The Actress

The Actress

by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2015 Melanie Brown

Brian had no interest in being in a movie, but...


 

“Please reconsider, Brian. We had some other actresses in mind for this role, but when the producers saw you, they flipped. They don’t want to consider anyone else for this part.” The agent for my sister Shiloh sat across from me, sitting backwards in the chair, his hands clasped in front of him.

“I told you he wouldn’t do it, Chuck,” said Shiloh. My sister, who just had her twentieth birthday a few weeks back, is an actress. Not movie star status, but her agent and some producers think she has “it”. She’s done TV and had some bit roles in movies and a handful of commercials. Yes, it’s cool having a sister who’s an up-and-coming actress. But she’s still my sister, which means she’s annoying.

“Look at what you’re asking me to do! It’s stupid. And I’ve never acted,” I said flatly. After Shiloh had been cast as a troubled nineteen year old daughter of a secret agent in some spy thriller, the producers saw a picture of me standing next to her.

“Brian. What’s the big deal? They’ll be done with all your scenes in a week, possibly two. And you’ll get paid good money,” said Charles “Chuck” O’Reilly. “Phil and Jean-Luc specifically want you. You don’t even have to read for the part.”

Rolling my eyes and raising my arms in frustration, I said, “Well, that’s great and all, but I don’t want it. I just don’t want to do it!” In this movie with my sister, there are flash-back scenes to when she’s fourteen. Despite being sixteen, the film’s producers seem to think I’d be perfect for the role since unfortunately, I look exactly like a younger Shiloh. We both look exactly like our mother who is absolutely gorgeous and used to be a model in her younger days. Mom kind of pushed Shiloh into acting.

Clasping his hands behind his head, Chuck said, “So you have to dress as a girl for a week or two. That’s no big deal, really. I mean, look at Tony Curtis, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Chad Lowe; the list goes on and on of famous actors doing drag.”

Frowning I said, “But they weren’t expected to live as a girl the whole time. Those producers of yours don’t want anyone to know I’m her brother.”

Chuck laughed self consciously and said, “Well of course not! If it got out that her brother was playing her younger self in the movie, then all the buzz would be about that, and not your sister.”

“But won’t my name be in the credits? ‘Younger Shiloh played by Brian Pace’,” I said frowning.

Shiloh said, “Look stupid, we’re going to use a pseudonym for you!”

“I’m surprised you know a big word like that, Shiloh!” I said.

Turning to face Shiloh and lowering his voice, Chuck said, “Please. You don’t call someone you’re negotiating with ‘stupid’.”

“That’s right, Chuckie!” I said. “See what I have to put up with? Just for meanness, she’s likely to expose me on the set.”

Chuck leaned towards me and said, “No. She won’t. To be honest, the producers really aren’t all that sure just how bankable your sister is. She’s still fairly new on the scene. Listen, both of you. This movie will either catapult your sister into stardom, or it will destroy her career. Brian, we don’t need you for the role. We’ve already looked at several other actresses. The producers just felt that having you play your younger sister would help avoid that disconnect between what the younger character looks like compared to the older character. Like it or not, you look exactly like Shiloh.

“You don’t want fame. Fine. Like Shiloh said, you’re getting a pseudonym. Like money? They’ll pay you half of what they’re paying your sister for the two weeks on set. For a nobody, that’s a lot of money. We’ll also put residuals in your contract. A small percentage to be sure, but you’ll get a piece of every DVD sold. As for clothes, the producers will pay for your wardrobe outside of your movie role. You don’t even have to give it back.

“So it sounds like a sweet deal to me, Brian. Two weeks in Hollywood, all expenses paid. You get to see a movie being made and you actually get to be in it. So what do you say? Do we have a deal?”

I just looked at Chuck for almost a minute as I rolled all this around in my head. The money was definitely an appeal. Getting two weeks in Hollywood, possibly hob-nobbing with celebrities was also appealing. But dressing as a girl for two weeks was definitely a major negative. And I’d be helping Shiloh which is also a negative. Yes, she’s my sister, but she’s a completely annoying sister.

But…if the movie is a huge success, she’s likely to move out to Hollywood and I’d have the house to myself. Besides Mom and Dad of course. Now that’s a selling point!

I said, “Okay. I’ll do it. But just for two weeks!”

Chuck’s grin was a mile wide. He extended his hand and said, “You’ve got it, Mr. Pace. Welcome aboard!”

I looked at Shiloh and said, “Don’t make me regret this.” She just blew me off with a dismissive wave of her hand.

 

*          *          *

 

I was playing a video game when Mom answered the door. She said, “May I help you, miss?”

Standing outside, I heard a woman’s voice. She said, “Mrs. Pace? I’m Mandy Johnson. The agency sent me over to take Brianna to the salon for a make-over and take her on a little shopping expedition.”

“Bria…oh. Yeah,” said Mom. “His father and I still aren’t too sure about this. Does this sound like a good idea to you?”

“Not my call, ma’am,” said Mandy brightly. “If you’re wanting to back out of the deal, you need to call the agency.”

Mom said, “No. no. It just seems weird.”

Mandy said, “Mr. O’Reilly felt that having me get Brianna presentable would make things easier for everyone.”

Mom opened the door and embarrassed said, “My manners! Please come in, Ms. Johnson.”

“Thank you,” said Mandy as she stepped into our house. She was carrying a large plastic bag. She looked over at me and said, “And you must be Brianna.”

I didn’t turn around. I said, “I’m in the middle of a fire fight.”

Mandy said, “I thought this was going to be some crazy ordeal, but Brianna looks exactly like Shiloh, Mrs. Pace. They both take after you!”

Embarrassed again, Mom said, “Thank you!” Mom walked over and turned my game system off and said, “Don’t be rude, Brianna. Say hello to Ms. Johnson.”

I just sat there shocked for a moment, with my mouth gaping open. I said, “I…I can’t believe that! You…you…I was in the middle of a battle, Mom!”

Speaking sternly, Mom said, “We have a guest. Get up off the floor.”

As I stood up, Mandy smiled at me and held out her hand. She said, “Nice to meet you, Brianna.”

Scowling, I said, “My name is Brian!”

Mandy continued to smile as she withdrew her hand. “A beautiful girl like you should have a better name than Brian.”

“I’m not a girl,” I said, folding my arms.

Not losing her smile, Mandy said, “You are now, sweetie. Your parents signed a contract.”

I shrugged and said, “So?”

Bending down slightly so she could look me straight in the eyes, and resting her hands on her legs Mandy said with a sweet smile, “So sweetie, you and the rest of your family will be living in a cardboard box and eating dog food after we’re done with the lawsuit.”

Sighing heavily, I said, “Okay. I’m a girl.”

Standing straight again, Mandy said, “Terrif.” Shaking the bag she was carrying, she continued, “I brought a few items to help you pass when we go to the salon and then shopping.” She pulled a couple of small breast forms from the bag along with something I had no idea what it was. Also in the bag were a bra and panties, a shirt and a denim skirt.

“I’m not wearing those things,” I said.

Mandy smiled and said, “I hear Alpo actually doesn’t taste all that bad.”

 

*          *          *

 

“I really don’t like these fake tits,” I said as we walked across the parking lot to the salon. It wasn’t the Mom and Pop salon Mom and Shiloh went to. This was the most expensive and up-scale salon in town.

“It’s funny you should say that,” said Mandy as she walked beside me. “The producers were actually considering having you get a boob job.”

“What the fuck? You can’t be serious!” I almost shouted. I was embarrassed enough as it was, wearing a girl’s shirt, mini-skirt and light make-up.

Mandy laughed and said, “They finally decided that might be a bit too much and be a deal breaker. Plus they didn’t think you’d heal up in time for the tight shooting schedule. Still, if you plan on making a career out of this, I’d go with the boob job.”

I adjusted the strap of my purse and said, “I’m definitely not making a career out of this. I’m doing my couple of weeks and then I’m back home.”

As she pushed open the salon’s door, Mandy said, “Who knows? You might like it. Acting I mean.”

“I doubt it,” I said. “I can’t act. I mean, I’m only doing this because I look like Shiloh.”

A woman sitting at a small desk looked up as we entered and looked at Mandy and said, “How can we help you today, ma’am?”

Pointing at me, Mandy said, “She has an appointment. What can you do with that hair of hers? We need to keep the color and as much length as possible. She’s been a bit of a tomboy, but has finally grown out of that. Instead of just a make-over, I signed her up for a make-up lesson as well.”

The woman smiled at me after glancing down at her computer screen. She said, “You must be Brianna Pace. We have you signed up for the works. Hair, nails, spa, make-up. You have quite a day ahead of you!”

Mandy said, “I think we’ll pass on the spa today. We have quite a busy day planned for her.”

The woman looked up at Mandy and said, “Are you sure, ma’am? We have the best spa in the area. Everyone loves it.”

Mandy smiled and said, “I’m sure it is. Another time though.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. When I had heard the word ‘spa’, I thought there was no way I could continue to pass myself off as a girl in a spa.

I was led to a back room and sat down in a chair in front of a sink. I had to lean my head way back at an uncomfortable angle and a woman started pouring warm water through my hair. Despite the crick in my neck, I closed my eyes and settled in. I was enjoying this. I haven’t had my hair washed for me since I was little. It felt so good as she worked the shampoo into my hair. I was a bit disappointed when she finally rinsed the suds from my hair.

The woman wrapped my hair up in a towel in the same fashion I’ve seen Mom and Shiloh do with their hair after washing it in the kitchen sink. As I sat down in another chair in front of a mirror, the woman said to me, “What kind of style are you wanting, hon?”

Mandy picked up a few strands of my limp, wet hair and said, “Keep as long as possible, but get rid of these split ends. I think a few large waves with the hair coming over one eye would look cute on her. You saw how lifeless her hair was? If you can, give it more body.”

The stylist laughed and said, “I agree. Girl, how did you get your hair into such a mess?”

Smirking, I said, “I wanted people to think I was a boy.”

The stylist laughed again and said, “Well, not with that face. You’re too pretty to be mistaken for a boy.” The stylist looked at me quizzically for a moment and then said, “Has anyone ever said you look like that…um…Shy…Shiloh what’s-her-name?”

I wanted to say I was her brother. Mandy gave me a very stern look and slightly shook her head. I said, “No. Never. But I know who you’re talking about.”

Mandy looked at me and smiled, and then looked back up to the stylist and said, “Shiloh’s very pretty. She’s supposed to be the latest big thing.”

The stylist shrugged and gave me a wink as she said, “I think by the time we’re done with you, hon, you’ll be giving that Shiloh a run for her money!”

 

*          *          *

 

As we walked back to Mandy’s car, Mandy walked in a circle around me, looking me up and down and grinning. She said, “I must say, Brianna. You are prettier than your sister. Once you’re cleaned up, styled and made up, girl, the boys are going to love you.”

I stopped walking and folded my arms. I said, “I don’t want boys to love me. Can we go home now?”

Mandy laughed and said, “Hey, I know you don’t want boys looking at you, but in all honesty, I think that if the boys notice you enough, you might be more popular than your sister. And no. I can’t take you home yet. We haven’t bought you any clothes yet. And we have an agency card to play with.”

“What I have on is bad enough,” I said as I opened the passenger side door of Mandy’s car. “And I don’t like make-up. It feels weird.”

“You’ll get used to it,” said Mandy as she slid into the driver’s seat. “We’re not going on a big crazy shopping spree. We just need to get you some age appropriate girls clothes for you. When we get to Hollywood, then we’ll get you a pretty cocktail dress.”

Frowning, I said, “Do I have to have dresses? I mean really. I don’t even know what a cocktail dress is.”

As she drove her car towards the mall, Mandy said, “You’ve seen girls going to prom, right? Not a lot of difference between the two. I’m not talking about the big poofy dresses. We’ll get you a short dress to show off your legs.”

Gesturing, I said, “Again. Why? I’m sure it’ll be expensive, so why bother?”

Glancing quickly at me before looking back to the road, Mandy said, “There’s going to be a wrap party and it’s going to be formal. It’ll be at the director’s house I think. It’s certainly big enough.”

Whining a bit, I said, “How long will that be? I don’t want to hang around for months for the shooting to end looking like this.”

Mandy laughed and said, “That’s right. You haven’t been given the schedule yet. They’ll be shooting your scenes while they film the remaining scenes with Shiloh. Both should wrap up around the same time.”

I said, “Well, I can skip the party. I just want to go home.”

Mandy looked at me as if I was from Mars. “You don’t want to go to the party? Girl, everyone who’s anyone will be there. Great chance to meet other producers and directors.”

I laughed and said, “Why would I want that? I don’t want to be an actor, remember?”

Shrugging, Mandy said, “Just the same, I highly recommend you go. Besides. We’re using someone else’s credit card, so who cares if it’s expensive, right?”

I shrugged and said, “It seems you’re going to insist.”

