Escape to the Riviera
by Jules Wake
They shuffled into their seats and sat down in the semi-darkness. The ads had already started but the audience, blasé and indifferent to the stylish mini-films, paid no attention. Jade’s phone glowed as she scrolled through pages on the internet, reminding Carrie to switch hers off. Next to her, Alan did the same.
‘Richard Maddox,’ announced Jade, showing her phone to her mother.
Carrie heard Angela’s quick, sharp gasp.
Her stomach flipped. In the dark she saw the light from the phone reflected in Angela’s wide-eyed expression.
Angela grabbed her arm on the rest between them.
‘He’s Mr Delicious Arse,’ explained Jade, leaning over her mother to show Carrie a picture of Richard Maddox’s naked backside.
All the air whooshed out of Carrie’s lungs and someone had removed the bones in her legs. Thank goodness for Angela’s grip on her arm, otherwise she might have slipped out of her seat like a slick of jelly, sliding right out under the seat in front of her all the way to the bottom.
‘It’s a You Tube vid. Him buck naked on a beach in California. All you can see is his butt.’
An image of a tiny heart-shaped mole wormed like a determined maggot into Carrie’s head and no matter how hard she blinked, she couldn’t dispel it.
‘Not the meat and two veg, thank you. That would just be vile. Don’t look Al.’ Jade waved the phone at him.
‘Thanks Jade, I won’t.’
A sudden burst of music, ebbing from left to right of the cinema in a cacophonous wave, silenced the chatter and Jade snapped her phone off.
Angela’s hand crept into hers with a limp grip. Carrie clung on to it, her heart leaping about in her chest like a bucking bronco on acid. Her stupid brain insisted on replaying an image of a finger tracing that blinking mole, the tip of her index fingernail a perfect fit for each side of the heart which nestled on the top left side of a right buttock. She squirmed slightly in her seat and stiffened when she realised what she was doing.
‘You OK?’ whispered Angela.
In the darkness Carrie shook her head unable to speak. A sense of dread and anticipation rolled around her stomach. She sat straighter. It seemed a miracle she could keep her body still when inside it felt like someone had switched on a blender.
It was bound to happen one day. A miracle that she’d managed this long. Richard Maddox starred in one block-buster after another.
Sickness and curiosity warred. It had been a long time. She’d been good. Not stalking him. Not Googling. Managing to avert her gaze from the front of Hello magazine at the checkout in Marks and Spencer, training herself not to flinch when someone in the staff room talked about his latest movie or when his name was linked with yet another blonde bombshell of dubious intelligence. OK, that was her being a bitch. They might be very intelligent, but couldn’t they give everyone else a break and not be completely gorgeous as well?
Maybe she’d built it all up in her head and seeing him on screen wouldn’t affect her at all. She hadn’t seen him for years. Eight years, ten months, give or take a day or two. And she only knew that because it was May bank holiday and he’d left on July 1st. No other reason.
Why the hell hadn’t she done this before? Put her demon to rest? Except he wasn’t a demon. Or even a bad person. Just someone from her past. She should have done this ages ago.
She squeezed Angela’s hand back to show she was fine. Absolutely fine.
Carrie approved of the sassy character of the female lead, a willowy blonde, who kept the hero on his toes. The well-written screenplay had lots going for it. Entertaining. Good snappy dialogue. Gorgeous location. New York without the traffic, the noise or the humidity. She liked the conflicts that kept him and the heroine apart, and the will-they-ever-get -together moment, where he cast a wistful backward look at her sitting alone on the Highline. Carrie was doing really, really well. Focusing on the film. The mechanics of it. Stoic and impassive. She was doing well, right up to the point when on the Staten Island Ferry, Richard Maddox’s character removed the suitcase from the heroine’s hand, turned her to him, cupped her face in his hands, pushing her long windswept curls out of the way, and leaned in. The camera honed in on the wistful longing expression on his face, his lips centre screen as he uttered the words, ‘I love you,’ before leaning in to bestow a kiss of heart-rending intensity.
