"Okay girls. That's a wrap!"
The sound of clapping came from the edge of the set where the director and camera crew were seated, and Casey looked up to see there were several people watching the proceedings. She turned to her companion and grinned.
"Thank god! I'm sick of that song!"
Chloe smiled back. "Me too. I like songs with lyrics that mean something."
Casey giggled. "It could have been worse. When my family first heard that we were going to be on reality TV together they suggested you and I should sing "I know him so well."
Chloe looked blank so Casey sung a couple of lines. Her friend's eyes widened.
"I agree. I do prefer Bootylicious." Chloe admitted.
They packed up their things and left the studio together. Outside a limousine was waiting to take the two girls back to their hotel.
"So when do you leave?" Casey asked.
Chloe looked excited. "Day after tomorrow. I've finished all my shots, my bags are packed. I've even been to see my family."
Casey was pleasantly surprised. "Really?" She asked. Chloe nodded.
"And how was that?" Casey asked.
Chloe looked out of the window thoughtfully. "It was good…I think. Bridges were mended, promises were made. They wanted me to come home, but when I explained what I was doing…where I was going, they understood. In fact, I think they were proud of me…more than before."
"They're your family, Chloe. They are proud of you all the time."
"Yeah. Well. I'm not proud of myself…but maybe while I'm in Sudan I'll do stuff that I can be proud of."
"I've had an offer from a documentary maker to come and film my work out there."
Casey looked at her quickly. "Are you going to say yes?"
Chloe shook her head. "No. This is about me giving something. I don't want to take some thing for myself out of it."
Casey patted the back of her hand. "You'll do fine."
"Thanks. And thanks for asking me to do the album and video. I enjoyed it…except the Bootylicious track. My ass aches."
Casey threw back her head and laughed and after a pause so did Chloe.
Chloe was not her new best friend. Even now she was still more of a casual friend than anything closer. But in a strange way she had also become Chloe's confidante. The model had shared some of her new goals with Derek's step-sister – almost as if looking for her approval. Casey didn't mind. There was plenty to approve of in Chloe's new life plan. It nearly all involved doing good for others.
The giving and taking of advice between the two had started in the washrooms of the VIP suite at the concert hall after the reality show weeks ago. Chloe had made her way to the bar as soon as they had been released from the stage, needing a drink after the stress of the show. If she was honest, she hadn't actually expected to win in the end, but it was still hard to be knocked off the top spot. She would have liked someone to take her mind off the competition but her support staff was busy picking up her things and arranging to transport her to her apartment, so she was alone in a crowd of people. She sighed.
Most of the guests had absolutely nothing to do with the show but were considered "important". Some of them weren't even important but had somehow managed to charm an invitation into the room.
Like the guy who leaned against the bar next to Chloe as soon as she reached it.
She placed her order with the barman, and glanced around the room while she waited. The guy next to her ignored her in a pointed way. Chloe, still learning how to settle in her new skin, bristled slightly at his brush-off. She was used to people staring at her, and he definitely wasn't. She looked at him more closely.
She supposed some might call him attractive…okay, quite a lot of people would. He reminded her of some famous actor who she was sure had some sort of Greek or Mediterranean heritage. His hair was dark and though he probably put himself down as Caucasian on official forms, his skin had warmth she had seen before in Italians. His clothes were well-cut and expensive; a little too clean cut, slightly unreal.
He continued to ignore her and she continued to stare for a moment and then made as though to move away.
Eventually, he spoke; his words held a confidence which bordered on arrogance.
"You seen enough?" He asked her back. Chloe froze.
"What?" She asked turning back.
He smirked. "I said, have you seen enough? Don't worry. You can stare at me some more if you like."
"Why would I want to do that?" Chloe asked, reluctantly drawn towards this stranger.
"You seemed to be enjoying yourself."
"I thought I knew you." Chloe said, which was half the truth.
The guy grinned. "I use that line all the time."
Chloe frowned. "It wasn't a line. I meant it."
"Sure you did, Chloe. It is Chloe, isn't it?"
"DO I know you?"
"Nope. But I know you."
Chloe snorted. "You and most of Canada."
"My! We do have a high opinion of ourselves don't we?"
Chloe didn't bother answering. She wasn't actually being arrogant. It was a fact. Most of Canada knew her by sight. Her face adorned billboards in most towns.
"You married Derek Venturi." The stranger said. There was a tone to his voice when he said Derek's name which was contemptuous as though he didn't like the hockey star.
"Sort of." Chloe had learnt her lesson. She no longer claimed what the whole world knew wasn't true.
"You have my sympathies." The guy said.
"You don't like him." It was a statement she knew wouldn't be denied.
