered by hope.
The stars on her ceiling dimmed to the point of non-existence. Her thoughts drifted.
In that moment of waiting, of questioning, she could've pulled away. She could've turned the lights on and broken the spell.
But Julianne's lips were so inviting. And when they pressed against hers once again, she let go. She let go of worry, of doubt. In that moment, she surrendered to the sweet taste of truth. She pressed harder and deeper, searching for something she hadn't known she needed.
And slowly, the world dissipated into nothingness.
Kris opened her eyes, and turned on the light.
"Kris?" William sounded alarmed as he opened the door to his apartment and found his step-sister standing there. "Did something happen?"
Kris passed by him, entering the apartment, feeling flustered and confused. Her voice took on a nervous edge as she spoke. "I'm freaking out," she announced, just as Mark walked out of the bedroom. He sent a questioning glance to William who shrugged.
She was oblivious to the exchange as she continued. "On the way here I stopped at the confessional at Church and then I thought 'what am I doing here?' I mean you don't just confess these things to a priest, do you? You have to admit them to yourself first. But when you do that's it, it's real. It's out there. You can't reign it back in once you've released it into the world." She started to pace.
William and Mark watched silently for a moment. Finally, William spoke up. "Um, Kris," he began, gently, though his voice was thick with sleep. "What are you talking about?"
Kris paused long enough to glance at her audience. She sighed and sat down on the couch. "I've been having these thoughts about someone." She paused, feeling foolish and embarrassed. The fact that she was sitting there felt surreal; a scene she was imagining; a 'what if' scenario that would play out and then fade into the background of her thoughts, leaving her safe from consequence.
But, she knew it wasn't a passing thought she was caught in. She was at the edge of a cliff and she was about to dive. "A girl someone," she whispered, looking down.
Mark and William exchanged another glance. "I'm going to make coffee," Mark announced, moving off to do just that. "Lots of coffee," he muttered under his breath.
William stepped closer, grabbing a chair from the table. He sat down with a sigh. "So, what kind of thoughts?" he asked.
Kris glanced up. "Please don't make me go into details. This is embarrassing enough as it is." She ran a hand through her disheveled hair, noticing for the first time that she was still in her pajamas. "I had this dream where we kissed."
"I had a dream I kissed this girl Cathy Evans from work," Mark supplied. "A dream doesn't mean anything." He paused, making a face. "I hope. God, what if I'm straight?"
William watched Kris with concern. "It was just a dream?" he questioned.
"Yes," she said. Then shook her head. "No. There were other things." She chewed on her bottom lip. "She confuses me. Whenever I see her ... I just want..."
"To fuck her brains out," Mark offered.
Kris' head shot up at the words and she blushed furiously.
"Mark," William warned.
"Don't 'Mark' me," his boyfriend argued, grabbing another chair. He pulled it closer to Kris. He pushed stray locks of blonde hair out of his face and leaned forward. "Now, your brother sucks at this stuff. So, I'm going to take over. Tell me about this girl. Is she cute?"
Kris smiled slightly at the thought of anyone calling Julianne Franqui "cute". She paused to consider her words. "She's gorgeous," was all she could come up with. Images of photo shoots and pictures she'd recently encountered while surfing the web filtered through her mind. She instantly lowered her gaze, afraid that they'd see her thoughts reflected.
"What's her name?"
Kris considered how much to say. "Julianne," she answered. She sighed. "But she's got a date on Friday. And I should be happy for her, because she's my friend, but I don't want her to date Naomi."
"Oh, so she's gay?" Mark asked.
"Yeah," Kris confirmed. "But there's no way she'd ever be interested in me. I mean she's ..." She bit her tongue to keep from saying anymore. Explaining her crush on Julianne Franqui of all people wouldn't be easy. "And I'm still not really sure of what I'm feeling. I'm not even sure why I'm here. I just couldn't sleep. And I couldn't tell Leigh. She'd flip out."
"You're always welcome here," William told her.
Mark nodded. "It'll be okay," he said. "You'll figure things out. Just go with the flow of things."
Flow of things. Right. From the dark recesses of her mind, something started to emerge. "Anthony," she said, shocked that she'd somehow forgotten all about him. "I'm going away with him for the weekend."
"Well," Mark said thoughtfully, "that's good. Maybe he'll help you figure some stuff out. I mean if you really care about him, then maybe what you're feeling for Julianne is just a fleeting crush."
Yes, fleeting. Kris liked the thought of that. "Perhaps," she allowed, finding comfort in the knowledge that her feelings could be temporary.
Julianne stared at her reflection in the mirror, finally settling on an outfit. Ironically, it turned out to be the first one she'd tried on. But in the end, she realized she didn't really care if Naomi liked her clothes. What difference did it make if she wore one thing or the other? It's not like Naomi was going to date her outfit.
The actress turned away from her reflection and glanced quickly at the time. She was running late. The fact that she kept stalling in the hopes that Kris would call hadn't escaped her.
She's not going to call, Julianne reminded herself, not for the first time. She's on her way to spend a wonderfully romantic weekend with Sataóer, Anthony. She took a deep breath. "And I have a date," she announced to the empty bedroom. "Which I'm already three minutes late for." Crap.
The actress hurried out of the building, waiting, somewhat impatiently, for the door attendant to get her a cab. She knew she wasn't in a good mood. In fact, she'd almost called to cancel the date about four times, but she didn't want to be alone. Not that night, when her thoughts would undoubtedly turn to Kris and what she might be doing with Anthony.
Julianne shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. "Thank you," she said, as a cab finally pulled up.
