It was a strange experience watching Oliver act in Groundrise on one of the few trips I ever made into town, and even more rarely, into the cinema. They’d apparently cut my part, but I had a little credit at the end for ‘being a good sport.’ Oliver, of course, was amazing, and there were several scenes in which he took his shirt off and shot people, all of which I heartily enjoyed.
It had been two months since he’d gone, and I missed him.
Everywhere I looked, there were posters splattered with his face, billboards advertising his films, and even buses with him emblazoned across them. His career had skyrocketed with the publishing of the ‘breaking news we think he’s gay’ article, something I imagine Joan wasn’t very happy about. Nobody seemed very bothered with me, though. I’d had a couple of reporters ask me if his abs had felt real or not, to which I’d told them they’d felt like Patagonia and if they didn’t go I’d throw a book at them. Funnily enough, they’d never returned. (James Joyce—heavy books.)
I dropped my empty polystyrene cup into one of the cinema bins, head still swimming with pictures of shirtless Oliver.
I quite literally bounced backwards. I’d knocked into a person so fat they could have passed for a planet. In fact, it was probably their gravitational field that had drawn me their way.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you there.” Lies. I saw you, I was just thinking about someone I’ll never meet again and who probably forgot about me the moment his cheque arrived.
Wait, what? I peered more closely at the veritable planet standing in front of me—ah.
A Planet. The Planet. The Planet.
The Planet slapped me on the shoulder so hard my shoes made dents in the floor. “Edmund! Never thought I’d see you here! I was just scouting out some different theatres, checking up on the volume.” He frowned, pushing his ridiculously large sunglasses further up his nose. “Much too quiet. I’ll be having a word with them. But anyway, I’m glad I bumped into you, Edmund my boy.” He glanced around furtively, eventually drawing me further into the shadows of the cinema. “Listen, I’m casting my new film—very hush-hush at the moment, but I want you,” he poked me in the chest, “To play a major role! Will you do it?”
“Awesome. My bodyguard will escort you to my private jet, and we’ll fly you over to Hollywood. Hope you didn’t have anything on today—or for the next two years, really. See you in America!”
I was grabbed by my arm and escorted—no, forced—out the doors, through the halls, out more doors, and into a limousine.
That most certainly was odd.
The limo’s engine revved, and I was sped away to an unknown airport, to do an unknown thing, in an unknown land.
But then again, Oliver was in Hollywood.
Oliver wasn't unknown.
I settled back and opened a magazine, fully intent on not thinking about anything until it figuratively hit me in the face like a flay swat.
Oliver’s face plastered on the first page of the magazine I’d just opened jumped out and hit me in the face like a fly swat.
I let out a small groan and slumped back in my seat. Everything I did nowadays seemed to revolve around absence—sitting at my desk drinking tea was no longer simply ‘sitting at my desk and drinking tea.’ It was sitting at my desk and drinking tea—without Oliver.
Reading books—without Oliver.
Eating breakfast—without Oliver.
I was officially, constantly, persistently, without Oliver.
The airhostess’s voice drew me out of my thoughts like an annoyingly chirpy bird.
“Good afternoon and welcome to our flight today, sir!” Oh dear. She was talking in exclamation marks. “May I recommend the film of the day to you sir?”
She actually wants me to answer? “Oh—yes, of course.”
She pushed another magazine into my lap. “Today it’s Groundrise, a meaningful exploration of a man’s inner hero—”
I threw my hands in the air. “Typical! Oh, no, sorry, I didn’t mean to shout, I’m terribly sorry, I just—you know what, I’m very unstable, and it’d be a wise course of action for you to just go.”
She left with a worried backwards glance, eerily similar to the ones customers sometimes give me. I let my head drop backwards and my eyes close.
A blonde haired man smiled at me, invading my subconscious.
O L I V E R ' S P. O. V
We were sitting in my changing room, and Marie-Ann was doing that weird thing again where she rubbed her hand on my shirt and made strange noises. Apparently it’s relatively normal, as I asked Emma about it and she said just to sit back and relax, but I personally still found it mighty odd.
Then again, Marie-Ann was a bit odd. She wore so much makeup around her eyes that it was a struggle for her to lift her eyelids, and if it rained she began to look like a sad panda with short black curly hair and green eyes.
Marie-Ann was a model, she was gorgeous, she was educated, she was my girlfriend, and I didn’t like her one bit. The public did though, hence her girlfriend status. I jumped as something wet and slimy slid along my cheekbone.
Oh gross. Why is she licking my face? What person in their right mind harbours desires to lick another person’s face? Should I lick her back? Are we in a symbiotic licking relationship? Why is there no manual for this kind of thing? I shifted away from her slightly. She looked up, affronted, lipstick smudged around her mouth like she’d been eating strawberries. Or drinking blood.
“What’s wrong Oliver? Don’t you like this? Don’t you like me?”
Oh God, come on Oliver, diffuse this bomb, compliment, flatter, DIFFUSE. “No, it’s just…” I made a show of checking my watch. “I have to go meet Jackson five minutes ago.”
She didn’t look appeased. I racked my brains.
“Wanna to come and get tea with me after?”
“Oh my God, Oliver, what’s with, like, you and England these days?”
Bomb status: diffused. Marie-Ann pressed her mouth to mine for one of those disgusting long lingering things. It was like having a wet dishcloth rubbed against my face. “Sure, Ollie.”
No one calls me Ollie. Not even my mother calls me Ollie. Well, Jackson does, but he’s Jackson.
I slid away from her promptly, wriggling from under the straightjacket-like constraints of her legs and arms.
“See you soon, hunnybunchkin.” She made a love sign with her hands and blew a kiss at me as I left the changing room.
Shutting a door had never been such a relief. I could barely summon the energy to go and find Jackson to make my lie believable, so instead leant against the closed door, my nameplate digging into my back.
Having a changing room all to myself in the studio was a perk of being an A-list celebrity, but it also meant that Marie-Ann had somewhere to lurk and lie in wait to pounce on me whenever I returned.
I suppressed a shiver, pulled my phone out of my pocket, and dialled Jackson. He picked up promptly, as I knew he would.
“Ollie, my boy! Hoped you’d call. We’ve found someone to play your nemesis, slash, love interest.”
“Great. Listen, Jackson, I need to ask you for a favour.” I moved away from my door, heading down the corridor and dodging flustered extras.
“If Marie-Ann asks you if I came to see you right about now, tell her I did.”
“Shall I also slip in that you were in a hurry to get back to her?”
“That’d be great, Jackson. Thanks.”
“You thought any more about what I said?”
Last time we'd talked, Jackson had dropped a hint about getting with my co-star in this superhero action movie, slash, romance we were currently filming. The hero and the villain—the perfect pairing. The press would eat it up.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about it, and the answer’s no.”
“Ollie, is all this fuss about relationships something to do with—?”
“No. I’ll see you on set, Jackson.”
“I’ll introduce you to your nemesis, slash, love interest.” He hung up with an annoyingly optimistic click..
So plan: meet my co-star, convince Jackson I wasn’t going to get it on with them, appease Marie-Ann, and then learn a script that was hundreds of pages long.