The Publicist's Plight (Book I in The Harrison Inc. Series)

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Chapter 32

I am now sitting on my bed in the guest house, staring at my computer screen with a vacancy in my eyes. It is afternoon, and Loretta is back and making a late lunch in the kitchen. She senses the tense air that still lingers around the main house, but she doesn’t ask any questions about it. Either that, or she seems to know more than I do.

I haven’t even started packing for Seattle yet; everything seems to be happening all at once and so quickly I’m not sure where to begin. So, of course, the best option is to sit and make absolutely no progress in my bed.

After Fiona was dissed by Sebastian, she stormed off into the dining room without saying a word, and Elizabeth followed. For a moment, I stood there dumbfounded and wondered, again, if I should tell them the reason for his contempt, but I was sure they thought it was because of Sebastian and Garrett’s fallout a week before, which is partially or mostly true.

So I went back into the library and waited on the couch as Sarah was on the phone with the hospital in Washington. When she hung up, she told me that we were set for tomorrow, and I responded with the usual response: I’ll get the word out. She wanted to ask more, and so did Lucas, given he looked so unoccupied and uninvolved in the corner chair, but I just stayed silent and brought out my laptop, and indication that I’d rather not speak about it, and began to do what I do best.

I hear dishes clattering downstairs that snaps me out of my flashback. I shake the last of my trance away and scoot back to the headboard of my bed and take my phone from the bedside table. The first thing I click on is the Google App, but my thumb hovers over the search bar as if I don’t know what I meant to search.

But I do.

Instead of fighting against my judgment any longer, I type in Sebastian’s name slowly into the bar and wait for the results to load. Everything foul and tainted about him comes up on the screen before anything remotely good does—some things I’m aware of, others I’m not. I see the Opera fiasco, the fair, Oliver Epps’ party, the baby drama with Felicity Felix which says that apparently she has come forward and admitted it was false, but of course there will still be doubters who will still try to leech a story out of it. I also see a story on the fact that Sebastian doesn’t have any social media, but I think that’s both a good and bad thing (mostly good) at this point in time.

The video results are old interviews he has done in the past. I click on the most popular one, showcasing Sebastian’s ability to make himself look like a drunken fool on television towards a reporter on ACCESS Hollywood asking about his life of debauchery. I click on the next one from 2006, MTV Cribs, of him showing America around his multi-million-dollar mansion in Beverly Hills with the crudest humor carrying on throughout the video as he gives the camera crew a tour of his lavish, draw dropping-beautiful property. Once scene even shows a group of beautiful models in skimpy bikinis lounging by the pool, and with that, the video ends with him saluting MTV before jumping into the pool with the rest of the girls following. I rub my eyes and hang my head down in disappointment over the sounds of their laughter mixed in with Alternative music.

This is 2006 for you.

I research the rest of YouTube for an hour. Some videos are of him hosting parties, others of him DJ’ing at other clubs, and the rest from Entertainment channels talking about his escapades with countless women with a slideshow of his adventures with one actress, then another super model, then another heiress, all of them not lasting longer than two to three months. But I notice something that I didn’t notice before when I used to watch videos; his eyes. They’re different—at least different from what I remember. When I look at the videos now, I see the empty sadness in them, like a person dragging their body throughout the crowd just to get by. And it makes all the sense in the world. But why can’t I bring myself to do anything? It’s like discovering the cure for a disease but not knowing what to do with it or who to tell. Maybe Sebastian is putting on the mask for the entire world, and the real Sebastian, the one that hides behind all of the smiles and laughs and humor, is the one that cried in my arms this morning.

But why?

I close my laptop shut. I need to pack. Of course that’s an excuse to myself so my mind doesn’t cave in, but how could it not? I can’t stop thinking about him.

I pack enough clothes for three days. Just as I finish putting my shoes in my second bag, Sarah texts her a “thank you” in response and wait for her to ask about this morning. But she doesn’t. And that’s proof enough that I’m letting this all get to me too well, especially when the woman who is supposed to know Sebastian like a glove isn’t as concerned as I think she is supposed to be.

