I walked out the back door of the Entertainment Live studio and into a waiting car. “You did well.” Ben exclaimed taking a long deep relieved sigh. “But goddammit, I am so glad today is over.”
“Bring on the pizza, and beer and some trashy movies please.” I agreed, letting my head loll about on the headrest.
“You believe me right.” I mumbled opening my eyes. “The girl in the video isn’t me.”
Ben nodded and shrugged. “I’ve kind of heard about it before. Like I said.DJ briefs us.”
I frowned. “So you probably know until 6 months ago I lived alone with my four cats.”
Ben laughed and shook his head. “No I didn’t know that.” He pushed my knee. “You weren’t kidding about the Jacuzzi and wine thing were you?”
“Nope… I was well on the way to becoming a cat lady. Then Xavier came home, and changed everything.”
Ben sat forward and looked at me. “Well you can’t start the story and then not finish it Scarlett.”
“We grew up together, and we didn’t get along, well during high school anyway. He disappeared for college, and I stayed within five minutes of my parents. I liked this band, Going Nowhere, you might know them.”
Ben laughed and nodded.
“Well, the lead singer… Vax, he was my idea of hot. I dreamed about the guy.”
“Wait… you didn’t know?”
“None of us did. When he returned home everyone, especially me, was a little shell shocked.”
“Dreams come true.”
“Well, it took a while to get to where we are, but yeah… I guess so.”
Ben sighed and looked out the window. “I hope one day I’m that lucky.”
“I’m sure you will be.”
We pulled back into the hotel sometime later. “You peruse Netflix, I’ll call room service okay?”
Ben exclaimed as we walked through the lobby.
“Sounds like a plan. But I need Cheetos. Don’t forget the Cheetos.”
Ben laughed and pressed the elevator button. The doors opened and we stepped inside. On the ride up we shared the elevator with a woman, around my age maybe a little older. I could feel her eyes on me, judging me.
“Is there something that’s bothering you?” I said finally.
She shrugged. “Well I mean, you say you’re engaged, but you’re taking him to your hotel room.”
My eyes narrowed. Had my interview really spread that far already? Was my outreach that extensive that some random girl in an elevator knew who I was?
“He’s my tour manager.” I replied with a smile.
“Oh, god. Sorry.” She choked back. “It’s none of my business.” The girl looked like she might die from embarrassment. He face was as red as a tomato.
“No…” I agreed. “But it’s okay.”
The door pinged open and the girl jumped out. “Have a nice night.” I called as the door began closing.
Ben burst into laughter the minute we were alone. He was laughing so hard he could barely breathe.
“Did you see her face?” He managed to splutter out. “She turned so red… Oh god. Scarlett.”
I felt my cheeks begin to hurt from the laughter I was holding in. I couldn’t hold it in for much longer and soon the two of us were in fits of giggles. The door opened and an old couple stepped inside. Ben and I both instantly straightened up and tried to suppress the laughter again. It was almost painful. Finally, after what seemed like an eon the door opened on our floor, we spilled out of the elevator doors, and began to laugh once again, by the time we arrived at our door my sides were aching.
“You’re a character alright Scar. Killing people with kindness.” He murmured embracing me.
“That isn’t a bad thing is it?”
“Scarlett. You’ve just made me laugh harder than I have in a long time. It’s a good thing.” Ben assured me.
We walked inside and I walked over to the TV. “I’ve got my laptop plugged in. You search Netflix. I’ll be there just as soon as I’ve ordered everything with sugar in it.” Ben said
I smiled and nodded before sitting down on the sofa. Before I could search through the list of movies I noticed an envelope with my name on it. There was a post-it on top.
This came for you today
I frowned. I’d been here a day. Tomorrow I’d be on the road again heading to our next destination. I hadn’t been here long enough for mail. I opened it anyway and unfolded it. My mouth dried instantly. It was a letter made from magazine cutout letters. If the words written hadn’t been so terrifying to me, I’d have laughed at how cliché the execution of the letter was.
I screwed it up before I have the chance to fully absorb it. It was clear it was a fake letter. Someone sending it for shits and giggles. Someone sick… but surely it was just a joke.
I opened it again, and read it over.
Do you know what a necrophiliac is Scarlett? Because that is what I plan on doing with you when I find you.
Your worst nightmare.
I screwed it up again, and shoved it in my pocket. It was a joke. It had to be. No one needed to know, least of all Xavier. It wasn’t like had any actual enemies anymore. Aaron had served a short sentence and done rehabilitation, he and his brother Josh had been reconnecting over the last few months, and Noah, well dad assured me Noah wouldn’t come anywhere near me. Something about having too much on the guy for him to ever try anything on me or Xavier again.
I’d lived such a sheltered life until now that the only other person it could be was Ryan… and he was too much of a moronic coward to try do anything like this.
No, this was the work of a hater, someone purely out to spite me. To scare me back into hiding. Well it wasn’t going to work.
Ben returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses. “You haven’t even started!” He replied sitting down beside me. “Are you okay?”
“Exhausted” I replied, although the reply was honest, I felt like I was lying by omission.
Ben picked the remote up from my hands and started scrolling through movie names. When my responses were less than satisfactory he stopped and put the remote between us.
