The film set was already buzzing with people by the time Topaz pulled
her car into the parking lot, stepping out and pausing to assess the scene.
There were so many people, she reflected, and a knot of fear settled in her
stomach. Would she pass muster with the real professionals? After all, despite
Milton's confidence in her, she knew she was a singer rather than an actress,
and she had a lot to prove.
"But then, everyone has to start somewhere." She told herself, setting her teeth and marching resolutely into the midst of the fray, to where she could see Milton himself. The director was animatedly gesturing at his assistant - who, Topaz thought, looked vaguely bored by it all - and as she approached, he shot her a grin.
"Aurora!" He exclaimed. "Oh, I'm glad you're here in good time. There's so much to do, and so little time to do it in! I must introduce you to people...have you had a chance to read the script?"
"Yes." Topaz nodded her head. "I've learnt bits of it, too - my friends were helping me last night and the night before. I have a fairly good memory for words - I usually get song lyrics down in a day or two - so I reckon I'll keep up. I hope so, anyway. I don't want to let anyone down."
"Child, when they hear your voice, you'll blow them away." Milton told her. "Don't you worry about a thing. I have faith in you, and I never make a wrong casting decision. You'll be just fine."
"Well, I'll do my best." Topaz assured him. "You might have to tell me what to do from time to time, though. I know I've done music videos before, but nothing like this!"
She gestured to the busy set.
"It's a director's job to direct, my dear." Milton's eyes sparkled with amusement. "Now come with me."
"Is this our new recruit?"
A dark girl with playful brown eyes greeted the director with a warm grin, casting Topaz a curious look. "Our last minute heroine to save the production?"
"Hardly that, but I'm looking forward to the challenge." Topaz laughed. "Hey, you're Morgan O'Sullivan, aren't you? You were in that big horror flick a year or so back - I remember you."
"My reputation precedes me." Morgan smiled. "And you're Topaz, of Jewel fame. I must say it's refreshing to have some new blood around the place! You do get tired of seeing the same old faces picture in and picture out."
"Morgan, my dear, I'm going to leave Aurora in your capable hands, if I may." Milton said. "I've just remembered that I haven't spoken to the props department about the first few scenes yet, and I don't want us to have bits all over the place. Please excuse me, girls."
Morgan interpreted Topaz's bemused look, and laughed.
"Milton is a brilliant director." She said. "And one of the nicest in the business. But he's not the best at remembering real life things. That's where his assistant Judith comes in - she's very efficient, though cold as ice, from the few times I've spoken to her."
"She chilled me rather, too." Topaz admitted, glancing across at the busy assistant. "But I'm sure she's great at her job."
"Oh yes." Morgan nodded. "Milton wouldn't be without her. They make a good team, odd as it sounds."
"Did he call you Aurora? Was that right?"
"Yes." Topaz's cheeks pinkened slightly. "That's my real name. Aurora Stapleton. Since I've left Jewel, and this is nothing to do with the work I've been doing, I wanted to use my real name. Somehow it sounded right."
"It's a pretty name." Morgan reflected. "I admit I thought your name actually was Topaz...but I like Aurora better. It's chic."
"My mother is French-Canadian." Topaz dimpled. "Aurore is french for dawn, but my father was straight mongrel Canadian, so they settled on Aurora."
She pursed her lips.
"Do you mind helping me out? I don't want to be a bother to anyone."
"What? And spurn the egomaniac and his companions? Never." Morgan laughed. "Believe me, in the three minutes I've known you, you already rank higher in my estimation than certain members of this movie's cast. Don't worry about being a bother, Aurora. I'd be glad to give you a hand."
"Thanks." Topaz dimpled. "I think I need it. Everyone knows what they're doing - I feel a little overwhelmed."
"Don't worry. You'll soon get the hang of it." Morgan assured her. "You quickly get an idea of who does what and what folk are like. Give it a couple of weeks and you'll be fine - it'll be like you've been here forever. Trust me."
"Well, you've done it before, so I will take your word for it." Topaz laughed. "What part do you play in this?"
"Ah, one of my favourite types of roles, actually." Morgan's eyes glinted with mischief. "I'm the villain. The nasty bitch who wants to mess you over as much as possible. So I hope you'll forgive me if on set I yell, scream, cuss you out and threaten you with my fists...it's nothing personal."
"All right, warning noted." Topaz grinned. "I've read over most of the script and it seems pretty fast moving...I like the storyline."
