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The Heartthrob, the Villain, and the Prodigy
This is the first entry I've ever submitted to be published. I really like this short story!
“We’re live in five, four, three, two…”
“Good morning America! We are here live in New York City with America’s favorite actor, Elijah Woods! Or should I say, Creekside’s Jaxon Young today?” Good Morning America’s Cheryl Carter blushed as the audience began to squeal.
The man beamed at the screaming crowd of teenage girls and flashed a row of blindingly white teeth. His dirty blonde hair was messily gelled and he sported one earring. He had a boyish quality to him, even if he wasn’t wearing his Creekside character letterman jacket. “I must’ve gotten the prettiest audience in all of New York this morning,” he winked.
Cheryl blushed even more. “Now Elijah--”
“Jaxon.” He smiled kindly.
Cheryl paused for a second before continuing, “Jaxon, this is going to be your second season working on the television show, Creekside. How are you feeling?”
“I love Creekside High School. All of my friends are there. My girlfriend, Courtney Bailey, goes there and of course, I can’t forget about my boys. Let’s go Mustangs!” He pumped his chest.
“Are you confirming that you’re dating your co-star Aliyah Ferguson, who plays Courtney Bailey on the show?”
“I have no idea who Aliyah is. Is she one of the cheerleaders?” He frowned. “Did I hook up with her at that party?”
“There have been multiple rumors spreading across social media about the two of you dating. What can you say about this picture of you and Aliyah?”
Behind them a picture displayed on the screen of Elijah and a woman walking hand in hand down the street in black jeans and leather jackets. Aliyah, with obsidian coils and ebony skin, was laughing while Elijah gazed into her face.
But he frowned at the picture. “There’s been a mistake. That’s not Aliyah. That’s Courtney, my girlfriend.”
The audience began to murmur. Cheryl quickly glanced at them and flipped her platinum blonde bob. “What do you mean that is not Aliyah?”
“I don’t know who this Aliyah is, but that’s Courtney Bailey. She’s seventeen, the captain of the cheerleading team, and we’ve been dating for about three months.”
Cheryl’s eye started to twitch slightly. “Elijah--”
“Jaxon. I’m Jaxon Young,” he stood up and turned his back towards the crowd. He pointed at the top of his letterman jacket that spelled Young with the number 42 under it. “See?” He winked again.
Cheryl forced a laugh. “Jaxon Young, ladies, and gentlemen!”
The lights dimmed and the audience started their applauding. The set crew began to rearrange the furniture for the next segment.
The video ended and the lights flickered on.
“This was his first televised interview by himself,” a salt and peppered man stood in front of the projector. “Four years ago today our client introduced himself to the world as Jaxon Young,” he started pacing around the room. “We thought this would pass and one day he would snap out of it. Everyone thinks that he’s a good actor. But there’s something wrong with that boy. I don’t see Elijah. So someone tell me why the he keeps acting?”
The room, full of people, was dead silent.
“No answer. Good choice.” The man chuckled. “He keeps circulating between characters. Jaxon Young, the charming teenage heartthrob. The Devilman, the sexy villain. And recently he’s reconnected with Joey Walker. A seven-year-old prodigy!” A vein popped out from his neck. “They want the real Elijah Woods. Where is he?
“Where is he?” He leaned over the desk with his head down. “Do you know who I am? I’m Johnny Grand. I’m the greatest manager of all time. Every single one of my clients are Hollywood. I will not let this boy mess it up for me.” He squinted his eyes. “You are going to find Elijah. Go through every video, interview, feature, commercial, every damn thing. Or you’re fired.” He paused. “What are you waiting for?”
The room came to life as the associates hustled out of the room.
“Katrina, come here,” Johnny demanded over the excited murmuring.
He leaned in close enough to smell vanilla on her neck. “You’re the prettiest woman at the agency. I’m going to give you access to Elijah himself to see if you can break him,” he looked her up and down.
“Hopefully none of his characters will resist a beautiful face.”
“Wow,” Katrina whispered as they drove past the golden foiled gates. The road leading up to the massive mansion was lined by yellow bricks and the serene splashing of fish and frogs serenaded them from a blue pond decorated with lily pads and pink flowers. The picture-perfect sky was only interrupted by the massive building before them, all white with ceiling high windows, sections of it stacked on the other like see-through building blocks. At the roundabout was a white and gray marble fountain and a rainbow garden. A row of cars was displayed like trophies on a shelf in front of the garage. Even the grass looked high-end.
“He’s expecting you. Tell him you’re a… reporter. He doesn’t know you work for me and it should stay that way. Mess it up and you’re fired.”
