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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4. Changes

Elizabeth Mason sat cross-legged on a bench in central park, licking her ice-cream and staring absently into space. The morning sun was icy bright, filtering through trees and dappling the path. Birds hopped from tree to tree above them and bubbling chatter fluttered through the air from the many people that were wandering about the park that day. It was all so very picturesque and, had she been in a better mood, Elizabeth would have been wallowing in how perfect it all felt. Still, she was in a bad mood and no amount of sunshine could change that. Beside her, her boyfriend tried to catch her attention but ultimately failed to compete with her thoughts. Falling back on the seat, he stared out at the people passing by “Lizzie, what's on your mind?”

 

“Hm?” she snapped out of her trance and met his gaze “Nothing just... wondering what comes next?”

 

With a roll of his blue eyes, he sighed “You're still thinking about your career, Jesus, do you ever stop.”

 

“George,” she reprimanded fondly. George was one of those boys who looked like he was straight out of a magazine. A button nose with bright blue eyes the shape of almonds and a smile that made girls swoon at his feet, more than a few of the girls at school would kill to be his girlfriend. Everyone knew, though, that George had been wrapped around Elizabeth's little finger for years. They were the best of friends and the closest of lovers, no-one was going to get between them.

 

Throwing his hands up in defence, he replied “Sorry, I just, I've missed you. It feels like you're never quite here, not since you got kicked off Teenage Kicks.”

 

“I did not get kicked off,” Elizabeth protested, standing to wander a few steps away from their quiet bench “I was dismissed because I got too old.” Even though she'd been performing on stage since she was ten years old, it still annoyed Elizabeth that, once she got too old, she would be kicked out before you could say encore. It was the curse of the child actor, she never got to stay on a show too long.

 

Cautiously, he stood and followed her “Details, look, the point is that you'll find more work soon enough, this is the city of Broadway, a new show opens every week, one of them will want you.”

 

“It's not quite as simple as that, and you know it,” she quirked a sceptical eyebrow at him. There was a lull in conversation for a tense moment, before she passed him her ice-cream “You better finish it off, I'm watching my figure.”

 

As he took it, George pointed out “It's an ice-cream, it's hardly going to pile on the pounds and you have a great figure anyway.”

 

“Being out of work means no more dance work-out every other night,” she retorted “So I'll have to start watching what I eat if I want to keep audition thin.”

 

Frowning, he threw the ice cream in the bin and took her hand “I hate this business, I mean you're talented and I love watching you perform but I hate that you have to worry about keeping “audition thin” or “stage pretty” or all the other stuff you come out with. You're perfect, you shouldn't have to change for anyone.”

 

That brought a lightness to her heart that almost made her forget about all the worries she had. Even though those doubts still lingered, she decided to leave them for now and simply pulled George a little closer “How did I find someone as great as you?”

 

“The feeling's mutual,” he chuckled, planting a quick peck on her cheek before pulling her towards the fountain. The two were just another couple mingling with the crowds but she stood out. Something about Elizabeth just screamed star. There were her jet black curls which fell over her shoulders in waves and hypnotic amber eyes that could draw you in across an auditorium. Not only was she phenomenally talented but she had a natural draw that just made her shine.

 

“Lizzie!” a voice rang through the mass of people and a hand caught Elizabeth's in the crowd.

 

The teenager turned and her face lit up at the sight of her old friend “Fliss, hi!”

 

Slim and demure, Fliss looked great even in her lazy rehearsal sweats. At present, she was Broadway's sweetheart, starring in several revivals in the last couple of years. There was no-one who Elizabeth admired more and the two were good friends.

 

The two actresses hugged as George stood awkwardly by. He remembered how close the two girls had been when they'd worked on Les Miserables together. They still kept in touch and Fliss had been a great help to Elizabeth as she began her career. Maybe it was Fliss who could clear her head when all she had done lately was worry.

 

“So what are you up to?” Elizabeth asked as they steered away from the crowd to talk. A few people paused to point whispering about Fliss. She was a big enough star to attract more than a little attention which made George a little nervous. So he put himself between the crowd and the girls, trying his best to look intimidating and protective. The result was rather comical.

