“You know what I miss most about living in New York?” said Nori, as she walked from the craft service table to a table under the lunch tent. She sat down at the table with Theo and put her lunch tray in front of her, then she pulled out her blood sugar meter from her utility belt. She was hypoglycemic and therefore prone to low blood sugar.
“What?” replied Theo as he took a bite of his sandwich. To her surprise, he was completely unfazed by the blood sugar meter.
Nori put the strip in the meter and pricked her finger. “I miss real New York Pizza. I hate this fake stuff that LA tries to pass off as pizza . . . and bagels . . . God, I haven’t had a real bagel since I moved here a year ago. I was never able to have it much, but still . . . Do you know what a year without real pizza and bagels does to a girl?” She got her reading and put the meter away.
“Eheheh! Those are good things to miss.”
Nori wanted to pinch herself to see if she was dreaming. The film had gone to its second production location, a park outside with a large flower garden and a wide variety of trees. She had to layer on the sunblock, but that wasn’t shocking . The shocking part was that Theo wanted to take lunch with her. She had been in the lunch line behind him and he asked her to sit with him. She hadn’t known what to say so she just nodded. But he spoke to her the entire wait in line and she was quickly realizing that Theo was a normal guy, who happened to be a gorgeous and famous actor.
Jake and Zev were waving for her attention. She was certain they wanted her to sit with the rest of the grips. But she shook her head no. Jake looked frustrated and sighed then went back to his conversation with Zev.
“So, tell me about yourself,” said Theo.
“What do you want to know?” she asked. Her heart was threatening to pound out of her chest. This was everything she dreamed of.
“Where did you go to school?” he asked.
“NYU. I was fortunate. I got in on a scholarship.”
Aurora got off the food line and walked past Theo three times. She finally sat next to Jake and glared at Nori, but Nori ignored the starlet.
“How did you get interested in film?” he asked.
“When I was 14 my parents died,” said Nori.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s not like it was your fault.”
Theo was quiet for a moment. “It was a sympathetic sorry. But do go on.”
“It all started when someone at social services gave me a camera to help me document my feelings. They thought recording my emotions might help. But instead I filmed the stuff around me.”
“You must be incredibly strong,” said Theo.
She gave him a weak smile. “I don’t know how I ever survived it all. I moved to a new town and a new school and when looking for classes that weren’t full up the school stuck me in a TV program. It ended up being the best thing for me. I looked at the footage I’d filmed and learned how to make it better.”
“That’s amazing. Somehow I always knew I wanted to be an actor.”
“I would love to say I always knew what I wanted to do, but I actually had no clue. Then my TV teacher suggested this scholarship he knew of, I applied for it, not even aware it was for film.”
“That must have been awkward.”
“Honestly? I was kind of relieved that it happened. It was less for me to think about.”
The tent was getting crowded. All but a few people on staff were having lunch. It had been a long day. Nori had gotten up at five a.m. to make it to set on time.
“What about friends?” asked Theo. Then she heard him mumble, “Boyfriends?”
Did she hear that right?
Nori smiled. “I met some great friends in college. My sophomore year I went to a party with some friends and they introduced me to this senior from Steven’s College. Apparently they’d been trying to get us to meet for months but both of us kept cancelling. I’ve been dating him ever since. Right now he’s at Columbia finishing his Ph.D.”
“It must be nice to have someone who cares about you,” said Theo. His hand quickly clenched and unclenched, and he took a bite of his sandwich. Then he smiled at her and she couldn’t help but smile back.
“It is...I don’t have enough people in the world who care.”
“Well, I’m always glad to be a mate...a friend if you need it,” said Theo.
Nori smiled at him. She figured he had made the offer, but wouldn’t actually follow through. But the next day he took his lunch with her again. Then he did it the day after that, and every day they were available at the same time.
Their schedules didn’t always line up, but when they did, Theo became a true friend.
Meanwhile, when Theo wasn’t on set or they were not taking their break together she would dine with the lighting crew. She had excelled at every task they’d given her and Jake had expressed interest in hiring her for his next film.
The phone rang. Nori patted around on her bed and picked up. “Hello?” she asked, groggily.
“Hey Nori, what’s the story?”
She rubbed her eyes. “Derek, do you know what time it is?”
“Well, it’s like two P.M. here, so, it’s eleven A.M. there.”
“Wait, it’s eleven?” Nori pulled herself up and patted around till she found her glasses.
“I’m guessing you were still asleep,” said Derek.
“Yeah, I was working late last night,” she said with a yawn. “We didn’t get done with breaking down the set until almost two a.m and then I had to walk home. And it was dark and I think there was a car following me, so I went the long way to avoid the crappy part of the complex.”
