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Lisa left the States looking for adventure across the world in China. What she found was a whole bunch of loneliness. But when a handsome British stranger walks into her local bar, she can't resist the urge to speak to him. It wouldn't be until he was passed out on her couch before she would realize who he really was. rnrnJimmy Crystal was sick to death of being "famous". All he ever wanted was a 'normal' life, especially on the night he caught his long-term girlfriend shacking up with his agent. Breaking every rule he set for himself, he left to drown his sorrows in the first bar he could find. Little did he know that inside that small dive bar in China would be someone who could change his life. If only his jealous newly-ex girlfriend doesn't ruin it.
Chapter 1, A chance encounter
I was sitting in the back of a Chinese bar when I first saw him. I spent a lot of time at that bar in those days. It was close to my apartment and just being there helped me feel connected with people, even though I was the only expatriate there. So, when the tall handsome not-Chinese man walked in the door, you can image how interested I was. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the company of my Chinese friends and the Chinese acquaintances who didn't speak English. But to see someone who might possibly speak English as well as I did, was quite a thrill.
He didn't see me at first. Not surprised, I like to sit in the far back so that I can see the whole of the place. I'm a people watcher. I like to watch everyone around me and try to figure out what they're talking about, or create what they're talking about. It's a fun exercise and again, helped me feel connected while I was in such a foreign culture.
I watched as he looked around, then turned and headed for the bar. He walked with a certainty of destination that kind of surprised me. Most people, when they enter a bar, they look around for friends and acquaintances. They wander the bar to explore its areas and seating. Sometimes they pick up a bar menu and peruse it for a while. But he didn't. He turned right for the bar and took a seat. I couldn't hear what he said, but I saw the bartender nod and produce a shot of something and a pint of beer. I challenged myself to come up with some kind of backstory for him. Maybe he'd just gotten off of a hard day at work and this was how he relaxed. I watched him toss back another shot of something. He was so purposeful. Maybe he had just gotten in a fight with his best friend and was trying to drown his feelings in whiskey. Maybe they were fighting over a girl and she picked the other guy. Oooh... Maybe his girl just broke up with him and he's trying to drown his despair. Another shot disappeared with purpose. Definitely trying to drown something. A man doesn't drink with that much purpose and not flirt with the waitress unless he's trying to drown something. He wasn't even looking at his phone. Which is not usual in today's society. Usually it's the other way around: it's hard to get someone to pay attention to something other than their phone.
He rubbed his forehead with his right hand, closing his eyes. Probably has a headache. Of course, headaches often come with fights with friends and breakups with girlfriends. I hoped he liked girls. Because dayum. He was probably suffering some kind of emotional upheaval, but all I could think about was how good he looked. I watched as he ran his fingers through his hair, definitely a headache, and asked for another shot. That was four shots in the five minutes he'd been at the bar. He was headed for a really bad night if he kept that up. But, if my theory about his backstory was anywhere near the truth, he probably needed it.
A crazy voice in my head told me I should go talk to him. The rest of me decided that would be a bad idea. You see, I'm a shy individual. Why else would I be sitting in the back of a bar, by myself, not talking to anyone, and pretending to have conversations with the people around me? Talking to strangers is intimidating in the best of circumstances. Talking to a smoking hot stranger who possibly just got into a fight with his best friend and/or broke up with his girlfriend while in a backstreet Chinese bar.... Mission Impossible. I'd just keep watching him and pretending to have a conversation with him.
If I had an ounce of courage and a whole bucketful of self-confidence I would walk up to him, say something smart like 'looks like you could use a friend' and buy him a drink. Then through some amazing trick of language I would get him talking about his day. We'd have something in common and end up having an unexplainable connection. Since this is my daydream, we'd of course hit it off so well, that I'd invite him back to my apartment and make a different kind of connection.
I could feel myself smiling as I watched him. It's probably a good thing that he wasn't paying attention to anyone else around him otherwise I'd definitely have been caught staring. I love daydreaming about things. My life is pretty dull. I long for the great adventures of the movies, but that never happens in real life. So, I dream dreams. And he was definitely going to star in my dreams for a long time.
