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Chapter 5: fighting
Jess answered on the fourth ring. “Mellie, not now!” she said, quietly.
I paused before I launched into my rant. Something was up. “What’s up?”
“Violet’s just walked in,” she whispered. “She wants to know where Charlie is.”
I nearly dropped my phone in astonishment. Not satisfied with the prospect of ruining my professional life, Violet wanted my love life to go down the pan as well? What a complete bitch.
“Ugh. Head her off!” I told her, urgently waving with my free hand, despite the fact Jess couldn’t see me. I’m sure my voice showed my frustration.
“How the hell am I supposed to do that?”
“Attack her with anything you’ve got to hand!” I said desperately.
“Eyeliner? Ohh, terrifying,” Jess said sarcastically.
“If this was the other way around, I’d have this sorted.”
“Well you’d have more at your disposal than a make-up bag,” she hissed.
“Jess, please!” I begged.
There was silence, and then I heard a faraway voice say; “Do you have a second, Jessica?”
“DO NOT HANG UP!” I practically screamed down the line. “I want to hear this!”
There was the sound of footsteps, and then Jessie said; “Is there anything I can help you with, Violet?”
“I was wondering if you had seen Charlie Weasley at all today? Or heard of his whereabouts?” I could imagine Violet’s bright blue eyes boring into Jess.
“Er...” she squeaked. “I don’t think so, that is... I don’t recall seeing him!” she nervously coughed. “Or hearing of his whereabouts,” she added quickly.
I rolled my eyes. There was a reason Jess wasn’t an actress.
“Right. Well thank you anyway Jessica. Remember, you should be at my room for half five tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, yes okay!” Jess said, her voice quavering. There was another long silence before she spoke to me.
“Oh my God, that was terrifying. She is not usually that scary! It was like trying to ward off Cruella de Vil! What on earth just happened?”
I opened my mouth to tell her everything- and stopped. If I told Jess of my imminent dismissal, then she’d complain to the board and get herself sacked as well- or worse, try to walk out with me. It would be best if I kept that to myself, at least for now.
“Mellie?” she asked.
“Violet was waiting for me in my hotel room,” I told her instead, “and basically warned me off Charlie.”
“Christ, she’s really serious about him?”
I paced around my room. “It seems so.”
“And let me guess... you’re going to go out of your way to foil her evil plans?”
“I wasn’t going to be quite so dramatic about it, but in a nutshell, yes.”
Jessie groaned. “For crying out loud, Mel! You actually are going to get sacked if you carry on!”
I held my breath, but Jess didn’t elaborate. “I have done everything she ever wanted me to before,” I said. “She’s not having Charlie as well!”
“Do you have a death wish?” she asked.
I stopped my pacing. “Are you still going to help?”
Jess snorted down the phone, it sounded like a gunshot in my ear. “Of course I will!” she said. “Violet is going down!”
“Thank you so much,” I said with feeling.
“Blah-blah-blah,” she said wryly. “Now, get off the phone so I can attend to my crush and his equally hot co-star.”
I laughed, and made kissing noises down the phone until she hung up on me.
Maybe things weren’t as bad as I thought, I mused. No matter what happens, I’ll still have friends like Jess. My mouth split into a large grin. Crazy. She was completely insane.
I looked around my fairly small room. I had nothing to do, but I didn’t particularly want to sit in my stupid greeny coloured room which still had the smell of Violet’s perfume, so I grabbed my bag and coat, and went out again.
After wandering aimlessly for a while around the smallish town we were housed in, I ended up back at the castle. They would be shooting a large fight scene this afternoon between Russell and Nick, who played Lancelot and Arthur respectively. I found myself a chair and a cushion, and settled down to watch, out of the way of the cameras. There was an unofficial prohibition on watching the scenes, but the crew usually turned a blind eye at my presence, so long as I helped out marking out paces or setting up equipment.
I liked to watch acting. It was kind of therapeutic, and although I inevitably saw all the scenes in the wrong order and got very confused at the plot, it still was better than seeing it on the screen. I watched, and I tried to learn.
The plot of this film was centred around Guinevere and Lancelot’s relationship. While the legends typically portrayed Lancelot as a home-wrecker and Guinevere as a fifth century prostitute, the producer for us was trying another angle. Our Guinevere was a lot younger than her battle-hardened husband (a lot of make-up and a false grizzly beard was used to make Nick seem about forty), and Lancelot was young and optimistic, the newest addition to Arthur’s Round Table.
It was no surprise really that Russell Clary had been cast as Lancelot. He was fresh-faced, slightly younger than I was and full of boundless enthusiasm that crackled on set. Nick was in his late twenties and even without his make-up, exuded authority and stability. Nick had chosen to play Arthur in a similar vein to Othello- a great war lord, who commanded the respect of his soldiers and deserved it, but our Arthur wasn’t entirely sure what to do with his young wife, who had no place on the battlefield.
