Kate knew some of what she was getting into when she and Jack hefted their carry-ons into the airplane to California. It was bound to be warmer than New Burbage; some of the people would be phonier (though, she'd come to realize, most of her colleagues at the festival had had their own bluffs and carefully constructed truths); she'd have to work as hard, if not harder, to propel herself into satisfying roles in front of sizable audiences.
The momentary shock of a far-off camera flash outside a cafe, answered by a weary sigh from Jack, she didn't quite predict. On some level, it was completely obvious that any girlfriend of Jack Crew's would end up in a tabloid one day, but two days in seemed absurd. She'd barely had time to get to know the area around the sunny, spacious apartment she couldn't yet bring herself to call 'theirs.' Surely the paparazzi could wait a week before they launched an investigation into their relationship.
But, of course, they couldn't. She spent a month glancing covertly at the covers of The National Enquirer and Star (she and Jack didn't seem like Weekly World News material to her) when waiting in line at convenience stores, but she never saw the photographs from that particular lunch date. Maybe they were inside, she reasoned, or better yet, maybe they'd never used them, but it didn't take long to realize that she just plain didn't want to know.
At night, sometimes she and Jack sat at the kitchen table and read scripts his agent handed him, talking over the parts they'd want to play, if any. For Kate, whose ability to land an agent hadn't yet translated into an ability to land more than walk-ons in TV shows yet, it felt more like building castles in the air than anything, but it was fun. They dimmed the lights, threw together bowls of Kraft for dinner (Jack was no stranger to comfort food, it turned out), and let their legs brush under the table.
"I like this one," she told him, holding up a Jane Austen adaptation that could (at least in theory) be his ticket into roles that didn't involve walking away from explosions. "You could be Mister Darcy."
Jack grinned, leaning over to glance at the title page. "Yeah?"
"Well," said Kate, giving him a coy smile, "handsome, smart, occasionally a horse's ass..."
"...But there's more to him than anyone else realizes," she finishes. "And when Elizabeth figures that out, it's just a matter of time before they have a double wedding with her sister."
"I never read Pride and Prejudice," he confessed, his smile just that side of hesitant, and she resolved to buy a new copy next time she was in a bookstore. Jack flipped open his script to a dog-eared page. "How about this? Teenage girls stabbing each other in the back over some boy."
"And you'd be the 'some boy'?"
"That's what Jerry's hoping."
"Huh." She took it from him, glancing over the dialogue as she flipped through and occasionally grinning at a particularly good line. It was better than she'd figured it'd be, based on his description. "Yeah, do this one. See if they'll let me be the villain."
Jack couldn't keep a snicker from escaping him, but he tried his best to affect a pout. "The main character ends up with my character, and you want to play the one who ends up in a neck brace?"
"I've never acted in a neck brace before." Kate leaned in to peck him on the mouth. "I want to challenge myself."
Her first major film role did not involve a neck brace, nor did she share billing with Jack on the movie poster. It was an independent film, one that her agent implied was bound to get lots of good buzz and open a lot of doors in the future. More importantly, it was a part that didn't involve the words "guest starring," and that meant more character motivation and interpretation to dive into than most of her recent work.
In light of the movie's subject matter, the irony that this was the most substantial character she'd had since Ophelia wasn't lost on her: She was essentially a straight man in the movie, the fraternal twin sister of a young woman struggling with mental illness. It meant the other starlet, one rather more used to the spotlight than she, got the showier scenes--but after a season of playing mad, sitting on the outside and trying to look in sounded like more of an adventure.
She was tempted to email Geoffrey and tell him all about the role, but every time she put her fingers to the keyboard, she wanted to write out all her worries instead. I think I understand how to play a breakdown, but how do I play watching a breakdown? How do I get my character's longing to help her sister and the stress of being unable to do anything across so the audience feels it when I can't gauge what they think of it?
In the end, Kate decided she'd let him know about the project when there was nothing left to shoot and her concerns were no longer relevant. And in the meantime, she occasionally tried to guess how he would have interpreted the script and picked and chose the ideas she liked.
Jack got the lead in an action thriller that began production around the same time, and suddenly, they weren't just Jack and Kate, boyfriend and girlfriend. They were Jack Crew and Kate McNab, international jet-setting actors whose cleaning lady would be in charge of watering the plants for the next few weeks.
(Jack was the jet-setter, really, off first to Bulgaria and then to Egypt, of all places. Kate was just going back to Canada, which would be nice--even if she wasn't home, she'd be in her own country again--if a little unimpressive. Relatively, anyway.)
"At least we won't have time to miss each other," she told Jack the night before she flew up to British Columbia for the start of filming. He was three days out from his flight. Their bedroom was dark--as dark as it got, with the furniture outlined fuzzily by the glow of a far-off streetlight--and she couldn't see his face, buried as it was in her neck.
He slid a hand onto her bare hip, squeezing gently. "I'll find time."
"I think I will, too," Kate admitted, leaning her cheek against his hair. It was soft and warm against her skin, a memory she could take with her and return to when she collapsed into bed at the end of a day of shooting. "It won't be very long, though."
"No, it won't." He couldn't have been reassuring himself--he'd been a star for a while, had had girlfriends and left to make movies before--but the quiet solemnity with which he spoke almost made it seem possible. "And we'll go out and get stinking drunk when we're both back. You have to do something special for your first movie."
A giggle escaped her. "Sounds like a plan. Will you bring me a souvenir from Egypt?"
"If you'll get me one from Vancouver." Jack tilted his head up just enough that his lips were warm against the curve of her ear.
"Okay." She wasn't convinced Vancouver would have much in the way of good keepsakes, but it couldn't be too hard to scrounge up something decent. And even if she couldn't, she had the feeling just seeing each other again would be a good coming-home gift. "But you might end up with maple syrup in a moose-shaped jar."
"As long as you're the one giving it to me, that's exactly what I want."