Twists and Turns

Jasper Cartwright hasn't been in love since he was a teenager. Over the eighteen years he's been a ruthless theatre director, he has learnt to live for the work. Casual relationships with his actresses have earned him quite the reputation, however, and many would rather steer clear of him. Fliss Edwards has been doing just that since she walked out on a show with him five years ago. That doesn't mean she hasn't been thinking about him though. Fate and an oblivious creative team throw them together again in a huge musical that could change Broadway forever.

Elizabeth Mason is an up and coming actress just moving out of her childhood roles and finding it hard to get work. Hired on to fit with Jaspers new approach to the show, she gets a lot more than she bargained for out of playing Fliss's younger sister.

Twists and Turns is about the relationships of all of the people involved on that show and how Fliss and another special young lady convinced Jasper to feel again.

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3. Artistic Differences

In a tiny apartment in Queens, New York, two men are surrounded by papers. They were holed into the corner of a bedroom, round a tiny digital piano. The first man was sat at the piano, playing snatches of melodies between arguing with the second man, who was pacing. Though it was early autumn, the poky room was practically a sauna and the heavy curtains were drawn to block the burning light of the sun.

 

“I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the lyric,” Julian rubbed his temples, leaning forward over the keys of his piano as he did so “It's just that the rhythm of it won't fit with this melody.”

 

Irritably, the other man snapped “Well then maybe you need to change the melody.”

 

“I like this melody.”

 

“I like this lyric.”

 

Harvey Louis and Julian Holt wrote musicals. As a matter of fact, they had been writing musicals, or trying to, for most of the last decade. So far, only two shows of theirs had even made it to off-Broadway, which they were thankful for but it was hard to be unable to make that final step onto the great white way. This show though, Brontë, had been picked up by a Broadway producer. It was happening, finally, but there had been more than one bump in the road.

 

“Why don't you write a different lyric for this melody and I'll write a new melody for this lyric and then we'll just have two songs to slip in somewhere,” Julian suggested wistfully. To be honest, his writing partner was driving him semi-insane today and he was willing to say anything to get the other man off of his back.

 

Rolling his eyes, Harvey shook his head “Then we'll just have two songs and nowhere to put one of them. Edward wants a song, not a pair.”

 

“Look, Harvey, do you think we should give it a rest for the day, we're not getting anywhere,” Julian shut the lid of his piano to emphasise the point.

 

With a resigned sigh, Harvey flopped down onto the comforting cool of the bed. The cream sheets were soft under his skin, calming him for a minute “Yeah, but if we stop we'll have to talk about the other problems and I don't want to talk about the other problems.”

 

“We're meeting with Edward today and he will, almost certainly, bring up the other problems, whether you want to talk about it or not,” Julian pointed out in response.

 

Eyeing his partner with a half-amused expression, Harvey quirked an eyebrow “Did you read the article about us in the paper this morning?”

 

“I don't read reviews.”

 

All at once, Harvey was grinning. The spindle of a man darted the single step to the door with little more than a giggle. Though he frowned a little, Julian couldn't help but concede that it was nice to see his partner smile again. Lately, there had been a lot more struggle than gain on this show. Both of them were stressed out.

 

Julian's eyes wondered to the binder of notes and fragments that sat treacherously on top of the piano. It stared, threatening to betray its nonsensical contents for what they were not; Louis and Holt's best musical yet. Anxiously, he took the heavy folder onto his lap, its weight didn't make him feel any better. This lump of paper was not a musical, how where they ever going to bring this together?

 

“Here we go,” Harvey paced back into the room, leaning in the doorway with the newspaper in hand “You're gonna love this. As Holt and Louis embark on their most ambitious project yet, a musical adaptation of the life of the Brönte sisters, (set to open on Broadway this season) they find themselves hampered by yet another set back. Morgan Hallaway has taken his directing talents elsewhere.

 

“Today, Edward Richards announced that there had been some artistic differences – can you believe that? Artistic differences in rehearsals and that it was decided Hallaway was not the right director for this piece – not right for it, not like he wanted to put Jazz hands in the death scenes or anything. Richards also tells us that it can be expected that another director will be found within the month.

 

“Good luck Edward, just because you hire half the cast doesn't mean you're going to get another Once Upon a Time.

 

With a frown, Julian set the folder back down on the piano “Who else is in the cast from Once Upon a Time, aside from Fliss I mean?”

 

“Erm,” Harvey squinted, throwing the newspaper down so that he could count off each name on his fingers “Bobby, Amelia, Wendy, Jessica, Rowan, Leah, Connor-”

 

“Connor!” Julian exclaimed “I didn't know Connor worked Once Upon a Time.”

