"In the lives of children Who: Abel & Aurora and then Aurora and Daniel What: Abel is an ass, Aurora gets bit (metaphorically) Where: Outside Pax and then the lobby When: 3/8/17 6PM Ratings: Language probably?
“...No, I’m not being demanding, you are just underperforming.” Aurora had a growing tension headache, as she did every time she got angry these days, even on stage with her tendency to get overly in character. This argument with her agent wasn’t helping, “I asked you to get me a good movie audition prospect, I’m not asking for the next Oscar nominee, or Star Wars just a challenging, high quality movie that won’t flop.” It wasn’t intentional but she found herself talking slowly, voice stern and tense, “I am not going to be the token nonwhite but still passing cast member either.”
Her temples throbbed and she dropped her head onto her steering wheel as she sighed, one arm reaching out tap on the outside of her car through her open window.
The woman on the phone prattled on and Aurora let her finish before speaking again, “I am not spending six months in the most remote, coldest, part of Canada for a pair of siblings whose last few movies have been touch and go and will probably still include something weird like incest or an orgy scene. I only do those for good reasons, not risky ones. I just moved here, and besides I hate the cold, and if you make a racial joke about that I swear I will fire you.”
There was an objection and a fevered defense of Jupiter Ascending coming up, she could tell and she cut it off, “They also have that two people already tied to it I refused to ever work with again after The L Word, I don’t care how long ago it was,” Petty grudge holder, thy name was Aurora, and she didn’t care, “Look, just do your job, okay? Or I’ll find someone else who can.” She hit the disconnect button on her car’s bluetooth rougher than called before before she rolled her windows up and grabbed her purse so she could step out of her car angrily.
Abel was coming up through the parking lot as he caught the middle to end of the woman's conversation, carrying a paper bag of groceries. He'd never quite understood the oh-so-human need for attention, at least, not in the way other people did; the relentless search for other people's attention, to constantly be seen. As she came out of her car and started toward Pax's front doors, intersecting perpendicularly with him. He shifted the bag to his other arm, his gait slow and well-timed as he took in her carefully-coiffed hair, the painstakingly applied makeup. Part of him wanted to see what she looked like underneath all of that, clear away the intricately constructed facade and see what was hiding beneath.
"You know, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." The comment was in passing, his voice raised only a little to carry over the short distance between them.
This was really not the day, not that was ever a good day for her. She didn’t take constructive criticism well, or any sort of criticism if she were being honest, no matter how well meaning. Not that this stranger was well meaning at all probably, and her reply came before she could stop herself, “You catch less heavy purses to the face if you keep your mouth shut.” She should be mindful of her image, instead of letting her voice be sharp and stern, but it felt a little good to lash out.
Which probably wasn’t the best testament to her character.
Abel's head shook faintly, and he bit back a smile. Some of these people were just too easy to crack.
"Insecurity really stinks. Are you seeing a therapist?" He followed her path, now hooked into the same trail as she while they moved toward the building. "I can name a few if you're in need of one. Which, you clearly are."
The clicking of her heels echoed loudly in the Pax lobby as she made her way to the elevator, red painted lips twisted in a scowl. If it wasn’t one thing it was another, and Murphy’s Law said this man had to be jackass now when she was in a mood.
But she stopped at that, pivoting sharply with a practiced ease, silver earrings chiming lightly in her ears with the motion, “Excuse me? Why would I be insecure? Look at this.” A wide gesture to her body and face as she raised a challenging eyebrow punctuated her statement. Her mother’s voice, calm but stern echoed in her head about not confronting bullies, that it feeds them and dignifies their words echoed in her head but she was a little too tense to hear it, “I don’t need anything you can offer.” Aurora told him snidely.
This time he could not stop the barking laugh that erupted from his throat. "I wasn't offering. Insecure and presumptuous. What a combo. I bet your boyfriends love you, huh?" He stopped next to her just outside the elevator bay, clearly perfectly willing to sit and wait until she either pushed the call button or decided to take the stairs.
She visibly bristled like an angry cat, though she would be as effective as said cat against a doberman if she tried anything against him physically of course. The plural of ‘boyfriend’ felt like a barb as well, a subtle jab at implying she had multiple relationships in a stable somewhere and what if she did? It wasn’t any of his concern, but it rubbed her the wrong way that she seemed like the type of person that wouldn’t have just one, good solid--”Most people do, that’s not presuming, that’s a fact. Any boyfriends of mine are blessed to be with me.” A step towards him, with an angry finger punctuating her statement, “And just because I don’t lie down and take you running your mouth doesn’t mean I am ‘insecure’”
Damnit Aurora, she shouldn’t have brought that up again, because she wasn’t insecure, really. Look at her for chrissake. Hoping to leave him in the lobby she turned back to the elevator, hitting the call button with an angry jab and tapping her toe impatiently as she waited for it.
