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Famous Love

By: Sambelini

Page 1, An actress being pursued by a secret admirer doesn\'t think anything of it - until he begins to harm those close to her.

"I still remember when we first met." His deep eyes gaze into mine and his smile, though half shy, is all too genuine to hide. He looks down shaking his head as if to deny how happy he is. Just to be close to me. To look into my eyes, wide and unblinking. To tell me this story. I bite my lip and look away.

"There must have been a hundred girls there, but all I remember is your dress, and your hair. Your smile. Took my breath away." He turns from looking at our hands intertwined on the table to face me again. I smile quietly.

"There it is," he says, his smile boldly reflected back.

Taking a breath, I move an inch closer. "Why didn't you tell me? How you felt?"

"I don't know, you already knew Benjamin Sully - you've probably read all about him, heard all the rumours. I just wanted you to know Ben. You know?"

As he looks up, I nod, urging him on.

"I was just afraid," he swallows hard, "that my reputation would be in the way. Not that I have a bad reputation, per se." Taking a long drink of water, he squeezes my hand. You were still with William then. But I know you felt something with me you couldn't feel with him. I remember he held you so close when you danced, like he was afraid if he let go he'd lose you. But you just looked back up at me and your eyes said it all. It was just the two of us, in that room with all those people. At that moment, there was just you and me."

Yes, I remember that. I remember dancing, Will holding me so tight, as tight as Ben holds my hand right now. But no, he's all wrong. It wasn't like that. Ben has no idea.

********************************************************************************************************************************************

I was all alone. I mean, there were hundreds of people, but I felt alone. Dressed up in a deep red cocktail dress, I rocked back and forth in my high heels standing by the wall. Will was beside me, talking to Lacey. He meant well. It's not like we came together or anything. But parties just weren't my thing. I saw a snack table in the corner and glanced back at Will to see if he would notice me leaving. But his focus was Lacey. I turned to make my way through the crowd.

But I couldn't. I was locked by a wide, boyish grin and smiling eyes.

"Wow, you look amazing," the grin said.

"Oh, thanks. I don't normally dress up," I said awkwardly and began to duck around him. This guy looked familiar, but I couldn't place his name. Would he be insulted if I asked? I felt should know this.

"You know who I am, right?"

Yes, I should certainly have known. "Oh, of course!" I said and beamed girlishly. Isn't that what they're used to? I leaned back a bit and straightened my shoulders to appear more in control of myself. That's all a party is, right? Being in control yourself? Or at least appearing to be.

"Haha, I was going to say! I thought I just heard a dismissal!" He laughed it off, but I'm sure he knew I wanted to escape. I couldn't have been that good an actress.

"Oh, no, I just really wanted some dip," I said and laughed. Yuck. I think I actually giggled. Well, I suppose it's too late now.

"Here, let me get you a drink," He offered an arm like a gentleman, but smiled over it like a child. I decided to compromise. I ignored the arm, but allowed him to lead the way to food. Still, he managed to insert his arm in mine. It made me uncomfortable. I looked back to see if Will had seen. Our eyes met for a second and I made my best "Save me!" expression. He seemed not to notice.

Actors. They always seem one way and are another.

By this time, I was wracking my brain for my captor's name. I'd need it, if anything, for the restraining order. I remember thinking that jokingly and smiling to myself at my witticism. Restraining order.

"What do you like?" He pulled me into his side to speak in my ear, as if I couldn't have heard over the din. Maybe I couldn't. But I didn't really want to.

"Actually, I don't really drink," I told him.

"So, you just came along for the company?" He smiled. I hated him. I mean, I didn't hate him personally. But really? Did this stuff really work?I hoped for his own sake that he was simply clueless.

"No, I told you I wanted some dip!" I may have shouted that. But I think I smiled to make it seem like the yelling was just for the noise. We were standing right by a speaker blasting some dance beat. I could feel it in my stomach.

Then the beat stopped and that huge room quieted. An MC took the mic and I listened intently so as to avoid any further conversation. Mainly I remember him saying, "And now lets welcome Benjamin Sully on the stage!"

At that moment Benjamin Sully leaned in and whispered in my ear, "I'll be right back." Just long enough for us to be caught in his spotlight. I turned around to see that grin and felt sick. But luckily, he had to go on stage. I forgot about the dip and ran back to Will. He just laughed at me.

