“You live with your parents?”
If you’re a celebrity and over twelve, people don’t expect you to live with your parents, if they even imagine that you have parents. Movie stars are believed to spring fully formed into apartment-acquiring adulthood. Older girls are the worst offenders when it comes to these expectations of independence, and the one leaning against me now is no different.
Her question is whispered in response to me shushing her as I’m trying to fit the key in the lock and get the two of us into the house and into my room without any interference. Now she’s giggling, both hands over her mouth, muffling the sound—though maybe I can’t hear her because my ears are still ringing from the concert in which she was on stage with an electric bass in her skilled hands while I watched from the VIP section.
I squint at her, because I’m swaying and she’s swaying and our movements are not synchronized. “I said I was turning eighteen tonight, not thirty. Where do you expect me to live?” There’s no rancor behind the slurred words, and luckily she seems to deduce as much from my tone.
“Okay, okay, Jesus. I forgot what a baby you are.”
I arch a brow at her as the key slips into the dead bolt with a metallic scrape. “Nope. Tonight, I’m a man. Remember?” I won’t bother to tell her that other girls her age didn’t wait until I was a legal adult; I prefer to let her assume she has something to teach me. Who knows, maybe she does. I turn the key until the lock clacks, depress the lever and push a shoulder against the door. We’re in. Putting a finger to my puckered lips, I repeat, “Shhh,” while I wrestle the key from the door.
This time, she nods, swaying closer with a wicked smile, inclining against me while I grab the door frame for support. Her makeup is smeared and she smells like stale cigarettes and beer—but so do I. “I remember.” Her voice is raspy, like the teeth of the key against the lock.
Alcohol-induced dreams are always weird and crude—and I mean that in the best possible way. Then comes the unfortunate act of waking up. By that point, the buzz is long gone, inhibitions are flooding back, and the only thing hammered is the inside of my skull. Add an outside stimulus like, say, a ringing cell set on level wake-the-fuck-up, and I’m propelled to the opposite of a pleasant stage of inebriation. Suddenly a brain-rototilling free-for-all is taking place in an enclosed space, right behind my eyeballs. Welcome to hangoverland.
I click talk to make the screaming stop (I like this song? Really?), but don’t bother trying to answer, because my mouth is a desert and speech is improbable. There’s a water bottle on the bedside table, but when I stretch to grab it, I drop the phone, which emits the barely audible voice of my manager, George. “Hello? Reid? Hell-o-o?”
Shit. Swiping the phone from the floor, I nearly fall off the bed. “’Lo?” My voice sounds and tastes like it’s flowing through gravel.
“Rough night?” George is sarcastic, but not callously so. He’s my manager, not my parent. I assume he’s grateful to the universe, fate, God, whatever/whoever’s in charge for that. I’m a better client than I am a son. Just ask my dad.
I lift my head a fraction, to see if that hot little bass guitarist from the band John and I saw last night is still here. I vaguely remember her stumbling around my room with me, giggling like she was thirteen instead of the twenty-whatever she said she was. She’s nowhere, but a barely legible note is under my water bottle, the ring around the bottom splotching the ink. I take a generous gulp from the bottle and check it out: Reid—awesome night. More please? I put my number in your phone—Cassandra
Cassandra. Did she ever say her name last night? I can’t remember.
“Reid?” George’s voice. Crap.
“Yeah.” I lurch to a seated position on the side of the bed, my head in one hand and the phone in the other, trying to decide if I need to throw up or not. Verdict: possibly.
“Richter just called—you got the part in School Pride. He said he’s looking forward to working with you.” Adam Richter is one of Hollywood’s leading directors. The man is a legend with an eye for teen dramas. “You’re scheduled to do a two-minute spot on ET tomorrow, by the way, so rest up. Also, Richter wants you in on auditions for the Lizbeth role. Those will start in a couple of weeks. We’ll discuss all of this on Friday.”
“Sure.” God, my head feels like it’s going to fall off. “What’s the location?”
“They’ve decided to film in Austin.”
“Last time I checked, yes, that’s where Austin is located.”
School Pride, ET, auditions, Austin. Christ, my head is splitting. Why don’t I ever remember that mornings like this are the predictable conclusion of nights like last night?
*** *** ***
My father ladles Alfredo sauce over bowls of linguini while I set the table for three. “Dan called this afternoon,” he says. Dan is my agent, and this is my cue to brace for a new audition. What this time—a tampon commercial? Another side role in a Lifetime movie? “He got you an audition for the lead role in a wide-release film. How would you like to play—” his hands move into frame-the-shot mode “—Elizabeth Bennet?”
I frown. “Another remake? But they just did a Pride and Prejudice adaptation a few years ago.” Then there’s my rusty (and honestly, sort of abysmal) British accent.
“That’s the thing—this isn’t nineteenth century England. It’s a modern version, set in a suburban American high school.” He waits for my enthusiasm, but all I can think is: Yay! A cute role in a corrupted version of one of my favorite novels ever.