She was on her lunch break when he called to tell her the news.
“You’re going to Hollywood?” she exclaimed.
“Yes. Lorna called me last night and told me.”
“For how long?”
“Three and a half weeks.”
“When do you leave?”
“Do you want to come over later and have dinner?”
“Good. I’ll see you at seven.”
“See you then.”
She ended the call.
It had been a week since they had dinner with Sophie and her husband, Robin. During that time, she couldn’t stop thinking about him rubbing her hand. He had done it to put the waitress off and had succeeded but then, there was that curious expression on his face. Her heart skipped a beat every time she thought about it. Then, she chided herself. They were good friends, that was all. He was still in a relationship. It didn’t matter that he and she seemed to be spending more time together lately. The fact remained, he was still unavailable.
When he went over to her apartment, they would have dinner, chat for a while and then he would leave. It was all perfectly innocent. Two good friends spending time with each other before he left for a three and a half week trip to Hollywood.
As soon as she finished work, she rushed home, prepared Parmesan Crusted Tilapia wild rice and Parmesan Broccoli and took a quick shower. At exactly seven-thirty, Stuart arrived. The dining table was set. “This looks and smells great,” he remarked as she set his plate before him.
She smiled and sat down opposite him. “I hope you enjoy it.”
“I’m sure I will.”
“Does Natalia cook?” she couldn’t resist asking.
“So, you do the cooking.”
“How does she feel about you going to Hollywood?”
“She’s not pleased, of course.”
“Somehow I’m not surprised to hear that.”
“So, what are you going to do with yourself while I’m away?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Read, watch TV, goes for walks, I guess.”
“Isn’t that what you usually do?”
“Yes. What about you? What are you doing to do with yourself when you’re not meeting with the director, the cast, the screenwriter, etc?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll visit the La Brea Tar Pits and George C. Page Museum, The Griffith Observatory, catch a show at The Hollywood Bowl, take a walk down Hollywood Boulevard.”
“Where did you go the other times you were in Hollywood?”
“I’ve been to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to the hillside where the famous Hollywood sign is, Universal Studios, Griffith Park, TCL Chinese Theater, Sunset Strip, Madame Tussauds & the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Hollywood Museum.”
“Wow. You’ve seen a lot.”
“There are still places I haven’t seen as yet. I don’t think I can fit them in this time, though. Perhaps the next time I visit there.”
“Have you met a lot of celebrities while you were there?”
“Yes. Some of them are nice and some are not so nice.”
“When I was in New York, my sister, my brother-in-law and I had dinner at Park Side Restaurant where we spotted Selena Gomez and Adam Sandler. It was pretty exciting. And when we went to Barclays Center to watch the Brooklyn Nets play, we saw 50 Cent and Naomi Campbell. She’s still stunning.”
“As far as I’m concerned, celebrities are just regular people made famous by ordinary people whom most of them wouldn’t even acknowledge. Where would any of them be if it weren’t for the fans?”
“I guess you’re right.”
“I admire the celebrities like Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp and Nana Patekar who don’t forget where they’ve come from, remain humble and do what they can to help others. I’ve met celebrities who don’t act like their entitled and are friendly and down to earth.”
“My aunt said she met Martin Sheen years ago at a Fall Launch event and that he walked right up to her and said, ‘Hi, I’m Martin.’ She said that he was super friendly and she got her picture taken with him.”
“I met him once found him to be a very nice man. He was patient and friendly with everyone who went up to him. He signed autographs and took pictures with people. I wish if all celebrities were like him.”
“Me too. I’ve heard stories about Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lawrence, Cameron Diaz and Jerry Seinfeld. Apparently, they have all been really mean to their fans.”
“So, I’ve heard. Seinfeld has been rude to interviewers and talk show hosts as well. Anyway, enough about the good, the bad and the ugly celebrities. Let’s talk about something else.”
“I enjoyed dinner at Bha Bha and it was really nice meeting Sophie and Robin. Do they have any children?”
“Not as yet. They only got married last year.”
“Really? They don’t act like newlyweds. They act like they’ve been married for years.”
“Well, they had been dating for five years before they tied the knot.”
“They’re perfect for each other.”
“Yes, they are.”
“They’re on their way to Queensland now.”
“Yes. I can’t stop thinking about you in that dress.”
She swallowed hard and her heart skipped a beat when she saw the expression on his face. “I’m glad you liked the dress.”
“I liked you in it.”
“Thanks for lunch, Shandra.”
“I’d better go now.”
“Are you sure you can’t stay longer?”
“I’m afraid not.” He stood up.
She got up from the table too and followed him into the foyer. He turned to face her. “Have a safe trip,” she said.
“Thanks. I’ll see you when I get back.”
“Goodbye, Shandra. Stay out of trouble.”
She smiled. “I should be telling you that not the other way around.”
He smiled and then, he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. She closed her eyes, her heart racing. When he drew back, their eyes met and held for several minutes. Her skin tingled where his lips had been. Then, he turned and opened the door. She watched him walk down the hallway until she couldn’t see him anymore.
Three and half weeks was a long time for them not to see each other. She hoped that the days would go by quickly but she had a sinking feeling that they wouldn’t. Sighing heavily, she went back inside her apartment which suddenly felt very empty and lonely.