"Our paths have crossed."
"Oh." Chloe wasn't sure what else to say. The stranger shifted on his seat slightly and placed a hand on her arm.
"In fact," He said. "I guess you and are both casualties of his bulldozer approach to life. I'll buy you a drink. You can ogle me some more and we can sympathise with each other. Commiserate. Get to know each other a little better."
He grinned white teeth at her and Chloe realised she was in the process of being picked up; that the dismissive attitude had been a deliberate hook. She wondered if she minded. He was certainly attractive and it had been a while since she had last let a guy pick her up in a bar. She smiled weakly.
At that moment, the barman came over to them and before the stranger could place his order, the barman slipped a piece of paper into Chloe's hand.
She frowned and opened it. A careful, feminine script ordered:
Excuse yourself and come to the Ladies' washrooms.
There was no signature, but Chloe thought it must be one of her staff. She handed the paper back to the barman.
"I just need to go powder my nose." She said using a phrase that she knew had connotations. She had found that people were so busy working out if she really was "powdering" her nose that they often let her escape even when they were determined she should stay.
(For the record, "powdering her nose" was something she hadn't done since she was 19 when her manager caught her and whisked her off to a "retreat" for a "vacation". She wasn't going back there – either to the "retreat" or the mindset that had her throwing thousands of dollars away on powered goods.) Heroin chic was so passe.
The stranger nodded. "Sure. I might be here when you get back."
Chloe weaved her way through the swarm of people who wanted to talk to her and made her way into the bathroom. She pushed open the red and gilt door and entered a brightly lit room with deep pile carpet and soft velvet upholstered chairs. Standing leaning against the vanity unit was Casey.
"You got my note?" Casey asked. Chloe nodded.
They weren't friends, they weren't even "frenemies", especially since Casey had just walked away with Chloe's former husband and the competition which was supposed to showcase Chloe's hidden talents and relegate her "step-sister-in-law" to the also-rans. However, they had crossed a line this week. It was a line which meant that Chloe was prepared to stay and listen to Derek's girlfriend.
"Do you trust me, Chloe?" Casey asked.
"Hmmm…with what?" Chloe raised an eyebrow.
Casey sighed. "Do you trust me to be honest with you?"
Chloe took a moment to think. "Yes. You've been honest with me so far."
Casey took a deep breath and told Chloe the story of a school fashion show and teenager's party in Toronto.
"The guy sounds like a jerk." Chloe said at the end of it.
"Yeah. He is. He hit on Derek's girlfriend and anything else in a skirt. Believe me, if you think Derek has a high opinion of himself…"
"Derek stuck up for you?"
"Yes. It was a bit of a shock."
"Why are you telling me? What was the urgency?"
Casey blew out a breath. "That guy you're talking to…at the bar?"
Chloe emerged from the washrooms a few minutes later and regained her place at the bar. A Bourbon was sitting waiting on a small cocktail napkin. Truman looked up.
"I figured you're a Bourbon kind of gal."
Chloe liked Bourbon…but only in the glass of the guy she was about to kiss.
"You didn't tell me your name." She pointed out to the "stranger" and ignoring the drink.
"Interesting name." Chloe said knowing that the rest of Casey's story was probably true too.
"We're an old Toronto family. It's an old family name. Old Toronto, Old family, Old money." He boasted.
Chloe leaned towards him. "Tell me Truman. If you could rate me on a scale of one to ten, what number would I be?"
Truman looked taken aback by her sudden proximity…and her question. But then he smirked and put a hand on her thigh.
"Definitely a six and a half." He answered her.
She picked up the glass containing the amber coloured liquid and swirled it absent-mindedly. "Six and a half…really?"
"Well Truman French," Chloe shook his hand from her leg and stood up. "I know I'm an 11."
She jerked her wrist and threw the contents of the glass in his face.
"By the way, Casey and Derek say Hi!"
And then she walked away.
Casey was sitting at her desk in her bedroom; her laptop open in front of her at the end of a long day's work. Currently, she was reading her emails and she had saved the best till last. It was long, full of anecdotes and amusing stories, rich and colourful in its descriptions and she thought the author had missed their calling. She smiled at the final salutation and glanced up to look at the warm evening sun as it set.
The warm air from outside brought with it the strong scent of flowers, and she could hear the birds in the garden below as they chirruped about their day to each other.
She had loved this spot from the moment she first saw it. One of the happiest days of her life had been the day when Derek had announced he was going to buy it…and she knew now, as she had guessed at the time, that her reaction to the room had been a big part of his decision.
The door to the bedroom opened and a very bedraggled and smelly Derek entered.