 

With a shrug, Fliss replied “Working on a new show with Holt and Louis, remember, they had that great show Off-Broadway a few years ago.”

 

“I read about that,” she glanced at George and resisted the urge to giggle at his little display “Haven't you just lost your director?” Subtly, Fliss reached out and took George's hand, pulling him to her side.

 

Holding up a finger to silence her, Fliss chuckled nervously “Actually they've just hired Jasper Cartwright but don't even go there. What about you, found anything new?”

 

“No, no-one wants to hire someone my age,” Elizabeth shrugged. A shred of doubt once again settled in in the pit of her stomach. Despite her own protestations, there was a part of her that said that it wasn't just about age. Maybe she wasn't good enough, she wouldn't be the first actress who had been consistently in work as a child and then couldn't make the switch to adult parts.

 

A flash of sympathy darted through Fliss's eyes a second before she looked back over her shoulder “Look, Lizzie, I gotta run, I've got rehearsal, like now.”

 

“Right, yeah,” Elizabeth nodded, trying to hide her disappointment.

 

The older girl smiled empathetically “I'll ask around for you, someone must be looking for a sixteen year old.”

 

“Seventeen,” she corrected.

 

With a grin, Fliss amended “Seventeen year old, you better reply to my next email.” She pointed at her accusingly, still smiling brightly as she backed away.

 

“I will, don't worry,” Elizabeth told her as she led George off into the crowd.

 

Once she was alone, Fliss frowned, she knew all too well the trials of being out of work. Nevertheless she had to get going. In truth, she was taking the long way to go through central park today. It was just that she needed some fresh air to clear her head.

 

Churning inside her were nerves she hadn't felt in years, this was Jasper's first rehearsal. Even though she was well aware that Jasper was a brilliant director and was certainly right for this show, there was something in her that longed for him to quit. She wasn't sure she could deal with working with him again.

 

There was too much history and, besides, what if he made another pass at her? She couldn't even begin to think of how she would respond to that.

 

Finally, Fliss reached the studio and strolled through the doors, taking the stairs to the rehearsal space on the third floor, just to buy herself a little more time. Then she strolled in and dropped her bag at the back of the room like she always did, waving slightly to Julian as the creative team took their seats.

 

“Hey you,” Charlie fell in beside her, smiling lightly “You feeling okay, you look a little pale.” Charlie was one of the actors in the show who played more than one part. What with the huge collection of characters needed for Brontë, just about every actor in the show played more than one role.

 

Faking a smile, Fliss replied “I'm fine Charlie, just worried about the new director.”

 

“But haven't you worked with Jasper Cartwright before?” he asked “On Once Upon a Time?”

 

With a long-suffering look in Charlie's direction, she nodded “And I left Once Upon a Time.” A look of realisation crossed his face, understanding flashing in his blue eyes.

 

Just as he opened his mouth to ask another question the door opened and Jasper marched in with a purpose. To Fliss it felt strangely familiar, like not a day had passed since the last time she had stared at the dark director across a rehearsal room.

 

The whole room fell silent, each small group halting their conversation to observe the entrance of the infamous man. He didn't even blink at the attention, just went through his usual routine. Coat and scarf passed to some poor runner. Bag under the desk. Script on the table, post-it notes protruding from the top of the folder to mark the scenes he wanted to work on and his thoughts on each.

 

He didn't need to say a word to have the attention of everyone in the room. It was only now that Fliss had worked with other directors that she understood the true magic of that ability. In the years she'd skipped from show to show, she'd met many directors who would have killed for that ability. Some had to scream and shout to be heard, others were too shy and retiring to gain any respect. Jasper just entered a room and was perfectly comfortable with being the centre of attention.

 

Slowly, like a lion observing his captive prey, he looked up. As though a magnetic field pulled his eyes to hers, he caught Fliss's gaze and she shivered through the connection. Clearing his throat, he surveyed the room and walked round the table so he was stood in front of them on equal terms “Good morning everyone, I'm Jasper Cartwright your new director. I'm aware that Morgan Hallaway has royally screwed this all around so I'm going to suggest we all forget everything he's said and done and move right on. Any objections?”

