"-And we've been assured she'll make a full... physical recovery."
Ms. Anderson's hesitation wasn't lost on anyone, especially not Mathew Twynam, who'd been trying to get us on his show since filming had begun. He cocked his head and worked his mouth, trying to decide how he was going to press the matter. Ms. Anderson's formidable pair of narrowed eyebrows made up his mind for him, and I couldn't help but respect her in that moment.
The man's "journalism" was disgusting. As an actor, it was disturbing to see how far the man would go to expose the next big secret. He violated privacy, trust, common decency... being on the show wasn't something I'd chosen to do willingly. With filming once again at a standstill, and our airing schedule adjusted to account for the production delays, management had decided we needed to drum up some publicity. Even if it meant doing it here.
Those of us who were here: the main cast, Ms. Anderson, and Alex, were on edge. Twynam's persistence in trying to get us on the show meant he knew something. Or thought he knew something. It was hard to tell which it was, and which was worse, but one thing was for sure: nobody set foot in this studio unless Twynam had something to gain from them being there.
"Well, we certainly wish Miss Misra the best, may her recovery rival yours, Mr. Schaffer. You're looking well for a man whose career almost went up in smoke!"
It was through sheer force of will that I didn't utter any expletives. Instead I attempted a smile, the same kind of smile I give my mechanic when he hands me my bill.
"Thank you, uh... Matt. It's good to be here... and not the hospital."
Smooth as always.
"And it seems you've been busy since your time in the hospital, Aaron! May I call you Aaron?"
"It's your show," I said, trying to be diplomatic. "And how do you mean, busy?"
Twynam grinned, "Strange visitors at the hospital? Late night meetings with unknown women? Word going around that you've hired a new assistant?"
I blinked rapidly, trying to take everything that had just been dumped on my lap.
"I-... ok, let's... let's back up. There were no strange visitors at the hospital." None that I could fully remember at any rate. "And those last two are one and the same. The meetings have been in the interest of finding someone to fill an assistant position, which, at this point has yet to be filled. Not sure where you thought you were going with that, Matt, but you'd better check your sources."
I allowed myself a small smile, pleased at having turned things around so successfully. I glanced at Aaliyah, ready to receive a small sign of approval, but instead found her in an unusually stoic mood.
Twynam chuckled. "Perhaps you'd better check my sources, Aaron."He gestured at the tv screen, which switched to a blurry photo of a tall blonde leaving my new trailer, laundry on one arm, and a trash bag on the other.
I blinked twice and then slowly turned back to Aaliyah, who was deeply engrossed in the stage lights above us. Refusing to give Twynam any more satisfaction, I said nothing. Turning back, I offered him that same painful smile from earlier.
"Oh don't worry Mr. Schaffer," Matthew continued, "You're not the only one who needs to lock his doors."
He gestured once more, and what popped up next stiffened every neck in the room.
The screen was split into four similar photos. Similar in that they all depicted Kamala leaving a permanent residence. There was only a handful of people who didn't live on set, and an even fewer number who lived in something other than a hotel. I thought back to the snippet Aaliyah had thrown me over the phone last week, and hoped to god this was about something else.
Judging by the lack of color in Alex's face, I had my doubts.
"I'd ask if you'd hired a new assistant as well, Ms. Kensington, but this one already belongs to Mr. Lynch."
Twynam smiled triumphantly, as though he were a sheriff who'd finally cornered a group of troublesome outlaws. The whirring of cameras made for the only sound in the room for a long moment. Mathew was twitching in his chair. He could hardly sit still as he panned back and forth, waiting for some poor soul to break the silence.
Unfortunately for him, that poor soul was Aaliyah, in the throes of righteous anger.
"You seem pretty excited over there, Matt. Remembering the first time you were in the midst of a sex scandal?"
Twynam reeled back for a second, Aaliyah's pointedness breaking through his mask of professionalism.
"Oh yeah," Aaliyah said, more than happy to elaborate, "Wasn't it something like this? Except that, in your scandal, the feelings weren't mutual? Or am I remembering your second escapade? It's so hard to keep track. I know there was a restraining order involv-"
"That's enough Ms. Greene."
"Like hell it is, Matt. Every show you spend your time talking about the latest celebrity disaster, well let's talk about you for a second. Exactly how many lawsuits have been filed against you?"
"None that ended in a guilty verdict," Twynam shot back.
"Oh please," laughed Aaliyah, "Not even the people you paid believed you were innocent."
Twynam opened his mouth, but Aaliyah held up a hand and kept right on going. "Kamala is a sweet girl, and Kensington... well, she does well for dealing with the Ice Queen all day. On top of that Kamala is still in the hospital, and if you gotta stoop that low to get your material..."
Aaliyah, trailed off for a moment, mouthing words that didn't look fit for live television. In the end she sat back with a shrug and crossed her arms. "You're a wreck, Twynam."
Twynam didn't look up when Aaliyah finished. He was too busy murmuring into his watch. This went on for several seconds, the murmuring getting louder, until finally Twynam stabbed out a hand, and every screen in the studio went dark. A moment later they were replaced with a photo of Aaliyah.
To call it unflattering would be something of an understatement.