Authors: Carla Hanna
a novel | The Starlet Series | book 1
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
STARLET'S WEB. Copyright Â© 2012 by Carla J. Hanna.
Copyright 2013 by Carla Hanna.
edition. All rights reserved.
For Kaylin Marie and Carson Michael,
my reasons for asking, “What if?”
I called Mom during my drive from my trailer on the San Diego set to my house in Santa Monica, California. We were both talented actors living separately. Mom reminded me that I was the web that caught the flies to feed the spiders. She praised me for playing my role so well. I felt more like the fly but didn't dwell on it. Being clueless about how well she spun the web helped. I would have abandoned my passive perspective and crumbled into pieces otherwise.
I loved my home on the Santa Monica Canyon ridge, north of San Vicente Boulevard. It was a cute two-bedroom house with a guest suite downstairs overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway and the canyon between Santa Monica and the Pacific Palisades. Every time I experienced another place in the world, I was shocked that my little house could be worth several million dollars. But the beautiful view was worth it. It calmed me.
My spirit lifted as soon as I entered the kitchen from the garage. Even though it was just after dawn, I walked to the windows in the living room and merged my memories of the view with the silhouettes I made out of the trees and connected with nature again. I sunk into the couch and watched the subtle, changing colors transform the shadows. I was at peace for the few minutes I had to myself before preparing for the stressful Sunday. That was what I wantedâno interaction, no dialogue. I was home.
I heard a door close behind me as I gazed out the windows. I glanced to see if it was Sage, my manager, coming early to fetch me for the Golden Globe Awards. Only people I trusted had the code to the front door. I flew off the couch when I saw that it was Evan Pasteur, my loving boyfriend and gorgeous co-star in
Romeo & Juliet
Evan was a wonderful person. His dad was American and mother was French. His actress-aunt, Renee Dupree, was Mom's best friend and my co-star. His father was a professor of literature in Paris so he grew up around the performing arts.
Evan starred in several plays and musicals in Paris, New York and London, but
Romeo & Juliet
was his first Hollywood project. He and I were both surprised that the movie was such a huge hit and had fun promoting it. We shot the movie the summer after I turned sixteen. He was eighteen.
We dated during the February premiere tour before I turned seventeen and while I filmed
with Matthew Thorne and Grant Bell. Evan and I continued to date all of last summer when we could see each other. We often double-dated with either Manuel and Kate or Mitch and Beth, my childhood friends. We rarely saw each other in the fall when Evan filmed his spy thriller and I started my latest drama with Renee.
He grinned at me, arms extended. “Hey, sweetheart! I have a minute before I have to get to the Globes.”
Evan was a presenter for the Golden Globe Awards that evening in Beverly Hills. He chuckled as I stopped his words with my lips. I flung my arms around his neck and continued to kiss him.
“I missed you so much, Evan!” I smiled as we separated.
I had not seen him since his twentieth birthday, which was in December, before the holidays and the start of the grueling “UARY” months. Jan
were the award months where good dramas became more profitable dramas based on the recognition they received. Cast and crew reputations, royalties, distribution, and return on investment all relied on the credibility of the movie awards to get viewers to download or buy DVDs for years to come and get investment for future projects. I used my sarcastic acronym: Use Awards to Reward Yourself in referring to the most political time of the year for we dramatic actors.
Evan's face had thinned but his chest and arms were more muscular. I liked his new haircut. He started his role with un-kept hair and an unshaven look. He played a college student turned international spy in his latest project and had just wrapped the film. Surely the director and producers must have thought he needed to transform into a frat boy-type spy instead of the unlikely hero scholar-type they had first envisioned.
I asked, “You look all GQ?”
“Yep. I didn't tell you? Crazy.”Â He laughed and hugged me again. We talked everyday but rarely about our jobs. He had been reading sonnets to me. “We re-shot the whole third act of the film after the new haircut. It follows formula now; so much for breaking stereotypes. Social media changes everything. The movie is judged before it's even screened.”Â He held my hand as he walked me to the windows. “Beautiful.” He exhaled while he admired the view and then explained, “The ladies hated the hair. They thought I was too pretty to look ugly.”
I didn't see Evan as an action hero because he was the best dramatic actor I knew. He was better with scripts than I was because he actually knew what he was saying. He rocked each take in
Romeo & Juliet
, and even made his Shakespeare lines flow like he was singing them. But he was incredibly good looking, my number two on the Hollywood hotness list, so his agent pushed him into a heartthrob role. He was six feet tall with a runner's body. He wasn't really muscular, just thin with a nice chest for the screen. His shoulders were narrow and he had a large head which I noticed in person but not on film.Â
I kissed him again, hoping his warmth could fill my emptiness. Evan and I had lived as adults for several years. We connected on every level and wanted respect and honesty in our relationship. We worked endless hours on set and spent the weekends promoting our films that were currently in the theaters and building our brands as successful, award-winning young actors. My project was also affected by public opinion. We had to switch locations from Istanbul to a set north of San Diego and were weeks behind schedule.
I agreed. “There's just too much money at stake to take risks on an action film. Maybe next time you can change the hearts and minds of movie-goers.”
“Marie, I love to work, so whatever. But I will make a difference someday.”
We differed there. I loved to act but hated everything else that went with it. I wanted out of show business. I was done with the show and the tell.
Evan shifted away from me. I grasped his arm and held his hand with my other, afraid to let go. He studied my face and gently put his free hand on my cheek. “I forget how beautiful you are, just breathtaking. You okay?”
“No. I'm so lonely,” I admitted. “I want to quit. I want to be a normal seventeen-year-old adult girl.” I laughed at the impossibility. I was bound to contracts I couldn't possibly escape. “Seriously, I don't have the strength to do any more award shows and interviews. I'm tired of staring at the sidewalk in public, pretending to not care that women hate me.”