Abel's head moved from side to side, impressed by the textbook case impatiently waiting for the elevator in front of him.
"Lemme guess," he shot back, "Always the dumped, never the dumpee? I'm not judging you for whatever swinger's group you're a part of, you're just a very clear case of off-the-charts demanding. I mean, explains all the makeup and the fancy clothes, but whatever helps you leave the house in the morning." He switched his bag of groceries away from her, as though it might become an undue target. The elevator, likewise, seemed content to wait and see how Aurora dealt with this new insult as it took its tedious time climbing down the building. Abel's eyes raked Aurora's from from top to bottom, his next comment muttered under his breath. "It's always the needy ones..."
There was a redness to her face that had nothing to do with the blush she had applied that morning meticulously and everything to do with this this--
Aurora did not have a history of being dumped, thank you very fucking much. Granted she did have a history of quiring out of relationships, a term her friend used for when you quit a job before you got fired. In fact, she usually got bored of relationships, or people before they became relationships, or burned out like sparklers on the 4th of july.
So his assessment was completely wrong. Completely.
Her hands clenched around the strap of her purse on her shoulder, but she was long past the days of throwing things at people who made her angry and hopefully past the days of throwing tantrums in lobbies at people who were wrong. She wasn’t demanding, or needy. Just. Flighty. With high standards, “Just because I take pride in my appearance unlike some people,” Her words dripped with disdain and she gave his person a critical look, “Doesn’t mean I am demanding. I simply have high expectations of those around me.” She tossed her hair as she eyed the numbers above the elevator, just one more floor to go…”Just because clearly no one wants you doesn’t mean the rest of us have that problem.”
The smile on his face stated quite clearly that none of her words had the biting edge she'd hoped.
"For someone who cares about their appearance, you could've done a better job," he replied, leaning toward her as though to more closely inspect her throat. "It looks like your foundation doesn't match your skintone; you've got that weird Halloween mask thing going on where it just...stops. Attention to detail isn't your strong suit, is it?" He relaxed back into his casual posture, shaking his head in disbelief at her perceived dunceness.
Just then, the elevator doors opened to offer a chance of escape.
Old habits of wearing layers of stage makeup stopped her from reaching up to her forehead or jawline, though she did lean away from him as alarm filled her. It was a lie, she knew it was, rationally. Her makeup cost more than her grocery bill every month, she had taken classes on makeup, she had observed her personal makeup artist for years, but it didn’t stop that deep seated fear of looking like a fool and losing one of her main bits of armour, “That’s complete bullshit. I have fantastic attention to detail.”
Aurora tried not to dart into the elevator so much as storm into it with grace and dignity, but had the bad feeling she was just stiff backed and too stern looking (wrinkles!) but it was already done and she jabbed at her floor, hoping he wasn’t for some crazy reason going to her floor, “That one won’t work on me at all, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and I am beautiful on camera and off.” She said it like a mantra, and it would have sounded cheesy or cliche out of anyone else if she didn’t say it with such strong and sincere belief, serious instead of flamboyant flirtatious boasting like she would have with BB. Because at the end of the day when her bed was cold, when her phone was silent, she would still have her appearance and she needed that.
Abel followed her into the elevator without hesitation, perhaps even more quickly than he should have in the case that she slammed on the 'close door' button to prevent him from doing so. One shoulder pressed into the far wall, though his form slanted to give him a full view of the woman standing next to him.
"Actress, huh? Makes more sense. Only thing working against you is time, then." He glanced up toward the numbers drifting by as the elevator began its ascent. "I mean, who's going to want you when you're old and ugly? Makeup can't hide that."
Aurora bounced between eying him warily like a rabid dog that could attack her at any moment and not giving him the victory of her watching him. She settle on her eyes straight ahead like a statue. A beautiful, graceful statue with excellent posture, thank you.
He might as well have grabbed her. Thrown something at her head. Yelled. It would have all been equally as jarring as hearing her voice and fears come from someone else’s mouth, and she reached out to grasp onto something, something, something, “Love transcends time and appearances.” She shot back, words that should have been wistful and soft instead used in an attempt to cut and maim.