Mandy grinned and said, “For everyday wear, when you’re not shooting, you’re going to need skirts and dresses as well as jeans and shorts and tops. But your cocktail dress should be totally you. You want everyone looking at you, not your sister.”

Frowning I said, “I don’t want people looking at me. I don’t want to be noticed by anyone.”

Grinning some more, Mandy said, “You don’t want to outshine your sister? You don’t want everyone to be giving you all the attention and not her? Wouldn’t that really torque your sister?”

“Yes it would,” I said. “She thinks everything’s about her nowadays.”

“Girl, we’re going to get you a dress that you’ll walk into that party like you own the place. Your sister will be forgotten as all eyes will be on you,” said Mandy with a laugh.

I pulled some wayward strands of hair away from my face and said, “I don’t understand. Aren’t you working for Shiloh? Her agency and everything?”

Mandy shook her head and said, “No. I’m to promote you. I’m supposed to make you sexy and glamorous.”

Frowning, I said, “Why bother? I’m only going to be there two weeks. I’m not a girl. What’s the point?”

Mandy smiled and said, “The agency as well as the movie’s producers actually see a lot of potential in you. Like it or not, you’re every bit as gorgeous as Shiloh. I’m not shitting you. If your little bit part works out, there may be more offers coming your way. There’s a big market these days for teen and pre-teen girls movies.”

I laughed and said, “Pre-teen girl movies? That’s seriously funny.”

Mandy said, “You could easily pass for a twelve year old. They’re even thinking of you and Shiloh playing sisters. They already have a script they think would work.”

“Horse shit!” I exclaimed. “Am I the only one around here who’s not insane?”

Mandy just shook her head and said, “Are you allergic to money or something?”

 

*          *          *

 

“Wow. A movie studio doesn’t look anything like I thought it would,” I said as I walked beside Shiloh. Looking at all the people hurrying about, I added, “And so early too. What are these people doing?”

It was around seven thirty in the morning and the studio was a beehive of activity. I hated getting up early so I could put on make-up and get into my girl’s clothes. I felt less ridiculous dressed as a girl after seeing some very oddly dressed people walking quickly between buildings. Shiloh was already in her costume and make-up. At least now I knew what a long and boring process that was going to be for me the next morning.

Shiloh laughed and said, “There are several major productions going on right now tying up several sound stages. Not to mention commercials and post-production work.”

“This is really cool, Shiloh,” I said, not masking my excitement about being inside a major movie studio. “I want to see where they do the special effects.”

Shiloh grinned and said, “That’s a different studio. Look, we need to hurry. We need to stop by the sound stage where you’ll be doing most of your shots and meet your director. It’s all green screen in there. It’s really weird to see tables and stairs and other crap all painted green. Anyway, then we need to hurry to the back lot set. You’ll get to see me in action.”

I looked at my sister curiously and said, “We don’t have the same director? Aren’t we in the same movie?”

Shiloh opened the door to a smaller building and said, “Same movie, but you’ll be shooting in here, while I’ll be on the back lot today and then we’re going to the mountains tomorrow for a few days of shooting in the forest there.”

I stopped before going through the door and said, “Now wait. If you’re going to be away, how am I supposed to get here and back to the hotel?”

Shiloh waved her hand dismissively, and said, “The studio has a bus. They’ll pick you up and bring you back. You’ll be fine. Just remember you’re a girl and do what I do.”

I laughed and said, “You mean I should throw myself at every boy I see?”

Shiloh rolled her eyes and walked through the door she’d been holding open. She said, “I told Chuck this was a mistake. Come on, little sister.”

The building appeared to be larger once inside that it looked outside. There were all kinds of lighting equipment both on the floor and dangling from the rafters. The walls were covered with some cloth I guessed to deaden the sound. There were three small staged areas, all painted green with the floor painted green and a green sheet hanging behind everything.

There were three men standing near one of the stages. A tall man, balding and wearing glasses was holding a clipboard with several pages of paper on it. He was gesturing towards the stage. The other two men were nodding.

When we got close, we could hear the bald man. He said, “…with the camera set up here to shoot the girl coming down the stairs and then track over to the desk.” He pointed at a desk that wasn’t painted green. “We’ll shoot all her lines for scenes forty-seven…” He flipped a page or two on his clipboard and continued, “…and for scenes fifty-two and fifty-three. And then we’ll move the camera and bring in the other wall and get all of Walter’s lines. And then for our evening and night shots, we’ll move to the back lot where this morning they’re shooting scenes twenty-one and fifty-four.”

Shiloh had told me that Walter Smith was a bit actor in his thirties who plays the man who molests the young Shiloh character.

The bald man looked over at us as we approached. He smiled and said, “Ah, Ms. Pace. Shouldn’t you be at the back lot this morning?”

Shiloh smiled and said, “Yes, but I wanted you to meet Brianna. Brianna meet Mr. Bower. He’s your director.”

“Nice to meet you, Brianna,” said Mr. Bower. He put his hand on his chin and took a step back. He said, “My God. Goodwin was right. You two look exactly alike.” If I had to guess, Goodwin was one of the producers who decided they wanted to use me to play the younger Shiloh.

Mr. Bower motioned for me to follow him. He said, “Step over here for a second, Brianna. I want to discuss an important matter.” He looked over at Shiloh and said, “It’ll just be a second.”

We walked into a small office and Mr. Bower shut the door behind us. There was a big window on the office so we could still see the sets and people outside.

Mr. Bower sat on the edge of the small desk in the office and pointed to a folding metal chair and said, “Have a seat, Brianna. I wanted to let you know where you and I stand. I’ve been informed that you’re actually Shiloh’s brother and I can see now why the producers wanted you for this role. It’s not a big role, but it is pivotal to the story. I’ll be honest with you. I argued against having not only a non-actor for this part, but a male as well. We already had a great little actress who had read for this part and I thought she was perfect.”

Interrupting and feeling annoyed, I said, “This wasn’t my idea, Mr. Bower. And if everyone knows about me, why should I dress like this when we’re not actually filming?”

Looking pissed, Mr. Bower said, “Don’t interrupt me, son. I’m the only one on the set who knows your secret, okay? So yes, you must keep up the ruse. Like I said, after seeing you, I understand the producers’ choice. But listen. I told them that if you didn’t work out, I’d replace you with that actress. That sets the schedule back and costs the studio money and then things get ugly. I’m a professional and I’ll work with whomever I’m told to work with, and I expect my actors to be just as professional. I expect no less from you.”

Leaning forward in my chair, I said, “Look. I thought this was a stupid idea from the get-go. But they convinced me to do it and here I am. I’ve practiced the lines with Shiloh and she seems convinced I can do it.”

Mr. Bower nodded and said, “We’ll see. I hope she’s right. This should be an easy schedule for you. We shoot several scenes on those sets this week, then we tear them down and construct a couple of new sets for next week’s shoot and then you go home.”

I stood up and still couldn’t look Mr. Bower straight in the eyes because of his height and said, “That works for me. That’s all I expected.”

Raising his hand, Mr. Bower said, “One more thing before we go back out. It’s another thing I don’t approve of, but Mr. Goodwin insisted. His son, Ashton, will be on the set to keep an eye on you so you don’t get lost and to make sure you’re at hair and make-up on time. He’ll be the one picking you up at your hotel and bringing you back. He also knows who you are. I don’t like having anyone besides crew and actors on a set, but Mr. Goodwin wants to protect his investment. Are we clear on everything?”

I decided I didn’t like Mr. Bower, but that was beside the point. I said, “Yes, sir.”

As he opened the office door, Mr. Bower said, “This conversation doesn’t leave this room, understood?”

I shrugged and said, “Yes, sir.”

 

*          *          *

 

“Mr. Bower said that to you?” said an incredulous Shiloh. “Oh man! He’ll be looking for any reason to fire you.”

We hurried across the studio to the back lot. It wasn’t that far of a walk, although I wished we could have hitched a ride on one of the many golf carts that were zipping around the studio.

Frowning, I said, “I told you this wasn’t going to work.”

Shiloh shrugged and said, “So don’t give him any reason to fire you. I’ve heard you say the lines. I thought you did a great job with them. You have to do great Brian. Me, Chuck, the producers and even Mandy’s butts are all on the line. No pressure though.”

“Gee thanks,” I said glumly.

Shiloh smiled and said, “You’ll do fine. Oh, there’s where I need to be. Just stay out of the way and watch, okay?”

“I won’t say a word,” I said as my sister jogged over to talk to the director. They were still getting everything ready, so apparently she wasn’t late. In fact, we stood around for a little over an hour before the director announced for everyone to take their places. I had wandered around a lot during the wait and was leaning against a tree in what was set up to look like a park. I could see the director standing in the bucket of a cherry picker high above everyone.

Suddenly I heard the screech of a bullhorn’s feedback and the director yelling, “Hey you, little girl. You’re in the frame. I need you to move. No, I’m talking to the other little girl. Of course it’s you. Please move. Who are you anyway and why are you on my set?”

Before I could say anything, Shiloh called out, “She’s okay, Sam. She’s with me.”

Directing the bullhorn in Shiloh’s direction, Sam the director said, “Tell me in advance that you’re going to invite a guest so I can tell you no.”

Shiloh called out, “She’s shooting my flashback scenes tomorrow.”

From his perch in the cheery picker, the director squinted down at me. Still using the bullhorn he said, “Ah yes. Very pretty. Now get off my set.”

Frowning, I moved back behind the camera. My face must have been turning several shades of red as everyone from actors to crew was staring at me. Some of the crew grinned, gave me thumbs up and a few wolf whistles. I wanted to crawl under a rock. I looked at Shiloh and she just shrugged.

Despite the fact that Shiloh had been doing this for a while, this was the first time I’d seen a movie being made. It was fascinating to watch. I’d never thought about the order that they shot the movie in. Stupid me thought it was all shot from beginning to end. The director had Shiloh say all her lines that were to be shot with a close-up. Then they moved the camera back and shot her other lines at a medium range. There was someone off to the side holding the script that read the other person’s, who wasn’t on set yet, lines so Shiloh could react. After a few takes and retakes, Shiloh stepped back and the crew moved the camera to point to the other direction. Richard Greenman, the big name actor that was Shiloh’s love interest came out of trailer near the set, grinned and waved at everyone and finally took his position by the camera. They shot all his lines, with Shiloh standing to one side, repeating her lines.

After about three hours of this, the director announced they were with this location and the crew started gathering up the equipment. I stood to one side and watched Shiloh walk over to me. I had a new respect for my sister. She actually knew what she was doing.

She smiled at me when she got close and pointing back at where they had been filming, said, “Well, little sis. What do you think?”

I said, “It’s amazing to watch. It’s nothing like you think.”

Grinning, Shiloh said, “Well, you get to find out even more tomorrow when you shoot your first scenes.”

“I hope I do okay,” I said, feeling worried. “You make it look easy.”

Shiloh smiled and said, “You’ll do fine. It may look easy, but not everyone can stand in front of a camera and not sound like they’re reading lines. That’s why it’s an art.” She looked me up and down for a moment and then said, “How do you like being a girl so far? You seem to be holding up.”

I shrugged and said, “I still feel weird. But no one is pointing fingers and laughing at me. I’m still dealing with how differently every one treats me. It does bother me to see guys staring at me though.”

Shiloh laughed and said, “You’ll get used to it. Like it or not, guys are going to look at pretty girls.”

I sighed and said, “But I’m not really a girl.”

Shiloh smiled and said, “You’re girl enough. Maybe you should think about this before you go leering at some girl next time. I’m hungry. Let’s get something to eat.”

 

*          *          *

 

I knocked the hotel room phone off the table and onto the floor. I’m still not clear of what exactly is making that noise and then I didn’t know where it went. With a bleary eye, I look at the clock and see that it’s only three thirty in the morning. “What the fuck?”

I reach over the side of the bed to try to retrieve the phone that’s still ringing. The bed appears to be taller than what I’m used to at home and I kept extending my reach over the side until I suddenly fall headlong out of the bed and onto the floor. I yelped in pain as I bumped my head against the end table.

The phone lit up when it rang and I finally found it. I picked it up and said in a barely audible voice, “Hello?”

In an overly cheerful voice, I heard some guy say, “Brianna? This is Ashton Goodwin. I’m here to pick you up to take you to the studio. Are you ready?”

I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared angrily at it for a moment. Still half asleep I said, “Are you serious? Do you know what time it is?”

Still sounding bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Ashton said, “It’s time to head to the studio. Didn’t Mr. Bower tell you when he needed you at the studio?”

Still sitting on the floor, I said, “No. He didn’t.” I started to get unsteadily to my feet.

Ashton said, “Ah. Well, we’d better hurry or we’ll both be out of a job. I’m down here in the lobby so be down here in about fifteen minutes. Don’t bother with any make-up.”

