Chapter 3

George picked me up at 5:30, like I told him. It’s not that we needed half an hour to get to Jessie’s but I needed to get some stuff out and sorted before he comes and meets my friends. I don’t care how much money was at stake, I needed to set some boundaries and have some things explained to me.

I walked outside and gave Cam directions. Then I got into the limo and he bent forward to kiss me. I stopped him.

“Don’t please. You have to listen to me.”

He didn’t look ecstatic about it, but he sat back, waiting.

“George, why are you doing this? What’s the point of all this?”

“I thought I said that. I need to get to know you to see if you and I can work together on a music video.”

“So, what? This is like a job interview?”

“Yeah. Kinda.” He said and smiled. It was really hard to read him or talk to him. I had to guess everything and then ask questions. So then, I decided to go for it.

“Why me?”

He looked at me for a second and then away, taking a deep breath, wringing his fingers in front of him. It looked like George was ready for this question. I was waiting with baited breath for him to make sense out of this whole charade, when he finally spoke.

“Why not?”

I could kill him right now.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I raised my voice. The limo stopped and the engine shut off. “Don’t you see how ridiculous this whole thing is?”

He smiled with that rehearsed, mulch-million dollar smile that was extremely gorgeous and yet, somehow a little hollow.

“You want to come and meet my friends as a part of some job interview, you have to tell me what’s going on.”

He leaned back and took a deep breath again, but didn’t say a thing. I took the opportunity.

“You need a dancer for a video and you’re gonna tell me that of all dancers in all of Hollywood and New York, a little teacher from Kingston who has not competed in four years and doesn’t even have all the titles is all of a sudden your best choice? Tell me what is going on, George?”

“You underestimate your ability.”

“And you underestimate my intelligence. Tell me why you chose me or the deal is off!”

“That’s a pretty bold statement.” He said it a little cold. I didn’t mean it quite like that. It just came out. I sucked in my breath. I wish I could take it back. Oh shit, what if he doesn’t want to tell me. Am I really ready to quit over it? Is it really that important?

“I’m tryin’ to lay low right now.” He said quietly. “That’s why I’m involved with the whole dance competition.”

“Woah, I think that you may find that the attention will be drawn to the competition because of you, not that you will get less attention cause you are in it.”

“Whatevah, Mahla. No offence, but it’s a fuckin’ dance competition. It ain’t even an Olympic sport. And I’m going as a Portuguese emcee, so it will not be promoted in North America.”

“But why? That makes no sense. Don’t you want the publicity? Is this a make-work project?”

“A what?” He distorted his face in a most ridiculous manner and I didn’t really reply to his question. “Look, it’s complicated. You did actually beat out a lot of dancers, but the fact that you are Canadian and live close enough to New York, will compete in the competition and be in Rio at the right time. All that played a factor.”

I thought about it for a second. It still didn’t make sense.

“What about Deanna Sullivan?” The girl that was competing from Toronto had all those attributes and is arguably a better dancer as well. At least, she’s more recently accredited.

George started fidgeting in his seat. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing but he looked like he was starting to get a little uncomfortable. I stayed quiet for a while, letting him come to terms with my question.

“She is blonde. I need dahk hair.” He said clinically.

The answer he gave me did not warrant the wait, or the contemplation. Something was still not right. Hair colour is hardly a reason to reject someone for what they can do as an artists. And, as much as it pained me to admit, Deanna was a master. She had reached a level in dance that I was on the way of reaching when Alan had his accident. I stopped competing and stood still for four years. Even if it wasn’t out of necessity, it was time to move on.

I was no longer sure I wanted to know the real reason he rejected Deanna. What difference would it make? Would I make a different decision if I known the reason?

Bullshit, I thought to myself, but left it at that. I didn’t question his hair colour excuse any more. At least not aloud. I made him aware I was not buying it, but I was willing to end the discussion there.

We were at Jessie’s house at about ten after six.

“Hi Jessie. This is George.” I introduced them when we entered the foyer. Jessie smiled at him and extended her hand when he grabbed it and kissed it while she shot me a discrete look.

“Nice to meet you, George. Welcome.” She directed him down the hallway to the living room, where she turned and bulged her eyes at me.

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you he doesn’t shake hands with women. He’s really quirky.” I whispered to her.

“Kitchen, please, as soon as you can.”

I knew that they were dying to know what was going on. I was looking forward to catching up with my friends all week, but then rock baby fell into my lap and gave me a hundred grand to babysit for the weekend.

I followed George into the living room where I found Trevor, Jessie’s boyfriend sitting with Josh, Sandra’s friend that would sometimes come and visit with her and another man I didn’t know.

“Marla!” Trevor ran to hug me. I introduced George and they introduced the mystery man, Zack, Trevor’s new co-worker. Oy vey! Can’t you just hear the joke’s first line. Three salesmen and a rock star were all in an airplane.

Just like I said, the side tables were lined with finger food and little napkins. Boring lives with canapés.

“Would you like a glass of wine?” I asked George, thinking that it will be my way to get away from him and into the kitchen, to my friends.

“Sure.” He said and smiled.

“So, George! What brings you to Kingston?” Thanks Josh.

I ran to the kitchen as fast as legs could carry me and just like I thought, Sandra and Jessie both ran towards me when I opened the door.