"Are you trying to convince me," he replied, slowly and with an ease that her allegedly cutting remarks did not carry, "or yourself?"
Before she realized what she was doing she was slamming the stop button on the elevator and the door open one on the second floor where she knew Daniel lived, though she had not been there yet.
“You’ll regret that.” Was the last thing she said to him as she stormed down the hall, sharp, the sounds of her angry clicking heels followed her as she made her way down to Daniel’s room. There was too much swirling through her head and heart right now, trying to sort it out was like trying to pull debris from Dorothy’s tornado and she just needed to not be alone, so please let him be home she thought furiously as she knocked on his door.
It took a moment, but the door opened soon enough, Daniel's dark head leaning out into the hallway from within. His eyes were heavy; one cowlick toward his crown stood almost perfectly straight up. "Aurora?" He blinked, his confusion fading into something almost like worry. He straightened up, holding the door wide for her, should she wish to come in.
There was a moment where she thought she could have regained her dignity, calmed down around him and just maybe watched a movie without him being the wiser. It passed quickly, because she practically launched herself at him in a hug, taking a deep breath of his scent that was familiar, comforting and more importantly safe before breaking apart and looking down the hall like she expected that awful man again.
“Hi, fancy seeing you here.” She remarked weakly before sliding past him to push his door closed and hug him again. There were circles of Distraught Aurora, like Dante’s, and she had gone right past melodramatic tears and rants to a quiet, shaking and clinging state.
Daniel held her close as he reached behind her, throwing the lock on the door. Then his hand slid low around her waist, guiding her deeper into the house. He studied her face, easily reading the signs of true distress. Whatever had shaken her, it had done so deeply.
"Hey, what's goin' on? You want a beer or somethin'?" He motioned toward the couch, where a small pillow and blanket were still tangled up from his nap. "Go sit down, tell me what happened." He was already moving toward the kitchen, reaching for one sizable bottle of raspberry lambic.
Aurora tried not to lean on him as he guided her in, although someone treating her with warmth and kindness was such a balm after what just happened.
She toed off her heels before crawling into his couch, legs extended to take up as much room as possible before she grabbed the blanket. Was that a further indicator of her being demanding? Her unconscious movements to take up space and be noticed? Damn, she was making it worse for herself, “Please, whatever you're having. I'm sorry for waking you.”
"Don't sweat it," he said. "I think I fell asleep watchin' somebody on Twitch…" He looked to the television, where a streamer had finished their work and gone offline. The purple screen cast a dim glow over the room. He sat down on the sofa, lifting her feet and placing them neatly in his lap. One hand rested at her ankle, unconsciously rubbing at the tension in her body; the other handed the bottle to her.
"So what's got you shook?"
The panic in her had dulled with the familiarity and safety of Daniel's presence but she still felt like someone had peeled her layers back to carve at her insides.
She took the bottle with hardly a glance at the label, took a drink without question and found, surprisingly, nothing of herself. If prompted she could rattle off a dozen monologues or gossip but when asked to present her insecurities and how they are apparently obvious to strangers her tongue is inexplicably heavy. So instead she stared at the TV and took another drink, feet pressed close to Daniel as if afraid he would suddenly push her off.
He frowned, but his grip on her slim ankle tightened. "You're kinda startin' to freak me out," he said. "Normally you'd be talkin' my ear off by now. Are you…" He didn't want to think it, but her dazed look, her distant expression, her utter, uncharacteristic silence were distressing him more than he could properly express. "Are you hurt? Do I need to call somebody?" He paused, trying to lighten his tone; he leaned down over her legs, peering up at her glossed-over eyes. "Fuck somebody up?"
Just a sip of her drink this time, “ No, he didn't touch me.” Aurora answered him absently and immediately regretted it because now Daniel knew that the source of her distress was a specific person. Not that the man had resembled a person so much as a self assured predatory animal that liked to play with delicate, lovely things such as herself.
She reached out to carefully place her bottle on the coffee table, “Daniel, do you think my only appeal is my beauty and when it starts to fade no one will want to be around me?” So much for appearing strong, but he did have a habit of exposing the raw parts of her.
The furrow in his brow had deepened considerably. He caught himself glancing to the door, wondering who this he was who may need to be dealt with. But he bit his tongue and managed patience, or at least what might be considered patience, compared to his typical ways.
