Section Notes: The lyrics quoted herein are used without permission. They belong respectively to The Indigo Girls, Dada and Deep Blue Something. Special thanks to Jennifer Dickey for providing them.
Jae swiveled around in her office chair, stretching to grab the phone. "Cavanaugh speaking."
"There's a delivery for you. Do you want it back there or up here?"
"Send it back Jennifer, thanks."
"No problem, it looks a little heavy to be carrying anyway."
Her stomach knotted immediately recognizing what was being delivered. She took a deep breath then stood to meet the delivery person at the office door.
It seemed like forever before she heard the slight squeak of the dolly wheels and the rhythmic pounding of the courier's feet.
Two cardboard boxes sealed in packing tape were stacked against the red metal frame.
Sixteen cubic feet of relationship jetsam and flotsam, so much distilled into so little.
"Sign here please, Ma'm"
The pen felt weightless in her nerveless fingers and she scratched her name over the electronic pad with the stylus. "Just put them over there please."
He dropped them next to the couch then left, and she shut the door behind him. Taking a pen knife from the desk she crossed the hardwood floor and sat down on the Aztec print throw rug in front of the couch, then carefully slit the packing tape.
Her hand rested on the lid, mind paused equally between wanting to open the boxes and find out if her CD's and books were in there, and a fear that the gifts of a birthday, a Christmas and two Valentine's days would also be.
The cardboard lid came off easily revealing a row of neatly packed books and video tapes, moving the top box aside she slit the tape on the bottom one, pulling its lid off.
A soft rap prevented her from looking at the contents, and she stood up. "Come in."
Reed Lewis poked her head around the door, long raven hair fanning out in the air and catching the light from the window behind her desk. The actress looked between her and the boxes and lifted an inquiring eyebrow. "Bad time?"
She shook her head. "Not really, just going through some stuff a friend returned." Her voice quavered on the last syllable and Reed regarded her intently so she gave a wan grin in return. "What can I do for you?" Jae seated herself on the couch and motioned for the actress to join her.
"It'll keep." Nevertheless Reed did take a seat on the end of the couch and stretched her long legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankles. "Were you together long?"
The astute question surprised her. Not only was it the longest unprompted statement she'd gotten from Reed, but it was also the first time the actress had asked anything remotely personal about her in spite of the questions she'd asked. Jae thought about how to answer. She didn't want to lie to Reed, but she wasn't about to go someplace she'd regret either. "Just over a year." She leaned back into the cushions. "Sometimes I wonder why I bother."
A dull gray rock in the top of one of the boxes caught the corner of her eye and she leaned down and picked it up before settling back onto the couch and continuing. "Do you believe in soul mates and stuff?" Jae didn't know what prompted her to ask the question and she was prepared to hear the actress snicker.
"My grandmother used to tell a story about a race of mythological beings that were divided by the God Zeus. Once, a long, long time ago, all people had four legs and two heads. And then the gods threw down thunderbolts, and split everyone into two. Each half then had two legs and one head. But the separation left both sides with a desperate yearning to be reunited. Because they each shared the same soul. And ever since then, all people spend their lives searching for the other half of their soul."
"You don't sound like you believe it."
The purplish crystals inside the geode danced in the light. Somewhere out there it too had another half...luminescent crystals waiting for the other half that would complete the casing and protect the delicate contents. "I think I do too."
"Then you'll probably find it." The actress eased her lanky form off the couch. "Later."
Reed gave her a warm smile in return and left.
Jae watched the other woman leave, then realized that the actress hadn't actually told her why she'd dropped by. "I'll call her later."
In perfect serendipity her own phone rang again, and she left behind the boxes to answer it. "Cavanaugh."
"You forget us?"
Jae's eyes widened and she looked at her watch...damn. "I'm sorry Mar, I'll be there in half an hour, can someone set up for me?"
"Consider it done Babe, now get your ass down here."
The club was still empty when she walked through the wooden door and entered the dim interior. Even with the lights on it was still dark and suggestive.
Jae moved past the requisite pool table - where later contestants would wield their cues like Sir Lancelot might have wielded a sword in defense or pursuit of his fair lady - heading for the stage. Dark walls punctuated with small neon signs extolled the virtues of Budweiser 'King of Beers'.
The small wooden platform that doubled both as a stage and a raised dance floor was already set up and her friends were lolling against speakers and each other, drinking beers and joking. Behind them the entire back wall and adjoining alcove resembled a haphazard masonry pile cemented sloppily together by a hasty child. Candles were nestled in the resulting grooves and grottos; wax ran down the wall and hardened in lava like patterns.
It made for a cozy atmosphere and playing to candle light and neon glows always gave her a special rush.
"Hey, Hollywood." Mar unentangled herself from Alison and sauntered over.
"Hey yourself." She moved to jump up onto the stage, but her friend held up a hand and stopped her.
"No, no Chica...una cervasa por favor."
The other three women chimed in me too's and Jae shot Mar a look of mock indignation. "Five beers coming right up."
"Hey if you'd get here on time, you wouldn't always be buying." Her friend chuckled before moving back to sit with her partner.
Jae shook her head in silent mirth and dutifully went to fetch the beer. Buying the beer was a small price to pay for not having to do sound checks.
She was on her third beer when the lights finally went down and Jules began playing the opening riff to 'Galileo'. Recognizing the irony of the lyrics she chimed in on the chorus, melding her voice with Mar's and Jules'.
Mar moved across the stage and they stood back to back, grinding into each other, Alix giving them a saucy wink from behind the drum kit. She let the pounding rhythm of Melissa Etheridge carry her away, the music relieving the tension and the energy from her friends and the women in the bar rejuvenating her.
They didn't play publicly as often they used to, mostly, like tonight, performing for benefits and special causes.
A break in the songs enabled her to retune the black Gibson in preparation for the last song in the set.
It was one of her favorites, a sarcastic commentary on the priorities of the world, fitting in a way for a benefit supporting accessible health care for battered women. That...and it was fun to play...the riffs taking her up and down the fret board.
"What about writing them on you?" A tall woman was leaning over her amp, holding out a beer.
"That would depend on where you planned to write it." She took the beer and injected an equal measure of playful suggestiveness into her tone, meeting brown eyes that for some reason seemed the wrong colour.
The dark-haired stranger casually tucked the five dollar donation into the top of Jae's jeans and she felt her face flush, glad of the low lighting. Even with four beer she wasn't up to this level of hunting.
"Where would you like me to write it?" Then the woman laughed and scrawled the name of a song across Jae's left bicep following the line of the celtic knot, then melted back into the crowd, reappearing against the bar and winking when she caught Jae'e eyes lingering on her.
"Hmm 'Like I do'...I think she wants you, Hollywood." Mar teased.
"You guys ready?" A change of topic was definitely in order.
"'Cecelia' to start...then 'Stand by You'...okay?"
"Sounds good." This was her favorite part of the set...just winging it, playing whatever the audience was willing to donate for, then rounding it out with a request auction.
Another beer and five more songs went by before Mar grabbed the mike. "Okay for those who don't know the deal...we'll play anything you request...high bidder chooses the song...and gets the singer." She threw in a suggestive turn of the hips and the crowd broke out into wolf whistles.
Jae played the riff from 'Ruins', then spoke into her own mike, "Opening bid is one hundred dollars."
And they were off...some of the bids including personal items and services, which Mar had to laughingly decline. The beer caught up with her and she left the raucous competition to hit the ladies room.
A little unsteady on her feet, she made her way back to the stage, aware of the unusual hush that had fallen over the bar.
"One thousand dollars."
Jae froze and turned to face the bidder, the woman from earlier held up her beer and winked. One thousand dollars?...To hear me sing?....
But it was the next bid that nearly took her feet out from under her.
"Fifteen hundred." Becky held up her hand for Mar to acknowledge.
Her friend reached out a hand and helped her on to the stage, mouthing "I'm sorry".
Fifteen hundred dollars was a lot of money for the benefit and so Jae did the only thing she could do. Picking up her Guild classical she moved down to Becky's table, leaned against it, then checked the tuning.
"What would you like to hear?" She fought to keep her voice devoid of all that had gone on between them.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's."
She nodded, adjusted the capo and began to sing, Alix beating a soft tempo on the drums in support, reminding her that her friends were behind her.
"You say that we've got nothing in common...No common ground to start from...And we're falling apart...You say the world has come between us...But I know you just don't care." The words fit Becky's perspective on what had happened more than her own. But maybe that was the point.
"And I said, "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's"...She said, "I think I remember the film...and as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it."...And I said, "Well, that's one thing we got." She looked away and found the dark-haired woman watching her and she continued to meet her eyes as she sang the next verse.
"I see you - The only one who knew me...And now your eyes see through me...I guess I was wrong...So what now? It's plain to see we're over...and I hate when things are over...When so much is left undone" Jae raised a brow and shrugged at the woman reclining against the bar, completing the message of the previous line. Then turned back to face Becky, who was watching her with quiet sadness.
Jae knew Becky had meant her to be thinking of their relationship during the performance, but as she began the chorus again, she found herself thinking of someone else entirely.
"And I said, "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's"...She said, "I think I remember the film...and as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it."...And I said, "Well, that's one thing we got." Coffee, that's one thing we've got. She smiled and then sang the chorus through one last time.