Really, our film said, is it so surprising that Guinevere turned to Lancelot?
This scene was set just after Arthur had found out about Lancelot stealing his wife- he’d had walked on in their first illicit kiss. Naturally, he’d pulled out his sword. Guinevere had run away, so Violet wasn’t in this scene, thank God. I couldn’t have coped with seeing her right now. Anyway, Guinevere had legged it, and valiant Lancelot was covering her retreat, before following her.
I settled down to watch. We were filming in the largest hall in the castle- a giant table, as long as the room, had been filled to overflowing with food and candles were attached to the walls, giving out a sickly yellow glow. Nick and Russell had gone through the scene a few times before I came –they had to mark out the steps and every blow was carefully choreographed- and now they started to film properly. If I blocked out the lights and the crew, and focused entirely on the actors as they swung their bright swords through the air, I could really believe I‘d just stepped into an Arthurian legend.
There was very little speaking, just grunts and the occasional debasing insult from Arthur. Lancelot fell backwards over a basket of apples and then burst out laughing as both he and Nick dropped their swords and struggled to pick them up in their armour, as the apples rolled all over the set. But the filming quickly resumed, and the sword fight carried on, increasing in intensity.
Arthur was thrashing Lancelot. He was forcing him further and further back as Lancelot desperately parried the blows, his arms shaking with the exertion. The intense concentration of both actors as they struggled with their steps and swings could be seen in every muscle, from the tautness of Russell’s jaw to Nick’s narrowed eyes. Sweat dripped down both men’s faces, and Lancelot gritted his teeth as he tried to overpower Arthur. But then, seemingly in slow motion, Arthur twisted his sword as it clanged against Lancelot’s, and then Lancelot’s sword flew out of his hands, flying through the air and landing with a clatter against the stone floor.
Arthur swung madly at the now unarmed Lancelot’s head, but Lancelot dodged, jumping backwards. It looked for a moment that Lancelot would escape, that his youth would allow him to evade Arthur’s massive strength, but as Lancelot ducked another blow, Arthur brought his sword back, and smacked the flat of his blade on Lancelot’s side.
Clutching his ribs, Lancelot fell to his knees, and then collapsed on the floor, landing heavily. He rolled slightly onto his back, and attempted to get up- but then he couldn’t move, paralysed by fear as Arthur brought his sword tip up to Lancelot’s throat, resting it slightly on his collar. A heavy silence fell- Lancelot’s life balanced on a sword-edge.
“I love her,” Lancelot said quietly. Not a person around the set breathed as Arthur stopped his sword mere centimetres from Lancelot’s neck.
“I love her,” he repeated, stronger this time, but his voice still shook with terror.
Arthur looked down on Lancelot, his lip curled in hatred. The two of them were utterly still- the only movement in the room was the rapid rise and fall of Lancelot’s chest. For a moment, I was convinced that Arthur would kill Lancelot as easily as you can kill a fly, but then Arthur blinked.
“Get out,” he said, his voice low and hoarse. Arthur dropped his sword, and the clang it made as it hit the stone echoed throughout the hall.
Lancelot scrambled away, standing up quickly and retrieving his own sword. Arthur had turned away, overcome with emotion, his leather-clad hands covering his face as he leant heavily on the back of a high-backed chair. With a final look back, Lancelot ran out the room. The heavy oak door shut behind him, and then Arthur turned. He looked at the door for one long second, the camera zooming in on his tortured features.
“That’s a wrap!” called the director, and Lancelot edged back in the door.
“Was that alright?” he asked, grinning. His white teeth were a stark contrast with his dirt encrusted face.
“Great, both of you!” the director said, sounding happy- for him at least. I had never seen a scene so complicated, filmed so fast. They wouldn’t use all the footage, but still, I was extremely impressed.
“Ahh, can someone please get this beard off me?” Nick said. “It itches so much!”
A make-up person ran forwards and helped him peel it off his face, and then Russell high-fived Nick.
“For a second there, I thought you were actually going to take my head off,” Russell said, grinning and slipping back into his natural cockney accent.
“I saw the panic in your eyes,” Nick said, laughing.
I jumped as someone tapped me on the shoulder. I twisted in my chair to see Charlie standing my shoulder.
“Intense stuff, huh?” he said, shoving his hands into his pockets.
I rubbed at the goosebumps on my bare arms. “Yeah, a little. How long have you been standing there?”
“Since Nick disarmed Russell. You looked pretty engrossed, I didn’t want to disturb you.” He smiled. “Do you want go for a walk? The rain’s just stopped.”
I saw Violet enter the hall in the corner of my eye, and make an immediate beeline for us. “Sure!” I said quickly. “Lead the way.”
