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Authors: Jane Harvey-Berrick

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BOOK: Dazzled
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Rhonda nodded. We all shook hands, and then she hauled me out of the office before I could speak, which was probably her plan.

As soon as we were alone, she dragged me up the corridor and into the first empty room she could find: the men’s room. The urinals were the clue.

“What the fuck are you playing at, Miles? Are you deliberately
trying
to blow this deal?”

I took a wild stab and guessed she was mad at me.
I had no fucking idea why
.

“No!”

“Well, you goddamn sound like it! Have you no concept of how to ass-lick?”

Her words, intense expression, delayed shock and the fact we were standing in the men’s bogs suddenly tipped me over the edge. And I couldn’t help keeling over with laughter.

Rhonda’s face turned purple and I thought she might actually hit me, but a reluctant smile oozed across her face.

“Jeez, Miles. You’re one crazy fucker, you know that, right?”

“It’s been mentioned,” I coughed, trying to pull myself together. “Sorry, Rhonda, but you might have warned me. I mean, it’s fucking fantastic news.”

“Yes, it is, my friend. Now let’s get out of the john before we start off an interesting line of gossip. Come.”

“Where are we going?”

“My office: you’ve got a contract to sign.”

We were sitting in Rhonda’s swanky-danky office and all the blood left my face.

How much?

I couldn’t believe the figure that she was showing me, even though it was there in triplicate.

“One… one
million
dollars?”

I counted the number of zeroes again.

“You okay, Miles? You look kinda pale?” Rhonda sounded concerned.

“Fuck me!”

I realized I’d spoken out loud. “That’s… that’s a lot of money.”

Rhonda nodded. “Serious shit now, Miles. The big time. Of course,” her voice was ironic, “you won’t get anything like that amount.”

Oh?

“Well, you gotta pay your tax, baby. That’ll knock off $350,000. Then there’s my 15 per cent, plus something for Melody. The US and
UK have a double taxation treaty so you won’t own tax on your income twice.”

I had no idea what she was talking about
.

“Well, the small print, Miles, is that you’ll take home about $450,000 – or about £290,000.”

That was one shed load of money. I gaped at her. My jaw was on the fucking floor.

“Still with me?”

I shook my head. Nope. I was in cloud cuckoo land. I was so far off the planet I could see the rings of Saturn.

She told me to read the contract first, but my head was spinning and the words spilled across the page in an unrecognizable vomit of letters.

Rhonda smiled. “Yeah, it’ll take some getting used to, but trust me – this is just the beginning. Now, sign here… here, here and here.”

She pointed. I signed.

“We’ll fix you up with a furnished rental space – you can’t camp out in my guestroom forever, Adelita will have an aneurism, the way you walk around with your ass hanging out. I’ve got you a monthly cell,” and she passed me a top-of-the-range Smart phone. I’d never learn how to use it. It probably had more computing power than they had on Apollo 11.

“And you’ll need a car. Oh, and a personal checking account – so we can pay you.”

Finally my brain caught onto something. “Actually, Rhonda, I can’t drive.”

She stared at me uncomprehendingly: guess we had something in common after all.

“Are you shitting me?!”

“Er, no. I never took my test.”

“You realize you have to drive in the movie?”

No. Crap.

She shook her head. “I do not get you Brits. How the hell do you ever get anywhere?”

It was a mystery. Oh wait, didn’t we colonize
America 400 years ago?

“You’ll have to learn. I’ll add it to the list.” She sighed.

I stood up suddenly. I couldn’t sit there anymore – my head would explode. I was on the verge of losing it, big time, overwhelmed with this assault of unfamiliar emotions.

“Where are you going?”

“I… I need to get some air,” I muttered. “I’ll see you later.”

She frowned but didn’t try to stop me. “Okay.
Try
to stay out of trouble, Miles.”

I nodded, barely aware of what she’d said.

I took the stairs, unable to bear the thought of being in a lift with people who might want to talk at me. I needed to get my head together and fight down the panic that was threatening to engulf me. And I needed Clare.

Clare

I’d just started my shift at the local pub when my mobile rang. Or, more accurately, it buzzed against my arse, which wasn’t as much fun as it sounds. But it was enough to make me slosh bitter ale all over the front of my jeans. Oh great – a really unattractive wet patch. And now I’d smell of stale beer all evening.
Fun.

There was no caller ID, so I assumed it was probably one of those marketing calls, but I took it anyway, planning to tell the caller to sod off.

“Yes?”

“It’s Miles! How are you?”

I swear my heart stopped beating at the sound of his voice.

“Great! I mean, great!” I stammered. “How are you? It’s great to hear from you.”
Oh, please God, give me another adjective!

“Clare, you’re not going to fucking believe this – but I got the job! That film part I was going for. I’ve just signed the contract!”

Oh gawd and does your granny gallop?! He’d done it!

