|The events described in this story are fictional. The author makes no assertion about the lives or characters of the real people whose names and identities she has used in the writing of this story, and makes no money from it.|
Even the girl who's doing Orlando's makeup this morning, even she's heard something somewhere, and she's just dying to talk about it. She's buzzing with it. She gives him the professional once-over, tutting at the dark shadows under his eyes and the patches of dry skin.
"You obviously had a good time last night, then?"
"Yeah, yeah, it was pretty cool." Orlando closes his eyes for a second and leans back in the chair. He tries to work out how long it'll be before he's safe to take some more paracetamol.
"Okay, just tilt your head up a little...? That's great." She dabs at his face with something cold and glutinous.
"So ... out with friends, huh?"
"Mhmm." Orlando wonders whether his brain is really rattling around inside his skull, and if not, why it feels like it is.
"Guys from, like, the movie?"
"Er ... just friends, really." He opens his eyes and gives her a noncommittal smile in the mirror. She grins back, easy and bright.
"Oh, okay. Sure. I get it. So, these friends ... they're very close, aren't they?"
"Yeah, we're all pretty close really. It's good." He looks at her again in the mirror. Her hair is scraped and clipped up tight to the top of her head, where it explodes in bright yellow corkscrew curls. It makes her look permanently surprised. He wonders if it's as painful a hairstyle as it looks. She grins again, and begins swiping at his face with a sponge.
"Oh, don't worry, I mean I think it's cute. Okay, kinda weird, but kinda cute too. You know?" She tilts his head this way and that. Orlando sighs and surrenders himself to her strong quick hands. Her touch is impersonal, reassuringly professional.
"Sorry -- do you think we could maybe change the subject?"
"Oh, sure thing!" Her lemonade curls bob up and down in the mirror, as she nods.
Most of the time, when Orlando lies awake at night, he thinks about girls. Girls he's known, or seen, or who don't even exist although they really should. Soft, big-eyed girls with long dark hair floating around their faces, strands of it catching on their full lips. Mysterious girls who push him up against walls. Girls who don't speak. Girls who just do. Girls and girls and girls. Orlando likes girls.
Still, variety is the spice of life, or so they say. So when he gets bored of all the girls, sometimes he thinks about other things. Like boys. Just occasionally boys stumble into his fevered waking dreams -- boys and guys and men, with their difference and their sameness. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
He's heard them more than once. Through thinner-than-you'd-think walls, in adjacent hotel rooms. Him in one, them in another. And when the girls don't work, when all the boys his imagination can conjure up fail him, then sometimes he doesn't just hear, but listens. He listens for them, for the sounds that escape them in the night. He waits for them, and when he hears them he sighs warm air into the hotel sheets.
Orlando never thinks about this in the bright light of day. He never wonders what it means when he sees them together, in a bar or at a premiere, and there are drinks and jokes and hugs, and stories about old times. Because they are his friends, Billy and Dom, and he is Orlando who likes girls.
"Okay, I think you're done." She steps back, her lemonade hair bouncing on her head, and he scrutinizes his own reflection in the mirror. He looks like himself, but better.
"That's great, cheers." He smiles at her and she flashes him her breezy, confident grin again.
"Look," she says. "Sorry, about ... you know. I wasn't meaning to pry, or whatever." She reddens a little.
Orlando says. "No worries, really. It's pretty much an open secret