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TGIFBF! This week I offer “Something’s Always Wrong”, the second installment in the Jason Of The Valley series.

After the events of the previous year, Jason is on track to make his movie and reunites with his family. Matt is visited by an old friend from the past which puts a definite strain on his relationship with Jason. Mike and Ivan are enjoying their first year anniversary trip to Europe, until Ivan’s mother shows up and deals a blow that transforms their relationship in a most unexpected way and Ben befriends a new tenant in the building and discovers a connection he was not anticipating. Jason and his friends return for another round of tears and laughter, as well as the surprise wedding everyone’s been waiting for but never thought they’d see. It’s another slice of life and love in The Valley.


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Chapter 5

Okay. Last one you get for free. If you’ve been liking, just click the link and get your own copy.

http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Of-The-Valley-Melby/dp/147822830X/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1395602605&sr=8-11&keywords=jason+k+melby

Chapter 5

Waiters & Stars

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003

VAN NUYS, CA 2:45 P.M.

Jason got home from his lunch with Bill. The apartment was empty, just the way he liked it. He went into his room and checked his machine, no messages, as usual. He saw his laptop on his bed and since he didn’t notice Cynthia’s car in the garage, he decided maybe it was time to check his E-mail. He logged on. His mailbox was full. He scrolled down the message list. The usual junk mail. He deleted it all and signed off. He sat down on his bed then remembered the waiter’s number. He turned to the cordless phone on the floor which began to ring just as he picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Well, hello there yourself! Where the Hell were you last night?” It was Ken Jenkins, one of Jason’s closest friends. His family.

“Sorry. I got home late and I wasn’t in any shape to do the bar. I just had a few drinks here with Cynthia.”

“Oh, well. At least you drank for a change. We missed you, though.”

“How was the crowd?”

“It was dead, as usual. Mike, Matt, and Elliot left before one.”

“Yikes. That is dead.” Jason said as he tried to fish the waiter’s number out from his front pocket.

“I trust we’ll be seeing you there tonight? Saturdays are always better anyway.”

“I don’t know. I actually might have a date.”

“A date? You remember what that even is?”

“Look, I don’t know for sure yet. I have to call this guy and see if this is for real.”

“Where did you meet him?”

“Actually, I met him at The Garden during my lunch with Bill. He was the most gorgeous thing on Earth, or at least in that general vicinity. He kissed me before I left and he slipped me his number.”

“Gorgeous, huh?” Ken asked with a distinct tone.

“What? Can’t I get a gorgeous guy?”

“Well, aren’t you the one who’s complaining that men are so vain and superficial? Here you are talking about how gorgeous and perfect this guy you met is, and you don’t even know his name.”

“That’s not true.”

“Then what is it?”

“Okay, fine. I don’t know it. I’m not made of stone. A hot guy is a hot guy. Besides, I never finished the paperwork on my sainthood.”

“Translation: You’re ditching us again.”

“I’m not ditching anyone. I’m just living my damn life! Okay? Maybe you guys should try it once in a while!” Jason exploded. He heard only silence on the other end. Then Ken spoke up.

“Sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m just a little frustrated. Between my personal and professional life, there seems to be no peace. I hate my job; my writing career is nowhere and so far the best relationship I’ve been in is with a woman. I have a life on the zero scale. If this guy goes out with me, it will be my first date in a little over a year, and pretty much the highlight of my life to date. A year! Can you believe that? There are people who’ve gone insane over less stress than that!”

“You put way too much importance on dating. You neglect your friends. You need to learn to balance better. You’ve got to learn that your friends are all you’ve really got. We’re the ones who pick you up when those you date drop you.”

“Excuse me, but when Chris and I broke up, I don’t recall anyone picking me up, but only because I was not dropped. I didn’t need counseling, besides, I’m my best therapist. Always have been. Although, I remember a few times I’ve had to talk you down from the ledge.”

“You and that damn memory.”

“Look, I’ll call you later to let you know what’s up. If I’m not there tonight, we can all get together tomorrow for lunch, okay?”

“Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Later. Bye.” Jason clicked off the phone. He finally discovered the crumpled up paper in his pocket and dialed. There were a few rings and then a familiar voice purred on the line.

“Hello?” Jason was shell shocked. He had little experience in talking to people on the phone. He usually got the voice mail. He soon remembered the first rule of phone etiquette: Respond.

“Hi! I don’t know if you remember me, but I was at The Garden earlier today, you kissed me before I left.” Silence on the other end. Apparently being kissed by the waiter didn’t get you membership in an exclusive club with him.

“Okay, before you get too scared, I do remember you. I’m just messing with you.” The waiter said. A feeling of relief washed over Jason. “My name is Clark.”

“Nice to have met you Clark. I’m Jason.” He said with relief. “This is kind of weird. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Talk on the phone?”

“No. I mean take a number from someone I just met by chance. Especially someone as hot as you. I have to admit, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” Clark said with a little laugh.

“So, your little note mentioned dinner. How about tonight?” Jason began wringing his sheets waiting for the response. Clark finally broke the silence.

“Sounds good. I’m free,” Jason could see the parade in his mind. Trumpets blaring, confetti flying down from the heavens. A date! A date! He had finally managed to get a date. “I don’t have a car though, so maybe you could come over here? I know some nice places to eat. We could catch a movie or something after.”

“Yes. Absolutely. What’s your address?”

“I’m at 766 Hitchcock Avenue, number 13.”

“Okay, I’ll be there about eight?”

“Perfect. I’ll see you tonight.”

Jason spent the remainder of the afternoon going through his closet trying to find something to wear. He poured through shirt after shirt after shirt. He pulled out all sorts of colors, styles, and fabrics. He was stuck over what kind of mood he wanted to encourage. He finally decided on a black over shirt and a red shirt beneath with black pants. He never went by the labels, just colors. By the time he had come to this conclusion, it was already six. He jumped in the shower and washed all over. Just in case. He got out, dried and combed himself. Once he put on his ensemble, he cologned himself. He had a very musky scent complete with pheromones that would make him irresistible, or so the perfume girl had promised him.

