Dazed Page 5

But after the heartbreak of that last summer I\d spent in Laguna with Levi, I didn\ return until it was too late. For the longest time I felt like Levi took the few years I had left with my uncle from me. Now I know it was me who robbed myself of those years, because I didn\ want to go back. I wish I had made different decisions and often feel guilty that I didn\ .

I loved my Uncle Ian. Maybe more than I loved my parents. What wasn\ to love he was fun, full of adventure, had no rules. And he was unbelievably famous. As the lead bassist for the band Dazed, he lived the life of a rock star. Rolling Stone once said Dazed was the only band ever to have more influence on music than Led Zeppelin. And I believe that my uncle was the only musician to ever command a magazine cover more confidently than Robert Plant. Dazed may never have sold as many records as Led Zeppelin, and they might not have attracted as many concertgoers, but their sound will never be forgotten. But Uncle Ian\s death put an end to his legacy or so I thought initially.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer just before my high school graduation and only lived six more months. The cancer was ravaging his body and when we\d spoken on the phone, his optimism always made me feel that he would get through it, but I should have recognized how sick he was. When my parents told me we were all going to Laguna for the summer, I knew then that we were nearing the end and I didn\ even wince at the thought of seeing Levi. I knew my uncle needed me.

By the time we arrived, his health had deteriorated so much from when I had last seen him a few months previously. Madeline, Levi\s mother and my uncle\s next-door neighbor, had been helping him out. But when we arrived, she no longer had to. I spent every minute I could with him. A hospital bed was set up in his study and I slept on the couch beside him.

He didn\ want to die but he tried to prepare me for it. Nurses came every day, and he only got weaker. By the time the end of summer neared, he was sleeping more and more and had stopped eating solid foods. He had to talk in whispers to conserve energy. Sometimes he would hallucinate, sometimes he would cry, and sometimes he would laugh. He would pick at the sheets and I\d hold his hands to stop him. I\d stay with him for hours and just sit and talk to take his mind off the pain.

Then summer ended and I begged my parents to let me hold off on starting school until the second semester, but they refused. So I went to USC during the week and went back to my uncle\s on the weekends. And then it happened, when I was there. On a Friday night he asked me for a sip of water and coughed it up. We both noticed it was black. I told him I was sorry I gave him coke, so as not to worry him. But that night he couldn\ swallow his pills, so the nurse gave him some kind of shot in addition to extra doses of morphine through the pump. The next morning he was awake and grabbed my hand and tears spilled from his eyes.

’’My little darling, I\m dying,’’ he whispered.

’’I know,’’ I cried.

After the nurses left that morning, my parents begged me to go back to school. But I couldn\ . I knew he would be gone before I got back. So instead I stayed by his side. I kept my hand in his as his breathing quickened and grew shallow. Tears leaked down the side of his face and I\d wipe them. His eyes glazed over, but I knew he saw me. When his top lip turned bluish in color, his breathing slowed even further and he was staring. I thought he was staring at me until I noticed his breathing had stopped completely. And just like that, he was gone from my life.

And now Warner Bros. was making a movie about him. I\d already met with the executives last year and agreed to consult on the movie script. I wasn\ privy to all the information about my uncle\s life, but I was confident I knew enough. I was the keeper of his belongings awards, albums, documents, and his guitars.

The first meeting with the film producers was both a classic rock love-fest and a contentious boxing match between the biographers and the scriptwriters. The movie manuscript took over a year to come to fruition but I read it last month and couldn\ be prouder. Rather than be involved in the day-to-day workings of producing a movie, I released my rights and decided to let them do what they do best. I felt comfortable with the direction the movie was taking and work had grown crazy with so many new demands now that Damon was overseeing Sound Music, I just didn\ have the time to dedicate to it. My attorney wanted me to add an addendum that any major re-writes had to be approved by me, but I didn\ think that was necessary. Last I heard Brett Hildebrandt had been named the director, and I was happy to know they had hired one of the best.

