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Authors: KE Payne

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BOOK: The Road to Her
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I quickly turned my head away, making a big show of plumping up the cushions behind me. Anything to distract me from Elise sitting on my sofa, still apparently looking at me.

“There hasn’t been much laughter in my life lately, to be honest,” she suddenly said, breaking the silence.

“No?” I looked back at her.

She shook her head.

“I thought you enjoyed being on
Portobello Road
?” I asked, suddenly worried.

“Noooo, I didn’t mean right now!” Elise laughed softly. “That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve had more fun since I came back to England than I have in months and months.”



“So LA wasn’t a laugh a minute?” I subconsciously shifted my position a little further away from her.

“I had bad experiences there,” Elise said, shooting me a look. “Some horrible experiences in shows, in castings, auditions…” She paused. “With men.”

“Oh,” I mumbled, hoping that she wouldn’t start trying to talk to me about men. “Not good.”

She laughed. “No, not good at all, Holly.”

“So a pretty miserable time all round, really, then?” I offered.

“You could say that,” she said, holding my look. “So thanks.”

“Well, thank
for getting rid of the spider,” I said, leaning my head against the back of the sofa.

“Can I let you into a secret?” Elise leant her head back again as well.

I looked at her profile, the soft line of her jaw, her hair falling perfectly around her face. “Hit me.”

“I don’t really like spiders.” She wrinkled her nose.

“My hero!” I clasped my hands to my heart in exaggeration.

We sat, both with our heads leaning against the back of the sofa, and looked at each other for a second before I broke the gaze and lifted my head away. When I glanced back, she was still looking at me, and the look on her face made me feel uncomfortable for a second, but I didn’t know why. Her expression was strange, but not in a bad way, and I wondered if she’d misinterpreted my quip about her being a hero for sarcasm.

“Yes,” she said finally. “Your hero.”

I smiled uncertainly and then pulled myself upright, waving a hand in the direction of the kitchen. “I think you more than deserve that wine now,” I said, still thinking about the look she’d just had on her face.

“I’d love to,” she replied. “But”—she reluctantly pulled her eyes away from mine—“I really should go. Lines to learn and all that.”

Disappointment stabbed at me. I wanted her to stay longer and was urging her to change her mind and stay for another drink, but Elise seemed flustered—embarrassed, even—which was most unlike her.

She got up from the sofa and wriggled her feet back into her shoes. “Sorry.”

“It’s no problem,” I said. “Don’t worry.”

“Thanks for the offer, though.” She looked as though she was about to say something else, but didn’t.

“Any time,” I replied, reaching over to the chair to pick up her coat.

As I handed it to her, our fingers brushed and, again, I sensed my face reddening. After a few moments I looked at her shyly, hoping she hadn’t noticed.

“I’d like to do it again sometime, though,” Elise said, standing with her coat in her hand.

“Clubbing with Bella and Robbie?” I made big eyes, making her laugh.

“No,” she said slowly. “Drinks with you.”

“Sure,” I said. “We’ll have to arrange something again soon.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” she said, holding my gaze. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” She shrugged her coat over her shoulders.

“You sure will,” I said. “Hey, thanks again.” I opened the door for her, peering outside into the hallway, relieved that the CD container was now spiderless.

“Any time,” Elise said, walking past me and bending to pick up her spider-catching implements from the hallway floor. She paused. “Actually, no. Not any time!” She pulled a face as she handed me the container and postcard. “See you soon.” Elise nodded, kind of curtly, before turning and walking off towards the lift. I stood in the doorway and watched her reach the lift and jab at the buttons, turning to look at me one more time as the doors opened.

I closed the door to my apartment and leaned against it, thinking. It was as though I’d seen the real Elise that night for the first time, not the Elise that I’d been working with, and even if it meant she’d probably still drive me crazy at work the next time I was there, it really did seem as though I was finally making progress with the mystery that was Elise Manford.

And I liked what I was seeing. I mean, I
liked what I was seeing.

Chapter Seven


The phone rang shortly after two p.m. the next day, just after I’d finally persuaded my hungover stomach to accept some food. I had no plans for the day, which was probably just as well, considering I didn’t feel capable of doing anything more than just chilling out on the sofa and watching a soppy movie on one of the satellite channels.