“Oof. Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” She yawned again. Derek yawned in response and she chuckled.
“Why didn’t you call an Über?”
“Oh yes, escape the stranger following me on the street by calling a stranger on the internet. With my luck that guy following me would be my Über driver. Besides, the surge pricing at that time on a Friday night would have been awful.”
“Well, at least you’re off today.”
Nori started getting herself ready for the day, while she spoke with Derek. “Dude, I’ve needed today off. Everything is piling up.”
“I’m surprised Theo didn’t try to spend the day with you since he’s totally and completely fallen in love with you.”
“Dude, he hasn’t fallen in love with me. We’re just friends.”
“I mean, yeah, but he clearly wants to be more.”
“No, he just likes my brand of crappy humor,” said Nori. She went into her rather barren dresser for a change of clothes. She also made a mental note that she needed to do some laundry.
“Lies, you’re hilarious.”
“We both know that you’re the funny one and I’m the weird one.”
“That is true. I’m pretty funny. And pretty pretty.”
“You are a very pretty man.”
“You flatter me,” said Derek in a sickly sweet voice. “So whatcha gonna do next week after this whole thing wraps up?”
“Look for another job.”
“You’ll have no problem now that you have Theo on your resume.”
“True. Oh, have you heard anything on Thanksgiving?”
“I’ll let you know as soon as I do,” said Derek.
“Awesome. Can I call you back later? I gotta do some chores, mostly laundry.”
“No prob, Bob. You get your chores done and call me later. We can probably watch a movie over Skype or play a video game.”
“Sounds like a date, talk soon,” said Nori. She blew a kiss in the phone before hanging up on Derek.
“You know what else I hate about L.A.?”
“It’s public transportation system is practically non-existent.” Nori looked down at her plate and pushed the unappetizing food around. “When I lived in New York I could take the train everywhere. Here it’s awful buses that are always late and even when I catch one I’m still walking another 20 minutes to my building from the bus stop and sometimes cars follow me.”
Nori looked up and realized Theo was staring at her with his mouth hanging open.
“Wait . . . did I say something weird?” She was prone to doing that and she knew it.
“Are you meaning to tell me that you have been taking buses to the set for the last four and a half weeks.”
“And that sometimes strange cars follow you home?”
“I mean, I can’t prove it was following me home. Last time I noticed a car following me was at like two in the morning and I wasn’t even sure if anyone was actually following me. It was late and dark.”
“That is incredibly dangerous! Where do you live?” It sounded more like a demand than a question. For the first time in their friendship, Nori was a bit uncomfortable, but she took a breath and pushed those feelings aside.
“I live on Barham Boulevard,” she said.
He snapped his fingers. “I need an actual address.”
“I’m sending someone to pick you up.”
“There’s only, like, a week and half of filming left. I don’t need anyone to pick me up. I’m really good at taking care of myself.”
“I’m not taking no for an answer,” said Theo. “How about you text me your address? Actually, just give me your email since I’ll be going back to London soon anyway. That way we can keep in touch.” She blushed yet again and nodded at him.
“Give me your phone, I’ll type it in.” Theo handed her his phone and she typed nervously, she couldn’t believe that she was giving him her email. She handed him the phone and he typed something in.
“I sent you an email. Respond with your address.” Nori’s phone buzzed. Her fingers trembled as she typed out her address. She couldn’t believe that her favorite actor would know where she lived.
Nori unlocked her phone and checked her email for the quadrillionth time. It said, ‘A car will be outside your apartment at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. Please be ready to leave.’
It was 6:55. She was standing outside worried that no car would ever arrive. She would have left at five o’clock if she was taking the bus.
She quickly called Derek. It was 9:55 a.m. in New York.
“Oh, hi,” said Nori.
“Did this car that Theo sent get there?” asked Derek
“I got a few more minutes. He said seven a.m.”
“Be careful, babe.”
“I know. You think Theo’s in love with me,” she said, lacing every word with sarcasm.
“How could he not be? Red hair, a goofy laugh. You’re perfection,” said Derek, sincerity in every word. Nori smiled weakly, and as she looked down she realized her nails were digging into her arm.
“Why would he love me when girls like Aurora Drystan exist?” Nori knew that Derek was too good for her. But for some reason he liked her.
“Because girls like Aurora Drystan are only beautiful on the outside. You’re beautiful on the outside and the inside.”
“No way am I more beautiful than Aurora.”
“Why are you giving her any credit? Didn’t she call you the lighting wench last week?”
