Disclaimers: Nope, sorry, can't say there are any. All of the characters are mine. I take full responsibility for all of their actions. Hmm ... On second thought ... I've never seen them before in my life. They just followed me home one day ... really ...
Violence/Sex: No violence, I don't think. I guess that would depend on what you mean by "violence" ... I don't think there is any. You can decide for yourself. And sex? Umm ... I'll go on the safe side and say there will be. But don't go suing me for false advertisement if you can't find any. It really depends on what you mean by sex. As there are people in some cultures that show their affection by licking each other's eyeballs, it is possible that my definition of sex may be different than yours. Mine may involve cows in ballet slippers for instance ... wait, that doesn't sound right ...
Warning: This story involves an in-the closet actress, online relationships, Puerto Ricans, the Spanish language, Starbucks coffee, angels, boyfriends, sexual relationships between women .. and a ton of other random things that poured forth from my artistic loins. If none of the above things interest you, then you may not want to partake in this little tour of my demented psyche.
Dedication: to you and you and you you and you .. to people living with living with ... ::notices there are people watching:: Ahem. Sorry. Too much "RENT" for me. Strike that. There can never be too much RENT. Unless it's the kind you have to pay. But my point.. and I do have one .. is that this story is dedicated to you. Thank you for taking the time to delve into my madness. What a brave soul you are .. muahahaha <coughcough>
Special Thanks: To Amber, Cindy, Camilla, Christy, Amy, and Robin. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't know what I'd do without you guys.
Write me: Cause I'd love to know what you think. I may be reached at email@example.com
* * *
How was your final? I think I'll go out on a limb and take a guess that the Art History exam wasn't quite as tedious as that Shakespeare paper. ;o)
I'm sorry about Nathan. But from the little you've told me about him, it sounds to me as though you're better off without him. Why be with someone who obviously doesn't appreciate you? You can do so much better than that, Kris. You're too wonderful a person to let anyone mistreat you. You deserve so much more than that.
Take it from a lesbian who's never even had a date. :o)
Anyway, on to a different topic. I would never dream of not paying for your art work, so don't even think about giving it to me for free. I'm an avid shopper and would feel completely cheated if you were to rob me of the pleasure of purchasing it. I'm adamant about this so don't bother arguing.
I'd love to chat with you again. Just let me know when is good for you and I'll be there.
Until then ...
* * *
The exam went really well, actually. It was one of my favorite classes and I'm going to miss it a lot, but I'm even happier that school is out. I may get a job at Starbucks with Leigh. I really need to help my parents out with the rent this summer. They can't support me forever. It's bad enough that they pay my rent all school year. I feel so bad about that.
Speaking of feeling guilty, I couldn't take your money! Maybe we can come up with some kind of compromise that won't take away from your shopping ideals, but won't compromise my integrity as your friend, either.
So, what kind of acting do you do? Leigh keeps getting cast in these weird experimental plays that were surely written and directed while under the influence of something strong. She really wants to get into film though. What little money she can spare, she puts away for her big move to L.A. Hey, maybe someday the two of you will be neighbors.
Like I said, with school out, I'm always free. Until I get a job, that is. In the meantime, I'm yours whenever. How about Saturday? Six o'clock, your time? Let me know.
* * *
KMilan05: You sure are punctual
PoetnAngel: Only when I have good reason to be :o)
KMilan05: You've got a hot date online, or something?
PoetnAngel: Something like that. What's your excuse?
KMilan05: Just meeting some girl. It's part of my Adopt-a-Lesbian volunteer program
PoetnAngel: LOL. How are you?
KMilan05: Pretty good. Yourself?
PoetnAngel: Eh. I had to go pick out dresses today. Not a fun endeavor.
KMilan05: Dresses, huh? What's the big occasion?
PoetnAngel: Oh nothing very important. I have a few places to be in the upcoming weeks and I must look halfway decent.
KMilan05: I see. Are you always so vague?
"Only when I'm trying not to lie," Julianne said, shaking her head. She ran a frustrated hand through her hair and glanced around the bedroom. So far her day had been a nightmare. She loathed arguing with her fashion designer. But she was too lazy to fire him and get a new one. I should've just gone to Target and picked something out. It would've saved me the headache. Not to mention the money.
PoetnAngel: I like to be mysterious.
KMilan05: Consider yourself successful. What else did you do today?
PoetnAngel: Um. I had a picnic on the beach.
KMilan05: By yourself?
PoetnAngel: Well the sand and the water kept me company.
KMilan05: Don't you get lonely?
PoetnAngel: Nah. I'm used to it. Besides, it's better that way. Life is a lot simpler when you're by yourself.
KMilan05: Simple yet boring.
PoetnAngel: Hey! My life is plenty exciting.
KMilan05: Oh yeah? Shopping for dresses and having a picnic by yourself?
PoetnAngel: Hmph. What did you do today?
KMilan05: Uh. I went white water rafting this morning. Then I took a jet to Paris where I was wined and dined by gorgeous celebrities. Then I went bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower. I'm really quite exhausted.
PoetnAngel: Wow. I guess you're right. My life is pretty boring.
KMilan05: I told you. You ought to listen to me more often.
PoetnAngel: So what's your advice for making my life more interesting?
KMilan05: Well, I suppose you can start by going out on a date.
KMilan05: The first girl you see tomorrow.
PoetnAngel: And what if she's straight?
KMilan05: Then I suppose you're going to have to be very charming.
PoetnAngel: I see. So, if some random yet very charming girl came up to you and asked you out on a date, you would say yes?
KMilan05: I'm not sure. What does this random yet very charming girl look like?
Julianne cocked her head to the side as she studied the conversation on the screen of her computer. Is she flirting with me? Am I flirting with her? "Why are women so damn impossible to comprehend?"
PoetnAngel: Well, she's tall.
KMilan05: Tall is good.
PoetnAngel: Yeah? So you like tall?
KMilan05: Well I've never really thought about it. But I suppose I'd like someone taller than me.
PoetnAngel: And how tall are you?
KMilan05: I am 5'4" and a half.
PoetnAngel: When you take pride in that half an inch you know you're short
KMilan05: Hey! Not funny. How tall are you?
PoetnAngel: I'm 4'5"
PoetnAngel: How do you know? I could very well be that short. You could have just hurt my feelings.
KMilan05: Did I?
KMilan05: Are you?
PoetnAngel: I'm 5'10" and a half.
KMilan05: Should I believe you?
PoetnAngel: Probably not.
KMilan05: Ugh! So you're lying?
PoetnAngel: Nope :o)
KMilan05: You're really that tall?
PoetnAngel: Ah-huh. Milk, it does a body good.
