Chapter 3

Chapter III

Alex sat patiently in the lobby of her agent’s office waiting for Channing’s assistant to call her back. She was freezing to death. It made sense to turn the thermostat down during the summer but not to forty degrees! She knew Channing’s office would only be colder and she regretted not bringing a sweater to her meeting. It would seem odd to remember to bring extra warm clothing when the temperature outside was 104 degrees.

She tried not to think about how cold she was and quickly turned her attention to one of the magazines sitting on an in-table to the left of her. Alex leafed through it, completely uninterested in anything smattered across the pages. On about the twelfth page turn Channing’s assistant looked up from her computer and graced Alex with a rather obnoxious glance. She decided to stick with one page and stare at it blankly.

The office phone rang, thankfully breaking the silence. “Channing Frost’s office, this is Debbie

how may I assist your call?”

After Debbie’s salutations, Alex tuned her out almost immediately. Finally focusing on a page, she read about one of the many hot young starlets that were going down the wrong path. Yet directors were still tripping over themselves trying to sign her to their next big film.

“I just don’t understand Hollywood,” She mumbled to herself.

“What was that Miss Martucci?” Apparently, Channing’s secretary had the ears of a bat.

“Oh, nothing, I was just…talking to myself,” Alex replied completely deflated of self-esteem.

She looked back at her like Alex had miraculously grown another head, “ Oh…okay, well Channing is ready for you, you can go on in.”

“Great thanks.” Alex moved rigidly from her now warm leather chair and hastily snatched up the

magazine she had been reading.

Walking into her agent’s office sent shivers down her spine. She quickly plopped herself down in front of Channing’s glass-topped desk in a similarly comfy leather chair. This one, unfortunately, hadn’t just had a butt to warm it for twenty minutes. It felt more like sitting on a melted bag of ice. Alex vigorously rubbed her arms.

“If it was any colder in here there would be a blizzard warning!”

Channing looked up at her with wide charcoal lined eyes. Her soft alabaster cheeks turned up in a smile.

“What are you talking about?! I’m sweating like a whore in church.”

Alex giggled at that. It always made her laugh when her 56-year-old agent, that looked like the sweetest blonde-headed grandma ever seen, said something semi-dirty.

“Chan, I think you’re entering the change of life.”

“What! Are you crazy? I’m too young to be all dried up!”

“Alright, I’m just saying you might want to invest in some estrogen.”

“Anyway, that’s quite enough witless banter about my estrogen levels, I-”

“Yeah… I don’t want to talk about that anymore. I’m much more interested in this.”

Alex held up the rag magazine she had pilfered from the lobby, opened to the page that she had been skimming. Her interest piqued, Channing whisked the mag out of Alex’s hand and read the title of the piece out loud.

“Hillary Scott Snags Multi-Picture Deal Despite Recent Rocky Past.” She squawked and looked back to her client with a puzzled look.

“You’re interested in substance abuse? Do you want to play a crack head next?”

Alex blanched and sighed, “No, I don’t want to play a crack head next! I do, however, want to know why this particular cracked out bitch has a multi-picture deal with one of the best directors in

Hollywood. And I’m doing an off-Broadway play every night that is slowly killing a part of my soul.”

“Alex the only reason they want this drugged out diva is because she’s infamous now. She’s a hot ticket at the moment.”

“So all I have to do to become an actress with credibility is fall drunkenly out of a car without my underwear on?”

“Well yeah, that and doing a couple of lines off the Sunset strip curb wouldn’t hurt.”

Alex smirked at Chan’s blunt sarcasm.

“Do you really want to go back to Holly-Hell Alex?”

She thought about that for a minute. Going back to a place that had recently spit her out did not seem incredibly appealing.

“No…But I want something better than what I’m doing now. I hate this play. It depresses me even more than my already abysmal life.”

Channing paused at that and tried to collect her thoughts for a moment. Alex could tell she wasn’t going to like whatever it was she was about to lay on her.

“What are you thinking about in there?” She finally asked, pointing towards Channing’s head.

“Well, I was just wondering…How your personal life is going? Are you stressed out over anything in particular?”

“Only the normal stuff; friends, family, lack of love life.”

“Well shit Alex, is there any balance in your life at all?”

Alex looked around the room nervously and shuddered a sigh.

“I’m sure it’s not as bad as I make it out to be, you know I’m big on the worrying.”

