The morning rain fell around me, shining slightly in the light of the small sliver of sun that was beginning to peer over from the East. The movie set I was shooting on was located on a picturesque stretch of grassland, which would have appeared like a Garden if Eden of sorts if it wasn't for the plumes of dark grey city-smoke on the horizon. The cross-country train station was completely deserted. Perfect. There was no one to see me, no one to find me, no one to recognise me...
"Mr Parker, Mr Parker!" came the shrill cries of the paparazzi as the world famous movie star fought his way from the set back to his trailer. "Could you answer a few questions?" He ignored the onslaught and pushed his way past the hordes of fans, journalists, and magazine photographers. He didn't need this, not now. He had just received the worst phone call of his life and they wanted him to interrogate him about it? "Will you give us a quote?" He ducked a microphone that threatened to decapitate him. "Can you just tell us some facts?" He reached the door of his trailer and wrenched open the steel door. "Is it true that Simone left you because of your abuse?"
Dylan Parker froze. He turned to look directly into the eyes of the short red head who had asked the question. "Leave me alone!" he screamed, slamming the door in her face. Breathing hard, he flopped onto his bunk and screwed his eyes shut. Simone Allen had been his girlfriend of two years, a beacon of hope that had come into his life just when he was ready to give up on fame. She had been his world, his everything, the reason he put up with having his every move examined and every action dissected. He thought that he had finally found the reason for his existence, that he had found the woman he wanted to spend his life with. He was wrong. Earlier that day, she had called him, and just as he was expecting her musical voice reminding him that she loved him, he had gotten a cold "it's over." She couldn't deal with their over-publicised way of life. She had found someone else.
Twenty-four years. He had spent his twenty-four years of existence in a world he had been pushed into by his ambitious parents before he could even walk two steps without falling over. And it had cost him everything, his friends, his siblings, and now the one person he thought would stick by him. There had always been rumours, of course, but now, now they were actually accusing him of hurting the one he cared about most! Clapping his hands over his ears in a futile attempt to alleviate the din of the gossips urging him to go back outside, Dylan took a few deep breaths which were supposed to be calming but had rather the opposite effect. He didn't want this, he had never wanted it. He raised his head slightly to look at the mass outside his window. He knew they would be there for a while, but afterwards, after they finally decided to leave terrorising him for another day, he would get out. He would leave all this behind.
The sound of footsteps snapped me out of my reverie. No, it can't me. Surely there couldn't be anyone else this early? With sense of dread, I turned slowly turned around to see a woman about my age walking to the edge of the platform. A flicker of panic crossed my features. The last thing I needed now was for the magazines to get wind of this. She reached the yellow line and stopped, looking over at me.
Then it happened.
Her frame was slender and petite, her thin brown hair falling in wisps around her shoulders. Her eyes were a piercing green, the kind you could get lost in for hours, but they were poignant, showing the tell-tale signs of a dark past. She seemed to have a glow about her, making her stand out from the grey concrete background, the dim dawn light, and the pretentious monotony that was my life. We both felt the connection, the inexplicable, discarnate connection as we stood there gazing into each others eyes. Not a single thing was said, but we exchanged more than we could have through a thousand words of conversation. I saw her fear, the anguish in her past, and she saw the terror, the trap that I needed to escape from.
She didn't know who I was, and yet there was recognition on her face. In one look she understood me, as I did her. In the background, I could hear the faint but growing sound of the train making it's way across the long expanse of field towards the station as I continued to stare into those emerald pools. I didn't move as the wheels rolled closer and closer, as the train reached the platform and began to slow down.
"You getting on?" Her soft lilting voice broke the spell. I looked over as the train slid to a stop.
The corners of her mouth tugged upwards in a small smile as she made her way through the sliding doors to the ticket collector; the train carried too few passengers to warrant ticket sales at any of the stations. I watched as she paid for her ticket, then reached into my own pocket only to realise that I didn't have my wallet. The woman looked at me, no luggage, no bags, nothing but the clothes I was wearing. Silently she slipped a second note into the collector's hand.
The carriage was completely was empty give two benches lined with frayed cushions, a few weak rays of the rising sun filtering in from a grimy row of narrow windows. The woman ignored the benches, sitting on the floor with her legs pulled up against her chest, and I followed suit. I looked at her, wordlessly inquiring about her philanthropic behaviour.