KMilan05: Maybe I should've tried that. So tell me more about this random yet charming girl
Julianne frowned. I think she's definitely flirting.
* * *
Kris covered her face with her hands. What am I doing?? She's going to think I'm flirting with her. She paused to glance at the conversation. Maybe because I am flirting with her. Maybe Leigh is right. I'm doing one of those ... things with the switching and the batting. And ... ugh. I'm losing my mind.
PoetnAngel: Well what else do you want to know?
KMilan05: How does she feel about short Nuyorican women?
PoetnAngel: Oh, she doesn't like them much. She prefers taller women.
PoetnAngel: Yeah, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
KMilan05: So then why would she ask me out?
PoetnAngel: Oh well, she forgot to put in her contacts that day.
Kris found herself laughing. Why haven't you gone out with anyone, Julia Raye? I'm willing to bet it's not from lack of offers.
KMilan05: So do you prefer blondes with blue eyes too?
PoetnAngel: Really doesn't matter to me.
KMilan05: Alright, well, the last woman you checked out, what did she look like?
PoetnAngel: My waitress the other day. She had short, spiky brown hair. And a nose ring.
KMilan05: So you like the punk type?
PoetnAngel: I like every type ;o) What about you? The last guy you checked out, what did he look like?
"Hmm," Kris considered the question. She honestly couldn't remember the last time she'd checked anyone out. It made her feel guilty, like she was cheating on Nathan. Maybe it was time to start looking.
KMilan05: Ask me again in a few days. I haven't gotten that far in singlehood.
PoetnAngel: You're one of those really monogamous people, aren't you?
KMilan05: Guilty as charged. Would you ever cheat on someone?
PoetnAngel: Nah. I prefer my life as simple and with as little drama as possible.
KMilan05: Boring, you mean?
PoetnAngel: Well, I can't compete with you and your bungee jumping
KMilan05: You're right. Your life could never be as exciting as mine.
PoetnAngel: Precisely, so I shouldnąt even bother
KMilan05: Right, no need to get your hopes up
PoetnAngel: So what did you really do today?
KMilan05: LOL. You mean, you didn't buy the white water rafting story?
PoetnAngel: Not even a little bit.
KMilan05: Damn. Well, I watched TV and then I visited Leigh at work. I picked up an application. I filled it out. Then I watched some more TV. That's about it.
PoetnAngel: That's what you did today? And you criticize my picnic on the beach?
KMilan05: LOL. Well, I suppose when you put it that way...
Kris glanced up from the computer as she heard the lock on the door click open. A moment later, Leigh stepped inside the apartment, a puddle of water instantly forming at her feet.
"I hate the rain," she announced, pushing clumps of matted-down red hair away from her face. "I hate it a lot." She slipped out of her shoes and tip-toed across the kitchen, glancing quickly at Kris. "Speaking to your cyber lover?"
Kris chose to ignore the comment. "You're going to soak the carpet," she warned.
"I'll just take my clothes off in here." She paused and smiled knowingly. "You'd like that wouldn't you?" She patted Kris's head. "Fine. But I'm not doing a striptease for you."
"Thank God," Kris replied with a shudder. She ignored a now stripping Leigh, and returned her attention to the conversation with Julia.
PoetnAngel: Glad you agree that my life isn't that boring
KMilan05: I never really said I agreed. Sorry for the delay, my roommate just got home and now she's stripping in the kitchen. She's a bit unbalanced...
PoetnAngel: Do you guys strip in the kitchen often?
KMilan05: Yeah, it's an old New York City tradition. Every time you step into an apartment you have to take your clothes off.
PoetnAngel: Funny, I must have missed that in the brochure
KMilan05: That's what you get for not reading the fine print
PoetnAngel: LOL. Hey, I don't suppose you watch the MTV Movie Awards?
KMilan05: Leigh watches them religiously. She claims she's gonna be up there some day so she must prepare herself spiritually. She even lights candles around the TV when the Academy Awards are on. Why?
PoetnAngel: Oh... just curious. I just saw a commercial for them.
"How long have you been talking to her?" Leigh asked, returning from her bedroom. She was now wearing shorts and a tee shirt. Her hair was wrapped up in a bright blue towel.
"None of your business, Marge," Kris responded.
Leigh leaned over behind Kris, reading the conversation on the computer screen. "Unbalanced?" she asked with mock outrage. "I am perfectly balanced. I should've been a trapeze artist."
Kris chose not to comment on that particular point.
"And I do not light candles around the TV," she argued, slapping Kris's arm. "The shrine is in my bedroom."
"Do you mind?" Kris asked meaningfully.
"What, you need privacy to talk to her?" Leigh asked. "If you're going to have cyber sex, take it into the bedroom. And don't forget to use protection."
"Not funny," Kris replied. "Go watch TV."
Leigh threw her nose in the air and stormed off. "You are so not fun."
Julianne found herself on stage with five hundred pairs of eyes focused in her direction. She gripped the microphone tighter and forced herself to breathe. This is neither the time nor place to get stage fright. "Hello everyone," she greeted the crowd, that was still applauding and cheering her entrance. She did her best to smile through the storm of bright flashes clicking away in her direction. Just breathe. Breathing is good. Breathing will keep you from passing out. Passing out is bad.
As the crowd quieted, Julianne spoke again. "I'm really happy to be here with you guys. This is my first time doing one of these shindigs so please be gentle."
A few people whistled, which Julianne found oddly encouraging. "When I took the part of Kiara, I never imagined that the show would gather such a healthy following. I definitely never expected to be standing here right now in front of all of you. And boy is there a lot of you." Did I say that out loud? "I'm really not sure what to talk about so I'll just let you guys ask me some questions." Why am I so lame? I was definitely not made for public speaking.
Hundreds of arms shot up in the air.
Oh shit. I must have been out of my mind when I agreed to do this. She pointed to a random person, who stood and addressed her nervously. Are all my fans little boys? she wondered. Maybe if Kiara got a girlfriend we could spice things up a little.
The boy smiled dreamily up at the stage. "You're beautiful," he informed her..
Julianne found herself blushing in spite of herself. Way to be tough, Franqui. "Thank you," she replied. "You're not so bad yourself."
His jaw hung open as he plopped back down in his seat.
Well that was easy. She watched the sea of arms shoot upward again. This time she selected a woman, who sported a Guardian tee shirt. Julianne was mildly surprised. She didn't even know they had those.
The woman, who didn't appear to be much older than Julianne herself, coughed nervously. "Could you give us a hint as to what we can expect from the film? Will it be a lot different from the TV show?"
Julianne blinked a few times. The woman had spoken so quickly that Julianne hadn't understood a blessed word. She smiled. "I understood the word film in there somewhere."
