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Anders rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Maxine was knocking on his door, looking in all ways like her night had been anything but silent.  "I thought you'd find your way here."  


“Humbug.” Maxine crossed her arms. "Maxine, the stupid production assistant." 


"After you disappeared from the party everybody got kind of worried.  So what happened to you? Where'd you go?" 


She dawdled, sticking her hands in her pockets, examining the posters on the walls. Great, she thought. Merry Christmas. Made everyone's life just a little more hellish. Not too bad for one Friday night. "You up for a drive?"  


Anders ran his hand through his sandy blonde hair. "One of those nights, eh?" 


"You wouldn't believe it." 


"Try me," Anders said, winking. "But sure, I'm up for a drive." He grabbed either side of her head and shook it gently. "But are you?" 


Maxine paused. "I'm pretty okay. I'm fine to drive. I think it might help clear my head." She flipped a few stray curls out of her face. "And I'll tell you what happened, if you really feel like being burdened." 


"Deal." Then he stepped back, trying to appear comforting. "Look, whatever happened, it can't be as bad as all that. You've got me behind you, remember that." 


Maxine gave a weak smile, pulling her car keys from her pocket. Fortunately for Maxine, she glanced out the window. She gave a little scream as she recognized Byron.  Maxine clasped her hands to her head. "It's him!" 


Anders wrinkled his brow, tilting his sunglasses. "Who?" 


"Never mind." Of all the things she needed right then, to be so directly confronted with the previous night was the least of them. What did Byron want? 


"I'm lost," Anders declared. 


"I told you I'd explain everything." 


"Why are you running from Byron?  I thought women were supposed to run to him." 


"Now look you, don't you go getting all squirrely on me," Anders said, shaking his finger at Maxine. "Don't you go equating sex and guilt and shame! If you start it, then there's no hope for any of us." 


"I'm not," she answered loudly, tightening her grip on the steering wheel. They were coming north along I-26, just before the junction with I-95. Maxine had easily been able to keep the Trax at 87 miles an hour since getting out of Charleston, and she was feeling much better. 


"Anders, I'm not ashamed of what happened. Shame has nothing to do with it. I've messed up too many times to be ashamed anymore." 


"Then how do you feel?" 


"I just feel a little stupid. I mean, if he had come up to me and said, ‘Hello, I'd like to get you in bed’, and I had said, ‘I'd like to get in your bed too’, and if that was all there had been to it, I wouldn't be bothered." 


"So what's the frenzy?" Anders asked, lowering his sunglasses. "I don't think I'm clear on this." 


Maxine sighed. "A good bonk put into the context of making love is disconcerting," she said, and Anders regarded her strangely. "Come on, you know what I mean. All the delicacy and the tenderness and the chivalry--that's not what a quickie is all about." 


"Doesn't sound like you had a quickie." 


"I didn't." Maxine grumbled. "Damnit, Anders, I'm not putting any of this well." 


Anders pointed ahead. "Any interest in a Waffle House? Maybe some grits and coffee will help you explain a little better." 


Maxine realized she hadn't eaten since the previous afternoon. That, and the exit provided a good spot to turn around. If she felt like going back. "Yeah, I could use some grease," she said, moving the Trax onto the exit. 




Maxine found the Waffle House comfortingly crowded as the waitress led her and Anders to a small booth. They both ordered coffees, Maxine requesting decaffeinated, and grits, Maxine asking for no butter. The waitress looked at her strangely, but jotted down her request.  


The waitress returned, pouring their coffee. "More about Byron, please. So far I know that he loves you and that you slept with him." 


"No, he said he loves me. That's not the same." 


Anders waved his hand in dismissal. "Whatever. It's pretty obvious to me that you're real special to him. It's in his eyes, babe. I believe he could dig you that deeply without any problem." 


"Byron gets lots of girls, I'm sure. Don't all these hunks have some kind of quota to fill? I was just another stat." 


"Byron is not your average stud muffin," Anders said, dripping syrup over his grits. "I don't think he collects women--he's way too sensitive. It would kill him. I think he's a one-woman man in his heart. I don't think he's the kind of guy to lure a girl back to his pad with some nice words, and then skip out on her, know what I mean?" Maxine stared down into her black coffee, dismally. "Yeah, sure, he's a celeb. So what? He's no different from you or me. We all bleed when cut." 


