“You know, I just feel like I can’t connect with anybody on an emotional level the same way I did with her. Like, she perfectly understands the… The pitfalls of being famous, but she’s the opposite way a famous person acts. She really has not changed since I knew her before she blew up.”
“David, you can’t just walk into my office on my lunch break, lie down on the couch and expect me to help you work through your problems. That’s not how this works, you need to schedule an appointment.” Olivia replied as she took a bite of her salad which was resting in a plastic container.
“Well, cancel your 2 o’clock appointment then.” David replied
“I can’t just cancel people’s appointments on them last minute like that.” Olivia responded earnestly
“Well, I’ll pay you twice your hourly rate. No, in fact, I’ll just pay your rent for a month.” David suggested
Olivia exhaled deeply “David, I don’t need you to pay my rent, that’s absurd.”
“It’s the least I could do.”
“Ok, fine. Let me call Mr. Anderson and tell him that his appointment needs to be moved.” She replied pensively, grabbing her black office phone with her left hand. After an hour was up, David sat up from the couch and moved over to the desk where Olivia was seated. He sat down in the gray chair on the near side of her desk.
“Well David, did you think that helped at all?” she asked
“Absolutely. It felt good just to get my feelings out there, you know? It’s really hard when you don’t have anybody to say these things to. Thanks Olivia.” David answered
“That’s good, would you like to make this a weekly thing then?” Olivia suggested
“Sure, if you’re ok with knowing all my most traumatic secrets.” David half joked.
“Ok, if you’re going to come back then I need you to fill out this form and give it to the front desk on your way out.” Olivia stated, turning her back to her friend by spinning around in her office chair. As she turned around, David grabbed her yellow legal pad where she had been jotting down notes. Her handwriting was incredibly neat and legible.
“Lack of strong parental figures, narcissistic personality disorder and a possible God complex? You got all of that from the first session?” David asked incredulously flipping through her notepad.
“No, I got all of that in the first 5 minutes, the rest are just doodles.” Olivia answered “Besides, you are not supposed to read those, they’re for me.” She added, grabbing back the legal pad.
“I don’t get that last part at all.” David said, exasperated “Do you ever see me hanging out with other celebrities? No, it’s all normal people like you and Rose and Syd. I’d much rather hang out with lepers than with the tax collectors as they say. How can I have a God complex?”
“David, you just compared yourself to Jesus.” Olivia sighed.
David began filling out the form with the blue pen that Olivia had given him.
“You know, I have to say, the mundane therapist look really suits you surprisingly well.” He complimented her in reference to Olivia’s slightly baggy sweater and black work slacks with a characteristic arrogant smugness.
“David, behave will you. I have a boyfriend.” She replied, stifling a laugh with her hand.
“Whoa whoa wait, hold on.” David started, looking up from his paperwork and discontinuing his writing. “Since when do you have a boyfriend?” he asked
“Well, he’s not my boyfriend technically.” She stated “We met at the Earth Day festival a few weeks ago and he asked me out, we’ve seen each other a few times. His name is Jonah, he’s really sweet. He’s having a get together barbecue at his house because he wants to meet you guys. I was about to invite you actually if you want to stop by this weekend.” She offered
“Yeah, sure. As long as you don’t mind me judging him all day.” David replied charmingly. Olivia giggled and David stood up to leave.
“See you this weekend David.” Olivia called
“Alright, you too.” David replied. He tried to hide the bitterness in his voice but it clearly peeked through. He got up and walked out, handing the form to the lady at the front desk on his way out.
The day of the party, Gibson and Rose were at the super market getting some last-minute supplies for Jonah’s barbeque that they had been invited to. As they walked down the isles of the supermarket whose floors had just been waxed to an uncomfortably shiny sheen, Rose turned to her husband who was staring intently at the slip of paper Olivia had given them for a list.
“I can’t make heads or tails of this damn list that Olivia wrote.” Gibson sighed “She said one bag of chips, does she mean fries or potato chips?”
“Don’t they call potato chips crisps in the UK?” Rose inquired
“Yeah well, they call priests vicars and measure distance in something called kilometers. How are you even supposed to know how much that is?” Gibson retorted
“Well, kilo means 1,000, so it’s 1,000 meters.” Rose explained
“Yeah, well that’s stupid. Give me miles any day of the week, 5,280, now that’s a nice round number.”
