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Authors: Maya Brooks

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BOOK: The Actor
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Don’t
eavesdrop.

She was still
far too curious to pretend she couldn’t hear them.

Lawrence said,
“No, she asks for too much alimony, if she gets that, the other house, and the
car…”

Marc interrupted
him, “Well, can I pay it?”

“Yes of course,
but that’s not the…”

Marc cut him
short again, and his words made Laura’s heart ache for him.

“I’m pretty
certain at least one of the kids is mine, just pay and get this over with.”

This was too
private, and shame over listening in flooded her. She hurried forward, towards
the bedroom.

Marc’s voice
followed her and she paused again.

“See if you can
find us a new housekeeper, will you. I don’t remember if I fired the old one or
if she quit…”

Lawrence sounded
sympathetic.

“She quit.”

“Thought so… If
it’s a woman, make it someone old and ugly so Laura doesn’t have to worry. And
come over for dinner.”

She got moving
again, jogging for the bedroom and the relative safety of Marc’s oversized
shower. Joyous laughter threatened to burst through, and
that
would give
her away.

Chapter Nine

 

 

“We have to do
something about the house.”

Marc sounded
serious, and no one in their right mind could disagree with him.

“Sure.”

There has to
be a Lowes or Home Depot or something. We’ll need paint, some brushes, maybe
wallpaper…

“Do you have any
idea what you want to do with it?”

Who? Me?

“Shouldn’t the
question be what
you
want to do with it?”

The expression
in his eyes broke her heart: he wasn’t just lost. Shipwrecked would be a better
word.

“I want it to be
a home. I have no idea how to go from this fucking mess to that.”

He scribbled down
a number on a piece of paper and pushed into her hand.

“Here’s
Lawrence’s number. He’ll know what to do.”

That’s good,
‘cause I sure don’t.

He ran his hands
over her shoulders.

“You got this,
right?”

“Sure.”

The thought of
calling Lawrence stressed her out until she actually did it. He sounded
delighted.

“Thank goodness,
it’s about time someone does something about that mess. You’ll need some
furniture too, curtains, the whole deal. I know just the person.”

It took less
than an hour before someone knocked on the door. She opened and blinked with
surprise as a handsome young man with bright white teeth and soft voice took
both her hands in his.

“You must be
Laura. It’s an absolute delight to meet you. I’m so happy to hear Marc has
someone solid in his life. Oh, silly me, I’m Thomas. Come, let’s take a look at
your problems.”

There was no
stopping the flow of words, at least not until she showed the bedroom. Thomas
looked about to faint.

“How do you
sleep in here? Do you sleep? I mean, Marc is an attractive man but you have to
close your eyes some time. These walls cannot be allowed to exist one more
day.”

Have I just
made a gay best friend?

“Would you like
a cup of coffee?”

“I would
absolutely love one. Did Anne take the cappuccino machine? We have to get you a
new one, that thing made hot beverages to die for. I always thought the kitchen
was the best room in this house. Don’t you agree?”

“I do agree. So,
how do you…”

“How do I know
Marc? I’m Lawrence’s husband, honey. Where is Marc, anyway?”

“Gym, I think.”

“Aaah, pumping
up those ol’ biceps for you. I guess we don’t need to redecorate in there?
Strange Anne didn’t make it pink with neon flowers. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a
lovely woman when she wants to be, I just never got that power struggle between
them.”

He was so warm
and friendly she had to giggle.

As soon as they
sat down, he made paint samples and an iPad appear like magic.

“I have some
ideas, let’s see if you like any of this.”

The next day,
Thomas brought an amazing amount of painters and carpenters, ready to obey her
every whim.

Is this
remodeling in the world of the wealthy? I should ask for something impossible,
just to see what they would say.

Shopping in the
world of Marc went along the same lines. She was used to buying her clothes on
sale at Wal-Mart. Having people fuss over her, measuring, and running back and
forth with clothes that could pay her rent made her itchy.

No wonder he
was so surprised when we first visited the mall. If I ever go back home I might
be able to sell these on eBay and not have to work for a year…

The new
housekeeper came to work a couple of days later. She was old, non-threatening,
and very competent. Who knew dirty clothes and floors could clean themselves.

Lawrence and
Thomas came over for dinner. Having a housekeeper was great. Delicious food
appeared without her having to raise a finger.

