“Alright, we just need you four to stand here.”
Holly felt herself being nudged towards the open white space along with Cynthia and their two costars, Frank and Adam.
The photographer, Carl Powell, stepped forward out from the growing crowd of people that were gathered around in the studio, and he smiled.
“This is going to be a very simple shoot,” he explained, “Blank background with minimal props. We really want the focus on you as group and a unit, rather than individuals. That’s how we’re selling these pictures. Friends first, actors second.”
Holly glanced towards Cynthia but the woman was listening intently and nodding as she focused completely on Carl. Instead Holly met Frank’s eye; he grinned. Frank had definitely taken her side in the feud with Cynthia, though Holly suspected he mostly did it because he found it immensely fun. She’d figured out pretty early in their acquaintance that Frank pretty much didn’t do anything he didn’t find fun; he’d been a successful child actor in his day and he’d grownup with some instant gratification issues.
“Right,” the photographer was saying. “I just want to start out with you feeling natural. Girls in the middle. Frank go on Holly’s end. There, that’s good. Now some music to help with the mood. Think fun, hip, together.” He gestured for sound and a hip hop beat started playing over a pair of loud speakers. He bent down behind his tripod and camera and started snapping away.
Holly felt like a deer in the headlights. She’d been learning to deal pretty well she thought with the paparazzi cameras, but this was something completely new and different. She’d kept waiting for someone to explain to her what she should be doing, but no one had and now here she was, in front of that flashing light and who knows how many people watching and she had absolutely no idea what she was supposed to do. The music felt foreign, and all the eyes staring made her feel uncomfortable.
She glanced over at the other three who each seemed to have found a natural way to look absolutely thrilled to be hanging out together. Cynthia even had an hand resting on Adam’s arm and the two looked like they were laughing over the greatest joke ever told. Holly tried to form a smile, but it faltered uncertainly.
Carl straightened. “Just relax Holly. Don’t overthink it.”
Don’t overthink it? What counted as overthinking it? Great, now she was overthinking overthinking. On top of which having been called out by name just made her more nervous.
“Sorry…” she muttered.
Carl turned back to his camera, and she felt Frank drape an arm around her shoulders. He grinned at her toothily. “You’re doing awesome.”
She couldn’t resist smiling back in gratitude and that simple act of support seemed to help her relax as she turned her focus away from the camera.
“Good! Keep it up!” Carl called out, but she only half heard him as Frank leaned down and whispered some silly joke about a penguin into her ear. Ordinarily she wouldn’t have found it that funny, but out here in front of everyone, Frank acting silly suddenly seemed like the funniest thing in the world.
Carl snapped away, Frank kept her distracted and she could feel herself relax more and more into the situation. They’d shift poses and positions, but as Carl wanted to keep things natural it didn’t get overly complex.
“Alright,” said Carl at last, stepping away from the camera. “Now I want some shots of just Adam and Frank, you girls can go get your makeup touched up and then we’ll shoot you.”
Cynthia nodded and immediately headed over to makeup, with Holly following behind somewhat more reluctantly.
They each took a seat and Holly closed her eyes as one of the artists replied some eyeliner and then fixed her lipstick.
Holly was finished and got up, walking a little over to the side, to watch Adam and Frank from a distance. It was fun to watch the two interacting. They’d supposedly been friends for a good many tears, Frank even having introducing Adam to his wife, and they certainly could have fun together. Apparently they were now being a little too natural as Carl was snapping at them to tone it down.
Holly glanced over her shoulder towards Cynthia, whose makeup had been finished and was now busy pouring over a script. Holy glanced once more towards the two men and then confident they’d be busy for awhile returned to sit next to Cynthia.
Cynthia didn’t acknowledge her presence, but Holly could tell from the tightening of her jaw muscles she knew she was there. Holly felt a jolt of frustration. Maybe Victor thought she should play nice to find a way to get along with Cynthia professionally, but she honestly couldn’t see how that was ever going to happen when she couldn’t even figure out what the woman’s problem was. With a surge of confidence, given to her by the success of the photo shoot, Holly squared her shoulders and dived in.
