“Thank you. Thank you very much.” She blew out a long breath and smiled . “I can’t wait to start the production. I’ll see you Monday.” Nori paced around her small apartment, bouncing on her toes with every step. “Thanks again.” She ended the call and danced around, giggling incessantly . She inhaled deeply and let her breath out slowly. Her shoulders relaxed and she dialed a number. He picked up.
“Derek?” she asked, unable to suppress her wide smile on her face.
“Hey, Nori, what’s the story?” said her boyfriend in a dulcet tone. She could hear the perpetual amusement in his voice.
“Are you ever going to get tired of saying that to me?” she laughed.
“I highly doubt it.”
“You’ve been saying it for three and a half years. Since our third date, mister.”
“And yet, you still find it hysterical,” he said. She could hear the smirk in his voice.
“I don’t know? Did you hear me laugh?”
“It was a subtextual laugh,” he remarked.
“Dude, be serious for 30 seconds. Please, for me,” she pouted.
“Okay, super serious boyfriend mode activated!” exclaimed Derek. “What’s up, buttercup?”
She felt her heart melt. Without fail he took her mood from good to ecstatic.
“Remember how I interviewed to work on that movie? The indie film with Theo Masterson?” asked Nori, biting her lower lip.
“Yeah. It was called ‘Angel’ or something like that.”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“You said it didn’t go too well. But I take it if you’re calling me that it must have gone well, as I knew it would.”
“You’re wrong, it was awful,” she said, matter-of-factly. “But I must have had something going for me because they just called me.”
“Did you get the best boy job? You are definitely the best boy even if you’re a girl.”
“No,” she sighed. “They didn’t offer me the best boy grip position.”
“Then what? Did they call to taunt you?”
“Well, the gaffer did ask me to be the key grip. Which is only one step down.” She twirled around the only room of her studio apartment, no longer able to contain her excitement. “I’m going to be working with Jake Schwartz, one of the best lighting guys in Hollywood!”
“Nori, that’s amazing!”
“This is it! This is my big break!” She plopped onto her bed and fanned herself. She didn’t get this far by having a big ego.
“Only 23 and you’re already working on a major motion picture.”
“Derek, it’s just an indie film.”
“An indie film with Theo Masterson, your favorite actor and a hugely successful star. That stuff is resume gold! It’s a big deal. So, gloat for once in your life.”
“You’re right, Derek. This is really cool.”
“I know you’re not good with the praise, but you deserve it. All your hard work has finally paid off.”
“And I get to work with Theo Masterson!”
“Let’s be honest, that’s your favorite part. How many times did you watch that movie of his?”
“The one that was filmed by your house.”
“The Pennsylvania Story?”
“Yeah, that one.”
Her smile dissipated. “I watched it on repeat in foster care. And I watch it every year on the . . . on the anniversary.”
“You know that your parents would be so proud if they could see you now.”
“I know,” she whispered. A half smile crossed her face. “My mom was so excited that they were filming by our house. She always drove the long way home from school so she could see the cameras. I think in another life she wanted to act.” Her eyes were misting .
“I’m really proud of you, Nori.”
She wiped the tears from her eyes. “I know you are.” She took a deep breath and shrugged her shoulders. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
“Are you okay, babe? You’re doing your whole calming thing over there.”
“Yeah, I’m good now. Everything is finally coming together. You just finish up that dissertation so you can move out here and be with me.” She felt so much stress leaving her. This was the start of something great . . . the start of her future with Derek.
“I can’t wait to be the perfect trophy boyfriend with my incredibly good looking and super successful better half,” said Derek. Even 3000 miles apart Nori could imagine the goofy smirk that was most definitely on his face. She was fairly certain that he was also wiggling his eyebrows. It was never seductive, just silly.
“Haha, that’s cute that you think you’re perfect.”
He was perfect, but she could never let him know that. He was already the most confident man alive. The last thing he needed was her praising him.
“Who else could make you laugh as much as I do?” asked Derek.
“Who knows, maybe the god among men, Theo Masterson, will be taken by me and my Goddamn perfectness.”
“And what do you say if Theo Masterson asks if you have a boyfriend?”
“My boyfriend lives 3000 miles away and gave me full permission to leave him for you and your sexy-ass Britishness, Theo.”
“I said no such thing!”
“Oh, Theo, my boyfriend is so horrible. We’ve been dating for three and a half years and he lives all the way across the country and I’ve never even seen him naked. It’s a tragedy. You should marry me, Theo!” said Nori, all the fake drama she could muster, infused her voice.
