Chapter 10: Sawyer Fangley Plays the Villain

Shortly after Laine drove off, taking my hopes and dreams with her, I landed a new role. No, not a role in a TV show or commercial. This time, I was starring in my very own daytime drama. I call it “Sawyer Fangley: World’s Biggest Moron.”

And, action!

I went back to the bar where Laine had graced us with her super-famous presence, and downed my second scotch. Hasna, the cute girl I’d been chatting up just moments before, slid onto the stool beside mine. She was sipping a Paloma, and staring at me through large eyes the color of raw honey.

We picked up where we left off. Then she invited me back to her apartment building to “try out the new jacuzzi they just installed.”

I thought at the time that this was just code talk for have sex. You know, let’s watch Netflix and chill. Or, let’s go back to my place and have a nightcap. (Do people actually use the word, nightcap?). But it turned out that she actually meant a real jacuzzi. So that’s what we did. We spent a while soaking in the hot bubbles, flirting and making out.

“You want to come up to my place?” she finally asked, when we were both breathless and drunk on pleasure. Giggling and dripping with water from the jacuzzi, we hurried to her apartment, where we shared the most amazing night of my life together in her bed. Words couldn’t do it justice.

At four in the morning, she shook me awake and rushed me to get dressed and head home. “I have to be at work early,” she explained. So I left. After that, we began to meet on a regular basis — often very late at night, at various bars. We always ended up together in her bed, and I always ended up slipping out before sunrise. I wished we could have stayed wrapped in each other’s arms all night. I could have cooked her some French toast and coffee, and we could enjoy a lazy morning together. But she insisted that it had to be this way, and I didn’t question it.

After one passion-filled night, I woke and realized that something was different. The rays of early morning sunlight were beginning to creep into Hasna’s bedroom. She was still asleep beside me, snoring gently like a purring kitten. I lifted my hand, about to stroke her smooth, bare back with my fingertips, when I heard a sound that made me freeze.

A key, turning in the front door lock.

Just down the hall from where we lay, someone entered Hasna’s apartment. Someone’s footsteps were heading our way. I rocketed out of bed and looked around the room in a panic. Where had I dropped my clothes? Too late, I remembered that I had left them in a heap on the floor next to the dining table, after a meal neither of us would ever forget.

The bedroom door flew open, and there stood a man. The expression of shock on his face must have matched my own. His eyes flicked from me to Hasna’s sleeping form still curled in the bed. His shock gave way to dismay, then anger.

“What are you doing here with my wife?” he demanded.

I nearly choked. “Your what?” It was like someone had adjusted the camera, and everything in the background came into sharp focus. Hasna and I had only been meeting at night. She often did not even respond to the text messages I sent during the day. She pushed me out of her apartment before the sun rose. Before her husband could return from his night job. There were other clues, probably, that I had refused to see, too blinded by the heat and desire of the moment.

“Oh god. I-I’m so sorry,” I stammered, backing out of the room. I raced down the hallway, scooped up my clothes, and got out of there. I could get dressed in the elevator. I didn’t intend to stick around to watch the rest of this episode.

Dim the lights, fade to black, roll the credits.

The Other Man. That was the worst role I’d ever had to play in my life. After that, I began to get focused. Like, really focused on my acting career. Forget all of these pointless distractions, like my obsession with Laine, or affairs with beautiful women. From now on, the only flirting I did was on the set, while practicing for upcoming scenes.

I worked harder than ever at the gym, and spent my free time watching movies in order to study the other actor’s methods.

It was no longer enough for me to break into show business just to catch Laine Starr’s attention. She’d made it clear that I was just another nobody. A scrub. An extra. But I was more than that. The time had come for me to be taken seriously for my art. The time had come for Sawyer Fangley to shine.

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Chapter 9: The Saw

When I was growing up as the only non-hunter in a family of blood hunters, I had to play my role.

“Never let the others know that you’re blood intolerant,” my parents used to warn. After all, we were a respectable, ancient family. Knowing that there was a freak human in the family would have sullied our reputation. So I kept my mouth shut. Played pretend. Pretended that my favorite beverage was a Type O-negative smoothie with plasma on top.

So yeah. I wasn’t a stranger to acting.

