12 July 2016

His Haven

The invitation to lunch surprised her. And excited her, too, though she quashed it, mentally promising herself she would be cool and sophisticated. She no longer had "work clothes," so she selected her one remaining suit, even though it made her feel like she was going to a funeral.

Turned out to be nearly true.

The restaurant took up the top floor of the office building and was filled with muted screens. Yet unlike a sports bar, these were all entertainment news. Stars from the latest Star Trek film were being interviewed, their words intercut with scenes meant to make viewers want to part with their money. On the whole, the place was studiously casual yet still reeked of exclusivity. It was, she thought, a bunch of fancy people trying to pretend they weren't.

And he was dressed down, too, in a button-up shirt and khaki trousers. She wondered if he'd come from one of the sets but didn't ask. In fact, she couldn't find anything to say. He sat across from her looking so morose, picking at his food . . . She wondered why he'd asked to meet with her, but he barely spoke, and she followed his lead.

A perky blonde woman stopped by the table. He exchanged more words with her than he'd thus far said the whole meal. After the blonde was gone, he went back to moving food around with his fork, and she finally gave up, murmured something, got up to leave.

He caught her at the elevator. Hopped in after her, just as the doors were closing. They were the only ones in it. He shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the floor. She rolled her eyes. Great. More of this.

But he looked so miserable she couldn't really be angry. She only wished he would come out and say something so she could help. It wasn't her place to ask.

"I just like being around you," he finally mumbled. "When everything else is shit, you feel very safe."

Something in her melted a little. "It's never as bad as you think."

"It's worse. And I can't show it to anyone."

She nodded.

"Come back with me? We'll call it a script conference."

She hesitated. But he looked so hang-dog hopeful that she finally nodded again. When the elevator doors opened, he gestured her out, but she just looked at him. "I don't know where we're going."

"Oh. Right. Well then." He stuck out an elbow and after a moment she placed her hand on his arm and allowed him to lead the way.

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