We walked out of the hall and navigated the maze of corridors until we were outside. The sun was just beginning to set and the whole castle was bathed in a deep orange light, the wet stones shining. To the east, dark clouds were gathering still, but half the sky was clear from rain.
“Earlier,” Charlie began, “I don’t think I was particularly clear.”
I bit back a smile. “Oh?”
He glanced over, and shoved his hands deeper in his pockets. “Yeah. So I had a talk with my brother, Bill, who told me to man up and ask you out properly, so...”
He trailed off, and I felt like I was dying from the anticipation. Oh gosh, this was exactly like being asked out in high school. Dry mouth, sweaty palms... “Spit it out,” I said, my voice sounding harsher than I meant it to.
“Well, there’s this tech party tomorrow night, and I wondered if you would like to go with me?” he blurted out.
My mouth split into a large grin. “Hell, I’d love t-”
“Melanie!” a shrill voice called out, cutting me off.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I said quietly.
“Melanie!” she called again, her voice cutting through the still night like knives.
“Violet?” I yelled back.
She emerged from the castle, and tottered down the steps on her heels. “Melanie, can I talk to you for one quick second?”
I scowled. “Not really, Violet, can I call you later or something?” I said politely. Act, Mellie, act. “I’m kind of in the middle of something at the moment.”
Violet shook her head, plastering on a sympathetic expression. “It’s kind of urgent,” she said apologetically.
I glared at her, and then turned to Charlie. “I’ll definitely see you at the party tomorrow,” I said, making sure I was loud enough for Violet to hear me.
“Okay,” Charlie said, taking the cue. “I’ll see you.”
He turned to leave- but then twisted back and kissed my cheek. “Bye!” he said with a wink.
My inner thirteen year old girl fainted.
And then I felt claw-like hands digging into my shoulders, and I turned around to face the dragon.
“Yes, Violet?” I said, sounding a hell of a lot braver than I felt.
“That’s Miss Thornton to you,” she spat. “Seriously, how simple do I have to make things? Do I have to come outright and say it?”
Christ, she was scary. Her face was far too close to mine, and it took me a second to find my voice.
“Yeah,” I said. “Why don’t you just come out and say it?”
My bravado sounded fake even to me. Remember, I told myself sternly, that if we actually fought, she would not have a chance in hell. Violet is a wimp and a bully, and I have a stunning right hook.
Violet snorted in disbelief. “Fine,” she said. “Stay away from Charlie Weasley, or I’ll get a replacement stunt double and a restraining order.”
“You can’t just order people to do whatever you want, Violet,” I said, using her Christian name with force.
“Actually, I can,” she said, and turned to leave.
I was fuming. Those were brilliant last words. I needed to win this argument.
“Violet?” I said sweetly.
She stopped, and looked at me, one hand on her hip. “Yes, Melanie?”
“You know, it should really be up to Charlie, shouldn’t it?” I said thoughtfully. I snapped my fingers. “You know, I’m right. It is up to Charlie... oh, and that’s it. He has picked me! I guess you’re out of luck.”
Violet looked at me for one, long second, before her lips twisted in a cruel smile. “And you’re out of a job. Have a nice flight home.”
I genuinely don’t know what possessed me to open my stupid mouth. Violet disappeared inside just as the first fat drops of rain began to fall once more.
Great. Just great.
I sat at breakfast the next morning, morosely chewing some toast. I hadn’t heard anything from Violet or any of the staff, so I assumed they hadn’t got around to sacking me yet or were actually going to keep me on- but I wasn’t going to turn on my mobile or listen to the messages on my machine to find out either way.
Jess was still asleep. I usually woke her up so we had breakfast together, but today I was feeling especially sorry for myself, and I wanted to cry into my plate alone. Thankfully, Violet always had breakfast in her room and I didn’t have to see her stupid face. She’d be lucky if the next time I saw her she only came away with a black eye, I thought vengefully, biting into my toast with more force than necessary.
I hardly noticed when someone sat down at my lonely table in the corner.
I looked up- and saw the director sitting opposite me. I nearly choked on my toast.
“Good morning, Melanie, I’m Philip Masters.”
“I know,” I said, stuttering.
Let me get one thing clear. Philip Masters is like God. He was an international star and his films were completely amazing. I had worked with him before, and he was scary. He shouted at the actors, the tech crew- I had never talked to him, but he had yelled at me that I was water-skiing wrong once.
Philip signalled the coffee-pot holding waitress over. “Now, I’ve had a complaint about you from Violet,” he said, watching the waitress pour.
I gulped, and folded my hands on my lap so he couldn’t see them shaking. I was such a coward when it came to people. This was exactly like talking to my headmaster at school after someone had said it was impossible to climb the flagpole on top of the gym (for future reference, it was relatively easy to climb). Only this time, I was going to get fired.
