From a novel by Elizabeth Xifaras
The Bargain He'd Made
Explosions of light, voices screaming. Bodies weighing down on his own.
He tried to push onwards, force his way through. Heart pounding, mouth dry. As always. As fucking always when it came to this part.
"Over here! Adam! Hi!"
He could feel them bashing into him, jostling. How close
did they need to be to take a photo? Jesus, if he lost his footing he'd be
trampled to death in minutes. Live on TV.
"Adam! Here, over here!"
long are you staying?" A woman's voice. He almost turned, but experience overcame instinct. He would never get involved with one of
The bodyguard's arm, thick and heavy around his shoulder,
propelled him forward. Head down, hidden by the cap and Ray-Bans, he forced his way through the path they carved for him.
Christ, all he wanted to do was walk through the airport to the car, was
that too much to ask?
"Tosser," one of them muttered behind him. He was knackered, his jeans and T-shirt creased
and clinging. The flight was a nightmare, even in first, and he was
groggy with Krug and fatigue. His body clock
was shot, he needed to shower and sleep. But a six-hour delay and his
manic schedule meant there was no way he could stop. Straight to rehearsal. The photo shoot had been postponed, not
that he was sorry. They were always so
boring. And anyway, he looked like crap.
The bodyguard shoved him into the limo. The
guy's hand was actually on his ass. Adam almost felt a palm print there, damp and
warm. He used to like his own personal space, back in the days when it existed. But this all came with the territory. This
was the bargain he'd made. His space
wasn't personal any more. He no longer owned it. He knew that.
air in the limo was cool and still, the leather soft, and at last the world behind the tinted windows melted away. He
closed his eyes, but the bulbs still flashed on the inside of his lids.
The lights he could never escape. Reaching
for a bottle of Evian, he held the cool plastic to his forehead.
Adam didn't even notice when the car stopped moving. The driver
had to call through.
"We're here, sir."
He jolted forward, feeling a little sick. Had
he fallen asleep? He took another bottle of water and the script, which
had been left for him on the seat, and
headed out into the London air. Three steps from the car to the door. Three
steps and he was soaked to the skin, his T-shirt cold against his chest. Great. Everything was dirty from the
grey sky to the grey street, gritty
under his feet, littered with crisp packets and paper cups that wilted under the rain. He thought of the golden
sun he had left behind, the smooth clean sidewalks. What the hell was he doing
small room smelled of dust and damp, the strip lighting giving a blue-tinged, eerie pallor to the faces that turned
towards him. There was an air of
expectation as he walked in. He'd kept them waiting for two hours, but
Abby must have called ahead because now they were all ready, sitting in a
circle on those plastic chairs that always had him thinking of high school. He scanned the group, watching the faces go through
the stages of recognition he had seen so often before. Yes, it was really him. Yes, he looked as good as he did on
screen. Not as tall, though.
There were two spaces. One was between the
director and some old guy. He couldn't sit there, what was he, some
kind of geek? The other was between two girls. He recognised one of
them, Trixie something or other, she was playing the female lead, Adiel. His
love interest. She was pretty, with dark hair and huge eyes. Tiny,
of course. She looked as if she'd break
if you blew on her. The love scenes would be no hardship. The other was a big girl, blonde haired. Everything about
her was round, enormous blue eyes, open
face, big round tits. She was wearing some kind of lacy bra, he could
see it through her top.
She cleared her throat and he lifted his eyes
to her face. Shit. He had to look up. She smiled and
raised an eyebrow. He blushed, actually blushed. Him,
Adam Craven. Shit. He turned his back and sat next to the old guy.
The director smiled at him briefly, peering over her glasses. The
smile was friendly and a little absent
minded, nothing more. He was used to more. A widening of the eyes, a glance up
and down, a colouring of the cheeks. Adam took in her faded jeans, baggy
sweater and thick-rimmed glasses.
Lesbian, he concluded.
"Right," she said brightly. "Now we've all
finally made it let's get started with introductions.
I'm Clare Richardson, your director, as you all already
know." She gave a little giggle. "We've all met, I think..." She pushed the glasses up her nose and peered round the
group. "Hmm, well, most of us, anyway, or, or been in contact, anyway, and, well,
that's me!" She giggled again.
Christ, she was like some kindergarten
teacher. She'd be giving them frigging balloons next. Adam
began to get a sickening feeling that he'd made
a terrible mistake. Maybe he'd get his lawyers to find a loophole in the contract. She was still twittering
".. .very excited, there's a lot of talent in this room and
when we all come together we're going to
create some true magic."
It was all he could do to stop himself groaning
aloud. The woman was actually trembling, did she really believe all this crap?
She turned to him, her face pink and
sweating. Apparently so.
"Your turn," she said.
Oh, no. Not seriously.
smiled at him and nodded encouragingly.
Yes. Seriously. He glanced around the group
and gave a flick of the hand. "Hi. I'm playing Gad."
He turned to the old guy, but she was still looking at
him, nodding so hard he began to wonder if she had some kind
of twitch. "And you are...?" she said.
Oh, come on. There wasn't a person in the
room who didn't know. "Adam Craven," he said.
"Good! Good!" she said, beaming as
though he'd just got an A grade in a math
He watched the grey rain streaming
down the window. Oh, God. This was a
mistake. Big mistake.