I saw Elise’s name flashing up on the screen at me, sending a rush of adrenaline down my spine the minute I saw it.

“Hey.” Elise’s voice sounded hoarse, presumably still rough from the previous night.

“Hey.” An image of her face entered my head as I heard her voice.

“I wondered if I could come over,” Elise was now saying. “I wanted to show you something.”

I scratched sleepily at my head. I knew that I was tired, hungover, and scruffy, but I was still ridiculously pleased that Elise wanted to come to my apartment again.

“Sure,” I said, trying to hide the pleasure in my voice.

“I think you’ll like it,” Elise said.

“What will I like?” I clenched my jaws tight, trying to stop a yawn.

“The thing I want to show you!” She laughed.

I texted Elise my address, thinking she’d probably been too drunk last night to remember it, telling her to take the Tube as it was easier to come across town that way. She’d told me she lived up in North London somewhere on our first meeting, but that’s all. Wherever she was, it was a darned sight easier to Tube it than try to drive across London.

Once I’d also texted her directions from my nearest Tube station, I pulled myself wearily from the sofa and wandered into the bathroom, pulling a brush through my hair and covering up the tired-looking blotches on my face. I put on a hoodie and sweatpants, not wanting to look like I’d just got up—even though I had—but equally not wanting to look like I’d made too much of an effort for Elise, either. Crazy.

She arrived around forty minutes later, looking as fresh as a daisy and as though she’d been up for hours, not the short time I’d been up. As I saw her standing in my doorway, dressed immaculately, hair perfect, face made up, I looked down at my crumpled sweatpants and fluffy-socked feet and wished I had made more of an effort, after all.

I stood aside and motioned for her to come in.

“I see you got dressed up for me, then,” she said, eyeing up my baggy hoodie as she sauntered past me and entered my apartment, flinging herself down onto my sofa. She looked across to me, still standing in the doorway, a huge grin spread across her face.

“Very funny.” The sight of her sprawled out on my sofa, relaxed and gazing happily at me, made my insides soften. “So?” I asked. “The thing you wanted to show me is…?”

“This.” Elise fished into her shoulder bag and pulled out a magazine. “They’re calling us Jasey, you know. Jasmine and Casey. Cute, huh?”

Our storyline was the worst-kept secret in Soapland. All the soap magazines and TV forums on the Internet had talked about how “little Jasmine Hunter” would fall in love with a girl in a future storyline, and people had been posting for weeks, talking about how excited they were about it all. Even though Jasey’s confession scenes hadn’t yet gone out, the viewing public knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later, and anticipation—certainly if the magazine articles were to be believed—was already building.

“And they’re calling you and me Hollise as well,” she continued. “Look.”

Elise handed me a copy of some glossy magazine for teenagers. On the front was a still from the programme and the headline:
What Next for Jasey…and Hollise?

“And this is before we’ve even done any kissing scenes?” I asked, catching her eye. She was looking straight back at me, but now her face wasn’t showing any emotion, so it was impossible to know what she was thinking.

“Yuh-huh,” she finally said, her face breaking into a lazy grin, making me bite my lip self-consciously and look away.

I hastily opened the magazine and flicked to the page where Elise and I featured. It was a double-page spread talking about Jasmine and a backstory about Casey, plus a brief bio of the pair of us, which surprised me—considering the magazine in question had never even interviewed me nor, to my knowledge, Elise.

I started to read from the article, occasionally pulling a face.

Portobello Road
’s new sexy lesbian couple,”
I read,
“are set to make pulses race in the coming weeks when they share their first kiss…”

I looked up at Elise. “Sexy lesbian couple? Puh-lease!”

Elise shrugged.

“Beautiful brunette Holly Croft, nineteen, told us…”
I flicked my hand across the page. “I must be having memory lapses ’cos I don’t ever remember speaking to this magazine,” I said, frowning and looking at the front cover again.

I read on: “
The two girls, who are even hotter in real life than their on-screen characters…
Oh for goodness’ sake!” I flung the magazine down on the coffee table and sat back on the sofa.