"Have a good night, Miss Franqui," the doorman told her.
From the taxi cab window, New York seemed distant and unreal. Maybe all images viewed through square-shaped portals were doomed to seem dreamlike in nature. Is that how she seemed to other people: distant and unreal, reduced to a two-dimensional figure? It felt lonely in that place. She wanted desperately to be real. Kris deserved someone real.
Julianne sighed, her gaze drifting along the scenery. She wondered what Kris was thinking at that moment. Was she happy in Anthony's company? Did he make her smile? Could he give her everything she needed? And if so, could Julianne ever accept that?
She wanted to believe that she would, that she could move beyond the pain and jealousy. But in the back of her mind, she would always believe that she could do better; that she could make Kris happier.
But, could she? Julianne suddenly wondered. Would Kris be happy in the public eye? Would she be happy giving up her privacy? Exception
People would want to hurt them; break them up. People would say things, and assume things. They would lie to sell more papers. They would make a mockery of everything Julianne considered to be beautiful and true, simply because she didn't exist in their realm. Two-dimensional figures weren't expected to have feelings; they weren't allowed to love.
Julianne lowered her gaze at the realization: Kris was safer in Anthony's arms.
"Sixty-eighth and Broadway," the cab driver announced, rolling the vehicle to a stop.
Snapping out of her reverie, Julianne quickly handed him the money and stepped out into the cool night air; ready for her date.
Kris stared out the window of the car Anthony had borrowed from his parents, her gaze fixed on the darkness outside, while her mind traveled at a thousand miles per hour through the highway of her thoughts. She had the uneasy feeling that there would a head-on collision occurring sometime in the near future.
After her visit to William's apartment, Kris had decided to bury herself in schoolwork. Classes became her sanctuary for the remainder of the week. She'd avoided the set. She'd avoided Julianne's apartment. Worst of all, she'd avoided Julianne.
Kris knew they'd had an agreement to go out dancing the night before, but she'd chickened out of the dare. The fact that she had wanted to go scared her. Kris had figured that if she avoided Julianne until the weekend, she'd be safe. The weekend would show her that Anthony was right for her. I hope...
Kris turned her attention away from the window. "So, what are we doing tonight?" she asked, hoping to strike up a conversation. Talking would keep the silence at bay. Silence was dangerous. Silence led to thinking. And thinking led to guilt. How could I ignore Julianne like that? The thought nagged for her attention; filled her with uneasiness.
"We could build a fire," Anthony suggested. "And watch a movie. I brought some."
Kris nodded. "That sounds nice," she told him, searching her mind for another conversation starter. Why couldn't she ever think of anything to say around him? Conversation came so easily when she was with Julianne. UGH! "So, um, do you come up here often?"
Anthony shook his head, his gaze on the road ahead. "No, my parents usually like their alone time to be ... well, alone." He smiled, glancing at her quickly. "I think it's sweet that after all of those years of marriage they still manage to find romance."
Kris nodded. "Yeah, that doesn't happen often," she said, recalling her parents' divorce. "I think true love is hard to come by," she added, not sure why she was saying that, especially to Anthony.
"I don't know, sometimes you get lucky," Anthony replied. "We're almost there."
Kris glanced out of the window, noting the change in scenery. She wished she could feel happier about being out in the woods, surrounded by undisturbed beauty.
The car came to a stop in front of a small log cabin and Kris stared at it for a moment. Several horror movies came to mind.
"I'm sure it's a lot less creepy in the day time," Anthony teased, as if reading her mind. "Come on, let's get our stuff inside. We've got a fun-filled night ahead of us."
Yes, fun-filled, Kris thought, and stepped out of the car.
Julianne was trying desperately to pay attention to everything that Naomi said, but her mind kept drifting. Why hadn't Kris called? Had she scared Kris off? Were her feelings too obvious?
"Julianne," Naomi said, breaking into her thoughts.
"Hmm?" the actress glanced up, realizing for the first time that she'd been tapping her fork against the table. She ceased the movement at once and regarded the director with an apologetic smile. "Sorry."
"Are you okay?" Naomi asked, her voice full of concern.
Julianne glanced around the restaurant for a brief second before turning her attention on attentive green eyes. She cares about me ... why can't I care about her? Why must things be so complicated? "I'm just having trouble concentrating, I'm sorry. It's been a long week."
The director nodded her head, taking a drink from her glass of wine. "Want to talk about it?"
"No, I just ... I just want to stop thinking," Julianne answered, wishing it were that simple.
Naomi motioned for the check, and sat back in the chair, staring thoughtfully at Julianne. "Do you want to go home?" she asked gently.
Home. What was that? "I'm not sure I want to be alone," Julianne answered, not really caring how it sounded. She's going to get the wrong idea, a little voice warned.
"You don't have to be," Naomi replied.
Kris stared at the television, attempting to focus on the images flickering across the screen. But, she was too nervous to concentrate. She kept wondering what Anthony was thinking. She kept wondering what the night would bring. Would something happen? Would she let things happen? She still didn't know.
Beside her on the couch, Anthony shifted. "Do you want a soda or anything?" he offered.
"No, thanks," Kris answered, keeping her gaze on the television screen. If she appeared engrossed in the film, maybe he wouldn't try anything. He's your boyfriend, not a stranger. But he felt like a stranger. And wasn't she supposed to be there to get to know him better? Wasn't this supposed to be fun? "Anthony," she said, turning to him. "Can we talk?"
"Sure," Anthony answered, shutting off the TV. He turned so he was facing her. "What's up?"