"You're running away." It wasn't a question. "My name's Alice."
"Nice to meet you." She smiled gently and I had my first chance to look at her close up. Dark bags lay under her eyes and there were traces of make up on her face. Her clothes looked new, but were completely out of style, as was her old brown handbag. She looked
normal. I realised that, for the first time ever, I was in the presence of someone who wasn't another pompous superstar or a crazed shutterbug, someone who had no expectations, someone who didn't scrutinise me, didn't judge me. And in that in that one second, everything I had been holding back flooded out.
I saw clearly, away from the screen, the smoke, the masks, I had spent my entire life being something I wasn't. From the moment I was born, my parents had pushed me into showbiz. My childhood had been spent racing from set to set, with no friends, no companions, not even a mother and father who cared for me past the money I was reeling in and the popularity I brought the family. My adulthood been nothing but a roller-coaster ride on the ups and down of a fame I never wanted. And yet, I was one of a class that was envied by so many around the world. Thousands of children dreamed of being in my place, living my empty, meaningless existence. I had a dangerously swollen bank account full of millions I didn't know how to use which, despite my bitterness, was still growing.
In my whole, coveted life, I had not done a single thing of my own free will.
She didn't speak. No, words were unnecessary. She simply sat there, holding me through my sobs and shudders as the train raced through the deserted countryside. She seemed to share in my pain, my sorrow, and her wordless support was more comfort than any condolence could have been.
Time passed, and the journey continued, the trees flashing past the windows and the carriage rattling along the tracks. When the train finally stopped upon reaching its destination, the silence and stillness felt eerie, almost unnatural. I felt Alice pull away and head towards the door. Numbly, I followed.
This platform was just as deserted as the one I had embarked on. I had boarded that train with no knowledge of where it was headed, but I assumed I had ended up somewhere up north. The sun was now sitting firmly above the horizon, radiating its orange glow throughout the land. I just stood there, on the edge of the platform, watching the back of the train as it sped off into the distance. Once again, the pitter-patter of footsteps brought me back to Earth.
"You don't have anywhere to go do you?" Alice was standing at the exit, her head twisted to look back at me. I paused, then shook my head. She sighed, walking back and taking my arm. "My parents left me a cabin which I never had a chance to visit. It's where I'm headed. You're welcome to stay as long as you like."
* * *
The cabin we lived in for the next few weeks was a simple log lodging, with electricity but not many electrical appliances, and, luckily for me, very few connections to the outside world. However, it wasn't right. Everyday, the incident on the train hovered in the air between us. We barely spoke aside from the necessary, as if speaking was too dangerous in case we accidentally revealed what we were hiding, revealed just why we were there that fateful morning.
It was a clear, bright dawn when I walked past her room and heard a noise from inside. It wasn't the yawn or soft snore that I usually heard, but a sob. Uncertainly, I pushed open the oak door and stepped inside to see the small figure lying in a heap on the bed, dressed in her pajamas with a blanket strewn roughly over half of her trembling body.
"Alice?" She twisted around abruptly to look at me. Her eyes were red and tears stained her face and neck. She sniffed and wiped here eyes. "What's wrong?" I asked, walking over and lying down beside her.
"Nothing, I'm- I'm fine." She wiped her eyes again and made to get up, but I pulled her back.
"Don't be silly, you can tell me." She shook her head, turning so her back was to me and continued to cry.
"No, it's my problem, you don't have to worry."
"Alice," I said firmly, "I'll understand. You can tell me why you were at the station." I heard her breath hitch. "I know it's why you're crying, Alice. You don't have to hide."
Her sobs stopped and she turned back around to face me. I could see her hesitate, debating for a few seconds. Finally, she blinked, a few more tears spilling past her lashes, and began her side of the story.
