Darian TV Producer Russel
It’s approximately twenty-four hours since the best mistake I’ve ever made. I’m holding out hope that it wasn’t a mistake, and everything will turn out fine, but that would be uncharacteristically optimistic for me. Now I can only hope that it doesn’t turn everything I’ve ever worked for into dust.
Darian Russell is a charming man, and I’m an even more charming woman. Not to flatter myself, but we all know it’s true. So put two and two together. He texts me, we have wine, we end up sprawled across his hotel bed, all clothing and dignity long forgotten. I can only hope that, despite this, he still agrees to turn my book into a movie, what with him being a producer and all.
God, I hope this deal still goes through.
The waiter puts my salad in front of me, which I’m not very keen on eating, but I’m meant to look like some kind of polite, regular, not-falling-apart woman, and those kinds of women eat salads.
The two men across from me have finally moved on to talking to someone further down the table, alternating who asks the questions. Both journalists; I’d accepted business cards from them both earlier, with plans to recycle because I may be a bitch but I do have a green thumb. They had asked me questions about my upcoming novel, as if I know any better than them.
It’s a work-not-work happy hour, meaning I get told it’s not work but I get yelled at if I drink too many margaritas. It’s actually a networking event, and I’m stuck at the end of a long table full of potentially important contacts, as Bram put it, trying to make charming conversation.
Bram, always sticking his nose into my business, leans sideways into my personal bubble. His pasta dish has just arrived. “Macie, what’s going on?”
I sip my margarita, smiling pleasantly over the rim at nothing in particular. “Whatever do you mean?” Sometimes in my attempts to stay civil I begin to talk like a Dickens character. Or something. I haven’t read Dickens since high school.
“You’re checking your phone obsessively,” he hisses, flattening his napkin against his thigh.
I turn in my seat, accidentally bumping his knee. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mother. Is it no phones at the table?” I ask, setting down my glass and giving him a pointed look.
Bram purses his lips and breathes out through his nose. “It’s just that you’ve been making a face like you’re about to pass out for the last half hour.”
I face forward again, accidentally catching the eye of one of the journalists–either Houston or Riley, I can’t remember because they both had such awful names. He smiles and lifts his glass, holding eye contact. I quickly look down at my salad, which has not gotten more appealing.
“I’m waiting for someone to text me back,” I mutter to Bram, looking up just as Houston and Riley lean together, one of them whispering a word that sounds horrifyingly close to ‘smash’, as their eyes dart back to me.
“Can it wait?” Bram asks, stabbing at his pasta. They’re the bow-tie ones, all dressed up just to get eaten. Me too, I think.
“Hey, I wanted to ask, what inspired the The Lakeside Haunt?” asks one of the journalists suddenly. He’s got a little slug-like mustache, makes him look more like a Houston than a Riley. “It’s my favorite of your books,” he adds, leaning in.
I nod and take a dainty bite of salad, making him wait. Then I smile placidly and say, “Oh, you know. I think trips to the seaside as a kid was a big inspiration.” I twirl my fork in my salad. “What kind of writing was it that you said you did?”
I could hear Bram sigh next to me. Luckily most men don’t expect us pea-brained women to retain much. Houston says, “Gossip column. Fanfare Today Magazine.” This is new to me, actually. He hadn’t admitted that before, and that’s a fact.
“How fun! The gossip column, why that’s fantastic.” I smile stiffly as I turn to Bram. I cannot believe he thought a gossip columnist could be an ‘important contact’. I’m about to get a movie deal, for god’s sake.
Bram raises his eyebrows at me, which usually means behave. Instead, I lay a hand on Bram’s arm, which makes his body freeze up and his mouth twitch down. “Actually, Bram was just telling me an amusing story. Probably nothing as good as what you write, of course, but surely he’d love to tell it.”
Bram’s jaw is tightening, which means I’m breaking him out of his professional nonchalance. A personal victory to me. “I don’t think–”
“Oh, you know,” I goad in a sultry voice. “The one about the fisherman. It’s hilarious.” I turn back to Houston and Riley. “You’ll both love it. I’m just going to go to the ladies’ room real quick.” I wink at them, then pat Bram on the hand.
