“So you’re going on holidays?”
Emma looked up at her mother, and it broke her heart to see her look so old. She was suddenly weary, tired, and it scared the younger woman. Despite the hard time they always gave her, she loved her parents beyond compare. “Las Vegas. But it’s not strictly a holiday...” she grimaced as she spoke. “It’s a kind of hen weekend for Isobel.”
“She’s getting married?” There was that all too familiar wistfulness in her voice that had always angered Emma, but today it made her feel sad.
“Yes mother, and I DO know what that means!”
Her mother sighed, “it would please me to see you settled, happy. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Emma sighed, “I know Mum, but it isn’t as simple as that. Now, are we going to the garden centre?”
It was a weak topic change, but she wasn’t in the mood for self flagellation! She visited her parents at least once a month, four years ago they’d moved to the south coast, a retirement move of sorts, though they were now far more active in the community than when they’d lived at their home north of London. Her visits had to fit in between Women’s Institute meetings and crown green bowls competitions and parish council meetings, but they were both happy and coping with their retirement because of it.
“So will we see you before your trip?” her mother asked as she saw her daughter to the door. “We hardly see you as it is!”
Emma smiled, “probably not, we go in three weeks, so I’ve got a lot to sort out.”
After hugging her mother she jogged to the end of the road and the train station to start her journey back to her London home.
Ten days later the countdown to Vegas had really begun. The date for Isobel’s wedding was also coming together, July the first, twelve weeks away. It was hard to imagine it, a beautiful summer day when Britain was slumped in ‘the worst April since records began’, every day battling into work in streaming rain and gale force winds was hellish, and despite the problems the trip cast in her life, Emma found herself desperately waiting for the few days in the sun.
It was easy to be distracted at work, it wasn’t a taxing job, and whilst she took pride in everything she did normally, the slack atmosphere in the whole of the building did not inspire her to do more than was required. Emails from her three fellow travellers were more than the attention she needed, to change her focus. The irony was that despite that she was STILL ahead of any work intended for her. It was up to Matt from the post room to drag her back to reality on a repeated basis. He was very jealous of her, but then it was a long time since he and Cameron had been on good terms, and even longer since they’d been to the ultimate party city.
The weeks were flying by, and Emma had a few call backs on some parts she’d put herself forward for. She averaged two auditions a month, which was good, but often she was ‘too tall’, ‘too blonde’, ‘too happy’...there was always something. She didn’t have a great back catalogue of roles she’d won, and if she had to rely on her money from ‘acting’ she’d not eat any night of the week. So when she had a even a single call back she was anything but optimistic.
It was six days before they flew to Las Vegas, and the lack of pay for this day off work did make her anxious. But she had good vibes about this audition, it was a small part, but it was for a serial drama, filming both in London and the US, a man meets a woman who tells him she’s his daughter, and travelled back in time to warn him of the future. The show then flicked between the past, the present and the future. She’d been called back for the part of the man’s childhood sweetheart. A small role as she wasn’t an integral character to the story line, but she’d have half a dozen scenes, and at least five lines of dialogue...and a screen kiss! As was fairly typical of these large production companies, she was called to a London hotel, and met by a runner for the casting team and director. This was the plus sign; the series was to be directed by the leading man Theo Samuel. The greatest actor of the last decade in her opinion, a British born American, he seemed to spend his time hopping between the continents, and after three Oscar nominations and then finally winning a Best Actor the previous year, he’d followed so many stars of screen into TV. And this could lead to the breakthrough she was looking for. And a screen kiss with a hunk to die for.
Emma hadn’t told her friends about this call-back, as it was so much more important than the toothpaste commercial or the femme fatale in a video for a rock band she had to keep this to herself, because when she failed, she was preparing for even more disappointment than usual. As she took a bus to the West End hotel, her nerves were almost getting the better of her, and it was then that she decided this was the last time. Today she had to give up the acting dream, it had been a twelve year dalliance with pain and suffering, and she HAD to think of the future. Nope, she should be travelling across the City she should be excited, happy at the opportunity arising, but instead she was sceptical, sad and already down. That was the sign of how bad things had got. And it had to change.
The runner who’d met her in reception was a chatty young girl who led Emma through various rooms until she was in a conference room, there another woman met her.
“Hi I’m Kaytie the assistant casting director. John, the casting director is next door. Have you read the script?”
Emma nodded, “yep, I think I can breathe Marian Anderson already!”
Kaytie nodded, “good, we’ll run through the scene and film, see how it looks on screen. You’re last up today, so hopefully we’ll be letting people know in the next day or so. You need anything before we start?”
Emma shook her head, she’d learned how to apply makeup worthy of TV cameras over the years, and had dressed in clothing that she made her feel more like a teenager from the eighties. Taking a deep breath she followed the woman into the room.
Voices called out instructions from behind the cameras, and the lights meant the people were silhouettes, but that wasn’t unusual.
“Ok Miss, from the ‘I can’t believe he saw me’ line, ok?”