Rose grabbed the list from Gibson and looked over it.
“Oh my god, of course Olivia has gorgeous hand writing, why wouldn’t she?”
“Do I seriously need to be worried about Olivia stealing you from me?” Gibson asked, with a genuine laugh. He grabbed a bag of original flavor chips off the shelf and placed it into his cart. They walked over to the frozen food isle and grabbed a bag of frozen French fries and plopped them down in the space next to the potato chips.
“Ok, now we just need colored tooth picks and we’re done.” Gibson read aloud. Rose was intently staring at her phone.
“What’s up? Who are you texting?” he inquired
“Not texting, emailing.” Rose answered off-handedly.
“Well, who emailed you?”
“Elaina. She was trying to get me an audition for a small part in a movie.”
“Wait, did you ever plan to tell me you were going to start auditioning for parts again?” Gibson asked, a mix of excitement and bewilderment in his voice.
“I wasn’t going to take it probably, even if she can get it for me.” Rose admitted
“Why not? You should get back into acting again Rosie. You’re so talented at it.” Gibson encouraged her.
“Thanks, but I don’t know. I was going to apply for some real jobs.”
“You don’t need a real job honey.” Gibson said while scanning the shelves for the item he wanted, then haphazardly tossing it in the cart. “I make enough money just from playing live shows now to pay the bills. You deserve to chase your dreams too, now more than ever.”
Rose looked at her husband with a loving smile. “I’ll think about it, but I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, so let’s just see if I can even get the audition first.” Rose reasoned.
About an hour later, Gibson and Rose arrived at Jonah’s house. It was a small, old building just outside of downtown LA. There was a tiny yard and the house was dated on the exterior. The light blue paint on the façade of the home was peeling and bubbling, and the single tree growing crooked out of the grass was ill taken care of and hadn’t been properly trimmed in what looked like years.. The front yard was patchy with mostly brown, dead grass and some small swaths of green sprinkled in. The house was worth about 2 million dollars.
The pair knocked on the door and Olivia and Jonah answered. “Hello guys, I’m so glad you could make it.” Jonah exclaimed with a bright smile on his face. Jonah was a tall man with broad shoulders. He had a well-manicured beard that covered most of his face. He had dark green eyes that gave off a gentle aura. His voice was calm and pleasant and he just exuded a positive energy about him. His hair was cut short on the sides and longer on the top and his skin was perfectly tanned from the sun. He wore a red and black flannel shirt and some jeans. Olivia led them to the living room which was connected to the kitchen where they had set up plates and other party favors. Gibson handed Olivia a plastic bag full of the things they she had requested for them to pick up. Spike was also early, already drinking a beer and starting up the grill.
“I didn’t know if you wanted us to get fries or potato chips, so we just got both.”
“Oh, I just needed the French fries, but that’s fine. Nothing wrong with having both.” She said with a smile.
“Yeah, we just got both to be safe since there was kind of a language barrier there.” Gibson replied
“Well, I mean we’re speaking the same language, but sure.”
The group made small talk for about half an hour until there was a loud noise, like the roar of an expensive sports car’s engine. And then they heard the blasting audio of Van Halen’s “Unchained” coming from the speakers of a vehicle outside the house. David sped up to the curb and skidded to a stop. He popped open the vertical opening doors on his blue Aston Martin. A beautiful woman with straight blonde hair and an incredibly thin figure stepped out. She was wearing a form fitting white designer dress and stilettos with heels as sharp as a knife’s point. Rose sighed to herself as she looked out the window.
“C’mon Dave, give me a break.” She said to nobody in particular.
They walked up to the door and David knocked. Olivia and Jonah answered.
“Hello, welcome David, right? And how are you doing? I see you brought an uninvited guest. But that’s ok, everyone gets a plus one.” Jonah said, obviously hiding his distaste for the situation behind positivity and a wide smile. “It’s really nice to meet you guys.” He stuck out his hand and David gave it a firm shake.
“Guys, this is my friend Irina, and sorry we’re late. I was driving around the block a few times looking for the gate to the neighborhood you live in before I remembered you were poor. Also, the whip cream for the dessert you had us pick up is probably gonna be flat because Irina did a bunch of whippets.” David declared arrogantly.