 

A few minutes after eight, Jason finally rolled onto Hitchcock, a little side street not too far from the heart of Hollywood. The neighborhood looked a little on the questionable side. The usual homeless and odd balls were strolling along the streets. Run down houses were accented with overgrown lawns and fading paint. There was one apartment building that looked somewhat new at 766. He parked as close as he could to the building. He stepped out and heard sirens in the distance. He didn’t see anything moving, but he could swear there was something skulking around the shadows near the trees. He sprinted to the front door of the apartment building and buzzed number thirteen. He anxiously waited for an answer, for more reasons than just to see Clark. Jason looked over at a list of names taped over the buzzer. Across from unit number 13 was the name Clark Mikels. Suddenly, Clark’s voice came on from the speaker.

“Hello?”

“It’s me”

“Okay, hold on.” The buzzer rang and Jason lunged for the door. He relaxed as it shut and locked behind him. Although the main thought on Jason’s mind at that moment was what would happen on the way back out. Jason walked down the first hall he came to down to number thirteen. He knocked on the door but heard no activity within. He waited a few moments more. Suddenly there was a loud rumble and the door swung open violently. A pretty woman with dark hair stood before Jason. She seemed to be in a bad mood. Her eyes were seething and her mouth was turned down in an almost angry way. He could hear the sound of a baby crying further inside the apartment.

“Come in.” She said sternly. Jason stepped in. She shut the door behind him and retreated into the kitchen. “Clark!”

“What!?” He responded from a room in the back. He even had a beautiful voice when he yelled, Jason thought.

“Your date’s here!”

Jason sat down on the couch in the living room. He looked around. The apartment was pretty well kept. The carpet looked clean. Ugly, but clean. There were a few piles of books on the floor. The TV was set upon a cheap looking little entertainment center that looked like a reject from Ikea. Jason was nearly comfortable when Clark burst out into the room wearing only a towel around his waist. A small towel.

“Hey, sorry, man! I’m running a little late. I just got out of the shower. I’ll just be a few more minutes. You met Nicole?” He said pointing to the woman in the kitchen.

“Uh, yeah. Briefly.”

“My sister,” The baby’s crying continued. “The baby is hers too. Nicky! Could you do something about the kid?” He asked.

“Keep your pants on. Oh, never mind.” She said as she walked through the living room into one of the back bedrooms. Clark followed her. A few moments later the crying stopped and Nicole returned to the kitchen.

“You met Clark at the restaurant?” Her question startled Jason.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, today after lunch.”

“So, you just like guys?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know if Clark told you yet, but he’s Bi.”

“Well, I don’t really know him well enough for it to matter that much just yet.”

“Where are you going to go?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. I guess we’re going to get something to eat first.”

“You could eat here. I’m cooking some pasta. There’s plenty to go around.” Jason turned around in his seat and saw her at the stove stirring a large pot.

“Uh, thanks, but I think it’d be better if we just went out. I don’t want to bother you.”

“It’s no bother. In fact you’d be doing me a favor. I hate leftovers.” Jason looked down, thinking of a polite way to say no. Clark emerged back into the room before Jason could think of anything.

“You ready?” He asked Jason. Nicole stepped out of the kitchen.

“I was talking to Jason about you guys eating here. What do you think?”

“No. We are not eating here. We’re going out. I don’t think Jason wants to sit in this little kitchen eating your skunky Linguini. And even if he does, I don’t.”

“Skunky? What the hell would you know about my cooking? You hardly ever eat here as it is!” Jason was growing more uncomfortable. He wasn’t normally religious, but he found himself praying for something, anything, to save him from the ensuing domestic tragedy. A meteor; a mutant invasion; nuclear winter. Anything.

“Look, we are going out. I’ll be home later. Maybe.” Clark looked over to Jason. “Come on.” He said gently. Jason bolted up and followed him out of the apartment as fast as he could.

“It was nice meeting you, Jason.” She said pleasantly. “Burn in hell, Clark!” The loud sound of the door slamming echoed around them as they walked down the hall.

They stepped out of the building. Jason kept an eagle eye out for any suspicious activity. He felt a little safer being with Clark. A native of the land. He would know how to guide them safely.

“I hope that didn’t freak you out or anything. With Nicky, I mean.” Jason had been totally freaked out.

“No. It was fine. I’m fine.” Jason said. “Where do you want to go to eat?”

“Let’s see. There’s that fifties style diner on Highland.”

“Mel’s. Yeah. Works for me.” Jason agreed and they packed into his car and sped off into the night.

At Mel’s Diner on Highland, Jason and Clark sat down for dinner at a booth way in the back.

“I’ve never been here before.” Clark said. “I’ve always wanted to though. I’m totally into the retro thing.”

“Yeah. It’s nice. There’s another one close to where I live in the valley.” Jason said as he picked up his menu and began studying it. The strains of The Supremes singing ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ mingled with the loud conversations of the other tables. “How long have you lived with Nicole?”

“A few years now. I’m not sure. I don’t really keep track of that kind of stuff,” He said. “But she and Jared should be moving out by the end of the month. Jared was the noisy baby.”

“That’s too bad. At least you come home to a full house though. I like my privacy, but sometimes I think it’s nice to have people around. I can even stand the company of babies every now and then.”

“Yeah, it’s nice having them with me, sometimes. Although there are times I want to cram her down the garbage disposal. It makes dating harder. I think sometimes she tries to scare my dates off on purpose, but she’s family. She got knocked up by some son of a bitch when she moved out here. He just ran out on her when he found out. I was all she had and I wasn’t going to let her end up on the streets with a kid.” Jason put down his menu.

“How about you? Tell me about your life.”

“Oh, okay.” Clark said. “I’m from Boston originally. I came out here for school, but I flunked out. By then though, I couldn’t leave. I loved it here too much. I started doing odd jobs to make ends meet, then one night I was offered a job dancing. I loved it and I started doing it full time. I worked most of the bars and clubs all around Hollywood. I even tended bar a little. I do that mostly at The Garden now. I’m getting kind of sick of dancing now though, besides, the tips are better behind the bar. I’m also trying to get an acting career off the ground right now. How about you?”

“Fair enough. I have a boring day job at a valley newspaper in the pre-press department and I write on the side.”

“Really? Cool.” Clark seemed oddly impressed with Jason’s account of his life.

“Cool? Did you hear me?”

“Yes. I’ve had a few boring jobs back in the day. It’s cool. What do you write?”