The crowd laughed good-naturedly and the woman blushed to the roots of her light hair. She repeated both questions, slowly this time, and sat down.
Julianne felt like giggling for some reason. This was kind of fun. Who knew she could make women blush so easily? And she's kind of cute. She instantly remembered that there were expectant eyes focused on her every move. "Let's see. You can expect much better special effects." The audience clapped at this. "Kiara may find a love interest." At this point there was a low murmur in the crowd. "And there's a very surprise ending." She was pleased when the murmuring grew louder.
"It'll be different from the TV show," she continued, "in various ways. Our budget is bigger so the costumes are really nice. Kiara's wings actually move and stuff which is pretty cool." Way to be articulate. "Also, we don't have to worry as much about censorship so we've taken a few liberties." Boring, heterosexual liberties but liberties nonetheless. "I think it'll all fit nicely with the series once it resumes in the fall."
Julianne braced herself for the next series of questions. The next hour passed by faster than she would've imagined possible. She'd been the last on the roster of cast members scheduled to speak at the convention, so once she was done, she was quickly ushered behind a table where the autograph signing session would begin.
If anything, this was even scarier than facing the five hundred people from the stage. Now she actually had to interact with them on an individual basis. Julianne's stomach churned at the thought.
Someone from the convention committee stood on stage and gave everyone instructions on how to go about getting their autographs.
"You look slightly ill," Max Trouy informed her from his spot beside her. "You okay?"
Julianne forced a smile in his direction. Horrible actor, but relatively nice guy. "Just a little nervous," she replied.
"They're just fans," Max reminded her, shrugging his shoulders in a dismissive fashion.
Just fans. Just fans. Julianne repeated the words in her mind, hoping they'd offer her some comfort.
As the line assembled, Julianne couldn't help but wish that by some miracle, Kris would be in the crowd. That somehow she'd be able to recognize her. I'm totally losing my mind. But thinking about Kris made her feel slightly better.
An anxious fan handed Julianne a glossy 8x10 picture of Kiara. "You are the best angel ever," the little girl said.
Julianne found herself smiling as she scribbled her signature on the photograph. "Well, thank you very much," she said, glancing up. "What's your name?"
"Erin," the girl said happily.
Julianne quickly wrote, "To Erin," above the signature. "Thanks for coming to see me, Erin," she said and handed the picture back to the girl.
Erin bit her lip nervously for a moment. "Um, can I have a hug?"
Julianne blinked in surprise. "S-sure," she stammered. Why am I such a bumbling idiot? She tried to cover her nervousness with a smile.
The girl ran around the table and threw her arms around Julianne. "This is the best day of my life," Erin declared excitedly into Julianne's ear.
It's a good thing you're still young, kid. Julianne found herself chuckling.
Erin ended the hug and ran off to show her mom the signature, leaving Julianne slightly stunned. Well, that was a first. She cleared her throat and turned to the next awaiting fan. This time it was a hairy middle aged man, wearing a torn Kiss tee shirt.
Don't even think about asking for a hug, buddy. Julianne narrowed her eyes slightly in warning.
After an hour, Julianne's hand began to cramp up, but she refused to stop. She didn't think it would be fair for the people still waiting in line to have to go home empty handed just because her butt was numb and her hand was permanently molded to the Sharpie. She opened her hand and closed it painfully a few times while she waited for the next person to appear.
"I didn't mean to speak so fast before."
Julianne glanced up and into a pair of beautiful brown eyes. She found herself momentarily at a loss for words. She's even cuter up close. What was that Kris said? Something about charm? She smiled. "That's alright. It's not often I get to make women blush so easily," she found herself saying. Charming does not equal blatant flirting, you eeeeeediot!
In response, the woman blushed furiously once again in a way that Julianne found incredibly adorable. Hastily, she handed Julianne the photograph she carried.
Julianne was surprised to see that it wasn't one of her in character. Interesting. "Who should I make this out to?"
"Sam," the woman said quickly, "antha."
Julianne's brows disappeared into her hairline.
Sam giggled nervously. "Samantha," she explained. "Sorry. You can just make it out to Sam."
Well, at least she's too nervous to notice how nervous I am. Julianne ignored the temptation to write, "Wanna go out sometime?" on the picture. Instead, she scribbled, "To Sam Antha. Thanks for watching the show. Sincerely, Julianne Franqui." There. That's platonic enough. She handed the picture back with a grin. "Enjoy."
Sam smiled. "Thank you," she squeaked and walked off.
Julianne watched her walk away and grinned slightly. I should do these convention things more often.
* * *
Adrian watched as Julianne paced around the living room. It's what she generally did when she was in the middle of some kind of crisis, so he was used to it. Julianne was always in the middle of a crisis, even though she was the only one who saw it that way.
For his part, Adrian attempted to watch TV, but the Phillips flat screen kept getting blocked every now and then by the back and forth movements of his best friend. "Julianne," he said, softly. "STOP!"
Julianne complied, but managed to do so right in front of the TV. "What?" she demanded. "I'm not doing anything to you!"
"Would you mind pacing somewhere else?" Adrian requested, waving his arm in a frantic pattern which he hoped would indicate his wishes for her to move. "I'm trying to appreciate this hot piece of ass right here." He motioned to the very fine woman on television, who remained partly obstructed by a different hot piece of ass that was unfortunately way out of his league.
Julianne took a dramatic step to her left. She glanced quickly at the woman to whom Adrian was referring to and shook her head. "You have the weirdest taste in women," she commented.
Adrian considered the woman on television. "Do you think those are real?"
"I'm not going to discuss breasts with you, Adrian."
"Breasts?" Adrian asked, feigning insult. "I was referring to her ears."
Julianne stepped in front of the TV once again, and hit the power button. The woman with the incredibly huge ... ears ... disappeared in a flash. "I need a favor," she announced, turning around to face her best friend.
"Why does my stomach hurt every time you tell me that?" Adrian asked, sinking slightly into the black velvet couch. He regarded his best friend with trepidation. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"
Julianne smiled. He was going to hate it, but that didnąt mean he wouldnąt do it. "I think I've got a solution to our little award problem," she said.
"Our little award problem?" he asked. "You mean, your little award problem."
Julianne ignored him. "Now, the plan is really quite simple."
"The plan," Adrian repeated slowly. "I don't like the word 'plan' coming from your mouth. That means you've been thinking and I don't like it when you think, Julianne."
"Like I said," she continued, resuming her pacing, "it's very simple. All we need is a wig and like a new nose and maybe a new chin. And some contacts." She stopped to survey his reaction.
"New nose?" Nope, he didn't like where this was going at all.
Julianne rushed over to sit by his side. "Look, this will be really good for you. If people out there think you're my boyfriend, what is that going to do to your sex life? You can't go around cheating on me after I declared to the world that you were the most wonderful man I knew. What would that say about my taste in men?"
