They were in Washington. They arrived Friday night and Shandra was relieved that she had her own room. After dumping her stuff off, she went to check out his suite which was massive. She had been worried that they would end up sharing it but there was a last minute cancellation and his agent, Mia had snagged it for her. She hung out for a while with Stuart and then, he walked her back to her room.
Over the weekend and yesterday, they went sightseeing and she was in Stuart’s suite. It was Tuesday afternoon and while he was doing something on the laptop, she relaxed on the floor watching him. “Are you nervous?”
“Nervous? No. I’m used to this.”
“So, what exactly happens at these live conversations?”
“It’s a casual type of interview. The hostess will introduce me, we will talk for a while and then, at the end, there will be time for people to ask questions in person or virtually. That’s my favorite part of these types of event. I like to engage with the public.”
“I don’t know how you do it. I would be very nervous.”
He smiled. “I can’t imagine you being nervous about anything.”
“You’re right. Very few things make me nervous.”
“Would you like to come with me or would you prefer to do some more sightseeing on your own?”
“No. I’m going to come with you.”
“All right. And after we’re done there, we’ll have dinner at 1789.”
“Yes. It’s a nice old restaurant. You’ll like it.”
“I’m glad I came. I like Washington. There’s so much to see and do.”
“Yes, there is. I want to show you the Main Reading Room and the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building before we head to the auditorium.” He closed the laptop and placed it back into its bag. “Let’s go.”
She got up from the floor and followed him into the foyer. They left the suite and rode down in the elevator. A cab took them to their destination. Stuart gave her a mini-tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building. He showed her the Main Reading and the elaborately decorated interior of Great Hall with its, housing works of art from close to fifty American painters and sculptors. She stood under the Commemorative Arch leading to the Main Reading Room and admired its sculpture, The Students which represented the pursuit of knowledge. “This is a beautiful work of art,” she remarked. “I love the mosaic.”
“It’s of Minerva, the Roman Goddess of learning and wisdom.”
“How appropriate. I’m a big fan of Roman and Greek mythology.”
There was a bust of Thomas Jefferson on the North side of the Hall. “She reminds me a little of the Statue of Liberty,” Shandra said when she saw the bronze statue of female figure on newel post holding a torch of electric light. “I like these little guys,” she said about the two cherubs on the Grand staircase. Between them was a globe.
“They’re representing Asia and Europe,” Stuart told her. He drew her attention to the cherubs representing North America and Africa before showing her the Grand staircase’s balustrade which was ornamented with three cherubs, representing the fine arts.
“Oh, there’s a bronze bust of George Washington over here.”
There was so much to see in the Grand Hall that by the time they were done, there wasn’t time to actually go into the Main Reading Room. “Perhaps, we can do that afterwards,” Stuart told her. They headed for the auditorium. It was 2:40pm. The live conversation was to start at 3. They parted company. While she went inside the large auditorium to find a seat, he was escorted away, perhaps to meet the hostess. The place was filling up but she managed to find a seat close to the front.
As she sat there, she looked around at the interior of the auditorium. She had read that in October 1924, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge had offered Congress a gift of $60,000 to finance the construction of an auditorium for the Music Division at the Library of Congress. It was originally designed and built for chamber music but now it reflected the diversity of American music.
The hostess coming out on the stage signaled that the event was about to begin. Shandra sat there, excited and she waited anxiously for Stuart to appear. As soon as he stepped out, there was a thundering applause accompanied by whistles and cheers. Shandra smiled. He was a celebrity–a best selling, Pulitzer and Oscar winning writer. No doubt these were all fans who had read his books and seen the movie based on one of his books.
The hostess, Alanna Reid, a renown journalist, in her late forties, was very engaging. She and Stuart interacted as if they were old friends. It was hard to believe that this was the first time they were meeting each other. The conversation was lively and humorous at times. The time went by so quickly and it was time for the audience to ask questions. Most of the questions were about the upcoming movie adaption of his book, Lost in Lava Swirls. However, there were a few really great questions like, What are common traps for aspiring writers?, What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What was your hardest scene to write?, How do you select the names of your characters? and What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? She could see that Stuart loved those questions and was thrilled to answer them and even Alanna Reid complimented the people who asked them.
And then, it was over. There was a period for people to talk personally with Stuart and to even take photos with him. Then, Shandra and he were out of there after he introduced her to Alanna. It was five-thirty and they were hungry. They took a cab to 1789. Over salads and Brioche-crusted Halibut and roasted rack of lamb, they talked about the conversation with Alanna Reid and being in Washington.
Afterwards, they went for a walk in the National Historic Park. It was a few minutes past eight and the sun hadn’t set as yet. They found a place to sit. “I’m happy you came to Washington with me,” Stuart said.
“I’ve been to Washington a couple of times but I really enjoyed my visit this time because of you.”
She smiled. “I’m happy to hear that.”
“Your birthday is coming up soon, isn’t it?”
“Yes. In two weeks.”
“Have about a night on the town with me?”
“Are you serious?”
“Of course, I’m serious. Don’t you want to spend your birthday with me?”
“Of course, I do.”
“Maybe you can wear that red dress again,” he said, hopefully.
“You’re really stuck on it, aren’t you?”
“I can’t get over how you looked in it.”
“I have another dress which I think you’ll like more.”
“Yes.” She rose to her feet.
He stood up and stretched. “I guess we should be heading back to the hotel now.”
“It’s only eight-fifteen. Why don’t we go somewhere else for a while? I don’t want to go back to the hotel yet.”
“I know a place where we can go.”
They took a cab to The Brixton, a British pub and headed upstairs to the roof deck when they enjoyed memorable views and sipped cocktails as they watched the sun set. By the time, they got back to the hotel, it was after eleven.