Summary: Bella has a problem. Her first onscreen kiss is scheduled for Friday. Unfortunately… her first real kiss is also scheduled for Friday. AH
Genre: Silly nonsense. My favourite.
Frequency of updates: Weekly (with exceptions)
A/N: If you'd like to follow a regularly updated WIP to its completion, even if it's high-school (the horror), this might be up your alley.
Total mindless fun ahead.
Scheduled for Friday
by Anton M.
1: I'm (Not) Nala
Wednesday, January 11
The thing is, it was not actually true the day I told Alice that I liked Edward. She pressed me for a name, because how is it possible that a fifteen-year-old girl doesn't have a crush at school? She got on my nerves, so I made one up. My dad was obsessed with travel vlogs on Youtube, and he'd been watching Edward Pratt's unicycle journey around the world, so… I described Edward in great detail without actually revealing much about his appearance—he was six foot (because of course he was), had beautiful, soulful eyes (because of course he did), and a mysterious way about him that just called to me (because of course it did, since I had such a crush).
Total bull. Never met a guy called Edward.
It got Alice off my back, so that was nice… until two days later, she met me by the front door of our high school building before our first class, nudged me with her hips, and said, "You forgot to mention your crush has a bike."
Oh, and my made-up crush had a motorcycle.
Alice, apparently, had combed the list of seventeen hundred students at Willie W. Smith High and found three Edwards. Three. One was fourteen years old (too short, didn't fit the criteria), the second was fifteen (tall enough but, according to Alice, had 'flat' eyes, so he couldn't possibly be my crush), and the third was a seventeen-year-old senior who… had a motorbike. Sometimes in the corridor, Alice would 'uuu' in my ear when we passed a group of friends, two girls and four guys, and because I didn't know what the hell Edward looked like, I only scanned the group in passing and tried not to draw extra attention to myself. Fake crush or not, Alice was not subtle about her nudging and her 'uuu'ing, but fortunately for me, she couldn't tease me about it every day. I wasn't in school every day.
Two years ago, NorthDust Studios issued a casting call for the roles of Nala and Mathys from the wildly successful Underground Memories pentalogy. The books starred Nala, a mute, anxious orphan in a kingdom ridden by civil war who was sold to the highest bidder by her aunt who needed money for medicine. Unbeknownst to Nala's aunt, the highest bidder (Mathys' mother, a lawyer) suspected that Nala had the believed-to-be-extinct ability to reveal people's last words, and instead of resigning to a life of servitude and rape, Nala instead set on a journey through the dangerous ethereal woodlands with her highest bidder's grumpy and resentful but overall unabusive son Mathys.
The hope was that, with Nala's talent, they'd be able to prove that Mathys' great-grandfather was killed by his younger brother, which would've illegitimatized the current power and proven that Mathys' father was the true heir to the throne. Except, neither Mathys nor his father knew that this was the true goal of the journey.
The five books intertwined civil war and mythology with philosophy and politics, drama and love, and just as an announcement was made about its debut into the big screen as a TV series, it passed Goosebumps by R. L. Stine to become the second best-selling series behind Harry Potter. The only problem with translating it into the big screen was that the author did not trust the directors Hulu, Netflix or Disney+ would've wanted for the role, and therefore the series was picked up, (to no little expected controversy,) by a relatively unknown Brazilian director—Tanya Apolônia—who was an unrivaled fan of the books.
A public deal was struck with HBO to deliver six seasons of Underground Memories, and a contract with NorthDust Studios ensured that Tanya's involvement was kept out of the public eye until the release of the first teaser. I enjoyed watching fans of the books analyze little red herrings Warner Bros released every couple of months to keep them wondering, and I was positive that, had my life turned out differently, I would've been one of them.
Over fifty thousand girls had shown up to audition for the role of Nala, including myself. I'd done a few commercials and guest-starred in a few TV-shows as a kid (nothing big), and my chances were beyond slim, especially since nowhere in the books was Nala's race mentioned (although it was heavily implied) and therefore my parents tried to pull me back on Earth as I met and competed against famous twenty-somethings who made my palms sweat and heart race (I was a fan trying so hard to play it cool). Nearly half a dozen chemistry reads later, I felt simultaneously so close and yet so far from the role. Nobody clicked with me. The more chemistry reads I did, the more I felt like my chances of scoring the role were beginning to near zero, until, one day…
I got the call.
My read with the male lead I couldn't quite stand, apparently, showed some brilliant chemistry on screen. It turned out that the director, like myself, always imagined Nala to be mixed race, and my sperm donor, the world-famous actor, Garrett Kamwanga, was technically Namibian.
Ever since I was a kid, people would question my dad—Charles Swan—at the playground for walking around with me, or comment on how kind it was of my parents' to adopt a non-white kid.
"I just love it when people adopt children," was a regular sentence for us to hear at the park.
My dad, being the lovely, brilliant man he was, usually had mindless fun with it. Wide-eyed and gasping, he would turn to mom and yell, "What?! She's not my daughter? How could you!"
