Home > The Idea of You(4)

The Idea of You(4)
Author: Robinne Lee

He was standing there, staring at me in a way that he probably should not have been. He was so ridiculously young. And I was someone’s mother. And in no world could this lead to anything good.

“Wow,” he said, soft. “That sounds like a pretty perfect life.”

“Yeah. But for—”

“But for the ex-husband,” he finished my thought.

“Yeah. And everything that comes with that.”

As if on cue, Isabelle skipped up to us, wide-eyed and happy. “Mom, this is the best party ever! We were talking about it, and this is even better than Harry Wasserman’s Bar Mitzvah.”

“Not Harry’s Bar Mitzvah?” Hayes had snapped out of wherever his thoughts had taken him and returned to teen idol mode.

She blushed, covering her mouth. “Hiiii, Hayes.”

“Hiiii, Isabelle.”

“You remembered my name?”

“Lucky guess.” He shrugged. “What’s Liam doing over there? Is he showing you how he does the worm? You know I taught him everything he knows, right? Shall we have a worm-off? Liam!” Hayes called across the room. “Worm-off! Now!”

I could sense Isabelle bursting out of her skin when Hayes threw his arm around her shoulders and began leading her away. “Excuse us, Solène. There’s a competition to be had.”

The sight of the two of them, my awkward daughter and the comely rock star, making their way across the room was so bizarre and ironic, I had to laugh.

Hayes was in his element. In no time, he’d become the center of attention, lying prostrate on the floor, psyching himself up for the competition, his bandmates and fans swarming around him. While Liam’s wiry frame and jerky moves might have made him the more natural dancer, Hayes was far more captivating. There was a grace to him, sliding across the floor in his black jeans and boots. His feet kicking high up into the air, lifting his hips intermittently off the ground. Arm muscles straining with each thrust. A sliver of abdomen peeking out from beneath his thin T-shirt. He was such a vision of virility, it almost felt dirty to watch.

There was hooting and whistling, and when Hayes finally rose from the floor, Simon grabbed him in a man-hug. “This lad right here!” he howled, his blue eyes wide, his blond hair standing on end. “Is there nothing he can’t do?!”

Hayes threw back his head and laughed, hair in disarray, dimples blazing. “Nothing.” He beamed. But at that moment his eyes caught mine and the charge was so strong, I had to look away.

* * *

We left shortly after the “worm-off.” When a lithe, questionably legal brunette had situated herself atop Liam’s lap, and Rory’s lips were on the neck of the swimsuit model in the corner, and at least half a dozen of the crew had slipped out and then reappeared glassy-eyed, I figured it might be a good time to get the girls out of there. The Vanity Fair writer was long gone.

“We’ve had such a lovely time. Thank you for inviting us.”

We had congregated by the door, Rose wilting, Isabelle yawning, Georgia’s hair growing to impressive proportions.

“I can’t convince you all to stay longer?”

“It’s late and we’re flying out in the morning.”

“You could change your flight.”

I could feel my eyes narrowing, some involuntary tic I must have picked up from my mother.

“Right, okay, so that wouldn’t be a good idea,” he backpedaled.

“Probably not. No.”

“This was the best night ever,” “Brilliant,” “Epic,” the girls all said at once.

“Glad you had fun.” Hayes smiled. “We’ll do it again sometime, yeah?”

There was unanimous agreement from my entourage.

“So, um…” It was he who was stalling, eyes searching, fingers running through his poufy hair. “What did you say the name of your gallery was? You know, should I ever be in California and desire some contemporary art…”

“Marchand Raphel.” I smiled.

“Marchand Raphel,” he repeated. “And you would be—”

“She’s the Marchand,” Georgia volunteered.

“Solène Marchand.” His smile widened. His teeth were decidedly un-English. Big, straight, white. Someone had spent good money on those teeth. “’Til next time, then?”

I nodded, but the seed had been planted. If I hadn’t had the girls …

And then, completely aware of what I was suggesting and with surprisingly little hesitation, I laid the bait: “There’s always a next time.”

bel-air

He called.

Five days after Vegas, there was a message on my voicemail at the gallery. His voice: elegantly raspy with that darling British lilt. “Hello, Solène. This is Hayes Campbell. I’m in Los Angeles just for a few days. Was wondering if you’d be up for grabbing a bite.”

I must have listened to it five times.