But I’d come to Los Diablos to find myself. My true self. Whoever that was. Sometimes, when making people laugh, or when chatting with the customers while mixing drinks, I thought I saw a glimpse of him. He was that easy-going kid who used to joke around with Laine and escape into movies. He had ideas for making things better — for creating something fresh, and real. For making people laugh, or cry, or think.

Whoever I was becoming now was not that guy.

It was like I had to live multiple lives. Wake up early and go for a run around our crime-ridden neighborhood. Or hit the gym and sweat for two hours, like every other person trying to make it big in Los Diablos.

At home, I had to act tough and cool to impress Adonis. Or let Jolene give me an earful of advice while she snapped headshots of me to blow up my Instagram.

Then it was off to work. Only these days, work was almost always in a studio. I walked in looking like someone who wasn’t me, only to walk out of makeup and wardrobe looking like someone who was even less me. Then it was up on stage, to make the world believe that I was definitely not Sawyer Fangley. Or The Saw, as everyone took to calling me.

It was kind of nice, finally getting to be well-known. It meant getting offered discounts at local shops, and the occasional request for an autograph or a selfie by a random fan who recognized me from a TV commercial, or from the small role I played on a popular TV period drama. It was kind of lonely, though. The thing about making friends in Los Diablos is that everyone either wants to befriend you in order to gain a role in front of the cameras, or snub you, because the role you play isn’t good enough for their circle.

One day, I stopped by my old bar to grab a drink and ease the loneliness by chatting with a stranger. I met a woman, Hasna, who seemed really into me, and also a little bit drunk. I downed my scotch, ordered another, and was seriously beginning to consider taking Hasna home, when it happened.

Laine Starr waltzed into the bar. It was like we’d all been sitting in the dark, and she was the sunrise. Everyone in the bar came to life. Cameras flashed. Girls squealed. People were holding up their phones, recording her entrance to prove to the world that they were actually in the same bar as Laine Starr!

I was not immune to the frenzy. Forgetting about Hasna, I joined the crowd that was now pressed together tight, all of us craning our necks to see just what someone like Laine would order at the bar. A Paloma, as it turned out. Suddenly, I, too, craved a Paloma. Everyone in the bar wanted to order a Paloma. We wanted to steal just a little bit of Laine’s sunlight for ourselves.

And just like that, she was gone. I never even saw her take a sip of her drink. The crowd parted for her, and she slipped away into the city.

“Wait! Laine!” I ran after her. When I was ten feet away, I stopped. She was staring in my direction, a blank but polite look on her face. “Laine, it’s me!” I said, my voice shaking.

She frowned and pursed her lips together. It hit me then. She didn’t remember me! Too many years had passed, and she had only known me a a pale, skinny blond kid who lived in a dark, miserable town. I was like a character from a fairy tale story she’d once loved, but now sat dusty on a shelf, forgotten.

Before I could say anything else to her, a sleek yellow sports car pulled up, and she got in. The car zoomed off, leaving the real me and my real dreams in a cloud of exhaust.

Chapter 8: Be Yourself, and Other Lies

“Hey, Fangless, how’s it going in Fakeville?” asked my sister, Violeta.

“Just because there are actors here, it doesn’t mean everyone’s faking,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Just you then, huh?” I could practically hear her grinning over the phone.

I wanted to tell her that she was wrong. That I was still the same Sawyer she’d always known, and that not even the lights of Los Diablos could persuade me to change. But that would be a lie. I was not the same Sawyer. I was a big, starry-eyed phony.

After following Adonis’s advice failed to help me improve my image or get more acting gigs, I turned to my other roommate, Jolene.

“Oh, I can’t wait to help you change up your look,” she squealed, clapping her hands together. “Let me just gather a few supplies, and we’ll change you into the sexiest beast in town. The casting crews will be knocking down your door when I’m through.

I have to admit, I was nervous as hell. I was comfortable with the way I looked, and not eager to look in the mirror and see a complete stranger. But you’ve got to do what you’ve gotta do. So I agreed to Jolene’s Extreme Makeover.

She made me try on outfit after outfit. She sculpted my hair into outlandish styles, and yanked wigs onto my head.