I said, “I hate you,” and hung up the phone. I turned on the lamp by my bed and tried to finish waking up. I opened the hotel dresser and pulled out panties, a bra, short socks, a t-shirt and jeans.

I stumbled into the bathroom to take care of my business as well as brush my teeth. The light hurt my eyes and I squinted at the mirror and frowned. “Oh yeah. You’re a regular super star,” I said to my image in the mirror. My hair was going in all directions.

Twenty minutes later, I found myself exiting the elevator and walking across the lobby. A kid, only slightly older than me dressed in shorts, trainers and a hoodie stood up. He grinned at me and started to approach me. He said, “Brianna Pace?”

I nodded and Ashton said, “Nice to meet you. Wow. You’re a dude?”

I gestured with my hand to suggest he lower his voice and said, “Shh. It’s supposed to be a secret, okay?”

Looking sheepish, Ashton said, “Sorry man. My dad told me I had to baby-sit some tranny, but dude, even without make-up, you look just like your sister. Are you sure you’re a guy?”

Frowning at Ashton, I folded my arms and said, “Yes, I’m sure I’m a guy. At least I was when I went to bed last night. And don’t call me a tranny. I’m not one of them. I’m doing this strictly for money.”

Ashton grinned at me and said, “So you’re a drag queen then?”

“No!” I almost shouted. “I’m just a schmuck who got himself roped into a stupid deal.”

Ashton slung a backpack over his shoulder and said, “Well, whatever you are, we need to go. I have a feeling Mr. Bower will be looking for any excuse to replace you with that other girl he wants.”

As I walked beside Ashton as we hurried out the hotel door, I said, “What’s so frickin’ special about that girl?”

Ashton smirked and said, “It’s his niece. She does resemble your sister. She’s cute and all, but she sucks. She can’t act her way out of a wet paper bag.”

As we exited the hotel, Ashton hit the button on his key fob to unlock the doors, even though it was a convertible with the top down. He opened and held the door for me. I slid my fingers along the top of the car door and said, “You don’t have to do that and wow. Nice car!” It was the latest model of Corvette and painted a deep, sexy red.

Ashton grinned as he closed the car door for me and said, “Yes, I do. Dad said I have to treat you just like any other woman. And thanks. It was a birthday present.”

As I snuggled my ass into the car seat, I said, “Must be nice!”

Flashing me an ear-to-ear grin, Ashton said, “It is. But hey, stick with acting and you’ll be able to buy a fleet of these things.” He slid the five-speed transmission into first and gently pulled away from the curb.

With the cool breeze blowing through my hair, I looked around at the passing store fronts and buildings. I said, “You said that other girl sucked. How do you know I won’t suck too? I’ve never tried acting before.”

Glancing over at me as he managed a wide turn to the left, Ashton said, “You don’t. I’ve seen you.”

I knitted my brow and said, “You’ve seen me? How? Where?”

He glided his car to a stop at a red light and said, “I saw a video of you reading your lines. My dad was watching it on his computer. Girl, you’re a natural. I mean, dude.”

I whacked my forehead and said, “My sister recorded that? Hell, I can’t trust anyone!”

Ashton shrugged as he drove across the intersection. He said, “Well, Dad had to see if you had the goods or not. I mean, let’s face it. You can’t rely just on the word of someone’s agent, ya know?”

I watched Ashton drive for a few minutes. I wondered what it was like to be in his shoes. Never wanting for anything. Driving a spanking new Vette. His dad managing millions of investors’ dollars while my dad was doing good to manage his checkbook. I’m not complaining and putting down my dad or family. But why couldn’t my dad being doing shit like this instead of being a computer programmer?

At the studio entrance, Ashton flashed his ID at the guard in the booth and was waved through. He parked at the soundstage Shiloh and I had visited yesterday. He jumped out of his car and ran around to my door and opened it. He said, “Let’s get you to make-up pronto.”

As we entered the soundstage, Mr. Bower stood with his arms folder and grumbled, “You’re late.”

I just shrugged. Technically we were all of five minutes late.

Ashton took my hand and pulled me away from Mr. Bower and said, “The make-up room is this way. Cindy is probably ready to go.”

A girl who didn’t look much older than Shiloh flashed a smile at us as we entered the room that had a long bench with mirrors and bright lights lining the wall behind it. There was an older man already seated and in costume. I assumed it was Walter Smith, my movie molester. He smiled at both of us.

Cindy walked up and gave Ashton a hug and said, “Ashton! So good to see you again! And you must be Brianna.” She briefly shook my hand. Looking again at Ashton she said, “Ash, would you mind running her across the hall to wardrobe while I finish up Mr. Smith? Thanks!”

Nodding to Cindy, Ashton said, “Okay, Bri. Let’s run next door.”

We entered the wardrobe room and there was a middle-aged woman surrounded by racks of clothes and with some piled up on a table. She was looking at what appeared to be a script.

The woman looked up and said, “Ah, there you are. Okay. For the scenes you’re shooting this morning, I’ve laid out each costume in order on this table. Son, would you mind leaving the room for a minute so I can help Ms. Pace into her costume?”

It wasn’t much of a costume and I didn’t think I needed much help to get into the floral print sundress. I hoped my gaffe was hidden well inside my panties. I didn’t know someone was going to help me get dressed. We’d sent my measurements and shoe size a few weeks back, so there was little adjustment to be made.

When I finally made it back to make-up, Walter Smith was still in his chair. They were making him look older. He glanced up at me and said, “Nice to meet you Brianna. I’m Walter and I’ll be molesting you. Nothing personal. Just business.” He chuckled at his own joke.

Cindy indicated where I should sit. As I sat down, I said, “Nice to meet you too, Walter. I can call you Walter? This is exciting, isn’t it?”

Walter waved his hand and said, “Not really. My my. You’re the spitting image of Shiloh. She’s a very nice girl and very beautiful. She’s a good actress too.”

Ashton said, “Just keep an eye on Brianna. I have a feeling she’s going to be big.”

I shook my head and said, “This is my one and only movie, Ash,” I said.

Walter smiled as he stood up from the make-up chair and said, “Don’t be so sure, little lady. You could be the next big thing.”

As Cindy started preparing to do my make-up, I said, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about being in a movie. But I’m also a realist.”

Cindy started expertly applying make-up to actually try to make me look even younger than I was. It turned out that it was good that I’d spent the past couple of weeks dressing as a girl and wearing make-up. I’m sure I would have flinched and felt disgusted as she applied a foundation. As it was, even with the less than comfortable chairs, I enjoyed being pampered.

Mr. Bower stormed into the room and said, “Any chance of wrapping this up soon? I have a movie to make.”

Looking uncomfortable, Cindy said, “I don’t have a whole lot to do with her, Mr. Bower, but it’ll be at least half an hour. Maybe forty-five minutes.”

Scowling, Mr. Bower stormed about the room. Speaking loudly, he said, “I have a crew out there standing idle. Let’s step it up!”

With a dismissive wave, Walter said, “Oh chill out, Bower. The schedule doesn’t show any shooting for almost an hour. Relax.”

Frowning, Mr. Bower said, “Well, I moved the schedule up, so now we’re all late.” Mr. Bower looked directly at me.

I glanced over to Ash and saw him roll his eyes.

A half hour later, I was on the set, in costume and ready to go. Well, about as ready as I was going to be. The camera was already set up for the first take. I was to come down the green screen stairs, stop halfway, turn and yell at someone who was supposed to be upstairs off-camera and then run down the stairs and that would be the end.

Naturally, I tripped and almost tumbled down the stairs.

Mr. Bower ran up to me and inspected the stairs. He said, “Is the set damaged? That could cost us a day’s shooting.”

I folded my arms and stood on the staircase and said, “I’m fine, Mr. Bower. Thank you for asking.”

Frowning at me, Mr. Bower said, “Would Ms. Pace want a stunt double for coming down the stairs?

Raising the sarcasm in my voice, I said, “I can handle it.”

Turning his back to me, Mr. Bower shouted, “Okay, let’s reset for take two.”

He really pissed me off. The next take, I did perfectly. As well as the next one and the next one.

They had made a leisurely schedule for this week and the next as they expected my inexperience to cause delays, repeated shots, etc. But instead, I managed to get all of my scenes in one take. In fact, everything went so smooth, they changed the schedule and decided to shoot all the scenes they were going to do the next day rather than idle their crew. It did make for a long day, though.

Mr. Bower stood up out of his director’s chair and said, “Okay, that’s a wrap for today. Great job everyone. Hey, listen people. Four a.m. tomorrow sharp. At this pace, we’ll be finished with these sets by noon. I’ll need the set crews to tear these sets down and set up the next sets after lunch. We should be finished by sometime Friday. Again, great work everyone.”

Ashton walked up to Mr. Bower and said, “It looks like Ms. Pace is making you look good, coming in early and below budget.”

Mr. Bower turned to face Ash, but he was looking at me and said, “Yes. She’s a good actress and learns quickly. She was a pleasure to work with.” Pointing at me he continued, “Oh. And Ms. Pace. Return the costume to Property. Now if you’ll excuse me?” He turned and walked into the small office.

Ashton turned towards me, grinning said, “You did it, girl! And you thought you were no good. You were wonderful!”

I laughed and said, “Well, he pissed me off. I had to prove him wrong.”

Ash shrugged and said, “Whatever motivates you. Come on. Let’s return the costume and have Cindy remove that Hollywood make-up.”

After returning the outfit I had worn in the last shot, we went to the make-up room where Cindy was cleaning up. She looked up at us and said, “Want me to take that off? Did you bring your own make-up?”

As I held up my purse, I said, “Yes.” I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Can you leave the eye make-up? I really love that look.” The eye liner was a bit heavier than I’d been doing and my lashes looked thick, long and black. I thought it made me look really hot.

Cindy smiled at me and said, “That’s no problem.”

I leaned into the mirror and said, “And can you show me how to do that?”

Laughing, Cindy said, “Sure. I’ll have some time after the shoot tomorrow.”

Deep down, I disgusted myself for being interested in make-up. I had reached that point where going outside without something, mascara at least, was almost unthinkable.

“Are you finally ready?” said Ashton sitting in a chair in the empty sound stage. Cindy has cleaned the heavier make-up from my face and I’d used the mirrors there to apply my own make-up. He stood up as I walked towards him, having changed back into my t-shirt and jeans.

I said, “I’m starving. Can you go by a place where I can pick something up before you take me back to the hotel?”

Ashton grinned and said, “I know this great little bistro just down the street. We can get something to eat there before I take you back.”

I shrugged and said, “Sure. As long as it’s not too expensive.”

About fifteen minutes later, Ash pulls his car up into the parking lot.

I said, “Serious? This is your great little bistro? It’s Burger King.”

 

*          *          *

 

This time I didn’t knock everything to the floor trying to answer the phone. I had gone to bed early the previous evening so getting up at three a.m. wasn’t so catastrophic. I was also vaguely excited knowing we only shoot until noon today. I picked up the handset and mumbled, “Hello?”

Sounding way too awake than he had any business to, Ashton said, “Wake up, sleeping beauty. Your chariot awaits.”

“Have I told you I hate you?” I said pulling my covers back and swinging my legs over the side of the bed.

Ashton laughed and said, “Yes. We’ve already established that. I’m in the lobby.” He hung up.

I had taken a shower before going to bed, so I should be ready more quickly this morning than yesterday. I groaned as I stood up and rubbed my eyes. The human body definitely isn’t designed to be up at this hour.

I stumbled through a quick bathroom routine and making sure my breast forms were secure, I hooked my bra in front of me, turned it back around and slipped it up. It was just too early to have any hope of successfully hooking it by reaching behind. Gaff securely in place I slipped on clean panties. I slid my hands over my nylon covered butt after pulling up the panties. I smiled at the feel. The thought that I might not ever be able to go back to guy underwear popped in my head.

A loose t-shirt, a short denim skirt, sandals and a quick brush through my hair and I was heading towards the elevator in record time. I had added a pair of hoop earrings to my look as well. At the mall where we’d bought my first set of clothes, Mandy had insisted I get my ears pierced. I no longer gave it a second thought to hanging a purse strap on my shoulder. As I checked the contents of my purse while waiting for the elevator to arrive, another thought popped into my head on how was I ever going to manage again without a purse. I’ll never have enough pockets not to mention how bad it makes your pants look to have stuff bulging in your pockets.

Ashton stood up as I approached and he gave a low whistle. He said, “Wow Bri. Even without make-up you’re totally hot. Are you sure you’re not a girl?”

I grinned at him and said, “I double-checked last night in the shower.”

Frowning, Ashton said, “Sorry to hear that. Well, let’s get going.”

We arrived at the studio in plenty of time. We went straight to wardrobe, then make-up. Mr. Bower was in a strangely good mood. He actually greeting me with a smile.

The day’s events went like clock-work. I did everything Mr. Bower told me to do without any arguments. Apparently he had worked briefly with Shiloh on a small project and it seems Shiloh wants to help direct, which doesn’t really go well with a director.

