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Authors: Maya Brooks

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Once it stopped
turning around him it looked expensive.

He had no idea
of whose it might be.

The next
sensations coming to him were chill and his back aching. He lifted his head and
glanced to the sides.

Why am I
naked on the floor?

Two young women
slept on him. One was a blonde and the other a redhead. He couldn’t remember
seeing either of them before. Shouldn’t he be able to recall breasts like these?

Squeezing his
eyes shut and rubbing them didn’t make him feel any better, or remember any
more. There had been cigars, whisky, and long lines of cocaine. A lot of things
must have happened since the party started, but he had no idea of what.

Getting to his
feet had never been more of a struggle.

The women were
out cold; neither woke from rolling off him and hitting the floor. He stood
there swaying for a few moments, looking for something to wear. Not that he was
shy; he had an okay body and some producers liked to put him in an unwarranted
butt in the moonlight walk, but it would still be nice to have
something
to cover Marc JR.

“Aah, there you
are.”

All his clothes
were in a pile on a chair, and he grabbed his shirt and his phone.

“There has to be
a restroom here somewhere…”

Why am I
talking to myself? Is it normal to talk to oneself? Laura would know.

Calling her
seemed a reasonable option, maybe the
only
reasonable option.

She sounded
weary, but he didn’t have the strength to ask what might be wrong.

“I’m not doing
so good, Babe.”

“I know. You
kept calling me last night, telling me all about it. Go home, Marc, get some
sleep.”

Looking into the
bathroom mirror cheered him up. He might be a wreck, but he was still a
good-looking wreck.

“I will.”

He heard her
sigh, and her voice was firm.

“Marc, I mean
it. Go home. Just walk out of there, don’t talk to
anyone
, go right out
the front door and
go home
.”

“I…”

It was so hard
to think, hard to remember anything. Going home and getting sleep sounded like
sound advice. Laura wouldn’t give him anything but good advice. Everyone else
might, but not her.

“Marc, do you
trust me?”

“Yes.”

“Then trust me
on this. Go home.”

“Yes ma’am.”

At least she
laughed.

He left the
restroom muttering, “Go home” like a mantra that might save his life. A naked
blonde woman met him, waving a bottle of Jack Daniels in front of him.

“Hey handsome,
you look thirsty. Have a drink.”

He
was
thirsty.

Now when it was
pointed out to him, his mouth tasted as if it hadn’t seen liquid for weeks.

She had really
nice tits too.

He wrapped an
arm around the woman’s waist, grabbed the bottle, and headed for the sofa. When
his phone rang, he didn’t even hear it.

Chapter Five

 

 

After that last
call, days went by without a life sign from Marc, and Laura was about to tear
her hair out.

If anything
happens to him, it’ll be my fault.

She should have
pressed him on getting help.

If she had been
firm, he might have listened.

Every instinct,
every nerve screamed something was wrong, but there wasn’t much she could do
besides continue her everyday life and hope for the best. Pretending everything
was fine did nothing to relieve her heartbreak.

Stop
fretting. You’re driving yourself crazy. He has no obligation to talk to you
and he’s not dead. If he was dead someone would have said something on TV, or
on Facebook. Maybe he moved on, and found someone else to entertain him.

The thought
hurt, but less so than thinking he was in real trouble. She still couldn’t
sleep, and saw the world through a fog.

Her anxiety
shone through when her colleague Heather asked what time it was, and she
answered “Pancake.”

Heather sat
quiet for a few long seconds.

Drop it.
Please, drop it.

No such luck.
Her coworker came around to perch on the desk.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, sure.
Why wouldn’t I be?”

Heather chewed
her lip and glanced down at something in her hands. How peculiar; she was
normally as nervously inclined as a paving stone.

“Are you sure
you’re okay?”

The persistence
didn’t make sense until she really looked at the object in her friend’s hands.
It was a gossip magazine, one of those really glossy and pretty ones. It had a
photo of her and Marc with the caption
Mystery woman,
and another with her
in the back of a police car.

“Oh God no…”

Heather sighed.

“You know, I’ve
been around, and I know some things can be really bloody hard. If you need
someone to talk to, I’m here.”

Could it be
that easy?

Confide in
someone?

Share the
burden?

Some people
might tattle, run to the press, or gossip in the office, but Heather’s
integrity was clad in stone.

She couldn’t
force any words out of her mouth, and Heather’s eyes seemed to turn into X-ray
beams, so she stared at the wall, hoping all her problems would just go away.

“C’mon. I’ll
buy you lunch.”

Eating out
would be
so
good.

She was so
tired of pancakes they made her want to puke, but they were cheap.

