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Authors: KE Payne

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BOOK: The Road to Her
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“When?” Elise asked, frowning.

“Just now. In recording.”

She looked perplexed. “You’re talking about when I suggested you might like to loosen up a bit?” Elise suddenly looked amused. “You were playing Jasmine like some tight-arsed spinster, Holly!”

“Bullshit!” I lowered my voice as one of the lighting guys came past us.

“You thought that was condescending?” A hint of a smile tugged at her lips. “What’s patronising about offering a little advice?”

“As if it wasn’t bad enough you telling me I couldn’t act, you go one better today and tell me—in front of everyone—how you think I should be playing Jasmine!” I was practically shaking with rage by now; the look of barely concealed amusement on Elise’s face wasn’t helping. I glared at her. “Were you there when Jasmine found out her uncle was trying to kill her? No. Were you there when she was trapped in the house fire? No. Were you there when she—”

“For the hundredth time, I didn’t say you couldn’t act,” Elise interrupted. “I’m sorry if you’ve misunderstood me.”

“I’ve been doing this shizz since I was this high,” I said, holding my hand out above the ground. “So I don’t need you to be telling me how to play Jasmine, okay?”

“It was just advice, Holly, that’s all.” Elise held my gaze, making me uncomfortable.

“And does this
advice
extend to pretty much telling me how you think Jasmine thinks? Or how Jasmine speaks?”

“Nothing wrong with a bit of flexibility.” Elise half laughed.

“And there’s no need to laugh at me,” I said indignantly.

“I’m not.” Elise looked down at the floor then slowly back up to me. “You’re kinda sweet when you’re angry. It’s hard not to smile.”

“I’m not angry!” I blurted. “And I’m not sweet!”

“You are,” Elise said, leaning on the corridor wall, her arms folded. “And…you are.”

I stared at her, mouth slightly open, totally flummoxed. “Anyway,” I stuttered, “I’ve been playing Jasmine since I was twelve years old so I think I probably know her just a teensy bit better than you, don’t you?”

“Now who’s being patronising?” Elise asked, one amused eyebrow raised.

“I’m not,” I said slowly. “I’m just telling you like it is.”

“Well, that’s me told then, isn’t it?” Elise said. Another twitch of amusement on her face as she said it made me feel funny inside this time, rather than annoyed.

She pulled herself away from the wall and walked past me, brushing so closely that our arms bumped. I watched her saunter off down the corridor, then hastily looked away again as she glanced back at me, the look of amusement still on her face, before disappearing around the corner and out of sight.

I was livid. Worse, I was livid about being livid. How was it she was able to wind me up so easily, when I barely even knew her yet? Everything about her just oozed superiority and contempt, and at that moment I knew I should loathe her, but there was something about the way she’d been standing and smiling at me and telling me I looked sweet that…

I shook my head angrily. Sod being sweet. I knew my character inside out, and I sure didn’t need some smart-arse like Elise Manford coming in and offering her so-called advice.

She could just go to hell.

 

*

 

Not wanting to go to my dressing room, knowing that I’d stew over things until I was called back on set that afternoon, I grabbed myself a coffee and a sandwich from the canteen and made my way to the green room instead, figuring it would be good to chill out for an hour or so. Secretly I was hoping someone would be in there that I could blare off to, however immature and petulant that might have been, but I didn’t care. I was in that kind of mood, thanks to Elise.

I was in luck. Bella was already sitting on the sofa, nursing a steaming plastic cup of coffee, her glasses perched on the end of her nose as she read the latest gardening magazine.

“Hey!” she said cheerfully, looking over her glasses at me when I entered the room.

“Hi, Ma,” I replied, as I always did when I saw Bella.

Bella Hamilton was the sort of person who loved life and was everyone’s absolute best friend. She’d played my on-screen mother, Anna Hunter, since we’d both joined the show eight years earlier, and had become as close off-screen as we were on-screen. She was my surrogate mother, there was no doubt about that, filling the gap that my own mother had left when my parents had decided to relocate to the countryside from the suburbs, when I’d finally moved into my own apartment in London.

My parents loathed London. They hated the noise, the smell, the crowds, the transport system—everything—and did their utmost to avoid coming to the capital at all costs. My hectic work schedule meant visits to them were few and far between. Bella was, essentially, the only family left close to me, and I loved her almost as if she were my own mother.

