• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 19


The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

“So, tell me about this vet,” Cole says when I call him on Sunday night.


I texted him on Saturday when I got home from my afternoon out with Seth the veterinarian, but he was at a party with some of his old co-stars from Sun Sets and Rises, so we decided to talk tonight instead.


“There’s not much to tell. Mom basically set us up in the hopes of making a love connection that will keep me here, but he and I are both on the same page. We’re going to hang out as friends from time to time while I’m here.”


“I don’t know, Han.”


“What?”


“I don’t know if I like the sound of this. You and I tried the friends thing, remember?”


“I have plenty of friends that I don’t want to-“ I stop myself before I say something completely out of character for me. I must have spent too much time with Lauren…


“That you don’t want to… what?” Cole prods.


“Never mind.” Thank goodness I didn’t finish my thoughts out loud. My parents would be scandalized.


“Come on, Han. I smell something juicy…” the teasing is back in his voice and I realize it was tense before.


“I don’t think you can smell juiciness, actually,” I point out, purposely ignoring him. “Perfume, garbage, detergent… stuff like that you can smell.”


“I also smell avoidance. Come on, Miller. Spill.”


“Okay, fine. I was going to say I have plenty of friends that I don’t want to kiss. Happy now?”


“I highly doubt that was what you were going to say, but I’ll take it. For now.”


“How was your day? Did Yale have anything sarcastic to say?”


“You know I can’t tell you anything about the script,” he clicks his tongue in mock reproach.


“But I might be able to dig up some old scripts to rehearse with you when you get back into town.”


“Oh, yeah? Like what?” If he’d been standing in front of me right now, I’d have one hand on my hip and my head tilted, that’s how wary I am about where he’s going with this.


“Like from when Yale and Katrina got stranded on that little island that was sinking a little more every hour.”


I close my eyes and bring the images back from the dark recesses of my mind. Cole’s character convinced his long-time rival that they should grab life while they still had it, and it resulted in one of the steamiest love scenes on daytime television. The memory of it makes my skin heat up from the inside out, but then I remember that he dated his co-star at the time and a cold gust of wind blows through me, cooling the overheated cells.


“Cole?”


“Yeah.”


“Were you dating Clarissa Marshall for the sake of ratings or because you were into her?”


“Han…”


“I’m just curious.” I try to sound casual about it, but it’s a fail. I care. I care too darn much.


“We were both single at the time, and we had chemistry. On screen as well as off screen. Does that answer your question?”


“Yeah, pretty much.”


“It was a long time ago, Hannah. There are no leftover feelings, okay?”


“So you’ve seen her?”


“She’s still on the show, you know that.”


“Right.” Oh, God, I’m being a jealous cow right now. What is wrong with me? If I keep this up, Cole is going to decide he doesn’t need my drama in his life and this thing will be over before it’s even started.


“Hannah.”


“I’m sorry. I’m really not like this.” I don’t think. It’s not like I have any experience. What if this is who I am? Jealous, possessive, paranoid? Maybe I am this insecure and it will prevent me from ever having a healthy relationship?


“Maybe you should just come back. We can spend some time together, and I’ll prove to you that I have no interest in anyone but you.”


“I can’t,” I sigh. “I promised Mom and Dad. I haven’t spent much time with them since I moved away from home, and they could use the extra hand around here. They’ve aged, Cole.”


“We all do.”


“Yes, I know, but it just looks like they’ve aged a lot more than I have in this time I’ve been away. My dad used to be all spry; climbing up stairs in the barn, or swinging himself up into the tractor cabin, or balancing on the roof to check the tiles. Now his back looks all crooked, and he doesn’t move as easily as he did before.”


“I’m sorry, Han.”


“Besides, I can’t imagine you’d have that much free time on your hands anyway. And there’s only so much shopping a girl can do.” We both know I do a lot less shopping than most girls.


“I don’t have any night shoots…” he says and I can imagine the grin on his lips and the wiggle of eyebrows.


“What about the paps? Still staking out your house?”


“Nah. My neighbor Sid read them the riot act. He fought in Nam – not an old man you want on the other end of a walker, lemme tell you.” Cole chuckles and I hear the warmth in his voice. He must really like his neighbor.


