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Mise En Scene

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Part 1

“Oi, Woodfield!” Charity calls from behind the bar.

Vanessa turns around. “Yeah?”

“Seen the next script yet?” Charity smirks. She’s been looking forward to seeing Vanessa’s expression since she first read it.

Vanessa gives her a curious look. “No? Why?”

Charity winks salaciously at her. “You and I have a little tongue twister in the cellar.”

Vanessa rolls her eyes. “Very funny, Charity. You’re hilarious.”

“So I’m told.” She leans forward over the bar. “If you want to practice, you know, before the scene, let me know. Although I seem to remember you do have some experience in that area.”

Vanessa glances around nervously. “You promised you weren’t going to mention that.” She blushes. “And as for your other offer, thanks but no thanks. If you weren’t full of crap and that was actually true, I’d rather poo a porcupine before spending any time voluntarily kissing you.”

Charity watches Vanessa storm off, her lips quirking. Some people are too easy. Especially when they’re little goody two shoes, stuck up, proper, trained actresses.

Well, she’ll get a surprise when she actually reads the script. That’ll be hilarious.

“Places, people,” the director calls and Charity takes up position pulling a pint. Vanessa looks up at her from the booth she’s sitting in with Tracy and then quickly looks away. Charity smirks.

***

“Knock knock.”

Charity looks up from her crossword and sees Vanessa standing in the doorway to her and Chas’s dressing room, looking sheepish.

“Hi,” she says. “Can I come in?”

Charity raises her eyebrows; Vanessa is almost entirely inside already. “Doesn’t look like I can stop you.”

Vanessa sighs and comes fully inside, face morphing into an apologetic smile. “I just wanted to say, I’m sorry about yesterday. I thought you were taking the mick. You know, because of….”

Charity raises her eyebrows. “Because of…”

Vanessa sighs, the smile falling from her face. “The thing at the Christmas party.”

Charity widens her eyes. “Oh yeah! Now that you mention it, I think I do remember you and our resident pill popper sharing a cheeky snog under the mistletoe.”

Vanessa looks down and sighs. “Look, I’m sorry about yesterday. I just came by to see if you wanted to run lines?”

Charity pauses for a moment and then realises Vanessa is serious and cackles. “Yeah, no love, I’m good.”

Vanessa steps forward. “Don’t be like that. Don’t you just want to run it once?”

Charity sighs. “No, I really don’t. What I want is some peace and quiet without your nattering to finish my crossword.”

Vanessa sighs deeply. “Fine. I tried.”

“Yeah, gold star for you,” Charity shouts after her as Vanessa leave.

***

They film two days later. Charity hasn’t seen or spoken to Vanessa since she came to see her in the dressing room.

It’s obviously still gnawing at Vanessa; she scowls at Charity as make up does the final touches on her and the super hero mask that Meredith wears in the scene is placed on her head.

The minute the camera starts rolling, Vanessa’s whole body changes. Charity is slightly impressed despite herself; they run the whole scene without incident and do another take, and then they move the cameras around for the scene on the armchair.

Vanessa glances at her and says “You’re really good.”

Charity rolls her eyes. “Spare me. We don’t have to make small talk. We’re doing one scene together and that’s it. We don’t have to be friends.”

“God, are you always like this?” Vanessa says, exasperated. “Can’t you just act like a normal person for five minutes?”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“Places,” the director calls and Vanessa huffs and slumps into the armchair.

Charity rolls her shoulders and gets into the Davina headspace. She stalks around and sits on the arm of the chair, placing the bottle of fake whiskey on the table behind it.

“Like the little boy who pulled the little girls pigtails?” Vanessa asks, voice slightly rough.

Charity slips down next to Vanessa. “If I want someone to notice me, they notice me.” She leans forward, tilts Vanessa’s head up, and kisses her.

Vanessa’s a good kisser, that much is evident immediately. Charity has kissed a lot of people, both as herself and as Davina, and this is definitely one of the better ones. She notices with mild amusement that Vanessa has obviously taken the time to eat a mint before they started and she tastes fresh and clean.

It’s kind of nice though. Back when Davina was still getting with Cain’s character, he would sometimes munch on cheese and onion crisps between takes and that was really not conducive to acting passionate.

“Cut!” The director is frowning slightly. “Let’s take it again. And this time, I don’t know, a bit more oomph? The audience needs to buy the attraction between Davina and Meredith.”