He stretched his neck and rubbed his shoulder, glancing around the room while he did it. My breath caught and I looked anywhere but at him, wondering if I'd just been caught. My heart beat fast, and I flinched. I hadn't done anything wrong. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a daydream about a mystery man. All I did was stare a little. The Chinese stare all the time. It's not rude to them. I've definitely been here awhile, I was starting to pick up their mannerisms.
I waiting a long moment, staring resolutely at my computer screen, before I chanced to look in his direction again. I jumped again when our eyes met. Who'd have thought he'd have the most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen? My brain shut down and I panicked. My heart was beating so quickly I felt a little light headed as I finally managed to look away. Those eyes... they were the kind of eyes that could see into your soul if you let them. I thought about leaving, scared that I might actually have to talk to him. But I felt rooted to the spot.
I took a deep breath and glanced up again. This time he was staring into his drink. I relaxed a little. Maybe he hadn't noticed that I was staring. Maybe he hadn't noticed that electric shock that went through me when our eyes met. My heartbeat slowed down and now I was feeling depressed. I had just had an amazing encounter with the most attractive man I'd seen in a long time and it probably didn't mean a thing to him.
I glared at my computer screen and the scene I was composing. It had definitely turned. I was losing focus. I sighed. It wasn't anything important, just an exercise to work my brain and writing skills. I shouldn't be upset that I'd lost the flow of the scene when the mystery man walked in. But I felt terrible. A voice in the back of my head whispered that I wasn't upset about the scene, I was upset about the possibility that the man at the bar hadn't felt the same way I did. I was just doing that Freudian thing of transposing a feeling onto another subject.
I could feel my face scowling. Probably wasn't very attractive. Well, that was just something else to wrap up in the bundle that was my unattractiveness. I don't really conform to the 'ideals' of modern beauty. Too fat, too short, and now scowling. What happened to my happy daydream?
Taking a deep breath, I opened a new document and tried to write out my happy daydream. I had just managed to make myself feel a little better when I noticed motion at the bar. When I looked up, I saw a Chinese woman sitting uncomfortably close to my mystery man who may or may not have recently broken up with his girlfriend and/or fought with his best friend.
He listened politely to her broken English, his face that pleasant mask that means you don't really want to listen to what someone is telling you but you don't really want to say piss off either. When she was done with her sales pitch, he smiled and shook his head no. He didn't seem interested in what she was selling, and considering it was herself she was selling, I was not surprised. She was one of the local "little misses", a polite name for a prostitute. He wasn't interested in her wares tonight, so she left him alone.
I should probably leave him alone. But he was such a contrast, this tall handsome Caucasian man in a back roads Chinese bar. I don't even know how he found the place. I'd been here a year before I noticed it. It's not on any tourist map. This is purely a local's bar. He looked up again and I got a better look at his face, since I was prepared for the eyes this time. He looked really familiar to me, like I'?d seen him somewhere before. He had high cheekbones and a chiseled chin. He caught me looking and gave me a half-smile. Without thinking, I returned the smile, then blushed and returned to staring at my computer.
The waitress came by and refilled my drink. I smiled and thanked her for it. When I first started frequenting the bar, it confused her that I always ordered tea. But now she was used to it and didn't even ask before refilling it for me. I guess that means I'd turned into a 'regular'. I started to turn back to my computer to hide some more, but the waitress didn't leave. When I looked up at her questioningly, she looked at the man at the bar significantly, then back at me. Without saying a single word of English, she managed to tell me to go talk to him. I smiled but shook my head, nonverbally responding that I just couldn't, too shy. She snorted and looked between us again, pressuring me like any good friend would do to get me out of my comfort zone. I made a face and she turned and walked away. But her insistence had woken something in me. The voice in my head reminded me that one of the main reasons I packed up and moved to China was to get out of my comfort zone, so I might as well go and talk to him. The worst he could do would be to tell me he wasn't interested.
With a deep breath for courage, I closed my laptop and packed everything away into my bag. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him watching me. It made it harder to keep my courage, but I reminded myself that fortune favors the brave and it's important to do one thing every day that scares you. Little pep talks like that help me sometimes. But considering how badly my hand was shaking when I picked up my glass, I was pretty terrified.