“Oh, you look a-mazing in that!” she would say as I twisted and turned, modeling each new look. But to me, each new style was worse than the one before.

“You don’t really expect me to go out in public looking like this, right?” I asked.

Finally, though, I agreed on one look. Trendy clothes, and an emo haircut, dyed jet black. I thought it made me look as pale as…well, as pale as a vampire. But Jolene insisted that the dark hair made my pale eyes look absolutely piercing. Which I guess was a good thing.

So I took my new look to the next audition. And I don’t know if it was the piercing eyes that did it or what, but I landed the job. I was going to become the new face of Cap’n Clean laundry detergent. And all I had to do was not be me.

The ironic part was, once filming began, I had to spend a couple of hours getting another makeover, just so that in the end, I looked more like the real me on camera. Acting is a strange business.

Chapter 7: Even Kevlar is More Famous than Me

So I did the commercial. A kind of dumb commercial for some lousy, low-end home appliances. I performed well — even the director complimented me afterward.

“You’re a natural, kid. Keep it up!” he said.

The dumb commercial would go on to air at 2 am, squeezed in between ads for Magic Pancake Flippers and medication for urinary incontinence. But still, I was officially an actor now. Just like everyone else in Del Sol Valley.

Kind of.

Because after the commercial, my prospects dried up. No calls from the cheap talent agency my roommates had connected me with. Nothing. Not even another dumb commercial. I went to every open cast call I could find, but they all led to nowhere. And I was running out of money. So I began to pick up extra shifts as a bartender, just to make ends meet. Living in Del Sol Valley was exciting, but expensive.

Everyone else didn’t seem to be having any trouble finding work. Adonis and Jolene still booked regular small gigs as extras on TV shows, and Jolene’s new YouTube vlog was exploding in popularity.

Even Kevlar was getting luckier than me. He was selected to be the face of a new line of designer petwear. The money his shoots brought in was enough to redecorate our sad little living room, and replace the thimble-sized TV with a 50-inch smart TV.

Our luxurious new living room, thanks to Kevlar

Fed up, I turned to my roommates for advice.

“Oh, it’s definitely your look,” said Jolene, clicking her tongue. “Honey, you need new clothes, new hair, and a good spray-on tan.”

“Nah, your look’s fine,” said Adonis. “It’s your image that needs some work. You need to let the Valley know that Sawyer Fangley is the new all-American heartthrob. Get seen with a few girlfriends. Show off your bod.”

Ha. Easy for him to say. Adonis was a total playboy. Seriously. All he had to do was look at a girl, and she’d be in his arms five seconds later. It’s like he gave off this irresistible magic scent that drew women toward him. Plus, thanks to the fact that he spent more time in the gym than most off us spend sleeping, he could show off his bod with no shame.

I was the exact opposite.

Skinny and soft, with skin that had apparently been deprived of sunlight for my entire life.

“Maybe try showing a little less bod,” Adonis suggested.

Also, if I had any magic scent, it only served as a female repellent. Each time I started up a conversation with a woman, her eyes would drift away, and her attention would shift to Adonis. Freaking Adonis.

When Adonis wasn’t around, I tried copying some of his smooth moves and pickup lines. Some women responded by shooting me a dirty look. Others just seemed amused.

That did it. I wasn’t going to get anywhere — with women or in my acting career — unless I was ready to make some drastic changes. So I pulled on some thrift-store workout clothes and began to go jogging around our neighborhood.

Chapter 6: We’re All Just a Bunch of Scrubs

Sawyer in Downtown Los Diablos

Los Diablos!

Man, so far, the city had exceeded my expectations. Only now was I beginning to understand how drab and limited my life back home had been. Here, there were so many colors, sights, and sounds. So many people, and things to do, and foods to eat, that I could barely sit still. I wanted to try everything.

Whenever I wasn’t working, I spent my time exploring the big city. I listened to live music, browsed big stores, and attended street festivals filled with spicy aromas and street performers. And whenever I could, I went out to the movies. Sometimes, I sat in the darkened theater, imagining what Laine would say about the actors and direction. Other times, I watched movies where she starred in a leading role. She was such a talented actress that I  became mesmerized, often forgetting that the person on the screen was actually my long-lost friend.