Derek laughed. Nori smiled and collapsed on her bed just listening to his beautiful voice.
Soon she’d be working on a film with her celebrity crush. As much as she joked about running off with the Hollywood Heartthrob it was just a joke because Derek Prince was the love of her life. So much so that when he asked to wait till marriage she agreed.
Finally, Nori strut onto set with the rest of the lighting team. They followed Jake Schwartz, the gaffer. He was the guy in charge of the lighting design. His parents were huge in the industry. His mother was a famous actress. She’d starred in tons of movies and had even won an Oscar a few years back, and his father was an award winning screenwriter. The fact that they were still together after thirty years of marriage made them Hollywood royalty. But as young as he was, Jake had already made a name for himself in the industry.
Then there was Zev, the best boy grip, and Jake’s second in command. He was a tall, string bean of a man wearing a shirt with a unicorn on it. And he was rocking it. Nori was certain she’d learn a lot from both of them and eventually she too would be a best boy and then a gaffer. The team of grips were all male, and they were all taller than she was. In fact Nori was the smallest person on the lighting team, but she was ready to prove herself.
She was ready for the six week shoot. The planning stage had been a huge success and she was ready to prove that she deserved to be here as much as everyone else. She was in charge of tracking equipment usage, she was going to be taking all the light meter readings and she would be guiding the rest of the lighting team in following the plans they laid out. She couldn’t let them down.
The group had spent nearly four weeks prepping for the shoot. Nori felt a lightness in her chest as she directed the grips to unload the truck. For once she was holding court with a group and it didn’t scare her. She just hoped she’d stay this calm when she finally saw the man himself, Theo Masterson. He was probably in a trailer somewhere getting into costume. Or maybe he wasn’t even there yet. The sun was peeking over the horizon as they finished emptying the truck.
She and Derek had spent the day before laughing at the idea of Nori and her petite self trying to take light meter readings on the much taller Theo. He was a foot taller than Nori and in her words she’d ‘climb him like a tree.’
Derek said it would probably be more like her gaining selective mutism and then calling him a tree. Her boyfriend was probably correct. She had hobnobbed with a surprising number of celebrities in her year in Hollywood, but something about Theo Masterson was different. She just knew she’d freeze up when she finally met him.
The set up went smoothly, everyone doing their part. By the time filming was nearly ready to begin Nori felt unusually calm. The indie thriller had a very gritty film noir style, but with a fantastic twist. The first set was a bedroom set that was built on a soundstage with three puke green colored walls. It didn’t look like it would be fun to live there, but it would probably still be safer than Nori’s rundown studio apartment.
Nori took a handful of light readings on Theo’s stand-in, a tall guy named Mac Lewis. She wrote down the numbers on a notepad. Something wasn’t right. She stepped off her apple box and walked over to Jake.
“Hey, we’ve got too much light from the right side. It’s going to wash out the scene.”
“Okay. You fix that. I’ll talk to Cameron.” He pointed at the camera man.
“Copy that,” said Nori.
Nori glanced around assessing the lights to make the proper changes. She found the culprit. It took her only a few moments to figure out what needed to be fixed.
“Hey, Sam, can you bring the ladder over here?” asked Nori.
“Sure thing, Nori,” said the muscular grip.
Nori went to one of the boxes and grabbed an extra layer of diffusion. She turned off the blazing light and slipped on her gloves.
“Right here, Sam,” she said.
He opened the ladder. She climbed up and he held it in place. She unclipped the two C47’s, or in layman’s terms, clothespins, holding the orange gel in place. She put both pins on her belt and slipped the layer of diffusion on top of the orange sheet of plastic.
Zev was taping down wires with his roll of purple gaffer’s tape, the same shade as the scrunchie he had holding up his long, glorious hair.
“Everything alright, Nori?” asked Zev.
“Yeah, just adding a layer of diffusion. We may have to make some adjustments once we have Theo. But it was looking really harsh and was overwhelming the primary light source.”
Nori lined up the gel and diffusion and clipped them back in place. She stepped down and toggled the switch.
“Hey Mac, can you stand in place again?” asked Nori as she clipped her gloves back on her belt. He moved into place and Nori retook the readings, jotting them down.
“Are we ready to go?” asked Jake.
Nori gave a thumbs up. She slipped on her gloves, just in case she had to make any last-minute adjustments. She stooped down and picked up her apple-box and walked to the side. Now she waited.
