I told myself I wasn't going to be doing the acting part of this film/television major I'm working on now anymore, but Ernesto came to me begging, saying the script he had for his senior project had something that was perfect for me, and while I think there are probably plenty of Asian-American actresses he could find, it's fun to be asked, and I'm almost certainly going to need some of his help in making my own short film. I may have changed my major because I felt more drawn to this than the original Yuan-wei did, and I certainly like acting less, but I've got so much less experience than guys like Ernesto who have been picking up cameras and making homemade movies since they were ten that I'm way behind in practical terms even if I do sometimes breeze through class like someone who's five years older and had some real-world experience with things the rest don't.
It's a good distraction, though - as much as I'm not really thinking of fucking Ernesto again, it's weirdly enjoyable to be working on something with a guy I have slept with right now. The boyfriend-shaped hole in my life that I probably won't be allowed to fill until Chen-ai finds some advantageous fuerdai to marry me off to isn't completely filled with Ernesto, but the fact that I know he likes me and probably would be my boyfriend if I made the right move is something to lean on, as is just keeping busy on my own short film project and other stuff.
Some of that "other stuff" involved a quick weekend trip to Montreal so that the new Bingbing and I could talk to René and Romain in person. I met her in the airport and still have a hard time getting a handle on her. I'm pretty sure she was a guy before, just from the effort to dress plain and avoid makeup and stuff, but the secrecy is weird. Most of us are so glad to have people with whom we can be ourselves that we're giving out life stories before someone else finishes mentioning the Trading Post, but she knows Chen-ai put her in this position, and probably figures we won't trust her completely anyway. Still, I invited her along because she and René deserve the chance to meet, and if she is any sort of representative of Chen-ai, then the guys deserve a chance to ask her a lot of questions.
There isn't really a good spot to do this sort of thing - not their apartment, not our hotel room, not a restaurant, not a park. We choose one of the last in the list, where we could be away from other people if things got a little heated, but I did wonder as we met there if the hotel had conference rooms we could rent. I mean, I guess you could call this a meeting, as it's kind of a formal discussion even if it's not business. But I didn't think to ask that while making the reservation.
So we met. René have me a hug, while Romain offered a handshake. René also leaned in to stare closely at the new Bingbing, appraising what he would look like if he hadn't been to the Inn three years ago. We sat on the grass, and I related everything Chen-ai had told me. René and Romain both looked shocked when they found out that Chen-ai had sent them to the Inn deliberately, and René took Romain's hand when I told them about how Chen-ai had been someone else when he was born, then started crying when I said it looked like his father had been killed.
Then he took a deep breath and let it out shaking. "I guess that's good to know."
René kissed him on the cheek. "I'm so sorry."
"No, it is good. I mean, it's a hell of a thing to hear that the woman you thought was your mother resents you and your actual mother just abandoned you, and the person who stole your life may have murdered the parent who did love you, but it's kind of freeing to know that all you'd really have to go back to is money, and Mom is probably after that, too. I mean, this life isn't perfect, and I'm not sure I'm really happy to tell Jordan here 'good luck with that', but... I do like Romain's folks, this is a pretty nice city, and... It's not like I've forgotten being a Chinese girl, but this is like my whole adult life."
I tried not to look too happy about him saying that, because it would be really inappropriate, but it was kind of a relief not to be worrying about pressure from that side, even if it was a shitty way for it to happen.
Bingbing looked at René. "And what about you? I'm not planning on making the rest of my life."
René shrugged. "Nous sommes unis. We're together."
We took early flights home on Sunday, with Bingbing apologizing that she would have liked to get to know them better, but she had homework and she was still having a bit of a challenge working in English since it wasn't her first language like it was for the Wongs and me. René said he got that - he had to get used to English and French when the Inn dumped him in Quebec - but that it would get easier. And that next time we'd have to meet in a fun way, maybe finally making that trip back home to Hong Kong.
I finally opened Ernesto's screenplay on the flight home - I'd kind of saved it during the trip so I could give everyone the attention they were due - and immediately noticed that my character was in the opening scene, in bed with the hero, and the stage directions had her putting a bra on with her back to the camera but not actually finishing getting dressed until after their conversation.
It wasn't the makings of a bad movie, but I kind of snickered reading it, not calling Ernesto that night. He was in my first class Monday, after all, so I just sat down next to him and leaned in. "You know," I said just loud enough that he'd be afraid of other people hearing it, "most people who want to see me naked just send me gross messages on Facebook."
He went red. "It's not like that, I just thought, you know, that it would really let you show that you're smart and funny as well as pretty."
"That's sweet, but, come on, you know I'm a shitty actor. You just want to get me in a bed and see what happens now that I'm single again."
"Wait, you broke up with Jacky? What happened?"
"Thing with my mother. Be really glad you've never met her."
"Oh. I'm sorry, if faking that sort of intimacy is going to be hard or awkward--"
Suddenly it hit me. "Oh my God! You don't want me for this because you're attracted to me, but because you're not! You can just have me take off my clothes and it's like my tits are just props and you won't be thinking about fucking me at all! Holy shit, I didn't think chicks could get put in the friend zone!"
"Sssssshhhhhh!!!" Other people had started to come in and pretend not to take an ingest in our conversation. "No, it's not... Look, it's not that I don't like you like that - trust me, there's a good chance I'm going to spend the rest of the month obsessing over whether you just happened to mention you were single on purpose to send me a signal - but I got really nervous just writing that scene, and this movie is going to be a huge part of my grade, and the student films are the first thing anybody looks at when we go in for interviews, so, like, I don't want to blow it and I know I can work with you!"
"That's... really sweet." I honestly couldn't think of anyone saying that to me before Chen-ai, and having Ernesto say it made me feel a hell of a lot better. "Fine." I gave him a peck on the cheek. "I'll get naked for you. But you're helping me make a brain for my film!"
He tried to shrink into his chair at that, so he didn't ask me when he'd get to see my script.
Which was good, cuz it fucking sucked.
Naturally, I didn't realize it sucked until I showed it to Annette over pizza at my place, and she asked if she was allowed to be honest. I said sure, and she immediately printed it out, got out a pen, and started crossing shit out, circling the occasional thing, and making a shit-ton of notes. "So, I get that you want to do a guy-turned-into-a-girl thing while it's still relatively fresh in your mind and all, but, dude, come on, look at this thing. It's all gay-panic bits and transphobic stereotypes, and, c'mon, folks like us really should be able to do something smarter than that, and even if we didn't have our unique point of view, the people who will be grading this probably won't be into something that's just broad gross-out comedy. But there's an idea here..."
So we've spent the lady couple of weeks rewriting, kind if changing the script from "this guy has his brain implanted into the body of a female sexbot and isn't that gross?" to "not only is his brain in a sexbot body, but its operating system pops up a bunch of augmented reality stuff that basically hit him with all the messages a woman absorbs about how to dress and behave to please men at once". We've had to cut a lot of stuff I liked out of it, even some of the stuff that Annette didn't think was trash, but it's probably a better script because of it.
Now I've just got to find a cast, locations, a crew, and equipment; shoot the thing; edit it; and then do a bunch of special effects because, like Ernesto says, this is the first thing people will look at on our résumés and I'm not sure whether I'm going to actually want to manage a shoot after this but will probably always like rendering VFX, so I should have s bunch of that in there even if mousy of my classmates are trying to be realistic.
No problem, right?