I wasn’t sure how I ended up scheduled to spend the entire month of June here, but looking at the view of Lake Michigan from my rented house, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I had told my assistant, Alcide, that I would be attending the Waterfront Film Festival for a screening of my latest film and that I wanted to get out of Los Angeles to take a month off this summer. How those two things had co-mingled in his mind, I’m not sure.
Yet here I am; in a quiet house on a bluff overlooking the Lake. I am removed from all that is Hollywood. It’s fine with me. I hate the limelight. Most people are surprised to learn how I feel about my role in the public eye. I tolerate it, just barely.
I think it comes from years of being singled out growing up. Being different is a horrible thing for any child; and my height had always received attention growing up. I was bullied in my elementary years, teased in middle school, and then in high school, I was spotlighted in athletics and focused on by girls because they found me attractive. All I ever wanted was to blend in.
Very few people knew how I felt about being a celebrity. If I told someone how I really felt, I then had a hard time explaining why I liked acting, but not show business. It’s simple though, really. Being on a stage, or acting out a scene, is easy because it’s not really me. I find it instinctual to become the character I’m playing, to stand under the lights and completely separate myself from the situation. For me, performing and being observed are two completely different things.
Listening to the waves, I laughed, remembering that I told Pam that a Lake would never compare to the Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Over the past week, the sound of the water had lulled me to sleep several times, and I found myself, more than once, forgetting that the body of water I was looking at was in fact, just a lake. The word “lake” really didn’t seem to do it justice.
The sliding glass door opened and I heard Alcide talking on his Bluetooth head set, disturbing my reverie. I gave him a look, and he cut the call short.
“Eric,” he said, “I hope you’re enjoying yourself. Pam would like to talk to you later.”
“It’s great Alcide. I just want to get tonight over with and start my vacation.” I would have to talk to Pam later; she was my manager and was a pain in the ass if you didn’t return her calls. She stalked you until you gave up and talked to her.
“I know. I know. I have some papers from Pam that I need you to look at in the morning and we’ve been approached to have you do a photo shoot here on the beach.”
He was always trying to get me to do things I didn’t want to. It was his job, but it didn’t mean I had to like it. I could be kind of intense; in fact, some people would tell you tell you that I’m downright scary.
I cut him off. “No. My vacation starts the minute I get back here tonight. You and Pam will only be communicating with me via e-mail unless I initiate it.”
“Fine. Fine. Whatever you say. Are you going like that? I mean, I know this is casual, but you could at least fucking shave.”
“Alcide, shut the fuck up. Let’s go.”
“Pam is going to kill me for letting you going out in public like that. To a festival no less.”
“She’s in California, she can’t kill you.”
“That’s what you think,” he muttered as we walked through the house.
We headed into town and I drove around the block a couple of times, looking for a parking spot, listening to Alcide complain that I needed a driver. The streets were busy, but everyone was friendly, and a young couple waved, pointing to their car, indicating I should wait for the spot. Seriously, this would never happen in Los Angeles.
Our parking spot was a few blocks from the Center for the Arts since the lots near it were practically overflowing. Alcide was bitching about the Festival not having parking for celebrities, and I finally told him to shut up. In all honesty, I hadn’t told anyone that I would be driving, and it was nice to walk around unmolested.
Coming around the corner onto the main street, I winced. So much for the unmolested bit. A horde of paparazzi was hovering, waiting for my arrival. Damn Corvette. I knew I should have gotten a Ford or something. They had seen me driving into town and laid in wait.
The hot lights flipped on, shouted questions and elbows began flying, and they jockeyed for position. This is what I hated. A roped off red carpet was bad enough, but this was a cluster fuck. There were kind and considerate fans being pushed out of the way so these vultures could follow me. Alcide knew how much it pissed me off and tried to clear them away to no avail.
We were shuffling along, because walking was nearly impossible while surrounded. I caught a flash of blonde hair out of the corner of my eye and saw the person go down, knocked out of the way by a television camera that had swung around to film my approach.
