“How’s it going, Brennan?”
Answer or not? Turn back into the garage and seek some shelter or stay? I stay because it’s unlikely the garage is going to save me, chances are, the attendant called this guy and told him I was standing outside.
“Things are great, man.”
“Good to hear. Enjoy your holidays?”
I’ll answer, but I’m not asking him any questions.
“Rumor around town is you missed Rayna’s big party.”
“Didn’t know she had one.” I can see this guy is getting frustrated, but whatever. He’s lucky I’m even talking to him right now. I could laugh everything off. Tell him I have no comment. But I’m not. I’m being nice, giving him some information to do whatever the hell he wants with it.
“I think we were all waiting for some big news to come from the two of you. You seem to be heading toward the alter.”
Really? Is that what people around us see? Because I don’t. I’m hardly nice to her when we’re out in public. Sure, I may hold the door open for her, but that’s because my father raised me well. Every time she touches me I cringe, and I hate posing for red carpet photos with her. Of course, any ballad I release, the media has a field day with and automatically thinks it’s about her, when it’s not. Hell, maybe I should do the bubble gum song and find a way to slip her name into the lyrics. My luck, the media would spin it, and I’d be screwed.
I say nothing and look over my shoulder, hoping the approaching car is mine. It is and I leave the guy standing there as he continues to ask about Rayna. On my drive home, I finally call Natalie, but her phone goes to voicemail and before I can leave her a message, a call comes in from the record label. I stare at my dashboard, wondering if I should answer it or not, when the speaker beeps. Great, I left Nat a voicemail of nothing but silence. She’s going to think I’m a fucking idiot. I am, I’m just giving her more and more proof with each passing day. I decline the current call and head home. I need aspirin, a nap, and a long shower before I have to smile for the cameras and play nice. The Lakers are playing the Celtics, and while I live in Los Angeles, there ain’t no way I’m rooting for anyone but the green tonight.
By the time the car pulls up, I’ve had my nap, taken three aspirin and spent about thirty minutes in the shower, letting the hot water pound on my back and torso. A luxury of living in a sweet complex is the deluxe shower. Jets coming from every direction and when I’m feeling tense, it’s the place I want to be. Although, too much pressure and I’m marring my skin with red marks.
When I get into the car, Halle Fulton is already in the back seat. She smiles brightly, yet I can tell she’s nervous as hell and is twirling her long red hair around her finger. “It’s great to meet you,” she says before I even introduce myself.
“Oh, I know. My agent told me we were doing this and I had to pinch myself a dozen times before I accepted that this is my reality. I can’t believe I’m going to a basketball game with you.”
“I’m just a normal guy,” I tell her, but I’m not sure she believes me. Sometimes, I don’t even believe myself. “Tell me about yourself.”
“I’m twenty-five and from Nebraska. One day, I’m sitting in a coffee shop on my lunch break and this woman comes up to me, asks if I’ve ever done any acting. I asked her if school plays count and she said of course. She gives me her card and tells me about a movie they’re filming not far from where we are and they’re looking for paid extras and I fit the mold—whatever that means—so I go and bam, next thing I know I have a speaking role and I’m getting paid. I’m being pampered in a trailer, and now I’m out here. I just filmed my first starring role, they call—mid budget—and it comes out this summer.”
“Wow, you’re like lady luck.”
“I feel lucky, but I also know to keep my expectations low.”
“Probably wise,” I tell her. We continue to chat, and I find talking to her easy. When we pull up to the Staples Center, the driver opens the car door. I get out first and help Halle out of the car. As soon as I see the flashbulbs go off, I know I’ve made a mistake. Rayna’s publicist is going to be pissed because she likes to keep up the façade that we’re together, even though I can barely stand her.