Loretta is calling my name for lunch. I close my travel bag and leave my room. Upon walking downstairs into the dining room, there is the light smell of dried spinach, tomatoes, onions and other ingredients formally known to be on a sandwich.

“I don’t know how you like your sandwich made, so I just laid out all of the ingredients out for you,” she says when she comes out of the kitchen.

“Thank you.”

I give her a small smile before entering the kitchen and making my sandwich. The air is quiet and awkward. Neither of us look at each other nor do we even engage in our normal conversations that we usually do. She just cleans the dishes as I lay out the wheat bread, spread mayo on top, and proceed to add the ingredients neatly scattered on top of the counter on cutting boards.

“So,” I start, attempting to break the silence, “You’ve been gone a lot lately.”

“Um, yeah I’ve just been visiting family,” she responds over the running sink water.

“I didn’t know you had family out here.”

“Yeah, yeah I do. About an hour away from here.”

Her voice is uneasy. I have a feeling she isn’t telling the truth.

“Well that’s nice,” I say, topping off my sandwich and taking a knife from the drawer to cut the bread diagonally.

“Yeah, it is,” she quickly changes the subject, “So how’s your foot?”

“Good, good. I think it’s safe to say that I don’t need the bandage anymore; kind of a painful reminder of how awful that day was.”

She chuckles, I remembering the situation that caused the wound on my foot in the first place: a crazy trust fall exercise, that was.

When my sandwich is finished, I take the plate in my grasp and tap on it impatiently. I don’t leave the kitchen, but instead watch Loretta wash the dishes. Both of us jump at the sudden sound of thunder cracking outside after a couple of hours of no rain, and it is then we both realize what we’ve been ignoring.

“I heard you’re going to Seattle tomorrow with Sebastian,” she says, turning to face me with curiosity in her onyx eyes.

I gulp at the sound of his name, “Yeah, I am.”

She pauses for a moment, “Well, make sure to pack warm. I heard it’s raining over there, too.”

My excitement wavers, “Oh…okay.”

She grows impatient, biting her lip like she wants to tell me something. God, why is this so difficult for us? We both know things, both know that we want to talk and scream and express these thoughts inside about him. But we can’t, for entirely different reasons.

I hold the plate up towards her, “Thanks for lunch.”

“No problem.”

I walk towards the door. My breaths are short, apprehensive and shaky; I somehow think she might blurt out something, like how they do in movies. And she does, but says something that opens my mind up to Sebastian’s past even more than before:

“I suggest you be gentle with him. He may not want to admit it, but he’s got the heart of a boy and the mind of a man, Leslie. He ain’t know how to make them work together properly the way they should.”


Seattle, Washington

Sunday, 12:48PM, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

The moment we enter the Airport terminal there are paparazzi waiting for us, or for him, rather.

It’s bad enough we suffered a painfully silent plane ride, filled with only the sounds of Sarah and I filling in Sebastian on his day and what he is to do and say. Even when we spoke to him about the hospital, he seemed disinterested, only staring at the clouds out of the plane window and nodding as if he was listening. Sarah raised an eyebrow at me, and immediately we both stood and went back to our seats, I more reluctantly than she. The rest of the ride was silent.

I pull my sweater closer around my body. Seattle is actually cold, or colder than Tennessee which is feeling the impacts of a typical summer despite the fact that summer hasn’t even officially begun. I check my phone, and see it is 68 degrees currently, paired with the light clouds that break occasionally outside.

Security guards walk alongside Sebastian as we make our way through the terminal with our belongings. The crowd of about twenty to twenty-five paparazzi are instructed to move to the side in the designated area that security and the airport crew are guiding them to, but even then they still disobey the legality of things for the perfect shot.

“Hey, Sebastian, how you doin’, man?” one man asks casually behind his camera. “Welcome to Seattle.”

