• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 3

The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

“Mocha latte?”

I hold the cup up as a peace offering when Lauren steps out of her trailer. She’s wearing a robe and a pair of flats and looking a little worse for wear. I’m guessing she stayed out late last night.

“Mmph,” Lauren grunts and takes the cup from me. I can’t tell if she’s still annoyed with me for taking off last night or if she’s just caffeine-deprived. I wait to find out as Lauren closes her eyes and sips the latte. When she opens her eyes again, she’s smiling. “You got the good stuff.”

“Nothing beats Gloria Jean’s mocha latte, right?” I shrug, having heard that very comment from Lauren on a daily basis since we first started working together.

“Finally, you’ve seen the light,” Lauren grins and wraps an arm around my shoulders. I guess I’m forgiven.

“Yeah, it’s that big round thing in the sky, right?”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Trish is already on me about staying out of the sun to make her job easier. I shudder to think what she’ll say about these dark circles under my eyes.” Lauren’s character Deanna is a computer geek with a secret source of income. Production wanted to focus on Crystal’s storyline for the first part of the season, so Lauren’s only shot a few scenes of her secret so far.

“So, I guess you stayed out late last night?” I say as we head over to the set.

“It got pretty late. We watched a horror movie. Don’t worry, it wasn’t Cruiseliner,” she adds, and I feel my cheeks burn. I was happy to land the role back then, but I’d never imagined people I’d come to work with in the future would sit around and watch it together. It would forever be there on my IMDb page – not that I ever look at it, but I checked out all my co-stars’ pages when I first found out I was going to be on the show. Lauren is one of the most versatile actresses of the cast – she started acting when she was five years old and has done everything from comedy to thriller. Well, except horror. As far as I can tell, only Derek and I have starred in a horror movie, but he was much younger – playing the child version of an adult serial killer. No-one would recognize him today if it hadn’t been for Google.

“Morning, Trish,” Lauren greets the makeup artist who immediately turns her smile upside down.

“You’re killing me, Machado,” Trish groans and Lauren shrugs, giving me a finger wave as she heads for the mirrors.

Somewhere, someone has just put out a tray of freshly baked bread and my nose immediately goes on high alert, scanning the area like a periscope. I grabbed an apple before I left for set this morning, but apparently it’s done nothing to curb my appetite.

I hear whistling coming from behind me and when I turn around, Cole is headed my way with a bagel in his hand. My eyes narrow and zero in on that piece of carby goodness and before I know it, I’m holding a bagel of my very own.

“Damn, Han, you’ve really got a one-track mind, huh?” Cole chuckles and I snap out of my trance.

“I can’t eat this,” I say robotically and put the bagel he handed me down on a nearby tray.

“You filled up on donuts already?” He raises his eyebrows, letting me know he’s not buying my reasoning.

“I have to shoot a scene in less than an hour, and bread will make me-“ I catch myself before I can tell Cole that bread makes me bloat. Some conversations are meant only to be had with your girlfriends. “I better get over to Makeup.”

“Suit yourself,” Cole says and picks up the bagel, walking over to Lauren. “Carbs?”

“God, yes!” Lauren groans and snags it from him. I can’t help but feel a little bit jealous of Lauren. If only I could eat like her and still look like a Sports Illustrated cover model.

“Morning.” Derek plops down in the makeup chair next to me and barely covers a yawn with his fist. “You’re looking way too peppy this early in the day,” he remarks, looking me over.

“Uh… thanks. I think.”

“You’re welcome,” he says and puts his foot up on his knee, leaning back in the chair as he takes out his phone and starts swiping. After a minute or two, he makes a rude noise and I can’t help but look over.


“Have you checked your feed?”

“What, on Twitter?” I frown, reaching for my own cell phone. I really hope nothing bad has happened.

“Crystal’s gone crazy with the retweets. She’s clogging up my feed big time.”

“Aww, is the jock missing out on his hourly sports tweets?” Crystal walks in, her heels clicking on the floor as she saunters over to the mirrors.

“I think you have me confused with my character, Crys,” Derek mutters but I catch a glimpse of his background image before he puts his phone away and it has some kind of a team on it. If Crystal hadn’t been so mean about it, I would have had trouble hiding a smile. As it is, it’s no chore.

“I don’t know, I think some of these characters are pretty well-matched,” Crystal drawls, applying lip gloss. “I mean, there’s farmer girl here playing a loser nobody,” she shoots me a look in the mirror, “and we all know Cole is as much of a player in real life as Dean is on the show.”