“Cynthia, can we talk?”
Cynthia glanced up. “I’m reading. I have an audition tomorrow.”
“Okay, but this’ll only take a minute.”
Cynthia sighed and leaned forward to tuck the script into her purse and then turned to Holly. “What,” she asked a little icily, “Is so important?”
“Well,” began Holly choosing her words carefully, “You know we were in this movie together.”
Cynthia rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to say something probably fairly sarcastic but Holly hurried on before she could.
“Obviously. I know. That was stupid way to put it. But we’re doing this promotional work and will have to continue to do more, which means we’re going to be spending more time together, and we’re both actresses in Hollywood which also means our paths will most likely cross again after this film. And I just think it would be so much easier, and pleasanter, if we just got along. I know you don’t like me very much for some reason. I don’t know what I did. But if I hurt your feelings in some way, I’m really sorry. It was never intentional. So could we just try to get be cordial? At least on a professional level?”
She watched Cynthia hopefully. The woman stared at her for a very long, heavy minute and then pulled the script back out of her purse and started reading it again.
Holly felt like she’d been slapped. And then slowly, she felt herself get angry. “I don’t know what you’re problem is,” she said in exasperation, rising to her feet.
Cynthia shut the script again with a snap and then glanced up at Holly. “You want to know why I don’t like you? Fine. How long have you been in LA?”
“Answer the question. How long have you been here?”
Holly shrugged. “Probably almost a year now. What does that-”
“And before that how much acting had you done?”
Holly was utterly confused where this was headed. “None?”
“How many classes had you taken?”
“That, Miss Woods, is my problem with you.” Cynthia’s voice was calm and level as if this was hardly worth explaining or Holly was hardly worth explaining it too. “I was taking acting classes at eight. I went to acting camp every year till I graduated high school. I tried out for every school production and from fourteen onwards was always cast in a leading role. I studied drama and film at Vassar College and interned at theaters every summer. I’ve been here in LA for seven years, auditioning, waitresses to make ends meet, taking bit parts where I could get them, fighting for roles with hundreds of other girls. I have worked for my place in this industry. I have bled for it and you? What have you done? You prance in here with no clue what you’re doing. Not to mention the rest of things this job entails. I mean look at your performance here today. You’ve never acted and you’ve never sweated for this career. You sashay in here and in six months you have a regular role on one of the top shows on television. A couple of months later you’re cast in a lead role of a very well backed indie film with some very impressive names attached to it. It’s people like you Miss Woods, who make a joke out of people like me, who work for it. You think acting is just something to play with. You don’t have passion, you don’t have drive and you think you can do it without a jot of experience. So how is it you’re suddenly getting all these roles and have people talking about you? Because you’re dating a movie star, and who knows what you did with McCall. You’re a walking cliché. So that, Miss Woods, is my problem with you. You’re unprofessional.”
Cynthia grabbed her purse and walked away to the other side of the room.
Left standing by herself Holly stared off into space, not sure what her reaction should be. Angry? Furious? Upset? She wasn’t sure whether to go yell at Cynthia or to break into years. She knew intellectually none of it had been true. She hadn’t gotten her jobs because of Alan or because of any indecent arrangement with McCall. She’d heard implications before about her reasons for being with Alan but it still hurt.
“Holly! Cynthia! We need you over here for your shots now!”
Holly hesitated for a second and then marched firmly back towards the photo area. She could break down or yell later. Right now she knew exactly how she was going to respond. She was going to give a heck of performance for those cameras and show Cynthia exactly how professional she really was.
As the two women met and turned towards the camera and Carl started clicking away, Holly put an arm around Cynthia’s waist and beamed at her as if she were her best friend in the world.
“Great!” yelled out Carl. “Hold that!”
Holly smiled just a little bit more at Cynthia.