Vivian

Actually, I was pretty content with my life. Or at least I'd thought so until recently. Three years ago, as I was 19 years old, I'd moved away from San Francisco to make it in Hollywood. But it had turned out to be not as easy as I'd imagined. I didn't have much experience in acting, if you left out the part where I'd played in some musicals in high school. Despite of my lack of experience and training, someone still gave me a chance to play in one or two commercials. Nothing exciting and even less anything you could live of, but at least I didn't have to starve and managed to pay the rent for my apartment I'd lived in alone until a few weeks ago. Now I had a partner by my side. No, not a man, but a dog. They were more loyal and affectionate than any guy I'd ever met. I'd been very unlucky with men so far. Maybe it was the industry I was working in or LA in general. Everything was so short-lived and fast here. I'd met people who up front were friendly but behind your back they talked shit about you. That weren't only men but also women. Why I still hadn't turned my back on LA then? Simple. I had this dream to become an actress and for that I was ready to take everything on and get through it. But there were nice people here as well. My friend Danielle for instance. She and her boyfriend Cole lived in the same apartment complex as I did and we'd met when I'd moved here and instantly made friends. Danielle worked at a burger joint right around the corner and was three years older than I. Physically and also character-wise we were complete opposites. She had brown hair, mine was blond. She was introverted, I was extroverted. She planed everything through, I was rather spontaneous. And she often was my voice of reason whenever I needed advice. Danielle had the day off today and I'd spontaneously invited her to brunch. When it knocked on the door I sent Benji to his basket. My little furry friend was a relentless mongrel and used to belong to an old woman who'd lived in this neighborhood as well and recently passed away. Since there were no relatives and I'd sometimes looked after the old woman, they'd asked me to take care of the dog. Of course I'd agreed. I loved that little mischief and had taken some walks with him before when his owner had still been alive.

"Hey, Dani, come in!" I told my friend and went to the kitchen where I'd already set the table for our breakfast. It seemed Benji saw that as an order to come with us because he suddenly stood in front of me, his tail wagging, and looked at me in expectation.

"You really should go to a pet obedience school with him," Danielle said, wrinkling her nose. "He doesn't listen to you at all."

Danielle was a cat person. But since her boyfriend was allergic, she had to do without a pet. Although she already knew Benji from the times he'd still stayed with his old owner, she'd never warmed up to him. And it seemed it was a two way street, because Benji's growl was rather warning than joy whenever Danielle came visit.

"Did you make an appointment with the vet?"

I looked at her in confusion. "Vet?" I echoed.

Danielle rolled her eyes. "The appointment to…" She made a gesture with her fingers as though she was cutting something with them.

I swallowed hard. I knew exactly what she meant. But so far I'd refused to take away the little one's manhood. It surely wouldn't been what the old lady would have wanted, turning her potent dog into a eunuch. "I read they get lazy and fat if you castrate them," I said.

"Where did you read that?"

"On the internet," I said sheepishly. "Besides, I don't see why I should have him take surgery like that. He doesn't deserve that."

Danielle rolled her eyes. "You got him five weeks ago. Since then he already ran off in the park ten times. This dog is a walking time bomb! He could happen to meet a bitch in heat any time, and what then…?"

I shrugged. "I'll get a towing line. That way he can move around freely and still can't run away," I suggested.

"Surgery would be easier. But you try it your way first," Danielle said, patronizing me.

I leaned down and petted Benji who'd lain down next to my chair. "You see how well-behaved he is? He listens way better than a few weeks ago. I just gotta train him to come when I call him."

"Okay, anything else new with you?" Danielle changed the topic, sitting down at the set table.

We met for brunch every other week to chat. And this time there was actually something on my mind. "I need a job," I got straight to the point. "Rent's due this month and so far I don't even have offers for commercials."

"And how am I supposed to help?" Danielle asked and took a bite from her bread roll.

"They always look for staff at Burger Palace, right? Maybe you could put in a good word for me?"

"You mean because the boss is my boyfriend?" Danielle asked, smirking.

"Yeah, maybe that too. Although I'd never exploit that," I quickly added. "But this time I'm really in trouble. Benji needs food and I…"

"… food and shelter," Danielle finished my sentence. She looked at me thoughtfully. "Say, didn't you tell me that your mom's boyfriend is rich? Why don't you ask him to lend you some money?"

I leaned back, sighing. This was a sensitive topic to me. I was happy for my mother, because the marriage with my father had been anything but rosy. He'd kept cheating on her during the marriage and it'd taken long until she'd found the courage to get a divorce. Almost for ten years she'd stayed single and hadn't only had to feed herself but also two kids; my two years older sister Audrey and me. But then, one year ago, Henry had come into her life…

"Viv?"

Torn from my thoughts, I looked up. "No, never," I said emphatically. "I fought so hard to be independent, although my mom wanted to talk me out of it and warned me. If I crawl back to her now, I'll just admit I can't make it alone. And I wanna stay independent."

Danielle nodded. "I get it. If my parents knew I make my living with working at a burger joint, they'd sure be little happy about it. They had so much expectations for me. After all I was class winner. They always wanted me to go to college. But what they don't know won't hurt them, right?"

"At least you got a steady job," I sighed. "I really just imagined all this would be easier."

"Don't give up! You'll make it." She squeezed my hand by way of comfort.

I forced a smile. Danielle wasn't the only one keeping secrets from her parents. I, too, had lied a little about a lot of things towards my mom. I was just too embarrassed to tell her the truth. So to the question how everything went job-wise I'd just said I had a role in some new show they'd soon start shooting. But that wasn't all. I'd also made up a boyfriend. I wanted my mom to think her daughter wasn't only successful in Hollywood but had also found the love of her life. I had no worries about my lies being uncovered someday; there was bad remorse, though. Benji's whining tore me from my thoughts, reminding me it was time to take a walk with him.

Danielle rose. "Okay, I'll go now. I'll talk to Cole. I'm sure he'll find something for you to do. I'll text you when I know the details."

"Thanks!" I went over to her and hugged her. "What would I do without you!"

"Think about the castration thing," she said, gesturing to Benji before she left the apartment.

I got into my sneakers, a thin coat and put my fanny pack around my waist containing dog treats and dung bags. Then I took the leash from its hook and attached it on Benji's collar. "Let her talk," I whispered to my dog. "No one's ever gonna get their hands on your balls. I promise." As though he understood me, he barked and wagged his tail. Laughing, I leaned down and petted his soft fur. "Come on, boy! Time to get some fresh air!"