Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chapter 62: There's a Girl in Your Room

Desperate to drum up hype about a film in production with no stars, the studio sends the actors to court their one built in fanbase, the readers of the comic book the movie is based on. The Golden Apple, a comic book shop on Melrose, was more than pleased to host a book/poster signing for the actors playing the Endless, Desire, Delirium, Destruction, Dream and Death (Despair and Destiny would be portrayed as CGI) in Burden's upcoming movie. 

"Let me guess, you're my biggest fan," Astrid says churlishly to the girl in Death's make up. Small as it is, this supporting role as Gavin's sister, it's the biggest role Astrid has ever landed, and she's already begun to fear the long term repercussions playing Death will have on her career. Comic geeks are already fanboying her before they've heard her speak so much as one line, all because of this costume. Typecast as a goth forever...

"Astrid, this is Stina," Gavin says, "She's my friend."

"I'm really excited about this movie," Stina enthuses, but Astrid's attention has already moved on to wondering if Fox Owen, the actor playing Destruction, is gay or straight, and if she could get him into bed.

"Hey, Stina, will you have lunch with me when this is over," Gavin asks, "I need to talk to you."

"Sure thing," Stina agrees, and moves down the table to get autographs on her copy of Brief Lives.

"I'm just so lost in this script," Gavin sighs, finally out of make up and having lunch with Stina, "I have no idea what's going on half the time, or what I'm supposed to be feeling. I mean, I go around with one crazy sister looking for our missing brother. People start dying everywhere we go. Then, we find him and he tells us how unnecessary we are and leaves again. Then I have to go kill my son? Who is this disembodied head...I really don't get it."

"I think it's weird Burden would choose Brief Lives to base it on. You're getting really close to the end of Dream's current incarnation in that one. So, he'd, like, have to do a bunch of prequels next to do the whole story."

Gavin drops his head into his hands, "I don't think I can do prequels. I'm struggling just to get through each day's shoot."

"Well, look at it this way, Gavin," Stina says, "Dream has a strong sense of purpose and duty to his realm. It's what drives him; he doesn't exist outside his role. Destruction blew off his duty to his realm centuries earlier. He was tired of fulfilling a predetermined role and just wanted to live. That's kind of what it's about."

After her lunch with Gavin, Stina hangs around Melrose to do some shopping. As excited as she is to see one of her favorite books coming to life in a movie, seeing a living version of Death shook her up. Her own look had been modeled on Gaiman's character, and that was fine while it was just an image on the page. But now, it's Hollywood, and the look belongs Astrid, making Stina just a copy. That needs to change.

She gets her hair dyed, buys a whole new wardrobe and tops that off with a new tattoo.

"Is that on purpose?" Coby asks when he sees her new hair for the first time.

"No, a crazed leprechaun kidnapped me and took me to the rainbow sprites, who dyed my hair and then released me into the wild."

"It's cute," Coby answers, "Is something bothering you?"

"I just didn't feel like my old look was still me. I needed something new," Stina answers, "Do you like it?" she asks, feeling a little insecure about it now.

"Of course I do," Coby smiles, "It's you."

"You always make me feel special," she sighs, "Not like every other girl out there."

"There's no one like you, Crissy," he says.

"So, I, uh, kind of spent all my rent money on new clothes," Stina says, "Do you think you could help me out?"

"I can scrape some cash up for you. It's coming out of my pot money, though, so be prepared for a month with no weed."

Stina frowns. "Well, maybe I should return some of the stuff I bought..."

"Why don't you just move in here? You haven't spent the night in your own place in ages."

Astrid dropped by Gavin's house to go over some lines with him while he was getting ready for a date with Tori, who comes in while the actress is still in his room.

"Ah, you must be the girlfriend," Astrid purrs in her sultry voice. Like she's trying to make trouble for him, "I'll just be going, then."

Gavin tries to hug Tori in greeting , but she pushes him away. "Why is that woman in your bedroom?" she demands.

"I was already up here," Gavin explains, "Zach must have let her in."

"That doesn't explain what you were doing with her!"

"We were just reading lines!" Gavin shouts back at her, "Astrid is an actress. We're just working together." He doesn't mention that he used to date Astrid; Tori already has issues with his being friends with Stina, another ex-girlfriend hanging around him would just make this more complicated than it has to be.

