Disaster Piece

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Summary

Darren, an aging actor in his forties finds himself taking on a role in a low-budget indie film, detailing an ill-fated love affair that starts up between two friends. When he meets Kathryn Hartford, writer behind the story upon which the script is based, he finds himself drawn to her... When he finds out that the story is based on her actual disastrous past, Darren finds himself seeing double. It doesn't help that he finds himself falling both for the woman in front of him, and the woman in the pages of his script...

Genre:
Romance / Drama
Author:
Ruth E.H.
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
9
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

I hope your heart is good and strong, if you find yourself in my arms - the R.A.A.


***


In a summer when the whole world spoke of nothing much outside of its own destruction, Darren Elwing selfishly and silently wondered that perhaps it wasn’t really the planet going to hell…just life, as he knew it.


Most people likely wouldn’t agree with him, but most people who weren’t him, had no idea how scary the future appeared from his vantage point.


The sixth and final season of the hit sci-fi show which he starred in was still in the middle of filming, but already, he was feeling a very familiar anxiety creeping across his skin.


Frankly, it wasn’t something he had anticipated, that old apprehension. Wyvern was supposed to be his big break, the project that made his career, and to a huge extent, it had accomplished almost all of that, albeit, in a rather niche category of the entertainment industry.


Regardless, having taken more than one hard look at his prospects, Darren was forced to confront the uncomfortable fact that once the season aired, and the finale credits rolled, he would officially be unemployed.


Sure, he wouldn’t be dead broke this time, living on the rollout couch of his old college roommate. A decent investment portfolio would likely keep him in the green for the rest of his life, so long as he didn’t start buying luxury yachts every two weeks.


Still - unemployed was unemployed, and as an actor well into his forties, he understood that his chances of finding greater, or even similar success in other work, would continue diminishing by the day, if not the second. Worse, he could become a second rate Mark Hamill, and the only thing he’d ever really be known as, would be Captain Ray Quentin, alpha male space commander.


While it was true there were some directors who seemed interested in at least starting conversations with him, as his agent warned with brutal honesty, it was likely a lot of those discussions wouldn’t pan out past a quick meeting.


“You’re currently Captain Ray Quentin, commander of a spaceship called Wyvern, drifting through the awesome and terrifying cosmos, battling threats to humanity.” Cal had told him in between monstrous bites of his lunch. “It’s going to take a few years before people can see you as anyone different.”


“Are you suggesting I sit around and do nothing?” Darren asked picking dispiritedly at his limp salad.


“Not nothing. Stop overreacting. I’ll make sure you get a couple of films under your belt, make sure you get a few interviews…and then in two years, once the Wyvern craze is over, I’m sure someone else will pick you up for something big.”


Cal didn’t sound sure. In fact, the way his eyes kept shifting from side to side, Darren was certain his friend, who also happened to be his agent, was lying. Not out of spite, obviously - the other man just didn’t want to freak his client out.


“Dude, you keep saying you’ve not had a life in years, what with Wyvern literally eating up all your time.” the other man wiped at his mouth with a crisp linen napkin.


“That’s literally not how you should ever use the word ‘literally’,” Darren ran a hand through his dark brown curls in frustration. Silver was beginning to pepper his hair, and he hadn’t yet decided how he felt about this development. On one hand, he wondered if he would start fitting the role of the dignified older man who scored all the attractive women. On the other, he suspected he simply looked like a massive man-child.


“Shit like that is why I’m your only friend.” Cal rolled his eyes. “But why don’t you just…appreciate the freedom for a bit? Travel, or I dunno, get laid. It’s not like you’ve seriously seen anybody in the past three years. Or even casually. Not since Trish left, that bitch.”


“Ugh.” was all he could muster by way of response at his agent.


“What about all those projects you’ve got going on. All that climate change stuff…”


“I gave that up.” he said gloomily. “Everyone who works on those types of things, are either insanely narcissistic, or insanely clever. I simply don’t have the energy for those levels of self obsession, and I’m not very bright. Cal, maybe we should just take whatever comes next…”


“Darren, you could either become Adam Sandler, or you could become that bald guy from Star Trek.”


“Patrick Stewart. You mean Patrick Stewart.” Darren sank his face into his hands. “How are you in the entertainment industry?”


“I dunno. I started off being a literary agent. This whole thing kinda found me,” Cal admitted. “To be really honest, I was hoping to uncover the next great author of our time.”


“How awful for you to be stuck in this swamp of terrible piles of money,” the actor stated.


“You don’t pay me as much as you think you do. No seriously, I depend on the other talent in my contact list who I don’t make time for, and who I don’t consider actual friends.” Cal smirked and stood up. “Relax. It’ll be fine. I promise.”