One time, I pretended to cry and run away when some college student commented on how kind it was of my dad to babysit me. It shut people up pretty quickly, and my dad and I always had the best laugh afterwards.
Not that we blamed them for thinking it with me looking like the lovechild of Taylor Russell and Erwan Heussaff, but it got a bit annoying when every person ever thought that they were the first ones to notice that two white parents had a biracial kid. My dad got looks of pity—have you noticed she's not white? My mom got looks of accusation—you cheated on him with a black guy, didn't you, and then trapped this poor man into a life of raising a mixed kid. How dare you.
Some people went out of their way to show how cool they thought our family was (which was nice) and some people went out of their way to show how deeply they disapproved of me (which was less nice). My Vietnamese grandmother was among the latter, but my parents, the total badasses that they were, never made me feel unloved.
Regardless, on a Sunday in January, I got the surreal call that I won the much-desired role of Nala, and to say that I was over the moon to play my favorite character would've been an understatement, except… I wasn't allowed to tell anyone but my parents. Not even Alice.
It was a surreal, excruciating week when I found out. I signed an NDA. Michael Newton, the twenty-three-year-old actor playing Mathys, signed an NDA. Everyone signed one. We were to film the first season—the first book—in total secrecy right here in the unofficial donk capital of the US. We had so many stipulations in our NDA that sometimes it felt like we were filming the next Star Wars.
The one annoying bottleneck everyone had to work around was my involvement, since I, a minor even by acting standards, could legally only work for four hours a day under parental supervision. Suddenly, I had four hours of work (with mom or dad) on top of school and homework, and I had to lie to Alice that I got a role in a boring Indie drama to get away with it. Not only were my parents (mostly my mom since a translator could work from anywhere) setting their schedule according to when they had to (by law) be on set with me, I also had a private teacher available on set when the director needed me during the day.
My mom forced them to specify in my contract that I had to be allowed to physically go to school three days a week. I accused her of hijacking my career before it even had a chance to begin and held my breath for an entire day to see if they'd rather just hire someone with less hassle, but in the end, they caved. By my contract, they had to give me three days a week at school, at least until the teaser came out—because we all knew everything might have to be re-evaluated on March 23rd.
My mom, scared shitless by the news, immediately wanted to enroll me in a private school. My dad—although equally scared—was eager to give me as much of a childhood as they could, surrounded by my friends, in a high school I already knew. We had hours of family discussions about it, and in the end, my parents let me choose.
I chose my home turf Willie W. Smith High, ordinary as ever between Lithia Springs and Mableton. It would've been too many changes at once if I switched schools. But the downside of this decision was that I was painfully aware that I was living on borrowed time. Even if nobody sniffed out that an unknown teenager had snagged the beloved role of Nala, the teaser's release gave me only two (more) months of relative anonymity before I might've been forced to change school. It might've been total insanity to continue at Willie W. Smith after the series came out.
Or not. It was tough to tell how crazy it would be.
Mom was adamant that I not drop out of high school, even if it took me ten years to complete (understandably so, since she dropped out when she had me). Dad was more concerned about keeping my feet on the ground when stardom hit me too early, which was inevitable. We all knew it. Even if I injected dope straight into my veins and got myself fired after the first season, and this series was the only thing I ever did in my budding acting career, my life would still never be the same. So much money was now being poured into post-production of the first season they'd release it even if I dropped dead tomorrow.
It was a strange, in-between state of things.
On the one hand, each Sunday morning when my parents and I had toast and hash browns in one of the Waffle Houses by Thornton Road, they got that bittersweet look in their eyes as they, too, knew that our opportunities to have a casual brunch in obscurity were limited. Each anonymous day at school felt numbered. Even receiving that disappointed frown from Miss Jennings as I flunked in physics (and biology… and math… my first few mind-blowingly busy months of filming did not agree with my grades), even that felt bittersweet. Not to mention those random breaks taking videos of the dances Jane, Skylar and Alice hoped would go viral on TikTok, or even the mean comment Kaden made about my 3c hair.
Nothing mattered in the same way. I felt like I had a superpower. Stuff that would've ruined my day a year ago didn't even make a dent. These experiences, even the negative ones, couldn't happen quite in the same way after my involvement in the series was revealed.
And yet, even as I knew this, a part of me couldn't wait. I spent my free time pouring my heart and soul into this character and I was practically giddy for the world to see it. I couldn't wait to see Alice's face when she realized I was playing Nala.
My new strange reality was full of bittersweet, eager anticipation, and I couldn't even share it properly with my best friend.
But for now, that was the least of my problems.
On Wednesday, January 11, after ten hours on set (six of them studying, four of them re-shooting a few sequences in front of the green screen), Tanya knocked on my trailer door. My make-up artist Thiago was helping me remove the fake scars on my face while dad was sprawled on the couch, watching Alee Denham on his old tablet (lucky for me, there was no shortage of crazy people selling all their stuff to cycle around the world, or my dad would've been bored to death on set). Dad acknowledged Tanya with a nod but didn't remove his headphones, and Tanya asked my makeup artist to leave before she unfolded a plastic chair, sat down and crossed her arms on the backrest.
