I smoked the remainder of my joint as I drove down Sunset towards the 101 highway. It was close to midnight, and there was no traffic, a rarity for Los Angeles. This was what people spoke of when they described directions “without traffic”; the pocket of time where the majority of the four million Angelenos were sleeping, opposed to aggressively honking and screaming “GO!” the second the stop light’s changed from red to green. I could actually enjoy driving when the streets were clear, I could focus on where I was going, instead of the chaos of getting there. Driving typically gave me anxiety, mostly because the majority of my experience involved making deliveries for the shop when Shane and my dad were preoccupied. Customers were always overzealous about getting their deliveries on-time, and the excuse of “stuck in traffic” held no weight: a late delivery was the difference between a referral and a three-star YELP review. I shook my head and wiped my eyes, I didn’t want to think about the shop. Despite the ease of my ride, I still needed to calm my nerves while driving the twenty-five minutes from my house to meet Heather. The weed was a really good Indica strain. After a few hits, I settled into a comfortable driving position and coasted towards my destination. I fished out my dads USB cord from in between the seat and the console and connected my phone. Bryson Tiller, Northern Lights, and the cool Cali night air allowed me to mellow. Heather had agreed to meet me at the Universal City Overlook, on Mulholland Drive. I was relieved when she didn’t ask to come over to my place after I texted her I’m at home; I wasn’t ready for her to know I still lived with my parents. She seemed eager to see me, although it had always been extremely difficult for me to read emotions through text. I wanted our first time spent alone to be special. I wanted to put forth an actual effort, to show her I was more than #FlowerBae; I figured The Overlook was a pretty impressive spot. To my surprise, my dad was awake and sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of black coffee, when I went to swipe the keys to his pickup without asking. He didn’t ask any questions, he just told me to be back in time for him to open the shop at 5:00 a.m. I agreed and raced out the door before he changed his mind. I knew he wouldn’t be too happy if he smelled traces of the smoke in the morning, but the risk was worth the reward. “First, I gotta get a place, then I gotta get a whip,” I said aloud as I drove. I felt a slight pang of guilt as the words left my mouth; I was officially embarrassed about living in my parent’s house, and I knew it was time for me to secure my exit plan. The guilt came from my acknowledgment of the hard work and sacrifice that went into buying our home. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed by our house, our house was really nice, and in one of the best neighborhoods in LA. I was embarrassed that I had no other choice than to live with my parents because I couldn’t afford an apartment, even with a roommate. I was embarrassed that I had no privacy. I was embarrassed that I was so heavily reliant on my parents. I was embarrassed about my room. I was embarrassed that Heather unknowingly made me feel embarrassed. I never really put much thought into my room, it was the room I grew up in; I made slight adjustments here and there, but nothing significant enough to say “a grown man lived here”. In high school, I painted one of my walls black, but it made my room too gloomy so I painted it back to the light tan color my parents chose for all the bedrooms when they bought the house. My freshman year at UCLA, my parents bought me a desk and a bookshelf, as a “good luck in college” gift. The bookshelf ended up in the garage, where my dad used it to store his smaller gardening tools. The desk housed my MacBook, my stash and rolling papers, and other random trinkets that I collected over the years, like the Kobe Bryant bobblehead I got when my dad took me and my brother to our first Laker game. Overall, my room had no style, no vibe; it looked like a random collection of things acquired by someone who didn’t have any specific interests. There was nothing remotely sexy about my room, so I assumed that a woman like Heather would be absolutely uninterested in having sex with me in it. My first, and only girlfriend, Sarah, didn’t mind my room. She was the only girl that had ever been in my room, aside from my mom, and our babysitter, Catherine. The first time she saw my room, she said it was “cool”, which was good enough for me; but then again, that was puppy love. Sarah and Heather couldn’t be more different, or so I thought. The thought of being intimate with Heather not only intimidated the hell out of me, it scared the shit out of me. I would have never admitted it, but I wasn’t ready for sex with HPtheBeauty. It was like wheelchair Jimmy stepping to present day Rihanna; not the Pon de Replay princess, The Fenty Beauty mogul.
