I must be hallucinating, I muttered to myself as the car slowed down. I’m in the Hollywood Hills, on a stake out. There’s no possible way Dean could be here. Right?
The car’s headlight beam shot straight at me. I had stepped out to help Victoria over the fence. I squinted, while raising my left arm up midair, in an attempt to shield my eyes from the glaring lights.
The car stopped midway. A tall man that got out of the driver’s side started walking towards me. With each step he took, I retreated backwards, towards my car. “Is everything OK, miss?” The man’s voice was very deep. Unless Dean hit puberty, the voice did not belong to him. Dean’s voice was a bit higher than norm.
“Yeah, all fine here!” I tried to mask my worry.
“Do you have a flat?” The man inquired. He was looking like a tall drink of sweet tea at around 6’3. His dark blonde hair was tousled from an evening breeze, common high up in the Hollywood Hills. Wearing white pants, a white button up shirt and a navy tie with a navy sports jacket, his silver Anchor cuff links glinted in the headlights.
“No, I’m just waiting on a friend. Thank you so much for asking though! Have a good night.” I figured, if I kept the conversation short, he’d realize there’s nothing to watch and drive off. I made my way back to the car, but he didn’t get the hint.
“Did the engine stop, then?” He followed me to the driver’s side.
“So, is this the part where you shove me in the car and kidnap me, along with my Range Rover? Because, one, this isn’t my car. It’s really my friends, and that’ll be an additional charge of grand theft. Second, she’s just over the gate, close enough to hear me when I scream Hail Mary.”
“You’re on the side of Mulholland Drive that drops into a dark ravine, standing outside a car which looks to be broken down. You’re covered in dirt and you don’t think that looks like a woman in trouble?”
I hate it when logic trumps my Lifetime movie script.
He chuckled and extended his hand to me, “I’m Ailee (pronounced, Ay-lee) by the way, and I promise I won’t kidnap you,” he smiled and held the gaze a second too long for comfort.
“I’m sorry. I’m just … well, you see, my friend has me in this ridiculous situation. Do you mind turning your head beams off?”
“Sure.” I eyed this gentleman’s swagger as he got into his Bentley, and killed the lights. He returned as if he had nothing else going on for the evening. “Better?” He asked, still with a concerned look in his face.
“Yes.” I nervously looked to the grounds ahead through the gated fence for my friend. There was too much silence and I couldn’t let on about Victoria’s crazy caper so, I tried some quick meditational breathing techniques. “You see,” I said in my most cool-like-nothing-is-going-on–here voice, “In a former life I was a Church leader so it’s like I’m karmically bound to help a friend in need. I’m Jehan, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Egyptian?” His eyes sparkled with interest. Good, he didn’t bother to look over to the vast estate that was currently being canvased by idiot Victoria. Maybe I could distract him. “Uh, obviously! Can’t you tell from my good looks?” I batted my eyelashes and tilted my head slightly upwards in the most coquettish manner I could muster.
“Absolutely. Also, the Horus pendant and your name were a dead giveaway. I’m Syrian, born in New York and my grandfather is Egyptian.”
I hate it when logic trumps my Lifetime movie script.
Uh oh. Another good looking Syrian, except with better taste in cars than Mr. Heartbreaker (read, Dapper Dean). This “Syrian” business has red flags all over it.
“Now that we’re neighbors, let me help you out. What’s going on?”
Victoria was always punctual. In this sense, she answered Ailee’s question, by doing what she does best. Showing up, dramatically unannounced. As she hopped back over the iron-wrought fencing, she did a few somersaults that left her standing just behind Ailee. “Hey guys, what’s up?”
“Are you serious, right now?” I began. Ailee turned to greet my ninja friend, unaware of the insanity she had just pulled off. Maybe he was a closet-nerd.
“Hi, I’m Ailee, Jehan was just about to tell me what kind of trouble you two were getting into tonight.” He winked, humorously. “Found the poor thing leaning against the car parked on the wrong side of Mulholland. This side drops down several feet to a ravine you know. Kind of dangerous.”
“Well, I was about to explain …” I started before Victoria jumped in with her own concoction of a tale.
“No worries, at all. I actually locked myself out. Amazing the effect of too much sake!” Victoria began.
“Oh, well why didn’t you just say that? I can let you in. Here, just follow me.” Ailee went to his Bentley, as if we were all about to attend a grand party.
Soon as we were in the car, I immediately nudged Victoria, “What is going on? Why did you tell him that? He’s going to know you’re lying when we get in and you can’t unlock the door!” I hissed.
“Relax. I got it covered. I found the spare key underneath the doormat. Guys, ha! So stupid and so predictable,” Victoria chuckled to herself as she followed our savior.
I grabbed Victoria’s wrist, “We are NOT entering the actual condo!” I whispered into her thick skull.
