Chapter One: Reunited on the red carpet.
Rebecca Harper sat at her desk, staring at the screen without really seeing it, when a slam next to her made her jump and her pencil holder fell over and her notebook flopped off her desk.
She picked it up and then looked up to meet the furious eyes of her boss staring down at her, the sound of his foot tapping impatiently.
"Sir?" She asked, trying to put her pencils back in their holder whilst holding his gaze without much success; they simply rolled around the desk.
"Your article was supposed to be on my desk yesterday morning. I looked through the papers- there's no article by a Miss Rebecca Harper in any of the in trays. Get to it and have it on my desk by the end of the day or we're going to have a serious conversation about your future here," he said, glowering at her, before clicking his fingers twice and pointing at her screen, before storming off and out of her cubicle.
Rebecca sighed and picked up her pencils.
She remembered when the phrase had been 'typie typie', instead of an insensitive click of wrinkled fingers, and had come from a mentor, a friend, a mother figure...
She shook her head and clicked off the file that had sprung up on her computer to reveal her desktop background, which she hadn't looked at properly in a while; she was always writing, closing it on the page she'd been working on, opening to the page she'd yet to finish.
She felt her lips spread into a smile at the picture. It was of five teenagers, three guys two girls.
Her best friend and now famous actor/journalist Michael Davies, was on her left, smiling his winning smile with one hand on her shoulder, looking dashing and stylish as always.
She herself was stood next to him, leaning into a tall, thin Noah Jackson, who had both arms wrapped tightly around her and was adorably looking down at her with a smile on his face as she smiled at the camera, her hands lightly on his chest.
Her smile faded slightly at this image, but she made her eyes travel to Noah's right and laughed when she saw Wilder's cheesy grin, with his signature short pants, skater jacket and shaggy mane of dark brown hair.
Then she rolled her eyes at the girl he had his arm around. Her best girlfriend and now famous singer/fashion model, Amanda Pierce was striking a pose, despite hugging her boyfriend; she was swishing her hair, flashing her gleaming smile and popping her foot up, behind her.
Rebecca smiled at the photo and couldn't help but look at the image of her and Noah. He looked so... into her. She remember what happened between them. It was friendly, mutual... she'd told herself necessary. He'd agreed.
Different colleges, different career paths- well, similar but in different places.
Just then, the phone rang shrill and Rebecca jumped and almost fell backwards out of her chair.
She steadied herself, before picking up the receiver.
"Rebecca Harper, Reader's Digest-"
"Rebecca, it's Michael Davies, you're best and most famous friend!" A deep, charismatic voice cried down the phone.
"Michael! Hey! Of cour- more famous than Amanda?" Rebecca asked, smiling to herself.
She heard him clear his throat.
"Well, you know. It's a little less impressive to say 'it's Michael Davies, you're best and equally famous as the beautiful singer/fashion model Amanda Pierce, friend'," he said and they both shared a chuckle.
"So how are you? What's up?" She asked conversationally, twirling her receiver cord around her fingers.
"You'll never guess! You know the animated movie I did last year?"
"The one where you do the voice-over for a lost pet rabbit looking to find it's way with a surprisingly deep voice?" She asked, shaking her head slightly in bewilderment at the idea of that as a movie.
"That's the one! Well, it's premiers this Saturday and I have extra tickets for the red carpet. Wanna come?" He asked excitedly.
Rebecca's heart soared. A change. Something different for once. It had been so long since she'd stood on a red carpet with Michael.
"Well, it beats a Saturday night home with Bubba, counting all the candy she keeps in her purse and dividing it up evenly between me and my dad. Count me in," she told him, becoming instantly excited. An opportunity to dress up, to look glamorous, to have her picture taken, to see a film... such a change...
"Oh and I've invited Wilder and Amanda- couldn't believe it the last week when I went for a café latte with her and she told me they were still together," he said, his voice coloured with his disbelief.