“Screenplays mostly. I haven’t sold anything yet, but I know some people in the biz and I’m optimistic.”

“That’s cool.” At that point, conversation ran dry. They sat in a void of silence. Jason looked around, searching through his brain for something to say or ask. Anything to break the silence. Just as Jason was about to say something, the waitress came up to their table. She had a head of black hair with streaks of purple on the sides. Her name tag on her chest had the name ‘Jinx’ on it.

“Hi guys. What can I get for you?” She asked in a peppy tone.

“Double cheeseburger and a vanilla Coke.” Clark said. Jason looked up at the waitress.

“I’ll have the chef salad and an iced tea.”  Jinx happily jotted down their orders and skipped away with a smile. They waited in silence for their food. It seemed to take forever. As hard as he tried, Jason simply couldn’t find anything to say. Clark began playing around with the napkins. Suddenly, Jinx returned with a tray full of food and set down their dinners in front of them. They ate quickly and silently. Jason had the feeling of being a passenger on the Titanic. He couldn’t think of a date that went any worse, even the ones that ended in gun fire. There was just nothing to talk about. As hard as he scanned his brain for a new topic, nothing registered.

After dinner, Jason and Clark walked out to the parking lot and stopped at the car to plot their next move.

“So, what do you want to do now?” Clark asked. Jason looked over and saw the shopping center at Hollywood and Highland. Just as he was about to suggest going, Clark chimed in with an idea of his own. “I know a place. I nearly forgot. It’s a great little place called The Nook. How about it?” Jason thought for a moment. He didn’t feel comfortable saying no, so he agreed. He figured perhaps going somewhere Clark wanted to go would loosen up the mood.

They got in Jason’s car and drove over to Sunset. Clark directed Jason to drive down a dark side street for a little while. He suddenly asked him to turn right at an even darker, smaller street. Jason wasn’t able to see the name on the street sign as they passed. He cruised down the street until they came to a small building with a blue neon sign outside that read ‘The Nook’. After an hour of circling the block for a parking spot, Jason finally found one a few blocks down from the club. It was a tight squeeze between a black and red Miata. They walked down the dark street closely together.

“So what’s this place like?”

“You’ve never been here?” Clark asked, looking at Jason as though he were some kind of alien.

“No. I’ve never even heard of it.”

“It’s great! Great music. Great drinks. Hot boys!”

As they got closer, Jason could hear music coming from within the building. It was pulsating and energized. As soon as the blue sign above the door was visible, they saw a large crowd of people waiting out front. There were a lot of beautiful people with pierced parts and tight clothes anxiously waiting to be let in. They were all standing around smoking and discussing the famous and powerful people they all know or work for. They all seemed a bit low energy, but the sounds inside seemed to indicate a high energy atmosphere. Jason and Clark took their places in the back. After a while of waiting, Clark finally turned to Jason and asked him a question.

“You live alone?” Jason wasn’t impressed by the originality of the question but relieved there was a new topic to fill the time.

“No, I have a roommate.”

“Is he gay too?”

“No. He’s bi, actually, but he leans more towards gay. It’s what he’s famous for.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, my roommate is Ben Kollins.” Clark lit up like the Sun.

“You are fuckin’ shitting me! Ben Kollins? The porn star!?”

“I shit you not. The one and only.” Since the day Jason moved in with Ben, He found his social status had elevated in certain circles. Jason had harbored a crush on Ben long before they moved in and most everyone thought it was a strange match up that was destined for disaster, but surprisingly the two proved to be rather suited to each other, as far as roommates went, and Jason’s crush evolved into an honest friendship.

“I’ve got all his videos! I even met him once at Rage. I think he was dancing. God, he’s hot!” Clark went on. From that point on, everything Clark said had to do with Ben. He summarized all of Ben’s videos for Jason, as Jason had never seen any himself.

By the time Clark was finishing describing the final orgy scene of ‘A Knight’s Tail’ they had reached the front of the line. The door man was a large wall of a man with a yard wide neck and thick meaty arms. A chill ran down Jason’s spine. Of course, most people had that effect on him at first. He began to worry if there was a cover charge. Suddenly Clark walked up to the doorman, climbed up his arm and whispered something into his ear. The doorman’s thick face contorted into something of a smile and he allowed them both in.

They walked in past the scary doorman who gave Jason a slight wink and out onto the main floor. Jason was amazed by the size of the club. It seemed to go on forever. An endless sea of men, mostly shirtless, dancing and bumping into each other. Bright, multicolored lights were flashing and strobing all around, and behind the bar were more shirtless men serving drinks. The special of the house seemed to be a pill and a glass of water as that seemed to be all people could get at the bar. Jason had hoped The Nook would have been a good place for him and Clark to sit and talk quietly, but since Clark’s new favorite subject was Ben Kollins, Jason found it better to limit Clark’s opportunities to speak. He looked over at Clark and saw that talking would not be an issue as he was already shifting into club mode. He had thrown off his shirt, displaying his flawless torso and was flirting and talking with everyone in sight. It appeared Clark was a very popular regular there. The music playing was unknown to Jason but Clark was digging it big time. In fact, nothing looked, or felt, familiar to Jason. It was the first time he actually missed Coconutz, but Clark was right at home, dancing and drinking as if he were being shipped off to Iraq the next day.

Jason was settled at the bar sipping a glass of water, wondering if the problem was his. Everyone was happy, the music was high energy, but despite it all, Jason just didn’t feel what everyone else was feeling. He couldn’t relax enough to enjoy himself, but really saw nothing to enjoy. The men were too hot and snobby for him to approach, besides, he was on a date. Jason believed whole heartily it was impolite to flirt with other men while on a date. Suddenly Clark came out of the crowd and sat next to Jason. His chest shiny with sweat.

“Having fun?” Clark obviously was. Before Jason could say anything, a familiar voice rang out over the music. Jason looked over. It was Ben. He came striding through the crowd; the men seemed to move out of the way to clear a path for him.

“Hey, baby!” Ben said. He was tall and handsome, as most gay porn stars were. A smooth tan body, long, dark hair and wearing only the smallest of thong underwear. He wrapped his arm around Jason and kissed him on the cheek. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I’m here with..” Jason started but before he could even finish his sentence, Clark jumped up from his stool and presented himself like an eager puppy trying to get adopted on gas day at the pound.