Vanessa wipes at her mouth to fix her lipgloss and nods. “More attraction. Right.”

Charity sighs. “Look,” she says when the director talks to the camera two guy. “Do you mind if I try something? With your mask?”

Vanessa gives her a long look and then shrugs. “Fine.”

Charity nods. This time when Davina settles down next to Meredith, she playfully pings the mask down on Vanessa’s face.

Vanessa twitches a little in surprise, but leans in eagerly for their kiss. Charity can tell that this take is the one even before the director calls cut. She can imagine it playing out on the screen, that little jump and gasp and the kiss is better this time too, at a better angle, and Charity is not surprised when the director says “Thank you ladies, I think that’s that one.”

Vanessa smiles at her. “That was fairly painless.”

“You’re not a bad kisser, I’ll give you that.” Charity quirks her eyebrow. “Must be all that practice.”

Vanessa’s shoulders drop. “Can you just drop that?”

They’re talking quietly enough that no one can hear but Vanessa still looks around anxiously and Charity rolls her eyes.

“Seriously, love, what’s the big deal? So you like kissing ladies!”

Vanessa flushes. “I don’t! It was one time.”

Charity can tell she’s lying; she looks down and to the left and she’s chewing her lip anxiously.

“Babe, we’ve all been there. Women are hot! Chill out!”

“Easy for you to say,” Vanessa replies grumpily.

“What, because I’m a slag?” Charity snaps. She knows her reputation on the set, has cultivated it, but it still jars to have it thrown in her face by little Miss Goody Two Shoes.

“That’s not what I said,” Vanessa snaps back. “Jesus, you are so bloody antagonistic all the time!”

“Right ladies, time to cuddle up on the sofa for the next scene!”

Vanessa shoots her one more doleful glare before shifting over and making room for Charity to squeeze in beside her.

Charity throws herself into the chair with oomph and smirks at the little grunt of annoyance Vanessa lets out.

“Now, Meredith is the big spoon,” the director calls. “We’ll cover you with a blanket.”

Charity turns to the side and waits.

“Can I…?” Vanessa asks, still sounding grumpy.

It makes Charity pause, that she asks. “Yeah,” she says gruffly, and feels Vanessa’s arm snake around her, holding her close.

One of the assistants covers them with a blanket and the director calls instructions as they wait.

“I like your perfume,” Vanessa whispers.

Charity can’t help it; she snorts.

“What?” Vanessa asks, defensively.

“You actually can’t help yourself, can you?” She twists round to see Vanessa’s face.

“Can’t helps myself from what?”

“Being so bloody nice all the time.”

“You should try it some time, people might actually like you then,” Vanessa says, but it lacks bite.

Charity turns back around. “It’s Dior. My kids got it for me for my birthday.”

“It’s nice.”

“It’s the one I used to try and shoplift when I was younger, so it brings back good memories.”

Vanessa giggles but Charity can tell that’s she’s not sure if Charity is joking or not.

“Ready?” the director calls, and Charity feels Vanessa’s head drop down and her arm tighten around her.

***

“That was pretty quick,” Chas comments as Charity comes into their dressing room and throws herself onto the sofa.

“Didn’t need a lot of takes,” Charity shrugs, pulling off her shoes with a groan. Davina has a great wardrobe but Charity wishes they didn’t always have to put her in the red stiletto boots – in the scenes they shot today you couldn’t even see her feet!

Chas quirks her eyebrow. “Soooo, how was the new girl? Make her cry yet?”

“That was one time, and that extra had it coming. And Vanessa’s not even that new. And she’s actually not bad.”

Chas dramatically gasps and clutches her chest. “Good god, Charity, did you just say something nice about someone?”

Charity rolls her eyes. “Don’t be daft. I just meant she’s not a moron and actually knew her lines.”

“Good kisser?” Chas turns back to the mirror and wipes her eyes makeup off.

“Definitely passable.” Charity laughs. “Pretty sure she ate half a packet of polos before the scene, it was like kissing a tube of Colgate.”

Chas chuckles. “Well, that’s considerate. Bodes well that you don’t hate her guts in case this storyline turns into something.”

Charity rolls her eyes again. “Chas, come on. Davina doesn’t get long romance arcs. Davina gets quick shags and then she scams them. This is a flash in the pan. They’ll have Meredith marrying someone else in no time.”