I worked my way over to the bar through the patrons, greeting those I knew as I went. He watched me with those eyes and when I hesitated by the bar, nodded an invitation to the seat next to him. I set my drink down and took the offered seat. There was a moment of awkward silence then he smiled and spoke "Hello." His voice was rich, dark, and deep. It rumbled from somewhere in his middle chest and radiated outward. I smiled back "Hello."
His smile broadened and he leaned back and clapped his hands happily "Oh thank God, you speak English!"
I chuckled and nodded my understanding "Yeah, I do. I'm American." I held out my hand to shake, a habit my parents drilled into me as a child.
He hand dwarfed mine as we shook hands "Hello, America. I'm British." I laughed, I'd walked right into that one. Might as well roll with it right? "Nice! Maybe we should have a rousing discussion over which one of us speaks 'proper' English?"
"I do of course! You Americans learned it from us!"
I smiled and conceded "very true, I'll give you that. Well, do you have a name Britain?"
He took a moment to think about it, he seemed to not be sure he wanted to give his real name. That made me a little nervous. He seemed to make up his mind "Ben. I'm Ben."
I blinked. Ben? Really? The joke just begged to be told "Big Ben from Britain?" I chortled a little and he chuckled too
"Yeah I guess you can call me that." Those blue eyes of his flashed again when he asked "Does America have a name?"?
For a moment, I couldn't remember my name. How stupid was that? The nerves and his absolutely beautiful eyes made me forget my name. Ridiculous. Then it came back to me in a rush, so it came out a little breathy "Lisa."? I cleared my throat and tried again "I'm Lisa"
He thought a moment "Lisa... Lisa.... Lisa the Liberty Bell?"
"A little reaching, but I like it. Big Ben and Lisa Liberty." It made me chuckle. "So, what's Britain doing in a dive bar in China?" A little blunt, but it was the question that was bugging me.
"ahhhh..." he rolled his glass between his hands and stared into the pale ale. "Escaping?" his voice was hesitant.
I tried to see into his face "You don't sound too sure of that."
He shrugged "It's the best description I can come up with."
I nodded, not because I understood, but because I felt like I had to give some sort of response. "Alright, I can take that." An awkwardness settled over the two of us and I desperately searched for some way to bring back the easiness that had been developing between us.
"What are you drinking?" I gestured to the liquid that was swirling in his glass.
He looked up, distracted from his thoughts "This?" he picked it up and took a big swig and made a face "I have no idea what it is." He smiled at his ignorance and just like that, the awkwardness was gone. We talked for hours about the differences in our home countries, newly released movies, favorite authors and tv shows, and throughout the conversation Ben steadily drank whatever the bartender was giving him.
As the night wore on, I could tell that the alcohol was starting to get to him. He was more open with topics of conversation, swayed a little, and started to slur some of his words. When the bartender came by with his bill, it went unsaid that they were getting close to closing time. Ben paid his tab, then looked over at me. We'd been having such a great time, but it was about to end and, for the first time in hours, the awkward silence came back.
I fiddled with my keys while Ben swirled what was left of his drink around the bottom of the cup. I felt the happiness from the last few hours fading away. He knocked back what was left in his cup, looked at me and said "Well, Lisa Liberty, this has been the best evening I've had in a long time. Thanks" he held out his hand to shake.
I didn't want to acknowledge that he was leaving, but I knew I had to. I smiled at him and took his hand in mine. I thought about giving him my number, but I'm not really that kind of person. I walked him out of the building, berating myself for my lack of courage. I felt attracted and connected to Ben in ways I hadn't felt in the three years since my failed engagement. I couldn't let this opportunity pass me by, but I was too scared to take advantage of it.
I turned to watch as my friend of four hours walked away. How could I pass this up? The connection we had tonight was a one of a kind thing. No matter how scared I was, there was no way I could let him leave without some way of contacting him again. Quickly, I grabbed a piece of paper from my purse, a coupon for some kind of shaving cream, and scrawled my phone number across the back. I hurried to the street where I saw him last, and turned the corner by my favorite food stall where I'd last seen him.