He glares at me as I stand, and I smile back.
The harsh light in the restaurant bathroom makes me look pale. Which should be impossible due to all my hours on the beach. I’m nothing if not tan. I check my phone again, swiping away notifications from my sister, who wants money again, missed calls from my friend Jamie, who probably has dating drama, and reminders for me to do thinks like laundry and buy shampoo because I keep putting them off. No messages from Darian TV Producer Russell. Not a single word from him since we’d slept together, which I don’t know how to interpret. Good thing? Bad thing?
The bathroom door opens, and a woman in a leopard-print jacket gives me a once-over, one white tennis shoe holding the door open. She looks out into the hallway and says, “Yeah, she’s in here.”
“Tell her to come out. Please.” Bram’s voice. My whole stomach feels empty, and not just because all I had was a single bite of a shitty salad.
The woman raises her eyebrows at me and holds the door wider. I close my eyes because my head is churning like a washing machine. I double check my phone. The woman shakes her head and enters, the door swinging behind her, and locks herself in a stall.
“He seems worried,” she says to me through the stall.
I sigh. “Sorry. Thanks,” I tell her, trying to sound sincere because I mean it. It’s not her fault tonight is shitty. Why is it so shitty? Not enough alcohol, maybe? “I like your lipstick,” I tell her as I’m leaving, because nothing says thank you like a compliment in a public restroom.
Bram’s got his arms folded, trying to make himself smaller in the space of the tiny, tiny restaurant hallway. He’s not doing a good job of it because when I come to stand next to him I’m close enough to smell the pasta sauce on his breath.
“You done hiding?” His eyebrows are lowered, and his hair is in wisps across his forehead. He’s exactly the kind of person that writers love to describe, because he’s got all the right features for it. Golden blonde hair and piercing eyes and cheekbones, yada yada yada. I’m annoyed with him.
I adjust my crossbody bag across my chest, but his eyes don’t leave my face. “Why are they here? Is there anyone out there that’s worth my time? Why am I here?”
Bram shakes his head. His posture is stiff but his voice is surprisingly gentle. “Do you have better things to do? What’s going on, who are you texting?”
“More like who am I not texting,” I reply bitterly, checking my phone one last time. Another text from my sister, and an email from my credit card company.
Bram straightens to his full height, which is about equal to mine because of my excessively tall heels. He’s very much in my personal space now, but I’m not backing down. “Well?”
The space in my head shrinks until there are no more thoughts, and I choke out a laugh. “Darian,” I tell him.
I jut my chin out so our faces are inches apart. I make sure to enunciate every syllable. “I fucked Darian Russel, and now I’m waiting for the consequences.”
For a moment I think Bram’s eyes are going to fall out of his head. He’s looking at me but not seeing me. He recoils. “What?”
The women’s bathroom door opens, and Miss Leopard Print walks out, stopping to eye us both. Bram and I press ourselves against opposite walls so that she can squeeze through the space between us. She gives me a single eyebrow quirk as she passes, which I think is supposed to be reassuring, but really I’m not sure.
“You didn’t.” Bram’s turned back into Professional Bram. His words aren’t even clipped; he doesn’t sound angry or disappointed. He’s just stating words. Like facts.
I hate to talk to him like this. Like there’s no reason or emotion to any of this, like following a specific path–shake that hand, say this, smile for the camera–and everything will fall into place. Maybe I shouldn’t have slept with Darian, but I don’t regret it. It was amazing and I’d do it again, theoretically. And I don’t have time to listen to Bram tell me that this isn’t the ‘right way’ to do things. Or that it’s ‘unprofessional’.
I give Bram one last look, chin still raised. “I did. But don’t worry, I won’t be taking any of the losers here today home, you can be damn sure about that.” And then, like a badass who just delivered a clever line, I walk away.
When I get home I stare at my computer screen until I can’t see anything, then crawl into bed and dream about sea monsters dragging me underwater and watching me choke.