A little late in the day, but some lightweight romance for Fiction Friday:
A self-confessed coffee addict, she headed straight for the shelves piled high to the ceiling with coffee makers and espresso machines. A stainless steel espresso machine topped her kitchen wish list, but to her, they were like shiny baubles at Tiffany’s--too pricey for her to actually consider buying, but fun to look at and fondle.
She was so intent on checking out the latest in coffee equipment, she didn’t notice him at first standing just a few feet away rummaging through the kitchen gadgets. He was by himself and had evidently slipped under everyone else’s radar as well. He was the latest twenty-something “it” guy in Hollywood, gracing the covers of all the celebrity mags with juicy headlines about who he was supposedly sleeping with that week and the latest paparazzi shots of him getting out of his car, walking through the airport, grabbing a coffee, talking on his cell phone.
She was embarrassed to admit it, but she knew his stats:
Name: Michael Thomas Richardson (Mick for short)
Home: Split his time between New York and Los Angeles
Favorite Food: Microwaved Hot Pockets
He was dressed New York casual, in a white v-neck t shirt, seriously worn and ripped black jeans and a pricey-looking black leather jacket. A black knit cap completely covered his light brown hair; dark sunglasses were hiding what she already knew were impossibly blue eyes, and he was sporting a few days worth of facial hair--all in an unsuccessful attempt at camouflage. He lifted up his sunglasses, squinting to read the fine print on a package, and if she had any doubts as to his identity, they were immediately erased.
His presence triggered a flashback to when she was 13 and had a hopeless crush on a famous young actor. She could still conjure up his face at will. He couldn’t have been more than 17 at the time; he was blessed with a full head of sun-bleached blond hair, cat-like green eyes and he was slim and muscular….and shirtless in most of his pictures. His near-perfect image had been plastered all over her walls and she would blow sweet, innocent kisses to his image each night. She had wasted countless hours in her room fantasizing about how he would fall desperately in love with her and whisk her off into the sunset. And then her mother would call her to dinner, dragging her, kicking and screaming, back to reality and her mundane middle school existence. But she had eventually grown up and come to realize that she would have a better chance if she set her sights on the guy in the corner office or the one at the corner bar. She was no longer waiting for her adolescent fantasy to come true.
Still, as she saw Mick Richardson standing there, and felt herself regressing, morphing into that same pubescent groupie, she knew she’d never forgive herself if she passed up this once-in-a lifetime opportunity. The truth was, if she had been 13, she would have had pictures of this guy plastered over every square inch of her walls.
As she tried to muster up the courage to approach him, her thoughts were behaving like a group of unruly preschoolers refusing to cooperate and form a single, straight line. Not a single coherent thought in her head. He wandered over in her direction to check out the coffee makers. It was now or never. He was listening to his iPod. Maybe a tentative tap on the arm was in order.
“Um, excuse me, but are you Mick Richardson?”
He looked down at her and smiled. His eyes were even bluer than on the big screen and his smile was even warmer. The kind of warmth that generates sparks. Yep. There was a reason he had been dubbed one of the “Sexiest young stars in Hollywood.”
He pulled his earphones out of one ear. “Yeah. That would be me.” He shrugged as he gave his most sincere “aw shucks” expression.
She could hear music still playing from his dangling earphone. Was he actually listening to Van Morrison? She had just downloaded three Van Morrison songs last night. Most of her friends didn’t even know who Van Morrison was. She alone among her friends had a thing for classic oldies.
“Could I get your autograph? I’m here by myself and I don’t think I’d ever convince anyone that I actually had the nerve to talk to you.”
He chuckled and said, “Sure, I’d be happy to. Do you have something to write on and a pen? I’m afraid I’m empty handed,” and he patted his pockets to prove his point.
She nervously rummaged around in her purse. As she was digging, she found herself filling the empty air time with an improvised one-sided conversation.
“Actually, you’re the first person I’ve ever asked for an autograph. It seems like such an intrusion of personal space. I feel like I should be apologizing in advance, but my friends, who are major fans of yours, by the way, would never believe me. I hope you don’t mind. I mean, I know you get asked this all the time. I’m probably the 50th person today to bug you for an autograph…
“It’s fine, really,” he said, as he patiently waited for her to hand him something to write on. He seemed amused, rather than annoyed, by her attempt to explain her actions.
