The Sleeping Angel

The man stumbles along Hollywood boulevard as the sun rises, pulling his long coat around him to keep the chill of the world away. Early morning and the streets weep at the absence of the world’s rich and famous. The city of Angels sleeps but there’s something he can’t miss. Sandwiched into a gap between somewhere amongst Los Angeles’ most infamous haunts is a small wooden door, this is where he heads disregarding the cold, emptiness of the city, of his own heart. The man ducks in and makes his way up front and centre, the star of this most show, he pulls his papers from inside his coat and scans the room. Breathing deep he settles himself, the torrent in his stomach takes some mastery, but he’d learned from the best.

“Gathering here today I want to tell some stories, stories that nobody knows the truth of. Stories that may or may not be important, but stories that will stay with me forever.” He wastes no time, life is too short. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

“I’m so tired,” she says as her hair falls down her back after another night of make-up and photographs. “Of it all, not just the photographers with their lenses poking in my face but the fans and their voices, are they mocking me? Are they immortalizing me?” She shakes her head and slumps onto the hotel room’s only armchair, her male accompaniment stands and watches in silence from the door that isn’t yet fully closed. She’s swept the room once again. This was a regular occurrence, but as always no matter how often she did something it was a scene you didn’t want to miss out on.

“They love you.” He says wistful musing tinges his voice; it isn’t because he says it every night, and it’s the part he leaves out that pains him most. Her chestnut hair is swept up again, this time up onto the top of her head, leaving the curve from her neck exposed completely. His mouth catches on the next words so he turns to close the door- the room- on the world.

“I don’t know what to think anymore,” she says as she looks out of the window and a crowd gathers, for her and for anybody else they think could be hiding out here. “I’ve been at this forever and everybody just says nice things to me all the time, you’ve become a parrot yourself ‘They love you’, is that all you can offer me?” Her eyes flash from the window to the man, not contempt nor angry, but enough. “They want me to be Irish, Scottish, Australian, Texan, I can do it all. But who wants me?” The floor takes the brunt of her longing glance, but a small flicker of an eyelash to the doorway betrays her. She stands up as the door clicks into place, her red carpet dress falling to the floor in counterbalance. Her body is thin, the years of non-stop globetrotting wearing on her, but she cares for herself. The man takes her all in. Her body isn’t what keeps him anymore, her hips move as she walks in a way that captures imagination and draw the eye. Her steps fall softly, you wouldn’t hear her if the wooden floor wasn’t so responsive. “I’m taking a shower, you can go. I’ll be sleeping late, at least until everybody’s tired of waiting for me to appear. It would make a change anyway.”

His night is over there, he knows not to argue with her in this mood, she’s made her decision, he picks up her dress and folds it over the arm of the chair she’s just vacated and makes his way out to the sound of water coming to life in the bathroom, slowly at first but gathering momentum. His hands tremble over the handle of the door as he turns down the hall to his own bed once again.

The man in his long coat looks up from his paper and wipes his sleeve across his face, it comes away dry. The silence is creeping slowly in again, he takes that as his cue, reshuffles his papers and dives in again.

“The heat here is unbearable,” she says mopping her brow with a hotel towel in her hotel room. They’ve just spent the day in the Rwandan fields, helping to build wells and schools and trying to keep the smiles on the locals’ faces. Now the veneer has gone. Enraptured at first by her own popularity she’d thrown herself into the rejuvenation project, but three days in and she’s had enough. It’s the heat she complains about now, but before long everything will get to her and nothing will placate her. She lies on the bed, long legs easing from short shorts and long arms across her face, blocking it all out. Her hair, blonde with the sun fanned out from her head, engulfing the bed in delicious natural curls. She was beginning to wear thin. “I still can’t believe how happy these people are, that’s real happiness. They all laugh together, play together, sing together, lose together. It’s a good place to be to find real friends.” There was a hint of longing in her voice. The man’s stoic face let a little sympathy in, he could see where her train of thought was taking her, she’d been such a force around the world for such a long time, many had forgotten who she really was. This was her, she was being real now, from complaints of the heat to musings on friendship, and this was what nobody understood.