"You say that we've got nothing in common...No common ground to start from...And we're falling apart...You'll say the world has come between us...But I know you just don't care...And I said, "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's"...She said, "I think I remember the film...and as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it."...And I said, "Well, that's one thing we got."
The whine of aircraft engines mixed with the roar of taxiing planes and the honking of impatient drivers. Miles of concrete and asphalt stretched out like a motionless ocean of gray broken occasionally by bright swaths of colour and flashing lights.
Jumbo jets dwarfed smaller commuter planes and the symbols of global residency proclaimed that no place was inaccessible in the modern era of flight. Countries with gross domestic products less than half of the cost of a Boeing 747 were proudly represented along with domestic stalwarts.
The airport limousine crawled through the early morning rush, moving past terminals until it arrived at terminal six, the driver jockeying for position among the other cars and trams. Finally they came to a stop and the driver opened the door to let her out.
Glad for the ticket tucked in her upper left pocket, Reed skipped the main line and headed for the Continental VIP counter to check her bag and receive her seating assignment.
"Window or aisle?" Ruby-lips moved over a plastic smile asking a question she really didn't care about the answer to.
"Is this your bag?"
Reed bit back the impulse to ask why she would be carrying someone else's bag around, and nodded politely.
"Anything to carry on?"
The distracted questioning continued and it was all Reed could do to keep from smacking the woman upside the head. Maybe a good cybersmack. She held up her laptop. "Just this."
"Does it work?"
Reed leaned over the counter and whispered. "Do you?"
The brunette smiled coldly and handed her a blue boarding pass. "Seat 2b, Gate 78. Enjoy your flight."
"Enjoy yours." Reed gave the ticket agent a plastic smile of her own.
"Good morning. Miss out on morning coffee?"
Reed turned to find the blonde director quirking an amused brow at her and shrugged. She stood back and watched as Jae took her place at the counter.
"Good morning." Reed nearly snickered as the brunette launched into a repeat performance of her earlier litany.
"Don't say it." The director warned, having completed her own interrogation and seating arrangements.
"Wouldn't dream of it."
They still had some time before their flight and Reed headed for the Starbuck's kiosk centered between the gates. She sipped idly at the hot beverage and watched Jae take her own cup, gingerly cupping it in her palm. Looking more closely she could see the faux flesh coloured Band-Aids on the director's pinkie and ring finger. She turned her eyes away quickly when she realized Jae was watching her, feigning an intense interest in the bare plaster and gyprock walls under construction.
One, two, three,...seven...slowly Reed counted drywall screws waiting until an acceptable amount of time had passed before turning back around. Damn. Jae was still bemusedly watching her, green eyes flashing in mirth.
"You're allowed to ask you know. It could be considered an opening to polite social interaction." Jae wriggled her bandaged fingers.
"So...?" She motioned at the injured limb with her free hand.
It was a response so characteristic of her son that Reed smiled in spite of her tension. "How?" She clarified, somewhat unnecessarily she thought.
"Would you believe the high e-string on an electric guitar?" Jae admitted sheepishly.
"Been awhile since you'd played?" Words to a Bryan Adams song flitted through her head. Bought my first real six-string...got it at the five and dime...played it till my fingers bled...was the summer of sixty-nine...
"And how. A bunch of us did a benefit performance last night...my body can't take three sets the way it used too."
Studying Jae, Reed tried to picture the slight, leanly muscled director playing in a rock and roll band. Somehow classical music seemed more her style but appearances could be deceiving. "Play anything I might know?" They had moved over and taken seats near the gate, waiting for the rest of their party to arrive.
"Guitar rock mostly. Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girls and Mar does a great cover of Building a Mystery."
"Sarah McLachlan right?"
"Umm humm...there's this one riff at the beginning...took me a long time to figure out how she managed the pull off and slide combo...."
She sat back and listened to Jae passionately describe the lick and then demonstrate with an imaginary guitar. It seemed to her that the director did everything with a passionate intensity, throwing herself fully into whatever she was doing. She'd been like that once...eager to claim the world and sure that it was hers for the taking.
But that was a long time ago.
The blonde had moved onto a discussion of alternate tunings and Reed allowed a small smile to show, not having a clue what the other woman was going on about. It was in tune or it wasn't...how could you have an alternate tuning? Not that she was going to get a word in edgewise, instead she let the sound of Jae's voice mask the drone of people around her, enjoying the wait despite crowed places being among her least favourite environments.
So lost was she in the sound rather than the meaning of the words that she was momentarily confused when she noticed Jae watching her again as though waiting for an answer. Embarrassed she tried to think of something to say before realizing that the reason Jae had stopped speaking was the arrival of the other members of the cast who were on the same flight with them.
Like Reed, Sarah had pulled her hair back into a loose braid and opted for the baggy no frills, I'm nobody look. Her companion was dressed more like Jae, in a casual business-like pair of khakis and a plain shirt.
Just then the flight attendant made the pre-boarding announcement, saving her from having to figure out what to say. Reciting someone else's lines was easy...life would be so much simpler with a script.
Like if this were a movie, they'd all be landing safely in Orlando already, the intervening flight bits chopped to save time and plot. No such luck. Maybe it wouldn't be a full flight. Right and all these people are hanging out here hoping to sell cookbooks and earn tambourines. Not.
"You okay?" Jae laid a warm hand on her arm.
She blew the hair from her face and considered how to answer. Her instinct was to just brush off the gentle inquiry, but instead she heard herself replying. "I really hate small spaces...especially small crowded spaces."
Two delicate brows knit themselves together then parted. "One sec."
Perplexed she followed Jae with her eyes as the director approached Parker and Gellar and chatted with them for a moment then smiled and made her way back over to where she was waiting. Lifting an eyebrow she waited for the explanation.
"You were 2b, right?" Jae asked, as though just remembering that she might have missed an important detail of a plan.
Still confused she nodded.
"Good, now you're 4b. It means you have to sit with me, but as compensation it means you're in the last row of business class...the seats in that row are a little more spacious, and there is a partition behind you instead of people."
Jae was leading them toward the gate, taking her time and letting the other passengers on ahead of them. The director smiled up at her said teasingly, "This is the part where you either say get stuffed I'm not sharing a seat with you...or thank-you."
Typically Reed hated being teased, yet for some reason she continued to let Jae get away with it. Admit it. You like it. She returned a sly crack of her own. "Remind me you didn't give me a third option after I get airsick." Reed ducked into the gate, handing over her boarding pass on the way through.
"You don't?...Reed...Reed...you're just joking right? Right?"
She chuckled to herself. Two can play this game.
Through half-lidded eyes Reed watched the svelte stewardess mouth the words to the safety lecture and pondered whether or not United had a secret cache of plastic women. Probably...and that settles the argument about cloning being good or bad.
In the seat next to her, Jae had already buckled in and was watching the activity on the tarmac with avid interest. The whine of the engines increased in pitch and they began to move forward, the plane eating up the expanse of runway as it gathered momentum in preparation for take-off.
Watching the tarmac fly by over Jae's shoulder she saw the smaller woman's jaw clench slightly and her fair skin lose a tone. Her own stomach dropped as the plane left the ground and she felt a small hand clutch convulsively at hers. Surprised, she froze, allowing Jae to nearly break her fingers.
The plane continued its ascent and then finally leveled off. Jae didn't seem to realize she still had hold of Reed's hand and the actress wasn't sure what to say, so she remained silent.
An electronic ping accompanied the dousing of the seatbelt warning sign and the director shifted in her seat, opening her eyes at last. Green orbs tracked their way from Reed's face to their joined hands and back again, a faint blush colouring the blonde's cheeks.
"Sorry." Jae released her death hold.
Reed clenched and unclenched her hand, returning circulation to the abused limb. "No problem, I have a spare." She could still feel the ghostly imprint of the warm hand that had covered hers seeking reassurance and she found herself touched by the unconscious act and the casual contact. She'd noticed Jae touched people frequently but until now Reed herself had for the most part been exempt. At least she doesn't seem to think I'm an ogre. It was a small crew and she'd heard some of the grips and best boys impersonating her and speculating on her fight with Roan and his death. Her reputation had apparently survived her hiatus from filmmaking.
"You have an interesting sense of humour."
Reed made a show of looking from side to side before whispering conspiratorially. "Shhh, if they find out the sense of humour removal operation was a failure they'll come for me."
Fear forgotten, the director chuckled and shook her head, then played along by examining the magazine pouch, seat cushions and the ashtray holder before replying in a mock whisper of her own, "There's a man in the tan van..." they both broke out laughing before Jae could finish.
Tears were coursing down Jae's rounded cheeks and Reed thought she was going to asphyxiate before getting her breath back. With a last shuddering breath, the director brought herself back under control. "Oh Gods, I needed that."
A wicked idea planted itself in Reed's brain and she reached for the magazine pouch flipping past the emergency instruction card, two glossy magazines and the Skylink card before lighting on the object of her search. Slowly she drew the paper bag out of the cloth pouch, drawing on her acting skills to appear more than a little green around the gills.
Looking sideways out of the corner of one eye she saw Jae's eyes widen and the blonde shrink back against the window.
"Reed...you're not serious..."
Bringing the bag to her face she opened the top and spit her gum into it, then folded the top neatly down and grinned at Jae.
"I take that back. You have a warped sense of humour." The other woman had settled back down in her seat, reclining it backwards and putting her feet out in front of her.
