Jo wrung her hands together nervously for the thousandth time. Her appointment was for 2:30, and it was now 3:23. She looked up to the retro orange clock ticking loudly on the wall. Time was going by achingly slow. She looked to the piece of paper in her lap. It was sweaty and wrinkly and tarnished with notes and this morning's coffee. It appeared to be weeks old when she had only printed it last night. She looked to her left, where two other girls looked like she felt, trembling and going over their papers like their lives depended on what was written on them. One annoyingly well put-together redhead was sitting uncharastically calm for a person of the situation, and it made Jo hate her immediately.
Jo jumped at the sound her name.
"Oh, right here," Jo replied, standing up. She left her script side on the waiting room armchair, and held onto her headshot. Thank God she hadn't touched the headshot since it left the printer, and it glowed in its folder in pristine condition.
"Follow me," the young brunette woman was barely as tall as her chin, her grey pantsuit hung low on her short torso, but wore tall hot pink heels, and walked surprisingly fast. Jo skipped a bit to keep up with her. She grabbed at Jo's headshot without asking, and Jo frowned as the photo paper wrinkled in her tight grasp. She opened the door at the end of a long hall and walked straight to the desk where the usual band of bored casting directors sat. The one on the far left stared at her resume for a moment, then passed it to the next person down. Jo could hear a pin drop in the deafly silent room, and tried to concentrate on her breathing to slow down her loudly beating heart.
"Hi," said a voice to the left. Jo hadn't even realized there was someone else sitting in a chair by the camera. Her brain immediately stopped functioning as she realized who it was.
Grayson Reed, the man she had clipped magazine photos out to tack onto her bedroom walls. The man whose dating history she knew better than her own brother's. The one whose iMdb page she looked at monthly for updates. Standing. Here. In front of her.
He was taller than she expected, his gaze less piercing in person. He looked messy, his button up shirt wrinkled and his sunken blue eyes riddled with fatigue. He looked sickly pale, like he hadn't had a vacation in years. Still, he was breathtaking in his stern brow, his toned body, his dark heartthrob hair hanging in his face. And those lips, God, those lips...
Thankfully, the other part of her brain interceded and screamed at her to act like a professional. She offered a handshake.
"Hello, nice to meet you, Mr. Reed," she spat out in a voice that was almost robotic.
"Call me Gray," he smiled, his smooth voice hinting at a slight Nordic accent.
She nodded, thinking silence was her best bet in this situation, lest her voice betray her and she only let out small squeaks instead of words.
"Whenever you two are ready," one of the male casting directors rang out, nodding to the man operating the small camera nearby.
"You good?" Grayson asked calmly, and Jo noticed he was looking at her hands involuntarily shaking.
"One second," she pleaded, taking a moment to breathe. She knew the casting directors probably weren't going to appreciate her holding them up, but she only had one more shot at this, and she wanted to make it count.
"Okay," she nodded. "Ready."
Jo wasn't about to let her thousands of dollars in film school debt fall to waste. She let her mind fall to a zone she had long practiced. The zone of some other person, some other place, at some other time. It didn't matter who was watching, who was opposite her. He was just another actor, just like at school.
I just don't know if I can do this anymore, Fox…
I'm not sure either, but it's not our choice anymore, Donnie. If it means getting out of this shithole alive, then we have to do whatever it takes.
I always knew our sins would be back to haunt us someday, but did you ever imagine something like this?
Not in a million years, but it's not the point anymore. The point is me, and you… And getting married in Costa Rica and having a dozen kids… and never thinking about this life ever again. We have to get in our car, and we have to race. Not to win. To get out of here still breathing. It's the only priority left.
Fox, you're the only priority I've ever had.
Very suddenly, Grayson leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers, something beyond Jo's expectations. Sure, it was in the script, but for some reason she thought they would've yelled 'SCENE' by now, or even stopped her mid-sentence like the rude ones usually do. She let herself sink into it, the warmth of his hands grasping her neck, his fingers in her hair, enjoying the moment for all it was worth. All of her studying, all of those cattle calls and auditions… even if she didn't land the part… this… this made it all worth it.
When he finally disconnected in what seemed to be a century later, Jo tried to gather herself. She looked to Grayson first, who seemed to be doing the same. He grinned sheepishly at her, and directed her gaze to the desk full of judgmental gazes.
"Thank you, Miss… Miller, was it?" One of the older females said, taking a second glance to her resume. A good sign. "The shooting schedule runs from April until October. Do you forsee any potential scheduling conflicts?"
"Okay, thank you for your time, we'll let you know."
The sentence was sharp and annoyed, and Jo knew what it meant. She gathered her purse and took a last look at Grayson.
"It was really great meeting you," she grinned through embarrassment.
"Likewise," Grayson nodded. "For what it's worth, I hope you get it."