Someone To Love
This might be one of those moments where I completely lose control over my stomach. It’s not about to heave again, but the swirling down there hasn’t stopped. It’s as if my anxiety has turned into a ball that’s slowly growing and spinning. I’m hoping Cristina thought I was puking from drinking, but I suspect otherwise—that look on her face said everything. Though she’s probably skipped a meal or two herself.
I need to get off this boat.
I decide to explore the deck, looking for the man that might be LeFeber, but I can’t seem to find him again. How many places could he be? I start down a hallway, then enter another room with music blaring and people dancing. I’m making my way through the crowd when I literally bump into Zach, almost knocking over the drink he’s holding. How does he manage to be everywhere at once?
“Liv,” he says as if I’d been missing for a year.
“Zach!” My voice involuntarily squeaks. So embarrassing. “Have you seen Antonia?” I stammer. My nerves are on fire. I wish I could touch him again.
“Yeah, she’s right over there.” He points.
I’m an idiot. She’s in the middle of the dance floor owning it. Should’ve known. I want to run to her but stop myself because of who’s next to me, and also who’s not here.
No Cristina in sight. I think about mentioning what I saw her doing, but really it’s none of my business and I’d die if she told him I was just puking in the bathroom.
Zach turns to me from watching the dance floor. “Want to dance?” he asks.
“I’d rather talk,” I say. “I need fresh air.”
He smiles. “I wanted to talk to you earlier but it was kind of awkward with Cristina following me.”
“Oh. Yeah,” I say, hiding the welling knot in my gut, suddenly acting like I have everything together because the last thing I want to do is screw things up with him.
I smile into his eyes. They’re green and soft even in the dark. He’s so handsome. No wonder he was cast on Sisters & Mothers as a love interest. He could be on posters around America. Wanted man. Love interest at large.
“Must be nice to be around so many people from your show,” I say, thinking it’s a stupid thing to say even as the words leave my mouth. Though I’ve said worse. “They seem really nice.”
“Eh,” he says. “The only real friend I have here is Jackson. The rest are just coworkers. It’s different. You always feel like you’re competing with each other.”
“Really?” I say. “I didn’t realize...”
“Honestly I’m getting pretty bored with that show. I know Michael is too.”
“I kind of talked to him about that,” I admit.
“It’s hard when you get on one of these shows. There are all these expectations and once you act a certain way, people not only think that’s really you, but they expect you to behave just like your character in real life.” He rolls his eyes. “It’s crazy to think people are that oblivious, but it’s true.”
“That must be kind of...” I begin, but he speaks over me.
“I don’t even know why my father wanted me to throw this party in the first place. It’s a stupid way to get the attention of a director.”
“I can imagine this part of your life is pretty lonely,” I say, trying again. “Being in the spotlight and all. But at least you’ve made a name for yourself.”
“You’ve always seemed pretty cool.” He nudges my arm with the hand holding his drink. “Artsy.”
“How’d you know that I like art?” I ask.
I didn’t think Zach knew anything about me except my name.
“I saw your painting hanging in a show at the library last year. The self-portrait you did? The one where you’re staring at yourself in a shattered mirror.”
“Oh yeah,” I say, trying to downplay myself. “That was my majorly emo stage.”
“No way. It was amazing how you could see all these tiny reflections of your face in the glass. Felt like I got to know you just by looking at the painting.”
Zach has this look on his face like he’s probably said too much and should just shut up. “I’m craving sugar,” he says. “I can’t eat any while we’re filming, but the season just ended and Cristina’s nonna made some amazing Italian desserts for the party. Want some?”
I shake my head and ask for a drink instead.
“I can do that,” he says. “Anything else?”
“Actually...” I pause. “That guy with the glasses you were talking to earlier? With Felicity? Did that happen to be Geoff LeFeber?”
“Who’s that?” Zach seems confused.
“He’s an artist whose work I admire. I overheard Felicity saying he might be here...”
“Oh,” Zach says, gently pushing my arm. “LeFeber. Yeah. She was talking him up earlier this week saying that one of our producers invited him, but I don’t think he’s coming. She would have already been trying to become best friends with him.”
Part of me feels relief, knowing that the man laughing at me wasn’t LeFeber, but the other part feels pretty disappointed. I really wanted to talk to him about his art.
“I’ll go get those drinks then.”
He’s about to enter the crowd when I grab his arm to stop him. There’s something I have to know. “Zach?” I hesitate. He turns around and lingers next to me. He’s so close that I can smell his cologne. “This is kind of an awkward question, but I have to ask.”
You’re strong. You can do this. This is easy.
He looks down at me through his long eyelashes as I stare up at his prominent Adam’s apple. I wish I could reach up and touch his neck, pulling him closer to me.
“Are you and Cristina dating?” I finally ask.
Suddenly, I don’t want to know the answer. I’ve waited so long for this moment. To be this physically close to him. To practically feel his breath on my hair.
“It’s...” He looks away at the boats gliding across the harbor for a moment. “Cristina and I have history together, but... We’re not together. It looks that way sometimes. I know. We were really close. I still try to be a good friend. The breakup was hard on her.”
“I didn’t mean to bring up bad feelings,” I say, feeling stupid for asking the question in the first place. I just don’t want to be played.
“It’s cool. I like being up-front with you,” Zach says. “I’ll get a couple drinks. Then can we keep talking?”
I nod, my heart pounding in my chest. Being up-front with me? I can barely believe that, of all the people on this boat, he wants to spend his time talking to me.
I’m watching him walk across the room when I see Cristina come out of nowhere and latch on to him like a crab. Guess I better kiss that drink away. After he’s done ordering at the bar, Cristina takes the second drink—my drink—from his hand, and I’m forgotten like an ugly stray. Don’t even kick a bowl of milk my way.
I head upstairs and grab a drink from the bar on my own.
I just want to drink. I’ve lost Antonia. I can’t seem to find LeFeber—if that’s even him. Cristina not only totally caught me purging, she’s practically claimed Zach for the night. And I can’t manage to work up the social skills to mingle with anyone either.
Two champagnes and a vodka tonic later, I find myself in a corner of the aft deck with Jackson. He starts twirling my hair like he did this afternoon at the front of the school. “I didn’t know you showed up,” he said. “I saw your friend, but every time I went to ask her about you, she was dancing with someone else. Who dances that much?”