Lawrence brought
a whole briefcase with papers for Marc to sign, but before they disappeared
off, he pulled out a little plastic card.

“Sorry it took
me so long. I can’t put you on his bank accounts until the divorce is
finalized, but this should tide you over.”

Wow, I didn’t
expect that.

Marc winked at
her. “We’ll be right back.”

She didn’t
really need anything, hadn’t even found courage to leave the house on her own,
but the little piece of plastic in her hands was as symbolic as the cell phone,
filled with promise not for what it could do, but for what it meant.

Marc made her a
part of his life, showed he was willing to care for her and trust her.

Thomas’s eyes
glittered.

“The house is
coming along nicely. Wanna come look at more furniture tomorrow?”

“Sure.”

He leaned back
in the seat.

“Have you
decided what to do with the back rooms?”

“I have no clue.
Maybe, if everything works out, the kids…”

“Honey, best
case scenario, they’ll come stay here one weekend in a year. His children don’t
need five rooms. Make a couple of guest rooms if you want to, but make a space
for yourself too.”

I’d love to,
but that seems too presumptuous.

“I don’t live
here.”

Thomas burst out
laughing. What was so funny? He bent over the table to take both her hands.

“Laura, you
might not live here in
your
mind, but trust me, you do in Marc’s.”

“I…”

“If you want to
make him happy, all you have to do is make yourself at home. Claim a room, take
two, or take the entire house. Build a library, a giant wardrobe, a movie theatre,
an office, whatever you want.”

His words rang
true, but she was still afraid to assume anything.

Maybe
something neutral, something he’d like whether I’m here or not.

“A library
sounds pretty good. Bookshelves, some nice chairs…”

“There you go,
that’s a good start. How ‘bout… It should be big, right? We can make a portal
between two rooms, or maybe take out the entire wall. I’ll just have to look at
the blueprints so we don’t make the roof fall down. I’ll draw up some ideas and
come by tomorrow.”

Later at night,
Lawrence had too much wine and Laura smirked when Thomas rolled his eyes. The
lawyer’s advice was even better than Thomas’s.

“I can’t say how
happy I am Marc found you, but there’s something you have to understand about
him. He’s used to women taking what they want and need. He won’t understand if
you need a car, or tampons, or a vacation to the Bahamas, he’ll expect you to
just get it.”

He glanced up at
Marc who looked about to fall on the floor laughing, and added with a slight
slur, “If you don’t mind me saying so.”

“Not at all,
because you’re right.”

“Though, given
recent circumstances… If you choose to go to Bahamas, I suggest you tell Marc
to go with you.”

It took a couple
days for her to realize just
how
right the lawyer was. Marc sat in the
now remodeled living room reading a script, chuckling to himself, and called
out to her. “Babe, would you be a doll and run over to the store for me?”

You want me
to do what?

They had been
out and about enough for her to get a feeling of the city, but the thought of
going somewhere alone in his monster of a car intimidated her.

“You mean, go
alone, in the Cadillac?”

He peeked up
over the rim of the glasses he loved to pretend he didn’t need and smiled.

“Sure, it’s
still outside. Take one of the others if you don’t like that one.”

“Others?”

His attention
was already back on the script, and he sounded absent-minded.

“The keys are in
that little grey box on the garage wall. Just be careful. I don’t think the
roads are slippery, but they can be.”

She was clearly
supposed to get going and leave him alone so he could work, but she still echoed,
“Garage?”

He looked up
again, and put the script down on his lap.

“Oh... Come on.”

We have a
garage?

Marc bounced to
his feet, got her coat and plopped a hat down on her head.

“Don’t want you
to be cold.”

A second later,
he grabbed her hand, pulled her through a door she never saw before, and down a
staircase.

How does he
explode with energy like that? This must have been here all the time and I had
no idea. What else have I missed?

They went
through a thick door, and she squinted as lights came on, illuminating a vast
space underneath the house.

Marc sounded
like a little boy.

“I like cars,
but right now I only like the Escalade. If none of these do it for you, tell
Lawrence what you want and he’ll get one. Keys are over there. Anything looking
white or shiny on the road is slippery. Be careful.”

He pulled her
close and kissed her with much more passion than she expected. Then, he was
gone, and she stared at two rows of shining beauties.