 

Sawyer in Downtown Los Diablos
Sawyer in Downtown Los Diablos
Sawyer in Downtown Los Diablos

I also did a lot of what my roommate, Jolene, had suggested. Audition, audition, audition. Every cattle call, I was there, with my hair combed, and my best pair of jeans somewhat clean. But the parts kept passing me by. I was a nobody. A nothing. Just another naive small-town kid trying to make it in the big city.

Sawyer in Downtown Los Diablos

BUT THEN…I got my lucky break. Not a big break. But a small one. Adonis had told me about this commercial audition at the very last minute. So I had no time to prepare. I took two city buses, and by the time I arrived, I was out of breath and sunburned, with a messy mane of hair. I was sure the casting gods would take one look and send me packing.

Instead, they called me up and told me to do something funny.

“Something what?” I frowned. Had I heard them right?

“Make us laugh,” said the main casting manager. So I cleared my throat, shook out my tight muscles, and started to deliver the stand-up comedy routine I’d been practicing lately at open mic nights in the park. Before long, the casting manager’s shoulders were shaking with laughter. The others were cracking up, too. After a few minutes, he held up a hand to stop me. “Congratulations,” he said.

I’d gotten the job!

Sawyer in Downtown Los Diablos

When I told Adonis and Jolene, they were ecstatic. “We’ve got to celebrate!” said Jolene. She ordered a cauliflower-crust pizza with vegan cheese, jalapeños, and pineapples. Adonis and I ate ramen instead.

Filming day arrived at last. I reported for duty at Mariposa Studios. I couldn’t believe how enormous this place was! There were people everywhere — moving sets around, driving in golf carts, and strolling around wearing all kinds of costumes.

Sawyer in Downtown Los Diablos

I met the director, who was so busy, she barely glanced my way. I also met one of the producers, some of the crew, and the other actors I would be working with. I asked if any of them had ever worked with Laine before.

“Ha ha ha, I wish!” said my co-star. “She’s like, super famous. People like that don’t mingle with scrubs like us.”

Sawyer on the set
Sawyer on the set

A scrub? Is that how Laine would think of me when we finally saw each other again?

I headed off to makeup, then wardrobe. The artists transformed me. When I looked in the mirror, I was no longer the pale, clueless kid with the outgrown clothes and shaggy hair. I was someone completely different. An actor. I would learn to become a great actor. Someone Laine would want to be friends with again. She deserved better than a scrub. I was going to be a star.

Sawyer on the set
Sawyer on the set
Sawyer on the set
Sawyer on the set

Chapter 5: Everybody in California is Rich!

When I first arrived in Los Diablos, my first thought was, where did all the sunshine go? A thick, brownish-gray haze covered the entire city, making everything look as dim and miserable as Midnight Hollow.

City of Los Diablos

I’d heard that everyone in California is filthy rich. Of course, I had been rich my entire life, living in my family’s ancestral mansion. But I couldn’t wait to see what it was like to be California Rich. Gigantic, modern houses! Sweeping views of the sea! Palm trees swaying in the wind, and crystal blue swimming pools in every backyard. The movie star life. I’d seen it all on TV, so I knew it existed.

Clutching the crumpled advertisement in my hand, I got off the city bus and followed the directions to 5281 Beach Street. To my dismay, the house was nowhere near a beach. It was also nowhere near rich. It was small and shabby, located at the end of a cul-de-sac, between a vacant lot and a busy freeway. The surrounding neighborhood looked pretty sketchy, too – graffiti, overgrown weeds, and chain-link fences containing menacing-looking dogs who growled as I passed by.

Jolene

A thin, stylish girl greeted me at the front door. “Ooh! Are you our new roomie?” she squealed. She pulled me close and planted a wet kiss on each of my cheeks.

“Um, yeah,” I said, feeling my face grow warm with embarrassment. “My name’s Sawyer Fangley.”

“Sawyer, darling, we need to get you some sunshine, pronto! You are as pale as the Mona Lisa. My name’s Jolene, by the way,” she said, as she invited me inside.

