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Amanda Amory - Writer
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"OK, MISS METCALFE. You're reading for the part of Marie..." Jerry Mahoney, the powerful but likeable producer of hit TV Soap Opera The Domino Effect said as he sat at the desk in his office and looked at her résumé. He then picked up the script and flicked to the page he wanted. "Let's take it from page 81. The restaurant scene. I'll be playing the part of Alex, and Leigh here-" Jerry introduced his assistant sitting next to him who warmly waved to Paige.  "-will be your fellow waitress Rachel. Let's take it from the top. Ready when you are..." 


"OK..." Paige, script in her hand, took a deep breath and holding the prop screwdriver in her hand went into the character of a young, harassed and married waitress as she began her audition. "Alex, I need a screw..."


"Not now dear, I'm busy..." Jerry, in turn became her quick tempered, irritated husband. Paige rolled her eyes in character as she continued to (hopefully) impress them."For a shelf," she explained. "Your shoddy workmanship has caused the spice rack to collapse - again."


"Then my shoddy workmanship will fix it - again, but in a minute. Why don’t you make yourself useful and tell Michelle to stop making cow-eyes at that punter and do some work for a change?" 'They look at Jim and Michelle, who are still deep in conversation,'" Jerry continued, as he read the stage directions from the script. "'The two women look at them and smile sweetly in response. Love is in the air. Boom - 'Rachel', your line-"


"Oh, leave them alone; it’s sweet. They look like they’re really getting on. You have no romance in your soul at all." Leigh read aloud from her script laying on the desk while she wiped her glasses clean with the corner of her shirt.


"And we’re not exactly snowed under, are we?" Paige continued, really getting into the part."Give the girl a break and let them get on with it. And while you’re at it, fix that bloody shelf!"


"'Alex turns around to give Marie an evil look. She retaliates by blowing him a kiss,'" Jerry continued the stage directions. "'Rachel laughs as Alex holds up his left hand, fingers his wedding ring and mimes taking it off and throwing it away, before exiting the shot. Marie looks at Rachel in all seriousness.'"


This was Paige's final piece of dialogue in the scene and she knew this was her last chance to impress the producers. Giving it her all, she delivered the killer, funny line. "Husbands, eh? Can’t live with them, can’t bash them over the head with a shovel, bury them in the garden and pretend they ran off with the au pair..."


"Well, not without getting a cast-iron alibi - and your hands dirty..." Leigh read, before she closed the script and looked at Jerry. Paige waited with bated breath as they looked at each other, deliberating her performance. Please, please, please... Paige silently prayed as Jerry turned to her with an impressed look on his face.


"Not bad, Paige, not bad at all. However, we have a few more people to see, but we'll let you know as soon as possible." Paige smiled in response as Jerry and Leigh got up from the table and she shook their hands goodbye. OK, it was a 'don't call us, we'll call you,' Paige thought as she left the room and walked to the elevator, but it wasn't a brush-off that made me want to drown my sorrows in a large vodka and tonic and a man with strong hands and an even stronger tongue...


As she left the Television studios, Paige opened her handbag to answer her mobile phone. "Hello... Hi Mum... Yeah, I just had it... well, it seemed to go OK, I mean, they didn't tell me no straightaway, they said they'd let me know... yeah, fingers crossed from this end too! ... No, I'm meeting Nicky for a late lunch then we're meeting Chloe and Libby in town, we're off to check out that new club that's opened, and we finally get to see Libby's mystery man!... Yes, we'll give you the full rundown on him. No doubt you'll see him for yourself soon... Well, after John, it's not surprising she's being cagey... Yes, we'll be good, aren't we always?... Well, ask the men we've dated if you don't believe me!... Yes, mum it was a joke!..."


Paige shook her head ruefully as her mother Jo remonstrated her over the phone. Saying  goodbye, she then sent a text to best friend Nicky letting him know she was on her way. Walking down the street towards the Café meeting point, she reflected on her audition, one of the many auditions she had been on during the past three months.