“You don’t have
to do that.”

“I know. I want
to. You pick a place, and I’ll drive and pay.”

On the way out
to the car, Heather did something Laura never saw before. She let her hair out
of the carefully crafted bun, took her glasses off, folded them up, and tossed
them in the back seat.

“Wow. You’re
gorgeous, you should look like that more often.”

And you’re
much younger than I thought.

Heather
laughed.

“We all have
our little secrets. I see perfectly well, I just wear those things so people
will take me seriously.”

“Why? You’re
the smartest person I know.”

“Thank you.”

She slid in
behind the wheel and waited for Laura to take a seat.

“Truth is, I
have a very high IQ and a good education, but I couldn’t get a well-paying job
as long as I looked like me. It’s sad, but many people judge by the surface.
Life is always more complicated than meets the eye.”

You’re
telling me this so I’ll know I can trust you. That’s sweet.

Before she knew
what was happening, the whole story spilled out, and they were pulled over by
the side of the road so she could bawl in Heather’s arms. She hickuped, “I’m
sorry.”

“You’re
exhausted. Go home early and try to take a nap. Do you want a sleeping pill?”

“No… What if he
calls me and I don’t hear?”

“Then you’ll
see you have a missed call when you wake up. You can’t help anyone if you don’t
take care of yourself.”

“You make it
sound so easy. Why aren’t you judging me?”

Heather
laughed.

“For what? For
caring? For being human?”

“I… I don’t
know.”

“Look… My two
cents, or let’s make it five to account for inflation, you can’t be responsible
for another person or for what happens to that person, because we all live our
own lives. However, maybe your souls belong to each other at this point in
time. It sounds like he needs you, and you can give something no one else can.”

Laura nodded
mutely. The soul part went over her head, but the rest made sense.

Maybe she’s
one of those new-age people.

“If that’s the
case, you might have to go find him.”

Great idea,
but how?

“I have no idea
where he is.”

“Details. I’m
sure we can find someone who knows him who can help you look.”

“I don’t… I
don’t have any money.”

“I do. From the
sound of it you might be saving this man’s life, and that’s a worthy cause.”

How have we
worked together for three years and I never knew how amazing you are?

“Why would you
do that?”

“It’s the right
thing to do. Now, let’s get you some lunch, and then you need a nap.”

In the
restaurant, Laura gulped down a sub, but her mind wandered along the same paths
as always.

“I can’t tell
you how happy I am to have someone to talk to about this. What do you think
about him?”

Heather
smirked. “I never heard of him before I saw you in that magazine. He’s a
good-looking man. From what you’re telling me he has painted himself into a
corner he can’t get out of on his own. It happens to everyone, to some extent.”

“Yes, but…”

Laura lowered
her voice to a whisper.

“Do you think
there’s something
wrong
with him?”

Why is she
laughing? What’s so funny?

“There’s
something wrong with most people. We all try to appear normal, but no one
really is, and the people who are the strangest themselves are usually quickest
to judge others.”

What does
that mean? Yes? No?

“Maybe he needs
medicine. Maybe he’s so tired of himself he’s fleeing, a lot of people try to
run away from themselves, but no one truly can. You care for him, what
difference does it make?”

Heather’s stare
burned on her face. “You do realize even if you find him and put Pinocchio back
together, odds are you won’t end up together in the long run.”

It was a
painful truth, but nonetheless true. He’d tire of her like he did everything
else.

“I know. I
still have to try to help him.”

Because it’s
the right thing to do.

Was Heather’s
set of morals rubbing off on her already?

“Do you always
do the right thing?”

“No. I strive
for it, but no… Hey, if he doesn’t show up, maybe I’ll go with you and look for
him.”

 

*****

 

Having someone
to confide in was a relief.

How could they
have worked together for so long without her knowing she shared a room with
super woman? Heather was tall, beautiful, smart, and kind.

She probably
catches thieves and saves orphans too. Must be some überspecies of human.

Getting some
sleep was a
huge
relief, even if it came synthetically from a bottle of
ZZZQuil.

Was I as
stuck in my own way of thinking and my own problems as Marc is?

Working wasn’t
usually on her top list of things to do, but now it seemed a respite from
worries. Her boss had a thing about cell phones and she kept it close, but
hidden under a sheet of paper. If it made any noise besides claiming it needed
a charge, she wanted to know.

When Saturday
came and the office was closed, she roamed from window to window staring out.
She itched for action, and her inability to do something drove her to the brink
of sanity. When was this rescue mission supposed to take place?

Turning the TV
on didn’t alleviate her restlessness, and neither did looking in the fridge.

Maybe I
should go to the mall. See some people, maybe buy a new shirt.

