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She Went All the Way, Page 2

Meg Cabot

  “Now, Lou, honey,” Vicky said again, as she dug through the contents of her purse. “You can’t blame it all on Hindenburg. You and Barry were having problems way before Hindenburg, if I remember correctly.”

  Lou, not moving her head from the table, blinked at her friend. Morning sunlight was slanting in through the airport lounge windows, and a pinkish beam had settled on Vicky, who looked angelic in its rosy light.

  But then, Vicky Lord always looked angelic. She hadn’t been the Noxema girl for five years running just because of her flawless skin. Oh, no. Vicky glowed, and from the inside. In a way that Lou, who spent way too much time in front of a computer screen, knew she would never glow, inside or out.

  “Sure,” Lou said. “Sure we were having problems. We’d been together for what, ten years? Ten years, and the guy wouldn’t commit. I’d say that was a problem.”

  Lou didn’t know why she felt compelled to explain herself to the angelic vision seated across from her. Vicky would never understand. Vicky, model, actress, and current Hollywood It Girl, had always gotten everything she had ever wanted.

  Well, that wasn’t quite true. There’d been one thing Vicky had wanted and hadn’t gotten, a guy she’d been crazy about, who’d thrown her over the minute she, like Lou, had mentioned the C word. True, that had been years ago, and Vicky was happily married now—to a man who so thoroughly adored her, their marriage was routinely held up as one of the most successful in Hollywood. But maybe—just maybe—she could still see where Lou was coming from.

  “Barry told me the reason he couldn’t commit to our relationship was because he didn’t want me to be saddled with an out-of-work actor for a husband,” Lou said. “So I wrote something that I hoped would bring him some work.”

  Vicky found what she’d been looking for in her purse—her Christian Dior compact. She opened it so that she could examine her new collagen-enhanced lips.

  “Honey,” Vicky said, as she regarded her reflection. “You didn’t just write him something that would bring him more work. You wrote him something that turned him from Mr. Nobody to Mr. Eight Figures in about five minutes flat. And how did he reward you?” Vicky looked up from her compact and directed the full force of her azure-eyed gaze at her friend. “By runnin’ off with that blond ice-bitch. What I don’t get is why all of this is such a shock to you. I mean, he moved out way before this, didn’t he? How long ago?”

  “Weeks ago.” Lou’s voice was mournful. “But he didn’t say anything about having fallen in love with somebody else. He just said he didn’t think he could commit after all.”

  “When what he meant—obviously—was that he couldn’t commit to you. Honey, I’ve been there. Jack pulled the same old fast one on me, remember? Only in his case, he still hasn’t seemed to find Ms. Right. Maybe because for him there is no Ms. Right.” Vicky shook her head, and happened to spy the reflection of the terminal’s coffee stand in her compact mirror. “Can you believe they don’t have espresso here? I mean, I realize Anchorage is not LA, but it’s still America, isn’t it?”

  “God!” Lou exclaimed. She lifted her head from the table, but kept her forehead in her hands. “When I think of everything I did for him! I tell you, writing that stupid thing was the worst mistake I ever made.”

  Apparently satisfied with her lipliner, Vicky closed her compact and slipped it back into her bag. “Taking up with Barry was the worst mistake you ever made,” she said. “Writing Hindenburg was a stroke of genius. For heaven’s sake, Lou, it’s become an American classic.”

  “Classic piece of crap,” Lou said, bitterly.

  “It was short on depth,” Vicky said, with a shrug. “I’ll give you that. But the action scenes were to die for. And those love scenes between Barry and Gret…” Lou didn’t miss Vicky shaking herself out of the thoughtful reverie into which she’d slipped. Biting her lower lip—ruining her liner as she did so—Vicky’s expression was guilty as she said, “Oh, God, hon. I’m sorry.”

  “No.” Lou slumped in her hard plastic chair. “No, it’s all right. I can take it. I mean, it’s not like any of this is a total surprise. I certainly had my suspicions. Unlike some people.”

  Vicky raised an eyebrow. “If you mean Jack,” she said, “he knew.”

  Lou let out a bitter laugh. “Oh, come on, Vick. He did not. He had no clue.”

  “About Greta and Barry?” Vicky shook her head until her bob shimmered. “I’m telling you, he knew. He’s not as dumb as you like to think, Lou.”

