• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 11


The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

The next morning, I’m reading lines in my trailer when Lauren walks in, holding a tray of coffee and donuts. She’s wearing big sunglasses and keeps them on even as she sits down on my little couch.


“Did you go to an after party or something?” I ask her. I woke up with red and puffy eyes, but I had insomnia to blame.


“Tom stayed over. We were up late.”


“Okay, so how official are you guys now?” I ask, dying to figure her out. “I mean, you were pretty obvious in the screening room…”


“We haven’t talked about any of that. I don’t know how much you read about me before we became co-stars, but I don’t take relationships all that serious. I don’t see Tom changing my opinion on that. But I want to hear about you.”


“Me?” I frown.


“You’re looking a little worn yourself this morning. What gives?”


“Nothing. I just couldn’t sleep.”


“Oh? Any particular reason?”


“Just one of those nights, I guess.”


“And your insomnia had nothing to do with Cole and Crystal smooching on camera?”


I feel my cheeks heat and hope that Lauren can’t tell. “Why would I care about that?”


“Oh, come on, Han. It’s so obvious you’re into him.”


“I’m not. We’re just friends.”


“Mm-hm. That’s what they all say.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?” I frown.


“Listen, I’ve known Cole for years, and I’ve seen countless girls and women throw themselves at his feet, all hoping they’ll be ‘the one’. But he’s not relationship material, and unlike a lot of young, hot actors and models, he doesn’t sleep around that much, either. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up and end up with a broken heart.”


“There’s nothing going on between Cole and me. There never will be anything but friendship between us.”


“It sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself as much as you’re trying to convince me.”


“It sounds to me like you’re seeing things that just aren’t there.”


“Deny it all you like. Just know I’ll be keeping eye on you two to make sure you don’t get hurt.”


“You mean hurt in the way that my best friend doesn’t trust me to make my own decisions?”


“I’m your best friend?” Lauren gasps dramatically, clutching her chest. “I don’t know what to say, this is all so sudden…”


“Ugh. Forget it.”


“Hey,” she says softly and takes the shades off as she walks over to put her arms around me. “You’re my bestie, too, you know.”


“Yeah?”


“Yeah.”


“So… bestie-to-bestie, can I ask you something?” I say, chewing my lip. The fact that I’m even considering asking her this probably says more about my feelings for Cole than anything, but I need to know so I can put it out of my head.


“Shoot.”


“Did you and Cole ever… you know?”


Lauren looks taken aback for a split second, then she laughs. “No. Not in a million years.”


“Why not? I mean, you’re obviously close, and you’re both attractive people…“


“Ah, so that always equate true love, does it? Or at minimum an obligatory hookup?” Lauren chuckles. “Sweetie, you forget that I’m banging Tom without being friends with him. I don’t need friendship to hook up with someone. Cole has been there for me as a friend over the years, and we’ve worked together a few times, including as models. But there’s never been anything more between us, and there never will be. Too incestuous for my liking.”


I nod and ponder what she’s told me. I believe her, of course. I wonder if she knows that people gossip about her and Cole?


“What made you think that I’d hooked up with Cole?” she asks after a few moments of silence.


I shrug. “Something someone said, is all.”


Lauren sits up straighter, her eyebrows drawn together. “Who said?”


Should I tell her? It’s not exactly going to improve on the on-set dynamic between her and Crystal. I debate the merits of either option, but she speaks again before I can decide.


“Let me guess – it was Crystal, wasn’t it?”


I give her a small shrug and an apologetic smile. Why I ever listened to Crystal on anything related to Cole or Lauren is beyond me.


“Bitch,” Lauren mutters. “She must have noticed something between you two and decided she needed to nip it in the bud.”


I shake my head. “We’re really just friends. I don’t know why Crystal would ever think Cole would be interested in me. Besides, if anything, she’s probably jealous of you because Cole actually likes you and you’re giving her a run for her money in the media.”


“If it’s one thing that can be said for Crystal Witt, it’s that she doesn’t discriminate. She hates all women she perceives as threats,” Lauren says.


“Have you two always been at odds?” I ask, studying Lauren and the pinched look on her face.


She shakes her head. “I guess we got along at one point. Safe to say, we’ll never get back to that place.”


“Did something happen?”


Lauren shrugs. “Life. We should head over to the set.”

“There you are!” Alison greets us with a stressed-out look on her face. “Hannah, we need to get you into makeup now.”


“What? We’re not late, are we?” I frown, looking over at Lauren, who checks her phone and shakes her head.


“Crystal is running late so we had to change the schedule around. We’re shooting your hallway scene first.”


“Oh. Okay,” I say, a little stunned, and follow her over to the makeup station.


“No, it is not okay,” Lauren says sharply and I see Alison’s face bloom. “What kind of diva nonsense is she pulling here? And why the hell isn’t anyone doing anything about it?

Where’s Marsha and Greg?” she demands of Alison, who looks to be on the verge of tears.

Not that I blame her. Lauren can be pretty intimidating when she puts her mind to it.


“They authorized the scene change. I think they’re working from home today.”


“Well, isn’t that just great?” Lauren says, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Little Miss Diva stays up late and parties with the execs, and gets a free pass on showing up to work on time. The rest of us dragged our sorry butts out of bed this morning and caked on concealer to look presentable.”


