There were more like her? I stifled a grin.
Her offer of friendship made me waver, but I shook my head and mumbled a stupid excuse. Hanging out with her wouldn’t change the fact that I couldn’t have friends. It was dangerous to care for people. Something would happen to her. She’d die. Or she’d decide I was too much effort. Too strange. I didn’t need anybody. I was better alone.
She gave me a disappointed smile, hopped in her little white Mercedes and drove out of my life.
Or so I thought.
“I was sorrow with skin.”
—from the journal of Violet St. Lyons
A FEW DAYS later, I went for my daily run around seven in the morning.
I looped past his house as usual, noting the gray Hummer and the vintage Mustang in the circle drive. I saw something new: a white Mercedes parked to the side and facing the road, giving me a clear view of the front-end. Surrounded by pink rhinestones, Mila was stamped on the nameplate.
Whoa. I came to a stop at the bottom of their drive. What was she doing here this early in the morning? Of course, the implication was she’d slept over.
That thought made my stomach drop.
Was she seeing my guy?
My guy? I laughed out loud at my idiocy. I’d never even met him.
Part of me—the ballsy side—wanted to knock on his door, see what Blond Guy looked like close up, see if he was hooking up with Mila. Yup, crazy.
My feet had ideas too, and I took a step toward the door … and another … and then stopped.
I couldn’t just show up at his door like we knew each other. Right?
Hey, how are you? I’m the girl next door. You spy on me? I gave you the finger?
Yet, I couldn’t deny that he fascinated me, that the night I’d played for him it had felt as if a gossamer thread connected us, his house to mine, his eyes to my body.
I stood there, wavering. Don’t be a chicken. Just go knock on the door.
Then what? Chew him out for spying? Ask him over for dinner?
Someone inside the house walked past a window, and my bravado disappeared.
I spun around and ran. Stupid, stupid, stupid. No way was I ever knocking on his door.
About a mile down the street, I stopped at Mr. Wilson’s gate, where he stood messing with his rose bushes. He’d lost his wife to cancer about a year ago, and we’d actually met at a local grief meeting. It wasn’t until later we realized we were neighbors. In his sixties, he claimed to be a simple man, but I knew at one point he’d been a Hollywood bigwig, some kind of movie studio head. Ha. At one point, I’d been on the cusp of a great music career. We had a lot in common.
He set down his shears, wiped his face and came out to the road to greet me. It was our thing, and I looked forward to talking to him. He reminded me of my dad.
I leaned over my knees to get my breath while he talked about pruning.
“You meet the new neighbors in my cove that moved in a few weeks ago?” I asked him a bit later. He was the head of the Homeowners’ Association, so if anyone had info, Wilson would. I whistled and walked around his roses, like my asking wasn’t completely out of the ordinary for me.
“Sure did. I stopped by the week they moved in. One’s got blue hair; an English fellow. Cusses a lot. The other one, a tall guy, seems like the responsible one.”
I grinned. I’d come to the right place.
“Who are they? Actors? Models? Directors? Mental institution escapees?”
He gave me a pointed look, a glint in his eyes as if he were trying to suss me out. “Why do you care so much about the new people? In fact, I’ve sent you several invites to our monthly pool party mixer and you’ve never responded. You’re practically a hermit.”
“Just curious. They are my nearest neighbors, and I’d hate to bother them if my music was too loud. I play my violin outdoors, which was fine when no one lived there, but now that someone’s there …” I trailed off and shrugged. Obviously, I was digging a hole.
He cocked an eye at me.
I groaned. “Okay, fine, you got me. The blond guy is interesting. He laughs a lot, plays a guitar, and takes midnight swims if you must know. He’s got nice pecs, too, not that you care to hear it. Anyway, I’ve never seen a girl at his house—but this morning there was a white car parked in his drive with Mila on the front tag. I’m guessing this means he has a girlfriend—not that I’m interested.”
“Uh-huh. You thinking of opening a detective agency?” He might have been laughing at me.
I crossed my arms and fake glared at him. He grinned.
“Forget the car thing. Did you get a name? An occupation? Is he dating some chick who wears pink and looks a lot like Charlotte from Sex in the City?” I bit my lips to stop the madness.
He guffawed, looking pleased. “You have a crush,” he teased.
I felt my face redden. Did I? It had been a long time since I’d been genuinely interested in the opposite sex. Not since Geoff.
“Why don’t you bake them some cookies? See what happens,” he said.
“I can’t cook. All I have are Oreos.”
“Then just show up. Smile. Make some new friends, V. I worry about you being alone all the time.”
He was the only one who knew the truth of who I was. In fact, he’d met and worked with my parents on a charity benefit for the Metropolitan Museum in New York several years ago. Somehow out of all the people in LA, I’d ended up being friends with someone who’d had contact with my parents. Here’s the thing, it had felt like fate, and perhaps that was why I was easy with him. Hanging on to the shreds of my past.