The girl behind the mask

"Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within." - James Baldwin

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1. I

Eric

“As a well known actress Gabriella Snow is well acquainted with playing different roles. The ability to inhabit the vastly differents roles is what fascinates her, makes her feel like she brings something to the world. From a superhero to a bitchy high school drama queen, she makes every single one of them all stand out in a way that’s quite remarkable. But who is the real girl behind all of these amazing characters? Find out tomorrow on the…”

 

Eric Snow turned of the television and looked over at his younger sister. She was sitting curled up in a big armchair with a blanket softly resting on her legs, reading. Her hair was in a sloppy braid with stray hairs framing her face and the lamp above them illuminated her in a soft glow. The script she was reading was not to her particular liking if he could read the expression on her face right and he knew that she would take it up with her manager the following day. A small smile graced Eric’s face and his otherwise hard features softened. He liked seeing her like this, held on to these precious moments when she was just a young woman and not the famous actress that wooed people all over the world. If he ignored the vast living room with the lavish furniture Eric could almost pretend that they were back at their parents house. She would be reading a book instead of a script with a cup of hot cocoa and marshmallows and she would be too intrigued by the book to notice that her marshmallows had turned into a sticky foam. He would be studying, trying to catch up on some homework that he had postponed to the last possible day. Their older brother would be exchanging jokes with their father who would be tending to the fire blazing in the fireplace and their mother would be reading som cheesy romantic novel. Those rare moments were some of the happiest they’d had as a family.

 

Her frown told him that she didn't like the outcome of some event in the script and he could not help the small chuckle that escaped his lips. She looked up, confused, so engrossed in the script that she hadn't noticed him staring at her for the past minute or so. That was what made her such a good actress, she became one with the role. So focused on getting everything exactly right.

 

“What?” she asked him and put down her script on the coffee table beside her. She picked up her forgotten cup of green tea that had been hot but was probably cold by now. Her face scrunched into a grimace as she tasted the cold and bitter tea. Nowadays she never drank hot chocolate, only unsweetened green tea. At that thought Eric’s smile slowly faded, she had changed just as he had, and it pained him more than he wanted to admit.

 

“How’s that script looking?” he asked her, forcing a smile to curve his lips upwards. She grimaced once again and put her cup down. Her light blue eyes met his matching ones as she wrapped the pleaded quilt tighter around her body trying to get herself warm.

 

“Not that bad. There is just some small details that I’m not particularly fond about. I’ll have to talk to Grace tomorrow so that she can set up an appointment with the writers and producers.” she said and he nodded, just as he had thought. Eric’s sister never played a role that she wasn't one hundred percent sure of. He admired her because of that.

 

“So you’ve decided to accept the role?” he asked her and she nodded. “Great, I know that you’ll do a wonderful job Ella.” she smiled as he used the nickname that he had given her when they were children.

 

“Thank you Eric. I’ve read the book and I love it. With just a few minor changes this movie will be almost as good as the book.” she said and smiled sweetly. He gave her a half smile in return and prayed silently that his sister's manager Grace would be at the meeting. Grace was like a godsend and she dealt with his sister in such a good way that he’d once asked her how she did it. Eric loved his sister, of course he did, but he knew how fussy she could be when it came to the script of the movie. He’d been at some of the meetings with the writers and producers in the beginning of his sister's career. She handled it with a professional grace and charisma that made them, even back then, listen to what she had to say. The way she acted at those meetings, she made it seem like what she said was the only rational choice and they often made the different changes that she'd requested. He, of course, knew that it was only another role that she played. One that she had perfected over the years. And it also helped that the changes she asked for were often small and seemingly unimportant. But he had learned over the years of watching her act that it was these small details that made her really become the character.

 

“What changes are you going to ask them to make?” he asked her, sensing that she wanted his opinion. When she picked up the papers once again he sensed how she changed. She sat a little straighter, held her head a little higher and when she spoke it was with her business voice. She had taken on yet another character and even in front of the person she loved and trusted the most she could not be herself for long. Eric knew this but it still felt like a blow to the stomach every time. He cursed himself for asking her that question even though he knew that she would have slipped into one of her characters sooner or later. It was a defense technique that she’d learned early on to cope with everything. Eric hated it, hated that she relied on it and felt like her true self wasn’t good enough. The more time that passed the less he saw of her. The business she had decided to work in was taking its toll on her, leaving her with higher and higher walls surrounding her true self after every role that she played. If the acting had not made her so happy he would have tried to convince her to quit years ago.

