“Mmm. Do you smell that?”
“Mmm!” Kate sniffed again. “It smells like barbecue or something.”
“Hmm. Well perhaps it’s coming from the next lot over? The Coven? Or maybe the mini-series Sell Your Soul?”
Kate chuckled, “Okay, well anyway, I’ve thought of an especially embarrassing moment. Do you remember the time where… you were walking around the set with avocado on your cheek for the whole day?”
“Yes…” I replied.
The two of us walked and talked. Kate was heading back to the office. I, to Jack’s trailer.
“And nobody said anything to you?” A big fat smile was on her face, and she could hardly hold back her laughter.
I sighed, “Of course I remember. How could I forget? It wasn’t that long ago.” I was about to rub the affected area as if the fruit were still on me. I wasn’t allergic or anything, but after so many hours of wearing Aaliyah’s mud mask, it had left a rash, which still itched even after so many days. Apparently everyone had been too polite to mention it to me.
“Oh, Kam darling, you know very well that I’m only teasing.”
“Yes, but you say it so loudly. Everyone can hear you,” I said in between bites of my leafy green salad. A plate she took from me and placed on the buffet table as we came alongside it. Presumably to save some of my dignity as I dropped leaves of spinach down my blouse.
“Right, but it’s not like anyone is listening. I’ll even prove it.” She looked for a soul by the buffet table to confirm, and saw one of the set designers sampling pastries. “Michelangelo…?”
He was ten years older than the two of us, but the Italian still looked as youthful and rugged as ever. As he was a mountain climber in his spare time, Mr. Aldebrandi was the one most often in a harness, soaring above the set painting walls and ceilings. He also moonlighted as a pyrotechnician. According to Kate, she had scaled him once or twice.
“What was the last thing I said?”
He wasn’t particularly bright, and Kate was exceptionally coarse so he replied with caution. As though Kate asked a trick question. “Michelangelo?”
“Yes that’s you.”
“The last thing I said. What was it?”
Kate put her face in her palms, and then growled. “No! Before that.”
“Oh. You mean about the avocado slime?”
“Okay,” I said defensively, “first off, it’s a mud mask, Michelangelo! And second… ” I turned to Kate, prepared to scold her, when I realised I had raised my voice. I quickly lowered it. “And second, people are clearly able to hear you talking. You’re a loud talker.”
“Well, hey look, Michelangelo hardly counts. Everyone knows he’s a pervert and an eavesdropper.”
“Hey! I am neither of those things.” he said.
“See what I mean? Fuckin’ eavesdropper.”
I sighed again, picking up a coffee on my way, “I’ve got to go. Jack is waiting for me.”
I gestured to the script in my hand.
“Say no more. We can’t very well leave Jack on his own for too long, now can we?” She thrust her whole pelvis forward and grunted for the whole world to hear and see. A display so theatrical I couldn’t stop myself covering my face or scoffing.
As I moved along I heard what some might consider flirting coming from Kate’s mouth. Yet it was so profane I cannot bring myself to relate it to you.
On my way to Jack’s trailer, I overheard part of an argument between Ms. Anderson and Mr. Khagan-Smith, who walked in the opposite direction. Helena’s calm and composed refusal overcome by Caine’s wired and frantic explanation of the series’ characters.
“…We don’t have the luxury to adapt—”
“No look, it’s not uh… fucking misogyny, alright!? It’s Paddlemore’s fucking characters! Uh, Mel is-is-is a uh… woman of, um, few words. She’s the narrator, but she… she doesn’t say much. Whereas… ”
Before I could process their conversation, a sweating Mr. Hong strode up and stopped me in my tracks. His wide searching eyes darted about the lot, and didn’t focus on me for a moment, even as he asked, “Have you seen Mr. Schaffer? Recently?”
“Um, no. Why?”
“What about a blonde woman? About this tall, blonde hair, flaming red dress? Stalker vibe? You can’t miss her.”
“No. Not her either. Sorry. Why? What’s going on?”
Dennis put both of his hands on my shoulders, and forced me to turn 180 degrees as he hopped up and down like a jackrabbit. We may as well have been dancing. Yet still, he seemed unable to look me in the eye.
He replied, “If you see her, come find me. If you see Aaron, tell him to run and hide if he isn’t already.”
In an instant he was off. Presumably to speak to the next person he came across, as cryptically as he did to me. As he jogged away, he called out to me, “And don’t say a FUCKING word to Mr. Patterson! Alright!? Moratorium!”
“Wait, what…” I was about to call back, but I faltered. And I wondered to myself what all Mr. Hong was talking about. I had obviously missed the memo about any suspicious blonde women wandering around set. And I had never heard of a Mr. Patterson before.
