It's been a while so you may want to glance through Part 1 to get caught up again. I did.
Major technical difficulties very nearly killed the story but I have been fighting (and am still fighting) to see it through. Perhaps you will enjoy it, too.
We resume on the east coast city of Twin Liberties.
Lilly-Bo was in no rush to get back to the action, or lack thereof.
Ol' Tiffer was in there fretting over every minute that passed with them having nothing much to contribute, not until that no-name, nobody model finally decided to show her face.
Nothing to do about that so, meantime, Bo would rather just relax and enjoy the spread; she savoured every last bite.
Plus the view out here was freakin' Awe-some!
Frankie kept an eye out this time as his guys stripped and rebuilt the set but, like he told that Burb chick, they knew their shit. The mechanics of it, anyway.
Didn't occur to the dumbasses to question the aesthetic when they put together the wrong set. But, hey, long as they got it fixed up right by the time he was ready to begin he had no beef with them.
And who the hell was she to doubt FM, anyway? Who was anybody?
Sure, he was reduced to a crew of 3 ½ men; his star was early, and with no in-house entertainment, no posse in tow to keep his energy up and his ego afloat; his model was running late,
taking advantage of their whole 'situation'; and his wife was on the loose, showing no signs of pulling it together to be on her best behaviour and, y'know, actually fucking produce the damn thing.
Cuz that was just her job. A job she was way better at than him, when she actually fucking did it! But so what? So what? He could still shoot this thing upside down and barefoot if it came to it.
No explosions, ho hysterics, no one quit...So far this was even duller than a typical day on a Mashuga production.
The Burb chick and any other amateurs with opinions should just shut up and sit back and count themselves extra lucky if it stays that way.
Johnny was eager to keep up the momentum so he ran to Lew to find out what's next. Should they start bringing in the big pieces yet?
"No." Gordo answered for him. "R.E.M. wants to check over the rigging. Youse can set up the scaffold."
Actually, they couldn't. At least, not Johnny. Safety regulations.
"Right. How bout a ladder, know how to work one o' those?"
Johnny was nothing if not a team player. He looked to Lew to lead the way and he walked over to Flo. O-kay.
"Got any idea where we might find the ladders, miss?"
Actually, she did.
Ms. Burb was close on their heels wanting to know if that producer-wife was going to blow them off completely or show her face sometime today and, by the way, where was her sister?
At least that one Flo could answer.
As soon as she'd sent Tiffany on her way, she turned and there was another. Maybe. Did he want her?
"Hi. Looks like you're the go-to girl."
"I don't know about that."
"Well, let's see. You wouldn't happen to have a fresh copy of the one-liner?"
"Oh. Um, I think so, yeah."
"There you are, Lilly."
"Here I am."
Now the real question was why was she out there with her?
"Mmm, the fruit looks delicious."
"It is. They have that cheese you like, too."
"Oh? Oh, but the kiwi, it's all mixed in, isn't it? I adore kiwifruit...but I'm allergic."
"Bummer," Bo said, picking up her fork again.
"According to my sources, the craft service guy had only just reloaded for Sandwich O-Clock before we got here. I don't know if he's coming back or not."
Tiffany gave the absent server a limp, dismissive wave of her hand.
"But you know what is surprising: that we haven't seen any staff—domestic staff, I mean—since we've been here. The place at least appears
to be clean, so they must have people. Was there anyone manning the kitchen? Or maybe a maid roaming around that you've noticed?"
"Nope. Actually, the fridge is kind of eerily bare," Bo added before she found herself remanded to kitchen duty. She knew Tiffany; she'd start off requesting half a
grapefruit and end up wanting the full works, and wanting it all just so. So, no. Bo was happy to report that it looked like the Mashugas must've lived on love alone.
Plus, they'd only been here in Twin Libs a coupla days themselves; it wasn't that surprising that they weren't all the way settled in.
If Tiff didn't trust herself at the crafty table, well, she did still have those diet candy bars or whatever tossed in with their supplies.
But Bo was on break. If madame wanted a snack, all their stuff was in the yellow room, Bo dropped a semi-subtle hint.
Flo was prepared to relinquish her trusty clipboard to the leadman...momentarily. She wasn't really the PA, after all. Just, you know, 'see a need, fill a need'.
She started out with a basic checklist for her and Bo and ended up as the default keeper of the paperwork for production, too.
But he seemed content to leave the power in her hands as he leaned over and flipped through the top few sheets. "Uh huh...uh huh...okay, right."
"Thanks," he said, "I, er, I'm sorry, don't think I caught your name."
"Hmm, okay, cool. I'm—"
"Remington. I know." It wasn't exactly her job to know but Flo had made it so. He looked impressed...with himself, but that wasn't what she...oh, forget it. "I mean, you're Remington
London, yes? The one showing my l'il buddy, Johnny, the ropes—well, they're helping each other out—that's Lewis, and Gordon is the guy behind you kicking that baseboard into position."
"What? Ay!" he yelled, "Gordo! Use the brad pusher!"
Gord grabbed the nailer instead and added his own sound effects on top of it.
*Thwap* "Fwoom!" *Thwap-thwap-thwap* "Fwoom! Fwoom!!"
"Uh, yeah. That's better," Rem said, shaking his head. But it earned him a smile! Unless that was for the jackass and his noisemaker. Nah, nah, she was definitely smiling simpatico, at him.
Valentine lingered in FM's office, ready to help himself to the goodies that FM left at his disposal...but it was kinda early for dark liquor. Didn't he have no vodka nips stashed around here anywhere?
Angel's voice tried to strike up and get her last word in inside his head but he pushed that shit right off the radar.