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"You are... Amazing," Ben says. He looks directly in my eyes, full of sincerity. Every word he says is pure with belief. I can't even look at him because of it.

"No, really. I'm just a normal person." I risk a look at him. He has to believe that.

"No, really. You're amazing," He leans in closer to me and smiles. It's that same wide grin. It's so knowing, as if he can see right into me. Except the knowledge isn't true. He's so wrong about me, about my feelings. I really am a normal girl. I'm a kid playing pretend and getting paid for it. Maybe I'm a professional liar.

Is this my fault?

I'm looking down again. I don't remember looking away, but now I don't want to look back up. I know he's there. I can't feel his breath on my cheek.

"How is everything tonight? Shall I top up that water, Miss?"

I can't even look up to see the waiter. I'm afraid to move, to brush against Ben. I don't want to touch him, but I can't pull my hand away.

"Yes, thank you," I answer finally. I feel like somehow, those words released so much energy. I know I can do this. I breath deeply and sit up straight.

The waiter pours until the glass is full. Looking into my eyes, he asks, "Do you need any more ice?"

I breathe deeply again and glance at my hand clutched in Ben's before answering decisively. "No, thanks. I'll be fine."

Ben smiles at me again. I know he can't help it. I just don't understand why. But I need to play the part if I'm ever going to find out.

I smile back again and say, "Come on. Me?" I look up at him flirtatiously, daring him to describe just how amazing I am. It's disgusting, but I have to have him talking. If he's talking, I don't have to act as much. I just have to react. It's that simple.

"Yes, you!" He laughs and looks at me directly. "Look at you! You're stunning, smart, funny, talented. I can't think of one thing about you that isn't completely fantastic."

"Well, I snore for one," I tell him. I don't think it's true, but it just came to mind first.I'm not about to talk about my control issues, or how I refuse to eat broccoli because it can't be cut symmetrically. Those things are personal. They're real. I don't want to be me right now.

"No, honestly," he continues, "you're one of the most successful women in history, and you're not even thirty. I think you can afford to admit you're amazing."

Afford it. I can afford the psychiatric help for being a narcissist. I suppose I can "afford to admit I'm amazing". That doesn't mean I should.

"Okay, that's definitely a stretch," I say, tilting my head.

"No it's not!" he argues playfully.

"In history? You think I'm more successful than Amelia Earhart and Madame Curie? Emily Dickinson? Oprah?" I'm grasping at straws now, but what does it matter.

"Yes! Well, you're alive."

"Oprah!"

"Really?"

"Yes, really! A lot of people are alive!" I should stop. I shouldn't challenge him so much. But he should know that I'm just a normal girl.

"Fine, you're..." He can't rest on a word. Because there isn't one. No words will make me any more than a glorified puppet.

"Famous?"

"Yes, that. And just... Amazing."

Plain and simple. I am amazing because I'm amazing. Thank you, Socrates. Am I smiling? Yes, good. I thought I might have stopped for a moment.

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"Well, because you're amazing," Will told me just weeks before.

"No, really, Will. This is ridiculous." I was dead serious. He just looked dead.

"Well, he obviously doesn't know how perfectly wretched you are," Will said sarcastically but his laughter was consumed with deep, phlegmy coughs.

"Will, this is serious! Look what he did to you! Imagine if we had been dating!" He didn't reply to that. "Come on Will, what do I do? What did I do?I don't even know who this person is!"

"Do whatever the police say. And as for what you did you, you were yourself. And you're amazing, so thusly he has been amazed."

"He doesn't even know me."

"How do you know?" Will asked.

My spine went cold. That hadn't occurred to me. But then, with a little relief, I replied "But if he knew me, he would know how perfectly wretched I am."

Will laughed. It looked kind of horrific, what with the pallor of his face. It made me smile and wince at the same time.

"Will, you're my best friend and look what he's done to you. If that's from me being amazing, I'll kill myself."

He was lying on the couch in my living room and I was sitting just at the end. He was so cold, even with six blankets.