“Shit,” I said, pushing the camera man out of the way. He hadn’t even noticed the poor, oh fuck me, woman he took out. She was sprawled on the sidewalk, having been completely bowled over, and, son of a bitch, she was out cold. In just a few seconds she blinked and tried to sit up. That was good, but damn, I couldn’t believe she’d been trampled on so someone could video tape me. It pissed me the fuck off, and he was still trying to get footage, shooting over my shoulder with that damn spotlight on. I gave Alcide a look and he knew that it was time for the paparazzi to back off, or Pam would kill him after I caused a scene.
The blonde woman was shielding her eyes from the light, looking totally surprised at her position on the ground as her eyes met mine. I could tell she was trying to figure out what had happened, blinking and rubbing the back of her head. Then her eyes widen as she realized we were surrounded by the media. Her eyes came back to mine and she looked at me with adoration, but not like a crazy fan, it was like she had seen an angel.
She was adorable. She wore plaid shorts in shades of pink and brown and a pink t-shirt that showed just enough cleavage to make my mouth water. Blonde hair fell to her shoulders in waves and blue eyes focused on me as she let out a sigh. She was still looking at me like I had dropped down from on-high, and I thought I could see a little bit of Heaven in her eyes as well.
Fuck, Northman. Pull it together; she just got knocked out by a vulture that was following you.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She made joke about the only thing hurt being her pride, and I realized that she had no idea that she’d actually lost consciousness. I asked her again, adding that detail to the question, and watched her expression as she puzzled over the information, like she didn’t believe me.
“No, really, I’m alright. I think I’m just going to go home,” she said.
Stubborn, I thought. I knew from playing sports that losing consciousness was bad; that you should watch out for a concussion, so I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be alone if she went home.
She said she didn’t know if anyone was there, so I told Alcide I was taking her home to make sure. He was giving me shit about being late and needing to make an appearance at the film, and I shut him down. Fuck him. I was making sure she was alright. I’d deal with the producers and the Festival people in the morning.
I led her down the side street to the fucking Vette, cursing Alcide anew for renting the damn thing. I love Corvette’s. I own three for Christ’s sake, but I didn’t need one here. I felt like a pretentious jackass, but I tried to push it aside.
Starting the engine and cranking the air, I turned, asking her for directions. She looked a little shell shocked, wide eyed and dumbstruck. What the Hell? I just asked where she lived.
Then I saw her lip start to quiver, and she said she didn’t know.
“I’m sorry, what?” Maybe she hit her head harder than I thought.
“Wow. I can’t remember.”
This was starting to look bad. I should have had Alcide find a medic. What should I do? I decided to try something basic.
I asked what her name was, looking at her expectantly, and watched her start to crumble.
“Fuck,” she said, starting to cry, “I have no idea.”
“It’s okay. Let’s just think. What’s in your pockets? Do you have an I.D. or anything?” Seriously, I couldn’t believe this was happening.
Rooting around in her adorable little shorts, she came up with a twenty dollar bill and a key that appeared to be for a hotel, but it only had a number on it, so we had no idea what hotel it was for.
“It’s okay,” I said, putting a hand on her arm, my voice slipping into a calming tone. I had two younger brothers and I’d kept them calm numerous times until one of our parents arrived to take them to the Emergency Room. Young boys are accident prone and having three in one household was extremely dangerous.
She looked at me, eyes full of tears, and it broke my heart. What was I supposed to do with her? Glancing in the mirror, I saw three or four photographers coming down the block. Fuck. They’d found the car. Again, I thought, the Corvette does not blend in. I eased the car out of the parking space. I didn’t want to upset her, but I didn’t want our picture taken either.
“It’s not okay. I don’t know who I am or where I live,” she blurted out quickly. Then, biting back a sob, she said, “But what’s totally crazy is I think I know who you are. And I most certainly shouldn’t be in the car with you, if you are who I think you are.”
Well, that was good. She hadn’t completely lost her memory; and she seemed to have a sense of humor.
“Why shouldn’t you be in the car with me?” I said with a smile.
“Are you who I think you are?”
“Don’t be coy. You’re you, aren’t you?”
She didn’t realize that what she said made no sense, it was cute. I continued smiling.