***


There was a bit of radio silence after that, at least on the job front. It took every iota of his willpower not to harangue Cal about it every time they hung out, and mostly, he was successful.


By the time the final days of filming Wyvern rolled around, Darren began seriously wondering if his acting days were in fact, finished. It was two months after that lunch time conversation, before his agent called with something solid.


“Got something.”


“Oh?” the actor perked up. It was leg day, and leg day was boring day. A phone call from his agent from a welcome distraction. Stepping away from his personal gym equipment, he paced the width of the room.


“Yeah. Indie flick, based on a novella…I would say its a rom-com except its not funny and kinda has a super depressing ending. Lots of romance-ish stuff though.” Cal said. The actor could hear the other man typing furiously on his laptop.


“A novella?” Darren asked suspiciously.


“A novella is somewhere between a short story and a full length novel. The word count is usually at…”


“You’re a dick.”


“Glad we’ve established that. Anyway, it was optioned sometime ago, and a small producer has actually picked it up…the author had one tiny request.” Cal was smirking, Darren knew.


“That’s…worrisome…” the actor stared out the window at the city below. “I thought authors didn’t get a say in these things.”


“Maybe,” Cal said happily. “She’s a bit of a Wyvern fan - basically told her people she thinks you’re perfect for the role.”


“Oh god, she sounds like a crazy fangirl.” Darren slapped at his forehead. “I swear to god, if this is some sort of Hunger Games fanfiction adaptation…”


“You should be so lucky.” Cal said drily. “She’s not crazy. A friend of mine happens to represent her. Or used to. I spoke with the writer in person. Kathryn’s actually the farthest thing from crazy. A little quirky, maybe. Cute too…”


“You sound like you have a crush on her. Are you sure you’re not using this as an opportunity to get a date out of this?”


“That’s totally besides the point,” Cal sounded sheepish, before he added quickly, “Seriously, it’s a good story. I liked it. It won’t win any major awards, but it’ll be one of those indie flicks that’ll get some sort of critical recognition. You won’t even need to audition - they want the biggest name they can afford and since you’ve been chomping at the bit...”


“Fine.” Darren said, deciding he’d rather be working than sitting around, thinking of that golden age when he still had a job. “Sure.”


“Awesome. We’ll get this set up. You should grab a copy of the novella if you can - it’s called The Friendship Agreement.” Cal sounded relieved. “There’s a bit of a commitment on the physical side of things.”


“The kind where I get to eat all the junk food I want?” Darren brightened up hopefully.


“Yeah right. You’re an actor. You know what you signed up for.” the guy chortled.


He really needed better friends, Darren scowled.


***


The Friendship Agreement (excerpt)


It was the coldest day of 2014, and Lara Harley was freezing and exhausted. It had been a long week dealing with assholes while wearing a huge smile, and her face was literally hurting from the effort. Who knew being a consultant was almost exactly like working a cash register at Christmastime, if Christmas was twelve months a year?


Still, the sight of the massive basset hound seated across the subway aisle lifted her spirits. The dog was a sweet old thing, and for some reason, he was dressed like someone’s lumberjack uncle. Tilting his massive head to and fro, the beastie surveyed his fellow passengers with ridiculous solemnity…from where he was seated awkwardly on his owner’s lap.


The creature was literally half the size of the man who cradled it, so large he obscured the face of his master. Not that Lara cared - if she had it her way, she would spend her days talking to people’s pets, rather than their owners. Pets were a lot less likely to be total morons who decided to argue over a single mis-worded phrase in a Requirements document.


Honestly, thinking about her clients made her wonder what she was doing with her life.


Just as she was about to tell the dog what a good doggie he was, never mind that people were going to think she was crazy, the hound shifted, just enough so that her eyes met his owner’s own.


“Uh…” she heard herself say, as the man stared at her in equal surprise.


Thinking fast, Lara grabbed her belongings and scrambled to her feet. Thankfully, the next stop was being announced, and while it was nowhere near her actual destination, there was no chance in hell she was staying on the train for another second longer than was necessary.


Sprinting out the door, she was almost at the foot of the escalator that would have taken her to street level when an unmistakable voice called out from behind. In her head, she had been praying that she’d made a mistake - that the man she just shared a moment with was not who she thought it was.


“Lara, wait!”


Without quite meaning to, her steps slowed. Around her ankles the dog she had been ogling only minutes ago, sniffed carefully at Lara, before settling himself down on his wide haunches. Lifting his massive head, the hound stared mournfully up at her.


