Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.
And now, PART 8 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story.):
Charli, looking almost as flustered as I felt, checked her watch. “Oh my goodness! Me too!”
What’s your gate? I’m at H-10 in Terminal 3.” In our geocaching fun, we had somehow meandered to Terminal 5 where all the international flights arrived and departed. Typical Charli to go exotic on me.
Charli tapped on her phone bringing up a digital image of her boarding barcode. She always was a smarty-pants. I still hadn’t developed enough trust to abandon paper boarding passes.
“I’m flying out of gate K-11, also in Terminal 3. I guess we better get a move on.” She tacked on a smile full of beautiful white teeth surrounded by a pair of lush red lips.
A primitive urge rose up and began stirring my hormone pot. I would be having some vivid dreams tonight. But now was not the time. I motioned for her to precede me out of the bookstore’s narrow aisle and out into the concourse. My eyes drifted to the pert ass swaying with every step she took in her heels. With a pang of regret, I abandoned the view and moved to walk beside her.
We chatted about the weather and how long before we thought our flights would de-ice. We took bets on the number of times we would have to be de-iced before taking off. When the unspoken regret of parting ways began to weigh heavy, Charli piped in with a change of subject: “So how’s Renata doing? Is everything okay with her.”
Had she read my mind and plucked out the one topic I dreaded discussing but couldn’t avoid?
“I mean, I emailed her several times but never heard back from her. All my calls went to her voicemail and she never returned them. I finally gave up.”
“How long ago was this?”
Charli shot me sidelong glance, full of tentative delicacy, like she wanted to ask so much more but tiptoed through a landmine field. I wondered how much she already knew.
“About a year ago. I finally gave up. Duncan said you guys hadn’t been in touch in awhile either so he had no idea.”
I steered her to the side and out of the flow of human traffic. “Listen. There’s no right way to tell you this other than to just state it flat out. Renata’s dead, Charli.” How I managed to convey the news and keep a hitch out of my voice, I had no idea.
Charli’s hand flew to her chest. “What! Oh my God! When did this happen?”
I gave up the last breath holding my secrets in check. “She started dying about a year and a half ago.”
“Started dying?” She gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. “Was it cancer?”
“Of a sort. You knew she tried to make a career in Hollywood, right?” I hoped Charli knew at least some of the preamble, because the less I had to rehash, the better.
“She mentioned wanting to be an actress, many times, of course she did. What happened?”
I scraped my hand over my face. “She moved to L.A., had some minor success at first, but it wasn’t enough. She sank into a depression and turned to… self-medication—”
“What? Like drugs?”
Drugs, sex, cutting. I tried to get her to get some help, but the people she hung out with … they kept dragging her back down.”
“Oh, how awful. I wish I’d known,” Charli said softly. “How did she die?”
“A drug overdose, a lethal mixture.” I left out that Renata had been doing porn for her drugs. I found all that out later. The filmmakers kept her stoned, cultivated her habit. It would be a mercy to Charli and to Renata’s memory to keep that part of her life locked away. Charli also didn’t need the details of how my little sister danced on the boundary between life and death for nearly two weeks before I made the difficult decision to remove her from life support and watch her die. “I’m just so sick of Hollywood, of the entertainment industry, of film and television, of the leeches who prey off on girls like my sister.”
Charli pulled me into an embrace. “I’m so sorry, Cal. That’s why you decided to move back to New York?”
Died? Overdose? The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t believe Renata got caught up in such a horrific downward spiral. She was a couple of years younger than me, but we became pretty close in high school.
“I wished I had done a better job at staying in touch with her. Maybe I could’ve helped in some way,” I said quietly.
“I doubt you could’ve done anything.”
“Damn. Too many girls who fall into that trap; it’s easy to get caught up in the glamour.”
He glared at me. “Glamour? Shit, Charli. Watching Renata destroy herself and waste away to nothing was not my idea of glamour.”
“That’s not what I meant. Look, I’m in the entertainment business, too. I know what goes on—how young girls are forced to starve and quickly drop weight to get a job on camera. I know it too well. I’ve been told if I have any chance in getting on camera for our magazine’s cable TV channel I’d need to lose twenty pounds. I tried too. Unsuccessfully, obviously.” I snorted and rubbed my hips.
His eyes softened. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Renata’s death is still really raw for me. She was perfect the way she was, and,” he cupped my cheek, “you are too.” His husky voice dug through me and my eyes flicked to his.
Attention. Flight 1097 to Aspen will board in ten minutes.
Want more? Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 9!