Pouring a coffee off to the corner was a goateed Dennis. The thick beard was new and quite distinctive, though it was in keeping with his thick brows and sideburns, and it filled out his face. He rolled his tired and puffy brown eyes to the side where Jack and Alex were just getting comfortable. Jack easing into an armchair, and Alex into the couch across from him.
“Is the camera on?” asked Jack.
In her usual thick and lazy brogue, Alex replied, “Yep.”
“How do I look?”
“Only good? Better than nothing I guess. You always were rather critical.”
Seeing her eyebrow raise, Jack added, “In a good way, Aussie. I meant that in a good way. You’re a director; you have… an eye for the details.”
Getting a wink, Alex felt compelled to smile.
“So, you’ve got us here early Monday morning, January 4th,” said a charismatic Jack into the camera, “I’m Jack Lynch, here with director Alex Kensington, and EP Dennis Hong. This is my mandatory audition for the new production of ‘Utopia Dystopia!’ Hmm, that’s the name the network’s going with? Even the exclamation point? Huh. Why not ‘Waste?’”
Alex chuckled so Jack continued on, “Anyway, I’ll be reading for the part of…”
“Oh, uh, Virgil Braun. The writers changed the name ever so slightly.”
“M’kay. Virgil Braun. And…” Jack yawned, “where do you want me to start from? Sorry. I just flew in from Amman.”
“I know! Jenny told me you were filming there for nearly two months with Rita Severn!”
“Just about, yeah. We had enough of a budget to film on location so…”
“Yeah. And how is Jenny?”
“Here’s your coffee, Jack.”
“She’s good— oh thanks, Dennis. Good to see you again by the way— um…” Dennis passed the coffee to Jack, who graciously unburdened the executive producer.
“Alex? Before we start reading, I’m going to run and fetch his contract. I’ll be back in a tic.”
“Yeah, no worries, Denny!” Alex called after the departing Dennis.
“So how far along is she? I only got to speak to her on the mobile,” explained Alex.
“She’s coming on eight months now.”
“Wow! she’s about ready to pop! Is she handling it okay?”
“Yeah, we’re really excited about it. Jenny’s been getting everything ready for the day.”
The room became suddenly tense, as Jack cocked his head and gave his director a queer look; his demeanor quite serious.
“How uh… How are you and Mr. Finnick doing?”
“Last I heard, he was well. But he’s still…”
“I see. Well, have you thought any more about…?”
Alex sighed and averted her eyes, “No.”
“Dennis will be back soon. Let’s not do this now.”
“Why? And if not now, when?”
Keeping her eyes turned, she got up and faced the wall, her arms crossed. “Jack, I… I just—”
Jack rose from his chair too and strode over to join Alex. For a moment he paused with his hand outstretched and hanging in the air, contemplating the gesture. But eventually, he placed an affectionate hand on her shoulder. A move decidedly uncharacteristic of the actor. It was a soft side Alex thought was out of place as well, and her spine tingled at first. But Jack’s touch was warm and not unwelcome. Either that, or that was his superpower. “Have you forgotten what happened in London?”
“I’ve been…” Alex gasped, as Jack’s fingers slid down the small of her back. And within seconds, she had started to perspire and her heart began to race.
A veil of auburn hair tumbled down her exposed and sun-baked shoulders. As auburn and waving as her beating brows. Though they were far less cavillous than either of her sapphire eyes. There was weariness there. Which Alex didn’t want Jack to see.
“… trying to,” Alex continued, as Jack came in closer. “Like we said we would.”
“All year, it’s the only thing I’ve been able to think about. Alex, please. I’m sorry for how things ended—”
“I just want to keep things professional? What about Jenny? What about your baby?”
“I never wanted any of that.”
Dennis returned startling the duo when he said aloud, “Mr. Lynch, Ms. Kensington, this is…”
“Shit,” Jack muttered. He ran his fingers through his hair, subtly trying to slink away.
Outside the door, but beside Dennis was Kamala. A quiet bashful young thing. Whenever she did speak, if anyone was paying attention, or if it wasn’t mumbling or babbling about miscellany, or human anatomy, it was probably something far too sophisticated for anyone working in television to understand. After all, she was formerly training to become a doctor. Moreover, she was clutz. And a hopeless romantic one with low self-esteem.
Yet she was a beauty. One needed only tell her, to give her the confidence she required to see it for herself. Her curly locks were raven but entangled quantumly. Her cheeks were permanently ripe and scarlet from all her blushing. And hiding behind thick rims and lenses of her glasses two brilliant eyes of burnished bistre. Deep brown eyes one could fall into if Kamala was in their sights.
“Am I interrupting something?”
“No, everything’s fine,” answered Alex. “Um… who is this, Denny?”
“This is Jack’s new assistant, Kamala Misra.”
The timid Kamala looked up finally and saw the actor removing his sweater. When his tee lifted up along with it, she even had a glimpse of his chiselled abs.
