- Author: T.A. Williams
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Second Chances in Chianti
Five years later
Escape to Tuscany
About the Author
Also by T.A. Williams
Table of Contents
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To Mariangela and Christina with love as always
‘And this year’s Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series goes to…’
Up on the stage, the presenter in the white tuxedo took his time opening the envelope, deliberately heightening the tension. Alice glanced around her companions on the Pals Across the Pond table and read some anticipation, some excitement even, but the air of gloom that had been hanging over most of them all evening was still clear to see on their faces. It was the end of an era, after all.
‘…Pals Across the Pond.’
The presenter looked up and beamed, as the room erupted into an outburst of applause. The cameras, which had been trained on their table throughout the announcement, relayed their reactions onto the big screen. Alice and her fellow actors bolted on broad smiles at their success – with just an appropriate hint of modesty, as convention demanded. But the smiles belied their inner upset. Richie, her love interest in the series, who was sitting to her right, even caught her by the arm and kissed her cheek ostentatiously for the sake of the watching fans back home. She did her best not to grimace.
Their on-off real-life relationship had stuttered to an unhappy conclusion three months ago and his touch made her feel uncomfortable. She hadn’t had any contact with him since then and she had been dreading what she would see tonight. To her surprise, he was looking unexpectedly smart and had even had a haircut. Somebody had smeared make-up over the dark rings under his eyes, but that same haunted look was still all too visible, at least to her. After he had kissed her, she heard him whisper in her ear.
‘I really miss you, Al.’
Still beaming for the cameras, she caught his eye for a second. ‘You’re a nice guy, Richie, but let it go. We both know it wasn’t working out.’ She deliberately kept her lips towards him and away from the cameras. Slo-mo replays and skilled lip-readers could make a lot of capital out of a momentary indiscretion. Then she turned her face back to the table and the cameras, and did her best to keep looking happy.
Zoë, the director, gave a grunt of satisfaction, rose to her feet and went up to collect the award. She was squeezed into a dress that was far too small for her and Alice found herself making a mental note to be sure to avoid sparkly gold outfits, especially when being filmed from the rear. She felt Millie catch her arm and giggle mischievously in her other ear, as the director climbed the stairs to the stage.
‘Looks like a golden sunrise, does she not?’ Her soft Irish accent was as charming as ever.
Alice gave her an answering wink out of sight of the cameras, but maintained the elated expression on her face. That was what good actors did, after all. She cast another quick glance at the man Millie had brought with her and nodded to herself. With his gleaming teeth, stylish hair, perfect tan and discreet diamond stud in one ear, he was straight out of the same mould as most of Millie’s conquests, and Alice felt sure this fledgling relationship would end the same way as all her friend’s other attempts to find love – in tears. Mind you, she reminded herself, she was in no position to talk. After all, she was here on her own tonight.
When Zoë reached the stage, she proceeded to smother the presenter in a bear hug that almost lifted the poor man off his feet, before graciously accepting the golden award from him. She clutched it to her abundant bosom as she turned towards the audience.
‘Thank you so much. Thank you all.’
The noise in the room dropped a few notches in anticipation of her speech. Alice felt pretty sure that the content was going to come as a big surprise to most of those listening.
‘This is the third time Pals Across the Pond has been chosen for this award, and we are so very grateful to the Academy and to all the viewers out there for supporting us.’
Zoë went on to thank the actors, including Alice, as well as a string of producers, editors and, most importantly, her boss, but pointedly not the writers. Alice exchanged the briefest of glances with Benny, and received a wink and a shrug of the shoulders from him in return. Meanwhile, Zoë was still in full flow.
‘Alas, ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid this is going to be the last time you ever see me up here accepting an award for Pals Across the Pond.’ A distinct hush spread throughout the hall, stilling the background babble. ‘As some of you may have already heard on the grapevine, this has been the final series of Pals. It’s been a wonderful five years and I’ve been privileged to have worked with such talented actors.’ Still no mention of the writers. ‘Over the years we’ve become one happy family and I cherish the fact that we are all such great pals in real life. It’s sad to think I won’t be seeing them every week from now on, but I know we’ll all keep in regular contact.’
As Zoë continued to gush, Alice maintained the same upbeat facial expression, but she couldn’t stop her mind from churning at the hypocrisy of it all. The bitter infighting of the past months had been brutal. Agents, studio execs and lawyers, along with all the actors and writers, had found themselves immersed in daily battles over contracts, money, character development, the future direction of the plot lines and, above all, their irascible director, Zoë, who was universally disliked. The studio wanted