Considering how cranky and old she felt by the time she reached Heaven, it was a shock to be carded. The bouncer at the door asked for her ID—hers only, and Bob and Charlotte were the same age. He squinted at her DMV-issued California identification card; she half-expected him to raise a stink that it wasn’t a driver’s license, but he handed it back and let them inside without another word.
“It’s because you look so young, Chuck,” Bob said as soon as they were past the door. She couldn’t hear him over the blasting sound system; only by looking at his lips could she make out what he was saying.
“Clean living,” she shouted back. She shouldn’t mind getting carded—if it wasn’t apparent she was closing in fast on thirty, so much the better—but she suspected it wasn’t so much a case of looking in the first bloom of youth as looking unsophisticated. Unformed. Out of place. The bouncer let her know she didn’t belong.
Bob said something she couldn’t hear and headed off in another direction, the crowd opening around him and swallowing him whole. And the only person she knew in the place had vanished.
She made her way to the bar, three-deep with well-dressed clubgoers. She’d had never been here before, but this was a trendy spot in Hollywood, and cocktails would be priced accordingly. Even with half-price drinks, she needed to be careful. One drink only, and she’d pay in cash, and she’d make sure to reserve enough for the bus home. When the bartender finally turned his harried attention to her, she ordered a glass of the house red. The free hors d’oeuvres Bob mentioned consisted of a tray on the bar lined with grease-stained doilies and a single sad triangle of cheese toast. Too bad. She was hungry.
She should network. That was what this was about, wasn’t it? She didn’t have any idea how to network. If she did, she’d be having a much better time of things.
There was a familiar face down at the end of the bar. Familiar as in personally known to her, and also familiar as in kind of famous, which was the networking double whammy. She angled her way through the crowd, careful not to jostle her wine glass, then reached over and tapped a young woman on the shoulder. “Rachel. Hi.”
Rachel turned away from her male companion and looked at her. Her expression was blank.
“Charlotte Dent. From USC.” She managed to not make it sound like a question. They knew each other, damn it. Rachel would remember her.
“Charlotte! Oh my God. It’s good to see you!” Rachel looked like she meant it, too, like she was half-thinking of giving her a hug despite the bodies in the way. “How’ve you been? It’s been forever.”
“I’m good. You look fantastic.” Having been welcomed, Charlotte deemed it acceptable to slide a little closer to the bar. “I saw you on The Tonight Show a few weeks ago. You were really great.”
“Thanks.” Rachel slid over to give her more room. She turned to the man seated beside her. Expensive haircut, expensive tie. “Charlotte, this is my husband, David. Charlotte and I were in drama school together.”
David’s cool hand clasped hers. “Charlotte. Great to meet you.”
“We got married in March. In Malibu.” Rachel turned a little pink. “David’s also my agent.”
“That’s great. Congratulations.”
Rachel smiled. She looked happy and in love. “Thanks. Wow, it’s great running into you. What are the odds?”
“It’s alumni night.” Rachel looked blank. “The drama school alumni are meeting tonight. I guess it’s a monthly thing.”
“No kidding?” Rachel looked around, then exploded into giggles. “I thought a lot of people looked familiar.”
Charlotte laughed along with her. They leaned their heads together so they wouldn’t have to shout over the music. Rachel placed her hand on her wrist. There was something so convivial about their body language, like they were close friends instead of acquaintances who hadn’t seen each other for the better part of a decade, that Charlotte felt a little melancholy.
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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