Good Girl Page 66

I shrug. “I guess I just realized I want other stuff too. I hate that I have to choose.”

She steps forward and wraps her arms around me. “It will get better. Promise.”

I nod. “You’re sure you’re not feeling well enough to come?”

“I really just want to rest,” she says. “But I want to hear all the details.”

I take a deep breath and pull back. “Absolutely. I’ll get out the second I can and come back and we can eat junk food and gossip.”

“Ooh, I have these delicious dark chocolate açai berries!”

I mime a gagging motion.

The premiere’s actually within walking distance of the hotel, but apparently no Hollywood starlet would be caught dead walking up to the red carpet, so I have to go through this whole dumb process of getting into a limo and driving exactly ninety seconds, during which time Candice fires off frantic instructions about what I’m allowed to talk about if an interviewer stops to question me.

The gist: don’t talk about food, do talk about the movie, definitely don’t talk about infidelity.

Got it.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve mastered the art of the red carpet, but I’ve done it enough times to know the basics.

Check for lipstick on teeth before emerging from vehicle.

Keep your knees together when getting out of the car.

If you forget to shave your armpits, watch that your waving arm doesn’t lift too high.

Smile wide, but not too wide.

Try not to faint even though you haven’t had anything to eat all day.

I’ve got all that down, and yet the lights are still blinding as heck the second my high heel hits the ground.

I grit my teeth and take a big breath before standing and greeting the screaming crowd with a wide smile and enthusiastic wave (I did shave my armpits).

The funny thing about being an international strumpet is that people don’t really seem to like you any less. I missed that the first time around. Sure, you get the occasional judgy woman in the grocery store or the leering married man at the gas station, but mostly people seem pretty willing to forgive you almost anything—the things you did do, and the things you didn’t.

My publicist instructed me to make a couple of stops along the line to sign autographs, take selfies, that sort of thing, but really, she didn’t need to remind me. I like this part. I love it.

This is what it’s all about for me. Not the money or the awards or the fancy dress, but the people whose day you make just by making eye contact.

I move down the line, laughing at both the good jokes and the bad ones, pretending not to hear the questions about my personal life, all while repeating the name of my particular shade of lip gloss over and over again.

A glance behind me tells me things are starting to back up, and I’m just about to move on when my eye catches on a little girl trying desperately to get to the front row, waving Just for Now frantically as she struggles to squeeze through. The case is cracked, as though it’s been well loved, her Sharpie marker has leaked on her fingers, and there’s no way in hell I’m moving on without talking to her.

The people behind me can wait.

I reach out a hand toward her, and she freezes for a moment, until other people get the idea and move out of the way so she can get through.

“What’s your name, sweetheart?” I ask, gratefully accepting someone else’s offered pen rather than her leaky one and reaching for the cracked case.

She shoves her glasses higher up on her nose and grins the biggest grin I’ve ever seen with a mouthful of braces. “I’m Paula. You’re beautiful. I think you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to grow up to be just like you, a singer and a good dancer and a good actress, and really pretty.”

I laugh as I hand her back the cracked case. “I have no doubt, Paula.”

Paula’s no longer looking at me.

Instead her eyes are round—nearly as round as her mouth, which is a comical O shape—as she looks over my shoulder.

Everyone else seems to be looking too, and there’s a new urgency to the buzz.

I turn around, expecting to see that one of the actual stars has arrived, perhaps wearing some scandalous dress or with a date who wasn’t the anticipated significant other, or….


Noah is here in Los Angeles.

Wearing a tux.

Noah is walking toward me.

I put all the pieces together:

Noah is in L.A., wearing a tux, and he’s walking toward me.

I blink.

He’s still there.

I pinch my arm, hard. Wake up, Jenny. Not the time for a breakdown.

He’s still there. His eyes are warm as they approach me, his smile just a little bit cocky.

I can’t breathe.

“Oh, Ms. Dawson,” I hear Paula squeal. “Your boyfriend’s even more handsome in person.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I say, but nobody seems to be listening.

Nobody except Noah, who’s now a foot away from me.

“No?” he asks, lifting an eyebrow.

“No what?” I ask, too addled to think straight. I’m sort of aware that the lights are flashing all around me, much as they were before, except this time they’re all on me. On me and Noah.

“No, I’m not your boyfriend?” he says huskily, taking a step closer.

Holy cow, he really does look amazing in his tux. His hair looks different too. Good different. Still messy Noah, but deliberately messy, as though someone styled it.

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