"It sucks because we were really good friends. And then I fall for the 'I love you' line, and that's all over." 


"If it's all over, then he wasn't much of a friend to begin with, was he?" 


"That's true." 


“Byron is a good guy. We all know that. I just cannot imagine that he would pull the stud one-nighter hell gag on you. And especially not on you!" 


Begrudgingly, Maxine nodded in agreement. "What about his fiancee?" she demanded. "Am I supposed to be her replacement? How do I fare as a little, red, decrepit caboose to that sleek silver bullet?" 


Anders giggled. "You underrate yourself, Maxine. You're no caboose. You've got the goods, and you don't even know it." He looked at her with a lopsided grin. "There's not one male in this entire project that doesn't think you're gorgeous, me included. But you knew that." 


"Well, there was Adam, and then a couple of guys have asked me out, but--" 


"But nothing! Samantha's a fake. I bet there's not one natural piece left on her entire body." 


Giggling, Maxine dripped some coffee out of her mouth. "I don't know," she said, wiping her mouth off, still giggling. "She does pour pancake batter on her face every morning, though." 


Anders catapulted empty sugar packets with his spoon. "I guarantee you that most guys would rather be with a real Maxine than a fake Samantha. And Byron is definitely one of us most guys. You are the winner in that beauty battle." 


"Doesn't change the fact that Byron is engaged to her," Maxine pointed out. 


Anders reached across the table and tapped Maxine in her head. "Are you home? That whole engagement thing's just a joke of some sort. Byron and Samantha don't even like each other. You should know that." 


"Then why did he get engaged to her in the first place?" Maxine wondered. "Anders, why make the commitment? I don't get it." 


Anders shrugged. "Gotta be that Hollywood thing. Media blitz to push the most handsome actor and the prettiest cover girl into a couple. Totally fabricated, good for their careers, and who cares if they hate each other?" 


Maxine shook her head, exhaling. "One of the reasons that I applied for this stint," she said, stirring sugar into her grits, "was that I wanted to get a glimpse into the Hollywood mind, you know? How do they think differently from the rest of us, and why." She sipped her coffee. "Now I've had a nice intimate sampling, and I still have no clue." 


"But having someone tell you they're in love with you is a pretty heavy duty thing," Anders mused. "Even in Hollywood." 


Maxine shrugged, waving her hand dismissively. "That embarrasses the crap out of me," she said. "I feel like I walked right into a role." 


Anders looked her straight in the eyes. "Do you love Byron?" 


"What difference does it make?" 


"Lots. Do you love Byron?" 


She rolled her eyes. "That's a silly question, Anders." 


"Well, do you?" 


"Anders! Maxine twisted her mouth. "I hate this love business. Love makes me nervous." 


"Makes us all nervous. That's why we do it. All part of the fun of the merry go round." 


"There's no merry go round here, Anders. Let's outline this," she said. "Byron is engaged to Samantha. Byron tells me he loves me. I stupidly spend the night with Byron. Next I get told it was fun but Samantha is his fiancee. End of story." 


Anders shook his palms at Maxine. "You're missing the connectors. Byron hates Samantha, Byron is stuck in a media trap. You, Maxine, are not a media trap. Byron is in love with you, so you guys do the natural thing folks in love do. And Samantha gets squeezed out of the picture forever. The end of the story is that Byron loves you for real, and that is what you have over Samantha, by far." 


Maxine leaned her head on her fist, pondering. "So you think he was serious, is what you're saying?" 


Drinking his coffee, Anders shrugged. "The guy's been gaga for you since day one, I know that much. Doubt there's anybody on the project who doesn't know that." 


"And now he hates me because I ducked out on him." 


"You're indulging in silliness," Anders insisted. "I think he'll understand why you bolted, if you explain it to him.” 


"Okay, so let's say that Byron and I are," she cleared her throat, "in love. What happens next?" 


Anders chewed on his spoon. "Enjoy life on the naughty list!” 

December 24, 2019 01:07

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1 comment

Yoomi Ari
22:49 Jan 01, 2020

The title of the story sells everything! Especially how you linked it at the end. Well done and this is hard evidence that you’re a very good writer. You’ve got the brains🧠 So keep on writing!👏🏻


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