It always starts with a break up.
Her voice cracks but she presses those gorgeous lips together to collect herself. “You can stay here until you find a place of your own, or…Well, whatever you wanna do. I don’t mind.”
Chris watches her in silence from his light perch on the corner of the bed. The bed they’d shared for what felt like just a scant few months. It’s a strange little bit of insight, like searching for a link on a very smooth chain for so long that when it finally gets opened he’s unsure of how to wear it.
Dominique scrubs one hand across her eyes, smearing eyeshadow and mascara down her cheeks like a mask.
She cracks a watery grin. “Here’s the part where we say goodbye.”
He tips his chin and peers up at her. Knows his eyes are probably glassy, and feels utterly embarrassed but she deserves some reaction. He’s learned that much.
She just shakes her head, long hair swaying like a shield as she bends and checks the luggage. Rechecks. Zips and unzips. Chris vaguely wonders if he should pack too. They’re both going separate ways now, but he’s got nowhere to be.
He hears it like thunder cutting through the numbing buzz of brain rain as the bathroom door closes behind her.
Chris’s heart pounds inside him. Each beat is a carpenter’s pick chipping away at marble, uncovering some twisted form of art he doesn’t quite understand.
Dominique’s apartment is, like her, amazing.
It’s filled with personal effects from their relationship which tell a completely different history than Chris’s could say.
There are the decorative scarves she picked up when they vacationed in Greece and a collection of photographs she snapped from when they were in London. From that time they dressed up for Halloween, she saved his costume hat and her feathered mask by nailing them to the wall. Of course, as a proud South African, there are pieces from there too, of her old life strung around the room like jewels on a chain.
Dominique has good taste but Chris hadn’t completely got why she bothered so much. He chalks it up to his still bachelor-esque way of doing things. Besides, who puts so much work into an apartment when they were just going to find a house together anyway, eventually? Plus she spends most of the time flying to exotic destinations for her modelling photoshoots. She’s even due on a flight to Istanbul tonight.
Technically, all of that isn’t his place to care about anymore. He still kind of cares.
Chris looks away, realizing he’s been staring into space. If he strains hard enough her can hear Dominique’s muffled sniffles in the bathroom, but if she doesn’t want him to hear then he doesn’t have anything to say.
Being with her has always been so easy, so very easy. It seems splitting up will be just the same.
Chris bites his lip, hard, and takes a deep shuddering breath. Gets up and drags his hands through unkempt hair that’s been getting just a bit too long. He knows better than to fight her about it. Especially now. Minds made up and bags packed, they’ve fallen into a love song’s cliché without even trying.
So Chris keeps his composure by becoming distant, jumps out of reality by furiously reading the various titles on the spines that are piled on the bookcase. They’re really the only personal touch he’s made to the apartment. Anything else felt too much like an obnoxious intrusion. He can automatically pick out which books are his and which ones are hers and realizes in a detached sort of way that this is The End.
He thought he could have made something of it all. That she was the one. He’d picked up and moved here to be with her, ready to put the work into this relationship because suddenly there wasn’t much work for him in LA.
He’d gotten used to waking up to her every morning she was home, and then when she wasn’t, he’d settled into the idea of making a life here.
A new start for himself as a washed up big screen actor in the big apple, New York.
And now Chris Pine’s stuck here without anything at all.
“You can come back, Chris. You can come live here with us until you figure it out—”
“Mom,” Chris drags the word, scratching behind his ear relentlessly and then pressing the cell phone back so he can hear her voice through the receiver. Everything sounds tinny and far away since he moved. Probably has to do with the fact that New York city life is so much louder, if that makes any sense at all.
“I’m okay. I mean, yeah, I’ll come visit, but. Yeah, I’m okay in New York for now.”
There’s a pause that is decidedly parental, as if his mother is dissecting the jumbling of words he just said before peeling them back to reveal the truth.
“I’m going to call you every day until you do.” She says finally. “Or have your father do it, and you know he’ll wait until the most inappropriate time…”
“White’s Law,” They both say at once. Inside joke.
Chris laughs and rubs the wrinkles at the corner of his eye with one finger. “Thanks.”
They chat for a little while longer about mundane things. Things like if Chris is getting enough exercise, if he’s finally used to navigating the subways instead of wasting money on taxis and if he’s tried any new and exciting restaurants. He knows she wants to ask so much more about Dominique, and possibly tell him how continuing to live in her apartment means they might get back together.
He grins and bites his lip to stop from telling her, ‘This isn’t How I Met Your Mother.’