"Come here," he said and I leaned in close enough for him to embrace me. "I'm going to be alright, and you're going to be alright, and we're going to figure all of this out. But let's look at it from his side, okay? Maybe he doesn't know you that well, but it's not hard to see that you care about people. That you're fun and smart, and all that, right? Maybe he Googled you. Saw your awards, watched videos of your acceptance speeches. He probably knows which organizations you support, and that you have like a thousand adopted pets. Oh! He's probably heard you sing! Wouldn't be hard to fall in love with that, right?"

"But when you Google me you also find 'Ten Celebrities Who Shouldn't Go Without Makeup' and 'Fashion Don'ts!' and "She's done it again!' It's like a whole other person lives in those magazines anyways. Just as much of the good stuff is made up as the bad."

"I don't know, baby. But it doesn't really matter." He let out a deep breath like he was going to sleep, but it felt like he was dying.

I looked up at him slowly. "How does it not matter?"

He didn't answer. "Will, what are you talking about?"

"What?" he said. "Sorry, I fell asleep."

"You scared me." I rested my head again.

"Sorry. What was I saying?"

"You said it didn't matter."

"Don't worry about what he thinks. It's like you said: he doesn't know you. Even if he thinks he does."

I thought about that, listening to his slow breaths. Reminding myself they wouldn't stop if I stopped listening.

"You called me 'baby'," I said.

He tiredly replied,"Sorry."

"It's been a long time."

"Yeah."

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"Do you remember when he first initiated contact?"

I sat in across a paper-strewn desk from a seasoned cop. LAPD was stamped across his shoulder and his pen was at the ready.

My mouth was dry.

"Um, it was years ago. I guess... 2009? Just after we finished filming Discord."

"And he has kept consistent contact for the last four years?"

"No,he contacted me a lot at first. And then stopped for," I stopped to think, "Close to a year, I think. It started around Christmas. And then stopped in about April, and then started the next Christmas again. Or around those times."

The door burst open and a tall, thin man in a suit blurred past with a stack of files it seemed could topple him. "Sorry, I'm running a little late. I had to do some research. Agent Lou Blanchard from the FBI." He held out his hand to the officer, and then to me.

"FBI?" I started to stand up. I felt like I should, I don't know why.Whether the surprise or the level of authority, it raised me from my seat an inch or so.

"Yes, sweetheart, we've called in the FBI to help us track this guy. It's alright, it's just procedure."

I sat down firmly and took a deep breath. "Officer Jones, I trust you and I want to be helpful in putting a stop to this. But I need to know if I'm in danger."

"Actually, in order to determine whether or not you're in danger, we'll really have to determine as closely as we can what specific delusion this man has created around you." Without missing a beat, he began to describe all sorts of insignificancies which may or may not tell us this or that. "Things like if he mentions when you dye your hair right away, or if he doesn't say anything for a few days or weeks even, will tell us where he lives. Who he mentions around you, what time he most often contacts you, all of these things we need to know."

"Okay. Where do we start?" I asked as he appeared to be searching through his own papers and notes.

"Well, it sounded like you just did. You were saying he seemed to start around Christmas, which is the highest time of year for suicide rates and depression. It's likely he is reaching out to you because he feels insecure or depressed. This is consistent with his choice to remain completely anonymous, he is afraid if he tells you who he is, you won't like him. What else have you gone over?"

"Umm," it was just moments before, but I couldn't remember.

"I wrote down, 'First initiated contact 2009, after filming Discord, inconsistently kept contact, Christmas." Jones held his notepad away from his face and followed each point with his pen as he read.

"Discord, that was your first film, wasn't it?" Agent Blanchard flipped to another page of typewritten notes and read quickly, "Discord, Pink Apple, Euphony... Was this before the film was premiered?"

"Yeah, the premiere wasn't until March."

"Interesting. You were a fresh face, no one had heard of you until that film."

"So? What does that mean?"

"Well, he obviously knew you before. This is someone you met before becoming famous."

"The cast list was already released, he could have heard of me. It was a the fourth in the franchise, a lot of people were waiting for it. He knew I was an actress."

"But that's just it, even watching the cast list, you had a supporting character barely mentioned in the books, you wouldn't have stood out."

"Sweetheart, the crazy fans don't just go after an actor because they saw them on a cast list." I had forgot Officer Jones was even in the room. He spoke so slowly compared to Agent Blanchard.It seemed to comfort me. "They'll pick someone they think they have some kind of connection with. Whether it's the character or sometime they met the person or whatever, it takes more than a name on a list."