He just stood there. A Greek god never looked as good. Nor as rugged. The testosterone was enough to make the ladies sweat. And he had a chin that made them weak in the knees and eyes that made them faint. Such was his charm.
Beneath that hot, mouthwatering, shallow exterior was a vicious and vindictive vitriol with a penchant for loose liquor and hard women. And beneath that, a coward and his ego. But Kamala couldn’t see through his façade nor his physique. She had fallen prey to his charm, and became deeply infatuated with him. After just one look.
Finishing off my fruit tray, I looked at Jack and smiled. Imagining what life would be like if he and I were together. Though he didn’t seem to notice.
“Are you staring again?” asked Kate.
“No I’m not.” I blushed. Giving myself away.
“Yes you are.”
“No, I’m not!”
“You are! You’re one shit liar too.”
“Yeah… I am,” I sighed. “He’s perfect though, isn’t he?”
Kate snorted and smirked. She even tilted her head to get a better “Look at his perfectly formed ass. God! He’s Adonis incarnate. And probably dynamite in the sack. He can bend me over backwards and—”
I tried to hush her up, and I plugged my ears, but she apparently didn’t hear.
Like me, Kate Dowling was a novice assistant, except she worked for the producer, not the star. Among other things, she was competent and reliable, and she was kind and generous and a good friend. She wasn’t particularly wise, however she knew more than I did about biology, oceanography, and virtually everything Hawaii. Such esoteric knowledge was practically useless in our line of work. And she was exceptionally crude, and even gossipy on occasion. Unless of course she was around superiors or anyone older than her, which was when she’d suddenly fumble for the clean version.
Kate was a brunette through and through with refreshing bangs and bob. Her blue eyes were enviable, her cheekbones could have been a model’s, and behind her sweary lips, were teeth as white as china. The only thing holding her back from a career in acting, (aside from her poor acting) was her nose. A long and hooked beak.
After a moment, Kate’s blues drifted down to her mobile. Without looking up, she began to recount the newest scuttlebutt. “Cocks aside… have you heard about the thing?”
“What thing? The film?”
“No, the thing!” Kate repeated. As if doing so would jog my memory. Of course, when I failed to connect the dots, she explained further.
“The thing thing. The Anderson-Kensington thing?”
“The director and Jadis? No. Should I have?”
“Well, I guess not. It is a new thing. I mean, it might not even be a thing at all.”
“But the director is married isn’t she?”
“Maybe not for much longer. The marriage could be on the rocks. I heard he was off gallivanting some place for nearly a year. For a while, no one knew where he was.”
“Yeah I heard that too.”
“Mhm, and something Jack said.”
“What did he say?” Kate slowly tucked her phone into her jean pocket. Her ears twitched, and nose was at attention.
“I don’t think I should say.”
“What did he say, Kam?”
“It’s probably nothing anyway.”
“Kamala, you’re killing me! As your friend I have a right to know everything you know. Now spill!”
Relenting, I said “I once heard him say he doesn’t think her husband is right for Ms. Kensington.”
“What did he mean by that? Like… he has a small penis? What?”
I didn’t get the chance to reply. Kate intuited the next part all on her own. “But how would he know that he has a small prick? Ohhh… Never mind that. Do you think he meant that she should be… with him? And his pipe cleaner?”
I shrugged, but the gesture went awry. For I dropped my tray in doing so. The clatter which arose was enough to turn heads and warrant some dirty looks. Kate on the other hand was unfazed.
“But he’s the philandering type, so why would he care?”
“No he’s not! Is he?”
“Sorry, Kam. I know how much you like him.”
“Wait, hey! Keep your voice down about that!” I muttered as I tried but failed to cover Kate’s mouth— with the platter I’d just picked up— and smother a potentially career-ending rumour.
“Although… that would explain the tension and the heat between them. And the long faces when they’re apart. I mean, look at them! Look at the melancholy!”
She pointed to the set, where Aaron Schaffer was running lines with Jack, who was completely disinterested in acting at that moment. Or words for that matter. Aaron was snapping his fingers to gain his co-star’s attention. Tracking his forlorn gaze, Kate pointed out the director, otherwise engaged in luncheon.
Kate patted me on the back, as if she confirmed that a rumour I unwittingly started could be considered as gospel, and also as if she were offering her condolences in the same sentence. “Kamala, that there is unrequited love.”
Checking her phone again, she exclaimed, “ Well fuck me sideways; look at the time. I’ve got to go sweetie! Duty calls.”
Dashing off with her mobile proffered to indicate she had a valid reason to abscond, she hollered, “I’ll see you later!”
“You can’t tell that to anyone! It’s confidential! Off the record!” I called after, but she didn’t answer.
My own phone buzzed a second later. It was a message from my boss. In boldface it read: LUNCH IS OVER. WHERE IS MY COFFEE!
I hadn’t noticed, but as I raced away with Jack’s java in hand, the ruthlessly lurking journalist Stacey Patterson stepped out of the shadows. At the time, I had no idea how much he’d heard. But from what I understand, he jotted something down in his notebook.