Chris knows it’s a lost cause, considering he’s actually checked Twitter and the endless stream of sympathetic tweets being sent to Dominique’s page puts things in concise 140 character perspectives.
Anyway, the thing is, he’s not in a hurry to pack his bags. Work in LA has been bad. Real bad.
Ever since Paramount pushed back the Jack Ryan franchise after the filming of the Trek sequel, things had gone downhill. Chris has Major Issues. His old agency is suing him. For a lot. In hindsight, maybe writing them that polite letter saying he was moving on was more like sending them fire fodder.
At first Chris had thought that this was something he could deal with privately. Like, maybe hire some good lawyers (his Dad knows some people) and just push it all under the rug while continuing to work on the projects he’d already signed contracts for.
Well that all went to shit.
Turns out once one agency takes a bite out of you, you’re bad meat to the production companies. It’s like a credit rating for actors. Got lawsuits? Whoops, your movie contract somehow got ripped in two. Sorry about that.
Yeah, he has new representation but that didn’t mean they were willing to help him renegotiate terms and contracts which had the previous agency’s name shouting up warnings from the pages.
It’s all an amalgamation of clichés really. That Chris was just on his way to a massively big break and then breaking up with his agency changed everything. Now he’s kind of in the same exact boat.
It’s been about two years almost but he still firmly believes it happened pretty suddenly. Chris woke up one day, drank a couple bottles of water, minding his own business, and then Paramount announces they’re going in a ‘completely new and exciting route’ with the Jack Ryan reboot.
And that includes the starring role.
Okay. Fine. Chris could find something else to do.
But then the weeks became months and the months became one year and out of the blue he realized he wasn’t as big as he thought he was. Three hands? Not exactly required for the Chris Pine Experience anymore. Hell, no one wanted to touch him.
So he went back to theatre.
And theatre is good. Chris likes theatre, where high def close ups aren’t too much of a problem and watching playback is impossible which in turn makes his self-critique impossible and things become a lot less stressful. But there are only so many castings he can go to in LA where there isn’t someone affiliated with ye old evil agency. Not to mention the pay.
He had to give back the Porsche.
That was when Dominique Piek, beautiful, practical, now-ex girlfriend, said they should just move in together.
And that is why Chris is now in New York, going to casting calls on the east coast theatre scene and generally having a hard time making the tangled ends of his life meet.
So I’m thinking of becoming a hobo until the final Trek movie
Chris hits Send and the text zooms away.
It’s boring standing, waiting to be called in for readings with the Lead. He’s kind of stuck to the spot and half thinks he stepped in gum on the train here but is caught between that stage of embarrassment and laziness that makes him afraid to look.
Bad enough the line up of male actors ranging in all looks and ages is long enough to make him edgy. It’s almost surprising, the amount of people who have made it this far in the casting process. Now they’re all squished together into one lone muggy hallway that has a low ceiling with lights that give off a faint yellow glow.
Chris was ecstatic to get the callback after a long dry spell but sizing up the competition is making things look grim. It’s been a long time since he’s been on anyone’s short list of consideration and while having a humble feeling is great publicity for an actor, having an actual humbling experience for Chris Pine is terrifying.
He should have learned to get a real job.
And yeah, this is the line up for the role of the Romantic Interest. Also, the Lead he’s supposed to be reading with? Definitely a guy.
Chris spares a brief pang of sympathy for the poor bastard who’s lucked out on already being cast. It can’t be fun to rub the same two lines together with a new person every minute for hours on end in hopes of producing a spark.
Chris subtly scrubs his shoe’s sole against the floor.
His manager had murmured something about it while giving him the synopsis, but it’s not like potentially being one half of a man on man sandwich will deter him now. He needs this job.
John Cho replies without missing a beat.
Forget Kirk. Forget acting! Walk the earth like Kwai Chang Kane!
Chris can hear a guy behind him playing an old Gaga song on his iPod. How can anyone get psyched for an audition blasting their eardrums out with Bad Romance?
Even a young girl just up ahead is tapping her foot to the beat, it’s so loud. She’s obviously a volunteer of the theatre because of the ridiculous vest she’s been given to wear. Volunteers are meant to keep this audition line organized but she’s thumbing through something on her smart phone like it’s a good book.
Incessant toying and typing and scrolling is this generation’s prescription for attention deficit disorder.
Chris dutifully types.
Being a badass is not an easy way of life. Hey I could start doing conventions. Think they want me @ conventions?
John’s reply is not reassuring.
