When It's Real
I find a sketchbook and a set of drawing pencils, but I don’t start sketching yet. First I go online again and look up pictures of Oakley, because I’m not sure I can draw him from memory.
Okay, I’ll admit it. This guy is hot. Like ridiculously hot. That mussed-up blond hair, and those piercing green eyes, and his toned, muscular body always covered in ripped jeans and tight T-shirts. Goodness.
I click through picture after picture of him. Live shots from his concerts. Paparazzi shots of him around LA. Shots of him and his mom at her movie premieres. Shots of him on the set of one of his dad’s films.
Oakley Ford lives on a different planet, as far as I’m concerned. He’s a celebrity with a capital C. The only son of Katrina and Dustin Ford, a Hollywood power couple, or at least they used to be before their divorce. He’s won Grammys and People’s Choice Awards and he got green slime dumped on him after he performed at the Nickelodeon awards show when he was fourteen. He’s been on the covers of a zillion magazines, including that super sexy Vogue shoot I’m now looking at.
I decide to pick a photo from that spread, the one where he’s sitting against a black backdrop, just staring at the camera. His gaze is so intense it actually gives me shivers.
I start sketching to the sound of his beautiful, raspy voice singing to me in my bedroom.
* * *
A week after the fake breakup W comes over and we hang out in my bedroom. We fool around on my bed for hours before he reluctantly says he needs to leave.
“It’s late. I should get back,” he announces around ten.
I want to protest that it’s not late at all, but I’m not the one who has class in the morning. “’Kay.”
My reluctance must show because he kisses me gently on the forehead. “At least we’re allowed to see each other, right? This isn’t so bad.”
Not bad? This week without contact has been torture. I hung out with Kiki and Carrie a few times, and, in true BFF fashion, they spent the whole time assuring me that W is a jackass and I’m better off without him. I played along even though trashing the boy I’m still in love with was pure agony. But, again, I don’t want to be the clingy, childish girlfriend so I just smile and nod.
“I hate this,” he mutters as we head downstairs.
Relief wells up inside me. He’s feeling it, too, thank goodness. “Me, too.”
We stand in the front hall and just hug for several moments, his forehead resting against mine, his arms around my waist. I think about all the hugs we’ve exchanged over these past two years. All the inside jokes and the random texts and the fact that I’ve never once gone to bed without W calling me to say goodnight.
“Mark and I decided which episodes we think are the best,” he says, his warm breath tickling my nose. “He’s going to edit it all together this week and then I’ll email you the file.”
I stiffen slightly, and hope he doesn’t notice.
“I can’t wait to hear what that agent thinks about the show.”
“Me, too,” I say with forced cheerfulness. Then I try to distract myself by breathing in the familiar scent of his lemony aftershave.
After one last kiss, I watch with bleak eyes as he walks out to his car. It’s the same older-model SUV he drove in high school, and as he drives away, I think longingly of all the heart-pounding make-out sessions we had in that car.
Upstairs, I flop onto my bed and Tweet about my heartache again.
Vaughn Bennett @VeryVaughn
Listening to Ford on repeat = best cure for a broken heart.
I’m lying on both counts, because I’m not listening to Ford, and there isn’t a cure for a broken heart. Even a fake one.
* * *
“You need to post the drawing tonight,” Claudia announces when I take the phone from Paisley.
Claudia isn’t calling my number...yet. I’m sure that will change once my relationship with Oakley is front-page news.
It’s been two weeks since my “breakup,” so I’ve been expecting this request since the first deposit hit Paisley’s account, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been looking forward to it.
Since I’m not allowed to quit my job yet, I worked four shifts waiting tables at Sharkey’s and looking suitably depressed about the breakup in front of my coworkers. That’s not a chore at all. Neither is depositing the twenty thousand dollar check—the first of many. It was decided that the checks would be made out to my sister just in case, because if it somehow leaked that Diamond Talent Management was writing me checks, the vultures would immediately start circling. If it’s under Paisley’s name, the agency can claim the payments are part of her salary.
The lies they’re building seem complicated and unnecessary, but I haven’t ever done this before, whereas I get the sense that this is business as usual for Claudia.
“Why tonight?” I grumble, mostly for the sake of being contrary. Since she’s technically my boss, I probably shouldn’t be grumbling at her, but this is the weirdest work relationship ever. A part of me is hoping I’ll get fired.
“Because we need to move this along. Post the drawing. Oak will see it in a couple of hours. After he favorites the Tweet, be prepared for a barrage of messages. Respond only to a few of them.”
“Maybe you should tell me which ones to respond to,” I murmur sarcastically.
“Oh, no. This should all be organic,” Claudia objects, choosing to ignore my snappishness. “But you’re going to be getting so many, you won’t be able to answer them all. By tomorrow morning, you’ll be a social media star! Just remember that not everyone will love you. The fans are possessive of Oak, so ignore the mean ones and focus on the ones that are encouraging. Don’t forget that they all wish they were you, no matter what they post!”
After giving that questionable piece of encouragement, she hangs up. I pull out the drawing I finally got around to finishing a couple of days ago. I wonder what Oakley will think of it. It’s not bad, but I’m not in love with it, and not simply because his face isn’t exactly how I wanted it to be. I worked on his eyes for a long time, but it was hard to capture their liveliness in black-and-white. He has good eyes, I think as I trace my finger over them.
No, it’s not my technical mistakes, but something else that’s missing. Something about Oakley Ford that I can’t put on the page.
I wiggle my lips back and forth in indecision. I don’t like that a piece of my art is going up on social media for millions of people to gawk at and criticize. But this is what I signed up for.
I pick up my phone, snap a quick pic, and then Tweet it out.
Vaughn Bennett @VeryVaughn
Breakups are a little easier when you’re imagining this face next to yours.
It takes only three hours from the time Oakley faves the drawing before the first response shows up in my stream. Less than a minute later, I get a text from Carrie.
Did u see Oakley Ford faved your pic?!
I play dumb and text back He did??
Yes! Get on Twitter. Your timeline is blowing up! U should get his snap!
I’m not getting his snap bc he liked a pic.
Never know! Slide into his DMs like a pro, girl!
And then I can’t respond to her anymore, because every second—or maybe it’s every millisecond—I get a new notification.
@pledo5514 @1doodlebug1 @caryneo @paulyn_N just followed @VeryVaughn
Did @OakleyFord just fave some girl’s pic @VeryVaughn
@OakleyFord follow me back. Pls. I luv u. @VeryVaughn