I have to admit the idea of Jagger playing the role of my uncle intrigues me. Jagger is taller, much thinner, has darker hair, and honestly, better looking, but he does exude a similar confidence to my uncle. His looks could be downplayed. And for some reason I felt a certainty that beneath his lean, long body was a tower of strength the same strength my uncle exuded. Shoving my own insecurities aside I decide that I\ll help him.

The beach parking lot is deserted and just as I put the car in reverse, I get a text message from a New York number.

Are we on for lunch tomorrow?

Assuming it\s Jagger, I respond quickly: I haven\ decided yet.

How can I persuade you?

Let me pick the place.

Done. So I\ll pick you up at noon?

No. I\ll meet you.

That\s not how dates work.

I didn\ think this was a date.

Time seems suspended as I wait for a reply. Staring at my illuminated phone, I jump, startled when my phone rings from the same number that just texted me. The thunder in my pulse makes my finger shake as I slide it across the screen.

’’Hello,’’ I answer.

’’I would have called you to begin with, but I wasn\ sure if you\d still be awake,’’ a low sultry voice says through the line.

’’I\m not even home yet,’’ I answer, looking at the small silver watch on my right wrist.

’’It\s almost 1:30. I thought it was an hour drive? Is everything okay?’’

’’Yes.’’ I laugh. ’’I just had a stop to make. I\m heading home now.’’ I ease my foot off the brake and start to pull out of the parking lot.

’’An oil change?’’ he jokes.

’’No, definitely not an oil change.’’

’’Well, when you\ e in need you let me know. I just might be able to hook you up with an excellent service center.’’

’’I\ll keep that in mind.’’

’’So about lunch tomorrow. I thought you should know I really want to see you again. It\s not just about your uncle.’’

’’Oh, okay,’’ I say, sounding incredibly stupid, but not knowing how else to respond. I\ve never been asked out on an afternoon date. Then, I hear voices in the background.

’’Is that Dahlia?’’

’’No. She and River went to bed. It\s just me, the TV, and the dead bodies.’’

We both laugh and the sound of his laugh makes me laugh harder. Once our laughter fades he asks, ’’So I\ll pick you up then?’’

’’No, let\s meet at the Loft in Laguna. Say one.’’

’’Do you not want to ride in my car?’’

’’How\d you guess?’’ I tease.

’’I knew it.’’

’’No really, it\s just easier that way.’’

’’Okay, for this time. You need to get your comfort level up. I get it.’’

And he did. What could I say to that?

’’Hey, can I ask you something?’’ he asks.

’’I\m not sure. What is it?’’ I manage to sound relaxed when I\m anything but.

’’Do you ever take the top down?’’

I\m not the joking kind but I know exactly how to answer. ’’No. Never. In fact I\m not even sure I know how.’’

A beat. A pause. I can tell he\s thinking. He\s been doing this all night asking me a question and then quietly processing my answer.

’’Jagger, I\m pulling into my neighborhood, but I\ll see you tomorrow.’’

’’I hope so, Alice,’’ he responds before the line goes dead.

There\s a line from Alice in Wonderland that tugs at my thoughts. The quote says something about being different yesterday than you are today and it strikes me as overly philosophical to have come from a fairy tale written in the 1800s, and yet it\s completely on the mark. Signaling, I take a right and head toward my house tucked deep away in Laguna Canyon. Easing past the community pool and the tennis courts, I come to a stop in front of the attached garage of my cape cod-style townhouse. My home backs up to a wooded hill and has a beautiful private patio where in the mornings I could sip my tea and listen to the birds sing while the sunlight filters through the large trees I could, but I never have.

