Dear Mia: From, The Guy You Spilled Drinks On
“So…what do you think?” Casey asks as we’re ushered into the hotel’s grand ballroom after brandishing our employee identification cards to prove that we were, in fact, invited to this party.
I take a moment to soak it all in: the thumping the bass, the multicolored laser lights floating over the party guests, the hazy fog that seems to have settled over the dance floor, the comfortable looking couches around the outer edges of the room, and my big, insightful comment is, “Wow, there’s a lot of people here.”
In my defense, that’s true. It’s like every resident of the city is currently packed into one large room to the point that I can’t take a small step sideways without bumping into someone. But I kind of love it. I can feel the energy of the room coursing through me, feel everyone’s hearts beating in perfect time, feel their happiness and joy and excitement about being a few hours away from getting a fresh start.
And I decide that this is enough. If nothing else happens to me this entire night, I can write an entire article solely on how it feels to be in this room.
“It’s a party, that’s kind of the point,” Casey laughs, having to practically brush her lips against my ear in order for me to hear her. “Why don’t you go get us some drinks?”
“Why me?” I reply automatically, absolutely mortified at the thought having to go somewhere in the midst of this chaos on my own. “Can’t you come?”
She shakes her head, giving me the look my mother always gave me when she was trying to get me to do something I really didn’t want to do. “Remember, Mia. Immerse yourself.”
Logically, I know that shouldn’t be enough to make me go, but it is, because I also know that she’s right. Lilian had told me that she wanted me to experience the world and then write about what happened and I’d never be able to do that if I kept being afraid.
So I inhale deeply and nod, scanning my gaze over the room to locate the bar at the side “Right. Okay. Rum and coke?” I verify Casey’s choice of drink and when she grins and pushes me towards the bar encouragingly, I call out to her over my shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”
With a thumbs up, she sends me on my way and after a big of weaving through the crowds on their way to the dance floor, I end up in the back of a seven-person line waiting to give their orders. I tug on the hem of my dress and shift my weight back and forth between my feet and just generally try not to make eye contact with anyone until I reach the front of the line.
With as sweet a smile and as much conviction as I can muster, I order a rum and coke for Casey and any mixture of vodka and fruit juice for myself and two minutes later, I’ve successfully ordered drinks from a bartender.
Thinking that, so far, this experience hasn’t been as nerve wrecking as I thought it would be, I smile to myself as I turn to go find Casey and run smack dab into someone’s chest, sending the contents of the plastic cups flying against their shirt before the cups themselves fall to the ground because the sudden onset of embarrassment causes me to lose function in my hands.
“Oh my god,” I say, my eyes wide with horror as I watch the liquids bleed into the front of a man’s light blue button up, “Ohhhh my god. I’m so sorry!”
“Um, don’t worry about it,” the man glances down at the damage I’ve done, doing his best to keep me calm, “I didn’t really like this shirt anyway.”
I don’t believe him at all. “Really? Because it’s a nice shirt and I just completely ruined it.”
He’s tall with dark hair and dark eyes and cheekbones with more structure than my entire life and he looks like the kind of person who tells you exactly what you want to hear. Not that it’s a particularly bad trait in this specific situation, seeing that he can tell I’m on the verge of dying from humiliation. He shrugs and shoves his hands into the front pockets of his dark jeans and I wonder how it’s possible that he looks this gorgeous, despite the state of his clothes. “I’ll live, I promise.”
“Right,” I nod, knowing the heat in my cheeks isn’t going to go away as long as I’m in his presence. So I gesture to where I see Casey has found a seat with some of our other coworkers on a couch on the other side of the room. “Well, excuse me while I go marinate in shame.”
He lets out a soft laugh and steps to the side to let me pass and I make sure not to look back as I weave through the crowd towards Casey, feeling a bit relieved when I squish into the couch beside her.
“Hey!” she greets me, happy to see that I’ve survived the mission for alcohol, only to notice that I’ve come back empty handed. “Where are the drinks?”
“Soaked into the front of Hunter Caldwell’s shirt,” I reply nonchalantly. I’d recognized him as soon as we’d locked eyes but it took me until just now, when I’d regained my ability to think, to actually remember his name. He’s a regular in the fashion section of our magazine because he has great street style and his band’s concerts are often reviewed in our music section.
Casey blinks in confusion, not entirely processing what I’d said. “What?”
“I kind of crashed into him on my way back and the drinks spilled all over him,” I explain, hoping I didn’t have to explain even further because reliving it once is punishment enough.
A wide grin stretches Casey’s lips. “That’s amazing.”
“I’m glad that my embarrassment is so amusing to you,” I deadpan, wondering how she could possibly see an upside to this situation.
