I watch in anticipation as Midge stares down at Orla's phone in her hands, watching the same video I had just a few minutes ago. I try to gauge her reaction as the video begins, but she merely narrows her eyes as it continues. When it ends, I finally speak.
"Is this good, bad, or...?" She thinks a little before answering
"I don't know. Fuzzbeed is not a company we want to be on the wrong side of."
"But the video generated all sorts of positive attention for us and the upcoming film! Who cares what some news publication thinks!" Orla pipes up. She and Henry seem unfazed by Midge's negative reaction.
"I know, but their name is getting dragged through the mud. I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted some sort of vengeance,"
"How would they go about doing that?" I ask, my own excitement dampening considerably and making way for worry.
"How do you think, Liam? they'd look for dirt on you." Midge says as she sits down hard on my bed, "Probably hire some paparazzi to follow you."
"They can do that?"
"As long as it's in public." I cringe at the implications of her words. Just another reason for me to stay cramped up in this hotel all the time. Just another reason for my freedom to be stripped away.
"But surely you don't have anything to hide, Liam?" Henry asks from where he's now leaning against the wall.
"I don't but that doesn't mean they can't take some compromising photos of me out of context." Midge nods in agreement and looks like she's about to respond when her phone rings.
"I've got to take this," she muttered before promptly leaving my room.
When I turn to look back at my friends, Orla has a guilty look on her face, "I'm sorry, Liam. I thought this would cheer you up but I guess it's only made another problem."
"Cheer me up? Why would I need cheering up? You were the real victim here, Orla,"
"She's not talking about just today," Henry confesses, "We've noticed how stressed you've been recently," I furrow my eyebrows in confusion at that.
"Yeah," Orla chimes in, "You've been off lately and we think it's because you've taken on a little too much. Plus, I'm used to that kind of stuff and since you stood up for me, so many fans have reached out to support me."
I want to feel comforted by their words but instead, I just feel embarrassed and angry. "Oh, so this is some sort of intervention now? I'm fine guys!" I say even as my face flushes an angry red and my voice raises an octave, "I think I'd know best when I'm taking on 'too much'. I'm not some kid, I can take care of myself!"
"We just thought you might-" Henry begins to say but I cut him off.
"You thought what? That you know what's best for me? That I'd want to talk it out?" I can see the hurt blossoming on their faces as I lash out but I'm too angry to stop now, "Maybe I just need some fucking peace and quiet." I say as I wrench the door of my room open and gesture for them to leave.
Orla looks ready to protest but Henry shoots her another knowing look that makes my blood boil just a little. They silently and a little reluctantly walk out of my room, leaving me to simmer in a pool of frustration and self-pity.
The one thing that I had been subconsciously looking forward to has just been ripped away by some vengeful company. The thought that I might never revisit that little restaurant, or taste its delicious food, or see Elliot again is more crushing than I'd like to admit. A well of emotions hits me full force all at once as I mourn the loss of a life I never truly got to appreciate. Everything changed so quickly and so drastically and that change still scares me. How can someone with a huge fanbase of doting followers feel so achingly alone, so truly unloved and misunderstood. The thought is enough to make my eyes prick but before I have the chance to fully lose it, my phone rings.
I grimace at the name on the screen but I still manage to pull myself together a bit and answer the phone.
"Hey Mom," I miraculously say without my voice revealing my state.
"Hey, baby!" She coos in her soothing 'I'm sorry' voice, "I wish I'd had the chance to call you earlier but things have been crazy recently with work!" My Mom is the head of marketing for a chain grocery store that recently gained a bunch of new locations, which means her already busy work schedule has become even more time-consuming. And my dad... well, he's never really been in the picture.
"It's fine, I've been super busy with work too. How's my precious Eponine doing?" My mom giggles at the mention of my beloved cat, named after my favorite character from my favorite musical, not that I'm biased or anything.
"She's been quite the troublemaker actually. Ooh, I meant to send you some photos the other day, but I caught her in the act of knocking over one of my succulents!"
"Which one? Was it Gerard?"
"No not Gerard. This one was a new one and it's fine now."
"I ought to fly home immediately and teach that young lady a lesson!" My statement isn't completely a joke. I could really use some cat cuddles and motherly comfort at the moment.
"Oh, she hasn't been completely bad. She has been rather cuddly lately but I think that's because she misses you!" I melt a little at the mere thought of my dear Eponine.
"How's filming going?" My mother asks, which shifts our discussion from naughty cats to work. We talk for a while until my mother announces it's her "bedtime" and hangs up, leaving me more homesick than ever. But it's homesickness for a home I can never return to. Homesick for the home that existed when my Mom worked so much less, and when I was just some normal kid. Homesick for when my Mom would bake Challah or Rugelach, and when we would go to synagogue every week on Shabbat.
Times were much more simple back then. My life changed so quickly and drastically that I never really got the chance to appreciate what I had. Even now, I'm still scared of the changes in my life.
Later, when I'm curled up beneath a blanket, watching reruns of The Great British Bake Off, a sudden determined thought hits me. I am going back to that restaurant and I'm not going to let some news publication scare me off from living my life. I'll have to take some extra precautions of course, like wearing some sort of face covering, and exiting the hotel through a back entrance. The day after tomorrow is Saturday, so I should have most of the day clear. It's settled then. I'm going to see Elliot again. The thought is enough to lift my spirits just a little.