Adrian stopped to consider that last question. Surely, there was a snappy comeback for that one. Damn if he could figure it out. He was slightly distracted by Julianne's perfume. Why did she have to smell so damn nice all the time?
"So, I'm really doing you a favor by trying to conceal your identity," Julianne went on. "You can continue to lead your own life. And Kris's friend won't be able to recognize you. We kill two birds with one stone." She flashed him her most charming smile.
Adrian smiled back. "You're cute," he informed her. "But you're insane if you think I'm letting you talk me into this ...this ... You know what? There are no words for what this is."
Julianne's smile faded. Damn! Time for Plan B. She crawled over him and straddled his lap. "Pleeeeeeeease," she begged, hugging him.
"Oh, come on!" Adrian complained, although it came out sounding more like whining. "That's not fair, Julianne, you know I can't think when you do that."
Julianne pulled back so she could look at his face. "I will owe you big time," she offered, her blue eyes pleading with his.
What was that she smelled like? Vanilla and something. Adrian decided he hated lesbians. "I hate you."
"Pretty please?" she tried again, pouting slightly.
"I hate you a lot."
"Just name it and it's yours," she said, unfazed by his declaration. "Anything."
Anything, huh? That could be interesting. After all, she did have a point. He couldn't go cruising for chicks if they all knew who he was. "I am not getting plastic surgery for you."
Julianne laughed, knowing she'd won. "No plastic surgery. I'll just get one of the girls from the make-up and special effects department." She used his chest to push herself up. "Been working out?" she asked.
"Why do you tease me?" he asked. "Don't you realize it's evil?"
Julianne grinned. "Yup. I'm getting some water," she announced, and headed toward the kitchen. Mission accomplished.
Adrian turned over in the couch so he could look at her. "Hey, I could be totally in love with you and you could be like totally playing with my feelings," he argued.
"But you're not," Julianne called back.
"I'd sleep with you in a millisecond," he informed her seriously.
Julianne reappeared from the kitchen, carrying a bottle of water. "You would sleep with most women in a millisecond, Adrian," she retorted, joining him on the couch.
"True," he admitted. "Remind me again why we're doing this?"
She sighed, tucking a few wisps of dark brown hair behind her ears. "I don't want her to find out this way," she explained. "If Leigh recognizes you as Julianne Franqui's boyfriend ..."
"She might not remember what I look like," he offered.
Julianne snorted. "Right."
"Well, who's going to believe her?" Adrian asked. "She's the only one who saw me."
Julianne considered this for a moment then shook her head. "Yeah, but I admitted to Kris that I looked like Julianne Franqui. It would seem kind of weird that we would both look like the same people."
"I thought you didn't like to complicate your life, Julianne," Adrian said. "It seems to me like you're going through a whole lot of trouble just to keep this one girl's friend from suspecting something."
"Are you're saying I'm acting a bit crazy?"
"Like a certifiable lunatic," Adrian confirmed.
"I donąt want to risk this, Adrian," she argued. "If there is any chance at all that Kris might suspect anything well ..."
"I thought it was just email?"
Julianne allowed herself a smile. "Well, we've upgraded to online chatting." She grinned. "She's so funny. I swear I could talk to her fore..." She quickly shut her trap.
Adrian's brows shot upward. "Yes...?" he encouraged.
She coughed and began drinking water to keep herself from speaking any further.
"You are so screwed." He patted her knee sympathetically.
Starbucks accepted my application. Guess I'll be making coffee for the next few months. How do you like yours? Or do you even like coffee? I love coffee, although not to the extent that Leigh loves coffee. She's a bit addicted, I'm afraid. I just like a nice cup in the morning. Yum. It's the only way to start the day. Don't you think?
* * *
I generally have Coke for breakfast. I don't know why it is that I never got into coffee, but I guess I'm more of a soda girl myself. Sometimes, I drink Sprite in the mornings, which I think makes no sense as far as caffeine goes, but somehow it gets me through the day. Maybe I'm just addicted to sugar.
* * *
I hate cockroaches. I know that's completely random, but there was this really big one in the apartment today and I ran out screaming. Hey, don't laugh at me. It was big and like gross looking. With huuuuuuuge antennae and like ...
* * *
A cockroach huh? And it was huge you say? I'm glad that Leigh was able to take care of the evil monster. Who knows what would've happened otherwise? It could've multiplied in size and eaten you alive! Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!!!!
* * *
* * *
I was kidding about the cockroach. Actually, I'm not very fond of them myself. But I absolutely loathe spiders. Big ones, small ones ... Yuck!
* * *
I have a pet spider named Harriette you can come say hi to. I'll let you pet her if you're nice.
* * *
You do not have a spider.
* * *
Yes I do.
* * *
* * *
* * *
Do not. Do not. Do not!!!
* * *
You did say you were twenty-three right? ;) Hey, do you want to chat tomorrow night? Leigh has to work late so I'll be bored out of my mind and could use some company. What do you say?
* * *
Ugh! I wish I could :o( But I have a prior engagement I'm afraid I can't weasel out of. Rain check?
"I can not believe I let you talk me into this," Adrian mumbled, staring at his reflection in the handheld mirror. He had to admit that the lady Julianne had hired for the task had done an excellent job of making him look completely hideous. His nose had been elongated in a Cerano de Bergerac fashion. Well, perhaps not that exaggerated but it was still pretty bad. His blue eyes were concealed behind a pair of brown contact lenses. And to top off the look, he also sported a shoulder-length blonde wig. He lowered the mirror to look at his former best friend. "I look like a freak."
Julianne coughed to keep her laughter at bay. Adrian's make-over had been a complete success. She'd never really intended to have her best friend looking like a male Barbra Streisand, but somehow it had turned out that way. He didn't look ugly, per se, just ... different. The wig wasn't helping any. Oh who am I kidding? He looks completely ridiculous.
From the window of the limousine, Julianne watched New York City float by in a series of muted conversations and passersby's unknown destinations. Yeah, I wouldn't mind living here some day. She settled deeper into the leather confines of the seat and focused on the outside world beyond the safety of her limo. Unconsciously, she looked at every body she could, wondering if any of them were Kris. She could be anyone.
"Thank you for doing this," she said at last, her gaze drifting away from the busy metropolis to lock with Adrian's hesitant brown eyes.
"I really hope this girl is worth all of this trouble," Adrian stated, attempting to scratch at his nose through the latex extensions. Failing, he gave up. "What happens if I sneeze and the nose goes flying across the crowd."
