And they will dine...
Oh, God. Here I was again, standing before my mirror, well, my hotel’s mirror. I looked at myself. I was so ugly. My nose was far too large, my teeth were too crooked and my eyes were hidden by my glasses. I need those glasses…. I thought. Yes, I needed those glasses just as much as I needed oxygen to live. But soon, I wouldn’t need them at all. There would be no use for them…
I glanced at my watch. 6:48. I should finish getting ready. I made my way over to my suitcase and pulled out my only dress. I personally thought the look of myself in a dress wasn’t too attractive, but maybe Brendon would like it. Maybe Ryan would like it… No, Brendon had invited me, not Ryan. Did that mean Ryan didn’t like me? Maybe he didn’t like me at all. Maybe he though I was too bossy and nosy and I should have kept my mouth shut and let them do whatever the hell they wanted to do in their photo shoot. Yeah, I probably should have let them. But Brendon liked my ideas. He liked the way I kind of took control and always had an input. Maybe that was why he asked me to dinner…
Enough fooling around! I scolded myself. You need to get A LOT prettier in only about a half hour. I took a deep breath. “You can do this,” I said aloud. “I can do this!” I slipped out of my clothes and into the little dress. I reached over to the counter and turned on my straightener. Okay, here it goes….
I don’t know why I can’t wait for her to get here. I’m practically shaking. What is it about her? What makes her so wonderful? Why won’t she leave my mind? Get the hell out! Get the hell out right now! I just want to think of something other than you! But, really, I knew that I did not. I wanted her to linger there, like an aftertaste that was sweet and serine, a wonderful kiss that made me think over and over again just how perfect she was. A kiss? No. This is just dinner with the guys and her, just to get to know our photographer. That’s all. That’s it…
Or was it?
I checked my hair and teeth before getting out of the limo. “Brendon, are you coming?” Jon asked.
“Yeah, sorry, just making sure I look all right.”
He smiled at me and zipped up my sweatshirt all the way. “You look like a dork.”
I zipped it back down. “Hey, at least I’m a good-looking dork.”
He just shook his head. “That’s what you think.”
I had to give it to Jon. He always made me smile. He must have known I was nervous.
“Ryan! Hey!” There was her voice. I heard it. Why did she say hello to Ryan first?
“Ryan! Hey!” She said my name. I turned around and saw her. And it was like seeing her for the first time, except it was almost better. She was wearing this little black dress that went to her knees and she had all the brown hair straight and dancing around her shoulder blades. She was wearing those cute librarian glasses still. I swear the black rims brought out her emerald eyes. It made my heart race.
“Alena! Hey! Wow, you look…”
“Amazing!” Brendon cut me off. Why was he always doing that? She flashed him this gorgeous smile, exposing two roses of white teeth. They weren’t perfect and straight like Spencer’s, but the slight crookedness of them gave her more character. I loved it. But she hadn’t thrown the smile my way. But I had points, according to my book, because she said hello to me first. Or maybe it was just because she hadn’t seen Brendon. Damn.
“Oh, I do not!” she said back, giving Brendon a little shove.
“Oh, I think you do,” he said flirtatiously with a little wink. Oh, God. This was so dumb.
Jon, picking up on my discomfort, said, “Hey, let’s go inside. Well, before all the paparazzi show up.”
I nodded my head. We exchanged glances. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed.
“Thanks,” I mouthed back. But saying sorry wasn’t going to do much for me right now.
I felt over dressed. I was in this dress and they were in jeans and hoodies. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn this dress. I mean it wasn’t like some kind of formal ball gown or anything, it was rather casual, but still I felt a little out of place, especially in the café. It was just some cute little truck stop, with all those colorful characters you see on TV. The waitress was some sweet middle-aged redheaded woman with spider veins and wrinkles. She talked so hoarsely that at first I thought she had a cold or maybe a sore throat, but from the pack of Marlboro Reds sticking out of her apron I knew that she must be really heavy chain smoker. Poor gal. She grew up in the era where they advertising that smoking was cool, putting celebrities like Marilyn Monroe on a pedestal for doing it.
“So, Alena,” Brendon said suddenly. “Did we behave okay for you today?” he asked with some kind of a teasing voice, but it sounded so sexy coming out of his mouth.
“Yeah,” I said, giving him an easy smile. “You little boys were good.”
“Well, you’re a damn good photographer!” Ryan said.
I thought I saw Brendon giving him some sort of look of disgust, but I chose to ignore it. He wasn’t like that. “Thanks,” I replied, kind of embarrassed.
“Where did you study?” Brendon asked me. We were seated around a half-moon booth. I sat in the middle, Ryan and Jon on my left and Brendon and Spencer on my right. I couldn’t escape.
“I actually graduated from high school last May.”
“Really? Wow. And you’ve done so well. That was like only, what? Three months ago? Jeeze, girl, you don’t take anything lightly, do you?”