  “He dumped you, didn’t he?” Lou demanded. “If that’s not the dumbest thing anybody ever did, I don’t know what is.”

  “Aren’t you sweet,” Vicky said, with another of her beatific smiles. “But honey, I swear to you, he didn’t trash his hotel room because of Greta. I mean, for him to have been that upset, he’d have to have, you know. Cared about her.”

  “And that’s a biological impossibility,” Lou muttered, “for someone who doesn’t even have a heart.”

  As Vicky, one of the many starlets Jack had left in his wake, ought to have been able to attest to. The only man in Hollywood who’d had more affairs than Jack Townsend was Tim Lord, director of both Hindenburg and this most recent Copkiller sequel…

  But at least Jack did his conquests the favor of not marrying them and then dragging them forever through the divorce courts, something Tim Lord did on a fairly regular basis. Vicky was Tim’s third wife. The man had an unfortunate tendency—not uncommon in Hollywood— to marry his leading ladies, and though Vicky’s part in Hindenburg—as the wife of the doomed airship’s captain— had been small, she’d nevertheless managed to steal the hearts of both audiences and the film’s director.

  Still, Vicky hadn’t exactly jumped from the frying pan and into the fire going from Jack to Tim. She adored her new husband, while Tim was obviously smitten by her, whereas Jack…

  Well, the day Jack Townsend cared for anyone whose name wasn’t Jack Townsend was the day Lou would appear poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel wearing only a thong.

  “Oh, look,” Vicky said, brightening. “Here comes someone who looks unwashed. Maybe he can tell us what’s taking so long with our ride.”

  The unwashed gentleman did prove to be a member of their flight crew. He was, disconcertingly, their pilot.

  “We’re just waiting on Mr. Townsend,” the burly, wool-capped individual informed them, politely, “and then we’ll be on our way.”

  Lou was not certain she’d heard him correctly.

  “Jack Townsend?” she echoed, hoarsely, her eyes going wide. “Did you say you’re waiting for Jack Townsend?”

  The pilot was hard-pressed to drag his gaze from the effervescent Vicky, but he managed.

  “That’s right, ma’am,”he said to Lou, before reluctantly— as, like all men, he was drawn to Vicky Lord’s ethereal beauty like a moth to a flame—shuffling off again.

  “Oh, my God,” Lou said, clutching the tabletop with white-knuckled fingers. She glanced at Vicky, but the latter was busy pulling out her cell phone. Hesitantly, Lou asked, “Did you…did you hear what he just said, Vick?”

  “What he said?” Vicky looked disgusted. “What about what he had on? Have you ever in your life seen so much plaid on one human being? Who wasn’t an extra in Brave-heart, I mean?”

  Lou blinked at her friend. It seemed incredible to her that Vicky could have just heard that the man who had torn her heart in two was on his way to this very airport, and yet all she seemed concerned about was outerwear of the locals.

  But that was Vicky. It was one of the reasons Lou had remained friends with her for so long…Vicky could be utterly shallow at times, it was true, possessing a complete inability to pass by a designer shoe store without stopping in to make a purchase. But she had an equal weakness for those who were down on their luck, and was incapable of encountering homeless people without stopping to thrust hundred dollar bills into their hands.

  “Jack’s going to be on our plane, Vicky,” Lou explained, beca
use she wasn’t certain Vicky understood this. “Jack Townsend.”

  “Well, of course,” Vicky said, distractedly. “Why shouldn’t my day be completely shot to hell? He must have missed the earlier flight, thanks to all that hoopla back at the hotel. Why isn’t this phone working? What is wrong with this godforsaken place? First no espresso, now this.”

  “Vicky,” Lou hissed. She had to hiss because it felt as if something was gripping her throat very tightly. Some thing…or someone. Lou’s mind flew back to Hollow Man, starring Kevin Bacon, parts of which she’d watched in her hotel room the night before. Scientist becomes invisible and goes around terrorizing his colleagues…

  Vicky, holding the cell phone to her ear, complained, “I don’t understand what is going on here. Why can’t I get a signal? Where the hell are we, anyway, Siberia?”

