I cracked open a beer, waiting for a reply. I tuned into a new Spotify station on my phone that Matthew had sent me—it was chock full of rising new bands he said I’d love. I leaned back against the counter, took a long pull, enjoying the fizz of the cold drink. I closed my eyes, listening to the music and hoping for a reply.
Everything I’d said to her was true.
After two songs, I checked my phone.
But she never wrote back that night.
Weather: 70 degrees, Sunny
Habit is a hard thing to break, and I had no plans of stopping my check-my-phone-the-second-my-eyelids-flutter-open routine. Which meant I’d already protected myself from temptation. With last night’s unfinished—deliberately so—text exchange tucked safely into a folder on my mobile phone so I would never touch it again, William was washed clear from my brain.
Safe and sound from his far-too-alluring texts, I opened my email the next morning.
I was greeted by a photo of a trim and slender Nick Ballast, an actor on The Weekenders. The picture was courtesy of my father, who’d forwarded an email alert from the home page of The Strip before he’d left for work.
Look who’s being photographed with his personal trainer! xo Dad
In this photo, Nick was out for an early morning run on the trails with his personal trainer who he’d hired when he slimmed down after a stint at fat camp.
I zoomed in on the photo. Nick seemed to be looking straight ahead and appeared to be chatting with his goateed companion, but as I studied Nick, I could tell he was cheating a bit to the side. He must have known the photog had been there, had probably even tipped off the shooter. Ballast wanted this shot in the magazines and online. He wanted the world to know he was in fantastic shape. I couldn’t fault him. I’d want the same thing, too, if I were him, and to be honest, I was glad for him.
Ballast was a former child star who’d played an adorable batboy more than a decade ago in a sports movie, but when he hit high school, he turned into a chubby teenager who’d lost part after part due to his ever-expanding waistline by a mere age seventeen.
About a year ago, he’d been spotted eating a Twinkie and guzzling a Slurpie in Century City, a bit of flesh poking over his belt. The picture was dubbed Nick Balloons! and it made the cover of many tabloids. That wasn’t my shot. But I did score a scoop on what happened next. After that very public testament to his largesse, he started hiding his food. I’d gotten a tip that he was a notorious car eater, and I supposed I should have felt sympathy—or better yet, empathy—that he didn’t want to eat in public, but I also sniffed opportunity. Besides, someone was going to catch him on camera sooner or later—that’s an immutable law of Hollywood—and it might as well have been me.
I staked him out, and snagged a shot of him gobbling up an entire key lime pie inside his black BMW while parked under a tree on the side of the road. Next, he was seen scarfing on tubs of ice cream, a box of cupcakes, and a bag of chocolate chip muffins, all my shots, too, before he finally admitted that food had gotten the better of him.
He checked himself into Waterfall Spa, and three months later checked himself out, a tanned, trimmed, toned, and revitalized specimen of movie star primed for a comeback. He admitted his problem with food on the talk show circuit and spoke openly about his issues.
“I struggled, Sandy,” he said to the talk show host. “It’s not easy in this town. I was sixteen years old and having food delivered to me from those calorie-counting services so I could stay in shape, and it was seriously hard. I couldn’t take it anymore, but rather than get a healthy grip on things, I let myself go all the way the other direction. I ballooned up. Those pictures in the tabloids were a wake-up call,” he admitted to Sandy. She nodded, patted his knee, and told him he was a talent at any size.
“Thank you. But I feel better now. I feel good about myself. I feel like I can have a healthy relationship with food, and hey, that’s not a bad thing, is it?”
As he said those words to Sandy, I’d wondered if I had a healthy relationship with food or if I was one key lime pie away from snapping. But I’d reasoned I was safe since I didn’t care for key lime pie. As for Nick, whatever he was doing now was working. He landed the role as the new sixth student in The Weekenders and was exercising in advance of the shoot that began in a few weeks. It was a plum role, and he’d vied with many other actors for that sixth slot, including the bleached blond with the broody brown eyes, Jenner Davies, who’d battled aliens in his last picture, then warred with front desk employees in a bout of life imitating art. Earlier this year, he’d punched a front desk clerk while on a press junket for the alien flick, and was caught on video, including the moment when he flexed his biceps in the lobby afterward, preening like a mixed martial arts fighter as the clerk’s cracked lip bled.