14 October 2011

The Reluctant Millie Bright

Chapter Two

After picking up a few goodies from the shops, Liam found himself standing on the doorstep of a five bedroom townhouse in Chelsea. Thankfully, the cover of darkness shielded him away from being recognised by any passerby.  It was a warm evening and though he had been looking forward to catching up with his friend of many years tonight, a friend in which he had started out in the biz with- his thoughts were still on Millie.  Since seeing her today at the restaurant, it seemed as if everything they had shared today and in the past was coming back full force and in bright technicolour.  The last time he had seen her, she had given him an ultimatum, at his penthouse. And he could remember every word spoken during that one last heated conversation.

Liam was racing around his apartment, shoving clothes into his duffel bag as he checked his wrist watch, he had under an hour to get his shit together and somehow make it to JFK to join the director and some of the cast to jet out on location for his next film project.  He turned around to see Millie standing anxiously by the door.

"How long have you been standing there?" he asked, half looking at her and half deciding what else he should bring to the shoot.

"Not long," she replied, curling and uncurling her fingers, "Where are you going?"

"I have to be at the airport soon- what's up?" he asked, grabbing his jacket and remembering his passport in the drawer of his desk.

"We need to talk," she  said, "And it can't wait."

"It's going to Millie, I'm in a rush as you can see,"  he replied.

"I can see... but this can't wait,"

"Look, I'll promise to call you when I land in Australia okay? I just can't talk now," he exhaled.

"If I'm important enough to you... then you will at least hear me out." 

"You are important to me Mills, but so is my career... I really don't have the time now... your timing is impeccable though... I will promise to call you, as soon as I land and we can talk about whatever is on your mind okay?"

"So, what? You're going to push me to the side yet again?" 

"Yet again? What are you talking about?" he stopped fumbling with his stuff, to question her.

"You heard me, again I'm sidelined for your precious career... sometimes I don't even know why I bother for you," she announced.

"I don't side line you Mills," he said frustrated.

"Yes you do and don't you forget it," she was counting off her fingers now, "One, there was the surprise I planned for the both of us but you called me last minute to say you had to do re-shoots for the film you were working on; two, you were meant to accompany me to a Christmas party but yet again, the subject of work came up and three, it was my birthday and I wanted you to be there but guess what..."

"I hear you loud and clear Millie, you don't have to spell it out for me!"

"I damn well am spelling it out for you, because you don't know and you continue to do this," she yelled, "All you care about is your fabulous career."

"That's not true," he interjected.

"It is true and I'm fed up with it, I'm fed up of being second place..." Millie said, as she touched her temple and started hyperventilating.  Her face was devoid of colour and she staggered to the nearest seat, the sofa.

Liam stood his ground, not at all helping her. A couple of minutes ticked by, Liam stared at her and then at his wrist watch.  He was fuming.

"What is it?" it came out, barely a whisper.

"What is what? I haven't got time for this Millie..."  he said through clenched teeth.

"Yes, I know you have to go to the airport and catch your flight and do what you do best, acting I suppose, because you never even give a second thought to me- is it me or is it your career?"  she looked at him, hoping, but he didn't have time for this, grabbing his duffel bag, he headed for the door, "If you can't even tell me to my face that you're choosing your career, then you won't ever see me again."

"Don't be like this Mills, we can talk about it but I really have to go," he said opening the door.

"Then this really is goodbye,"  she said, picking herself up from the sofa and heading past him and down the stairs.

He tried calling her back but she wouldn't stop and he heard the front door slam behind her.

The door opened and standing there was his good mate Artie, that's what he liked to be called but he was known to the world as Hartley Armstrong, heartthrob and bachelor but now he was a family man, a father and a husband.  They hugged and Liam walked into the expanse of their hallway. The overhead chandelier twinkling, creating reflections of crystal on the walls surrounding, the wrap around staircase and the ornate table in the middle with a large Chinese vase full of fresh flowers.  This was understated luxury and wealth. 

"How you doing mate?" Artie asked, showing him the way to the living area.

"Good, seems fatherhood is agreeing with you," Liam noted.

"Yeah, I'd have to say so.  Life never held much meaning until those two bundle of joys came into the picture," Artie replied with a grin.