The closer I got, the small voice of insecurity, that hung out in the back of my mind, got louder. Was I an insane person for thinking I had a shot with HP? It felt like it. It really felt like it. Maybe my newfound social media popularity created an unmerited boost of confidence. Maybe the constant “likes” and new followers were subconsciously stroking my ego because the reality was; Heather was way out of my league. Maybe I smoked too much weed. Whatever it was, I began to question myself. Was it just luck? Would it run out? In a month’s time, I went from stressing over potentially losing my family’s business to having more customers than we could handle. For the first time, our demand superseded our supply. I saw the burdened furrow of uncertainty lifts from my mother’s brow, in a matter of a week. I saw my dads smoke sessions in the garage, shrink from hours in the evenings to a few minutes before he went to bed. Heather’s endorsement was like winning the lottery, my life had changed so drastically, in such a short period of time. It seemed that my fate had taken a drastic turn, the possibility of achieving my dreams seemed like more of a reality with each passing day. When I met Heather, everything changed; she became a part of the newly developed dreams I had for myself. I wanted to become part of her world, and I wanted her to be the center of mine. It was obvious that she could be with any guy she wanted, but for some unexplainable reason, she was entertaining this flirtation that started the day she walked into my parent’s shop. Maybe it was meant to be. I had never been a romantic kind of guy, but I did believe in soulmates. My parents were my blueprint for true love and evidence enough for me that there was another person on this Earth, that existed just for me. Although my only relationship ended badly, I figured I would find love later in life. My anticipation peaked as I cautiously followed the curvy road that climbed to The Overlook. I was no stranger to driving in The Hills; when Ralph first got his drivers license we would take out his dads latest lease and race through Laurel Canyon at reckless speeds. We were literally going nowhere fast, but that night I had a destination that made me want to speed and drive slowly at the same time; my anxious nervousness mixed with excited anticipation. As I approached the overlook opening, I spotted Heather, leaned against a white Porsche Cayenne. She was looking down at her phone, the light from the screen illuminating her beautiful face. Her hair was pulled up into a loose bun that a few curls had escaped. She was wearing an oversized white tee shirt that hung off her shoulder, black loose fitting jogging pants that hung low on her hips, and black and white retro Jordan’s. She looked perfectly put together and effortless at the same time. To say I was turned on, would be an understatement; I was fully aroused. The proof was in the pressure in my pants. “Calm down,” I said aloud, as I pinched my inner thigh, held my breath and counted to thirty. She looked up from her phone as I exhaled and pulled into an open spot across the street from her. We locked eyes and she smiled and waved. My abdomen tightened. I took another deep breath and made sure to engage the emergency brake after I put the pickup in park and turned off the engine. To be safe, I tucked my guy in my waistband before exiting the truck. I didn’t want to risk him ruining an intentionally innocent interaction.
“Hey, FlowerBae!” she said flirtatiously as I approached her. I laughed, somewhat embarrassed by my new nickname. “Hey, beautiful,” I said, leaning into her space. She raised her arms and embraced me. Her enticing aroma filling my lungs; it was overwhelmingly sexy, a scent I had never smelled before, a mixture of spice and sweet. Her hair brushed against my cheek as she stepped into and then out of my embrace. I silently and inappropriately thanked God that the waistband of my favorite grey sweatpants was so thick. “How have I never heard of this place?” she asked, her voice filled with awe. “I’m sure a lot of LA natives haven’t. The only reason I know about this place is because my dad would bring me and my brother here when we were little” I explained. “That’s awesome,” she said, as she turned away from me and drifted towards the edge of The Overlook to get a better view. I watched as her face radiated from the genuine excitement of discovering an L.A. gem for the first time.The view was so clear we could see the lights that electrified The Valley for miles and miles until they disappeared in the far off distance. I looked to the right at Universal Studios and City Walk and wondered if she had ever been. The last time I went was with Ralph to visit Harry Potter Land. I silently brainstormed other places I could take her. I made a mental note to make a list on my phone when I got home. “Thank you for bringing me here John,” she said, interrupting the silence, as her gaze shifted from the view to me. Hearing her say my name stirred me into a new nervousness. “Yeah… of course. You’re very welcome. Anytime. Of course” I said, slightly fumbling over my words. I took a deep breath and swallowed hard to collect myself. “Thank you for meeting me here, Heather,” I said, as I moved closer towards her. The evening breeze picked up her decadent aroma, and it filled the space around us, creating a small invisible bubble. My thoughts drifted back to the shower. “This is exactly what I needed after the day I’ve had. It was brutal” she said, as she nudged closer to me and leaned her head on my shoulder. I slid my arm around her back to cradle her head more securely and feel her warmth. I felt her body relax as she sunk deeper into my embrace. It felt so right. “You want to talk about it?” I asked, repeating the question my dad often asked my mom when she came home in a bad mood. She let out a soft sign. “It’s just…” she began. “I don’t know, I mean I don’t want to bore you with my privileged problems.” I laughed, she didn’t want me to label her as a poor-little-rich-girl. “Do you need 600 more white roses?” I teased. “See I knew you thought I was silly” she giggled, hiding her face with her hands. With my free arm, I pulled her in front of me in one smooth motion that was so effortless, it surprised me. She dropped her hands from her face