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Space Junk!


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Hi all!  Welcome to my new story, about promoting a ridiculous science fiction movie at a junket in LA while having a horrible cold.  The sneezing starts slow, but is about to pick up.  Enjoy!


The drive from LAX to Beverly Hills was always terrifying; the huge black SUV slipped into a tunnel and then shot out in the middle of a five-lane highway, on the wrong side of the street.  Well-practised at this by now, Lillian registered with some pride that she did not so much as flinch when their car was cut off by a bright yellow sports car crossing four lanes at once. 


Melissa, on the other hand, swore loudly and ended up with hot coffee all down the leg of her suit. “Fuckin’ A!”, she yelled, “Guess I’m giving LA the show. Your manager’s underwear is out and proud!” she exclaimed, unzipping her pants and pulling them off right there in the backseat.


“Good start to the junket”, laughed Lillian. 


“I’ll fish something out of my bag before we get to the hotel, don’t worry,” Melissa assured her.


“I wasn’t worried.  They’re nice underwear.”  Lillian looked back at the cars flashing by, lapsing back into silence.  


“Nervous?” asked Melissa, sensing something. 




“Even about Foxy Fred?” 


“Don’t call him that,” said Lillian indignantly.


“He is though. And he’s single now, eh?”


Lillian just rolled her eyes.  She, along with the rest of the world, had followed her costar’s dramatic breakup in the headlines several months ago.  His now-ex girlfriend and high school sweetheart had publicly tweeted him an ultimatum - get married or break up. And since Fred was a sane person, he chose the latter.  Now he made every magazine’s list of Young Eligible Actors Who Readers Can Fantasize About Dating And Breaking Up With On Very Public Social Media Platforms.


“Fine.  Don’t date Foxy.  If I weren’t your super-professional manager, I’d go for it myself.”


Lillian laughed, imagining serious, buttoned-down, always-picture-perfect American Fred trying to make sense of her fun, crazy, sitting-here-in-this-SUV-in-her-sport-jacket-and-lacy-underwear best mate.  “Feel free.”


“Maybe I will.”  Melissa rooted through her bag, dug out a binder, and handed it over to Lillian.  “While I work on that, here are your talking points for tomorrow You’ve seen ‘em all before, but we can go over it if you want.  It’s just all the stuff from the media training, like talk about how fun it was to do stunts, how much it meant to you to be in a Kiwi production, the joys of filming out in the wops, how well everyone on set got along, that’s all they’re looking for.  If you want you can throw in some stuff about how empowering it is to be a badass woman fighting in a space battle or whatever.”


“Sweet as.”  Lillian took the binder, emblazoned with the movie’s title SPACE JUNK!, and went back to gazing out the window at the darkening sky.  It was actually only mid-afternoon, but yesterday. Or tomorrow? She couldn’t remember. The surreality of her situation was settling over her, sitting here in this fancy car with her best friend, driving into Hollywood to promote a movie she’d made over a year ago, in her hometown, with all of the fancy Real Actors of which she was now one, technically.  It reminded her of the whirlwind audition process, her first trip to LA turning into five, signing contracts and meeting executives and then being deposited back SPLAT into Nelson as if none of it had ever happened, until the film trucks showed up. The filming had felt very real, but when they’d wrapped and everybody went home Lillian had gone back to her life, and occasionally wondered whether she’d just dreamed up the whole thing after all.  But here they were. And tomorrow she’d see Fred again, and they’d do fifteen roundtable interviews about the movie that definitely happened. Tomorrow.




Lillian awoke in her giant white cloud of a bed, smelling coffee before her eyes had adjusted to the light.


“Morning!” said Melissa brightly, and Lillian’s startled.


“Fucking hell.  How’d you get in here?”


“Desk gave me a key.  I booked these rooms. I’m the manager, remember?”


“All good.  Sorry. You scared me.”


“Sorry, but I had to.  We’ve got to get going, the studio’s scheduled you and Foxy for hair and makeup at 8.”






“Like old times.”  If she was honest with herself, Lillian’s heart fluttered a bit as she flashed back to those cold Nelson mornings in a trailer with Fred, blasting The 1975 and trying to sing as Gino applied their prosthetics.  It had been over a year.


Melissa smirked at her, as though she could read her thoughts, then pulled a bag out of the closet.