“What’s going on? You were only slightly depressed when we came back here... Now you’re in a place so dark I don’t even think junk food will bring you back to happiness.” Ben said finally.
I pulled the letter from my pocket and handed it to him. He opened the paper and read it. Frowning he looked up at me. “This is kind of weird.”
“I guess.” I dismissed it. “It’s probably just some kind of prank.”
“I think I should let DJ know.”
I held my hand up and shook my head. “Please don’t I’m sure it’s a one off thing.”
“It wasn’t a one off thing with the situation six months ago.” Ben exclaimed.
I was confused how he knew about that, but then I remember DJ and his briefing. Of course he had told Ben about it.
“I know it wasn’t. But that was different. That was about family and even that wasn’t so bad. Look the whole magazine cutout letter thing is so cliché. It’s a prank.”
Ben handed the letter back and then shrugged. “The second you get anymore, we need to go to DJ okay?”
I sighed. Mom had received tons of letters, and her past was more tumultuous than mine, she had never let it affect her.
“Great well shove that away somewhere and we’ll get on with our movie night yeah?”
“Now you’re speaking my language.” I smiled standing up. “Did you remember to ask for Cheetos?”
I walked across the floor and shoved the letter inside my laptop bag.
“Yes. I remembered the Cheetos.” He replied.
Room service arrived before we’d even found a movie. Ben had ordered enough junk food to induce a junk food overdose. I grabbed the bag of Cheetos and sat back down.
“You really like those things huh?”
“Yeah. Xavier pointed out that Cheetos are like my comfort food. I guess he’s right, because It’s been a long day, and I feel like I could bury my face in this bag.”
Ben picked up a chocolate sundae and dug out a big spoonful. “Go right ahead… I won’t judge.” He shoved the over laden spoon inside his mouth and smiled. “Heaven.” He managed to say.
We watched Dirty Dancing, which made me miss Xavier, and my bag of Cheetos ran out. Ben insisted that if I really felt I needed more I should call room service. But I needed air, so I wandered down to the lobby. I guess the letter was playing on my mind more than I cared to admit. I found myself at the manager’s desk. It was nearing 9pm, so I guess I didn’t really expect anyone to still be around.
“Uh hello?” I called out, not really expecting an answer.
“Hold up, I’m just sorting through some keys.” A male's voice called out and for some reason it was almost familiar.“If this is a check in, the reception can help.”
A few minutes later and after some scuffing around a tall man walked from the back room. I almost choked on Cheetos dust when our eyes came into contact.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I exclaimed. The last time I’d seen him was in LA when my fist came into hard contact with his face.
“I work here. I have for a while. I’d ask you the same but I already know.” He replied. “I was hoping we could avoid one another. I know you don’t like me. I don’t blame you.”
My stomach turned. It had to be him, this all had to be him. Ryan. The high school ex who starred in the sex tape. He wanted more fame.
“Why are you doing this to me?” I exclaimed. “Didn’t you ruin my life enough in high school?”
“Doing what?” Ryan murmured.
“Is it just a coincidence that my last name the sex tape are leaked and a seedy letter comes all on the same day, all while I am staying in a hotel where my lowlife high school ex works” I said as the anger ran through my veins like lava spewing from an erupting volcano.
“Yeah. It is.” Ryan replied. “I deleted all copies I had of that farce a long time ago Scarlett.”
“I don’t believe it. Did you need more fame? Is that it?” I scoffed
Ryan shook his head and leaned down on the desk. “You were right in that club.” He murmured. “I was a jerk and what I did… what me and Evangeline did to you was horrible. Hell you hid who you really were because of us… because we thought we could piggyback off of your fame.”
“You didn’t seem to feel as repentant in the club nine months ago.”
Ryan nodded. “It’s no excuse but I found out Evangeline had been cheating on me. Kind of like the circle of life... I flew back to LA and picked some chick up. I spent a month down there. Partying. I think when I saw you I’d been drinking for eight days straight.”
I put my weight back on my heel and watched Ryan speak. He didn’t sound like he was lying. He wasn’t caught up on words it was all just spilling out. Still it all seemed a little too coincidental.
He noted my hesitance to believe him because he stood back up and sighed.
“I can tell you that letter was hand delivered. I can get the security footage?” he offered.
“That won’t be needed. We’ll be leaving tomorrow Ryan. Thanks… I guess.” I replied awkwardly.
“Scarlett. I promise, it wasn’t me. I know my word doesn’t mean much, I’ve got nothing to prove to you that it should, but I’m a different person the guy you dated in high school.”
I nodded and walked away from Ryan’s desk. I was back in the elevator and half way up to the room when I remembered my reason for leaving. It didn’t matter, I was too mind fucked to focus on anything right now. Sleep… and maybe some type of alcoholic beverage was required.
When I walked back inside Ben had another movie paused and ready to play. I held my hand up and shook my head. “I need sleep. I need to pretend today didn’t happen.”
Ben stood up and walked over to me. He placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Are you alright?”
“Just my past trying to sneak back up on me yet again. I’ll be fine, after a sleep.”
“Well try relax. We’ve got a bit of a road trip to Chicago tomorrow.”
I nodded and smiled. The sooner we were away from Ryan, the better.