Kris turned, too, taking a moment to decide what to say. "Do you feel awkward?" she asked, and quickly added, "Because I do."
"I'm kind of nervous," he admitted, running a hand through his hair. "I'm not really sure how to read you."
"Read me?" Kris asked, confused. Was she a book?
Anthony stared at her uneasily. "I don't want to cross the line or anything," he told her softly. "I don't want to be a jerk."
"Oh," Kris responded, feeling torn. "I'm having trouble figuring out where the line is," she admitted. "Can we just ... play it by ear?"
"Yes, definitely," he said, and visibly relaxed. He took her hand and resumed the movie.
Kris glanced down briefly at their entwined hands and took a deep breath, letting her gaze rest on the television screen. Her heart was hammering, her thoughts were racing, and she was sure that she'd left reason and logic back in the City. "Anthony," she whispered, a part of her hoping he wouldn't hear her.
"Let's go to bed," she said, looking at him.
"I'm sorry I've been such a bad date," Julianne apologized, feeling embarrassed for her behavior all night. "I'm surprised you're still here." She didn't look at Naomi as she spoke, choosing to keep her gaze fastened to the sidewalk ahead.
The fact of the matter was that she wished she could start the evening over again, beginning with not being late. As a result of her tardy appearance, they'd missed their movie. Naomi hadn't been mad, though. Julianne wondered if she ever got mad. The director was such a free spirit; so calm and carefree. It didn't seem possible that a person could be so tranquil.
Naomi smiled at her. "I understand that you've got things on your mind," she answered with a slight shrug. "Just wish I could help."
"You've helped," Julianne assured her, glancing into green eyes. She wasn't sure how she would've gotten through the evening alone. "I really appreciate your company. I'm just terrible at showing it."
The director laughed easily. "It's okay, Julianne. I'm happy just to be near you." She rolled her eyes at the comment. "Sorry, I promised myself I wouldn't say things like that."
Julianne smiled, feeling flattered. "Why?" she wondered.
Naomi glanced at her, embarrassed. "Because I know that I like you a lot more than I should, and I don't want to freak you out."
"I'm not freaked," Julianne said. "Flattered, but not freaked." She glanced up to see her building not too far ahead. She could feel her heart pounding.
"Good, I don't want to make you uncomfortable," the director said, her voice shy but honest.
Why am I pining over someone I can't have? Naomi is perfect. Her thoughts battled back and forth, trying to find a solution to the problem. She wasn't sure there was a good solution besides getting over Kris, and how long would that take? How far was she willing to go to expedite the process?
"Well, we're here," Naomi announced, glancing up at the building.
Julianne stared at the door and then back at Naomi. I could just say good night. Right here. Just say good night. But she didn't want to say good night. She wanted to feel whole again. She wanted to stop aching. She wanted more than emptiness and silence. "Do you want to come up?"
Kris tried to focus on the feel of his hands on her body. She tried to cling to the words emanating from his lips as he whispered, "You are so beautiful," into the space between his experience and her own. His breath felt cool against her body, as he kissed her stomach. His mouth left cold, wet trails along her breasts, lingering with hope, evaporating with reality. Kris tried to focus on his enthusiasm, and his passion, wishing that it was enough to carry them both through.
Why couldn't life be more like the movies? Everything was so passionate and beautiful when edited down into flashes of perfection. She wished she were experiencing the air-brushed version of that moment.
Is this what she had waited twenty-one years for, this feeling of numb indifference; the anticipation of the end before it had even begun. Is this what she was praying for? Clinging to?
She felt a breeze enter through the window, and wished she hadn't noticed it. Was this fair, using him only to quench her insistent need to hide? Was it right?
In his eyes she had seen a mixture of so many emotions she couldn't quite decipher them all. She knew there was lust and anticipation. But was there love? It didn't matter, she realized, it didn't matter what he felt if she couldn't reciprocate his feelings. How could she wake up the morning after and look him in the eyes?
She felt his hands undo her belt buckle. "Anthony, wait," she found her mouth saying, though her mind hadn't given it permission to speak.
Anthony paused in his actions. "Am I going too fast?"
She paused before responding. What excuse could she give him for leading him this far? How could she possibly justify her feelings of estrangement? "I can't do this," she whispered, unable to meet his gaze. "I'm sorry. I thought this is what I wanted butó"
"Oh," he said, as if he were still expecting her to answer his question about going too fast. "Oh," he said again, looking all of a sudden awkward. He glanced down at where he was, straddling her body. "Sorry," he said, and got off, sitting down awkwardly beside her.
Kris tried to search for words, but couldn't find any. She felt exposed, sitting there topless on a strange bed, staring at a boy whom she'd almost granted full access to her body, only moments before. What was there to say?
"Are you okay?" Anthony questioned, his disappointment flashing quickly to concern. "I didn't hurt you, did I? I hadn't evenó"
"No," she assured him, quickly, surprised by his tone. She'd half expected him to lash out at her. He isn't Nathan, she reminded herself, and felt sad that she had to remind herself of that at all. "I think I'm just losing my mind," she added, feeling foolish for saying it, but believing it nonetheless.
Anthony frowned as he looked at her. "Why do you think you're losing your mind?"
She glanced at him, embarrassed. "I'm just going through a phase, I think," she answered, saying it mostly to satisfy his curiosity, though a part of her still believed it was true. "I'm really sorry, Anthony. I just need to sort some things out."
Confusion grazed his features as he stared at her. "Are you breaking up with me?"
She hadn't meant it that way. The thought hadn't really crossed her mind. But maybe it was the only way she was ever going to figure herself out. She couldn't keep leading him on. Not like this. Even if she didn't know what she wanted, what she didn't want was quite clear.