“Get dressed - in these clothes - and then meet me in the Orchid room.  Next to the ballroom, first floor.”




Melissa left the room, and Lillian hurriedly jumped in the shower, brushed her teeth, and dressed - heart still fluttering slighly in anticipation.  What was going on? When Fred was back home he’d been the exotic, famous American actor, of course attractive - but in a way that didn’t feel entirely real.  He’d been an exciting interloper in Lillian’s comfortable world, and they’d had a great time making a movie and then forgetting about it afterward. So now here she was, the stranger on his home turf, and she was just a little nervous to see him again.  That’s all.




By the time Lillian arrived in the Orchid Room - a flowery, pastel conference room that reminded her of being inside a doily, marked with a bright cold poster advertising Space Junk! - Melissa, Fred’s manager Jack, and Fred were already there.  Melissa and Jack were chatting animatedly, leaning against the table, and Fred was sitting down with his hands wrapped around a cup of coffee.


“Kia ora!” greeted Lillian, her nerves taking over and making her performative.


“Lillian!”  Fred leaped up and went to hug her, then halted, arms outstretched.  “Wait, don’t hug me.”


“What why?”  Lillian’s heart froze.  What had she done?


Noticing the alarm on her face, Fred shook his head. “No, you’re fine.  It’s just, I might be sick.”


“You might be?”


“I woke up this morning with my throat really hurting,” he said rubbing it for effect.  “I don’t want to give it to you.”


“I’ll survive,” said Lillian, and embraced him anyway.  She just wanted to.


“Your funeral,” he said, and flashed the winning smile.  She’d forgotten how sparkly he was.


“How are you otherwise?  It’s been forever,” said Lillian, following him back to the table and taking a seat beside him.


“I’m okay, wrapped a pilot a few days ago so I’m pretty tired.  You?”


“I’m good.  I can’t believe I’m in LA,” she grinned.


Fred laughed.  “That’ll wear off.  You’re a movie star now.  Welcome to the lifestyle,” he ran his hand through his hair in mock vanity, then suddenly leaned back in his chair and flew forward with a strong “HATCHoo!”


‘Bless you!” said Lillian, who’d jumped at the sound.


“S-sorry… huhISHHoo!  Sorry.” Fred looked embarrassed.


“Can I get you anything?” asked Jack, who’d come over and was looking at Fred with concern.


“I’m okay.”  Fred swiped as his nose with a napkin and sipped his coffee, wincing a little as he swallowed.


“Well let me know, okay?”


“Thanks, Jack.”


Lillian sat in silence for a moment, watching Fred drink coffee.  She felt bad for him, knowing that they were about to do three full days of interviews.  That couldn’t sound appealing with a sore throat.


“You’re staring,” Fred said, eyebrows raised over the coffee cup.


“What?  Sorry,” she said, her turn to be embarrased. 


“What’re you thinking about?”


“The junket,” she lied.  “I’ve never done one before.”


“It’s easy.  Exhausting, but easy.  We’re about to answer the same five questions about fifty thousand times.  They’ll want to know if we played pranks on each other on set.”




“No idea.  But they always ask that.”


“Maybe somebody did something like, really epic once, and every entertainment reporter wants to recreate that story.”




“How about we make one up?”




“You know, make up a prank.”




“For fun.  Like, we could say one day I snuck into the makeup trailer and swapped all the hairspray for vodka.  And you got really drunk off the fumes and serenaded everyone with Dolly Parton’s greatest hits.”


He stared at her.  “You thought of that fast.”




“I forgot how weird you were,” he said, but with a smile.


“I’m taking the complement.”


At that moment a knock on the door announced the hair and makeup team, who greeted Melissa and Jack as though they were old friends (Lillian knew for sure Melissa had never seen these people in her life), and then introduced themselves formally to Lillian and Fred, holding out hands. 

“Hi, I’m Robin.”


“And I’m Anto.”


“Lillian,” she said, returning each handshake.

“Fred.  Sorry, I’m not going to shake hands - pretty sure I’m getting a cold.”


“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Robin, putting a hand on his shoulder.  “Can I get you anything?”


“No, thank you.  I’m okay.” Lillian wondered how often she was going to hear Fred repeat that line today.


“Let’s get to work then,” said Robin, and she and Anto started pulling out equipment from their bags.  Lotions and potions and powders and brushes. Tickly brushes, Lillian thought, glancing at Fred.

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