"There's something specific to you that he has interpreted as fate, or destiny, or whatever you prefer. He believes that you, and only you, can understand him, and that you are in love with him. You just don't know it yet."

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"To be honest, I was kind of scared when you asked to meet me." Ben swirls his wineglass thoughtfully. " I don't know why. I always knew we would end up together."

"Weren't you dating Sophie Grace a few months ago?" I ask casually and take a sip of my own wine. He squeezes my hand tightly again, and then starts to gently play with my fingers.

"No, not really. She didn't mean anything, it was just for show I guess. I've always loved you." He looks into my eyes softly. I look away.

"You haven't known me that long, you know," I say with a smile. As if it's a joke.

"No, I've known you forever. Our souls are matched, you know. They're a pair. I know you because I know myself."

I look at him blankly, trying to hide my confusion.

"It's like we're mirror images of each other. Not 'soul mates,' but two identical souls in different bodies. I knew it, right when I first saw you. And when you sang. I know you felt it." He keeps squeezing my hand tighter. As if clinging to my hand will stop the fantasy from fading away. But I'm not a fantasy.

"I wasn't singing to you."

He pauses for a moment. "No, you wouldn't have known to. You were singing for you, right? But don't you see, you are me. You were singing to me without realizing it."

How can I argue with him? Not that I can stop myself. I want so badly to make him realize the truth:that I'm a normal girl, not a fantasy. He needs to know, he should know. It's killing him not knowing, but he can't know. He can only squeeze tighter. So he does.

"Don't worry, Jane. I understand. It's so hard knowing who to trust and who to listen to for us, you know? But trust me. Like you trust yourself." He smiles again.

At this moment, I can barely trust myself to control my hand as I lift my glass again to my lips.Idon't dare to think about the weight of emotions bearing against me- anger, pity, confusion, and something without name. Something of a captive, crying silently for release. I can't think about it, I have to bury it. I can't let it reach the surface of my face, or I won't be able to control myself.

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"Baby, he's just being friendly!" Will laughed as I all but ran back to him in our corner of the room. Lacy was still there, but Will turned to me for a moment.

"Don't call me that. And no, he's being creepy."

I hated it when Will called me "baby". It sounded like we were dating, and we weren't. We never were, in fact, no matter what the tabloids said. He started it when we first met on set. I was eighteen. He was twenty-four.

"You're still a baby!" he said.

I softened my voice and spoke in a high register. "Well, I am eighteen. What's such a baby about that?"

He laughed, recognizing the quote. "You are eighteen, going on nineteen. Baby, it's time to think." He sang the tune of The Sound of Music's "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" through a silly smile, wildly off key.When the name stuck, I told him to stop. He said it was nothing.Maybe it's a British thing. Like Baby Spice from the Spice Girls.

But despite what I said that night at the cast party, it relieved me that Will wasn't concerned. Dating was a foreign subject to me. Now that I think about it, maybe I was a baby. I think I wanted to stay that way. Either way, it was unclear to me where the lines between "creepy" and "romantic" blurred.

"Sorry, Jane," he spat out my name like it was the most boring word in the history of time, laughing as I gave him a sideways stare. I laughed too. "I'm sure it wasn't that bad," he said.

I wasn't sure. But I trusted Will's judgment, so I decided not to worry about it. Of course, until Ben came back from his one-song set. He had written it for the soundtrack. It had the word "discordant" in it, but it just didn't fit with the lively beat or the repetitive baseline. It was just sort of "there," like that word was his ticket into to the Music Inspired by the Motion Picture category.Maybe I'm just partial to Rogers and Hammerstein.

It felt like there was no time between when I saw Ben walk off the stage and when he appeared beside me again. He seemed to be in my space, infiltrating my personal bubble. He towered over me, leaning on the wall beside. Always smiling. We were arguing about whether I wanted to dance. Somehow, I was losing. I tapped Will behind me discreetly.

"Hey, baby, it's our song," Will said putting his arms around me from behind.

I didn't know the song playing. "Oh my gosh, I can't believe it!" I smiled until I had turned to face Will directly. Rolling my eyes dramatically before smiling again was my best attempt at a silent "Thank you."