Even though it was below zero in the office Alex’s temperature was heating up intensely. To the point where she was almost sweating.

“Alex I know it’s a sore subject but, how are your parents doing?”

She shifted back and forth in her squishy leather chair uncomfortably.

“They’re doing okay I guess. I’m still helping them out here and there…When I can, but other than that I think they’re fine.”

“And your friends? How have they been contributing to your stress?”

“I thought this was a business meeting, not a head shrinking session!”

Channing blanched at her outburst.

“It’s not. You’re not just a client of mine you know, I’d like to consider you as my friend. I care about what goes on in your life.”

Alex offered her an apologetic smile.

“My friends are fine, they’re just a bit unstable at the moment. Most of them are on the other side of the country anyway.”

“Well, Kim is here.”

Alex set her mouth in a grim straight line at that.

“That would cover the unstable portion.”

“Really? What’s going on there?”

“It’s nothing. She’s just going through something potentially life changing at the moment and I’m not really supposed to talk about it. But the thing is, for some reason even though she created the problem if I had done the same thing she would have judged the hell out of me.”

“I’m not sure I follow what you mean exactly.”

“Well…” Alex paused and sighed. She tried to put a smile on her face but it seemed like it pained her to stretch and skew her mouth muscles into something not so miserable.

“I know I’m not perfect but I haven’t done half the crazy shit she’s done, and I just know when this current problem blows over and I do one thing she doesn’t agree with you can bet your ass she’ll let me know about it.”

“It sounds like Kim has a major passive-aggressive issue.”

“Whatever it is it’s getting annoying. I just don’t get it. She comes to me with all of her wacky

problems, expecting me not to judge her on them, because I never would. In turn, she judges me for the most minuscule things.”

Alex threw her hands up in exasperation.

“It makes no sense!”

“Well I agree with that, friends shouldn’t judge each other. That’s just a good way to become enemies. And by you continuously not saying anything it’s just going to get worse. Then one day she’ll say something that will trigger you and you’ll blow up and rain down a shit storm upon her head.”

“…Yeah, that really wouldn’t be good.” Alex stared back at her dumbfounded.

“For someone that has witnessed the explosion of you before I would have to agree. Why can’t you talk to her about it ?”

“I want to, I just have no idea how! How do you tell your friend to stop being such a bitch? Things would just be so awkward after that, and I don’t want to rock the boat…Hell, besides you she’s the only friend I have on this island of misfits.”

Channing’s face softened as she sat back in her office chair and picked up her handheld mini fan.

“I understand that Alex, but what do you think is going to happen? She can’t break-up with you for crying out loud!”

“No, but she can refuse to ever see me again.”

“If she judges you and you find it annoying why would you want her hanging around anyway?”

“Because no one else seems to want to hang around, do they?!”

Channing could tell she had hit a nerve, as Alex sat out of breath with her head in her hands trying to compose herself. After a moment, from behind her fingers, she moaned, “Can we please separate business issues from personal tragedies?”

“Sure,” Channing replied meekly before getting up and grabbing a bottle of water out of her sleek black mini fridge. She didn’t hesitate as she came around to the other side of her desk and sat next to Alex, handing her the bottle and gently patting her shoulder.

“I do have some good news.”

“Really?” a glimmer of hope shown through in her voice as she peeked out from behind her hair that had fallen to curtain her face.

“There’s a casting going on in LA right now and one of the producers is interested in seeing you.”

“Do you mean ‘seeing me’ as in just me? Or as in me and all the other brown eyed brunettes that act and waitress in LA?”

“I mean just you crazy lady!”

“Oh…Well then, that sounds good.”

Alex seemed to have brightened up a bit at the prospect of a new gig, but Channing could still sense a hint of sadness behind her eyes. Unfortunately, the undercurrent of despair seemed to flow freely in Alex’s life these days. At times it seemed as if at any moment she could burst into tears. The moment anyone noticed, she sucked in her emotions and shut down.

“I knew I could put a smile back on that face.”

“So what’s next? Do I need to fly out soon?” Will I need time off from the play? Cause I have no problem with that.”

“Okay calm down,” Channing laughed.

“You’ll fly out in two weeks, I’ll book the flight of course. I’ll need you to pick out a hotel to stay at, and the playhouse will be dark during your trip so we won’t have to worry about that.”

“Finally some good news.” Alex let out a deep sigh of relief.