“Oh, and I noticed you’re listening to Van Morrison. I love his voice. I just downloaded some of his songs last night.”
She couldn’t seem to stop herself.
“A Van fan, huh?” He was nodding in approval.
She pulled out a crumpled envelope (it was the only thing she could find quickly in her cavernous purse) and a pen.
“What’s your name?”
“Rachel. Rachel Allen.”
“Okay, Rachel Allen.” It was childishly thrilling to hear him actually say her name. He was scribbling something down and she could tell it was more than just his autograph. But she was too busy trying to commit to memory the sharp angles of his jaw line to see how adept she was at reading upside-down.
He handed it back to her. “To Rachel. It was great to see you in Zabar’s and thanks for helping me pick out an espresso machine……Mick Richardson.”
She read it and was baffled. She looked back up at him, momentarily regaining her composure. “An espresso machine?”
“I saw you looking at them and you didn’t look nearly as confused as I feel. I love coffee, but I’m pretty much of a klutz in the kitchen. I just learned how to operate my microwave. Pathetic, right? I’m not sure what the hell I should be looking for here. Got any suggestions?”
He raised his ample brows expectantly. He looked like a helpless child and he was flashing one of his biggest smiles as he laughed out loud at the absurdity of his confession. He was actually making conversation, asking her for advice. He wasn’t coming across as the overbearing, self-absorbed celebrity she would have expected. In fact, he seemed incredibly… normal.
“Actually, I might have one suggestion. I think most espresso makers are too complicated; they take a little finesse to work them right, but I’ve always wanted to get one of these….the ones with the individual flavor pods. You just put the pod in place, add water and push a button. It’s a little expensive to constantly be replacing the pods, but it always sounded like the most convenient to me.”
It occurred to her that the cost of espresso pods was unlikely to be much of a concern for him. She had read how much he was supposedly getting for his latest movie.
“In other words, they’re idiot-proof? Sounds like it’s got my name written all over it. ” He said, laughing at himself and enjoying the joke.
He looked over at her as if he had just noticed her standing there. If this had been a regular guy, she would have known exactly how to interpret that look. But he was anything but a regular guy. He was clearly dispensing another healthy dose of his well-practiced charm. Still, there seemed to be some sort of strange disconnect between his well-honed celebrity image and the open, friendly guy standing in front of her.
She thanked him repeatedly for the autograph. He thanked her sincerely for her espresso advice and they went their separate ways. The day was now officially among her top ten. This was a vignette she would drag out, dust off and put on display for friends and acquaintances for some time to come.
She absentmindedly finished her shopping and made her way to a club downtown to see the Playground Warriors, a new band she had on her list of not-to-be-missed newcomers, still lugging around the spoils of her celebrity encounter. The band was setting up and the place was dark, but she could see that only a few devoted fans had arrived so early to claim their seats. She zeroed in on a table off to the side, close enough to the stage she’d be able to see sweat droplets on the band member’s faces, but out of the way of foot traffic so she could leave her prized espresso machine on the floor close by.
Within half an hour, the tables had begun to fill up. She motioned to the waitress to place her order before everyone else would be vying for her attention as well. As the girl wandered over in her direction, she seemed distracted. Rachel waved again to be sure she had been noticed. Despite her wandering eye, she was headed straight for Rachel’s table. “What’ll it be?”
”She’ll have an espresso.” In the fraction of a second it took for her to turn around to ID the voice, it clicked. It was him. Oh my. He had lost the sunglasses and was minus the knit cap. Distracting was an understatement.
“Hello, Rachel Allen.”
“What are you doing here?” she said, her voice sounding much more over-the-top excited than when the thought had formed in her head. She quickly surveyed the perimeter around him, and was again surprised to find he was alone.
“I guess the same thing you are. I came to listen to the band. Hey, can I join you?” He was already pulling out the empty chair next to her, making himself at home in her company. And if the warm smile on his face was any indication, he was pleasantly surprised by their second chance encounter of the day.
But, she couldn’t analyze that right now. Mick Richardson was sitting so close she could feel the warmth radiating from his body, and he was projecting one of his trademarked lopsided smiles in her direction. She wondered, would this qualify as being whisked off into the sunset? As the stage lights came on and the band started playing, he casually put his arm around her shoulder, leaning in even closer so she could hear him above the din of the music, and she quickly decided that…yes, yes, it would.