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CALIFORNIA- Part I

CALIFORNIA

You’re scared to win, scared to lose

I’ve heard the war was over if you really choose

The one in and around you.

I

The day of the Oscars James’ hotel suite was buzzing with people, hairstylists, make up artists and stylists all busied themselves to make Lucy and James perfect for the big night.

James put on his jacket and looked in the mirror: his dark burgundy three-piece had been paired with a black shirt that matched the black lapel and pocket trim of his jacket and his patent leather shoes, a satin black bow tie and a pocket-handkerchief of the same fabric. His short blonde hair was combed back and held in place with the smallest amount of gel. He buttoned up the jacket and tugged on it, checking the way it fell on his back in the mirror, he had never been this nervous in his life, his heart pounding fast.

Then he saw Lucy in the mirror and all those feeling dissipated, he turned around and Lucy spun on herself showing off the beautiful gown.

The pale antique pink dress fell down her body caressing her curves like a glove, opening up in a slit from her upper right thigh where the skirt became looser as it ran to her feet. A flowy cape covered her shoulders living visible, as she moved, her naked back where a deep v line matched the one at the front, strappy rose gold sandals were at her feet. The fabric glistened from the vertical stripes of Swarovsky crystals that covered the entire gown; the white gold and diamond snake bangle with matching ring and earrings, made her shine under the light.

Her hair was in soft waves with a side part that gave her an old Hollywood look, her make up natural except for the dark burgundy lips that matched James’ suit.

“How do I look?” She asked.

“A vision,” breathed out James and quickly walked to her taking her hands and leaning towards her face.

“If you mess up her fresh lipstick I’ll murder you,” Jane, the makeup artist admonished him from across the room.

The actor pulled back.

“Can’t wait for the night to be over, I’m gonna tear that dress off of you,” he whispered in her ear.

Lucy looked at him, her head tilted to the side.

“You’re gonna do nothing of the sort, these crystals were hand sawn you have no idea how precious this dress is.”

James rolled his eyes.

“I’m already not liking this night,” he said but his eye softened as he added. “I can’t get over how beautiful you look”.

Lucy gave him a timid smile that died on her lips.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.

“Nothing it’s just...I don’t want to steal your thunder but I’m freaking out! Like big time!”

James squeezed her hand.

“You have nothing to worry about, you look stunning and you’ll do great!”

“It’s easy for you to say, you are in your element...” she walked to the sofa and sat down, only to quickly stand up again as the stylist shot her a side look from across the room. She started to pace along the sofa instead.

“I mean this is hard because it’is a red carpet! No, it’s the red carpet. If I had to evacuate a full Boeing 747 engulfed in flames, in ninety seconds, in the dark, I’d be peachy. That would be my element. But this is the Oscars, do you understand?” She was almost out of breath.

James tried his best to hide his laughter, failing miserably.

“I’m glad you find me amusing,” she said raising her arms in frustration.

James took her hands.

“Listen I understand it can be scary. I’m not gonna lie, I’m nervous too. But it’s just a carpet, you literally only have to put one foot in front of the other and you’ll smash it.”

He looked into her pleading eyes and took a deep breath,

“OK, planes are your element. Just pretend you’re walking with your usual confidence and cheeky attitude down the aisle of a busy flight to...New York!”

Lucy looked at her feet for a minute, visibly pondering.

“With all the noise and flashes going off I’d say I’m more likely going to Vegas...”

James nodded quickly.

“Good, Vegas it is.”

Lucy smiled and stretching towards him, she placed her forehead against his.

“Thank you. I really must have sounded crazy for you to come up with that load of crap for me.”

James chuckled.

“Anytime”.

A man in a black suit walked into the room.

“Mr Blackwood, the car is waiting”.

James squeezed Lucy’s hands and she smiled, excited.

“Here we go,” he said.

***

Nothing could have prepared Lucy for what was waiting for her the moment she stepped out of the black Limousine.

James had gotten out of the car first and had immediately reached out to help Lucy on her feet.

The loud noise of the crowd was overwhelming almost as much as the hundreds of flashes going off at the same time, like fireworks. It took a good minute for her eyes to adjust and for that moment she blindly followed James who was holding her hand, along the red carpet.

Despite her eyes getting used to the situation her brain couldn’t quite catch on the magnitude of the event: it was like ascending Mount Olympus with its multitudes of gods and goddesses in the like of actors, directors, producers and all the big names that in a way or another had made the history of Hollywood. She was so astounded that she had to remind herself to breathe.

In her state of trance, she had just the time to register that they had stopped walking and she observed James lift his arm and wave to the cheering crowd. He squeezed her hand and smiled at her and only then she realised, with some relief, that her best fake smile was already plastered on.

She nodded quickly to let him know she was fine and they resumed walking until they reached a camera by which a woman in an elegant black gown was standing.

