• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 6

The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

“Sorry about the mess,” Cole says as he opens the door and ushers me inside. “The cleaning lady quit.”

I look up at him, frowning, and he cracks. “Just kidding. I’m not that much of a diva. Yet,” he adds with a mischievous smirk. “You know where the fridge is,” he gestures to the kitchen.

“I’m just going to take a quick shower and then we can eat.”

“Uh…no. If I’m sticking around here in my sweaty clothes, then you’re not gonna be smelling like roses, either.”

“When have I ever smelled of roses?” He feigns outrage but I’m unmoved. I can’t let him know it really bothers me that I smell of sweat. Friends don’t care about smelling good when they’re hanging out after a run. “Okay, how’s this? I go first, then while I fix lunch, the shower is all yours.”

“I have a shower at home. Where I also have all my clean clothes.”

“T-shirt and sweatpants? I think we can swing that.”

Oh, no. I can’t borrow Cole’s clothes. What if they don’t fit me? Besides, my sports bra and panties will still be soaked with sweat. I doubt he has an extra pair of women’s underwear lying around. Even if he did, I wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, anyway.

“I’m not staying, Cole.”

“Okay, fine. I see you’re the stubborn type, too. We’ll have lunch on the balcony, sweaty clothes and all.”

I quietly let out a sigh of relief when he goes to the refrigerator instead of to the shower, and I inch towards the bathroom. A quick splash of water and soap wouldn’t hurt. “I’ll just be a minute,” I tell him.

“Offer of a shower still stands, by the way,” he says over his shoulder.

I just shake my head and head into the bathroom.

A short while later, I’m sitting on Cole’s balcony digging into a plate of veggies and microwaved lasagna.

“So… how was your night?” I ask after a few minutes of eating in silence.

“Not bad. I was pretty tired at the end of it, though. We must have shot a dozen TV spots in as many languages. You know, ‘watch us on channel so-and-so’.”

“What kind of questions did the interviewers ask?”

“Let’s see. I think the most common one was if there’s going to be more romance on the show, and how we feel about shooting love scenes.”

“And your reply?” I ask, spearing a piece of broccoli.

“Something along the lines of ‘you’ll have to tune in to see’. Can’t give too much away, you know.”

“And the other part of the question?”

“Well, both Crystal and I have done our share of love scenes in the past, so it’s not something I’ve thought much about.”

I nod, chewing my veggies. I really want to ask him about it, to get his advice on how to handle it. I know I haven’t signed anything saying that I’m prepared to shoot nude scenes, but we have contract negotiations coming up once we get the network’s decision on whether there’s going to be a second season. As much as I like Cole, I’m still not in that truly comfortable place with him where I feel like I can just ask him anything.

“Are you nervous?”

“Huh?” I blink, looking up from my plate and stepping out of my thoughts. “Sorry, what was the question?”

“Are you nervous about shooting a love scene somewhere down the line?”

“I guess.” Am I blushing right now? I kinda feel like I am. “I mean, I’ve never even done an on-screen kiss, so yeah.”

“You’ll be all right. I’m taking a stab in the dark here, but is it safe to assume you’ve kissed someone in real life? You can tell me it’s none of my business,” he adds with a gesture of preparing to back off.

“It’s fine. Yes, I’ve kissed guys before.” Not many, but that doesn’t need to be said.

“Okay. So basically you just do the same thing you did then. And remember to use breath mints.”

“Isn’t it weird, though? Kissing someone you’re not attracted to?”

“Every single person I’ve worked with has had at least one attractive trait. You don’t have to enjoy it, but it helps if you like the person. Then again, some people find it easier to do kissing scenes with people they don’t know that well. But mostly it’s about oral hygiene and mutual respect. I can’t stress the breath mints enough,” he points his fork at me and I instinctively cover my mouth. Is he trying to tell me I have stink breath? Cole laughs and takes my hand away from my mouth. “You’re fine.”

I feel my face flush and take a sip of water to cover my embarrassment.

“In any case, you and Derek shouldn’t have any problems,” Cole says and takes a drink of his own water.

I frown. “What makes you say that?”

“I just thought… well, you seem to have hit it off.”

“Uh… I guess. I mean, Derek’s nice. Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be weird kissing him.”

“Hm. My mistake.”


“Nothing. I just… well, I saw the pictures of you two at the club. It looked like you were getting along.”

“Well, yeah, we were all hanging out and I got to know him a bit better. He gave me his number so that I could tell Lauren I’d completed her challenge, not for any other reason. Definitely not for the reason that ridiculous article claimed.”

“I didn’t think so. You’re not really the type.”

“What type?”

“The… booty call type? I don’t know, you just seem like the relationship type.”

“Hm. Well, I wouldn’t know,” I mutter under my breath.