“Don’t respond,” I tell Sebastian, and two men groan when they see me mouth the orders to Sebastian that prevent them from getting a reply.

Sebastian holds his head down, hiding his face underneath his hood. A couple of paparazzi tip over a divider which results in a brief argument between them and a security guard about the rules and about keeping space.

“How’s your mom and your sister? Does Elizabeth have a name for the baby yet?”

No response. Just the sound of snapping cameras and mumbling. People in the airport are now following the paparazzi and recording Sebastian with their own cell phones. I see Sebastian’s face, noticing how irritable he’s becoming.

“We’re almost there,” I assure him. “The car is just outside.”

“Hey, man you’re real quiet today,” the same man who asked about Elizabeth and Fiona says. He steps a little to close, which causes a security guard and Sarah to intervene.

“Alright, man you’re too close,” she snaps. “Too close.”

“Sorry, sorry, my bad.”

“Sebastian!” A girl screams. He looks briefly at the girl, who is about seventeen to eighteen years old, heavy set, with brown hair and bright blue eyes that match her jacket. She, along with twenty other girls (and boys) are recording Sebastian with their cell phones as if he isn’t looking directly at them.

“You’re so fucking hot!” the same girl yells.

“Can you take me to prom next year? Please!” Another girl screams as quickly and frantically as she can. “You are so gorgeous. Please?! I love you! You’re gorgeous!”

Sebastian can’t even warrant a smile or more than a bored stare over the screaming girls. The pushing and shoving the paparazzi are doing against each other as they struggle for the best pictures is getting to Sebastian, as he begins to frown noticeably, and eventually sneer at a man tripping over another woman’s foot as she steps forward with her giant recording camera.

“Are you ever going to get a social media account like Twitter or Instagram? William and Elizabeth have one, right? The people would love it,” the woman asks.

He isn’t William nor is he Elizabeth, I think so myself.

“Sebastian, last week Felicity Felix finally came out to the public and said that she lied about…about the baby being yours, and that she isn’t even pregnant, she was just doing it as a publicity stunt,” a paparazzi informs. “So, how do you feel about that, bro, does this mean that you guys are still together or is it off for now?”

“I’ll sit on your face if Felicity doesn’t!” the same blue-eyed girl yells behind us. Everyone starts laughing, except I, Sebastian, who is ready to snap, Lucas, who looks disgusted, and Sarah, who is telling the same persistent camera man to back up away from the walkway.

We are finally outside, only to be welcomed with a few more paparazzi who begin to snap photos with their flash on, bright and blinding in Sebastian’s eyes. The car is right in front of us at the drop-off zone, and Sebastian looks relieved.

Until persistent-camera-man opens his mouth.

“Sebastian, did you see Bianca Jimenez’s new haircut?” he asks. They all laugh again as we remember the opera fiasco last week; it feels much longer ago than that.

The laughter is mocking and condescending. It pushes the man to ask more stupid questions.

“I saw that video of you at Oliver Epp’s party. Real cool moves, man. Can you give me dancing lessons sometime?”

Sebastian clenches his fists at the man’s annoying voice. Lucas opens the door to the SUV, with Sarah stepping in first and Sebastian set to sit in the middle next to her. Security takes our bags, Lucas assisting by taking Sebastian’s bags and putting them into the trunk with the rest of our things. Then he gets into the car, sitting in the back, and adjusts the seat so Sebastian can get inside himself.

We’re almost inside the car, I counsel myself mentally as I open the passenger side door for myself.

“Sebastian, why don’t you and your dad talk anymore? Are there some daddy issues that you both haven’t gotten over or what? It would be cool to see you two together.”

Sebastian rolls his eyes at him—the first sort of response he has given to the people around him. People “ooh” and hiss while giggling at the gesture.

“Damn, you’re usually so nice to the paparazzi, bro!” the man laughs. “What the hell? What’s got you being such a dick today—”

“Fuck off, you cunt,” Sebastian spits aloud, before stepping into the SUV and shutting the door.