While Mr. Bower was discussing my motivation in a scene with Walter, I saw Mandy come into the soundstage and walk over to Ashton. She gave him a quick hug and sat down next to him. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but it appeared to be quite an animated conversation. They laughed a few times. Mandy would point at me and I see Ashton nod or shake his head in response to whatever she was saying.

“Ms. Pace,” said Mr. Bower in an irritated voice. “Focus. I need today’s shooting to be wrapped up by noon.”

I bit my lip nervously and said, “I’m sorry Mr. Bower. I was listening.”

I looked back over to Ashton and Mandy had left.

Five and a half hours later, Ash and I were walking out of the soundstage towards his car. Cindy had shown me how to do my eye make-up and I was surprised how easy it was to achieve the look I wanted. Aside from that, I just applied my make-up as usual. I tried not to think about that.

As we got in the car, I said, “I didn’t know you knew Mandy Johnson. I saw her pop in and talk to you, but she didn’t say anything to me.”

Ashton shrugged and said, “I know her, sort of. I’ve been with Dad a few times when he’s talked to agents about their clients. She seems very nice.”

I nodded and said, “She is. She made me the girl I am today.”

Ashton grinned at me and said, “She did an awesome job! She saw that you were busy and she knows how Mr. Bower is about visitors wasting his time, so she just checked in with me. Dad had told her I was going to be keeping an eye on you.”

“So, what did she say?” I said trying to not sound interested.

Shrugging again, Ashton said, “She just wanted to know how you were doing, both in acting and as just being a girl. I told her you seemed to be a natural at both. She also mentioned a project Dad approached her about, since she’s your agent and all.”

I furrowed my brow and said, “Project? What kind of project?”

Grinning, Ash said, “After Dad saw the rushes from yesterday and was impressed. He likes to be pro-active. I think she told you that he’s already hired a writer to create a rough script for a comedy-adventure movie for you and Shiloh to play sisters. Since you are.”

I groaned and said, “We’re not the Olsen twins! And I’m not a sister.”

Glancing over at me as he wound his way through freeway traffic, Ashton said, “Well, they’re like quadrillionaires or something now. Dad feels that getting a green light for this project will be easy after this current movie comes out. Dad thinks that a movie starring you and your sister will be box office gold.”

Frowning I said, “I have to go back to being a boy at some point. I have go back to school eventually.”

Exiting the freeway after almost side-swiping a minivan, Ashton said, “If he can get the script and the okay, he’s confident that he can finish primary shooting before the end of summer.”

Shaking my head, I said, “I’m going to have to say no to that. They told me I’d have to dress like this for two weeks. Three tops. I just want to go back to being normal.”

Stopped at a red light, Ashton smiled at me and said, “You look pretty normal to me.”

“This is the only way you’ve seen me! Of course this looks normal to you,” I said feeling a bit irritated.

Very seriously, Ash said, “I can’t imagine you any other way. Hungry?” Ashton pulled his car up into the parking lot of an In-N-Out Burger.

I just nodded.

Before he could protest, I paid for our order. I said, “You paid yesterday. It’s my turn. This isn’t a date, you know.”

Sounding frustrated, Ashton said, “But guys pay.” I stopped and cast a withering glare at him.

He put up his hands and said, “Okay, okay!”

Before taking my first bite and without looking up, I said, “So what do you do when you’re not babysitting actors?”

“I spend a lot of time gaming,” said Ash while chewing. “We have this totally awesome game room with a sixy-four inch monitor and a surround sound system. I’ve got every game system and Oculus Rift. I can spend days in there.”

My eyes widened as I said, “Holy shit. That sounds awesome. Marry me?”

Ashton gave me an odd look. I said, “I’m joking. What games you play?”

Ash smirked and said, “Probably the same games you do. New Vegas, Gears of War, Mass Effect. I even play Call of Duty.”

I just nodded and said, “What about Half-Life?”

Ash laughed and said, “Not any more. I gave up on that when it was obvious Valve can’t count to three.”

“Anyway, that’s pretty damn sick,” I said. “Must be nice.”

Ashton pushed the last of his burger into his mouth and while chewing said, “It is. Want to see it?”

“Serious?” I asked, not sure if he was kidding me or not.

Draining his soda cup, Ashton said, “Do you have anything else to do this afternoon?”

I pulled my cell phone from my purse, and looked at the blank screen and said, “My calendar is clear.”

Ashton stood up and said, “Let’s go. I just hope you don’t mind dying. A lot.”

I said, “I got skills.”

Ash laughed and said, “Well girly boy, you don’t have your aimbot with you. Get ready to be pwned.”

I laughed and said, “That sound so stupid when you say it out loud.”

Ashton said, “Whatever!” He then flipped some of my hair into my face and ran for his car.

 

*          *          *

 
I stood there in awe as I looked around Ashton’s game room. I said, “Dude! This is totally sick! If I had this room, they’d have to hook me up intravenously to feed me because I’d never come out.”

Grinning from ear to ear, Ashton said, “Check it out. Everything is loaded on these servers…” He pointed to a row of six computers, rack mounted and continued, “…and voice activated. The sub woofer is mounted in the gaming chair which is surrounded by eight speakers. The lights dim as soon as the game starts. It’s freakin’ awesome. I got it for my birthday two years ago.”

Frowning I said, “I got a bag of underwear and a movie in PAL format so I can’t watch it.”

Ashton said, “Sucks to be you, man. Take the left seat.” He handed me a controller.

“Is this the broken controller?” I said as I sat down.

Ashton shook his head and said, “That’s the good one. You’ll need it.” He sat down, picked up his controller and said, “Halo. Deathmatch.”

The screen in front of us kicked into life with the most beautiful image I’ve ever seen. The lights dimmed and the game started. Ash took me out with a headshot with the sniper rifle in the first fifteen seconds of the game. He punched me lightly in the shoulder and said, “You’ve been pwned.”

I said, “That sounds so stupid when you say it out loud.”

Ash grinned and said, “Get used to it, dude. You’re going to hear it a lot.”

Dying a few more times later, I finally acclimated to my environment and got into the game zone. The score began to finally even out.

“You play pretty good…for a girl,” Ash said after I whacked him with an energy sword.

And then right at the last second of the game after my assault rifle shot its last round, I racked up the highest score and watched Ash go down with a single shot from a Needler.

“I can’t believe you killed me with that!” shouted Ashton.

“You had no armor left!” I laughed. Then in a taunting voice I started chanting, “You were killed by a girl! You were killed by a girl!”

Frowning, Ashton said, “Dude, you’re not a girl. Knock it off.”

“…You were killed by a girl!...”

Ash reached over and cupped his hand over my mouth and muffled my voice. He said, “Dude. Quit. You’re not even a girl.”

Annoyed, I said, “I was just messing with you bae. Sheesh. You smeared my lipstick.”

Ash looked at the trace of my lipstick on his hand and started laughing hysterically. He said, “Fuck, dude. Did you ever think you’d get pissed at someone messing up your make-up? I’m starting to think you are a girl!”

I touched my face to confirm I now had lipstick where it’s not supposed to be. I said, “Yeah, it’s a stupid thing to be upset about, but if you’re going to be wearing it, you don’t want it to look bad. You have no idea how long it takes to put this crap on.”

Smirking, Ash said, “Oh yes I do. I had to wait for you to slap that stuff on your face before we could leave the studio.”

I said, “Look. It’s driving me crazy knowing this is smeared on my face. I need to go fix it. Where’s the head?”

Ash said, “I have a better idea. You’re off this afternoon. Why not be a guy for rest of the day? Go wash that crap off your face and take your bra off.”

I laughed and said, “That’s not a bad idea, actually.”

Laughing, Ash said, “Since you’re going to take it off anyway, let me show you a trick I learned.” He leaned in front of me and reached out behind me.

I started to push him away and said, “What the fuck, man?”

With a serious expression on his face, Ash said, “Relax. I’m trying to unhook your bra.”

“Don’t unhook my bra!” I said a little too loudly.

“Ashton Frances Goodwin! Just what are you doing?” shouted a woman from the doorway.

Ashton’s face went white as he said, “Mom! I…This..um…I…You’re home early. I wasn’t expecting you until later.” He still had a hand on one of my fake boobs.

Stepping into the room, arms folded she said, “Obviously! You know the rules about bringing girls in the house when your father and I aren’t home.” She flashed a stern look at me.

He pulled his arm quickly away and with a short laugh said, “Mom. This isn’t what you…I mean, no. Nothing…and I mean nothing is going on here. Nothing. Zilch. Squat. Nada. I mean with her? No. That’s crazy talk.” He pulled as far away from me as possible.

She glared at me and said, “Yeah, sure. She’s very pretty. I’m sure nothing was going on. What is she? Fourteen?”

I tried to shrink into my chair. I said, “I’m sixteen. Really, nothing was going on. We were just foolin’ around. Wait. I mean…”

Frowning at me, Mrs. Goodwin said, “Don’t defend him. Why do you girls always defend him? Your bra is unhooked isn’t it?” I nodded. I had been holding my arms tight against me to keep the bra from falling off my breast forms.

She pointed at me said, “Come here girl. Do you have a name?”

“Brianna,” I said very quietly.

Mrs. Goodwin said, “Brianna, there’s a bathroom right around that corner. You can…freshen up there.” She then pointed at Ashton and said, “You. Go to your room.”

I started to leave the game room. Ash looked from me to his mother and said, “But Mom! We weren’t doing anything. Honest! Not with her.”

Folding her arms again and looking even more pissed, Mrs. Goodwin said, “Go. I’m quite sure her bra unhooked itself. Not another word. Go.”

Ash looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, Bri,” And then he ran off, presumably to his room.

Mrs. Goodwin watched me as I quickly walked to the bathroom. I took a few deep breaths and fought tearing up. Getting a boy in trouble for touching my breasts was a new experience for me. I look in the mirror. My hair was a mess and the lipstick smear was extremely obvious. There was no way Mrs. Goodwin could have missed seeing it and of course jumped to the wrong conclusion.

I stood there for a few more minutes trying to collect myself. I knew there was no way on God’s green earth that there was any way to convince Ash’s mother that nothing happened between us. I think it’d make things much worse for Ash if I showed her I wasn’t really a girl.

I took my t-shirt off, revealing my realistic breast forms. I brought the hook to the front, hooked it and then rotated the bra around and lifted the cups over my boobs. I put the t-shirt back on and flipped my hair out of the neck hole tousled my hair a bit.

I turned to the mirror again and pulled my compact out of the purse. With a tissue I wiped off the lipstick smudge and using the compact, I corrected my make-up. As I was smoothing the pad around my face, I stopped and just stared at myself. I thought, just what the hell am I doing? I’m fixing make-up that I have no business wearing in the first place. I was upset about it being smudged and going crazy at not being able to fix it right then.

I put the compact away and pulled a lipstick from my purse and pressed it against my lips. Why am I wearing this? I don’t even know why girls wear it. I just shook my head as I dropped the lipstick back in my purse. I looked left and right to make sure everything was corrected. I made a kissy face at the mirror and immediately felt disgusted that I had just done so. I quickly left the bathroom.

Ashton’s mom was waiting for me. She said, “I called for a cab to come pick you up and take you home. I’ve paid for it, so you don’t have to worry about it. It should be here any minute, but you may wait by the front door until it gets here.” She indicated I should follow her.

I said, “I thought Ashton would take me back. I mean, he brought me here and all.”

Without turning around, Mrs. Goodwin said, “Ashton is grounded to his room until his father gets home for flagrantly violating our rules. And also for his inappropriate behavior towards you.”

I stopped walking and said, “Mrs. Goodwin. We honestly weren’t doing anything. Ash just got a bit carried away is all.”

Mrs. Goodwin turned and looked at me with a bit of pity in her expression. She shook her head as she said, “I really don’t know why you girls always defend him. Miss, I saw his hands on your breasts. He was unhooking your bra. I can only imagine one reason to do that. Your smeared make-up tells the rest of the story. We don’t allow that kind of behavior in our home. I know Ashton can be very charming and I know how easy it is to be impressed by a flashy car and...”

Interrupting, I said in an annoyed voice, “We didn’t do anything, Mrs. Goodwin. Honest. And I’m not just some little girl he picked up. Ashton is a nice boy. And he’s helped me a lot since I arrived in this city. I’d totally have been lost without his help. I’ll let myself out.”

I walked past Ashton’s mother and just walked out the door to wait for the cab by the street.

 

*          *          *

 

I was sitting at a table by myself at a restaurant that was walking distance from my hotel. Mandy had called and asked me to meet her at this restaurant. I was about to give up on her when I saw her walk through the door.

She smiled at me as she walked up to the table. She stopped before sitting down and looked me over. Her smile turned into a grin as she said, “Oh my God. Look at you! Such a beautiful girl.” She sat in the chair next to me.

