Original Work: You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home, Chapter 10, Part 6
Chapter 10, Part 6
“I don’t know any more about what goes on in her mind than you do, Scout.” Linda assured me, though at the mention of Emilia and what might be going on in her mind she frowned a little and I could tell that her mind was replaying the morning’s events and the accusations that Emilia had thrown on the table. Or maybe she was worrying about Emilia’s upcoming concert date and whether there would be a show or if the cancellation would mean the final nail in the coffin of her career. A nail that I wouldn’t even be able to pull back out.
But if she was worrying about any of those things, she didn’t verbally let on, pushing the thoughtful disappointment from her face as she smiled once more. “Go out and have fun.” Linda commanded. “Get the driver to take you. I know that you haven’t really had much of a chance to explore since you’ve been here, so enjoy it! I’m sure that Schapelle will have you back on a schedule before tomorrow.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” I assured her, still giddy at the prospect of the possibility that I would actually be coming home with bags instead of just envious wishes.
Though I’d never really thought about it before, I realized that the driver that I’d ridden with for the past several days must live somewhere close by the massive Thompson casa because he was at the house within five minutes of Linda’s request, waiting with a friendly smile by the door he was holding open for me. Even though he knew that I wasn’t my sister, I still tried to go for nonchalant when I asked to be dropped off at Rodeo Drive, as though taking a trip to the shopping mecca of the United States was something that I was only doing for lack of anything else better to do.
As the car left the driveway and started toward the far more populated city area, the driver studied me in the rearview mirror. “You’re looking more pulled together than when I last saw you.” He remarked with a hint of a smirk.
“Yeah, I reserve the soup and salad look for special occasions.” I remarked, finding that it was a lot easier to keep from mourning the loss of my gingham dress when the possibility for replacing it (and then some) was very concrete.
The driver smiled and focused his attention on the road, fidgeting with the radio occasionally. I leaned forward against my seatbelt, deciding that a little conversation couldn’t hurt. “So I feel like I’m at a disadvantage because you know all this stuff about me and my family and I don’t even know your name.” He willingly supplied it and I questioned, “So is this all you do, Daniel? Do you have a family?” Maybe I was being noisy but I hoped it would just pass for polite conversation.
Daniel looked at me in the rearview mirror. “Yeah, I got a wife and two kids. My daughter’s nine, she loves Emilia.” He replied, not seeming bothered by my potentially prying questions.
I smiled. “Well that must be a perk of the job then, I’m sure your daughter is thrilled.”
For a minute, Daniel hesitated and then gave me an uncertain smile. “Actually, Lydia hasn’t ever met your sister.” I raised an eyebrow and Daniel shrugged. I realized that Daniel probably knew Emilia’s tempestuous moods better than anyone because of his position as her driver; he’d probably listened to her ranting and raving in the backseat and had seen her chew out people and ignore her fans. No wonder he wasn’t willing to let his daughter come into contact with Emilia and her volatile moods; it was better for Lydia to admire her idol from afar than to risk meeting her and being disappointed.
I gave Daniel a smile so that he knew that I wasn’t personally offended by his decision to keep his daughter at a safe distance from my sister. I probably would have done the same thing in his position. “But I bet you get free concert tickets though.” I remarked.
Daniel grinned. “To all the shows she plays around here.”
I hadn’t really thought much about the details of Emilia’s profession, I hadn’t really thought much past the fact that she was famous, a house-hold name and constant tabloid fodder. Of course she was famous for something, of course she would have to perform all the tasks that successful entertainers were known for. Emilia’s threats to not sing were sort of vague until I started thinking about the concerts and shows that she surely had lined up in her itinerary and I couldn’t help but wonder how it was all going to play out.
“Is Emilia touring right now?” I questioned, hoping that Daniel would have some sort of insider’s knowledge that I had been denied.
