Original Work: You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home, Chapter 11, Part 4
Chapter 11, Part 4
What the hell, you only live once, right? “What were you expecting when you took me out to Antonio’s?”
I could tell that Joshua wasn’t anticipating such a personal question. But, technically, it was something that no one else knew but him so I was still within the perimeters of his game. He seemed to give my question serious thought, looking almost uncertain to answer. Finally, he looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “The truth?” I assured him I wanted nothing but.
As traffic began to finally inch along, Joshua replied, “I really was expecting you to be a…well a bitch.” I had to admit, I wasn’t really expecting a pleasant answer. Emilia had made quite the reputation for us. “I really didn’t want to go, it was something I was doing for the band, you know, trying to get on your good side but I wasn’t expecting a miracle or anything. I wasn’t even expecting to make it through the entire meal.”
“Well, you weren’t disappointed in that aspect at least.” I pointed out with a slightly forced smile. Even though I knew he wasn’t talking about me, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed at Joshua’s words. He hadn’t wanted to go out with me; when he’d sent those flowers, he’d only been doing it to make his band mates and manager happy. I wondered if it made me a sap because I felt a little thrill every time I saw the flowers on my dresser. I also wondered if maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. I mean, I was sitting shot-gun in Joshua’s car, was I not? Why did romance have to be so confusing? “Well, I have to commend your performance,” I pointed out with only slightly forced half-heartedness, “you seemed happy to see me last night.”
Joshua blanched, almost as though he’d been caught in a lie. “Well, that’s the thing…I was happy to see you last night.” This was certainly an interesting turn of events. “You just looked so normal, sitting there at the table, waiting for me to get there. And then the way you handled Michaela after she went all Lindsay Lohan on you…I thought maybe I’d jumped the gun on you a little bit.”
Ha! I guess Emilia hadn’t ruined everything; take that evil twin sister and oppressive manager! I must have been smiling like an idiot because Joshua chuckled. “I wish everyone could take criticism and truth as well as you.”
I shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me. It’s almost like you’re talking about a completely different person.”
Joshua smirked and nodded, giving his full attention to the road now that the road was no longer a parking lot and we were able to move above the speed of a snail. Now that we were actually moving, I could smell the sea in the air and felt the breeze cooling from the closeness of the ocean, but only slightly.
“All right, so, what were you expecting when you first met me?” Joshua questioned, obviously content to divert from the usual twenty-questions trivia he and his band mates indulged in.
That was an answer that would take some careful editing. “Hold on, I think you still owe me a question.” I interjected, stalling. “You asked me two questions before.”
“Sounds like avoidance to me.” Joshua looked at me, his raised eyebrows challenging me to contradict what he said. I decided not to bother. “But I guess you have a point. Okay, my favorite animal is a sea turtle.” I nodded thoughtfully, as though I’d just received very valuable information. “But unfortunately it looks like further questioning will have to wait, because we’ve finally made it.”
And sure enough, we had; there was the ocean, stretching out in front of me, shimmering under the sunlight and looking exactly the way it did in the movies: an oasis in the middle of all the buildings, people and traffic. The asphalt was partially hidden under sand, blown up from the beach that seemed to have just started out of nowhere. The beach was crowded with people of all shapes and sizes, enjoying the sun, the water or the scenery, parked under umbrellas or on towels, listening to iPods or wrangling children away from the water’s edge.
Joshua nosed his car into a spot that I would never have tried to force my finicky demon car into and took a deep breath of the salty, fishy air before undoing his seatbelt. When we got out of the car, exactly what I was expecting to happen happened but that didn’t make me any more prepared for the mob. In the few seconds we’d been in the parking spot, we’d caught the attention of everyone within a twelve-mile radius of the car and as soon as I stepped out of the car, I was instantly surrounded by a mob of over-eager, excited teenage girls (and boys and parents and toddlers), who all seemed a lot worse than the paparazzi we’d just narrowly escaped. I was getting cell phones and notepads shoved in my face before I’d even taken two steps away from the car and as soon as I’d scribbled my sister’s name and handed the pen and paper back another one was getting thrust into my hands. I knew Emilia would have eaten all this up and known exactly how to handle it, only to probably refuse to sign anything or take pictures and very rudely shove her way out of the masses but all I wanted to do was get back in Joshua’s car and hide out.
Instead I just smiled, nodded to all the enthusiastic “I love yous” and “I love your CDs” and tried to remember that this was all in a day’s work. As much as I wanted to follow Emilia’s example and go storming out on everyone, I knew moments like this were exactly why Linda and Schapelle had drug me out here in the first place. Just when I thought the mass was thinning, more people, apparently attracted by the mob, stepped in to take the place of those who had moved on.
Somehow, Joshua managed to get from his side of the car to mine and took my hand the way he had when he’d whispered “run” before jerking my down the street to avoid the paparazzi. At first I thought he was just posing for pictures, which the mob ate up like they’d been waiting for this moment their entire lives but I quickly realized that he was tugging me ever so slowly away from the crowd, like he was suggesting we make a break for it. Finally, we started to muscle our way through the crowd and though they seemed disappointed to see us go, they didn’t try to follow us like the paparazzi would have done.
I breathed out a sigh of relief, shaking away the images of me being stuck against the passenger side of the car for the rest of my life, signing and smiling until I was eighty-five. “How does anything ever get done?” I mumbled rhetorically to myself as we moved away from the parking lot and toward the beach.
But my question caught Joshua’s attention in spite of my best efforts. “You’ve never seemed to let them stop you before.” He pointed out. He gave me a quizzical look, as though he was starting to doubt his companion for the first time. “In fact, you’ve always seemed to encourage the attention.”
Busted. “Well, I-”
Joshua continued on like I hadn’t spoken. “Are you feeling all right? You haven’t been yourself lately.” He teased, putting his hand on my forehead. Surprisingly, I felt just fine after that. “No fever. It seems like you have a case of Disenfranchised-Celebrity-Itis.” He stated with mock professionalism.
I smiled. “You’re right, I think that’s exactly what I’ve got.” He took his hand away and we started walking down the beach again. “So what’s the cure, doc?”
Joshua seemed to think for a moment. “I say an afternoon on the beach with a charming pop star.”
I nodded, accepting his treatment. “Good, one of those shouldn’t be too hard to find around here.” I started to walk away from him, scanning the crowd.
I hadn’t gotten more than three steps before I felt Joshua grab my wrist and reign me back toward him. I turned my head away from him so he couldn’t see the puppy-love, idiotically happy smile that went sliding across my face. I wanted to pinch myself to ensure that I wasn’t dreaming. Jordan would never believe this in a million years.
“Maybe you could settle for a moderately-amusing pop star.” Joshua suggested hopefully.
I turned back to look at him, hoping that he would mistake my flustered pink cheeks as an effect of the sun and the crowds. “I guess I could settle.” I smirked, trying to tease but I knew the sparkle in my eyes betrayed my excitement. I felt giddy at the idea of being with Joshua and not because he was Joshua Beckett but because a part of me was really starting to like him, despite our earlier short comings. I was on a beach, in California when I should have been in school in a no-where town in Georgia and I was with an attractive guy who seemed to enjoy my company. I guess being Emilia did have some advantages after all.
Joshua smiled. “Good.”