"All the better to go there with, M'Dear." She quipped paraphrasing a line from a children's fable. Pressing on the button under the arm rest, she released the catch on her seat and reclined it back to match Jae's.
She closed her eyes for a moment, smiling at the memory of the look on Jae's face. She didn't play often, usually only with Rio or more rarely Heidi, but she found those rigid self-imposed barriers crumbled around the woman beside her.
A sudden shadow made Reed open her eyes.
"Can I get you ladies something to drink?" Another of the ubiquitous uniformed Femme-bots leaned over them.
Jae touched her arm and gave her a slight smile and a shake of her head, as though saying, 'Be nice...,' so she just nodded. "Coffee please."
"Make that two." Jae chimed in.
Reed took the cup and rested it on her stomach, feeling the warmth spread over her body, a sigh of contentment escaping before she could pull it back. The captain's voice cut through her reverie as he introduced himself, then revealed their altitude, airspeed and flying time to Orlando. Five more hours. She glanced at her companion, somehow this flight didn't seem nearly as onerous as she had thought it might be.
Careful to avoid spilling the hot coffee, she maneuvered her laptop to the fold down tray and unzipped the case one handed. Booting up, she waited for the windows splash screen to appear before adjusting the monitor. Within seconds the machine began to beep. "Damn." She cursed.
"What's up?" Jae looked up from her book.
"Forgot to charge the battery." She shut it down and began to put it away, maybe the trip was going to be longer than she thought after all.
"You could always read." The director held her own reading material up.
The actress shook her head, "That's what the laptop was for...," she paused, then sheepishly admitted, "...I dropped the paper copy in the bathtub."
Green eyes crinkled in empathy and mirth. "I've lost a few that way myself." She sat up a bit and turned toward Reed. "How far along were you?"
"I'm not much past that part myself, I have an idea."
Warily she looked at Jae, trying to decide if the director was setting her up for payback from the earlier gag or if she was serious. Nothing ventured... "What?"
"We could take turns."
Hmm...that would be easy on her eyes, she could just rest them until it was her turn to have the book. "Okay."
"You want to go first or should I?"
"Go ahead it's your book." She settled back in her chair to wait her turn, then sat upright as a soft, mellow voice filled the small space between them.
"The condo was very quiet, as Dar keyed the lock, and entered, flipping on the hallway light. It was cool inside, for which she was grateful, but she was suddenly struck by the emptiness of the place, something that had never occurred to her before."
She's reading to me...out loud. Reed looked around nervously, afraid that someone else could hear them.
No...of course I'm not. You can't expect me to read that...that book out loud...in public. Reed didn't know what to say.
"This is really hard for you isn't it?"
Did she really want to discuss this? Jae didn't sound condemning, just concerned. "Yes." She admitted.
"Well, right now they're still just friends. How about you read it and if you get to anything that makes you uncomfortable to read out loud we'll stop."
It sounded like a reasonable proposal except for the fact that she hated to read out loud. Out of the frying pan...She took the proffered book and stared at it for a couple of minutes, then started to read, unconsciously 'playing' Dar as she did.
"...The blond woman nibbled the lobster. "Mm.." She glanced up at the watching faces, startled to see quiet, knowing smiles there. "I usually stick to shrimp." She explained sheepishly, giving them puzzled looks as they exchanged glances and started their own dinners. Wonder what that was all about? She mused, then shrugged, and went to work on her stubborn lobster." A soft breath rushed across her shoulder and she broke off reading to check on her companion. Jae had fallen asleep and was slumped against the slight ridge that joined their two seats, since Reed's wasn't as far back.
A couple of inches more and the blonde would be nestled against her right side. As if making the observation had tempted fate Jae shifted slightly in her sleep and came to rest with her head pillowed on Reed's right shoulder. Unlike earlier when the director had unexpectedly taken her hand, she didn't freeze, just tucked a loose wisp of hair off her friend's face. Must have had a late night...that or I'm the most boring reader on the planet. She smiled to herself, remembering trying unsuccessfully to get Rio to sleep by reading to him. Yeah but face it...'Where the Wild Things Are' isn't exactly sleepy-time material.
Putting the book aside temporarily she fished the Skylink cell phone out of its retaining clip, careful not to disturb her slumbering friend and dialed the number for home. Waiting for it to pick up, she settled back into her seat, letting Jae snuggle in closer.
Sandalwood mixed with vanilla tugged at Jae's senses and she shifted against the pillow, trying to capture more of the pleasantly elusive scent. Pillow...? Gradually, as she drifted up through the layers of slumber she became aware of the warm body she was snuggled against.
The crisp smell of clean cotton added itself to Reed's unique fragrance, bringing a lazy smile to her lips. Lingering in the vale between the dreamscape and full waking, she contemplated staying put, letting Reed's physical presence anchor her. The murmuring of passengers and the clink of china joined forces to bring her closer to wakefulness and she lingered one last moment, savouring the contact before stretching slightly and shifting her weight away from Reed's shoulder.
Easing an eye open, she checked on the actress' reaction to being used as a human mattress, only to find that her seatmate had joined her in the Land of Nod. Relieved that her physical violation of Reed's personal space had gone unnoticed she ran her fingers through her hair, returning it to its carelessly mussed state. With any luck you were asleep before I decided to use you as a pillow.
The airline drone was nearing their seat with the lunch offering and she wondered whether or not to wake Reed. Instead she slid the lunch trays onto her pull down table and happily poked through the contents.
"You going to share or were you just going to eat my chips while I slept unsuspecting?" Reed's voice was warm and friendly, and Jae was startled when the actress leaned over to poke in her lunch basket, allowing their bodies to come into casual contact as she did so.
"Umm no," Came her lame answer. The fact she was holding two oranges sort of spoke for itself and she sheepishly put one back.
"Indeed," Reed drawled, blue eyes twinkling.
Something in Reed's attitude toward her had changed. Not something...she's being friendly...The actress had been cordial enough during their previous interactions but there had seemed to be a 'look but don't touch' barrier surrounding her. In fact, come to think of it, the only person she could remember seeing talking to Reed at all during down time on the set had been her.
"So you were actually going to eat that orange?" she countered.
Reed drew her thumb and forefinger across her chin several times. "Tell you what...spring for a decent cup of coffee in Houston and you can have the orange."
She pretended to weigh the offer and the orange. "Throw in the banana and you have a deal."
"I get the raisins too then."
Jae laughed. "Deal." She handed over the raisins and rescued the fruit from its place of banishment. Silently they ate, handing over the empty food bins to the efficient stewardess with the regulation smile.
Judging they had about twenty minutes before the plane began its descent into Houston, Jae decided a trip to the washroom might be prudent. Rising in her seat she stood and half-turned toward Reed. "Beep, beep."
The actress rose slightly and moved her knees to allow Jae to slide by. As she did Jae's back and thighs came into sliding contact with the taller woman's front, Reed's breasts brushing against her shoulder blades. Whoa... Quickly the director leaned forward, nearly forcing the reclined seat to the front upright. A strong hand caught her waist before she could fall into the aisle and Reed's blue eyes reflected genuine concern.
"Fine...just a little light-headed." She smiled wanly and turned for the washroom right behind them. Just a little air-headed you mean. Jesus, Jae what in blazes are you thinking? Her body very plainly knew exactly what she was thinking, and she was glad to be able to step out of view and into the small washroom.
Her skin still throbbed where Reed's hand had supported her. Looking at her reflection in the small mirror she could see the faint pink tint of arousal. "You're going to be in very big trouble if you don't watch yourself."
Finishing up and drying her hands she looked again at her image to make sure all signs of Reed's unexpected effect on her body had vanished. Satisfied she put the paper towel in the proper receptacle and headed back to her seat, then stopped. Sitting back down meant a repeat performance of how she got out.
Her dilemma was resolved when Reed stood and left her seat, moving past Jae and into the washroom herself. Relieved, she sank into her seat and buckled up anticipating the warning light for the plane's descent.
No sooner had Reed returned than the warning chime sounded and Jae felt the pressure shift in her ears. Her left hand flexed convulsively. Usually Becky had held her hand during take-offs and landings, and while Reed hadn't said anything about the take-off, Jae wasn't sure she could trust herself or her body to take the actress' hand again so soon after her last reaction.
Mercifully it was a good landing and as she exited the plane into the hot Southern air she mentally patted herself on the back. Only one more take-off and landing and we're home free. But man do I need a caffeine fix. That ought to hold her through the next take-off and the alcohol she could justify drinking during the afternoon portion of her flight should take the edge off the final landing. Ya, but admit it...having someone's hand to hold is a whole lot nicer. Her eyes flickered over the woman in front of her, especially that hand...
Shaking her head at her own audacity she followed the actress through the bustling terminal, wondering if Reed had a built in coffee senser. The determined path the actress was charting through the throng left little doubt in Jae's mind that the actress either had a phenomenal sense of smell or had been to this airport during a layover more than once.
Overhead the airport sound system was piping in country music mixed with mellower 80's tunes and she smiled at the strains of music, just able to make out snatches of the lyrics. We had it all...just like Bogey and Bacall...sailing away to Key Largo....Unconsciously singing along with the music.
"Are you sure you need coffee?" Reed asked teasingly.
"Unless you want me sleeping on your shoulder all the way to Orlando I do." It was out before she realized she'd said it. Bright one Babe. To her surprise Reed didn't seem bothered by the remark at all.