and rested them under her chin, which was now propped against my chest. She looked up at me, as I allowed my arms to wrap around the small of her back. Damn, this feels good, I thought as she looked up at me with a soft comfort in her eyes. She was enjoying being in my arms, just as much as I was enjoying having her there. I could hear a faint sound of music coming from behind us. Another car had pulled into the free parking space behind Heather’s. It was a young couple in a light blue Honda. I recognized the song they were listening to; Best Part by H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar. “I love this song,” Heather said softly. She closed her eyes and hummed softly. I kissed her forehead softly and then her lips. She parted her mouth and ran her tongue over my bottom lip, sending a billion sensations throughout my body, the epicenter constrained by the questionably secured waistband of my sweats. My tongue met hers, and we got lost in a passionate kiss for what felt like the quickest eternity. The song faded, and we drifted back from heaven into our surroundings. “You do really love that song,” I said, as I came up for air. “Ummmmmm” she hummed against my chest. It was the perfect first kiss. We stood in silence for a few moments. “I just love how small this place makes me feel. It’s kinda like the feeling I get when I’m at the beach watching the ocean. Sometimes I need perspective to remind myself how insignificant I am, in the grand scheme of things. This might sound crazy, but I wasn’t prepared to be famous; the occasional ego check is necessary to my existence. It sounds weird even saying it sometimes; that I’m famous. I just have to remind myself that I’m not saving lives. My fame is based on some pretty superficial shit. People treat me like I’ve cured cancer, it’s weird. It’s ridiculous, I’m a twenty two year old, social media influencer for Christ’s sake. People expect me to act a certain way, but I’m just a regular girl, who got really lucky” she said in a passionate whisper, as if she had been waiting to unload her private insecurities on someone she trusted. I understood her initial apprehension in revealing her truth; for the first time I thought; it’s not easy being HPTheBeauty. Her vulnerability made me feel closer to her. The dripping lust I had for her softened into a sweet intimacy. The alien feelings excited me, the more time I spent with her, the luckier I felt. The same kiss that had relaxed her, invigorated me. It felt good to be the person on the receiving end of her self-assessment. I mustered up a response, “I think everyone has that feeling at some point, especially at our age. Despite what you’ve accomplished, I think it’s pretty normal to question your contribution to the world as a whole. It would be a bit egocentric not to.” I wasn’t sure where my wisdom was coming from, but she was engaged, her eyes focused, so I kept talking. “When I walked across that stage at graduation, I was nervous as hell. I knew my parents had all these expectations for me. I had all these expectations for myself. I wasn’t excited about my future, I was terrified of it. I decided to focus on the things I could change, and not worry too much about the other stuff. I knew if I did my best, I wouldn’t disappoint my parents or myself.” Her facial expression changed from pensive to adoring, and she stood on her tippy-toes, meeting her lips to mine, and kissed me again.
“I know it’s late, but I’m really hungry,” she said as we walked back to the empty road hand-and-hand, a new air of intimacy hovered above us. The Honda had left, and we were alone again. “Do you want to go grab something to eat?” I asked her. I wasn’t hungry, but I jumped at the opportunity to elongate our night together. I wanted to kiss her again. I didn’t want to stop kissing her. She tucked a thick curl behind her ear and bit her bottom lip in contemplation of my offer. My stomach tightened at her hesitation. I thought she was hinting that she wanted to get something to eat, with me. Or maybe it was her exit, she was hungry and ready to go home and eat something, without me. I pulled her closer, as to say; I’m not ready to leave you, yet. “Do you know anything close that’s open this late?” she replied, glancing down at her Rolex. For the first time since I’d arrived, I thought to check the time. I pulled my phone from my pocket. 3:05 AM. I had no idea that we had been at The Overlook for nearly three hours, it felt like twenty minutes. I knew I needed to be home in a couple of hours, but I wasn’t ready to leave her. I hadn’t eaten in The Valley in ages, but I knew a few late-night spots. “Have you ever been to Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank?” I asked her, remembering it was one of my favorite diners. My dad would take me and my brother to eat greasy burgers and fries, unbeknownst to my mom. She laughed, “I have not, but it sounds retro, so I’m down.” Confirming we existed in two very different worlds, despite living in the same city. Her’s was glamorous, brunch in Malibu or Santa Monica, dinner downtown on a rooftop. My LA was cheap diners and natures free entertainment; scenic views and hiking trails. “It’s good, American fare and I think it’s open 24 hours.” It should take about twenty minutes for us to get there, an hour to eat, leaving me thirty minutes to get home, I calculated, not wanting to let Heather know that I had to get my dad’s truck back home before 5:00 AM. “Should we drive separately, or do you wanna ride with me?” she asked, as she leaned against her SUV. It made more sense for us to drive separately, even though I wanted to spend every second I could close to her. A glimpse of my dad’s disappointed face flashed across my mind. Your irresponsibility concerns me, John, he would say. “You live downtown, right?” I asked her, knowing the answer. She shook her head, “yes”. “Well, the 134 is right there, you can take the 5 downtown and be home in like twenty minutes. I know you have a busy day tomorrow… well, today. I just want you to get a little rest.” I said, hoping my reasoning translated as accommodating and not rushed. She smiled, “that makes sense to me. I’ll just follow you.” The words sounded foreign coming out of her mouth. I’ll just follow you. I kissed her cheek, before slow jogging across the road to the pickup.