Same old Michael; blunt and as honest as when she'd first met him.
"Well, they may be chalk and cheese, but they're made for each other. She keeps in check and he keeps her grounded. That's what makes them so special," Rebecca said, her eyes averting back to the said couple on her desktop background.
"What and ever- you sound like something from that flop of a movie I rejected: 'Love is Love with a little bit of Love added. So lame," he said, chuckling pitifully down the phone.
Rebecca shook her head, unable to help her eyes sliding to her and Noah once more- or rather, just Noah gazing down at her with such a lo-"
"Speaking of lame, Noah's gonna be there too. Oh and Shepherd and D.J. It'll be like a Buzz reunion! Doesn't that sound great?" Michael suddenly cried into the phone and she could almost here the jazz hands he did when he got excited.
Rebecca's heart suddenly skipped a beat. Noah? Noah was going to be there?
"Oh, er, Michael, I don't think... I mean, don't you think- oh no, I've just checked my diary and I've got a million and one things to do that day so I don't think-"
"Rebecca, relax okay. Noah says he's cool with it. And it's been forever. I'm sure Noah's over you just like you're over him. Not awkward at all. Besides, he said he's bringing a friend. I'm sure he'll be occupied with her all night. I'll pick you up at seven o clock sharp, Rebecca. And you can't let me down. See you then. Ciao!" He said and then the phone line went dead.
Rebecca slowly put the receiver down.
Noah was bringing a friend? She didn't have anyone like that in her life right now. Her focus was her career.
She looked back at the picture. No, she could be happy for him. She was happy for him. Good.
Who was she kidding? She leant back in her chair and snapped her laptop shut. She had nothing decent to wear, her hair needed a cut and she was already jealous of Noah and his 'friend' being all cosy and newly-in-love on the red carpet.
She made a face.
"So, what do you think?"
"I think you've borrowed Bubba's clothes again. Rebecca, you cannot go down the red carpet looking like you've just walked out of the Good Samaritans wearing everything they have to offer," Amanda told her, looking her outfit up and down and grimacing.
Rebecca was wearing a short sleeved, faded yellow dress with a purple and white flower print, with a beige knitted bolo jacket over it.
She sighed and flopped down on her bed in the same bedroom she'd had since she was a child. The same bedroom Amanda had given a killer makeover to.
"This is hopeless, Amanda. I don't make the money you do to afford anything new," she moaned, sighing heavily again.
Amanda sat down behind her.
"This is why I love my job sometimes; having as much money as I do means I can win the 'Friend of the Year' award and help you out when you become the damsel in distress," Amanda told her excitedly, grabbing her hand with both hers and grinning at her.
Rebecca smiled gratefully at her.
"Thanks Amanda. You are a great friend," she told her and it was true; despite all the success Amanda had had; all the hits she'd had and fashion shows she'd walked, she always found time for Rebecca, even invited her to big events like Michael did.
"I know. I'm the best. Wilder's stoked to see you, BTW," she said, getting up and sorting through Rebecca's wardrobe, picking out a few outfits as she went.
Rebecca smiled, genuinely happy at this news.
"I'm excited to see him too! It's been too long. I see you, I see Michael and sometimes D.J and Mr. Shepherd, but it's so rare when I see Wilder-"
"Because he's a world famous skateboarder, with seventeen world titles to his name and fourteen moves now named after him?" She said, but Rebecca smiled happily at the fierce pride in her voice.
Amanda stopped for a moment, turning to Rebecca with narrowed eyes and a sly smile on her face.
"Speaking of seeing people, I hear Noah's coming too. That should be interesting," she said, emphasising the last word, before sending Rebecca a flash of her pearly whites and turning around.
Rebecca rolled her eyes.
"Yes, Michael told me. But it's okay. I'm... cool with it. Besides, we're they're for Michael, not to flash our success around and-"
"And you could never lie, Rebecca. You're totes not over him. But it's okay. Amanda to the rescue, as usual. I'm thinking-"
"Figarucci?" They both said at the same, then laughed.
