Dazed Page 16
Without even thinking, I reach for the receiver and dial the number on the message slip.
’’Oh, that was so much fun,’’ Kay says, slamming her purse on her desk as she enters the office.
I set my phone back in its cradle and calmly ask, ’’Did she get the part?’’
With a smile she says, ’’Well, I don\ know for certain, but I\d say that director would be crazy not to cast her.’’
Resentment runs through me, but it\s not her fault. I know I should have told her yesterday that I knew Jagger. Well know isn\ even the right word, that I was dating him dated him? That I love him loved him? I don\ know why I didn\ tell her anything.
Falling into her chair, she sighs. ’’Even auditioning with someone she didn\ know, she was so believable. It\s too bad her ex-boyfriend wasn\ there for the final casting. They would have been amazing both on and off screen. Oh, well.’’ She shrugs. ’’True love comes and true love goes. Isn\ that what they say?’’
’’I think so.’’ I swallow the bile down.
’’Back to work,’’ she smiles.
My head is spinning. Why didn\ Jagger go to that audition? What does Madeline want? I push away from my desk and stand up. ’’Kay, I\m running out. If Damon asks where I am tell him I had some things to take care of out of the office.’’
’’He\s off somewhere with Ivy so don\ worry about him,’’ she says with a scowl.
I swear I hear her mutter ’’asshole’’ under her breath and wonder why she has a sudden dislike for him, but then again maybe she finally realized what he\s like. I shrug the thought off. ’’Call me if anything pressing comes up.’’
She chews the tip of her pencil. ’’Of course. And, Aerie, if I were you I\d go home and get some rest. You really do look flushed.’’
I decide to go see Madeleine in person, and drive up to her house at lightning speed, entering the neighborhood where my uncle used to live. Memories flood my mind of the times we spent together and again the tears that won\ stop flowing down my cheeks.
Drying my face, I grab my purse and walk up the driveway. I had heard Madeline and her husband divorced a few years ago and I also know that Levi hit the road earlier this year with his band. He\s running small circuits clubs mostly, but doing okay from what I\ve heard.
My heart thumps uncontrollably as I ring the bell. The door swings open and there she stands. She looks as beautiful as she always did.
’’Mrs. Grayson,’’ I smile.
Her eyes widen as soon as recognition crosses her face. ’’Aerie, oh, Aerie, my dear. I\m so glad you decided to stop by. Come in.’’
I step inside and a shiver runs through me when I see the same couch I so easily gave myself up on.
’’How are you, Mrs. Grayson?’’
’’Aerie, please call me Madeline.’’
’’Would you care for some coffee or tea?’’ she asks.
We make small talk while she prepares a pot of tea and then we sit outside on the deck. The cool breeze sweeps over us and I let it wrap itself around me, breathing life into any otherwise lifeless day. I chew my thumbnail, not sure of where to start.
Pouring the hot water into a small white porcelain cup, she says, ’’I know you\ve been contacted about the script changes. Brett told me he was sending them on to you.’’
’’Yes. I have. Is it true?’’
She takes a shaky breath. ’’Yes it is. I loved your uncle very much and we would have been together if it weren\ for the fact that he was afraid of his mental health.’’
I select a teabag from the tray in front of me. ’’Madeline, I\d love to hear about your relationship with him, if you don\ mind sharing.’’
Sipping our tea as the ocean dances before us, we sit for hours and she tells me how she fell in love with my uncle the first time she met him. How she and her husband, although married on paper, lived separate lives. How she wanted to divorce him and be with my uncle, but my uncle forbade her from doing that. She told me it wasn\ until he was diagnosed with cancer that he told her why. She had always thought he loved being a bachelor, the freedom to go wherever he wanted and be with whomever he wanted, but that wasn\ it at all. He was afraid his depression would take a turn, like his mother\s had, and that she\d be stuck taking care of him.