“No. She called Zev the lighting wench. To be fair he has longer hair than I do and would make a beautiful bar-maid if he chose,” said Nori.
“Either way, she’s full of herself. She gets one break and forgets that she was once just like us regular people.”
The blinding lights of a car cut through the dawn. Nori cautiously looked at the oncoming vehicle. It didn’t look like anything someone in this rundown apartment complex would drive. That had to be the car Theo was sending.
“Babe, I have to go. The car just arrived.” The black car pulled in front of her and she walked up to it.
“Love you. Real quick, I should be able to visit you for Thanksgiving.”
Nori let out a squeal. “Oh my god! That’s going to be the best. We’ll talk later. I love you.” She blew a kiss into the phone and sighed contentedly as she ended the call. A big smile overtook her face.
The backdoor of the car opened and Theo smiled at her lazily.
“Morning,” he said.
He’d shaved. He looked so good. This week they were working on the opening scenes of the movie, which were supposed to take place two years before the main story.
Nori went to the passenger door, the window rolled down and a driver pointed at the back. She went to the back and climbed into the car and pulled the door closed. Theo sat next to her with a lazy smile. She smiled back in confusion. “First I want to say thank you. And I swear, this isn’t to be rude, but, why are you here? Isn’t your call time way later?”
“It was short notice so I just had to add you as a pickup.”
“Thank you. But what are you going to do with all the extra time?”
Nori buckled herself in and Theo tapped the partition. The car started moving. “I can nap in my trailer till I’m needed.”
“Now it’s my turn for questions. Who were you on the phone with?” asked Theo.
“Derek, right?” She was impressed that he remembered.
“Yeah. He’s got class at 11, New York time, that is.”
“What’s he going to school for again? I’m quite certain you told me, but I don’t remember.”
“He’s getting his Ph.D in biomedical engineering. He is going to move out here with me as soon as he finishes his degree.”
Nori looked over at Theo. His jaw was clenched. He reached out and grabbed a travel mug, took a sip of his drink, and cracked his neck.
Before she knew it the film came to an end. She broke down the lights for the last time and said all her goodbyes to the new friends she’d made on the crew. When it was all said and done she got into the car with Theo and the driver, Damien, set off for her apartment. It was late and the drive was quiet. She must have dozed off or fallen into a trance because before she knew it, she was home. Theo opened the car door and she stepped out.
“Do you need a ride to the wrap party tomorrow night?” he asked.
“To be honest I was thinking of skipping it,” replied Nori.
“Why? It’ll be much more fun if you’re there.” He followed her, always the gentleman, he wanted to see that she arrived home safely.
“I’m not big on parties. But I do want to say thank you for the pick ups. I also have to get back to looking for my next job. Jake said he wanted to hire me, but his next film isn’t until December and I’m sure I can pick something up for the duration of October and November,” she said, as they stepped into the entryway of her building.
“Send me your resume. I have some people I know who could probably get you a job,” said Theo.
They walked down the winding hall toward her unit.
“I’d appreciate that.”
“If you aren’t going to the wrap party at least let me take you out for lunch before I return to London.”
They reached her door and she unlocked it, being careful not to open it all the way or he might see the mess that had accrued over the last few days due to her limited cleaning time.
“Sure, I don’t see why not.”
“I’ll email you.”
“Have fun at the wrap party.”
“You sure I can’t persuade you?”
Nori giggled. “Nope. Netflix, rest, and job applications are calling for me. I might even be wild and start a new video game now that I have the time. But you have fun.”
“I’ll email you when I get home about lunch.”
“I’ll keep an eye out. Night.” She closed the door on him. Exhaustion had finally caught up with her. Nori took off her glasses, then collapsed on the bed and passed out.
As she had predicted when saying goodnight to Theo, the day was spent applying for jobs, watching Netflix, and of course taking a well deserved nap or two. Late that night her phone rang.
“Hey Nori, what’s the story?”
Nori giggled. “Hey babe. Sorry I didn’t call you at midnight last night when I got in.”
Derek laughed, “I’m so offended. You should have woken me at three a.m. to tell me every little detail. Even though you knew I had lab all day today.”
Nori put speaker phone on so she could browse the internet while talking. “While this was one of the best films I’ve ever worked on, I’m so glad it’s over. I spent most of the day sleeping.”
“You earned it. Don’t worry ’bout it.”
“Did you move to Brooklyn while I was away?” joked Nori.
“I am not made of money. Who do you think I am? Theo Masterson? Speaking of wealthy men who are wildly in love with you, how was Theo, yesterday?”
“He finished his final scene at four p.m and he came back at about ten and waited till I was done so his driver could bring me home.”
“I told you.”