“No pressure,” Katrina murmured as she left the car and walked up the pure white staircase. She stood in front of the door, outlined in gold, took a deep breath, and raised her hand to knock.
“I don’t like pretty girls who knock. I typically do all the knocking, ” Elijah’s smooth, jazz-like voice welcomed her as he swung open the door and leaned against it confidently. He was decked out in a tight-fitting blood red suit and black tie and his hair was combed back. His eyes were glazed over with an emotion she wasn’t expecting and the grin on his face wasn’t boyish or dazzling. She felt her cheeks heating up, and for once she was thankful for the bronze complexion that hid her blush. She swallowed her sudden surprise; she wasn’t prepared to meet him at all.
“I’m The Devilman, and you are?” He cocked an eyebrow and before she knew it he was kissing her hand.
She shook herself out of her stupor. “I-I’m Katrina. I’m a reporter.”
“A reporter. And what would you like to know?” He swiftly led her inside to his lavish living room, larger than her entire apartment, and sat her down on the gray loveseat. She didn’t have any time to recollect herself before he started talking again.
“Of course, you’ve heard of my enemy, The Angel. The bastard always ruins my plans. What he doesn’t see is that I’m the good guy. I’m trying to save this city, actually,” he crossed his legs. “I just need to burn it down first.”
Katrina nodded. She’d only seen the movie a few hundred times and each time she couldn’t help but fall in love with The Devilman. The rest of the world did, too. He was just so…
“Are you thinking about me?”
She blinked; she’d been staring. “No! I was just… thinking of questions.”
He squinted his eyes, a look that made her melt. “You don’t have a notebook.”
If she was going to get answers, she needed to speak his language. “I remember everything. I just wanted to take my time to remember you,” she moved in closer. Their legs were touching now. “Tell me more about your plans.”
His eyes flashed like a sharp blade. “The world is a horrible place. We have countries with no government, families with no home, thugs on the street, children that are hungry, teens with no direction, women without,” he licked his lips and looked into her eyes with his black orbs, “protectors. We need a new beginning, even if it’s only a city big.”
“Why? What makes you think that the world is such a horrible place?”
“We sin. We sin and sin, and sin unchecked.”
“You’re The Devilman. I would think that you’d love a little bit of sinning.”
“In some areas more than others, most definitely,” he gave her a sideways smile. “But even the devil has to cross a line somewhere.”
“Humans happened. We’re destroying ourselves and…”
For the first time, he looked away. She was losing him. She slid her hand across his arm. “You can tell me, can’t you?” With a finger moved his chin back to her. They were so close she could see that he had little freckles.
“You smell like Raychell,” he whispered. He frowned, and just as quickly as he had opened the door, he vanished. A loud slam was the only sign that he hadn’t left the house.
Raychell. She’d never heard that name before. She stood up and walked over to the mantle over the smoldering fireplace. There were only three pictures all laid neatly in a row of the same woman, alone. At first glance, it looks like Aliyah Ferguson. They had the same rich skin and bright smile. They both had a head full of curls. But if you looked closer, this woman was curvier and her nose was wider. She had multiple piercings on her ears where Aliyah only had one on each. The mystery woman had a tattoo on her wrist of a sugar skull and wore black in all three pictures along with the same silver heart locket necklace.
“Are you a friend of Noah’s?”
Katrina spun around and backed towards the fireplace.
He had returned, but different. His hair was still gelled but parted to the side and he traded the slick suit for a plaid button up shirt, suspenders, and thick, black glasses. His voice no longer hypnotized her with its silkiness and immediately annoyed her with how juvenile it was. Instead of making her blush, she frowned.
“I’m Joey, Joey Walker, nice to meetcha. You have really interesting hair. Did you know that the state of New York just made it illegal to discriminate based on hair? I think that’s absolutely outrageous, outrageous I tell ya!” He dramatically shook his head. “Who ya here for? I can go see if I can find my brother or my mom, but Noah might be working on his motorcycle. It’s a 1973 Harley-Davidson and is the color or--”
“You know a lot of things, right?” Katrina cut him off. If she had to listen to his high-pitched buzzing she might as well get information out of him.
“I know everything that’s in here,” he tapped his head. “Did you know that the brain weighs about three pounds and can generate approximately--”
“Who is this woman?” She pointed to the pictures.
His face darkened. “I shouldn’t talk to strangers,” he started to turn around.
“She’s important to you isn’t she, Joey?” Katrina pressed. “Is she an old friend?”
He shook his head with his back still to her.
I sighed. “Babysitter?”
He whipped around. “Raychell was everything to Elijah.”
