It was a chance encounter, one he never would have realistically expected. Dreamed about, sure, and he had on several occasions, usually for just a few moments after watching one of her films. They were little more than casual daydreams, really, and not the sort of crudities he would often hear the other guys spouting to each other. No, his were of the simple, boyishly charming variety – boy meets girl, boy smiles at girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy rides with the girl off into the sunset. Overly romantic and old-fashioned, maybe, but he’d seen the way most other guys looked at women, and he was disgusted at the way the majority of his own gender thought of women as little more than sexual playthings. There was so little room these days for seeing women with the respect and honor they deserved. It almost made him ashamed to be male.
Unfortunately, those Hollywood types weren’t much better. Here were high-profile people, living in the spotlight everyday, the details of their lives laid out there for everyone to examine, and they couldn’t manage to keep themselves out of trouble. Hollywood marriages were a joke, a farce to justify their indiscrimant sexual proclivities, and everyone but the celebrities themselves seemed to know it. Or if they did know it, they didn’t seem to care. Another wedding would be announced in the tabloids, and everywhere people were putting money down on how long _this_ one would last.
It made him sad to think about it, imagining some guy telling her that he loved her and convincing her to marry him, when he would probably only end up divorcing her later to move on to the next young thing that attracted his eye. And maybe he really _would_ love her to start with, or at least convince himself that he did, but it made him angry to think of her being treated with such casual disregard by so many of these men who noticed and lusted after her.
The probability of falling in love with and marrying someone with whom you work or associate closely on a regular basis is high – higher, even, in the case of those who grace the silver screen, since many roles involve some sort of romantic involvement with the movie’s characters. Somehow, that false, on-screen romance ends up translating into some sort of fanciful assurance of what real-life romance between the actors will be like. Only thing is, once the intial glow wears off, too many of them realize how much they dislike their spouses or prefer someone else over the one they supposedly made a lifelong promise to, and another Hollywood marriage disolves into bitter words and harsh accusations.
That was the reality of show business, he supposed. Too bad he would never get the chance to show her what it would be like to be loved by someone who would actually take care of her and look out for her best interests, even above his own. He was a sucker for those who needed protection, and somehow he thought maybe she was a woman with such a need. He wouldn’t treat her as just some possession to satisfy a physical need. No, he would look out for her, take care of her, and protect her from the kind of people who would seek to take advantage of her. She was beyond reach, though, outclassing him by far. He would never be able to demonstrate to her what true, self-sacrificial love looked like, to prove to her, to himself, to everyone else that there are actually men out there who know how to take care of the women they love with the tenderness and love they deserve.
The line in the little coffee shop he frequented had reached the counter by this time, and he absent-mindedly ordered his usual cuppajoe. He chided himself for getting lost so completely in his peurile heartache, but for some reason today he he just couldn’t leave it alone. So, when he turned away from the counter to search for a table, preferably near a window where he could set up his laptop and work, he was startled when he bumped his shoulder into someone, sloshing his coffee onto the floor and burning his fingers. He mumbled an apology, and it was only after he had grabbed some napkins and set his coffee down that he had a chance to notice who it was he had carelessly caromed off of.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” he stammered. Had it been just anyone else, that would have been the end of it – an apology and move on – but this _wasn’t_ just anyone. It was _her_, and suddenly he felt his knees go weak. She was hunched down, already mopping her own spilled coffee up from the floor. He just stood there, gaping, for a moment. It took a couple of very deliberate blinks just to make sure that he hadn’t somehow gotten so lost in his thoughts that they had taken on a life of their own.
“It’s no problem,” she replied without looking up. “It was my fault for standing so close.” His face flushed with embarrassment, and he shook himself out of his trance. Grabbing some more napkins, he bent down and started helping her clean up.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” she said.
“Sure, I do. If I hadn’t bumped into you, you wouldn’t have dropped your coffee on the floor,” he explained. “Let me buy you another cup.” She looked up at him then, smiling, and he almost melted onto the floor right there. She was even more beautiful in person than on the silver screen, and he felt like his tongue was suddenly tied in knots.
“Thank you; that’s very kind of you.” He just nodded, desperate for a diversion to cover up the fact that he was too flustered to speak. He didn’t trust his voice to not give away his emotions. His face burned, and he imagined that his cheeks were so red that she had already surmised his infatuation. He was pleased, though, that his voice sounded even and controlled when he ordered her a replacement coffee.
When he turned back, he found that she was standing just behind him, and he felt those butterflies twirl through his stomach again. One of the store employees had located a mop and was cleaning up the rest of the spilled coffee.
He handed her the coffee. “Here you go. I’m really sorry about making you drop your coffee.”
“Not a problem. Really. At least you didn’t get any on your clothes.” That smile again. It almost made him giddy to see it.
He chuckled, somewhat nervously. “Yeah, but I don’t think my poor fingers will ever be the same.” He shook his hand dramatically, even though the pain from the hot coffee had already mostly faded away.
She raised her cup to him slightly. “Well, thanks again for the refill.”
He shrugged. “Least I could do.” He turned and started to walk away when he felt a hand on his elbow. He turned his head to see her looking up at him, a wry smile on her face.
“Would you care to join me?” She motioned to a small corner table lit by the warm morning sunlight. “I’d love some company, and you seem the gentlemanly sort.”
He grinned sheepishly. “I’d love to.”