Uncharacteristically, Dwight offers Austin a ride to work. He wants to chat with Austin about Liat, among other things.
“Have I mentioned, ever, that at least ninety percent of what you say completely baffles me? And the other ten is hazy.”
His friend laughed quietly. “Once or twice. In this case, I mean that you seem blind to your own appeal. You’re funny, charming, passably good looking.”
“Passably—what?” Austin didn’t know whether or not to be offended.
Dwight chuckled as he pulled into his parking place. “You’re not my type, but I see the appeal.”
“I feel like my head is all out of proportion. Chin to pronounced, big nose, floppy ears, forehead that goes back a mile and my eyes are squinty.” He pulled funny faces as he spoke.
“Go get your makeup and hair done, squint boy.”
“Yes, Mum.” Austin stuck out his tongue as he walked backwards toward Rochelle’s area.
After nearly tripping over equipment and people, he turned around. Rochelle and Bunny were much happier with his hair. It took very little time to set him to rights, so he went to the catering table for a cup of tea and a plate of madeleines. He cast about for Liat and saw her coming from makeup. He smiled and waved. She wandered over and sat with him. A waiter brought her tea and a plate of scones and madeleines.
“What wonderful service! They know what I like before I know myself.”
“It’s their job and they’re good at it. Did you sleep well?”
“Still getting used to the nighttime noises. It’s very quiet where I’m from.”
“London? Quiet?” He chuckled.
“Outside, really, in the country. I grew up in London, but after college, I moved out. It’s so quiet, I can hear the stream behind my house trickle.”
She giggled. “No, but I can hear crickets and birds and other lovely things. There’s always something going on here. Sirens, car motors, stereo systems thrumming, trains rumbling. It’s horrible. I am at a decent hotel, but it’s downtown and still noisy.”
“I don’t even notice. I find comfort in the everyday noise, I suppose. It’s when it’s very quiet or the sounds change that I become nervous. Quiet means danger, where I come from.”
She put her hand on his. “Was it very awful?”
He shrugged, shaking his head as he gazed at his teacup. “I don’t think about it anymore.”
“Places in ten,” Sandy announced over the PA system.
“I need to make a call,” Austin said, pointing to the restroom.
Liat nodded. She needed to go herself.
When Austin came out, Dwight handed him a script.
“I don’t need this.”
“Keep Irv happy, he’s on a tear.”
“Might be replaced. Apparently someone complained about him to the producer.” He winked.
“What did you do?”
“Me? Not a thing!” His tone was unconvincing.
“Thank you,” Austin murmured, flipping through the pages.
There were a few minor changes, but mostly it was the same script they had studied last night. Since he and Liat were in the first scene, they began their vocal warm ups. Austin combined his vocal exercises with squats and pushups. He’d do more later, when he wasn’t filming. He took snatches of time during the day to work out in order to maintain his physique. He also got horribly bored sitting around waiting to do his scenes.
He ended his squats with a few jumps like a Russian dancer, arms folded, toes up, landing on his heels. The cast and crew stopped talking, watching him instead. Somewhat self-conscious, he hammed it up, adding vocalizations and humming the Russian dance from Nutcraker. To his surprise, three of the actors joined him, one of them was Liat. They danced and laughed while the others whooped and clapped. When they were done, they took a bow to thunderous applause.
“That’s one for the gag reel,” the cameraman yelled, clapping.
“You got that?” Austin was mortified.
The man chuckled, patting his camera fondly.
“Can we get to work now, people?” Irving bellowed. “We have a schedule to follow.”
All business, the cast and crew went back to work. Liat wandered over to Austin, waiting for the crew to finish their set up.
“You’re very good. Have you been dancing long?”
“Since I was a kid. A child can make good money as a hoofer on the street. Adults, not so much. I was lucky that I was small for my age and could pass for ten even at fifteen. Then I grew and I was no longer cute.”
© 2015 Dellani Oakes
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