Olivia gave David a hug then turned her attention to the wine he had brought.
“Bloody hell David, you brought an 89’ for this? That was a really good year for Champagnes, this is worth a few grand.” Olivia noted upon grabbing the wine.
“Uh, I don’t mean to be pretentious, but it’s only champagne if it’s actually from the Champagne region of France, otherwise it’s just sparkling white wine.” Jonah stated, looking over the bottle. “Oh… This is very much from Champagne. My apologies.”
David and Irina walked into the living room and greeted the others. Rose immediately rolled her eyes at David from across the room when they made eye contact. The group started talking again, and Rose was the first one to try to conversate with Irina.
“So, Irina, what do you do for a living?” Rose asked politely.
“I am model.” Irina replied in a cold Eastern European accent.
“Oh, cool. So uh… What do you like to do when you’re not modeling?” Rose continued
“Oh, you know. Go to gym, smoke cigarette, post to Instagram about clothes.”
“Very cool…” Rose grabbed David by the arm and aggressively pulled him to the side. She looked up at him angrily.
“Are you kidding me with this David? Why did you bring this Instagram hoe here? The poor girl needs to eat, I feel like just standing next to me is transmitting more calories than she’s allowed to intake.”
“She’s an actual model, not an Instagram ‘model’” David said, putting huge air quotes around the word model.
“I know why you did it. You’re trying to make Olivia jealous. And more than that, you’re trying to figure out why she likes Jonah more than you.” Rose countered angrily, cutting him off.
“Ok, you got me Rose, I don’t know what to say.” David admitted “I mean really, what does she see in this man that she can’t possibly see in me?”
“You don’t even know him, first of all. Second of all, I don’t care what she sees in him, that’s her choice and if she’s happy, then I’m happy for her as her friend.” Rose answered
“Oh, so it’s that easy to gain your approval, huh? You get all defensive about her being with me but you’re perfectly fine letting her date a guy who has a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in plain sight?” David spat back, pointing to a worn book cover on the small shelf across from the pair.
Rose sighed and asked “I know this isn’t how your mind works, but just for now can you let it go just so this day doesn’t turn into a complete disaster?”
“This day is already a complete disaster.” David responded frustratedly “I went into a Walmart for the first time, can you believe people buy clothes from the same place they sell groceries? What kind of society do we live in now, it’s fucking barbaric.”
David crossly went outside using the sliding door to the back yard. There was a long cement porch and a small lot of grass with a few trees hanging over the wooden fence. The grill was a cheap one and Spike was having trouble getting the flame to the right height. David walked up to him and gave him a friendly shake around the shoulders.
“Nice of you to finally show up hot shot.” Spike said jokingly
“I’m allowed an hour of leeway in both directions since I’m a star.” David replied with a cheeky smile “What are you up to?”
“I’m about to go buy this poor bastard a real grill so I can actually get some cooking started.” Spike answered “Plus, he’s a vegan so it’s going to be extra hard to begin with.”
“Well, maybe if he spent less money on flannel shirts, he’d have a nice grill.” David snickered back “This is gonna be a pain in the ass anyway since he’s probably one of those vegans who is like ‘I don’t even want my veggie burger touching the same place as meat’” he said the last part in a mocking tone of voice.
Jonah immediately opened the sliding door and walked out to the pair.
“I see you two have taken to the grill.” He said cheerfully
“Do you have any lighter fluid?” Spike asked, inspecting the silver metal cooking station.
“Oh, yes. I can go get it for you. Also, just so you know, I’m not one of those vegans that’s like ‘I don’t even want my veggie burger touching the same place as the meat.’ Do what you want to do, it really doesn’t bother me.”
“But no cheese right.” David said sarcastically.
“Actually, they make vegan cheese now.” Jonah said with a grin
“Oh Jesus Christ…” David sighed.
Inside, Olivia was running around making sure there were enough drinks in the cooler and attending to the small number of guests. She figured she would try to be friendly towards Irina since she was standing alone in the corner of the room looking out the window.
“Irina is it? I’m Olivia, nice to meet you.” She said happily, and with a bright smile. She held her hand out and Irina ignored it.