Her eyes filled with tears as she nodded. She could feel the foundations of her life crumbling before her very eyes. What was she doing? So many parts of her wanted to take it back, and yet the small spark of relief she felt at the confirmation kept her from doing so.
Anthony swallowed, looking torn between wanting to comfort her and wanting to cry himself. "Okay," he said. He glanced around, as if wishing to recall the moments when looking at that bedroom hadn't caused him pain. "Do you want to go home?"
Home. She suddenly wondered where that was, exactly. She didn't know, and didn't want to contemplate it. Kris just knew there was only one place she wanted to be.
And only one person she wanted to see.
"I see you've done a lot with the place," Naomi teased upon entering the apartment.
Julianne laughed. "I plan on getting furniture this week," she responded, though she hadn't really thought about it. It was such a low priority in her list of things to do; she sometimes forgot it was even an issue until someone pointed it out. And it was always the same two people anyway. "Can I get you something to drink?" she offered, stepping toward the kitchen.
"Sure. Whatever you're having is fine."
Julianne was about to respond when her cell phone rang. "Sorry," she apologized to her guest. "Franqui," she said into the phone.
"I'd like two large pizzas with pepperoni, anchovies and pineapple."
The actress rolled her eyes at the familiar voice. "Would you excuse me for a moment?" she asked Naomi. When the director nodded, Julianne retreated into the privacy of her room.
"Am I calling at the wrong time?" Adrian asked.
Julianne closed the bedroom door and leaned her back against it. "You're always calling at the wrong time," she answered. "But I missed you. How's the tomato movie?"
"Apple," Adrian corrected. "And it's finally done. You'll be very proud. Or disturbed, one of the two."
Julianne guessed it would be the latter.
"So, I heard a female voice in the background," Adrian continued. "What have I missed?"
"Too much to recount over the phone," Julianne admitted. "But, I'm freaking out."
"That's new." Pause. "In case you couldn't tell, that was sarcasm."
Julianne stepped away from the door and lowered her voice. "Adrian, I invited her up. And I donít know how to read her. I mean, is she thinking about sex? Or am I just assuming that she's thinking it? And does she want to, or not want to? This is a lot more complicated than I thought it would be."
"First of all, who is 'her'?" Adrian asked.
"The hot director?" Adrian whistled. "Did you know she posed for Playboy?"
"She did not."
"Did, too," Adrian argued. "When she was eighteen."
"Oh, my God, she did not pose for Playboy," Julianne responded, feeling frustrated and ridiculous that she was even having that discussion.
"I'll look for the issue," Adrian said. Julianne could hear him rummaging in the background. "It's around here somewhere."
Julianne banged the cell phone against her forehead. "You drive me insane."
"Found it!" Adrian cried. "Oh wait. This isn't her. Nevermind. Hey, Jules, you should sleep with this one right here. She wants to be an elementary school teacher, and her breasts are real."
"Can you be serious for a minute?" Julianne pleaded. "I'm really confused right now."
Adrian sighed. "Okay, blah blah hot lesbian in your living room ready for action. Blah blah confusion. 'Oh no it's my first time.' Blah blah blah. So, what do you think you should do?"
"I don't know," Julianne replied honestly. "She's beautiful and smart and funny and I'm really attracted to her. But..."
"She's not Kris," Adrian guessed.
"Right," Julianne answered. "And I don't want to move too fast. It's just that ..."
"You want to forget about Kris and hope that banging Naomi will do the trick."
"Yeah. Well, minus the word 'banging'."
"Look, Julianne, just do what feels right."
Julianne sighed. "I'll talk to you later."
Julianne hung up the phone and stared at the carpet for a long moment. She knew she had to go back out there and face Naomi, but she was scared. What would feel right? And if she went with the flow, if she just let things happen, would she regret them in the morning? She wouldn't be able to take anything back.
She stood and stepped out of the room. She found the director looking out the glass windows.
"It's such a beautiful view from here," Naomi said as Julianne approached. She turned. "Is everything okay?"
Julianne looked into green eyes and smiled. "Yes. It was just Adrian. He finished his film."
"I'm sure it will be brilliant as usual," Naomi replied with a wink. "Can't wait to see it."
Julianne could wait. She could wait a long time. But in the end, she knew she'd love the movie. Adrian had a fascinating way of making insanity interesting. Suddenly remembering that she'd offered her guest a drink prior to the interruption, she said, "Wine okay?"
Julianne took a deep breath as she headed toward the kitchen. She needed to relax. Everything felt awkward, every movement felt forced. She felt outside of herself, as if she were playing a role she couldn't find the motivation for. She knew she was shaking, and wondered if Naomi felt half as nervous as she.
She opened one of the cabinets and reached up for a glass, knowing in the same way that people foresee catastrophes that she was going to drop it. She tipped it the wrong way instead of grabbing it properly, and it slid, smoothly, effortlessly from her grasp. A mere second elapsed from the moment the glass dropped from her fingers to the moment it shattered across her kitchen floor. Yet, in that brief expanse of time, she understood the limitations of possibility; she was as capable of keeping that glass from breaking, as she was of keeping her heart from love.
Naomi was at her side at an instance. "Are you okay?"
Julianne turned from the mess on the floor and stared into concerned eyes. "I'm fine," she answered. "Just a huge klutz."
Amusement replaced concern. "I'll try to keep that bit of news from the presses, then," the director replied. "For a price."