“I don’t decide the shooting schedule, I just follow orders,” Alison says, sounding partly defensive, partly miserable.


“Is there a problem here?”


I don’t have to turn my head to know who has just arrived – I know his voice all too well. This morning, though, he’s sounding authoritative and not too happy.


“Yeah, there’s a problem,” Lauren says before Alison can even open her mouth to speak.

“Crystal stayed up past her bedtime last night and now Alison is rushing Hannah to shoot a scene she was supposed to shoot over an hour later.”


“You’re not ready?” Cole turns to me and I’m surprised at how detached he is. His tone is almost harsh – at the very least impatient.


“I will be once my makeup is done,” I say, matching his cool, professional tone.


He turns back to Lauren. “Then I don’t see what the problem is.”


“The problem is that she gets away with everything! You and I both know it. I can’t believe you’re not on my side here!”


“I’m not on anyone’s side, Lauren. Except maybe Alison’s, who doesn’t deserve being yelled at for doing her job.”


“I wasn’t yelling at Alison,” Lauren snaps, then takes a few deep, calming breaths before turning to Alison. “I’m sorry if I was rude. My frustration has nothing to do with you and it wasn’t fair of me to take it out on you.”


“Apology accepted,” Alison says quickly and then hurries off.


The makeup artist asks me to look straight ahead, and so I only see Lauren and Cole in my peripheral vision as he leads her off the set. He looks tense and I have a knot in my stomach worrying our friendly relationship might be on shaky ground.


A few hours later, Crystal has arrived on set and I’m taking a break, snacking on a fruit salad over at Craft Services, when Cole approaches.


“Anything good today?” he says, looking over the spread on offer. “Yum, cupcakes,” he announces upon spotting the mini muffins and quickly grabs one off the tray. “How are you doing?” he asks me once he’s taken a bite.


“Tired. But I guess we all are today.”


“Yeah. Not getting enough sleep affects everyone, only in different ways.”


“I guess.”


“Personally, I lose patience with dealing with other people, especially those who complain.”


“Is that a dig or something?” I say, feeling my skin prickle. I don’t think I could handle Cole laying into me over my attitude today. I wasn’t even saying anything!


“No. Nor is it an apology. But it is an explanation for why I was brusque with Lauren this morning.”


“I see.”


“Here’s the apology – I didn’t mean to be curt with you. I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. And I’m sorry about calling you last night. I’m sure that didn’t help with your insomnia. If it’s any consolation, I didn’t sleep much either.”


“I don’t feel better because you feel bad. I’m not wired that way.”


“Can we take a walk?” He gestures to the lot, which is a little like a small town with trailers as houses and the vacant spaces forming streets.


“Okay.”


We walk side by side in silence for a while. It’s Cole who speaks first, and when he does, he keeps his voice low.


“It’s not going to get any easier. You know that, right?”


“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”


“We’re only on the first season. Marsha and Greg will want this show to go on for at least five seasons. They're going to do everything it takes to stay on the air, and that includes marketing targeting a young audience. If the trends we’re seeing are anything to go by, that is going to call for sexier, more daring shows, and actors to match. You’ve seen the response Lauren’s gotten, and how people have reacted to my kiss with Crystal. There isn’t room in this place for anything real, and I’m worried about you.”


“Because?” Not that I particularly want him to psychoanalyze me, but I want to know what’s going through his mind.


“Because you seem like you’re too… innocent for this business.”


“You think I’m a prude. Why? Because I said no when you wanted to come over last night?”


“God, no! Hannah, that’s not… that’s another conversation entirely. And for the record, you were right to say no.”


“Then what is it you’re talking about?”


“People are going to be offensive and abusive online, and even though that in no way is okay, you’ll fall apart if you let it get to you. The gossip sites are going to make up stories about all of us, create headlines that make it seem like we’re on the outs, or like we can’t keep our hands off each other on set. The Internet is going to be flooded with lies, and you’re going to have to endure it. It sucks, but it has to be done.”


“Is there a particular reason you’re telling me all this right now?” I frown. I haven’t checked social media since last night, and now I’m starting to think there’s something really bad that I’ve been blissfully unaware of.


“I take it you haven’t read the latest so-called article on CelebSpotter.com...”


“No.”


“I don’t know how, but someone must have snapped a photo of me coming home last night. I’d run my hand through my hair a couple of times during the drive, so I looked pretty messy. The photo is timestamped, so they know I got back late. Obviously, they’re saying I slept with Crystal. She showed me a number of fan videos that have popped up on YouTube of the two of us.”


“Okay.”


“If they’re staking out my apartment building, you can’t come over unless you want the gossip rags to spin stories about us.”


“I wasn’t planning on stopping by uninvited, so you can relax. I know what you’re doing with Crystal and I’m not going to mess that up for you.”


“I don’t want things to be weird between us.”


“They don’t have to be. We’re co-workers and friends. Let’s just leave it at that.”


“I’m sorry I blurred the lines. I shouldn’t have called you last night.”


“I didn’t have to answer,” I say, softer now. It’s not Cole’s fault that I’ve gone all doe-eyed schoolgirl on him.


“So… clean slate?” He offers his hand for a handshake, and I force a smile.


“Clean slate.”



To be continued...

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