He had never broken out of his comfort zone like this before, at least not in front of the whole damn world. When it was just a camera and him and Naima-ngel—Angel, that was, heh, that was different.
You'd think she would jump to support her man. Did enough damn cheerleading to get him on board in the first place, but now that it was happening
she got some bee up her butt and couldn't think of nobody but herself. And that's that bullshit—did the exact opposite of what he needed right now!
Val snapped to the next page in FM's open album book, away from the picture of that White Diamonds lady when she was young.
He coulda used some luck his damn self, more than liquid courage, but his wife wasn't doling out none.
Val settled in and sighed to himself.
He spotted FM's Rémy on the shelf. All the way over there.
Not worth the trip.
"Aww, look at my little worker bee." Tiffany got distracted watching her Johnny doing his bit to get the set reassembled in short order. He was pretty
handy with practically any kind of tool from tinkering around with his father. They were lucky to have him on the crew today. Ah, her little man...
"Ah, yes, Flo. I'm feeling a mite peckish. Would you mind bringing me one of my snack bars. Strawberry, please. Or really anything but the chocolate;
those have got double the calories than the rest and I'm trying to steer clear of temptation." Tiffany's head and hands swayed to the tune of her rising lilt.
Flo half-wondered if that was part of Slim-Sim's® Ideal You jingle.
Well, anyway, as the boss requests, so the junior employee steps lively to fetch.
"That girl, I dunno, there's some talent there. I can't put my finger on it, but—"
"But you want to, enh?" Gordo sniggered. "Which one?"
"Like I know their freakin' names. Glasses or Pink Hair?"
Rem nixed the off-colour joke that was on the tip of his tongue cuz he didn't wanna get Gord riled up like they weren't at work, so instead he just said, "Think pink," and grinned to himself.
"Oh, her. Heh. I—hey. Hey, back off, R.E.M., I know what the hell I'm doin' here. I said back off." Gordo shoulder-bumped him. "Lemme do my job."
"That's what I am doin'." Rem calmly pushed him back—and that was all the warning he was gonna get, friend or no friend. "So you let me do mine. Get me a half double scrim
on there and a full single for the junior. Run the line, make sure all of 'em are run, with stingers. I'm still gonna hook to a lunchbox. I've got a spare in the truck."
"Yeah, yeah, copy that. But all you hadda do was say, yo. Don't gotta make a show of checkin' behind me like I don't know my job. I know my job."
"Mm-hm. I don't think we'll need it but I'm gonna set up a silent genny anyway cuz if we brownout for even a blip of a second guaranteed FM'll blow a gasket."
"Ha! Hell yeah, he would, and that'd be both our asses."
"And speakin' of asses..."
"C'mon, Gord. Not here."
"I didn't say nuttin'. Pink Hair, enh? Shoulda known."
"What's that s'posed to mean?"
"Shoulda known you'd spring on Hot Pink."
"Hey. Just cuz personality and a pretty face don't count for much with you—"
"Who says? I mean, hell yeah, a rockin' hot bod is numero uno but that don't mean I don't notice the extras. I just don't make more of it than that—y'know that's what's the matter
with you picky Pretty Ricky types, youse start actin' like chicks, like you got choices but ain't no choice. When the blood's a-pumpin, it's time for humpin'! Ain't no choice about that.
If it is...nah, nuttin' doin'. I wanna meet the guy's gonna tell his boner to back off cuz a chick's got a lousy personality; I'd punch him dead in his face, yo. Then I'd scoop up his
discards an' show her how a real man do things. And if her eyes are too close together or some shit, flip her 'round and keep on poundin'. I think that's gonna be my new motto." *
"You know it. That Natural Geography type o' classic. Like an animal, yo. Not like a buncha damn missionary position...missionaries!"
"Don't even sound 'proper', I know, screwin' like missionaries. I'm not tryna save no souls!" Gordo elbowed him.
"Yeah, that's a relief."
"Just bodies. Hey, lemme tell you somethin' for once, the way my cousins told me growin' up. Those guys, they were on a mission, all right, and it wasn't all about convertin'.
They knew half, hell, most of us ain't much o' nuttin' to look at so they made everybody believe that was the only proper, right way to do it cuz they figured havin' to be gruntin' in each
other's ugly faces would cut down on the fornicating. Me, I'd rather go to hell! And til I get there, I'll keep doin' like I say—how'd it go again, oh yeah, flip her 'round and keep on poundin'!"
Remington checked around to see who was close enough to hear. Only Lew and the kid. What was he, 14, 15? Eh, he was cool. Long as it was nobody of the female persuasion.
"Don't look at me like that, R.E.M., you'll be right behind me in the line straight to hell if that's all it takes to get there. I've seen the way you run all through pretty face
after pretty face. Hot Pink don't stand a chance. You talk about me but you're the one keeps runnin' the risk with FM, shittin' where you lay. All I'm sayin' is if you didn't act
so fucking pretty yourself all the time and went for the in-betweens sometimes instead of havin' to bag the best on the lot, especially if she's one o' his personal picks—"
"What personal...?—Yo, shut up and get back to work, Gordo." Lazy bastard. He'd say anything. "I mean, we saw them both come in, with the kid and his mom. They're the vanities,
brought in direct by the brand. Nothing to do with FM or Yes'm." Rem didn't know why it annoyed him so much but it did. FM already kept a close enough eye on him as it is. "She's just a girl."
"Yeah right. The kid, he ain't with them, he's with us, what's the diff? I heard you, like 2 freakin' minutes ago, say she was talent."
"I said she's got talent. There's something about her." But Gordo was still looking at him all stupid. "Like, shortie's type bangin', yo. Word up. She's a mad cutie...Better?"
