“So you and your sister came onto the scene together, then she wound up striking it big as a solo act? You ever get bitter about that?”
“Am I bitter? Depends who you ask; everyone else thinks I’ve got to be resentful of how things turned out. There was a time, once, when I wished I’d gotten famous too. I had just twenty and thought the world owed me, well… the world sandwiched between a golden ribbon and a silver platter. But my sister is a superstar. Meanwhile, little me didn’t get famous and I never had anyone to blame but myself for that. I do like how things turned out now.”
“You and your sister ever fight?”
“Yeah, I guess we fight like everyone does. There was a huge blow once. It was over a man, of course. Of all the important issues in the world, I nearly blow up my life over some guy.”
“Which one had him first?”
“She did, but I had that worked past in my head by the time it really got going. She was on every magazine cover, a face just like mine but barely recognizable, you know? I figured she could have her fame if I could have my man.”
“Who’d he pick?’
“Who’d he pick? Please. I was young and eager to please; she was famous and madly in love. Let me tell you something, sweetheart; if you tell a man he can choose between steak or fries, he’ll be on the first flight to France to order un steak-frites. I learned that while I was traveling the world on Jessie’s dime.”
“Jessie- that your sister?”
“No, her boyfriend. He started chasing after me, and I let him. He told me I was the one true love of his life. He told Hope the same thing, right in front of my face. Long story, short, Hope and I fought and feuded. Jessie used us both and now he’s gone. We haven’t fought since then; nothing major, anyway.”
“Hope start seeing anyone after Jessie?” he inquires, feigning casualty.
“Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“Let me level with you, alright, Grace? I’m a private investigator.”
“You must be a pretty bad one.”
“You must have pretty bad manners.”
“Hope’s better at dealing with people.”
“This is about you, Grace.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
“Not from me you haven’t.”
He moves closer to me and says my name again. I know I would laugh at movie scene where something like this plays out, but I can’t help it when my heart dances to a kick drum, faster. Grace. Faster. Grace. Faster.
I don’t trust tall people, low voices. It’s a combination that produces the unbreakable path of destruction I’ve wound up on before. I don’t trust dress shoes, sharp creases in a place like this. But Italian looks good enough on him to say he’s got friends in finery’s highest places.
“Can I get you a drink? I’ve got water, juice, tea, coffee, whatever…” I croak out weakly.
“I’m not thirsty,” he tells me cooly.
“Alright.” I turn towards the kitchen anyway. I’ve traveled enough to know the only place I want to be is where Hope is now and the difference between tears and rain (none). But I don’t know enough to keep my head straight when I’m dealing with someone who could hurt me in more way than one.
“Actually,” he muses a moment later, “I should just get going. I’ll see you soon, Grace.”
I pick up my phone after the door clips his ankle.
“Paris Dallas,” I demand of the assistant who answers. It’s several minutes before I hear another peep.
“Paris Dallas speaking,” the sweet chirp declares.
“Hope, it’s me. Cut it out.”
“What did I tell you about calling me by that name while I’m doing promo?” She’s already annoyed of course.
“That your baby sister calls you whatever she wants, whenever.”
“And…” she prompts.
“Now that I think of it…” I tease her.
“Now that you think of it…” Hope always bites my bait.
“You said I didn’t have to get why you insist on that stage name.”
“Where is Paris Dallas right now?”
“Tokyo. That’s where I’m supposed to be, at least.”
“Do I want to know?”
“I’ll see you soon, Grace.” She hangs up, like usual. But less typically, she keeps to her word. She sits in my apartment a few sunrises later.
“You know, Grace, I talked to a PI; he kept asking questions about you and me.”
“And Jessie? Did he want to know what happened?”
“Every dirty detail. You too, huh?”
“We’re halves of a whole remember?”
“Not as much as we used to be.”
“Thankfully,” we remind each other.