“I like your accent.” Irina noted stoically.
“And I like yours too. Where are you from?” Olivia replied
“I am from Serbia, but I move to France to be a model at age of 10 when they find me in middle of parking lot posing for picture with ruined statue of Stalin.”
“Oh, you know I was actually thinking about doing some modeling as a side job, not like anything serious but maybe some photoshoots here or there. Can you give me any advice?” Olivia asked. She wasn’t really considering it, but she wanted to at least attempt to connect with David’s date a little bit.
“You need to lose 10 pounds.” Irina replied emotionlessly
“Uh… Ok, I don’t think I can physically lose 10 pounds, my doctor says I’m already a bit underweight for my height.” Olivia responded a bit confused
“I give you number for my doctor. He prescribe diet pill that is illegal everywhere but Kyrgyzstan. He get from man on fishing docks in Chinatown.”
“Right. Well, I’ll see you around.” Olivia said nervously, turning around and leaving to talk to Rose and Gibson. David was standing outside while Spike was pouring lighter fluid into the grill. His phone vibrated and he looked at it. A smirk lit up his face and he started laughing.
“What are you giggling about?” Spike asked, a bit annoyed at the fact the flame still wouldn’t rise to a usable level on the grill.
“Oh, sometimes Olivia just randomly sends me these memes making fun of Wales. Like this one is the Kermit drinking tea meme and it says ‘Maybe Wales would be more independent if they stopped asking the Westminster’s for money all the time, but that’s none of my business.”
“I literally have no idea what any of that means.” Spike replied, kicking the grill out of frustration.
“Well trust me, it’s very funny. Just wait until I get her back with this England meme I have saved” David said with a chortle. “Dude, I think you’re just going to have to roll with what it’s giving you, we gotta get cooking, the sun is about to start setting.”
“Fine, go get the burgers for me, will you?” Spike questioned in resignation.
David walked back inside, and saw that Olivia was putting the fries in the oven, while also running around trying to get the burgers ready for everyone. David walked up to her and grabbed the plate of burgers. Olivia pointed out which ones were meat and which ones were veggie.
“Wait, there are two veggie burgers and only 4 regular burgers. Who isn’t eating one?” David inquired
“Oh, I asked Irina if she wanted one, and she just said ‘I don’t eat today, only smoke cigarette.’” Olivia answered, doing a poor impression of Irina’s accent.
“Ok, but that means…”
“Yes, I’m eating a veggie burger.” Olivia finished the thought for him.
“Jesus Liv, you’re already changing for this guy? It’s been less than a month.” David said exasperatedly
“What’s wrong with wanting to save animals? Besides, I really like him, he stands up for what he believes in and I respect that.” Olivia replied
“Ok, he doesn’t eat honey Olivia, he’s hardly Malcom X. Besides, you and I are like the only two British people with nice teeth, we’re practically soul mates.” David insisted.
Olivia half-laughed and then her tone quickly changed. “Let it go, please David, I’m not having this conversation with you right now.” Olivia asked more aggressively than usual.
David felt dejected but carried the plate of burgers out to Spike. Spike carefully took the uncooked burgers off the tray with a spatula. He put them on the grill and they sizzled as they touched the scorching iron. He closed the lid and they waited. Jonah came outside and joined them.
“So, I’ve never actually heard your guys’ music, I’m so excited to see y’all live in a few weekends.” He said with a jovial tone in his voice.
“Well, I have some of our demoes on my phone, if you wanted to put them on a stereo or something.” Spike explained
“Oh, sorry buddy. I only have a vinyl player.” Jonah responded
“Of fucking course you do.” David swore under his breath.
“Well, I mean I just find it soun-“
“You’re right, it does sound better.” David interrupted him rudely which caused an awkward silence amongst the three men. Spike finally spoke up.
“So Jonah, what do you do for work?” he asked
“Well, I’m a busser at a café downtown by trade, but I’m a screen writer at heart.” Jonah replied pridefully.
“Oh yeah, what kind of screenplays do you write mostly?” David asked, feigning interest.