I gave her a weak smile and said, “Hey Mandy. I haven’t heard from you in a long time. I thought maybe you’d forgotten about me.”

Mandy looked shocked and shook her head. “Oh, never, honey. But I do apologize for not being for your first days of shooting. I’ve been insanely busy. But I knew you were being looked after. In fact, that’s one of the things I need to talk to you about.”

I cocked my head to one side and said, “Oh?”

Mandy frowned and said, “I heard about the little dust-up with Mr. Goodwin’s son and his mother. Mr. Goodwin isn’t happy about it either. Look. I totally understand. Ashton Goodwin is quite the young hunk, but…”

I slapped the table top and said angrily through clenched teeth, “We didn’t…do…anything. His mom completely misunderstood what she saw. Look. I’m not gay and neither is Ash. It was all a misunderstanding. Honest.”

Mandy gave me a knowing look and said, “Did he have his hands on your breasts?”

“Well, yes.”

“Did he take your bra off?”

“Yes.”

“Did he kiss you?”

I partially stood up from my seat and said, “No! No he did not! He put his hand over my mouth to stop me from teasing him about losing a game. That’s all we were doing. Playing computer games!”

“Please sit back down,” said an embarrassed Mandy. “The bottom line is, Ashton isn’t supposed to bring girls over when his parents are not home. Mr. Goodwin is a big man in the movie industry here. While for actors, maybe bad publicity is still publicity, that’s not true for people like Mr. Goodwin. He has to avoid all hint of scandal to maintain his reputation. TMZ and others keep an eye on him to try to find any dirt.”

I rested my arms on the table and leaned forward. I said, “Do you believe me that nothing happened between Ash and me other than me beating him in a game?”

Mandy smiled at me and said, “Yes. I do believe you. But I hope you enjoyed that game, because Ashton isn’t allowed to bring you back. No, it’s not really about you directly. In fact, Mrs. Goodwin told me she thinks you’re very nice girl. But also a stupid naïve girl victimized by her son.”

Scowling, I said, “I wasn’t victimized.”

Shaking her head, Mandy said, “You’re not going to convince her of that. She was worried you might run to the tabloids to say you were raped by their son or some such nonsense. Remember, she thinks you’re a real girl. Anyway, Mr. Goodwin told her you’re an actress and that Ashton was just to keep an eye on you and discourage other guys from approaching you. So don’t worry. Ashton will still pick you up tomorrow.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. I said, “Thank God. I’d be lost without him.”

Mandy gave me an odd smile. She said, “Now that that’s all cleared up, I have something else to talk to you about. I’m sure Ashton’s mentioned it to you already.”

My expression soured as I said, “That movie idea with me and Shiloh?”

Mandy grinned and said, “That’s it. Mr. Goodwin thinks it has hit written all over it.”

I said, “I didn’t want to make this movie. I have no desire to make another one. Especially one with Shiloh.”

Mandy said, “I thought you might be resistant. But think about it. You’re already here as Brianna. If Mr. Goodwin can get a greenlight for the project, filming would start right after shooting for this movie ends. All of your primary shots would be complete before the end of the summer.”

Frowning I said, “And if it’s a hit, they’ll want a sequel or another movie and another one. On and on.”

Mandy grinned at me and said, “Girl. Your movie hasn’t even come out yet and you’re already in demand. I’m getting calls every day asking about your availability. There’s a TV show that thinks you’d be perfect for the daughter. Some advertisers want to hire you. Several directors would like for you to come read for parts.”

Shocked, I said, “How is that even possible? I’m a nobody.”

Still grinning, Mandy said, “Word gets around. Face it. You’re an attractive, talented young woman. And your profile is on our web site and lists all your career highlights.

I just shook my head and said, “This is insane.”

Mandy reached into her purse and pulled out a plastic bottle and set it on the table. She said, “And if we’re going to be seeing more of Brianna, I strongly suggest using these.” She pushed the bottle towards me.

I didn’t touch the bottle and said, “What is that?”

Mandy shrugged and said, “They’re androgen blockers. Basically you’ll stop developing any secondary male characteristics.”

I looked at the bottle in horror and with a shocked expression I looked up at Mandy and said, “You’re shitting me, right? You expect me to take those? I want my secondary male characteristics.”

“Those won’t make you rich and famous,” said Mandy. “The anti-androgens, coupled with estrogen will help you stay a pretty girl. It wouldn’t be forever. Mr. Goodwin expects that interest in you will start to fade as you hit your twenties like a lot of teen stars.”

I pushed the bottle back towards Mandy. I said, “You people are bat-shit crazy. I don’t want to stay a girl for five more minutes, much less five more years!”

Mandy picked up the bottle and put it inside my purse. She said, “Just think about it, okay. Brianna Pace has a bright future in Hollywood. Brian Pace as a bright future in flipping burgers.”

 

*          *          *

 

The rest of the week went surprisingly well. It’s nice to not have Mr. Bower treating you like an enemy. We moved our shooting schedule up to where almost all of my primary shooting was done on Friday. We even did some on location shooting at a local park.

I’ll admit to myself, though not anyone else, that I’ve enjoyed being a part of a movie. A movie studio is an amazing place when there are a lot of things going on. But it’s also nice when it’s done and you can just relax at your hotel. Which was what I was doing late Friday after noon.

It annoyed me when the phone rang as it meant I had to sit up. I put the remote for the TV down and picked up the phone.

“Hello?” I said, a bit uncertain about who might be calling and why.

“Hey Bri,” said a familiar voice. “It’s me, Ashton.”

I sat up a bit straighter on the bed and said, “Hey Ash. I haven’t talked to you since, what, two hours ago? What’s up?”

Ash hesitated a moment and then said, “I uh…what…what are you doing Saturday night?”

I frowned at the phone and said, “This sounds an awful lot like leading up to a date.”

“Well, yeah. Kinda sorta,” said Ashton. “I kinda feel I owe you, the girl, Brianna after that crap the other afternoon.”

I laughed and said, “You don’t owe me anything, Ash. I’m not the one that got in trouble.”

“I know you were embarrassed,” Ashton said. “Plus I figured you were probably not going to leave your hotel room Saturday night. I mean, don’t get the wrong idea here, but I thought you might want to do something. Besides, my mom said for me to get out of the game room and maybe take that nice girl out.”

“She thinks I’m a nice girl now?” I said, incredulous. “I thought she didn’t really like me much.”

Ash said, “Oh, she doesn’t blame you for my bad behavior. Dad explained why you were here. No, you still have a secret. So Mom chilled a bit after Dad talked to her. And I swore up and down I’d never touch you inappropriately again.”

I said, “I’m going to hold you to that one.”

“You have nothing to worry about, dude,” said Ash. “I wasn’t trying to fondle you the other day.”

“I know,” I said. “You’ve already apologized multiple times for something you didn’t do. And you don’t have to take me on a date for Christ’s sake.”

Ashton sighed, “You don’t have to make this so hard. I thought long and hard on the idea of asking you out. I like you, Bri. I wanted to get to know you a little more, outside of this whole movie shit. I know you’re not an actual girl, but you sure look, talk, act and smell like one. I thought it might be fun.”

I just stared at the floor for a few moments. I said, “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

Ash heaved another heavy sigh and said, “Yeah, you’re right. It was stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking. Forget I said anything. Night. See you Monday morning.” The phone clicked and he was gone.

I set the phone’s handset back on the cradle and just stared at it for a few moments. I thought that it was nice that he’d ask. Stupid, but nice. I smiled when I thought of him saying he liked me. I like him too. I think of him as a friend now. He didn’t have to phrase it as a date. Even if I’m stuck having to be Brianna all the time, we could still just do guy stuff, like a game arcade

He never did say what he wanted to do. Maybe it was something like going to the arcade. That’s not too weird. Even if it was going to eat. Nothing weird about that either. He’s been buying me lunch all week because he has money and I don’t.

Did I really want to just sit in my hotel room and watch TV on Saturday night? I could always go somewhere with Shiloh. But she’s annoying and I’d still have to be Brianna.

I stared at the phone. It’s just one night and it’s not like he’d try anything like he would with a girl. Hah. We’d probably just go to Burger King. He did promise one time to drive me around to show me the homes of movie stars. I reached for the phone.

I stopped before my fingers touched the phone. What am I doing? Accepting a date offer from a boy? That’s pretty gay. There’re just no two ways to slice it. Going on a date with a boy while you’re still a boy is definitely gay, regardless.

But it’s only a date if we say it is. It’s just two friends spending some time together.

Which is basically what a date is. Oh! The humanity!

Ashton’s number was showing as a previous call. I selected it and hit dial.

“Hello?” said Ash.

“Where are we going?” I said.

Surprise in his voice, Ash said, “Serious?”

I frowned and said, “Don’t give me a chance to change my mind.”

Ashton laughed and said, “Well, there’s this really great restaurant down by the ocean that Dad suggested I take you to that’s semi formal. I’d have to wear a tie, and you’d have to wear a dress.”

I frowned again and said, “A dress?”

Ashton said, “Yeah. What do you girls call it? A Little Black Dress.”

I bit my lower lip and said, “I guess that means heels too. What time are you picking me up?” Oh my God. I just asked a boy what time he was picking me up for a date. I should say he called the wrong number. Except I called him.

Ash said, “At seven. I’ve made reservations for a table by the window so we can watch the sun set over the ocean.”

“You don’t think that’s a bit on the romantic side, do you?” I said with an annoyed voice.

“Sorry,” said Ash. “I only think of you as a girl. And I thought you’d like that.”

“Well, that would be where I’d want to sit, regardless of who I was with,” I said. “How did you managed to get reservations on such short notice with this fancy restaurant?”

There was a pause and then Ash said in a quiet voice, “Dad.”

I said, “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow around seven. See ya.” I dropped the connection and set the phone back onto the cradle.

I stared at the phone again and thought that I must have gone insane.

I suddenly decided I was hungry and walked over to get my purse. There was a Mickey D’s almost next door to the hotel. The hotel restaurant was way too expensive. I checked my purse for my room key and a lipstick as well as my wallet. And laying there was the bottle of androgen blockers that Mandy had given me. I picked up the bottle and read the label. I took a pill out and just studied it a moment.

With a sudden determination, I walked to the bathroom and filled a glass with water. I swallowed the pill. It was mostly a symbolic gesture since I doubted one pill would do anything to me.

Should Mandy be handing me medications like that? I shrugged and headed off to Mickey D’s, wonder if I’d made a horrible mistake. And I wondered if the date was a bad idea too.

 

*          *          *

 

“You what?” said a surprised Shiloh. “You said yes to a date with a boy? Are you mental?”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked from the safety of my cell phone.

“What’s wrong with that? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that,” said an angry Shiloh. “For starters, you’re not a girl. What do you think he’s going to do when he finds that out?”

“He already knows,” I said. “But I think he still has a bit of a crush on Brianna.”

Shiloh looked serious for a moment. She said, “He already knows? Are we talking about that really cute guy who has been picking you up every day?”

I nodded uselessly and then said, “That’s the one.”

“Wow,” said Shiloh. “That’s a total surprise. My gay-dar never went off with him. Or you either for that matter.”

I frowned and said, “He’s not gay. Trust me, he’s very much into girls.”

“Apparently he’s into you,” said Shiloh.

“Well, just look at me,” I said raising my voice. “I look like a girl. You’ve said yourself that guys are visual. He likes me as Brianna. You can’t help who you like.”

“And you’re cool with that? You don’t mind being liked by a boy. Do you like him too?” Shiloh was silent for a few moments. “How far are you willing to take this?”

I almost shouted, “Knock it off! I like him as a friend. Nothing more. He’s cool. He’s fun to talk to and hang out with.”

Shiloh smirked, “I used to tell Mom the same thing about boys.”

“I just thought it might be fun,” I said. “It’s really boring sitting in this room each evening. I think he’s bored too.”

Shiloh said, “You don’t date boys because you’re bored. Well, it’s not a very good reason to. I still don’t understand why’d you want to date a boy. What do you get out of it?”

I paused for a long time. I was trying to figure out how to vocalize what I was feeling. Slowly, I said, “You’re going to laugh.”

Sounding indignant, Shiloh said, “No I won’t.”

I hesitated a few more seconds and then said, “I’m just curious what it’s like to be a girl. I mean, I’ve been dressing like one for a week here and two weeks before that. But just wearing the clothes and have people stare at your chest when you’re talking to them isn’t all there is to being a girl.”

Shiloh laughed. She said, “Being a girl goes deeper than clothes or boys. What you’re experiencing now isn’t anything close to what it’s like really being a girl. You’re beautiful and everything is laid out for you. Every morning you put on a little make-up, glide into the studio, say your lines and then glide back to the hotel. And when you’re done with the movie, or bored being a girl, you get to go back to being a guy. I can’t just quit being a girl when my world turns to shit. And what if you weren’t beautiful? Do you think your boyfriend would still ask you out? Do you think those doors that open for you now would still open? You have no clue.”

