Chapter 1: Chapter 1 - Lead-in

OSC is mostly about the 'courtship,' if you will. If you are at all the instant-gratification type who needs an ExB resolution right away, this story might not be your cup 'o tea. ;)

*Angst caution* It comes up toward the end of the story, and for the sake of suspense, I'm not revealing its nature here. If you are concerned, please PM me!

This is my first attempt at any sort of fiction ever, so feedback is appreciated!

Bella smoothed back her hair and took a deep breath. The meager contents of her stomach—a scanty breakfast of peppermint tea and melba toast—sloshed and roiled nauseatingly. She closed her eyes and sucked another lungful of stale studio air. After a moment of internal chastising for feeling so nervous, she rolled her shoulders back, tugged sharply on the tie closing her wraparound-style shirt, and pushed through the stage door.

The familiar buzz of crew members making their preparations greeted Bella. Her discerning brown eyes scanned the small set where she would be shooting the day's scenes. Cameramen checked over their equipment while the lighting and sound personnel chatted quietly in their ready positions. A rectangular folding table was located just to the left the set; one end of the table offered a modest assortment of refreshments while the other acted as a staging area for various props, styling tools, and personal effects.

Bella strode over to the table with confident, purposeful steps and reached for a bottle of water. As she tucked the container under an arm, she smiled a friendly hello to those milling around the snacks and then gripped the top of a folding cloth chair. Its legs made a muted scraping sound as she dragged it over to a dark-haired young woman seated in a similar chair.

At Bella's approach, Angela Webber looked up from her phone and grinned. "Hey," she welcomed. "You got here just in time to hurry up and wait."

Bella's forehead crinkled as she took another glance around the room. There were a few people missing from those already gathered—most notably, the director and her co-star.

"So," Angela continued, "How are you feeling? Are you ready for this?"

Her voice heavy with mock indignation, Bella scoffed at her friend and flung out her arms with dramatic flair. "I am Isabella Marie Swan, 8-year veteran of both the big and small screens, including a number one box office hit! I've worked with some of the top directors and actors in the business. I've even starred opposite a pack of live wolves. Of course I'm ready for this teeny tiny scene we're shooting today."

Angela rolled her eyes and made a big show of yawning while patting her mouth. "Yeah, yeah. I know all about your illustrious career. But don't forget the fact that I knew little Izzy Swan before she got her first big role on a Disney TV show. I knew the pig-tailed girl before she lost all her baby teeth, before she hit puberty, and before she became America's young sweetheart." She paused. "Also, apparently, before her head swelled to ginormous proportions!"

Bella's eyes widened in horror, but she maintained her aghast expression a moment before allowing the giggles to escape. Angela gave Bella a playful nudge and joined her in laughter. Soon, however, Angela quieted and fixed her sincere brown eyes on her best friend's face.

"Seriously though, Izz, I know you were nervous about this even before you auditioned for the role. It's understandable for any actor in this situation— including one who's been in hundreds of other types of scenes."

Avoiding the piercing stare, Bella continued to watch the set activity and gave a noncommittal shrug. "Eh, it's not a big deal."

"Izzzeee," Angela warned, "Look at me." When her friend didn't move, Angela moved her chair directly in Bella's line of sight.

Bella sighed heavily. Even though she was a skilled actress when delivering lines, Angela could always tell when she wasn't being truthful. After all, the two girls had been joined at the hip for a large portion of their respective 20 years of life; they were practically family.

The personalities of Bella and Angela complemented each other well. Being somewhat reserved, both girls were happy spending long, quiet hours together. On any typical given evening of their elementary school years, one could expect to find Angela scribbling furiously on a sketch pad while Bella sat a few feet away, penning her thoughts in a journal or engrossed in a book.

It was this love of fiction that nudged Bella to join Drama Club when she entered middle school. After her first time on stage in front of an audience—even though she had been cast as a background character with one line—she knew that acting was to be her career. In her mind, the only thing better than reading about characters in a book was pretending to actually be them.

Immediately after her first exposure to the stage, she convinced her father, Charlie, to let her participate in a summer-long drama workshop. The workshop culminated in a public performance of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. Bella easily secured the role of the caustically witty Rosaline, one of the lead characters.

Lady Luck worked hand-in-hand with Bella's resolve to enter the world of mainstream productions. Esme Platt, an agent based in Seattle, happened to have a nephew also in the workshop and took notice of Bella at the Love's Labour's Lost performance. She assisted the young girl in auditioning for a short, but nationally aired TV advertisement being shot in Seattle. Through Esme, Bella came into contact with the right people, landed a starring role on a Disney Channel show, and played supporting roles in a few well-received movies. She left TV behind at age 16 and aimed her sights at leading roles in major films.

However, perhaps due to her childhood Disney success or her petite frame with a heart-shaped face and large doe eyes, Bella found herself being typecast in roles in which she played innocent, guileless counterparts to more worldly, mature characters. This mold had become boring and unchallenging; she was ready for a change. She needed to flex her dramatic chops. She wanted to shoot scenes completely new to her.

That desire to expand boundaries was what prompted Bella to audition for the female lead in Desperate Relations. It also was why Angela now sat in front of her anxious friend, whose arms were wrapped tightly over the cloth of her thin satiny shirt. Angela knew that while Bella was eager to test the limits of her acting ability, she'd lived a rather modest, sheltered life up until now—one that was shaped by her teenage years as a saccharine-sweet Disney role model.

But in this film, her character was far on the opposite end of the spectrum.

"You're nervous, aren't you?" Angela gently probed.

"Not really." Bella met her steady gaze, then reconsidered. "Maybe a little?"

Angela raised an eyebrow.

"Okay! Fine. I'm terrified!" Bella admitted in a harsh whisper as her eyes darted around to make sure no one was within earshot.

Angela took both of Bella's hands together in hers and leaned in close. "I know you can handle this. You've done your homework, you know what to expect, and you look fabulous!"

Bella allowed a small smile in self-appreciation. She had always been thin, but to prepare for the role, she began doing Pilates and jogging every other day. Now her body boasted a healthy feminine muscle tone. For the past two months, she had disavowed all processed and pre-packaged food in favor of a wholesome, organic diet and thus felt internally cleansed and light. And just yesterday, she endured seven hours at the spa getting slathered, buffed, waxed, and plucked.

Her body was ready to go in front of the camera, and she felt confident in her understanding of the character she was to portray. Only one thing stood between Bella and another skillfully delivered performance on set, and that thing once again threatened to expel her breakfast in a rather repugnant manner.

Suddenly, the stage door burst open, and a small group of people entered the set. The director lead the procession with limbs flying about in frenzied motion, and then the others crossed the threshold. Swinging smoothly on its heavy hinge, the door was about to click shut when a hand slammed into it and pushed it back open. At the disrupting sound, all eyes on set turned to the incoming figure.

Bella, whose chair was facing away from the entrance, was the last to turn her head. When her gaze settled on the person who now commanded everyone's attention, she felt her heart stop beating and drop like a piece of lead into her unhappy stomach.

It was he.

Her co-star.

The one with whom she would soon share the stage.

Her partner in her first ever sex scene.