"I hope it's cheap. I'm trying to save up for furniture." Julianne smiled, aware of the fact that Naomi was right in front of her. She swallowed. "I'm really confused," she admitted in a whisper.
"Then we'll take it really slow."
Slow. Julianne felt her heart speed up as their lips drew nearer. She closed her eyes, letting the moment carry her across the deep ravine of doubt. She felt Naomi's lips touch hers, in an instant that felt both surprising and surreal. Julianne wasn't sure if it was happening or not. But she knew she liked the softness pressing against her mouth; liked the way Naomi's body fit against hers.
It felt like hope. It tasted like possibility. And in an irrational moment she thought that maybe, if only she'd tried, if only she'd reacted quickly enough, she could've kept the glass from breaking.
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the knock at the door.
Kris hated, with a passion, the anticipation of staring at a closed door two seconds after knocking. She hated the knowledge that for all of that time spent rehearsing, over and over, what she would say, that she would forget everything the moment she was faced with the opportunity. She was nervous, standing there, thinking of nothing and everything, staring, rather hopefully and absurdly at the wooden patterns of the door.
She thought of the drive back from the cabin. Anthony: driving in silent resignation. Kris: writing and rewriting an imaginary monologue. She would apologize to Julianne, she had decided, early on. She would explain a version of the truth that neither concealed nor revealed the actual reasons for her distance.
She thought of Anthony with a slight pang of regret. Regret for not having discovered that she didn't ñ and couldn't ñ love him the way he wanted. Regret for having parted the way they had: stuck in a series of awkward gestures and incomplete sentences. It was goodbye with uncertain punctuation. Goodbye? Goodbye ... Goodbye.
And now, Kris was standing there, waiting, waiting for a chance to explain, however vaguely, that she was confused and scared; torn between knowing and not wanting to know. She was not there to confess, but merely to apologize for being a coward.
The door opened, finally, and Kris tensed with anticipation. "Hi," she said, when she saw Julianne standing there in the open doorway. She wanted to say so much more than that, but as expected, she had forgotten the words she'd settled on. They had abandoned her, the way her breath had abandoned her when Julianne had looked at her.
"Kris," Julianne said with surprise. "I thought you wereó"
"I was," Kris interrupted quickly. "Can we talk?" It was at that moment that Kris realized that Julianne wasn't alone. Naomi. The date. How selfish of her to have forgotten, how incredibly self-centered. "Sorry. It's a bad time," she said, feeling embarrassed and out of place. She hadn't rehearsed this part. She didn't know what to do.
"Kris, are you okay?" Julianne asked gently, looking at Kris' face carefully. Could Julianne tell that she'd been crying? Was it obvious?
Naomi appeared beside Julianne before Kris had a chance to reply. "I should get going," she announced. "I have an early meeting tomorrow with the producers." She looked at Julianne and smiled. "I'll call you?"
Julianne nodded. "Okay," she added, as if the act of nodding wasn't enough.
"Bye, Kris," Naomi said politely, and retreated down the hall.
Kris felt like an intruder. She couldn't remember ever feeling so embarrassed, so out of place. "I'm so sorry about that," she said, the moment the director disappeared into the elevator. "I completely forgot about your date."
Julianne shrugged. "Nothing to be sorry about," she said. "Come in."
Kris tried not to imagine what she might have interrupted. She entered the apartment and looked around, as if expecting things to be different. She noticed the broken glass on the kitchen floor and stared at it in surprise. "What happened there?" she asked.
Julianne came up beside her and sighed. "I'm just a klutz, that's all," she answered. She turned to Kris and stared at her with concern. "What's wrong?"
Everything, Kris wanted to say. Everything was wrong. "I couldn't do it," she said, instead. It hadn't been what she'd come here to say. She didn't want to talk about Anthony and their failed romance. She had merely wanted to say, I'm sorry for not calling you. I'm sorry for not keeping our date. I don't really understand why I stayed away. Please don't ask me to explain. But everything started to topple out of her mouth before she could stop it. "We were on the bed, in this beautiful cabin in the woods, and ... I just froze."
"It was your first time, it's understandable," Julianne told her.
Kris shook her head. "No, it wasn't timing. It wasn't even fear or nervousness. I just didn't want him. At all. I should've at least felt something, right?" She glanced up into blue eyes, which Kris was certain had flickered with something. What? What are you thinking, Julianne? "Do you think there's something wrong with me?"
"No," Julianne answered. "You just didn't want him."
Kris nodded. "Right," she agreed. It was normal. It was fine. "But I didn't want Nathan, either," she admitted. "Maybe I'm asexual."
"Yes, that's probably what it is," Julianne agreed with a smile. "Join the nunnery."
Kris smiled, too. She remembered what she'd come to say and said it. "I'm really sorry about the past week. I was a jerk." She stared at the floor, unable to meet Julianne's gaze; knowing that no matter what she said, it would be a lie. "I wasn't thinking clearly."
"You had a lot on your mind," Julianne said. "With Anthony and everything. It's okay."
Julianne's words filled Kris with guilt. She wanted, more than anything, to admit the truth. But it would make things awkward and uncomfortable, and she still wasn't sure if what she felt was real. "I hurt you."
"I'll live," Julianne assured her. "I understand."
Kris wanted to cry, standing there, feeling torn and confused, hating her uncertainty, and still holding on to it for dear life. She swallowed back the tears, not wishing to explain her emotions. "I'm a mess," she admitted, in spite of herself.
Julianne stepped closer and wrapped her arms around Kris, hugging her tightly.