 

Silence.

 

“Good,” he strolled into the centre of the room “Let's start with the opening, everyone with lines in the scene, centre, everyone else, find somewhere out of the way to sit.”

 

As Fliss scuttled out of the way, she watched Jasper work. Easily he explained how he wanted them to move, playing people like puppets that moved beautifully in his hands. She was so wrapped up in watching him that she almost missed him call the three adult Brontë sisters to the centre. Awkwardly she rushed up to join Debbie and Leah, positioning herself in-between them on instinct.

 

With a quick glance over the three of them, Jasper questioned “Right so, Fliss you're Emily and... Leah you're Charlotte-”

 

“I'm Anne,” Leah corrected “Debbie's Charlotte.”

 

Though he was clearly off-set by this statement, he continued “Well, anyway, I want to start the show with you three singing the maid's parts, so you'll have to change between then and scene six but I think it'll add an interesting dimension to the piece. Do you know it?”

 

“Yes,” Fliss answered, while the other two replied that they didn't know it that well.

 

Smirking quietly, Jasper chuckled “Always ready to step to the fold, Fliss.” She blushed, practically feeling all the jealous eyes boring into the back of her head – namely Amelia's. Nevertheless, he quickly moved on, organising the scene around her before he set them going.

 

As they started to run the scene, the other two girls holding vocal books in front of them as they went, Fliss realised that she hadn't felt this insecure in a rehearsal room since Once Upon a Time. What was it about this man that set her on edge. Then again, what was it about this man that made her feel so alive?

 

 

 

 

 

After rehearsal that day, Edward's office once again became the meeting place for the creative team. They were gathered unsuspecting and Jasper couldn't deny the certain anticipation that stemmed from the thrill of a possible fight. There was nothing more exhilarating than a good argument, especially when he was right. From experience, he was aware that he had a capable sparring partner in Harvey. It was that which would make it an even more satisfying victory.

 

From his desk chair, Edward was the one who started off the conversation “So Jasper, what do you think of our little show?”

 

“It's good,” he began, swaggering into the centre of the room “And you were right, Fliss does know the show inside out but I'm not sure about the way Anne's been cast.”

 

Immediately, Harvey sat up, sensing a fight “Leah's phenomenal.”

 

“Leah's too old,” Jasper countered “Which wouldn't matter if it weren't for the fact that Fliss and Debbie are so obviously younger than her, besides that, Emily and Anne should look at least a little bit like each other, they were described to be like twins.”

 

With a shrug, Harvey brushed him off “Artistic licence.”

 

“For pity's sake Harvey, there's artistic licence and there's a bad depiction, it just doesn't work and I say we get rid of her and hire another girl,” Jasper protested with determination.

 

Eyeing his notebook wearily to avoid his partner's gaze, Julian admitted “I agree and I really like what you've done with the opening Jasper.”

 

“Thank you,” he responded, mildly stunned by his support. Then again, his quarrel was not with Julian, he'd never even met the man before Edward dragged him onto that project. He'd just sort of assumed that he'd been an issue, being Harvey's partner and all.

 

Moodily, Harvey glared at the composer “Can you back me up here?”

 

“I'll only back you up when you're right Harvey and you're wrong about this,” Julian retorted simply, then looked at Jasper levelly “I thought Leah was too old from the start but Morgan wanted her. Honestly, I'm relieved you understand that.” For a moment there was complete silence in the office. Astounded, with eyes full of betrayal, Harvey was simply gaping at his partner. Though Edward wasn't one for showing emotion, his eyebrows were raised in surprise. Even Jasper was lost for words.

 

Eventually, Harvey managed to stutter out “But Leah is really good, she's proven time and time again she's a brilliant actress.”

 

“Lots of people are good,” Edward interjected “But they're not always right for your show.”

 

With a smile, Jasper realised he'd won “So can I audition girls?”