The kid busted out laughing until Gordo growled at him and he jumped back to work, but not before snatching up the bar clamp by Gord's foot.
"Yeah, I don't understand that rap lingo. Not a word, yo. 'Cept that one. But I get the picture, girlie missed the boat. Ha-ha. Get it?"
"Maybe she wouldn't put out. But you know what that means. This other girl, whoever she is, gotta be pure sex on a stick! I'm talkin' Baywatch hooters at least or Hot Pink's gonna feel
hella stupid. Look at her now. All covered up and dainty-like. Not my type o' chick at all, in the here an' now—you can keep your pretty faces—but that yacht scene...Dude. Definite Top 10."
Gordo huffed and snorted. "What the hell have we been talkin' about 'ere but how you always zoom in on these Starlettown hops cuz they look at you and don't know right off you're
just a gaffer. Remington London. You leapfrog 'em all off course so's they lose their place to hop back on genu-ine above-the-line dick. 10 to 1 that ain't even your real name, yo."
"Don'tcha think I'd have picked better than 'Remington'."
"Pinkie didn't. Cuz what the fuck is a Flo-Flo?"
The kid glared Gordo's way and he rumbled out another growl, but he was loyal, Kid Johnny was, didn't automatically back down.
"Punk kid. And you, I can't believe you're acting like you don't remember her."
Flo-Flo came back to her boss empty-handed.
"So, the box says 'strawberry' but all of the bars are chocolate. Do you still want one?"
"How did that happen?"
"I have no idea. Do you want one?"
"I don't remember her. I think you're mixing her up with somebody. I know actresses. Especially the ones who are all young and hungry, they don't do humble, don't do sweet."
"Shut up for a minute and think. I spotted her right off, thought you was bullshittin' me. Cuz you've seen her before, I know it. Sleeping Dogs Lie. The yacht scene, man. The yacht scene! "
"Oh, the yacht scene."
"In Sleeping Dogs Lie."
"Nope, don't know it."
"What? Know what, fuck you, R.E.M."
"Uh-huh. Now would you get back to work already."
"That 'Gordo' is an asshole," Johnny was venting to his new friend. "The way he talks...it's not cool."
Lew didn't answer him, only looked up over his shoulder. Here came the asshole himself.
Whatever. "Okay, so what's next?"
His dressing room was right upstairs, but Val was more comfortable here. He kicked back, went on and poured himself
a shot of the Jack, but some ol' nagging voice stayed his hand. Wasn't Angel's, sounded nothin' like her, it was...Hmm.
Eh, fuck it.
He ain't no lightweight.
What's a coupla shots?
Tiffany made a similar deal with temptation.
She fairly inhaled her chocolate treat. Chocolate was her weakness! First one bar. Then another.
She licked her fingers clean of any stray smears of chocolate and then clutched her pearls and composed herself.
Like it never happened.
Her figure would forgive her. Eventually.
Meanwhile, Bo was on the other side of the glass doors, still pecking at the odd raspberry as she wondered if maybe it wasn't too late for a roster change...
That nobody model might've been banking too much on her future fame because she doesn't know they have Flo. Little Sister could easily take her place.
Flo-Flo was kinda magic on camera, even when she hated the gig—and she always did—but she liked Valentine! It could be way epic, if only Bo could figure a good angle to pitch to FM.
No one knew but she'd stashed some stuff to de-pinkify that hair on the fly—Shit! Did she forget to nick Flo's portfolio?
Gotta check. The prints from the Maiden's Voyage® line would at least get his attention, probably. Hopefully!
As Lilly-Bo was trying to plot some kind of interception, she heard a couple gentle honks of a horn as a car door closed and then there it was, the taxi driving off.
That can't be her.
No way that was 'the girl'.
FM was crazy, but like a fox. With his trademark super slick productions, he did not diss the studio's choices
to handpick some straight outta the sticks hick to go toe to toe with Valentine Hart. He wouldn't, no way.
Damn that Gordo! Remington was on the wagon with fucking actresses, but now he couldn't help picturing how she might have looked, and acted, in a scene that cracked Gordo's Top 10.
And now, thanks to him, Rem would be kinda disappointed if she wasn't that girl.
"London! I see London, I see Frances—no, no, she was sore at losing and I fired yesterday. Good riddance."
Yes'm. All right, here we go.
"How are you feeling? Better?"
"Right so, very right so. The little doggie bitch, she keeps biting, but I bite back." Sylvia Marie demonstrated. "I take big bites out of life and, like so, see, I am nourished back to self."
"When not myself I steer poor London and Company so wrong. That hideous proto-set-type design! Did Frankl give much trouble to London for my misdirections?"
"Well, kinda, yeah. He chewed me out good but remember I asked you twice and you told me that was the one definitely."
"Aww, poor London. I am so, so sorry. But is right so now? Zhes?"
"Yeah. I guess."
"Can I help you?"
"No thanks. Just passin' through. Wait, do you know the time?"
Flo pointed to a clock on the far wall.
"Ooh. Yeesh," she muttered to herself and then shrugged. "The traffic downtown was killer. Least I think that was downtown,
my cab man didn't know his way around any better'n me. Aw, well," she said, turning back to Flo-Flo. "Thanks, honey."
Flo was...confused, but the Mashugas did have that open-door policy. It was none of her business who walked on in.
If she was here for the Stars-N-Stripes shoot then she was bold. To still come in to show her face this late in the day? Those girls were long gone! Flo would've told that cab driver to circle
back and take her on home, but then she was only making wild guesses. She could've been anybody. Talent, staff, family, random hopeful setting out to catch her big break. Anybody.
