Authors: Cecilia Tan
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I took to heart the only piece of advice my father ever gave me: “Never let them see you cry.”
Those were the words going through my head as I clutched a wrinkled and folded set of pages, sitting on a bench outside the audition room with a dozen other women. At least three had emerged from the room in tears and I tried to imagine what the director and casting agent must have said to them. Did they insult their clothes? Their weight? Did they rip apart their acting ability? Was it all some kind of a test to see if you could stand the heat?
The director, Miles Redlace, was a notorious asshole. But, you know, Hollywood loves an asshole if he's brilliant. He was the “it” director right now, the hip, hot, edgy winner of two Oscars and half the reason I wanted to be in this film. His detractors said he wasn't “edgy,” just liked to curse a lot and insult people working for him.
Honestly, insults might be better than the last audition I went to, where they barely noticed an actor was in front of them. I had never felt so dismissed or humiliated in my life. On top of that, I'd overheard the casting director say he was disappointed in the effort people were putting in. How could he tell how much effort an actor put in if he never looked up from his phone or his crossword puzzle?
I'd taken his words to heart, too, though. For this audition, I'd put fake tattoos on my shoulders and arms, did a temporary red wash through my natural blond, and wore a fake nose ring. I did everything I could to be this character, to become what the producers were hopefully picturing in their minds.
My sister Ricki asked me why I even went to these cattle calls. “Let me put the financing together and we'll create a project for you,” she said.
She'd never understand why a “vanity project” wasn't what I wanted, because she couldn't fathom why I didn't want to rely on the family money or name to get my start.
I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to prove that my talent got me the part. I always put in a stage name, though anyone who was paying attention could have recognized me. Except maybe this time. I didn't even recognize myself in the mirror.
The door opened and another woman exited dejectedly. She didn't even look at us on the bench; she just deposited the script in the trash bin as she went straight to the parking lot.
A dozen or so of us were still waiting. Everyone looked fresh out of college, like me, though I heard two of them talking and I thought them older. But everyone wants to look youngâeven when the role wasn't for an eighteen-year-old punk rock rebel girl in a film with the working title
I knew how Hollywood worked. I grew up in the film business and I was a realist. I knew I was doing it the hard way. But I had to do it my way.
“Ginger Hill?” called the PA at the door. It took me a moment to remember that was the stage name I picked.
I hopped to my feet, adrenaline surging. “Right here!”
“Oh, no, wait,” the woman said, checking her clipboard. “Marian Foy, you first. Hill, you're next.”
I sank back down onto the bench, mortified. Why did I feel that way? It was her mistake, but I wished a hole would open in the ground and swallow me up.
Great. Now you're going to go in there all red-faced and flustered.
My heart had sped up and didn't seem like it would slow down anytime soon.
I gripped the folded script more tightly, trying to keep my hands from shaking, thinking,
Is this how a wild child would act? Of course not! She would strut in there like she didn't give a fuck what they thought.
The question was whether I could convincingly project that attitude when inside I was feeling the opposite. A great actor could.
An eternity laterâor maybe only an agonizing momentâthe door opened again. I expected Marian Foy to trudge out. But no, it was the PA again. “Thank you all for coming, but we have filled the role.”
Some of the women groaned. One of them flung the script into the trash bin, where it landed with a papery thud.
I should have stomped out of there like I was wearing combat boots, but no, that role was filled. So I merely tried to walk in a ladylike fashion to my car. Ladylike to me meant with small, crisp yet unhurried steps, my eyes on the horizon, hoping like hell the fake smile on my face didn't look ridiculous.
Never let them see you cry.
Dad never said who “them” was, but I took it to mean everyone.
By the time I arrived at the Forum, the concert had already started. Thank goodness Ricki had gotten us VIP parking permits and backstage passes. The VIP lot was next to where the band's tour bus was parkedâa massive thing with
logo painted on the sideâand I could see a security guard standing outside a side door into the arena.
I clutched my purse to my shoulder as I approached him. He was wearing black and the band's crew jacket, a lanyard hanging from his neck with a cluster of laminated passes at the bottom of it. “Hi, yeah, is this the right door? I have a backstage pass waiting for me,” I told him.
He looked me up and down. “Oh, really,” he said, as if he didn't believe a word of it and was merely humoring me. “And who exactly would be responsible for putting you on the list?”
“My sister. Or her boyfriend. Axel Hawke? Perhaps you've heard of him?”
He laughed. “Try pulling the other one.”
“Okay, seriously, I'm Gwen Hamilton.” His attitude was really starting to piss me off.
Amusement twisted his mouth. “You know, honey, if what you really want is a good banging, plenty of guys in your hometown would oblige.”
“Okay, okay, I get it. You came all the way here to get some genuine, grade-A rock star dick. Which one do you want? I'll tell you if you're his type. The only one who's off-limits is Axel. He's monotonous and his girlfriend's here to boot.”
“You mean monogamous and that's what I told youâhis girlfriend is my sister!”
“He's into some kinky shit but I don't think incest isâ”
The door opened and a guy stuck his head out. He was long and lean with a partially shaved head. “Gilbert, you got a problem here?”