“Well, I write everything. Sometimes it’s comedies, sometimes it’s more serious stuff. I’m currently working on a screenplay that takes place in 1921 about a man who lost his arm in World War I that travels to this mysterious island and finds a prosthetic that his uncle was working on but he finds out it’s possessed by a Lovecraftian Eldritch god that causes him to go insane and murder the villagers on this island who are secretly in a cult to a whale.” He said, clearly proud of his work.
“Wow, that sounds interesting.” Spike said, adjusting one of the large black knobs on the grill.
“In fact, David, I wanted to ask you if you could maybe read over it a bit while you’re here and give me some feedback. It’s not every day you have somebody with a Tony and Emmy award in your home.” He added hopefully.
“It’s actually 3 Tony’s and 2 Emmy’s, but who’s counting.” David responded conceitedly “And I can say with absolute certainty, I will never read your script.”
“Ah well, it was worth the try.” Jonah said with a positive smile, unphased by the callousness of David’s response. Spike kept lifting the grill to see if the burgers were cooking, they were, but at an agonizingly slow pace. Spike poured the last bit of lighter fluid on the fire but nothing changed.
“Oh, I forgot to mention, you have to move this little piece right here on the side if you want the lighter fluid to actually go into the flame. It’s this weird thing they have…” Jonah moved the small slide keeping the lighter fluid from touching the open flame. Little did he know there was almost an entire container of fluid being held in the piece. When he moved it, the fluid hit the flame and sent a ball of fire into the air. The top of the grill toppled over and exploded into thick black smoke and fire, sending the trio of men diving to avoid being hit by it. David’s sleeve had caught fire and his suit and undershirt were burning.
Thinking quickly, Jonah pulled off his flannel and started beating the flame to put it out. David stood up, dusting himself off, missing exactly one sleeve of his suit jacket and the cuff of his undershirt. Jonah sighed in relief as the rest of the party had come outside to view what had happened.
“Is everyone ok?” Olivia asked concerned, running over to Jonah and David.
“Yeah, but I’m not sure the burgers survived, and even if they did, I don’t think you would be able to tell which ones are meat and veggie.” Jonah replied, trying to make light of the situation.
“I mean, they’re hardly meat at this point anyway.” Spike said, picking up one of the wayward burgers which was burnt so badly it resembled a hockey puck more than an edible item. He flicked it and it was rock hard to the touch.
Hours later, the party had ended and David was sitting on the edge of the concrete slab that was Jonah’s back porch. He was stationed next to Olivia picking through the tray of French fries which had also been burnt to a solid crisp in the aftermath of the grill incident.
“You know, this is exactly the level of cooking I’d expect from an Englishman.” David said smugly with a hearty laugh. Olivia laughed and smiled back, playfully punching him in the shoulder.
David was holding the bottle of Champagne that he had brought in his left hand. He twisted off the cork and it popped off joyously. He pulled two wine glasses out of his jacket pocket and he poured himself and Olivia a small glass.
“I was wondering when you were going to break this out.” Olivia proclaimed, taking the glass from David and admiring the beautiful golden-white color of the champagne in the cup.
“To not getting burned alive.” Olivia said enthusiastically.
“I’ll bloody drink to that.” David replied. The two clinked glasses. Olivia took a small sip of hers and David downed all of his in one gulp. The sun was setting over the Los Angeles skyline, and it was setting the entire town on fire with the colors of deep red, orange and pink. There was a slight breeze. Olivia shivered a little and David quickly wrapped his half- burnt suit jacket around her shoulders. She grinned at the gesture and rested her head against his shoulder. She reached for another fry and David reached for the same one, their hands touching briefly.
“Sorry.” David said, embarrassed, pulling his hand back quickly. Olivia had done the same. Jonah had begun to open the sliding door and it jolted Olivia’s head off of David’s shoulder. Jonah walked out and said in his usual positive tone “Well, I hate to be a bad host, but unfortunately this isn’t a big Hollywood affair, so there’s no after party.” He said, amused at his own lame joke.
“I better get going, don’t want to cause any more trouble than I already have.” David groaned, looking over at the absolutely wrecked grill.
“Ah, don’t fret it buddy. Look on the bright side, at least this will force me to buy an actual good barbecue.”