He gulped and his shoulder slouched as he exhaled. “We'll still be friends. Thanks for all these goodbye kisses. I'm gonna miss you so much, but I'm no cheater.”
I groaned. I didn't know it was a done deal. We shared the same publicist. She had emailed Evan, my mom, and me an idea that Evan and I would break-up. Evan could enhance his brand as a twenty-year-old heartthrob if he were single. I could generate sympathy if Evan, the most talented young hunk in Hollywood, cheated on me. I had won awards for my acting and my image was everywhere from a cosmetic endorsement campaign. Social media data showed that women were fed up with my success.
Evan hugged me as I wobbled. “You didn't know?”
I whimpered as my eyes filled with tears. “Can't we date in secret?”
He led me to the couch and held my hand. He wiped my cheek and assessed me with his loving gray eyes. “What's the point?”
“But I love you, Evan. I need you.”
“I love you, too, but it's not gonna work right now. This way, we're supportive, awesome friends.” He exhaled. “Did you tell Manny how you feel about him?”
I shook my head. “Hell no!” The last time Evan stayed the night, we attempted to move our relationship forward but my body didn't respond to him. He suspected it was because I was in love with Manuel, my best friend from when we were preschoolers. He asked if he was right.
Partially, he was right. I survived Hollywood by focusing on long-term goals. I had rules that I followed so I wouldn't become an overextended young star. I stopped drinking. I didn't do drugs. I didn't party or sleep around. I was not going to be some guy's doormat. I worked hard. I wanted to be trustworthy, honest, loving, and free when I was old enough to get married to an honest, loving, wonderful man who would never leave me or our beautiful children. That's what I wanted. Evan was honest. Manuel was honest. But I was seventeen so I couldn't exactly get married yet.
“I wish I lied to you. I love you so much, Evan. I do.” I held his hand tighter. “Let me prove it to you. I'm ready.”
“Sweetheart, no. It's not about us doing it. It's about the way you two love each other so completely. It's like no one else is in the room when you're together.” He let go of my hand. “I can't compete with that kind of love, Marie. You have to tell Manny.”
“No! He'll laugh at me, reject me. I'm practically his sister. I can't do this life without him and you.” I grabbed both of his hands and begged, “Please don't break-up with me, please.”
He spoke softly, “We don't see each other, anyway. I'll still call every night. We'll get coffee when we're in town.” He put his arm around me. “Don't forget that we want the same things in life. I don't want my Aunt's life. I want to control my career and marry the love of my life, too. Maybe it's you? We won't know until you know where you stand with Manny. Let's live a little and see. I'll love you no matter what, forever. Don't make this hurt more than it already does. Okay?”
I didn't want to agree. My throat was too tight to speak and the loneliness consumed me.
He continued, “So you're gonna see photos of me making-out with a model. Her name is Lelu. The photos are from an ad campaign I shot in South America. The scandal hits today so that people will feel bad for you. Your mom thinks you won't win Best Actress tonight so people will like you again. Last night, Lelu and I kissed on a date in Malibu for the tabloids. She's a nice girl so she'll be my Oscar date. I think you're going with Byron and will be dating him as you deal with me cheating on you. They want you to play the victim.”
I put my hands to my face. I mumbled, “I am the victim. This life sucks.”
“I know, but working is awesome. It's the price we pay for doing cool projects.” Evan pulled my hands off my face and lifted my chin up to look at me in the eyes. “Sweetheart, you know the game. The audience can like you again.” Evan stood up from the couch. “You've got support from your dad and Celia, your mom, me, my aunt, and Manny.”
I said nothing as I watched him cross the room to the front door. He put his hand on the doorknob and turned to me again. “You tell Manny, or I will.”
Shocked that he would betray my trust, I bolted off the couch and locked my eyes with his while I wiped my tears. I warned, “Don't. I will never speak to you again if you tell Manuel. He's all I have. He's pure, not Hollywood. You, my mom, meâall of us are productsâwe're the same. He's not fake. He truly wants the best for me.”
Evan shoved his fists in his pockets and raised his voice. “Don't forget that I'm going to be accused of infidelity when cheating is wrong. I'm doing this because it's unfair that your fickle fans are jealous that you're truly incredible. I'm doing this because it's the best thing for you, not me. I'm not a fake.” He judged me coldly and added, “I'm breaking up with you because you're in love with someone else and won't tell him the truth.”
He threw open the door.
“Sorry! I'm sorry,” I frantically shouted. I grabbed his arm. “Thank you forâ¦” I blurted while my eyes stung and insides tightened. “Thanks for being selfless and kind, loving me.”
I had an unbreakable bond with Manuel. But Evan didn't understand that the bond didn't have to be romantic. I could love them both deeply with Evan as my lover and Manuel as my soul mate. I could survive without Evan. But I couldn't live without Manuel.
Evan hugged me as he breathed heavily. He whispered, “My aunt begged me not to act. My mom prepared me for the worst. What I didn't expect is that I would love you so much and would want to do this to make your life better.”
He patted my shoulder as he broke away. He left. I shut the door and used the dead bolt. The next person wanting to come in to my house would have to knock.
After Evan was gone, I texted Manuel and searched my contact list to see if there was anyone else I could reach out to. There wasn't. I texted my step-mom, Celia, anyway, knowing that she would be asleep.
When I heard Manuel's ringtone, I was on my bed hugging my beloved stuffed-horse, thinking about how my room was still decorated for a childish teenager. I had a poster bed with silly lights strung around it. I had the lavender chandelier and hot pink pillows that were an absolute must-have when I turned fourteen. I hadn't changed anything because I liked my life before I started acting and wanted to remember what it felt like to have no worries and know that I was unconditionally loved.