I felt sort of offended. What did he mean by that?
“No, Alena, I didn’t mean it like that. I was just joking,” he said with yet another wink. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. Every eyelash he fluttered at me made my heart stop for only just a moment. Jesus, was this man fine.
“That’s really impressive,” Ryan said. “I think it’s wonderful that you can get such a start like this. It’s really cool.”
“Thanks Ryan. I figure I might as well take pictures while I still can.” Oh, God. I said it.
“What?” asked Brendon.
“Here ya’ll go!” Our waitress said suddenly, putting a large tray of food in the middle of the table. “I hope you sweet kids enjoy your meal.”
“We will, thank you very much!” Spencer said. We all followed suit.
“What do you mean,” Brendon asked, pressing the issue forward.
I just sat there a moment, trying to hide. I didn’t want to tell them, or they would think I just wanted attention or was lying to them. “I just mean before I get too old or lose interest.”
“Oh,” Brendon said. He could tell I was lying. I knew he could.
Why did she insist on lying to me? I don’t know why she was. Maybe she was ashamed to tell me.
The dinner went pretty well. Ryan kept flirting with Alena, even though he knew I liked her. What if Ryan liked her? No. He couldn’t… could he? My thoughts kind of flitted around through the conversation. They kept falling back on Alena’s pale pink lips. They were full and didn’t need even a tiny layer of shimmer or lip gloss. She had this cute nose, even though it was kind of too big, she made it look good. And the most captivating part of her was those eyes. Why did she hide them behind those glasses? I wonder if she could afford contacts, or if she had ever had them. I know that some people can’t where contacts. I had them, obviously. Maybe I could buy her some. She would probably like that. I’ll ask her later.
I hope Brendon isn’t pissed at me. I know I told myself that I would let him have her, but I just can’t. I want to hold her in my arms and take her away form all the evil in the world. I want to kiss her, to tuck her in at night, sing to her if she ever needed someone to serenade her. Whatever she ever wanted, I would get it. Whatever she wanted me to be, I would be it. I don’t know why either. No girl has ever made me feel this good about myself.
“Ryan,” she said suddenly. “Are you all right?”
I shook my thoughts away. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry. Just drifted off for a moment I guess.”
“It’s okay,” she said, giving me a smile. I loved her smile. “Just don’t turn into a zombie.”
“I won’t,” I promised. “I won’t.”
“Let me walk you up?” Brendon asked me. I only nodded my head. “Why are you staying in this hotel over here?”
We had just started the ascent up the stairs. “Well,” I said. “I can’t afford your hotel.”
“They aren’t paying for your room?” he asked. He was really surprised.
“That was part of the deal. This being my first real gig and all, they wanted me to pay for my own stuff, in case I fell through. You know, was a flop or something.”
“That’s too bad,” he said, shaking his head. “So you can’t afford contacts either?”
“I can, it’s just that…” I couldn’t finish. “Hey, we’re at my room.”
“Alena, what’s wrong?”
I looked up at him, really seeing him. Making out the curve of his nose, the way his brown eyes were deep in concern. Did he care about me?
“Tell me, Alena, please. I want to know.”
“It’s dumb, Brendon. Okay?”
“No, it’s not okay. Not until you tell me.”
“Brendon, please? It’s really just stupid and…”
“Please tell me,” he said. I caught the anxiety in his voice.
“Please, I need to know.”
“Alena…” he said, reaching out for my hand. I pushed him away.
“Go home, Brendon,” I told him before slipping into my room.
I lingered outside her door for a moment longer, too astonished to move. What just happened? I wondered to myself. Did she hate me?
I suddenly felt my phone vibrate in my pants pocket. It was a text from Ryan.
Hey, lover boy. Mind getting down here so we can go? I’m tired.
I sighed, shut my phone and made my way down the staircase. That girl was hiding something from me, I knew it. But something inside of me was screaming to know.
I just laid on the bed and cried and cried and cried. I don’t know where all the tears came from, but they were there, soaking into the pillow beneath my swollen eyes. I needed to start on my work, but I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Here, under this poorly designed bedspread, I could cry forever and ever, not caring about the world around me. I won’t have to care much longer, I thought bitterly. Soon, this tireless world will consume me and take me away. No, it wasn’t the world, I thought bitterly. It was those tiny little microorganisms that floated around in my bloodstream, that ate at my vital t-cells, that fed on my organs.
“She wouldn’t talk to me,” Brendon said, blabbing away. I wanted to listen, wanted to know. But I was jealous because he had gotten to talk to her.
“I mean, she would, except she was hiding something from me. Like she was at dinner you know? I don’t know what it is.”
“Do you like her?” I asked suddenly.
“Like her like how?”
“As someone you would take as your date to the MTV awards,” I replied.
I just nodded my head.
“Do you like her like that too?”
I didn’t reply.
“Sorry,” he whispered.
“Yeah, goodnight, Ryan.”
There was nothing more to say between us.