“I didn’t say we would! We’ll just park near the condo to make sure we’re in clear sight, for when John and Matt pull in. The key is a backup. Come on, Mr. Convenience is waiting for us.” We hopped back into the SUV and rolled up to the complex following Ailee. It was a large cluster of high–end condos with a circular drive and stately fountain at the center, like the ones you would find in Europe.
Upon entering the complex, Ailee slowed down, allowing us to pull up next to him. He rolled down his window and signaled for Victoria to do the same. “Are you girls all set now?”
“Yup, thanks! Don’t mean to be rude, but we’re in a bit of a rush so I’ll make this direct, here’s Jehan’s number-” She stretched her right arm out of the passenger’s side to Ailee.
I grabbed Victoria’s arm to silence her from the embarrassment. I was too late. I slouched down in my seat; mortified that Victoria just put me on blast.
“I can’t even handle you, right now” I muttered in disbelief. Ailee took the card Victoria had scribbled on and smiled as he slowly glided out of the drive back into the Hollywood Hills.
“Oh, please.” Victoria managed. “Whitey is a good change from your usual. And did you see his car?”
“He’s not White. He’s Syrian.” I left out the part about his Egyptian grandfather or else Victoria would have had me married off by the weekend.
“Syrian. White. Same thing. Dean’s presence doesn’t make your voice get high pitched, like the way Whitey makes it. Okay, look let’s park right here. I’m going to text John and see where the conversation goes.”
Victoria plugged away at her phone and I stared off straight ahead into the quiet residential darkness with the few twinkling porch lights guiding us.
Last night’s escapade was nothing short of… odd. John and Matt had arrived back at the condo with a woman. As rage flashed in Victoria’s eyes, the young pretty girl took a hold of Matt’s hand and in a second, the rage Victoria was about to act on, cooled off. John followed Matt and the girl inside.
Victoria came over the next day for brunch. As I was setting the table with a mezza spread, Victoria started going over the events of the night before. “I still feel it in my gut, John is cheating.” My frustration caused me to set the plate of fruit on the table, a little too hard. The table rattled. “I’m sorry, Vic. I didn’t mean to slam the dish down but if you’re still feeling like this, after you got proof of otherwise, then just end things with him. He’s bringing too much negativity into your life. And mine, I might add.”
“He’s having a dinner party this weekend. I need to go. Why don’t you come and bring Whitey?” Victoria reached for the grapes and plopped one in her mouth. She sipped on the coffee I made her.
“Stop calling him Whitey. And it’s too soon; I don’t even know the guy! Besides, he has to call me. I can’t just go on inviting men into my life.”
Suddenly, a text came through from an unrecognizable number on my cell.
“Hi beautiful Jehan, it was great meeting you last night. What are you doing this Tuesday evening? I would like to take you out to dinner.”
“Oh speaking of Ailee, he just texted me! He called me beautiful. Weird. He’s asking me out to dinner Tuesday.” I put my phone face down; there was food in front of me that couldn’t be abandoned.
“Why is it weird he called you beautiful? He’s being flirty, Jehan.” We sat side-to-side stuffing our faces with Brie cheese, French bread, grapes, scrambled whites and olives. I took a sip of my coffee in-between bites.
Some time passed before Victoria could speak, “Well, are you going to respond?” She eyed my phone while she grabbed another slice of bread.
“Not right now. I’m busy.” I didn’t realize how famished one could get after a midnight caper.
“Oh, I see. You’re playing the ‘hard to get’ card,” Victoria smiled and leaned back in the mesh chair on my back porch.
“No. I’m doing the, ‘I’m eating so I can’t text’ card. Plus, I don’t know if I want to start dating right now. I still need to process everything that happened in the past few months.”
“Wrong. Now is the time to be dating. To get over what happened in the past few months. Or you’ll just sulk and reminisce about all the memories you made with Dean.”
Maybe she’s right. It would be good for me to keep myself busy. However, I had been socializing and dating to the max over the past few months.
“Okay, I’ll go to John’s party next weekend,” I said. “But, I’ll drive separately because I can’t be involved in any more antics of yours, at least for a month. I got bruised trying to help you over that damn fence. I slipped and fell hard, you know. My bruises need time to heal.”
“Oh, I see. You’re playing the ‘hard to get’ card”…
John was hosting an appreciation party for his staff, at the Los Angeles Yacht club. I had endured a long week of meetings so the thought of being tied up in another dress with my feet shoved into uncomfortable sky-high heels, did not sound appealing. Therefore, I settled on a cobalt blue, racerback tank top dress. Mid-length cut that hugged my curves in all the right places. I paired 3-inch nude tone, strappy-heeled sandals to keep the look simple.
I like parties, I thought to myself. I enjoy meeting new people and exploring diverse conversations. Even the process for getting ready for a party was enjoyable. Sometimes Nadia would pop in like an older sister, to offer tips. We’d make it a sister thing. A girl has to have more than one sister, I believed. Trying on outfits, laying out the accessories and coordinating make up made the course fun.