I couldn’t help but watch her in the rearview mirror on the ride to the diner. She smiled and winked when she caught me staring at the first red light we stopped at. It was nerve-wracking watching her; even her most subtle movements made my body react so intensely. My admiration was too obvious to pretend I wasn’t completely in awe of her. Like her millions of followers, I wanted to be apart of her seemingly perfect world. Unlike her followers, I wanted to know the side of Heather that only a few knew; only lovers and close friends. I wanted her to confide in me like she did at The Overlook. I wanted our first unofficial date, to be perfect. The clock reminded me that I was on borrowed time. I picked up speed, glancing in the rearview to make sure Heather wasn’t too far behind. She was right on my tail. I’ll just follow you. I had been riding in silence, satisfied with the echo of her voice fresh on my mind.
“It’s gonna be a twenty-minute wait,” the hostess said annoyed, as she popped her pink bubble gum loudly, twirling her index finger around her thin, hot pink braid. I cringed, “okay cool, thank you,” I said, with a forced calmness. Although the restaurant was relatively busy for a weekday, there were several open tables. “They must be short staffed,” I said, as I turned back to Heather. She shrugged, and slid her hand into mine, intertwining our fingers. Her touch soothed me instantly, and thoughts of time and my dad’s disappointment slipped away. “This place is super cute, John. It reminds me of those 1950’s diners where the waitresses would serve you in roller skates. I’m getting a milkshake!” she said excitedly as we sat down in the waiting area. I laughed, she was adorable. She leaned her head on my shoulder. I felt the snarky hostesses eyes on us. “Oh my God!” she screeched. “I am obsessed with your YouTube Channel HP! I follow you on Insta!” she said loudly as she walked towards us. Heather smiled graciously, “awww thanks for your support babes,” she said genuinely. “I can seat you guys right now! I am so sorry you had to wait, HP! We only have two servers working tonight, but I’ll personally make sure you’re taken care of” she said apologetically. “No worries, we don’t mind waiting” Heather replied, placing her hand on my knee. The hostess blushed as she realized her idol was on a date. “I can take you two to a table now if you’re ready,” she said hurriedly. “Sounds good,” Heather said as she stood up. I trailed a few steps behind them as the hostess gushed over HP. When we reached the table, she pulled her phone from her back pocket. “Do you mind taking a selfie with me?” she asked as Heather slid into the booth. “Sure” Heather replied as if she was anticipating the inevitable. Pink Braid snapped a few selfies and thanked Heather profusely. “I forgot to grab some menus. I’ll go get them now, and take y’alls orders as soon are you’re ready” she said and hurriedly walked off. “Does that ever feel normal?” I asked her as I settled into the booth. She laughed and shook her head “ Short answer, no. Long answer, it happens all the time. Every single day. Sometimes it’s more awkward than others; like last week, I was at my new gynecologist’s office and I caught her receptionist taking a picture of me in the lobby. It was just weird. I didn’t want to tell on her because I know she could lose her job because of a stupid mistake” she said nonchalantly. “That’s crazy” I replied. I thought back to my In-N-Out experience and decided to keep it to myself; I didn’t want her to think I was bragging about being recognized by her fans, it seemed weird and inappropriate to bring up. Then again, I didn’t know how she would react, in that moment I realized how little I really knew about her. I had to take the time to get to know her, instead of relying on preconceived notions that I gathered from following her social media persona. HPTheBeauty and Heather Poussey were two separate people. I felt a rush to learn her, but she wasn’t a Biology exam; I couldn’t memorize her and regurgitate her on an exam. I would have to take my time if I wanted something real with her. She was a real living breathing person, and for whatever crazy reason, she was allowing me to be a part of her world. Pink Braid had returned and recommended that Heather try her favorite, “the Super Big Boy Combo, with a root beer float.” Heather looked at me “Will you split that with me, John?” she asked. I smiled, we were already sharing food. “Yeah, that’s what I usually get. Can we get a strawberry shake with that, too?” I asked Pink braid, who was still smiling at Heather admiringly. Without taking her eyes off Heather she said “sure thing” and darted off to the kitchen. Heather extended her legs under the table, resting her feet in between mine, bringing my dormant Johnson back to life. “So what do you have to do today, John?” she asked, oblivious to my arousal. My stomach tightened with piercing anxiety, I was forced to think about the time and my responsibilities. I fought the urge to tell her the truth, “I just have to run a few errands for the shop. We’ve been crazy busy lately. Thank you again for directing all those recent inquiries to our page. I really appreciate all you’ve done, Heather” I said, hoping she heard the sincerity in my voice. It wasn’t my plan to thank her, but I couldn’t neglect that she was the reason that Flores De Amor was doing so well. “John, don’t mention it, really. Those flowers, they really made my day, but meeting you made my year. I really like you John. There’s something special about you that I’m drawn to. We just met, and I feel like I’ve known you forever. I just feel like I can trust you” her big brown eyes glistened as she spoke. “I haven’t stopped thinking about you since I came