In view a mansion in the hills of Del Sol Valley, among all the upscale living for those who had emerged as winners from the dog-eat-dog world of the film industry.
There, two men sat at a dining room table, the older of them talking assertively to the younger one, who sat hunched over in a chair, evidently trying to process some hard to digest news.
Blake shifted in the chair uncomfortably, speechless, so after giving him an expectant glance, the other man resumed his long monologue.
“Look – uh – Blake: long story short, what I am trying to tell you is that we make it a habit to dig up all the dirt we can on up and coming talent before we commit to a long term contract. Learned that the hard way many years ago, when we cast some supposedly wholesome valley girls then found out through the media with the rest of the world that they got their feet wet in porn. Bad for business and our reputation. You look like a choir boy but from what I have read you have been a everything but that since you were barely a teen. Your criminal record is miles long, most of it is redacted, sealed or expunged since you were a minor, but I have a few good guesses what you had been up to. If we can find it, and THIS quick, the press will for sure. I know we discussed the role of Jenson with you, but I think Drake would be more up your alley, that way we can utilize your bad boy background, rather than try to hide, build up on it instead, carefully scripted and planned of course. We’ll make you the bad boy in real life to make you that much more believable in the role. Not anything illegal, but you are going to push the limits, with my guidance. Play the rebel, in order to be the rebel.” Darim Devarim, his producer, a prolific and established director and unofficially something like Blake’s agent/manager, told him.
“Uh – Drake? I am really not feeling that character. I didn’t read all his lines thinking I’d be Jenson, but he sounds like an asshole. Can’t I just change my name? You know, like a stage name? That way they won’t find anything about me, right?” Blake suggested.
“I’m afraid that won’t be enough. You already had smaller roles, your name and face are out there, publicly, and associated with these studios and production company. My 8 year old could find out your real name. Any half-witted journalist will. And it is called acting, Blake. You want to be an actor, you gotta be the asshole sometimes. You are just not the right fit to play Jenson, to be clear, you WON’T play Jenson – the end. I give you that, you look the part, innocent, those baby blues, the blond hair, baby face … all that would work perfectly to be the proverbial good guy who finishes last, but eventually gets the girl blah blah blah after a few dozen episodes. No, you will remain Blake Cameron, but become the rebel. Shouldn’t be too hard with all the experience you already had with that. Besides, Blake/Drake, sounds like it was meant to be anyway.” Darim shrugged.
“And all that bad stuff I did … I worked so hard to put that behind me, have a new beginning. As far as rebel in real life goes, I am not really comfortable taking all those steps backwards and even if I did, how? I cannot even drink yet … I am only 18. ”
“I have on good authority that has never stopped you before. I know where you live. The same little rodent-ridden kind of dump we all started out in. If you don’t already, you are going to dream about nothing but moving to something more decent before long. Don’t have to tell you that everything in this town has a price tag. This is your chance and what you do with it – if you even take it, depends on you. Become Drake, the rebel, the bad boy any female with a heartbeat gets their panties in a bunch over. Date girls, be seen with them, the more the merrier, get photographed to get yourself on the map, switch out the girls often unless you can get a few with a name already. Date two girls at once, three even if you can handle it, make sure to give the press something to feast on, nothing illegal, but mild grey zone is good. You have that smoldering rock star vibe, shouldn’t be hard. Break some hearts, then make them come back for seconds.”
“I don’t date …” Blake had said those words so many times, but now he wondered if he wasn’t dating Hailey. Or were they a couple now? He had no idea how stuff like that customarily worked. Did it have to be said and agreed on or was this one of those ‘action implies consent’ kinda deals?
“Well, you are going to start.” Darim determined firmly as he got up.
“No, what I meant was, I already have a girlfriend, back home.” Blake said more as a reason to put Darim off his crazy idea, than actually convinced that they were really a couple.