**

“Fuck off you…c-word. Fuck off…you c-word.”

I mumble the titles of the articles I am scrolling through on my phone. One thing that becomes tedious with the job of being a publicist, is whenever your client does something not so smart, you must check on the media outcry and response immediately, because the media is like a tornado: unbelievably fast, destructive, and underestimated.

After an hour drive, the driver pulls into the parking garage of the modest, quaint hospital, surrounded by a lot of brush and wilderness. The trees and forest remind me of Sebastian and I’s expedition through the woods. I shudder at the memory.

The driver parks and gets out to open our doors. Sarah dials a number on her phone and begins talking to someone kindly—most likely the hospital.

“I fucked up, didn’t I?”

I turn around to the sound of Sebastian’s voice. He’s finally looking at me undividedly, and it makes my heart leap. Lucas is peaking over Sarah’s headrest to hear my response.

“Um...no. No, no, it isn’t that bad,” I lie, like I’m trying to comfort an upset child. “We all slip and use vulgar language…very…vulgar language like that, all the time. I’m confident this visit at the hospital will help.”

He sighs. “You don’t need to lie; I fucked up. I’m sorry.”

Unable to say any words of encouragement, I stare at him sadly as he steps out of his open door into the parking garage. Sarah lets her phone sit still in her hand away from her face while she stares at Sebastian walking to the elevator. I shake my head and let myself out.

We all enter the elevator in silence. I know they all expect me to be scolding Sebastian for his language used earlier, but I just sit still with my mouth shut and my mind wide open.

He’s got the heart of a boy and the mind of a man, and he ain’t know how to make them work together properly the way they should.

The elevator carries us to the first floor. I’m standing next to Sebastian, who has taken the hood off of his head and attempted to try and make his mood appear to be artificially happier for the event. It makes me wonder if that is what he has been doing since I’ve known him?

The elevator doors open for the first floor. An older woman in a gray suit with a tag on her breast pocket welcomes us with a wide smile that adds more wrinkles on her pale face.

“Welcome to St. Vincent,” she says. “I’m Doctor Foster, one of the administrators here at the hospital. We are very excited to have you here today.”

We smile and take turns introducing ourselves and shaking her hand.

“Now, I hate to be tedious, but it looks like we have to get back into the elevator to head up to the tenth floor. That’s where our “Draw for a Cause” event is being held.”

“Oh, no problem,” Sarah assures when Dr. Foster apologizes for the misunderstanding. We re-enter the elevator and listen to Dr. Foster talk about how important this event is for her and the rest of the hospital, since St. Vincent isn’t a hospital that is on the public radar as much as the others. Sebastian smiles and nods at her words, smiling even wider every time she meets his eyes during her explanation. I feel so rude for not joining in on the conversation, but Dr. Foster doesn’t seem to mind.

When we get off on the tenth floor, we walk into a colorful atmosphere filled with paintings of friendly animals and bright pictures. You can hear the music playing from where I assume Draw for Cause is being held. There are cameras at the entrance of the room, and a few celebrities, some I even recognize, are sitting at small tables making paintings or colored pencil drawings with the children. The publicists and managers are either on the sides or talking to the press, answering questions or directing them to where they want their client’s photos to be taken. A little girl with a bare head and hollow eyes runs in front of a few doctors cheering her on with her blue-painted hands.

“The kids love being interactive with other people,” Dr. Foster says. “Many of them are—”

“Come draw with me!” A little boy yells happily at Sebastian before holding onto his hand. He doesn’t drag Sebastian anywhere, but instead looks up at him with hopeful eyes with his small hand wrapped around Sebastian’s two fingers.

“Okay,” he chuckles, and immediately he takes Sebastian to a table and sits him down.

“That’s Emilio,” Dr. Foster tells us, smiling. “Probably the friendliest in his age group.”

“Are there others that aren’t in here?” Lucas asks.

