The Gravity Between Us

By: Kristen Zimmer

CHAPTER ONE

Payton


Kendall is sitting on my bed playing with my laptop. I’m hovering in front of my closet, looking for my favorite Montclair State University sweatshirt. “I hate your hair,” I call to her over my shoulder. “Sorry, I couldn’t keep that in any longer.” I did notice right away that the reddish-purple tint of her new hair color made her blue eyes pop. Nonetheless, I don’t like it. I mean, what natural blonde ever wants to go auburn? Women drop hundreds of dollars at hair salons trying to attain the golden perfection she was born with. It’s ludicrous.

“It’s for my next role.” She laughs. “You could at least pretend to like it.”

“No, I can’t. And you shouldn’t either. Lawrence made you do it. I know you didn’t want to.”

“Of course I didn’t want to. You should have been there when he came to me with the idea. He was all like, ‘You absolutely have to do this. Don’t worry, it’ll be great.’ God, he sounded just like my mother. It took everything I had not to punch him in the throat.”

I chuckle at that. There’s a lot to be said about Kendall Bettencourt. She’s one of those people who were put on this earth so that the average human can give the word ‘beauty’ a definition. Between having the body of a Victoria’s Secret model and a face that should be immortalized in a Da Vinci painting, she never stood a chance at living her life in the shadows. It didn’t really come as much of a surprise that this girl—whose genetic makeup is, by no fault of her own, startlingly akin to that of a Greek goddess—would become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after up-and-comers. But my favorite thing about her is not her physical beauty or even the fact that she has genuine talent. It’s that she doesn’t take shit from anyone, including her legendary publicist, Lawrence Mackin.

“How did the Today Show go yesterday?” I wonder. “I didn’t catch it.”

“I didn’t even want to do it. I honestly felt like saying, ‘Well, Matt, I don’t think anyone should bother wasting their money on In Heaven’s Arms. It’s a total gagfest.’” She sticks her finger in her mouth and makes this half-retching, half-gurgling sound. “‘It’s all Ghost Girl meets Living Boy. Ghost Girl falls in love with Living Boy, Ghost Girl tries to figure out how she can be with Living Boy without inhabiting a rotting corpse, which is sure to be a major turn-off to Living Boy. Blah Blah Blah.’”

I take a seat next to her on the bed. “Funny. If it’s so horrible, what the hell possessed you to star in it?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know. I guess I figured I couldn’t sit around waiting for an awesome script to come my way. By the time someone writes a strong, intelligent, independent, twenty something female lead, I’d be too damn old to play her. Besides, everyone and their mother read the book it’s based on. James thought it would really put me on the map. I know he’s one of the best agents around, but I still can’t believe he was right! It was such a piece of crap book, you can imagine how much shittier the movie adaptation is.”

“So, we won’t be going to see it tonight then?”

“Not unless you want me to upchuck violently in a public place. That would be a perfect headline for The Inquirer! ‘Movie Star Visits Home Town, Vomits All Over Friends and Former Classmates.’”

I’m laughing so hard now, I’m afraid I might pee myself. Oh man, I’ve missed her so much. “We don’t have to go to the movies, but we should do something fun. Otherwise, I’m just going to sit here obsessing over the sixty-four bars I have to write by Tuesday for my Piano Theory class.”


“I don’t care what we do. You know I’m leaving for a shoot next week. I have no idea when I’ll be able to make it home again. The only reason I came home this weekend is because I was afraid I was forgetting what my best friend looks like.”

I cannot argue that. The last time I saw her was around the Fourth of July. A few years ago it would have been unthinkable to go three months without seeing each other.

“Let’s go to the Grind House,” she says. “For some reason I’ve been craving their terrible coffee.”

“Sure, as long as you make sure to put those hideous things on your face.” I point to the metal-framed sunglasses sitting atop her head. “Otherwise, it’ll be a mob scene. Everyone will be tripping all over themselves to meet you.”

“Yeah right,” she says. “Everyone around here knows me, Payton. It’s not like I’m Angelina Jolie or someone cool like that.” She throws me the keys to the sleek, silver Beamer she rented. “You’re driving. I can’t stand the potholes around here.”

❄ ❄ ❄

The moment we walk into the coffee shop I become aware of just how off-putting small town New Jersey can be for a famous person, or an “almost famous person” as Kendall would say. People don’t recognize her at first; she was still sporting her natural locks in In Heaven’s Arms, as well as on her most recent press tour. She’s still blonde on all the magazine covers. But it’s easy to make out that the world around us is about to lose its collective mind. It starts with stares—everyone squinting hard in our direction. We’re in line waiting to order by the time the real craziness kicks in. The atmosphere intensifies as the noise level recedes, until finally, the whole place goes dead silent. Then, with all the grace and subtlety of a falling H-bomb, the menacing buzz of whispering beings: “Is that Kendall Bettencourt?” “I think so. OMG!”

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