"Urgh!" Casey exclaimed as he bent to kiss her neck. "Couldn't you have showered at the club?"
"Nope." He announced.
He kissed her again. "Because then I'd have missed your reaction to my sweaty body." He grinned, confirming her assumption, yet again, that he was the very devil in a hockey shirt.
She batted him away. "Go shower. No more groping till you smell better."
His face fell, but he knew she was resolute. "I don't suppose you fancy joining me?" He asked, hopefully. He wanted to shower but he also wanted Casey. Exercise triggered his libido and it had been several hours since they had woken up in bed. He ran a hand down her arm and attempted to remove her fingers from the keyboard.
"No Derek. I have to finish my emails and you smell too much. If I showered with you it would rub off on me and then I would smell too much."
"I'd soap you down."
Casey rolled her eyes. "Yes my love, I know. I also know what form that soaping down would take…talk to me about it again when you are clean. I need to reply to this email."
Derek gave up and started stripping his clothes from his body. Casey watched for a moment and then turned back to her screen.
"Who is the email from?" Derek asked later, towelling his hair and smelling a lot sweeter.
"Chloe." Casey answered with her eyes still on the screen.
An involuntary smile crossed Derek's lips. He couldn't believe how lucky he was that his former "wife" and very current girlfriend had reached such an amicable accommodation. Their "friendship" was unconventional but they were very definitely part of each other's support network…despite everything that had gone before.
Chloe had been in the Sudan for six months now working for Medicin Sans Frontier – and by working, it appeared she meant changing the diapers of tiny disease-ridden babies, scrubbing the floors of hospitals where weeds grew through the tiles, and washing the clothes of the medical staff she worked alongside.
"How's she doing?"
"Good. She's met a doctor." Casey said.
"I should think she's met lots of doctors, Case. Isn't that the point?"
Casey laughed. "No. Met met. She's fallen in love."
Derek stopped and stared at Casey. "You're kidding?"
"No. She's decided to extend her stay indefinitely. She says he's British and has a really wicked sense of humour. Apparently, he wooed her in the dark when the generator failed."
"And she's happy?"
"Very. You can read if you like."
Derek matched Casey's smile with his own, but he shook his head. He was pleased that Chloe had found happiness and her true place in the world, but she was very much his past.
"Just tell me the potted highlights." He said.
Casey started to open her mouth, but Derek put his hands on her shoulders and the towel dropped from his body.
"Later." He added.
Much later, Derek sat in his den, every hunger sated. Casey was once again upstairs, determined to answer the email from Chloe, so until she returned her attention to him, he was watching TV. He liked his life right now.
After much cajoling, Casey had moved into his apartment as soon as they returned from their promised month on his island. (It was his island now. He had bought the house they normally rented as a "congratulations" surprise for Casey. He bought it the day after he stayed the night in her hotel for the first time. There had never been any doubt in his mind that she would win.)
She had been a little reluctant to move in to his house at first, saying it was too early in their relationship and that they might be a disaster together.
So Derek had spent two days with her, shut up in the bedroom of their villa only opening the door for food delivered by the hired help. By the time they emerged, she had changed her mind.
Now, the Toronto bedroom with the balcony and the view of the garden was theirs. He had caught her leaning on the balcony the first night and had pointedly asked her whether she had agreed to move in because she was in love with him or the "wow" factor in the bedroom. Casey had giggled and told him it was definitely the "wow" factor. And then the conversation became a mass of innuendo and double entendres that was only ever going to end one way – a tangle of limbs on their new bed.
Their relationship was very passionate – both physically and emotionally. They argued a lot, but they made up a lot too. Privately, they both thought they argued for the sole purpose of making up. Despite the misgivings of those around them many years ago, it was a very healthy relationship.
If anyone in their family or close circle of friends had misgivings now, they kept them to themselves. From the moment Derek had announced their relationship on camera in front of millions – and their friends, the reaction to them had been largely positive.
There were a few church groups who had failed to read the dictionary definition of incest…or, in fact, of bigamy. (Derek was branded adulterous or incestuous and sometimes both). However, as predicted, about a week after Casey sang the last note on the stage, a high-profile protestant minister announced that he had impregnated his married housekeeper and a tiny paragraph in the tabloids mentioned that it was believed Derek and Casey were vacationing at his new villa. And they were old news.
Or rather they had been old news.
Casey, upstairs in their room had finished her emails and, because she had a slight sadistic streak, was now googling herself.
Stories about her and Derek normally appeared in the entertainment and sports blogs a couple of times a week, and that no longer worried her. She did however, like to keep a track of exactly what they were saying about her.
Tonight's headlines came as a bit of a shock.
Derek Venturi to wed.