Flo paused in her tracks and flipped to the back pages on her clipboard. There! There it was, headshot and resume for Mr. Hart's co-star—she knew she knew what she'd seen: typical glamour-puss.
Bedroom eyes, puffy lips, sultry Evangelista bob that made her whole face pop, obligatory beauty mark. Yup. There on the right cheek, just like...just like her. Da-a-ang.
Same face but she sure didn't come selling the same kinda fantasy. There was a hellified difference between un-made-up and incognito. Well, whatever.
"Uh, Miss Sut—" But she was gone when Flo turned around. "O-kay."
That wasn't the way to the set or the dressing rooms but if she headed up the outside stairs it's not like they led to the private quarters or anything,
she'll just end up by the props closet and have to take the circuitous way around. Model-wrangling, that wasn't in Flo's job description, official or unofficial.
But when she headed back up herself in a minute if that little lost sheep still hadn't brought her tail to the party...!!
See, that's why handling the female talent was more Lilly-Bo's department, she had her way of keeping them on point.
Where Flo would just dust 'em off her hands and replace one errant Face One with the next one, Bo cared enough to yell.
Lucky for her Pish Posh wasn't running this show.
"How can S make it up to you?"
"Oh, um, it's not that big a deal. Really."
"Nonsense! It is all the pleasure for me to fix for you."
"It's already fixed. We're fixing it now. See? Hey, boss," Rem said as he turned around to point to the work in progress. "Had to redo the lights but we're coming on."
Rem was good at his job, that's why he got the bump, and he liked his job, and that was all he had to say about that.
"Reporting for duties, my husband."
"Good. What's 'at, blood mary?"
"No, I'm good, Syl. Let's just stay in the game, okay. Play later."
"As you wish it."
"Mrs. Mashuga, how lovely to meet you at last. I'm Tiffany Burb, President of Pish Posh, and I can't tell you how delighted I am that the agency invited us to step in
to represent the Valence interests. We are very excited about this campaign and having you and your husband on board to bring the vision to life is such a treat."
"Zhes, zhes, it is very nicely put for you, Poshy Pits. Too nice. Der Frankfurter and I jump hoops to work viz Valentino. To cameo bits, for us, for anyone, before always no
but finally we cure his camera-shyness. We and Valence, and you too Poshy Pits, we cure with cash. Right so?! Better than comfort soup this cure for cold shoulders."
"That and also I make tiny small promise to Angel-wife," Sylvia Marie said. "All told is still small price for sexy gift we bring to many screens. Right so?"
No. No 'right so'. Obviously, yes, Valentine Hart was an inspired choice, one for which Tiffany had intended to take credit, but never mind that now.
Where did she...how on earth did anyone ever know what the woman was saying? Tiffany could only piece together the vaguest approximation.
She did hear the word cash being bandied about.
Clearly, this Mrs. Mash-uga was every bit as crass as her husband.
Val tossed back another one but that was enough for now.
He let it sit. Tried not to think about any damn thing.
He wasn't wanted yet and wouldn't be for a while longer so here was as good a place as any for him to be.
Val heard it. Didn't budge.
Whether he acknowledged it or not that wouldn't stop what was waitin' other side of that door...This is what he'd signed up for.
It sounded like a mighty all right idea (§ kaching! §)** when Angel and his agent took turns bendin' his ear. But they weren't here.
"Mr. Hart? Oh. You are still in here..."
So it was that little cutie pie, huh. Of course, they sent her.
"Um, I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Hart."
"You're not interruptin' a damn thing. Come on in," Val said and nodded at her to be sure she closed that door again behind her.
"So...What can Valentine Hart do for you?"
"Oh, um, well, I—Whoops!"
"Thank you," she said, quick to recover both that authoritative clipboard she held so near and dear and her
professional poise along with it. "I was actually coming to check if there is anything that I can do for you, sir."
Valentine sighed aloud, musing on that honorific and all the so-called distance it implied between him and this little cutie pie. And all the other ones just like her.
Oh, they were quick to show their deference to the lord mayor of baseball town—hell, that's about as much as they knew about it, those pretty young things.
Most of 'em, anyhow. But no matter how close they came that distance never really went away. Sir. He could almost remember when he used to be just a guy. Kinda.***
"You a sports fan?"
"Diehard, Mr. Hart. Go big or go home."
"Ya don't say."
"Oh yeah." She let down her guard. "Don't get me wrong, baseball's cool an' all—it's great—I love a good ballgame. But mostly, like, if I'm there, in the stands,
more than watching on tv. Hafta tell you, though, I'm a basketball girl. And football, once the season really gets going, but the hoops have my heart."
"I, uh..." Flo tried to scrutinise his unflinching face; she hoped he didn't mind her being honest.
"Been watching the playoffs?"
She almost yelled 'Hell yeah!' but remembered where she was. "Most definitely! Usually I'm all for rooting for the home team, especially with everything with Magic...you know.
I was trying to show solidarity with my West Coast boys, but Jordan, man! After Game 1, I couldn't even pretend no more. He sure made a fan outta me!"
Valentine finally cracked a smile.
"You watched?" she asked, "He's just so nice, right! You saw that 3-pointer at the buzzer?"
"Ha-ha! I was there, baby!"
Never had Flo-Flo envied the perks of fame more than at that moment. That was b-ball history in the making!
She would kill for that kinda clout...but she never could see her way to whoring herself out for it...before...*ahem*
"If you want I can hook you and your sis up with tix for Game 6. Or whoever you wanna take. Just not some new cat, word of advice. Guarantee he ain't earned it."
