New Experiences

Chapter 1

Karen POV

I have just received my very first standing ovation done by - none other than - theatre critics, after learning the lead role in approximately eight hours. So why I am not over the moon? Why instead of relishing in pride am I standing here detached from the entire situation?

Oh yes that's right; because Dev broke my heart. Derek confused me like mad, (…I do understand love…), and I will never be able to get those words to stop ringing in my head. Ivy; well Ivy threw away any chance of us becoming friends or acquaintances at that, (despite everything that went on among us I thought maybe one day we will put our differences aside. I know I'm green anyway there's a no chance of that happening now!)

I strut off stage poised and confident on the outside, but on the inside I feel like a scared little girl again. Once I arrived at the wings I am greeted by the rest of the cast, who are going on for their bow, (nearly forgot I had to do that, whoops!), while whispering congratulations in such excitement it was hard to make out. While I am appreciative for the congratulations I really just want to find Derek to find out what he meant. If I can't sort my relationship with Dev I was certainly going to find out what Derek meant. Maybe it was a slip of the tongue, just something he said in an attempt to make me feel less nervous? Maybe it was a voiced thought from our early conversation? Maybe…just maybe he directed it at me for a reason only known to him? But he saw the argument I had with Dev, he must have said it for a particular reason, maybe it's connected to that. Or maybe I am over thinking this like I do most things if not everything?

As much as I wanted to stay and contemplate what he meant, I was dragged out of thought by Linda telling me that I had to go on for my bow. I turned around quickly realising that I had not moved from the time I had arrived at the wings. I walked back on-stage and was rapidly greeted by a wave of applause, whistles and shouts. If it was any other performance or any other situation I would stay and revel in the moment for as long as I could before being dragged off-stage by the other members of the cast. But seeing the day that I have just experienced I simply wanted to get off as quickly as humanly possible, (without seeming rude), and collapse into my bed.

So that's what I decided to do.

I stayed on for about ten seconds before I beckoned for the cast to come forward so we could take our bow and go. Once we left the stage, I went straight to the dressing rooms changed out of Marilyn and back into Karen and went to finding Derek. Of course as fate it would have it; it was never going to be that straightforward.

First, the zip on my dress was stuck. Either that or my hands were trembling so much I was unable to clasp it properly in order to take the dress off. Thankfully Bobby came to my rescue and helped me out; lucky for me he thought my trembling hands were due to post performance adrenaline, (if there is such a thing). Little did he know who those trembles were actually for, if he did I would never hear the end of it! He is such a little gossip!

Once I was out of the dressing room I started heading towards the back door before I was stopped by Eileen, Tom and Julia. So as to not seem rude I stayed and talked about the performance that had just happened, all the while scanning the area for any signs of Derek.

So far nothing.

"Karen, are you ok?" Julia finally said, after realising that I had hardly listened to anything they have just said.

"Yes of course. There's just so much adrenaline running through my body now. All I really want to do is have a nice hot shower and sleep." I replied trying to sound as sincere as possible - well I wasn't lying, just simply not telling the whole truth. Julia will believe me right; I mean she had been witness to the day?

"Of course, we understand. Don't we guys?" Julia said while directing that last question at Eileen and Tom, who at this point were eagerly waiting to run to the bar with me in hand. "Yes of course we do," they both replied, trying to sound as understanding as possible but of course you could hear the slight annoyance in their voices. It quickly passed though as they realised there plans could still go ahead but instead of with me with the entire cast!

"You go and get some rest sweetie," Eileen said in her calm, poised voice while Tom was rubbing his hand up and down my arm as though to comfort me. That was all the invitation I needed to say my thanks and head towards the door. As I was walking off I heard Bobby and Jessica shout "PARTY TIME! TO THE BAR!" Everyone including Tom and Eileen scurried to the front door like a bunch of children running to an ice cream van on a hot day! I laughed to myself but carried on looking for Derek.

I will find out what he meant, even if it's the last thing I do!

Derek POV

Well…erm…that was…erm…interesting? I wasn't wrong and I didn't lie but then again it wasn't my best timing. Why did you say it? All I was trying to do was ease her nerves and then I realised that I actually meant it! What the?

As I stood watching my star, (yes that's right she was my star), I rapidly became glued to her performance - glued to her. I felt my furrowed brow relax as I watched that gold floor length dress hugging her beautiful figure, nearly as much as her beautiful voice caressed the audience. Karen Cartwright is stunning!

Except I am her director, nothing more. Despite my heart telling me to "go for it, this could work," my brain told me, "no you're her director and she has a boyfriend, you cannot do it." But she told me that her twit of a boyfriend had slept with Ivy, so any reminiscence of a relationship with him would surely be shattered into a million pieces. So why can I not go over to her and seduce her like I do any other woman? Or take her to dinner?

Maybe I just answered my question. Karen only just told me, only just today. What if she still has feelings for him? What if I do ask her to dinner and she throws the invitation right back at me?