“So, by your logic,” Lauren says, pausing as if she’s pondering life’s mysteries, “you spend all your time off set screwing old guys for money? Yeah, I can buy that.”

Crystal huffs, screws the cap back on her lip gloss and calls out for her assistant, Sharon.

Yeah, Crystal has her own assistant, who’s actually in the credits as ‘Assistant to Ms. Witt’.

Just another way for her to show that she’s better than the rest of us.

“Well, that shut her up,” Derek comments and picks up his phone again. “I think I’m just gonna go ahead and mute her.”

“You haven’t done that already?” Lauren says and meets my eyes in the mirror with a wink.

I casually check Crystal's Twitter feed to see what Derek was talking about. Her feed is full of strangers’ tweets. Every tweet mentions Crystal in some way, either alone or together with Cole. All of them are positive and raising Crystal to the sky as the best actress ever with the best chemistry etcetera etcetera. Must be nice.

I notice I have more than twenty new mentions, and I hesitate a moment before pulling them up. They’re all replies to the tweets Cole mentioned me in, and they’re telling him how great he is. Not so bad, then.

“Hannah?” Trish calls out, and I quickly put my phone away. “You’re up.”

“Wow, you were awesome,” I say to Lauren as the director calls cut on her scene. It’s the first scene the viewers will see of her secret, and I can imagine there’s going to be talk about it once it airs.

“Yeah, nice work, Lolita.” Tom walks by and pats her bare shoulder. He’s going to be playing Lauren’s character’s love interest down the line – or at least that’s what the rest of us think.

For now, Deanna and Charleston are mortal enemies. Lauren and Tom aren’t besties either, for that matter.

“Remind me again why Tom was allowed on set today?” Lauren sighs and ties the sash on her robe.

“Because his character is trying to find out your character’s secret, maybe?”

“Still… sitting around in my underwear and talking dirty is usually something I save for my closest friends.”

“Yeah… feel free to skip that part of our friendship.”

“Aww, Han, so innocent…” Lauren feigns swooning and I jab my elbow in her side. Not hard, of course, because she’s doing more underwear scenes in the near future. Lauren just laughs, then stops all of a sudden. “Wait… you’re not really like your character, right? I mean, with the whole… abstaining thing?”

I roll my eyes at Lauren’s almost-horrified face and wait to give my answer to make her sweat a little. “We’re not our characters, Lauren, no matter how well-matched we appear to be. And just as you don’t spend your downtime imitating a Russian porn star, I’m not still a virgin.” Even though my parents probably think I am.

“Well, that’s a relief,” Lauren exhales and I can’t help but laugh at her.

“You act like it would have been so weird if I was. Guess what, not every girl has boys falling at her feet, and some girls actually want to be in love with the guy first. Shocking, I know,” I tease her.

“So… were you? In luuurve?” she drags out the word as we head over to her trailer, arms hooked and heads close together.

“No. Which is why next time, I’m going to make sure I am.”

“Uh-oh, I smell a bad breakup,” Lauren says in a sing-songy voice.

“Nope. We were never together, so…” I trail off with a shrug and Lauren gives me a questioning look as she opens the door.

“Green tea?” she offers and I nod, taking a seat on her couch while she puts the kettle on.

She walks over and takes a seat on the storage box that doubles as a coffee table so that she can face me. “Okay, spill.”

“What? No.” I shake my head. “There’s no story here.”

“Oh, please, you’re not fooling me. Come on, tell Aunt Lauren all about it.”

I roll my eyes and throw a pair of sweatpants bundled up on the couch at her. “Okay, ‘Auntie’, put some clothes on and I’ll tell you.”

“Why? Are you intimidated by my luscious curves?” she mocks, smoothing her hands over her body.

“Yes, that’s exactly it,” I stick out my tongue and duck just as she throws her sweatpants back at me.

“Those aren’t mine,” she says and walks over to the closet.

“Ew, whose are they?” I cringe and throw the sweatpants into a corner. I suddenly feel very uncomfortable sitting on her couch.

“Tom’s,” she says casually as she pulls on a pair of tights and an oversized T-shirt.

“What?” I feel my jaw drop. “Why is Tom leaving his sweatpants in your trailer?”