Jolene, I soon learned, was an actress-slash-YouTube life coach-slash-Instagram style influencer. My other roommate, Adonis, was a model, a waiter, and actor, too. I guess neither of them were very good actors, since Jolene had only landed a couple of commercials so far, and Adonis had only been cast as an extra in a couple of soap operas.

City of Los Diablos

“Technically, one of them was a telenovela,” he said, smiling proudly.

Adonis

There was also Kevlar, Jolene and Adonis’s dog, who had starred in a print ad for dog treats before, and had over ten thousand followers on Twitter.

Kevlar
Sawyer and his roomies
Watching TV with roomies

“I thought TV stars made a lot of money,” I said, looking around at the cheap furnishings and stained walls.

“Not every actor gets to become a TV star,” said Adonis. “It takes a lot of work, and a lucky break. I’m still waiting for my lucky break.”

“So how do I get into acting?” I asked them.

Jolene laughed. “Honey, you have to start putting yourself out there. Audition, audition, audition. And if that doesn’t get you any nibbles, then change up your look.” She flipped her shiny black hair. “It worked for me.”

I didn’t waste any time. I began to go to open call auditions, hoping to be discovered. I also found a job working as a bartender at a trendy little bar. As I poured drinks for customers, I told them stories about my rotten luck so far becoming an actor. Apparently, they found these stories hilarious.

Tending the bar
Bartending

“Oh, you should put together a routine and deliver it at an open mic,” suggested one of my customers. “Cloverdale Park, every Friday evening.”

The next Friday, before I began my shift at the bar, I swung by the park. Just like I did every night, I began to tell my stories about life as a newbie actor living in Los Diablos. There were only a few people watching, but they were in stitches, which seemed like a good sign.

Sawyer does stand-up comedy

“Keep it up, kid,” said one man as he dropped a handful of coins into the jar at my feet. “I have a feeling you’re going to go far.”

I hoped he was right!

Chapter 4: Laine is a Movie Star!

Laine leaves

“Los Diablos!” I couldn’t believe it. Laine may as well have told me that she’s moving to the moon. “But I’ll never see you again.”

“Maybe we’ll see each other one day,” says Laine. “You could move to Los Diablos, too, and we’ll be friends again.”

“Yeah, sure.” There was no way that my family, a sun-intolerant bunch of vampires, would move to the sunniest place in the country. I would be stuck here forever. Without Laine.

I almost didn’t believe her. But one day, I went to visit her, and she was gone. Her house was dark and empty, a For Sale sign posted on the dry grass in her front yard. My hard froze in that instant. Froze, then cracked in half.

Eating alone

Years passed. Not a day passed that I didn’t think of Laine. While I ate my human meals alone in the drafty dining room, I imagined her sitting across from me, cracking jokes and telling me stories about her new life in Los Diablos.

I sometimes worked at the local bar, filling in for the bartender. I was underage, but in a tiny town like ours, no one made a fuss about things like that. It didn’t pay much, but I saved every dime. Well, except for the twenty bucks I shelled out to buy an old television from the only motel in town. It was a piece off junk, and it barely got any reception. But it was just enough for me to find out what became of my dear friend.

Sawyer watching an old TV

She was a movie star.

Not just an actress. An actual movie star. She’d done it. Laine was famous. She starred in a funny sitcom, which I watched every week. Sometimes, she even showed up on TV talk shows and commercials. Whhen I wasn’t working at the bar or doing schoolwork, I was glued to the screen, in hopes of catching a glimpse of her.

Laine on TV

Laine on TV
Laine on TV

I began to write her letters. I wrote them in care of the many TV shows I saw her appear on, hoping that they’d get passed along to her. But if they reached her, I never knew. Maybe they were lost in her piles of fan mail.

One day, I made up my mind. I was going to have to go to her.

“Move to Los Diablos? Have you lost your mind?” asked my sister. “Mother and Father will never allow it.”

“Mother and Father can’t stop me,” I said. I was determined. If they said no, I would still go.

Laine on TV

To my amazement, though, my parents didn’t try to stop me.

“We’ve known since you were a young boy that one day you would leave us,” said Father. “You are not like us. This must be a very difficult town to live in if you are not one of the blood hunters.”

“May you find what makes you happy,” said Mother, as they took turns embracing me. “And may you find where you belong.”

Laine on TV
Laine on TV