"Did you say two?" Liam said.

"Yeah, we weren't quite expecting it either but as twins run in Frieda's family, y'know," Artie smiled.

"So, when do I get to meet Frieda?" Liam asked as Artie pointed to the woman standing holding the baby.

She walked towards her husband and handed him the snoozing baby, a baby girl and shook Liam's hand.

"I'm Frieda- Artie's told me all about you, he speaks very fondly of you,"  Frieda said politely. 

"I should hope so, it's nice to meet you," Liam smiled.  He had heard a lot about Frieda St Claire-Armstrong, from the tabloids from hearsay, that she was hard to work with, demanding and manipulative but she didn't seem like that at all, well on first impressions anyway.

"So, Artie tells me you're here on business, promoting your latest film?" Frieda said, opening up conversation.

Liam sat in an armchair opposite her and Artie, there were refreshments laid out on the table for them but Liam really wanted to wind down and have a slug of whisky instead, maybe that could wait till later.  He watched as Artie rocked the little baby in his arms and the loving glances from his wife, "Yeah, I've worked with Woody Allen before, so we're pretty solid on the whole actor-director relationship, great cast too, so I couldn't pass it down."

"Artie tells me you're in London for a bit, do you have any plans?" Frieda asked.

"Yeah, I love London, haven't been here in a while so we'll see how it goes," Liam replied.

"We'll? You have a girlfriend here?" she said inquisitively.

"You'll have to excuse my wife, she's a bit inquisitive,"  Artie laughed and grinned at his wife.

"If that's your way of saying I'm a nosey Parker, I would have thrown this pillow at you, but as you're holding Harley, I'll get you back," Frieda said teasingly.

Liam noted the exchange between the two, it was intimate and somehow sickly sweet but he enjoyed their banter.

"So, do you have a girlfriend here?" she repeated.

"Liam doesn't do girlfriends... he's married to his work, always has been," Artie smiled, "Isn't that right Liam?"

"You're not painting me in the greatest light are you mate? Two can play at that game, I have a few stories on him, that I'm sure he hasn't told you about," Liam joked, leaning forward to sip some tea.

"I'm intrigued, do tell," she smiled warmly towards him.

"Well, there was this one time, we were in this bar in Vegas and there was this stripper..." Liam began and before he knew it, Artie had walked towards him and literally dumped the baby into his arms.

"Make yourself useful, old boy," sitting back next to his wife.

Liam cradled the baby girl in his arms, she was awake now and she was staring straight at him, "Aren't you a pretty girl," he whispered and was rewarded with a smile.

"I think she's far more then pretty," Artie smiled.

Liam looked up at him and shook his head, "Fishing for compliments, I don't know."  He turned his attention back to Harley, who was now gurgling at him. 

"Actually, whilst I've got you here Liam, we wanted to invite you to Harley and Flynn's Christening next  Saturday, we hope you can make it?  And we wanted to also ask you, if you could be a god parent to both of them," Artie asked.

Liam looked up surprised and then looked back down at Harley, "I would love to, really would."

"Great, I hope you can bring your girlfriend," Frieda winked.


Millie sat down with a cup of tea on the sofa of her small flat,  she had managed to unpack with speedy efficiency, partly to do with trying to distract herself from the events that had happened merely hours ago.  It was late and thankfully she didn't have to get up too early tomorrow. A day off, a rest.  The TV was on but she wasn't paying any attention to it, lost in her circulating thoughts again.  Seeing Liam today, being kissed by Liam today, only brought back a multitude of memories she just couldn't escape.  The man in which she had fallen in love with so long ago, thought of as being her future- oh she was so wrong, disturbed by her naivety.  The grief of such a union, made it hard for her to breathe.  She  had trained herself on survival, in the coming months after their break-up, she had dismissed every billboard, every commercial, every tabloid and every release of his film as fiction, it had been planted there to test her. She would look but then she would ignore it and she would resume as normal. 
No doubt he would be back before she could say the words, I hate you - but did she really hate him?  She was overwhelmed, disheartened, still hurting and she was brought back to the time when she first met him. Their first meeting, crystal clear. 

"Seriously Camilla, you have to come out- I brought you a ticket so you can't not go," her next door neighbour Devon said. 