Another wave of tears escaped me and I gave up trying to stop them. I was able to see my uncle through her eyes as a man who loved a woman he was afraid to have. A man who distanced himself from her out of fear of what he might become. Her words tore at me I had done everything my whole life to avoid ending up like my grandmother and now it was those very same decisions that were sending me down that same path.
When Madeline excused herself to refill the teapot, I quickly pull out my phone and type a text to Jagger.
I really need to talk to you. Tell me where I can meet you.
I wait for a response, since he usually answers immediately. But there is none.
’’Here we go,’’ Madeline says, setting the silver tray down.
We talk a little while longer as I listen for the text that never comes. She tells me why she and my uncle never told me about their affair. She explains that my uncle didn\ want me to think badly of him for being involved with a married woman and he was afraid that my parents might not let me spend my summers with him if they knew.
She also tells me how hard it was for her when he died how she\d lost her best friend and wanted so much to talk to me. But she promised my uncle she wouldn\ . She finally divorced her husband and has refused to move because she feels close to my uncle here.
’’The only reason I called you today is because I knew the biographers over at Warner Bros. were writing me into their movie. They promised to change my name and alter the details if I\d share the story with them.’’
I look at her stunned. ’’Did you?’’
’’F*k, no. I told them to go f**k themselves.’’
My tears turn into laughter she says f**k like my uncle used to. I grab her hand. ’’Madeline, I think you should share your story. It\s a true love story, not the one they\ e fabricating and I\d be proud for the world to see it.’’
With both of us sobbing, she nods her head and agrees.
Shortly after the sun set my phone beeped. I stole a glance. A text from Dahlia I\d read it later. I give Madeline my full attention as she tells even more stories about my uncle. But when her voice starts to get shaky, I know we are both emotionally drained. As I stand to leave, she pulls me to her and hugs me tightly. ’’You\ e a beautiful woman, Aerie. Your uncle would be so proud.’’
’’Thank you,’’ I manage, staring out into the ocean I haven\ swum in since that last summer.
She studies me. ’’Aerie, this isn\ my business, but I want you to know that after your uncle died, Levi had a tough time as well. He grew up with your uncle. And he told me what happened between the two of you.’’
My pulse pounds as embarrassment rushes to my cheeks.
’’I\m only telling you this because I know he feels so much regret for having hurt your feelings. He told me he told you he used you. Aerie, I didn\ ask for details. But it wasn\ true. There are some things a mother doesn\ want to know, but he did tell me what he said to you. Your uncle helped him every chance he could, but Levi wanted to make it on his own. He loved it when your uncle would sing his praises, but would never take his help. I urged him to often;after all, everyone needs a helping hand, but Levi was stubborn . . .’’
I stop listening as I try to remember that summer. How much he worked and how odd I thought it was that my uncle could only help him get gigs at small functions. It all made sense now and, not that it should matter anymore, but knowing that he refused my uncle\s help does matter.
After spending the day with Madeline, I drive away from the south bluff feeling a sense of peace I\ve never felt before. I think it comes from knowing my uncle was happy that he had found true love. His version may not have been like in the movies, but it was the way he chose to live his life and I can accept that.
It\s dark as I drive down US 1. I glance over at the ocean and up to study the stars, shining like little diamonds. Suddenly, I remember my grandmother reading me a book and after closing it glancing up at the sky, ’’See those shining lights?’’ she asked. ’’Whenever you\ e sad, wear something that sparkles and think of the stars and the sadness will be gone.’’ My hand moves to clutch the colored glass necklace that hangs around my neck, one of hers, and I suddenly understand why she had such a vast collection she was looking for happiness with them.
But I don\ have to look for happiness in her costume jewelry collections;I have someone who makes me happy. I just have to make it right with him. I\m not sure I can fix what I\ve broken between Jagger and me, but I know I can help him. So I pick up my phone and select Brett Hildebrandt from my list of contacts.
’’Hello?’’ he answers on the second ring.
’’Brett, it\s Aerie Daniels. I got your package yesterday.’’