I paused for a few moments and then said, “Hmm? Oh…is the speech over? I know all that. Sorta. I just wanted a taste of what it’s like. You’ve always been popular and dating has been easy for you. I’ve had one…count ‘em. One date with a girl.”

“Are you going to kiss him?” asked Shiloh in a quiet voice. “Have sex?”

I scowled at the air in front of me and said into the phone, “Of course not! Don’t be an idiot.”

Shiloh laughed again. “You’re going on your first date as a girl, with a really cute guy and you’re not even going to try to get a kiss from him?”

“You’re lucky you’re on the phone and not standing here,” I said. “I’d punch you for sure for that.”

Shiloh said, “Well, I really don’t approve and I know what Mom and Dad would say. I don’t understand your boyfriend’s motivation to ask you out and I don’t understand why you’d accept.”

“He’s not my boyfriend!” I protested. “And Mom and Dad don’t ever need to know. Now, are you going to help me get ready tomorrow?”

Laughing, Shiloh said, “I thought you’d never ask. I have the perfect little black dress for you!”

 

*          *          *

 

I never thought I’d be this nervous. It’s not like it’s a real date, but technically, it was a *first* date. With a boy. The fact that Ashton was going to be here any minute, just made my cold feet worse.

I was sitting on my hotel bed with Shiloh sitting beside me trying to boost my confidence. We’d spent the afternoon washing my hair and trying to get my make-up perfect. She had to alter the dress because sadly, I’m shorter than her. The dangly diamond (real!) earrings were hers as well. And the necklace. She told me I’d die a slow death if I lost them.

Shiloh said, “Just relax, sis. You’re going to have a great time. You are totally gorgeous. You look just like me!”

I rolled my eyes at her and grunted and went back to staring at my hands. The butterflies in my stomach had brought out their jackhammers today. This was clearly the most idiotic thing I’ve ever done.

Shiloh stood up and gave me a hard look. Smiling broadly, she said, “I’m serious, little sister. You’ve left him defenseless. He can’t help but fall in love with you!”

I frowned at my sister and said, “I don’t him to fall in love with me. I just want him to pay for dinner.”

“That perfume you’re wearing has a strong pheromone in it. He won’t be able to help himself. Or any other man in smell distance. Expect a lot of attention from men tonight.”

“Oh geeze thanks!” I said angrily. “That’s all I need.”

Laughing, Shiloh said, “You’re very welcome!”

Then there was a knock on the door. All my blood turned to ice water. I jumped up and said to my sister, “Tell him I had to go home. Or..or..better, tell him I’m dead.”

Grinning, Shiloh gave me a final once over and said, “Relax! Serious. It’ll be fine. You look adorable. Just go with the flow and you’ll have fun. Got everything in your purse? Key? Make-up? Cell? Mad money?”

I looked in my purse as a second round of knocks rattled on the door. I said, “Check. Check. Check and check.”

Shiloh sat down in one of the chairs and inclined her head towards the door. She said, “Are you going to open the door?”

I took a deep breath and tugged down on the hem of my dress. I put my hand on the doorknob, hesitated for a few moments. I looked back at Shiloh and she just smiled and mouthed the words, “Open it!”

I looked back at the door and twisted the knob. Standing in the doorway was a very handsome Ashton Goodwin wearing dress pants, shirt and tie and a sport coat. He even combed his hair.

With a big, dopey grin crawling across his face, Ashton said, “You look absolutely wonderful, Brianna.” He glanced over my shoulder for a moment and continued, “You’re even more beautiful than your sister, that Shy-what’s-her-name.”

He stepped through the door and faked shock at seeing Shiloh. He put his hands up in a defensive position and said, “Shiloh! What a surprise! I didn’t know you were there!”

Shiloh smirked and said, “Yeah, right.” She looked Ash up and down. She said, “You’re looking very good tonight, Ashton. I approve. You may date my sister.”

Ash grunted a laugh and said, “Well thank you. It’s always nice to get the blessings of senior members of a family. Well, we have a reservation to get to.”

Shiloh folded her arms and said, “She has to be back here in her room by midnight. I’m not kidding. At twelve oh one, a call goes out to your parents.”

Ash gave Shiloh a mock salute and said, “Aye-aye sir.” He took my hand and led me down the hall to the elevator. As the door of the elevator closed and still holding my hand, Ash punched the button for the lobby. He looked at me and said, “Is this crazy or what?”

I laughed and said, “Yes it is.”

His face looked serious for a moment and he said, “You really are prettier than your sister. No joke.”

I got pissed at myself when I felt my cheeks redden. I said, “Thank you.”

We walked through the hotel lobby in silence. Ash continued to hold my hand. I wasn’t sure just how I felt about that. I kept reminding myself that this was what I wanted; to know what a date was like. Too late I realize my mistake.

Ash smiled at me as he opened the passenger door of his car. I looked at the opening. The skirt of my dress was tight and a bit short. I was wearing three inch high heels. Just how the hell was I going to get in that car? And get out for that matter.

Then Ashton surprised me as he held my hand to help steady me as I stepped into Ash’s Vette. I smiled at him and said, “Thank you.” I sat down on the leather seat. The skirt of my dress didn’t come close to covering my ass as I sat. Great. Now the back of my thighs will get all sweaty.

We didn’t talk much on the drive to the restaurant. The traffic was a bit heavy Ashton was having to concentrate on his driving. With the top down, my hair was being tossed around a lot. I’m glad I didn’t go to a salon and spend money getting my hair done.

“Here we are,” announced Ashton as he drove his car into the restaurant’s parking lot. Actually, there wasn’t much parking space in the parking lot. Then I noticed a low parking garage adjacent to the restaurant. Ashton pulled the car up right in front of the restaurant door.

A grinning valet ran up and opened my door. He extended his hand to help me out and just said, “Miss?” After I was out of the car, he closed the door and ran around to open the door for Ashton. Still smiling the valet said, “Good evening, Mr. Goodwin.”

I smiled at Ash as he casually tossed the keys to his car to the valet. He said, “Here you go my good man. Try not to scratch it this time.”

Still grinning, the valet caught the key and said, “Yes sir. I’ll be extra careful this time.”

The whole exchange seemed a bit odd. I walked up to Ashton and he flashed a big grin at me and took my hand. I said, “That’s impressive. The valet knows you by name. You come here that often?”

Still grinning at me, Ash said, “They have a great lunch buffet here.” He then led me by the hand into the restaurant. He led me. We weren’t equals here. We weren’t gaming buddies. He made it very clear he was in charge.

The maitre d bowed his head slightly to Ash as we approached him. He said, “Good evening, Mr. Goodwin.” He nodded to me and continued, “Miss. Your usual table, Mr. Goodwin?”

I almost missed Ash passing a fifty dollar bill to the maitre d. Ash said, “Yes, please. And have a bottle of sparkling water brought the table.”

“Right away, sir,” said the maitre d with a broad smile He snapped his fingers and said to a waiter standing at the ready, “Table sixty-nine.”

The waiter was staring at me until I turned to look at him. He then straightened, smiled at Ashton and said, “This way, sir.”

Ash put his arm around my waist, still leading me in a way as we followed the waiter to our table. Another waiter was walking up to our table carrying an ice bucket with what looked like a champagne bottle in it. The waiter pulled a chair away from the table and directed that I sit as he said simply, “Miss.” As I started to sit, he pushed the chair towards the table so I wouldn’t have to scoot up after sitting down. Ash seated himself.

Grinning, the waiter popped the cork on the bottle and poured a fizzy, clear liquid into my glass first and then Ash’s. He said, “I’ll be back in a moment to take your order.” At Ash’s nod, walked away.

I looked around the table and said, “Where’re the menus?”

Ash pointed at the purple sheet of paper lying in front of me. He smiled and said, “It’s right in front of you!”

I picked up the single sheet of paper and glanced over it. Everything was in French. And nothing was under thirty dollars.

Under my breath I said, “Holy shit. Look at these prices!” I looked up at Ashton’s face and said, “And I have no idea what to order. Does any of this say ‘chicken fried steak’?”

Ashton laughed and said, “Don’t be gauche, Brianna. Don’t worry. I’ll order for you.” Again, Ashton is in charge. I gave Ash a sideways look, wondering if he wasn’t getting off on exerting himself on a more submissive male. I’m sure part of his new behavior was in trying to impress me. Impress a girl. It was clear to everyone who bothered to take a look, I was *his* date. As a girl, should I accept this? Well, I didn’t want to make a scene by breaking protocol and he was treating me after all. So I’ll just remain passive.

I said, “I’m sorry, Ash. The fanciest place I’ve eaten at was Texas Roadhouse.”

Ashton grinned and said, “There’s a big world out there, Bri. On our next date, we should make the drive up to San Francisco. There’s a place there with the best sea food you’ve ever had!”

I started to reach for my glass of sparkling water when I stopped and looked up at Ash. I said, “Our next date?”

With a sheepish grin, Ashton said, “I guess I was just thinking out loud. I think it’d be great though. We could do the whole tourist bit, have a most excellent dinner, spend the night in a five star hotel and…”

I held up my hand and said, “Whoa whoa whoa, right there. Spend the night? Just us?”

Ashton looked confused and said, “What’s wrong with that?”

I glared at him for a moment and then said, “Seriously? For starters I’m only sixteen. Not to mention that I’m equipped differently than most girls.”

Looking deflated, Ash said, “You are so beautiful Brianna, that’s it’s very easy to forget that…” His voice trailed away. After a moment, he brightened back up and said, “Well, we could still have dinner there.”

I shook my head and picked up the glass. I took drink and almost gagged. I put the glass down and said, “This is just unflavored soda water!”

Ashton laughed and said, “But it’s from France!”

The waiter returned just then and said, “Are you ready to order, sir?” He just assumed Ashton would order for us both. As he nodded and wrote down the order, he kept sneaking a glance at me. I started to feel very uncomfortable here.

After the waiter returned to the kitchen with our order, I said, “I need to use the little girl’s room. I’ll be right back.” I did need to go. But I needed a break from all these obvious displays of testosterone.

As I got up and walked away, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a clue where the restroom was. I asked a passing waiter where it was and was told it was over by the kitchen doors.

As I started to open the door, it opened in front of me and a man started to exit. He stopped and just looked at me with a confused expression. Finally he pointed and said, “I think you want that one.”

Embarrassed beyond belief, I said, “Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.” I then went to the women’s restroom door and went inside. I did need to go, but I first just leaned on the counter in front of the large mirror and stared at the pretty girl in the reflection.

A woman came out of stall and walked to the sink to wash her hands. As she started to freshen her lipstick, she looked over at me with a knowing expression. She said, “Your boyfriend being an ass?”

I gave her a quick glance to acknowledge her presence, closed my eyes for a second and took a deep breath. I said, “He’s being a guy.”

The woman smiled and said, “I know, right? Well hang in there.” She turned and left the restroom.

After taking care of business, I exited the women’s restroom and stood near the kitchen door to get my bearings to return to our table. From the kitchen, I heard one of the staff as he said, “Well, I just lost that bet with Ashton.” I stopped when I heard Ashton’s name.

A different voice said, “Yeah. Clarence called me after he parked his car. He was with the most awesome chick he’d ever seen.”

A third voice said, “What are you guys talking about?”

The first voice said, “You know Ashton Goodwin from school, right? A bunch of us who work here are friends with him. At Wednesday’s LAN party, he told us about this super hot chick who is also a new starlet that he’s banging. We all told him he was full of shit. He never gets out of his game room long enough to say hello to some bitch, let alone fuck one.”

The second voice said, “So he bet us all money that we’d eat our words Saturday…today.”

The first voice said, “You saw her, right? God, I’d love to get a piece of that bitch! To think that Ash gets to fuck…”

A fourth voice bellowed, “Hey. I’m not paying you clowns to stand around and chit-chat. Get back to work.” There were a few mumbles and I saw two waiters walk away from the kitchen. One of the waiters was ours.

I stood there shaking, a mixed bag of emotions ranging from anger to shame. I never felt so violated. To hear guys talk about you in such base terms. In their eyes, I was a prize. A fuck toy. Ash was talking to his friends about me. Telling them he was having sex with me. I was humiliated. Tears started to roll down my cheeks.

I tried to tell myself that none of it meant shit. I’m not a girl. He’s not fucking me. He’s just being a guy, boasting to his friends. Every guy does that. This wasn’t a romantic evening, right? I’m not a girl. I was just here for the free meal and see what a date is like to better understand being a girl for the role I’m playing.

But they were talking about me. They have no right to say these things about me. They have no right to say such things about any girl. At least for that moment, I rejected my own maleness. I was a girl. And the guy I trusted…that I started to develop feelings for, violated that trust. Humiliated me in front of his friends. How can a guy do that to a girl he supposedly likes? Was our friendship a lie? Was I only a means to boost his cred among his geeky friends?