"I'm only doing this for you, remember?" he continues, more gently now, embarrassed at his own outburst. "Now let's go out, and forget about this."

They spend the night drinking and dancing at the Warehouse, putting their littl fight behind them.

And then it's back to Gavin's place.

"Gavin!" she shrieks, slapping his arm. "Stop! Stop!'

"What? What?"

"There's a girl in your room! Watching us!'

"I can't believe it's really you! Dream! In person!" the girl exclaims.

"Who are you? How the hell did you get in here?"Gavin demands, noticing the door to the balcony is open. Did she climb up here? he wonders in disbelief.

"I saw you at the signing today. I just had to see you again, to see you without your make up. So I looked you up on the internet. Can I get a picture with you?"

"No! Get out of here before I call the police!"

"I don't think I'll ever feel safe to take off my clothes here again," Tori says, putting on her underwear.

"We could go to your place," Gavin suggests, "My crazed fans won't find us there."

"I live with my parents," Tori reminds him, "My strict, old-fashioned parents."

"Right," Gavin sighs, laying down next to her to sleep, the mood ruined.

"You should move out of here," Tori says, "Get a house with a gate. Get some bodyguards."

"I just wanted to be an artist," Gavin says, "I don't want to live behind a gate..." Tori, already asleep, doesn't hear him.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chapter 61: This Little Temple of Desire

"It is strange. My sister spoke of a Dancing Woman, who knew my brother. It never occurred to me that it would be you."

"Delirium? Of course...she spoke to me last night. Through Tiffany. I did not realize it was her."

"Well. Let's get it over with. You had precious little time for me when I was seeing your brother. And I have to admit, this is the last place I'd expect to see you. This little temple of Desire. What brings you here?"

"You do, Astarte."


"He's awful," Alison whispers under her breath, "He shows no emotion whatsoever."

"It's the director's job to bring out the emotions in his actors," Carey answers, "Dream rarely shows any emotion; what Gavin is doing here is perfect."

"So it's up to the topless chick to carry the scene," Alison shrugs.

"You could sacrifice a black lamb to me, if you like. But this all the temple I've got, and we're kind of short on oracles."

"You have my sympathies."

"I loved your brother. I really did."

"You were goddess of Love. I would expect nothing less of you."

"Who is she?" Carey asks.

"Her name is Tara...I forget her last name. She came up from central casting."

"She looks familiar."

"Maybe we've worked with her before? Anyway, she's not famous." Carey had fought hard against the studio on this very issue, he wanted no stars, no one people would recognize and have previous associations with other roles for this film. And he got what  he wanted, no one they'd cast had had more than bit roles before this. And some, like Gavin, have no experience at all.

Alison once promised herself she's never work on a movie that featured a strip club scene. Working with Carey, she thought she'd be able to keep that vow; his movies are usually too fantastical to include seedy side of mundane life. But here she is. Well, the fact that the dancer/love goddess ends this performance by exploding herself and taking the whole place with her does take the strip club scene to a whole new level, at least, Alison tells herself.

Carey watches her dance. He remembers, now, she was chosen for this part because of her dancing experience. She'd studied dance since she was a child, ballet, modern dance...and ended up working strip clubs in L.A. She was the perfect Ishtar.

But he hadn't seen, during her audition, the resemblance...

She came to his bed last night. He knew it was a dream, because she was never like this in life. But just because it's a dream doesn't mean it's not true.

"Didn't I warn you?" she asked, her voice thick with desire, "Didn't I try to teach you?"

"You were always too fearful," he answered.

"And you too bold. Now look what you've done."

"What have I done?" he asked.

Carey follows his actress into the dressing room. The real one, not the set for the dressing room scene.

"Maya," he calls to her.

"I'm sorry, my name is Tara," she says, turning to face him, not protesting against his presence here. He's Carey Burden, none of his actresses turn him out of their dressing rooms.

"Tara," he corrects himself, "Would you do me the honor of coming to dinner with me tonight?"

She says yes. They always say yes.

"What you've done," Maya had said in his dream, "Is to play with power like it is a child's toy. There will be consequences."