Emma nodded, not surprised that no one even registered her name, taking a deep breath, she moved around the clear area designated the set for a moment, then turned to face the camera, training her eyes on a spot off to the left, you couldn’t look down the lens for a drama like this.
“I can’t believe he saw me...” she sighed, a hand lifting to her chest. “After all this time Paula. Did you see him watching me?”
“I did, he only had eyes for you Marian. Lucky you!” The assistant director was filling in for the best friend character from off the set.
“And now, I just need to find away to land in his path...”
“Marian!” A male voice spoke Theo’s character Mark’s lines. “I’ve been looking for you all over!”
Sensing someone to her left, Emma turned and saw a man stood there watching her, then felt the breath catch in her throat. It was Theo Samuel! Six foot two, and a bronzed god, all there in front of her. She had a split second to regain her composure, if she blew the audition she had this moment to savour for the rest of her life.
“Mark...I...I...” The stammering was more fact than acting, but he didn’t need to know that. She stepped towards him as directed by the script she’d memorised. “I didn’t think you’d leave the party this early.”
Theo smiled as he came towards her, “the light went out when you left!”
Emma gasped, her fingers moving to her lips, “really? But...”
Taking her hands he smiled at her, and Emma could barely focus for the realisation that she was holding hands with the Oscar winner. “Marian, you keep hiding from me, but you have to realise that I like you...a lot.”
“I don’t think you know me,” she snatched her hands free of his. “How do I know that this isn’t some joke?” She turned and stepped away from him, keeping her back to him. “This would be the perfect way to make me look stupid!”
His hands cupped her shoulders and Emma had to fight the swoon that rumbled through her body, this was the hardest audition she’d ever had to endure. But then fortunately her character was meant to swoon, this was meant to be young love at its most dramatic.
As Theo pulled her around, she shook her head, “I know what you’re going to say Mark, but you’ve spent enough time laughing at me, why would I believe that you’ve changed?”
Rising over her he gave her a wicked smile then with a “because of this!”, his lips found hers. It was easy to forget that she was acting; she could barely remember where she was or what century it was. She’d done stage kisses so many times, but this was more than that. Theo was an amazing kisser, his lips and tongue were dominating hers and his hands pulled her into his hard body. She’d never been kissed like that before, an assault on her senses. But it was him nipping at her bottom lip with his teeth that dragged her back to reality.
When she finally broke away, she stared up at him, “do you think that’s REALLY how a nineteen year old boy would kiss?” She hated that her voice was all breathy and hoarse, but he had overwhelmed all of her.
She could have kicked herself for her brutal honesty, but then she had to justify her own reaction to his kiss. Theo laughed, “you’re right Miss...?”
“White, I’m Emma White.”
He nodded then looked towards the camera, “John, it seems I’ve got a lot to learn about being a hormonal teenager!”
Then the whole set burst into laughter, and Emma wanted the ground to open up and swallow her.
“OMG! What the hell happened next?” It was Eve, Isobel’s twin who was perched closest to the edge of the chair. “I cannot believe you gave Theo Samuel a talking too like that! And why? Because he kissed you like a horny man as opposed to an inexperienced boy? Emma, Emma, Emma. Do you have any idea how much money I’d pay for that privilege?”
The other two girls laughed, the Isobel added, “so you think that blew it?”
Emma still blushing at the memory of the day shrugged, “I was kind of bustled out straight after, and I haven’t heard a word since.”
Angelina, the fourth member of the bunch, signalled to the barman in the airport departure lounge and ordered another bottle of champagne, despite it being only seven am. “Darling, we all feel your pain! The man is so hot he must have blown every thought clean out of the window.”
And some! Emma thought, then she smiled again, “on the way there I decided to end this pipedream guys, after this trip I am no longer a wannabe actress and an office temp, instead I’m going to be a woman with a career, and hopefully my own home...”
Isobel was stunned, “but you CAN’T! Emma, this is YOU! You are that person! You can’t just stop being an actress like you can’t stop breathing!”
Emma sighed, “Babe I’m thirty in eleven weeks time, I’ve fought growing up for thirty years, but it’s over!”
Isobel was shaking her head in denial, but Eve spoke first, “well at least you went out with a bang!”
“Oh it was that ok!” Emma laughed, “now unless you want details of how Theo Samuel tasted, I do believe there’s another reason for us being gathered here.” The three friends all looked at Isobel who blushed.
“What have you got planned? I’m nervous now!”
Emma laughed before reaching into her bag for a package, “none of us wanted the matching t-shirts or silly fancy dress...but that doesn’t mean we don’t want you looking a little unique!” She rifled in the bag then pulled out some black horn rimmed glasses. “These are to be worn EVERYWHERE for the next five days...and there will be several other challenges that will be added as we go along!”
Isobel grinned and put on the spectacles, and damn if they didn’t make her look even more adorable!
Less than half an hour they were called on to their flight.
“Vegas here we come!” Angelina called as they tottered on their ridiculous heels towards the plane.