“Sounds like an awesome guy,” I tell him.


“He sure is. So, if you do decide to stop by-“


“Beware of walkers?” I cut him off. “Got it.”


“Trust me, Sid would love you. He might just steal you away if I’m not careful.”


“So I’m property to be stolen, huh?” I tease him, making the question about everything except what I really want to know. Am I his?


“I’ll have to plead the fifth on that one,” he says and I wish I could see his facial expression, because his voice gives nothing away.


“Should I consider you a hostile witness, then?” I say, jumping on the metaphor bandwagon.


“No, I can be very friendly.”


“When you want to be.”


“Exactly.”


I like this, I really do. This easy teasing that comes so naturally. Before I started working with Cole, I was never comfortable enough around anyone to be able to do this. And now, I’m even comfortable teasing Seth, who I don’t know well at all. Then again, I don’t have a vested interested in Seth, I don’t need him to like me, so maybe that’s the reason. Cole… well, I already know he likes me. I just hope it’ll stay that way.


“Hannah?” he says in a coaxing voice and I realize I had checked out for a moment.


“Yes?”


“Are you thinking about me being very friendly?”


My cheeks heat up immediately and I feel a dull throb in my lower abdomen. “Maybe.” Well, I wasn’t, but I sure am now.


“Are you in bed?” Oh, boy, he’s got his bedroom voice on – the one I’ve only heard on TV before.


I look around my room. The ceiling lamp is on, making everything bright and clear. The old posters on the wall, the dollhouse my dad built for me, the dolls my mom bought at the department store in the city, and the old quilt Mom and Nana worked on in the church knitting group. This is not the place for sexy talk. Even I know that, and I’ve never even tried it. Never had the opportunity, for that matter.


“Uh... hold on,” I tell Cole and put the phone down on the bedside table. Then I quickly fold up the quilt and drape it over the dollhouse, where I also stuff all the dolls. Then I turn off the ceiling lamp and put a chair under the door handle. My door doesn’t have a lock. It has a keyhole, but the key was lost years ago. Heart racing and a light sweat coating my forehead and chest, I climb into bed and pick the phone up again.


“Yes,” I say and feel humiliation wash over me in a fresh wave as I hear how breathy I sound.


“Doing some redecorating?” Cole asks, his voice almost laughing.


“Just tidying up a bit,” I say, trying to sound flippant. It comes out high-pitched and foreign, so that’s something.


“Hannah?”


“Yeah?”


“Breathe.”


I take a moment to do as he says, focusing on breathing calmly and not overthinking. Easier said than done when your body is on high alert.


“Okay, I’m breathing. Whew, I guess I’m really out of shape, huh? Moving a few things around really knocked the wind out of me.”


“Hannah.”


“Yes?”


“Relax. Tell me about your room.”


“Is that where you are now? Your bedroom?” I ask.


“No, I’m in the kitchen, getting a glass of the wine you brought.”


“I thought we finished that?” I frown. As I recall Lauren liked the taste.


“We did. I bought more of the same.”


“Ah.”


I listen to him as he pours the wine and I close my eyes, picturing him. I don’t dare ask what he’s wearing for fear of sounding like an old pervert, so I just picture him in his black slacks and his black shirt, unbuttoned over his ribbed stomach… Yes, definitely less pervy. Then I hear a cupboard opening.


“Are you getting a snack?” I ask, almost outraged. He got me all nervous and jittery with his bedroom voice, and now he’s eating?


“Just checking if there are any donuts left. By the way, next time you stop by, pick some up, will you?”


“Oh, aren’t we bossy?” I scoff, but it’s a good-natured one.


“Only sometimes.”


“So… any luck on the donut front?”


“Nope. So I guess I’ll just have to bring my wine into my bedroom all by its lonesome,” he sighs.


“Poor baby,” I mock him.


“Mm-hm,” he agrees, and then I hear the rustle of bed sheets.


“Are you wearing your clothes to bed?” I blurt before I can stop myself.


“How do you know I was wearing clothes?” he asks, sounding amused.


“Uh…” I can’t say I pictured it, he’ll think I’m a nut job.