Her eyes bugged out of their sockets. She scrolled down and read the article.
Whilst not the first time there has been speculation about eligible bachelor, Derek Venturi and possible wedding bells, rumours have begun circulating today that the hockey superstar and his long-term girlfriend slash step-sister are planning a Christmas wedding.
People who claim to be "in the know" say that Derek proposed whilst they were on vacation and they have already agreed on the location for the wedding, the dress and are currently arguing over the guest list. Friends say that Casey is desperate for them to tie the knot sooner rather than later, and even suggested that they marry in Vegas.
Whatever, it appears that all is rosy in the Venturi camp. One wonders what Miss Prescott would make of all this.
Casey clicked through the rest of the bulletins which all said much of a muchness. Friends "close" to the couple believed he had proposed. Plans were underway…etc etc.
No doubt the general public was fascinated. A big celebrity wedding was on the cards.
Except that Casey knew it that it wasn't. She couldn't help but be a little disappointed that they were so far off base.
After half an hour, Casey traced the source of the rumours to a surprising conclusion. The very first mention of the "approaching nuptials" had come from her favourite reviewer – the one lone (gay) voice who had portrayed a true picture of her time on the reality TV show. Casey was shocked, and slightly disappointed as she read his comments.
A Pleasant Surprise.
In my job it is often the case that we hear about the breakdown of celebrity relationships, and the ensuring carnage. It was a pleasant surprise for me to discover today that I can be the bearer of good tidings for once – impending nuptials no less!
And with the announcement comes a degree of disappointment as those of you who followed my commentary of the "Stars with Hearts" competition earlier this year will understand.
The competition which was ably won by Miss Casey McDonald was a highlight of a dull winter, and almost convinced this columnist that he should convert from homosexuality and become a one-woman man.
However, this is beside the point. The person who did end up with the aforementioned goddess (Miss McDonald – bless her!) none other than the (wickedly hot) Derek Venturi, is apparently in the process of sealing the deal.
I have it on good authority that a wedding will shortly be announced in the McDonald-Venturi camp, and that the happy couple will not be hanging around before naming a date.
Apparently, Mr Venturi considers it a complete miracle that Miss McDonald, otherwise known as his step-sister, ever became his at all, and is so scared of her changing her mind/making a break for freedom that he is prepared to move heaven and high-water to make her his.
This reporter for one wishes them all the very best in their new Venture!
Casey sat back in her chair and went into shock.
Derek was forced to go looking for Casey when she didn't appear downstairs as expected.
"Hey! Where did you get to?" He asked, bursting into their bedroom.
"Did you know about this?" Casey asked, accusatorially.
"Know about what?" Derek asked blankly.
"These new rumours." Casey half-answered.
Derek looked taken aback. "New rumours?"
"Yes. New rumours. About us." She clarified.
Derek shook his head. "What are the rumours about?"
Casey looked away. "Our impending…" She paused. "Nuptials."
Derek coughed. "Nuptials?"
"Yes." Casey answered, somewhat exasperatedly. "Did you know?"
"Tim mentioned something about it at lunchtime." Derek answered.
"And what did Tim suggest?" Casey asked, still annoyed.
"About what?" Derek asked blankly.
"What did Tim suggest we do about the rumours?" Casey joined the dots for Derek, somewhat frustrated by his uncharacteristic cotton-wool-gathering.
"Erm…that we release a statement." Derek suggested lamely.
"A statement?" Casey queried. "And…? Has he?"
"Has he what?"
"Made. A. Statement?" Casey asked carefully, trying not to lose her temper.
"Why not?" Casey asked again anger building.
"I said I'd handle it." Derek filled in.
"And what?" Derek asked.
"Have. You. Handled it?" Casey spelled out again.
"Erm…yes?" Derek tried.
"You've released a statement?" Casey glared at Derek.
"No?" Casey rubbed at the space between her eyes. "What did you do?"
Derek smirked. "I bought you a ring."
Casey stared at him, and then at the box he had produced from his pocket.
"And…" He continued. "For the avoidance of doubt. I do know about the rumours." And with the biggest smirk of his life he admitted,
"I started them."
AN: Thank you for putting up with my less than prompt updating towards the end. It wasn't planned. Sometimes, you know that you are just too tired to do the writing justice so you put it off for another day or two!
I'm not posting anymore chapters of this, because I think we all know how it ends.
Thank you to everyone who made suggestions for tracks they wanted to see performed. I did incorporate some of them. In fact the whole Casey and Chloe make a record thing came out of a suggestion from several of you. Power to the reviewers!
Now…I'm just going to go off and write some Mikey and Casey dialogue…
See you on the review page of The Legacy!