Daniel shrugged. “As far as I know she’s just going to be doing a few concerts here and there, I don’t think Linda wants her to leave the state, especially not with you here.” He offered and it made sense to me because I doubted that Linda would have insisted I come all the way out here just to have me sit at home, alone, most of the time because, after all, Emilia couldn’t be in two places at once.
I nodded thoughtfully, considering his words before deciding to ask him another, unrelated question. “Have you worked for Emilia and my mother for long?” It was still weird referring to Linda as ‘my mother’ because that was something I had never really done before. Even though Beverly might as well be my mother I never referred to her as such when I was talking to people because everyone in Independence knew the true story of my lineage. And now I was actually with my mother, my real mother and it seemed so much easier just to call her Linda.
“Yeah, I’ve known Linda since before you and Emilia were born.” Daniel remarked with a wistful smile, like he was recalling those good old days. “I used to be a roadie for her band.”
At his words, I perked up, leaning forward with interest. “Then you must have known my dad too.” I stated eagerly, hoping to get the chance to pump his guy about my dad’s life before he became the man I know and love. I was sure that there was more to those too tame stories about life on the road than he was letting on. Granted his career as a roadie didn’t last too long but there still had to be some skeletons in his closet.
Daniel grinned and nodded. “Sure did, I was there that first night when Mitch met your mother. We had some good times playing cards and drinking and hanging out backstage with the rest of the guys, he always knew how to bluff his way through a round of poker.” I could see a little bit of my dad in the man that was being described to me now because my dad could lie about the cards in his hand better than anyone else I knew. “How’s your dad doing now, I still thing about him from time to time.”
“He’s fine, he got remarried, had two sons.” I answered and just thinking about Zach and Luke and my dad and my quaint little house back in Independence made me a little home sick. I tried to factor in the time difference so I could imagine what they were all doing right now and wondered if any of them were thinking about me or if my brothers were pleased to have me out of the house. I really needed to get better about calling home. “I guess his days of being a rock star roadie are over.”
Daniel didn’t seem at all surprised by this. “Your dad always seemed like more of a family man. Though that sure didn’t stop him from drinking and chasing the ladies and that time with the police in Rhode Island…” Daniel trialed off, trying to gauge my reaction in the rearview mirror. I was sure that I was wide-eyed with surprise and interest, eager to see how my sweet and seemingly innocent Dad could have a story involving the place. “Why do I get the feeling he never mentioned that story to you?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Well that’s because he never did. But I’m sure that he wouldn’t mind if you saved him the trouble of telling it and caught me up to speed.” I needed a good story I could hold over my dad’s head provided I ever got into any kind of trouble with the law. Which was unlikely because as Emilia and my siblings seemed so intent on pointing out, I was boring and boring people didn’t often end up on the wrong side of the justice system.
Daniel seemed to consider my suggestion but before he could overcome his hesitance he remarked, “Oh here we are,” with what I felt like was a sense of relief. I rolled my eyes but wasn’t about to hang around in the car when we were approaching the bustling sidewalks and crowded storefronts. At least I would have something to talk to Linda about tonight when I got home.
As he pulled the car up alongside the curb, Daniel turned back to face me. “You have my number right?” I nodded. “I’ll be in the area if you need me.” He started to get out of the car but his voice stopped me before I could do much more than open the door. “Try to stay away from crazy actresses, okay?”
“I’ll do my best.” I assured him, stepping on the sidewalk and watching the car disappear into traffic once more.
The first thing I realized about Rodeo Drive was the fact that it wasn’t really so much of a ‘drive’ at all but a cluster of stores and hotels that seemed to span more than just a single road. I tried to keep from staring as I attempted to get my bearings, acutely aware of the fact that I was being noticed and gawked at by the countless shoppers, who suddenly found my presence more interesting than the items on display in the windows. I was sure that Emilia had come to the district many times before, so I forced myself to look like I knew this place like the back of my hand, though it was difficult to figure out where I was trying to go and smile and wave at the people openly staring at me.