"There are worse fates...you could be prone to airsickness." she joked
"Who are you and what have you done with Reed?" The moment she said it Jae knew it was a mistake. She'd gone too far and she saw a cloud of hurt shadow the clear ice eyes, the barrier that had been so briefly dropped now firmly back in place.
The actress took her coffee from the Barista and left Jae standing there.
Damn. She watched Reed walk back toward the gate, long legs eating up the distance and it was all she could do to keep from running after her. And what would you say exactly? Sighing she took her own coffee from the counter and added a generous amount of vanilla sugar to it.
"Ice Queen diss you?"
Maybe it was guilt for having hurt Reed's feelings or the lingering glimpse of the woman the actress had briefly let her see, Jae wasn't sure, but she rounded on the speaker, not caring it was one of her lead actresses. "Don't ever let me hear you refer to Reed like that again, to me or anyone else on the set...is that clear?"
Sarah nodded and so did Andrea, both actresses looking stunned at her defense of Reed.
"Good." With that she turned her back on the other two and made her way back to the departure lounge where hopefully she would get a chance to apologize.
You expected her to be different why? Reed propelled herself through the busy airport traffic, idle passengers and rushing commuters alike moving out of her way. Locating a smoking lounge, she ducked inside the glassed in room.
Three left. Taking one of the remaining Dunhills out of the gold and burgundy packaging, she flipped the lid on the silver Zippo and struck the flint. The butane flame ignited the end and she inhaled the pungent blue smoke deep into her lungs. Four days of reduced nicotine intake had rendered the effects more potent and she immediately felt the light-headed calm she was used to seep over her.
Jesus, you'd think what she thought of you mattered...she flicked gray ash into the sand filled ashtray...it does...Reed acknowledged,...for some reason it does. A last drag on the cigarette and she stubbed out the butt, leaving it half unsmoked. Across the room a craggy rumpled man watched her warily, waiting to see if she was going to leave before slipping over to rescue the remnants of the tobacco from the container.
"You'll need to find your own light." Reed tossed him the last couple of cigarettes and left the lounge, not bothering to check how her gesture was received.
"That was nice." Jae stood watching her, a tentative smile ready to flee her features.
She shrugged. "It happens."
"More often than you let on I bet."
The director fell into step next to her, and Reed resisted the impulse to stretch her stride and leave the other woman behind.
"I'm sorry Reed...I don't know you well enough to tease you like that." Jae cut in front of her and stopped, putting a hand on the actress' arm, green eyes becoming solemn. "But I'd like too...if you'll forgive me, that is."
You had your shot...Instinct warred with experience, instinct winning out. "No harm, no foul." She kept her voice deliberately casual, thankful that Jae didn't seem inclined to call her on it.
Instead the blonde gave her a wide smile and moved back to her side. "Cool."
And that was that. Together they unhurriedly walked back through the airport, occasionally stopping to poke in the various stores lining the busy corridors.
"Hey, check this out." Jae pointed at a Western Apparel shop. The indicated shelves were lined with hat blanks in assorted colours of felt.
Reed followed her friend across the width of the hall and leaned against a wooden post that was pretending to hold the shop's roof up.
Jae was holding a brown felt hat in one hand and a black one in the other, holding them at eye level and looking speculatively in her direction. "Oh no...don't even think about it." The grin on the other woman's face proof that the admonishment was about twelve heartbeats too late.
"C'mon...just try one on. You can't be in Texas and not try on a cowboy hat."
"Sure I can." Though the black one looked interesting.
"Please..." Jae cajoled, "Just one."
She caved and ducked her head allowing the blonde to place the black demonstrator on her head. It was a little too big, but not by much.
Jae whistled. "Nice...."
Reed tugged the elastic from her pony tail and let her hair cascade over her shoulders, then adjusted the hat back a bit. "Why thankee Ma'am," she drawled.
"It's definitely you...add a black duster and you could be a gunslinger right out of the Wild West."
"Sheya, right." She skeptically checked her image in the full length mirror, obediently holding out her arms for Jae to slip a Drysabone onto her shoulders.
"You see The Quick and The Dead? Sharon Stone had nothing on you...look."
"Lil Lady there's right." A lean, slightly bowl-legged man in full western apparel sauntered over.
Playing along Reed ducked her head, adjusting the brim of the hat, then leaned back against the post assuming the posture she remembered from the movie poster. Add a tooth pick and it's perfect.
"Add a stalk of hay and it's perfect." Jae's comment mirrored her own, bringing a slight smile to Reed's lips.
"Take about ten minutes an' I can fix yer right up with one custom like."
"Yes," Jae answered without consulting her, then must have seen the look on her face because the director hastily added, "consider it a gift for getting the tape laid."
Recognizing the peace offering for what it was she nodded. In the past, gifts from directors had usually come with strings...or as payment for services rendered. It was nice, she reflected, not to have to worry about that. "And to think...I had my heart set on a pair of Mickey Mouse ears."
Jae burst out laughing. "Not that that isn't an interesting mental picture..." she finally managed before adding, "But somehow I see you more as a Josie West, than an Annette Funicello."
This time she took the gentle tease for what it was and laughed along with Jae. "Hey I still have my Josie and Janie West dolls."
Jae looked sheepish, "Me too, plus the Bionic Woman...though it seems her clothes have vanished."
"Let me guess the first thing you did was take them off so you could roll up the fake skin and operate on her 'bionic' implants." She handed a hat blank with the correct size crown to the avidly listening Hatter.
"Busted." Jae moved to stand next to her and together they watched the man place the hat upside down in the pressing mold.
He punched the felt into the depression, then steamed the material, pushing and shaping it as he went. Every so often he would lift his head and look up at her, squinting, then cocked his head to one side before going back to shaping the felt.
Taking a metal tool from the bench beside him, the man...for some reason she kept wanting to call him Skip... began smoothing the interior. Having finished that, he removed it from the mold and held it up for her to put on.
"Lemme jus' check ta brim fer ya."
Reed nearly laughed as he unsuccessfully tried to reach up and adjust the curve - she was a good six inches taller than he was. Relenting she sat in the chair next to the bench while he played with the brim.
"Downward curve," Jae interjected.
"Ah don't rightly know..." Skip had stopped and was rubbing his chin speculatively.
"Trust me," the blonde added, as she demonstrated with her hands what she wanted to see.
Skip continued to ponder the suggestion. Reed had had about all the sitting still and shopping she could take for one day, and there were still three hours of flight to come. Dropping her voice to its lowest register, she played outlaw. "If the Lady wants to see it down...curve it down, you got that?"
The alacrity with which he responded to her suggestion could have won him a gold medal if it had been an Olympic year. The final product looked like a cross between a drover's hat and Indiana Jones' battered fedora, but it worked - Jae had been right.
"Ya gonna wear it out?"
"No," Reed got in before Jae could say anything.
"Spoilsport." The director gave her a mock glare and pulled her wallet out of her backpack, handing Skip her Visa and signing the charge slip with a flourish, while the man packed the hat, tying a string handle around the hat box.
"Tough to wear a hat in an airplane seat - even in business class," Reed replied.
"Thanks." She placed a hand on Jae's lower back and steered her around a group of Japanese tourists. Too late. She didn't understand a word they were saying, but her name came through loud and clear.
Her Japanese commercials had kept the medical bills at bay and put food on the table, so even though she would rather have escaped notice she decided the easiest thing would be to sign as many of the books that were being waved at her as possible. Finally they escaped the throng, but only after she'd posed with the group for a photo op.
"That was different," Jae commented as they neared their gate, where Sarah was being held under siege by a raucous crowd of teens asking about someone named Angel. "Excuse me...for a second." The director headed off to the star's rescue leaving Reed to hide behind a potted plant and a pillar. Maybe I should have worn the hat after all...
With any luck the limo Caitlynn had arranged to meet them and take them straight to the Floridian was already here, and waiting.
They each collected their bags from the revolving carousel and Jae was quite relieved to discover that for the first time in living memory her luggage had traveled the same flight plan she had.
Outside the weather seemed only slightly less cloying than inside, a slight breeze moving the air enough to provide a small measure of relief...a very small measure.
A smartly dressed gentleman of what looked to be Hispanic ancestry holding a neatly lettered sign with RenFaire/Blackmon stenciled across it was waiting patiently for them near the exit from the baggage claim.
"Over here," she called to the others. Gratefully Jae sank into the leather interior and turned the dial of the air conditioner up. As expected Reed climbed in next to her with Sarah and Andrea taking up seats facing them.
"Wow." Sarah was looking out the window and Jae turned to see what had caught her attention.
The Magic Kingdom stretched in front of them, majestic arches rising up to greet new arrivals. They were staying inside the park...at the same hotel the characters in the book had stayed at. Jae wanted to try and give Reed and Sarah a sense of atmosphere and hopefully capture some of it on film.
The filigreed Victorian structure was just coming into view. The afternoon sunlight reflected off the surface of the lake that stretched out in front of the hotel, adding to its elegant appearance.
Andrea added a low whistle. "Wow is right." The monorail flashed by, load of rapt passengers pressed against the windows trying to drink in every visual they could.
Reed was trying very hard to look unimpressed but the time they had spent in close quarters during the rest of the flight clued Jae in to the subtle telltale signs that revealed the actress was just as excited as the rest of them.
A blue eye winked lazily at her confirming her hunch and she quirked her own brow back in silent acknowledgement.
