Author’s note: This story was inspired by the idea that we all would like to be someone else at times, or to appear to be someone else. I especially liked that idea. – TJB
She went to the party ready to have a good time. It was on the third floor of a funny little Spanish-style building in old downtown L.A., where her friend Marilyn lived. You were supposed to bring your own beverage – most people would bring booze, Marilyn had told her. But she was on the wagon and she brought club soda. With a Tupperware container of cut limes.
It was a hard scene for her at first. Everyone seemed to be drinking and everyone seemed to ask her if she wanted a drink. She obeyed the recommendations of her rehab therapist, Dr. Clausen, and armed herself with a frosty glass of club soda with a couple of lime wedges to keep the ice company. When they asked her if she wanted some wine – “Red or white?” – she shook her head, remembering to smile, and when they said, “Surely a beer? Hard cider?’ she replied, “No, thanks,” as calmly as she could manage.
Of course, everyone thought the smallest thing hilarious, from the dog they saw peeing in the street below – visible from Marilyn’s wrought-iron balcony – to the latest gossip from the NCIS set as related in fits and starts by one of the guests, who was an associate producer on the show. She, being dead sober, saw little to laugh about in their raucous repartee.
Finally, when she was about to leave, someone she hadn’t seen earlier came over to where she stood, next to the shefflera plant she’d given Marilyn last Christmas. He was a man who looked like a young George Clooney, or maybe Jude Law before he lost his hair – she couldn’t decide which. He said, “What are you drinking?” in a very non-judgmental way, or so it seemed to her. She gave what she knew was a tired smile and said, “It’s only club soda,” with a shrug.
He looked around the room. “Idiots,” he muttered, and then grinned at her. She relaxed a little.
“Want to get a coffee?” he asked.
“I was about to leave, actually,” she said. She felt all used up, having said “No” all night to the demon she’d been determined to banish, alcohol.
“Me too,” he said. He held up his hands as if to assuage her protests. “Honest.”
“Well-” She felt herself soften. The hard edge she’d been putting up all night seemed to be cracking just a little.
“There’s a Starbucks on the corner,” he said. “You look as if you’ve led an interesting life. Maybe you’ll tell me a little about it. If I’m lucky.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” She had a sudden thought. “You’re not a screenwriter?”
He nodded, a rueful expression on his face. “Guilty as charged. But I promise not to use your life in a future script. – At least, not verbatim.” He grinned again.
Huh. Well, it might not be such a bad thing to be a little famous in a secret, discreet sort of way. But she didn’t tell him that, not just yet.
“Randi,” she said, holding out her hand to introduce herself.
One eyebrow raised, he said, “With an ‘i’, I presume? My name is Peter.”
“Nice to meet you,” she said.
The coffee was rich, hot and strong, and the Starbucks was quiet this time of night. It bolstered her confidence. After all, she’d made it through the whole evening – the better part of three hours – without breaking her determination to remain sober. And even better, she had the prospect of an entertaining conversation before her.
“So what do you do?” Peter asked.
“Costume design,” she said. It was a lie, but this was her story to tell, wasn’t it?
. . . Maybe Randi will meet up with Margy, our Giraffe-Head costumer! Thanks for visiting.