Kris closed her eyes, relaxing into Julianne's body. She could smell the vanilla sweetness of Julianne's perfume. Or maybe it was the natural scent of her skin. Everything about Julianne was soft and warm. Kris wanted the hug to last forever.
But it was Julianne who broke the contact first. "If you think you're a mess, you should've seen me earlier," she said with a slight smile. She nodded toward the glass on the floor.
"I'm sure you were charmingly dorky." Kris grinned.
Julianne laughed. "I'm not sure I could pull that off."
"No, charming," Julianne answered, sounding shy.
"Just dorky then," Kris teased. She motioned toward the kitchen. "Come on, let's get that mess cleaned up."
In the midst of insomnia, thoughts came to her in fragments: shards of broken glass scattered across the floor ... soft lips moving against her own ... the knock at the door.
Julianne opened her eyes and stared at the bedroom window. Sunlight spilled through the blinds, casting vague shadows on the floor. She stared at them for a while, focusing on the undecipherable patterns that invaded her carpet. She listened to the silence, trying to make out other signs of life.
But all was quiet in her penthouse apartment. The rest of the world was nonexistent from her throne. It was in those moments when nothing felt real. How had she gotten there? How was any of this hers?
At twenty-three she had accomplished more things than most people did in a lifetime. At least, that's what she'd always told herself. Now she wasn't so sure. What was an accomplishment, anyway?
She thought of James, the homeless man she had encountered on the street all of those months ago. Surviving for him was more of an accomplishment than anything Julianne had ever done.
"I'm going to be rich and famous one day," Julianne had told her grandmother one day. It was the first of many times.
Her grandmother had been silent for a long time, then had said, "And why is that so important to you, Julia? What are you going to do with all that fame and all of that money?"
The phone rang, bringing her introspection to an end. "Hello?" she answered.
"Did I wake you?"
Julianne smiled at the sound of her voice. "I couldn't sleep," she admitted.
"Me neither," Kris said after a moment. "What's wrong?"
"Excessive thinking. You?"
"Anthony?" Julianne guessed.
"Partly, but other things, too," Kris told her. "I'm just tired of thinking. I thought I'd call and bother you."
"You're so thoughtful," Julianne joked. "I was thinking of getting furniture today."
"That's what kept you up all night?"
Julianne laughed. "Yes, this is a huge step for me." She paused. "Do you want to come with me? I hate shopping alone."
"I don't know, what's in it for me?"
Julianne grinned. "I'll think of something."
"Oooh, a surprise. I'm in. When are we going?"
"I'll drop by your apartment at one. Sound good?"
"It's a date, Miss Franqui. See you then."
Smiling, Julianne said, "Bye." She hung up the phone and set her alarm for 11:30. That would give her enough time to get ready.
Yawning, Julianne drew the covers over her head and closed her eyes.
Kris had somehow forgotten a very important piece of information: Julianne was Julianne Franqui. Thankfully, the people of New York did a wonderful job of reminding her. Everywhere they went someone would stop them to ask for Julianne's autograph. Some asked the actress for a picture. Others assumed that Kris was someone important too, and asked for her autograph as well. And who was she to deny them?
"Look at that, famous by association," Kris joked once a swarm of people had left them alone.
"Can I have your autograph, too?" Julianne teased.
"Sure, got a pen? I'll sign your forehead." Kris smiled at the actress as they walked. "Does that get annoying after a while?"
"Getting my forehead signed?"
"Do you get your forehead signed often?"
Julianne pretended to contemplate the question. "No, as it turns out, you're the first to even offer."
"What a pity," Kris replied in mock seriousness. She smiled and shook her head. "I meant all the autograph-signing and picture-taking."
"I wouldn't say 'annoying'," Julianne answered carefully. "I'm kind of used to it. I wish I wasn't, though."
Kris nodded, trying to place herself in Julianne's shoes. She found it impossible. How could strangers vying for your attention ever become routine? It felt so strange, experiencing this aspect of Julianne's life. Kris had lost count of how many people had told the actress that they loved her. After hearing it so often, Kris wondered if the word "love" had lost all meaning to Julianne.
"You could have anyone you wanted," Kris found herself saying. She glanced up at Julianne.
"That was random," Julianne replied with a smile.
Kris searched her memory for the last thing Julianne had said. It had been something about autographs. "Sorry," she apologized. "I was just thinking that all of those people want you."
"I'm pretty sure they just asked for my signature," Julianne replied. "Did I miss some offers somewhere?" She turned around jokingly. "Let's go back."
Kris laughed and grabbed Julianne's arm, turning her back around. "Seriously! I bet I could ask anyone if they would sleep with you, and they would all say yes."
Julianne considered that. "I bet it's safe to say that most gay men and straight women might not be too keen on the whole sex thing."
"Fine, give me your cell phone," Kris demanded.
Arching a brow, Julianne handed it over. "I hope this is a quick call you're making. I'm on a tight budget."
"Oh shut up," Kris answered, smacking Julianne on the arm with the phone. "I don't even want to know how much money you have." She started dialing the number to her brother's apartment. After a few rings, Mark picked up. "Hey, Mark? It's Kris."
"Hey, sweetie. How's it going?"
"Good. I am just calling to ask you a question."
"Yes, you. You're the gayest guy I know."
"Aw, thank you."
Kris smiled. "Alright. So, say you had to sleep with a woman. Would you sleep with Julianne Franqui?"
"Honey, that girl can get into my pants any time."
With a satisfied smirk, Kris said, "Thanks! I'll talk to you later. Send my love to William." Kris hung up and grinned at Julianne. "See?"
"See, what? I didn't hear what he said," Julianne answered.
