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Warning: Characters do stupid things. Dana is no exception. Please don't judge her too harshly for her actions in this chapter. *G*
On Monday, Dana dressed for the hard work she knew was coming. She wore cut-off jeans and a white t-shirt, and put her hair back in a ponytail. When she arrived at the theatre, she found the rest of the company in sweats, old jeans and knee braces. Owen had decided, despite being flush with the budget, to go with the old sets one more year. Unfortunately, that meant they had to put the damn thing back together.
Dana, Steven, Gabriel and a handful of others had volunteered for the duty. When Dana arrived, she was surprised to see Sofia was also there, wearing a battered sweatshirt and a pair of ripped jeans. She grabbed a bottle of water and went over to where Steven and Gabriel were standing. "What is she doing here?" she asked. "Doesn't she know manual labor is involved?"
"Who cares?" Steven said. He tilted his head and gestured. "Look at those jeans..."
Dana rolled her eyes, but snuck a peek. There was a rip high on the back of her left thigh, showing a generous crescent of tanned flesh. Dana rolled her eyes; she'd shown more on the red carpet. Owen was on the opposite side of the stage with Gus and he walked over when he spotted Dana. "Is everyone here?" he asked, and then said, "Good," without waiting for an answer. He was the only one present wearing his regular outfit; a violet silk shirt and a pair of tight black jeans.
"You folks who've been here for years know the drill. Help the newbies. We'll be constructing the Sutherland house today; it is the main set for Sound of Your Voice, as you should all know by now. People will be coming through all day long, checking the cast list out front, getting their scripts if they are one of the chosen few, that sort of thing. Just try to work around them. Dana, I'll need you..."
"You got me. Just let me know when someone's come in."
"Super," he said. "Okay, folks. Let's get this house up! Gus will be your guide. Obey Gus. Gus is your new Dalai Lama, no offense to any Buddhists." He snapped his fingers and headed for the edge of the stage. "Get to work!"
Gus picked up a tool box and carried it over. "First rule of Gus Kavik's shop... you break a tool, I break you."
Dana smiled. Somehow, that first rule always seemed to be the one people remembered. She picked up a hammer and set out to find some nails.
People started showing up for their scripts around eleven. Each time someone came in, Owen came over the speaker system and said, "Dana Purcell, green room."
Dana dropped what she was doing and went to the green room. Owen had a table set up with a stack of scripts. The cover of each script book was marked with a character name. By the time Dana arrived, Owen had handed out the script and was in the middle of detailing the rehearsal schedule. "These dates in red, you do not miss. Miss one and the part goes to your understudy, do you understand me?"
The man being admonished was Arthur Daley, Dana's behemoth of a dentist. It was odd to hear whippet-thin Owen Childe browbeating someone like Daley, but the doctor merely nodded and accepted the rehearsal sheet. Dana sat next to Owen and said, "Hi, Dr. Daley."
"Hi, Miss Purcell. Flossing every day?"
"Doing my best," she said. "The tailor will be here on Wednesday, so we need to set up a time to have you fitted for your costume."
He rubbed his chin. "I have patients all morning. I can usually get away for an hour or two in the afternoon. Say two?"
Dana checked the schedule. "We have an opening at 1:45. Work for you?"
Dana wrote his name down and said, "We'll see you then. Shouldn't take more than half an hour."
He nodded and left the room. Dana checked her watch and saw that it was a little before one. "You didn't see Gretchen Cole, did you? Alice?"
"Not yet," Owen said.
"Okay. I'm going back out."
"How goes the set?"
"It's getting there," she assured him. "We're about to start touching up the paint. You sure you don't want to come give us a hand?"
He scoffed and waved her away.
When Dana returned to the stage, she saw Sofia was kneeling next to the set and hammering the row of nails Dana had been working on. "Hey," she said.
Sofia raised her head. Her hair was apparently unwashed, pulled back in a tight ponytail. She wasn't wearing any make-up and she was actually sweating. She wiped her hand across her forehead and leaned back. "Oh, I'm sorry. Was this your spot?"