“Obviously,” he said, taking a lazy sip, “I’m going to completely ignore her because you are a very good actress-”
That was the end of it all then- I was doomed.
“And I’d like to work with you again in the future, hopefully in bigger role than just a double,” he said. “And I don’t think it would look too good if I sacked you off this film. And besides, where would I find a stunt double for filming in two days?”
I was about to open my mouth and recommend Marty’s services, when it suddenly clicked what Philip was saying.
He liked me. He called me an actress. He wanted to work with me again. I was going to keep my job. He called me an actress.
He called me an actress.
“I’d recommend you leave Violet’s ‘entourage’ once your contract is over,” he said. “And then you could give me a call?” He placed his business card on the table.
“I’ve got some friends in casting who are always looking for fresh young faces,” Philip said. “You know, I gave Russell the leg-up into the industry that he needed,” he said, taking my silence for hesitance.
I nodded furiously, smiling like a mad loon but still dumbstruck.
He finished his coffee, and stood up. “In the meantime, please don’t antagonize Violet!” he said. “You just make my work harder!”
I nodded some more, watching him leave.
He called me an actress.
It was just gone midday, and Jess and I were in my room, getting ready for our big night. Jess had subtly mentioned to Nick about the tech guy’s party, and he’d noticed her hint and they were going together.
Jessie assured me it was so she could keep an eye on any schemes of Violet’s, and not so she could show off her mad dancing skills to Nick. Well, she called them ‘skills’, I called them ‘spasms’.
“Stop squirming or I’ll burn you on purpose, I swear!” Jess said, exasperated as I wriggled around. She was sat on the bed and was concentrating curling my hair, I was on the rock hard floor. My bum had gone numb about twenty minutes ago.
“Do you hurt Violet this much?” I said, massaging the tips of my ears, which were red.
“If she’s being difficult, then yes. But she knows that the only way for me to work my magic is to stop moving!” She prodded me with her foot. “A message which I don’t think you’ve quite got yet.”
“What are you wearing?” I asked, to change the subject.
“I don’t know, something simple. Nick says he’s going in character, so I don’t want to show him up! Besides,” she said, “it’s only a tech party. You know you’ll end up covered in someone else’s puke at the end of the night.”
I rolled my eyes. Sadly, it was true.
According to Jess, the secret of looking stunning was looking like you hadn’t put any effort in. But that didn’t apply to hair.
“No-one wants a bird’s nest, it really isn’t attractive,” Jess told me, teasing another curl out. “But,” she carried on, “if you look like you’ve spent four hours in a tanning booth and then used a shovel to put your foundation on, then the only place you’re going to go is home to cry about your unattractiveness.”
Jess was like the Yoda of make-up.
“Okay, she said, switching off the tongs. “I think you’re okay for your hair. Now, it’s your face’s turn.”
My face didn’t look very happy at the prospect. I’m not even sure what blusher does. I don’t want anything that I don’t know about on me. The same rule applies for creepy crawlies. If I don’t know what it is, it can get the hell off my leg before I find a flame-thrower and incinerate it.
I blanked out while she did my face- she could have been painting on clown make up for all I knew. I was really, really nervous, and it wasn’t even a proper date! This was ridiculous. I did dangerous things for a living, and I wasn’t nervous. All I had to do was treat this like it was jumping off a bridge or in front of a car or something.
That was the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard. Instead, I concentrated on Philip’s one, special word; “actress”.
I could beat Violet at anything, and that included face-paint.
I couldn’t hide my relief when Jess finally stepped back though. “All done!” she trilled. “You, my dear, could hang on a wall in the Louvre, I am that darn good.”
“Thanks!” I said carefully, wondering if it was all going to slide off my face if I smiled too much.
She winked. “Your dress is hanging up there, and your shoes are there,” she said pointing. “I’ll see you at the party then?” She was being picked up by Nick.
I gave her a hug, careful not to smudge anything. “Yep! Thank you so much, Jessie.”
She lightly patted a stray curl. “No worries, honey!” she said, and then she had left to go get herself sorted, and I was left to my own devices.
I slipped on Jess’s choice of dress- a short, casual day dress which looked quite cute- and hooked the heels onto my feet. Thankfully, they weren’t too high; stilt-walking was not something on my CV. I smoothed out the skirt and then sat on my bed, forbidden from doing anything until it was time for me to leave.
I was just reaching for my phone so I could play a game to pass the time, when suddenly, there was a crack! and a low, loud rumble.
A/N: new chapter! As always, I love you for reading, so thank you! (reviews appreciated :P) Also, this chapter is dedicated to all my friends, most of all Sam, for being my unofficial Beta for everything, and putting up with me tirelessly, and Olive, for because I said I'd dedicate a chapter to her, I forget why.
Also, Othello is by William Shakespeare, and I'm sorry about the swordfight ruining the fluff. Action is my manna.