I wiped a finger across the tears on my cheeks, annoyed that I now had black streaks under my eyes. I used to think it was funny to see a girl with raccoon eyes. I stormed back to our table. I didn’t care that people were staring at me. Ash was watching the sun set as I arrived at the table. He turned to face me, his smile instantly fading as I approached.

He said, “Baby. What’s wr…”

I slapped him with the open palm of my hand. It was harder than I thought because my hand stung. I shouted, not caring what others thought, “You bastard! I thought you cared about me!” I picked up his drink and splashed it into his face. I shouted, “I hope the money you won on me was worth it! How fucking dare you!” I knocked the ice bucket onto the floor, turned and stormed towards the exit.

Ash called after me, “Babe! Wait! There’s been a misunderstanding!” I heard him stand up and start running after me.

Running in a dress and high heels is not recommended. But my anger helped me focus and I only slipped a few times. I heard Ashton’s footfalls behind me.

“Go away!” I shouted over my shoulder. Somehow I managed to stumble my way onto grass, which made running more difficult. I tried to use only the balls of my feet to run.

Ashton, out of breath, shouted, “Bri! Please let me explain!”

In the gathering dusk, I didn’t see that I had run out onto the beach. It was apparently a private beach for the restaurant and a nearby hotel as there were few people around. I stumbled and almost fell when I hit the sand. Lights from the restaurant and the fact that it was getting dark confused me. I wasn’t sure what direction to run.

From behind me, Ash shouted, “Bri! Please!” He had kicked off his shoes so he could run faster on the sand.

“Fuck off!” I shouted over my shoulder. Just then my heel caught in the soft mud caused by the surf rushing up the shore. With a squeal…I actually squealed like a girl, I fell with a splat on my front, right in the mud. A wave rolled up covered my head for a moment.

I rose up on my knees. The front of my dress was covered in sandy mud. Water dripped from my hair. I shouted, “Ah shit! My dress!”

Ashton was almost upon me. I tried to get up, but my shoe slipped on the mud and I fell face down in the dryer sand. I raised myself up on my elbows, spitting out sand.

Ashton ran up to me, and said, “Brianna? Are you okay?” He extended his hand. “Let me help you up.” I took his hand, but before he could pull, I jerked on his hand and caught him off balance. He tumbled onto the wet beach just as a wave rolled over him.

I sat up and cried. My face was caked with sand. There was sand in my hair. My dress had dry sand caked onto wet sand. The heel had come off one of my shoes. I grabbed a handful of sand and threw it into Ashton’s face as he pushed himself up on his knees. As he tried to regain his feet, I pulled on his pants leg, pulling his pants down and causing him to fall back onto the sand.

I cried, “You fucking bastard! You bet your friends you had a date with me? You humiliated me!”

Spitting sand out of his mouth, Ashton said, “Baby, I can explain…” I hit him in the face with another handful of sand. Frowning he scooped up a large handful of sand, and lunged at me, covering my head with sand.

I started to rapidly toss small handfuls of sand at Ash. Some hitting their mark, others missing wildly. Ash scooped handful after handful of sand, showering me with sand. I tried to stand, but Ash caught my ankle and I fell back onto the sand.

Laughing, Ash said, “Oh no you don’t!” Despite my anger, I giggled as I toss more sand in his face.

Tossing sand, I said while lying on my back and giggling, I said, “Go away! Stop!”

Ash caught my ankle again and tried to drag me towards him. He said, “Not until we talk.” He suddenly sputtered as he caught a mouthful of sand.

I laughed and started to stand and I bumped into a pair of legs. I looked up and saw a police officer standing in front of me. He said, “What’s going on here? Someone called in a fight?”

Ashton said as he shook sand out of his hair, “There’s nothing wrong officer.”

Brushing sand from my face, I said, “Oh yeah. Nothing at all.”

Shining his flashlight around us, he saw my broken shoe and he seemed to focus on the red mark on my ankle where Ash had grabbed me. He then shined the light at my face which had to be a total wreck from my crying, the surf and the sand.

The police officer said, “How old are you miss?”

I looked down at my sand-caked painted nails and said, “Sixteen.”

The police officer shined his light at Ashton, noting he too was covered in sand. He said, “Any alcohol?” Ash shook his head. With a frown, the officer said, “Pull your pants up, sir. The girl is underage. I’m going to have to take you both in.”

“For what?” I asked. “For messing up the beach?”

The police officer jerked Ash to his feet and turned him around. Before either of us could react, the office slapped handcuffs on Ashton’s writs. He turned to me and said, “He’s under arrest for statutory rape. Come on, miss. Let’s go.”

“He didn’t do anything!” I shouted. “Don’t I have to press changes or something?”

The officer shook his head and said, “Not in this situation, miss. Let’s go downtown and straighten this out. After taking statements, we’ll send you over to the hospital to verify if he raped you or not.”

I was suddenly horrified! I was pissed at Ashton, but I didn’t want him arrested for rape! And I can’t go to the hospital for an examination. It’ll be pretty obvious I don’t have a vagina.

Pleading, I said, “He didn’t have sex with me! But even if he had, it wouldn’t have been rape!” Oddly, Ash smiled at me when I said that.

Looking frustrated, the officer said, “You’re underage. The rape charge is automatic. We can’t resolve the issue here. Let’s go.”

It was terrible. The worst experience of my life. I was arrested on disturbing the peace but I wasn’t put in a cell. I was given a blanket since I was wet and cold and given a cup of hot chocolate. Ashton as booked on rape charges, and carted off to a cell. Before they could send me off to the hospital for the examination, Ashton’s dad arrived, posted bail for Ash and somehow I didn’t have to get the examination. I really don’t want to know what Mr. Goodwin did.

An hour later, a cop had escorted me back to my hotel room. I was numb from all the emotional distress from the night, but I managed to insert the key into the lock and opened the door. The police officer removed the blanket I still had around me.

The officer said, “Have a nice day, miss.” He turned and walked away.

I stood there in the doorway, numb. My hair stiff from the salt water and totally disheveled. My eyes were ringed in black. My dress was still covered in sand. I was barefoot and holding my broken shoes.

Shiloh’s eyes widened and then a broad grin slowly spread across her face. She said, “Oh, I can’t wait to hear about this…”

 

*          *          *

 

“To say that Mr. Goodwin is pissed, would be putting it mildly,” said Mandy from her chair at the small café she to meet her at. Shiloh and I sat opposite her.

“I am so dead,” I said as I buried my face in my hands.

Mandy touched my shoulder and said, “Sweetie, it’s not that bad. I mean, it’s bad and all, but it’s not as bad as it could be. Look, Mr. Goodwin has to deal with celebrities behaving badly all the time. All the charges were dropped, so it’s all good.”

Shiloh scowled at me and said, “That examination was so embarrassing. You’re lucky the arresting officer couldn’t tell the difference between us.”

I said, “Thanks for doing that. I know you took a risk.”

“Ya think?” Shiloh grunted. “If our little switch-a-roo had been discovered, I’d be in jail and mostly likely Mr. Goodwin would be in jail as part of the conspiracy. And maybe you too, Mandy since it was your idea.”

I spread my hands out on the table and said, “Where do go from here?”

Mandy leaned back in her chair and said, “You show up tomorrow for your shoot as normal. Don’t worry about it, sweetie. It’s over. Maybe not forgotten, but there was no lasting damage. Not to sound trite, but it’s all good.”

“Do I take a cab? Or take a studio bus?” I asked.

Mandy shrugged and said, “Ashton will pick you up as usual. Mr. Goodwin doesn’t want anything to seem different.”

Sounding exasperated, I said, “Are you serious? That will be awkward.”

Mandy leaned back in and said, “He tried to get out from doing it. He thinks you hate him. He doesn’t blame you if you do.”

Do I hate him? What he did was terrible. His only reason to ask me out was to prove to his gaming buddies that he wasn’t lying about dating me. Except of course he was, since he wasn’t dating me.

What was I really angry with him about? Yes, he tricked me. But I also think he really wanted to go out, despite the fact that I’m not really a girl. And since I’m not really a girl, isn’t the joke on his friends who had to pay up? Since they all struck me as assholes, didn’t they deserve to lose money? What would I have said if Ash had come to me and said he was going to prank his friends and that he’d give me a cut? Would I have laughed and gone along with it? Would I feel bad about fooling those guys? Would I have been pissed that he just wanted to use me? Would I have cried “You don’t love me?”

This whole incident will probably scar me for the rest of my life.

I shrugged and said, “I don’t hate him. I’m pissed at him. He should have let me in on the gag is all. And not pretend he actually liked me.”

Mandy cocked her head to one side and looked at me curiously. She said, “Did you want Ashton to like you? As in being his girlfriend?”

I closed my eyes, folded my arms on the table and then laid my face inside my arms. I said, “I have a headache.”

 

*          *          *

 

The phone rang. I was already up and dressed. I said in a neutral voice, “Hello?”

Ashton’s voice said, “Ready?”

“Yeah.”

“K.”

I hung up. I grabbed my purse and left my hotel room, heading towards the elevator.

As soon as I exited the elevator, Ashton saw me, and turned and left the hotel lobby. I followed him out. When I stepped out of the hotel, Ash was already in his car, the engine running. He wore sunglasses and stared straight ahead. As soon as I’d gotten in the car, he pulled away from the curb and headed towards the studio. Neither one of us said a word on the way there.

He didn’t park. He just drove up to the soundstage’s entrance and stopped. I just sat there for a few moments. Without looking at me, Ash said, “See you this evening.” He just stared forward. I frowned, but without a word, opened the car door and stepped out. As soon as the door closed, he sped off. I watched him drive away.

As I turned to enter the soundstage, I said aloud to no one in particular, “Well, that went well.”

As I sat in the make-up chair, Mr. Bower decided to finally be human and chat with me. He seemed pretty excited and I dare say happy. He said, “Looks like we wrap up the primary shooting this week. I think we have pretty decent little movie here.”

“I hope so!” I said, trying to sound cheerful. “This has actually been a fun experience for me.”

Mr. Bower said, “The main crew is on location this week up in the mountains outside the city this week.” Mr. Bower laughed and said, “Location shooting is a pain. You have to wait for the lighting to be just so. Sometimes takes days just to get one shot. I like this green screen shit. I’m in total control.”

I said, “I’m sure that’s true, but I wish I was up there with Shiloh right now. I love being in the mountains. I’ve heard that mountain lake location is just beautiful.”

Mr. Bower just shrugged and said, “Maybe. Anyway, we have a tight schedule today.” He left the small make-up room.

The day’s shooting went well. Mr. Bower seemed happy most of the day. I was tired when it was over and we actually finished on time.

I looked around for Ash’s car when I stepped out of the soundstage. I really expected him to be here. It was better when he was with me in the soundstage all day. It didn’t matter when we finished, he was already here.

There was a sudden squeal of tires and a gunning engine sound. Ash’s car came roaring around the building and skid to a stop right beside me. I thought he was being ridiculous now.

Ash shouted, “Has no one told you? Why is your cell phone off?”

I got into Ash’s car and said, “What are you talking about? Heard what?”

Ash chirped the tires of his car as he quickly pulled away. He said, “I have to take you to the hospital. It’s your sister.”

I felt chill down my spine. I said, “What? What about Shiloh? What’s going on?”

Ashton took a moment to glance over at me and said, “There was an accident at the lake location. It was a small thing. For most people it probably wouldn’t matter…”

I grabbed Ash’s shoulder and shouted, “Will you please tell me what the fuck is going on?”

Driving up the on ramp to the freeway, Ashton said, “Like I said, it was a stupid thing. The boom mic operator accidently swung the boom into a tree. He knocked down a beehive. Shiloh was stung multiple times. Her face and body.”

“Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “Is she okay? It’s just a bee sting, right?”

Watching the traffic in front of him, Ashton said, “Apparently she’s allergic to bee stings. Her face has swollen up like a basketball. She couldn’t breathe. Thank God for the medical team on location. Last thing I heard is she’s stable at the hospital.”

I started crying uncontrollably. I said, “Hurry! Please hurry!”

Ten minutes later, Ash dropped me off at the hospital entrance. I ran in and was directed to up to her room. When the elevator door opened, I saw Chuck and Mandy both out in the waiting area.

Mandy rushed up to me and hugged me. She said, “Brianna! Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”

Still crying, I said, “Where is she? Is she okay?”

Mandy said, “She’s right over here.” She led me to a room. Chuck followed us. “She’s sedated and stable right now.”

I stepped into Shiloh’s room and started crying hard as I saw her laying in the bed, all these hoses and wires hooked up her. Her face was red and swollen. I rushed to her bed and cried, “Shiloh! Oh my God.” I took her hand and just stared at her.