"Wait, what? Are you for real? That's not even funny—you for real?!" He looked for real. "Just like that?"
"Just like that. I can't use 'em, why not you? What? That's not good enough? Well, how 'bout this: I like your face, cutie pie, like your whole vibe. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you
you won't just be seein' the game up close an' personal, you'll be gettin' seen, sittin' courtside, baby, and seen by all kindsa the right kinda people. Unless that ain't your bag?"
Ho-ly shit, Bo was gonna flip! And she hates basketball, but no way she would miss out on this...if he really came through, that is.
Bo was busy trying to do some networking of her own. And not on her own behalf, either, because this was no time for pushing the long shot when they had a sure thing in Little Sister.
Aha! Flo's portfolio!
Fluffer must not have seen it. She'd probably be pissed that Bo had pinched it, just in case, cuz she's stupid like that. No career sense.
But she'll get over it, lightning fast, if Bo can really pull off a recast with her starring opposite Valentine Hart in a national!
Even if that's too ambitious—although Bo doesn't see why, Flo's not a complete and total unknown—getting on FM's radar would be major.
Ever the proactive professional, Tiffany tried to summon Sylvia Marie's wandering attention. "I've been looking over the girls here."
"Hm? Oh. Very nice for you. The little crewman...yours, zhes?"
"Yes, that's my Johnny."
"He is good. He plays nicely with my Lewis."
"That's your son?"
"Oy vavoy! We are not so old to have big grown up son like them!"
"As I was saying, if these girls were your final choices, I was thinking—"
"No, no, do not worry, it is fine. Der Frankfurter put these for me to work. They are not for today, they are girls we see already,
many times we see them. For Valentino we go with brand new face. He will like. Trust me. All bodies will love to see hers."
"Oh Frankl, my Frankl!"
"Tell Posh Tiffany true. Our model for today, we overrule silly Conrad's cronies because we know best that she is purr-fect."
"Oh yeah, she's a real cool Cat, real cool." Frankie laughed to himself. "No worries there, Tiff. We know exactly what we're doin'."
Lilly-Bo peeped through the adjacent glass doors for a clear path to FM. Her boss came into view instead and it was Tiffany's voice ringing out
clear as a bell when she backed up and came around through the corridor so Bo found herself ducking down the stairs before she knew it.
Ol' Tiffer was pretty encouraging of their 'extracurricular' pursuits so long as it didn't interfere with work.
But how could she understand? The job is what was extra!
"You don't know—This is unbelievable! I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Hart."
He meant to say 'no need'. Valentine wasn't about no puppet strings, didn't need 'em, but he got lost in a, heh, a memory of another grateful PYT and wound up chuckling to himself.
Flo wasn't sure how to interpret that.
Most of the industry guys she'd come across were so bold from getting what they wanted all the time that there was no room for mixed signals.
They didn't seduce, barely even insinuated, they just made demands. Which made it easy for her to tell them exactly where on themselves they could stick their 'demands'.
She had no idea what, if anything, was happening here.
Or how she felt about it if it was...a thing.
Val cocked his head as he watched her lost in thought, biting the inside of her lower lip.
But he wasn't cheap enough to offer her a penny for her secrets.
Instead he said, "Your hair...You match the colour to your outfits or do you pick them to go with your hair?"
"I'm guessin' it pro'bly gives you an edge over the zillion other dime-a-dozen brunette bombshells out there vying. Makes you hard to forget."
"Not even. I mean, um, Ms. Burb does give some style leeway to her staff, now, but my hair was like a kinda light blue when I interviewed with her. If I wasn't Lilly-Bo's sister..."
"Uh-uh-uh. Can't pull a fast one on me, cutie pie, you know good and well I wasn't talkin' 'bout your side gig. Been livin'
in Starlettown damn near half my life now, sweetheart. I know one when I see one," Val said. "So what is your bag?
Model-slash-actress? Mmm...know what I think? Triple threat. You like you got hidden depths, cutie pie. You sing?"
"A little? What's that mean, you sing a little?"
"Exactly that," she said, and sighed. He wasn't gonna let her just be Personal Assistant Flo/Faux Production Assistant Flo today, was he? Okay fine. "I like to sing, yeah. For a role, no question,
I would love it if something like that had ever come up, woulda been fun. But, like, singing as me, recording, performing, trying to do concerts and stuff...don't interest me. That's not my dream."
Val didn't say anything but Flo was intent on averting a lecture, she'd heard plenty and they were all a mile wide of the mark.
Aim a camera her way and there wasn't an eensy bit of self-consciousness about her in performance mode. That was Bo's hangup, not hers.
"I'm sure there's lotsa stuff you coulda done and been good at and been successful, too, for everyday regular people kinda success. But only if you didn't focus so much
more on bein' the best at something you really love and having the kinda crazy success that came with it. So, okay, crazy success probably not in the cards for me but—"
"How do you know?"
"C'mon, Mr. Hart," Flo said, "In, like, a coupla years I'll be 30."
"Ohhh shit! THIRTY?!"
"Where's your walker, Grandmaw? Wanna borrow my AARP card?"
"Maybe!" She laughed. "But seriously, Mr. Hart, like you said, you know Starrywood."
"Yeah, I do. But I also know ain't a rule can't be broken. I'm a good decade older'n you and—"
"Whole different ballgame," Flo cut him off. She didn't mean to, but no. There was no comparison. "You're established. Star power out the wazoo.
In your arena. So, sure, all this is kind of a new lane for you but nobody's really taking a risk here. And! And you're a man. You're allowed to be sexy forever."
"I sure do intend to."