“Hi! I’m Clark Mikels!” He announced. Ben looked him up and down carefully.

“Hello there.” Ben said, obviously impressed with Clark.

“Ben? Clark here is my date. Clark, I believe you know who this is.”

“Yeah! I’ve got all your movies! I think you are like the hottest guy on the scene!”

Ben had Clark’s attention for the next hour. Jason had only to sit and watch the two of them act out a clumsy and tasteless mating ritual. Jason checked his watch. It was a little after eleven. He saw Ben and Clark deep in a discussion about body oils so he just got up and left. As Jason walked down the street back to the car, he half expected to hear Clark running up to him to apologize. He made it to his car with no interruptions.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Divas & Deals

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA 3:15 P.M.

Bill returned to his office. He didn’t normally schedule appointments for the weekend, but he had a once in a lifetime meeting that had to be attended to as soon as possible. He also rarely ever let himself get personal about any deal, but this particular opportunity would be an exception for him. As he walked in, his beleaguered receptionist Janet Doran was at her desk asleep. He crept past her into his office. She worked so hard during the week, he thought, she deserved a little down time, especially since he had called her in at the last minute to work on a weekend.

As he opened his office door, he saw one of the most gorgeous women he had ever seen. She had a perfect figure with long, smooth legs that led up to a beautifully slim waist wrapped in a tight mini skirt. Her chest was just perfect. Not too big, not too small. Her face was a work of art. She had a slender nose with red, ruby lips, and deep blue eyes. A flawless complexion all topped off with wavy, Strawberry Blonde hair. The only complaint Bill could think that anyone would have was that she was just little older than one would expect. Bill smirked slightly thinking about how many people would wonder what a perfect creature such as that would be doing in his presence. He walked around to his chair and plopped himself and his considerable girth into the small, creaky wooden chair and pulled himself up to the desk.

“Hello, Sasha.” He said with an impish glee. Sasha DuPre, once prominent actress and leading lady of stage and screen, looked at him with a stilted glance. Her eyes only half open. “How are you today?” She crossed her legs and set her elbow to rest on her bent knee.

“Let’s just make this quick. I’m only here because I promised my agent I’d do this one favor for him.” Bill leaned back in his chair, allowing the lower portion of his considerable gut to be exposed. Sasha turned her head away trying to block her eyes from the sight.

“Relax, honey. I know exactly why you’re here.”

“Honey!? How dare you,” She yelled in extreme outrage. “It is only because my agent has done so much for me that I agreed to do this! I will not tolerate being spoken to in that tone! I have performed on every stage between New York, and this cultureless wasteland. I don’t need this.” With that, Sasha got up and turned to leave.

“According to your sainted agent, you do need this. Badly,” Sasha stopped in her tracks. “You haven’t had a paying job in over ten years! I know all about your current financial situation and I’m quite aware of your resume Ms. DuPre, and I have nothing but respect for that track record. That’s why I asked for you in particular. You are truly one of the greatest actresses ever,” Sasha smiled slyly and then slowly turned to face Bill. He stood up and extended his arm to offer her to sit down again. She accepted. “That’s better. I’m your friend in all this. I just asked you to come by and listen to my proposal. Can you do that?” Bill asked. Sasha replied with a silent stare. Bill accepted. “Okay, as I’m sure you know, I have spent most of my career doing movies of the horror genre, but I’m looking to expand. I managed to find this great new script about a family torn apart by the mother’s self-destructive addiction to shoe shopping.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Hold on, it may sound a little silly, but at least read the script. It is chalk full of drama and pathos and shit like that. It’ll rip out your heart and stomp it flat.” Bill pulled a script of the top drawer of his desk and handed it to Sasha. She leafed through a few pages.

“I don’t know. This reads more like a movie of the week kind of thing. Not really my caliber.”

“I just need something juicy to get into the festivals. It’s a low budget, quick shoot. Just a week. Two tops. I even have a great new actress lined up as your daughter. A kind of Reese Witherspoon type. A cute, bubbly blonde. The rest of the cast is still in the speculation stage.”

Sasha continued to read through the script when her face froze and she looked up at Bill. “Daughter?” She asked. “You want me to play a character that has a daughter?”

“Sure. You got a problem with that?”

“Yes, I do. I really don’t think anyone will take me for anyone’s mother.”

“Really?” Bill said with a light laugh. “Maybe no one’s told you this before, so let me be the first. I can read the odometer quite clearly.”

“Excuse me?” Sasha’s anger was growing.

“You’re old. I mean, by Hollywood standards. You’re still a knock out babe and all, but you’re just kind of showing your years. Especially when you wear stuff like that.” Bill said as he looked Sasha up and down.

“This is a designer exclusive.”

“Maybe, but it would have looked a hell of a lot better on you twenty years ago. Maybe you should try dressing your age.”

Sasha swallowed her rage and closed the script between her hands. She shut her eyes, counted to ten and then opened them again. She looked up at Bill and forced a smile.

“I’m going to have to think about this.”

“Okay, but I’m going to have to have an answer by the end of the day.”

“I’ll have to read more to consider this. I’ll be in touch with you later.” Sasha got up and turned to the door. As she was pulling it open, Bill walked up behind her.

“Listen, I could have gone to Streep or Sarandon with this. I’m doing you a favor and the money you get from this will get the IRS off your back.”

“Oh, please! There’s no way you would have gotten within a country mile of those two, or any other self-respecting actress, with this and you know it.” She said. Bill’s friendly facade faded away and he had a cold, disturbing expression on his face. Sasha found herself a bit scared by this.

“Yeah. You’re right. No serious actress with a viable career would ever consider this. I know that. Enter you. You’re on the skids, lady. Like I said, I’m doing you a favor with this, and you’d be doing me a favor too. You still pull some weight in Tinsel town, and in the right vehicle you could be back on top, but you gotta start at the bottom, and this is as bottom as it gets.” His eyes captured hers and they were held in an intense lock.

“I’ll think about it.” She said with a quiver of fear in her voice. Deep down, she knew Bill was completely right.

“Think fast.” Sasha fumbled with the knob and stumbled out the door. Janet was still asleep as Sasha made her exit.