Hayes Campbell. On my voicemail. For all his coy and calculated charm in Vegas, I was genuinely taken aback. I did not expect the follow-through. And what had passed as harmless flirtation in the underbelly of the Mandalay Bay seemed suddenly lurid in the Southern California light. Grabbing a bite. With a twenty-year-old. From a boy band. Under what circumstance might that ever be construed as acceptable?

I tried to push it to the back of my head and get on with my work. But it remained there all day. Subtle, enticing, like the last piece of chocolate in the box put away for safekeeping. A little gift I was holding onto for myself. I didn’t even share it with Lulit. And with her, I shared quite a bit.

We’d met fifteen years earlier in New York at Sotheby’s exclusive training program. Lulit stood out to me in a class of exceptional people. Sylphlike brown limbs, lyrical Ethiopian accent, a love for Romare Bearden. I adored the way she used her arms when she talked, about art in particular: “Basquiat is so angry, the teeth never fit in the mouth!” “Dead sheep in a box isn’t art! Add some bread, it’s dinner.”

She’d only just received her BA from Yale and I had already completed my master’s when we met, but we shared a sensibility for contemporary art and the desire to be a part of something thrilling and unexpected. We found it in L.A.’s burgeoning art scene.

It was Lulit who’d come up with the idea of only representing female artists and artists of color. She’d spent three years in Sotheby’s contemporary art department following our program. I’d done a year at the Gladstone Gallery before Daniel and I moved to L.A. We’d been married all of five months before I got pregnant with Isabelle and surrendered everything that had made me me. When Lulit arrived on the West Coast, spirited and ready to change the art world, I allowed myself to be swept up in her zeal. Marriage and motherhood had started to deaden mine. “Let’s shake things up a little, yes?” she’d exclaimed over sushi at Sasabune. “You know, white men are so overrated.”

At the time, I was spending my days tending to a willful twenty-month-old while Daniel was out billing 2,800 hours; I was inclined to agree. Within a year, Marchand Raphel was born.

The day that Hayes Campbell left a message on my voicemail, we sold the final piece of our current show. Argentinean-born artist Pilar Anchorena was known for her arresting mixed-media collages. Contemplative works in vibrant colors, always offering some commentary on race or class or privilege. Not for those seeking tame, pretty pictures, but catnip for the advanced collector.

Together with our sales director, Matt, and gallery manager, Josephine, Lulit and I toasted with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. One sweet moment of accomplishment before tending to the logistics of our May show.

In the late afternoon, when the others had gone, I locked myself in the office and took a bite of my metaphorical chocolate. “So, you tracked me down, did you?”

“I did.” Hayes’s gravelly voice filled the phone.

“Very resourceful.”

“I have an assistant…”

“Of course you do.”

“Her name is Siri. She’s quite good at her job.”

I laughed at that. “Well played, Hayes Campbell. What can I do for you?”

“Oh dear”—he cleared his throat—“the first and last name. Kiss of death.”

“How so?”

“Far too formal.”

“What would you like me to call you?”

“Hayes will do.”

“Hayes will do what?” I laughed. “I kid. I’m sorry. It’s been a long day.” I stole a glimpse at my watch. I had forty-five minutes before I had to pick up Isabelle from fencing. It would take me anywhere from twelve minutes to an hour to get there. L.A.

“Let me take you to dinner.” It was a statement, not a question.

Dinner? I had been thinking more along the lines of a Starbucks. Maybe Le Pain Quotidien …

My pulse quickened. “I can’t … tonight. It’s short notice and I don’t have a sitter.” This was a half-truth. Isabelle didn’t need a sitter. She was twelve. But dinner seemed too official. Too much of a thing.

“Maybe drinks tomorrow,” I offered as a concession, and then realized my faux pas. He was not yet twenty-one.

It did not seem to faze him. “Can’t tomorrow. We’re playing the Staples Center.”

“Oh.” Yes, of course. The Staples Center. He’d said it so matter-of-factly. No conceit. Like Daniel announcing he had to work late on a deal. “Well, that won’t work then, will it?”

“No,” he laughed, this throaty laugh that made him sound older than twenty. Or so I wanted to believe. “Kind of have to show up for that. How about lunch then?”

I had a client lunch scheduled for Friday. I told him so. “Breakfast?”

He couldn’t. The band was booked on a couple of morning shows. I threw out Saturday and Sunday as dinner options, and he declined. They were playing four nights at Staples and then heading up to the Bay. I tried to imagine how many screaming girls it would take to fill the Staples Center four times over, but I couldn’t begin to wrap my head around it.

   
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