"Dance with me," he said.

I gave him a look to say, "Really Will, that's enough," but he dragged me away. Once out of Ben's earshot, I said it out loud, "Will, we really don't have to-"

"If you want him to leave you alone, then stop arguing with me," he said and pulled me into a slow dance. The song wasn't quite slow enough, but Will doesn't have any sense of rhythm anyway.

We turned slowly, his arms holding me tight against him, and my eyes drifted around the room as it passed me by. "He's still looking at me," I said.

"Don't look around," Will said.

"Why?"

"Because he'll think you don't want to be dancing with me. Just focus on me right now. Forget about him, pretend I'm the only one here."

"What if I like, stare him down? Like, 'That's right, I'd rather dance with someone else'."

"You don't have a very sassy stare, Jane. You have innocent baby eyes. If anything, he'll think you're trying to make him jealous."

"I could stick my tongue out at him," I suggested.

"Then he'll be thinking about your tongue."

"That's gross," I said before leaning my head on his shoulder.

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Ben looks at me and his tongue darts over his lips as the waiter slides a slice of cheesecake in front of him. I kind of feel like ice cream, but I ordered the creme brule.It sits before me and I take a moment to convince myself I want to eat it before grabbing the spoon.

"Anything else?" the waiter asks formally.

I look up and meet his gaze for a moment. His face seems miles away, he is so tall. And I, sitting at a low table, feel incredible small.

Ben answers dismissively, "No, that's everything."

"Thank you," I instinctively tack on.

The waiter pauses a moment before excusing himself. "There's something about that guy," Ben says when he's gone. "Like he's watching us. So weird."

"Yeah, that would be weird. I hate being watched."

"Really?"Ben looks at me with genuine surprise. "I would have thought you were used to it."

"I don't know, being in front of a camera isn't the same as someone watching me. I guess when I'm acting, I'm not me. I'm the character, right?" I try to lighten the mood by laughing. "That's why it's called an act."

He doesn't seem to agree, but he says, "I guess."

I don't really want to talk, but the silence is worse. The sound of cutlery on plates, the light chatter of other couples around us, even the light seems like a facade. Maybe it is. I'm not sure how much of this is even real, how many of those people are also acting.Maybe all of them. Wouldn't that be sad? I would like for this restaurant to be real, for the table and the light to be honest and not a set, full of props and extras. It feels...Organic. Natural. Uncorrupted. But I can't look too closely, or I might find the lies.

"So," I interject, knowing full well how awkward my segue sounds. "What's new?"

What a stupid question. I can just buy a magazine to find out what's new with Benjamin Sully.

"Nothing much," he says. "Kicked out Sophie a couple months ago. That's about it."

"Yeah, I heard about that. And then everyone was like, 'she caught him cheating'! I bet that was made up." I can talk about celebrity gossip. I like to Google myself sometimes just to see what I'm up to.

"Sort of, she said I was acting weird. So she thought I was cheating." He takes a drink. "But I wasn't."

So she left. "That's too bad. That was like March, right?"

"End of February," he corrected. "Speaking of which, congratulations."

"What? Oh, the Oscar. Thanks. It means a lot to me."

"Yeah, it's really amazing. The way you control your emotion, it's... Wow."

I wonder if he has seen every movie I've been in. The list isn't that long, but some of them flopped. Big time. I wonder if he buys my hair on the internet, or if he has tissues that I've allegedly used. What do stalkers do nowadays?Another thing I shouldn't think about.

"Yeah, that was a hard role," I tell him. "It took a lot of work to really understand the character."

"Yeah, it was super creepy! But so good," he says emphatically."Your acting, I mean. Not the character, obviously."

"Haha, of course. Thanks." I'd never played a character that wasn't good before. It was a different sort of challenge, getting inside the mind of someone you never want to become. It must be my innocent baby eyes. I never get cast for anything but a sweetheart. But sweethearts aren't particularly fascinating. Understanding someone like Abby, the character that got mean Oscar,was a real challenge. But never boring.

With cheesecake still in his mouth, he starts talking again. "It was crazy because she seemed so normal, and then she was like so evil."

"Yeah, it was really crazy."The most difficult performance of my career reduced to one word: crazy.