Later that afternoon, Sasha had a fresh glass of bourbon in her hand when she answered the door. Her agent, Carl Bryman, stood there on her front stoop. His back hunched over, exposing his bald spot at the top of his head.

“Get in here, Carl!” Carl scurried in. He had heard the tone before and he knew he was in trouble again. “How could you do this to me? I’ve been nominated for awards! Honors! This can’t be happening. This can’t be my only option! Tell me there’s something else. Tell me!” She begged. She noticed Carl’s hunched position. “Look at me when I’m yelling at you!” She grabbed him by a small tuft of hair and pulled his head up. She could hear the crunching sound, over his scream, as his back straightened.

“There’s nothing else, Sasha! I’m sorry.” He said with deeply apologetic eyes. “I’ve been doing everything I can, but no one is interested in hiring you. It was just a lucky break I heard about this opportunity.” He said trying to get to the couch to lie down.

“That’s what you call this? An opportunity? Have you read this script? It’s trash! It’s the most contrived piece of drek I have ever had the misfortune of reading.” She said.

“It’s a paycheck. I hate to remind you, but you are just days away from possible jail time. Do you want that scandal? Because there’s nothing I can do for you if that happens. Look on the bright side; a lot of actresses who’ve been out to pasture for a while have had tremendous luck breaking back in through small cinema. Look at Debbie Reynolds. She had a new career after ‘Mother’.” Sasha slowly walked over to Carl, who was then on the couch with his arm stretched across his back, massaging the sore spot.

“I am not Debbie fuckin’ Reynolds! I’m too young to need a comeback this badly.”

“That may well be, but you need one nonetheless.” He felt very confident in talking to Sasha like that. He knew he was absolutely right and he knew that she knew it too. She just needed to come to accept it. He would normally run to pack for a trip to a safe house if he ever dared talk to her like that, but this time, right was on his side. He saw it in her eyes. He could see her anger flaring, but it soon cooled. She knew she had few options left her, after a disastrous career and personal life had left her broke and alone. There was no more hiding.

Sasha took a deep breath, gulped down her drink and went to her phone. She dialed Bill’s number. A bright, cheery voice answered.

“Kaslow Entertainment Unlimited. How may I direct your call?”

“Give me Kaslow.” As she waited for Bill, she thought about what she just said and realized it made his name sound like a deadly disease, appropriately enough.

“Sasha, love!” Bill’s voice came on as happy as any voice could sound.

“I’ll do it.” A tear formed in the corner of her left eye. She couldn’t hear it, but she had a feeling Bill, despite his size, was jumping up and down and doing cartwheels. So satisfied he had bested the grand diva.

“Fantastic! I’ll messenger the contract to you right now, and we can get the show on the road as early as Monday.”

“I thought you said you still had to acquire the rest of the cast.”

“I do, but I’ll have that all squared away soon enough. I’ll be in touch soon.” Without a word more, Sasha dropped the phone down on the cradle. She trudged over to a nearby leather chair and flopped down onto it.

“Is this what selling your soul feels like?”

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Dates & Denim

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003

SHERMAN OAKS, CA 12:57 P.M.

It was almost one. Cynthia was at the table in the diner next to her parents’ hotel waiting for them. She was nursing a glass of water wondering where they could have been. She had to turn the waitress away three times since she had been warned by her mother not to order without them. She finally saw them walking through the parking lot to the diner.

Her mother, Agnes, was dressed as the perfect tourist. She had a large Hollywood t-shirt on and wearing short pants with an image of Marilyn Monroe airbrushed on the left leg. She topped the whole ensemble off with a fanny pack that couldn’t stay in one place along her waist as it moved back and forth to the movement of her hips. Her father trailed behind wearing just a plain shirt and blue jeans. She watched through the window and noticed how perfect an extreme her father and mother were for each other. Her dad could barely stay awake for more than a couple hours while her mother was just a ball of energy. Cynthia had a theory that she must have been siphoning energy out of him. As they made their way across the asphalt, Mrs. Davis saw Cynthia at the booth and waved.

They both walked into the diner and made a B-line for Cynthia’s booth. They both slid in without a word and settled in their seats. Agnes sat up brightly lit as she stared at Cynthia with a mother’s adoring eyes.

“Oh, honey! It’s so good to see you again! It’s been so long.”

“Mom, I was home for the holidays.”

“But that was such a long time ago.”

“It was a month ago.”

“Oh, humor your mother! Besides, a week is too long when you’re away from your child. I don’t know why you insist on living here of all places. I mean, when your father and I got off the plane, we saw two men kissing! Kissing! Right there in public! I couldn’t believe it. And if I told you half the stories your Aunt Perdie tells me. I just don’t feel comfortable with you living here all by yourself.”

“Well, mom, I’m not alone.” Her mother perked up to this news.

“Oh really?”

“Jason lives right next door. You remember Jason?”

“Oh, him.” Agnes said, disappointed.

“Yes. Him.” Cynthia said with a hint of anger.

“Oh, honey. I love Jason. I do. He’s a very sweet boy, but I can tell he has no intentions as far as you’re concerned. Don’t waste your time. You need to find a man who is ready for commitment. You need someone who’s ready to be a husband and a father.”

“I don’t really.”

“Yes you do! You’re not getting any younger. The end of your child bearing years is within sight. I cannot allow you to live your life just so you end up with a whole list of regrets when you get to be my age.”

“I have no doubt. So, where’s this Douglas Smythe?”

“Oh, Ned’s boy. Well, we haven’t been able to reach him yet, but we left him a message on his answering machine with our room number. He knows we’re here, and I’m sure he’s as excited to see you as you are to see him.”

“I’ll bet.” Cynthia said under her breath. They sat for a moment with nothing to say. Trent had fallen asleep and was whistling through his nose. Agnes was reorganizing the condiments and menus on the table, and Cynthia was staring blankly out the window, wishing she was anyplace but there.

A cell phone began to ring. Cynthia looked around but didn’t see anyone answering. She noticed the ringing was coming from a nearby location. She listened and as best as she could tell, the sound was coming from right in front of her. Her mother.

“Mom?” She asked. “Is that your phone ringing?” Agnes thought a moment and then dove for the phone in her fanny pack.