 

Once again there was a silence, with Harvey glaring at anyone who would meet his eye. The stalemate was so tense that everyone jumped when it was finally broken by the ringing of Edward's phone. Even Edward himself looked stunned, as he fumbled to answer it. There was an unusual wideness to his eyes, however, and a thinness to his lips that told his friends he was worried about this call. That was probably why none of them complained about the interruption to their meeting. As the conversation continued his face only darkened. For a man so stoic, it was odd to see his expression so lyrical.

 

After a few moments, the producer hung up and stood. Frantically he began to gather some things. “I need to go, my daughter's just, er, she's just run out on her husband and she needs picking up. I er...” he paused rubbing his temples “Can anyone go and fill Fliss in on the changes we're making, I had a meeting with her and I er, well I can't... shit I'm gonna kill that bastard husband of hers, when I get my hands on him.” Never had anyone seen Edward so emotional.

 

Glancing at the writers, Jasper approached Edward “Look, I'll go meet with Fliss, you go and pick up your daughter.”

 

“Thanks Jasper, you're meeting her in Joey's bar,” Edward didn't need any more encouragement to dart out of the door. For a moment, Jasper let himself wonder what it would be like to have that sort of responsibility, have someone dependent on you. To know that, if they needed you, you had to drop everything and run to help them, because you had to look after them. He shook it off, he'd never be able to deal with that.

 

 

 

 

 

Yawning, Elizabeth wandered in from school. There was nothing she hated more than trooping through six hours of useless facts and platitudes that would provide her with absolutely nothing in the future. No-one ever considered that the girl three rows from the front didn't need to know techniques for job interviews. Actresses didn't go for interviews, they went for auditions. Once she got another job, she was determined to drop out, no matter what her mother said to try and get her to stay in education. Her heart was on the stage and her head in the performance, no amount of schooling could change that.

 

“Mum, I'm home!” she shouted, dropping her school bag by the door and hanging her coat up in the cupboard.

 

The small apartment that Elizabeth shared with her mother was full of cheap flea-market furniture. Each room and appliance was cleverly squeezed into a corner or nook. The kitchen practically sat on top of the living room and the bedrooms were tiny. Still, it was home and they were experts at making do with very little.

 

Kate, Elizabeth's mother, emerged from one of the bedrooms and smiled “How was school?”

 

Cringing, Elizabeth replied without answering “Any auditions for me?” There was no way she was going to talk about how awful and mundane her school day had been because she knew her mother would lecture her about the value of education. For as long as Elizabeth could remember, her mother had been trying to convince her to drop acting as a career. When she was younger, she had thought it was just Kate being protective however, since then, Elizabeth had begun to think that there was a lot more to it than that, it was a little more personal.

 

The smile faded from Kate's face, and she slumped in her stance “Sweetheart, something will come along eventually.”

 

“Yeah, it will,” she folded her arms and sighed “But I want it to come along now.”

 

With that sort of smugness reserved exclusively for the use of parents, Kate pointed out “Acting isn't a stable career, that's why you have to stay in school, so you have other options when you can't perform any more.” There was the predictable lecture, exactly the same as the last hundred times Kate had played it on the parental tape recorder.

 

“Have you ever given thought to the fact that I've already made it?” Elizabeth asked accusingly “I haven't been out of work for more than a couple of months since I was seven years old.”

 

Desperately, her mother moved forward “Plenty of child actors never make the transition, Lizzie, and I've known too many girls who have lost themselves to the stage, you have to be realistic.” Her heart ached because her mother's words mirrored her own feelings. Not that she would admit that.

 

“I am being realistic!” she protested, feeling the heat of anger rushing through her veins “I'm not some wide-eyed girl who dreams of being on a Broadway stage, I've been there. I've lived and breathed the stage and you will not take it away from me!” Feeling like she'd made her point, she marched back towards the white staircase which led down to the front door of their apartment.

 

Kate blinked at her “Where are you going?”

 

“To see George, he understands me a lot better than you do,” with that last comment she was out the door and hurrying as far from her mother as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting quietly at a small table at the back of the bar, Fliss waited for Edward. She was beginning to get the feeling that she'd been stood up, what with Edward being almost half-an-hour late. Of course, she had no reason to think Julian would do that, he'd been a good friend to her since her début at Once Upon a Time. She supposed he'd thought it might be useful befriending an up and coming actress.

