On my way downstairs, the elevator doors swished open to a small flurry of activity centered around a well-dressed, handsome figure. It didn’t take me two seconds to realize the figure was one of several celebrities either staying in the hotel or using its rooms for a base between appearances. He and his entourage migrated into the cramped space, filling it with men’s cologne and fresh hairspray, bumping into me without apology, and pushing me against the wall as if I were an invisible intrusion.
A second man was in the process of listing the day’s schedule when a woman tugging at a noncompliant cuff stuck inside the celebrity’s blazer jabbed me in the hip with her elbow. I audibly tutted at the pain, but the woman was either too distracted to hear me or simply feigned ignorance.
I set my jaw and tried to shift my position, though I could barely move an inch. That was the problem with these fandom conventions. They were lucrative endeavors, and it was the celebrities who brought the crowds that subsequently sustained my livelihood, but the chaos that came from the fussing and fawning over pretty, popular people was a nightmare.
A large hand squeezed my shoulder gently. I was surprised by how nice it felt, especially since no one had given me a squeeze of any kind for a long time, but I couldn’t stop myself from glaring over my shoulder. The hand belonged to Mr. Celebrity, who was gazing at me with a set of warm chestnut eyes which sought to melt my icy response.
“Sorry about the bother. Are you alright?” He seemed quite sincere.
I reminded myself that’s what actors were good at: appearing infallible in any given situation. I wasn’t falling for his schooled charms, no matter how genuine they seemed—even if they came with an English accent. I gave him a scowl.
“I’m sure my bruises will heal,” I snapped.
Finally, the woman with the pointy elbow gave me a nervous glance and then looked up at his face to gauge his reaction, though I suspected she was more afraid of tarnishing his good image, or being fired, than she was concerned for me. However, the elevator landed, and the doors opened again. Another of his attendants handed him a pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap while the P.A. with the schedule touched his back, urging him out the door. The brown eyes were still on me, searching for something else to say even as he began walking away.
"Sorry," he said again, placing the shades over his eyes as he pulled the cap over his head.
“You are definitely not recognizable now,” I told him with absolute irony. The dark lenses stared at me in silence. His lips parted as if they intended to offer a to retort, but nothing came forth.
I shrugged, pressing the button to hold the doors open. I needed the same floor, but I didn’t want to exit the elevator until Mr. Charming and his escorts vacated the area. His P.A. placed a hand on his back, successfully diverting his attention, and they began moving swiftly through the growing throng filling the hotel lobby with an energetic buzz.
Heading to dinner later that evening, the elevator door opened to another scene of excitement. I almost groaned out loud when I saw it was the very same celebrity that I’d been stuck on the elevator with that morning. His entourage had vanished, but this time he was surrounded by a group of entirely female fans who had apparently lucked out, trapping him in the elevator. No doubt they’d been roaming the floors, avoiding security, looking for him or probably any other personality they could catch.
The same pair of chestnut eyes gave me that apologetic gaze once again as he leaned across the incredibly young women. One of the women seemed to think he might be leaving suddenly, and actually grabbed at his blazer, preventing him from moving too far. He clearly had a level of patience I couldn’t hope to attain as he put one long arm around the woman's shoulders and stretched the other out to hold the doors open.
“Let’s make some room for the other hotel guests,” he said to them before turning his face back to mine.
I was about to say I could wait for another cycle, but he gave me a smile and motioned with his head, encouraging me to join them. I was starving and I didn’t want to argue, so I squeezed into the compartment after a second of hesitation. However, I regretted it as soon as the doors slid shut behind me and a cringe-worthy chorus erupted from the star struck fans who oohed and ahhed over what a gentleman he’d been. With great restraint, I did not roll my eyes. Nobody ever gushed over similar gestures by ordinary men—or women, for that matter. The fawning twenty-somethings behaved as if he’d just accomplished an act of great heroism.
Actors, I thought. They never stop performing.
After he’d satisfied the women with hugs, autographs, and selfie snaps on their mobile phones, they decided to let him out of their clutches and moved to exit the elevator on a floor that preceded mine. They kept stopping the doors from closing, unable to end the conversation with him, much to my chagrin. With my stomach grumbling impatiently, I crossed my arms and sighed as I waited for the clown show to end.
“Bye, Evan,” the woman holding the door open said again.
“Bye, Evan! I love you!” A second woman said, prompting a round of I love you’s from the rest of them.
He must have said goodbye a hundred times, laughing as he thanked them repeatedly until he raised his hand to wave one last time when they finally let the doors close. He was still grinning and laughing when he turned his head to me. My arms were still crossed, and I gave him a stiff smile, squinting at him. His laughter became strained, fading gradually in disappointment with my failure to be a receptive audience to his ego high.
“Oh my god, Evan!” I exclaimed dramatically, clasping my hands to my cheeks, and fluttering my eyelashes at him.
I left my mouth hanging open in faux awe. His face filled with a shade of crimson as he pressed his lower lip out with his tongue and tucked his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.
“I’m delighted you’re amused,” he said in a flat tone.
“I mean…It is pretty ridiculous, though, isn’t it?” I asked, squinting again.
“They get very excitable,” he explained, pulling a hand from his pocket to tug on his earlobe.
“Hmm,” I mused. “Did your handlers really leave you to fend for yourself?”
“Yeah, your entourage. The ones with the jabby elbows and the schedules. Are you really allowed out on your own?”
He stared down at me for a second before replying with a sniff. “I can handle myself.”
I nodded with a pseudo-sympathetic pout. The elevator arrived at the restaurant level, and the doors whooshed open again. Despite my derisive attitude, he stepped forward first and placed his hand across the door jamb, waving with his other hand to usher me out. I had to admit he was far too chivalrous to trip me as I walked past him with a sarcastic snort.
He tailed just behind me. I heard him inhale a breath as he bent down close to my ear. “Is it feeding time for the dragons?”
Twisting my head around, I found his brown eyes blazing at me. They were widened slightly with a tiny tinge of fear, almost appearing to regret his impetuous question. He straightened his back, pushing his chest forward as if to brace himself against my verbal onslaught.
“Yes, it is,” I snapped back with a sneer.
“I’m not sure they serve the blood of man here,” he said drily. Yet, in spite of our snippy discourse, he opened the restaurant door and held it for me.
“Oh, well,” I let my head fall toward a shoulder, furrowing my brows. “A burger will suffice.”
“Well, I suppose one does have to make sacrifices whilst away from the native den,” he said snidely as I walked into the restaurant, throwing him a face and a middle finger.