"No," he said, "I definitely fuckin' do not." His thumb slid soft over her skin, outlining the delicate bones of her ankle where it rested on him. "We had fun." He shrugged. "We still do. You're funny. You can make people feel good about themselves. You can actually be really nice, when you wanna be." He smiled softly, prodding at her thigh. "Yeah you're gorgeous. You know that. But don't let some asshole make you think that's all there is to you."
Aurora couldn't help but smile at him, relaxing a bit more though her brow was still furrowed and her fingers still twitched with nervous energy.
Deft fingers reached up to pluck her dangling earrings out of her ears when one snagged on his pillow, “We did have fun, and I don't regret that but -” She sighed and rubbed at her eyes, smearing her carefully applied eyeshadow carelessly, “I've been on Fox news and heard some awful things said about me and my family that were all bullshit, and I laughed.” Daniel knew all that already, they made drinking games of rewatching her appearances, “But he got to me, it was like he said the things about myself I think in the dark when I'm alone and he was so happy to do it.” Now that the panic was passing the embarrassment was beginning to set in.
Daniel shrugged, either unconcerned, or wanting her to believe he was. "Some people are good at reading folks," he said. "You know Fox News is full of fuckin' idiots, so of course you can laugh at that. But this guy obviously got to you. And that happens sometimes. Some people can find your soft bits and just poke, perfectly, right there." He patted her leg. "But fuck 'em. He's probably good at that cos he's insecure, himself. You know how that goes."
It seemed like she chewed on that for a long minute before she sat up to take another sip of her drink, it also enabled her to lean her head on his shoulder while keeping her legs in his lap. Daniel probably felt crowded, which made her feel even more demanding but she needed the reassurance at the moment, so she would take it until he got annoyed with her. Finally she sighed, “Yeah, it’s just. He’s not the first person to call me demanding or high maintenance. I like having fun, and I like having high expectations, but that won’t keep me warm when I have crows feet and laugh lines.” Or worse. At least she was past the high tension state of earlier, now she just felt drained and almost resigned.
"What's wrong with laugh lines?" Daniel asked, visibly confused. "Honestly, aging like an actual human is underrated. Look at Helen Mirren. She could still get it. She looks her age and she's lookin' good doin' it."
He pressed his arm more tightly around her. "Look. You are high maintenance. But so what? Some of us are, or were, into that. Sometimes." He laughed, an unsteady little sound. "You know what you want and you get it. There's nothin' wrong with that."
Oh, sometimes she forgot how nice Daniel could be when he wanted to be, or when he wasn’t trying to be an ass. Either way, she was grateful for it, and she showed it with a kiss to his cheek, “That is true, I would still tap that.”
She rested her head on his shoulder again, “Don’t worry, I’m not after self reaffirmation sex or something,” What a mouthful, she had picked up that term from a recent Psychology magazine, “I’m an actress, I’m supposed to be able to hide things better, do you think everyone with more brain cells than a fox news anchor looks at me and says ‘wow, that woman is afraid of dying alone and unloved’?” Aurora told herself she should get up and leave soon, let him get back to his day. Maybe this sort of thing was why he hadn’t told her about his new boytoy.
Daniel laughed, and gave her arm a small pinch. "I think," he said, "when people look at you they are probably intensely interested and a little bit jealous. Lots of people assume if you're hot you're probably a dick. And I mean, that's usually true. Especially in and around L.A." He chuckled again, squeezing her tight. He had been too kind for too long; he found himself leaning in toward her, a grin in his tone as he teased, "I bet he just wants to fuck you. Some dudes still try that negging shit, y'know."
The pinch earned him a ‘friendly’ elbow to the side, “I mean, I understand jealousy, I am very lucky in life and only some of it is earned.” Her good looks were something she worked hard to maintain and accentuate but it wasn’t like her degrees that took years of work and hand cramps from studying in the library.
Aurora leaned forward to grab at his remote, “Yeah that’s all most people want from me, a bit of fun like you said.” It was meant to sound overly casual but it came out with a layer of cynicism under it, “Let’s watch something stupid to distract me before I wash my face and head home, you were going to invite me to stay a little longer right?” She grinned at him, old habits dying hard as she made herself at home in whatever space he currently occupied.
"Hon, you can stay as long as you like." Unless Chris texts, he wanted to add, but wisely, perhaps, did not. He leaned up and away from her only long enough to pluck the remote from her hand, then to procure the PS4 controller. He navigated toward some mindless, silly show on his Netflix queue, running through several options before landing on one that seemed to fit their needs. "You want another drink or somethin', you let me know, okay?"