"He said you could get into his pants any time."
"And how do I know you're not lying?" Julianne challenged.
"Call him yourself," Kris said, waving the phone in front of the actress' face. She hadn't actually expected Julianne to grab it, though.
Julianne hit redial and put the phone to her ear.
Kris watched in surprise and amusement.
"Hi, Mark?" Julianne said. "This is Julianne Franqui. I heard you wanted me to get into your pants."
Kris burst out laughing.
"No, this isn't Kris," Julianne said, casting a glance at her laughing companion. "This really is Julianne Franqui ... I don't know ... Uh, Prada ... Well, you can't expect me to remember what kind of shoes I wore two years ago ... Okay, fine! Just for that I'm not sleeping with you." She clicked off the phone, and shrugged at Kris. "He didn't believe it was me."
Kris grinned. "I still made my point."
"We still need to find a straight girl," Julianne countered. "Oh, and look at that, I'm staring at one right now. Would you sleep with me?"
Caught off-guard, Kris blushed. She didn't know how to answer the question, though she knew what she wanted to say. "I thought we agreed that I was asexual," she said.
"Cop out," Julianne said, shaking her head in mock disappointment.
"Would you sleep with me?" Kris wondered.
"Oh, look! It's a furniture store," Julianne answered. "Goodie!"
"Cop out," Kris teased, but followed Julianne inside the store. She suddenly wanted nothing more than to know the answer to that question.
Julianne would've been in and out of there in twenty minutes. She would have glanced around, pointed to the first couch she saw that looked plain enough to match whatever she decided to put around it, and walked right back out.
Kris, on the other hand, had a different conception of couch-shopping. Hers involved sampling every couch available and weighing the comfort, look, and price factors carefully.
Julianne was merely amused. Julianne loved the pensive look Kris would get on her face whenever she'd sit down at a different couch, and the dismissive looks she'd give when the object wouldn't live up to her expectations.
Realizing that they might be there a while, the actress decided to sit down.
The second she settled into the recliner, she knew she was in love. "I'm getting this!" she called to Kris, the moment the artist was close enough to hear. She put her feet up and sighed. "This is all I need in life."
Kris walked over and smiled. "There's a black suede couch over there that would match it."
"Does it pass the Kris Milano Couch Test?" Julianne teased.
"Innocent cows were slaughtered for your comfort," Kris replied with a slight grin.
Julianne cocked her head to the side. "Says she who wore leather on her birthday."
Kris opened her mouth to argue, and then shut it. Then opened it again and said, "That was Mark's fault!"
"Ahuh. I didn't hear you complaining."
Kris dropped her shoulders and sighed. "You're right. I'm a hypocrite." She eyed the recliner for a second. "That does look comfy."
"I'm not getting up," Julianne stated.
Kris got closer. "Oh, come on. Don't be a brat."
"I am a brat."
Kris narrowed her eyes. "And here you had me nearly convinced that you were a decent human being."
"Well, I am an actress," Julianne answered with a grin. She sighed melodramatically and closed her eyes. "Mmm... I could live on here forevó" Julianne's eyes snapped open as she felt a sudden weight on her body. She tried not to moan as Kris' back pressed against her breasts.
"Not bad," Kris commented, her head coming to rest beside Julianne's. "A little lumpy, though."
Julianne tried to relax under Kris' weight, but it felt too nice for comfort. "Really? It doesn't feel that lumpy to me. Although, gravity seems a bit heavier in this part of the store."
Kris smiled. "That's very odd. I can't imagine why."
"You know," Julianne began, "if a news camera appears suddenly, I'm going to have to deny we're friends."
"I'll pretend I'm just a crazy fan stalking you," Kris agreed, laughing.
Julianne wanted to wrap her arms against Kris' stomach, to hold her closer, but she didn't dare move. She kept her hands on the armrests. "I promise to bail you out."
"May I help you ladies with anything?" a male voice said from somewhere near.
Kris jumped off of Julianne, although she made a noble effort to look like she wasn't jumping off. Julianne instantly missed the feeling, and regretted the interruption. But it was for the best. There was no point in getting used to such things. Especially in public. I was wrong ... it's not the movie that's going to out me.
She turned her attention to the salesman, whose eyes grew wide with recognition. Before he could go into babble-mode about how much he loved her, she intercepted the silence, "I'd like to get two of these, and whatever couch my friend here decided on." She nodded to Kris, who was blushing and looking down at the floor. Why does she look so guilty?
Kris glanced up and over at the salesman, who wasn't looking at her at all. "Um, it's the black suede one," she said.
The man seemed to snap out of his thoughts, and tore his gaze away from Julianne. "Uh, great!" he said, with a tone of over enthusiasm. Julianne was certain she heard his voice crack. He cleared his throat. "They can be delivered within the week," he said, turning back to Julianne. "Is there anything else I can help you with, Miss Franqui?"
"Yes, is there anyway you can deliver me along with the chair?" she wondered. "I don't want to move."
The man relaxed visibly and laughed. "I'm not sure that can be arranged, but you can stay there as long as you want. I'll be by the register when you're ready." He smiled and excused himself.
Julianne turned her attention to Kris, who looked awkward and embarrassed. "Are you okay?"
Hazel eyes rose up to meet with azure ones. "Yeah, it's just ... I didn't want him to think that ... you ... that we ..."
"Are a couple?" Julianne finished, her heart sinking.
Kris shook her head. "I just didn't want to get you in trouble ..."
