Roland swallowed. “Cut.” He remembered the microphone in his lap. He brought it to his lips. “Cut!”
Jim looked down from the camera. He took a deep breath. “You want a print?”
“I have no fucking idea.”
Valerie caught the towel someone tossed her and wiped the stage blood from her face. She offered her hand to Harry and he stood up beside her. The cast and crew applauded as she and Harry took a bow.
Roland swallowed again. “Someone get them some goddamn robes.”
A stage hand gave her a robe as she walked toward him. She wiped a little more of the dripping blood from her hair as she smiled. “Well?”
He couldn’t see her clearly through the red fog filling his vision. “What the fuck was that bit?”
He waved wildly at the set. “You…you…” He closed his eyes. He couldn’t even think straight, let alone talk. “That bit!”
She laughed. “Improvisation. He forgot his lines, and we needed to get the scene moving.”
“Does the word ‘cut’ mean anything to you? How about ‘take two’?”
She frowned again. “Would you calm down?”
Jack and Ralph ran up to her. Jack gushed again. “My, God! That was great! RW, this is the way the scene should have been written!”
“You two get the fuck away from me. Now.”
They both frowned, but had enough sense to leave.
He sat fuming. At first, she didn’t want to do the nude scenes at all. Then she changed this one around to add touching. Now, she took off on her own to add a goddamned blowjob! He looked up at Jim’s position on the camera. “Trash that. We’ll re-shoot the scene next week.” He looked at Valerie. “The way it’s written.”
“No, Jim. Don’t trash that scene.” Roland could feel her gaze burn into him. “Roland, we need to talk. Now.”
Jim looked between them a time or two. “Tell you what. I’ll hang onto the film for now.”
“Thanks.” Her eyes still locked onto his.
Roland fumed. “Oh, we’ll talk all right. Come on. We’ll fucking talk!” They went to the production office. He slammed the door as he closed it.
Valerie took a deep breath. “That’s a good take of a good scene, and you know it.”
“It’s not going in the film.”
She sat down and crossed her legs, but her foot bounced nervously. “I think it should.”
“No.” He swallowed. He didn’t like where this conversation went. He liked it even less than he liked the scene. “And we’re going back to the original script.”
She sighed. “I know you don’t want me to do this. Believe it or not, I’m not crazy about doing it. But, if we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right.”
He needed to either scrap the film or fire her. He couldn’t see any other ways out of this. Roland knew the scene was better. He also knew everyone would think she just gave head on screen.
To someone other than him.
He paced in the small office. “No! That’s all there is to it. I’m the goddamned director, and I say this doesn’t go in the fucking film!”
She took a deep breath. “If it wasn’t me, would you keep the scene?”
He opened his mouth quickly to respond. He closed it even faster. This question had no right answer. If he said yes, she would turn it on him as preferential treatment. If he said no, she would want to know what she did wrong so she could do another take. The last thing he needed to do was even answer the question, but she stared up at him, waiting. Misdirection seemed the order of the day. He placed his hands on the table and leaned across it towards her. “I don’t think you understand how I feel about this.” His voice carried a sharp edge he didn’t want to use with her.
“Fine!” She screamed at him. “Tell me so I have some fucking idea!”
He paused, trying to get his thoughts in order as best he could through the still rising fury in his mind. “Don’t you wonder why I didn’t cut that—” He waved his hands. “Fucking disaster? I couldn’t! I was too busy stopping myself from running up there, yanking you to your feet, and punching Harry’s goddamned lights out!”
“Harry didn’t do anything! If you’re going to be pissed off, at least be pissed off at the right person!”
He screamed at her. He hated that he did, but he couldn’t stop. His anger took total control of him now, and it all whipped from his mind and body at once. “Goddamn it, Valerie! That doesn’t fucking matter! I looked at the other camera, and I saw what you did! I know you faked everything, but from where I sat, it looked like the woman I love—” He stopped dead, his mouth frozen in the middle of his sentence.