***

The next day, Charity arrives in hair and makeup at almost the same time as Vanessa, who hands her a Starbucks cup.

“Two shot late,” she says proudly.

Charity stares at her. “Are you some sort of stalker?”

Vanessa giggles. “Nah, just asked Chas what your order is. Thought it might make you less grumpy.”

Charity huffs but takes a sip. It’s good, a million times above the sludge they serve on set. “Thanks,” she grumbles belatedly.

Vanessa grins and hops onto her seat.

Thankfully, while Vanessa is chatty, she mainly talks to the hair and makeup girls and leaves Charity in relative peace until she’s woken up more and consumed most of her coffee.

They’re almost done when Charity’s phone buzzes; she takes one look and cackles.

“What?” Vanessa smiles. “Good news?”

Charity shows her the picture Moses’s nursery has just sent her, of him and another boy absolutely covered in paint. “That’s my youngest. Nursery’s telling me I’ll need to bring in a new change of clothes tomorrow.”

Vanessa laughs delightedly. “How cute! Your boy isn’t that much older than my Johnny.”

“Is that the one you had with that child?” Charity says without thinking, and sees Vanessa’s smiles freeze and drop off her face.

“All done,” Vanessa’s hair stylist says quickly and Vanessa leaps of her stool.

“I honestly don’t know why I try with you,” Vanessa says, shaking her head. “Everyone told me not to. There’s clearly no point. You don’t care about anyone’s feelings but you.” Then she stalks out of the room.

Charity sighs, feeling a stab of uncharacteristic guilt in her gut. “What?!” she snaps at her own hair stylist, who is biting his lip.

There’s a pause. “You’re all done,” he says, and Charity sighs and gets up, keen to get away from the looks of utter judgement. Just as she’s headed out of the door, she hears “You know he died, right? Johnny’s dad?”

She didn’t know that. There’s always a lot of gossip about the new people who join the cast and to be honest she hadn’t paid that much attention to Vanessa except for thinking that she must be really strapped for cash if she went from proper TV to doing soaps.

She pauses in the corridor, and then does a u-turn and heads to the dressing room Vanessa shares with Tracy.

“What do you want?” Vanessa asks gruffly as she opens the door.

“Can I come in?” Charity asks.

Vanessa shrugs and steps aside.

There’s a lot of pictures on what she assumes is Vanessa’s side of the table, of a little toddler in various outfits and with various toys, and often with Vanessa’s sunny smile right next to him.

“Look, I’m not in the habit of apologising, but I am sorry about what I said. I didn’t know, about your kid’s dad, you know, dying and all.”

Vanessa sighs. “You must be the only person not to. Press bloody hounded me for months.” She squares her shoulders. “Fine, apology accepted. Anything else?”

Charity bites her lip, because she feels like there is something else. She doesn’t want Vanessa to look at her like that. She wants Vanessa to keep looking at her like she did. Like she hasn’t already made her mind up about Charity.

“It’s not all true, what they say about me,” she says, apropos of nothing. “I mean, quite a lot of it is. But not all of it.”

Vanessa gives her an unreadable look. “Ok.” She hesitates. “I’m sorry about what I said before. That wasn’t fair, I don’t even know you.”

Charity shrugs. “Heard it from lots of people before you.”

“Doesn’t make it ok,” Vanessa says.

There’s a pause, and Charity blurts out “Wanna run the scene?”

Vanessa stares at her. “What?”

Charity looks down, uncomfortable. “We’ll be waiting at least another half hour while they set up. Wanna go through it?”

“I thought you don’t like to-,” Vanessa starts. “You know what, never mind. Sure, let’s do it.”

“Ok,” Charity nods, squaring her shoulders as if she’s going into battle.

***

After their initial arc, they have a few follow up scenes in the pub, filmed over the next few days, in which Davina and Meredith bicker and flirt and bicker some more.

But Charity still firmly believes that this arc will shortly be coming to an end, until the morning after their cellar kiss airs and Vanessa skids into her dressing room, clutching her phone, and babbling something about ‘hashtag Mervina’ and how Twitter seemed to love it.

“Well it’s two women making out, of course they love it,” Charity says. “Doesn’t mean it’s going to come to anything.”

“They’re adding a bit to my scene today,” Vanessa tells her. “Meredith gets a booty call text from Davina.”

