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Authors: Hazel Hughes

Please

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Please

 

Hazel Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P
LEASE
Copyright: Hazel Hughes
Published: March 2014
 

The right of Hazel Hughes
to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without writt
en permission from the author. You must not circulate this book in any format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

Many thanks to all those who helped make this book a reality, including my editor Michael at FirstEditing.com and cover designer Brandi
Doane. Love and deepest appreciation for all those who supported me, especially David.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Elizabeth Holmes sat cross-legged on the pristine white duvet of her hotel bed wearing just her bra and panties. Staring at her laptop screen, she clicked on the icon titled
“Grocery List,” scrolled down to the last page and wrote:

 

Reasons Not to Sleep with Sebastian

  1.               
    The kids
  2.              
    Naomi/other women
  3.              
    C-section scar
  4.              
    No tits
  5.              
    Career
  6.              
    Steve

 

Steve was Elizabeth’s husband. That he came at the bottom of the list was not a good sign for her marriage. Then again, neither was the fact that she was making the list at all. But this is what she did. When in doubt, make a list. Elizabeth chewed on the fleshy pad of her thumb and added:

 

Reasons to Sleep with Sebastian

  1.               
    Sebastian

 

That was it. One reason to justify jeopardizing her fourteen-year marriage, happy home, and if her agent was to be believed, her career. Of course, she could have broken Sebastian down into several subcategories.

 

  1.               
    His mouth
  2.              
    His eyes
  3.              
    His hard, brown stomach
  4.              
    His soccer-player’s thighs
  5.              
    His smile (the sardonic smirk and the I’m-hot-and-I-know-it grin)
  6.              
    His broad shoulders

 

She could go on. In fact, there was nothing about Sebastian that worked against him – well, other than his age. Younger. A lot younger. And his profession. He was an actor. He basically lied for a living. But, as Sebastian had pointed out, so did Elizabeth. She was a writer.

Looking back, Elizabeth was tempted to blame everything that
had gone down with Sebastian on her agent. If it weren’t for Abbie’s phone call one gloomy February morning, she would never have met him.

When the phone rang, Elizabeth was sitting in the kitchen of the Iowa farmhouse she and Steve had bought for a song and had nearly gone bankrupt restoring. On the reclaimed oak table in front of her was a lumpy mass of wet newspaper that, if you squinted, almost resembled a volcano.

Though her hands were slick with gray goo, she lunged for the phone, pinching it between her wrists and bringing it to her ear. When the landline rang in the middle of the day, Elizabeth’s first reaction was always panic. Only the school ever called her on that number.


Hello?” she said, voice rising involuntarily.


Elizabeth, sweetie! How are you?” her agent trilled, sounding more like a cartoon chipmunk than a literary power player. “I tried calling you on your cell, but no joy.”


Oh. Hi, Abbie,” she said, relieved. She pictured Abbie Bloomberg in her Manhattan office, dimpled elbows on a desk littered with excerpts from manuscripts and takeout menus, the stuffy air thick with anise and garlic. Contrary to its prosperous-sounding name, Bloomberg LLA was run by Abbie and two manic college interns out of a one-bedroom flat over a Vietnamese sandwich shop on the greasy fringes of Chinatown.

Elizabeth wedged the phone between her shoulder and her ear.
“Keenan’s science fair project is due tomorrow, so I’m up to my neck in paper mâché.”

Abbie
chuckled. “Me too, honey!” A beat. “I’m looking at your first draft.”

Elizabeth winced, thinking of how long she
’d labored over her second novel, still wishing she had stalled for more time. Elizabeth was new to the literary game and currently Abbie held her career in her chubby little hands. “I know it’s not exactly polished yet, but ...” she trailed off.

The agent laughed, all song birds after a spring rain.
“Oh, Lizzie, relax. I’m just busting your chops. It’s got a few flaws, but you’ll whip it into shape, just like you did with
Habibi Baby
,” she said, referring to Elizabeth’s debut novel, the one that had brought Abbie into her life in the first place. “We can talk about that later, when you’re in New York.”


I’m going to New York?” Elizabeth asked.

The past month had been a blur, but Elizabeth didn
’t think she would have forgotten that. She tried to scrape enough paste off her hands to make it to the sink without dripping sticky blobs all over the linoleum. She glanced at the calendar stuck to the fridge with an assortment of alphabet magnets. It was covered with cryptic scribbles indicating doctors’ appointments, play-dates and PTA meetings, but nothing that could be interpreted as “New York.”


You are now, honey!” Abbie sang. “Cullen Zweibeker wants the film rights to
Habibi Baby
.”


What? He does? Oh my God!” Elizabeth’s voice rose with each sentence.


Oh my God! I know!” Abbie’s voice climbed the scale along with her client’s.


This is so exciting!” Elizabeth had managed to reach the sink and was attempting to turn the tap without using her paste-covered hands. “I’m going to New York. Cullen Zweibeker wants
Habibi Baby.


Yes!” Abbie was practically squealing.


I just have one tiny question.”


Shoot!”

Having tried and failed to turn the tap with her elbows, Elizabeth had wedged it between her forearms and was slowly twisting it. A trickle of water ran into the sink.

“Who’s Cullen Zweibeker?”


Oh, Lizzie.” Abbie’s giggle bubbled down the phone line. “Cullen Zweibeker?
Dirty Girls
?
The Big O
?”


So ... he’s a pornographer?” Elizabeth said, uncertainly, scraping between her fingers where the paste had dried and was beginning to itch.


No, honey.” Abbie’s voice was full of pity. “You really haven’t seen
Dirty Girls
? It was nominated at Sundance last year.”


