Summer, 5 years prior in New Jersey
The summer sun is oppressive from the moment I step foot off the train and I can already feel the sweat gathering at the small of my back. Taking a moment to twist my spine, the bones there let out an audible crack, and the tension is momentarily relieved. From behind me, an authoritative yet familiar voice barks.
"Liam! get a move on! you're holding up the rest of the passengers," I jump at the sound of Midge's voice. By 'rest of the passengers' my manager refers only to herself and my bodyguard, Quinn, seeing as we got our own private train car. Nevertheless, I still duck quickly out of the way. Midge is not someone you want to get on the wrong side of.
"It's hot," I whine. Midge doesn't so much as look up from her phone as she quips, "Excellent observation skills, now help Quinn carry your luggage." It's not a request. I turn to the bulky man who now emerges from the train cart, carrying at least five bags and suitcases. He sets them down and with a huff and turns up to look at me.
"This isn't even all of them,"
"Well, I'm not the one who overpacked!" I complain, shooting a side glance at Midge. Her eyes remain glued to the screen in her hand as her other hand comes up to whack me in the back of the head. Quinn grunts and ducks back into the train cart to retrieve the rest of our bags.
I take a moment to take in this section of the train station. Inside I can see it's empty so this area must have been sectioned off from the rest of the public in anticipation of our arrival. A moment of peace will be nice before I'm once again surrounded by giddy, squealing, fans. That's certainly something I'm still getting used to. One moment I'm just some prepubescent child actor who's best known for his roles as someone's kid brother in a coming of age film, and next thing I know I've been deemed a "teen heartthrob" by most major news publications. I still remember the day when I stumbled across a live countdown on youtube to my 18 birthday!
Brushing off the invasive thoughts, I grab a couple of the bags and a suitcase that Quinn had plopped down on the pavement. Damn, we really did overpack, but I'll be here for the entire summer! How else am I supposed to make sure I've got a suitable outfit for every possible occasion?
"We ready to go?" I whine over my shoulder at Midge. Quinn seems ready with at least 5 bags in hand but even then there's still a couple left. Midge looks down at them with an exhausted sort of disdain and reluctantly picks them up with a grunt.
"I told you we should have hired someone to help carry all this shit!"
"We are walking literally 100 feet to a car waiting directly outside of this building."
"Then we should have taken a private jet! those come with people to carry your stuff right?" I roll my eyes at the retort. I swear all of MY fame has gone to HER head, not mine.
"It was an hour-long train ride from New York, Midge! No point in taking a plane." We've already had this argument several times but I just can't help myself from being problematic. Her only response is a groan.
We stumble through the train station and for once I'm actually thankful for the ridiculous workouts they've been making me do in preparation for this movie. As we approach the glass doors of the train station and from here I can see the black car that awaits us... and the mob of screaming adolescents surrounding it.
It gets worse once we're actually outside. They immediately spot me and the true chaos ensues. I can hear some of them chanting my name, others wave around signs that I can't quite read, but the majority of them just... scream. It's almost deafening. Part of me is annoyed, can I not just have one moment of peace? However, the majority of me is somewhere in between flustered and confused. Like... they're here to see me? They don't even know me aside from my work and some scripted interviews but they're still here, chanting my name, the name of some random 17-year-old dude. It's baffling!
I don't realize I've stopped in my tracks until a sturdy hand rest on my shoulder. Quinn asks concernedly, "Are you okay?" but the question is nearly drowned out by the crowd around us. I nod curtly and make a beeline towards the now open doors of that black car, but before I'm able to duck inside for cover, a man who I assume to be the driver stops me.
"Your bags sir." I blink in confusion at the words for a second,
"Ooh! sorry, here!" He takes them with what seems like little effort and I finally slide into the car. It does hardly anything to muffle the sounds outside but at least I can pretend like all those eyes aren't baring into me. It's odd to think that I'm an actor, one that's been on broadway at that, and yet I still can't handle crowds like this. The crowds that cheer for me only, like I'm some sort of god.
Midge soon joins me in the backseat and I catch her concerned gaze. She may fain apathy, but the woman was my babysitter before she was ever my manager. I know she cares about me.
"Liam, you're going to have to get used to these crowds sooner rather than later,"
"I know, I'm just... still getting used to it."
"People like you. That's not something you need to be scared of, kid." I shoot her a fake optimistic grin and turn my face to gaze out the window as the car starts up and we drive away from the train station and away from the crowds. Midge doesn't get it. She tries to, but she can't, although I do appreciate the effort.
Once the screams are out of earshot I hear Midge pop her knuckles next to me and crack her neck. Uh oh, business time.
"Alright kid, we've got a busy schedule for this week, and well, the whole summer too, so listen up because I am NOT going to repeat myself!" I nod and listen as Midge rattles off about filming, interviews, events, and promotional ideas. She's right, this summer is going to be long and busy, hopefully, I can get at least some time to sneak off and wreak teenage havoc. A plan is already starting to develop in my head by the time we reach the hotel. For now, though, it's time to be the perfect golden boy everyone wants me to be.