“Then break up with her. Long distance shit never works out anyway, you’d just speed up the unavoidable. Get rid of her and get started with what I told you right away. Since you are still new-ish at this I will tell you straight out: all I told you may have sounded like it, but none of it was a request, it was me telling you what you WILL do, or you will find yourself without a role immediately, not Drake, not Jenson and no prospects for any other roles – ever. Not with this company, and I will make sure to mention your resistance to cooperate within my network, hint: we have a lot more wanna-be actors than roles, always had and always will, so don’t think for one second you can walk out on me and have an actual shot elsewhere. You don’t want that, I don’t want that, so get to work. Of course you can always go with your backup plan. Run that one by me again…”
“I – uh – don’t have one.” Blake said resigned, and mentally cursed himself. This was literally his one and only lifeline.
Breakthrough or bust. No wiggle room.
“Exactly! So don’t waste any more time sitting your perfect little teenage ass flat in my chair. Get out there and swing that ass to break some girls’ hearts. Or women if you prefer them more seasoned. If you are as inexperienced as you let on, you may wanna start out that way. I need a real rebel, not a sandbox Casanova. Oh, and get a tan, kid. Caspar is not a good look, surfer boy is what makes the girls drool, so get toasted or get a spray tan for crying out loud. If you excuse me now … I think you’ll find your way out.”
Darim just walked out and left Blake drowning in his anxiety.
Until the distribution of roles for the TV show was finalized, Blake kept being sent to film smaller gigs, mostly commercials.
The most recent one Blake particularly enjoyed, as it involved playing the guitar in order to sell guitars, he was having a genuinely good time.
“Blake, come here for a moment, will you?” the director/producer Darim Devarim waved him over once all was done and Blake had changed back into his street clothes.
“Sure, what’s up?” Blake asked, thinking this was about his acting.
“That one. See the one in red? Dharma Ewell. She’s a good start for you and she has been in my ear about you. You made her drool already, so this will be easy for you. Talk to her, go out with her. Be seen with her, show her a good time, and you’ll gain some street cred with the celebs. She knows everybody and everybody knows that she has a taste for young meat.” Darim explained matter-of-factly.
“She could be my mother!” Blake’s eyes nearly came out of his sockets as he watched the woman in an animated discussion with some other people from the set. It was obvious that she knew her worth, was influential and not shy.
“Word of the wise, never ever refer to any woman’s age in this town. Ignore it completely, the end. Dharma dedicated her life to her career. Give her what she wants, and she’ll be sure to reciprocate. A lot of people you probably admire got their start between her sheets. She always pays her debts. So get on that – literally. Now! Go!” Darim nearly shoved him.
He walked off and Blake felt the ground shake below. She looked up now, their eyes met, she smiled at him, so he forced a smile too. So he walked over and started his walk to the guillotines.
Blake might have had the disadvantage of the ignorance of youth and never had been one for academics, but he was no idiot. He was well aware all that meant in plain English that he was supposed to prostitute himself to realize his life’s dream – or lose everything he had worked for so hard, disappointing not only himself but his grandpa, who had helped him so much to get where he was right now.
Normally with problems this complicated he’d go to his grandpa. Or Hailey. But he already knew what they would say. Grandpa would probably be on the next plane to take him back home. And Hailey … oh boy!
The realization began to sink in that this choice really wasn’t one.
By now he had reached Dharma, forced a smile and said politely
“Hello Miss Ewell .. I am Blake Cameron …”
“Well, hello indeed! Aren’t you just a visual treat on a day like today. Oh, don’t look so scared, Chéri, I don’t bite. At least not in any unpleasant ways …” she giggled and Blake’s flight instinct was on high alert, but he stayed and forced a smile.
“Oh …umm… ha ha ha…” Blake didn’t know what to reply so he went with laughing it off.
“So young, full of hopes, dreams and not to forget, vigor. And such soft skin. How about dinner tonight, mon cher?”
Blake trembled under her touch, but agreed, forcing another smile.
“You are such a snack!” those moaned words by Dharma Ewell in the back of her limousine kept resounding in his head, just like no soap and water could wash him clean of what followed.
A cheater. Or was he?
This was NOT what he had imagined when he started dreaming of being famous, but after trying to reason with Darim once again after Dharma’s very obvious invitation to dinner and more, Darim had lost his cool and told Blake straight out to get into Dharma’s pants or get out and forget about acting altogether.
He remembered being at the restaurant with Dharma, feeling like cattle about to be driven off to the slaughterhouse, well aware that was where they were going. The stress, the anxiety were almost too much for him.