Uh-uh.” Elizabeth couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen any film other than the animated kind.


Well, get it on Netflix, baby. He’s the next Quentin Tarantino slash Jude Apatow slash Nora Ephron, and he wants to make a movie out of your novel!”

Elizabeth tried to picture this film director Frankenstein, but dollar signs started to obscure her vision. Aside from the tiny advance
Abbie had managed to squeeze from the publishing company, Elizabeth hadn’t made any money as a novelist. A few thousand dollars for three years of hair-pulling labor, snatched piecemeal from her daily web of playgroups, karate lessons and parent-teacher conferences. She tried not to do the math.


So, what are we talking? Six figures?” she asked.


Aw, Lizzie,” Abbie sighed. “I wish, believe me. You do realize that
Habibi Baby
has only sold about five thousand copies, right? It’s a fabulous book, honey, and it’s selling, but it’s not exactly in the
New York Times
top ten.”


Uh-huh.” Elizabeth finished washing her hands and turned off the tap. Five thousand. Half the population of Fairfield, Iowa, where she lived. Peanuts.


But, the good news is, Cullen Zweibeker was one of them! And he wants to make it into a movie.”


So, five figures then?” Elizabeth asked, hopefully.


Lizzie, try not to see it in terms of money ...”


Four?”

Abbie
let out a long breath. “He wants to do a kind of swap.”


What? I give him my book to make into a movie and he gives me a movie to make into a book?” Elizabeth was incredulous.


Just listen, honey. They’re shooting here in March. He’s already got the cast together. Naomi Clamp, Susan Solstein, Sebastian Faulkner. Big names.”

Elizabeth was impressed. Susan
Solstein was a household name. And Sebastian Faulkner. Wasn’t he the soulful, brooding one from that TV show about the rogue Marine? What was it called?
AWOL
?

Abbie
continued, “He wants to take you on as script consultant. He’ll fly you to New York for a week, set you up at the Mercer, all expenses paid, and you’ll get to hobnob with Naomi and Susan!”

Elizabeth closed her eyes, feeling her elation sink down into disappointment. She took a deep breath.
“Let me get this straight, Abbie. Not only is he
not
going to pay me for the rights, but I’m going to work for him, too? For free?”


Believe me, honey, the Mercer is not free ...”


Abbie!”

The agent sighed.
“Look, Lizzie. It’s free publicity for
Habibi Baby
. It’s a free trip to New York. And I guarantee you that if Cullen doesn’t buy the rights, no one else is going to. This is a gift. Take it.”

Elizabeth gnawed on her thumb, staring out the window over the sink into the backyard. Heaps of dirty, half-melted snow and a misshapen snowman with stubby stick-arms stared back at her.

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s do it.”

 

*

 


Mon dieu
, Leez. What are you going to wear?” Nina asked when Elizabeth told her and Emily the news. The three friends were at a Tiny Tykes indoor soccer game. Their six-year-old sons were being creamed by what appeared to be a team of midget Beckhams masquerading as first-graders.


I don’t know. My usual. This,” she said as she gestured to her faded skinny jeans, striped t-shirt and boots. If she had a style icon, it would be the love child of Katherine Hepburn and Kate Moss, with a bit of Stevie Nicks thrown in for special occasions. “Minus the kid, of course.” Her four-year-old, Gwen clung to her hip, toying with the long, pale hair that fell in tousled waves to Elizabeth’s waist.

Nina curled her lip in a Gallic sneer.
“But New York women are known for their chic.” Nina was more Audrey than Katherine, all kitten heels and intricately knotted scarves, never a hair out of place. Despite having lived in jeans-and-sweatshirt Iowa since her scholarship at ISU, Nina hadn’t lost a
soupçon
of her native Parisian style.


Oh, don’t listen to the French tart. You look great,” Emily, said, her usual baggy cargo pants, baseball cap and free convention t-shirt doing little to convince Elizabeth. “What I’d be worried about is this Cullen guy,” she continued, her voice resonant and persuasive, honed from years as a radio news broadcaster. “I mean, don’t you think it’s a bit strange that he had the cast all lined up and the script written before he even approached your agent?”

Elizabeth shrugged, not taking her eyes off her son, Keenan, as he battled to wrest the ball from a boy at least a head taller than him.
“Apparently it’s all part of his process. I even have to agree to the script, sight unseen.”


And yet, you’re the script consultant?” Emily said, placing air quotes around the title.


Right,” Elizabeth said, not letting herself get upset. The two were more like sisters than best friends. Only-child Elizabeth and sister-less Emily had grown up next door to each other, been roommates at college, and met their husbands on the same trip to Thailand. Nobody knew how to wind her up better.


Abbie explained it all to me. I’m there for rewrites – you know, if a scene isn’t working.”


Sounds like a bullshit way to get your book for free,” Emily said.

Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak, but Nina shushed her.

“No. For me, what it sounds like, is that someone is jealous,” she said, smiling as she elbowed Emily.

Emily pretended to be engrossed in the game.
“Come on Avery. Hustle!” she yelled.

Nina hooked a cashmere-clad elbow around Elizabeth
’s arm. “Now, you don’t listen to this American pie. You will have an amazing time, Leez.”

 

But when March 23
rd
rolled around and Elizabeth laid her open suitcase on the bed that she and Steve shared, the contents of her wardrobe seemed woefully inadequate for mixing with Hollywood glitterati in America’s fashion capital. Fortunately, Gwen was there to help.


Mommy, what are you doing?” she said, tiny fists planted on her non-existent hips. She had the croaky voice of a kindergartener, but her attitude and intonation were pure teen diva.

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