So I was standing in front of Dolce & Gabbana (holy crap) and right over there was Coach (really?!) and there was Prada…every time I was starting to come up with a game plan of how to attack this shopping paradise, someone would shyly slink over to me and ask for an autograph and though I was happy to sign whatever piece of paper they thrust into my hands it threw off my attempts to be focused. Though when a group of guys totting skateboards asked me to sign the newspaper article that I’d all ready become too familiar with I was a little less happy than usual. How did celebrities ever get anything done with this continuous onslaught of people demanding their attention? I figured it was something that took a lot of practice.
Finally I was able to start meandering my way down the sidewalk, though I was still turning heads and enticing excited whispers and exclamations. I had no idea what store I wanted to stick my head in first and I was starting to feel a little underdressed for a shopping excursion of Rodeo Drive. Was it all right to shop at Gucci wearing a sundress and bikini? And I was still a little uncertain of Linda’s suggestion that all I had to do was walk in looking and acting like Emilia and I’d be able to walk out with pretty much whatever I wanted. Well, judging by the stares and excitement I was creating, I had that first part down.
As I walked past the large windows of the Cartier store I couldn’t help but stare at the merchandise spread out before me. I couldn’t imagine actually owning a piece of the beautiful and sparkling jewelry, though as I kept walking past the windows I enjoyed the idea of seeing one of the rings on my finger or a pendant around my neck more and more, though somehow I had the feeling that Emilia’s celebrity discount didn’t apply on this situation.
I was so lost in my delusions that I ran smack into someone, the sort of collusion that was more than a bump and hard enough to be embarrassing. I stumbled backward, snapping out of my jewelry daydreams, momentarily too embarrassed to even force out a fumbled apology. My embarrassment only escalated when I saw who I’d run into.
Joshua Beckett smiled at me, his expression surprised and sardonic at the same time. “You were the last person I expected to run into.” He admitted and I only stared at him, still a little shocked by the fact that not only had I just collided with Joshua Beckett but we were also actually on speaking terms. “Thought you’d be inside, nursing a pretty wicked hangover.”
Damn. I guess he read the news like everyone else. How could I explain that a hangover wasn’t a problem because I’d gone to bed last night earlier than most school children? Instead I just croaked out, “I’m sorry,” though I wasn’t sure if it was in reference to colliding with him or Emilia’s headline-making evening.
For a minute Joshua only looked at me as though he was trying to figure that out as well. I wasn’t sure whether I should say anything more or just let the scrutiny continue in silence. Earlier that morning the only thing I’d wanted was to see Joshua, to talk to him and continue where we’d left off. Now I wished that I hadn’t run into him at all, at least not until I had come up with a story to explain away Emilia’s behavior. Of course Schapelle would decide to give me today off without prepping me with a buyable cover story.
Finally, Joshua shook his head as though in response to some inner conversation he’d been having with himself. “So what are you doing here, Emilia? Don’t you normally have this place closed down when you want to go shopping?” I was hoping that he was joking, because closing down Rodeo Drive seemed a little excessive, even for Emilia.
I shrugged, glad that my great conversational skills weren’t failing me now. “I thought it would be nice to get out of the house, be around other people.” I replied, hoping my words sounded convincing. Especially when I was wishing those other people would just go away because the shoppers weren’t making an effort to hide their interest in my conversation with Joshua and several had stopped walking completely in order to stare, taking pictures on cell phones and seeming to wait for their chance to jump in and ask for our autographs. “You know…normal people.” What I meant by normal people was people who weren’t Emilia, Schapelle and Linda, people who were more like I would be if I was actually myself in this situation. I had to admit, I would probably be doing my fair share of gawking.
Joshua laughed at my statement, shaking his head. “These aren’t the normal people.” He continued to laugh.
I glared at him. “They’re more normal than the people I’m usually around.” I assured him frankly.