She stared at him for several seconds. Valerie’s voice sounded soft, almost weak. “What did you say?”
Ready or not, the chance to turn back already passed. His anger didn’t fade away. It just vanished. “I’ve fallen in love with you.”
She blinked rapidly as she stared at him. “You have?”
He wondered if this would be the last time he would ever see her. She could get her paperwork from Shelia and never even come into his office to pick it up. “Yeah, I have. Maybe that’s wrong, maybe it’s just not a good idea, but it happened, and I’m not sorry about it.” He took a deep breath. He couldn’t see a lot of difference between drowning in six inches or six miles of water. “Valerie, I love you.”
As he watched, her face went through several gyrations. Her face sort of wiggled between frowning, a totally flat expression, and what he thought might be a small smile.
Her heart tried to stop when he said he loved her. It did a little better now, but it went to the other extreme and raced out of control in her chest. Roland leaned across the conference table, his palms resting on the surface and his face close to hers. She could feel his breath on her face as he panted. A few drops of sweat fell from his chin to make wet splashes on the table. Sweat ran down the middle of her back as she watched him. The drops of moisture falling from her head to hit her shoulder where the robe slipped down her arm might be sweat, or just the remains of the stage blood. It didn’t matter.
Valerie managed to keep her breathing in check, but she would have to start panting soon. Her heart beat so fast she would run out of oxygen before too long.
Her brain dissociated from her body, and it split into two parts as it left. Her body just sat there like a lump of flesh. It didn’t seem too inclined to help her right now.
One part of her brain went manic. It ran around and screamed in her head. She couldn’t understand too much of what it said to her. She did make out something about kissing him.
The other part of her brain was the only thing working even close to right. It took a cold, analytical spin. It showed her the pro and con list. Well, it showed her a pro list since the cons went away. The analyst tried to show her more things to put on the list.
She tried to look at her feelings, but the analyst would have none of the emotional nonsense.
She decided to conduct a small poll. The analyst loved the idea of a poll, but offered no opinion. It didn’t have enough facts yet.
The maniac running amok in her head only screamed something about kissing Roland.
Her body didn’t even answer the phone.
She sat watching him as he leaned over the table at her. She must look like an idiot just sitting there, but she couldn’t do anything else. His face looked patient, like he could wait until doomsday for her to speak. It might take that long to get her two brains and body back together into a cohesive unit.
Suddenly, the little pink princess phone in her head rang. Her body called and said only one thing:
‘Think how good it feels when he holds you.’
Her two brains slammed together with a sound like a bank vault closing. They jumped together back into her body and took control again.
She smiled up at him. “I love you, too.”
His face went slack for a split second, and then a smile broke across his lips. He grabbed her around the neck and almost fell face first onto the table. “This isn’t going to work.” He released her and ran around the table to where she stood to meet him. His arms moved around her waist, and he hugged her to his chest. His lips pressed against hers, and it seemed somehow different.
The electric tingles his lips moving on hers created were still there. Maybe they were a little stronger, but that didn’t seem to make up the difference.
The flavor of his lips seemed somehow a little sweeter, but not too much. At least not enough to account for the flood of new feelings ranging through her now.
The scent of his cologne seemed the same. Maybe a few new spices are in the mix, and perhaps a little more sugar, but it didn’t seem too different.
She realized through the tide of emotions that Roland, not his cologne, smelled different.
His touch, his taste, his cologne, and all of the other things seemed about the same, but he smelled different now. Different from even earlier today when they made love before leaving for work. She would be hard pressed to say exactly how he smelled different, though. Maybe, she thought, he smelled stronger. She didn’t know what strong smelled like, so she couldn’t grab onto that. Maybe there’s a new scent of an ambrosial quality, like nutmeg, in the blend. She just didn’t know.
As his tongue moved in her mouth and teased her desires for him, the fact hit her. While she didn’t know how he smelled different, she knew precisely why.
He belonged to her.