Studio City, California, 2007
Rey didn’t mind long days on set. She had been acting since she was about nine, and it didn’t bother her to have to spend twelve hours on a set, repeating lines. She was used to it. Once she had brought her friend Sarah from school, when she was still in public school, to set with her and at first she had been thrilled. The girl had wandered through the large set warehouse, in and out of half rooms, missing walls, doors to nowhere, marveling at how something so incomplete could look so whole on television. She had grown bored after a few hours. Rey was apologetic, she gave her a pass to go wander around the Universal Studios theme park, and the other girl had looked horrified.
“By myself? Are you serious Rey?”
Rey wandered around the theme park by herself all the time, well sometimes. A lot of the time Ben would tag along with her, insisting she shouldn’t be out by herself in case she got recognized and kidnapped. Rey didn’t think anyone wanted to kidnap Sarah.
Rey had been starring in Something Wicked since 2005, when she was fourteen years old. It was a campy but wildly popular show where she played a teen witch named Kira who had to hide her powers. Her parents didn’t know she had them, no one did, only her neighbor Kylo was suspicious of her. Kylo was played by Ben Solo who was probably Rey’s best friend, if she was being honest. She spent more time with Ben than anyone else. There were other kid actors in the show, Rose Tico who played her best friend Sammy, and Armitage Hux who played Kylo’s best friend Dan but they weren’t required on set as much as Ben and Rey were, which meant that often times it was just the two of them in the trailers, playing x-box and eating pizza and waiting to go deliver a few lines. Both of them had switched to on set schooling after the first season, it was just easier to meet the time requirements and it meant it was easier to bend the rules about how long the kids could be on set, if some of their set time was technically school.
Ben was kind of jerk, but not to Rey. He liked to mouth off and give everyone grief and sometimes Rey thought it was hilarious and sometimes she thought it was super annoying, but if she really wasn’t in the mood to deal with him he would back off, he wasn’t a monster.
Ben was goofy looking, he had floppy hair and ears that were way too big for his face and a crooked smile and a big nose and Rey thought he was the cutest boy she had ever seen, but she would never tell him that. Ben was two years older than Rey which meant he had just turned 18 and thought he was hot shit, he bought a pack of cigarettes and started insisting on smoke breaks that made their director Poe Dameron roll his eyes.
“Ben, you have like, so much down time on set! You cannot break mid scene to go smoke. Cut it out.”
This just delighted Ben, his cheeks flushed and he shrugged and headed out the backdoor to smoke behind the set.
“Oh for fuck sake, Rey you go get him, he listens to you.”
Rey felt her face light up at the words, she liked the idea of being the only one Ben Solo listened to. She followed him out back.
“Let me have one,” she said.
“No, your too young, and already too short, it will stunt your growth.”
“Shut up dick bag, give me a cigarette. You’re just scared I’ll end up bigger than you and beat you up.”
Ben laughed and handed her a cigarette.
“Never gonna happen, look how much bigger I am than you, you’re a little pip squeak.”
“Shut up Solo,” Rey lit her own cigarette and took a drag. The day had darkened, grey clouds crowding over them. In Los Angeles this didn’t necessarily mean rain, the sky could park itself in overcast and stay that way for hours, days, before the sun inevitably came back out.
“Why do you give Poe such a hard time?”
“I don’t know, my parents aren’t around enough for me to give them shit, Poe is the next best thing I guess.”
Rey shook her head.
“You’re so weird.”
“That’s why you like me,” Ben said with a wide, lopsided grin.
“Whatever Solo, Poe is gonna have both our asses if we don’t go back, come on.” She ground out her cigarette.
Ben listened to her, as always, and followed her back inside.
Venice Beach, California, 2017
“Yeah I know, I heard he was up for the role also.” Rey had her cell phone balanced between her ear and her shoulder, a shopping bag full of groceries balanced on one knee, and she was digging in her purse for her keys.
