I write the script - it's my only purpose in this. But I want to see what happens to the characters I write and the actors who play them; and for this, I need to talk to leading actor Ben Barnes...


5. Finished

Writing, I can do.

Turns out acting isn't exactly my forte.

That's the impression I got when Herb fired me today.

Somehow, Mariella had apparently found out that I wanted rid of her. I demanded evidence, and was given none. She could just have been paranoid and she would have still got me sacked, because she's so much more important than me. And richer. And prettier. To be quite honest, I don't care about complying with her standards. But it was my script, and she'd taken it from me.

She was replaceable, I thought - the team could have easily found another pretty, expensive young woman and re-shot Mariella's scenes. But no - apparently a junior writer was now going to resolve the ending of my script, and I was the one who was easy to replace. Ben told me they had someone in to cover for me by the end of the day.

He asked to meet for coffee, and I said yes for two reasons. I thought he was the one who had told Mariella that I was considering killing her off. I had recklessly referred to her as a bitch, and Ben could have easily told on me. But even if he had, I still agreed to meet him because it was Ben Barnes. My favourite actor. The guy who I had dragged through writing hell and back, and owed an apology.

"I'm sorry," I said as soon as I sat down.

Ben nodded. "It wasn't me who told on you, by the way."

"I know, " I said, even though I had had my doubts.

"At least you're not being framed for something you didn't do," he said.

"It's still not fair though," I replied a little sulkily.

"I know," he reassured, but I was feeling too bitter to take it.

"You don't, though - that's the thing. You've starred in movies. People know who you are. People want you to work with them. This is the only mildly-notable thing I've ever even been involved in, and now it's been taken away." I can't quite remember when I had started to cry, but at that point I remember feeling the tears on my face. Embarrassed, I wiped a hand across my eyes. "And for God's sake, don't say it's my own fault. Because it's not entirely."

"It's not all your fault, of course," he said quietly. "But you could have been more careful. You'll learn from this."

"No I won't. You and I both know what'll happen next. I'll burn out. Herb'll give me a terrible reference, I'll get kicked back onto the street, hunting for work, trying to pin down that dream. But you've already got it. You've got it." I was too tired of this conversation now. I rose to leave.

Ben grabbed my hands and pulled me back down.

"And next time, when you get it, you won't let it go. Sounds cliche, I know, but you'll see it later. You're talented, and likeable-" I exhaled in disbelief, but he continued gallantly - "and someday you'll realize that for yourself."

I laughed slightly. "How come you're so nice?"

"Cause I know this industry isn't easy. Being ground into the dirt isn't pleasant, but you get over it and get better. Believe me. I was in a boy band for a bit." He rolled his eyes, and I couldn't help but laugh. It was quiet for a while. I watched Ben sip his cappuccino.

"How have they finished my... their, script?" I asked.

"They kill Jack."

"What the hell?" I said a little too loudly. "They've changed everything!" I hissed.

Ben nodded solemnly. "So I quit."

I took a second for this to sink in, leaning forward. "Why?"

"I believed in your script, not theirs."

I sank back in my chair, rubbing a hand across my forehead."You have no idea what that means." He smiled.

"Did I ever tell you that you're my favourite actor?" I added.

Ben laughed, a proper laugh. "Yeah. You gave that sort of impression with our first conversation over the phone." I cringed, much to his amusement.

"So I guess we're both back to square one." Ben put on his coat and held open the door. "Let's make the most of what being back out on the street has to offer. The money, the fans, the awards, the fame. Or the struggles, the highs, the lows. But eventually something great. Time to choose."

I grinned. "The latter."

"And why's that?" asked Ben.

"Because it's real."



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