• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 4

The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

Good news travels fast, and so does the cast information train. By Friday, every single cast and crew member seems to know about Lauren’s plan to get me back into the dating game, because I’m being offered ‘helpful advice’ left and right. One of the few who does not high-five Lauren’s initiative is Alison.

“Do you think it’s a good idea to go out clubbing where there’s a chance you could be recognized?” she says as she walks me over to my trailer on Friday night.

I frown. “What do you mean?” I’m far from famous, and there are plenty of other actors and actresses and musicians to soak up the limelight before it can even reach me.

“Just that the network is putting a lot of work into promoting the show, and your character isn’t a party girl like Lauren or Crystal. Some fans might not like it if they see you out clubbing.”

“Going out with Lauren doesn’t make me a party girl. Besides, I’m not Kate-Lynn. She’s just a character, Alison.”

“I know that. I’m just saying, be careful.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Saturday morning on the lot. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Alison pulls a face and waves goodbye as she walks off.

I can’t help but feel a little annoyed as I shower and change but I try to push away the negative thoughts. Alison is just looking out for me, and she’s right about the media training we’ve gone through telling us to behave in a way that won’t reflect negatively on the show. A part of me, though, just wants to rebel and say they don’t own me. But maybe they do.

Maybe that’s the price that needs to be paid.

“Is that what you’re wearing?” Lauren says when I open the door to her. From the look of utter disgust on her face, you’d think I was dressed in burlap.

“It’s jeans and a top,” I say, feeling a little defensive. “Look, it even has sparkles on it.” I twirl to make my point, but Lauren doesn’t lose her frown.

“Which might be okay if it had been a V-neck or something draped,” she says, plucking at my boat necked top. “Where are the puppies?”

I look down and, for visual aid, cup my aforementioned ‘puppies’. Lauren just shakes her head, unimpressed.

“Oh, and those jeans-“ she goes on, plucking at the belt loops, “if you’re gonna wear jeans to a club, they need to be skin tight and paired with heels. Like, spiked ones.”

“I can’t really walk that well in stilettos, and I definitely can’t dance in them.”

“Then no jeans for you tonight,” Lauren proclaims and starts rummaging through my closet.

“Seriously, where are your dresses?”

“I only have a couple, the ones right there,” I point them out and Lauren grabs the hangers to inspect my dress options.

“These are interview and court dresses,” she says and puts them back on the rack. “Okay, we’re going to my place.” She closes the closet door and heads for the door.

“Lauren, come on, I won’t fit into any of your clothes, and we both know it.”

“Not true. I have a couple of wrap dresses that will look amazing on you. Now, let’s go, the guys are probably already waiting for us at the club.”

“Uh… what guys?” I ask as I lock up my apartment.

“Tom and Derek wanted to come. I said they could invite other people, too, so there might be a lot of people we know there.”

“You mean I’m going to have an audience when I complete your little dare? Super.”

“It’s not a dare. It’s a step in the right direction,” Lauren says and hooks her arm with mine.

“We’re gonna have so much fun, just wait and see.”

I can’t stop tugging on my borrowed dress. The wrap design works, I’ll hand it to Lauren, but I’m showing way too much cleavage for my liking, and whenever I sit down, my upper thigh peeks out.

The club we’re in seems to cater to a young crowd with loud house music playing, making it hard to have a conversation, let alone order a drink. On the plus side, I didn’t see any paparazzi when we got here, which either means no-one leaked where we were going tonight, or we’re just not that interesting. After all, if anyone’s got the paps after them, it’s Crystal and Cole, and they’re doing a Skype interview session tonight with international media. Crystal’s been complaining about giving up her Saturday night all week, but I’m pretty sure it’s an act. She thrives on the attention.

“Hey!” Someone yells in my ear and I jump in fright. When I look over, I see Derek and relax.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he shouts, and I smile. “There’s another floor, wanna check it out?” He hikes his thumb towards the ceiling and I nod. The blaring music is making my head pound and a change of scenery seems like a good idea.

I follow Derek as he navigates the throng over to a spiral staircase. It looks off-limits, but Derek lifts the thin rope as if he’s been here before.

Upstairs, it’s quieter, with an actual sitting area and a second bar. We’re above the dance floor and the music is streaming up, but slightly muted. The speakers must be located below us.

“Better?” Derek asks, grinning, and I nod emphatically.

“So much better.”