Charity stares at her. “You’re having me on.”

Vanessa pulls out the folded paper in her back pocket and holds it out. “See for yourself.”

But still, it doesn’t really sink in until she gets the scripts for filming in December. That’s always a bit hectic because production stops during Christmas week and so they film further in advance than normal.

And there’s a lot of Meredith and Davina action in those scripts.

Vanessa is delighted.

Charity has never really run lines with other actors before except Chas on occasion, but she’s found she quite enjoys doing it with Vanessa. Vanessa always brings her a coffee and a blueberry muffin, and she laughs despite herself when Charity reads all her lines in funny accents.

She’s starting to get the worrying feeling that she and Vanessa are becoming friends.

“Thought you said she was a stuck-up theatre bitch who thinks she’s better than us lowly soap actors,” Chas teases her.

“Well, she is a bit stuck-up,” Charity mutters. “But looks like this Davina and Meredith thing is going to continue on into the next year, so I might as well make nice.”

“You’ve never made nice in your entire life!” Chas exclaims. “Don’t tell me you’re going soft in your old age.”

“Piss off,” Charity responds, but she does wonder, later that day, what she’s doing, sitting on Vanessa’s dressing room sofa. They’re not even running Davina’s lines today; Charity is being Frank, who plays Meredith’s dad, and she has Vanessa in stitches with her exaggerated facial expressions.

She realises that she genuinely likes Vanessa. Even though she’s bossy (she likes to tell Charity off for her unhealthy lunch choices) and a hot head, especially when she’s PMSing, she’s also kind and genuine and apologises when she thinks she’s in the wrong.

For example, when she blows up at Charity for making a joke about Vanessa messing up one of her lines, she sheepishly comes into her dressing room later with a bar of Dairy Milk and apologises. “Sorry for earlier. I have the worst cramps and I had an infuriating call with Johnny’s grandparents earlier and I just overacted.”

Charity isn’t used to people apologising. Most of the time when she argues with people in her life, there’s a cooling down period and everyone just acts like nothing happened. Lets the wound scab over. But Vanessa isn’t like that; she needs to hash it out and make up, and it takes some getting used to.

Despite herself, she’s growing fond of Vanessa.

***

A couple of days before they’re due to film the big scene where Davina chases Meredith down the road and declares that she “likes her, quite a bit actually,” they’re practicing in Vanessa’s dressing room before Charity’s afternoon filming starts. Tracy is there as well, and offers Charity a piece of cake.

“What, is it my birthday?” she jokes.

“No, it’s Vanessa’s!” Tracy beams.

Vanessa blushes.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Charity isn’t big on stuff like birthdays, but she gets a feeling Vanessa is and she would have gotten her a chocolate bar or something.

“It’s no big deal,” Vanessa shrugs. “Let’s do the scene again.”

Charity sighs and puts down the plate, getting into the Davina zone.

She doesn’t notice that Tracy is watching until she applauds when they draw back from leaning in. It’s been kind of an unspoken agreement that they don’t kiss off the screen, like it might somehow dilute the rawness of the moment when they film.

“Well, I’m on the Mervina train for sure,” Tracy says. “You guys have great chemistry.”

Vanessa blushes again and Charity rolls her eyes fondly. Vanessa has been constantly reading her the feedback on their storyline from the internet, and Charity suspects that Vanessa might be the biggest Mervina fan of them all.

***

It’s later that day, after filming ends, that she is headed towards her dressing room when she spots a bunch of the cast loitering in the hallway. She spots Tracy and Megan and Rhona and, god, even Moira.

“Coven meeting? Ritual sacrifice?” Charity snarks as she walks past.

Tracy laughs. “Nah, just getting some drinks for Ness’s birthday.”

Charity pauses. It stings, more than she would have thought, that Vanessa hasn’t invited her.

“Finally!” Charity hears and turns round to see Vanessa bounding towards them, her eye makeup more elaborate than Charity’s ever seen on her, and wearing a black sparky top and leather jacket.

“Well, enjoy yourself,” she says sharply.

“Do you want to come?” Vanessa smiles.

“I don’t need a pity invite, Vanessa,” she snaps. “Toddle off with your friends.”

Vanessa rolls her eyes. “Oh don’t be such a child, Charity. Why do you think they were all waiting for me here? I was coming to invite you.” She puts her hands on her hips. “Now go get your bloody coat.”