“I forgot! I set up the call forwarding!”

Cynthia sat puzzled, wondering how her mother had become such an expert with cell phones, yet still couldn’t set the time on her VCR.

“Hello? Oh, Douglas! Yes, this is Mrs. Davis. Yes. We’re at a little diner at the Holiday Inn. Yes. That’s the one. Okay. See you in a bit, dear,” Agnes clicked off the phone and put it away. “That was Douglas. He’ll be here in a few minutes.”

“Mom! I thought this was just going to be a quick hi there and hello thing. I have things to do! I can’t sit here all day!” Cynthia barked as she checked her watch. She saw the day was quickly slipping away.

“I’m sorry, dear. Just be patient. Let’s just order some lunch. I’m sure he’ll be here in no time.”

Just as they were all finishing their lunches, Douglas finally walked in. Agnes saw him in the corner of her eye. She got up and started waving her arms wildly.

“Douglas! Over here!” Cynthia pulled her back down.

“Mom! Sit down! People are going to think you’re having a seizure.”

Douglas saw Agnes and started making his way over to their booth. Cynthia looked over and saw a tall, dark, and handsome man dressed in denim and wearing boots. He had a thick mustache covering his upper lip and sharply cropped dark brown hair.

“That’s Douglas?”

“Yes.” Douglas stopped at their table, towering over them like a giant.

“Hi.” He said in soft tone that betrayed his rugged look.

“Hi.” Cynthia said coyly, avoiding his eyes. Agnes smiled broadly. She turned to Trent and roused him from his coma-like nap.

“Come on honey, let’s leave these two alone.”

Cynthia’s father gave an inaudible grunt and got up as he was instructed.

“All right, now you two talk. Get to know each other. Cynthia. You be sure to call me tonight.” Agnes said as she forced her husband along. Cynthia leapt up from the table and caught up with her.

“Mom! What the hell is that!?”

“What do you mean dear?”

“Douglas is totally not my type!”

“He’s a very nice boy.”

“He’s killed at least three animals for that get up he’s wearing! He’s just some over pumped, macho freak!”

“I realize he may not be your cup of tea exactly, but a lot of girls would find him to be quite attractive. Just sit down with him and talk. Learn about him.” Agnes then turned and walked out to the parking lot, dragging her husband along with her. Cynthia retreated back to the table where Douglas was already seated.

“Hi, again.” Cynthia slid in across from Douglas and smiled weakly at his joke. She took a sip from her glass of water. Douglas tapped the tips of his fingers on the tabletop.

“So.” He started.

“So. Look, let’s be honest,” She began. “You aren’t my type and I’m sure I’m not your type. I don’t eat meat, I don’t wear animal skins and I am a regular contributor to public television. If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to just get up from here and call this a wash. Okay?”

“Well, I don’t think I like that. I’d prefer to stay.”

“What?”

“I’m not a vegetarian myself, but I respect it. I don’t wear animal skins either. These boots are imitation leather, and I also contribute to PBS. I have the tote bag to prove it,” Cynthia let a small giggle escaper her lips. “Now, your mother told me a bit about you, and I was really impressed by what she said. I came here today to find out more. I intend to do that, if you’re okay with that. Are you?” Cynthia sat back, looking at Douglas as though he had just sideswiped her.

“All right. We can stay.”

“Great. I guess we should get the boring ‘first date’ questions out of the way first, so where do you live?”

“Oh, Uh, I live in Van Nuys. Nice little apartment. You?”

“Hollywood. I’m not gay.” He said, as if by instinct.

“I didn’t say you were.”

“I know, it’s just, a lot of people think just because I live in Hollywood and I dress like a cowboy, I’m gay.”

“Oh, I didn’t think that. Although, the whole western motif should be rethought.”

“Well, I don’t dress like this on purpose. I just like denim. And I like my boots. They’re comfortable.”

“I can totally respect that.”

“Your mom said you were a massage therapist.”

“Yes. She’s terribly disappointed by it, but I like it. I make my own hours, and I can usually make a month’s worth of pay in a few days. By the way, it’s legitimate massage. Most of the time when I tell people what I do, they get strange ideas.”

“Not me. I’d never assume anything like that. I actually got a massage a few months ago. It was great. I had a lot of stress. It totally loosened me up.”

“Really? What do you do? For a living?”

“I’m in construction. In fact I just won a contract for a new shopping center in Sherman Oaks.”

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Douglas noticed the strings of beads Cynthia was wearing. “Those are nice.” He said, pointing to her jewelry.

“Oh, thank you. I actually made these. They’re what I call Harmony Beads. Each one is painted with colors that are in tune with my aura and arranged for maximum harmonic convergence.” Cynthia noticed the look of confusion on Douglas’ face.

“I don’t understand much of any of that new age stuff. I just thought they were pretty, but all that other stuff sounds real impressive.” Cynthia smiled at his sweetness and found it increasingly difficult to stop smiling the more they talked.

They sat at the booth for another ten minutes talking and Cynthia found her initial opinion of Douglas dramatically changing.

“Listen,” Douglas blurted “I think we’ve done enough of the getting to know each other thing. Right now I think we need a little mental stimulation. Want to see if we can catch a movie?” Cynthia blanked. She checked her watch. It was just a little after three.

“I don’t know. You seem like a nice guy, but I wasn’t really planning on making this an all-day thing.”

“Neither was I, but you can’t really plan things like this, can you? Come on. What’s the harm? A movie. Haven’t you ever done anything spontaneous?”

“Yes, but I really don’t know you.”

“Do I look like some kind of freak or rapist?”

“No, but neither did Ted Bundy.”

“How about if we take separate cars?”

“You’re really fighting for this, aren’t you?”

“I can be very persistent.” Douglas said and then flashed his perfectly white teeth in a charming smile. Everything Cynthia believed was being challenged and she found herself unable to find any real reason to say no.

“Fine.” She said at last.

“Great!”

They both slid out and walked out of the diner. Cynthia followed behind Douglas in a total trance. She had never met a man who so personified masculinity and very much to her surprise, she was really digging it.

An hour or so later, Douglas and Cynthia were standing in line at one of many, many movie theaters that could be found in Burbank.