Devon was her friendly next door neighbour, who recently became a good friend.  She did a lot of travelling for work and Millie had offered to water her plants and feed her two cats. Right now Devon was waving two tickets for the after party of the film she had wrapped up. 

"I don't have anything to wear Dev, honestly, I can't just turn up to an after party wearing my PJ's can I?" Millie said stoutly.

"Oh God, Camilla you're so stubborn... we're practically the same size, you can borrow one of my dresses.  Come on over and we can get dolled up together," Devon said, strutting out of Millie's apartment and back into her own.

A few hours later, they hitched a yellow taxi and made their way to one of the most exclusive night spots the city had to offer, surpassing the queue of wannabes, they strode right in. They went straight to the bar to order some cocktails, Millie looked around and noticed a few faces she saw on TV and film. She wasn't fazed or starstruck- these events weren't really her thing, but she didn't want to let Devon down, especially on a film she was particularly proud of.  Millie tugged down the red dress, lent to her by her friend.

"You really ought to stop fidgeting in that dress Camilla, honestly, it's called a mini dress for a reason and no yanking down is gonna make it any more longer, you'll probably end up stretching the fabric,"  Devon rolled her eyes.

"That's the bloody point Dev, I didn't want to wear this dress in the first place," Millie replied.

"But you're here now and you look stunning, even if you can't see it... they obviously see it..." Devon said her eyes conveying the crowd. 

"Thanks for the reminder," Millie said, "Please don't call me Camilla, it makes me sound old and boring."

"Oops, sorry I forgot about that," Devon smiled as she handed Millie a Cosmopolitan and took a sip of hers. 

Devon worked the room like she was the hostess with the mostess, everyone came to talk to her and even though she introduced her to most people, Millie felt left out.  Devon was talking to some producers when Millie excused herself and headed towards the bar,  passing a group of men, she immediately felt the cold liquid seep through the fabric of her dress.  Great, she hated the mini dress because it was short but now she hated it even more because the front of her dress, looked like she had been stabbed in the front conveying an unruly dark red wet patch.  She looked around for Devon but she couldn't find her anywhere- and she really couldn't be bothered to search for her, even to tell her she was leaving.  She would grab a taxi and text her to let her know she got home okay.

She was making her way out of the club and onto the street and was on the look out for a cab. 

"A beautiful girl like you, shouldn't be standing here on your own," came the velvety voice. 

Though the voice was velvety there was definitely an undercurrent of arrogance beneath the stellar voice, she turned around and saw him.  He was at least six foot, wearing a pristine grey suit with a white open collared shirt and his hair, looked like he'd just woken up, which only conjured an image of him climbing out of bed after having a bit of a work out. 

"Thank you for your concern, but I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself," she replied back, looking towards the road for any taxi's. 

"Did you have a bit of an accident then?" he asked, querying her dress. 

"It's a bit of water, no biggie, it'll dry off eventually," she said, steering her attention back to the road. 

"Where you going?" he asked. 

She looked at him and then ignored him. 

"Did you hear me?" he asked softly. 

"Oh yes, I heard you loud and clear," Millie acknowledged. 

"So, why didn't you answer me?" 

"Because I chose not to," finally a yellow cab, it pulled up in front of her and she got in and before she could close the door, he was only inches away from her face.

"Wait!" he said, holding the door, "Have dinner with me?"

"I don't know you," Millie said, trying to close the door. 

"Exactly, so that's why you'll have dinner with me... right now, scooch over," he said, opening the door. 

"You're kidding me right?" Millie said un-moving. 

There was honking of cars behind them, "You either get in or out, I ain't got all day here," the New Jersey taxi driver said with impatience. 

Millie moved over.  Liam closed the door and leaned towards the taxi driver and gave him an address. 

"I always get my way eventually," he smirked.

"Yes, A is for Arrogance, B is for Bravado, C is for Clueless because you are completely Clueless in Seattle aren't you? So sure of yourself... big shot actor, you think you can get about any girl... with the right line right? You are sadly mistaken," Millie said, staring outside the window. 

"Well, that was a first... a first knock back... I think I like you even more now..." Liam said. 

"You don't even know me, to like me and before you even think about it... I'm not some challenge you can conquer, perhaps if you treat women with respect then you might actually not come off as a total dick!" Millie said. 