“I don’t know, Rose, I haven’t talked to him in like eight years. I’m sure once he realized I’ve been cast he’s not going to take it. Its not like he doesn’t have other options. He’s all over that indie kick right now anyway, I can’t imagine he’s gonna wanna make a rom com.”
Rey felt her stomach flip at the words. She had recently been cast in a cheesy rom com, one of those Love Actually type pictures with a bunch of stars. They were currently casting her love interest and it turns out the movie was being directed by the former director of Something Wicked, Poe Dameron and he had insisted that Ben try out after casting Rey. He was going on and on about their amazing chemistry while Rey tried not to throw up in her mouth.
Rey Kenobi HATED Ben Solo. If she never saw his stupid smile and stupid ears again, it would be too fucking soon. There weren’t lot of people that Rey truly despised, but also there had never been anyone who fucked her over like Ben had. She couldn’t think about it. She had spent years dwelling on it and then more years actively not thinking about it and she couldn’t afford to be dragged into that mess again. It didn’t help that Something Wicked had been the most popular show of the decade, and that Rey and Ben had been Americas sweethearts. Still, even now, every few months a tabloid would pop up asking if the two had rekindled their love. It was always pictures of them not toegether, in totally different places, placed side by side, with an article that could be summed up with “There is no evidence to show that these two exist in the same reality, but we know you’re all suckers so we’re going to keep writing about them regardless.”
“Listen Rosie, this is giving me a stomach ache. The last thing I want to think about is Ben. I don’t think he’s going to accept Poe’s offer and if he does, I’ll seriously consider dropping the project, even though its enough to pay for my entire life for the next five years. I will cross that rotting hellscape of a bridge when I come to it ok? I gotta go, I need to put these groceries away. I’ll text you.”
Rey hung up the phone and put the bag on the counter. Her phone lit up as soon as she hung up, it was a text from Poe.
Guess who said yes!
Studio City, California, 2007
"What are you still doing here? You're way over your set time kid." Poe was standing in the door to Rey's trailer, she was curled up on the small sofa, half asleep.
"Ben's taking me home and he had to reshoot like a million times because he gets hysterical when he's tired and can't stop laughing."
Poe smiled fondly.
"True, you didn't have another ride?"
"To Malibu? No. What you wanna drive me out there?"
"Not even a little bit. I'll see you on Monday kiddo."
Rey stretched out on the couch and flipped open her cell phone. She texted Ben.
I'm dying please be done
Relax princess we're wrapping right now
Rey sighed, her fingers clicking wildly over the buttons of her phone.
I'll be in the parking lot just hurry
She grabbed her backpack and left the trailer, wandering back to the parking lot. She leaned against Ben's Audi A4.
"Don't scuff my car!" Ben's voice carried over to her across the darkness. She rolled her eyes.
"I need it to support my weight, I literally can't stand."
"Oh my god you're the worst."
Ben clicked the locks and Rey climbed in.
"You're welcome by the way," he said, climbing into the drivers seat.
"Oh whatever I'm on the way."
Ben smiled, dangerous and crooked and Rey looked away from him as they left the studio. She didn't risk another glance until they were on the highway. Ben rolled down his window and lit a cigarette, handing the pack over to her. She pulled out one and lit it, flipping through Ben's CD case. She pulled out Elephant by The White Stripes and loaded it into the player.
"Are you going to that party Rose was talking about tomorrow in Venice?" Ben asked.
"Maybe, those parties always kind of freak me out to be honest."
"Can't handle it?"
"What? Cocaine and vodka?" Rey smirked. "You know I can."
Ben laughed, loose and easy. He pulled off onto sunset, the car gliding over smooth turns as they headed into the canyon. Rey could smell the ocean in the distance. She loved driving through the canyons more than she loved anything, especially with Ben. He was fearless, whipping the car around hairpin turns with a ferocity that pushed her whole body into her seat and made her stomach lurch.
"I'll go if you go," Rey said.
Rey ashed her cigarette into the night, worrying about fires in the dry hills.
"Is your uncle home?"