She enjoyed that part the most. They were squeezed in between the ropes that defined the lines for the ticket booth. The crowd was so thick, they were both crammed together tightly. She was enjoying the feeling of his body pressing to hers. She looked up at him to give him a little smile, only to discover he was looking down at her, also smiling. They were coming closer to the end of the line, when Douglas noticed a couple of guys standing off to the side. They were laughing and pointing in Cynthia’s direction. Douglas took immediate interest in the object of their amusement. Cynthia saw a primal spark appear in his eyes. He then suddenly jumped over the rope and strode over to the boys aggressively. Cynthia looked on in confusion.

“Excuse me gentlemen, but I couldn’t help but notice you seemed to be laughing at something. I would like to know what is so funny.” He said in a booming voice. He was so loud she could hear him quite clearly from her place in line. In fact it seemed everyone in the general vicinity could hear him as a small crowd was beginning to form. The two guys Douglas was barking at both looked to be in their early or mid-twenties with large, athletic builds. Frat boy types. They looked over Douglas’ shoulder at Cynthia.

“Man, that girl you’re with? What’s with all those beads?” The first guy chuckled.

“Her jewelry? What’s wrong with it? I think it looks nice.” He looked back over to Cynthia.

“Oh, my God!” The other thick necked thug chimed. “What is she? Some tree hugging witch freakoid?” Douglas’ eyes popped open and his neck turned red. Cynthia tried to make out what was going on from the line, as she didn’t want to lose their place. She was starting to worry if this would escalate into a fight. She hoped it wouldn’t.

The last thing she needed was to have to go to the emergency room on a first date. Besides, she didn’t want anything to happen to that beautiful face of Douglas’. Beauty was such a fragile thing, especially in men. One good punch could mar him forever but faster than she could blink, she saw Douglas throw a tight right and drop both frat boys at the same time with one punch. He calmly turned and rejoined her in line.

The whole crowd outside the theater seemed to freeze in time. Cynthia couldn’t take her gaze off of Douglas’ calm features. They stepped up to the ticket booth. Douglas was quick to pay for both tickets, and they proceeded into the theater, the whole time, an awed hush held the crowd. Cynthia looked around. She felt like Lois Lane on a date with Superman himself. She was surprising herself at how impressed she was over that blatant display of machismo. A dedicated believer in equal rights. Believing the age of the strong man and weak woman as antiquated as videotapes, she would normally abhor such behavior, but there was something in her that was so enjoying it. She felt like she was betraying some of her most deeply held beliefs, but at that moment, she didn’t care.

They sat in the back of the auditorium for the movie. He kept his large, muscled arm around her the whole time. She basked in his radiating warmth. She was so mesmerized; she could barely keep her mind on the action up on the screen. She kept sneaking quick glances at Douglas, noting how good he looked even in the dark.

After the movie was over, they stayed in their seats until the last of the audience had left. They just sat enjoying the music playing over the speakers.

“You know, that whole macho episode out front didn’t impress me.”

“I didn’t expect it to. I really wasn’t even planning on throwing a punch.”

“Then why did you?”

“They said something about you, and it was pretty nasty. I was brought up not to say such things about women, and when such things are said, action must be taken.”

“That seems awfully retro to me.”

“Maybe it is, but that’s what my parents taught me.”

“I just didn’t want you to think I enjoyed it or approved or anything.”

“Of course not.” Cynthia looked over Douglas’ shoulder and saw the theater staff lined up at the front of the auditorium waiting to start cleaning up.

“They’re going to throw us out soon. They have to clean up in here.”

“Then we’ve got a little time. I really didn’t expect for this to happen.”

“What?”

“Liking you so much. The moment I saw you, I just was floored. You aren’t like anyone I’ve ever known before.”

“I hope that’s a good thing.”

“It is,” He assured. “It definitely is.” He looked at her with a pensive gaze. “May I kiss you?” Cynthia was speechless. She had never been asked that before. She could only manage to nod and with that confirmation, Douglas raised her chin with his finger and slowly pressed his furry lip to her delicate mouth. Cynthia almost orgasmed at that moment.

She had never felt anything so warm and soft before. The hairs of his mustache gently tickled her face. His lips were just soft enough, just moist enough. His mouth almost completely enveloped her lower jaw. When he pulled away, she had to fight to catch her breath. She looked at him with glazed eyes and the look in his eyes was unmistakable. If she had never seen love before, she had seen it then. He smiled and took her shoulder and pulled her into his chest. They stayed like that even after the cleaning staff had begun to clean. They were careful not to disturb Douglas and Cynthia, and just cleaned around them.

Next Chapter

Okay. Forget it. I’m just going to do it. You’re getting the first five chapters. I just feel one chapter isn’t enough.

 

Chapter 2

Lunch & Dinner

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA 12:16 P.M.

The sun beat down on the outdoor dining area of The Garden, a chic West Hollywood cafe, but no one seemed to mind. It was a rather cool day and everyone had sunglasses on anyway. Bill Kaslow, a fat yet vibrant looking man, was sitting at a small table with two chairs. He was wearing a large Hawaiian shirt and Beige knee-length cargo shorts with sandals. He was there waiting for Jason to arrive for their weekly meeting. He kept impatiently checking his watch. He checked his cell phone to make sure he hadn’t missed any calls. He hadn’t.

Just as he was about to reconcile to the fact he’d been stood up, he saw Jason running up the street.

“About damn time! I’ve been sitting here for a half hour!” He exclaimed as he stood.

“Sorry, Bill. I was a little…busy, this morning.” Jason offered. Bill sat back down and motioned for Jason to take his seat.

“I don’t know why you have to be late every weekend. We always have lunch here, always at the same time. You’d think you could just plan your hangovers better.”

Bill was quite a bit older than Jason and very set in his ways. He was an independent film producer who had taken a liking to Jason’s writing style. He was employing Jason on a part-time basis despite the fact he could not offer to pay him anything and was instead offering connections in the industry.

Jason gave Bill a quick scan but resisted the temptation to slam his wardrobe choices. The whole tourist refugee look was a fashion theme Jason rather abhorred but he kept quiet, since Bill was usually good enough to pay for the meal.

“Cynthia made me a few drinks last night.”

“You didn’t go out?”

“No. I didn’t even get home until eleven. It was nice actually. Just nice to lie down and sleep. No pressure.”