“Excuse me,” I said. “Have you got the guest list? Because I am on it and this dimwit thinks it's funny to sexually harass me.”
The guy came all the way out with a clipboard in hand. “Name?”
“You got ID?”
“Yes.” I dug my driver's license out of my bag and showed it to him.
“All right, come with me.” He punched Gilbert on the arm. “Be nice.”
Gilbert rubbed his arm and held the door open. “Come on, Nick, how was I supposed to know she was on the list? She looks like every other groupie.”
“By checking the list,” Nick said, waving the clipboard. “She's probably some fan club contest winner or something. Be nice or you'll go viral on YouTube.” As the door shut behind us, he said, “My apologies, miss. Here.” In the hallway stood a podium on wheels. From behind it he pulled out a lanyard with a laminated pass on it, and he signed his name on the bottom with a Sharpie.
I slung it over my neck.
“When the band comes offstage, they'll go through there to the green room.” He pointed down a hallway to the left. “Main party'll be over there”âthen he pointed to the rightâ“and if you want to watch the rest of the show, straight ahead.”
I thanked him and went straight ahead, the music getting louder as I went. There was a handwritten sign taped to the cinder block at a stairwell leading up that said
. Up I went.
As I was climbing the stairs, I was still fuming a little about what an asshole the security guard had been, but then it struck me: He had treated me like a groupie trying to sneak into a concert because that's
exactly what I looked like
. He'd bought it. Even when I'd told him who I was, he'd either not believed it or didn't know my name. That was possible; I was far from a household name. But a thrill ran through me as I realized how convinced he'd been.
I came out on an upper platform where a couple other people with passes around their necks were watching the show. Several of them looked like groupies and I wondered if the guard had been partly serious when he'd said some of the guys were “available.”
But I didn't spend long looking at the other people there once I started watching the band. Axel, the lead singer, was at center stage, but on the side of the stage closest to me was the guitar player, Mal. We'd met once or twice in passing at industry functions. My impression of him from those occasions was that he never smiled and rarely spoke, looming in the background like a judgmental gargoyle.
On stage, however, he was animated, explosive, leaping into the air with his guitar and then landing, flinging his long dark hair forward and then flipping it back with a head toss. He still didn't smile, but he matched Axel's energy with a feral grimace as he sang, and then he sauntered out onto the long runway into the audience, playing a solo and practically humping the guitar as he went.
Pure sex. One hundred percent pure sex that walked on two legs and played the guitar. When that song was over, he tore his shirt off and flung it into the audience. His arms and chest looked like something from a fitness-craze infomercial:
You, too, can have these abs! These biceps!
I certainly wouldn't mind if he let me touch them for a while.
I was so caught up in the performance that I didn't notice the others had left the viewing area until the band was taking their bows. One of the women I'd seen before came back up the stairs just as I was trying to figure out what to do with myself. “Come on,” she said. “If you want to get picked, right after the encore is the time.”
Get picked? I wasn't sure what she meant, but I had some ideas. I followed her downstairs and toward the green room. We passed several doors with paper signs taped to them:
VOCAL WARMUP ROOM
. She led me into a room that was unmarked.
About a dozen women were there, some drinking bottled water from a tray on a table, some applying new lipstick, some gossiping. A few sat on folding chairs, but most of them were standing. I took my own lipstick out of my bag to give myself some time to figure everything out.
“I've been with Samson before,” a woman with thick black cat-eye liner similar to mine was saying to another. “But he tweeted this morning that he's got a cold, so I don't know if he's partying tonight.”
“Last night of the tour? You better believe they're
partying tonight,” the woman who'd come back to get me said. She had red hair and a thick studded belt wrapped twice around her hips. “I don't care if he does have a cold. I wouldn't mind being the bread on a Samson meat sandwich.” She gave the other woman a high five.
Okay, so it seemed as if “getting picked” did in fact mean what I'd guessedâthat is, being chosen for sex.
“What's your e-mail again?” Cat-Eye asked. “I want some of those photos you were taking tonight.”
“Oh, sure. I'll be posting them on my website, too.” The redhead dug in her purse and pulled out a stack of business cards with a photo of the band on one side and her contact info on the other. “Here.” She handed them around. I took one so I wouldn't be the only one refusing.
I should go to the party,
I told myself. I didn't really belong here. But I was curious how long I could keep it up. When would someone notice I didn't belong?
A third woman joined us, downing a bottle of water. She looked like she had been dancing, her thin T-shirt sticking to her skin in places. “Is it true Mal is really rough?”
“Never been with Mal,” Cat-Eye said with a shrug. “You figure with all the bondage and stuff in their videos that at least one of them is mondo kinky. Mal seems the type.”
The woman who had brought me downstairs shrugged. “I saw them in Indianapolis with a friend. She said he's huge.”
“Pictures or it didn't happen,” I put in, and several of the women burst out laughing.
“Yeah, no pictures but she did have trouble walking the next day,” she said, which caused even more laughter.