"Is there anything else?" Amanda asked rhetorically.
Rebecca took a deep breath. She looked good. Amanda had said it. Michael had done a 'gasp' and his weird, jazz hand thing in response, which was a compliment for him. Wilder had done an 'awestruck'. Another compliment.
They were sat in the limo, awaiting in the long line of stretch limos that the stars of the movie were exciting onto the red carpet.
"Stop fiddling! It looks fine!" Amanda told her, slapping Rebecca's hand away as she made to adjust the cleavage part of her dress.
"Careful!" Rebecca snapped back, shielding her corsage from Amanda's lethal, but perfectly manicured nails.
Michael glanced at it, then looked at Rebecca sympathetically, but she was adjusting her corsage now, making sure it was perfectly placed, whilst telling herself she looked fine.
Next to Amanda, that's all she could look.
Her best girlfriend was wearing a bright pink, tight-fitting, halterneck, mermaid dress, with ruffles on the hem, and a split that fanned out at the front of the skirt, showing her long and shapely fallow-toned legs.
Wilder looked surprisingly dashingly next to her- but then he would if she'd dressed him.
He wore short pants, but they were blue and pinstriped, part of a unique suit Amanda had had designed for him, and his hair was shaggy, but Amanda didn't mind; she liked playing with it.
Michael looked as handsome as ever, in a flaming red suit and black tie, with a black fedora hat with a multi-toned blue feather protruding from it.
"Everyone looks so great. Did I mention that already? We all look fabulous. This is going to be such a great night, I just know it. Not awkward at all. Not between anyone and-"
"Rebecca, please. All your nonsense babbling is wearing out my dress and I need it to be full in flavour and glamour if I'm going to out-dazzle the paparazzi's flash on that red carpet," Amanda said, grinning at the image she was watching in her head.
"You'll be the most gorgeous woman there. You always are," Wilder told her and she allowed him to lightly kiss her on the cheek.
Michael turned to the ever-stunning Rebecca. Tonight, he couldn't fault her and that was saying something; he could always fault Rebecca. It was what he was best at.
She wore her hair in curls, slightly away from her face, her make-up looking natural but noticeable- both courtesy of Amanda's skilled hands.
Her dress was stunning, suiting her perfectly. It was floor-length, a maize yellow and sleeveless, only just hugging her curves, but not too much, the neckline plunging only a little, bunching around her cleavage so it wasn't too revealing.
"You look gorgeous, stunning- a marvel, Rebecca. Now stop worrying about Noah! Tonight, is a night to appreciate and celebrate me- oh, and the movie of course. But mostly me," he said, before playfully nudging her arm with his own.
Rebecca took another deep breath, noticing that they were one limo away from the red carpet, the flashes of the cameras and the hoards of people louder and brighter than Rebecca remembered them.
Another deep breath.
Michael linked their arms.
"Tonight, you stay on my arm. Rebecca- enjoy yourself, please?" He asked, raising his eyebrows at her.
Rebecca looked at him for a long moment before finally doing as she was told. She relaxed.
"Okay Michael. For you, I will."
Michael kissed her on the cheek, bumping her head slightly with his hat.
"Sorry- oh, here we go. Miss Pierce, Wilder, would you care to go first?"
"Yes Mikey! Of course!" Amanda squealed and Wilder grinned, before allowing the door opener to open his door and he got out first, before taking Amanda's hand like the perfect gentleman and helping her out of the door.
She waved and blew kisses and pouted and smiled and hugged Wilder, who never once let go of his girl as he smiled and winked at the crowd.
"They're adorable," Rebecca crooned and Michael laughed.
"You were right; both famous, unable to keep their hands off each other and both born entertainers- the perfect couple!" Michael cried and Rebecca laughed.
"Shall we?" He asked after Wilder and Amanda moved down the red carpet and out of the way of Michael's beloved spotlight.