“No, no!” Elise laughed, grabbing the magazine and thrusting it back in my hands. “Read on! It’s good!”

“You’re totally psyched about this, aren’t you?” I looked at her, eyes wide, her face lit up, and couldn’t help but laugh.

“Damn straight I am! Aren’t you?” She looked surprised.

“Well, yeah, of course I love it,” I said. “It seems to have gone a bit more mad than I would have expected, but in a good way.”

“Mad?” Elise took the magazine back from me. “It’s gone stratus-bloody-spheric!”

“But we’ve only just started with their story,” I said.

“I know!” Elise pulled her hand through her hair. “So just imagine what it’s going to be like six months down the line.” She thought for a moment, then took her iPhone from her bag. “Look at this, too.” She flicked her thumb over the screen of her phone, her eyes widening occasionally as she read what was on it.

“Here,” she finally said. “I found some fanvids made about you on here, too, uploaded just last night.” She handed the phone to me. “None of Casey yet, of course, but it’s only a matter of time, isn’t it?”

I peered at her iPhone as some tinny music played out, a real nice haunting, slow tune that someone had put some clips of Jasmine to. It had been done beautifully as well, and whoever had put it all together had done it so cleverly, meaning that each small clip matched the mood of the music perfectly. It was, in short, a stunning, perfect video of Jasmine’s story so far. I loved it.

“It’s beautiful,” I said quietly, looking to Elise, then back to her phone. “Just beautiful.”

“They’re awesome,” Elise agreed. “I’ve been watching loads of them all morning.” She dropped her eyes. “Look at these, too.” She leant over and pointed to another batch of videos.

There were countless other ones on there, exactly like the one Elise had just shown me, mainly using either clips or stills of Jasmine from over the years. Some were with slow, romantic music, some with upbeat, quirky music, but each one had been done so well that I was in total awe at both the skill and the time that had been put into them.

One particular fanvid that caught my eye, though, was set against a beautiful, slow song by one of my favourite artists and showed short clips of Jasmine during her few unhappy relationships with men and ended with a gorgeous screenshot of her with Casey, taken from a magazine.

“The Road to Her,”
I whispered as I watched it.

“It’s perfect, isn’t it?” Elise leant over and watched with me.

She was right. It was the most perfect, beautiful short video I’d ever seen—the sort I could have happily watched over and over again.

There were comments underneath the videos, too, most of which were complimentary, with viewers saying how much they loved Jasey, and how they couldn’t wait until they got together, and how they thought they were going to be the cutest couple in soap history.

“Ignore the bitchy comments on there, though,” Elise said. “Do what I do and just focus on the good ones.”

I felt weird reading many of the comments and discussions that were underneath as they mainly asked whether Elise and I were gay in real life, and whether we were dating in real life, too. Even though Jasmine and Casey hadn’t got together on screen yet, the speculation over us as actresses had already gone into overdrive.

I read those with a mixture of amusement and concern, wondering if Elise was unhappy with what people were saying on there, too.

“The questions about me and you make me laugh, though,” she said, almost as if reading my mind. She studied me from the corner of her eye. “Bearing in mind Robbie asked me out…”

I tensed up. “Oh?” I said, as lightly as I could.

“Mm-hmm,” Elise smiled. “That would put all speculation to bed, wouldn’t it? If I actually went out with him, I mean.”

“I guess you’ll get that sort of speculation in any storyline,” I replied, changing the subject as the video we had been watching finished.

“Yeah, I guess.”

Elise put her phone down on the table.

“Are you, uh, are you going out with Robbie, then?” I asked, inspecting my nails.

“I told him no,” Elise replied. “But I might change my mind. I haven’t decided yet.”

“You don’t mind all the rumours going round about us, then?” I asked, wanting to move the subject away from Robbie. I got up from the sofa and wandered towards the kitchen. “Coffee?”

“Nope,” Elise replied, getting up and following me, her feet padding softly on the carpet. “But yes to coffee.” She leant against the breakfast bar and watched as I fetched mugs and coffee, then filled the coffee machine and flicked the switch on the side of it. “Like I’d be dumb enough to date a co-star anyway,” she said. “Let alone a girl.”

BOOK: The Road to Her
2.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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