The car came to a stop and the driver let them out. Leaving their bags to the nattily attired staff she led the group up the stairs and into the hotel. Inside friendly, efficient ladies completed their registration and wished them a pleasant stay in The Magic Kingdom, along with an invitation to breakfast with Mickey and some other Disney favourites while they were there.
"Will Winnie-the-Pooh be there?" Jae couldn't help asking.
A low whisper sounded to her left as Reed spoke softly. The air brushed Jae's ear tenderly, sending a pulse skittering along the nape of her neck. "Interesting image...but somehow I picture you more as a Tigger..."
"Touché." Then she whispered back, "And that would make you who?...Eeyore?"
Sarah and Andrea clearly looked surprised to hear the resulting laugh from Reed and gave her impressed looks as they all drifted toward the elevator and their rooms.
She and Reed had adjoining rooms on the left, overlooking the small lake in front, while the other two actresses were across the hall. "Meet for dinner in an hour?" Jae asked.
"Kewlege," Sarah responded, showing her pleasure at being in Disney World.
Likewise Andrea nodded assent before closing the door to her room behind her.
"What about you?" She asked Reed, hoping the actress wouldn't retreat just because they were no longer alone.
"Count me in." Then Reed vanished behind the hotel room door, leaving her and Sarah standing in the hall.
The blonde actress looked over at her. "About earlier, I'm sorry...it's just we've heard stories and stuff...I just figured you were too nice to let her be mean to."
That put a different spin on Sarah's earlier words and Jae smiled. "To quote someone...no harm, no foul...okay?
"Very okay. Later then."
And then there were none. Jae laughed to herself as she entered her room Things are tough enough without you quoting from a murder mystery.
Jae walked back through the throng leaving the theme park. Reed was to her left and the other two women were roaming ahead of them. Maybe I should have cast Andrea as Dar...She certainly seems to get along with our 'Kerry' well enough. The tall woman next to her had managed to get through an entire meal speaking only when spoken directly to, or when the waiter appeared.
As far as plans went, tonight's had misfired horribly. Fireworks exploded in the sky above them and when she turned to address her companion she was surprised to find her blue eyes wide with wonder, a small but delighted smile playing on her lips. Such a contradiction...and admit it...that's exactly why you find her fascinating.
"I love the way the silver stars look like giant weeping willows as they fall to the ground." Jae spoke softly, letting her own sense of wonder show in her voice.
Reed dipped her head in agreement. "I like the silver ones myself. Everything else seems so overdone."
They slowed their pace a little, craning their necks up wards to catch the last trails of fire as they descended earthward. By the time they reached the monorail that would take them back to the hotel the crowd had all but vanished.
Jae could see Reed visibly relax as the crowd around them thinned. Sarah and Andrea were no longer visible and she guessed that the two actresses had ditched them to find a bar or more congenial company.
The train opened its doors and they clambered aboard, Reed dropping into a front facing window seat. Jae slid in next to her and leaned her head back against a post, shutting her eyes against the glare of the overhead light.
Finally the lights dimmed and the monorail pulled out of the station and began to wend its way through the park, dropping passengers at various hotels. Jae opened her eyes and glanced at Reed. "I always thought actresses talked more."
"Only the ones with nothing to say." Reed moved her body so that one shoulder was leaning against the window and she was facing Jae.
Jae mulled over the actress' observation, agreeing with the sentiment. "Would you like to go see Phantasmic tomorrow night?"
"Laser light show over the lake. It's timed to music and has some live action bits." She knew Reed liked fireworks. Hopefully this would interest her, draw her out a little. It didn't hurt that it would also be an opportunity to get to know the actress better before the pressures of filming swept over them. "Maybe we could even try out some of the rides for fun." This last was a dig at the fact that Reed was going to have to spend some time in various roller coasters filming scenes.
"Anything but Space Mountain." The train was nearing The Floridian.
"Chicken," Jae teased.
"Nope. Purist," came the retort as they exited the car.
"Purist hunh? Or afraid of the dark?" Reed's back stiffened and Jae mentally slammed her head against the faux stone pillar they were passing. What a walking minefield you are Reed...gotta learn not to do that. Covering her lapse and pretending not to notice the other woman's reaction she pointed at the hotel bar. "C'mon I'll buy you a drink."
They took a back corner seat, just out of the path of patrons to the bar. For some reason it didn't surprise her in the slightest when Reed turned her chair so that she was facing most of the bar. A bouncy waitress approached them asking for their order and Jae asked for a Beck's.
"Guiness, if you have it, Beck's if you don't." Reed placed her order and then looked at Jae questioningly. "What?"
"Dark beer?" Jae shuddered.
"Sure...that way it counts for two food groups."
"I'll take your word for that."
The waitress sat their drinks down in front of them and Jae had to admit that the tall glass of dark beer with its creamy head of beige foam looked appealing.
"Here." Reed slid her glass across the table and motioned for Jae to try some.
In the background the lounge singer had picked up her guitar and was tuning it, preparing Jae guessed, for her last set. "My daddy always said never drink a beer you can't see through."
"Purist hunh? Or afraid of the dark?" Reed sat smugly watching her, having neatly turned their earlier banter back on her.
Two could play at this game. Jae leaned forward running a finger through the condensation on the side of the glass. "Tell you what...I'll drink one of these...if you'll go on Space Mountain with me." She let the challenge fall on the table.
Blue eyes flickered between the beer and her face and Jae arched a blonde brow, pushing the gauntlet a little harder.
"Deal...but you have to finish the whole pint." With that Reed neatly swapped their beers, taking Jae's Beck's.
"Deal," she confirmed lifting the glass and touching it lightly against Reed's.
Two pints and an hour later the lights came up around them and Jae stood from her chair, wobbling slightly from the combined effects of exhaustion and alcohol. A strong hand caught her waist and steadied her.
"I hope I'm in better shape after Space Mountain than you are right now," Reed drawled, steering her toward the elevator.
She shook her head in denial. "It wasn't the beer - that was surprisingly good..."
"See, don't knock it till you've tried it. Ten million Irishmen can't be wrong," Reed said smugly.
"Hey Cavanaugh is a foine, foine Irish name." Jae did her best imitation brogue, which was, admittedly, not very good.
"And what would it be then lass?" The actress played along and spoke in a County Claire lilt
"Late night and air travel. Does me in every time," she explained, then added with a smile, "Not that the beer helped any."
They had reached their floor and moved down the corridor. Jae opened her door and paused, reluctant to say goodnight. The stiffness of the early part of the evening had been more than made up for by the banter and light conversation they had shared in the bar and Jae was afraid that if she ended the evening the sense of camaraderie they were developing would vanish with it.
Reed dug her own keycard out of her pocket and took a half step toward her room before pausing. "Tap on the inner door when you're ready for breakfast...I hear Pooh is gonna show." A last smile and she was gone, leaving Jae no chance to give an answer.
As she climbed into bed, she looked at the door adjoining their two suites. Wonder if they still have that banana stuffed french toast on the menu? As she drifted off to sleep she tried to figure out which was making her happier. A sunrise breakfast with Pooh in Disney World...or...a sunrise breakfast with Reed in Disney World.
Good thing I don't have to choose.
The floor reached up for her and she spun away from the gaping maw. The line of darkness spread from one end of the never ending corridor swallowing the light. She reached for the door handle and it came away in her hand. Looking back at the disintegrating floor she pounded on the wooden door with her fists, blood oozing from the pressure split skin. Then the floor under her vanished and for one long sickening moment she hung in the air, fingernails rasping at the unyielding door, then began to plummet through the inky black....
"Reed!.." A frantic pounding timed itself to the fists pounding in her dreams and for a second she thought the nightmare was real, made manifest by virtue of having been dreamed vividly over the span of years.
"Reed!...Are you okay...Reed."
Heart pounding from the nightmare induced adrenaline she took a deep breath before swinging her feet onto the floor and standing. The air conditioner cut in again, its soft hum stealing the quiet from the room. Reed turned the bolt and opened the door that connected her room to the director's.
A pale fist flashed in the dim lighting and connected with the side of her head. A sharp pain exploded in her temple and Reed vaguely became aware of the rug rising to meet her.
Opening her eyes at the sound of the worry in the younger woman's voice Reed was surprised to see a telltale glistening of tears on Jae's pale cheeks. "Is it breakfast time already?"
Her friend barked out a surprised laugh, "No. Not yet..."
Uncomfortable with discussing the reason Jae had most likely been pounding on her door, Reed tried to keep the topic off of her nightmare. "That's good because I'm pretty sure you are a little underdressed - even for Florida."
The blonde was clad in a pair of baggy joe boxers and the shirt she had been wearing earlier in the evening, though its unbuttoned and unwrinkled state indicated that Jae had probably only tossed it on minutes ago.
A faint blush was just barely visible creeping up Jae's neck and reddening her face as she hastily fastened some buttons. "Ya, well in California this is overdressed on most beaches."
"That would explain the lack of tan lines." This time it was her turn to blush as she realized what she'd said. Jae didn't appear to be offended and Reed propped herself up on one arm. "That's quite a right hook you've got."
A small palm snaked out and gently touched the side of Reed's head. "Kick-boxing. You sure you're okay?"
They both stood up and Jae gave her a concerned look, but didn't press the issue, for which Reed was grateful.
"You going to be able to go back to sleep?" Jae asked.