But I didn't see him anywhere.
I searched the darkness frantically with my eyes. I heard a motorcycle kick to life in the darkness, and saw a headlight flicker. The headlight moved into the light of a street lamp, illuminating the rider. In a split second, I recognized the striking silhouette of Ben, wobbling slightly on his motorcycle.
No. no, no, no. I knew how much alcohol he'd drunk that night. He'd had enough to stun a cow. I thought he was walking home. Not DRIVING! There's no way I could let the man who could potentially be the man of my dreams die in a motorcycle accident because of drunk driving.
There was no time to think about it, no time to act. Just react "Ben!!" My voice echoed down the empty street and I saw his head turn. Distracted by my call, his bike wavered on the pavement dangerously. He recovered, but managed to pull it to a stop next to me.
My heart was in my throat "Ben..."
The faceless reflection in the glass stared back at me and his deep drunken voice echoed from within "Lisa?"
"Yes, Ben. It's me. I..." my courage faltered for a moment "I wanted to tell you something." My mouth froze.
"Wha?" his voice slurred. Memories threatened to overwhelm me, and as if a ghost stood before me, I saw my father stumbling out the door, keys in hand, my mother yelling after him that if he ever came back drunk again, she'd kill him. Karma worked quickly that day. Just hours later, a police officer stood at our door with the news: car wreck. Driving under the influence; no life insurance and no help for my mother.
There was no way in hell I was going to let that happen again.
"Ben." My voice was strong now. "You can't drive away, Ben." The helmet showed no reaction. "You've had too much." I hoped that British culture felt as badly about drunk driving as American culture did. "Please Ben" an edge of pleading crept into my voice "Please don't drive away."
For a moment, he still didn't respond. Probably taking a little time to process what I said. From the depths of his helmet, his voice echoed "Well, how else am I going to get home?"
The idea burned in my head and came crashing out of my mouth before I could rethink it "Stay at my place tonight." I held my breath, waiting for his answer. I couldn't believe I'd just invited a virtual stranger back to my house. I'd never in a million years thought I would do something like that. But I couldn't let him drive home drunk. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if something happened to him and I could have stopped it.
He reached up and pulled off his helmet. "What would I do with my bike?" He gestured to his motorcycle with one hand while he rested the helmet on his knee with the other. The bike was quite a beauty. I couldn't tell too much in the half-dark of the street light, but I could see the shine. Obviously he cared about it. He couldn't just leave it on the street; it wouldn't be here in the morning if he did.
My mind raced for a solution to the motorcycle. He waited patiently for a solution, then started to put his helmet back on and I wished for a moment that I had a car. If I had a car, I could just take him back to his hotel. Then it hit me. I don't have a car, but my apartment comes with a parking space. He could just secure it in my gated parking space. "Bring it with you."
He stopped strapping his helmet on and looked confused so I continued in a rush "I don't have a car but I do have a protected parking space." I gestured down the road "Let's just walk it over to my apartment, it's just a few blocks that way."
He swayed where he was sitting. "Ben, please." I held out my hand "Come home with me for a night, just to be safe. Nothing else. Just sleep." He looked at me a little while longer, and I prayed in ways I don't normally pray that he would come with me.
He handed me his helmet. "Ok." He nodded and dismounted the motorcycle. "Just sleep. Nothing else. Just to be safe."
I nodded agreement "yes Ben, just to be safe." I reassured him "Come on" I turned with a wave "this way" and started heading toward my apartment.
The walk was a confusing mess of shadows and light as we passed through the street lights. I kept up an almost constant narration of encouragement to keep him walking. He was obviously fading fast, the weight of his motorcycle made him lean to the left, so we staggered our way down the street.
When the lights of my apartment came into view, I felt a breath of relief flow through my veins. Together we guided his bike into my parking space, then I steered him toward the stairs. He wobbled on his feet as if the world were quaking beneath his boots. The journey from the dark street lamp lit road to the soothing lights of my apartment on the 33rd floor made me feel like Odysseus. It was a journey of epic proportions with such terrible obstacles as three stairs leading up, a door that said pull instead of push, and the world's longest wait in the elevator. That last obstacle almost sunk him. Standing in the gently moving elevator for three minutes soothed him like a car ride soothes a baby.