 

Of course, she'd never told him why she'd left that first show, Fliss hadn't made a habit of telling anyone. It wasn't worth the trouble. Right about now though, she was wishing she had told them, they never would have hired Jasper if they'd known.

 

Just then, Jasper himself slid into the chair opposite her, drink in hand and smirk plastered across his face “Good evening Princess.” Part of her was angry that he could swoop in like that and call her princess, just like she'd never left Once Upon a Time and was still his Cinderella. Another part of her still fluttered at the sight of him, roguishly handsome as always. Both of those feelings scared her, proved he still had power over her, after all this time.

 

“Hello Jasper,” Fliss was careful to hold her nerve and keep composed “I'm just waiting for-”

 

“Edward,” he finished, still smirking “I know, he sent me here instead, he had to rush to pick up Becky, apparently she's finally done the logical thing and left Dustin.”

 

Stunned, she tried not to show how much her chest still ached at the mention of that name “Dustin as in?”

 

“Dustin Bright, yes,” Jasper searched her eyes, attempting to gauge her reaction “Remember he was engaged to her when we worked-”

 

“Yes, I remember,” Fliss interrupted, scared of where the conversation would lead if she let him continue.

 

When he could find no telling details in her face, Jasper leant back in his chair “Anyway, Edward sent me to inform you of all that is going on with the show.”

 

Steeling herself, silently, she nodded “Okay, what's changing?”

 

“Before we get to that,” his smile faded and he leant forward again, moving his drink out of the way and clasping his hands on the table “There's something I've wanted to say for five years, something you deserve to hear and-”

 

Fliss hugged her arms around herself nervously “I don't deserve to hear anything Jasper.” Apart from maybe an apology but that was unlikely.

 

“Yes you do,” he cleared his throat and stammered out “I'm sorry, what I did on Once Upon a Time was wrong and you... I should have showed you more respect but I don't... I'm not good at apologies. I can't explain what I did, all I know is that it was wrong and I never meant to cross a line. I'm sorry, really truly sorry. Now can we put that behind us and make this the best show we can?”

 

With a meek nod, she breathed “Yeah, yeah we can.” She was completely stunned by his apology, she'd never thought she would ever hear one from him. Something about Jasper just told her that he wasn't one to apologize if he didn't mean it because he didn't see the need to try and get people to like him. Jasper Cartwright was just the sort of guy who said exactly what he thought no matter what anyone else felt about it. And as soon as he said those words it felt like a weight had lifted, she didn't have to worry so much any more.

 

“Good,” he sounded so relieved that it made her smile. Maybe her opinion honestly mattered to him. Wait, she couldn't start thinking like that, the most she would ever be to Jasper was a casual hook-up, it was best just to keep their relationship professional.

 

Feeling a little more confident, she asked “So what is going on in Edward's office, then?”

 

“Well,” Jasper's face set to the one he usually wore in rehearsals – his business face. “I talked Harvey and Julian into letting me recast Anne.”

 

A jolt of empathy shot through Fliss's stomach as she thought of poor Leah “But why?”

 

“I want someone who could actually pass as a younger sister to you and Debbie,” he explained “Leah is and looks too old.” Even though something inside her knew that Jasper was right, Fliss still pitied Leah, she was kind and talented. There was nothing that she could do about her age and Fliss knew how frustrating it was to be turned down for a part due to something out of your control.

 

As she shook her head, pondering how unfair show-business was, something occurred to Fliss “When you say someone who could pass as a younger sister, how old are we talking?”

 

“Early twenties,” Jasper's eyes glinted as he sensed she wasn't telling him something “Why?”

 

She didn't answer, just asked him another question “What about a seventeen year old who's experienced on Broadway, has star potential and looks old for her age?”

 

“You know someone?” he smirked, watching the way her face lit up with the idea of helping a young actress. He had forgotten how great her instincts were. This girl was great to work with, she gave him the sort of rush he hadn't felt in years.

 

Smiling widely, Fliss nodded “Jasper, have you ever heard of Elizabeth Mason?”

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