“There are people back home for you like that. They all love you.” He says, he wants to pull her away from her own mind in an African hotel room and onto all of the red-carpet parties that she feels most at home owning with her sheer presence.

“They love me, but do they really want to know me beyond my characters?” She glances away from him, “I need to get myself ready for that dinner later, it’ll take me hours to get rid of the smell of that field. Come back about 8, I should be at least nearly done by then.”

The man turns, dismissed and knowing his role at her side, never overstepping it. He passes her another towel to shower with and makes his way out.

The sound of papers hitting the floor punctuated the end of the passage. Followed by a dry noise that could come from nowhere but the man stood at the front of the room. He bent for his papers, and only on his way back up noticed the wet spots scattered down the page. His long coat came off and he turned his back to the room.

“I need to keep this together, it’s only what she taught me,” he whispered to himself. Sucking in a full lung of air and breathing out even slower he turned. “One more time.” He said to nobody in particular.

Camera flashbulbs drown out all other light. The red carpet full of blinking, blinding lights, everybody wants her. Flash after flash captures her every move, she can’t lift a finger without it being caught in time. Moment after moment saved forever. The world is out to see her and she obliges with a dazzling smile and every grace expected from royalty. Here she is most definitely royalty. Feted and celebrated- Hollywood’s newest star.

Pulled upstairs, trailing in her wake, hand in hand she laughs with childlike joy. Her eyes sparkle as she knows what awaits them along the hall. They reach the door, this is what the night has been leading to all along, she stands still, straight, arranges herself. Picture perfect. He can only stand silent as she reaches for the door handle and lets them in with a sideways smile and her eyes dancing to life. He follows.

They are greeted with great applause, backslaps, handshakes and air-kisses- the post-premiere party of her dreams. All of Hollywood’s bold and beautiful are present, but here there are no cameras- not for the magazines anyway- this is where Hollywood really comes alive, hidden from view. She is a whirlwind, every person in attendance is pulled in with her, she dances, she sings, she puts all of her own life into the pulsating atmosphere of the party. The celebration of her work brought with it an unbelievable enhancement of what she was already, the smiles and swinging hips of the red carpet had been bedazzling, here they were much more. The freedom of her beauty holds him sipping his beer, pensive and aware.

She staggers to bed, the dark of the night has faded to the sunshine of a Hollywood morning, incapable of undressing herself she offers the task to him. With sure fingers he unhooks each button down her back, she drunkenly giggles at the softness of his touch, with soft coos and hushed whispers of encouragement. As he finished the final button she stepped away from him. Her dress slipped down, pooling at her feet. Her eyes glinting in the soft light coming through the curtains. He knew that to resist would be impossible and stepped towards her.

Her eyes close. Faces move together. His hands go to her hips and he moves her to the bed with a low moan emanating from her throat, they lie down. Her lips touch his but he fails to respond how she expects.

“That’s not why I’m here.” He says.

Her eyes meet his, “but it’s what you want,” she breathes lustily, drowsily.

“It will ruin everything I will ever have to do for you.” He watches her.

The light in her eyes is still there, but not for him right now. Disappointment darkens them as she stays looking for a moment before turning away. He stands and leaves her to sleep, his shoulders slump as he moves through the doorway, his feet shuffle a little slower down the hall. He knew that he’d made the hardest decision of his life forever after.

The man front and centre looks up from his papers. His cheeks soaked from his eyes, unashamed he scans the scene. Empty. The whole room empty, not one person could move themselves to attend today. He moves down from the front through rows of empty seats. Hollow acceptance follows him out the door. The grey morning has given way to blazing sunshine. Abandoned streets are washed anew with life; the buzz surrounds the man as he walks the streets. Flashing lights take his attention from his shoes and towards the too-familiar Chinese archway, surrounded by photographers and cheering crowds. The man stops. A woman turns from one reporter to another, dragging the eyes of the world with her. Only one of the throng is not fawning all over her, at least not so that everyone else can see. The man knows that look and cannot bear to look at it for too long and moves on quickly, much like Hollywood has.

 

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