“If “you” is Eric Northman, then, yes, I am,” I said, watching for her reaction.
“Shit. This is wrong on so many levels.”
“What do you mean by that?” I said, laughing.
“I mean, I have no clue who I am or where I live; but I know that I should be completely freaking out to be sitting here with you because you’re famous, and…where are we going?”
“I was getting us away from some photographers. We can go to the hospital. That’s probably where I should take you.”
“No. No hospital. I don’t, I mean, I think I don’t like hospitals.”
“No one likes hospitals. What about the police station?” She shook her head at that too, looking out the window. “Do you want me to take you to my beach house and we’ll try to figure this out?”
She sighed, “Yeah. That sounds good, if you don’t mind.”
Suddenly she sat forward and looked at me. “Oh, crap. Do you have plans or something? You don’t need do this, really.”
“No. No. This is fine. This whole thing is my fault. We’ll just try to relax and see if it comes back to you.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
“I’m sure,” I said, turning off on the beach road leading to the place I was renting.
I parked in the driveway and she looked around.
“There’s a bridge to get to your house,” she said in awe.
“I know. Isn’t it cool? My assistant rented it for me.”
We got out of the car and walked over the bridge that covered a ravine between the house and the driveway. The area was very green with bushes and foliage, making the house seem like a giant tree-house. It was really great, but I wasn’t going to tell Alcide how much I liked it. He didn’t need the ego boost.
She walked through the house, looking around, but went straight out on to the deck. Exhaling, she stood looking out at the Lake.
“Would you like something to drink?” I asked from the doorway.
“Diet Coke,” she said over her shoulder without hesitation.
“You remember what you like to drink.”
“Oh. Yeah,” she smiled. “I do.”
“I’ll be right back,” I said, heading to the kitchen.
When I returned outside she was curled up in a deck chair, still looking out at the water. I took the chair next to her and sat down our drinks. The clinking of the glasses caught her attention, and she turned, giving me a shy smile.
“So,” I said uncertainly. “Where should we start?”
“Can we talk about you? Then I can just relax and maybe I’ll remember.”
“I don’t really like to talk about me,” I said.
“No, do you? I mean, like to talk about yourself?”
She laughed, “I’m not really sure right now but probably not. Just small talk, okay? Like, how long are you here?”
“Small talk I can do. I’m here for a month, on vacation.”
“Really? What are you going to do while you’re here?”
“Relax,” I said with a sigh. “Maybe do some wine tasting? The rental agent left me some brochures and travel guides. I had no idea how many wineries there are in Michigan.”
“Oh yeah, it’s really fun to wine taste from here to Chicago. There are like ten wineries on the way, and two casinos.”
I grinned, but didn’t say a word.
“Holy shit! How do I know that? Let’s keep talking! Okay. Okay. Is anyone coming to visit? Will you be here by yourself all month?”
I knew she wasn’t asking if I was single, but I figured I’d slip that little piece of information in there. Shit. Would she remember if she was single? I glanced at her hand and didn’t see a ring on her left hand, or even the lines from a ring. What the hell was I thinking?This whole situation was nuts.
“I think my brothers are coming out the last week I’m here, but I’m not sure. I, ah, I’m single, so other than that, it’ll just be me.”
“Wow, almost a whole month to yourself.”
She seemed to drift into her own thoughts and I wondered if I had upset her.
“Everything okay in there?” I said, tapping her head, trying to keep things light.
“It’s a little scrambled. I’m just bewildered by what I know and what I don’t.”
“Hmmm…Well, I know who you are and I know you’re on Blood Lust,” she said laughing, “I know my way around Saugatuck, I recognized a lot in the car. I like Diet Coke apparently, there’s a hair tie on my wrist, so I must wear my hair up, and I’m not be a vegetarian, because someone down the beach is grilling and it smells fabulous, but that’s about it. I feel kind of crazy, like I’m losing my mind.”
“You’re not crazy,” I said, putting my hand over hers.
“I’m not a stalker fan either. I know that.” She said, glancing at me.
“I didn’t think you were.”