Charity scowls but opens the door and grabs her coat.

She ignores Chas’s wide-eyed stare as she storms past her. “Well, are we going then?”

Vanessa beams. “Yes! Chas, want to join?”

Chas shakes her head. “Sorry, got more filming.” She gives Charity another curious look before Charity falls into step beside Vanessa.

“Thanks for coming.”

“Yeah, sure.” Charity chews her lip. “I’ll get you a drink since I didn’t know it was your birthday.”

“She likes disgustingly sweet cocktails,” Tracy squeals behind them.

The bar they head to is large and busy even on a Thursday, and Charity has to wait to be served, volunteering to get the first round.

It was worth it just to see the suspicious looks on Rhona and Moira’s faces, as she’s not exactly known for being the most generous of people.

The others head off to a big round table and Charity leans across the bar and rattles off the order.

“Come here often?” Charity feels her neck hairs stand up at the god-awful line, but when she turns around the guy is actually surprisingly attractive. He’s got salt and pepper hair and stubble, and is dressed in a sharp suit. No wedding ring.

“Not particularly, but I may have been missing a trick,” she says with a flirty smile.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he asks.

Charity glances over at the table, sure that they’ve probably forgotten about her already, and is met by Vanessa’s dark glower.

Huh. Maybe pulling on your new friend’s birthday night out before even buying her a drink is a bad idea.

“I’m on a night out for my friend’s birthday,” she tells him. “But maybe later?”

He grabs a napkin and begins scribbling. “Here’s my number. Give me a shout if the party starts winding down.”

She glances down. His name is Greg and his writing is small and neat.

She smiles and nods, grabbing the napkin and balances the tray of drinks over to the table, where Vanessa is still sitting with a face like she’s sucked a lemon.

“Who was the hottie?” Tracy asks immediately. “Oh my god, is that his number?! Nice work, you’ve been here like five minutes.”

Charity shrugs. “Just some guy.”

“He was pretty hot,” Rhona acknowledges. “Don’t you think, Ness?”

Vanessa scowls. “Not really. He had a funny chin.”

“You’re so picky!” Tracy laughs.

“I just think Charity can do better,” Vanessa snaps, and catches Charity’s eye, flushing.

Charity realises with a start that Vanessa is jealous. And she’s not jealous of the attention that Charity is getting. She’s jealous of Greg.

Testing her theory, Charity leans back and wiggles her fingers at Greg, who waves back enthusiastically.

Vanessa picks up her drink and drains it almost in one go, slamming the glass back down.

“Jeez, Ness, in a hurry?” Rhona asks, throwing her a worried look.

“Just trying to have some fun,” Vanessa snaps. “I’m off to the bar.”

Charity smirks and then catches Rhona’s eye. Rhona is glaring at her. “What?” she asks.

“Don’t mess with her,” Rhona says softly, so only Charity hears her.

“What, like you did? Oh, no, wait, you just used her to cover for your drug addiction.”

Rhona gives her a pained look. “I regret that much more than you know. But I’m not going to stand by and watch you hurt her.”

“Hurt her?” Charity says incredulously. “Jesus, I’ve not even done anything.”

Vanessa comes back to the table and squeezes in next to Charity. “Alright?” she asks. Her smile is a little strained but she clearly trying not to be bothered.

Charity looks at her and is suddenly, sharply, struck by how hot Vanessa is looking tonight. And ok, she’s known that on some level before, she’s not blind, and she’s been making out with Vanessa on screen for weeks, but faced with it up close like this, without cameras pointed at them, it makes her pause for a moment.

God, she’s had like two sips of her cocktail and it’s already going to her head. She must be getting old.

Vanessa accidentally knocks her glass and a little of her drink spills onto Charity. “Oh, sorry!”

Charity grabs a napkin and begins dabbing at her jeans. “It’s ok, drunkie. Just maybe slow down a bit, yeah?”

Vanessa nods and grins shyly at her and Charity quickly looks back down at her jeans because her stomach does a weird lurching thing when Vanessa looks at her which is definitely alcohol related.

“Charity!” Tracy screams, anguished. “That’s the napkin with that guys number on it!”

Charity looks down and sees the numbers are a smudge of blue ink and strawberry daiquiri. She glances at Vanessa and shrugs. “Never mind. Wasn’t going to call him anyway.”

