Home > All the Feels (Spoiler Alert # 2)

All the Feels (Spoiler Alert # 2)
Author: Olivia Dade

 


To all the little girls who learned to stay quiet and not

take up space in the world. May you find your inner

harpies and demand your due, at long last.

 

 

1


“NEXT TIME YOU GET IN A BAR FIGHT, DON’T BOTHER COMING back to the set, asshole,” Ron shouted. “Do you even realize what you’ve done? That kind of juvenile—”

By this point, the rant had entered—Alex craned his neck to catch a glimpse of Ron’s Rolex—its tenth minute. And counting. The amount of blustering tedium the Gods of the Gates showrunner could pack into such a short span of time was impressive, truly.

Alex would applaud if he weren’t too busy fighting both a yawn and his desire to nut-punch his boss.

Ron’s nostrils flared with each harsh exhalation, but he made an attempt to lower his voice. “You’re lucky we only assigned you a minder. Legally, given the amount of negative publicity you’ve generated with your drunken stupidity, we had several avenues of financial and professional recourse available to us, including …”

The showrunner was still speaking, but Alex had stopped listening. Instead, he was studying the woman sitting approximately five feet to Ron’s left.

Sharp features, including a beaky, crooked nose. Bright eyes. Very round body, with comparatively skinny limbs. Short as hell.

His new nanny looked like a bird.

A silent one, though. Not a chirp to be heard, despite the advent of dawn.

As soon as Ron got word of the events that had transpired overnight, he’d demanded a meeting first thing in the morning. Even though Alex had left the Gates set near midnight, and departed the local jail’s holding cell maybe an hour ago. He’d barely had time to take a shower and grab an apple by the hotel’s front desk before returning to work.

The three of them could have met in a private trailer, but the showrunner preferred public humiliation. So they’d gathered outdoors, near a ragged stockade, where hundreds of Alex’s coworkers could conceivably overhear his disgrace, and so could she.

This pale-cheeked stranger. Whoever she was. Whatever she was.

His eyes were bloodshot, his right eyelid swollen, his vision blurry. If he squinted in the early-morning fog, that lank, ash-brown hair ruffling around the woman’s soft jaw might as well be feathers.

Yes, definitely a bird. But what kind, what kind …

Maybe an albatross? It certainly worked on a metaphorical level.

No, albatrosses were too long and narrow for the likes of her.

Once Ron had begun his lecture, she’d perched on a makeshift bench several feet away from both men. Quiet and still, she sat silhouetted before the chaos of their battlefield set as it sprawled along the Spanish shore. Yet somehow, even amid the large-scale staged destruction and ceaseless bustle of extras and crew members, she stood out in sharp relief. Incongruously small in stature, if not circumference. Calm. Avian.

Ron was still railing at him—something about contractual obligations and my cousin Lauren Clegg and unacceptable conduct for an actor on my show and bond company will pull our insurance, blah blah blah—and, sure, Alex was furious at the reprimand and his allotted punishment and the way no one had asked him what actually happened in that bar, not a single soul, but—

His paid minder, evidently an unfortunate relative of Ron’s, looked like a fucking bird.

This whole discussion wasn’t merely enraging. It was—

“Ridiculous.” Alex snorted, sweeping his arm to indicate the woman on the bench. “This bird-woman barely comes up to my chest. How is she supposed to stop me from doing whatever I damn well please? Do you intend for her to cling to my ankle like an oversized bracelet?”

He considered the matter. It would make his workouts challenging, but not impossible.

Ron smirked briefly. “She may be ridiculous, but she’s in charge.” After casting a sidelong look at his cousin, he turned his attention back to Alex. “You’ll do what Lauren says until the series finale airs. Until then, she’ll accompany you wherever you—”

Wait. Alex hadn’t meant to call her ridiculous. More the idea she could effectively keep him out of trouble for months on end.

Ron was talking, talking, talking. “—any time you leave the set or your home. Is that clear?”

Well, no. In his preoccupation with … Lauren, was it? … Alex hadn’t paid much attention to Ron’s various pronouncements and edicts.

In theory, a working actor who intended to remain working should hang on his showrunner’s every word. But why change his modus operandi after over seven years of continuous, lucrative, once-happy-now-torturous employment?

Even if Ron weren’t one of the most tiresome and off-putting humans in the television industry—which was saying something—Alex might still have trouble following along. His brain was a radio that either switched channels frequently or remained set on the same one for far too long, regardless of what he wanted, and the frequency it chose wasn’t always the frequency he was supposed to be tuned in to.

That said, Ron and his fellow showrunner, R.J., were tiresome pricks, which meant their spots on Alex’s dial were particularly patchy and problematic. Over the years, Alex had grown very skilled at hiding any lapses in attention as they spoke.

Today, he wasn’t bothering.

“Nope. It’s not clear at all,” Alex told Ron with a grin that stretched his face painfully. “To my absolute despair, I missed most of what you just said. My heartfelt apologies.”

As the syrupy sarcasm of Alex’s faux regret registered, Ron’s jaw worked. Lauren merely continued to watch them both, her odd, asymmetrical face expressionless.

Marcus, Alex’s best friend, would call this pushing the damn limits and tell him to bite his tongue and consider the consequences of further insubordination.

Play the film to the end, he’d urge. What happens if you don’t change the script?

They’d reached the final week of shooting for their series, which meant it was too late to fire Alex, but there could be other consequences. Fines. A smear campaign that would make future jobs hard to find. Even retaliation in the editing room, although Alex couldn’t imagine how his character’s arc could be more comprehensively ruined than it already was.

He should behave. He would.

Mostly.

“Perhaps you could sum up the situation with greater brevity?” He bent down and produced his phone from its hidden pocket in the quiver at his feet. “I’ll take notes this time.”

Ron’s face turned vaguely purplish, but that was it. The best Alex could do, given the mingled rage and despair and exhaustion incinerating his impulse control. Even Marcus’s admonitions couldn’t save him, not entirely.

Which was, again, why this whole plan—what he’d heard of it, anyway—was ridiculous. If his best friend’s urgings and his own self-interest couldn’t keep him out of trouble, how could one improbably short, round woman accomplish the task?

Besides, if they’d actually asked him what happened in that bar fight, they would know why he’d brawled and why he’d do the exact same thing under similar circumstances, consequences and minders be damned. Also why he hadn’t regretted his black eye or his torn knuckles for a single second.

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