“Whoever invented coffee from a machine needs to be shot,” Bella now said, waving her cup at me and spilling a drop of coffee down her front. “Bugger it!” She frowned and hastily dabbed at it with her sleeve.

She looked across towards me and shrugged. “Ready for another afternoon at the coal face?” she asked, still dabbing away.

“I guess,” I replied, picking my way around the tables and sitting down on the sofa next to her.

If I’m truthful, my second spat with Elise had really gotten to me, and I’d thought about it more than I wanted to. I didn’t know why, though, but eventually put it down to the fact that I’d been hurt more than annoyed with her because I’d thought we should be getting on better now, and I didn’t understand why she would want to do it to me again. The first squabble that we’d had had irritated me; the one that we’d had this morning had just hurt me, plain and simple.

“Enthusiasm. Love it.” Bella gently bumped my arm, spilling another drop of coffee down her top. “For the love of…!” She looked down at her jumper.

“I’m just finding work a bit tough-going at the moment, Bella,” I said, getting my script out of my bag and putting it on my lap.

“Heavy workload?” Bella looked sympathetic. “I must admit when I saw your schedule coming up, I thought it was a bit full-on.”

“No, the scripts I can cope with.” I idly flicked the papers. “It’s just, well…I don’t know.”

“Wanna talk about it?” Bella lowered her voice, aware that a few others were lurking around nearby.

“I don’t know.” I sighed.

“Is it the new girl?” Bella slurped noisily at her coffee. “I don’t see her around in here too much.”

“She seems to keep herself to herself a lot,” I replied. “In her dressing room mainly.”

“You two don’t hang out together, then?”

“Nuh-uh.” I shook my head. “Not at all.”

“Oh.” Bella took another slurp from her coffee and grimaced. “It’s still early days, Holly,” she said, picking up a swizzle stick from the table in front of her and giving her coffee another stir.

“I wondered that,” I said. “Okay, I know she’s only been here five minutes, but I don’t feel like I know her at all. It’s almost like she has barriers up.”

“So she’s shy. Everyone finds starting a new job daunting.”

“She doesn’t strike me as shy or in the least bit daunted, that’s the thing.” I watched as Bella licked her swizzle stick and tossed it back onto the table. “She strikes me as…well…a bit superior.”

“Hasn’t she just come back from the States?” Bella asked. “I thought I heard someone mention that.”

“Yeah, LA.” I nodded. “Tried to find work there but didn’t, so that’s why she came back.”

“Maybe she sees this as a bit of a backwards step, then,” Bella said, waving as Rory Stone, who played her ex-husband—my father—in the show, entered the room. “Maybe she’s embarrassed that she failed to crack America and has had to come back to a teatime soap.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that!” I said, defensively.

“Of course not, pet.” Bella patted my arm. “But, well, the money wouldn’t be as good, the weather
sure
wouldn’t be as good, and, let’s face it, isn’t it every actor’s dream to have a crack at making it over there?”

“I guess,” I said, probably more sullenly than was necessary. “It’s just that sometimes she makes me feel a bit small, as well, to be honest.”

“How?”

“Just picking me up on my acting and stuff.”

“Such as?” Bella looked kindly at me over her glasses.

“She said I couldn’t act, Bella!” I blurted, sounding about ten years old.

“She said
what
?” Bella put her coffee down and leant closer to me.

“Well, not in so many words,” I backtracked. “But she said I was stilted and hesitant.”

“Of which you are neither,” Bella said warmly. “Perhaps you need to go and have a word with Kevin? Or Susie?”

“I don’t want to,” I said. “Not just yet.” I paused, watching as Bella took her coffee and drank from it again. “She’s condescending as well. She seems to think it’s weird I’ve been here for eight years.” I laughed quietly, feeling a bit daft.

“Look, I can’t comment on Elise ’cos I’ve not worked with her yet,” Bella said, always the diplomat. “But I guess just see how things go on, and if you’re still not happy, then go speak to Kevin or Susie about it, even if you’re not keen to get them involved.”

“I don’t really like her, Bella,” I suddenly said, an image of her dimpled smile drifting into my mind and back out again. “And I’ve got to like her, or none of our scenes will be realistic.” I thought for a moment. “I was so excited when they told me they’d be getting in a new person for Jasmine to play opposite,” I said, “and I liked her the first day I met her, but well, now I’m not so sure.” I leant towards Bella and lowered my voice. “Between you and me, she irritates me a bit.”