I couldn’t ponder any further when I spun about and suddenly bumped into Jack, who was headed back to his trailer as well.
Of course, he was so handsome, and strong and solid, that I almost fell over. I certainly would have, had Jack not grabbed my arm and pulled me close to him with his lightning fast reflexes.
Then I winced in pain, and he exclaimed ‘shit’ for neither of us took the coffee into account. The cardboard cup was crushed between me and Jack’s rock-hard pecs, so coffee spilled out. We quickly backed away from one another before we were too badly scalded. Nevertheless, our shirts were stained.
“Mr. Lynch, I… I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there! Hold on, I’ll clean… let me clean that up for you!”
Frantically I dug through my purse for a napkin or something that could be used as a handkerchief to try to blot it up, though I couldn’t find anything.
“That’s alright,” he said out of breath, “I’m sure another change of clothes won’t hurt.”
“I’m really sorry. I was just coming over to your trailer with your coffee and a new draft of the script.” I looked down, and pushed my frames up the bridge of my nose.
He looked me over. Then he beheld my face in his hand, smiled wryly at me and replied, “Karma, it’s fine. A shirt is a shirt. It’s not like it was a costume.”
I smiled back.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s do a read-through. I can change in my trailer. And so can you. I’ve got some clothes that I think might fit you.”
“I insist. We can wash that blouse of yours under a cold tap before the stain can set in… and no one will be the wiser.”
Per Jack’s request, I took my shoes off the second I stepped inside.
Whenever I found myself in Jack’s trailer I was always in awe. Admittedly it was smaller than the one he started with, but it wasn’t so much the size which surprised me— still significantly larger than my flat— but the décor. And the amenities.
Gift baskets galore covered the enameled lava countertops. The heated floors were reclaimed marble tile. He had a fireplace, and a lion skin throw basking on the floor. One of the walls was a floor to ceiling aquarium. The latter wasn’t even a feature he had asked for. And though absent at the moment, Jack had a five-star chef, Jacques Rodin, on call to go with the immaculate kitchen. Yet, no washing machine. I did his dry cleaning after all.
As soon as I closed the door behind us, Jack’s shirt was off and I gushed. Even his back was herculean.
In the kitchen, Jack turned to me with his hand outstretched. “Here, give me your blouse and I’ll put it in the sink.”
Sheepishly I looked about the interior for the audience, though there was no one to be found. When again, he urged, “Toss it here.”
Very nervously I unbuttoned my shirt and slid the sleeves off stiff arms. I did so like the tin man in need of oil might have done. Though I doubt the tin man ever undressed for his crush before. I handed the garment over to Jack.
He examined it before running it through the sink and he went, “Hm.”
“Oh nothing, there’s just an... unusual amount of spinach stuck to the inside of your blouse here.”
I was already hunched over trying to cover as much bare skin with my hands as I could when I turned scarlet with embarrassment.
Bells and sirens were going off as Jack was washing and picking out leaves of spinach from my shirt in the kitchen sink. I considered what a ludicrous scenario that was, and the chain of events that had led me to this point. Standing half-naked in a movie star’s trailer. Even though something similar had already happened to me not so long ago.
To my dismay, there were no robes nor were there blankets or tablecloths lying about. What’s more there were no curtains, which I found especially disconcerting, forcing me to duck down to avoid being seen through the window.
“These will be clean soon, Kim. So you won’t have to look at my disgusting bare chest for too long. Don’t you worry.”
“I don’t mind looking; you’re hot…”
He turned around and I blinked awkwardly; pursing my lips like I’d swallowed a lemon.
“… um… as an oven, that is. I mean, I don’t mind looking… at your body! I mean… well, uh, because you’re a… a… a…” I snapped my fingers with one hand, and with the other I pointed at his chest as if I had returned to Charms Class. “fit, handsome man. And um…”
At this point since my words had failed me, I closed my eyes and buried my face in my palms. I could just picture him smirking at me with his perfect smile after I had made a fool of myself.
“Okay? Why don’t you sit down for a bit?”
I nodded in agreement.
Clothes sufficiently soused, Jack came around the other side of the counter to the sitting area. He settled on the sofa across from me and spread out. His flexed, rippling muscles were exposed, just waiting to be lathered in oil. While I was curled into a tiny ball with my chin tucked between my denimed knees.
As I said, I wasn’t completely naked, but I still felt anxious around Jack. I had never felt so jittery before in my entire life.
“So… I heard on the grapevine,” said Jack, breaking the silence, “ that they are considering shaving off ten minutes from the show, and removing an episode from the lineup altogether.”
“Ten minutes?” I cleared my throat, “Goodness! From the pilot, or the series?”
“Yeah, the whole series is what I heard. Pilot included.”