"No, by all means," Dana said. "Do as much of my work as you want!"
Sofia laughed and looked down at her handiwork. "I'm not exactly much of a woodworker..."
"Or a carpenter?" Dana said.
"That, too," Sofia said. "But... I felt like I had to do something. I had no idea my agent was fleecing you people like that."
Dana shook her head. "It all worked out for the best. Don't worry about it." She knelt and took the hammer from Sofia. "Let me show you the trick to hammering."
"There's a trick?"
"Well," Dana said, "I didn't think so until I saw you do it..."
Sofia covered her face and Dana laughed. This time, she didn't remind herself to hate her.
At half-past one, Owen called, "Dana Purcell, green room, please."
"Finally," she said. She and Sofia had been giving the kitchen door a fresh coat of paint. She put down her brush and gestured at the door. "I'll probably be gone a while this time. Think you can handle this by yourself?"
"I think I've got the gist," Sofia said.
Dana jogged back to the green room and felt her heart crash when she saw a teenaged boy from the local high school. He'd been cast as the messenger, a part that lasted two minutes tops. Owen was explaining that he didn't need to be at all the rehearsals, merely the few he had circled in blue pen. Dana rounded the table and opened the appointment book. "The tailor is coming Wednesday." As she scanned down the list, she noticed Gretchen's name was not listed. Not that she expected it to be; Owen had called her for everyone that came in. She sighed. "Is, uh... four good for you?"
She wrote his name down and watched him leave. When she stood, Owen whistled. "Hold on, Miss Purcell. What's up?"
"Nothing... I was just waiting for someone. I guess she got held up."
"All right," he said, although he didn't sound convinced. "I don't like my starlets pouting. Let me know if there's anything I can do, all right?"
She nodded and left the green room. Before she went back on-stage, she leaned against the wall and covered her face with both hands. She knew what had happened... Gretchen was panicking about the kiss. She regretted it, so she was trying to avoid Dana all together. She sighed and pushed her hair out of her face. And because of a single, stupid kiss, she was letting herself get put through the wringer. Part of her, the reasonable part, pointed out that Gretchen was only a half hour late. But another part told her that if Gretchen was going to show up, she'd have been there already. She remembered the anguish of Lisa. She'd sworn never again and here she was, fifteen seconds into a new relationship and she was already on the verge of tears.
"Fuck it," she whispered. She wiped at her eyes and stormed back out onto the stage. She grabbed her brush and began to furiously sweep it across the wood.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Sofia said. She was ducking the drops of brown paint Dana was flicking at her. "I'd ask if everything was all right, but I think I know the answer."
Dana huffed and looked at her paintbrush. "Sorry... sorry, I..." She stuck the brush back into the paint can and shook her hands.
"No. Yes. I will be." She sighed and clasped her hands behind her neck. "Sorry."
"I think you need a little fresh air. Come on." Sofia put down her paintbrush and guided Dana off-stage. They walked up the stairs and out into the parking lot. Dana found a car and leaned against the hood, hanging her head down and taking a few deep breaths. Sofia stood off to one side, just watching her. When Dana had her nerves calmed again, she straightened her back and smoothed down her t-shirt. "You okay?"
Dana nodded. "Thank you."
"Want to talk about it?"
"No." She sighed and looked around. "I need to get out of here. Do you want to get out of here?"
"Sure," Sofia said. "But... we won't get in trouble?"
Dana said, "No, I'll tell Owen I'm leaving. Give me five seconds." Sofia nodded and Dana went back inside. Her face felt hot, her heart was racing. The rational part of her brain piped up again and suggested maybe she was the one afraid, that she was the one running from any kind of commitment Gretchen may represent. She shut the voice up again and went into the green room.
Owen looked up and said, "Everything okay?"
"Sort of." She leaned against the wall and said, "Could I beg off for a couple hours?"
He waved her off. "Sure, sure. Best to get your days off at this point so you can't ask later. Go, shoo. Take the day."
"Think nothing of it."
She left the green room and headed up the stairs. The bad feelings caused by Gretchen's failure to appear were already starting to fade. She smiled to Sofia when she got back outside. "Your car or mine?"