Chuck and Mandy entered the room. Chuck looked stunned. To me he said, “She almost died. So severe was her allergy, she stopped breathing almost immediately. If there hadn’t been EMT’s on location…” His voice trailed away.

Mandy put her hand on my shoulder. She said, “Sweetie. Your parents were notified. They’re taking the earliest flight they can. We’ve even booked them a hotel room.”

I touched Shiloh’s hair. I said, “Just look at her. This was just a bee sting?”

Chuck said, “Some people are more allergic than others.”

To Chuck, Mandy said, “Let’s leave her alone for few minutes.” Chuck nodded and they both walked from the room, leaving me alone with Shiloh.

I looked at Shiloh with disbelief. Her eyes swollen shut. Her face puffy. A respirator was helping her breathe. I picked up her one hand that didn’t have things stuck into it and kissed it. I hugged her hand and cried.

 

*          *          *

 

Dad hugged me after coming out Shiloh’s room. And then Mom hugged me. We sat down in the waiting room with Mom and I both crying. Dad said, “The doctor said she’ll be fine, but it will take days, maybe a couple of week for her to fully recover. Thank God the EMTs where there. She didn’t breathe for just under a minute so they don’t expect any permanent damage.” Dad gently squeezed my hand and smiled weakly at me.

Next to us, Ashton slept in a waiting room chair. Mandy and Chuck eventually went home. Ashton refused to leave my side until my parents arrived. I thought that was so sweet of him.

Dad frowned at Ashton and said, “Is that the boy that tried to rape you? What’s he doing here?”

I said, “Dad, he never tried anything, much less rape. All charges have been dropped. He’s been by my side since this whole thing started.”

Dad then looked over to me and said, “Why were you out on a date with a boy anyway?”

Mom shook her head as she pushed Dad on his shoulder. Looking tired, she just said, “Not now.”

Dad nodded and touched my hair.

 

*          *          *

 

Staring at his hands, Ashton said, “I’m very sorry about what happened at the restaurant.”

Ashton had brought me to a very pretty park and we’d walked through it, not saying anything. Mom and Dad both had insisted he take me somewhere, anywhere, to get me out of the hospital for a while. The park was a good choice. I felt myself relaxing finally. Mr. Bower had also canceled the shoot for today since he knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on acting. It just meant longer days for the rest of the week though.

I touched his hand and said, “You’ve apologized like a hundred times now. I told you I forgive you.”

Ash continued his study of nothing and said, “I just feel so bad. I hurt you, which was the last thing I wanted to do. It seemed harmless at the time.”

I folded my arms and said, “Yeah, because you weren’t planning on telling me. If I hadn’t overheard, I would have finished dinner thinking you actually liked me.”

Ash turned towards me and taking my hand said, “I do like you, Brianna. And my friends feel bad about what they said. But you know the score. Unlike most girls, you know that was just guy talk. The way guys talk about girls and all.”

I just looked at Ash for a few moments. I said, “Actually, I never did talk about girls that way. And from my new perspective, I never will.”

Ashton grinned and said, “You mean you didn’t call your sister names?”

I looked away from him and my eyes stared unfocused. In almost a whisper, I said, “Shiloh…”

“Look, she’ll be fine,” said Ashton in a soft voice. “It’s not like she was in a fire or a car accident. She just needs to recover from her allergic reaction.”

I looked over at Ash and frowned. “That’s not your sister that almost died.”

Ashton smiled at me and said, “I thought you hated your sister.”

I looked at my hands and said, “I never hated her. She just started annoying me. When she got older she was always in the bathroom. Mom and Dad always seemed to favor her when we got in a fight. Just typical brother/sister stuff. But now I’m seeing her a bit differently.”

Ash looked over at me and said, “Because now you’re a girl?”

I frowned at him and said, “I’m not a girl. I just play one on TV.”

Ash grinned at me and said, “Oh, you’re a girl alright. I think you’ve always been a girl. I think that’s why you and Shiloh never got along. She got to live as a girl and you didn’t.”

Annoyed, I said, “Thank you Dr. Phil.”

Ashton shrugged and said, “Even your parents are noticing it. Do you remember what your dad said to me as we left the hospital?”

I squinted at Ash in the sun and said, “Yeah. He said, ‘Don’t rape her this time.’ He was just making a stupid joke. Dad does that all the time.”

Ash held my hand and said, “He said ‘her’. Your mother even said, ‘Can you take *her* out of the hospital for a while?’ Even your mother sees you as a girl.”

I dismissed his comment with a wave and said, “They’re just tired and worried about Shiloh. I didn’t think anything about their comments.”

Ash interlocked our fingers of the hand he was holding. He said, “Would a boy let me hold his hand?”

 

*          *          *

 

“Ok folks. I called everyone here to let you officially know what the studio and I decided to do since the star of the move is incapacitated at the moment,” Mr. Goodwin said from behind the wide desk in his office. A couple producers I’ve never met were there, along with Shiloh’s director and Mr. Bower. There were other exec types there was well. I’d never met them either. Chuck and Mandy were sitting behind me. Sitting next to me and holding my hand was Ashton.

Leaning forward on his desk, hands clasped in front of him, Mr. Goodwin looked around the room with a serious expression. He said, “Those that don’t know can probably guess at what we came up with. This was our last week scheduled for primary photography. The cameras and crews are all scheduled for new projects next week so we can’t delay production for two weeks while we wait for Ms. Pace to recover.”

He looked directly at me and said, “And again Miss Pace, I want to express my sympathy for what happened to your sister. We’re all thankful that tragedy was averted.”

Scanning the room again, Mr. Goodwin said, “We would have to reschedule at some date, probably several months from now and trying to get the principals all back together would be difficult. Mr. Bower for instance, starts directing a TV show next month. So who knows when he’ll be next available to finish up production on this project.” He looked over at the other producers and continued, “Not to mention the money we’ll be losing. Which brings me to the studio’s and my proposal.”

Mr. Goodwin’s expression softened as his eyes turned towards me. His eyes locked with mine. He said, “Miss Pace, I know your contract only covered the two weeks to shoot the back story scenes with Mr. Bower. We have renegotiated your contract with your agency, but we need your consent. I know the terms under which you were recruited for this project and that you are not contractually obligated to do what we’re going to ask. If you consent, we have written up a new contract that will significantly increase your salary, give you a higher percentage of the residuals from over-seas and DVD sales and a few other perks. We have just two scenes to film to complete production filming. We want you, Miss Pace, to fill in for Shiloh for these last two scenes.”

I sat up straight. The moment he started talking about delays, I was afraid this was what he was going to say. I said, “I can’t take Shiloh’s part. It’s really her movie. I can’t take that away from her!”

Mr. Goodwin said, “Miss Pace…Brianna. Please consider Shiloh with your decision. If we don’t finish shooting this week, we’ll miss the November release date. Dramas like this do better with a fall release than a spring or summer release. Plus we miss the release date with all our over-seas distributors. The movie will also miss out on any potential Oscar nominations. This is a big deal, Brianna. A very big deal.”

I started to cry. The pressure was enormous on me. I wanted to go back home. Become normal again. I looked over at Ashton and said, “I really don’t know.”

Ash gently squeezed my hand and said, “You should do it, Bri. Not just for yourself, but for Shiloh too. I’d bet she’d want you to do it.”

I grunted a laugh through my tears and said, “You don’t know my sister.”

Mandy leaned in from behind and said into my ear, “This is a great opportunity for you, Brianna. It’ll show that you’re a team player and that they can count on you. I think you should do it, sweetie.”

I really didn’t know what to do. If I turned down the offer, I’d come off as a selfish asshole, putting the studio, Shiloh and other people’s jobs into a tailspin. I’m not even an actual girl and now they want me to replace Shiloh in the movie. If I do it, will Shiloh thank me for saving the movie or call me a scene stealing whore? The old, pre-girl me, would feel that pissing her off would more appealing to me than pleasing her.

I looked around the room. Mr. Goodwin, who had the most at stake just looked at me with a neutral expression. Chuck looked worried. Mandy smiled and nodded at me. Ash was now holding both my hands and staring earnestly into my eyes. Despite his faults, Ashton really was very cute.

I shrugged and said, “I’ll do it.”

There was applause and a few cheered. Ash gave me a hug. And then Mandy gave me a hug. Chuck just looked relieved. And Mr. Goodwin actually smiled.

 

*          *          *

 

I was beat. We just finished a marathon session with Mr. Bower to finish all my back story scenes at the soundstage. Ash and I were riding up to the forest location in a studio motor home to finish Shiloh’s scenes.

“You look tired, Bri,” said Ashton. “Why don’t you take a nap?”

I shook my head and said, “I really need to take a look at this script before we get there. We’re not going to have a lot of time to work out my lines with the other actors.”

Ashton looked worried. He said, “Just don’t kill yourself. We’re all out of Pace girls.”

I smiled at him and started scanning the shooting script for my scenes. My blood suddenly ran cold and I stiffened and dropped the script.

Ash touched my shoulder and said, “Bri, what’s wrong?” He picked up the script and looked at it.

I just sat there for a few moments. Staring at the table top that was in the back of the motor home, I said, “The final scene. It calls for a kiss. Not a peck on the cheek. Not even a quick kiss that I might be able to handled. No. I calls for a long, deep smoldering kiss. Ash, I’m not a girl! I can’t kiss a guy!”

Ash looked at me and said, “How hard can it be? It’s just a kiss. A movie kiss. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Looking at Ash I said, “I’ve never kissed a guy before. I don’t have any desire to. Shiloh wouldn’t have any problem kissing a man. I’m not going to be able to do it!”

We sat there in silence, the only sound was the road noise from traveling up the highway. Ash and I both just stared at the script lying on the table.

Without warning, Ash suddenly leaned into me, and pressed his lips against mine. The kiss was only a few moments. I was so shocked, I didn’t push him away.

He pulled away and grinned at me and said, “There. You’ve kissed a guy and lived. Now you don’t have to worry about it.”

I just stared at him in shock. He kissed me. He actually kissed me. A boy kissed me.

I said, “Why did you do that?” I wiped my lips with the back of my hand. “That was crazy!”

Ashton just grinned at me and said, “You were worried about being kissed. I thought I’d help you out.”

I said, “Thanks. I think. But the script calls for a long, smoldering, hot kiss. I still don’t think I can do that.”

Just as I finished talking, Ashton leaned in again and again pressed his lips against mine. This wasn’t a quick kiss. His lips lingered on mine. He pressed into me. I could suddenly feel the passion of kiss. Without thinking, I closed my eyes and put my arm around his neck and actually drew him closer. His tongue slid into my mouth and to my own surprise I sucked it in. I was overwhelmed with emotion. My passion met his as we tightly embraced.

Ashton pulled away slightly, our noses touching. He grinned at me and I smiled back at him. He said, “How was that?”

While our noses still touched each other, I gave him a quick, soft kiss and smiled at him. I said, “I think that was close, but I’m not sure.”

Ash grinned at me for a moment, and said, “Well, let’s practice some more.” He kissed me again. A long, deep passionate kiss. I never wanted it to end. I never knew a kiss could be like this. I ran my fingers into his hair and held him close to me as he held the side of my head as we locked in an embrace. I felt a shift. Who I was before seemed to fade.

I was emotionally drained when we finally released each other form out embrace. I found breathing difficult. I leaned back and closed my eyes and tried to catch my breath.

Ashton smiled at me when I opened my eyes. He said, “That was amazing. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with that kiss now.”

I smiled back. I said, “I’ll have to imagine I’m kissing you.”

He kissed me again.

 

*          *          *

 

As Mom entered the kitchen, she said, “So that nice boy we met at the hospital is going to escort you on the red carpet?”

I nodded. I said, “The studio wanted me to go with a co-star, but I’d prefer Ashton.” Sitting at the kitchen table, I took a small bite of my sandwich.

Shiloh scowled at me from the kitchen sink and said, “I still can’t believe my brother, would get an Oscar nomination for playing me, in my movie, but not me!”

I shrugged. I said, “What can I say? It’s just a supporting role. The movie was also nominated for best actor and best score. And I’m your sister.” The movie, after all was said and done, came in on time, slightly over budget and got rave reviews. Shiloh was definitely on her way to stardom. The comedy starring both of us is set for summer release and has been faring well with test audiences.

Mom walked up to me and ran her fingers through long, past-the-shoulder length hair. She said, “You’re looking more feminine all the time, Brianna. Are you really sure this is what you want?”

I nodded and said, “Yes, Mom. My counselor thinks so too. I wouldn’t be on hormones otherwise.”

Mom shrugged and said, “Your father doesn’t approve.”

Shiloh sat at the kitchen table with me. She chuckled and said, “Dad doesn’t like anything.”

Turning my head so I could look at both Mom and Shiloh, I said smiling, “He braided my hair last night.”

Frowning, Shiloh said, “He never braided my hair!”

Mom and I laughed.

 

*          *          *

 

The End



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