When the door opened, I was relieved to guide him to the right and straight onto my living room couch, where he stumbled and fell against the cushions like a giant. The couch groaned with the impact and I feared for my furniture. Ben didn't move once he was down. After the odyssey, my back ached from supporting such a big man, so I took a moment to stretch my muscles and catch my breath. I didn't mean to groan out loud but dayum. I was not a lithe athlete, I was a portly lady who resembled Mrs. Potts way more than Belle. My groan was met with a snore from the giant on my couch.
He was face down with one arm hanging off the side and the other tucked under him and both feet hanging off the edge of the armrest. It was probably the most uncomfortable position I had ever seen someone take in my life. But it sure did give a great view of his derriere. I couldn't resist the urge to check it out, since it was so visible.
The lights in the apartment were better than the ones in the bar and I could tell his messy hair was a deep black with blue highlights, not the fake salon type but the natural blue highlights of hair so black it was like looking into the night sky away from city lights. The muscles of his back and legs were highlighted by the strange position he was lying in and the most delicious sight of all was his tight ass. It filled his jeans well and I couldn't help but drool a little. He was definitely tasty. If he were conscious at all, I might even entertain the idea of having a one-night stand with his nice ass, no matter what I'd promised.
I shook my head at my own fantasy and went to get him a cold bottle of water. I'd watched him drink all night and if he didn't get some hydration, he would definitely wake up with a world-class hangover. When I opened the fridge, a waft of smell drifted out and I made a mental note to clean it out and cook what was left of the vegetables before they went bad. I grabbed two cold water bottles from the top shelf and went back over to the couch.
I crouched down at his head and shook his shoulder "Ben? Ben? Wake up Ben." My voice was soothing, yet encouraging. The kind of voice you would use with a whiney toddler. All I got in response was another snorting snore. I pursed my lips and tried not to laugh. I shook his shoulder a little harder and used a firmer voice, more obnoxious teenager than whiney toddler. "Ben. Ben you need to get up and drink something." He mumbled something and shifted on the couch, but didn't wake up.
"Ben!" This time my voice was quite strong and rather loud. He startled and lifted his head. He looked around my apartment with bleary eyes before focusing them with effort on my face "Where?" He blinked hard and looked intensely into my face. "Who..." his voice faded away and I mentally winced. He didn't even remember me. How awkward. Then his eyes widened in recognition "hey Lady Liberty."
He did remember me! I couldn't help it, I smiled brightly into his squinted eyes "Hey Big Ben. Welcome back to the realm of the conscious."
He blinked and looked confused. "What?" He struggled to sit up, a very concerned look on his face, so I sat the water bottles on the coffee table and helped him put his feet on the ground so he could get upright. When he was finally sitting up straight again, he looked around the apartment again and cleared his throat "Where am I?"
I got a good look at his profile as he took in the sight of my dormitory style kitchen and sparse furniture, and I couldn't help thinking that he looked familiar, but I pushed it to the back of my mind as he swayed where he was sitting. "Woah there Big Ben. Don't fall over." I helped him back to a stable upright position. He put his hand on my shoulder to steady himself and it felt like an electric shock went through me. My skin tingled fiercely and I flushed. He was looking at me with an intensity that I found a little unnerving and I found it hard to look him in the face. My darting gaze landed on the water bottles sitting on the table.
I seized the distraction and grabbed one of the bottles and twisted it open. "Here Ben. I need you to drink some of this before you sleep." I was back to the coaxing tone from earlier. "We wouldn't want you to be hung over in the morning would we?" He made a face and shook his head. He reached for the bottle and I handed it over. When he tilted his head back to take a drink, I was struck with the familiarity of his face again and little warning bells went off in the back of my head. I knew his face. I knew it from somewhere... but where? I wracked my brain trying to figure out how I knew him. Maybe I'd seen him at training somewhere? Gah...? It was going to bother me until I figured it out, but right now I had a very drunk man sitting on my couch. When I was fairly sure he could sit upright without my help and he was taking tentative sips of the water, I stood up. "Think you could handle a little food? It'll help you feel better."