Julianne laughed at the thought. "Then don't sneeze," she instructed, though her tone was light. The lady had assured her that nothing short of a hurricane would rip that sucker off. "Do I look okay?" she asked, changing the subject suddenly. She gazed down at her outfit. In spite of having paid way too much money for a dress, she'd opted for the more casual look of black jeans and blue tank top with the word 'tease' printed in black. After all, this wasn't the Academy Awards, she might as well be comfortable.
"Julianne, you could wear a potato sack and make it look gorgeous," Adrian answered. "You look hot and you know it."
Yeah, but what would Kris think? Julianne found herself wondering. Lately, everything went back to Kris, and it was starting to get annoying. I don't even know her! She could be a fifty-year-old man for all I know. She smoothed back the loose tresses of hair and took a deep breath. I will not think about Kris. I will not think about Kris.
"You're thinking about Kris aren't you?" Adrian guessed.
Startled, Julianne glanced at him. "I am not," she lied. "I was thinking about ... er ... my speech."
"Let's hear it then," Adrian said, not believing a word of it. Julianne was so easily read when her defenses were down.
I should've probably prepared one, huh? She cleared her throat. "I want to thank all the fans for this prestigious award. It was fun kissing this hunk of a man next to me. His lips were silky smooth and his facial hair didn't scratch me at all. Which is why I enjoyed kissing him. Like I enjoy kissing all men. Hubba hubba, viva le heterosexuality. Amen."
Adrian clapped. "I dare you to repeat that verbatim at the podium," he teased. "Double dare you, in fact."
"Ha," Julianne said flatly.
Adrian raised the mirror to his face once again and moved his head from side to side to study every angle. "I'm definitely not getting any tonight," he mumbled regretfully. "You are so going to pay for this."
"Take checks?" Julianne joked.
"Oh no," Adrian replied, putting the mirror aside so he could look at Julianne without distraction. "You owe me a massage."
Oh brother. "Well, alright, but can't I just hire one of those Swedish girls to give it to you? You'd have a much better chance of getting properly groped by one of them."
Adrian considered this. "Your treat?"
"All the way," Julianne assured him.
"Deal," Adrian said with a nod. "But we're still not even."
Damn. Julianne watched as their destination came into full view. It's show time.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," Adrian said again. "I swear, you're like the lesbian version of Lucy Ricardo."
Julianne grinned at the compliment. "Guess I'll start calling you Ethel from now on."
* * *
So far, so good. Julianne stared up at the stage where the latest teen craze band was performing. Beside her, Adrian, a.k.a. Fernando Croa, continued to sniffle. "Does it itch?" Julianne whispered.
"I think some of the latex few up my nose," Adrian whispered back. "Having fun?"
Julianne shrugged. "These things are always amusing," she responded. Not as amusing as you, however. They'd been stopped on the red carpet by one of the MTV veejays who had inquired if Adrian was jealous of the kiss between Julianne and Rye Philips. Adrian in response had hacked a few times, then adopted a horribly fake Spanish accent and said, "I no spickle de English." Julianne had nearly coughed up a lung trying to keep from laughing.
"Do you know what you're going to say?" Adrian asked.
"I'll just improvise," Julianne responded. She glanced around the audience quickly. "I haven't seen Rye around. Maybe he couldn't make it."
"I heard he's filming something in Saskatchewan," Adrian joked.
"I could only be so lucky." Julianne's attention returned to the stage as the dance number ended and the crowd erupted into applause. She clapped with more enthusiasm than she felt.
Beside her, Adrian shifted in his seat. "When you lean over to kiss me on your way up to the stage, be mindful of the nose factor," he warned.
Julianne grinned slightly. "What makes you think I'm going to kiss you?"
"Because people always kiss the person they're with on the way up to accept an award," Adrian responded. "It's tradition. Besides, I'm your boyfriend and you want me badly."
The applause continued as a voice over the speakers announced the next two presenters. "From the TV show, Making It, please welcome Douglass Price and Jane Feinman." The two actors walked up to the see-through podium on the side of the stage and smiled warmly as the audience continued to cheer.
"What is a good movie without a that special kiss?" Jane asked as the noise simmered down to a low roar.
Julianne took a deep breath. "Here we go," she muttered.
"And what's a good award presentation without a special kiss?" The guy closed his eyes and puckered up, only to get slapped lightly by the smaller woman beside him.
"I told you not in public," Jane responded, as the audience laughed. "We're here to celebrate that magical moment when our favorite characters on the silver screen share that memorable kiss."
Douglass rubbed his face and nodded. "Oh right," he said. "And the nominees for best kiss are..."
The large screens on either side of the stage came to life as a deep voice announced, "Kim Strayer and Paul James in Images of You."
The two actors in question appeared on the screen. The woman was staring into a mirror where her reflection switched from herself to one of a guy. "Peter?" she asked hesitantly. The guy popped out from the mirror and embraced the young woman in a passionate kiss.
The clip ended and another replaced it. "Billy Lee and Pepper Elles in Gordon's Laundry Basket." The audience cheered for this one.
Julianne snickered. "Gordon's Laundry Basket?" She nudged Adrian. "Sounds like something you would write."
Adrian scratched his cheek with his middle finger.
"Rye Philips and Julianne Franqui in Blanket of Darkness."
Julianne cringed at the image of herself and Rye Phillips kissing with abandon. Gross. Gross. Gross. Of all the things to nominate me for.
The clip ended and everyone's attention drew back to Jane and Douglass. "And the winner is ... "
Julianne held her breath. Please don't let me freeze when I get up there. The last thing I need is for Kris to watch this and think I'm a complete idiot. She paused. I will not think of Kris. I will not think of Kris. I will not ...
"Rye Philips and Julianne Franqui!" Jane announced as the crowd went wild.
Julianne feigned surprise and excitement as any good actress would. To humor Adrian, she leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the lips before rising to her feet and walking up on the stage. God there's a lot of people here, she realized as she got a good view of the audience.
She took the award from Douglass, who whispered congratulations in her ear. She smiled and thanked him, then took her spot behind the podium. Guess Rye couldn't make it after all. Darn. The audience quieted down in anticipation of her speech. Okay, now, remember that Kris is going to be watching this. Oh God, like there's anything I can say in acceptance of this particular award that will not make me sound like a total dumbass.
Julianne stared at the popcorn statue thing and cleared her throat. "Well, there's not much you can say after winning an award such as this," she joked, "except thank you. It's always an honor to be recognized for being a good kisser."
Kris. She closed her eyes and opened them again. "At first, I thought it was kind of silly to receive an award for kissing someone on screen. I kind of laughed off the nomination when I first received it. But then, I started thinking about how I feel every time I get caught up in someone else's onscreen romance and how I can't wait for that moment when they finally express their love. I mean, that's what we're all searching for, right? Love?"
