My piece is 1100 words, and it's a romance (of sorts), so if you want to skip, I wouldn't blame ya!
Somewhere in an LA coffee shop:
He coughed, politely. My eyes caught his, an algorithmic moment, a stress fracture, but nothing earth-shaking. I returned to my book, easily caught again by tales of wizards and dragons—too silly for a serious, career-minded woman with an Enzo bag and black-framed Prada glasses atop expertly highlighted hair, but I was defiant about my inner fourteen year old boy. He cleared his throat.
Not bothering to lift my head, I glanced from beneath untidy bangs. The highlights had been expensive—and worth it, as I looked as if I’d spent a month on the beach in Martinique—but the bangs were a home job done when aggravated while trying to make figures line up like little soldiers for the quarterly. Creative math doesn’t happen to those with hair drooping in their eyes.
This time, I caught a glimpse of shyness, a wondering hope not known to the denizens of Tinsel Town. The honesty was a spear through my Chanel ivory blouse.
I reminded myself that actors were a dime a gross in this town. I’m not someone’s practice mannequin, and I’ve never fallen for the puppy dog types.
Except that once. But that was a long, long time ago. Before I knew what unagi was, or the price of a three bedroom condo with infinity pool in Malibu.
Two-and-a-half mill, if you’re wondering. And that’s high for the times; it’ll sit for six months before the owner wises up and drops it to one-nine-nine-five.
I bit my lip and returned to tales of swords and freakishly untanned princesses wearing last century’s dresses.
He was quiet for too long. I looked up, expecting he’d left. He was still there. Suit, not cheap but not spectacular. Hair without a drop of product. And that same earnest, worried look. Now I was beginning to think that maybe I had something on my face. A smear of blueberry? I shouldn’t have had that muffin anyway. Damned Starbucks and their juicy, juicy muffins.
He got up, slowly, carefully, and yet still managing to look as if he might trip over his chair. I had to remind myself that I was twenty-nine—well past prime in this town, by a good ten years. Maybe it wasn’t me after all; I pretended to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear while I checked out the view behind me. Seventy year old woman frowning at her latte and guy in apron sweeping the floor.
“Excuse me,” he said. His voice was soft, even. Up close, I could see he had a slightly receding hairline and a bit of dry skin. What man in these parts didn’t know the power of moisturizer? He had to be new in town. I sighed. Waiting for the inevitable question about housing in the area, or the sleazy “So, are you an actress?” line.
“I couldn’t help but notice… God, that sounds stupid. It’s true, though. I noticed that you’re…”
Genuine conversational stumbling? New in town. Definitely. Also—maybe, a tiny bit—charming.
He cleared his throat again. “You’re reading Sky Warriors of Valtera.”
I looked at the book in my hands. “Yeah?”
He reached into his laptop case and took out a battered paperback. “I’m reading book two.”
I stared at it. It was indeed book two of the Sky Warriors series. Perhaps I’d been here too long, because I tilted my head and said in a quietly bitchy voice, “I’ve read the entire series.”
He straightened up. Nice guy, but his shirt was lavender stripes. So last year’s menswear. I stifled a laugh. And then he said, “ ‘You asked for a dragon. I brought you a dragon. If your highness can’t handle the heat, I suggest she gets out of the way before she’s flambé.’ ” He grinned. “I’ve read the entire series six times.”
My god. His teeth were slightly crooked. And not blinding white.
“I’m impressed,” I said, and my god, I meant it.
There was a pause, not pregnant, no pennies dropped, and singularly without significance of any kind.
Just the fact that I was staring at probably the last genuine, foot-shuffling, dork in LA. And he’d read the worst fantasy series of all time, a series with more bad jokes per page than Jay Leno’s second-string writing staff (or first, for that matter), six times.
I am wearing Jimmy Choo shoes, I reminded myself, and I know how to walk in them.
“I, uh, I… Can I buy you a coffee? Or something?”
I drained the last of my cappuccino and stood. “Have you ever been to Fatburger?”
The rod up his back officially evaporated. “Oh, thank god. I thought you were one of those women… Um..”
“Who only eats salad?” I grinned, showing perfectly straight teeth of a television-sanctioned level one white. “No. Let’s get a couple of burgers and we can discuss why Sir Kevin manages to bungle every single conversation with Lady Donna.”
“And then we can go back to my place and play Dungeons and Dragons,” he said, holding open the door for me.
I stopped, Enzo bag swinging from my arm.
“Just kidding,” he said. I rolled my eyes and stepped into the California sunlight. “Friday’s D&D night, though I’m sure the boys would love to meet you. An actual, you know, female.”
“Seriously, though. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He held out his hand, and as I took it, I could’ve sworn that he really did find it a pleasure to meet me. “Dalton Norman.”
“Kathryn Morgan.” I let go of his hand, both of us blushing, something my cheeks were clearly out of practice doing, as I could feel the blush extending to my ears. His, I noted, were rather nice.
We agreed to meet up at the Fatburger on Wiltshire, and as I slung my bag onto the seat and checked my lipstick in the rearview, I found myself wondering if there really was a D&D meet-up on Friday nights. I’d never played, but suddenly… I had an urge. And there in the mirror, looking back at me through a veil of precisely applied make-up and a decade of blasé, was a teenage girl who wore cut-offs and plastic bracelets, and who read every Piers Anthony novel ever written.
I’d sort of missed her.
I hit the gas, praying he wasn’t a serial killer or, worse, an aspiring screenwriter. And then I kicked off my shoes and drove barefoot to the Fatburger, where destiny awaited. It wasn’t driving a BMW and it didn’t have an ounce of Hollywood’s slickness, and that was all right.
Thank you for reading; I sincerely appreciate it.
For those who've been wondering why I'm MIA recently, a lot of stuff came up that was unexpected and awful. I'm talking mother-in-law level. And kidney stone. With a dash of flat tire, broken heater, and a side of American Idol to take my attention away. I'll try to get back on the horse this week.
I'm also now following Lord Voldemort on Twitter. I don't think it's really him. But if you follow citizen_word, it's really me! I swear!
See ya around, friends!