"No. I'll read or something...You?"
Jae shook her head. "No, I've had my allotted four hours for the day. It's my turn to read isn't it?"
She could have mentioned that since they were in a hotel room, it wouldn't be a problem to boot up the laptop and read from there, but the idea of being alone right now didn't appeal to her and Reed was glad of the excuse to avoid being by herself.
When she didn't protest, Jae smiled. "I'll grab the book...wonder if room service is awake?"
"Let's find out." Reed picked up the black phone on the desk and touched a combination of numbers, waiting for someone to answer. "What do you want?" She called back through the open door between their rooms.
"Steamed milk." Jae answered as she came back into Reed's room, having exchanged her shirt for a sweater. "With lots of honey."
"Alright Pooh." Reed ordered two and hung up the phone. Jae had crawled onto the king sized bed and propped herself up with pillows. The extra blanket from the foot of the bed was tucked around her knees and the book was already open.
"I think if my fondness for Hundred Acre Wood characters is going to get me saddled with a nickname, I'd like to opt for something other than Pooh."
"That's the funny thing about nicknames...you don't get to pick."
"Okay Eeyore," Jae teased, patting the bed.
Reed regarded her somewhat suspiciously for a minute, deciding that Jae was perfectly serious about referring to her as Eeyore if the Pooh name stuck. Well once in a while won't get me killed.
There was lots of room for both of them on the bed so Reed stretched out next to Jae, stealing a corner of the blanket to cover her legs. "Just until room service shows." She explained after seeing Jae's brow arched as if to say 'mine'.
"Maybe we should wait before starting." Jae suggested.
They must have been the only ones bugging room service in the middle of the night because within minutes a polite knock sounded on the door. Steamed milk in hand Reed returned to her side of the bed, licking some of the spilt froth off her finger.
"That's my favourite part."
"The froth." Jae laughed and made shaking motions with the book. "I even shake milk cartons to make the milk all bubbly."
"I'll remember that next time I buy you coffee. One latte, hold the coffee," she deadpanned, handing Jae her mug of steamed milk.
She settled into the covers, and waited for Jae to begin to read. Eyes closed she listened to pages being thumbed through...most likely looking for the part she fell asleep at. That had been a surprise...not that Jae had fallen asleep, but that she had managed to follow suit herself with the younger woman nestled on her shoulder.
There were a lot of things about her friendship with Jae that surprised her. What... besides the fact that she likes you? Next to her, Jae had begun reading, her lilting voice describing Global Volunteer day. Since she remembered that part, Reed continued to let her mind drift, enjoying the company.
How about the fact that she moves in and out of your personal space like it was an airport? Only one other person did that. I can give him a call in the morning...that was one advantage of being in Florida. It meant that she and her son were back in the same time zone...for a while at least.
She'd called Heidi from the restaurant earlier and Rio had been cleared to return to some schoolwork and light exercise, having successfully fought off the last infection. That was probably a good part of the reason she was in a better mood after dinner than before it. That and the change in company. She couldn't help it. Being around Sarah made her nervous. It was one thing in a closed studio where everyone knew they were just acting, but what if someone got the wrong idea in public and the paparazzi started set romance rumours? So the movie sells a few more tickets, she wryly observed, all too aware of what drove box office in Hollywood. Big names. And if you couldn't get a big name, get a scandal.
Jae's voice cut in and out of her thoughts. Paint was applied to walls and dinner plans were made. She continued to drift along. Kerry was singing to Dar.
"Half way up the stairs...is a stair, where I sit...there isn't any other stair...quite...like it. Half way up the stairs isn't at the bottom...."
She drifted back up through the haze for a few seconds...I don't remember Kerry singing...
"...it isn't really anyplace it's someplace else instead...." The pillow cradled her head as Jae's voice cradled her dreams.
The sheets rose and fell in time to the gentle exhalations of the woman nestled within the cotton confines. Dark hair splayed over a plump pillow, partially obscuring the high cheekbones and sun-kissed skin. One hand was wedged under the pillow, cradling the head that rested on its surface, while the other was resting on Reed's side, fingers hanging loosely.
"...it isn't really anyplace...it's someplace else instead..." Jae let the words fade out. Reed had dropped off into sleep, the words of the ancient children's song doing for the exhausted actress what it had done for her own little sister. I can't believe I just did that. She'd noticed Reed's eyes fluttering as sleep tried to claim her and on impulse Jae had shifted from reading to singing the soothing Pooh song.
So now what? Did she go back to her own room and bed? Or did she stay put, in case her movement woke Reed? Waking Reed was something she was loath to do, and the actress had pinned the covers under one leg, which would make it difficult, if not impossible for Jae to slip from under the sheets.
Reed shifted, a lock of hair falling away from a high cheekbone, the faint purpling of a small bruise beginning to show. The director winced. I can't believe I did that...I can just see Hard Copy now...Director Pummels Actress.... Well at least Reed realized it had been an accident.
Jae wondered whether or not Reed realized how chilling her scream had been...what haunts you so...? Her friend tossed fitfully again, and Jae ran a soothing hand over the other woman's brow, then stopped, aware of what she was doing. Speaking of Hard Copy.... Whether or not she should have touched Reed, the actress responded to Jae's gentle caress and seem to sink back into restful slumber.
The strong angularity of Reed's usual expression had melted under Morpheus' touch, blending the features to a soft innocence which Jae found intriguing. It was as though the stoicism she showed the rest of the world was a mask, tightly controlled and rigidly presented, designed to hold unknown hurt at bay. Reed had let the mask slip a little around her, allowing Jae to see for the first time just how beautiful Reed was - not Reed playing someone else - but the actress herself.
Not wanting to take advantage of Reed's vulnerable state, Jae pulled her hand away, and leaned back against the pillows she had originally propped behind her back. You need to be very, very careful Jae m'grrl...this is not a woman to be falling for.
That was going to be a problem. Should she tell Reed? Or was it really not important? They were just friends, and Reed was as safe from her as a child would be. Jae laughed to herself remembering her friend Kimberley. They had been curled up in Kim's bed after a late party, Jae too drunk to drive home.
Talking and chatting, the conversation had turned to relationships and Kim had asked her if she had anyone special. "Yes," she'd answered. Kim's eyes had lit up in excited anticipation of hearing some juicy details and asked who?
Jae and Kim had been friends since freshman year, and Jae didn't want to lie, so she steeled herself against the possible rejection and answered "Corrina."
"Corrina...?" Then Kim had moved as far over on the bed as she could.
"Kim...I'm not...." She had been at a loss for words. "It's not contagious you know."
"Being gay...it's not contagious...and you're going to fall off the bed if you get much further over there."
Kim had crept a little closer, pulling a pillow into her lap as she did. "How long?"
"Always, I guess. So if it were contagious you'd have caught it already." She'd shrugged and Kimberley had laughed, breaking the tension.
"So like every time you slept over...or we went to the gym?"
"Was I checking you out?"
Kim had blushed.
Dark eyes looked at her skeptically. "Really?"
That had floored her, and Jae remembered just sitting there for what seemed like an eternity before answering. "Would you believe you're not my type?"
Kimberley had burst into tears, leaving Jae thoroughly confused. She had moved across the bed on her knees, and let Kim cry it out on her shoulder, the way she had for the previous four years of school, life and man troubles. The sniffling and sobs finally subsided and Jae looked at Kim's dark eyes, the rims red from her tears. "What was that all about?"
And they had had a long heart to heart about the difference between friends and lovers, Jae admitting to having had more than her fair share of the latter over the last few years, but no real relationships. "Lovers," she'd said, "come and go, friends are forever."
It had been funny really, Kim going from being upset that she was gay to being equally upset that she couldn't even get a lesbian to fall for her. Jae had gone to her wedding, reluctantly squeezing into a dress in order to stand as a bridesmaid, and then nine months later the christening.
Somehow Jae doubted she'd get the same reception from Reed ...some things just had to be on a need to know basis...and right now the actress didn't need to know. Reed rolled over, burrowing deeper into the pillow, releasing the sheets that had been pinned under her leg.
Jae eased herself out of the bed, and padded across the thick carpet, enjoying the feel of the pile against her bare feet. At the door she paused, taking a last second to drink in the unguarded form of the woman sprawled on the bed, feeling privileged that Reed had trusted her and allowed the intimacy into their developing friendship. She left the door between the two rooms open...just in case...she told herself...un-hunh...you keep telling yourself that and you just might believe it...
Two women, one with sandy brown hair, the other with dark brown hair and what looked to be a green belt pouch were making their way through the lobby to where Reed sat with Jae and Andrea. Sarah had gone off to explore the park some more, hoping she'd said to, "get over that little thing she had about roller coasters."
Reed didn't move, though she recognized the taller of the two, as the author of Tropical Storm. The coffee in her cup swirled clockwise around the circumference as she rotated the it in one hand, scrutinizing the moving contents rather than staring at the new arrivals.
"Reed, Andrea, I'd like you to meet Holly Wulfenden and ..." Jae gestured at the shorter of the two.
"Maribel Lunato," the other woman supplied, shaking Jae's hand warmly.
Jae looked over at her imploringly and Reed stood, cordially greeting both women before sitting again. The two women were apparently going to join them during their filming time in Disney, and then Holly would accompany the cast back to Los Angeles, before they returned to Miami to complete filming.