“Why do you have to have such a cute dog?” Lara sighed in defeat. Realizing she had already lost the battle, the woman crouched down and stroked the dog’s head, paying particular attention to its silky ears. “You’re a good boy aren’t you? My god but you’re handsome, how does anyone resist those eyes of yours? Hmm?”


“Lara come on.” she could hear the plea in his voice now. Grey eyes met green, as the man she had been running from sank into a crouch.


“Hello Zack.” Lara said, withdrawing her attention from the hound, though it had been relishing her affections with massive enthusiasm. “How have you been?”


“Four years of nothing and that’s how we’re gonna start?” Zack practically exploded, exactly like the child she knew him to be.


Some things never changed.


“Well if you’re going to be difficult about it…” Lara rose quickly to her feet.


“Wait, fuck. Sorry. I fucked that up.” the man said hurriedly, reaching out and grabbing her hand in an effort to stop her from leaving. Not seeming to notice that she had frozen completely under his touch, he continued.


“Please. One drink. One coffee - hell, I’ll buy you all the beverages in the world if you don’t run off.”


“I…” she turned and met his gaze again. Swallowing, she remembered now, how she could never say no to him, and it always had to do with those goddam emerald eyes.


“Please.” he was smiling a little now, obviously sensing that he was nearing some sort of success.


Smug bastard.


“Fine.” Sometimes, she really hated her penchant for self-torture. “One coffee.”


Ten minutes later, they sat across from each other in prickling silence. Though the coffee shop was warm and somewhat cosy, already, her mug was growing cold to the touch. Winter had a way of seeping into everything, no matter the technological advancements of the age.


Lara did not know why she had just ordered a coffee - it was past six o’clock in the evening, and drinking it would guarantee she would spend the whole night in restless purgatory, stuck between wakefulness and fatigue. In turn, by her side, Jake would not be able to get any sleep of his own, and husband and wife would rouse themselves in the morning, ready to tear each other’s head off.


Another fight was exactly what their marriage did not need, and certainly, it was not what she wanted in the least.


Across the small table, in strangely familiar symmetry, Zack had yet to touch his congealing hot chocolate. When the man had first requested it of the barista, she had found herself taken aback. There was a time when sweet things were on his list of ‘food most evil’, and the beverage he was currently stirring was basically liquid sugar.


Gleefully, she had considered that perhaps Zack had finally decided to join the side of the humans. Staring at him not drinking his hot chocolate, it was almost a little disappointing to realize that it was likely he was still stuck in his self-righteous rut about something as mundane as goddamn sugar.


“Right…” he pursed his lips. “…not touching the coffee. That’s five dollars well spent…still have insomnia huh?”


“It comes and it goes.” she pushed the coffee away at last, giving up all pretences that she might try taking even a sip of the burned brew.


“Yeah. You used to talk about it all the time.” he chuckled rustily.


“Like I could get a word in edgewise every time you talked about some new bicycle you wanted…” she retorted amicably, forgetting for a moment she wasn’t supposed to feel this at ease around Zack.


“Please. At least I had interests outside of, I dunno, some new movie starring Daniel Craig.” he smirked.


The two smiled at each other, and for a moment, it was as if no time had passed at all between them.


“This wasn’t how I imagined it.” he said at last. “For the past four years, in my head, I must have thought of hundreds of things I would say to you the next time I saw you.”


With that, the illusion shattered. Lara fought not to show any emotion at his words - it hadn’t occurred to her that he might have thought of her at all.


Zack leaned back in his chair. “You left. You just…fucking disappeared.”


“I had to.”


“Why?” he demanded, his voice growing harsher with every syllable.


“I don’t understand. Help me understand. We were friends, we were great friends, and then one day, you just dropped off the face of the earth. I tried messaging you after you resigned, but you changed your number. You wouldn’t answer my emails, I couldn’t find you on Facebook anymore…I thought maybe you fucking died!”


“Ugh.” Lara rubbed her eyes in frustration. It wasn’t fair for her to be angry at him, and yet… “You must know. How could you not know,”


“I really don’t. Seriously, I…”


“I told you I was in love with you.” the words poured out in a rush. “I told you I was in love with you, and I was, in fact, head over heels in love with you. Do you remember what you said next?”


Paling rapidly, Zack stared aghast at her. Opening and closing his mouth like a guppy, he seemed incapable of finding a response.


“Yeah. Exactly. That’s what you said.” she slammed an open palm down on the table. “You said nothing and ran out my front door like the hounds of hell were nipping at your ankles,”


“Wait a second. You abandoned our friendship because what, I didn’t immediately fall into your arms?” Zack lowered his voice into an irritated hiss as he slouched towards her. “Are you seriously telling me our friendship was not worth it, not enough for you to at least drop me a line to let me know you’re still alive? Do you know what you put me through?”