"Where are you, Maya?" he had asked, tired of her dream warnings, of visions that fade in the morning light, tired of making love to a ghost, "Why don't you come to me?'

"I am here," she had answered, "I am with you, always."

The dialog in italics is by Neil Gaiman from the graphic novel The Sandman: Brief Lives

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chapter 60: Push My Luck

Recording the songs for the Pink Hell album didn't take very long; the material demands a raw, powerful performance without a lot of embellishment in the studio, and the band got the instrument tracks down in no time at all. All that's left are the vocal tracks. Nico doesn't have to be in the studio for this, the vocals are all Jacklyn, but he comes anyway, hanging out to listen as she sings. Her range is amazing, and she's not afraid to take her voice as far as it will go. She invests every note with emotion, shrieking, trilling and growling through each line, opening her wounds and letting the song bleed out.

"This album is going to be a monster hit," Bill predicts, coming in to stand behind Nico's chair. "She's got something you don't see very often anymore in this industry; real talent. This is by far the best material she's ever written. And I guess we have you to thank for inspiring this, don't we?" he continues, slapping Nico on the shoulder. "Listen, I know what you did with Marilyn. Lucky for you, Jack has turned your shit into gold, and she's moving forward. But, you fuck up like that again, you do anything that jeopardizes this band, you don't work in this town anymore. Got it?"

"It won't happen again," Nico says, humiliated at having to be told off by Bill, "Not because I give a shit about working. Because I love her."

"Whatever your reason, you keep her happy." Bill says.

After they get home from the recording session, Nico finds Jacklyn crying in the nursery, watching Trillare sleep.

"Hey," he says gently, embracing her from behind. He doesn't have to ask, he knows she's reliving it all, that recording the songs has dredged up all the emotions that went into making them. She gives everything to her music, and it takes its toll on her. 

She's been struggling to keep it under control, to keep him from seeing her like this, but it's like trying to stop a flood once the dam has broken. 

"Let's go away for a few days," he suggests, "To your cabin, get away from all this."

"Just run off?" she asks. "We just finished recording. There's going to be so much work to do..."

"Exactly," Nico says, "We're going to get blown away by a shitstorm of publicity for this album, and then we'll be on tour. You need some time to recover. And we need some time, as couple."

"What about Trill?"

"Andrea and Debbie would love to have her for a few days."

"All right, let's do it," Jacklyn agrees.

After the long drive out to the mountains, Jacklyn and Nico arrive at her cabin in the early evening. They find an old Rolling Stones CD and pop it into the stereo, celebrating their privacy with a dance.

"This was a brilliant idea," Jacklyn says as she sways against him, "I haven't had this much fun since we started recording."

From the first time they got together, everything sped by so quickly for them, the pregnancy, engagement, his affair, their separation and reunion, all mixed in with demands of the band. 

"It's been too long since we've had time like this," she says, leaning against him as the music ends, "Alone, no pressure..."

"That's why we're here," Nico says, "We needed this."

After night falls, the couple take a moonlit walk to the waterfall just across from the cabin.

"Jacklyn, cara mia," he starts, but doesn't go on. There are only so many ways he can say he's sorry, only so many times he can apologize before he's just repeating himself. So he just looks into her eyes, caresses her cheek, and says nothing more.

They've discussed it over and again, she's asked her questions and he's answered them truthfully. She's put all her feelings about his betrayal into song, and together they've worked those songs into an album.  Soon, they will be touring for that album, performing those songs every night, night after night.

Tonight, they put the past behind them, and put the future out of their minds.

Tonight is just tonight, taken out of the flow of time, a now that has neither past nor future.

While Jacklyn cleans up the breakfast dishes, Nico picks up one of her father's old guitars and starts playing.

"I thought we weren't working while we're here," Jacklyn says.

"This isn't working," Nico laughs, but he puts the guitar down anyway, "Let's go out for awhile."

Their cabin is part of a remote community in the mountains, serviced by a small town, which the couple set out to explore.

"Look, a tattoo parlor!" Jacklyn points to a storefront, "Let's get some ink."

It isn't everyday that this small town tattoo parlor and salon gets to service rock stars. While Nico sits for the tattoo artist, the hairstylist begs Jacklyn for a chance to work on her hair, which she declines as gracefully as she can.