Julianne paused for a moment, then continued. "I believe that as actors the only thing we can really hope for is that our performance somehow touches the viewers in some way, and motivates them to believe in the magic of possibility; and the promise of love. I'd like to pretend that this award means I've achieved something of the sort. Either that, or a lot of girls thought Rye Phillips was really cute." She laughed. "But whatever your reasons for voting, I thank you."
Kris stared at the computer screen and sat back in the chair. She was trying to pretend she wasn't disappointed by the fact that Julia couldn't meet her online that night, but it wasn't working very well. Prior commitment? Hmm.
It had been an extremely uneventful day. Nathan still hadn't made an appearance and he was due to leave in two days. Her parents hadn't called and she wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or not. No news is good news, right? She wasn't so sure about that. Not in her family.
Leigh was at work and wouldn't be home for hours. Kris had been looking forward to an online chat with Julia all day, but apparently she'd have to fend for herself.
Rain check? Sure. Let me know when you're available next and I'll join you then. It's too bad you couldn't join me tonight. I'm really quite bored. But that's alright. I look forward to hearing all about your 'prior commitment'. If you want to talk about it, that is. Is this one of the events you had to buy a dress for? I'm sure inquisitive tonight.
Anyway, since you're not around to entertain me, I'm going to go find entertainment elsewhere. I hope to hear from you soon.
Kris shut down the computer and stared around the empty apartment. What to do? What to do? Visit Leigh? Nah, I already did that twice today. I really need to get a life. Um, watch TV? Nothing good on Fridays. She tapped her finger against her chin and glanced out through the double doors that led to the small balcony. It had been a while since she'd ventured out into the city. Well, not counting both times she'd walked out on Nathan. Let's take a walk.
She grabbed her sketch pad and pencil and headed out into the great unknown.
* * *
Kris hadn't lied when she'd told Julianne that she was a nature freak. She loved everything about the Earth, from the trees and flowers to the animals. Cockroaches were an exception of course, but she didn't really count them as animals. They were more like pesky little ... Well...
Anyway, one of Kris's favorite hang outs was Central Park. Whenever she had time, she would take residence in one of the many benches scattered about the place and sketch away. It was also a good place to take pictures, but that night she'd forgotten her camera so she'd just have to capture the moments by hand.
Several hours later, she found herself in Bethesda Terrace, overlooking the Lake and wooded shores of the Ramble. On her sketchpad was a rough outline of Emma Stebbins' sculpture, Angel of Waters. The metal piece featured an angel hovering in the air and descending onto the troubled waters of the fountain in the hopes of bestowing the gift of healing.
Poet and Angel, Kris thought, sketching the wings of the angel on the pad. Maybe she likes angels. I wonder if she came here while she was in New York. Why was she in New York, anyway? Kris sighed, looking up and over the railings of the terrace. Below, tourists snapped away at the Fountain, the flashes from the cameras bathing the sculpture in ethereal light. Why do I feel like I know nothing about you?
Kris tucked the sketchpad under her arm and made her way down the grand staircase. She traced her fingers along the sandstone panels on her way down. It was such a peaceful place, in spite of all the tourist activity. Several people on Roller blades zoomed by her, nearly knocking her off-balance. Jesus! She froze in place as the stampede passed by, then continued on her way.
A sudden noise caught her attention and she turned in time to watch a guy tumbling to the ground. "Oh, fuck!" he mumbled as he landed with a large thump.
Kris blinked a few times then jogged over to the fallen man. "Are you okay?" she asked. She noted he wore Roller blades as well and guessed he was part of the pack that had just recently passed by.
The guy glanced up, blue eyes looking a bit dazed. "Yeah, I must have hit a rock or something," he explained, pushing himself up into a sitting position.
Kris noticed the large scrap on the side of his arm and kneeled down to inspect it, placing the notebook she carried on the ground beside her. "You should probably get that checked," she told him. It was bleeding pretty badly and she didn't want him to get an infection. "I can help you get to a hospital if you want."
A brow inched upward as soft blue eyes contemplated her suggestion for a moment. "Are you usually this nice to strangers?" he asked, looking at his own scrape for a moment. He flinched as he saw the magnitude of the cut.
Kris smiled and did a quick survey. It appeared his left arm had broken his fall. There didn't appear to be any more major scratches anywhere. "Just the ones that decide to bleed in my presence," she responded.
Satisfied that the guy was going to live, she sat back a few inches. It felt a bit awkward sitting so close to a complete stranger. There was no denying that the guy was extremely handsome, but that didn't mean he wasn't a serial killer. Leigh would probably be drooling all over this guy. She paused to consider that thought for a moment. So why am I not drooling? Should I be? Isn't that what single girls do? She decided that train of thought was far too laden to deal with at the present moment.
"That's a nice sketch," the guy commented, turning his head so he could get a better view of it.
Suddenly self-conscious, Kris blushed slightly and shrugged. "I was just wasting time," she said. "But thank you." She glanced at the sculpture a few yards away. "It's beautiful, don't you think? I doubt I could do it justice."
"Is that what people usually do in New York?" he asked. "Waste time?"
Kris grinned. "I suppose," she answered. "I take it you're a tourist?"
He shrugged broad shoulders. "I wouldn't call myself a tourist," he said.
Kris nodded. "Here on business?" she guessed
"You could say that," he responded with a slight grin. "I should probably go wash this off." He motioned to his arm as if it wasn't already obvious and pulled himself to his feet, balancing on the blades with ease.
Kris grabbed her sketchbook and rose as well, looking up at him. "You sure you don't want to go to a hospital or something?"
"Nah," he responded easily. "My hotel is ..." He waved his hand in the general direction behind him. "Over there somewhere."
Kris smiled. "Well, alright, if you're sure," she said. "Watch out for those pesky rocks."
"You bet." He flashed her a bright smile and with a quick wave skated away.
Kris watched him disappear into the darkness and turned her attention back to the Fountain. She held up the drawing up next to the actual statue and compared. Not bad. She closed the pad and sighed, glancing quickly at the time. Leigh should be home by now.
She glanced up at the sculpture for a few more minutes and then headed back toward home.
When Julianne awoke the next morning, she was instantly rewarded with the soothing sounds of groaning. She blinked in confusion, looking around the large hotel room. She listened closely.
Julianne frowned and threw the covers off her body and rolled out of bed. She walked out of the room, and glanced over the railing to the first floor of the penthouse, where she found Adrian attempting to do push-ups. Julianne rolled her eyes and headed into the bathroom. Why does he insist on exercising so much? Could he possibly get any bulkier? She finished brushing her teeth and descended the stairs.
"C'mon, c'mon, fucker!" Adrian growled as he fell flat on his chest.
