So this is the first chapter of a short story or maybe something longer that I started a while back and I'm considering dusting off and working on a little. I have a great fear of showing people my writing so I figure putting on here is a good way to get over that. I really like these characters but it is hard to make them empathetic when you are in both heads - I like the how the perspective changes and who hasn't been in a situation where they have read it completely wrong?
Hit and Miss
My drink was out of my hand and over his top before I hit the pavement. The protective properties of the polystyrene lid did not meet expectations, which made me question; how does stuff like that get through quality control? I dared a glance up. It was a very dark liquid and an impressively white t-shirt. Tight white t-shirt. I was mid apology when a stabbing pain ripped through my chest causing my,
“God, I’m so sorry, it was the sun, I couldn’t see. Look at the mess, I…”
to crescendo into the tiniest of small shrieks. I was clearly having a stress induced panic attack. I needed a lie down in a quiet place. However, surreptitious wriggling confirmed it was actually the underwiring on my bra that was the problem. It had finally given way under extreme provocation. I ignored it as I needed all my wits about me. This nervous tourist’s autopilot had been activated: in bouncing off a stranger in L.A, I was inviting either being sworn at loudly or shot. The first was clearly publically humiliating, the second painful and possibly fatal, so not a great option either.
It was the last day of my holiday and I was on my way to the airport. I didn’t want my up-until-then-fantastic experience of Americans (so friendly! So helpful! So loving of the English accent!) to be ruined by running into the self centred, abusive and loud stereotype that a woman had enjoyed warning me about as I waited for my flight to be called at Heathrow seven days earlier. She had wonky orange eyebrows so her information was immediately filed as suspect but even so, I was poised to take the potential rapist’s eye out with the toe of my boot if the situation called for it.
“May I give you a hand?”
Apparently, the situation did not call for it; I hadn’t ricocheted off a psycho. No, he was your actual gallant American gentleman, like Cary Grant in that film with the leopard (but up to date and not in black and white). It was immediately obvious that he was a nice guy; he had a dog! You couldn’t miss it; an irritating brown wiry thing that slobbered in my face. If my hair hadn’t already been completely wrecked by the untimely intervention of that rubbish bin as I went sideways, the dog would have finished it off for me. Options for regaining my dignity were limited so I grabbed its ear, as action which had the desired effect. It reversed swiftly with a whine.
He, (the guy not the dog), had an interesting face, almost handsome but in a slightly off centre sort of way. Of course, it could have been the angle I was checking him out from. Or it could have been the mild concussion I was pretty sure the double vision I was occasionally experiencing since hitting that bin indicated. Or, perhaps he did simply have an almost-gasp-aloud-drop-dead-gorgeous face. I know it was L.A, but really, who needed perfection? He clearly hadn’t had any work done, nobody would have settled for that nose without a lawsuit following in hot pursuit. Natural then. After just a week of immersion in all things Tinsel Town, that was refreshing.
A few seconds of clarification confirmed that the blurriness was actually the result of my having lost a contact lens. Scrabbling around for it did not help. I had landed on the smoothest surface imaginable (no gum, no glass, no needles; not what I was used to) but I still couldn’t find it. The problem was I needed my glasses to look properly and I wasn’t wearing those because I was wearing my lenses to look less academic and more Hollywood. If I had been wearing them, I could have found the lens easily but then, firstly, I wouldn’t have walked into that guy and secondly I wouldn’t have lost the contact lens because I wouldn’t have needed to wear them. That circular and ultimately redundant line of thinking was giving me a headache to rival the one I already had from the bin. It was a harsh way to remember that Pride really does come before a Fall. Hell. The name on the star beneath my fingers was unfamiliar through one watering eye and one screwed up one. To add insult to injury I had managed to get dust behind the lens that had stayed where it was supposed to. Why couldn’t I land on somebody interesting and well, known, like Marilyn Monroe?
I stopped over-thinking the situation before the offer to help me up was revoked and accepted his outstretched hand. No wedding ring. Short fingernails. No dirt. Soft hands but not overly soft which would suggest he spent all day with his hands in a sink full of washing up. That implied good prospects. Thankfully he didn’t notice the dog slime on my fingers. However, I reminded myself that I was not into romance any longer so an absent wedding ring was no matter. No, I was into hook ups and instant gratification with whoever took my fancy. No more romance. No.
Once up, I leant casually back in a relaxed manner against one of the palm trees. A sweet wrapper stuck itself to my sweaty knee. That wasn’t quite the sophisticated look I was aiming for but I couldn’t remove it without drawing attention to the fact that a few seconds ago I was face down in a bin. I hoped he had missed that bit when he was pushing his sunglasses off his face and into his shortish, dark hair, slightly flecked with grey but in a distinguished, intellectual way not a creepy old man sort of way. Jiggling for a bit dislodged the wrapper so I continued my casual leaning. It stuck to the dog’s tail. We both pretended not to notice.
“I’m so sorry. That was completely my fault. Can I get you another drink?”
Not having that contact lens in had the potential to be a problem. If I looked directly at him, he wasn’t in focus so I had to squint a bit. I experimented with closing alternate eyes to see if that improved the image. When I did it fast enough, there were two of him which was an unexpected bonus. I preferred the one on the right so I hoped he was the reality and not the mirage. He was saying something; it was a nice accent from both of them. Meanwhile, leaning against the tree was proving far less comfortable than it looked when models did it in calendars. Who knew bark was so knobbly? I stayed put though so as not to look indecisive.