“Don’t look so scandalized,” Lauren laughs and walks over to grab the teacups from the little kitchenette – it has a small sink, a cupboard, a microwave and a kettle. “We were rehearsing lines and I spilled red wine on his pants. I was going to do laundry the next day, so I said I’d wash them up for him.”

“That’s… domestic of you,” I frown, suspecting there’s more to the story.

“I know, right?”

“He hasn’t been back to pick them up yet?”

“He was, but then we had sex and he forgot about them.”

“Lauren! I didn’t think you two even got along!”

She shrugs, then smirks. “We weren’t ‘making love’.”

“Okay, TMI,” I shake my head and focus on my tea.

“Hey, we got off topic.” Lauren snaps her fingers. “I want to hear about your hookup.”

“It’s wholly pathetic,” I cringe.

“You said you’d tell if I got dressed,” she reminds me and makes a sweeping gesture of her now clad body. “No more procrastinating.”

“Fine,” I sigh and put my tea down on the coffee table that Lauren has vacated in favor of a spot on the couch next to me. “But this goes in the vault, all right?”

“Cross my heart,” Lauren says and tucks her feet underneath her, cradling her teacup with both hands.

“My parents were very strict about dating when I was growing up, by which I mean I wasn’t allowed to date, period. I was chubby as a kid and I had to work hard to lose weight. You know that when I worked on Cruiseliner, I was about 20 pounds heavier than I am now, but I had been even heavier in high school. Even if my parents had allowed me to date, I wouldn’t have had anyone knocking down my door to go out with me. So when I finished high school and moved away from home to work on Cruiseliner, I was pretty naïve. One of the guys I worked with showed an interest in me, and one night after reading lines, he invited me over to his place and we had sex. The next day he’d lost interest and a couple of weeks later, my scenes were done and I went to work on a different project.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Lauren coos and puts her cup down before hugging me. “That was your only experience?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“So… that was, what? Four-five years ago? You’ve been celibate for five years? You’re literally a virgin all over again.”

“Okay, not to sound like a schoolteacher here, but ‘literally’ is the wrong word. I think you meant to say ‘practically’ or something like that.”

“I love you, but you need to loosen up,” Lauren shakes her head. “No wonder you’re almost still a virgin – you’re too uptight to let a guy inside.”

“Okay, gross,” I cringe and reach for the tea again. “I just… I’m not comfortable with anyone seeing me naked. I can’t help but think that’s why Jordan wasn’t interested in a repeat performance.”

It pains me to admit it and I’m pretty sure my cheeks are red now, but it’s the truth. Jordan knew I was a virgin, so it would have been unfair of him to judge me for not knowing what to do. Assuming he wasn’t a complete tool, that just leaves room for the interpretation that he was unhappy with how my body looked under the clothes. When the push-up bra and spanks come off, there’s no hiding your imperfections.

“Sweetie, trust me, that guy was a douche. You can’t judge all other guys based on his example.”

“I don’t. It’s not about the guys, it’s about me. I’m not comfortable with myself, so how can I expect anyone else to be?”

“Have you ever talked to someone about this? Like, a therapist?”

“No. It’s not really in my budget. Besides, I’m fine. I don’t think I have a particularly strong sex drive. It’s not like I miss it.”

“Well, yeah, if what you’re describing is the only experience you have to compare with, I can see why you’d rather go it alone. But I’m gonna fix you.”

“Fix me?” I can’t help but laugh. “Thanks, but I’ll just live vicariously through you. Clearly,” I look over at the sweatpants on the floor, “you have lots to tell.”

“Nice try, Han. You always plead TMI when I try to share, so forget trying to distract me.”

“Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do,” Lauren claps her hands together and I worry what her excited look is all about. Scratch that, I worry that I know exactly what that look is about.

“Saturday night, you and I are hitting the clubs.” Yeah, that’s what I was worried about. “And you’re not leaving without at least one new phone number programmed into your cell phone.”

“Did you forget what I told you before? I want to be in love with a guy before starting a sexual relationship. No one-night stands.”

“Did I say you have to leave with a guy? No, I did not,” she answers her own question before I can get a word in. “Step 1. Realizing you’re an attractive woman. Step 2. Learning how to flirt. Step 3. Getting to know someone. Step-“

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I cut her off. “No need to go through the whole list.”

“So… Saturday?” she raises her eyebrows, expecting only one answer.

“Saturday. Just to get you off my back,” I point out before she can break out into a full-on grin.

To be continued...


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