Nikki woke up to a feeling of happiness that she couldn’t immediately place. She propped herself up on her elbows sleepily and looked around her bedroom. She caught sight of her evening dress from last night which she had tossed into a corner, too sleepy to bother to hang it up, and remembered the premiere. She certainly wouldn’t be happy about that. She frowned for a moment before realization dawned and she sprung out of bed, tossed on a dressing gown and hurried out of the bedroom and down to the living room.
There he was, sitting on the couch, his cowboy boots propped up on the coffee table, his phone in his hand.
“Clint. You’re awake.”
It had been late last night by the time either of them was willing to let go of the other, and Nikki had offered him one of spare bedrooms rather than him having to drive home so early in the morning.
He smiled up at her. “I couldn’t really sleep that well,” he admitted.
“I slept perfectly.” She came over and kissed him. “Why don’t I go make us some coffee?”
“Actually, hold on a second.”
“What is it?” She sat down next to him.
Clint gestured at his phone. “I’ve been reading the reviews that are trickling in for your movie.”
“Oh dear.” She sighed and leaned back. “Alright, hit me with the worst. How bad is it?”
“To be honest…not as bad you might have thought.”
“They couldn’t possibly have liked it.”
“No. They all agree it’s a horrible movie with no redeeming qualities…except one. You.”
“They all agree that you seemed charming, natural and extremely likeable. One critic even said he’d be happy to see you act again, in a script that didn’t make him want to ‘tear his own ears off’.”
Nikki laughed. “You’re kidding me?”
“No. They all more or less agree that you weren’t bad.”
“You mean there’s actually a chance I won’t win the award for worst actress this year?”
“It’s looking highly probable.”
She let out a huge sigh of relief and hugged him. “So I may live this movie down sometime this decade? I can’t believe it! I may just been incredibly lucky and dodged the bullet.”
“Or talented. Maybe you have a future career in acting after all.”
“Oh no. I’m not going through this again. But speaking of my career, there is something we need to talk about.”
He pocketed his phone and turned to her, frowning at the seriousness in her voice. “What is it?”
“I love you very much Clint and I trust your opinion. And I will always trust your opinion and want it. But I don’t want you to be my manager again.”
“Please don’t misunderstand me. You were a fantastic manager, the best one I will ever have. But like I said, I love you. And no matter what happens in my career I don’t want to lose you because of it. And looking back at what happened, I’m not sure we couldn’t have figured the rest out if you hadn’t been my manager on top of everything else.”
Clint nodded before leaning his head against the back of the couch and looking up at the ceiling. “You’re probably right.”
She looked at him intently. “You’re not disappointed…are you?”
“No. Not really. I hadn’t actually thought about it yet, the possibility of being your manager again.”
“Did you like being my manager?”
He smiled at her. “I did. But I care a lot more about being with you then about working for you.”
There was a long drawn out moment of silence during which Nikki reached over and took his hand, making small patterns in his palm with her little finger.
“Last night, you said you were a failure. You don’t really think that, do you?”
“I was probably being overly dramatic.”
“What do you think then?”
He shrugged. “I’m not a success. I mean look at what I do with my life. I’m not a photographer. I’m a paparazzo. A group that pretty much everyone agrees, in this whole world of people who can’t agree on anything, they don’t like.”
“Who says you’re not a photographer? The same person who said I’m not an actress?” Nikki smiled at him. “And that I should stick to singing? You might want to reread some of those reviews from the critics you were just telling me about. I can act apparently. Who knew? And if I can act, you can certainly take pictures.”
“The two things aren’t connected.”
“You’re missing the point. You gave me career advice, now it’s my turn to give you some. I’ve seen your photographs online and they’re good. Alright maybe I don’t know anything about photography, but I know I liked looking at them. If you don’t like doing what you’re doing then change it.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Of course it is. Because now you’ve got a patron of the arts.”
“What? You mean you? Nikki I can’t use your money.”
“Why not? We’re together now aren’t we? You want this. I want this. So why shouldn’t we work together on it?”
“But what if we-”
“Don’t work out? I thought we weren’t thinking like that anymore.”
“We’re not. But it’s just not the way it’s done.”
“Oh who cares about the way it’s done? When have I ever done anything ‘the way it’s done’?” she demanded, crossing her arms. “But fine, if pride gets in the way, I can at least get some work for you. I know people, people who need headshots, stills, photos from recording booth. I have connections and we are a team after all. We can work together. And you can make money and be the photographer you actually want to be.”
“I love you.”
She said, “I love you too.”