Again, I meant Emilia and her entourage (which was now my entourage too, I guess) but I had the feeling that Joshua decided to go for his own interpretation because he remarked, “You mean the type of people who can have fun without alcohol?” He arched an eyebrow, no doubt challenging me to disagree with him.
I frowned at him. “Last night, that wasn’t even me.” I informed him frankly, only to realize seconds later exactly what I had said. Joshua gave me a slightly confused look and I realized that I’d inadvertently just confessed the truth to him and I doubted that was going to make Linda and Schapelle very happy. “What I meant was that wasn’t the person I’m trying to be now. Things just got…out of hand.” Hopefully he would buy that.
Joshua raised an eyebrow and I could tell he was trying to gauge the BS factor in what I was telling him. “So let me guess, they kidnapped you and forced the alcohol down your throat and as for that dancing, well-”
“Just forget it.” I snapped, not liking the tone that his voice was taking or the direction this conversation was going in. I was frustrated with Joshua for suddenly developed his Holier-than-Thou attitude and with Emilia for ruining whatever might have happened between the two of us. Schapelle was right, Emilia wasn’t just messing with her life now, she was messing with mine and even if I was jumping the gun about what might have happened between Joshua and myself she was still removing that possibility and, hello I was a teenage girl: that possibility was what I survived on. “We can’t all be as perfect as you.” I mumbled, turning away from him and starting back the way I had come.
Within seconds, I felt someone grabbing my arm and I was reeled back to face Joshua. “You’re right, I’m sorry.” He apologized quickly and I hoped there was honest sincerity in his voice. “It’s really none of my business what you do and it’s really not my place to give you a hard time about it and I’m sorry.” This was a good sign right? He seemed to feel genuinely bad about passing judgment on my/Emilia’s antics and I was very aware of his hand resting against the skin of elbow. “I guess I just…” He trailed off, as though embarrassed and hesitant to finish his sentence, especially with so many onlookers.
Though I was even more acutely aware of their presence now, I tried to ignore the audience we had developed. “What?” I pressed, intrigued to know where his mind was going.
But Joshua only smiled and shook his head. “Nothing. Let’s just start over, okay?” He released my arm and as though by some unspoken agreement we started walking down the sidewalk once more, hoping to encourage our on-lookers to do the same. It was amazing that any shopping actually got down in this place if everyone was always stopping to stare at the clientele. Though I was pretty sure I saw Kate Hudson on the opposite side of the sidewalk and my steps definitely faltered.
“So what are you doing here today?” I questioned, looking at Joshua to keep from searching for other famous faces. “Other than trying to offer guidance to the misdirected?” I smiled so that he realized that I was only giving him a hard time and hoped he wouldn’t take offense to my comment.
“Offering guidance is a full time job, I hardly have time for anything else.” Joshua replied and by the hint of a smile I saw on his face I could tell that he was slightly relieved that I had been so eager to brush off his earlier remarks. I wondered if Emilia would have been as forgiving. “I’m shopping for something for my father’s birthday. I drew the short straw and got in charge of picking out the ‘family present.’”
For the first time I noticed that Joshua was carrying several bags, one of which had the words Omega stenciled on the side. I felt my eyes go wide. “Whatever happened to the homemade presents?” I mumbled, more to myself, thinking about all those times I’d given my dad painted picture frames and coffee mugs.
“My youngest brother’s in charge of that area.” Joshua replied in reference to my not-so-mumbled comment. “My dad’s got quite the collection of stick-figure family portraits.”
I smiled at how normal Joshua sounded in that moment, how no one back at my high school would have believed that he did things as mundane as shop for his family members. I knew a few guys who would be disappointed to learn that Joshua didn’t exploit his celebrity prowess to constantly seduce girls. “How many brothers do you have?” I tried to remember the countless articles that Jordan had read and whether any of them mentioned any family members other than Stephen and whether or not I was supposed to know this information all ready.