"Yours. Let's go to your place."
Sofia nodded. "Sounds good."
Dana followed Sofia to her car and climbed into the passenger seat. She didn't care if she was running, she didn't care if anyone called her a coward. All she cared about was getting away from this damned feeling before it consumed her.
Sofia was renting a condo off Spring Street. It was a two-story white building with a black roof and shutters, surrounded on all sides by tall evergreens. Sofia parked on the dock-side of the building and gestured at the water. "I have a bird's-eye view of the ferry from my condo here."
"Wow," Dana said. "That must be nice."
"Yeah, you'd think," Sofia said. "Then the damn horn blast wakes you up at six in the morning and you suddenly realize... I don't like the view that fucking much."
Dana laughed. Now that they were away from the theatre, she felt her panic begin to ebb. She followed Sofia up the outside stairs of the condo and waited patiently as she unlocked the door. The condo was compact, but not exactly small. There was a combination kitchen and dining room to the right, a bedroom door to the left. The main room was about half the size of Dana's entire apartment. The far wall was a sliding glass door that led to a small balcony. As promised, it did in fact have a great view of the harbor.
Sofia gestured at the couch. "Go ahead and get comfortable. Want something to drink? Lemonade, iced tea...?"
"Coming right up. Is diet okay?"
"Yeah," Dana said. She sat in an armchair and looked out at the harbor. This was familiar. This was nice. Sitting in a strange apartment with a woman, no overly strong feelings to be hurt...
Sofia returned from the kitchen with two cans and handed one to Dana. She dropped onto the couch and stretched her legs out in front of her. She snapped her soda open and took a sip. "Do you want to talk about it? Whatever made you all huffy all of a sudden?"
Dana ran her thumb over the top of her soda. "Not really."
"Okay. We can watch TV... I have a couple of DVDs..."
Dana glanced at the entertainment center. She was about to say she didn't feel much like watching anything when she spotted a thin DVD case next to the television. She smiled and said, "Oh, my God. Is that...?"
Sofia saw where she was looking and said, "Oh, damn. I thought I put that away." She got up and grabbed the DVD, but Dana was leaning forward with her hand out.
"Wait, wait." Sofia reluctantly handed the case over. The front cover showed Sofia in a battered tank top, hair flying around her head, crouched with a gun. Her bare arms were scratched and bleeding and she was reaching back to shoot at a helicopter that was bearing down on her. Flames filled the background and a small tag line said, 'She's Got to Save the Free World... and Still Pick Up the Kids at 3:00."
"Soccer Mom," Dana said. "The Special Edition DVD."
Sofia scoffed. "Yeah. I fully admit it's a piece of shit, but... it's a movie with my name on it. I'm kin of proud of that."
Dana handed the case back. "You know, I'm probably the only person in America who has never seen it..."
"Don't trust the numbers," Sofia said. "The box office was inflated by teenage boys going hundreds of times in one weekend." She smiled and started to put the DVD back, then looked over her shoulder at Dana. "You don't want to watch this, do you?"
"I don't know," Dana shrugged. "Why not? How often do you get to see a premiere with the star sitting right next to you?"
Sofia hesitated, but she popped open the case and withdrew the disc. "Okay, but on one condition." She loaded the disc into the player and went towards the bedroom, "I'll be right back."
Dana grabbed the case off the coffee table and looked at the back. A couple of scenes from the movie flanked the plot summary. Sofia looking wet with her arms bound over her head, glaring at a man with a knife. Sofia standing in the middle of a street, wearing that lovely, dirty tank top and screaming at the sky. Dana in a business suit with the actors playing her two children, obviously before all the mayhem started.
She glanced at the small print along the bottom. "Rated R for violence, language, sexual situations and nudity."
Dana's mouth went dry.
Sofia returned from the bedroom. "What's the condition?" Dana said.
Sofia sat on the couch and lifted up two joints. "We can't watch it straight. Please. I've sat through this thing two dozen times. I need a little assist. And I hate to smoke alone. Is that all right?"