She almost doesn’t hear the outraged response of the rest of the girls, because Vanessa smiles at her like she’s just given her the world’s biggest present.

And it makes Charity feel good, to put it there.

Vanessa flicks out her tongue to lick some of the sugar off her own lips and Charity gulps.

God she’s in trouble.

***

When she’s sober and slightly hung over the next day, she is able to rationalise things better.

They’d been rehearsing some emotionally intense Mervina scenes. She’s not been laid in ages. Vanessa is hot. They were both drunk.

There’s no way either of them have actual feelings for one another.

In the light of day, she searches Vanessa’s eyes for a hint of the emotion she say the night before, but she’s starting to doubt herself that she even saw it.

The filming of the dramatic Davina-chasing-Meredith scene goes off without a hitch, and Vanessa squeals after. “The Mervina girls on Twitter are going to have a meltdown.”

Charity rolls her eyes fondly but she can’t deny that it feels good, to for once be part of a storyline where people tweet about how much they love Davina and not just how much they want to stove her head in.

***

The next day, they’re just wrapping up a scene in the Woolpack, when Charity sees one of the gophers approach Vanessa and whisper something in her ear.

Vanessa goes white. Almost involuntarily, Charity feels herself move, and is next to Vanessa in seconds.

“You ok?” she asks. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“My mother is here,” Vanessa blurts, her eyes widening in panic.

Charity raises her eyebrows. “Good?” she asks.

“I don’t have time to change!” she says, sounding anguished. “God, I have nothing to wear.” She looks down at herself.

“Babe, no offence, but I would suggest staying in your Meredith outfit. A lot less yellow wool in her wardrobe.”

Meredith likes to wear short dresses and boots, which both Davina and Charity appreciate a lot.

Vanessa isn’t even listening; she’s turned on her phone camera and is critically examining her face with a scowl. “I look awful.”

Charity stares at her. Vanessa can be moody and grumpy on occasion, but it’s unusual and doesn’t usually last long, and she’s never seemed particularly fussed about her appearance.

“You look great!” she says, trying not to sound like she’s been staring at Vanessa’s ass in that dress all morning.

Vanessa sighs. “I’d better go.”

She looks so dejected that Charity has the sudden urge to give her a hug. But she’s still Charity Dingle, so she manages to suppress that urge.

“What’s up with her?” Chas asks as Vanessa scurries off.

Charity shrugs thoughtfully. “Not sure.”

Chas smirks at her. “Staring at her ass again?”

Charity opens her mouth in outrage. “Slander!” She gives a little sigh. “It did look good today though.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Chas tells her. “You know better than anyone how awkward it gets on set when offscreen romance goes bad.”

“Who said anything about romance?” Charity says, her voice high. “Jeez, the woman is fit. That’s it.”

Chas sighs. “Whatever you say. I’m done for the day so I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Charity nods. “Have a good one.”

She heads back to the dressing room and pulls tomorrow’s script towards her. But soon she loses interest and instead works on the crossword she started in hair this morning.

A knock startles her and she shouts “come in!”

“Hi, Charity,” Vanessa says. She doesn’t sound like normal Vanessa though. She sounds like she’s constipated and/or about to cry, and she’s leading behind her a very glamorous woman in heels and with long, red nails. “Erm, this is my mum, Margaret.”

Charity, taken aback, gets up and sticks her hand out. “Charity Dingle.”

Margaret gives her a limp handshake and glances around the room raising her eyebrow a little.

“Charity and I work closely together,” Vanessa says, talking much faster and higher pitched than normal. “Our characters are…” She trails off helplessly.

Margaret turns to her. “Yes, so I’ve heard.” She rolls her eyes. “I hope for your sake that that doesn’t carry on for too long. You don’t want to get a reputation and get type cast. You’ve worked hard to put your previous indiscretions behind you.”

Vanessa goes bright red and looks at the floor. “There’s actually been a really positive response to the story line,” she says quietly, but Margaret shakes her head.

“Come on, Vanessa.” She throws up her hands. “You’ve taken me round the set. You’ve introduced me to your mediocre costars.”

“Oi!” Charity interjects.

“You must know that you are better than this. I mean, Villagers?”

Vanessa looks up and Charity sees her square her shoulders. “I like working here.”

