Clint fiddled with his camera lens, cleaning it with a soft cloth before reattaching it. He lifted his camera bag off the floor and set it down with a ‘thunk’ onto the coffee table where he began repacking it. A knock distracted him.
He got to his feet and answered it, guessing it was probably the Chinese food. It wasn’t.
“Nikki.” He stared at her. He’d seen her at events and parties, entering nightclubs from across the roped line set for photographers. But he was acutely aware that this was the first time he’d been this close to her in months.
She was looking upset and when he opened the door she was biting a fingernail nervously. Oddly, when she saw him she relaxed and beamed at him.
“Thank you goodness you’re alright.” She stepped forward, her hands almost rising and for a second he thought she was going to hug him but she caught herself in time and instead sidestepped him into the apartment.
Clint closed the door and turned to her, feeling oddly happy but confused. “Why wouldn’t I be alright?”
“I tried calling you and you didn’t answer.”
“It ran out of batteries. I have it recharging in my office. You could have left a message. I would have gotten back to you. And someone not answering their phone is hardly proof of death, even in this phone-crazy age.”
“But I heard-, a friend of mine told me that a paparazzi had had been killed or died or something. She wasn’t clear and I didn’t know who or how and I was worried-”
“It wasn’t me. I’m fine.”
She smiled at him. “I’m glad.”
“Me too,” he chuckled. There was an awkward pause. Any minute now the only option Nikki would have would be excuse herself and Clint found himself wanting to prevent that. “Would you like a drink? I have beer, soda, water.”
“Water would be good.”
He nodded. “Hold on.” He went to the kitchen and got two glasses, filled them, and came back out. Nikki was sitting on the couch, looking about the room a little nervously. He handed over her drink and sat down in one of the armchairs. “So what did you hear about this photographer who died?”
“I don’t know. Not much,” said Nikki, shaking her head. “Just that he was dead, something wasn’t right and then my friend hung up. I tried to call you and when I didn’t get an answer I came over.”
“Bizarre. I have to look it up and see who died. Probably someone I know.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. I guess saying ‘thank goodness’ then was a little inappropriate.”
“Between you and me, I’m glad I’m not dead too.”
The two smiled at each other before Nikki broke eye contact and looked down at her water. “So,” she said, “if you haven’t been dead, how have you been?”
“Alright. Life, work, not much has changed. How about you?”
“Good. I’ve been good.”
“Working on the next album yet?”
“Uh no. Not yet. I have been working on a song for the movie though. They wanted an original work for the credits. You know so if it’s a huge hit they can try and win some awards for best original song?”
“Right. Makes sense. How did the filming go? I saw the release date has been pushed back to early next year.”
She frowned. Clint kicked himself mentally. That had probably not been the most tactful question given how they’d gotten where they were now.
“Wonderfully,” she said, placing the water down on the coffee table. “The shooting went great. So good in fact the studio wanted us to film some extra scenes….because they wanted more of it. So that’s why it’s been pushed back.” She winced a little, as if aware that it didn’t make much sense.
Nikki rose to her feet. “I have to go. I just came by to check if you were alright and you are so I should leave.”
He stood up as well. “It was really good to see you Nik.”
Out in the hallway Nikki stopped and closed her eyes. She should have told him about the film. She should have told him it was a huge colossal mess. But then he’d say he’d been right and that he’d told her so. But he hadn’t been. Working on the film had been good for her. It had helped her deal with her father’s arrest. That had to count for something did it? And yet her stomach sunk every time she thought about it getting released.
She opened her eyes and shook her head. It didn’t matter anymore what Clint thought.
Filming was over for the day since Frank had to be taken to the hospital to get stitches for his lip. Holly had tried to look remorseful but she got the sense that no one really believed her, least of all Frank who was decidedly peeved at her. The director said they could probably use the take of the scene but he seemed a bit shaken over the whole punch and Holly thought it would be a good idea to make a hasty retreat off set before she started getting any lectures.
She decided to head over early to the coffee shop where she was meeting Amy. Since she hadn’t had breakfast or lunch, she’d use the extra time to eat something. She arrived an hour early, ordered coffee and an omelet and had a pleasant time eating it and people watching. She was still a little shocked by the events of the afternoon but there had certainly been something cathartic about punching Frank. She laughed. Perhaps she shouldn’t. He had been bleeding after all, but his expression had certainly been priceless.