"I believe it. And you've already got one hell of a head start on the rest of us there, too."
Hey now, that was not what Val was expecting to hear from her, so he was off by a fraction of a second to pick it clean back to her.
"No. For girls like me, 30 is no joke. Younger, prettier, skinnier. Scary skinny nowadays since heroin-chic hit the runway. Oh, and can't forget 'less ethnic'." She air-quoted and
snarled at the whole race of casting directors, smarmy and non-smarmy alike. "They don't always know 'what' I am but they know I'm 'something'." Flo surprised herself by
how frank she was being with him—how'd that happen? "Anyway. Those are the rules. And if there wasn't something to them then, um, well, then why did you choose her?"
"Her who?" he asked, immediately thinking of Angel. For no good reason except he was still pissed off at her. She was 0 - 4 on that criteria. And hell, wasn't no damn
choice about it with that Her, his main Her. Lead ball-and-chain Her. Outta nowhere, like a storm she sucked him in and never let him go. Not that he complained much but—
"The girl of the hour. She's here now. I saw her just before I came in. Before we started talking."
Oh her. Stand-in-and-smile her. Val was preoccupied when he arrived so he hadn't given any thought to her. She was just an idea of a her, the studio folks' idea of an ideal Her, but he didn't know her.
"So what's she look like, this new honey of mine? How hard am I gonna hafta fake the funk?"
"Same as when you cast her, I guess. More or less," Flo said. "Young. Pretty. Skinny. Less ethnic. In other words, perfect, Mr. Hart. No fakin'."
Coolness, there was FM!
Maybe luck was on their side, for once. Lilly-Bo wasn't gonna have to finagle a way to approach him, here he was coming to her!
"Ah, good, good, good. You. Uh..."
"Yeah, yeah, Bo. Bo? Eh. Bo, I need you to make some calls. Let's see, call the caterer at Scrumptious Nibbles, leave a message for CZ at Plumbob that I didn't forget
but if he wants to meet gotta come to me, leave one for Mel that it's 9 now, call up Verve but talk only to Cho—yeah, and my jeweller, Jake, tell 'im I want it today."
"Not at all. It's just—"
"No, nothing. I'm on it."
"Good. Use Syl's office. The Rolodex is either on her desk or it's in that sidetable."
"Uh...Check. So, that's, uh, Nibbles n' Bits, Mel at CZ and—"
"No. Listen. Repeat after me. Scrumptious Nibbles. CZ at PP. Verve..."
Geez. Where the hell was that other one?
"Hey, I don't know from perfect, so it sure 'nough wasn't my call. I'm just a ballplayer, babe."
Disbelief gazed back at him, and did he detect a shade of annoyance? Heh-heh. Still, she had it wrong. He never saw a picture.
Didn't know the woman's name. Only that they went with somebody's never been heard of. That annoyed the hell outta Angel.
"They did try to get me to come in and 'test' with the girl, maybe this one, maybe the one before her, who knows. Didn't seem necessary." By which Val meant he didn't
have time to waste going through the motions with all that 'star treatment' stuff when they could do the job just as well without him. And it wasn't in his contract so tough nuts.
"Sounds risky," she said, looking concerned. "You might not have the right chemistry."
"Might not. But I trust FM. They kept him, they kept me. But with all the fuss kickin' up around somebody who ain't me all I needed to know was when and where to show up."
"Nobody told me Miss Whatshername wasn't here already—"
"I do apologise, Mr. Hart."
"That ain't cool." He glanced over to the clock. "I drove and I got myself here on time."
"Oh, FM!" Bo called him back after he ran down her orders in detail and before he could walk away and she missed her chance. "I don't know if you noticed what time it is."
"Matter of fact, I did, sweetheart. That's why I asked you to make those calls for me. And the clock's still ticking, so hop to it."
"Absolutely. I'm on it. But, well, but the clock is ticking, like you say and Valentine Hart, he's been here but the model is a no-show.
So far. And, I mean, I don't know if you've got any girls on hold, I haven't seen anyone, but if not then maybe..." Bo grabbed Flo's portfolio
from the counter and snapped it open; let her do her own talking now through her pictures, they weren't gonna get tongue-tied.
Frankie started to protest, whatever kinda bullshit push this was, he wasn't interested. Go do what he said and get a grip with this amateur hour shit.
But he didn't get around to saying any of it because whaddya know... "Wait, turn that page back. Hmm. That's, uh..." he nodded his head in the direction toward his office.
"My sister, yes. They're all Flo-Flo." †
FM actually took Flo's portfolio from her and started flicking through.
"Lotta these crazy colours, eh? With the hair. But she works 'em. Hmm...Yes, she does work 'em."
"Yeah, but she doesn't only do fun and spunky. That's mostly only print jobs, but Flo-Flo's got plenty of screen credits, too, and her on-screen presence
is definitely sexy. Sexy times 10," Bo said, but she didn't want to go overboard overselling it. She didn't need to. It was true. "If you've ever seen Sleeping
Dogs Lie or, I dunno, Sly Simm's videos, she was his It girl for 3 different songs, then you know Flo'll have no problem stepping in with Valentine Hart."
"Sleeping Dogs Lie, eh? Never saw it."
"It's got a cult following," Bo said.
"Yeah. I know it. Just never saw it. Dollface was in that, eh? She wasn't some extra, was she?"
"No. Her character had a name and everything! But people mostly remember the yacht scene. I'm telling you, FM, Flo would be so good with Valentine."
"But the cast is locked."
"Tell you what, be sure and leave her comp card on Syl's desk when you make my calls." FM narrowed his eyes at Bo and scanned
her face and figure with that leering objectivity that made her heart sink, anticipating the rejection that so often followed. "Yours, too."
