As if the tenseness between Sebastian and I wasn’t bad enough, now we have the fact of more people knowing about us kissing to make it worse.
It’s currently the next morning. I’m packing my things, as are Lucas, Sarah and Sebastian. We finally leave this afternoon, back to L.A.; back home. I guess I can reflect on what I’ve learned or what I’ve accomplished during my stay here, but it would take too long to list. I know now that I do have feelings for Sebastian, and I also know that Garrett has a target set on my head, but he’s being really quiet about things, which makes having this said target even worse; I could be shot any moment—metaphorically or literally.
When all of my things are packed in their bags, I sit on the edge of the bed. Somehow, I manage to only think about everything I haven’t been able to accomplish: Sebastian still didn’t get the closure he needed with his family, Sebastian didn’t get the publicity he was meant to get here down in the south, and Sebastian and I are still at odds about our feelings. But when I think back at the lack of accomplishments, it makes me realize that each one is about him; things that he needs to work at mending on his own. I guess the only thing I can do is let it go, because if he’s going to have closure with his family and if he’s going to make a name for himself, and if he’s going to want to confront me about what happened, he’ll need to do it on his own.
I’ve babysat him long enough.
Loretta helps me bring all of my things downstairs, and Peter loads them into the cart outside.
“Well. I guess this is it,” Loretta says.
I nod, “It is. Loretta I just…I want to thank you. For just being so amazing. In truth, I felt most comfortable around you during my stay here.”
“Thanking me?” she laughs. “I should be thanking you. I know you don’t see it, but you’ve left your mark here.”
“It doesn’t feel like it. There’s a lot I haven’t accomplished.”
Loretta sees how grim I’ve suddenly become. She places a hand on my shoulder.
“But look at everything you have accomplished,” she tells me.
She’s right. If I’ll be honest, I have accomplished much. Maybe it’s me being too much of a perfectionist to see the silver lining of anything. Especially after these past several days; I still can’t bear to show my face to the family after Rachael exposed Sebastian and I yesterday. If I would have just stayed in that damn library, none of that would have happened; Claude could not stop smirking at me before I decided to leave the living room.
“You’ll come visit, will you?” asks Loretta.
“Of course, if Fiona will have me.”
“I’m sure she will.”
Peter comes into the house. “Everything’s loaded into the cart, ma’am.”
I sigh at Loretta, managing a smile. “Well. I guess this is it. Make sure to update me on how Cecil and Elijah are doing?”
“You know I will.”
Loretta and I exchange one last hug before I leave. When I walk out of the guest house, I’m plagued with an intense sadness that I didn’t feel to the same degree when I was packing. I’m going to miss Loretta’s unrelenting wisdom and acceptance.
“I’m so ready to go home!” Sarah groans loudly.
Her and I are walking through the living room to the front door, Peter and another worker carrying some of our things. Sarah’s optimism to get back to Los Angeles makes me laugh. I would have the same optimism if my mind didn’t stop reminding me of everything I have to deal with back home—cleaning out my office, finding a new firm to work at, and of course, dealing with my friends. But again, I’m excited to finally go home; I guess I’ll leave whatever is in store for me to the universe.
The universe has never been kind to me, though.
Sarah continues to talk about how excited she is to sleep in her own bed and everything pertaining to L.A. She hasn’t mentioned anything about what happened in the living room yesterday, which means that she doesn’t know; no one told her.
Before Sarah and I get to the front door, we hear footsteps coming down the stairs. Sebastian and Lucas, carrying their things, see us once they set foot at the bottom of the staircase.
“Hey, guys!” Lucas exclaims happily.
“Someone’s excited to go home,” Sarah says to him.
“You have no idea. Though, if I’m being honest, I’m gonna miss this place. Many great memories were made here—”
“Like being attacked by a racoon? Or having Felicity Felix throw water in your face?”
Now they’re arguing, carried off through “he said-she said” out of the front door, the workers following. I turn to follow them, not wanting to be close to Sebastian much longer, but he stops me.
“Can I talk to you?” he asks me.
I’m surprised, but I don’t show it. “Of course. What’s up?”
He bites his lip; something he does when he thinks hard about something. I avert my eyes away from his mouth.
“I want to apologize,” he starts. “Firstly, about Rachael and her…unfiltered nature.”
I laugh. “It’s fine. She’s five—she didn’t know what she did wrong.”
Sebastian shrugs, placing his hands in his front pockets. “Yeah, you’re right. But most of all I wanted to apologize about what happened in the kitchen. I shouldn’t have done that so randomly. I…I don’t know what was up with me.”
My heart tells me that this is my chance; this is my chance to admit to him that I didn’t think it was a mistake, nor did I hate him for it. It’s also my chance to tell him how I feel.
But I don’t, because once again I let my mind take control.
“It’s fine, Sebastian. But I just didn’t like how distant you were.”
“I know; I didn’t know how to react.”
“You know what I think?” I say. “I think we should just start over.”
I extend my hand out to him. He looks down at it and laughs.
“Hello, Sebastian. My name is Leslie King, and I will be your publicist for however long you’ll have me.”
Sebastian takes my hand in his and shakes it gently. “Hi, Leslie. I’m excited to be your client.”
“You’d better be excited, because Sarah and I have a lot of great stuff planned for you that’s going to make you look like an angel—”
And of course, I began to ramble about all the plans Sarah and I conjured up for him; plans that we were supposed to sit down and talk about together. Sebastian listens avidly, nodding and laughing at mu excitement. There’s no doubt in my mind that both of our minds are still occupied about how we feel, but I don’t think it’s the right time to confront it yet; there’s just so much to do, and the last thing I want is unnecessary drama over something that could have been avoided.