“And… what will that mean for you?”
“Well, it could mean they’re making further cuts. Taking certain scenes away from people and having them removed from the show. Although, they may just move some scenes around so that they happen in a later episode. Mr. Monroe is known to do that sort of thing to save money. And Lord knows he hates Alex, and Ms. Anderson enough to do it. Possibly even to spite them. Money be damned.”
“The budget. Even now, after everything that’s been said done, ours still has the largest budget on telly.”
“I didn’t think the show could be in any further jeopardy.”
“Ha! There’s every chance it may be cancelled before a single episode has aired. Plenty of proponents would see that it fails. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the set burnt down to ensure its demise.”
“Where did you hear this? Surely not during the cast meeting?”
He didn’t answer. He simply brushed off the question and replied, “Never you mind, sweetheart.”
Jack rose to his feet and joined me on the matching couch. So close his skin rubbed against mine; giving me goosebumps. Then he put his hand on my shoulder and looked down on me he was so tall— or I was so short. And oh. Those eyes.
And I breathed in his cologne. A piquant and even smoky smell. The smell of a man. I wanted to kiss him then and there and I thought that he wanted to do the same. But I couldn’t be sure. I didn’t want to risk it.
Then, when I inhaled again, I could smell alcohol on him.
“Um… didn’t you say that you might have clothes that could fit me?”
“Ah yes! But we don’t need to worry about that right now do we?”
“Well, no… I suppose not.”
“Besides, we’re at ease with each other. Aren’t we, Kim?”
I replied with a nod.
“Walk me through the scene, dear?”
“And when you do the lines, try not to sound so wooden this time? Okay?”
I nodded again and smiled, turning to the first page of the script of the new episode. “Okay. Um… Exterior. Day. Virgil is—”
A pounding at the door cut me off.
Immediately I leapt from the chair and hurtled for the loo before anyone could see me undressed. I aimed to be as quick and as quiet as a cat. That is, bumbling in between furniture. Knocking my knees and stubbing my toes.
Jack on the other hand grumbled to his feet and stomped toward the door. And he growled, “Busy in here! What the fuck do you want!?”
Through two doors I heard: “Mr. Lynch! Ms. Misra! You have to come out here and see this!”
Despite not seeing the speaker, I recognised his voice after a moment. It belonged to Peter Hambledon, the tall moustachioed assistant director. And he sounded particularly excited.
Another, cruder voice echoed Mr. Hambledon’s, which I doubt I could forget. Kate yelled, “Oi! Get out here Kamala!”
Kate knocked more furiously than the assistant director before Jack eventually opened.
All of a sudden, I heard a commotion that was out of place on the set. It came in like a wave, which until now had been effectively cancelled out by the well-insulated trailer walls. Along with the smell of smoke.
So many people must have been buzzing around outside. There wasn’t just calling and gossiping. But full-blown hollering and shouting and dare I say, roaring. It piqued my curiosity, but I couldn’t investigate without covering up.
First I grabbed a plush white towel and wrapped it around myself. Then slowly I turned the handle and peered out the lavatory door. The coast was clear. Jack, still handsome and shirtless, had stepped outside and was distracted. Along with Kate and Mr. Hambledon, they stared intently across the lot. Looks of confusion and surprise and concern were wrought into their faces.
I took the opportunity to tiptoe to the exit and poke my head slightly out, turning in the same direction as everyone else. What I saw caught me off guard.
At the end of the set were a pair of emergency vehicles. Police and a fire engine, as far as I could see, had parked outside one of the trailers. The sirens had stopped by now, but their lights still flashed. Men and women were running about, and a hose was directed at the trailer in question. To douse the flames.
“It was really burning out of control a minute ago,” I heard Kate say.
Much like Rita Severn, the trailer now smouldered. The structure had more or less retained its shape, but the walls had melted away, or were black and scorched. Flames still shot up into the air, but firefighters had worked hard to contain them. Now it was just a cloud billowing up into the sky.
“Was that… Schaffer’s?” asked Jack.
I watched Kate shake her head to concur.
“I think so. I saw a couple of firemen carry someone out of there. It looked like him. I didn’t see him moving. He looked burnt.”
“Bloody hell,” Mr. Hambledon murmured.
“Fuck. Shit,” Jack replied.
“Fucking shit is right.”
Then Kate turned head and stared straight at me. By the time I saw her looking I gasped. Unashamed. I slammed the door closed behind me. Unsuspiciously. And I hoped to God she didn’t see me in the towel, or come to any conclusions on her own.
I rushed back into the loo and dove for the toilet. But nothing came up. I knelt there dry heaving for nearly ten minutes. Until my lungs were sore.
I prayed for Aaron Schaffer.