“Um… I just figured if you were in the kitchen…”


“My kitchen doesn’t have windows, remember? So if I wanted to walk around in the buff – theoretically, of course – I would be well within my rights.”


“Mm.”


“But for your information, I was wearing boxers. Black ones. Do with that what you will.”

I look around the room, my eyes having somewhat adjusted to the dark, looking for a fan to cool me down. I can’t see one.


“Your turn,” Cole says and I blink, refocusing on the conversation.


“What do you mean?”


“I told you what lies beneath the covers, now it’s your turn.”


“Oh… I…”


“Or you can describe your room to me, like I asked you to before.”


“I don’t want to talk about my room.”


“Fine by me. What about your bed? Is it comfortable?”


“Yes.” I shift a little and it creaks. “The frame is old, the springs squeak whenever I move.”


“What kind of headboard does it have?”


“I don’t know if you can call it that… it’s more like painted metal bars.”


“What color?”


“White. The sheets are white, too.” I don’t know why I tell him that, but it feels naughty for some reason. Like I’m inviting him to take the conversation in a new direction.


“Did you ever touch yourself on those sheets when you still lived at home?”


“No.”


“No? Never?”


“I… that stuff was off-limits. Shameful. Wrong.”


“Strict upbringing?” he says kindly.


“Yeah.”


“Do you still feel that way? Like you’re doing something wrong if you make yourself feel good?”


I chew my bottom lip for a moment, soul-searching. “Maybe?”


“Is it because of what you were taught, or because of how you feel about yourself?”


“Both.” Okay, any chances of phone sex are clearly out the window – this is more of a therapy session at this point. As per usual, I ruined the moment.


“I wish I was there with you,” he says wistfully. “You deserve to be loved, Hannah. Not just by others, but by yourself.”


“I’m sorry I’m such a-“


“No,” he cuts me off. “Whatever negative thing you were about to say about yourself, it’s not true. And you never have to apologize for your feelings. Not with me.”


“I just worry that I’m not exciting enough for you. I mean, look at all the women you’ve dated. They’re beautiful, and confident, and-“


“That’s all surface crap, Han. And it doesn’t matter when it gets down to it. Yes, I’ve dated confident women. I’ve also dated divas and self-conscious women. It’s easier to hook up with confident women because they have no problem moving on, but that also means I never get to experience anything real. I don’t spend hours on the phone with them trying to get to know them. You’re exciting to me because you make me want to know you for real – to go deeper than surface level.”


“That’s friendship, isn’t it?”


“I also want you naked in my bed,” he says, sounding mischievous.


My cheeks flush with heat, but anxiety quickly creeps in. “I worry you’ll be disappointed.”


“Hannah, no.” He sounds so pained I feel like I should be comforting him and not the other way around. “What makes you think that? Is it because you don’t have much experience?

Or… any?”


“I’m… I have a limited amount of experience. There was a guy I worked with, on Cruiseliner.

He was the first, and there hasn’t been anyone since.”


“Were you with him long?”


“No. It was a one-night stand, and it wasn’t great. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and the next day he was with someone else. He… I heard later on that he’d said some stuff about me that… well, that didn’t exactly make me feel any better about myself.”


“Hannah.” I’m surprised to feel tears on my cheeks, and yet I hear the pain and anger in Cole’s voice, too. “The guy was a douche. He didn’t deserve you. And I’m sorry that he didn’t treat you right.”


“Thank you.”


“I’m sorry if I’ve pushed for something you’re not ready for. I don’t want you to ever feel uncomfortable around me. Please know that. And never hesitate to tell me to back off if you need space. Okay?”


“Okay. But, Cole, I do feel comfortable with you, it’s just that I don’t feel comfortable with myself. I want to be the girl who’s good at phone sex and who knows what to do and say in bed, but it’s like there’s a wall between me and that girl and I don’t know how to break through.”


“We have all the time in the world to tear down the wall if that’s what you want. I’m not going anywhere.”


“Okay,” I say softly, curling up under the covers. “Any chance you might consider teaching me how it’s done?”


There’s silence on the line and I wonder if the connection has cut off, but then I hear Cole’s breath in my ear.


“I’ve been thinking about you all day…”



To be continued...

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