“Yeah, well, earlier I said all of that ‘If you are who I think you are’ stuff, and I didn’t want you to be weirded out.”
“It was actually kind of sweet. Most people just interrupt whatever is going on and ask for an autograph. You didn’t even assume that I was me.”
“It might have something to do with my loss of consciousness, but in general, I like to think I was raised better than that.”
“Damn! I did it again!”
“It will all come back. You’ll be okay,” I said, rubbing the back of her hand.
It was all very bizarre. I felt like we had known each other for years. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt with this woman that didn’t even know her own name. She shivered, and I realized that the temperature had gone down with the sun.
“It’s getting cold. Would you like to go inside, or I can get us some blankets?”
“Oh, inside I think.”
Moving into the living room she claimed what a corner of the couch. I made coffee and she added that to her list of things she knew. She liked coffee, black. I sat on the other end of the couch and we turned to face each other. I was completely at ease with her and she seemed relaxed as well.
We talked about the movie I had showing at the Festival; laughing as I told her about some of the on-set drama with my costars. She couldn’t believe that people who got paid so much money could be so petty, which had me rolling with laughter.
We spoke amicably for hours, although I did most of the talking. I told her about life in Los Angeles and how I really didn’t know what was coming up in the next season ofBlood Lust. At some point she had stretched her legs out on the couch; and I unconsciously began rubbing her feet. She didn’t pull away and we continued talking as if I wasn’t a total stranger massaging her arches.
Eventually she began to yawn. I couldn’t remember if I shouldn’t let her fall asleep because of getting knocked out, but it had been several hours and she wasn’t having any symptoms of a concussion, well, except for her memory loss.
“Do you want to go to bed?” I asked. “In the guest room, I mean. We’ll figure out who to call in the morning. Sound good?”
“Yeah,” she said, yawning again. “Thank you again for this; for taking care of me.”
Holding out a hand to her, I helped her up and led her to the stairs. Regretfully I let go of her hand, cursing myself for being such a pathetic sap. I had to remind myself this wasn’t a date. I didn’t even know her really. She followed me to the guest room and waited while I grabbed a t-shirt for her to sleep in.
“Goodnight,” I said. “I’m right down the hall if you need anything.”
“Alright. Thanks again, Eric. Really, you didn’t have to do this.”
“Hey, this is my fault. The stupid cameras were there for me. I wouldn’t have felt right letting anyone else take care of you.”
“Well, goodnight,” she said, and she went into the guest room, closing the door behind her.
After hearing the door click shut, I stood there for a minute, shaking my head. She was the one with memory loss and I was acting like a fool. Heading to my room, I thought that I really had been single too long.
A few minutes later, I came out of the master bathroom still thinking about her and ready to crawl in bed. Who was she and where did she live? Why was she at the Festival? Was she meeting someone? There were so many details she couldn’t remember that I was itching to know.
I stopped dead in my tracks. She was standing in the doorway to my bedroom backlit by the hall light that I had left on so she could find the bathroom.
“Did you need something?” I asked, trying not to sound too excited that she was standing there.
“Yeah, um. Oh, never mind. It’s stupid,” she said, turning to go.
“No, wait. Tell me, I’m sure it’s not stupid.”
“Shit,” she said, pulling her hair back from her face. “Can I sleep in here? I can’t stop thinking in there and when I was with you tonight it was better.”
Holy shit! Like I’m going to say no? I should say no, but I couldn’t.
“Yeah, of course. If that’s what you want to do.”
“Thank you. I just can’t be alone with my own thoughts.”
I walked to my side of the bed and waited, was she really going to get in my bed? Fuck. How did I get myself into this? She hesitated for just a second, and then pulled the sheets back on her side and climbed in.
It was my turn to hesitate. Under the covers or over the covers? Damn. What was the right thing to do?
She must have sensed my dilemma. Smiling, she said, “Get in silly. It’s your bed.”
Careful not to touch her, I got under the covers and tried not to think about her lying next to me in nothing but my too big t-shirt. With a sigh, she reached out to hold my hand.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Smiling in the dark, I squeezed her hand in reassurance. When I finally felt her drift off to sleep, we were still holding hands.