I thought you didn’t like getting boo’d
The line moves up one or two spaces and Chris is close now, so close. He can’t afford to screw this up. Not if he wants to get out of Dominique’s apartment and stop making her disappointed every time she comes home and sees him sleeping on the couch.
Haha seriously I need to catch a break!
Some guy further back with hair so blond it’s nearly white sneezes mid-conversation with a guy who has irredeemable attractiveness, kind of like all the men in flicks from the 1950s. Seriously, who has 50s-esque good looks nowadays?
Chris wrinkles his nose and licks his lips, feeling vaguely uncomfortable when 50s guy makes a scathing comment to Blondie but smiles so warmly it’s obvious he doesn’t mind. Line flirting? Come on.
Chris scuffs his shoe faster to try and mask the fierce speeding of his heart. If he’s not careful he’s going to work himself into a generous lather of audition bomb.
Focussing back on the blackberry, he notices Cho’s reply.
Dude just come back to LA
Chris types cautiously, trying to look absorbed and yet completely at ease.
But that sounds too honest and out of place in a friendly chat so Chris quickly follows up with:
Going in now cya
Cho takes a bit longer than before, and Chris feels just a little bit envious. He sighs and wishes he also had better things to occupy his time with so that he didn’t have to need these small things so badly.
Break a leg
Chris puts away his phone and stares resolutely ahead.
It’s not that he’s avoiding LA. Only that he’s determined to enjoy New York.
The young volunteer checks her phone viciously for a moment or two and then there’s the telltale sound of a text. She shoves the little black device in her jean pocket and swings the door open to let the previous actors come streaming out.
For a second a cool gust of air fans out across his body. He can see into the prop cluttered room hidden behind the ugly brown door just before it swings shut behind the trio of departing actors. Not one looks viciously rejected. Chris scowls.
Just then volunteer girl ushers him and two others inside with large waving arm movements and immediately shepherds them behind a masking taped line on the floor. Chris tries to stave off his feelings of inadequacy before they get to be too much. It’s an unavoidable after effect of being stuck standing next to Mr. Perfect Chocolate Skin and Mr. Salt n’ Pepper hair.
Susan, the play’s director, is a middle aged woman with dark brown hair cut off just below the shoulders that reminds Chris of his mom. That’s where the similarities end though, since she’s wearing a kind of cape-looking robe thing as a sweater, has elaborate nails, and doesn’t look immediately unimpressed by just setting eyes on him.
She smiles in greeting towards the group, and there’s a great sort of cosiness that overrides the intimidation factor when the room is crowded with ridiculous props and more retro junk than a yard sale. Still, Susan looks them each in the eye as volunteer girl shoves a piece of laminated paper to each of the auditioners. There’s a big number 3 marked on top of his plastic in blue sharpie.
“Welcome gentlemen! Susan Khan, but you know me already.”
She gestures to the man on her right while flipping quickly through the audition information that’s got their vitals. Chris vaguely wishes his manager could have left a sticky on his saying Pick Me!
“This is Greg Finnegan, our writer...”
He is a very rotund man with very square glasses, but he’s got a genial olive face kind of like Emeril Lagasse. Bam!
Greg grins as he tips his chin at them in acknowledgement. “Each of you has been given a different scene for your audition, so take a second to read it over and we’ll go in order of the number—Ouch. Sue!”
Greg makes a pinched expression, rubbing his arm. He huffs in exasperation at Susan when she sharply prods him with her pen again. Verdict’s in. These two are freaking weird. It’s like a requirement to work in that section of the entertainment industry or something.
She’s pointing to the documents in her hand and then the two bow their heads together to start whispering in earnest. The writer’s eyes catch Chris watching him for just a moment and the corner of Greg’s mouth creeps up.
Chris has a tiny heart attack then hastily smiles back, wide and earnest.
Susan curls over the table to start scribbling in fast jerky movements. The other two actors are intently reading their laminated lines, but Chris watches the table in silent confusion, smile straining his cheeks.
There’s the metallic clang-click of a door opening and shutting on the other side of the clutter and curtains.
The director suddenly stops and makes a random very dramatic dotting motion with her pen and calls, “Ricky! Did you get your drink?”
“Sorry! Yes!” A gentle voice floats back in response.
And that’s when the Lead walks out from behind an absurd lilac-coloured prop vanity, taking a long sip from a luscious water bottle.
Volunteer girl leans in next to Mr. Perfect Skin and offers clarification in a whisper.
“Sue likes to call her actors by their character names. That’s Zachary Quinto.”
She grins and gives thumbs up then scuttles backwards to the exit, and the whoosh of air as the hallway door bangs shut sends a cold streak of terror straight through Chris.