Dana wasn't exactly a virgin to mind-altering substances, but she still hesitated. She finally decided smoking one joint was nothing compared to all the drunken blackouts she'd lived through and snatched one of the rolled joints from Sofia's hand. "Agreed."
Sofia smiled and withdrew a small lighter from her pocket. She lit her joint, leaned forward to light Dana's, and then picked up the remote. "Now," Sofia said with a slight rasp to her voice. "We're ready for the cinematic blunder that is... Soccer Mom. Siskel and Ebert gave it a nothing, because they didn't want their thumbs associated with it. Enjoy."
Dana chuckled, inhaled and sank back into the armchair.
Gretchen looked at the clock every five minutes during the one o'clock hour. It took all her strength not to rush the door and tell Barbara she was taking a long lunch. What if Dana was waiting? No, Dana wouldn't be waiting. But what if she was?
She kept ringing up sales, handing back change and reciting the Funky Junk mantra. What did she care if people had a nice afternoon? She was miserable! When the clock finally ticked over from 1:59 to 2:00, she felt a little relief. Nothing to be done about it now, she was late. In a way, it was a relief. It meant she wasn't desperate to be with Dana. She could wait. She could put it off and postpone their time together if need be. As hard as it was, she felt relieved to find she was capable of it.
She'd told Barbara she was going to check the cast list after work and Barbara had offered to let her go early. Gretchen had demurred and said that the theatre would still be there at six or six-thirty. She settled in to work a full day, laced her fingers together on top of the counter and smiled.
The theatre would still be there, the cast list would still be up and Dana would still be happy to see her. It would all work out.
After the opening credits rolled, Dana felt the pot start to take effect. The sun coming through the balcony door was glaring on the TV screen, so she slid out of the armchair and scooted over in front of the couch to get a better angle. She pulled her knees up to her chest and toked. She giggled at the fact that she was toking and looked up at Sofia. She actually looked pained, eyes locked on the screen like she was watching a train wreck.
Sofia's character, Amelia, was loading the kids up in her minivan. Unbeknownst to her, just after the credits, a dying secret agent had planted something in the back of the van. The black van at the head of the street was filled with Evil Government Agents eager to get it back.
"It's actually not that bad," Dana said. "I've seen worse."
"Yeah, so have I," Sofia said. "But none of it with me as the lead."
Dana leaned her head back against the couch cushions. Amelia dropped her kids off at school and the Evil Government Agents made their move. They tried to force her off the road, but - as the exposition before the credits explained - Amelia's ex-husband was a cop and had taught her how to drive defensively. She managed to elude them and thus the chase was on.
"Why do you lose your clothes?"
"Because the studio wanted tits," Sofia said. There was no bile or anger in her voice, just tired acceptance. "I could've been Audrey fucking Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's and they would've wanted a shower scene."
Dana stared at the burning tip of her joint and brought it to her lips. She exhaled a cloud of white smoke and let her head roll along the couch cushion. She felt Sofia's leg against the back of her head and was comforted that she was so close. "Sofia Fucking Chambers," she muttered.
"What?" Sofia said.
"Nothing," Dana said. She was starting to get lightheaded from the pot. "I hated you. You got all my friends fired."
"I didn't know."
"I know," Dana said.
They were quiet for a long time after that. Amelia met up with the Handsome Spy, who was working against the Evil Government Agents. He saved Amelia's life and they hopped into her minivan for another extended chase scene. "Was that really you driving?"
"Only on close-ups."
Dana nodded. She looked at her joint - wasn't it called a roach? - and was suddenly disgusted by it. It was almost burnt down to her fingers anyway. "Do you have an ash tray or...?"
"My soda can is empty."
Dana stuffed the remnants of her joint into the mouth of the can. Sofia followed suit. On-screen, Amelia and Handsome Spy got the parcel out of the backseat. They stashed the van in a parking garage and high-tailed it to a hotel to see if the bad guys would take the van and leave them alone. Amelia had gotten her first wound; a bullet had exploded her window and sent shards of glass into her arm.
"Here we go," Sofia muttered.