“Yes, they are situated in their rooms with participants making paintings with them in the comfort of their bed. Many were unable to attend for various medical reasons.”

Emilio points to a bucket of yellow paint and smiles at Sebastian with his youthful brown eyes. Sebastian looks hesitant for a moment before he rolls up his sleeves and dips his fingers into the paint. He grins uncomfortably at Emilio waiting for him to paint something. He starts with a sun, but then scribbles out the process and starts anew on a brand new sheet of paper, painting a more childlike sun. I watch him inventively after that, noticing how every time he begins to paint something for Emilio, he stops and takes a different route with his execution, usually going from focused to playful when he decides that method isn’t the right one for him. I question the behavior, and also wonder why nothing he has painted so far has turned out as horrible as the face painting “masterpieces” back at the Maryville fair last week?

“Leslie?”

Lucas is calling my name, and I assume he has been for a while because he looks at me like I’m not alright.

“Y-yes?”

“Where do you want the snapshots?”

I notice a man next to Lucas with an expensive camera in his hand, a hospital badge on his sweater like Dr. Foster.

“Oh, um, you can start right here,” I tell him. The man nods and maneuvers around the people with his camera pointed and ready at Emilio and Sebastian before the clicks come from the snapping lenses.

“Do you think he’s alright?” Lucas whispers to me.

“Sebastian?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not sure,” I lie. “I don’t know what goes on in that brain of his.”

“I wish I did.”

“I’m surprised you’re asking—you know him better than a lot of people.”

Lucas shakes his head and steps aside to let a kid and a nurse by, “I know the Sebastian he wants the world to see. So in other words, I know the Sebastian that everyone knows, along with his drinking habits and his favorite foods and clothes and shoe sizes—stuff people can find out on Google.”

I nod slowly, “That’s an interesting observation. You’ve never been curious?”

“Of course I have. But there’s no point in being curious when the life he lives is so hectic there’s no room for sitting down.”

And then our conversation ends. The remainder of the hour, I, along with a few more publicists, answer questions on behalf of our clients. I’m relieved that the questions are innocent and not pertaining to Sebastian’s c-bomb a couple of hours ago, but I don’t forget the publicity that word drop will bring t my door.

When I walk back to our area, I look around and find Sebastian nowhere in sight.

“Where’s Sebastian?” I ask Sarah.

“Restroom. I sent Lucas to be watchdog.”

I chuckle, “Thanks.”

After five minutes of children’s laughter and gleeful nurses, I excuse myself to go get a drink from the vending machine. The rest of the floor is the same as the wall in front of the elevator doors: bright, colorful, and inviting. Even the carpeting is a clean light purple and the walls a mint green to compliment it.

When I find a vending machine, I put in spare change from my purse and opt for a bottled iced coffee to feed my addiction. I open it once the cold drink is in my grasp, take a sip, and stare a little while longer at the décor of the hospital. The walls are full of drawings, almost coated with them. I walk slowly down the hallway and stare at the artwork. How many of these drawings are from children of a life passed? I hang my head at the dark thought and keep moving.

Eventually I manage to get myself lost in the hallways of the hospital. I have passed by two rooms with celebrities taking photos and talking to sick patients, and others of them reading to children who are bedridden. I make sure to remain unseen in fear of disturbing their time together.

When I reach the end of the hallway, I see a head full of auburn hair that is all too familiar to me. I approach Lucas and tap him on the shoulder. He turns and smiles at me.

“What are you doing over here?” I ask.

He points ahead into an open area, empty, with only Sebastian and a sickly little girl inside conversing.

“How long have they been at it?” I whisper, amazed.

“About two minutes. He thought I left when he found her reading in here by herself.”

I bite my lip, “Mind if I take watch for a while?”

“Sure. Just don’t get caught.”

I roll my eyes playfully as he winks. He leaves, and I lean on his place and listen in on their conversation, unsure of what I’m really waiting for.

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