Julianne stood by her best friend, watching the display with amusement. "Having trouble?" she asked innocently.
Adrian glanced up at her from his place on the floor and sighed. "Good morning," he mumbled. He groaned again as he sat up and glanced at his arm. "Damn thing."
Julianne noticed the cut on his arm for the first time and she kneeled beside him with concern. "What the hell happened to you?" she asked, inspecting the injury.
"I fell," he admitted, whining slightly. He pouted. "Kiss it better?"
"Ah, no thanks," Julianne answered, patting his head. She stood and headed to the kitchen to grab a soda. "That's what you get for Roller blading at night. I told you not to go out there."
Adrian joined her in the kitchen a moment later and leaned against the counter. "You know I have to get at least a mile in every day," he told her. "And since we had to catch that early flight yesterday ..." He let the rest hang in the air. "Besides, it was a beautiful night."
"For tripping?" Julianne grinned as she popped open the Coca-Cola can and took a much needed sip. "You're lucky you didn't break anything."
"There was a rock," Adrian argued.
Julianne made a pouting face and walked over to pinch Adrian's cheek. "Aww, wittle wock giving Adrian some twoble?" She slapped his face lightly and walked over to the couch. "So what are you doing today?"
Adrian rubbed his cheek and turned around. "Well, I'm going for a jog," he answered. "Then I'm hoping to come home to that nice massage someone promised me."
Julianne turned and pointed toward the phone. "Their number's over there. Just give them a call and they'll be more than happy to come up here and molest you. Just make sure I'm not home when they get here." She made a show of shuddering.
Adrian appeared in front of her a moment later. A gray sleeveless tee shirt and black track pants were his outfit of choice that morning. It's what he generally wore in the mornings on his way out to exercise. How she'd landed such a health conscious lunatic for a best friend, Julianne wasn't sure. But there he was, in all his muscled glory, staring down at her with a look of unadulterated curiosity. "And what are you doing today?" he asked.
The cold can was beginning to numb her fingers, so Julianne put it down before regarding her friend. "I thought I'd take a walk," she said. "Sightsee a little. What do you think? Should I be a redhead, a brunette, or a blonde today?"
"I think you should shave your head." He nodded solemnly, and made a buzzing sound. "No one will recognize you then, trust me."
"Mmm," Julianne responded. "I'll consider that."
"Good. Anyway, I'm off. Have fun doing ... whatever." He waved and started toward the door.
Julianne turned around. "Watch out for those rocks!"
"Haha. I already heard that one. Try something more original next time." And then he disappeared out the door.
Julianne stared at the closed door for a few moments. "What the hell is he talking about?" she wondered. Then she shrugged and started toward the stairs. There were important things to do today. And she'd better get a move on before she lost all her nerve.
* * *
Clad in her undercover gear, Julianne headed out into the awaiting streets of New York City. Figuring she'd been a blonde on her last outing, she opted for the redhead look this time around. Large sunglasses masked a grand portion of her face, and big baggy clothes concealed her body.
No one stared or gawked at her as she passed, and Julianne sighed with relief. She sometimes forgot how nice it was to go somewhere and not have everyone immediately recognize her. Fame was exciting for all of about fifteen minutes before it became a complete burden one could never shake off. Granted, it had its perks every now and again. But sometimes .. just sometimes ... Julianne wished that she could walk down a busy street and not have to worry that the wind might pick up her wig or that someone might somehow recognize her through the disguise.
Julianne glanced all around at the people, wondering what they really thought of her. Wondering what they would think if they knew who she really was. Wondering, even, if they really cared to know. Every time she did a interview she couldn't help but wonder if people really cared to know the answer to the questions they were asking. Why did people want to know who made her dress? Or why did they care if she drank Pepsi or Coke? In the grand scheme of things, did any of these things really matter?
Did she matter?
She dug her hands into her pockets and continued to walk through the crowded city, feeling, as she always did, somehow disconnected from everything. I bet most people walking here wish they knew what it was like to be featured on one of those billboards up there. Fame .. fortune .. if only they could have a taste. And here I am, hiding among them, wishing I fit in.
"Spare some change?"
Julianne was suddenly snapped out of her thoughts by a man standing next to her. He held up a slightly ripped cup, the state of which matched his attire quite adroitly. His brown eyes stared pleadingly into hers. "Change?" he repeated.
Kris's words suddenly filtered through Julianne's consciousness. There's so much one can do, given the resources. Julianne stared at the man, wondering how many times she'd walked by someone like him and not spared a second glance. "I don't have any change," she said apologetically. She pulled out her wallet and hoped she had something in there. She never carried any cash with her. A lousy twenty stared up at her. She pulled it out and handed it to the man. "It's all I have on me," she explained.
The man's eyes widened as big as saucers and a big smile lit up his face. "Thank you," he said, staring at the bill in his hand as though it were gold. "God bless you."
Julianne grinned, feeling happy all of a sudden. "What's your name?" she found herself asking.
"James," he said.
She smiled warmly and offered her hand. "I'm Julia," she informed him, wondering why she'd opted for her real name. "Do you want to have lunch with me?" she asked, surprising herself yet again.
James nodded weakly and stared at her as if he feared she'd disappear.
"C'mon, James," Julianne urged. "Pick your poison. My treat."
* * *
Julianne couldn't remember the last time she'd had McDonald's. Actually, she wasn't even sure she'd ever had it, but it's what James had selected and who was she to argue?
James dug into his food with relentless abandon and Julianne tried not to stare. Instead, she looked down at the hamburger haphazardly wrapped in yellow paper. People eat this? She carefully unwrapped it and looked at it silently. She had the sudden urge to poke it. So she turned to the French fries instead. Those didn't look quite as scary.
"You are very kind," James said suddenly, through a mouthful of food.
Kind. Julianne thought about that word for a moment. Was she doing this out of kindness? Or was it pity? Or even guilt? Why did anyone do anything, really? "I just wanted some company," she found herself saying.
"Beautiful girl like you?" James asked, brown eyes studying her intently. "I find that hard to believe.
Julianne removed the sunglasses from her face. She doubted very much James would know who she was, or that he'd even care. "Beauty doesn't necessarily ensure company," she responded. "And money doesn't ensure happiness, either."
"Just a roof over your head and food on the table," James responded, though his tone was light. "Everything else is just a matter of chance."
Julianne bit her lip, feeling suddenly foolish for discussing her petty problems with a homeless man. God, I have to be the most self-centered person on Earth. "So, James, tell me about yourself."
James eyed her untouched hamburger.
"Want?" Julianne offered.
He accepted the offer without delay and bit into the burger happily.
Julianne grabbed a handful of fries and popped them into her mouth. Not bad. She could get used to those suckers.