I could see him thinking about it, it took a little while for him to decide, then he nodded. "Toast?" he asked, looking up at me hopefully. It was the eyes, I decided, I knew those eyes from somewhere. Those beautifully electric blue eyes. I shook my head to clear it of distractions. "Toast it is. Toast is the best cure for a sour stomach."
I left Ben sitting on the couch and went into my galley kitchen. I didn't have a toaster in China, but I had long since mastered the skill of toasting bread in a frying pan. I pulled out four pieces since I was feeling a little snackish myself and turned on the gas burner on the stove. I called out the door "Do you want butter?" I heard a mumbled response that I couldn't decipher, so I figured I'd butter two and see which ones he chose.
In no time, the toast was done and I headed back into the living room. Thankfully, Ben was still sitting up and he was looking a little more conscious. I held out the plate of toast and he reached for one of the buttered pieces, seemed to rethink the idea, and picked up one of the unbuttered pieces. He took a small bite and washed it down with water.
I sat down in the armchair catty-corner to the couch and bit into one of the buttered pieces. "How you feeling Ben?" I asked after we'd both had a few bites.
He nodded gently and when he spoke his voice was clearer. "Better thank you." He took another bite and I mentally debated turning on the tv. Then he spoke again "Why do you keep calling me Ben?"
To say I was surprised by that question was an understatement. It shouldn't have been, I scolded myself, hadn't I noticed him hesitate when I asked him his name? But he'd asked, so I should answer. "Earlier today, at the bar" I clarified "you told me your name was Ben."
"Oh." He was quiet a second. "It is." Another pause "but no one calls me that except family." He stared intensely at his last bite of bread and I got the impression his stomach was arguing about whether he should eat it. I hurried to distract him, and because I was burning with curiosity.
"Really? What does everyone else call you?" My heart fluttered in nerves. Here I was, taking care of a drunken stranger who hadn't even told me his real name. This could definitely be a recipe for disaster.
He glanced from the toast to me, then back to the toast. He answered my question as if the toast had asked him "Jimmy. Most everybody calls me Jimmy."
Time froze and all of those warnings in the back of my head pealed clarion bells. I felt a little light headed as it all added up suddenly. The familiarity of his profile, those beautifully blue eyes, Jimmy.... Those could only add up to one thing.
My voice squeaked "Jimmy Crystal?"
He nodded and ate the last bite of toast, seemingly winning the argument with his stomach.
My heart sped up, I could feel my blood pressure rise, and it got a little hard to breath. Jimmy Crystal. Jimmy Crystal. The voice in my head kept repeating his name. It all added up. The name, the looks, the eyes but there was no way in Hell that Jimmy Crystal, one of the most famous actors of our time and my personal favorite, was sitting in my living room eating toast to stave off a hangover. No way. It couldn't be happening. It wasn't possible. Jimmy Crystal lived in the UK. Jimmy Crystal was a millionaire actor. Jimmy Crystal would not be found in a dive bar in China!
But the evidence of my eyes and my ears confirmed it. This was Jimmy Crystal. I knew that voice. I knew those eyes. I was a major fan. I'd written fanfiction about Jimmy Crystal! I fought for breath and felt an overwhelming urge to run away. I hadn't recognized him at first because my brain knew that there was no way that he could be the real Jimmy Crystal, I'd ignored the recognition without even realizing I was doing it. But now that he said it, I knew it was true. Jimmy Crystal was sitting in my living room.
I needed some air.
I managed to gasp out "Will you excuse me for a moment. I'll be right back" then I stood up and walked on shaky legs into my bedroom. I closed the door behind me and stared blankly at the poster on my wall. 'Midnight Circus starring Jimmy Crystal in theaters September 8th 2014' it said. 'Midnight Circus' made Jimmy's career. It was one of my all-time favorite movies. Jimmy Crystal starred as Buck Johnson, the rock and roll hopeful who wanted to be a star. Jimmy Crystal was sitting in my living room. I could feel a panic attack coming on and staggered over to my desk for my prescription. I didn't need the anxiety pills often but I sure as hell needed one now. Jimmy Crystal was in my living room.