"Whoa, hang on a minute... I respect you," he began. 

"Really? And respecting me was forcing me to go out to dinner, a dinner I choose not to participate in. Wow, even more clueless then I thought." 

"Feisty little thing aren't you?" he said. 

"Stop, the cab!" she about yelled, the cab screeched to a halt and she was out of the cab before he even had a chance to blink. She was getting into another cab on the other side of the road and she was gone. 

Millie stood up and walked the short distance to the kitchen and set her cup in the sink, she stared outside the window- the memories tortured her. She had moved cities to escape them but running away lost it's pzazz, especially as the the shadows followed.  She had to get a grip, pull herself together.  She was made of sterner, stronger stuff.  So what if Liam Blake was a man, a man she had loved... there was no way in hell, she was going to fall in love with him again. Men were dicks, they all were and Liam Blake was no exception. 

The Reluctant Millie Bright

Chapter One
London Premiere

London always reminded Liam of New York. The two cities shared a cosmopolitan avant-garde personality, with its bustling streets, theatre and musical productions to the individuality of the people going about their day. Tourists seen milling around recognizable landmarks like Buckingham Palace and London Bridge, taking keepsake photographs and soaking in the culture of London, that most Londoners took for granted. But London always felt like home despite living in a penthouse apartment in Manhattan. Liam was in London for work and he wanted to get this portion of the day over and done with. He was itching to discover more of the city.

The screaming could be heard two blocks away as Liam sat in the back of the limousine. The traffic was just as bad here, as it was in New York but he didn’t mind. He was used to waiting. It was a warm summer’s evening in the West End and he was dressed smartly in a designer navy suit and a crisp white shirt, his fingers tapping along to the song that was being played on the radio. He took a deep breathe as he finally joined the multitude of cars weaving their way towards the premiere, other actors, showbiz personalities, the lot. When the limousine door opened he was immediately engulfed in a wave of hysteria, his actions becoming mechanical as he began smiling and waving towards the crowds. He worked his way around the crowd, as he had done a number of times before. He smiled and made small talk with a number of his fans, whilst blocking out the noise and chants emanating from every corner until someone stood out from the crowd. Someone he hadn’t seen in a long time and someone who he couldn’t forget.

Millie crouched down and smiled at the little toddler at the table, as she put a packet of coloured pencils and paper in front of him. She received a toothy smile in return and proceeded taking the order from around the table. It had been a long shift, a day where everyone had called in sick to appreciate the warm weather, away from work. She cleared the plates from a corresponding table and went straight to the kitchen. Her feet were aching and she could not wait to get back home to her flat and unpack. She looked at the clock on the kitchen wall, she had around two and a half hours left of her shift to do, which should go pretty quickly considering the ongoing premiere had brought an influx of people to the restaurant. The sound of the bell broke her out of her reverie and she grabbed the plates of food and made her way to table six where the toddler with the toothy smile sat with his family.

By the time she finished, she swapped her waitress uniform for a pair of denim jeans and a cardigan and clocked out. The crowds had since dispersed and she noticed that the families had since gone and were replaced by couples over candlelight. She walked out of the restaurant by the back entrance when she stopped mid-step. Her heartbeat accelerated at full speed much like the motorcycle he was leaning up against. He was casually dressed in jeans and a green jumper, his black leather jacket draped across the seat of his motorcycle and he was wearing a devilish grin.

“Hello Millie, funny seeing you here,” he stated.

“What do you want?” Millie asked, taken aback by the surprise meeting.

“I thought it was pretty clear what I want. Did you miss me?” he replied, as he walked towards her. Millie wanted to head back into the restaurant but the door had closed behind her. She could try to dodge out of his way but he felt like a force, a brick wall she couldn’t move past. He was in front of her, before she had a chance to even move. His steely grey gaze pinning her to the spot like a trapped animal, he towered over her and she suddenly felt suffocated. He took a strand of her hair and caressed it between his fingers,

“I much preferred your brown hair but red I can work with,” letting the strand of hair fall back into place.