“That’s… that’s just
brilliant
, Miles. I’m so proud of you – I
knew
you could do it. I mean, it was a foregone conclusion: they weren’t going to let you get away that easily. And…”

“Yeah, thanks. Thanks. Look, I know it’s a really big ask, and you can say no and that’ll be cool, but it would be so fucking amazing, I mean really great if you could.”

“Could what?” I said, puzzled.

“Oh!” I could hear him taking a deep breath and my desiccated heart jolted into life. “Come out to
Los Angeles. I could really use a friend out here, Clare. I’m really out of my depth. I’ll pay for your ticket – I’ll have money. Please say yes, Clare. Please!”

My heart stuttered again. He wanted me. Me. Yeah, I know, just as a friend. But that was enough.

“Are you kidding, Miles? You and me in LA?
Of course
I’ll come! Just try keeping me away!”

There was a long silence and I wondered what it meant.

“You. Are. One. Awesome. Fucking. Friend.”

He yelled down the phone and I had to hold it away from my ear.

“Yeah, and don’t you forget it!”

I can’t help laughing – for pure, bloody joy.

New Moon

Miles

There was a woman staring at me. I had no idea why, but it was unnerving. I was at LAX, waiting for Clare to talk her way through immigration, and this woman was just staring at me. I shoved my hands in my pockets and shuffled from foot to foot but I couldn’t act casual.
How fucking pathetic was that?
I was an actor, for God’s sake, and I couldn’t even
act
casual.

I tried ignoring her but eventually she walked over.

“Hi! Can I have your autograph?”

What?

“Er…”

“You were with Lilia Purcell at the Metron Awards – I saw your picture.”

“Er…”

“You make a really cute couple.”

“Thanks.” I didn’t know what else to say.

She handed me a chewed biro that was leaking green ink, and I signed my name on the scrap of paper she held out for me. I think it was the receipt for her grocery shopping. I could see her squinting at my horrible handwriting, trying to work out if she recognized my signature. She looked vaguely disappointed but smiled and thanked me anyway.

That was
weird
. And now my fingers were covered in green ink.

I didn’t really get the chance to process what had happened… or even to enjoy the experience. It would be something to tell Clare. No doubt she’d laugh her arse off.

And then I saw her – the surly expression that I’d missed so much. I couldn’t stop smiling. It felt like months since we’d been together, not just a few weeks.

I caught her eye, and she grinned at me. It was like coming home, having her here, and I felt myself relax properly for the first time since I’d landed in LaLaLand.

“Wow! Look at you! Mr. Movie Star!”

I scooped her into my arms and hugged her tightly.

“Bloody hell, it’s good to see you, Clare! I’ve really missed you.”

“You big lug! You’ve been too busy wining, dining and smooching with the glitterati to worry about me.”

“Not true. I’m wounded! I’ve thought about you… at least twice.”

She thumped me on the arm.

“Ow!”

“Wimp!”

I’d forgotten how strong she was – for a short-arse. I grabbed her case. Jeez! What had she got in there – the Encyclopedia Britannica?

It was so easy being with Clare. We talked all the way, catching up on what I’d missed. Not so much by the sound of it, although Paul and Nazzer had taken the VW camper and gone off to some beer festival in
Prague. I felt a twinge of sadness that I wasn’t with them. But Clare was totally jazzed to be here in Kal-e-forn-ia.

“You remember my friend Jess? Her of the motormouth… She was speechless when I told her I was coming out here – and you know how rare that is!”

She laughed and it was so good to hear.

“So what’ve you been up to – apart from landing mega film roles and dying your hair.”

I laughed a little uncomfortably. “It’s hardly a mega film role, Clare.”

She frowned at me.

“Okay, well maybe it is, for me, but…”

“But what?”

Truth or dare time.

“I am absolutely bricking it.”

She rolled her eyes. Not the reaction I was expecting: sympathy and support would have been nice.

“Oh come on, Miles. Don’t be so… you’re
always
like this – every time you get a job we get the whole spiel about what a terrible actor you are and what sort of retard would give you a job. That you’re not a real actor, that you’ll be found out because you’re a fraud. Heard it all before, mate.”

Wow
. I’d forgotten how
surgical
she could be. Clare took no prisoners.

I was quiet. “This is a really big deal for me.”

She sighed. “I know. You’ll be great.” She took my hand and squeezed it. “I mean it. It’ll be okay.”

“I’m so glad you’re here.”

She smiled, but for the briefest moment there was a look I didn’t understand flickering across her face. It was gone before I could identify it.

Clare

Miles had gone to the trouble of booking a taxi to take us back to his place. No waiting for the bus for Mr. Movie Star. I wanted to tease him but I thought it was too soon for that. He was even more on edge than usual – which was saying something. But damn, he looked good! I was getting used to the blond hair, and he was looking pretty buff in his white t-shirt and black jeans.

Don’t think about that.

His flat was about a minute from Hollywood Boulevard – how cool was that?!

The taxi pulled up outside a small, neat, blue painted house with a black door and a neon sign that flashed the name ‘Dorothy’.

