• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 10


The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

I make sure to only fill my plate with veggies and fruit, just in case someone snaps a photo while I’m eating. Nothing quite says ‘pig’ like getting caught with your mouth full of meat and/or pasta. Also, no matter how good those cheese puffs look, I need to watch my calorie intake.


“That is one sad-looking plate,” Derek observes as I sit down next to him at a small table in the lounge room.


“It’s not sad,” I object. ”Look, the cherry tomato is all rosy-cheeked.”


“Okay, you’re a little bit crazy,” he says in mock concern and snags the miniature tomato off my plate.


“Hey, get your own!” I smack his fingertips and he laughs. Just then, Sally comes over and asks if she can take a picture of the two of us. For the sake of the show, we agree and huddle close together with big smiles for the camera. She ends up taking several photos, and I think she gets one where Derek force-feeds me a cheese stick. I really hope she doesn’t.

She does. I’m sitting in the back of Lauren’s car when I go on the show’s Facebook page and look at the album of photos from tonight’s party. There are dozens upon dozens of photos, all featuring smiling, beautiful people. Like an office party at Models Inc.


I swipe through several pictures prominently featuring Crystal with Marsha and Greg, a few of Lauren making a kissy face at the camera, and then I get to the one where Derek is stuffing my face with cheese and we’re both laughing. It’s not a horrible picture, we actually look happy and relaxed. I look at the comments and I’m relieved when the top comments all say how ‘cute’ we are. Then I scroll down.


No! Don’t feed it after nightfall!


Watch those calories, honey boo-boo


Wonder if that’s the only stick he’s feeding her?


Yuck. I quickly swipe over to the next image which is a mingle shot. Then there’s another one of us smiling for the camera, but that’s not what the comments are about. In the upper right-hand corner, you can clearly see a couple locked in a heated kiss. The guy’s arm is braced against a wall and the girl’s back is arched, pressing into him. I don’t have to zoom in to know who the couple is, but there appears to be some discussion in the comments. Most have accurately identified Crystal as the girl, as her dress can be seen in other photos in the album, but some commentators debate whether the guy is Cole or someone else. His face is partially in shadow and his clothes don’t really stand out among the other guys at the party.


“Uh, are you on Twitter, Han?” Tom asks from the front passenger seat, his phone casting a cold glow on his profile.


“No, I’m on Facebook. Why?” I ask even as I pull up the other app.


“Check it out,” he says, “Crystal and Cole are hooking up.”


I swallow. I can’t tell Tom and Lauren that I already know because Cole gave me a heads-up, because that would lead to questions of why he felt I needed to prepare for it. Instead, I try to act sufficiently surprised yet not disgusted. “What?”


A flash from CelebSpotter has been retweeted and favorited hundreds of times and it reads ‘Spotted: #THHL stars @stonecoled93 and @crystalline lip-locked at mid-season finale party’. The kissing couple in the photo of me and Derek has been circled in red.


We arrive at my building and Lauren puts the car in park before she grabs Tom’s phone.

“Seriously? That bitch couldn’t stand not being the center of attention for five minutes!”


“What, you think she meant to get caught on camera?” Tom asks, sounding doubtful.


“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Lauren huffs. “Besides, if they were really hooking up, we would have seen it before now. I mean, I’ve seen Cole cozying up to Hannah more times than I’ve seen him talk to Crystal.”


Tom turns in his seat to look at me. “Is that so?”


“Knock it off,” Lauren says to Tom. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, ‘kay?” she says to me and I nod, grateful for the escape.


“Sure. Have a good night, you two. You were awesome tonight, by the way. Crystal has every reason to be crazy jealous.”


“Emphasis on the crazy,” Lauren mutters but smiles as she waves goodbye.


After a quick call to my parents, from which it’s clear they have no idea that the mid-season finale was tonight, I take a shower and get myself ready for bed. As I lay down, exhaustion washes over me, leaving my limbs heavy and my mind in a dream-like haze. The night’s events flutter past as if trying to find their spot in a game of musical chairs, but the images that keep coming to the forefront are all of Cole.


His hand warm on my lower back as he welcomed me with a hug, his arm casually flung over my shoulders as if I belonged there, the soft-spoken assurances that he wasn’t sleeping with Crystal and never would. And then the staged photo, flashing as if a breaking news bulletin was announcing his off-screen relationship with his co-star.