Nico gets his tattoo on his shoulder. Jacklyn chooses a more intimate location for her new ink, and is taken into a more private room to get her work done. While she's being worked on, Nico visits a jewelry store next to the salon and buys a little gift for her.

By lunch time, they've exhausted everything the town has to offer, so they head back up to the cabins and pack a picnic which they eat by the waterfall.

As they pack up their things, they notice preparations for a wedding party being set up in the small pavilion by the lake.

"It's a romantic place for it," Jacklyn observes. "I hadn't thought of this, but this really is the perfect place for a wedding." she says, thinking about all the wedding planning she'd been involved in before his affair came to light and she broke off their engagement. "I'll have to remember this. I mean...that is..." she starts stammering, realizing she's been thinking out loud.

"Here, I bought this for you, while we were in town," Nico interrupts her, saving her from further embarrassment. 

"Oh," she gasps as he places the gift in her hands, "A ring. I can't...I'm not ready..."

"It's not that kind of ring," Nico says gently, "I left that ring at home. This is just something I saw and thought you would like."

Jacklyn slips the ring onto a finger on her right hand, feeling a little foolish. The ring is shaped like a snake, after all, and obviously not an engagement ring.

"I love it, Nico, thank you," she says. He was right, it's the kind of thing she'd buy for herself if she had seen it first. "I'm sorry I took it the wrong way. Everything has been going so great with us, but I'm just not ready yet, you know, for that..."

"I know," Nico says, "That's why I'm not asking you to marry me, here and now. I'm happy for what we have, I'm not about to push my luck and ask for more."

So, I just thought I'd share with anyone who's interested, the artist who is kind of the musical inspiration for Jacklyn is PJ Harvey.
Here's a couple of videos:

Rid of Me

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chapter 59: Someone So Perfect

"Working on your blog?" Bill asks, sitting down for his morning coffee.

"Just checking my comments," Portia answers, glancing up at her father for a second before returning her attention to her laptop. She doesn't dare make eye contact with him for longer than that, fearing he might see the nervous excitement mingled with dread in her expression. Rainier didn't call her last night as he promised. She's not surprised, considering how late her father got in from their meeting, but she's dying to know what happened. She steals another glance at Bill, catches him staring at her, maybe trying to read something from her. Or maybe she's just being paranoid. She tries to stay as calm and normal looking as possible, ignoring her father as she usually does, but seeing a comment from Rainier on her blog makes her blush and smile. Don't be such a girl, she chastises herself, it's not even a romantic comment. Not even a smiley, she thinks. Rainier is very serious about his games.

"Something interesting?" Bill asks. 

So he is watching her, Portia thinks. "It's about games, Dad. You're too old to understand."

Bill laughs into his coffee.

He's kept her number programmed into his phone. It's stupid and sentimental, he thinks, but he likes having her in there, just one click away from her voice, even though he meant to stop having any contact with her. Until her father came into his life, that is. Now he has to talk to her.

Portia can barely contain her excitement when her phone buzzes. "Emma!" she enthuses, "You were supposed to call me last night. I guess your date went well..."

"My 'date' kept me out later than I anticipated," Rainier laughs as he grabs his coffee, "But I suppose you know that, since he lives with you. Go somewhere private to talk, chère."

"Totally," Portia says, walking casually out of the kitchen and heading up the stairs to her room.

"What did you tell your father about us?" Rainier asks.

"Nothing!" Portia exclaims, fear gripping at her stomach.

"The truth, chère," Rainier demands.

Portia sighs, "I never told him your name," she says, "I only mentioned that I was interested in a guy who owned a video game company. And that he wouldn't touch me because of my age."

"And you think he believed you?"

"Why wouldn't he?"

Rainier chuckles, "Because you aren't the best liar, and I imagine your father is as good at sussing out a lie as I am. Probably better."

"Are you angry at me?" she asks, her voice small and worried.

"No, chère, I'm not angry at you," he says. If he's going to be angry, it should be at himself. But he's too anxious to be angry. There's so much on the line, his business, his life here, his freedom. Before he negotiates anything more with Bill Arthag, he needs to know what he knows, and he wants.