“In the meantime, why don’t you get out and try to enjoy yourself for a change?”

She looked back at Channing perplexed.

“I enjoy myself plenty.”

“Really? Cause you seem to be wound tighter than a steel drum.” She snorted back.

“You can’t progress as an actress and learn to become someone else if you hardly interact with other human beings. Stop being such a hermit and have some fun. You can only be a twenty something for so

long.”

“Really? Because I seem to remember celebrating your forty-ninth birthday three years in a row.”

“That’s enough out of you, I was born on a leap year…Get off my back.”

“Okay fine, I’ll let that one go. Are we done with business today? Because I must get back to my shoe box apartment and my shitty life.”

After she left Channing’s office Alex took a cab to Spark’s on West Broadway. Just because she was a hermit didn’t mean she was heartless. She wanted to check up on Kim. Usually, when her best friend was going through a crisis she threw herself into her work and tried to put her troubles on the back burner. This major hiccup in her life would be no exception.

When Alex entered the trendy cafe she immediately spotted her friend sitting at a corner table, furiously working through her lunch break. So entranced she was by whatever was flashing across her laptop screen, she didn’t even notice when Alex plopped herself down in the chair across from her.

“How many ginger spiced teas have you had?”

Finally, Kim looked up, startled and wide-eyed.

“Huh?”

Alex giggled and gestured towards the stack of used paper cups that all had strings and tea tags still attached to them.

“Oh, well…Just these…And maybe one or two from this morning. You know, just to get the day going.”

“Right,” Alex responded uneasily.

Kim sprang up to attention, “Hey! Don’t judge me okay, I’ve got a lot I’m dealing with at the moment.”

“Calm down you loon! Nobody’s judging here, you’re just so hopped up on ginger root you can barely focus.”

Kim let out a deep sigh and sagged back into her uncomfortable wooden chair.

“I know, I’m sorry. I’m just paranoid and I still haven’t made a decision on what to do about my…Maternal Dilemma.”

“So I’m guessing you haven’t talked to Nick about it yet. Oh, by the way, I think ‘maternal dilemma’ is putting it just a skosh lightly.”

“No, I can barely look him in the eye right now. Every time we’re around each other I make some kind of lame excuse and rush off to work, or the drug store, or anything that will take his attention off me for long periods of time.”

“Well the way I see it, you have three possible scenarios to explore. You could not tell him at all and just you know, have it taken care of…”

Kim visibly cringed.

“… Or you could tell him about it and decide together how to handle the situation.”

“So far all of these options suck,” Kim whined.

“Well, then there’s option three.”

“Which would be what exactly?”

“You could tell Nick that you’re pregnant and just let him believe it’s his baby…In which case, there’s a special place in hell waiting for you.”

Kim nervously chewed on her perfectly manicured thumbnail.

“Which would you choose?

“I don’t know that I can honestly answer that question since I repel men and subsequently would never be in this particular predicament.

“Oh well, that’s just ridiculous! You don’t repel men. If anything your beauty is just majorly intimidating.”

Alex laughed hard. “You’re right I don’t repel men, I just seem to find the ones with so many self-involved issues they can barely see straight. And then I fix them, and then they leave. I’m more like

some kind of emotional car wash really.”

Kim chuckled, “Well that’s what you get when you insist on dating the pretty ones.”

“I don’t insist, they just seem to find me. I’m a beacon for the damaged and vain!”

“Better that than a beacon of fertility,” Kim frowned.

At that moment the sun peaked out from behind a puffy cloud and glared severely through the coffee shop window. Alex quickly threw up her hand to block the glare from her steady gaze on Kim.

“How can you stand hot tea? Besides the fact that it’s the middle of summer, it also happens to be the most miserable part of the day.”

“I don’t give a fuck! I’m trying to find my happy place right now Alex, and in my happy place there’s a lot of tea, okay!?”

Alex sighed, “ Okay jeez!…Your happy place wouldn’t happen to be Sri Lanka…?”

She shut her mouth quickly as Kim pinned her with her own severe glare.

Alex woke up with her heart pounding in her ears with a blaring thump. Her bedside clock read ‘2:43 am. Carefully and trembling she threw back her covers and padded unsteadily to her small kitchen. By the time she retched open the refrigerator door she’d realized how labored her breathing had become. As she reached in for a bottle of water flashes of the dream that had disrupted her slumber ran through her brain.