Clare droned on breathlessly,
glistening globules of saliva streaking through
the air when she became really excited. Adam sank deeper into his chair,
concentrating on the steady beat of the rain, sedated by the warm fug of the room. He didn't care about her
vision for the movie. He didn't care about the multi-faceted characters. He
hadn't read the book, had only
glanced through the script. But he knew the character he was playing. The hero, the good guy, the guy who risks
everything for the girl. The same guy he always played.
He was barely conscious by the time they
broke for coffee. And the coffee itself hardly
helped, scalding and watery with a yellow scum on the surface, it tasted of nothing. On his last movie there had been six
different types to choose from, all made freshly right there in front of you.
But this was what you got on a low budget Brit flick, he should have known. His agent was right. He must be crazy. Although maybe not as crazy
as the crazy director.
Adam sipped the scalding dishwater and pressed his thumb and forefinger into his closed eyes until streaks of
red fire leapt over the lids. He
hoped the hotel had a decent bed. Somehow he suspected it wouldn't be up
to the standard he was used to.
He opened his eyes and almost yelped at the sight of the
old guy's earnest, lined face pushed close to his own. He tried to step
away, but he was backed up against a wall.
"Hi," Adam said.
"Exciting project, isn't it?"
"Of course, my own career has been spent mostly in the
theatre, as you probably know. I find it
preferable in general, one really must be at one's best always in the theatre,
no chance for a second take, of course. And there's such a rapport with one's audience." He smiled, tight
lipped. "I'm very careful about
the film work I accept, but this project seems to have great integrity and..."
The dark haired girl, Trixie, joined
them. She was wearing knee-high boots and a leather mini-skirt. Adam slumped
against the wall and hung his head, trying to get a better view.
".. .and such a talented director,"
the old guy said. "She's truly marvellous,
don't you think?"
"Marvellous." Adam couldn't help
mimicking the clipped British accent. Trixie flashed him a smile that was like
the sun bursting out from behind a cloud.
The old guy looked at him sharply. "Have you done much
theatre work yourself?"
Adam shifted. "No, I...my schedule's
always pretty packed, so..."
"Ah." The old guy smirked.
"I'd like to do some Shakespeare,
"Really?" The voice and raised eyebrows made surprise,
disdain even, clear. "Did you have a
particular role in mind?"
The old guy bent over her,
his hand on her shoulder as though he was addressing a
child. "It's Othello, my dear. But," he turned his gaze back to Adam, though he left his hand where it was. "I wouldn't have
thought it was your kind of role."
bristled, trying to think of a sharp reply.
"Oh, I think you'd be
really good." It was the round, blonde girl. She was standing next to
Trixie. He hadn't even seen her.
"I mean, you've got a bit of an edge,
haven't you? Although, they might have to uglify you a bit, otherwise
there'd be no reason for him to be so
bitter, would there?"
He smiled. "You'd be surprised. I'm sorry, I didn't
"Grace," he said, his whole arm
bouncing on the end of her handshake. "And
"At being a script writer!" She laughed.
"No, I wrote the book, and adapted it.
Well, co-adapted it with..."
"Othello?" Trixie said, suddenly. "But
isn't he the black one? You can't play him, can you?"
Adam caught the light dancing in Grace's eyes, and stifled a laugh.
began rehearsing he felt better. Awake. Or maybe he just felt nothing, no tiredness, no irritation. He was
aware only of the work.
The scene was one from near the end of the movie; he'd gone over
it on the plane. He didn't have to say that
much, the old guy, Evan, was doing
most of the talking. But Adam made his face, his eyes, do the work. It was
easy. He could feel their attention focused on him, feel the silence, the stillness. Now, now was the time. Now
they knew he was more than just a pretty face.
He was buzzing when he left. The rain shimmered in the lights of
the barely moving traffic, the street
glistened beneath him. Everything looked better in the darkness.
car door clicked heavily behind him and he sank into the soft leather, calmed
by the steady rhythm of the wipers as they pulled smoothly away. The book was lying on the seat. Abby must have left it. He hadn't seen it before, maybe it was underneath
the script. The Ark by Grace
Matthews. He'd take a look after all. Research. Not now, though. Now he had other research in mind. He
closed his eyes and tried to
summon up a picture of Trixie, her full lips, her legs disappearing up into that skirt. He waited for the
stirring of his cock.
But instead, the image that came to him was
a round face and a cloud of blonde hair. Fucking irritating.
At two a.m. he gave up. He couldn't sleep. Jet lag had left him saturated with exhaustion in the day and had robbed him of it now. He threw the
contents of the mini-bar onto the bed and picked up the book. It slid across his palm, smooth and light. The
cover made him dubious, some Mills and Boonesque picture of a couple
gazing at each other. Not his usual choice.
Sci-fi wasn't really his thing either, he preferred the classics,
Trollope's gentle prose or the visceral descriptions of Lawrence.
Still, the newness of it, the potential of the unknown intrigued
him. It was virgin territory. And he liked
that girl, Grace. She had something about
cracked faintly as he opened it.
To Mum and Dad. Thanks for believing.
Hmm. Had the fiction started already?
He took a
swig of beer.
I catch his eye, and time stands still....
©2008 Elizabeth Xifaras
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