Tuesday, August 18, 2015

California Girl Chronicles: Brea's Big Break - Chapter 9

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A few days later, I received a strange “summons” – and when I say summons I mean command – from Curtis. He asked me to meet him at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf the next morning. It was how he said it on my voice mail: “Meet me at nine.” No “please” or “would you” just a demand to meet him. I assumed it was business, and from the tone of his voice, it was serious business. It made me nervous, and my overly active mind went crazy with thoughts. Were they going to fire me? Replace me with another writer? Was Kale too chicken to do it himself? No, Kale was, if nothing else, respectful and decent. He wouldn’t fire me that way. He would do it himself. But wait! Kale had said numerous times how I was talented and all. Why would he fire me? Maybe it was more script notes and production would be delayed. Maybe they were canceling the entire film?

“Ah stop!” I said aloud to myself alone in my bedroom.

I realized I was baking the cake, and it wasn’t even in the oven. Denise had left some Ambien in her medicine cabinet. If ever I needed a sleep aid, it was tonight. She wouldn’t care if I took one. So I got up in my peppermint-striped nightgown and headed to the bathroom, where I opened the cabinet, grabbed the marked prescription bottle and took a little white pill. I immediately felt my tension ease – not because of the pill, but because I knew I could now sleep. I returned to my room and the warmth of my comforter. It felt good.

I awoke suddenly and promptly at 7:00 a.m. the next day. That pill really had worked – I felt like I had closed my eyes and then opened them. Quiet and peaceful sleep had been a treat. My phone honked to indicate I had a text message. I picked it up and looked. It was from Ryan. Ryan? Now he was texting me?

“Meet me at Bardot?”

I was intrigued, smiled and asked him what time. After all, Ryan was not a production hazard. So why not meet him? He was fun, and I needed some fun.

“Late. Around 10:00?”

I said yes, and then I rushed to get in the shower. I wanted to hurry up and meet Curtis so I could find out what he had to say. I decided the best approach was to stay in the moment and see what was really going on. All this wasted worrying was killing me. I got dressed and wore a cute red sundress with a black bolero with flowers around the edges and over the shoulders. I looked chic without being too fussy. I slipped on plain, black pumps with an open toe, braided my blond hair so that it curved over my shoulder next to my face and tied it with a sweet blue band. I wanted to stay conservative today. Curtis really made me uncomfortable.

I arrived at the Tea Leaf, and he was sitting out front reading his Blackberry, engrossed in something. He looked up, smiled and set it down. I pulled out the iron chair, which made a scraping noise on the pavement. Curtis had two cups sitting in front of him and slid one across to me.

I looked down, smiled and asked, “For me?”

“I took the liberty of ordering hazelnut.” He smiled. “I noticed you liked it.”

“How sweet,” I replied. “Thanks!” I said and took a sip.

Curtis looked at me with a curious tilt to his head, grinned and asked, “You have a manager?”

“No,” I replied. “Kale said they’re all bloodsuckers and that I should get an entertainment attorney.”

“Kale said?” he asked with a strange look.

“Well, yes,” I replied and frowned.

Curtis looked down at his coffee cup and seemed to weigh his response. He then carefully spoke, “I think you need a manager – someone to take you to A-list writer’s status. You need someone to think ahead for you. You know, watch out for you.”

“Kale watches out for me,” I said plainly.

Curtis slid forward and lowered his voice. “Kale watches out for Kale. Don’t be so naïve.”

I sat up straight. “I’m not.”

“Yes, you are,” he said and stretched out his arms. “This is Hollywood, baby.”

“And what’s your point?” I retorted.

“My point, baby, is you need me,” he said in a low voice as he slid his hand on top of my thigh.

I looked down at his hand and back up at his face. He was serious. I looked back down at that hand and cautiously slid it off. “Not sure what you’re suggesting, Curtis.”

Curtis moved in even closer and whispered, “You know exactly what I’m suggesting.”

He sat back in his chair and had the smuggest look on his face. He was still my boss. I felt a surge of adrenaline and fear. I sat there and wasn’t sure what to do or say. He could do damage no matter what. I needed him on my side, but I didn’t want him on my side this way. He was eye candy that was for sure, but he was also potentially dangerous.

“I’ll think about it,” I replied in what seemed like a pat answer to buy me time. “But maybe you ought to woo me a little.” I smiled in my own creepy way just to needle him and put him a little off-balance, too.

Curtis sat up a bit and looked at me in surprise. He laughed. “Maybe,” he replied.

I took another sip of my hazelnut-flavored coffee and let it slide slowly down my throat. I looked off for a moment in the distance so I could think. Curtis grabbed his cup and briefcase and stood up. He walked partway round our little table, leaned over and kissed my cheek. He then leaned in and whispered with his hot breath right into my ear, which made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. “Maybe,” he breathed in a soft, seductive way.

I tilted away just slightly and looked up into his eyes – our eyes locked in a showdown. He leaned in and kissed my other cheek this time. I let him.

“I have a meeting,” he said. “See you.”

He took off and left me sitting there alone, pensive and nervous. He could hurt me. I knew that much. I could tell Kale, set off a war in the office and destroy the production that way, too. Just as I was fretting over my dilemma, I heard a terrible and familiar voice. I looked up to find Drew standing over me.

“Well, where have you been?” I asked.

Drew just took the chair across from me without asking. “Tour.”

“Oh,” I replied. “I forgot about that. How’d it go?”

“Going back to school,” he chuckled.

Drew always said that if the band didn’t work out, he would return to UCLA and pursue something else. As I looked at him, I thought I should hate him. I didn’t feel hate or anger. We had a chasm between us now that consisted of space and time. I was moving on. He was apparently moving on, too. I actually, surprisingly, was happy to see him. I also felt completely at ease, which was a surprise given our last encounter where we had sex and he told me he loved me but couldn’t be with me.

“Are you disappointed?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “You look good.”

“Thanks.” I nodded and smiled.

“Relaxed, happy,” he said. “Did you get back together with that guy?”

He just had to go and spoil it. “No,” I replied in a guarded tone.

Drew looked down, and I thought I saw an actual guilty look on his face. “I thought you would,” he said, and now he couldn’t make eye contact.

I felt my stomach tighten. I took another drink of coffee. “Hey, Drew, it’s really good to see you,” I said and rose.

Drew looked surprised that I was leaving and slid back a little. I grabbed my Gucci bag off the other chair. “I have to go. Work.”

Drew stood up, and we were standing face-to-face. I felt a familiar attraction, but resisted. I touched his arm to say good-bye, Drew nodded and I walked off.  I didn’t ask him where he was working now that he was back from tour and no longer earning a living at the bikini shop – and I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want any more temptation or connection to him. If I saw him, I would always be respectful and kind, but the damage was done – and there could be no going back. Besides, I had far more serious things to put my attention on. Now that I had the Curtis problem brewing.

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