For the next hour or so, James told Julianne all about how his mother had kicked him out of the house when he was sixteen. He'd been on the streets since then, trying to fend for himself. He'd tried selling drugs but had gotten too caught up in his own addiction to actually make a profit. Finally, he'd gotten out of the habit. Stayed clean since, except he now turned to the bottle every once in a while. It helped him deal with the cold winter months and the lonely summer days.
Julianne listened to the tale silently, wondering how she would have dealt in a similar situation. I would've died. Literally. Respect and admiration replaced her original pity for the man.
Before they parted ways, Julianne scribbled her work number on a piece of paper. "Call me," she told him. "If you ever need anything."
James clutched the piece of paper in his hand and smiled at her through watery brown eyes. "You are a special person," he told her. "Thank you."
"No, thank you," she said, meaning the words in so many levels she couldn't even count them all. She hugged him. "Take care of yourself, James."
As she walked way, resuming her journey toward her original destination, she briefly wondered if James would ever actually call her. Or if the twenty dollars would simply be spent on the occasional bottle that kept him warm and hopeful through the many endless nights.
* * *
Washington Square Park was a zoo of activity that somehow managed to make Julianne even more nervous than she already was. She walked by people reading and people talking and people making out. With every step her heart beat wilder and wilder until she thought it might explode out of her chest.
She took a seat at the edge of the fountain, and took a deep breath. She's probably not even here. Don't be such a loser. Julianne forced her gaze to wander around the busy area. There was a mime climbing an invisible rope. A few yards away from him, were three guys doing stunts. A crowd of people had gathered around them, so Julianne couldn't see what they were doing very well, but every now and then their antics were rewarded with enthusiastic cheers.
And then she caught site of the table, tucked away in a nice shaded area. Several paintings were out on display. Julianne's heart threatened to leap out of her throat. She dared to glance behind the table, where she saw the girl whose number Adrian had gotten. That must be Leigh.
Julianne took a moment to study her. She's really pretty. Long red hair framed a youthful-looking face. In the distance, her eyes looked brown, but Julianne was wearing sunglasses so she couldn't swear that was accurate.
Both to Julianne's disappointment and relief, Leigh appeared to be alone once again. Does Kris ever bother to sell her own stuff?
She debated long and hard whether she should approach the table or not. But the notion alone sent her heart into a mega marathon that Julianne feared would end in a massive heart attack.
Taking a deep breath, she decided to swallow her fears and take a chance. She rose to her feet, feeling proud of that small accomplishment. Baby steps. C'mon, you're a famous movie star and you can't even walk a few yards to look at a painting? That didn't do much to ease the panic settling over her, but she somehow forced her hesitant limbs forward.
Halfway to her destination, she froze dead on her tracks.
Leigh wasn't alone anymore. There was another girl standing beside her.
Julianne blinked, knowing full well that she was staring. Is that her?
The girl was attempting to balance a couple of hotdogs, a bottle of water, a bag of pretzels and a can of soda, and nearly dropped all five items on Leigh's head. Leigh accepted the two hotdogs and soda, while her companion kept the bag and water for herself. She dropped both items on the table and took a seat.
Oh God...If that's Kris, I'm in serious trouble. Julianne was fearful that she would pass out at any moment. She'd expected Kris to be cute, maybe even semi good-looking. But this was something entirely different. The first thing Julianne noticed was the eyes. And she had to lower her sunglasses slightly so she could decipher their actual color, and still she couldn't really tell. They were brown and green and gold all mixed into one. Kind, warm and inviting. They lit up as she laughed.
Long, silky light brown hair with blondish highlights, which Julianne guessed were courtesy of the sun, framed her beautiful face. So she's gorgeous. That's okay. You're okay. Just breathe. In. Out. Good.
I'm so screwed.
Inching forward, she managed to get closer to the table, though now she wasn't entirely certain that she'd make it all the way there. What the hell would I say? I can't very well introduce myself as Julia.
In what felt like slow motion, she somehow managed to reach her destination. One moment she was thousands of miles away, and the next instant she was right there. Caught in a landslide of memories consisting of random emails and online conversations. They all boiled down to this moment. She had to say something witty. Something that would blow Kris away. Something like ... "Hi."
Leigh glanced up from her hotdog.
"Are you interested in anything?" Kris asked, smiling in a way that Julianne found disarming.
The English language abandoned Julianne at that instant, and she was left with only one method of communication. Pointing. So she pointed at a random item on the table, which ended up being a pencil sketch of an angel. Figures.
Kris stared at the picture for a moment and troubled eyes rose to meet with Julianne's. "Sorry," she apologized. "I didn't mean to have that one out on display." She glanced at Leigh and gave her a undecipherable look, one that Julianne guessed was of meaningful displeasure.
Julianne quickly glanced around the table. "That's okay," she said quickly, maybe too quickly. She felt herself blush. I am a such a dork. "Um, how about that one?" She pointed to a painting of the sunrise. Sunrise? "Did you, uh, stay up to paint that?"
Kris shrugged and grinned slightly. "Does it look like I did?" she asked.
Trick question. Trick question. Think before you speak. "Well," Julianne began, studying the painting carefully, "I'm not one to question your artistic methods, but I'd say it looks realistic enough to be a photograph. Although, I'm not sure any film is good enough to capture the vibrancy of those colors." Her gaze returned hesitantly to Kris's, as she awaited a reaction.
To her surprise, Kris blushed. "Thank you," she said, "that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Are you an artist?"
"Ah, no," Julianne replied. "I can just appreciate a good sunrise when I see one. How much?"
"Fifteen," Kris answered.
Julianne was about to reach for her wallet, when she remembered it was empty. Fuck!! "Uh, I don't suppose you take credit cards?" she asked lamely. Because you can give her Julianne Franqui's credit card and she won't notice.
Kris shook her head. "Sorry," she said. "I don't have one of those machine things."
Julianne couldn't remember ever being more embarrassed. I'm a frickin millionaire and I don't even have fifteen dollars?!
Kris seemed to sense Julianne's distress because she spoke up. "Tell you what," she said, reaching behind her to look for something. She turned back around holding one of her cards. "Take the painting. You can mail me the money later."
Julianne accepted the card, an exact replica of the one she carried in her wallet. "You'd really trust me to do that?" she asked.
"Sure," she responded, flashing her that killer smile again. "You can't go wrong trusting someone who likes sunrises."
Julianne felt like crying at the simple statement. "Thank you," she said. "You'll have your money by tomorrow," she promised, taking the painting.
"Enjoy," Kris called after her.
When she was far enough away, Julianne looked down at the painting. She smiled at the bright mix of colors on the canvas, so representative of the artist who had put them there. Now that is kindness.