“You’re obviously not here to comment on my hair Liam. What I needn’t to say, I’ve already said. So if you will excuse me I have to be on my way,” Millie said defiantly, trying to push past him but failing miserably. He grabbed a hold of her arm when the sound of yelling interrupted them both. He could already hear an array of voices screaming his name and could only contemplate that he’d been seen. Before Millie could even react, he was shoving a spare helmet towards her and ordering her to get on the bike. She knew of his fame and what it could do.

“Get on the bike Millie!” Liam said through clenched teeth.

She did as she was told and got on behind him. She had no choice but to hold tight to him as he maneuvered the bike out of the street and zoomed away from the on-coming crowd. The tantalizing smell of his aftershave lingered and made her insides go funny and the feel of his abs made her go weak in the knees. And she was thankful that she was sitting and not standing at that moment. She had forgotten what it had felt like to be on the back of his motorcycle, clinging to him as he executed every turn, as he cranked up the speed. He was good at a number of other things too but she willed herself not to think about those things, those memories had to stay buried. Thankfully he couldn’t’t see what his reappearance was doing to her, as she tried to focus on what his reappearance meant.

Millie felt the motorcycle slow and looked up and noticed he had parked on a side road. Her side road.

“But how did you-?” she barely had a chance to finish her sentence before he interrupted her.

“Let’s get inside, I don’t want to have a conversation out here,” he dismissed her as he strode towards her front door.

Millie walked straight into the living room and headed for the kitchen, she wanted as much space between them as possible but she felt as if the four walls were closing in on her. She went straight to the fridge and opened it; there was a pint of milk sitting on the shelf and nothing else. She hadn’t planned on visitors and she had forgotten where she had packed the tea bags, not that that mattered. She needed something to do with her hands. Just as she turned around, he was leaning against the door frame, his arms folded and she could see the contours of his biceps through his jumper and steered her gaze away. His penetrative gaze making her feel vulnerable. How could he possibly do this to her after so many years?

“Can I get you a drink? Something to eat? I could order pizza…” she said nervously.

“I think we’re past the niceties Millie, don’t you think?” he paused, “I didn’t wait this long to have a cup of tea, what I really want to know is the truth.”

The truth. Could Millie go down that road again, after she spent so long working at moving on? It had been a long time ago. It had been a chapter in her past she had wanted to leave buried.

He moved around her flat, his frame making everything look that much smaller. He looked at the bland walls and opened the lids of a few of her unpacked boxes, “Suddenly you’ve lost the will to talk- now that is a surprise Millie. I remember a time way back, when talking was all we did and some, surely you remember the times when we didn’t talk at all and all we did was- how shall I say it- consummate.”

That earned him a slap, not before his hand caught her arm and he watched as daggers formed in her very eyes. There was the feisty Millie Bright he knew, “Now, now, you don’t want to go down that road again.”

“You spineless-,” she began, but was silenced by his lips as they crushed down on hers. He held her, restraining her and he could clearly feel her reluctant at the simpleness of a kiss.  She managed to push him away from her and their intimate touch, their connection was broken, "You can't deny there's still something between us."

Liam knew right then and there, that he had to have Millie again- whatever the means, he would get her in his bed again.  He watched her, she was leaning against the kitchen counter top, her eyes transfixed on something behind him, the colour drained from her face.  There was sadness in those eyes and it stirred something deep inside him.  Something was not right and he didn't like it one bit. He made a move towards her and she flinched, as if he had struck her. 

"I don't feel like talking right now Liam," she said, a look of distance in her eyes.

"We'll talk Millie," he began but was interrupted by her monotone voice.

"Yes, we will... soon but not right now.  I'd like you to leave,"  Millie said walking like a robot towards the front door and opening it. He tried to make a move towards her but she stepped back, as if his touch would burn her, "Don't touch me."

"What's the matter with you Millie? I won't hurt you," he began. His attempt was useless, he felt inadequate standing in front of her.  His instincts were telling him, something was wrong and he had to get to the bottom of it, but Millie was unresponsive.  She treated him like a stranger. 

"Just go please," she said avoiding his gaze.

"Just because I'm going, doesn't mean, I'm going to forget about this," he interjected before he stepped out and saw the door close firmly behind him. 

Millie leaned against the door and crumpled down to the floor, just when she thought she was making headway, her past was coming back to haunt her, in the form of Liam Blake.