Wh-wha-at? Holy shit!
"Now go make my calls. Tick-tock."
"Shoulda been here long before me, gettin' herself done up, shouldn't she?"
"Well...yes. But," Flo rushed to smooth it over, "it's not that big a deal, schedule-wise. Wardrobe is a piece of cake, only 2 changes—2 looks, I mean. Oh, and, um, yours is all steamed and ready
whenever they're ready for you. I hung it up in your dressing room. As far as, um, needing the assistance of a dresser my information has your official word as 'Hell No.' I take it that hasn't changed?"
"Unless you're volunteering for the position."
"Volunteering? No." Flo-Flo shook her head. "I'm just doing my job, Mr. Hart."
"Oh, your job, eh? Well, in that case...Hell No."
"Now if you get an impulse of your own free will to come and help a brotha out of a stuck zipper..."
It was a joke, not a come-on, and she got that. Cutie pie laughed along, pursing her pouty lips at him for bein' fresh.
"Gotta say, Mr. Hart, I've been in and around this business for a while now—I told you how old I was—so I'm pretty good at controlling my impulses," she said.
"Whoa-ho-ho, then you are definitely doin' it wrong, cutie pie. Impulses are for indulgin', not controlling! Especially at your age." ****
Sylvia Marie had a similar philosophy.
"Hey, Rem. *Ffweet*" Frankie sharply whistled him over.
"Sup, boss? Oh, the screen. Yeah, didn't know where else to put it. But it can come down. Just lemme know where you want it."
"No, no, it's perfect. It's perfect. Here's what I want you to do—oh, and don't forget the skyline, Rem—but main thing, I want you to get me some chroma key on there."
"Yeah?" Rem said, not sold on the idea. He had assumed it was for viewing. But he's the boss. "Blue or green?"
"Green, green. Can't you see it? I'll close in tight at the open, see..."
Rem didn't know about all that FM was envisioning. He was working out how to best adjust the lights again to suit the screen in use.
Bo didn't have a clue where to find Sylvia Marie's office.
Books, books, books, door there—but she had a pretty good hunch that was FM's office, he did nod in this direction. Other door? Could be, yeah.
What gives? Bo had a hard time believing that those two were such big readers that their library needed to runneth over.
There was a staircase leading down. Looked dark. And empty.
Bo bent over and whistled for anybody who might be lurking. Nothing but an echo. Cool acoustics, though.
Yoo-hoo, the darkness responded.
"Why didn't you audition?"
"I told you, I'm not the type."
Flo didn't really want to before but she could show him exactly what the type was and so what if it spoiled Miss Sutter's act. She reached for the sexpot headshot and
found her clipboard was upside down. Now that was kind of embarrassing. Here she was thinking she was being so pert and prim and professional and this whole time...
"Finally noticed, huh?"
*Ahem* "Well, um, you have been distrac—"
Valentine tipped back in his chair, steadily smirking her way.
"—ting me, Mr., um, Mr. Hart."
"Who, me? Nah."
"I'm just havin' an impulse."
So was Flo!
But she didn't have the luxury of acting on hers. Why—why was he sitting like that! It was like an invitation: Hop up on my lap.
"Huh? What was that? You said something, Mr. Hart?"
He laughed. "Appreciate your undivided attention."
"I do. I like a woman who knows how to prioritise my needs. Gotta pamper your star, baby."
"It's a pretty sweet gig," he said. "But tell me, what was it really kept you from throwin' your hat in, huh? Didn't wanna get into bed with me?"
He loved watching her face colour. Pink, like those pouty lips...
"Don't know what you're missin'."
Not this way either. Lilly-Bo had ducked her head around damn near every corner and corridor and peeped into, like, a bunch of dead-end doorways.
One good thing was that she never did run across that girl she saw with the cowboy boots and that old lady hat. Bo was almost worried for a second there but she knew no way,
FM wouldn't mess around like that. He wouldn't sabotage Valentine just to get back at Conrad LeBaron. Or that stick figure they were all screwing. Not Valentine, he was a slut but
he had some kind of taste from what all Bo knew about it. (And she was a nosy posy who kept her ears to the ground out there in Starlettown so she knew quite a bit about it.) ‡
Old Lady Hat must have realised she was in way the wrong place the second she got to the door and got a good glimpse.
It was all fucking glass and crassness 'round here—Good gravy, she was spending too much time around Ms. Burb—Fuck, there it goes again!
Thinking back on it, she felt kinda bad for Old Lady Hat. She probably lost her way first time in the big city and her cab took off so she was all alone.
Bo vaguely remembered those days, but, dammit, she was lost right now!
No way could she go back to FM and let him think she couldn't do a simple task! Especially since he had given them this opening for future consideration.
He could've easily blown her off, or told her off like she half-expected. But he didn't! With no model in sight and the clock still ticking, Bo couldn't see the cast being so locked that FM
wouldn't grab at a ready-made key, already here to hand, rather than lose the day. Either way, this was such an opportunity, and she couldn't fucking find her way to the fucking office!
She couldn't even grab one of those crew guys, FM was in the way. Suddenly they were all oh-so hard at work. John Boy, too.
She kinda remembered hearing somebody say something about not finding Yes'm in her office in the north wing, or maybe the west?
Bo wondered if this compass-y art thing was accurately positioned.
Flo didn't have a flip response ready when he looked at her like, like he wasn't exactly joking.
She reached over and slid the photo album around, bumping both the books and the booze out of the way, just to keep her hands busy.
Flo paused before turning the pages. She recognised Groucho Marx. Mainly because of Bugs Bunny cartoons, but that's not something she cared to share with Mr. Hart.
