Magic in Bloom
A little over twelve months later.
Aurora loved hanging out on set with her father. Since school was out, Orlando treated his twins to a week’s worth of experience on a Hollywood set. Most of that week, Gus accompanied them, while little Ariel remained in Nana Rosalind’s care, as she, at one year old, still had not mastered the art of staying out of the way. But this one time, Gus chose to spend some time with Nick and Margo while they were in the studio recording True Dawn’s fourth album, so Aurora had her father all to herself.
Well, him and the full cast and crew of the Pirates of the Caribbean. But so far no one was complaining.
Aurora had a slight crush on Johnny Depp, but she wasn’t going to tell anyone. To the five-year-old Aurora, who had no knowledge of Edward Scissorhands or 21 Jump Street, saw the dark-haired, dark-eyed actor like another girl would see a cute but kooky uncle of sorts. She didn’t see him as a big star and was not amazed by that part of him. But she was dazzled by his timeless good looks.
But if there was one other person—beyond her father and Johnny Depp, of course—that she felt close to, it would have to be Keira Knightley, the young woman who played her father’s on-screen love interest. No one could replace her mother though, and she adored Keira like she did one of her aunts. She didn’t regard Keira with any Electra-complex induced jealousy because she was kissing her father on-screen. It was exactly as he had explained to her several months before: they were just playing characters that people liked to make up.
At the moment, Keira, already in Elizabeth Swann’s wedding gown, was sitting in her trailer, going over the lines for the scene they were about to shoot. Aurora, who knew how to get to Keira’s trailer so well that she could have done it in her sleep, knocked on the door and was overjoyed when she got clearance to enter.
Keira’s brown eyes lit up when Aurora poked her dark head inside. The smile that spread across the young actress’ face was one of genuine pleasure. Taking that as a sign that she could join Keira, Aurora bounded across the floor that separated her from Keira and was beside her within seconds. Keira seemed amused by her boundless energy.
Keira ruffled her long, dark hair. That gave Aurora a small thrill. “How’s it going, kid?” she asked.
“Swimmingly,” Aurora replied. She’d gotten the word from watching Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Nana Rosalind. She thought Keira sort of looked like Audrey Hepburn. But that was one of those things she thought and would never say aloud.
Keira chuckled. “I see you’re here with dear old Dad again. If you stay around here any longer, we’ll have to put you in costume and give you some lines.”
Aurora frowned. “I don’t think Daddy would let me. He says I have to learn how to make a good poker face before I can be in any movies.” She paused. “What does that mean?”
“It’s an adult thing,” Keira told her.
Before Keira could elaborate on what exactly qualified as an adult thing, a brisk knock came on the door of the trailer.
“Keira?” called a familiar male voice. Keira shared a look with Aurora. And the look in Aurora’s eyes bluntly said, Oh shit—I’m in trouble!
Aurora opened her mouth to speak, but Keira shushed her with a finger over her million-dollar lips.
“I’ve got a little idea,” Keira whispered with an impish twinkle in her eye. “Just follow my lead.”
A few moments later, Keira opened the door to the trailer gallantly. Orlando stood at the bottom of the steps in full costume, staring at her.
“Did you want something?” Keira asked, voice smooth as cream.
“Yeah. Have you seen Aurora? I stopped to talk to someone for a second and she disappeared. Everyone says they saw her come here.”
“Oh, Aurora?” Keira waved a nonchalant hand. She started to descend the steps, but slower than usual Orlando noticed. She walked past him then turned. “Who knows where she went. She came in to say hi but I haven’t seen her since.”
With an arched eyebrow and a knowing look, Orlando searched his co-star’s eyes for any sign of subterfuge. Those pools of brown seemed clear…that is, until something moved under her dress—yes, under her dress—and had Keira fighting to keep a straight face.
“Is there something going on here that I don’t know about?” Orlando demanded in a low tone.
Keira cleared her throat and shrugged her shoulders in feigned nonchalance. “Of course not. I don’t know why you would think something like that. Why would you think something like that?” she inquired, turning a question onto him.
But Orlando would not let up. After all, he could be just as, if not more, stubborn than his eldest. “I think you know where Aurora is and you don’t want to tell me.”
“I would never not tell you something as important as where your daughter is,” Keira insisted with conviction.
As Keira stood there, meeting his intense stare with a bland one of her own, a snicker came from under—yes, if you can believe it, under—her dress. He stared at Keira for a moment, then the skirt of her dress. He estimated his daughter’s height, then sighed when realization dawned.
Shaking his head in consternation and amusement, he knelt on the ground. He gently lifted the hem of Keira’s dress until he spied the telltale pair of white tennis shoes in a children’s size twelve.
Seeing all he needed to see, Orlando dropped the hem and waited a couple of seconds. After those two seconds had passed, a corner started to rise by itself as if an invisible hand was aiding its ascent.
An invisible hand…or a sheepish five-year-old.
“Hi Daddy,” Aurora said softly.
“Hi Aurora,” Orlando greeted her back in an (deceptively) easy tone. “Could you come out from under Keira’s dress please?”
Biting her lip, Aurora came out from under Keira’s dress. She braced herself for punishment, opened her mouth to blurt out an apology.
But then Orlando scooped her up in his arms and hugged her. She relaxed…fractionally.
“I’m not…in trouble?” Aurora asked hesitantly.