I knocked back the anxiety pill, not even bothering with a drink to wash it down, and sat on the edge of my bed. For a little while, my mind blanked and I stared into space while I sweat, shivered, and gasped like a winded horse. The worst attack I'd had in a long time.
I'm not sure how much later, I came back to myself. It felt like waking up from a nightmare. I took a deep cleansing breath and let it out. My body ached from tension it had gone through and my shirt was soaked with sweat. One step at a time I told myself. Just take it one step at a time. First things first, get out of the sweaty clothes.
I stripped and wiped the sweat off and tossed the damp clothes in the laundry hamper. I opened my closet and stared at the clothes inside. I didn't want Ben to know I had changed clothes, so it had to be something similar to what I was wearing, but I wanted to look good because he was freaking Jimmy Crystal. I felt like I was thinking about the man as if he were two people; Ben, the sweet man I happened to run into at a bar, and Jimmy Crystal, my celebrity crush and #1 on my List. I threw on clean clothes, changed shirts twice, and swept through my bedroom like a whirlwind, throwing anything and everything into my closet and under my bed so that it didn't look so messy. Not that there was any chance he'd see my bedroom, but the cleaning made me feel better.
When the room was clean enough and I was feeling a little better, I took one last look around my room and began steeling myself for going back out to the living room. I reached for the door handle, but stopped at a thought, and raced across the room. I hastily pulled the 'Midnight Circus' poster off the wall, silently lamenting the torn edges, and threw it hastily on top of the pile of crap that now littered the bottom of my closet. He didn't need to know how big a fan I was.
With another deep breath for courage, I opened the door and walked back into the living room.
The first thing I noticed was a light snore echoing through the empty space. My eyes confirmed what my ears hinted at. Jimmy Crystal had fallen asleep on my couch. He was curled up near the arm rest with his head tilted back and his mouth open. It was not particularly attractive. The water bottle lay, three-quarters empty, in the crook of his arm, leaning at a precarious angle. Half of the second piece of unbuttered toast lay on the armrest.
I wasn't sure how long I'd been out of it, but obviously it'd been long enough for him to go back to sleep. I didn't know what to do. How to act. His being asleep gave me a chance to think about what I should do. Should I fangirl hard, like I really wanted to, and ask him to sign all of his movies and tell him how much I loved his work? That's what celebrities like right?
But he hadn't introduced himself as a celebrity at the bar. At the bar he'd just been Ben. Ben, the normal guy. If he'd wanted the fangirl treatment, wouldn't he have told me that he was Jimmy Crystal?
I was thankful for the relaxing effect of the anxiety pill while I thought. His light snores moved across the room in gentle waves. His face was relaxed and oddly innocent in his sleep. The innocence convinced me. If he'd wanted fangirl-Lisa, he'd have introduced himself as a celebrity. But he didn't. He introduced himself as normal-Ben, so I would just be normal-Lisa. Or at least, I'd really try to act normal.
He snorted and coughed, waking himself up enough to move his head from laying back on the backrest to leaning to the side. A position that would be equally as uncomfortable in a few minutes. It was so strange and cute to see this celebrity acting like a normal person that I couldn't help but chuckle. I shook my head, banished my inner fangirl to the deepest darkest most secret places in my head and heart, and went to get him a pillow and blanket.
I propped the pillow on the arm rest opposite from the side he was curled up on, and sat the blanket to the side. I moved to his side and shook his shoulder gently. "Ben.." I paused, coughed, and continued "Jimmy?"
His eyes opened and he looked up at me. This time he didn't seem quite so out of it. The water and toast had done him good. "Hey." His voice was rough from sleep. A shiver went down my spine and my inner fangirl whispered that that was so sexy! But I ignored her and the shiver.
"Hey." I smiled at him and he sleepily smiled back "I brought you a pillow and blanket. I thought you might like to lay down." He nodded and looked over at the pillow. He moved slowly to rest his head on the pillow, and curled up on his right side on the couch. That's when I noticed a problem.