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For months, every time my phone made a noise my heart skipped a beat. About two months ago, I remember waiting for the fifth ring before even looking to see who was calling.

"MOM" my phone said. I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Hey mom, how's it going?"

There was silence for a second. "Sweetheart, is everything okay?"

I thought about that for a moment and decided everything was fine. I was just getting anonymous texts then. "Yeah, why?"

"Well, I was just opening the mail, and..." my mom was stumbling over words. She hated giving bad news more than receiving it. "We got some... Pictures."

"What do you mean?" I stopped whatever I was doing. I think I was making tea.

"Well, they're... Pictures! Of you. In your house."

"Who sent you pictures of me in my house?"

"We don't know! I mean, your father didn't see them. He wasn't home and I opened them and I just, I just threw them out right away."

By then I was sitting down,my kettle in my hands. "There wasn't any writing? Was there a threat or something?"

"There was a note that said, 'I was in town' or something like that. It was so weird. I didn't know what to do, so I just threw them out and called you."

"Don't worry about it, mom. You threw the pictures in the garbage?"

She paused again. "I threw them in the fireplace. They weren't... decent."

"Good. They can't get leaked."

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"Why don't you just put it away?" Will said a few weeks ago.

"He hasn't texted me in a while, it's fine," I said and continued typing quickly on my smartphone.

"I meant because we're watching a film."

Will has always been very particular about paying attention to movies. Even the credits. He wants to direct.

"I've seen it before, and I swear this is important. I'm almost done." In retrospect, I'm not so sure it was important. But I'm glad I didn't put my phone away. "Speak of the Devil."

"What?"

"That guy, he just texted me. It's weird, he hasn't all week."

"Just ignore him."

But I couldn't. I don't know why, I couldn't ignore the messages.

Why are you with him, it said.

With who?

William. I saw you and him at the restaurant today.

I looked up. "Will, he's here. Like, he's in L.A. again. He's following me."

"How do you know?"

I ignored him and typed, There were a lot of us there.

A minute went by without answer, but my eyes never left the screen until it timed out, leaving me to look at the black surface of my phone. But I could only breath half a breath before it lit up again with a list of twelve names. They were all there with us. And then, at the end, I saw him go home with you.

I didn't think, I just typed, Why are you watching me?

No reply. For minutes, my phone was silent and my heart still. I relaxed. I loved that movie. Why hadn't I been paying attention?

Moments from the end, my phone went off again. I almost didn't look.

How is he feeling?

I didn't know what that meant, but it made me feel sick. "Will, are you feeling alright?"

For once, Will didn't chastise me for talking during the movie. "Actually, my head feels like it's going to burst. I don't know what it is."

"We need to go to the hospital."

I remember sitting in the waiting room all night, and finally pulling out my phone. I typed something out carefully, and then erased it. But I had to type it again, I had to ask.

Why are you doing this?

The answer seemed to come instantly.

He just wasn't...you. Trust me.

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"I guess that's it," Ben says, sliding the cheque to the edge of the table. "Time for me to take you home."

I'm not sure if he means to my home or to his. He leans closer to me, his eyes beginning to close. His lips are cracked into a slight smile, but I can see it just beneath the surface. It's the grin. It's coming towards me and I turn my head to avoid it.

"Ben, I invited you hear because I need to tell you something."

He stops. His head cocked, he seems to listen intently. I wonder if he will hear.

"Ben, I don't know you. Or, I barely know you. I'm not who you think I am."

He shakes his head. He squeezes my hand. "No, trust me, I know you. Really, we're the same!"

"We're not the same."I hold a controlled stare directly into his eyes. "We're completely different. You don't know me."

"Yes, I do," he says matter-of-factly. "Look at us, we're the same person. We were both instantly successful, became famous when we were young. We're both musicians, we're both part German-"

"Ben, those things are who we are. Those are just part of our biographies. I'm not you. I'm not even really a musician."

"Is that what this is about? Trust me, you're an amazing musician. You have a beautiful voice."

"So I took some vocal lessons, and - you know what, it doesn't matter. But Ben, this has gone way out of control."

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"You're sure you can do this?"

I was sitting just outside the restaurant, trying to compartmentalize my thoughts and emotions. "Because we have so many other options, right?" I tried to smile like I was okay, but even I knew it was a bad act.

