"That's a wrap!" There was a collective cheer, and somehow the whole atmosphere seemed lighter. Alex grinned around at everyone, and only when she met my eyes did her smile droop a little. She'd been avoiding having long conversations with me since I'd mentioned her bruise, and she'd suggested I used my looks to dig for information from Detective Forrest. Come to think of it, perhaps I'd been avoiding her as well.
"Remember, the party is tonight! Don't forget to bring your dancing shoes!" Aaliyah was calling, hugging people, some who looked a little shell shocked afterwards, as if she'd never acknowledged them before, which was probably true.
I saw Jack with a his partner and baby, who had arrived on set earlier for the last day of shooting. The baby was sweet, capturing everyone who walked past with her gurgling giggles, and Jenny was cooing and enjoying the attention she was receiving. Apart from a brief hug and a coo earlier, Alex had been avoiding them too. I'd spotted Jack throwing a couple of looks at her, almost apologetic, which was odd for the actor and only further proved the rumours. For people in the entertainment industry, this cast and crew seemed to wear everything on their sleeves.
"Helena! Have you met Jenny?" I was pulled back from my thoughts by Jack appearing, his family in tow.
"Such an honour to meet you." Jenny smiled, and then swung the baby around so that I could see her face. "And this is baby Rochelle."
"Hello. Nice to meet you too." I eyed the baby warily. "Hello Rochelle." Jenny laughed at me a little.
"She won't bite."
"No." I still kept my distance. I'd never really handled babies before, and I imagined it would involve throwing up, or stinking diapers, or something...
"Who'd have thought that the Ice Queen would've been scared of a baby?" Jack guffawed, and only escaped my glaring at him because the baby was being rocked dangerously close to me again.
"Uh, Ms. Anderson, I need to have a word?" Alex had appeared, looking like she would rather be literally anywhere else right now.
"Alex! I've hardly seen you! I mean I know you're busy but I wanted you to meet Rochelle properly!" Jenny pounced on her and gave her a one armed hug, while baby Rochelle clung desperately to her.
"Hi Rochelle," Alex smiled, before her eyes flicked to Jack and then to me. So obvious. "Um, Helena?"
"Right, duty calls. Lovely to meet you Jenny.... Rochelle." I jumped on the chance to get away.
"You know most people think babies are adorable right?"
"Oh they are. A safe distance away from me, they're downright cute." She smirked a little and shook her head. "Not that I saw you begging for a cuddle."
"Yes well..." Her smile had disappeared again. "Things were never supposed to be so... complicated."
"What did you want to talk about?" I asked, changing the subject quickly.
"Well, I know with Kate away you haven't had anyone to organise, but we need to work out when we're going to start editing. I mean they've already started on the first few episodes but obviously we get final say, and with the party tonight I don't think anyone will want to do it tomorrow so-"
"Perfect. So, you're going tonight?"
"I have decided to embrace the party spirit."
"Good," she grinned. "Look I'm sorry if I upset you, last week." She shoved her hands in her pockets and swayed backwards and forwards. "I didn't mean to suggest that you should... do, anything with Forrest."
"I'm not upset. Or I was... just not about that. It doesn't matter. I have to go. Lots to do before the party."
"Oh, sure. See you there then."
Wearing black wasn't just because I look good in it. Wearing it tonight was to give me confidence; to take care of me so that I could get through the first social party I had been to in... goodness knows how long. Parties for films, for shows, that were all about publicity, sure, I could do them. Parties because everyone wanted to celebrate... normally I didn't get close enough to be invited. The only reason I was on set so much with this project was because I loved it so much, and it was such a media train wreck that I basically needed to live there.
I smoothed down the dress, not that it was possible to smooth the curve-hugging black bandage dress. It was skin tight.
"Fuck it." I murmured, and stepped out of my car. Paparazzi had been tipped off and were sitting outside her house. I offered them a small smile; my teeth not allowed out between my dark red lips. Then I stepped inside and they were blocked out by the noise.