I just hope my judgment is right.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles, California
I’ll spare you the details of the goodbye we had to endure in Tennessee.
I use the word “endure” with such a negative connotation, but in truth it wasn’t bad, just…awkward.
Rachael’s words were still ripe in the minds of everyone who heard it. It was impossible for Sebastian and I to avoid the smirks and whispers we were getting.
On a lighter note, Fiona was thankful to me. She was being very cryptic on what she meant, but she went on about how much of a “help” I was. It was hard for me to believe her, considering the things that I haven’t done, but I was just surprised and grateful Fiona thought of me this way.
The drive to the airport was quiet, but the flight back was loud and full of laughter. Occasionally, I spotted Sebastian staring at me, but when I would look his way, he would look away. I can’t express to you how much this act confused me.
Walking through the airport, the paparazzi have gotten wind of Sebastian’s arrival.
“Hey, Sebastian, how are you?” one of them says behind their camera. “Welcome back.”
Unlike the paparazzi incident in Seattle, Sebastian has a much more inviting attitude this time.
“I’m good,” he answers with a courteous smile.
“Elizabeth just had her baby, how does it feel to be an uncle?”
“It feels great,” he says calmly. “I’m just happy the baby came out healthy and into a loving family.”
Even the paparazzi are surprised at Sebastian’s response. Months ago, he would normally avoid any questions about his family or just flat out jokingly answer any question thrown at him. But now? He’s completely different.
We all finally make it into the car, and once our driver gets out of the loading area, we’re finally able to be ourselves.
“I can’t wait to get home,” Sebastian says, rubbing his eyes. Sarah and Lucas agree; am I the only one who knows that we have work to do?
“I know you guys are excited to finally enter the comfort of your homes, but we still have so much left to do! Maybe we should get a head start on prepping for the interview coming up for Sebastian, a-and we need to arrange more appearances! We don’t have much time before—”
“Leslie.” Sebastian turns around, his eyebrows raised at me. “We just got back. Maybe we should take a little break before we get into work mode again? And besides, don’t I have to go to some Harrison Inc. party tomorrow? I should mentally prepare myself for that.”
I open my mouth to protest, but the look in Sebastian’s eyes renders me speechless.
“Go home and spend some time with your dog, Pancho,” Sarah says.
“It’s Pedro. His name is Pedro.”
“You named your dog, Pedro?” Sebastian asks, trying not to laugh but failing horribly.
I sit back in my seat as the entire car laughs at me. Even the driver is holding in his laughter. Pedro isn’t a bad name for a Chihuahua at all.
I never knew I could miss my apartment so much.
My apartment is spacious, big, but lonely with just me residing in it (and my dog, but he pretends I’m the enemy). But when I arrive at the familiar complex that I call home, I smile to myself.
The day I left for Tennessee, Darcy was nice enough to Uber shortly after I left and drive my car back to my complex. So when I check the garage, my BMW M6 Gran Coupé is parked in its designated place, between Mr. Blackshire’s Audi and Ms. Wright’s Mercedes.
I haul all of my belongings into the elevator and wait anxiously to enter my apartment to take a long hot shower. I remember I have to go to Harrison Inc. to clean out my office—something I dread doing.
When the elevator lets me off on the fifth floor, I exit and drag everything through the hallway. For some odd reason, I feel like swimming—I’ve never even touched the pool that sits in the courtyard of my apartment building, but being back home is making me want to do so many things I haven’t done.
I get out my keys and unlock the door to my apartment, and when I enter, I hear the clinking sound of Pedro’s keychain through the hallway. I set my things down and close the door behind me, and suddenly Pedro runs up to me, crying and wagging his tail.
“Pedro!” I laugh. “I missed you, too.”
This can’t be my dog. When has he ever been this excited to see me? I think it could be the long absence from home, or the fact that Paul and Beth did a horrible job taking care of him and my apartment. But upon looking around, I see that my apartment is clean the way I like it, Pedro’s food and water is filled, and overall, everything seems to be how it was when I left.
I pick up Pedro in my arms; he licks my face and sniffs me as I take half of my things to my room and come for the other half on the second trip. I thank Beth and Paul for taking care of everything while I was gone when I sit down on the couch. The silence is calming; the silence of my apartment is never calming to me, but rather scary and an odd reminder that I live alone.
I open the group chat with Lucas, Sarah and Sebastian in it:
“Sorry for bothering you guys, but we do have a big day tomorrow. I read up on the guests planning on attending, and we have a lot of potential acquaintances we need to swoon over. This is probably our biggest opportunity yet, so put on your smiles! Sebastian, that means you, too.”
After sending it, Sarah responds with “Aye aye, captain,” Lucas responds with “Sure thing! See you all tomorrow.”
Sebastian still hasn’t responded yet.
“Maybe he’s just busy,” I tell myself, setting my phone down. I refuse to let myself think too much into it, but since my mind has been occupied with thoughts of mostly him, it’s hard not to.
My phone rings from a text message. I fail terribly at hiding the smile surfacing on my face, but when I see who really sent me a message, my smile is gone, and I feel nauseous and lightheaded; a picture message—a photo I thought I burned with the rest of my past. In the photo I’m sitting in Axel’s house; I remember every detail in my head of everything that’s in the photo—the crack pipes, the heroin needles, the cigarettes, the condoms, sitting on Axel’s lap, and of course me at seventeen—y wide eyed, lobotomized, ghostly and malnourished. My hands are shaking so hard that I can barely make out what the text from the unnamed number says:
“See you at the party tomorrow, Leslie.”