The garage door lifts and my car fits perfectly in its immaculately clean space. After walking into the house, I flick on the overhead lights in the kitchen. I set the brown bag on the counter and peer inside. A single cupcake sits with a Post-it note stuck to the side of the bag that says, ’’I really am sorry I stole your cupcakes. Please forgive me.’’ Closing the bag, I remember Jagger\s advice and put it in the refrigerator with a grin. Then I look around at my kitchen striking espresso hardwood cabinetry trimmed in brass, shiny old world black appliances, and beautiful marble counters top it . . . the look is one of old Hollywood elegance. I passed on purchasing this place after my initial walk-through because the all-white walls and nautical theme was more than I could bear. But nothing else I looked at compared to the location and layout of this place. So two years ago I made the decision to buy it. But before I moved in, I planned out every detail of the remodel with my designer and I must say the results were fabulous. Yet, sadly, I realize, as I look at my Herman Miller barstools, that the only person to have ever seen it is Dahlia. I have allowed work to occupy my life and socializing has lost its place.

I walk into the living room and just admire it. Cameron, my designer, steered me toward using hues of burnished metals and lustrous minerals malachite, onyx, rose gold, silver, and copper. A metallic swivel armchair is strategically set by the large picture window showcasing the wooden hills behind it. A Murano glass chandelier rests above the polished travertine cocktail table flanked by twin velveteen sofas of which I\ve only ever sat on one. A gas fireplace centers the room and a TV hangs above it, neither of which I can recall the last time I switched on. Finally, an old speakeasy bar I\ve never had a drink at burdens one corner. Everything is perfectly coordinated.

The staircase is fitted with a very safe iron railing and I take the steps one at a time, a glass of water in one hand and my purse on my shoulder. Upstairs are the master suite and guest bedroom, which I\ve turned into my office and furnished with a marble and brass desk, two plush burnt orange chairs with brushed nail heads placed perfectly in front of a floor to ceiling window, and an old wooden file cabinet that belonged to my uncle. This is the room where I spend most of my time. Glancing around I think it would probably be good for me to go through my uncle\s things. I\d moved them from a storage unit I\d had since college into this room\s closet and file cabinet. But I\ve never really gone through them.

The lamps cast a soft glow around my bedroom as I enter. The custom rose-petal colored wallpaper reflecting off the mirrored wall that includes the sliding doors of my closet makes the room look like a silk lined jewelry box and it\s my favorite place in the house.

Once I\ve pulled out a pair of soft pajama bottoms and a tank top from my drawer, I consider skipping my nighttime routine of washing my face and brushing my teeth. It\s late and I\m tired, but I just can\ do it. Walking into the room that reminds me most of my grandmother, a starlet who graced the silver screen, I admire the surroundings. It\s sheathed in glass tiles that remind me of her golden colored hair. The light fixtures of mottled glass and hammered metal punctuate the double sinks and the artful bronze knobs. My grandmother was a collector of costume jewelry. Her collection, now mine, was vast and I used some of the pieces to decorate this room. Her favorite broach holds back the shower curtain and glass beads sewn onto panels of silk stream down the window.

Looking into one of the large oval bathroom mirrors, I pull my yoga clothes off and stare. My uncle always said I looked like my grandmother and judging from pictures, I do. My prominent cheekbones are the same as hers, but my overbite was taken care of with braces where hers only leant to her offbeat beauty. I have a few curves that I work hard to keep from getting bigger. I tug my burnished golden hair down and let it flow over my shoulders in waves. It\s long enough to cover my breasts. I never wear it down but in every picture I\ve seen of my grandmother, her hair is always down and draped to one side.

A yawn overtakes me and I hurry through my nighttime routine until I\m finally lying under the silken coverlet of my bed. Before shutting off the light, I pick up the picture on my night table Ava Daniels, my grandmother, was a striking woman. She was born in Brooklyn to wealthy parents. She attended finishing school in Switzerland and met my grandfather there. He was much older than she and passed away shortly after my uncle was born. After he died she brought her boys back to the United States and embarked on a career on Broadway before she was signed to a contract with 20th Century Fox.

Like the roles she played, she battled a troubled emotional life . . . one that often included hospitalization and shock treatment for depression. She found her career hard to manage and eventually gave it up. My father and my uncle were raised by nannies. My father never talks about my grandmother, but my uncle always did. He too fought all his life against the encroaching darkness but unlike her, I think he managed it much better. Unfortunately, my grandmother died of uterine cancer when I was five years old, before I ever really got to know her.

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