My thoughts were quickly invaded by the rapturous applause she was receiving from the audience. Karen Cartwright had done it. Eight hours was all she had, and according to this all she needed to become the star that is Marilyn Monroe. I wanted to stay; to be here when she comes off that stage but I couldn't face her. Not yet I needed a proper night's sleep. I needed to see if the feelings I have for her are real or just manifestations of over exhaustion. I mean at best during those last weeks of rehearsals in New York and tech we were working 14 hour days. At worst we were working 18 hour days. So over exhaustion seems like a reasonable excuse.

I walked out through the back door before she came off. Once outside I received the coolest breath of air I had experienced in a while. Perhaps that is just because I have been stuck in a stuffy theatre all day, shouting my guts out. I started to walk back to the hotel when I started to think about none other than love. Strange I know for the infamous Derek Wills to think about love but come on, be realistic it was bound to happen at some point.

Love: the dictionary definition as a noun is an intense feeling of deep affection: "their love for their country". As a verb it was to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone): "do you love me?"

Now I definitely possess a deep sexual attraction to her, I didn't need to be rested to know that. In my head I imagine her…us. The "couch casting" session, the moment I held her in my arms when we were dancing and a hundred other moments when I was unable to take my eyes off her beautiful face and figure. In fact I came close to sleeping with her at one point.

I had invited her over to my apartment to do what we call "couch casting". I told her, "I need to see everything you have," more bluntly than I care to say. That is exactly what she did; she came out of my bathroom in only my white shirt that I had intended to change into before changing my mind. Slowly and seductively she walked towards me singing "Happy Birthday Mr President" and when she finally reached me she did something I expected any desperate actress to do when faced with a private session with the director. It took all of my strength not to take her in my arms then and there, up to my bed and…well I will leave the rest to your imagination. Then, however, she stopped her 'audition,' got up and walked out. Which in turn left me relatively stunned at her actions but I did in that moment develop I new found respect for her. I suppose it was from that respect that things started to develop.

But do I love her? I really don't know, definitely throughout the pass couple of weeks, maybe even months I have started to feel nervous whenever we are alone together. Strange I know, the great Derek Wills doesn't get nervous, not even when facing the daunting task of having to tell Eileen that there may be a problem, (you haven't seen anger if you haven't seen Eileen hear about a problem that may not even be there). Yet here I am admitting to it, however, now that I think about it, nerves are natural…now perhaps I don't possess them in abundance but I am human. I do have emotions I just choose not to express them outwardly. I don't know though if the nerves are from the sexual tension or from the possibility of true feelings.

As I carried on walking to our hotel I heard someone calling my name. I couldn't make out exactly who it was as it was being my muffled by the noise of the cars driving by. Nonetheless I wasn't particularly in the mood for a conversation I just wanted a glass of scotch and a bed, preferably with Karen in it but hey ho!

"Derek, Derek," shouted the voice behind me. I really didn't want to turn around but as it came nearer the voice sounded more and more familiar. It sounded like…Marilyn?

What?! Ok, it has been a long day but surely I am not so tired as to start hallucinating a woman who has been dead for 50 years. Yet as I turn around, there she was…Well this is new!

"Derek; finally, you're a hard man to keep up with, you know that right?" she said in that soft yet seductive voice. I was too fascinated and confused to say anything.

"Well, you made the right decision casting Karen to play me," she carried on talking to me like we were old friends.

"Thanks," I said realising it came out sounding a lot huskier and a lot more timid than I had intended.

"I can't stay much longer it seems as though the press has found me," these were the last words I heard from her before she disappeared into the now empty street.

Once gone I did a full 360 degree turn to make sure she was really gone before I started walking again to the hotel. As I turned I felt the confusion on my face disappear slightly and was replaced with that of a calm and serene look, (strange I know after what I have just experienced, but hey you're meeting the enigma that is Derek Wills). Thankfully I could see my destination in sight.

As I arrived at the hotel I took the elevator up to the tenth floor and walked in to my suite. I closed the door and went straight to the shower.

While I was standing there with the water running down me the thought of Karen popped into my head again, but instead of as Marilyn, I saw her. Karen as none other than Karen. This time instead of bringing forward memories of us together I started to imagine what it would be like to have her on my arm wherever we went like a real couple. I imagined us going on dates, walking with her hand in hand to rehearsals and even taking her to London. It was the first time I ever had those thoughts, they were certainly pleasant ones. That was foreign territory for me but still it was pleasant foreign territory. It was also the first time I daydreamed of not getting her into my bed.

What is going on, Derek Wills is turning into a pile of mush at the metaphorical hands of Karen Cartwright. Usually people turn to putty in my hands but here the tables are turned! The worst part is I hate men who are like that; I always end up telling them to grow a pair.

Once I finished with my wonderfully copacetic shower, I changed into a pair of joggers, took a quick swig of scotch and collapsed into my bed. I fell asleep within ten minutes of my head hitting the pillow with thoughts of quite simply everything.

To think thoughts for Karen intensified after telling her four simple words: "I do understand love".