I curl up on my side, trying to escape the taunting image. Even though I know he’s not seeing Crystal, their pretend-relationship has the support of all their fans. I have such a hard time reconciling the public image of her with the side to her personality she frequently shows on set. So far, I’ve been judged on my looks by viewers that haven’t even met me in person or seen me in an interview, but Crystal is getting a free pass because she’s attractive and has star power. Maybe her bad behavior has never been exposed by former co-stars, or they’ve just assumed that they were the ones with the problem, seeing as how Crystal can do no wrong in the eyes of directors and alike. I don’t understand. I wish I could ask Cole about it; maybe he could explain it to me. How do you fake the kind of passion he showed in that photo? Sure, as actors we fake it all the time, and maybe that’s all it is to him – an act.

But if you’re always playing a role, how can you ever know what’s real?


I groan and roll over again, facing away from my cell phone on the nightstand, which suddenly appears to have grown a force field, prodding me to look at it, to pick it up, to use it.

I tell myself I won’t give in to temptation. I won’t text Cole tonight. I won’t.


It worked


Ugh. An hour of tossing and turning, arguing with myself, then ultimately giving in and opening WhatsApp and what have I got to show for it? Two words that make absolutely no sense. It needs an emoticon. Thumbs up. Okay, good, now I can put my phone down and go to sleep. I’ve let Cole know I support him and now I can let it go. His life, his business.


Within minutes, my phone buzzes on the nightstand. Okay, it’s more like 95 seconds. Not that I’m counting, or anything.


You still awake?


I glance at the time. When did the clock pass 2 am?


Guess so


Okay, that was a pretty lousy reply. Then again, his question leaves something to be desired, too.


He doesn’t reply and I stare at the chat to see if he’s typing, but it just says he’s online and then the ‘last seen’ status appears. I sigh and put my phone down. Did I come off sounding surly? Is he rethinking this whole friendship thing now that I’ve been exposed as not unaffected by his relationship with Crystal?


I close my eyes and try to relax enough to fall asleep. This time, I don’t count the seconds as they pass by, convinced that Cole has gone to bed for the night. That’s probably why my heart flies into my throat when my phone starts ringing. When I reach for it, I see Cole’s name flashing on the display.


“Hello?”


“You sound tired,” Cole says and I lay back against the pillows, feeling every bit as tired as I sound.


“Probably because I am. Can’t seem to fall asleep, though. Did you just get home?”


“I’m in my car.”


“Oh. Late night?”


“Greg kept telling stories, demanding an audience. Your text gave me the perfect excuse to leave.”


“Did you tell them it was from me?” I frown. If Greg wants Cole to be seen with Crystal, we might both be in trouble if they think something’s going on. Friends don’t text friends in the middle of the night. Or maybe they do. I haven’t really had that kind of relationship with anyone before.


“No. I just said a friend texted me and that I realized how late it was.”


“Was Crystal happy with the response to your photo?” I ask, fishing. Probably because I’m a glutton for punishment. Does that make me a masochist? Not the kind with the whips and leather, but some other kind?


“You saw it, then?”


“Hard to miss when it’s all over the Internet.”


“I saw the photo of you and Derek. You looked happy.”


“I was laughing with a friend, so yeah, I guess I was happy.”


“You’re upset.”


“No… I’m sorry, I’m just tired. I don’t mean to sound upset.”


“I should let you go. I’m sorry I disturbed you.”


“No. Cole… I like talking to you. No matter what time of day – or night. That’s… that’s probably bad, isn’t it?”


“Friends are supposed to like talking with each other, right?” he says, but he doesn’t sound casual about it at all. It’s more like he’s testing the waters.


“Right. But...” I bite my lip. Exhaustion and the late hour is making all powers of reasonable thinking evaporate.


“But?” Cole prods.


“Friends don’t get jealous when their friend kisses another friend. Or frenemy.”


“Han…”


I’m mortified. Why would I say that? I’m suddenly wide awake and panicking. “I’m delirious. Sleep deprivation has brought about delirium. I will just go to sleep now and tomorrow neither one of us will remember this conversation.”


“I don’t want to forget.”


“Cole, I-“


“Can I come over?”


“No.” I have to be strong now. I let my guard down and exposed something I’d hoped I would be able to keep hidden.


“I just need to talk to you.”


“We’re already talking.”


“That’s not what I mean.”


“I know. Which is why you can’t come over. In the morning, you’ll see that, too.”


“Hannah…”


“Goodnight, Cole. Drive safe. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”


I don’t wait for his reply before I hang up and put my phone on silent. My body physically aches, but I squeeze my eyes shut and ignore the tears that well up behind them. It was the right thing to do, and come morning, Cole will think so too.


For a little while, I allow myself to indulge in the fantasy of what might have happened had Cole come knocking on my door tonight, but then I imagine how awkward the morning would be, and how difficult it would be to see him every day on set.


Eventually, all my thoughts blend together and drowsiness overtakes me.



To be continued...

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