Now all that was needed was the leading man. Mac was being used to estimate certain angles and heights, but until Theo arrived the lights wouldn’t be ready. Mac didn’t have Theo’s cheek bones. To be honest, no one had Theo’s cheekbones. They were Nori’s weakness.
“Eheheheh.” She heard it. His trademark laugh. Her eyes darted around and Theo Masterson was standing there, smiling. He was gorgeous. Tall, reddish blonde hair, fabulous cheek bones, a beard, and glasses. Did she mention his cheek bones? He looked so good in his glasses, a look not everyone could pull off, but he did so exceedingly well.
He was chatting with the lead actress, an up-and-coming starlet named Aurora Drystan. She was tall, blonde, beautiful, and . . . flirting with Theo. Nori didn’t care. She loved Theo as an actor. It wasn’t like she was dating him. Yet, she couldn’t help but feel a pang of unwarranted jealousy.
Aurora sat on a chair. She would film her first scene later, probably not till the next day, but she needed to build chemistry with Theo. Nori didn’t even realize she was staring at the gorgeous man as he walked onto his mark. Zev tapped her shoulder bringing her back to reality.
“Nori, that’s your cue.”
She had already worked with plenty of famous actors. But this was Theo Masterson–her favorite actor, the man who helped her through everything, and the driving force when she had nothing. He was the most important, at least to her.
She took a deep breath and placed the apple-box near him, slipped off her gloves and clipped them to her belt. She rubbed her hands on her pants as she stepped up on the box. Derek was right. All the words in her head vanished as soon as she was within inches of his face.
He smiled at her and she awkwardly mumbled, “I’ll . . . I’ll be a few moments, Mr. Masterson.”
“It’s quite alright,” he said, his infectious grin refusing to vanish. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
Certain she was blushing, Nori looked down at her shoes. Why did everything feel so quiet? Were people staring? She couldn’t look. She didn’t want to know.
“I’m Nori.” she said softly, trying to steady her shaking hand enough to angle the light meter in such a way as to not block the light. It was harder than it sounded. “ I need you to stay still.” She took a reading and grabbed her notepad, the pen from her bun, and quickly wrote down the numbers.
He chuckled. “Most people don’t tell me what to do.” She suddenly looked up at him. Was he flirting with her? No way was Theo Masterson flirting with her. He was just being nice. She tried to settle her nerves. She awkwardly smiled back at him and continued her work.
She took several readings and called out the numbers on the meter, then wrote them down. She reached to the other side of his beautiful face.
As Nori leaned closer toward Theo she lost her footing and slipped off the edge of the apple-box. Theo quickly caught her in his arms. She was pretty sure her heart skipped a beat. Theo smiled down at her and steadied her. She looked around, everyone was watching. Of course they were. The idiot girl who’d only worked on two movies fell on the lead actor. Why wouldn’t they stare? She could feel the blush crossing her face. She furrowed her brows and looked away.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
“Are you okay?” Theo asked. She looked back up into Theo’s beautiful eyes. She was touching him. It was like lightning. She couldn’t believe it.
“I’m fine.” She pulled away from him and went back to taking the readings. She could still feel the tingling pressure of his hands against her body.
“I couldn’t let you fall,” he murmured in her ear.
A chill ran down her spine, but she had to press onward. She called out the next reading, hoping to ignore what just happened. Jake gave her a signal to progress to the next part of the light reading.
Nori moved the apple box to the other side of Theo. She looked around trying to assess what everyone thought. Nori hated being the center of attention. Most people were already going back to their work, but Aurora was fuming. Somehow she knew she wouldn’t like that woman. But right now that didn’t matter. She just wished people would stop looking at her.
Nori called out the next three readings.
Jake talked to the camera man, then he called out, “Nori, stay there. We need to adjust the backlighting.”
Theo relaxed a bit. “Nori is a unique name.”
“I was named after my grandmother, Honoria. She died right before I was born. It’s a lovely tribute, but a bit old fashioned for my taste.”
“Honoria, that’s an Irish name. Were your ancestors Irish?”
“Was the red hair and liquid paper white skin not a dead give away?” asked Nori.
Theo chuckled. “Well, you can never be too certain these days. So much red hair comes from a box.”
In her most deadpan voice she stated, “Mine comes from the blood of my enemies.” Theo laughed. He actually laughed at something she said. She felt herself relax.