There’s a pause before Cole asks, “No relationships?” Darn it, I said that out loud, didn’t I?

I shrug, keeping my eyes on my plate. “Never really stayed in the same place long enough to start anything, I guess.” It’s partly true, after all.

“Did you move around a lot? I thought your parents were farmers?” he frowns.

“My parents were really strict about dating, so I never had a boyfriend when I lived with them. Once I moved out, I worked here and there, going from one acting job to another, with some waitressing thrown in. None of it left much time for serious dating, let alone a real relationship.” I bite my lip. Once again, I’ve overshared. “What about you?” I ask cheerily, shifting the attention away from myself before I go ahead and tell Cole about my miserable one-night stand, too.

“You can read all about my relationships in the tabloids,” Cole shakes his head and collects our now empty plates.

I take our glasses and follow him into the kitchen. “That sucks,” I tell him, sympathetic. I’ve only gotten a vague idea of what living in the public eye might entail and it’s already made me question my career choice.

“It does. But I chose this life. The rest of it is just a negative consequence. Everyone makes mistakes, some more stupid than others, but if you work in the public eye, those mistakes can and will be held against you in the court of public opinion. Maybe I will only be cast for certain roles, but I can still make a living from acting. If you’re a civil servant, or politician, or journalist, poor judgment could ruin your whole career. In that way, I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. It does make relationships hard, though,” he adds after a moment’s pause.

“I did read something about you dating a swimsuit model before you were offered the part in The Hills Have Lies…”

“Well, well, look who’s reading the gossip pages,” he says and clicks his tongue in mock reproach.

I feel my cheeks heat. It was stupid of me to mention it. He probably thinks I’m some kind of a stalker now. “I really only saw the headline,” I mumble.

“Sure you did… Nah, I’m just messing with you. Yes, I was dating Natascha for… almost five months, I think it was. Then she was offered to do a swimwear campaign that they’d shoot in South America, and I was offered the part as Dean, and we both just decided to part ways before things turned sour. I’ve dated models before, and they have crazy schedules, as do actors, so…”

“Did you know that you and Crystal would be… I’m not sure how to put it…”

“That part of marketing the show would be to tease a romantic off-screen relationship? Yeah. I think that for any successful show or movie you need believable characters and actors that blur the lines between themselves and their characters. Viewers root for off-screen romances between the actors portraying their favorite on-screen couple, so part of keeping them excited about the show is to play along with the fantasy. That doesn’t work if there are other people involved. Partners will inevitably get hurt in the process.”

“So if you want to be an actor, you can’t have meaningful, lasting relationships? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Sure you can. Look, I’m not saying this is standard procedure or anything. Plenty of real-life couples survive, mostly because the actors set clear boundaries to their private lives. But if you do TV shows aimed at a younger audience, and you share your life with them on social media, you open the door wide for them and they won’t wipe their feet before storming in. For me, with this particular project, there’s no turning back. And I’m sorry to break it to you, but the same applies to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Given the setup – no matter how cliched it may be – I strongly suspect your character is headed for an on-screen relationship with Derek’s character. If that’s the case, tabloid reporting and rumors of an off-screen romance is going to work for the show. It’s free marketing. People will be tuning in to watch just to find out if the rumors are true by studying your on-screen chemistry. They’ll follow you on social media and try to piece together whether or not you’re sleeping together.”

I shift my weight from one foot to another, barely covering the chill running through me at the thought of having my private life exploited for the network’s profit. “It just seems so… tawdry.”

Cole chuckles and wraps an arm around my shoulders. “You don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with. No-one’s gonna tell you to make out with the guy for publicity. Okay?”

“Okay,” I say with a resigned sigh and he squeezes me briefly before letting go. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I was directed to make out with someone for publicity – if that someone was Cole. No. Bad thoughts.

“Do you want me to drive you home?”

I shake myself out of my inappropriate musings and push off the kitchen counter. “No, thanks. I’ve already stunk up your kitchen, I’m not gonna stink up your car, too. I can jog back. Thanks for the water and for lunch.”

“You’re very welcome. And by the way, if you ever need to talk, you’ve got my number. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been working in this industry since I was 16, so I’ve got just short of a decade’s worth of accumulated mistakes to learn from. I’ll even tell you about some of those not even the tabloids have printed,” he adds with a wink.

“Looking forward to it,” I chuckle and head for the door. “Thanks again.”

“Any time. Hey, by the way, I’m having some people over next Saturday. You should come. Invite Lauren and Derek if you want.”

“Okay, I’ll ask them.”

“See you on set.”

“Bye.” I smile and put my hand up in farewell before ducking out. I have to admit, I’m feeling a lot better now, and it’s all thanks to Cole.

To be continued...


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