“I know, I know,” grinned Miles, looking embarrassed. “But it’s a great apartment: that’s mine up there – the one with the balcony.”

I was still stuck on the name. I mean, who names their house ‘Dorothy’?

Miles was gazing up at his new home with quiet pride. Neither of us had ever really had our own place before, and I knew it was a big step for him. I hesitated to ask whether or not it had two bedrooms. And despite my best efforts, a small, quiet, but increasingly desperate part inside me was hoping that there was only one.

“It’s fully furnished and it’s got cable and internet. Rhonda got it for me because they don’t mind short-term rentals. Come on in.”

He lifted my case, and carried it easily up the steep flight of stairs to the first floor.

“Have you been working out?” I asked, accusingly.

“Er, well, yeah. It’s in the contract. Two to three hours a day, six days a week.”

“You’re kidding me?”

Miles shook his head. “Nope. Wish I was. I fucking hate the gym. My trainer’s a fascist bitch. I reckon she’s an ex-Soviet shot-putter or something.”

I refrained from pointing out that Soviets and fascists probably weren’t best buddies. But this was Miles we were talking about. Bit challenged on the whole world history thing, unless it was to do with jazz.

“They’ve given me a diet plan, too.”

His voice dropped to barely a whisper. I could tell by his face that he was mortified. I managed to clamp my teeth shut to stop from saying something we’d both regret.

“Oh. They think you’re… fat?”

I could hardly bear to say the words – he looked perfect to me.

He shrugged. “I guess. And they want me to see a dentist.”

That really was the bloody limit!

“Miles, you have great teeth. What on earth would they want to mess with that smile for?” I tried to keep it light, but really I was seething. Who were these people? What sort of bland, generic automaton did they want? “Tell them to piss off!”

He smiled, but he still looked worried. “I don’t think I can. The contract…”

“Look, give me the damn contract and I’ll tell you whether or not you’ve signed up for this shit. Okay?”

Without warning, he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me to within an inch of my oh-so-confusing life.

“I’m really glad you’re here, Clare. I guess I’ve been going a little crazy.”

I wanted to think of a witty rejoinder, but my lips couldn’t form the words. Not while his arms were wrapped around me.

He held me for a few precious moments, and I could feel his warm breath on my cheek, and his hard body pressed against mine.

I’d begun to believe that after three weeks apart, after three weeks going cold turkey, that I’d have some immunity to how he made me feel.

Yeah, dumb, I know.

He let me go with a grin and pulled a door key out of his pocket.

The hallway outside the apartment was stylishly decorated for someone of Donald Trump’s subtle tastes, but at least it was clean and nearly new.

Miles pushed open his front door with a flourish and shy smile.

“Enter, m’lady.”

“Thank you, kind sir, I… Bloody hell!”

The apartment was lavish – one huge room hung with an enormous, crystal chandelier.

“Jesus, Miles! How much is this place costing?”

He frowned then shook his head, bemused. “I don’t know. Rhonda arranged it all. I love it – it’s… big.”

“Big? You could park mum and dad’s whole house in here!”

“Yeah, I know. Cool, isn’t it?”

He winked and gave me a sly glance. Oh, what the hell. Why shouldn’t he enjoy it all? Sadly, I noted that there were two bedrooms. Thankfully they were both calm, white spaces with vast beds and polished dark wood floors. No more chandeliers. Nothing too over the top.

“I had to take down most of the mirrors,” said Miles, apologetically. “There were eight of them! I’ve shoved them in your closet.”

“Closet? Wardrobe, methinks. Get a grip, Miles, or you’ll
turn into one of them
.”

He grinned at me. “Yeah, can’t help it. I’ve been tuning into all the different accents you hear out here – kind of research for my part, y’know.”

I didn’t know, but I could imagine. “Whatever: just don’t go getting all mid-Atlantic on me.”

“I’ll try. No promises. Come on, I can’t wait to show you around. Let’s hit the bars – if you’re not too tired.”

Miles

I didn’t know why it felt weird showing Clare my new place. She just looked so overwhelmed. Maybe that was how I looked when I first came here. I’d gotten… become used to it, I guess.

We strolled out to Hollywood Boulevard and I pointed out all the sites: the Walk of Fame; Grauman’s Chinese Theater; Drai’s at the W hotel.

She picked a quiet bar in a trendy area, and we sat down in a booth with a beer each. Clare ordered us nachos. I didn’t say anything but I wasn’t supposed to eat them on the special diet that had been planned for me. I knew Clare would laugh, but she wasn’t the one who was going to have to take her shirt off in front of film cameras, let alone in front of Lilia Purcell. I didn’t want to feel like I did last time. But I couldn’t say this to Clare. The thought depressed me – I used to be able to tell her everything.

She slept late the next morning – jet lag. I was up at six to get to the gym. I didn’t mind running so much, but the reps and weights were tedious enough to make me feel like chewing my foot off just to alleviate the boredom.

BOOK: Dazzled
7.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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