She hadn’t told
anyone except Heather about Marc and his troubles, and she stayed away from her
friends so they wouldn’t realize something was wrong. She had been alone for
too long, and spending a day at the mall surrounded by strangers might not be
too bad. Her feet headed for the front door before she even knew she’d made up
her mind.

The apartment
buildings were low but many, and people were always coming and going. Fumbling
with the keys, she waved automatically to a neighbor.

A taxi pulled
up close to her front door as she locked, and she didn’t even look.

The lady
upstairs had many visitors, and it wasn’t any of her business.

The cab was
between her and her car, so she couldn’t help seeing it when she took a couple
of steps away from the door. The passenger side opened, and her fingers grew
weak, losing their grip on her purse as a well-known shape stepped out.

It can’t be,
it’s not possible. What is he doing here?

Her heart
stopped beating and she forced stale air out of her lungs. It must be an
illusion, her mind playing a prank on her.

Marc turned
towards her, and the paralysis released its grip. She ran the few steps
separating them and threw her arms around him. His warm body felt real enough,
but she still wasn’t sure until he spoke.

“I thought I’d
drop by to see you, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Oh my God, I
thought you were dead.”

He murmured,
“Almost,” and held her tighter.

The cab driver
cleared his throat and peeked out the passenger door. “So, I take it this is
where you wanted to go?”

Marc released
his grip on her.

“If this is a
bad time or something, I’ll have him take me to a hotel.”

“Don’t be
silly. You’re staying here with me.”

She stared at
his face when he paid the fare.

What
happened to you?

His skin was
almost gray, and he had dark rings under his eyes. Fine lines had deepened into
real wrinkles since she last saw him.

Maybe he was
too drunk and forgot to get Botoxed.

No. There was
more to it than that.

He didn’t even
have a suitcase, just a plastic bag from an airport store. If he was running
away, he could certainly have gone to worse places than her.

It was the
first time they met since the convention, and it was a bit strange to see him
in real life. They spent so many days and nights together on the phone or the
computer, but meeting face to face made her shy. What could she say?

Marc just stood
there, watching the taxi drive away.

Take command
of the situation. Do something. What would Heather do?

Thinking of her
colleague gave her the strength to move. She tucked her hand into his and led
him to the front door.

“It’s not much,
but it’s home.”

Her apartment
was small and she could hear the neighbors walk upstairs, but it was cozy. Marc
glanced around and the smile playing on his lips seemed almost real.

“I love it.”

“Want something
to eat? I have chicken lasagna.”

“That would be
amazing.”

Marc ate, and
fell asleep on her sofa. She tiptoed around not to wake him, and texted
Heather.

“You’ll never
believe who just walked in”

The answer came
promptly.

“That’s great!
=)”

She wanted to
caress his hair or curl up next to him, but he needed rest too much to be
disturbed.

Congratulations.
I think life just took another abrupt turn.

Whatever
changes might come weren’t important; he was alive, and in her home. There were
surely problems brewing on the horizon, but nothing worthy of worry at the
moment.

Marc didn’t
stir until late afternoon, and he investigated her home, poking around in
everything.

Ouch, I hope
I dusted under there some time this century.

“You have
games. I bet you ten bucks I can still beat you at Scrabble.”

Really? You
came all this way to play board games? Alright, I guess.

“Real life
Scrabble, with no computer cheats? Bring it on.”

The idea was
much better than it appeared at first glance; a well-known, neutral activity
that kept them both from brooding. For someone looking on the verge of death,
he was hard to beat.

The game took
almost two hours.

Marc chuckled.
“Now I owe you money, and I’m hungry.”

When did you
eat last before you came here? Better not ask…

“We can order
Chinese.”

“That would be
fantastic.”

He was finding
his footing, and when the food arrived he stole shrimps from her plate and made
her giggle. He didn’t exactly return to the person she knew, but was more like
himself.

When all the
food was gone, he leaned back and patted his stomach.

“I needed
that.”

Why are you
here? I’d love to think you came just to hang out with me, but that’s not it.
Are you hiding?

Heather’s words
echoed in her mind. “Maybe you can put Pinocchio back together.”

This would take
a gentle touch. She reached over the table to take his hand.

“I’m so happy
you’re here, I’ve been more worried for you than you can imagine.”

He sighed, but
didn’t answer.

“If you don’t
want to tell me, that’s okay, but I’m dying to know what happened. Why are you
here?”

 

*****

 

Marc pulled his
hands over his face and leaned his elbows against the table.

He hardly knew
this woman, but she was still the only one he trusted, and he was too ashamed
to tell the truth.

BOOK: The Actor
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