Handsome Spy made Sofia take off her jacket and blouse, leaving her in the tank top from the cover. He daubed her cuts with alcohol and wrapped the shoulder with gauze. Soft music played during the first aid scene and Amelia's eyes locked with Handsome Spy's. Before Dana could ask if they should fast-forward, the two characters were kissing.
It was hard to fathom the woman on-screen was lying just behind her. The tank top came off and Sofia... no, Amelia... was pressed back onto the mattress. Her jeans went down and Handsome Spy lay between her legs. Being a mainstream Hollywood movie, he managed to have sex without even showing his ass. "Must be nice being a actor in a sex scene... All the fun, none of the embarrassment," Dana muttered.
Sofia scoffed, but didn't say anything.
The camera angle switched and Dana was suddenly looking at Sofia's bare breasts. "Oh, shit," she coughed. Her face was hot and she didn't know what to do with her hands. What was the etiquette while watching someone you knew simulate sex? She shifted on the floor and watched as Handsome Spy continued to thrust into Sofia, his hands roaming across her body.
Sofia - no, Amelia. Damn it, why couldn't she remember that? - threw her head back and brought her knees up around Handsome Spy's hips. They rolled to the side and Amelia stroked Handsome Spy's face. The scene faded then, and Dana snapped out of her hypnosis. She grabbed the edge of the coffee table and hoisted herself up. "Uh, I should... I-I should..."
"Wait," Sofia said. She came up off the couch and caught Dana before she could leave. She turned Dana and pressed her gently against the door. "It's okay. You don't have to leave. Millions of people saw my tits in that scene. I'm not embarrassed."
Dana's eyes slipped down to the curve of Sofia's shirt and she quickly looked away. "Well... uh, I kind of am."
"I knew that scene was in there," she said. "You think I would've let you watch if I was embarrassed?"
Dana licked her bottom lip - God, her mouth felt dry - and leaned in. She kissed Sofia lightly, just like a friendly kiss that had gone on a bit too long. Just like the kiss Gretchen had given her. She screwed her eyes closed, trying to banish that thought, and cupped the back of Sofia's head. The kiss deepened and Sofia sagged forward, pinning Dana to the door. Dana groaned and pushed her tongue into Sofia's mouth. Sofia ran her hands over the front of Dana's t-shirt, squeezing her small handfuls of breasts. When they parted, both were panting. "Are you gay?"
Sofia laughed at the question. "Yeah."
"I thought... you and that actor... the guy from that doctor show on TV..."
"He's gay, too," Sofia said.
Dana said, "Really," as Sofia captured her mouth in another kiss. Her hands moved down to the catch of Dana's cut-off shorts and pulled the button loose. Her hand dipped inside and she twisted her wrist until she was cupping Dana through her panties. "Oh," Dana groaned. She fell back and let the door support her as she spread her legs. Sofia licked and kissed her neck as her fingers worked.
"That's good," Dana breathed. She turned her head to smell Sofia's hair. When she opened her eyes, she saw Sofia on the TV screen. She was wrapped in a towel, soaking wet and firing a gun at a black-clad man coming in through the bathroom window. Her towel flared as she ran back into the bedroom and revealed her ass. Dana moaned and pushed against Sofia's hand.
Two fingers pushed aside her panties and Sofia's fingers danced over her clit. "Right there," Dana panted. "Now. Touch me..."
Sofia circled with two fingertips and then pressed inside. Dana cried out and tightened her hand on the back of Sofia's head. Sofia's quick, wet tongue danced on the sensitive flesh between Dana's ear and her jaw.
When Dana came, she clung to Sofia and let her body go limp. Sofia pulled her hand free and pinned Dana to the door so she wouldn't fall. "Still want to go?" she asked softly.
"No," Dana said.
"Want to watch the rest of the movie?"
Dana's hands were working the button of Sofia's pants. "No."
Sofia grinned. "I was hoping you'd say that." She lifted Dana up. Dana's legs wrapped around Sofia's hips and she let herself be carried into the bedroom.
To be continued in Chapter Nine
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