Which didn't really make a whole lot of sense. She would have thought they would film all the Florida stuff in one go, rather than split the filming. The waiter came back to the table and poured her a refill. Noticing that Jae was busy showing a revised section to Andrea, Reed indicated that he should refill the director's cup too. Stretching across the table to retrieve the cream, she caught the writer studying her speculatively.
"Something I can help you with?" she drawled meeting Holly's amber eyes. Jae looked up, worried frown on her face and Reed resisted the impulse to further bait the author. "Then could you please pass the cream?" she finished, trying to sound a little less antagonistic.
Holly's eyes flickered between Reed and Jae, then she passed the small porcelain jug of cream, placing it on the table next to Reed's coffee cup.
"Thank-you," she acknowledged and Jae gave her a quick smile then returned her attention to the script and Andrea. An awkward silence descended over the table and Reed was surprised to find herself wanting to break it.
Over the rim of her coffee cup she took a close look at the woman who had written Tropical Storm and decided that it wouldn't kill her to actually talk to the woman. She really was enjoying the book, and had some questions about it.
Most people wrote her off as aloof. The rest assumed that because she was both beautiful, at least by current standards, and an actress that her brains were lacking. They would have been surprised to find she had been well on her way to a degree in English from Georgetown, until circumstances had turned her attentions elsewhere.
"She likes Pooh, too." Reed pointed at Jae. It wasn't the best opening line in a conversation, but she was out of practice, and it would have to do.
Holly looked down at her overalls, where an embroidered Winnie-the-Pooh sat among bright flowers and the ubiquitous honey pot and chuckled.
Maribel giggled. "She actually looked everywhere for Tigger ones but they were all out."
"She tells me I'm more Tigger than Pooh too," Jae chimed in, joining the discussion. "And something tells me she's not an Eeyore like I first thought...more a Roo."
"Right...a six foot Roo...can you imagine how big Kanga would need to be?" Andrea laughed, and smiled at Reed, surprising the actress.
Maybe she'd been approaching this film all wrong. From the moment Jae had taken over things had felt...different...less Hollywood. Reed smiled back at Andrea, accepting the overture. The conversation continued to flow around her and she learned that Holly was using vacation time from her regular job to participate in the filming being done in Orlando and LA then would return to Miami and pull double duty for the remainder of filming.
"So you work for the company you wrote about?" Reed was curious, a minor in computer science had rounded out her degree program and the technical end of computers fascinated her.
"Not exactly...it was a running joke though among some of the first people to read the book that I worked for not-SBS...I never got around to coming up with a name for it until after it went to be published." Holly laughed again, a low pleasant sound whose vibrancy told you that this was a woman genuinely in love with life and where she was in it. "Names were never really a strong suit."
"She's not kidding...main characters would change names between updates...Sometimes we thought she did it on purpose just to see if the pups were paying attention."
"Pups?" Jae asked.
"Her on-line fans," Maribel clarified.
"Can I ask you something?" Reed looked at Holly, who shrugged as if to say go ahead. "Why is the print edition different from the one on the web?"
"Basically, length. Print houses have different limitations than web publishing does...I had to edit it for length, then I had to edit it even more when the script was first optioned." Holly reached for her iced coffee. "You've read the on-line version?"
Reed nodded. "Had an accident with the print copy, but your name came up in a search engine. So I downloaded it."
"That would make you a pup then," Jae teased, stealing a corner of the chocolate croissant that was resting on Reed's plate.
She thought about that. While downloading Tropical Storm, she had also saved the three sequels and some other stuff. Holly wrote well, and Reed was in fact enjoying the story. The orientation of the characters was fast becoming irrelevant. Well, except for the fact that eventually she was going to have to film some of the romantic scenes herself.
There was a poignancy to the way that Holly wrote that fully engaged you with the daily lives of her characters. Reed had to admit that even though she knew how the story ended - having read several versions of the script - she was looking forward to reading the way Holly resolved the events in the book.
The actress looked over at Holly, then at Jae, and crossed her arms over her chest before leaning back in her chair. "Yeah, Tigger. I guess it does."
"You really need to stop looking at her like that." Jae whispered into her ear.
Reed turned around, startled. "Who?"
"Sarah. You keep looking at her like she is going to bite you or turn into some sort of mythical beast."
They were standing in line waiting to ride the boats through the 'It's A Small World' ride. Jae had insisted that they couldn't consider that they had properly done Disney until riding it. The hot afternoon sun was beating down on them, and if for no other reason than to get out of the sun, Reed had agreed to go. Sarah and Andrea were just ahead of them in the line and Holly had slipped off, Maribel in tow, promising to be back, before they got to the ride.
"Reed, you look at her and your brow crinkles right here." Jae reached up and touched the place in question.
"Oh." She couldn't help it. Tomorrow they would begin filming in earnest and that meant it was time to begin performing.
"You should talk to her."
Jae leaned against the rail, the cotton of her shirt stretching over her shoulders as she laid her arms along its length, one hand coming to rest behind the actress. "She had to go through the same thing, when she filmed Callous Plans. Heard she was pretty hinky about it."
"Yeah?" Reed leaned back next to Jae, letting her weight rest on the wooden rail, one arm across her chest, the other holding her chin in her right hand, rubbing the sides of her jaw. Is this as weird for her as it is for me?
"And I hate to put to fine a point on it, but part of the reason behind coming here was to get you two comfortable with each other. You haven't been within five feet of her."
"I was in the elevator."
"That is not what I meant." Jae looked at her over the rim of her sunglasses, amused twinkle in the blue-green eyes.
Reed took a second look... her eyes change colour.... Before they could discuss it further Holly and Maribel returned, laden with huge cones of ice cream.
"Yo, Reed." Holly handed over a dark waffle cone stuffed with what looked to be three scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Flecks of brown speckled the surface nestled in and among the ancient ivory coloured cream. The brown bits were pieces of vanilla bean and swirls of nutmeg and Reed smiled appreciatively at her benefactor. This was almost enough to make up for the fact that they had been listening to that stupid song for over half and hour now. "Thanks."
I am so going to pay for this...well the hotel has a gym...and maybe a good workout will help me sleep. Jae had been gone when she'd woken up, and the younger woman hadn't mentioned the nightmare or the bruise that the actress had had to hide under a layer of foundation. The only sign that the night hadn't progressed as planned had been the open door between their rooms.
She glanced over at Jae who was eagerly attacking what looked to be a pistachio, chocolate and...my gods...was that strawberry?...cone. Reed wasn't sure she wanted to see what combination of flavours everyone else had gotten. Though, she smiled to herself, Jae's ice cream was as quirky as the director.
Sarah looked at her cone, then at the one in Reed's hand then over at Jae's, before looking back down at her own completely strawberry one. "Please tell me that you didn't do this by personality?"
Holly chuckled, sucking at her own cone. "Yep. Ice cream is kinda like that."
Reed looked at the cone in Holly's hand and lifted a dark brow. "Really?" The author had three scoops of double-chocolate fudge chunk ice cream balanced precariously in a chocolate dipped waffle cone.
"You are so busted Hol," Maribel grinned evilly, taking a swipe at the melted cream escaping down the side of her chocolate mint cone.
Andrea swirled a bite of her cone around in her mouth, "Oh I dunno, I think she hit most of us right on the nose...cookies and cream suits me just fine." Drawing a laugh from the group.
"Alright Ladies, if you want to step this way." A young boy, who didn't look quite old enough to have to worry about Disney's facial hair policy, led them to the boats that would carry them through the infamous attraction.
Jae looked at her and lifted both blonde brows in a silent question.
"You owe me," Reed muttered dropping into a seat next to Sarah, leaving Jae to ride with Andrea.
"Big time," Jae happily agreed, munching the remains of her cone.
Jae settled back into her seat, enjoying the slight bobbing of the boat and the trickling noise of the water as it ran over the exhibit. In front of her, Reed was trying to get comfortable on the hard plastic and stealing surreptitious looks at her co-star. She nearly laughed when the actress raised a hand up to her brow and checked for the tell-tale crinkle. Reed was so damned cute when she was trying to behave. Freeze...ixnay on the utecay...
She looked up from watching Reed, to find Holly looking back at her knowingly and unaccountably Jae blushed. But the author's gaze remained friendly, so she offered a smile in return. A woman with her gaydar in full operation...The director turned her attention back to the miniature children moving around the landscape of what could only be someone's nightmare. Every musical bone in her body cringed, as the refrain echoed one more time through the chamber. Even changing the language didn't help.
Some of the figures spun fairly closely to the boat and she wondered if any one had ever decapitated one out of some primal instinct to save their sanity.
"You owe me two," Reed mouthed, pointing at the dancing dolls kicking their mechanical legs into the air. Before she could think of anything to say, Sarah said something and Reed turned to answer her. Judging by the hand gestures it had something to do with the animatronics.
Well that was something anyway. If nothing else Reed and Sarah were talking to one another, so this ride wasn't a total bust. After what seemed like forever but was the regulation time, they floated out of the caverns and back into daylight.
When she scrambled out of the swan shaped boat it was to find five women all staring at her, identical looks of suffering on their faces. "What?"
"You're fired," Reed announced. "Holly is the new bus driver."
"Because no way...no how are you getting us into Imagination Land or whatever it's called." Sarah tugged her blonde ponytail through the back of her baseball cap and settled it onto her head. "I'd rather ride a roller coaster."