It was only a small part with a few lines, but a role in the popular soap about two warring families embroiled in the Caribbean-themed Hotel business would have meant regular money for herself, something she hasn't experienced in a long time. Plus she would be able to contribute to her mother’s housekeeping and not feel like she was the ‘sponging daughter’ she’s felt since she graduated from Drama School and was forced to go back home. She might even be able to rent a flat of her own. More importantly, she would enjoy the television exposure in an award-winning show that could spark some interest from other TV moguls.


Inside the Café she bought a blueberry muffin to stave off the hunger she'd had since she woke up this morning and found herself too wound up to eat breakfast. Munching through the muffin and flicking through The Daily News newspaper left on the table in front of her, she wondered for the thirtieth time that day why she spends her time going to and from auditions, only to get the dreaded knock back.


And for the thirtieth time she reminded herself that acting is all she’s wanted to do since she starred in her first school play when she was 7 years old and she had gotten the acting bug. Since that fateful day, her parents spent hundreds of pounds on her as she honed her craft in drama and dancing classes and they were repaid when she won a small role in a West End Musical.


She had thought that was the beginning of her glistening showbiz career. And apart from a role in a short-lived drama series We Divas Three about competitive actresses sharing a flat, the parts haven't been as numerous as she envisioned. She's had bit parts in other series and commercials and had supplemented her income by jobbing in the theatres, but to make it "big" as an actress is still the dream that filled her thoughts every single day.


She knows she's a good actress; with her good humour, talent for drama, mimicry and comic timing along with her lithe, taut body and flawless energy, thanks to Dance Teacher Mrs Cantina, so she definitely has what it takes. Coupled with her smooth, soft brown skin, sparkly brown eyes, dark elfin haircut, cheeky personality and infectious attitude to life, she believes she's an asset to any Television or theatre company. She just wished that the powers that be realised her potential too.


She manages a soft wistful smile as she remembers how her father James would beam with pride with her family whenever she took centre-stage at her school’s various productions. She would cringe with embarrassment when he used to nudge his neighbour in the audience as they applauded the evening’s performances saying “that’s my girl! She’s brilliant, isn’t she? Our shining star”. But no matter how embarrassing that display of pride was, she’d gladly endure it all over again if it meant her father could be alive and with his family again.


Wiping away the hot tears that threatened to spill onto the paper, she cleared her throat and started to read the newspaper's gossip page - Chloe Metcalfe Tells It Like It Is. Once again, her heart swelled with pride that her oldest sister has done so well for herself in tabloid journalism after slogging so hard at University and doing stints as a runner to make her dream come true. And Chloe saw it come true when she landed a job with one of England's most popular newspapers.


Paige never got tired of letting people know that the punchy, funny, straightforward column was written by her sister - nor did she get tired of reaping the benefits of having a sister with a glittering career and social lifestyle. Although, she could do without hangers-on pretending to be her friend just so Chloe could pass on demo tapes, résumés or phone numbers to the Celebrity powers-that-be. Aside all those little irritations, the fabulous parties, fantastic freebies, hobnobbing with the celebrities and being privy to the hottest gossip was what made being a member of the Metcalfe family great.


If only she could make her dream of becoming a world famous actress come true then being a member of the Metcalfe family would be wonderful.


Paige read aloud from the Wouldn't You Like To Know...? section in her sister's column where Chloe prints spicy gossip from the celeb-world but was prudent enough to omit the names of the parties involved : "Which actress from the latest TV costume drama is rueing the day she invited her cousin to a party thrown by her cast-members to celebrate the last day of shooting? This family member managed to get so inebriated she threw up in a guest's handbag, pinched the bum of her cousin's on-screen - and newly married - husband in clear view of his less-than-impressed wife and on searching for the toilets, gave up the ghost and peed in the kitchen sink. Families! Who'd have 'em?..."


Male laughter from behind startled her. "Families indeed! God, I hope for the poor cow's sake, people don't suss who she is." Paige smiled as she recognised the voice and got up to hug Nicky, the guy she struck up a friendship with in College and readily admits is her best friend. Next to her sisters, Nicky was the one she told everything to. He was always relied on to dispense unbiased, honest advice that she always adhered to and was always glad she did. Like her, he was a would-be actor hoping to make it big one day. He knew the ignominy of auditioning for parts in commercials, TV and radio roles and being rejected at the drop of a hat. But, like Paige, he believed his big break would come.