  “Vicky.” Lou’s voice came back in full force, filled with wonder—and admiration. “How can you be so calm? The man stomped on your heartstrings, and you’re about to get on a plane with him like it’s…like it’s nothing. Whereas I’m still ready to kill him for what he did to you. What’s your secret? Really. I’m dying to know.”

  Vicky closed her cell phone with an impatient snap, then stuffed it back into her bag. “It’s called acting,” she said. “I swear, I should get an Academy Award for Outstanding Performance as Jack Townsend’s ex.” Then, glancing at her slim gold watch, Vicky made a face. Except that of course, even contorted, her features remained impossibly pretty. “If I’m going to schedule that lymphatic drainage massage, I have to call now.” Vicky stood up. “I’m going to find a pay phone.”

  “Vicky.” Fortunately, Lou hadn’t had any breakfast. If she’d had, she was fairly certain it would be coming back up right then. “I really think I’m going to be sick.”

  “Oh, you are not,” Vicky said. “Go find the little girls’ room and wash that stuff off your head. The last thing you want if you’re going to tangle with Tim over that environmentalist thing is to show up at the set with ketchup in your hair.”

  Spinning around on her slender stiletto heels, Vicky marched off, leaving Lou, white-faced and short of breath, still gripping the tabletop.

  “All right,” Lou said to herself. Fortunately, with the exception of the woman behind the counter at the coffee stand, she was the only person in the small, rundown private terminal, and so did not have to fear being overheard. “I can do this. I can get on a plane with Jack Townsend. If Vicky can do it, I can, easy. I just won’t speak to him. That’s all. I mean, just because his ex ran off with my ex, that’s no reason for things to change between us. I never spoke to him before, if I could help it. Why start now?”

  Fortified by these assurances, Lou climbed to her feet and, shouldering her purse—and the much heavier bag containing her laptop—found the door marked Women. The bathroom was not as bad as she’d thought it would be. The lighting over the sink was generous—a little too bright, actually. She could see the deep circles under her eyes only too well.

  Wet paper towels applied to her unruly auburn curls solved the ketchup problem. The purple shadows under her eyes were going to be a more difficult fix. Lou fished a stick of concealer from her purse. Miraculously, it did the trick. Too bad, she thought, there was no concealer for her life. Ex-boyfriend causing you to suffer from low self-image? Just dab on a little of this, and voilà! He’s gone! It’s like he never existed.

  Concealer for emotional scars. Lou smiled at her reflection. That was a good one. Maybe she’d put it in her novel.

  Then she stopped smiling. Lipstick. Definitely needed lipstick.

  She found some at the bottom of her bag, and slicked it on. Even better. She was starting to look almost human. If she walked out of this restroom and ran into Barry, she doubted he’d be able to tell the emotional wreck he’d made her. Why, all that running she’d done on her at-home treadmill, determined to sweat Barry out of her system, had actually given her some muscle tone. And the weight she’d lost after Barry had moved out—a direct result of a diet of nothing but peanut brittle, the only thing Lou had been able to keep down during that low period of her life—made her seem almost as ethereal as the third Mrs. Tim Lord.

  Almost. But not quite. Because there was a hint of wariness in Lou’s formerly trusting brown eyes—so like the gaze, her brothers had always asserted, of a golden retriever—that kept her appearance firmly rooted in earthly, not heavenly, stratums.

  Now her eyes, Lou decided, were more like those of a golden retriever who’d survived an ingestion of antifreeze.

  Barry, she thought, those wary brown eyes narrowing in the mirror before her. It’s all your fault, Barry.

  Except that it wasn’t. Lou knew perfectly well that if anyone was to blame for what had happened, it was her. She never ought to have fallen for Barry Kimmel in the first place.

  For one thing, of course, Barry was an actor. And if Lou had learned anything in her years in LA, it was never to trust an actor. Never trust one, and never, ever, fall in love with one.

  How was she to have known that, though, back in high school on Long Island? Although they’d grown up down the street from one another, Barry had never deigned to notice lowly Lou Calabrese until their senior year, when she’d finally managed to shed the layer of puppy fat she’d worn for most of her life, and convinced everyone to stop calling her Carrots by dyeing her copper-colored curls mahogany. Just like that, Barry Kimmel had asked her out. Barry Kimmel, the hottest boy in Bay Haven Central High School’s Drama Club.