across your IG page. There’s something about you that’s so authentic, so beautiful” she said softly. The pulsing in my pants had relocated to my chest, my heart was racing. “Heather” I began. “Here goes your strawberry shake and the root beer float” Pink Braid announced loudly, as she plopped the drinks down in front of us and interrupting our intimate conversation. “Your food is almost ready HP!” she said, and scurried away. “Thanks babes” Heather replied, before she removed the small piece of paper from the top of the straw sticking out of the root beer float. She closed her eyes and took a long sip. “This is exactly what I needed.” I hesitated, uncertain if I should continue expressing my feelings, knowing Pink braid was going to pop back up at any moment with our food. Even though she hadn’t acknowledged me since we’d arrived, I didn’t want to bear my soul in front of one of Heather’s beauty groupies. I was surprised how easily Heather admitted her feelings, how she expressed them, like poetry. “I’m drawn to… so authentic, so beautiful.” I was relieved that my own feelings weren’t unrequited. My luck hadn’t run out yet. I had a chance. She smiled sweetly at me as she slurped her float. “Don’t think too much, John” she said, as if she heard everything I was thinking. I laughed nervously, feeling a bit overwhelmed. Pink Braid was back with two large plates. “Okay guys, here’s your Super, with extra fries. I figured it’s your cheat day HP, so I brought you a slice of my favorite pie too! It’s strawberry!” Heather laughed and thanked Pink Braid again. I felt my phone vibrate against my leg, in the pocket of my sweatpants. I didn’t have to look to know it was my dad. I was afraid to check the time, so I ignored it. “What was that cheat day comment about?” I asked Heather, hoping she didn’t hear the buzz coming from under the table. “Silly shit. People assume I only eat healthy food, because that’s all I post. Sometimes I have to take a break from counting calories, juicing and acai bowls. I mean they photograph well, but I can’t eat that shit everyday. The other day, I had my assistant get me a Chili cheese dog and chili cheese fries from Tommy’s. I almost had an orgasm when I took the first bite” she said, pleased with herself. I shifted in my seat, feeling my best-friend perk back up at the thought of Heather having an orgasm. I watched her as she took a huge bite of the burger. “I’m not going to lie, I was sure you were a vegan” I confessed, relieved that she wasn’t. “Everybody in LA is vegan. It’s annoying. I can’t take anyone seriously who says they’re a vegan, but does coke every weekend” she said matter-of-factly, stuffing a handful of fries in her mouth. “You better take a bite of this burger, before I murder it.” I laughed; she was adorable. My phone began to vibrate again. “You can check at your phone, John. It might be important” she said between bites of the half eaten burger. “It’s okay. I’m sure it’s just my dad, asking what time I’m coming into the shop today. My parents wake up at the crack of dawn” I said. “Please, John. Just check it. It will make me feel better. I have had you out all night after all” she said, as she reached across the table and gently squeezed my hand. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my phone. Three missed calls and three new text messages, all from my dad. John, call me. the first one read. This isn’t cool, son. I hope you are o.k. I felt like shit, my dad was so cool about me leaving with his truck late at night and this is how I thanked him. It was 4:36 a.m. and I was in Burbank. Shane is going to pick me up from the house. We can talk later. Call me., his last text read. I inhaled deeply, slightly relieved. I would call him when I was alone in the truck. “Everything good?” Heather asked. She had finished the burger, fries and root beer shake and was digging her fork into the pie. “Everything is perfect. Being here with you is perfect. I’m glad you enjoyed the food” I said teasingly. She laughed “I’m sorry I demolished everything, John. We were supposed to share. I was really hungry, I hadn’t eaten much today. Should I order you something else?” I had only taken a few sips of the strawberry shake, I had zero appetite. “I’m fine, seriously. I’m just teasing. I wasn’t hungry. I like watching you eat.” She scoffed “I’m sure you do. You have the perfect body, and you probably don’t even work out and eat whatever you want, whenever you want to!” She reached for the strawberry shake and took a sip. I was shocked to hear her refer to my body as perfect; I had always thought myself scrawny and awkward. I wasn’t sure if I should thank her or return her compliment. I was worried if I told her how beautiful I thought she was, she would think I was only interested in her for superficial reasons. “How do you do it?” I asked her, in an attempt to be suave. She grinned, intrigued. She continued slurping down the rest of the strawberry shake. “How do you manage to be so effortlessly incredible?” I asked, surprised by my own corny words. She put the shake down, licked her lips, stood up and came over to my side of the booth. She scooted in close to me and kissed my neck, her lips still cold from the shake. I turned to face her, placing my hand gently on her thigh and kissed her slowly. I had never kissed anyone in public, I felt a wave of excitement and adrenaline take over me. I had never been so turned on. I felt high, higher than I’d ever been. I couldn’t stop kissing her, her lips were incredible soft and her mouth warm and welcoming. I felt myself slipping into her universe, filled with an intimate pleasure that I had never experienced. In that moment, I knew I would love her, I knew she would be the greatest love I’d ever know.