“Yeah… Anyway, has anybody seen Irina?” David asked
“Mate, she left hours ago. She said it was boring and I quote ‘If David wants to make sex, he has my number’” Olivia replied
David nodded and got up to leave, taking his suit jacket off of Olivia and slinging it over his shoulder.
“Oh, your champagne.” Jonah reminded him.
“Keep it, it was for you two anyway.” David said quietly. “Thanks for inviting me.” He added before showing himself out.
Jonah sat down next to her and she handed him her glass. He took a few sips. The pair sat in silence for a few moments.
“I’m sorry this didn’t go as planned.” Olivia said, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“No, Olivia it’s fine. It’s just…I want your friends to like me, I know how close you all are.”
“Oh Jonah, they do like you.” Olivia replied thoughtfully
“David is… You know, he’s a bit of a diva honestly. He’ll come around.”
“Well, I’m not sure I like him either.” Jonah revealed “He kind of seems like an arrogant dick if you excuse the expression.”
“I know he’s hard to get along with at first, but… He grows on you… Slowly… Like a…Brain tumor.”
“I guess we’ll wait and see, I’m 100 percent willing to give him the chance.” Jonah said. “Even if he did have a hand in blowing up my grill.” He added with a laugh.
“Well just think, when we’re all old, we’ll look back on this together and laugh about the time Spike almost burned your house down.” Olivia said with a joyous laugh, which Jonah joined in. He put his arm around her as the two watched the sun start to set over the Los Angeles skyline.
Gibson and Rose were sitting next to each other in the car as they drove home
“That was one for the record books, eh?” Gibson mused, his hands lightly handling the wheel of the car.
“Yeah, I didn’t have ‘Spike makes a bomb out of Jonah’s grill’ on my bingo card for this party.” Rose laughed.
The two sat quietly until Rose’s phone vibrated. She looked at it and her eyes lit up.
“Elaina got me the audition!” she exclaimed
“That’s amazing honey!” Gibson replied, matching her enthusiasm.
Rose thought to herself for a few moments and said “I’m not going to go.”
“What, how could pass this up? It’s a great opportunity for you to get back to doing what you love.” Gibson responded, exasperated.
“I don’t know Gibson… I just… I think it’s time I put this whole being an actor thing to rest..” Rose said ruefully.
Gibson suddenly jerked the car from one lane to the other, going across the highway and getting off at a different exit.
“Where are you going, that isn’t the way home.” Rose stated
“We’re making a detour.” Gibson replied simply. After a short drive, they reached the top of a hill. Gibson parked the car and got out. Rose followed him. The view from where they were was stunning, especially as the sunset was lighting the entire LA skyline on fire with rich oranges and shades of pink.
“Do you remember this spot?” Gibson asked
“How could I possibly forget where you proposed to me?” Rose answered, offended at the very thought that she could in any conceivable way forget where one of the best moments of her life took place. “Why did you bring me here though?”
Gibson took his wife’s hand in his and gripped it tightly. She squeezed it back.
“Remember when I brought you here and proposed how I told you that no matter what happened that I wouldn’t let you give up on your dreams, even if it meant giving up on mine?”
“Yes, of course I do. It was so sweet. That whole night was amazing.” Rose reminisced.
“Well, here we are again, do I need to give you the speech…”
“Gibson, things are different now.” Rose groaned, interrupting him.
“Of course they are, I finally have enough money to support you doing this without having to worry about financial strain.” Gibson responded
Rose disengaged her hand from her husband’s grasp, but he grabbed her firmly around the shoulders and pulled her close to him.
“Rose, you came all the way out here from Iowa with nothing but your aspirations to do what you loved. Imagine if you had never done that? We would never have met each other. You were meant to do this; I truly believe that. I’m not letting you ever give up on your dreams, even if you think you should.” Gibson said with a commanding, yet caring tone in his voice. Rose sighed and rested her head on his shoulder, gazing out into the sunlight which was quickly dimming as the sun had nearly completely set.
“I’ll call Elaina back and tell her I’ll do the audition.” Rose conceded finally.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Gibson said excitedly.
The two sat for another half an hour watching the sun fully set as the city lights began to come on. Gibson looked down at his wife and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips.
“I knew there was a reason I stopped being gay for you.” She joked, causing both of them to fall into a fit of laughter.