This end of the hall was quiet. Dale’s and Ken’s office doors were open, their computer screens dark. Out to lunch, probably, maybe somewhere in nearby Beverly Hills where they could linger over porterhouse steaks and pommes frites while discussing cases.
Marti popped her head into Dale’s office. “The guys go to lunch already?”
“I think so. I didn’t see them leave,” Charlotte said.
“Damn them. I told them I’d be done by one.” Marti frowned. “Is the conference room cleaned up?”
“Yes. Do you need anything else, or can I take my lunch now?”
“Go ahead,” Marti said. She looked tired and irritated. At moments like this, when Marti seemed human, it was easy to feel bad for her. It couldn’t be easy, viewing each day as an endless series of minute negotiations, analyzing every action for possible slights. Charlotte did plenty of that herself, and she was an amateur compared to Marti. “Dan just called and said he’s on his way in, so you won’t need to cover my phone this afternoon.”
She laughed, a thin, uneven sound unsupported by genuine feeling. She leaned against the small stretch of wall between Dale’s and Ken’s offices and folded her arms across her chest. With mild horror, Charlotte realized she was settling in for a chat. Girl talk. “He took the morning off for an audition. I knew I shouldn’t have hired an actor.”
“Did he say what the audition was for?” Good for Dan. She’d grill him about it later.
Marti examined the nails of one hand. “I don’t know. A car commercial or something. He said it didn’t go well.”
“That’s too bad,” Charlotte said. A car commercial meant a big national campaign. The auditions were hard to come by, and the competition was always stiff, but landing one could’ve changed Dan’s life.
“I’m sure his parents appreciate shelling out money for acting classes so he can star in commercials.” Marti smiled, the thin bones of her face standing out tight. “I’m glad you’re not into any of that business, Charlotte. You’ve got more sense than Dan.”
Charlotte was still for a moment. Her skin was too thin today. Marti wasn’t being snide. She didn’t know. Marti never paid attention to her life outside the office, and why on earth should she?
It wasn’t worth explaining. Charlotte smiled, noncommittal, and waited for Marti to head back to her own office. She left the letter she’d typed for Dale on his desk so he could sign it upon his return.
A flicker of movement at the window made her pause. She looked closer.
A bird was on the windowsill, a pigeon. Unusual to see one this high up. She approached the glass.
The pigeon seemed to register her movements on the other side of the window. Its head bobbed from side to side in bursts of frenetic motion. She could see the details of its feathers and the bright glint of its beadlike eyes.
It bobbed up and down, scooted a bit to the side on the thin windowsill. Careful not to startle it, she moved closer. She placed her palm against the glass just opposite it.
It could see her, and it wasn’t afraid. It seemed to be trying to get inside, confounded by the illusion of the window. It hopped to the side and teetered. She stayed very still.
The pigeon hopped backward off the ledge and disappeared from sight. She glanced down to see if it had taken flight, but saw nothing. Maybe it was flying, swooping through the air, its brain no longer clinging to what had been its most important goal moments earlier.
Looking straight down from this height gave her vertigo, even with her forehead pressed against the thick glass and her hands braced against the sill. She left the office and went to lunch.
When struggling actress Charlotte Dent is cast as a leggy killer robot in a big, brainless summer blockbuster, the subsequent hiccup of fame sends a shock wave through her life. The perks of entry-level celebrity are balanced by the drawbacks: destructive filmmakers, online ridicule, entitled costars, and an awkward, unsatisfying relationship with the film’s fragile leading man. Self-aware to a fault, Charlotte fights to carve out a unique identity in an industry determined to categorize her as just another starlet, disposable and replaceable. But unless she can find a way to turn her small burst of good fortune into a durable career, she’s destined to sink back into obscurity.
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Genre - General Fiction, Chick Lit
Rating - PG
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