Katrina blinked. “You can speak to Elijah?”
“I just told you that I know everything that’s in here,” he tapped again, only this time with even more theatrics. “I know everything about Elijah.”
“Then who is she?”
“He’ll be mad.”
Katrina walked towards him and softened her voice. “We haven’t seen Elijah in four years. We all just want to know he’s okay. He can’t hide anymore. Who’s Raychell?”
He plopped cross-legged on the floor and patted next to him.
“Raychell Gray was Elijah’s first girlfriend. They met in high school and dated for all four years. Then he got the role of Jaxon Young and got super duper famous. Then he did his first interview.”
“With Cheryl Carter?”
“No. He did another interview on a small radio show before that. He was himself. He talked about Creekside, about his castmates, future projects. They asked him about dating and he told them he was still dating his high school sweetheart. His fanbase was able to track Raychell down and started trolling her.
“At first she could handle it. She turned off her comments. But then they started direct messaging her, and some got her phone number. It went on for months and Elijah didn’t know because filming took so much time.” His voice cracked. “On March 11th Raychell killed herself. Just like they wanted.”
Katrina didn’t respond. She only looked back at the woman in the frame, forever frozen in a smile that Elijah would never see in person again.
“The woman in the picture on the show was Raychell. He said it was Courtney Bailey so she wouldn’t ask questions about her.”
The dots connected. If only anyone knew how big of a mistake it was.
“He shut down after that. It’s called DIS; Dissociative Identity Disorder: reaction to trauma as a way to help a person avoid bad memories. So we take over for him. It’s just better to take turns.”
She nodded. Joey wrapped his arms around his knees and started to rock.
“I don’t know if he’ll be back,” a tear fell from his cheek.
Embracing him into her arms, Katrina whispered back, “All we can do for him is try.”
“We’re live in five, four, three, two…”
“Good morning America! We are here live in New York City once again with America’s favorite actor, Elijah Woods!” Cheryl Carter exclaimed as the young man walked out.
There were no suspenders, no suits, or jackets. His hair wasn’t gelled in any way, the sleeves of his black shirt were rolled, and his jeans were ripped. He had insisted on the locket. “Good morning, everyone!” He shouted at the crowd. Laughing, he took his seat.
“Who do we have the pleasure of speaking to today?” Cheryl joked.
“The Devilman!” A voice shouted from the crowd. He laughed.
“I’m not acting today. I’m finally Elijah.”
Cheryl smiled. “I think I’m speaking for everyone when we say we’re glad to finally meet you. I hear you’ve been struggling with personal issues, you took some time off of work?”
He breathed in, “Yes, I’m been going to therapy for about a year now and I have to be honest,” he took a deep breath, “I didn’t want to face the truth behind my acting. In fact, I didn’t. When I first started as Joey Walker, acting was fun. Acting was an escape from real life, but in a healthy way. And then,” another breath,” after the loss of someone close to heart, I shut down. Acting was no longer a choice for me, it was survival. It was an unhealthy escape. I used acting the same way people use drugs or alcohol, at least that’s what my therapist said. I abused it to avoid my feelings and as a result I could’ve lost my career.”
“I never would have thought that your profession could also be hurting you. I guess, looking back now, your acting was a little bit too good.” Cheryl smiled.
He returned the expression. “But, not to worry, everybody. I’ve been working out all of my problems that have built up. I’d been acting for four years straight so it took a while, but I found myself. My castmates have been so supportive and I’ve reconnected with my family. Now I’m working on building a life for Elijah. I’m even moving houses.”
“You have no idea how happy that makes me to see you better, Elijah. I also hear that life includes a new leading lady?”
He chuckled. “I don’t know where you heard that from, but it’s a really good question.”
“You can’t even give me one hint?”
He shook his head. “All I can say is that I’m happy with the people in my life. I don’t think I’m ready yet. But y’all will be the first to know.”
“Where are you going from here?”
“My manager, Johnny Grand, has agreed to me taking the next year off. I won’t be in as many episodes of Creekside, but I’ll definitely be back. I’m going to travel the world with my best friend and we’re going to be the best versions of ourselves.”
“Will you finally join social media so we can see your travels?”
She blinked. “Well, it sounds like you’ve figured everything out.”
“Just about. I can’t be more thankful for everything I’ve received and all of the people in my life. Especially my fans, my supporters, I love you guy so much, honestly.”
The crowd cheered again and started chanting his name. Elijah stood up and started running through the audience.
Over the sea of fans, she closed, “Hopefully we’ll be hearing from this talented young man very soon. I’m Cheryl Carter, and I hope you make it a great day America!”