"Am I making you uncomfortable?"
"No." She smiled. "Not at all."
"Well, that's good. I really do appreciate you taking time to keep me company. Even if it is just part of your job."
"Of course, Mr. Hart. And...it's not."
"Hey, that's a, that's a young Lena Horne. God, she's gorgeous. And she still looks like that. When I saw her on The Cosby Show...What? You're laughing at me. I know she was,
like, a major star back in the the day but that's where I know her from, okay." Flo-Flo started humming, without realising, and then singing, "♫In this world of ordinary people...♫"
"No, don't stop."
"♫...extraordinary people, I'm glad there is you...♫"
"I knew it, cutie pie, hidden depths. Those oldhead cats I used to listen to talkin' shit around my old neighborhood, man, they loved them some Lena Horne."
"Is that where you get it from? Talking shit?"
"Ha-ha-ha! Damn straight. But I never bullshit a lady," he said. "Some'n to think about."
Flo was comfortable enough to Ro-o-o-oll her eyes at him.
"I don't know who the other one* is but she's beautiful, too. All these old-time stars in here! It's like how are we supposed to compete? Y'know?"
"I guess, strictly speaking, you don't have to."
"Not in the short term, no. Obviously. But I'm thinking legacy. Cuz the work matters, it does. It's so hard to break in so you do what you can, what you
have to, but...oh, well. It's about time for me to be getting back to my real job. You too, Mr. Hart. You should think about gettin' a move on in a few."
"In a few."
(*psst, it's Dorothy Dandridge)
"See you up there, Flo."
Oof. An unexpected wave of...something washed all over her. Crazy. But...
She had no idea he'd remembered her name.
"Oh, Fluffer! Good, finally."
Way to burst a girl's bubble, Bo. That was not the right name. And it was exactly what she'd never do, thank you, and he knew it.
"You'll know, I know it."
"Huh? Stay the hell outta my head, Bo."
"What? Shut up, look, where the frickin-frackin hell is Yes'm's office?!"
Bo never even saw this corridor!
She would've kept going around and around and around in circles until she gave up, most likely.
No idea how on earth Flo-Flo came to know exactly where it was, like she had immediately mapped out every inch of the whole
crazy, ridiculous house. In the grand scheme of things it was tragic to waste all that eagerness on assistancing—and that's why Bo
was really trying to change how this story ends, for both of them—but that was Fluffer for ya. Whatever she did, she did it full on.
She...wasn't the only one.
Bo jumped when she heard someone else in the room. "Oops! I didn't...Whuh?"
It was that girl! Old Lady Hat! What the hell was going on here?
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare ya. Guess we scared each other; I didn't hear you come in."
"What are you doing in here?" Bo demanded. She was fumbling around with something behind her back. Bo saw that.
But then she obviously decided to go ahead and go for the brazen approach.
"Whoa, hello-o, you can't just take that. What do you think this is? Put it back."
"No, you don't understand. It's mine. I mean, it's for me. See."
"I don't know what you're talking about but this is not a souvenir shop."
"Actually, it kinda is." She giggled—Bo so loathed a giggler. "I'm Cat. You see. Cat."
Yeah, she saw it. She just wasn't buying it. Not totally.
"As a rule," Cat went on, "the Mashugas, they're more dog people, but they, y'know, made an exception. Get it? So the 'souvenir' is me, it's mine."
"Look, you can ask S&M, if you want," she said as she carefully compressed the stuffed toy to fit into her bag.
Yeah, maybe she should. But then the fact that she even called her that was enough to let Bo know that was a moot point. Conclusion? Totally foregone. No wonder he said the cast was locked.
"She's on set already."
"You know the way I guess."
"G-reat. I've got a few calls to make so...if you don't mind."
As she turned to get the hell out, she giggled. Again.
"Be seein' ya."
No shit, now get out. Bo met Old Lady Hat Cat's giggle with a quick half-smile of her own and watched the door close behind her.
Sorry, Fluffer, maybe next one.
Part 2B, thisaway.
*Gordo likes to hear himself talk, but there is an ounce of chivalry in his chauvinism. His new motto is anti-discriminatory, yo. All chicks deserve a good smash. Don't matter if she's barksville. Who is he, Errol Flynn? But he gets in like him, for sure, and makes off with booty of all kinds.
**more like a fistful of motherlodes :-)
***Val must be remembering someone else's life, because as one of those natural marvels of charisma, born with it, coupled with early athletic prowess, the only thing that has really changed for him is the scale of attention he gets. I mean, it is Significant in scope, but let's not get silly and act like you know what it's like to have to try, Valentine. (National sex day, St. Valentine's, according to some random ep of The Big Bang Theory that I saw. Yep, sounds about right, and every day of his life is Valentine's day.)
****Present-day Rhett is actually younger than Flo, still in his early 20s, but Val sure changed his tune there, wishing his boy would control his impulses, at least some of the damn time! Candy, too!
†Yes, the portfolio pics are actually of Flo-Flo. I'll throw up the originals on tumblr. One of these days...
‡Sneak preview? She's about a decade too early but vlogging her way to fame would be the perfect vehicle for Lilly-Bo one day. Being face to face with only the camera would help melt away the last remains of her stagefright and provide a platform for showcasing her personal brand of snark and sincerity. She really would've made a great VJ. (Linky to the tumblr post with that snippet of backstory.)(Plus there was this 1 and this 2, about who Bo and Flo are.)
Bonus Note: The flatscreen is one anachronism that gives me no qualms, I wanted to use it so there it is and, hey, FM did say he was a visionary.