 

Nodding the taller man, reminded his friend “Yeah, he'd just moved from there to Oklahoma when I met him, remember?” All Julian did was grunt abstractly in response. Testily, Harvey commented “Don't you have anything else to say about the article?”

 

“How Edward expects to get a new director within the month is beyond me,” Julian shrugged, feeling inexplicably tired all of a sudden “I thought you didn't want to talk about this problem, anyway.” Why did he so much want to crawl into bed and sleep in this moment? He rubbed his eyes in an attempt to wake up.

 

As he did so, Harvey sat down on the bed, and began ferreting around for the lyric that they'd been debating earlier “Come on, we better get back to work.”

 

“Can we not?” Julian groaned “I just... have you got some coffee or something, I need a caffeine fix.”

 

Somewhat reluctantly, Harvey nodded “Sure, come on, we'll sit through there, it's cooler anyway.”

 

Julian dragged himself to his feet and followed his writing partner from the room. It was cooler in the bright white hall, but the sudden bright sunlight, from the wide living room window, made the composer squint painfully. He didn't even need to be told to stumble the few steps into the living room. Wordlessly, Julian simply sat down at the small round table as Harvey bustled about the nearby kitchen.

 

“It's quite possible Edward has someone in mind,” Harvey commented, turning on the coffee machine.

 

Distracted, Julian blinked “Sorry, what?”

 

“To be director, it's quite possible that Edward has someone in mind to be director,” Harvey explained, leaning back on the wooden counter.

 

Understanding, Julian nodded his head so his dark brown curls bounced “Probably actually, since he's so confident in finding a replacement so quickly.”

 

“Hmm,” Harvey replied thoughtfully. Then the front door opened and in came Harvey's boyfriend, Connor, looking just as dark and buff as usual. As soon as he walked in, the lyricist just lit up “Hey you, home early from your breakfast date with Amelia?”

 

With a broad grin, the actor slipped into the kitchen to drop a kiss on Harvey's cheek before replying “Yeah, she had to go meet with her agent about something.”

 

“She's not looking for other parts is she?” Harvey frowned, his hand finding Connor's arm “Because, she's still our Elizabeth Branwell, even with Morgan gone.”

 

Gently, Connor chuckled “She's not going anywhere, it's just sometimes us actors like to have a chat with our agents, okay?” Then he turned to Julian and raised his eyebrows “Has he been like this all morning?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Julian nodded, smiling mischievously.

 

Pouting humorously, Harvey handed out the coffee and sat moodily down at the table. Simply kissing Harvey's sandy brown hair, Connor chuckled “You're so easy to wind up.” He set his hands on Harvey's shoulders and asked “Have we got any news about getting a director?”

 

“Nope,” Julian sipped his coffee, tentatively “We're going into Edward's office for an update this afternoon.”

 

With a chuckle, Connor sat down at the table “That sounds fun.” There was a snark in his voice and sarcasm was pulling at the side of his mouth.

 

“I really hate you sometimes,” Harvey eyed his boyfriend, dangerously.

 

All Connor did was match his red-hot gaze and Julian was heading for the door “See you at the meeting Harvey.” In a flash, the composer was out the door, grabbing his coat as he went.

 

As soon as the door clicked shut, Connor took a sip from his abandoned cup of coffee “How to get rid of a straight guy in under ten minutes.”

 

“You're despicable,” Harvey shook his head, that cheeky glint still lingering in his eyes “You just enjoy making him uncomfortable.”

 

Smugly, he quirked his head teasingly “I know.”

 

 

 

 

 

Today was the fifth anniversary of Fliss's first preview of Once Upon a Time. Not that she was dwelling on it. In fact, she was trying her best to just forget about it. There was too much about it that tore her up inside for her to mull the concept over in her head. Not that it wasn't a happy memory but it was tainted with confusion and regret.

 

It was a weak distraction to wander aimlessly around the city, the thick scents of autumn weighing on the air. In this city of strangers, she pretended, for a moment, that she wasn't a rising Broadway star. She dreamed of a life without risk or excitement but with a steady pay-check. A world where you didn't get the casting couch treatment seemed nice, some place she could have a family. Maybe she could do some singing down at the local community theatre.

 

Still, even as she dreamt it, she knew that it wasn't for her. Grease paint ran in her veins, her heartbeat played a Broadway beat. This city, this life was hers and it came with a few hitches. That didn't matter, these were her hitches. Her life was her own and that was a beautiful thing.