“You did. You were right. He’s totally in love with me.”
“I told you.”
“Either that or he really just likes me as a platonic friend and nothing more,” lilted Nori.
“We both know that’s a lie.”
“I’m so glad you’re not the jealous type.”
“I’m so glad you put up with my bad jokes. I mean, they’re really bad. Like, how do you deal with me? Wait, what were we talking about . . . ?”
“I trust you. And besides Theo’s going back to England soon.”
“He’ll forget all about me.”
“Hey, it’s not too late to run off with him. I’d understand if you wanted to leave me for a rich and famous actor. Especially a heartthrob like Theo Masterson. Hell, I’d leave you for Theo if he wanted me. He’d give me a very comfortable life.”
“He’s a great guy, but ya know, for some reason I like you better” she crooned. “God, I must be crazy.”
“Of course you are. Why else would I be dating you?”
“True, Derek, you are the epitome of insane.”
“I have to be. I’m on college degree number three, I’m 26, and for some reason I’m living 3000 miles away from your goofy face. I must be a nutter.”
“But you’re my nutter.”
“Awww, and you’re my little Nori-Story.”
She scrolled down her timeline and saw a bizarre sight. “Dude are you on Facebook?”
“I’m sending you a picture.”
It was the wrap party. Theo was caught leaving with Aurora on camera and they seemed to be quite cozy. “I guess I was wrong about Theo being in love with me. They’re all over each other.”
“Damn. I feel bad that he’s with that troll when he could have kept after you. She’s a solid two and you’re at least a four.”
“Oh, I’m a four today. Nice. Last week I was a three.”
“Yeah, well, last week my scale only went up to three. This week it’s up to four,” snarked Derek.
“By the way, I’m going to lunch with Theo tomorrow before he goes back to London.”
“Good luck looking at him after knowing he banged Aurora.”
“Gross. I mean you’re completely right. But gross.”
Nori waited outside for Theo, just as he had asked. The car pulled up. He opened the door from inside and she hopped in.
“How was the wrap party?” asked Nori, fully expecting to hear about his tryst with Aurora.
“It was bloody rubbish.” Nori let out a small giggle at his incredibly British slang, but Theo didn’t look amused. She tried to be serious.
“What happened that made it so bad?”
“Aurora got plastered...I mean drunk and tried to snog me.” He lifted his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I hauled her off to a car last night and then the paparazzi snapped a rather awkward photo of the two of us.”
“You don’t have to lie to me, Theo. I saw the photos.”
Theo slid his frames back onto his face and clicked his tongue. “Blimey! You don’t honestly think I’d be into a wanker like her?”
“Jeez, I’m sorry. I just thought . . . nevermind. You don’t have to go getting so serious on me, Theo.”
“No, I shouldn’t have snapped. Sorry. It’s just frustrating, dealing with the rumors and everything. I assumed you’d know me better than to think I’d be interested in that train-wreck.”
“I was just joking.” She paused awkwardly. “What kind of woman are you into?”
“I’m into women I can be myself around.”
Nori quietly stared out the window. She tugged at her hair and twisted it around her finger. “Are you mad at me?”
“No. I’m sorry. This is my thank you lunch to you for being such a good mate and here I am being absolute rubbish.”
“It’s my fault too. I shouldn’t have asked. So, where are you taking me, Theo?”
“A place I think you’ll enjoy. I’m sure I don’t come off this way, but I’m actually incredibly shy. I often do my own thing on set and you were there for me.” The rest of the drive was just quiet conversation. Finally the car pulled into a strip mall just outside Santa Monica. “We’re here, Nori.”
“A strip mall?” She looked around at the shops wondering where they were going.
“It’s what’s in the strip mall. Follow me.”
Theo pulled on a baseball cap and sunglasses. They got out of the car and she followed him. He walked into a hole in the wall pizza place.
“We’re getting pizza?”
“Not just pizza. New York pizza.”
"Oh, wow, you remembered. Thank you, Theo.”
After a thoroughly satisfying meal they got back in the car and Nori had a big grin on her face, happy to have befriended Theo. “Next time you’re in LA we should do this again.” She looked out the window at a small group of tourists with cameras photographing pigeons.
“Maybe.” Theo was fiddling around, nervously. The car pulled out of the parking lot and he relaxed.
Suddenly, Nori felt something strange. She winced as pain flowed through her neck. She looked up at Theo, with wide eyes. He pressed in the plunger of a large needle.
“What are you doing?” she gasped.
“I’m sorry, Nori,” he whispered. Her vision was going blurry. He pulled her tense body into his and pressed a kiss to her lips before the darkness overtook her.