He might as well have punched her right in the gut. She almost doubled over with the impact.
A flush of heat raced through her as memories loosened, tumbling out like an avalanche. The way he’d lazily snake one of her curls around his finger when they were lying in bed in the mornings. His eyes holding hers when he kissed her, the quick nibbles at the corner of her mouth, those spontaneous public pecks on the tube as if he couldn’t hold them back and the long slow languorous preludes to love-making. A myriad of kisses danced in her head.
The pain sliced hard and sharp, like a crack suddenly tearing its way through her heart. She tensed, her diaphragm clenching as she fought to hold in a shuddering sob, which threatened to launch itself into orbit.
Mindful of Alan on her right and Angela on her left, she swallowed hard. She clamped her lips in a mutinous line, wrapped her arms around her chest and shut her eyes praying that these precautions would succeed in repelling the emotion fighting to leak out. Tears streamed down her cheek, gathering speed and a single hiccoughing sob escaped.
Al slipped an arm along the back of her chair. ‘You big softie,’ he whispered.
Blinking back the tears, feeling all kinds of fool, she ducked her head to scrabble around in her bag at her feet to find a tissue. It gave her time to take her attention away from the screen and to get a grip.
‘Aw, Auntie Carrie’s been crying,’ teased Jade as they filed out of the cinema, blinking as they emerged into daylight. ‘You big wuss, you.’
‘She’s an old romantic, aren’t you love?’ Alan shrugged into his jacket as they stepped out into the early evening drizzle.
‘It was a lovely film,’ said Angela, her eyes anxious as they scanned Carrie’s wan face. ‘Made me cry too.’
Carrie winced at the blatant lie. She did love her sister.
‘Mum, what are you like. Seriously? What was there to cry at? Honestly you’re a pair of saps. I’ll give him hot though. Up in the old Fahrenheit register. Hot, hot, hot,’ she paused with a cheeky raise of her eyebrows, ‘for an old guy.’
‘Old?’ chorused Angela and Carrie at the same time, exchanging secretive smiles.
‘Yeah, he must be at least thirty. Old.’ She grinned. ‘Obvs, not for you geriatric crustys, of course.’
Carrie and Angela each linked an arm through Jade’s.
‘What do you think?’ Carrie said to Angela. ‘Bread and Water for the next ten years?’
‘Ladies, you can do better than that.’ Alan frowned as if giving it serious thought. ‘How about no phone upgrade for another year?’
‘Nooo!’ howled Jade, dramatically locking her hands in mock prayer, ‘anything but that.’
‘Or we could give her away?’ suggested Angela
‘Who’d have her?’ Carrie shrugged as Jade poked her tongue out.
‘There is that,’ agreed Angela with a long-suffering sigh. ‘Look’s like we’re stuck with the brat.’
‘You know you love me. Both of you.’ Jade tugged at their arms pulling them closer to her.
Her mother placed a kiss on her cheek. ‘We do.’
Carrie followed suit. ‘Course we do.’
She pushed back at the sense of melancholy hovering over her as if ready to snatch her away.
She had plenty of love in her life. What more could she ask for? She had a tight-knit family and a lovely man who adored her.
A huge thank you to Louis & the Avon team.
But Carrie’s life wasn’t always like this. As a young,
wild drama student, she married fellow actor, Richard
Maddox, after a whirlwind romance. Life back then was
full of possibilities, but when Hollywood beckoned
Richard, Carrie was left behind.
Now an A-list superstar, Richard’s life couldn’t be more
different to Carrie’s, so when their paths cross in glamorous
St Tropez, she can’t help but wonder what might have been.
But with lovely, sensible Alan in tow, Carrie knows
she needs to do the right thing. The only problem is,
Carrie and Richard never quite got round to getting a divorce…