He was significantly longer than my couch. He pulled his knees up and tried to fit, but it was obvious that he was not going to be comfortable on the couch. He rubbed his face with his hands, still trying to get his long legs to fit on my short couch, and looked up at me with a wry expression.
I hid a smile with my hand. He looked so awkward with his knees hanging off the front of the couch and his feet resting off the end of the armrest. He was so not going to fit on the couch. But there wasn't anywhere else to put him except the bed.
I sighed and shook my head. "That's not going to work is it?" I asked, a laugh sneaking out in my voice.
He gallantly tried to pretend it would be fine "Nah, I'll be alright, I've slept on worse. I'll get used to it."
I just raised an eyebrow and smothered a giggle.
He sighed and rubbed his face again, obviously fighting sleep. "I'll be fine. I promise."
Yeah. Right. Not.
"No, you won't. You are way to big for my couch." I paused "tell you what, you can crash in my bed tonight and I'll sleep on the couch." Which my back would not appreciate. But hey, what can you do when you have a six foot something celebrity in your house other than offer your bed? My inner fangirl really liked that idea and had some really nasty suggestions to go with it. I mentally gagged her. That was not going to happen. Things like that don't happen in real life.
Of course, in real life celebrities don't get drunk and crash on your couch either.
Jimmy gave up on trying to get his long frame to fit and sat up. "I don't wanna take your bed from you. It's yours." He looked up at me mournfully.
I didn't really wanna give up my bed either. I'd fallen asleep on the couch accidentally many times, I knew how uncomfortable it was. But I wanted him to remember me well too. If he remembered anything at all after all the alcohol. So, I smiled and said "Nah, no worries. I'm short enough, I'll fit on the couch much better than you. You can take the bed."
Jimmy nodded and stood up, listing to the side a little "Ok, It's your house. I tried to do the right thing."
I nodded sympathetically and pushed him back to an upright position so that he wouldn't fall over. "Come on Big Ben. Let's get you into bed."
He snickered and muttered "That's what she said" as he stumbled towards the bedroom. I followed beside him, helping him stay upright. He continued to snicker as we walked down the hallway. Halfway to the door, he tripped over the floor and staggered into me.
I grunted from the impact, then wrapped my arms around him as he started to sag to the ground. "Woah! Woah. Woah. No falling down Ben. No falling down. Up we go." I braced with my legs and held him around the chest.
After a confusing moment, Jimmy managed to get his feet stable and we stood still, savoring the averted disaster. Simultaneously, we realized that we were in close quarters. Now that he was standing on his own, I was still pressed close to his chest, with my arms around him. His arms were wrapped around me to keep him stable. My face was mere inches away from his and the fangirl in the back of my head screamed at me to KIIIIISSSSS HIIIIIMMMM. I was never going to get a better opportunity than this!
But I didn't. He was drunk, and I was his caretaker. There are some lines I just don't wanna cross, and taking advantage of a drunken man was one of them. So, regretfully and with my inner fangirl crying in despair, I let go and stepped out of his embrace.
As I moved away, Jimmy leaned after me and his face was quite confused. "Lisa?" his voice was questioning. My inner fangirl berated me for choosing not to kiss him when I had the opportunity, because obviously he was expecting me to. But I'm not that kind of girl. So I just looked up into his crystal blue eyes, blushed, and shrugged. "Yeah?" I couldn't think of anything else to say.
He blinked, opened his mouth to speak, closed it, and blinked hard again. "I think I need to lie down now." His voice was crisp, clear, and a little over enunciated. In all my experience with drunk people, that was a warning sign of the end of consciousness.
Still blushing furiously, I helped him the rest of the way into the room, and onto the bed. Jimmy carefully laid his head on my pillows. I pulled the blanket over him and tucked him in like I would a child. He was already snoring softly when I turned out the light. As I was closing the door, I heard his voice whisper from the darkness.
"Thank you Lisa."
My voice was just as quiet when I answered "You're welcome Jimmy." But I don't think he heard me.
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