“Well there’s me and Stephen and my little brother Grayson. My mom never did get that daughter she always wanted.” Joshua replied with a smile. I guess he all ready knew how many siblings Emilia had because he didn’t ask me the same question and I knew that, even if he did, I was going to have to deny Luke and Zach and technically myself.
“Maybe she’s lucky, my mother always said that girls were a handful.” I might have been stretching the truth a little, though I was sure that Linda was feeling that way about Emilia right about now.
Joshua grinned. “Trust me, boys can be quite the handful too. You should have seen the trouble that Stephen and I got into when we were younger.” He smiled as though recalling the memories of the chaos that he and his older brother had caused. “There’s a particularly interesting story involving mattresses and the roof.”
I arched an eyebrow. “That’s a story I think I’d like to hear.”
“Unfortunately that’s classified information.” Joshua winked at me and I felt my heart jump a little in my chest. Okay, a lot but I decided to keep that classified information. “Besides I don’t want to bore you with the old family stories. I’m sure that the life of Emilia Thompson is a little bit faster and more exciting than the Beckett Family Stories.”
I rolled my eyes. “There you go again, acting like I’m this all-impressive person.” I gave him a frank look. “But do I recall that you are a platinum recording artist Joshua Beckett?”
If I wasn’t mistaken, Joshua’s cheeks flushed at my words, though I didn’t know if it was because of the embarrassment of being called out on his tone or because of the not-so-subtle compliment. “You’re right,” Joshua admitted a bit sheepishly, “I guess I try so hard to make sure that I’m still this normal, everyday guy that I don’t give other people credit for trying to do the same thing.”
“I guess it’s not easy to give me credit, with all those stories on the news all the time.” Thanks to Emilia, it was impossible to seem ordinary like the perks and prices of fame weren’t completely going to her head. “But I’m really trying to be better, you know, I…I want to be normal…as normal as normal can be.” In this place, it seemed as though ‘normal’ was completely up for interpretation.
For a minute we both walked in silence and I wondered if Joshua was thinking about what I had just said and whether he believed me or if he was thinking about the fastest and politest way to ditch me. I really hoped that it wasn’t the latter because being here with him made me forget everything that had been swirling around my head last night, made me forget my homesickness and the way I felt like a complete stranger with my own mother and twin sister. Because of his attitude, it was easy to forget or at least momentarily pretend that Joshua was just some normal guy I had met at school or at the mall, someone I might actually have a chance with. But when I thought about who I was, those illusions flew out the window and were replaced by the reminder that I wasn’t Emilia, I wasn’t anyone impressively rich or famous or even talented and that Emilia was probably right and the only reason that he was even spending time with me right now was because he thought I was Emilia, because he thought that I was someone who understood what I was like to be hounded by fans and followed by photographers everywhere you went. Though I was definitely starting to understand the latter aspect very well, seeing as we were currently trailing a few eager paparazzi, though I was trying really hard not to acknowledge their presence.
I tried to force all these thoughts back down in the back of my brain and ignore everything aside from the fact that I was with Joshua right now and hopefully, despite my sister’s best efforts, he would want it to stay that way.
My questions were soon answered when Joshua stopped walking abruptly and turned to face me. “So what are you doing right now? Aside from attracting quite the fan club?” He indicated the crowd that had been tailing us. I was sure that fans and paparazzi alike were hoping for any interesting story to tell.
I glanced over my shoulder and frowned at the sound of clicking cameras. We weren’t even doing anything remotely interesting. “I was thinking about doing this all afternoon, leading them out of town like the pied piper.”
Joshua smirked. “So no time to go to the beach?” I guessed he’d noticed my swimsuit underneath my sundress.
I tried to go for causal but doubted I was very successful. “I think my plans are flexible.” I assured him.
This time Joshua smiled, the most sincere smile I’d seen him give since our dinner at Antonio’s had been interrupted by Michaela Foxx. “It’s a date then.”
I tried not to fixate too much on that singular word. But I wasn’t very successful.