“Well,” Orlando began in a considering tone, “you did run off and hide under my co-star’s dress without telling me. But then again, I can only attribute this sudden rash of bad behavior the fault”—Orlando shifted Aurora so he could level a look at Keira—“of the adult in this situation.” Keira’s eyebrows raised. “She’s been nothing but a bad influence.”
“I’ve been a good influence,” Keira insisted. “You’re nothing but a man, Orlando. You wouldn’t understand.” Orlando rolled his eyes. “A girl’s entitled to have a little fun, right?” She grinned at Aurora mischievously. “Wasn’t that just a lot of fun, Aurora?”
Aurora’s happy grin told no lies. “We should do it again,” she said, much to her father’s chagrin. Then she sighed, feeling sheepish. “Sorry, Daddy.” Before Orlando could speak, Aurora’s sharp eyes caught a familiar face. “Look, Daddy! There’s Johnny! Can I go talk to him?”
“Oh, alright.” Keira gave him a look. Sucker. Orlando looked back. Yeah, I love her—so what? “Just don’t find some way to disappear. I don’t think Johnny can hide you under his hat.”
Orlando set her on her feet and she went running for Johnny. He and Keira watched as Aurora barreled into Johnny’s legs, earning a good tickling. Aurora’s howling laughter put a smile on her father’s face.
“She seems like she’s having a lot of fun here,” Keira observed. She turned her brown-eyed gaze onto Orlando. “She needed the break. And you needed to see her happy.”
“Yeah,” Orlando agreed. “It’s been over a year. I feel like she’s had to grow up a lot faster in this year than I would have ever wanted for her.” A few feet away, Aurora protested laughingly as Johnny deftly took his hand away and missed her low-five. “She may not see it, but she’s sort of like a mother to Ariel.”
“That’s an awfully big role for a child, isn’t it?”
Orlando shook his head. “It is, but she’s not going to give it up. You couldn’t tear her away from it.”
Keira came closer, put a hand on his shoulder. “She only does it because she wants to help you.”
Orlando sighed. “I know.” He remembered Penny’s words to him. You’re a good father, Orlando. Your kids adore you. “And I am eternally grateful for that.”
“Have you finished planning the twins’ birthday party?”
Orlando crossed his arms over his chest, glad to be onto happier things. “Oh? Is that a hint that you would like to be invited, Keira?”
Keira’s eyes flashed with indignation. “Hey! I thought I was invited anyway.” Orlando merely looked at her with a bland stare. “Oh, I see how it is now. I suppose we’re not friends anymore.”
Orlando feigned confusion. “We were friends?”
Keira punched him in the shoulder as Johnny, dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow, came up with Aurora’s hand in his. Apparently, judging from the fact that Aurora was talking excitedly, Johnny had posed the loaded question, What’s happening, kid?
When Johnny looked at Keira for a moment while Aurora was talking about her Adventure Under Elizabeth Swann’s Wedding Dress (yes, it was just awesome enough to warrant a proper denotation), Keira and Orlando could see the sheer amusement in his brown eyes.
“So you’re telling me Keira let you hide under her dress?” Johnny asked. After Aurora nodded excitedly, Johnny looked at Keira. “Say, love, is this just a female-only thing?”
Keira made a face at him. “Very funny. We just wanted to play a trick on Orlando, that’s all. Just trying to get him to loosen up a bit, have a little laugh off it.”
“It wasn’t funny, Keira,” Orlando reminded her.
“It was, too. Petty, harmless fun.”
“Petty, love, but not harmless.”
Keira just looked at him. After a moment, she batted her eyelashes prettily. He rolled his eyes and shook his head in consternation.
“Will you be at my birthday party, Uncle Johnny?” Aurora asked. “It’s in a few weeks. Daddy says it’s gonna be really fun.” She leveled a look of infantile irritation at her father. “But he won’t tell me what he’s planning.”
“That’s why they call it a surprise, love,” Orlando reminded her. “If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it?”
He ruffled her dark hair. “I’ll be there with bells on, love. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Aurora frowned. “Why do you need to wear bells, Uncle Johnny? Is that another adult thing?”
Taken aback, Johnny’s gaze darted from Orlando to Keira as he tried to come up with an answer. Before he could answer, the director called for the actors. The three adults were suddenly in work mode. To Aurora, the transformation was fascinating. It added another layer of magic to the process she had witnessed so far of a making of a movie.
After the actors in the scene and the crew had taken their positions, Gore Verbanski turned to Aurora with a considering look.
“Would you like to watch from right here?” he asked her.
Aurora banked her excitement, trying hard to appear mature for her years. “Sure. I would love to watch.”
* * *
Several hours later, when it was time to go home, Orlando, now dressed in his own clothes, came out from his trailer and saw Keira with his daughter again. The twinge of annoyance he thought he’d feel after that morning’s little incident instead turned out to be one of amusement.
They were kicking a soccer ball and forth, and every so often Keira would pause to show Aurora how to do something. When Keira paused to show her how to bounce the ball off the top of her head, she did so and the two females exchanged high-fives, cheering and hooting. He couldn’t help but laugh to himself.
And between them, the stunning young actress and the eager little girl, the bonds of friendship formed. Orlando could see it gel, click into place like matching puzzle pieces. It was what Aurora needed, a relationship that wasn’t familial, based on obligation.
It was like, well, magic.