Her sharp, perfectly arched eyebrows over her hazel eyes contrasted against her uneven nose and lip, a result of a childhood cleft lip surgery. At 5'1'', she was shorter than me, but unlike me, she had a distinct, avant-garde style to her hair and clothes, and I wished I could've known my style as well as she did hers.
I googled her extensively when she was confirmed as the director. She was 44, thrice divorced (no kids), and dyed her hair blonde as she always wished to have inherited her father's fair hair. Whenever she began to film a new project, she shaved off half of her hair, so on set, she wore a French braid on the left side of her head while only having a few inches on the right side of it. (She usually shaved off the other half after the filming was done, but hadn't done it yet as we were still reshooting a few scenes.) She almost exclusively wore platform boots, a bright monochromatic miniskirt, a flowy top, and burgundy lipstick.
I was daunted by her in the beginning given her a reputation for being hard to work with. She was assertive when someone went against her vision, and she definitely cursed a lot. I'd picked up 'filho da puta' (son of a bitch) and 'foda-se' (fuck it), and of course, my personal favorite, a full two weeks of 'vai chupar um canavial de rola' (go suck a cane field of dicks) when the person responsible for scheduling the north studio messed up and double-booked it (shouldn't have been possible and, yet, somehow, was), which meant either postponing our shoot or building the scene from scratch (one of the few without a green screen). She was not happy those two weeks.
I had no proof that Tanya was difficult to work with, though. She was demanding for sure, but she always clearly stated her expectations and I had no proof of unfairness. After almost eight months of filming, I was starting to feel like the people calling her a bitch were the ones who would've adored her if she were a man.
Currently, she watched me pick off the fake scar on my neck.
"Am I in trouble?"
I tried to recall the scenes today to figure out if I'd compromised the schedule or done anything inappropriate.
"Oh no. Great work," she said in her slightly lyrical accent. "I'm sorry we had to re-shoot the scene."
The post-production team had discovered sound issues from shots recorded months ago, but all things considered, the affected three scenes were pretty easy to redo.
"I don't mind," I replied, ever the people-pleaser around her. Usually, the second second assistant director (sic) Timothy or the production assistant Sheena would've told me about changes to the call sheet or sides. As busy as Tanya was, her presence in my trailer did not inspire confidence in me.
"How are you holding up?" She rested her chin on her crossed forearms. "Are you thinking about being on set full time with your tutor?"
"Not if I can help it."
She gave me a bittersweet smile, knowing just as well as I did that I might've not had a choice. None of us preferred to talk about how crazy everything would get once the teaser came out.
Tanya fixed her lipstick in the mirror. "I came to tell you that we need to shoot the first kiss."
My stomach dropped.
Tanya always delivered news without adjusting her tone to the contents of it, and she'd caught me off guard more than once.
"But that's… not until the end of the second book—I mean, season."
"Vince, Rose and I agreed that it would make a brilliant after-credits teaser for the finale," she clarified, and while I was relieved that the plot was being kept intact, I couldn't quite untie the knot in my stomach.
"Have you had your first kiss yet?" she continued, like this was a casual question a director would have for an underage actress.
I could hear the music in my dad's headphones stop, and I shut my eyes.
"Dad," I warned.
"What?" he asked, pretending to be oblivious. "This is important information for your dad to know."
"It is not."
"Just pretend I'm not here."
I covered my face, dirtying my palms with the gunk left of my make-up. The only thing that kept me from groaning was the fact that Michael Newton sometimes groaned all day long, and it pissed me off spectacularly when he did it.
"I'm a loser."
"You are not a loser," Tanya said. "You're fifteen. Just a kid. Plenty of actors have had their first kiss on set. I should know, I was among them, which is why I wanted to warn you in case… you'd wish it to be someone other than Mike. If so, you have until Friday next week to have it with someone special."
Air whooshed against my palms when I exhaled.
I knew it was coming, but I'd expected the kiss in the second half of the second book to give me at least another six months. But now, being forced to find someone to kiss me in a week before my scheduled kiss on set? How romantic.
"Do you have anyone special?" Tanya asked. I would've been uncomfortable with her level of inquiry had I not read about her own first kiss—on set, with no notice. Even if she didn't look it, she was concerned for my experience of my first kiss, and I could appreciate that.
"Maybe," I lied.
"Ohh?" Headphones dropped against his tablet as my dad sat up. "Really?"
"Dad," I warned.
"That's good." Tanya smiled as she got up and refolded the chair. "I'm relieved to hear that. Just make sure you kiss him—or her—before next Friday, get some practice, and you're good to go." Chilly air blew in the trailer when Tanya opened the door. "Timothy will send you the call sheet and sides by email. You remember the scene in the second book, right?"
I only knew each word of it by heart.
"I remember," I answered, smiling as I continued to take off my make-up. "Thanks for the heads up."
Tanya shut the door after herself.
A/N: Hi! Thank you for stopping by. Your thoughts make my day.