Rebecca nodded and Michael exited first, waving and smiling and twirling for the crowd; his usual way of greeting them, before turning and gesturing to Rebecca, who gracefully got out of the car and humbly waved to the crowd and the camera's, the flash slightly dazzling, but after a few seconds of it, she was okay.
Michael offered his arm and Rebecca took it and as they slowly moved down the carpet after Amanda and Wilder, stopping for the cameras and so Michael could sign autograph after autograph as Amanda and Wilder were doing together a little way ahead of them.
In this time, Rebecca simply stood, smiling for the cameras, simply changing her stance now and again; hand on her hip, hands by her side, head tilted, smiling widely, or only slightly.
She found she was starting to enjoy herself and felt the familiar exhilaration she remembered when she'd been on a red carpet with Michael or Amanda, the flutter in her stomach at having her picture taken and actually looking glamorous for once.
Wilder and Amanda were suddenly there then.
"Come on Rebecca! One of all of us! Mikey!" Amanda called and Michael was suddenly at Rebecca's side, his arm around her waist, over Amanda's.
"This is so much fun. I've missed this," Rebecca told them, smiling at all of them.
"It's about to get better! Look who it is!" Wilder cried and nodded excitedly behind Michael.
They all turned and cried out in delight when they saw Mr. Shepherd and D.J walking towards them, enjoying the atmosphere a little too much, but both looking like the perfect couple, with D.J in a long, off the shoulder black dress and Mr. Shepherd in a silver-grey tuxedo.
"Still as embarrassing," Rebecca said fondly.
Michael waved them over and they all hugged and embraced in greeting.
"Oh you guys look so grown-up! I've missed my babies- wait, where's Noah?" D.J asked, looking to Rebecca for an answer, but it was Wilder who answered.
"He'll be here! Group photo!" He cried, sending Rebecca a sympathetic glance, which she returned gratefully, before they all gathered together in front of the bright flashes of the cameras that were calling out to Amanda, Wilder and Michael.
After a few moments, they moved on to the interviewing part of the red carpet; cameras were still flashing, but journalists and television reports were lining up on either side of the red carpet, waiting for their chances with the stars.
Michael turned to Rebecca as Wilder and Amanda went over to a younger girl who looked slightly nervous but excited at the same time.
"I've gotta do this for a while... can you manage without me?" He asked and Rebecca nodded and patted his arm.
"Do your thing!" She told him.
Michael grinned at her, before straightening his suit and walking over to a rather pretty reporter stood closest.
D.J and Shepherd were still enjoying the lights of the paparazzi and posing enthusiastically, but Rebecca went over to the girl who'd only just interviewed Wilder and Amanda, who'd moved on.
"Hey there," Rebecca said, smiling down at her.
Then she caught her press pass and pride swelled within her. Those were the days...
"You work for Buzz?" She asked and the girl looked up, her eyes big and excited and she nodded.
"This is my first red carpet!" She squealed excitedly. "And there's my editor!" She told Rebecca, pointing over at D.J, who'd caught sight of them and waved over at them, looking at Rebecca in a motherly, proud manner.
Rebecca smiled back at her, before turning back to the girl.
"She's pretty great, isn't she? I used to work for Buzz you know? So did they," Rebecca told her, nodding over to Amanda and Wilder, who'd just shared a kiss and were looking at each other lovingly; nothing about that kiss had been put on for the red carpet.
The girl had just scribbled down what Rebecca had said on her notepad and Rebecca smiled at the action.
She used to do just that when information flew her way.
Just then, D.J and Shepherd appeared at her shoulder.
"Hey kiddo. Nancy, the director's coming this way. You wanna get a good interview with him for our cover story, okay?" She told her, grinning at her.
Rebecca said goodbye to the girl and left her with D.J and Shepherd, who'd taken advantage of his wife's distraction and turned to do some rather embarrassing poses for the cameras near them.