"Well, you mightn't like it so much once you've kissed Travis a few times." Morgan grimaced expressively, leading her over to the side of the bustling room and grabbing a pair of empty seats, indicating for her companion to sit down. "He's sweet on himself. A brilliant actor, but he knows it, and more. He thinks he's God's gift - and trust me, he isn't."
"He is cute, though." Topaz looked thoughtful. Morgan looked aghast.
"Don't tell me you're a fan!" She exclaimed. Topaz shook her head.
"Not really, but I've seen a couple of his pictures." She replied. "Is he really that much of a jerk?"
"Well, you can see for yourself when he bothers to turn up on set." Morgan grimaced. "He might be every girl's dream, Topaz, but he only ever features in my nightmares. Trust me, he's the kind of guy who, the more you get to know him, the less attractive he seems."
She eyed her companion keenly.
"Mind you, if you've already a guy on the go, make sure he knows the score, huh? Travis is above other men's women."
"I don't." Topaz shook her head, and a brief look of pain flitted across her pale blue eyes. "The last guy I was with, well, it was messy. You needn't worry about me, Morgan. Travis can try all his charms, but it won't work. I'm off men for now and staying off them."
"Wise words. More trouble than they're worth." Morgan nodded approvingly. "Hey, you want a coffee? We do a lot of this sitting around thing while we wait for the technics to get everything ready, so we drink a lot of coffee."
"Sure, coffee sounds good to me." Topaz grinned. "Count me in!"
* * *
* * * *
"I can't believe an experienced director like Milton Warrington
would take on such a rookie in such an important production."
Travis Banning slammed the door of his car shut, glaring at his hapless agent as if he had personally orchestrated such a disaster. "Doesn't he understand that I'm in this film and I have a reputation to uphold? You can't just let any old chart floozie saunter into the movie business - what is he playing at? It's a joke! It must be a joke!"
"It's no joke, Mr Banning." The agent shook his head. "I spoke to Judith myself about it. She says the girl can sing - I suppose that was Mr Warrington's concern."
"Screw Mr Warrington's concern! What about me!" Travis fumed. "I have to kiss this girl on set - what will that do for my reputation? Who is she, anyway?"
"Topaz. The former Jewel singer." The agent reviewed his notes. "She's represented by Misfit Music - maybe this isn't as big a disaster as you think. They're famous for only taking on the best, after all. And Mr Warrington does know what he's doing - you know he's charmed when it comes to his films."
"Well, he'd better not have taken a step too far this time." Travis muttered. "I swear, if that girl messes up on set..."
"I will be making sure I take careful note of everything, just in case you need to pursue it after the filming is completed." The agent assured him soothingly. "Besides, she's pretty enough. Bombshell blond, I'm told."
"They always are, aren't they?" Travis rolled his eyes. "Milton has too much of a soft spot for a pretty blond, DeMarco. Take my word on that!"
"Well, maybe this can work in your favour." DeMarco looked thoughtful. "Jewel generate a lot of press, and press is always good in your business, Mr Banning. Maybe a media fling with this chick wouldn't hurt your Los Angeles popularity any. Don't forget that the tabloids still haven't forgotten the restaurant fiasco with that O'Sullivan woman. They still refer to that meal time as the Food-Fight at the OK Corral..."
"I don't need reminding of Morgan and her childish revenge tactics." Travis was impatient. "Why should I pander to the press?"
"Because Morgan O'Sullivan is on this film too." DeMarco's eyes glinted. "And it would be the perfect way to show the press that all of that business is ancient history now."
"You know, maybe you have something there." Travis's eyes narrowed. "Well, I suppose I'd better meet the chick. Come on, DeMarco. My co-stars await."
He pushed open the big double doors, striding purposefully into the main auditorium.
"Travis!" Milton waved a hand from where he had been fussing over a copy of the script with one of the lighting technicians. "I'm glad you could make it in such good time - I trust you've read the script fully now?"
"Of course, Milton, of course." Travis dismissed the concern with an impatient gesture. "Though I do hope you know what you're doing, bringing a new star into this. I dare say she's very pretty and can sing well, but are you sure that it's the right move to make?"
"Well, she struck me as exactly right for the part, you see." Milton beamed. "But let me introduce you - after all, you'll see a lot of her on set when we start filming."
"Very well." Travis nodded graciously. He clicked his fingers in the direction of his agent. "DeMarco? Coffee."