 

As she walked past the huge square pillars that marked the entrance to central park, her mind landed, once again, on that day five years ago. It was exactly five years since she had broken down on Jasper, her roguish director. It was five years since he had held her and told her that she mattered and maybe she had believed him then, she couldn't really remember. All that consumed her mind were the secret glances they shared in the weeks that followed, those ones that made her heart feel like it might jump from her chest. That foolish hope that made her almost believe he could love her, really love her not the way he'd “loved” all his leading ladies before.

 

Then came the heartbreaking moment that they'd been in a rehearsal together, just the two of them. As he read her lines and she channelled a perfect princess, he'd just leant an inch closer so his breath mingled with hers as his hand resting gently on her upper thigh. It wasn't that which had made her slap him, however, it was the wicked look in his eyes and the way he whispered “You know, I make a point of having an intimate relationship with all of my leading ladies.”

 

In a shot she drew her hand hard across his cheek and leapt back with tears in her eyes “I thought you were better than that Jasper, exactly what kind of girl do you think I am?”

 

“A beautiful one.”

 

That was not the answer that Fliss was looking for, all she could think about were all the girls that Jasper had cast aside without a thought. She knew she couldn't be one of those girls. Damn it, directors shouldn't be allowed to make advances towards actresses and know they'd be accepted because these girls were completely under their thumbs. It wasn't fair and she wouldn't be that girl.

 

Running for the door, she only glanced back once to say “Goodbye Jasper.”

 

With a shudder, she came back to the here and now and wondered what would have happened if she hadn't left Once Upon a Time for Les Miserables. What she would have done if she'd gone back to rehearsals the next day and he'd apologized. If she'd been brave enough to face him down, maybe he would have taken her seriously. Maybe she wouldn't have spent five years wondering what if?

 

Nevertheless, she had her current career to worry about. Brontë was on the rocks and, even if the creative team tried to hide the fact, Fliss knew they were walking a fine line. Theatre was a dangerous business and it only took a few rumours to make a show dead in the water. Investors were easy to scare and musicals burnt money. If they didn't find a new director soon, Fliss might find herself looking for a new job.

 

 

 

 

 

That afternoon, in the office of Edward Richards in Manhattan, Brontë's creative team had a meeting. So far, only Edward and his guest were present.

 

The smooth, almost cat-like, man was sat behind his desk, sharp brown eyes staring out at the city. Only in the subtle tapping of his foot was there any sign of impatience, even though the writers were late. The sharp man had the kind of aloof air that tended to drive people away. He was tall and was so spindly that he had the look of a marionette. Nevertheless, beneath the façade, he was a very kind man and one of Jasper's best friends.

 

Jasper was leant back on the sofa in the office, trying to feel comfortable. After a few moments of fidgeting he resigned himself to the fact that nothing about this was comfortable. Not only was he being brought in by the producer behind the writers' backs but one of those writers was Harvey bloody Louis who just happened to hate his guts. This was not comfortable. That was even before you factored in the fact that the production had already suffered at the hands of an incompetent and inappropriate director (he could have told them months ago that Morgan wasn't right for this show) and the writers would be on edge. And then there was Fliss.

 

Working with Fliss again was something that scared him. Scratch that – she was something that terrified him. This was a girl that could make him feel things he thought he'd closed himself to over a decade before. Love was something he knew too deeply for him to fully comprehend. He buried it to save his aching heart, love wasn't safe. Therefore, Fliss wasn't safe. Already, she'd cast him off once and it had almost killed him.

 

“Jasper?” Edward brought him out of his reminiscence. That keen gaze of his seemed to see right through the director, making him shudder a little.

 

As he blinked back to the present, he sat up “Yes, sorry?”

 

“Harvey and Julian will be here soon,” he repeated with a certain reproach in his expression. Why was it that Jasper always felt like a child in this man's presence.

 

Awkwardly, Jasper sat up straight “Edward, are you sure you want to cause this much trouble, I know I can work wonders with this piece but Harvey's still going to go through hell to keep me away from this show.”

 

“At the moment I'm just concentrating on you doing wonders with this piece, I'll get through to Harvey,” he replied, a secret smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.

 

He nodded “Well, I'll leave that to you.”

 

“What's the issue with you two anyway?” Edward leant forward over the desk, that smile sparkling with the concept of good gossip.

 

A lump of guilt formed in Jasper's throat. He shook the feeling, guilt would only hold you back. Easily, he shrugged “Some little incident that Harvey blew out of proportion, I'm sure we can work past it.”