I suspected he was trying to pick me up, but possibly he was just being kind because from the way he steered me back towards Starbucks, it appeared a non-alcoholic offer. He seemed very embarrassed by the whole event actually. Maybe American girls didn’t go around throwing themselves at men like him. Maybe he wasn’t used to the attention. I formulated a plan; being gentle with him was less likely to scare him off. He still seemed a little nervous, but I had time to kill before my flight and I figured that at least he’d have to leave the mutt on the pavement if we went inside. It insisted upon sticking its nose into my crotch and there’s only so many times a girl can be polite, continue walking while crossing her legs and try not to draw attention to this before she has to stop laughing it off and begin to wonder whether in the packing back at the hotel, the least fresh knickers got left out to go home in. It did not bode well for an unplanned sexual encounter at any rate. Not that I was planning an unplanned sexual encounter. You needed to be properly prepared for something as unplanned as that. But again, I reminded myself, it was hook ups, not long term romance I was looking for so never mind the pants situation. I could always get out of them in the toilets beforehand if necessary. He wouldn’t suspect a thing.
He was definitely thinking about giving me his number. I could see a pen in his jeans pocket and a handy piece of paper tucked in there too. I continued to act casual and decided to give him the chance to slip it to me when we had sat down, when he was a little more relaxed.
With that in mind, he tied up the dog and we stepped inside the coffee shop.
I wasn’t paying attention when I hit her. I don’t mean hit her in the violent sense, although the force she landed on the sidewalk with was pretty violent. She was lucky; at least the trashcan broke her fall. It was simple; I was going one way, she was going the other and we met in the middle. It could have been awkward. People can be weird. She was in a rush, which explained how she didn’t notice me strolling along, enjoying the sun, trying to phone my agent. The on hold music was beginning to fuzz a little; I think it was the palm trees affecting the reception. I’d been on hold for a while but getting reacquainted with the hits of the nineties is never a waste of time.
I remember the second thing she said after she asked me to help her up. It’s tricky, offering assistance to a damsel in distress, especially around here so I find it’s best not to. You risk being accused of molestation or having a can of mace sprayed in your face, being kicked in the balls with a spiky toe or worse, having a treatment for the ‘most original screenplay you’ve ever seen’ pressed in your hand. She was British, I could tell from the teeth. You can age horses the same way. Not too yellow so she wasn’t that old. It’s impossible to tell here where most fifty year olds look fifteen so the teeth are a useful aid. Mid twenties maybe.
So there she was on the floor, running her fingers over my name. Sweet. There was a tear in her eye; she was overcome with emotion. I’m familiar with that reaction. She gave me a wink. She recognised me. It always happens. What a drag to have to stop for a fan on a day when my time was so tight, still lucky for her I just happened to be near my star. She could get a picture of me with it later. She looked a little desperate. Probably wanting a hook up, like they all do. I’m just not into that scene any more. No, no more fucks with no strings attached. The next girl I fall for will be the real thing. It’s romance I’m looking for now. My therapist told me it would be good for me to stop thinking just of myself for once.
After she screamed in surprise at seeing me, she muttered,
“I love your dog”
and tried to pull him in for a kiss. At least it was something like that. The fact that she was in Jim’s face having a good tussle showed me she was a dog lover. I was right about her nationality. She sounded like the Queen. I’m all for a dog smooch myself but sometimes Jim is a little over eager. He was whining with happiness but he just isn’t as in control of his libido as I am so I pulled him away before he started humping her leg. That can scare a girl with a nervous disposition. May be something to do with a damp dick on bare legs. I’ve never considered it in any depth but personally, I’ve never found it to be an issue. I take him in the shower with me. My dog is very hygienic.
The girl was all apologetic where I, if someone had run into me like a train, would have had more to say along the lines of, ‘what the fuck are you doing? Can’t you look where you’re going? Are you fucking blind?” But then I had missed a couple of my anger management appointments.
Mentioning the dog first was cute. Of course I got that she was trying to pretend that she didn’t know who I was. Most girls wouldn’t bother with all the pretence. It had to be the English reserve you hear so much about. I understood that she was feeling overwhelmed; my palms get sweaty in the presence of greatness too. Once I left a damp patch on Jennifer Anniston’s dress at a book signing. I don’t think she noticed.
I introduce her properly to my dog, as she’s offered to buy me a drink to make up for ruining my t-shirt. That was a kind gesture. It was pretty much my best shirt and until my agent got back to me on those projects I was waiting to have greenlit, I wasn’t certain when I could get another one like it. No chance of being invited to a Hollywood party and finding somebody else wearing the same as me. I like to keep it individual. I’m not a character actor, of course. I don’t want to be pigeon holed into that tunnel where dreams get lost. Nope, no type casting happening here. Absolutely not.
Jim really couldn’t get enough of her and I have to say he is a very good judge of character. When a screenplay is sent to me, I always read my part to him. If he jumps around a lot, I know I’m onto a winner. He hasn’t jumped around for a while but that’s definitely down to arthritis not the quality of the scripts.
The girl was pretty twitchy. I get jittery when I meet someone I really admire too so I put it down to nerves. I guessed she was plucking up the courage to ask for my autograph. I carry a pen and small jotter on me for just such occasions. I decided to give it to her when we sat down, once she was a bit more relaxed.
With that in mind, I tied up my dog and we stepped inside the coffee shop.