- Ursula and Will
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They were minor stars.They met on the set of a seriesthat was shooting in a castle near Prague.They should have been famous. The series was [End Page 124]
brilliant and maintained a following, especially once it dropped on Netflix. But their timing was bad, or luck, or the choices they made. [End Page 125]
Now they lived together and did odd jobs to make ends meet. Sometimes she got a commercial. He accepted an almost invisible role in a single episode of something or other for network TV and died in the opening scene. She barely saw his face, even when they brought him back later as a body on a slab in the morgue. When they weren’t acting, they temped, incognito, or waited tables, or cooked with a catering crew, careful that the restaurant or gig wasn’t one likely to draw people from the industry. They still collected residuals. They still had agents. But they had effectively disappeared.
They were young enough that they could have made another life, but tenaciously held on, to their hopes and ambitions, to their sense of their own beauty, to their love for one another. When they were desperate they sat together in bed watching their still only somewhat younger selves fall in and out of and again in love. In the series they had played a brother and sister, driven by sensual passion and abhorrence of incest—vampires, metaphoric, not literal. They had played their scenes against the real desire they felt for one another and resisted throughout the three seasons of intermittent shooting, all the way to the finale, when he did or didn’t die but either way irrevocably left her.
She had always let herself believe that his character lived, her only evidence the closing shot of the series and his presence beside her in the bed.
At last, at the end of shooting, they had surrendered to the thirst and mystery of their bodies. On set, they had been naked together on several occasions, enacting scenes of unrealizable fantasy, but now their bodies were their own, no longer images, not for sale, and they were free. Still, the traces of their several years of fictional life hung around them, like a gauze, she thought, a silk. A spider’s web, he said. Or your hair. They played their parts in bed together, uneasily, unhappily, until slowly, in their bodies, they found themselves again and their fictional selves began at last to fade.
They did no work during that time, despite the concerns and pleas and warnings of their agents.
“I have a history of stopping short,” Will said.
“You’re too young to have a history,” Ursula said.
“No, really,” he said. “In my senior year of high school I signed up to do an independent project in place of taking three core classes, and instead of doing the work I spent all my time with a girlfriend until the [End Page 126] last week when I churned out a barely passing paper. When my dad was teaching me to drive, the first corner I turned I blew out a tire and never drove again.”
“How can you live in LA and not drive?”
“Uber, Lyft,” he said. They hadn’t yet returned to the city, not together.
“I rejected the first role they offered me,” he said. “I was still a kid. My parents let me say no.”
“Lucky for me,” she said.
“Maybe not. We’d be sitting pretty. As my dad used to say.”
“Like, When our ship comes in?”
“Our dads were sort of the same, then.”
“Don’t go there,” he said. He let the implication sink in before he continued. “I pull out of things before they’re done.”
“Not with me, you don’t,” she said, as if a sexual joke could disarm his worry. Fail, she thought. “And don’t even think Not yet. History isn’t destiny.”
In Los Angeles, living together, sort of, in the apartment she kept with another aspiring and often...