“I fucked up. I get it…” Lara bit her lip and looked down. “I realized about a year after, that I was being totally immature about the whole thing. But…do you know how fucking hard it was for me? I had to see you every day. I had to keep on behaving like nothing had changed between us...meanwhile, the entire time, I had to live with the fact that you didn’t feel the same way about me even a little bit. In case I’m not making myself clear - it fucking sucked!”


“I swear to god Lara, you can be such an asshole.” he ran a tired hand through his flaming red hair. “Fuck I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but you do remember I had just broken up with Emily back then right? A few weeks before you told me you were in love with me?”


“Um…”


Zack squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. “I was so fucking lost, and here’s my stupid friend, trying to get some sort of reaction out of me.”


As the man collected his thoughts, she stared at him in growing horror. From his perspective, she thought, she must have come off like such an entitled dick.


“It wasn’t like I didn’t think about…ah fuck. Lara, I’m pretty sure I thought about you back then - granted, probably not as much as you thought about me. But like hell I was going to risk a relationship with you…I didn’t want you to be some rebound fuck. I didn’t want to ruin what felt like a beautiful friendship - which evidently, it was not - and goddamn it, do I need to keep on talking?”


The two former colleagues stared at each other in stricken silence. Three years they had worked side by side; three years spent becoming as close as two people could become, without engaging in any form of romantic liaisons. They had fought the same battles, endured the same challenges…


“You are very much not the victim in this tragedy.” he laughed. It wasn’t a good laugh. “But because I’m a loser, who doesn’t know when to walk away from people I care about, even when they act like complete ass-wipes, right now, all I want to know is how the hell the last four years have been for you.”


Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Lara fiddled with a sugar packet. “I’m good. Everything is good. I got married back in 2011…”


“I see that,” he nodded towards her ring before holding up his own right hand, where a gold band glinted. “Me too. Earlier this year.”


“Huh. Guess things worked out for both of us.” Lara tried to sound hopeful.


“Who’s the lucky guy?” Zack asked, looking down.


“You know him. Or at least you’ve met him. I married Jake.”


“Jake. Yeah I remember…he’s…uh…” her companion seemed to have having trouble finding the right adjective.


“You didn’t like him.” Lara supplied helpfully. “But then you never liked anyone I dated.”


“Can’t even begin to imagine why that might be,” Zack’s lips twitched upwards in a wry smile.


“Alright fine. I’m a huge asshole and I’m really sorry.” she sighed with sincere contrition. “I behaved like a massive dick, and in no way, like a good friend should ever behave. Happy now?”


“Say it. Say you suck.” his grin widened. “Say you’re a terrible, no-good, horrible human being.”


“I suck.” she rolled her eyes, though there was something like relief blooming in her chest at the sight of his smile. “I’m a terrible, no-good, horrible human being.”


“Now say I was right about the Star Wars prequels. Admit that they were actually well made movies of quality.”


“You’re trying my limits, you Jar Jar Binks loving weirdo,”


In response, he made a face at her.


“I missed this. I missed you. I missed my friend.” he shrugged, and looked a little hesitant. “At least I hope you would like to be my friend again. You’re not just going to…vanish again are you?”


Every instinct in Lara’s body told her that vanishing was likely the best course of action she should take. It was far too risky…already, her heart was beginning to take on a familiar rhythm, the longer she sat in the coffee shop across from Zack.


“No.” she shook her head. “I’m not going to.”


“Does this mean you might even add me back as a friend on Facebook?” he questioned teasingly, though the uncertain trepidation in his voice was unmistakable.


“Is that actually a concern?” she couldn’t help but smile. Looking out the window, she caught sight once again of Zack’s hound, which was looking hopefully towards his human from where he had been tethered.


“Back on the subway, why didn’t you just put your dog on the ground? Why were you carrying that massive creature - who also happens to be the embodiment of all things adorable - on your lap?”


“We just came from the vet. He seemed so sad…” Zack started sheepishly.


“Yeah well, you made a giant spectacle of yourself,” she laughed at him.


“Got your attention didn’t I?” he offered. “I should have guessed that all I needed to do this entire time was drag Chip all around town.You’re a total sucker for puppy eyes.”


“No.” Lara agreed, wishing she could have defied his expectations somehow. “I really can’t resist.”


They were both reasonable, older adults now, Lara decided. What could go wrong, being friends with each other?

Start writing here…

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