That evening, I pulled up to valet and entered a beautiful white building. Harbor lights twinkled beyond just outside of the balconies, with sailboats nesting in their slips. The sea air was healing and refreshing. The interior was done up with everything nautical; paintings of ships, dark wooden façades, a large fireplace and navy colored sofas in corners of the room. At the center, tables had been prepared with white table cloth and a bottle of champagne to each one at the center. Floral arrangements of lavender and white roses spruced up the place. I listened as classical music, maybe Shubert or Brahms, played. I loved classical music. I used to attend symphonies with my father as a child. Sadly, none of the men I had ever dated understood the high arts like classical music, literature, ballet, theater or opera. They had all lacked a certain amount of sophistication.
The soft lighting gave the atmosphere a romantic glow. There was a buffet style set up near a window facing the dying sun: lobster, king crab, oysters on the half shell, roast beef and anything else that would sate the hungry tummy. I was fashionably late, no thanks to my meeting running over. Beautifully dressed attendees milled about as they shared conversation and sipped on glasses of Rosè.
I expected Victoria to be occupied, seeing as she was the host’s girlfriend. She was practically co-hosting. Victoria and I kissed cheeks, exchanged laughs and hugs with such grace, it was hard to believe that just a week ago, she had been knee deep in the bushes, ready to spring an ambush on John. Until she had time to stop by and say hi, I busied myself with the food table. Obviously.
Victoria took off and left me on my own. I then turned my attention back to the front of the room. I needed to mingle before I stuck out like a sore thumb. That’s when I noticed Ailee standing by the fireplace near the navy sofas. There was something about him, which made him stand out from the mostly money-grubbing Los Angeles Peter-Pan types trolling for arm candy. He seemed reserved, sure of himself and gentlemanly. Something drew me across the room to him like a strange magnetic force.
Was he a more sophisticated player type? The kind that kisses you passionately while letting you know you are just not the right one? Was he capable of blindsiding a girl? It’s like the Law of the Universe. You cannot be that good looking and not be an asshole. His hair was still a tousled mess of perfect. He was dressed in a tailored double-breasted white blazer, with gold buttons, over a traditional navy and white Breton shirt. The navy pocket square was the finishing touch. He looked, aristocratic and otherworldly.
We locked eyes and I nervously looked away. It just occurred to me, I had never responded to his text message. I had intended to, once I got away from Victoria’s saga, but then work blew up my phone.
“Well hello, Miss Jehan,” he said in a shy, but assertive manner. He reached for my hand and put it to his lips with a soft kiss. I began to melt like wax to the fire, and no, not the fireplace within close proximity. My heart beat wildly, but I kept composed as ever.
“Hey, Ailee.” I played it off. “How are you? And how did you get invited? Do you know John?” I gracefully slipped into the empty sofa and set my plate down on a beautiful dark oak coffee table. Ailee remained standing near the fireplace. Because, that’s what self-assured, handsome, mysterious men do.
“Victoria invited me. She called me a few days ago.”
Of course she did. I’m rolling my eyes, in my head. “Ah okay. Cool! Sorry for not responding to your text. I had every intention to but I-“
“That’s okay.” He smiled as if anything I chose to say would be okay. He’d been around, I could feel it. This was one man that couldn’t be figured out as easily, if ever.
“May I?” He motioned as he took a seat across from me. It was as if we were the only ones in the entire room. How was this possible? I lost my appetite. Being a piggy with the delicious food before me was simply not on the plate tonight.
“Victoria said you were very busy with work these past few weeks.” He crossed his brows, concerned, as if I shouldn’t have to work at all.
Damn, did Victoria give him my entire wrap sheet as well?
“Ah, of course. Well, work had me traveling a lot. Do you travel? I mean, work or not?” I asked him, pushing my fork around my plate.
You cannot be that good looking and not be an asshole.
“Going to Italy in a few months. On business actually, but then…” He smiled. “Business and pleasure cannot be avoided in a country like Italy, wouldn’t you agree?”
I dropped my eyes, so as not to appear stupid. My brother lived in Florence. How convenient. I struggled with wanting to reveal this tid-bit of info, but certainly did not want to appear too eager, to show our commonalities. Where was my mouth? Why couldn’t I speak?
“Have you been to Italy Jehan?” He took a sip of champagne and confidently sat back, crossing his legs.
“Um, well actually, no. Not yet. But … I … Sorry I have a fairy brain. I’m a little spacey at times.”
Okay, I’d never been this tongue tied in my life. Was I in the right league? Had I been swimming with guppies in my former life? He was waiting for my response, I could see this as he feasted on my face, on my hands and swallowed the whole of me with just one sexy look. I was about to put an end to my stuttering when we were suddenly interrupted by…
Stay tuned for next week! I’ve been reading your demands for a longer post and I’ve honored it this week! Can’t wait to pick this back up!