 

“Hmm,” Edward said sceptically.

 

Then, Harvey's tangy voice drifted from the foyer “All right, Edward, what bomb are you dropping on us this time?” Instinctively, Jasper tensed in preparation for a fight as the lyricist walked in. The moment his opal eyes came to rest on Jasper, the smile faded from Harvey's face. There was a moment of stillness, the tensest stalemate.

 

Without saying a word, Harvey turned for the door “You'll have to pry the book from my cold, dead fingers before I let that man near this thing, call me when you've come to your senses.” His exit was blocked by Julian who was now craning his neck to try and gauge what the fuss was about.

 

Faced with no exit, Harvey turned back to Jasper, still lounged casually on the sofa “I should beat the crap out of you, you know that?”

 

Jasper remained silent.

 

Furiously, the man dug his nails into his palms “I mean, you screwed me over, you really screwed me over.”

 

“You were a shit composer, it was screw you over or what the show flop and I don't do flops,” the director's ice blue eyes colder than the soft breeze from the air conditioning.

 

Folding his arms, Harvey shook his head, stiffly “You know, I never wanted you on that show anyway, I wanted a tried and tested director but everyone spoke up for this young up and comer. Even that was bullshitted, half of them were related to you, the others were sleeping with someone related to you.”

 

“Including you, actually, I seem to remember you sleeping with my baby brother,” Jasper retorted easily.

 

With a stiffness in his jaw, Harvey scoffed “Don't make me sound like some sort of pervert, your baby brother, was a consenting adult, just like all of the actresses in the cast that you slept with.”

 

“Boys, can we please put away the claws and talk about this like adults,” Edward finally stepped in. Still there was a certain amount of humour in his eyes, as though he was enjoying watching the two men argue. Then again, he was a Broadway producer, they were all mildly sadistic.

 

Sharply, Harvey snapped “If adults bring in directors behind their colleagues backs, why would I want to act like one?”

 

“Harvey, come on, let's just sit down and talk about this,” Julian patted his partner awkwardly, on the back.

 

Chuckling sardonically, Harvey scowled “There's nothing to discuss, I vowed when he stabbed me in the back, the first time, that I would never work with him again, I have absolutely no intention of breaking that vow. There are other directors, I suggest you pick one.”

 

“No other director can do what I can,” Jasper stood up so he was level with Harvey “I know I can do something spectacular with this show, I've listened to the demo and I've heard the gossip from Amelia. This is a good show and I know I can do it justice.” Now he turned to Julian, stood just behind his writing partner “If you'll give me the chance.”

 

Edward nodded seriously “An idiot could see that Jasper is the right director for this show, he's proved time and time again that he's the best director in the city-”

 

“He's also a complete dick,” Harvey interrupted.

 

Quirking his head thoughtfully, Edward admitted “That, I can't deny.” A kinder man would have been offended, but Jasper honestly couldn't care less about what people thought of him.

 

“Does it matter,” Jasper shrugged “I'm not asking you guys to be my friend, I'm asking you to hire me and I am the best man for the job, so what's the problem?”

 

With nostrils flaring, Harvey took the attack once more “What about the fact that the press are already giving us stick for reassembling half the cast of Once Upon a Time and you directed that show?” He knew he had a good point here, this one was fact, they couldn't argue with that.

 

“Screw the press,” Edward declared suddenly, making all the heads in the room turn towards him “They don't run Broadway, we do, this show is not Once Upon a Time and never will be even if we hire Dustin Bright to play Branwell.”

 

Quickly, Julian intersected “Which we're not doing.” In the years since he'd played Prince Charming, Fliss's ex-boyfriend had shown himself up to be a loose canon. That boy was a guaranteed risky investment.

 

Still, at Julian's protest, Edward's expression tightened a little. Dustin was married to Edward's daughter after all. “The point is that it is our responsibility to do what is best for this show,” Edward continued and looked pointedly at Jasper “And this director is what's best for this show.”

 

There was an elongated pause when everyone turned to Harvey for the ultimate answer. Pursing his lips, he groaned “Fine, but so help me Jasper, if you hurt my baby I will murder you in the most slow and painful way you can imagine.”

 

“Since when do you refer to your work as your baby?” asked Jasper sceptically. More than a few jokes and jibes were whirling around his head at high speed, Harvey was way too easy for him to make fun of. Perhaps that was one of the reasons the two of them didn't get on very well.

 

Harvey turned to go, walking towards the door with Julian in toe before answering “Since we started to write a musical that could change the face of Broadway forever.” All at once, Jasper felt a whole lot more pressure.

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