“No, Mia, don’t you see,” she lowers the volume of her voice, leaning towards me to ensure I can still hear her, “that’s perfect for your article. Being in the inner circle of a high profile celebrity is definitely feature article worthy.”
I hadn’t thought about it that way, but she’s right. If being at this party is enough material for an article, then hanging out with a celebrity while I’m at this party will definitely give me an edge. The trouble is, I’m not really the kind of person who can make that happen.
“So what,” I say slowly, making sure I’m understanding exactly what she’s suggesting, “I’m supposed to seduce him?”
She lifts one eyebrow and glares at me. “Why are you saying it like it’s completely improbable?”
“Because it’s completely improbable,” I reply without having to think about it. I’d never had a one night stand before, hell, I hadn’t flirted with a guy since what seemed like the ice age, so asking me to get cozy with a famous guy is absolutely ridiculous.
“Oh, come on, you’re gorgeous and any guy would be lucky to have you,” she says because she’s an amazing friend who’s obligated to say things like that.
“Yeah, but he’s not just any guy,” I point out, “He’s a celebrity. I’m pretty sure his face was on the side of the bus I took to work yesterday. I can barely say three words to the cute guy who delivers my Chinese food, how do you expect me to seduce a celebrity?”
She shrugs casually, as though what she’s proposing isn’t life altering in the slightest. “He’s still just a guy.” Reaching out, she grabs my hand and squeezes my fingers comfortingly. “Breathe and be bold, Mia. You can do it.”
That’s such simple advice, and yet…maybe it can work. Maybe this is one of those opportunities that I just can’t let pass me by. So I inhale deeply to calm my nerves and turn to scan the room, to see if I can find him once more. Although the celebrity guest list for this party is extensive, there’s no VIP section, so all the famous people are scattered about with their entourages in tow. Hunter, for instance, is seated on a couch on the other side of the room beside another member of his band.
I accept another encouraging smile from Casey before marching towards where Hunter and his friends are gathered and it’s not until I’m about fifteen feet away from the couch he’s sitting on that I realize I have no idea what I’m going to say.
He’s sitting with his side facing me on the edge of the couch, so before I can talk myself out of it, I reach out and tap his shoulder. “Hi, Hunter?” We don’t really know each other, well, at all, so maybe it’s too soon for me to be calling him by his first name. “Mr. Caldwell?” Nope, now I just like a school kid in trouble with the teacher. “Hunter?”
Thankfully, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t actually hear me saying his name and instead responds to my touch, turning his head to see who I am, his eyes sparking in recognition as a slow smile stretches his lips. “Oh, hey!”
I take it as a good sign that he doesn’t immediately have me escorted away and when he pushes himself off the couch and turns to face me fully, I note that he’s changed his button up from the drink stained light blue one to a new shirt that’s forest green. A smart choice on his part because it means any future disasters won’t be as noticeable.
“I promise I don’t have any drinks to spill on you this time,” I say, nervously playing with one of the bangles on my wrist, knowing this isn’t the most interesting way to start a conversation. “Sorry about that. Again.”
He shrugs, sticking his hands into his front pockets and taking a step towards me. “I told you, it’s totally fine.”
That can’t be it. I have to be able to find a reason to spend more time with him, so I rack my brain for an excuse to keep talking and come up with, “Maybe I can make it up to you. Can I buy you a drink?”
It’s a bold question for me, who has never in her life been the one to make the first move, so I hold my breath as he considers his options, tilting his head to the side and chewing on his lower lip for a moment before he speaks. “I didn’t get your name.”
Right. That probably would have been a good place to start. “Mia. My name’s Mia.”
“Well, Mia,” his smile widens and his eyes begin to twinkle, “how about I buy you a drink?”
What an incredible turn of events. Maybe all of this is a massive hallucination, but I’m not gonna just let it pass, so I match his grin and nod. “I’d like that.”
He gestures towards the bar and we walk side by side to the back of the line, both wondering how to proceed, so I’m glad when it’s him that breaks the silence first. “So, Mia, what do you do?”
I wonder if telling him the truth will make him less likely to be open with me. It’s possible. I’d never met a celebrity before, but I can’t imagine that they particularly enjoy speaking to members of the press about their personal lives. But I’m also a horrible liar, so if he senses that I’m not being completely honest, that might shut him down too.
Basically, I’m screwed either way, so I might as well just go with the truth. “I’m an advice columnist for Glow magazine.”
Thankfully, he doesn’t seem too put off, flashing me a smile as we step forward in line. “That’s cool! Do you ever feel like it’s a lot of pressure? I’d be so scared to say the wrong thing.”