“Yeah, I thought you looked a little pained.” He chuckles and walks over to the bar. “What are you drinking?”

“Oh.” Is it weird for him to buy me a drink? Or do we simply take turns paying for rounds?

“Um. Vodka soda?”

“You got it,” he says and leans in to get the bartender’s attention. “Grab us a seat, I’ve got this,” he throws over his shoulder and I realize I’m just awkwardly standing around.

“Right,” I mumble to myself and look around for some empty seats. There’s a sitting group with a white leather couch and several matching sitting puffs around a low glass table, and I claim the couch. It doesn’t take long before Derek joins me.

“Here you go,” he says and hands me a highball glass, keeping the beer bottle for himself.

“Thanks.” I take a sip. It’s a strong one.

“So, how’s your quest going?” Derek asks, tipping the bottle to his lips.

I chuckle and put my drink down on the table. “My quest?”

“Yeah, Lauren said you were on the prowl.”

“She said what?” Good thing I put my glass down because I’m pretty sure I would have choked on it if I was drinking right now. I can’t believe Lauren told people about the dare. I can, however, believe that she would phrase it as if it was all my idea.

“I take it this wasn’t a solid plan,” Derek remarks and sits back, resting his arm on the back of the couch. There’s space between us, but his hand is close to my head and I twist a little to face him.

“Not really, no. Lauren just got it in her head that I’m in desperate need of a date, and now I’m being forced into getting a guy’s number.”

“But you’re not actually looking to date anyone right now?”

“No. But Lauren had this whole idea that getting a guy’s number will make me feel more attractive. I know, silly girl stuff, right?” I shake my head and reach for my drink again. I really didn’t mean to tell him all that.

“Looking in a mirror doesn’t do that for you?”

Uh…what? He did not just say that, right? “Sorry, what?” I blink and put my glass back down. Clearly, I’ve had enough tonight already.

“Oh, come on, you mean to tell me you don’t know you’re attractive? You’re on a major TV show, Han. Isn’t that proof enough?”

“That’s… sweet of you to say. I guess I’m just not that confident. I mean, I can’t compete with Lauren or Crystal.”

“Why would you want to? I mean, yeah, Crystal’s hot, but she’s a bitch to everyone. And Lauren’s got a smokin’ bod, but you’re like total opposites. She’s got that sultry athletic brunette thing going on, and you’re like the blonde girl next door who all the guys jerked off to.”

“Nice.” I laugh, but I’m touched. And a little perturbed.

Derek puts his hands up, grinning. “Hey, I’m just being objective here.”

“There you guys are!” Lauren’s voice suddenly comes in loud and clear and she stumbles a little as she makes her way over, then flops down next to me. Her hair is looking a little wilder than it did when I last saw her, and her eyes are blazing. She leans in and half-whispers, half-slurs in my ear, “Tom and I just had sex in the alley.” Then she giggles.

Instinctively, I look over at Tom, who’s looking pretty pleased with himself. I really hope they’re on the same page, and that their occasional bickering on set is just an act.

“Hey, guys, look who I found,” Nick appears with his arm slung around a petite blonde who looks to be just shy of the legal drinking age. I have no idea who she is, and from the look on the others’ faces, neither do they. Then Nick steps aside and there’s Alison trailing behind him and his girl.

“Hi!” I exclaim and stand to greet her with a hug. It’s so rarely she’s included in things, I just want her to feel welcome. “I thought you were going to your parents’.” She visits them every weekend, so it’s not a stretch. Besides, she made it pretty clear what she thought about me going out with Lauren, so I didn’t extend an invitation. Now I feel bad.

“Change of plans,” she says with a shrug, looking a little uncomfortable.

“Well, grab a seat. Up here, you actually have a shot at hearing what people are saying,” I tell her and sit back down. There’s no more room on the couch, but there are plenty of sitting puffs.

“So, where’s Cole?” Nick’s arm candy pipes up. Her voice is as high-pitched as her hair is blonde and her head snaps around like a bird’s, obviously trying to spot Cole. Nick doesn’t look too happy with her.

“He’s at some interview thing,” Tom says dismissively and takes a deep drag of his beer.

“You said I could get a selfie with him,” Arm Candy says to Nick, practically whining. He extricates his arm from around her and heads to the bar. She crosses her arms and pouts, then spots Lauren and lights up. “O-M-G. Lauren Machado. I loved you in GothGirl(dot)Com!”