Julianne studied Kris' face for a moment, trying to understand the truth behind the words. All that she could come up with was that the artist was scared of getting mistaken for a lesbian. "It's okay," she said, hoping she didn't sound as hurt as she felt. "I'm pretty sure he's not going to run to Entertainment Tonight with the news that a cute Puerto Rican girl was sitting on my lap."
If possible, Kris blushed even more.
Julianne decided it was time to drop the subject. "I guess that means I have to get up now."
Kris walked over and offered her hand. "C'mon, lazy bones."
Julianne let herself get pulled from the comfort of the recliner. Somehow, touching Kris' hand was more appealing than sitting where she was. The realization was unsettling, in spite of the fact that it wasn't surprising. "Want to get dinner afterwards?"
"Are you always thinking about food?" Kris wondered as they headed toward the cash register.
Julianne smiled. "No, sometimes I think about other things."
Kissing you. Touching you. You. You. You. Her cell phone saved her from having to come up with a response. She stopped walking. "Franqui," she greeted.
"Hi, Julianne," came Karen's voice. "Am I interrupting anything?"
Julianne glanced at Kris for a moment then answered, "No, I'm just furniture shopping."
A short silence greeted her. "Furniture shopping? By yourself?"
Julianne rolled her eyes. "I am capable of buying furniture for myself, you know." She paused. "But, um, Kris is with me."
"Ah," Karen said knowingly. Though Julianne wasn't sure what Karen thought she knew. "I'll make this quick then. You're set to fly out of Newark on Friday night. The Guardian premiere is on Saturday. And your date called to confirm."
My date? Julianne thought about it for a full second before grinning. "Really? That's wonderful! Did you get him a hotel room and everything?"
"Everything's settled," Karen assured her. "Though, Julianne, aren't you picking them a bit young. I mean his father called to confirm."
Julianne laughed. "Age is just a state of mind."
"Right. Well, he's arriving Friday morning with his mother and sister. I'm having a limo pick them up at the airport. I'll get you their contact info when you get here. Also, you'll have to break the news to Adrian that he's not going to be your date for the evening, cause he didn't get the memo."
"Oh, damn," Julianne said. "I'll call him later."
"Last thing," Karen promised, "your mother knows you're coming this weekend, so you better call her. She's left about five messages on your answering machine at home. She said she lost your phone number in New York."
Julianne rolled her eyes. "Okay."
"That's it," Karen replied. "I'll let you get back to your ogling, er, shopping."
"Hardy har har," Julianne answered, shaking her head. "Weren't you the one who once found me intimidating? Can we go back to that?"
Karen laughed. "Bye, Miss Franqui."
Julianne hung up the phone and stared at it for a second before putting it away. She looked around for Kris and found the artist sitting on a nearby couch. "Sorry about that," she apologized.
"It's okay," Kris said, rising. "I get that you're popular." She smiled.
Julianne smiled back, but looked away before she could get lost in hazel eyes. An idea was brewing in her mind, but she wasn't sure if it was a good one. She dismissed it for now. Maybe later, she'd go back to it. When they were alone.
"It just doesn't make any
sense," Kris commented, stabbing a leaf of lettuce from her salad. "You'd think
after all of this time, they'd get a clue. It's so obvious they love each
Julianne shrugged, busy with her own plate. She glanced around the restaurant for a moment and turned back to Kris. "I guess it's just not obvious to them."
Kris shook her head. "Yeah, but I mean, they have a kid together now. They lived together ... Hello?"
"I'm sure they'll end up together," Julianne assured her. "Some things take time."
"Love shouldn't be so complicated," Kris argued.
Julianne chuckled. "It's a sitcom."
"All I'm saying is that Ross and Rachel need to get their act together. It's uncanny that anyone could be so blind."
Julianne sat back and smiled. She glanced around and sat up, looking slightly more serious than she had before. "Can I talk to you about something?"
Kris' heart skipped a beat at the actress' tone. "Sure," she said, though she was suddenly nervous. Ever since they'd left the furniture store, Kris had worried that Julianne would bring up the incident on the recliner. Incident. Calling it that made it seem like an unfortunate accident. And there had been nothing unfortunate or accidental about it.I'm turning into a perv.
"What are you doing this upcoming weekend?" Julianne asked.
The question caught Kris off-guard. She'd been so convinced that it would be a recliner-related question. "Uh, nothing, why?"
"Do you want to go to California with me?" Julianne asked. Then quickly added, "I have to go to the premiere of my last movie on Saturday. And I thought it'd be nice to show you my house. You know, I thought it would be good for you to see how I live when I actually have furniture."
California? She wants me to go to California for the weekend? With her? To her house? Furniture... Kris' mind was reeling. She wasn't sure her brain was even forming coherent thoughts. Still, she forced herself to speak. "I don't think I can afford the plane fare."
"I hired a private jet," Julianne answered, a bit shyly. "You don't have to pay for anything."
"Right," Kris said, feeling completely overwhelmed. A weekend in California. With Julianne. How could that possibly be bad? "Sounds like fun," she found herself saying. Didn't she have homework? There were papers to write and books to read. She had midterms coming up. Julianne Franqui was going to get her kicked out of college. And still she couldn't keep from feeling giddy at the prospect of going to Julianne's house.
"Great," Julianne replied, grinning brightly.
Kris found herself staring at Julianne's smile. God, she's so beautiful. Gorgeous. Unreal. And I'm so, so screwed if I keep thinking like this. "So what are we doing after dinner?" she asked, fearing that it might be nearing the time they'd have to part ways.
Julianne shrugged. "If you're up to it, I think I recall someone promising me a dance."
Kris smiled. "You're on." So, so screwed.
return to the academy