"I met him when I was seventeen years old. His name was Luke and I swear, he looked like a Greek god. He was nearly ten years older that me, but that didn't stop me from falling head over heals in love with him. My parents didn't approve of our relationship, so I broke all my ties with them. He didn't like me seeing my friends, so I stopped going out. He even convinced me to drop out of the school and just stay home to look after his house. At the time I didn't even realise how wrong our relationship was." She took a deep breath. "Then, a few weeks ago, I was on the computer when an email popped up. Luke hadn't logged out and, by the time I realised it was for him it was too late." A new trail of tears ran down her cheek. "It was from another woman, and they had been seeing each other for a while." Alice's voice increased in volume. "That's when I finally got to look at my life properly. I finally saw that I had become practically a slave, I finally saw that I had completely isolated myself because of him, and, I realised he didn't really care about me. I don't believe how stupid I was. I don't believe I had thought that he actually loved me." She rolled onto her back, staring up at the ceiling. "I left before he came home from work. I had been travelling all night when I met you."
I lifted a hand to wipe her tears away. "Don't think about the past. Everyone makes mistakes. At least you got away and now can live your life the way you want," I said quietly. She shook her head.
"No, it's just, despite everything, I miss him. Well, not exactly him, I miss having someone. Someone to be with, to talk to, I mean, he wasn't the world's greatest guy, but at least he was there." She drew in a shuddering breath. "Now I don't have anyone."
I ran my fingers over her jawline and turned her head to face me. "That's not true." Slowly, I leaned over and pressed my lips to hers. "You have me."
* * *
The next days that passed were my first taste of freedom. For the first time ever I had a life which I could live at my own pace, a space I could reside in that wasn't filled with cameras, and I woman who I didn't have to share with a pointless career. Everything was perfect. Perfect that is, until the day I walked past the foyer to see Alice reading a newspaper.
"Come Dylan, you should have a look at this. There's an article which may interest you." The coldness in Alice's voice made me flinch. I looked over at the newspaper she was holding up. The front page headline read: "Movie Star In Hiding After Abuse Allegations." Next to it was a picture. The picture was of me.
"You're Dylan Parker." She cut in. "You lied to me. You used me to disappear after the public found out you were abusing your girlfriend."
"Can you believe that I actually thought you would understand? That you actually needed comfort on the train?" Her voice was now bordering on a yel. "It was all an act wasn't it. Your whole life is an act. I actually thought you cared about me, but you wouldn't understand what caring was if you looked it up in the dictionary."
"Alice, please listen to me-" I tried to say, but she wouldn't let me.
"What was I going to be, another one of your oblivious girls?"
"Just let me explain-"
"No, I don't need you to. It's all right here.' To gave the newspaper a shake. "So I suggest you get out before I call the police. You can find somewhere else you run away from what you've done," she almost screamed as walked over to the door and wrenched it open, waiting in the doorway expectantly. When I still didn't move she grabbed my arm dragged me out onto the doormat.
But I didn't walk away. I stood there, staring at blue and green horizon, and took a deep breath. "You were wrong," I whispered, not meeting her gaze.
"Why, is a fax cheaper than calling 911?" she sneered.
"You were wrong on the train. I wasn't running away. I loved Simone more than anything and she left me because she couldn't deal with my lifestyle. I would rather die than hurt her. That was all just a sick rumour started by the gossips."
"Not running away." She gave a dry laugh completely devoid of amusement. "Then pray tell, why else were you catching a train to the middle of nowhere at the crack of dawn?"
Excruciatingly slowly, I turned to look into her smoldering jadeite eyes. "I was never planning on catching that train."
Her face was hard, her mouth set in a thin line.
"I was planning on being found a few days later, dead on the tracks behind it."
* * *
"World renowned Dylan Parker, star of the films Dreams are Futile, Silence in the Leaves, and the Hilltop series, has just been signed off his current project, Saturdays For Me, after being reported as missing five weeks earlier. He disappeared after receiving the call which put an end to his two year relationship with school teacher Simone Allen and rumour has it that they had she ended their relationship after a long period of unwarranted violence and that he removed himself from the grid, or even fled the country to avoid the dealing with the scandal and possible arrest. Either way, it seems that after a lifetime of dancing in the clouds, this idol finally fell to the ground."
The news reader's voice was tinny through the low definition television set aboard the luxurious houseboat. The last afternoon sun cast a warm orange glow over the sparkling blue ocean that spanned for miles all around as far as the eye could see.
Fell to the ground
The ex-celebrity looked down at the green-eyed brunette who smiled up at him from his lap.
And the ground caught me