Lauren frowns, obviously trying to focus on the stranger – or remember what movie she was supposed to have been in. Lauren with a couple of drinks in her isn’t all that quick with her thoughts.

“Mm-hm.” She manages a smile, or something close thereto.

Arm Candy, who has yet to be introduced, isn’t deterred in the least by Lauren’s less-than-enthusiastic response, and bounds over to the couch, perching on the edge next to Lauren with her phone out.

“You don’t mind, right?” she asks while trying to find the perfect angle – and perfect duck face.

“Sure,” Lauren mumbles and tacks on a smile for the camera.

“Awesome,” Arm Candy says and starts tapping away on her phone once she’s got a couple of shots in. “I follow you on Twitter and Instagram. Do you have Facebook?”


“Okay,” Arm Candy shrugs, but remains perched on the couch’s arm. “Hey, can I ask you – that scene with Gavin in GothGirl(dot)Com – did you, like, get naked? Or did they just Photoshop that?”

Lauren just stares at her and I wonder if I’ll have to step in and talk about modesty patches or something just so Lauren doesn’t blurt anything quotable. Thankfully, Nick returns just then and distracts Arm Candy.

“Hey, Sandy, I heard that Brett Nichols is here tonight. Why don’t you go see if you can find him and take a picture?”

“For real?” her eyes widen and she practically flies off the armrest.

“Yeah. Go on. We’ll hang out here for a while.” He urges her towards the staircase and Sandy – finally the girl’s got a name – totters down.

“I thought Brett Nichols was shooting a movie on location in Europe?” Derek says to Nick as he grabs a seat.

“Well, Sandy obviously doesn’t know that,” Nick says with an unkind smile.

Tom clinks his beer bottle with Nick’s in camaraderie. To his credit, Derek doesn’t join in. Instead, he turns back to me.

“In a couple of months, people will be hounding you for autographs and photos. You up for that?”

“Well, I take great comfort in knowing my cast mates are all way more interesting than I am, so I think I’ll be able to handle it.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. Besides, you’ll eventually be part of a super couple.”

“What do you mean?” I turn a little in my seat to face him. Lauren, seated on my left, is talking to Alison, so at least I’m not being rude.

“Well, it’s pretty obvious where we’re going next season – tutor girl and the jock?”

“Did Marsha and Greg tell you that?” I ask, unable to hide my surprise. Our showrunners slash executive producers are usually pretty tight-lipped about where we’re headed in all the storylines. Half the time, I wonder if even the writers know.

“No. But my sister devours teen romance dramas like Homer Simpson scarfs down donuts. That particular storyline is one of her favorite tropes.”

“You think they’re going for something old and tried instead of changing things up?”

“Well, there’s already more racy scenes than in other shows on the network, so I guess they’ll spice it up that way.”

“Spice?” I cringe a little. I never signed on for nudity, that’s something that needs to be agreed on in the contract, right? Or does underwear not count even as partial nudity?

“Hey, don’t worry,” Derek says, obviously seeing the panic on my face. “You’re the wholesome one, I’m sure they’ll keep it PG in your scenes.”

“Have you ever-?” I start, not knowing exactly how to formulate the question. Derek catches on quick, though, and grins sheepishly.

“I had a small part in one of the HBO shows, I can tell you that much.”

“Oh.” I can’t help it, my mind immediately tries to figure out which one, even though I’ve only seen a few episodes of some of the shows. I could check his IMDb page later, but I can’t remember seeing any of the big ones listed there. Then again, I may not have spent an enormous amount of time on his page.

“Try not to Google it, okay?” he laughs and finishes his beer. “You wanna hit the dance floor?”

I look around and realize that the others have all gone. How could I not have noticed them leaving? “Sure.”

We head down the stairs, but just before we’re about to step into the throng, Derek touches my arm and I stop to look up at him.

“Hey, give me your phone,” he says, holding his hand out.

I dig my cell out of my bag and hand it over even as I ask him why. He starts tapping away at it, then hands it back.

“You didn’t have my number. Now you do. Just helping you with your quest,” he winks and I’m suddenly grateful it’s loud and dark in the club to obscure what is sure to be blushing cheeks and to keep others from listening in on our conversation.

“I think I see them over there,” he points and I let him lead the way, creating a path through the crowd to get to our friends.

To be continued...


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