I drove home in silence, allowing myself to savor the fresh memories of my perfect evening with Heather. I didn’t want to leave her, but she had an 8:00 A.M. meeting that couldn’t be rescheduled. We left the diner around 5:45 A.M. after Pink Braid announced our food and shakes were “on the house!” When I walked her to her SUV, Heather asked me to come by her place later that evening. “I’ll cook something special for you,” she said with a sexy grin. More and more cars joined me on the 405 freeway as I drove towards my house, the sun rising in the distance. I knew my dad was probably furious with me, and I vaguely remembered Ralph mentioning something about a photo shoot, but I could only focus on Heather. Nothing else mattered. I had just left her, and I was already anxiously awaiting the next time I got to kiss her soft lips. I wasn’t ready to return to my dull reality, I wanted to spend the remainder of my ride home wrapped up in the fantasy world where passionate kisses with Heather Poussey were inexhaustible, a place where I deserved her affection. I tried to wrap my mind around Heather’s interest in me. I decided to stop trying to make sense of it, and just enjoy the ride.
“Have you checked IG this morning?” Ralph asked frantically. I had answered my phone, still half-asleep. The constant vibration in my pocket had awakened me, and before I was able to become fully coherent, Ralph was screaming in my ear. “I need you to get your ass to the beach ASAP, Johnny boy! We have to strike while the iron is hot! We need to get this photoshoot done, and a new pic posted by 7:00 PM tonight!” I was still sitting in my dad’s truck. I had fallen asleep as soon as I pulled into the driveway and turned the engine off. “Photo-shoot?” I asked sluggishly. “Don’t play with me, John. I told you last night when I dropped you off that I booked a photographer for a shoot today. You agreed. Are you high?” he said in his I’m-being-serious voice. “Calm down, Ralph. I remember, I just had a long night” I said calmly as I pulled the keys out of the ignition. “I know you had a long night Johnny! It’s all over the blogs. The picture of you and HP is trending on IG right now!” Suddenly I was wide awake. “What picture?” I asked. We hadn’t taken any pics that I knew of. “Bro, are you serious? So that’s not you in the picture sucking face with HP in some diner in Burbank last night?” Ralph asked sarcastically. My stomach dropped. “Pull up your Insta bro” Ralph instructed me, realizing I was clueless. I pressed the speaker button on my phone and switched screens to the Instagram app. I had fifty thousand new followers! “What the hell…” I said after pressing the tiny magnifying glass at the bottom of my screen. There I was, making out with Heather in Big Boy, unaware that someone was taking a picture of us. The caption read “HPTheBeauty gets hot and heavy with FlowerBae in Burbank”. I felt violated, our private moment all over the internet for the world to see. “This is weird, Ralph,” I said, scrolling through the countless re-posts of the same pic. “Yeah, it’s pretty creepy, but it’s good for business. Your stock is going up, and we have to capitalize on this moment. The timing couldn’t be more perfect!” I was beginning to become annoyed with Manager Ralph. “I’m being serious Ralph. This is an invasion of our privacy. We were sharing a private moment, and whoever took this picture without our knowledge, is seriously twisted.” The lack of sleep mixed with the Insta-bomb Ralph had just dropped on me made me dizzy. “Look, Ralph, I’m not feeling well. I need to lay down for a few hours before I do anything. If you can push the photoshoot back, cool. If not, we’re going to have to reschedule it because I just can’t do shit right now” I said. Ralph took a deep breath, followed by a minute of silence. I headed into the house, hoping it was empty. As I opened the kitchen door, Ralph decided to speak again. “Johnny, I understand. You’re overwhelmed. I’m fine with giving you a few hours, but I don’t want this to become a habit. If we’re going to be successful, you cant just shut down when something like this happens. As long as you’re involved with Heather, this is going to be an everyday thing” he said. Everyday thing. Heather had said the same thing. That’s when I realized who took the photo of us; it was Pink Braid. I was willing to bet my left nut it was that pink haired, snarky little stalker. Ralph was still lecturing me when I slipped my tee-shirt over my head and slid into my bed. I interrupted him, “Ralph, let me get some rest so I can talk to you with a clearer head.” He laughed, “get your beauty rest Johnny boy. I’m not mad at you, a little disappointed, but not mad. I actually have about a hundred emails to read, anyway. I’ll give you today to get your shit together, but tomorrow we have to get some work done. Unless you want to keep jerking off in your parent’s house for the rest of your life. I wonder how long your broke botanist swag is going to be attractive to HP” he said and ended the call. Ralph was right, but I was too tired to care.