By the time Amy arrived, Holly was in a decidedly good mood. She greeted her friend happily.
“Amy! It’s so wonderful to see you!”
“Holly you look fantastic! How have you been?”
Amy ordered a tea and the two settled down.
“I am sorry I haven’t called sooner,” said Amy. “I just wasn’t sure if you wanted me to. You had so much to deal with.”
Holly waved it away. “No, I understand that. But I’m awfully glad to see you now. What’s been going on with you? What the exciting news you wanted to tell me?”
“Well,” said Amy beaming, looking about ready to bounce out of her chair. “I’m opening my bakery!”
“What? That’s amazing!”
“I know! I can’t believe it. I have it all planned out. I thought I’d have to wait at least another five years but I can actually do it now! I inherited a little bit of money. My great grandmother died, and left me a few thousand dollars. Together with the money I’ve been saving, both from my work and from my baking, I have enough for a down payment on a place. I still can’t afford a place in LA which was my original plan, but I decided to look in some the surrounding areas. I found this town, Redlands, it’s a little over an hour from here and it’s really nice. There are a couple of IT companies there and other startups, it’s got sidewalks and grass, and it’s a really nice sized town. And I’ve found a beautiful place there. It used to be a small family restaurant, so I won’t need to do a whole lot of remodeling to make it suitable for a bakery.”
“Amy, that’s so exciting! I’d love to see the place.”
“Of course! We could go over tomorrow and look at it. I think you’ll love it as much as I do. It’s on this beautiful street, with antique stores and restaurants and right across the road is a costume shop. It’s just perfect.”
“Thank you. I still can’t quite believe it’s all real.”
“You’ve earned it.”
“I hope so. And I hope I make a go of it.”
“Well if there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.”
“Actually…” Amy shifted, suddenly looking nervous. “We always said…I thought you wanted to…be a part of it?”
Holly blinked at her, not quite understanding. “What do you mean?”
“You always said,” Amy twisted a strand of hair nervously around her fingers, “that if I started the bakery and you were acting…that you’d want to…help?” She said the last word a little weakly.
“Yes. You always said it. I thought,” she shrugged sheepishly. “I thought you were serious.”
Holly had been. She’d always thought so at least. But what had Frank said? ‘The people that all of a sudden want to ‘catch up’ either want to use your connections or your money.’ Frank had been right. She hated that. And she hated that Amy had made him right. She knew what she had said in the past when she and Amy had talked about the bakery but right now she felt raw and Amy’s question rubbed her the wrong way.
“I haven’t seen you in months,” said Holly abruptly.
Amy frowned, confused. “I know. I’m sorry I didn’t call. I explained-”
“But you called now.”
“Yes. I wanted to tell you about the bakery and-”
“And ask me for money?”
Amy suddenly looked on the verge of tears. “I thought it was something you’d be excited about. You always said so.”
“When we were roommates. When we were friends.”
“I thought we still were friends.”
“Friends see each other. Friends talk and call and don’t randomly out of the blue ask for money.”
“But you said it and I planned-. Never mind.” Amy pulled out her purse and started fumbling in it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make it seem that way.”
“Well that’s the way it looks,” said Holly, something told her she was off here but rather than listen to it she allowed herself to grow angrier.
Amy pulled out several dollars and placed it on the table. “For the tea,” she explained. She was refusing to meet Holly’s eyes, and her voice didn’t sound entirely even. She’d probably been nervous enough about this meeting and Holly’s reaction hadn’t helped. A niggling sense of guilt plagued the edge of Holly’s thoughts but she pushed it aside. “I-I have to go,” said Amy, standing up. “I shouldn’t have-, I’m sorry. Good-bye.”
Holly watched her go, one voice screaming at her to go after Amy and another voice screaming at her to stay right where she was. She knew she was about to cry. She pulled out her cellphone and tried to call Nikki but the line was busy.
She was alone. There was no one to talk to. She couldn’t get Nikki, she couldn’t go to Evelyn, Frank was out of the question and Amy was gone. Holly felt on the verge of a breakdown with now one to turn to. Worse, she wasn’t entirely sure that Amy had been wrong and the guilt was already beginning to gnaw at her nerves as the anger leaked out of her.
Holly stared at her phone. She was miserable and alone and she needed someone. Anyone.
She sent a short text message to the last person she could think of.
Could I please come over? – Holly