Agent Blanchard stooped to my eye level. It was such a distance,his long pant legs lifted to uncover the hilt of a gun. "It's okay to admit you're uncomfortable with this. You'll have to act like you understand him and play along with his delusions, I know that will be difficult. Even if we don't have any other options, you can be honest with us."

I looked away. "I live my whole life in front of millions of people. I don't like it, but it's what I've had to adapt to. But what I can't adapt to is this - living in secret, secret identities, everything hidden. I can't do it. I want my privacy, but I never want to be anonymous. Honestly -" I looked him right in the eye "-this, of all things, I am comfortable with. I can do this."

"Good. I'm sure you can." He stood up and straightened his waiter's uniform, concealing his weapon again. "You'll need to make him feel comfortable, make him know you're nota threat, and then take control of the conversation. Use his name as much as you can. Speak directly to him when you speak, but keep him talking. We should have a code word, in case you are in danger or need out."

"How about, 'I'm in danger and I need out'."

"No, it has to be conversational, like 'ice'. You just slip it into the conversation in some way - icing, ice hockey, ice cubes. Just don't use it unless something goes wrong."

"Okay. It's almost seven."

"Perfect. Just relax, we'll be listening the whole time, we're right here."

He helped me stand up and I entered this very room.

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"What do you mean?" Ben looks at me, head tilted. He really doesn't know.

"Ben, I need you to tell me something. Look at me. Ben, where is Sophie?"

He clutches my hand so tight, I can't feel my fingers. He can't look at me. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do, Ben. Where is Sophie Grace? She went to your house two days ago and she hasn't been seen since."

"Jane, you're scaring me." He looks up at me with wide eyes. He looks like a child.

I take a breath before changing tactics. "Ben, I understand. You don't want to hurt anybody. But I need to know where she is. It's okay, Ben, I understand. Just tell me where Sophie is."

His eyes seem to plead for this to be true. He stammers, and looks at the table. "I just did it because I love you. So we could be together."

My stomach twists. "I know, I know Ben. I understand. But you don't really know me, right?" I shouldn't have said this, I wasn't thinking. But it's too late now.

His brown furrows and he kicks his foot out. "No, I told you! I told you, you are ME!I know everything about you." But he can't look at me again.

"Of course, Ben. I just want to know where Sophie is. Please, so I can help her."

"She doesn't need our help!" He kicks the table away and stands up, dragging me with him.

"Ben, you're hurting me! I need to put some ice on my hand."

Before he could even shout a reply, the entire restaurant transformed. I couldn't look. I didn't want to see it had been a lie.

"Let go of Jane and tell us where Sophie is, Mr. Sully." That was Blanchard's voice. Cool and direct. He sounded more like an agent then he appeared.

"Put your guns down!" Ben yelled, over and over. I couldn't imagine why he thought they would listen.

"Benjamin, put the knife down and let Jane go, and then we'll talk."

"I'm not leaving without Jane. Put the guns DOWN."

"No, Mr. Sully. You're not leaving with her. Now put the knife down, or we will shoot you."

"It's okay." I open my eyes. "Wait, it's okay," I say again. "Let him take me."

I can hear shuffling around me as weapons are lowered, but I look only at Ben's face. "Listen, Ben. You can take me, it's okay. I want to go with you. Just tell them where Sophie is.I want to be with you, but you have to let her go."

His eye gaze deeply into mine and we are frozen in time. In this moment, no one else in the room matters. He smiles and leans his forehead against mine. "I knew you would understand."

"Yes, I understand. You can tell me, you can tell me everything."

"I didn't want to hurt her," he whispers softly in my ear. "She just wouldn't shut up, she couldn't control her mouth."

"Where is she, Ben?" I whisper back.

He puts down the knife and wraps his arms around me gently. "She's in the studio. In the sound room that doesn't work. No one goes in there. No one will hear her."

I hear what seems like a hundred guns cocked as I look away from his eyes. My face is hot and my knees are weak. I realize I'm tired.

As a police officer cuffs Ben's hands, he asks, "What's he doing here?"

When I can look around me again, all I see is Will. Still pale, still weak, but standing by the door waiting for me. He holds me as close as his tired arms will allow as I let go control of my emotions. There are no words, but this feels like honesty.

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