“DID YOU SLEEP WITH HIM?” They chanted in unison.

“Shhhh! Keep it down, you two.” It was so loud that I wasn’t totally sure that they didn’t hear that. “And no!”

“Told ya!” Jessie looked at Sandra with a big grin on her face. “Pay up!” She extended her right palm and wiggled her fingers. Sandra, begrudgingly took two twenties and a ten out of her wallet and gave it to Jessie.

“You made a bet?” I was feeling hurt.

“Hey Sandra over here thought you were gonna go for it. I told her she was way off base.”

“I need a glass of red wine for him by the way.” I said and Jessie started busying herself with the task.

“He’s a little creepy, but even that aside, we are too involved professionally for me to indulge in that.” I leaned against the cabinets and Jessie handed me his drink. “You know how catty the dancers can be.”

I had thought about this a great deal over the past day and have come to a rational and mature conclusion that it’d be best if I didn’t go there. “You thought I’d sleep with him?” I scolded Sandra. “After you know how much it takes for me to get there these days? After I wouldn’t sleep with Adam? What the hell?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the American in me.” She said nonchalantly. “After I saw the crazy side with Adam, I just thought you might. You know, get a little fangirly.”

“But seriously,” Jesse said with a mischievous grin, “have you not even thought about it?”

“I spent better part of last twenty four hours with him. It’s impossible not to think about it. It’s exhausting, to tell you the truth. He’s a lot of work to be around.”

“Well, if you think about it as work, then yeah, I can see how it can turn into a gruelling task.” Sandra chimed in a low, calm voice before her poker face gave up the sarcasm and she added. “Oh come on, Marla! It can’t possibly be that bad.”

“Come and see for yourself.” I said before I left the kitchen.

I entered the living room and the four men in the airplane were… not talking.

Zack was glaring at Trevor. Josh was staring at the bookshelf, looking like he was avoiding Trevor and Zack’s glares by reading the spines of the books and George sat on the couch, semi-catatonic grin plastered across his face, not moving. I cursed him for making me bring him. I handed George his drink. He took it and smiled at me. I sat next to him and leaned in closer. “George, where is Cam?” I needed someone else to tip the scales in George’s favour to make this a little bearable.

“Why?”

“Face it! This isn’t exactly your scene. Call him and invite him.”

He pointedly turned towards me. “Cam doesn’t usually come along on my dates.”

I turned to look him straight in the eyes.

“This is not a date!” I spat at him the words I wanted to say last night, this morning, but was still too unaccustomed to his insolence. His being here pushed the limits of my patience.

“I’m willing to keep an open mind.” he said.

“I’m not so sure they are.” I lowered my voice and lightly whipped my head towards the three other men in the room. George’s expression changed a bit. “Look, George, I told you this may not have been the best idea.”

“What about you?” He asked really softly.

“If you want me to keep an open mind, you’re gonna help me out here and call Cam. Now!”

Without breaking the eye-contact, George took his phone out of his pocket, pushed a button and put it next to his ear.

“Hey. Come inside!” He said after a few moments of waiting for Cam to answer, still looking straight into my eyes.

I could hear Cam saying something, but I could not tell what it was. For all I know, it was Portuguese.

“Cool.” He added and flipped the phone shut.

His eyes never strayed.

***

For the third time this weekend, we were back in front of my building.

Even though, after Cam joined us, things got a bit better at the party, I was completely exhausted and ready to call it a night. I was a little apprehensive to find out what else was George going to put me through before he deems me worthy to be working with him.

I must admit, the guy is difficult, bratty and a major pain in the ass, but putting up with him for a month and then have an option to not put up with Jenna any more was an appealing outcome.

“So, when do you head back?” I asked, not quite sure of what I should say next and he certainly didn’t volunteer any more information.

“Ya gonna miss me?”

I rolled my eyes. I had to.

“Yeah, I was enjoying being followed for a weekend so much that I am thinking of getting a puppy when you leave.”

“So, you think I’m cute.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But you’re thinking it.”

“Oh, so now you’re a psychic as well. Who knew!”

“Not a psychic. Just perceptive.”

What he called perception, I called arrogance. Conceit. The habitual behaviour that created the monster. Surely, I could have laughed in his face, told him to stop flattering himself and that he better keep his mind out of the gutter and keep things professional, but I didn’t. I said nothing.

“Are we done getting to know each other?” I asked instead, changing the subject. I really wanted to know what was the next step in this ‘interview’ and either mentally prepare myself for the rest of it, or move on.

He hesitated for a second, as if wanting to say something but then just smirked instead. “Almost.” was all I got.

I was getting really tired of his little games, so I just stared at him, waiting for him to spit it out.

“Tomorrow. Come to the hotel. You’ll meet my publicist and we’ll work out the details. Cam will pick you up.”

“No!” I protested. He was staying at the Four Points Sheraton, which was around the corner and up the street. “I can walk there. It’s a block away.”

“Nine-thirty. The Presidential Suite.”

“Ok. I’ll be there.”

I was about to leave the car when he grabbed my wrist

“A kiss when I see you’…” For the first time, I thought he looked sincere as he looked into my eyes before he leaned in and pecked my cheek. “Thass how I roll.”

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