I’ll be there in twenty minutes, I texted Heather from the backseat of a Lyft. I was headed downtown LA to meet her at her place. She texted me her address when I was sleep and told me she would be home around 10:00 P.M. My dad spared me a long-winded lecture and just told me, “don’t touch my keys for a week man.” I was certain my mom told him not to be so hard on me since I was the reason the shop was doing so well. Whatever the reason, I was relieved. “You got a hot date tonight, buddy?” the Lyft driver asked me, just as I was pulling my headphones from my pocket. I wasn’t in the mood to talk, but I knew he was just being friendly. Yeah man, something like that” I said vaguely, wondering what about me gave him an on-my-way-to-a-hot-date vibe. “Enjoy yourself, buddy. You’re a good-looking young chap. I’m sure your lady friend, or guy friend or gender fluid friend, whatever kind of friend you got is just as good looking.” I laughed at his political correctness, “Thanks, man, I really appreciate that.” He looked at me in his rearview mirror and smiled. “Just enjoy yourself,” he said again, a slight warning in his tone. He was an older white guy, probably a few years older than my parents; he had a bald head and tired eyes. In that moment, I was once again conscious of my luck. I was headed to see the woman of my dreams in her penthouse condo and he would probably spend the rest of his night driving around entitled assholes around L.A. He would go home, sleep a few hours and head to his 9-5 job, and do it again. So many people in Los Angeles worked several jobs just to pay their rent and take care of their families. Ralph’s words echoed in my mind, “I wonder how long your broke botanist swag is going to be attractive to HP.” Ralph knew how to get under my skin. His words were harsh but effective. After all, he did know a hell of a lot more about wealth than I did; he learned first hand from his millionaire father. I wondered if Heather would still be attracted to me if worked a regular 9-5 and drove Lyft to make ends meet. She didn’t seem superficial, but she was driven, and I was certain she expected her man to be ambitious too. “Is the temperature okay buddy?” the driver asked. “Yeah, it’s perfect man. Thanks so much” I said politely. “I’m going to take a little cat nap if you don’t mind, I had a really long day. Can you wake me when we get there” I told him in an attempt to avoid his small talk. “Of course buddy, no worries. You relax back there and I’ll let you know when we arrive” he replied, a faint disappointment in his voice. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back on the headrest, but I didn’t fall asleep. My anticipation to see Heather wouldn’t allow me to relax. We were going to be alone at her place. I didn’t expect anything to happen, but the possibility of sex had my stomach in nervous knots. I had slipped a few condoms in my pocket before leaving my room, just in case. I wondered if sex was on Heather’s mind. I wondered if she was romantically involved with anyone else. The thought of another guy kissing and touching her made my stomach churn with jealousy. I wanted her to only want me because I only wanted her. I took a deep breath, in an attempt to calm myself from my unwarranted distress. If she was involved with anyone else, he had surely seen the picture of us making out online. Pink braid’s invasion of our privacy had ended up working in my favor. Little did she know, she aided me in marking my digital territory.