Still, he did as Darim had told him to, while thinking about beautiful blue eyes next to him in the grass by the fishing hole in the woods, the blond hair like a halo, then the prom dance when Dharma had insisted to be lead to the completely empty dance floor.
But the worst for Blake was yet to come. After dinner the driver didn’t drop him off at his apartment.
They went to her luxurious mansion.
It ended as anyone by now would probably imagine.
Back home at the affordable living apartment complex Blake called home these days he was haven’t a restless sleep.
Suddenly he shot straight up, his heart was racing, he was breathing so hard it was almost panting. Nightmare, he thought, again.
His nightmares had been completely gone ever since that night in the cabin with Hailey. Now they were back. Every night. Multiple times even. Between that and his stressful schedule he felt exhausted already when he got up in the morning.
A sick feeling washed over him like a tidal wave, he jumped up and barely made it to the bathroom to empty the contents of his stomach into the bowl.
Once all the convulsions had seized he cleaned up, then looked into the mirror.
“You nasty male whore! Hopefully you caught something and DIE!” with a disgusted tone he hissed at his reflection, then averted his eyes.
When he finally managed to get to sleep it was already light out.
After what felt like only minutes of sleep he was awoken again by persistent knocking on his door.
“GO AWAY!” he yelled from his bed.
More knocking, so he shot up, regretting it as his head hurt and the room spun. He got up like an old man and dragged to the door, where there was more knocking.
“What the fuck?!” he growled as he tore open the door, then froze.
“Nice manners!” she said smiling.
“Hailey!” Blake’s voice almost toppled over.
She made a squealing noise then hugged him tight.
Was he dreaming this?
For once not a nightmare?
Or was this an even worse nightmare, having her here in the midst of the worst time of his life, unable to tell her anything about what was going on?
Her enthusiastic bouncing made him sick, so he shoved her aside and ran to the bathroom. When he looked up there she was, watching.
“Privacy …” he groaned.
“Are you sick? Have you taken anything for it yet? And thanks for the warm welcome, I only spend all the money I worked for all summer and endless hours on planes and in airports to see you, since you barely reply to texts and emails, not to mention you are not even on chats anymore.”
“Not so loud! And I am sorry. I am really glad to see you … just really not … up for company right this second … ” he groaned and dodged Hailey’s attempt to put her hand to his forehead to feel for high temperature.
“You look it. I’ll make us some breakfast.”
“Urgh!” Blake heard about food and hurled immediately, barely making it into the bowl.
“OK, you need a shower and lay back down. Starting to think this is a stomach flu. Do you have a thermometer? Have you been to the doctor?”
“No, it’s just something I … had.” he said, thinking Literally something – or someone – I had.
The memory of it all made him shiver cold and feel dirty, he avoided looking at her directly when he said “I do need another shower. Do you mind?” he pointed to the door. Hailey gave him a strange look, but left.
He shut the door behind her, turned on the water and cursed quietly to himself and at himself.
Seeing her, having his face rubbed in everything was the last thing he could deal with now.
When he finally emerged he looked somewhat better. The living area smelled delicious, Hailey had cooked. She looked so beautiful. He was so happy to see her, but felt unable to show it properly, too much guilt weighing him down. Judging by her behavior they actually were a couple. Which really made him a cheater. The very last thing he ever thought he’d ever be.
They ate, mostly in silence, the food was delicious, but he could physically feel her worried glances.
“Soooooo my adorable hunk, what are we going to do with the rest of the day” she smiled, put her arms around his neck and tried to kiss him, he pulled away stiffly.
“Is everything all right? Oh, actually, never mind that. I KNOW something is up, so spill!”
“What are you doing here, Hailz? Do your parents know you are here?” Blake asked.
“Are you kidding? Of course not! They think I am hiking with friends. As if they would let me go here by myself. Ha. I have been lying like a dog, just to see you. And you are … so not thrilled. Why? Did you not miss me?” Hailey eyed him suspicious.
“Of course I missed you. You know I did. Just not feeling so well, that is all. Stress and other stuff. It is great to see you.” Blake realized he sounded lame.