The agent grimaced, as if he considered such a menial task below his job description, but nevertheless he disappeared into the bustling mass of people, knowing only too well that the pay cheque he would receive at the end of the month would more than make up for it. Travis might be a jerk of the first degree, he mused, as he waited for the cup to fill, but he was also extremely rich, and not someone worth upsetting.
Meanwhile, Travis himself had allowed Milton to lead the way across the set to where Morgan and Topaz were sitting, drinking coffee and laughing over some comment Morgan had made about the props for the film. At his approach, the dark haired girl suddenly fell strangely silent, and Topaz was surprised to note a decided chill in the other girl's brown eyes. She cast a confused look at Morgan, then up at the man at Milton's side, recognising him in an instant. He, it seemed, was equally as disenchanted with seeing Morgan as she was with him, and Topaz began to wonder whether there was more to this than she had initially realised.
"Well, Aurora, has Morgan explained the important things about working on a movie set?" Milton seemed utterly unaware of the tense atmosphere - or if he was aware of it, he gave no indication. Topaz nodded.
"Yes. She's put me at my ease."
"I'm most sorry I wasn't here a little earlier." Travis observed quietly. "You need a real professional to show you around a film set, and Morgan still has a lot to learn about showbusiness herself."
"Just because I don't fall at your feet, Travis, does not make me a rookie." Morgan's eyes flashed. "Aurora and I are just fine here. We don't need your kind of guidance."
"Ah, yes, of course, introductions." Milton smiled. "Aurora, my dear, this is Travis Banning, who will play the male lead. You'll see a lot of each other once we start filming proper, and I'm sure that he'd be more than willing to give you the benefit of his experience."
"Enchanted, I'm sure." Travis purred, ignoring Morgan point blank and reaching down to take Topaz's hand, shaking it warmly. "And you are Topaz...isn't that right?"
"Well, before all of this I was." Despite herself, Topaz found it hard to resist Travis' charismatic politeness, and she nodded with a smile. "But I'm doing this film under my real name - Aurora Stapleton. It's something of a new start for me in a lot of ways, so I'd rather it was that way."
"Very well. Aurora is a lovely name." Travis flashed her another indulgent smile. "And I'd be more than happy to show you the ropes, if Morgan finds herself out of her depth."
He winked infuriatingly at the dark haired girl, who visibly bristled at his arrogance. Then he was gone across the set to find DeMarco, and Milton was accosted by an impatient Judith, eager to know whether he planned on keeping his day's scheduled arrangements.
The two girls were once more left alone, and for a moment there was an awkward silence.
It was Morgan who spoke first.
"See what I mean?" She said quietly. "Oozing self-love from every pore. You won't meet a more slimy man in showbusiness, Aurora, mark my words."
"He was a little...arrogant." Topaz agreed thoughtfully. "But he didn't quite seem the monster you made him out to be."
"Oh, don't start thinking that way, girl!" Morgan's eyes opened wide with horror, and she set her coffee cup down, grabbing Topaz by the shoulders. "Listen to me, Travis is trouble. He sweet talks girls to feed his ego, and all you're likely to get out of him is humiliation and lies! He;s not to be trusted - don't fall for his lines!"
"Morgan, I told you already. I have no intention of getting involved with any guy on set." She said softly. "Not even the great Travis Banning, whatever he thinks about it. I am very new to this whole film business, and if he wants to help me, then I won't stop him. I need as much help as I can get. But you needn't worry about me falling in love with him. I'm fairly immune to all of that."
"That's what most girls think." Morgan said darkly. "Trust me, it's never that simple. Travis lives for positive publicity...nothing that comes out of his mouth is real."
"You sound like you speak from experience." Topaz observed. Morgan shrugged.
"It's not important. I just don't like him." She said simply. She got to her feet.
"Come on. I'll show you the dressing rooms. I've had enough of talking about Travis."
Topaz eyed her companion thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded.
"All right." She agreed. "Let's go."
A MOVIE STARLET
Chapter One: A Surprise For Topaz
Chapter Two: Make or Break
Chapter Three: Audition
Chapter Four: First Day
Chapter Five: Travis' Plot
Chapter Six: Making Choices
Chapter Seven: Jewel...and Jack
Chapter Eight: Topaz Shines
Chapter Nine: Trouble
Chapter Ten: Crisis
Chapter Eleven: Morgan Explains
Chapter Twelve: Topaz's Future