“And between you and me,” Bella lowered her voice, too, “Robbie doesn’t like her, either. But you didn’t hear that from me.”

Robbie Turner played my on-screen older brother, Tim
.
I liked him a lot. He was the sort of guy who was up for a good time, like,
all
the time, if you know what I mean. He was lovely, too, always friendly, always laughing, and always ready for a night out, whatever day of the week, whatever his schedule. I knew that with Robbie, if I told him something in secret, he’d take that secret to the grave with him. I also knew that he was the most laid-back guy I’d ever known. So if Bella said Elise got on his nerves, too, then Elise really must be an irritating person because it sure as hell took a lot to get Robbie riled.

“Robbie’s not so keen, either?” I began to feel better.

“Well, not on the acting front because he hasn’t done any scenes with her yet.” Bella tapped the side of her nose. “But he told me he doesn’t like her attitude.” Bella paused. “Probably because he asked her out, and—”

“Already?” I interrupted Bella, my voice sounding strangely thick. The mention of Robbie asking Elise out pricked sharply at me. “He didn’t waste any time, did he?”

“That’s Robbie for you.” Bella laughed. “Anyway, he got very—and I mean
very
—short shrift.”

“I can well imagine,” I mumbled.

Bella looked at me, like my own mother would. “Have you actually tried to get to know Elise?”

“I have, yes.” I sighed. “We’ve chatted in her dressing room.”

“Well, that’s a start.” Bella smiled.

“And that’s when she told me she thought I was a bad actor.” I gave an ironic laugh.

“Which you’re not sure if she meant as it sounded,” she said gently.

“How else would she mean it?” I scratched irritably at my hair. The thought of what Elise had said was getting me tetchy again.

“Have you tried to get to know her outside of work?” Bella asked, ignoring my question. “Invited her out for a welcome drink?”

I shook my head.

“How about a night out? With us all?” She raised her eyebrows.

“Well, I…”

Bella gave me another motherly look. “Perhaps she needs to come out with us lot so we can get to know her better away from the workplace, and she can get to know us,” she reflected.

“Maybe,” I replied, feeling bad.

“So, then, let’s invite the poor girl for a night out.” Bella’s eyes sparkled. “It’s been ages since we all went out together. It’ll be the perfect excuse.”

I looked down at my feet. “Now I feel awful,” I said, giving an embarrassed sideways glance to Bella, “for just moaning on about her without actually trying to do something about it.”

“Don’t.” Bella patted my arm. “Sometimes it just takes a mother to see these things.”

Chapter Five

 

“A drink?” Elise raised her eyebrows.

“Yeah,” I said airily. “We could all go up West Friday night. We thought it would be a nice way for us all to get to know each other.”

I smiled amiably over to Elise as we walked from the set that same afternoon. We had just wrapped for the day, having successfully filmed all our kitchen scenes, much to Stuart’s relief and satisfaction, and we were now both walking from the studios back towards our cars.

“After your little show in the corridor this morning I’m surprised you want anything to do with me,” Elise said slowly.

“Show?” I stopped dead.

“Show, tantrum, whatever.”

“It wasn’t a tantrum, Elise,” I said tersely, starting to walk again.

“You’re getting grumpy again, aren’t you?” Elise grinned. “Cute.”

I breathed out sharply and remembered Bella’s advice. “So, do you want to come out with us on Friday?” I asked, ignoring her last comment.

“Of course!” Elise pulled a scrap of paper from her bag and scribbled down her mobile number onto it. “Just let me know where and when and I’ll be there.”

She handed me the piece of paper, then yanked the fire-exit door open and left the building, me following close behind her. “I’m looking forward to it already, Eight-Year,” she called back over her shoulder as she walked away from me.

I watched her as she walked across the car park and got into her car, surprised but suddenly ludicrously pleased that she’d want to come out with us. I dug around in my bag for my keys and wandered towards my own car, parked some way from hers. I heard Elise’s door slam, then listened as she tried to start the engine, hearing it turning over and over but not fire. I paused, casting a glance back to where Elise was parked, and waited, hearing her engine labour more and more.

BOOK: The Road to Her
2.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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