“John, we’ve arrived!” the Lyft driver said cheerfully as we pulled into the semi-circle driveway at Heather’s place. I opened my eyes, the building was just as I imagined, modern and dripping of luxury. “This is a nice place, buddy!” I smiled and thanked him for the ride, handing him five folded singles as I exited his car. I texted Heather, I’m here, as I entered the lobby where I was greeted by an attendant, a good-looking twenty-something guy who I imagined to be an aspiring actor by day, lobby attendant by night. “Good evening sir,” he said, with an air of sophistication. “Evening” I replied, uncertain of what to say next. My phone began vibrating in my hand, it was Heather. “Hey John, tell the lobby attendant you’re going penthouse five,” she said. The attendant escorted me to the elevator, placed his fob on the digital touchpad and pressed P5. “Have a good evening sir” he said, as the elevator doors opened. “Thank you” I replied, insecurely wondering how many other guys he had let up to Heather’s penthouse. The door to her place was cracked when I arrived, so I let myself in. “Hey Heather, I’m here” I announced, as I walked down a hallway that led me into her dining room. To the right of me a spacious living room and to the left an open kitchen with an island.“Hey John!” she yelled from another room ‘I’ll be out in a second, I’m just getting out of the shower. Make yourself at home. The food’s on the counter if you want to make our plates.” The thought of her naked, dressing just a few hundred feet away, turned me on. Her condo was immaculate, wall to wall white decor, it looked like something out of a magazine. There were a dozen white roses on her dining room table, they looked familiar; I was certain they came from our shop. The food was on the kitchen island; she had ordered food from a popular soul-food restaurant, Comfort LA. The kitchen looked as if it had never been cooked in, everything was brand new, including the black and white plates that I found in the cabinet next to the refrigerator. I washed my hands and began to fix our plates. I placed three pieces of fried chicken wings on each plate. I added mac-n-cheese, greens, candied yams and a large piece of cornbread. I transferred the gingerade from the to-go cups into glasses and placed everything on the dining room table with silverware. Just as I sat down, Heather entered from behind the kitchen. She looked stunning. She was wearing baggy white sweatpants, and a white hoody, her hair was wet and parted down the middle, her skin dewy and fresh. I stood back up and walked towards her. “You look beautiful,” I said, without thinking. She smiled and said, “so do you.” I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her forehead, she smelled incredible like cucumber and rose water. She slid her hands under my sweater, touching my bare back; the softness of her hands sent a shiver up my spine. I gently tilted her head back, my hands grazing her moist curls, and kissed her. Her mouth tasted of fresh mint and lemon. She moved her hands from my back to my stomach, caressing my abs. I clenched my stomach slightly in an effort to make my muscles more defined. She ran her hands up to my chest, sliding my sweater as she went. Once my sweater reached my chin, I helped her pull it completely off, placing it on the island behind us. She placed her arms around my neck and slowly slid her hands into my of unruly curls. I slid my hands from the small of her back, up her spine to remove her hoodie. Just as I was about to slide it over her head, her breasts pressed against my naked chest, the doorbell rang. We stopped kissing and looked towards the door. She pulled her hoodie down and I reached for my sweater. “Shit! It’s my assistant, Nicole. I totally forgot that I asked her to bring me the paperwork from the deal I signed today” she said, walking towards the door. “I’m so sorry Nicole” I heard her say, as she opened the door. I slipped my sweater back over my head, expecting them to both walk back into the living room. I heard a soft mumbling and the door close. Heather returned alone, with a white folder in her hand. “I’m sorry about that. I signed a huge deal today and asked Nicole to bring me a copy to put in my safe. It totally slipped my mind that she texted me she was on the way before I jumped in the shower” she explained. “Big deal?” I said, quizzically. “Well I wanted to tell you about it over dinner, but we didn’t make it that far,” she said. “Well, let’s eat!” I said enthusiastically, walking over to the dining room table. “I want to hear all about it.” I pulled out two of the six dining table chairs, sat down and motioned for her to join me. She walked to the table, sat down and sat the folder face down next to her. We began eating and after a few moments, she began. “Okay, so you can’t share with anyone, what I’m about to tell you” she said cautiously. I nodded, crossed my fingers and placed my hand over my heart. She took a deep breath, “I just signed a seven-figure deal with an international beauty brand.” My mouth dropped open, I wasn’t expecting her to say that. “I still can’t believe it” she said excitedly. “I’ve signed a lot of big deals before, I mean I’ve signed six-figure deals before… but this is a milestone for me John, and I just really wanted to share it with you.” I squeezed her hand “Congratulations! You are truly an amazing woman, and I am so proud of you” I said, as I gazed into her eyes. “John, I feel so close to you. I’m scared by how much I trust you” she said, a slight quiver in her voice. “I feel the same way Heather. I feel like I knew you before, and I don’t even believe in that past-life stuff, but it feels like that” I confessed. She told me everything about the deal; how she negotiated an additional half-million dollars, how much commission her assistant would receive for helping her close, her plan to invest in a piece of art and her accountant’s reaction to her massive increase in her net worth. “I haven’t even told my parents, yet,” she said after drinking the last of her gingerade. After we finished eating, I cleared our plates, rinsed them and placed them in her empty dishwasher. I followed her into her bedroom and watched her slip out of her sweats and into her canopy bed draped in gauzy white curtains. Her room was just as I imagined it would be; elegant and luxurious. “John, I’m not ready to have sex yet, but I do want you to spend the night” she said, bluntly. “I want to get to know you better before I make that decision. I know we’re very attracted to each other, but I want more than a psychical attraction. I want to know your likes, dislikes, your dreams, your fears, your passions.” I sat on the edge of her bed and kissed her forehead. “Okay” I said softly, wanting the same thing. I removed my sweater, and kept my sweatpants on. I climbed into her bed, nuzzled up behind her and spooned her. We talked for hours, until the sun peaked through her white curtains. As she drifted to sleep in my arms, I decided; I would create a plant-based cream and ask HP to endorse it.