"When I asked your father why he wanted to invest in such a small company, he said he meant it to be a gift for you," Rainier tells her. "You know him; why would he say that?"

"Maybe he thought if you knew it was for me, you'd cut him a better deal?" Portia suggests.

Rainier laughs, "If I believed he meant what he said, I'd drive a harder bargain. After all, you are his precious daughter, he'd do anything, but anything for you, no matter the price, right?"

"Hey!" Portia protests, "I'm not some spoiled princess."

"I've seen what you drive," Rainier says, "And what you wear."

Portia looks around her, all the new furniture she bought for her bedroom yesterday, all at her father's expense. "Okay," she admits, "My daddy buys me everything I want. But I didn't ask him to buy you for me. I told him I wanted a new piano for my birthday."

"I think he was bluffing, actually, trying to get a reaction from me," Rainier says, but her last sentence gave him pause. Is Bill really trying to buy him for his daughter? It's a disturbing thought, and Rainier puts it away for later consideration. "He suspects there's something between us, more than you let on, but he doesn't know for sure," Rainier decides, with some relief. With no proof of what he did, and no testimony against him from Portia, not even Bill Arthag can touch him.

"I'm sorry I even mentioned it to him," Portia says, "I don't want you to get in trouble. I'm--whatever goes down with you and my dad, I'm on your side. If he does give me your company, I'd give it back to you."

"That's very sweet of you, chère," Rainier says, touched by her words, "But I'm not selling my company. Any I deal I make with you father will be in my interests, or I won't deal."

The elevator doors ping as they close.

"Oh, I know that sound!" Portia exclaims, "You're in the elevator. You know, the one we made love in."

"Sssh," he admonishes, "You know how hard it is for me to ride this thing everyday and not think of you?"

"I'll bet it's hard," she teases.

"Stop that," he sighs, as much to himself as at her, "Our relationship is professional now. We can't do this."

"Speaking of," she says, "You told my father I contacted you about my blog? I think you kind of owe me an interview now."

"If you want. But be warned, Dag is our proper liaison with the public. I'm apparently too much of an asshole to do PR."

"Why don't I believe that?" Portia asks.

"Because I'm nice to you, chère," Rainier says. "I'm not like this for everyone."

"I think you pretend to be asshole, when you're just a very sweet guy," Portia laughs.

"Let's keep that between us," Rainier laughs, "I have a reputation to maintain. Wish me luck, chère, I'm going to the office now to finish this deal with your father."

"You don't need luck; you have ammo," she says with a laugh, "But, good luck, anyway. I'll be thinking of you, all day."

Rainier smiles at the game reference. "Portia," he says, his voice betraying more than he intended as he speaks her name. 

"Yes?" she asks, expectant.

It's on the tip of his tongue to say 'I love you', but he can't go there. "Goodbye," he says, his voice breaking on the word.

He should be focused on business, but his thoughts are elsewhere as he drives to the office. It was a simple conversation, but he can't deny the easy affection that surfaces whenever they speak, the rhythm of their banter proving how good they are together, how right they are for each other.

Maybe he was wrong to break it off. Well, of course, he can't be with her now, while she's underage. But when she turns 18...Stina, after all, was just a few years older than that, and he had no qualms about her. But then, he kind of always knew that affair wouldn't last, as much as he enjoyed her company, she wasn't the one. But Portia...he could see a future with her. And as he approaches 30, still a few years away, but coming soon, he's starting to think about that. About settling down, marriage, family. But what right does he have to expect that from her? She's too young to be ready for that, and it would only end badly for them. He made the right decision.

But what if he's wrong? He's never met anyone like her, what are the chances he'd ever find another, someone so perfect for him, so obviously the one? Wouldn't it be worth it to wait for her?

Rainier pulls into his office parking lot with no resolution, hating his own indecisiveness. Let it go, he tells himself, focus on this negotiation. Whatever happens with Portia can't happen until their shared birthday, still months away. Maybe by then he'll be over her, he tells himself. If not, then he'll know what to do.

The game reference Portia made, 'You don't need luck; you have ammo' is from Mass Effect 3, where Grunt replies to Shepard wishing him luck with 'I don't need luck; I have ammo.'