I explain that I won\ hold the script up in court as long as he does two things for me. First is to tell the real love story that my uncle and Madeline Grayson shared and second to allow Jagger Kennedy to come back in and audition for the role before he makes his final selection. Of course, he agrees to both.
When I pull onto my street, I see small flickers of light lining the walkway to my front door. I park in the driveway, curious about what they are. When I get out, my heart stops. Cupcakes are on both sides, but not just any cupcakes Sprinkles black-and-white cupcakes with candles in them. I follow the glow up to my front door where a sign reads, ’’Alice, I take full responsibility for what happened.’’
I enter the house cautiously as my pulse races. His boots are on the mat that he never uses and when I glance up I see his blue quilted vest on the hook. On the first step is a cupcake with a small note ’’Eat me.’’
I can\ help but giggle in the movie Alice grows larger than the house when she eats the cake.
One step at a time, I move forward. Once I reach the top I see a bottle of water, and another sign ’’Drink me.’’
Again I giggle and I don\ care that I do Alice shrinking so small that she fits perfectly in the house is giggable stuff. He has the eat me and drink me reversed, but I don\ care. I have to find him. I see a glow from under the door to my room and when I open it, he comes into focus. With his arm wedged against the frame, the first thing I see is the upward tilt of his full lips and without a moment of hesitation, I crash my mouth into his. I\ve missed him, everything about him, and if he can forgive me for my actions, I want him back in my life.
He pulls away. Breathless, he asks, ’’Did you miss me?’’ like I was on an overnight trip and just got back.
I know I couldn\ possibly love him more than I already do. More tears fall from my eyes and I just don\ care. I trail my fingers over his smooth pale skin flecked with slight stubble, up his sculpted nose, and through his dark brown hair that always looks like he just rolled out of bed. Staring at him, I think: This man is my version of perfect.
’’Yes, Jagger Kennedy, I missed you.’’
’’Very, very much.’’
’’Are you sure?’’ he asks with that a smoldering grin that I can\ resist.
’’Yes, I\m sure,’’ I answer.
He places small gentle kisses on my lips, my jaw, my neck. In turn, I kiss his mouth, his stubble, and the spot I marked just a few days ago. Passion and desire pool within me. He pulls away and his eyes sweep me. Then he pulls me to the bed and onto his lap.
’’We need to discuss a few things,’’ he mutters in between his kisses.
’’I know,’’ I answer kissing him back.
’’First, I love you.’’
’’I love you, too,’’ I say my voice breaking on the words.
’’Second, I love you.’’
I giggle. ’’Is there a third?’’
’’Yes, I love you. Do you get it?’’
’’I get it.’’
’’Are you sure?’’
’’Listen, Aerie, I talked to Dahlia and she told me . . .’’
He tells me he told Dahlia and River about what happened between us and that Dahlia told him what happened to me after that summer with Levi. I tell him about Madeline, about my call to Brett, about my fears concerning him and his ex-girlfriend, and about my fear of things I can\ control sending me into a state of depression. We talk for almost an hour and he eases my fears. Jagger has a way that calms me.
’’Why didn\ you go for your final test today?’’ I finally ask.
’’You know why.’’
’’I do and I want you to play that role so I got you a second chance.’’
He shrugs off my attempt to reschedule his audition, but I insist that when Brett calls him, he go in.
’’Shh . . . no more talking about the movie,’’ he says. Then he slides his hands down my arms to lace in my fingers. ’’I think we have other things we can talk about.’’
’’Like what?’’ I breathe over his lips, my body already flushing in anticipation of what\s to come.
With a se*y smoldering grin, he says, ’’Tell me what you want.’’ Even before I answer, his fingers move under my silk blouse and make their way to my breasts.
Without any hesitation I tell him. ’’I want you to make love to me.’’
’’What else?’’ he asks.
’’I want you to make me come over and over.’’
’’I can do that,’’ he says with an upward tilt of his lips.