Rebecca stood, waiting for Michael, but felt like she was being watched and not just by the nearby reporters wondering who she was or by the cameras wanting a photo of Michael Davies pretty friend.
She recognised the feeling. It sent her heart all a flutter and her pulse racing, but it also made her smile and as she turned to meet those eyes at a distance, she didn't feel nervous any more.
He'd never made her feel nervous.
Noah Jackson was stood, tall as ever, wearing a jet-black suit with matching black tie and his hair that used to be so spiky, was now fluffy and lay edgily cut, framing his thin face.
He was stood with the director of the film as he chatted to a reporter a little way down from where Rebecca was stood alone.
Noah found Rebecca's eyes and then smiled his heart-melting smile, before walking slowly towards her.
Rebecca looked shyly down at the floor with a smile on her lips before looking up and coming face to face with her ex-boyfriend.
"Noah Jackson," she breathed, shaking her head fondly with a beautiful smile on her lips.
"I'm sorry, have we met?" Noah asked, a wry smile on his thin face.
Rebecca rolled her eyes, but her smile was in tact.
"I'm surprised you know my name; I'm pretty much a nobody," he told her, still smiling.
Rebecca played along, mocking looking surprised.
"Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Nobody. You simply looked like a stretched out version of an old friend of mine. My mistake. Allow me to introduce myself: Rebecca Harper, journalist for Reader's Digest," she told him, holding out her hand formally.
"I know what you mean, Miss Harper. I used to know someone who looked a lot like you, except now, she's more beautiful than ever," he said huskily, before taking her hand gently in his and bending to press his lips to kiss it delicately.
His eyes flickered to her wrist corsage and for the smallest second, he froze.
But then he straightened up and dropped her hand, but Rebecca was gazing up at him, her smile tender.
She then wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him; she had been wrong. It wasn't awkward. It was warm, safe and familiar and she missed it.
He was taken by surprise, but then hugged her back gently.
They broke apart when they heard a unified cry of 'Noah!' and one 'Dude!' coming from Wilder, who appeared out of nowhere and jumped on Noah in a bear-hug, to which the camera's went crazy for.
Noah laughed, before prising Noah off of him, man-hugging Michael and Mr. Shepherd, then air-kissing Amanda and allowing D.J to squash him in a hug.
"Ah, we're all here! Photo time! This should make the front page; three global stars, a teen magazine editor, a Reader's Digest journalist, a-"
"-random dude here purely to support his superstar friends," Noah interrupted whatever Michael was about to brand him with.
"Right. And... a teacher. Bad luck Mr. S," Michael said and they all laughed as D.J hugged her husband.
"The coolest teacher you've ever had!" He said in protest, but was grinning down at them all.
They all then took a few steps back and arranged themselves naturally.
Michael and Amanda linked arms as Wilder held his girlfriend around the waist in one arm and half-choked Noah in the other as he put his arm around his neck.
Noah gave him a similar one-armed embrace, before winding one arm around Rebecca's waist tentatively, but she just smiled up at him as she and D.J gave each other one-armed hugs and Shepherd wound his arms around his wife's waist and placed his chin on her shoulder.
"I can see the front pages now- Buzz Reunion on red carpet of Davies' fabulous furry-friend film!" Michael cried from beside Amanda.
Noah shook his head.
"I see Michael's ego has yet to deflate," he murmured.
Rebecca laughed. He could always made her laugh.
Noah looked down at her and she caught his eyes and smiled up at him.
"Same old Noah. Still cracking jokes-"
"You look good, R," he told her, smiling slightly, before turning to look into the lights of the madly clicking cameras.
Rebecca's smile faded a little, but then she smiled up at him.
"So do you, Noah. You look... really well," she told him and he looked down at her again and then smiled softly down at her.
The cameras hardly noticed because of the amount of stars in the photos they were taking, but the real stars were in the eyes of the two people who could hardly take their eyes off one another for the rest of the night.