With his sexy, tousled blond haircut that wouldn't look out of place on a football player on the pitch, piercing grey eyes, a full cupid's bow mouth and a toned body with an adornment of tattoos, the latest one being on his toned bicep, Nicky Davidson certainly had the looks to accompany the talent. Paige had been known to wow about Nicky to her single friends and has always despaired when her matchmaking skills turn sour. Mainly because they'd all thought that the pair were more than good friends, but Paige has always maintained that although she thinks he's attractive, she's never seen him in that light, she just considers him her best friend.


This is a shame for Nicky as he has been secretly in love with Paige for years. Over those years he's tried to tell her how he feels, but he's also chickened out at the last minute and instead wound up being the person she goes to when she meets a new man and finds herself in the first flush of love/lust, and who consoles her when the flush of love turns sour and the lust isn't as great as first anticipated. Not that he minds when that happens, but he can't stop his heart skipping a beat when he thinks he’s lost out to his love rival only to start up again when the rival disappears without a trace.


As always in these situations, his friends know all about his infatuation and despair of the way he feels. They regularly push him to move on and date other women as they believe if anything was going to happen between Nicky and Paige it would have done so already. Nicky isn't ready to give up on Paige just yet, he just hasn't found the right time to tell her. But he knows they have a point about him dating other women, which he has - but to no lasting happiness or enjoyment. Either they didn't last long or just didn't measure up to his expectations. They break it off themselves when they realise they'll only be second best to Paige, and cannot believe that she hasn't seen how hopelessly in love Nicky is with her.


So Paige and Nicky keep plodding along as best friends; her searching for her Mr Right while a collection of Mr Wrongs mount up along the way, him wishing she'd stop her search and look at him differently and see what others around them have seen for ages. He just wants a chance to show her how much love he has for her and how happy he could make her feel. Until that time comes and he finds the courage to tell her, he'll take the next best thing - being the most important friend in her life.


"So, how was your audition?" Nicky asked, while sitting down beside her and snitching a piece of her muffin. "They said they'd call but I'm not holding my breath..." Paige shrugged as she broke off another piece herself and popped it into her mouth. Nicky made sympathetic noises as he reached for her hand. "It'll happen, you know, for both of us. Then we'll be part of Chloe'scolumn. That's how we'll know we've made it! Only thing is, how can I rustle up an embarrassing relative to rival that one...?" He pondered, skimming again the embarrassing article.


"You can borrow one of mine if you like! My God, Pete can be an absolute nightmare sometimes, he'll embarrass you no end!" Paige laughed as she volunteered her oldest and dearest cousin, who lived in Liverpool and was a relative Nicky had yet to meet. 


Nicky laughed back, enchanted by Paige's infectious laughter which lit up her face and made her all the more beautiful to him. Then the laughter died from both their lips and he found himself staring into her eyes intently - a stare full of love and adoration on his part, but a stare that left Paige puzzled. "What? Have I got something in my eye?" She asked, as she reached in her bag for her compact mirror.


Embarrassed, Nicky covered up with a lame joke. "No, no, well, yes, I thought you had a stray eyelash on your cheek, but it was just a trick of the light... or maybe a sign that I should go to SpecSavers..."


Paige laughed again, as she playfully punched him on his shoulder. "C'mon, silly, let's order lunch. I aim to get pissed tonight at that new club and I am not making the mistake again of doing so on an empty stomach. Singing Y Viva Espana at the top of my voice down the street at 3 in the morning, how embarrassing was that?" She shook her head at the memory as she picked up and perused a menu.


Nothing can be as embarrassing as me staring at you like a puppy dog!... OK, Nicholas James Davidson, he silently pep-talked himself as he picked up his menu. You're now 26 years old and this has gone on for far too long. You see her practically everyday, she is your best friend, you tell her everything, yet you can't tell her you're in love with her. Either you do it soon - or knowing you, you'll lose your chance. Or worse of all, you'll lose her to someone else...