“Vanessa, you need to stop swanning through life, taking the easy option.” Margaret sighs. “I didn’t spend thousands on acting classes and elocution lessons for you to end up doing this drivel!”

Charity’s eyebrows shoot up and she puts her hands on her hips. “Excuse me, but that’s a bit out of line. I don’t think that’s how you should be talking to your daughter. Who is excellent as Meredith, by the way.”

“Tell the pound shop Kim Bassinger to stay out of this,” Margaret tells Vanessa.

“Mum!” Vanessa cries. “What is wrong with you? You can’t show up at my place of work, demanding a tour, insulting my coworkers!”

Margaret grabs Vanessa’s arm and drags her outside. Vanessa throws a quick, apologetic look at Charity, who can still hear most of the conversation happening in the corridor.

”…need to be surrounding yourself with talented people, Vanessa, and not wasting yourself on this drivel…”

“…just impossible for you to be happy for me that I’ve found something I actually enjoy…”

“…at the very least you need to speak to them about this ridiculous lesbian story line, with that woman-“

“Charity is amazing! She’s a great actor and we work well together!”

“Yes, I’m sure she’s the next Meryl Streep! Good god Vanessa, please tell me you’ve not got one of your ridiculous crushes on that woman…”

Feeling herself begin to fume, Charity stands up. She knows it’s none of her business but staying out of things has never been her strong suit and Vanessa doesn’t deserve this.

It is suddenly very, very clear to Charity why Vanessa is so deeply closeted about her own sexuality.

Vanessa suddenly sticks her head in. Her face is still flushed and she looks like a few angry tears have rolled down her face, but her voice is steady when she says “Mum is leaving. I’m really sorry about this. I’m just going to take her out and then can I talk to you for a sec?”

Charity nods. “Sure. You ok?” Vanessa nods, almost convincingly, and withdraws. Charity can hear the click of heals on the linoleum walking away, and the continuing chatter of Margaret’s voice as it moves away.

Fifteen minutes later, there’s a tentative knock on the door. Vanessa looks sheepish; Charity feels something in her chest stutter when she sees the slight smear of mascara under her eyes where she’s wiped at them with a tissue.

“I am so, so sorry we ambushed you like that. I just wanted her to meet you, I had no idea she’d be so awful.” Vanessa sinks into Chas’s seat. “We don’t really see much of each other. You can probably tell why.” She sighs. “Mothers, eh?”

Charity shrugs. “Mine died when I was really young, but judging by that maybe that was a blessing.”

“I’m sorry,” Vanessa says quickly, looking contrite. “About your mum.” She rubs her hand across her forehead. “And thanks. For sticking up for me. No one ever does that with her. Not even my dad.” She lets out a wet chuckle.

“Charity Dingle, defender of your honour at your service.” She takes a little bow and is pleased when Vanessa cracks a small, genuine smile.

“I, well, it meant a lot, to me.”

Charity reaches out and puts her hand on Vanessa’s. Vanessa looks up at her, and Charity suddenly realises she’s in real trouble.

They move forward at the same time, rising up out of their chairs and grabbing at each other, lips meeting hotly, and it’s the same and yet completely different to the way they’ve kissed on screen. Vanessa is much less restrained; her lips part and she sighs and gasps, and Charity clutches her close and loses herself in the hot flutter of her mouth and tongue.

They tug at each other’s clothes and hair, sighing and gasping, until Charity pulls back.

“You’re not doing this just to spite your mum, are you?” Charity gasps as Vanessa gently bites at her chest while unbuttoning her shirt.

“Here’s an idea,” Vanessa hisses as she shoves Charity’s shirt off. “How about we don’t mention my mother, especially while we’re doing this.”

In response, Charity grasps Vanessa’s head in her hands and pulls her in for another kiss, firm and hot and with heir tongues rubbing gently against one another.

Vanessa melts against her, letting out these little throaty gasps that are making the heat in Charity’s stomach bubble and she walks them back to the sofa, falling backwards and pulling Vanessa into her lap.

“Are you sure?” Charity asks, even as she’s dragging Vanessa’s dress, the one she’s been admiring all day, up and over her hips.

“I want you,” Vanessa gasps.

Charity groans a little and pulls Vanessa closer. “Good.” She drags down the zip of the dress, scraping her nails along Vanessa’s back and making her shiver. “I want you too.”