“You got drunk with your neighbor.”

“Either way, a refreshing change.”

Bill handed Jason a menu.

“Please choose quickly. I don’t have a lot of time today.”

“Geez, why don’t we just call off lunch then, if you’re in such a hurry?” Jason threw the menu down on the table. Bill looked at Jason with a remorseful expression.

“I’m sorry. I really am. It’s just been one of those weeks. I’ve just finished going over a ton of scripts and I’m trying to line up the next movie to shoot. I’m dealing with so many assholes; I think it’s rubbing off on me.” Jason slowly picked the menu back up.

“Starting a new production?”

“Yes. I’m really excited about this one. It’s my first attempt at high drama.”

“Really? What’s the story?”

“Oh, you know. The usual dramatic stuff. Sisters, Cancer. Dying. Crap like that.”

“Sounds like a real personal project.”

“Well, you know, I gotta start doing something to get into those festivals. Right now I’m a joke. Too many schlocky horror flicks. I need to tap into the Oscar crowd. It all bores me to tears, but we’re talkin’ money.” He said while rubbing his fingers together in the universal sign of money.

A young European looking waiter walked up to the table. He was dressed casual, same as the rest of the staff. He had very short cut offs, showing every line and sinew of his muscular legs and a black tank top doing the same service for his equally beautiful torso. His dark hair framed his head perfectly. He had gentle, soft features and full lips that just begged to be bit. Jason’s breathing sped up and he started to sweat. The waiter’s mouth opened and a deep, thick, commanding voice that betrayed his youthful appearance echoed out.

“Can I get you started with a drink or are you ready?” He asked. Jason was so mesmerized he didn’t realize he was the one the waiter was talking to. Bill came to the rescue.

“He’ll have the turkey salad, and I’ll have the French dip, please.” The waiter took his pen and scribbled down Bill’s instructions.

“Very good.” The waiter said. Jason could only focus on all the muscles in his arm moving, flexing with every pen stroke. The waiter left them with a cheery smile and went back inside. Bill started snapping his fingers in front of Jason’s face.

“Hello? Earth to Jason! Come back!” Bill said, trying to coax Jason back to the land of the living.

“Huh?”

“You zoned.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay. He was hot. I’m not gay, and I was kind of attracted myself.”

“I hate guys like that. Perfect body, perfect face. It’s not fair! No one person should be allowed to be that good looking. You have to either have a perfect body or face. It’s not fair when they get both. Probably has a big dick too.”

“Life isn’t fair. Don’t get so worked up.”

“I can’t help it. You’re straight, so you don’t care, but for a gay man, attraction is a little more complex. At once, I’m attracted to him and I want to have sex with him and at the same time, I’m jealous of how good he looks and I want to be him. I’d like a body like that. I work out. What’s wrong with me?”

“Apparently more than I thought before I ever met you. Don’t compare yourself, man. Whatever he’s got, he’s got. I bet there are things about you he’d be jealous of.”

“Oh, yeah. I’m sure he’d be real jealous of my big throbbing….brain. And don’t even start with that inner beauty crap. I wouldn’t mind a little more outer beauty.”

“What you need is to get laid. I thought you were about to jump him when he turned away,” Jason looked down avoiding eye contact. “How long has it been since your last…encounter?”

“A while.”

“Define a while for me. A month?” Jason shook his head. “Two months?” Jason shook his head again. “Three months? Good lord!”

“Not three months. Multiply that by four.” Jason confessed. Bill sat stunned. His mouth held open so long, his cigarette fell out.

“A year? A fuckin’ year!? You haven’t had sex in a year!?” Jason turned his head away, noticing a few heads turning in their direction.

“Jesus, Bill! Keep it down! A little discretion?”

“Sorry, sorry,” Bill calmed himself and lit a new cigarette. “Damn, Jason. How can you still be alive? I’d die if I went that long without a milking.” Jason closed his eyes, trying to banish that visual from his mind.

“I’m fine. I have plenty of lube and porn to keep me from hitting critical. Besides, I got a nibble on the personal ad I put on line.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. How pathetic is my life that an email from a total stranger qualifies as an event?”

“I’ll be praying for you. I mean that.”

“Thanks.” Just then, the hunky waiter returned with their food. He carried both dishes on a large tray, perfectly displaying his flexed pecs. Bill looked over and saw Jason having another attack. He came back to normal once the food was served.

Conversation over the meal was light. After the meal, Jason and Bill both sat back, soaking up the sun, listening to the new wave music playing on the cafe speakers and whatever pieces of conversation they could make out from the other tables. A new waiter, one not nearly as gorgeous as the first one, came and set down the check. As usual, Bill sprung up and pounced on it.

“I got it,” He said. They both got up and walked to the cashier. “Hey, Jay, why don’t you just go wait for me out front okay?”

Jason didn’t understand this odd request but he just nodded and walked out ahead of Bill. He stood out on the sidewalk for a good ten minutes before the hunky waiter came out and walked right up to Jason, looked him in the eyes, and planted the biggest, wettest kiss Jason had ever felt. Jason had enough presence of thought to feel the waiter’s body. He cupped his ass and ran his hands all over his body as fast as he could. The waiter broke away and smiled at Jason with a devilish smirk and then handed him a small piece of paper. He walked away without a word. Bill came stomping out shortly with a big grin on his round, sun burned face. They both started walking down the street.

“You’re welcome,” Jason looked over at Bill, puzzled. “The waiter. I sent him out there. I told him about you and he agreed to do me that little favor.”

“A favor? He only did that because you asked him to?!”

“Relax, buddy. It still felt good didn’t it?” Jason stopped for a moment.

“Yeah. It did feel good. It would have felt better if he had done it because he wanted to. You pay him?”

“Five bucks. It was a favor, besides, I felt bad. I had just screwed him on his tip.” Jason dug out the paper that was given to him and handed it to Bill.

“This must be the receipt then.” Bill took the paper and looked at it. He handed it back to Jason.

“I really think this one is for you.” Jason took it and looked at it. It was a phone number with the word ‘dinner’ written under it.

“You told him to do this right?” Bill silently shook his head. Jason smiled and almost squealed in glee. He knew Bill long enough to know when he didn’t say anything, he was telling the truth.