“I was when I first started,” I admit. Scared isn’t really the right word. It was more like mortified that I’d end up completely ruining someone’s life. “But after a while you just gotta learn to trust yourself and remember that these people are asking you because they want an answer and that just because you give them one, doesn’t mean they’ll actually take your advice.”
“Hmm,” he hums, lifting just one side of his mouth into a smile. “That’s a very enlightened way of looking at it.”
His gaze is locked on mine and for the first time since I walked over to him ten minutes ago, I realized the ridiculousness of this situation. Here I am, me, Mia Sorenson, the girl too shy to make eye contact with the barista while giving her coffee order, having a full blown conversation with a gorgeous guy who also happens to be very famous. And what’s even crazier is that I’m not uncomfortable in the slightest.
Usually by now, I’d be shifting from foot to foot, looking for the nearest escape route, but I feel calm around Hunter. Like he’d masterfully navigate through every storm I have inside me.
So I decide that I want to keep talking to him for as long as he’s willing to have a conversation and amazingly enough, that’s exactly what we do. After we get our drinks and knock the tops of our plastic cups against each other, we find a tall table and lean against the sides and we talk.
He tells me about his band and his process for writing music and how he’s so excited about the next album but also a little terrified because he’s put so much of himself into that he’ll be heartbroken if the fans don’t like it. And I tell him about how I ended up with the column and how it’s fulfilling in a way that I never imagined it would be and how I want to do so much more, but I just haven’t figured out how yet.
An hour later, I can’t feel my feet from standing in my heels for so long, but I’ve also never felt so alive in my life. I wonder how it’s possible that Hunter’s still here because surely he’s supposed to mingling with every person at this party, but instead, he’s tucked into a corner, making me laugh until my cheeks and stomach hurt.
“Alright, party people,” a voice rings out over the speaker system, causing the volume of the talking in the room to come to a halt, “it’s almost time for the countdown, so grab that special person you’re going to be kissing at midnight.”
The announcement that it’s nearly the new year snaps me back into reality and I’m a bit saddened as I realize that means that these magical few hours I’ve had with Hunter will soon be over.
I must have freely shown that sadness on my face because his eyebrows furrow in concern. “You okay?”
“Yeah, it’s just…,” I scramble to find an excuse that isn’t ‘I don’t want to leave you yet’. “I’ve never been kissed at midnight before.”
That’s true, but it sounds a little pathetic, so I’m surprised when instead of immediately excusing himself from the situation, he says, “Would you mind if I did the honors?”
It’s not like that was what I was hoping he’d say. I didn’t have an actual plan, I was just thinking on my feet. But if he wants to kiss me, I’m not going to say no, so I smile softly and nod, glad the room is dark enough that he can’t notice how red my cheeks are getting. “I’d like that.”
He leaves his empty beer bottle on the table and steps around it so that he’s standing in front of me, his hands slowly lifting to cup my cheeks as the countdown begins. I tune out the sounds of the other party guests chanting numbers, knowing that if I anticipate it coming, it’ll just make me more nervous. So instead, I focus on Hunter.
I get mesmerized by his eyes, so dark and deep and filled with galaxies. And his lips, so plump and beautiful, parted and still in preparation. I can feel his heart beating, his chest just a few inches from mine. I can feel the steady drums of rhythm coursing through my veins, the pace getting just a little bit faster with each passing second to match the racing of my own heart.
It’s like time stops as he leans in and presses his lips to mine. Everything else fades away and for a brief, wonderful, life altering moment, Hunter and I are the only two people on the entire planet. The only two people to ever have existed in the history of time and the only two people who could ever exist for all the time to come.
And then it’s over, much too quickly for my liking, and people are singing Auld Lang Syne at the top of their lungs and Hunter’s lowering his hands to his side and taking a step backwards, but not before whispering, “Happy New Year, Mia,” into my ear, sending warm shivers down my spine.
“Happy New Year,” I reply automatically, amazed I’m able to speak at all. I want to say something that’ll make him realize just how much that meant to me, but before I can, someone calls out his name from the next table over and we both look to see one of his bandmates motioning for him to return to his friends.
He winces apologetically when he turns his attention back to me. “I hate to be ‘that guy’ but I should go.”
“Oh, of course,” I nod, flustered and disappointed but not bold enough to ask him to stay. “It was nice bumping into you, Hunter Caldwell.”
His lips part as though he wants to tell me something important, but instead he nods and shoots me a small smile as he steps around me to join his friends. “Likewise. See you around.”
It seems much too casual a goodbye for what happened between us, but I don’t have the guts to point that out, so I simply wave until his back is turned and he’s walking out of my life just as quickly as he came crashing into it, leaving me elated and aching and happy beyond belief yet severely disappointed and wondering if any of this was actually real.