She greeted them with a big smile.

“Hello, hello welcome!”

“How are you?” She asked pointing the microphone at James.

“Oh, amazing,” he replied simply.

“Is this your beautiful girlfriend?” She asked again in a gossipy tone.

James took a side step and showed Lucy with his hands.

“In the beautiful flesh.”

The interviewer grinned.

“Firstly, can I just say you guys look absolutely breathtaking together!”

They both thanked her with big smiles.

“Your outfits really compliment each other, absolutely adorable!” She then continued. “It’s our little tradition on the red carpet to inquire about your style choices so James, who are you wearing?”

“I’m in Versace.” He replied without much enthusiasm.

“And what about you?” The woman asked lucy, taking her by surprise. She quickly gathered her thoughts behind her racing heart and leaned slightly forward to speak.

“Erm, my dress is by Celine.”

She could see James smiling proudly at the periphery of her eye.

“You look beautiful.”

Lucy thanked the woman who focused her attention back on James.

“So it’s a big night for you James, you have been nominated for three categories, including best director and if I’m not wrong, was your first time in this role...“.

Lucy looked at James focused on the woman’s face, listening to her words through the noise.

“How do you feel?” The woman asked.

James shook his head and scoffed.

“Surreal! When I learned about the nominations I couldn’t believe my ears, it’s always an honour to be considered for this award. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here today without the team that made the film possible so I’m proud the picture got a nomination as a whole.”

“Well, James you deserve it. Good luck and have fun tonight guys!”

James smiled and nodded and Lucy followed suit then he took her hand again and they walked to the nominees’ area of the red carpet where a black background with golden Oscars statues prints allowed for the photoshoot.

A man in black approached James and instructed him on where to stand for the pictures.

Lucy let go of his hand and stood a distance from her boyfriend, watching him pose for the camera with his usual casual attitude. He was breathtaking in his handsome confidence and she now saw him through the eyes of his adoring fans and felt a quick hit of guilty pleasure in knowing he was her man and no one else could have him.

Then James stretched his arm towards her, inviting her to join him for more pictures and she thought her heart would escape through her mouth.

She walked as graciously as possible and stood on a mark on the carpet that James pointed out for her, he wrapped his arm around her waist and she did the same with him, not sure how to move or even breathe. He leaned towards her briefly and said in her ear “Relax, you’re doing amazing.”

When she turned to face him, he swiftly held her cheek and placed a soft kiss on her lips for the excitement of the photographers, whose flashes went off in a frenzy.

She couldn’t help but grin against his lips as her heart filled with a storm of emotions.

Finally, they reached the last step before the end of the carpet where they were instructed by another man in a black suit that a camera was going to take a very short video of them as they performed a brief movement of their choice, which was then going to be reproduced in slow motion.

The presenter counted and on three James quickly wrapped his arm around Lucy’s back and, steading her against his thigh, he let her fall in front of him in a tango-like move, causing a surprised Lucy to let out a cry of excitement.

The final result was an adorable four-second clip of the couple carefree love.

“That was petrifying but fun!” Said Lucy as they exited the red carpet and made their way into the Dolby Theatre.

“That last move or the carpet?” Asked James with genuine curiosity.

Lucy laughed.

“Both!”

“How are you doing?” He asked taking advantage of a moment of quiet.

“Dazed. Overwhelmed. You made it so enjoyable for me though, I was sure my heart was going to jump out of my chest!”

“I’m so proud of you,” he kissed her hand. “I’m so glad I got to show you off!” He winked.

At that moment a pair of hands covered James’ eyes, he touched the long delicates fingers and turned around.

“Karen!” He screamed hugging his friend.

The woman was a waterfall of red hair in a silky dark green dress that made her milky skin shine like ivory.

“You finally made it through, you big shot!” She exclaimed pulling him close for another one-arm hug.

James puffed.

“It’s mayhem out there!”

“Hey Sarah, you look beautiful!” He said to Karen’s girlfriend.

The girl awarded him with a warm smile and a quick hug.

Then he turned to Lucy who was standing silently a metre away.

“Lucy this is my friend and colleague Karen and that’s Sarah. Karen, Sarah this is Lucy.”

Lucy held her hand out timidly.

“It’s so nice to meet you, you’re such an amazing actress. I’m actually a fan,” she said, shy.

Karen shook her hand, followed by her girlfriend.

“Aww, thanks! And I’m a fan too, heard so much about you!”

Lucy reciprocated the smile as her cheeks flushed red.

A voice came over the loudspeaker asking all guests to take their seats before the imminent begin of the show so the four of them walked into the theatre.

Lucy was once again in owe at the magnificence of the place and every time she saw a famous face the fangirl inside her cried out in joy but she did her best to put on a straight face.

The group made their way to the fourth row, where they took their seats and shortly after the lights went dim and the ceremony began.

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