"Honestly who knows, does it matter?"
Rey's uncle had adopted her after her parents died when she was 5, and he had been alright as far as guardians went, absent most of the time. He was a screenwriter and an eccentric and Rey loved him but at sixteen she lived a rather adult life and he was never overbearing or setting rules for her.
"Can I come over?" Ben asked.
Rey wasn't sure why the question felt so loaded. She and Ben hung out all the time, it wasn't weird for him to come hang out at her house when her uncle wasn't home.
"Sure," she said with a shrug.
He careened down the canyon to PCH, pulling right at the ocean to drive along the water. Rey lived on the beach in Malibu, Ben lived in the hills further down near Point Dume. It was only about fifteen minutes from Rey's house, she wasn't sure why he didn't want to go home, she had been so tired but the idea of hanging out with him made her feel wide awake.
Ben pulled into her driveway. The house was dark and quiet. Her uncles car was missing.
She led them around back and unlocked the door, walking up the narrow steps. The living room opened up to a deck right on the water, the waves lapping beneath them at high tide.
Ben moved through the kitchen, opening the liquor cabinet.
“Wine or whiskey?”
“What year is the wine?” Rey asked, toeing her shoes off and opening the balcony doors.
“2002, will he pissed if we drink it?”
“Find me something newer and wine sounds perfect.”
“Okay, 2007 but it looks like shit.”
“I’m sure its not, if you want whiskey you can have it."
She walked over to the kitchen and pulled down a stemless glass.
“I want what you want,” Ben said, smiling in that fox like way he had, like his words had more than one meaning. Rey rolled her eyes as Ben poured.
The wine was not shit.
Rey turned on the TV and selected one of the preprogrammed music channels, blues. Skip James wailed through the speakers.
Ben and Rey drink quickly, less to savor the flavor and more to feel the wine pushing through their veins. It’s not like they had to be up early.
Rey followed Ben onto the balcony, the beach looked bright from the light of the houses and the moon, white washed. The waves were loud this close, it was like being on a boat out at sea. She loved the smell of the brine, the salt that stuck to her skin and her hair, the way that the sand seemed to cling to everything even when you had just washed it. She loved the beach.
Ben lit a cigarette, Rey poured more wine, they were drinking fast but she was no stranger to alcohol. She never got hangovers.
“You know I heard Poe talking, and he thinks that Kira and Kylo are finally get together this season.”
Rey almost choked on her wine.
“Are you serious? What like, boyfriend and girlfriend? He’s gonna find out about her powers? Where is the fun in that!”
“I am sure they will figure out a way to have a lot of fun,” he winked at Rey. She rolled her eyes again.
“You know what I mean asshat, the audience loves it when Kira bests Kylo, everytime he’s left looking stupid, unable to prove anything. That’s what everyone loves about you Ben, that stupid puppy dog look you give.”
“What, this one?” Ben asked, and he made his eyes wide and round, puffed out his lower lip and sank his shoulders down. It was actually adorable.
Rey laughed, finishing her wine.
“Yep, that one.”
After they had killed the first bottle and made a dent in the second, Rey was feeling the world roll under her, her blood matched the crashing waves, the low music from inside.
“Let’s go swimming,” she said.
“It’s actually freezing,” Ben said.
“I don’t care! Come on, you’re such a loser.”
Rey grabbed Ben by the hand and rushed down the steps. Once her feet hit the sand she began to take off her clothes, leaving just her bra and underwear. She looked up to find Ben staring at her, her chest flushed.
“Oh my god stop,” she said, pushing him back.
He shook his head with a huge, sheepish grin and took of his shirt and shorts. Rey ran into the water and Ben followed her.
It was actually freezing.
The Pacific Ocean looked beautiful on a post card but it almost always required a wetsuit for long periods of time, and the cold bit into Rey’s skin and made her more aware of herself than she had been just moments before. She looked over at Ben, bathed in moonlight, drunk on the wine and the ocean and their freedom. He looked so damn happy.