The roadie who'd helped me earlier came in then and everyone quieted down instantly. He had a flashlight in one hand. “Okay, pussycats,” he said. “Mal's ready.”
No one moved.
“Are you seriously telling me none of you is into the kinky shit?”
“I am,” I said, starting to raise my hand like I was in grammar school; then thinking a wild child wouldn't do that, I ended it with a snap of my fingers.
“Great. Come with me.”
I followed him out into the hall and was surprised when we stopped only a few feet from the door and he turned to me. “Just gotta checkâyou
into the kinky shit, right? Mal is not your typical lay.”
“Neither am I,” I said in the sassiest voice I could muster.
“If it's too much for you, just leave, all right?”
Which was exactly what I planned to do before things went too far, but I certainly couldn't let on that was my plan. If anything, this little chitchat made me all the more intrigued about what “kinky shit” Mal was into. Floggers? Canes? Bondage? None of that would faze me. I was getting a bit turned on just thinking about itâand the gorgeous abs and chest he'd displayed on stage. “All right.”
“Good enough. Come on.” He led me farther down the hall, past several more doorways, until we came to one that had a paper sign taped to it that read
. The roadie took a Sharpie from his pocket, added the words
DO NOT DISTURB
to the bottom, and then said, “Okay, honey, go on in. And be careful.”
I wasn't sure exactly what he meant by that but I opened the door, slipped through, and closed it behind me, with no idea what I was going to see on the other side.
What I saw in the dim light of electric candles flickering was Mal Kenneally, leaning back on a couch that had been covered with a batik-print cloth. The whole room had been hung with patterned fabrics so that it looked like laundry day at a pasha's harem, and lush, exotic-sounding music was playing from somewhere. A woman was raking her long nails through his hair, spreading it out behind him like the glossy black wings of some legendary raven. He was wearing leather pants and nothing else. Well. He opened his eyes when he realized I had come into the room and murmured something to the woman, who patted him on the shoulder and then quickly left. In the low light I could barely make out her face and I doubted she could see me all that well either.
And so what if she could? I wasn't here to play demure, good-girl Gwen. I marched up to the coffee table, put my hands on my hips, and announced, “They told me you like to play with fire.” I tossed my flame-red hair for emphasis.
He let his eyes travel up and down me slowly, as if he were drinking in every detail from my black lambskin boots up the fishnet stockings to my denim cutoff shorts, tank top, and fake tattoos. (Well, I had one real tattoo, but he couldn't see that one.)
His voice was low. “The question, my dear, is whether
like to play with fire.”
“I'm game,” I said, thrusting my chin into the air.
His smile warmed slowly. “Are you? Everyday sex bores me.”
“I'm not an everyday groupie,” I answered. Well, that was certainly the truthâmaybe too close to the truth? My heart rate sped up as I worried he might see through my ruse. That would be humiliating.
Just how far are you going to let this go?
a little voice in the back of my head asked.
You can chicken out anytime,
I answered. I decided I'd leave as soon as he got too rough. If he grabbed me or manhandled me, I'd tell him it wasn't my thing and walk out. That wasn't my kink and that was the truth. Otherwise, I figured I'd play along and see what happened.
I thought to myself.
“Lose the shorts,” he said.
I swallowed, my cheeks reddening as I realized he was about to see my underwear. My silly, peach-colored cotton underwear, not the slightest bit sexy, but I hadn't exactly planned to show them to anyone when I'd left for the audition that day.
Maybe I should just run away nowâ¦
But I wasn't ready to yet. I didn't want to. I put on a bit of a sneer, unbuttoned my cutoffs, and let them drop. I stepped gingerly out of them.
His gaze lingered over my underwear but seemed neither surprised nor judgmental about them. “Come closer.”
I moved to the other side of the coffee table, then even closer as he somehow communicated to me with his eyes that I hadn't come far enough. I stopped when I was near enough for him to reach out and touch me.
But he didn't. He still hadn't even sat up. “Your middle finger,” he said. “Put it in my mouth.”
Part of me was startled, but the part of me that was playing the role showed him my middle finger in a rude gesture first, before gently placing the pad of my finger against his tongue.
He held my gaze while his tongue rolled back and forth against my finger. He drew it in deeper with sensual suction and it felt like waves of velvet were lapping against my skin. If that felt anything like what a blow job feels like to a guy, no wonder they're so fixated on them. How can I explain it? His mouth was gentle and firm at the same time, his tongue both soft and muscular, and the longer it went on, the deeper his eyes seemed to bore into me. It was only my finger but somehow it felt as if his oral skills were being plied on other sensitive parts of my body.
When he opened his mouth to let me go, his lips glistened and the tip of my finger was slick with his saliva.
“Now use that finger on your clit.” His voice was never raised louder than a suggestion, yet it felt like a command.
I lifted the waistband of both the panties and the fishnets and did as he asked, sucking in a breath as my wet finger slid easily over my swollen clit. Far more swollen than I would have guessed it would be from merely what had gone on.
“Naughty girl,” he breathed. “Nasty girl. Touching yourself like that.”