  Hot, yes. And for a while—a long while—that had been enough. But even Lou, smitten as she’d been, had grown uneasy early into the relationship. Barry was gorgeous. No one could deny that.

  But what about funny? Had Barry had the slightest trace of a sense of humor? No, not at all. Granted, few people shared the boisterous Calabrese family’s enthusiasm for ribald jokes, but Barry had seemed to find them particularly offensive. Then again, since most of her brothers’ pranks had centered around Barry, could Lou blame him, really, for not finding them funny?

  And moody? If he did not think he was getting the attention he felt he deserved from whomever—his drama coach, the other actors, Lou—Barry had had a pronounced tendency to sulk. A lot.

  Well, Barry was an artist, after all. No one, least of all Lou—or so Barry insisted—could understand the angst an actor went through with every new role, trying to get to the core of his character, to find exactly the right intonation for each line. How Lou, a mere writer, could even dare to compare the two forms of creative expression—writing and acting—was beyond Barry. Writing, as everyone knew, was simply a craft. Acting, however, was art.

  The saddest part of all was that for a long time, Lou had actually believed him.

  But God, how handsome he’d been…a teen girl’s walking fantasy of how a boyfriend should look. Barry had been Lou’s Nevarre (Rutger Hauer, Ladyhawke), her Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack, Say Anything), her Hawkeye (Daniel Day Lewis, Last of the Mohicans).

  Her everything.

  And the fact that he’d wanted her, chubby Carrots Calabrese…it had been a dream come true for a girl who’d always cared more for movies than she ever had for fashion or makeup. Barry Kimmel had wanted her, Lou Calabrese, not Candy Sparks, cheerleading captain and star of every musical Bay Haven Central put on, or Amber Castiglione, homecoming queen and possessor of a professionally done portfolio of modeling headshots. It was a coup, Lou’s landing Barry Kimmel, an almost unheard of victory for fat brainy girls everywhere.

  Until now. Now, ten years later, it appeared that Candy and Amber had won after all. Because wasn’t that who Greta Woolston was, really? Just a British version of Candy, a European Amber? Barry, saddled with a Lou all those years, had suddenly realized he didn’t have to be. He could have all the Candy he wanted…

  …now that he had his own money to pay for it, thanks to Lou, who’d foolishly provided him with the means to earn the kind of paycheck that attracted women like Candy…and
Greta Woolston.

  “You’ve gotten so cynical,” Barry had said to Lou, as he’d been moving out. “So hardened about everything.” This observation, Lou was fairly certain, was due to the fact that, rather than throwing herself prostrate at his feet and begging him not to go, she’d politely held the door open while Barry struggled past with a box filled with his CDs.

  “I feel like the girl I moved to California with, the one filled with all those hopes and dreams,” he’d told her, “is gone.”

  “Because she grew up, Barry,” Lou had said. “Thanks to you.”

  Remembering the pain that had lanced through her as his words hit home—was it true? Was that why Barry had fallen for Greta? Because of her luminescent vulnerability, the appearance she gave of being completely incapable of taking care of herself, her almost palpable need for someone to watch over her, a sensation Lou was fairly certain she had never aroused in any man?—Lou wrenched her gaze from her reflection.

  “Stop it,” she whispered to herself. “Just stop it. Pull yourself together. You’re not Carrots Calabrese anymore. You’re not. You’re Lou Calabrese.” She straightened her shoulders and gazed into her own wary, weary eyes. “You’re an award-winning screenwriter, soon to be an award-winning novelist…”

  If she ever finished her novel, the first chapter of which she’d only just begun a few nights ago, about a woman betrayed by her high school sweetheart, and brought to wholeness again through the love of a good man…an entirely fictional creation since Lou was now convinced that, with the possible exception of her father and brothers, there was no such thing as a good man.

  “When Greta Woolston can’t get a part because her implants are hanging down to her knees,” Lou said to her reflection in the bathroom mirror, “you’ll still be writing. Your best asset isn’t made out of silicon. In the meantime, just remember this: no more actors. Now, cheer up.”

  The pep talk didn’t work. Lou stared at the smile she’d plastered onto her newly glossed lips, then gave up. She couldn’t smile. But she couldn’t cry either. Maybe Barry had been right. Maybe she was too cynical.