“I think you’re my favorite person,” he said.
Rey suddenly wanted to cry, maybe it was the wine or maybe it was his words, she wasn’t sure, couldn’t tell this deep into her buzz.
“You think?” She said, “What, you’re not sure? Who’s my contender.”
“Oh my god shut up,” Ben said, splashing her.
Then, quieter, “I’m sure.”
Rey splashed him again and dove under the waves, coming up with chattering teeth. They stayed in the ocean until they were too cold to move, and then rushed back up the stairs.
Rey brought them towels and a change of clothes, and she spread blankets out on the floor of the living room.
“You get the floor, I get the couch.”
“Oh come on, can’t we share?” Ben looked like a fox again, it was wild how someone so goofy could look so sly.
“No, but you can pick what we watch. I have some stuff recorded, Lost, America’s Next Top Model and Forensic Files.”
“Murder, always” Ben said as he laid down on the floor next to the couch. Rey laid down above him. She was tired, warm except for her hair, which was wet and sticking to the leather couch. She started to drift off as soon as Ben put the TV on, but not before she felt his fingers slip into hers where her hand hung down off the couch. She squeezed his hand and fell asleep.
Studio City, California, 2017
Rey was pacing around Poe’s office. She was livid.
“I feel like youre doing this on purpose,” she said.
“I am,” Poe said, sipping his coffee.
“What, to purposefully spite me?!”
“No, because I think we can double our opening weekend if I have both of you. The world is still crazy about Kylo and Kira, Rey and Ben, teen sweethearts.
Rey felt bile rise in her throat. The thought made her want to break something.
“I won’t do it.”
“I’ll increase your pay by half.”
She froze, that was way more money than she usually made, and in an industry where your salary was set by whatever the last person paid you, it would go a long way.
“Poe,” she said with a sigh, sitting down to look at him. “You don’t understand, I hate him. I can’t…I wont be able to do my best work with him, and what youre asking of me isn’t just about the movies it means dealing with paps and tabloids and I can’t do it, it would kill me.”
“Rey, it was a long time ago-“
“It doesn’t feel like it,” she spat.
“Okay double. But it stays quiet.”
“You’re offering me double what my contract says, you're serious?”
“As a heart attack.”
Fuck. Rey sighed.
“Okay but I get a weeks worth of trial before I sign anything, and if he’s too insufferable, I’m out.”
“Deal!” Poe smiled wide, stretching his arms out. He looked thrilled.
Just then the door opened, someone walked in without knocking and Rey turned in her seat.
Ben Solo had aged well, better than anyone would have thought. His hair was long, tucked into a hat, he had scruff around his face and he was SO big, his arms were massive and tattooed, his thighs like tree trunks, all six foot three of him seemed to be corded with muscle and mass.
It had been a very long time since Rey had been in a room with him, but she remembered how he had always been bigger than his body, filling up every space like he couldn’t be contained.
“Oh,” Ben looked frightened, well and truly.
“What do you not knock?” Rey snapped at him.
“Sorry, no I uh, wow hi.”
Ben was staring at her, his eyes wide with amazement. He brought a hand up to rub sheepishly at his neck. He was flustered. He should be.
“Oh for fucks sake, hi Ben.” Rey turned back to Poe. She could feel herself starting to shake, and she needed to have this breakdown in private. She hadn’t been expecting him, and his sudden proximity was throwing her entire world off balance.
“Poe, we have a deal, make a contract and my lawyer will look at it. Text me if you need me otherwise email me anything regarding schedules.”
She grabbed her bag and pushed past Ben, trying her best not to touch him. He pressed against the wall to give her space.
She stormed off the set and back to her car. She got in her car and pulled out of the lot. She got onto the freeway and had made it two whole exits before she started crying, huge body shaking sobs that ripped out of her.
Rey almost never cried, and when she did it was painful. And when she did, it was almost always about Ben.
She had to get off the freeway and pull into a Starbucks so she could collapse against the steering wheel.
This was the worst fucking idea.