Which one
will be the least expensive to fix if I slide off the road? Oh wow, is that a
Cobra?

Her fingers
hovered over the shiny hood, eager to touch, but worried about leaving a print
on the immaculate paint.

I’d love to
try that Corvette, if I’m still here when summer comes.

For her first
time driving in winter, something sturdy with four-wheel drive would be good.
The snow was gone from their yard, but that didn’t mean the road couldn’t be
slippery…

Her feet carried
her past a very large Humvee and a Harley Davidson, and stopped in front of a
sensible dark red Jeep. She looked at it and tilted her head to the side.

“Wha’cha say,
you and me?”

In her
imagination, the car answered.

“Sure, let’s go
for a ride.”

 

*****

 

Later in the
day, Laura sat in the kitchen, frowning over her cell phone.

Is Marc still
reading? He’s sure been doing that a lot. I hope he isn’t tired of me. How am I
supposed to know when to leave? He seems happy, and surprisingly sober, but
he’s used to play a role, so who knows.

Her mood didn’t
lighten from seeing her checking account overdraft.

“Dammit.”

“Why don’t you
buy a computer?” Marc’s voice made her jump.

“I’m broke. I’ll
have to go back and get a job soon or the landlord will put all my stuff in the
yard.”

He looked like
she said she was going to Mars.

“Sweetheart, use
the credit card. If they don’t accept payments online ask Lawrence to send them
a check.”

If he’s
prepared to pay my rent, it’s probably okay to stay a little longer. I just
don’t want him to think I’m poaching. Maybe he won’t notice if I get a cash
advance to get back in the black. It’s just thirty bucks, and the overdraft
fee. Damn, I am poaching.

“Do you like the
Jeep?”

“I love it.”

He crouched next
to her and rested his hands on her leg.

“Great. Take the
Jeep, go down to BestBuy, and buy a computer with your card. Phones are good,
but you need something bigger for working.”

She chewed her
lip. Was it that easy? Just buy stuff?

Marc tilted his
head a little but didn’t break eye contact.

“C’mon, give me
a smile.”

It was
impossible not to. He brushed his fingers over her cheek.

“I just want you
to be happy. Hey, you came here just after our Thanksgiving. Want to celebrate
the US one? We can ask what’s-her-name to cook.”

Is it that
late in the year already? Christmas is around the corner. Should I stay here
and we celebrate it together? That’s a little scary, but it would be so
awesome.

“Molly. Molly,
something French… Quibo, something… And I’d love that.”

“Quibodeaux, I
think. I really like this script, I hope I get it.”

His phone rang
and he glanced at the display.

“It’s Bill, I’ve
gotta take this. Would you make me some coffee, pretty please?”

“Sure.”

Thomas brought
over their new espresso machine a couple of days earlier. Marc was a wizard
with it and made cappuccinos and lattes where the milk formed hearts and
leaves. She was barely able to get something drinkable out of it. When he
returned to the kitchen, she had just made two failed attempts at using it.

Wow, he looks
happy. I don’t ever think he looked that happy.

“Great news.
Bill came through for me.”

She didn’t get
it, and he smiled and spread his hands out in response to her quizzical glance.

“I got the
part.”

I guess
that’s supposed to make me happy too.

His life was
completely back on track, and she was superfluous.

She tried to
smile, but didn’t really pull it off.

Marc frowned.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing…”

It didn’t sound
convincing even in her own ears. This would be a good time to lie, but she
couldn’t.

“I… I just don’t
want to leave.”

Much too honest.
Marc looked confused.

“What? Why… Why
would you leave? Did I do something? You have to hit me if I do something.”

She bit her lip
and shook her head, and understanding came to his eyes.

“Oh no… No, no,
no. What would I be without you? I’d be dead without you.”

Do I have
extremely bad self-confidence? Low self-esteem?

He pulled her
close.

“I’m so sorry.
It’s just like Lawrence said, I forget you’re not like the other women around
here. I just assumed…”

She closed her
eyes and buried her face against his chest.

“I won’t stop
you if you really want to leave, but I was hoping you’d stay. Please stay. We
can send for your things, Lawrence will take care of everything for you, just
please don’t go.”

She didn’t
answer, couldn’t answer, the lump in her throat was too large.

BOOK: The Actor
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