The party was in full swing; Aaliyah had outdone herself. I accepted a glass of champagne and headed further in to find someone who would want to talk to me. It wasn't long before Jack spotted me and gave out a surprised shout of... was that actually joy, or just the alcohol?
"Well well, look who it is! Didn't think you'd show up! You look sensational."
"I decided to see what all the fuss was about," I offered as a reply. "And thank you."
"Well that's brilliant. Fancy a dance? Only my lovely wife has got a babysitter and she's having her first night out; can't get near her." He pointed to where Jenny was surrounded by a bunch of women, all of whom seemed to know her, and were all dancing crazily.
"Ah. No. I can see your predicament, but I haven't even had a sip of this yet and I don't think I'm quite brave enough to go in to... that," I gestured to the crowd of dancers gingerly, "without alcohol. And that is coming from someone who doesn't really drink."
"Right. Well... guess I'll find someone else then."
"Quite alright... ah, there's Alex!" He was looking over my shoulder and I turned. Alex was wearing a waistcoat, a suit jacket and jeans... and nothing else. No shirt under the waistcoat. I eyed the daring 'v' of the waistcoat, and then hurriedly focused on her face, just in time for her to catch Jack's eyes. She nodded, smiling, and then her eyes slid to me. I could have imagined the way her eyes trailed over my dress, or the way she seemed to inhale sharply. I'm pretty sure I didn't imagine the way her eyes darkened. But I could've been mistaken. Jack's curious glance at me, and then back to her, as she made her way over, made me doubt whether I should doubt myself.
"Jack... Helena... you both look stunning."
"Well it took me hours to pick out my outfit, and Jenny was waiting while I tried to get my hair just right," Jack joked. We both laughed, but I couldn't help glancing at Alex as I did, watching the way her throat moved as she chuckled, and the way her eyes sparkled. "Alex, our producer won't dance with me. Will you?"
"Sorry Jack, I'm not getting involved in that; not until I've had a beer or two."
"Well then let me get you those, so we can get started." He grinned.
"Now that offer, I will take." She grinned.
"Be right back. Want anything boss?" He asked. I lifted my champagne to show him I was good, and he disappeared.
"So you came." Alex murmured, putting her hands in to her pockets.
"And you really went all out." She eyed me again and I allowed myself to smile a little.
"If you think this is impressive, wait until we go to an award show. Or the premiere." I took a sip of champagne, and set the glass on a nearby table. I didn't really want to drink tonight. I had driven, so I had the excuse.
"You're already expecting awards," Alex grinned, and raised an eyebrow. "Best director?"
"Naturally." I teased. She shook her head in amazement.
"Wow, I don't think I've seen you this relaxed in the entire filming progress."
"That was work. This is... play?" I mused. "It's been a long time since I've been to a party just to have fun. It feels... odd."
"You should dance; you'll relax even more. Give everyone a heart attack," she joked. I rolled my eyes.
"Oh yes, the ice queen melts. And whose arms do you suggest I do that in? Jack's?"
She opened her mouth, probably to deliver a witty comeback, but someone nudged past and she was pushed towards me, wincing. I caught her arms, glad that I'd put down that champagne, and for a brief moment, her hands rested on my hips. Then she was backing off, quickly. I released a breath I didn't know I'd been holding.
"It's okay. Are you alright?"
"Yeah." She winced again. "Just..." her eyes darted up to mine, nervous, "caught me on a bruise."
"Want me to check it?" Her eyes widened. "No judgement. I won't say anything." Her eyes darted around.
"No, it's okay. Just a bruise."
Jack reappeared with beer, breaking up our conversation. Alex took a gulp straight away.
"Hey Alex, mind if we have a chat? Need to catch up." He motioned towards the stairs.
"Erm..." She glanced at me.
"Go ahead. I'll be fine." I waved them away, not really wanting them to go. Alex threw a look at me over her shoulder as she climbed the stairs, but I couldn't understand what it meant. Left on my own again, I wondered what to do.
There was no way in hell I was joining the dancing throng.