“Can I now have a kiss? I mean, I know I told you I want nothing, but you seemed into it all and I kinda thought you and I … we … were … more now. We said the ‘L’ word …”
“L-word? What are you, five?” Blake verbalized his resentment of the entire world.
“Hey! Watch your tone!” Hailey sounded upset, which made Blake feel even more guilty.
“I am sorry. Really sorry Hailey.” Blake was apologizing for way more than just verbally lashing out at her.
They spent the day together, at his small apartment, Blake finally let himself enjoy her company.
That night, Blake offered to sleep on the couch, but Hailey wouldn’t hear of it.
Once in bed, she started caressing him, but when she realized he wasn’t into it, she just snuggled up to him, while he tried to fight his tears. He felt shabby and low.
He awoke from another nightmare, this time Hailey was there to comfort him. It felt so good. She felt so good to him. THIS was what he really wanted. Her.
Finally they kissed, caressed, more …
For a little while he felt genuinely happy, in love and lovable. But once the act was over, reality caught up with him and he felt worse than before.
He rolled onto his back, she tried to snuggle up to him, he pulled away, got up to leave, but she caught him, held on to him, he tried to shake her off and both ended in a stand off.
“Hailey, I should not have done this. I am so sorry.” Blake sounded panicked.
“What kinda thing to say to a girl after … that? We’re good, we used protection and I am on the pill. It’s all good.” she was confused by his reaction.
“No. That’s not it. Hailey, I don’t know how to say this but … we shouldn’t be together like that. I am not trying to hurt you but … this .. we .. this cannot work. It’s not fair and it is killing me.” he rambled on.
“What are you even talking about? I love you Blake. And you love me. Even though you are kinda stingy about saying those words, but I know. I always knew. I was giving you space … I am still giving you space. I just missed you so much and needed to see you … we are fine. Everything this fine. So please chill.” Hailey tried her best to diffuse the situation.
“Hailey, don’t you get it?! Nothing is fine. Nothing will ever be fine again. Not ever. I am an asshole. I am a liar and a cheater. There, I said it. I screwed another woman. An old woman.” hearing those words out loud made him almost sick again.
“What?!” Hailey was apparently completely overwhelmed now.
“You heard me.” Blake reaffirmed his statement.
“Why?” she looked and sounded hurt.
“Because I had to. For my career. If I refused, the douche-bag my entire career depends on right now would have made me lose the role, killed my entire career for good and everything I have work so hard for would be in vain. I won’t always have to screw other women, he says, but while I do, we cannot be together. Listen to me … as if you would want me again later. I am such a joke!” Blake looked disgusted with himself.
“What? Are you on drugs? Are you pranking me? This is not funny! You cannot be serious!”
“Dead serious. I knew this would happen. I always knew. Maybe not exactly how this all would happen, but something of this magnitude. This exact moment in time is what I had been so afraid of, you looking at me like I am something you stepped in on the street and I don’t even blame you for it. I hurt you, the last thing in the world I ever wanted to do. I am sorry Hailz. But I cannot deal with this right now.”
Blake quickly put on his clothes, grabbed his car keys and ran out the door, hearing her call his name just before he drove off.
When he came back hours later, Hailey was still there, much to his surprise. She didn’t seem mad.
Just sad, but not angry.
He felt like he was crawling into his own apartment like a battered dog. Hailey got up off the couch, came towards him.
He knew what was to come.
Maybe also a well deserved kick in the groin and ….
…. she kissed him instead.
Gently, but determined. Surprised at first he melted into it, embraced her, clinging onto her as he started losing it.
“How can you not hate me now?” he asked muffled by emotions.
“I could never hate you. And you were right, you did always tell me you cannot be in a relationship. I almost forced you to where we are now. I guess this is the price. But I want the whole story. You owe me that much. And then we will figure out what to do. Together. You are not alone in this, Blake. I am not a fair-weather friend, and I am not a fair-weather girlfriend.” Hailey spoke with confidence, yet softly.
He clung on to her like a lifesaver.
They sat down and talked, eventually he ended up with his head in her lap, fast asleep as if he had not slept for years, while Hailey gently stroked his hair as silent tears ran down her cheeks.
– tbd –