"That can be arranged," Jae quipped back. Off to the side a flash caught her eye. Oh cripes, just what Reed and Sarah need, someone chasing them around the park taking pictures. Protectively she moved between the two actresses and the short photographer.
Jae had noticed the same woman earlier, and had admired the wolf on her sweatshirt. Thinking nothing of it she had chalked the woman being in the same vicinity as they were most of the morning up to coincidence. Now the director wasn't so sure.
"Well if you want to do a roller coaster how about heading for Frontier Land?" Holly suggested.
"Sounds good," Jae agreed. "That's the one with Brer Rabbit right?"
"And the fifty foot drop," Sarah added, just barely loud enough to hear.
They were winding their way through the crowds, leaving Mattel's ride gone awry behind them. Jae stopped to finger the soft fleece of an embroidered vest. Glancing at the shop's window, a familiar reflection caught her eye. The female photographer from earlier was no longer alone; she appeared to have a small pack of friends clustered around her. Maybe it was just a coincidence after all.
"What do you keep looking at?" Reed leaned over her shoulder and Jae caught the bare hint of sandalwood that she remembered from the plane.
Should I tell her? The woman and her friends appeared to be watching them again and Jae decided that it was no coincidence. "I think you and Sarah have been spotted." She nudged her head in the group's direction, pointing them out to Reed.
Reed looked at them, most likely evaluating what kind of threat they represented. "You know," she drawled, "they don't appear to have noticed me and Sarah at all. But you, they keep pointing at."
"Take off your hat." Reed had all her hair pulled inside her iVillage cap, and a dark pair of Ray Bans rested on the bridge of her nose, all but obscuring her identity. The group of photographers had drifted a little closer and was excitedly snapping pictures of them.
"See. I told you they were real."
"But how come she has short hair?"
"Is that really them?"
"Can't be...she's too tall."
"Yeah and look, she's got a tattoo."
Jae looked down at the Celtic knot-interlace running around her left bicep. Why on earth did it matter that I have a tattoo?
"Ooo look...isn't that...."
Jae braced herself for the onslaught, and next to her Reed tensed.
"Excuse me..." The first lady that Jae had noticed addressed them. "...but is that really Holly Wulfenden?"
Jae dropped her jaw and Reed began to chuckle. "As a matter of fact it is," the actress helpfully supplied.
"Oh cool..." The young woman started taking pictures, her finger clicking rapidly on the shutter.
"You might want to try it this way." Reed reached over and tugged the lens cap from the lens.
"Oh wow." She pocketed the cap that the actress had handed her and turned to her mates. "See, I told you they were real. Dar just fixed my camera."
Reed just quirked an expressive eyebrow. "Yo, Holly."
The author turned around, breaking off the discussion she had been having with Maribel, Sarah and Andrea. "Yo, Reed," she answered, continuing the running joke that seemed to have sprung up between them.
"I think these are yours." Reed pointed out the photographers. "They're pups."
"Can we have a group shot?" the apparent leader, a woman in her mid to late thirties sporting a penguin tattoo, asked Holly.
Jae watched in quiet fascination as the author accommodated the group, posing for pictures, first alone, then with Maribel, who drew nearly as big a reaction from the group as Holly had. The unnerving part was that every time they thought the director wasn't looking they would be studying her.
Reed had taken the opportunity to fade into the background a bit, and Jae marveled that so tall and magnetic a personality could just melt from view if she chose.
"Okay, now you with Dar and Kerry." Ten cameras suddenly came to the fore, two in the hands of a woman wearing a sweatshirt that said 'Sydney 2000 or Burst'.
Sarah gamely stepped forward, a bemused smile on her face. No doubt having done a successful television show for four years she was used to being confused with her character.
Reed had moved up behind Jae, and leaned down to whisper in an ear, "Looks like I get closer than five feet, hunh?"
"Mmm, looks like." Jae fought the desire to lean back into Reed as the taller woman continued to hover just behind her apparently hesitating slightly about whether or not to pose.
"Perfect." A flash went off, then another.
Jae blinked against the sudden barrage, confused. What in the name of Father Peter, was that about? More flashes went off and it struck her. They think I'm Kerry. "Guys, wrong person. She plays Kerry, not me."
One of the taller women smacked the shorter one on the shoulder teasingly. "You and your, 'see they're real.'"
The group wandered off, tucking their camera equipment away. "Shame, they looked kinda cute together."
Jae hastily looked at Reed to see if she had caught the offhand remark, but the actress was focused on some anecdote that Maribel was relating. She looked over at Holly. "That happen to you a lot?"
"Sometimes. They're really sweet though, and fun so I don't mind." A spark of mischief appeared in the dark eyes. "And they're right...the two of you do look cute together."
For the second time in as many hours Jae felt her cheeks go bright red.
"What are you doing?" Reed leaned over her, resting one hand loosely on Jae's shoulder.
"Storyboard." She continued to sketch bold lines across the page, wanting to capture the way the shadows fell over the ride in the waning light. When the director of photography arrived tomorrow Jae wanted to have roughed out most of the storyboard in preparation for refining the shooting script.
If they could take advantage of some of the natural lighting, that would reduce the amount of setting up they would have to do for the daylight shots, and that was important because they had only been given two small windows on each ride with which to work. Everything else would need to be shot during the night under full lighting, and if possible that was something she'd rather get done in one night.
Reed had settled companionably next to her on the wooden bench, quietly watching her sketch the mountain. Jae finished that and roughed out a series of small action scenes indicating at which points on the ride she wanted the cameras to switch vantage points. They would run the cameras, speeding up the tape speed, on the ride several times to capture as many details as they could. By slowing the tape down, they would be able to show the audience a clear picture of the ride, in more detail than if they had actually ridden it themselves.
They key would be to draw the audience into what Dar and Kerry were doing, involve them in the lives of the characters before springing the romance on them. The side plot with Senator Stuart and Michelle Graver would fool the audience temporarily, and give them something to root against - unwittingly joining emotional forces with the protagonists. That was tough to do in a two hour film, and tricks of action like the roller coaster provided a shortcut. The storm would be another. Storms tapped into the collective unconscious and she would use the Fisher Island one to mirror both tension and attraction.
"What time will we break for dinner tomorrow...roughly?" Reed was holding one fine boned hand over the mouthpiece of her cell phone.
Jae had been so absorbed in the storyboarding that she hadn't even noticed Reed talking on the phone. Mentally she went over what she wanted to accomplish and estimated the time that Reed would have between finishing one set of shots and when the cameras would be allowed to roll on the rides. "Probably around seven...most of our shooting tomorrow night will be after the park closes." One merciful advantage of using Space Mountain...it was dark...twenty-four hours a day.
"Thanks." The actress shifted around slightly, her back to Jae.
She wasn't trying to listen in on Reed's conversation, but even over the din of the happiest place on earth she couldn't help but to overhear some words.
"Love you too...Right, around half seven...bye." The antenna was pushed back into the body of the phone and the slim plastic device was slipped into the front pouch of Reed's brown backpack.
Not wanting to be caught staring, Jae quickly returned her attention to the sketch pad, turning to a crisp, clean sheet. She twirled the drafting pencil in the sharpener, twisting it around until the point was sharp. Of course Reed had someone...which was for the best....
So why did she feel a twinge of disappointment? Probably for the same reason that she had just unwittingly drawn Reed's eyes. Hastily she turned the page.
"Where'd everyone get off too?" Jae broke the silence.
"Holly said something about needing a mask of some sort, with feathers; some shrunken heads and something about mouse ears. Sarah conned Andrea into another trip down Splash Mountain..."
They both laughed. Once she had actually tried the ride, Sarah had loved it. Their Disney Liaison had finally caught up with them, providing the extra pass for Maribel, and apologizing for not giving it to them earlier. Which meant no more waiting in line. Jae had refused to let the group use the special passes until they all had them. "What's that...her fourth trip?"
"Sixth," Reed deadpanned. "Maribel headed that away."
Jae looked over where the actress had pointed and could see the librarian snapping photos of Simba. She wondered if the woman realized that the group from earlier was taking pictures of her taking pictures. Her ears pinked as the memory of the pack's parting observation flitted through her mind.
"Get too much sun?"
"Unh...no...yes..." she stammered, further embarrassed.
"Which is it?" Humour swam in the actress' eyes.
"Yes. Which I think makes for a good excuse to break for dinner."
"Break? As in take a temporary respite from an activity?"
"Precisely." She grinned back, wicked gleam of her own lighting her eyes. "You owe me a trip down Space Mountain, remember?"
"Not the type of thing I'd forget...But I was thinking, I really should do some prep work for tomorrow."
"It is prep work...and if you want I can always help you rehearse, later."
Reed looked slightly panic-stricken, then relaxed. "No way out is there?"
"No way but down. Two-hundred and seventy-five feet." Jae laughed. She couldn't help it. The sudden look of terror that crossed Reed's face was priceless. "Don't worry...I'll hang on tight...you won't fall out." Laughing even harder as the look shifted to narrow-eyed revenge mode, she nearly missed Reed's rejoinder.
"Paybacks are a bitch...."
"The real question is...do you want to eat before or after."
Reed looked over at her and drawled, "Oh, I think before...definitely before."
That sobered her up. "You were just kidding right...on the plane...about being motion sick?"
Without batting an eyelash, Reed responded. "The question you gotta ask yourself is this...do ya feel lucky?"
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