 

But his sister thrived as an actress, she nailed each and every role that she decided to play and famous actors and directors often asked her if she wanted a part in their movie. Her resume was as full of names as her phone was full of numbers. Some of them which even he had a hard time not being impressed about. Her fans were situated all over the globe, loving the work that she did and supported her. Anyone other than her would be living the dream, with a beautiful house, an amazing career and more money than she would ever need. But his sister was weighted down with the shadows of her past and the walls that surrounded her heart.

 

“... So that’s the changes I would like for them to make.” she said and he nodded thoughtfully. The changes were small but necessary and he recognised some of them that she always made to make the part truly hers. She always managed to weave some of her personality traits in the roll even though it may only be her fear of heights or the questionable love she had for salty licorice. She gave away a piece of herself to every part, for her fans and for herself, to truly become one with the character.

 

“Okay, but I think that you should keep the name that she’s got in the book. Scarlet is well suited for the role. I also think that you should ask them to change the part where she’s bawling after Wolf betrays her. It makes her seem like some weak girl and she’s the opposite of that. From what you’ve told me she cries in the book, just no the hysterical sobs that are described in the script. But I like that they’ve kept the chemistry between her and Wolf just like it is in the book. In the book it takes time for her to love him and people won’t take it seriously if they fall in love at first sight, like the main characters do in far too many movies. No one falls in love that fast in real life.” he said and she nodded, writing down the new changes in the marginal of the script. She visibly relaxed and gave him a genuine smile, not the practiced one she showed the cameras.

 

“Thank you Eric, I think I’m going to go to bed now.” she said as she picked up her phone checking the time. He nodded and stood up stretching out his muscles, the workout with Paul earlier that day would leave him with soreness tomorrow and he did not look forward to that. The training that kept him in shape was not always to his liking and today Paul had kicked his ass in the ring.

 

“Will you be joining me at the gym tomorrow?” he asked her as she folded the blanket and placed it on the armchair. His sister picked up the cup and placed it in the sink as she thought about it.

 

“Yes, I haven't been there for two days and it would do me good to watch Paul kick your ass!” she was smiling as she turned around to face him and he groaned as he realized that she must have talked to Paul.

 

“It was one time!” he said and she laughed at his hurt pride. He usually didn't go down so easily but Paul had been on top of his game this morning and Eric had been distracted, worried about Gabriella and an upcoming event that she was supposed to attend.

 

“From what I heard it was several times but keep telling yourself that Eric and I’m sure that it will feel better soon.” she said and he smiled slightly at the jab, she’d dropped the business act and was genuinely amused at his expense. He could tell that she’d wanted to tease him for a while but she’d been waiting for the right moment.

 

“Ha, ha, ha very funny.” he said sarcastically and she smirked, pleased with his reaction. He turned and walked out the room before his little sister could insult him further. Before Eric’s head hit the pillow he texted Grace to let her know that he would be accompanying his sister to the upcoming event. Since he knew that Gabriella wouldn’t have anything against it, and that him accompanying her made the feeling of anxiety in his stomach disappear, he fell asleep within minutes.

 

It was the middle of the night when he was woken up by a scream. Eric sighed and rubbed his eyes before he got out of bed. He walked down the corridor towards Gabriella’s room where the scream had quieted down to a whimper. Eric opened the door and took in the sight in front of him. She was lying curled up into a ball with tears streaming down her face. He quickly walked over to her and shook her trembling body. Gabriella woke and when she saw him in front of her she threw herself into his arms and sobbed into his chest. He stroked her hair and held her tight until her sobs turned into quiet hiccups and his pyjama shirt was soaking wet. Then she looked up at him and dried the final tears with her left hand.

 

“I seemed so real, like I was happening all over again.” she said, her voice shaking. “It's been two years Eric, I can’t do this anymore, it’s too painful.” she added looking down at her trembling hands.

 

“I know, but it will be alright Ella. You know that if he saw you right now he would say the same thing. Then he would tell you to women up and stop being such a pussy.” Eric said in an attempt to make her smile, it worked. A small smile graced her trembling lips.

 

He let her go and walked over to the chest of drawers that were placed in the far corner of her room. Earlier it had been standing in Gabriella’s walk in closet but he’d moved it into her bedroom when the nightmares had started. He pulled out the top drawer and grabbed a grey t-shirt which he changed into and threw his wet shirt in the basket where she kept her dirty clothes. Gabriella was already half asleep when he laid down beside her. Eric sighed once more and kissed the top of her head before he put his arm around her and hugged her tightly to his chest. He could feel how she relaxed and he smiled sadly before he closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep.

 

Coming 01-01-2017  

Copyright© 08-12-2016 H e a v e n, All Rights Reserved 

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