Home > The Idea of You(7)

The Idea of You(7)
Author: Robinne Lee

We finished our tea like that: fingers entwined on the banquette away from prying eyes, and the knowledge that we’d made a promise.

When the bill was paid, the maître d’ returned to our table. He asked if everything had been to our satisfaction. And then, very matter-of-factly, he said, “Mr. Campbell, I regret to inform you, it appears someone got wind of your whereabouts and there are a few paparazzi awaiting you out front. I apologize. They’re not on the premises, but they are just across the street from the valet. I wanted to give you fair warning, should you want to stagger your exit.”

Hayes took a moment to digest the information and then nodded. “Thank you, Pierre.”

“What does that mean exactly?” I asked once he’d departed.

“It means that unless you want to be on all the blogs tomorrow, you should probably leave before me.”

“Oh. Okay. So now?” I reached across the banquette for my Saint Laurent tote.

He laughed, pulling me back into him. “You don’t have to go this very moment.”

“I should, though.”

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “If we don’t walk out of the restaurant together, we risk looking guilty. But if we walk to the valet together and the cameras catch us, we risk looking guilty to a much larger audience.”

“So it’s a game?”

“It’s a game.” He slipped on his sunglasses. “You ready?”

I began to laugh. “Remind me how I ended up here again.”

“Solène”—he smiled—“it’s just lunch.”

If I’d managed to forget Hayes was a celebrity during our near two-hour meal, there was no ignoring it when we walked across the terrace of the Hotel Bel-Air restaurant. All six feet two inches of him, in black jeans and black boots. Heads turned and eyes widened and patrons gestured among themselves, and he seemed not to notice. He’d grown accustomed to tuning them out.

In the walkway, just before we reached the bridge, he stopped me, his hand on my waist, familiar. “You go on, and I’ll pop into the lounge for a bit.”

That seemed wise. Not that I couldn’t sell Hayes being a potential buyer to inquiring friends. I just wasn’t sure I could sell it to Isabelle.

He seemed to realize how close he was standing and stepped back, his fingers loosening slowly.

“Thank you,” he said, “for coming today. This was perfect.”

“It was.” We stood there for a moment, at arm’s distance, feeling the undeniable pull.

“Isabelle’s mum,” he mouthed, smiling. I wasn’t sure if he was relishing the moniker or the thought.

“Hayes Campbell.”

“I can’t kiss you here.” His voice was low, raspy.

“Who said I wanted you to?”

He laughed at that. “I want to.”

“Well, that’s problematic, then, isn’t it? You should have chosen a more secluded place.”

Hayes cocked his head, his jaw falling slack. “Excuse me?”

“I’m just messing with you,” I laughed. “This was lovely.”

“Because if you want, I could get us a room…” He grinned.

“I’m sure you could.”

“I just thought you were a respectable lady.”

“Only sometimes.” I leaned into him then to kiss his cheek. Not an art world air-kiss, but the chance to press his skin against mine, breathe in his scent, and lock it in my memory. A little like stealing. “Thank you for lunch, Mr. Campbell. ’Til next time…” And with that, I turned and walked off toward the unassuming paparazzi.

new york

There was no definitive plan. We’d parted without making specific arrangements; I went back to my full life, and he to his. And yet almost immediately, I found myself wanting to see him again.

He called from the road, every three days or so, beckoning. “Come to Seattle, Solène … Meet me in Denver, Solène … Phoenix … Houston…” And each time I declined. We were swamped at work: opening our May show for conceptual painter Nkele Okungbowa, prepping our pieces to be shown at Art Basel. Isabelle had the school play. Much as I wanted, I could not just hop on a plane at his whim and allow myself to be whisked away. I had responsibilities. I had priorities. I had concerns about how it would look.

But in mid-May, it all came together nicely when the Frieze New York art fair fell on the same weekend August Moon was scheduled to do the Today show. The trip had been on my calendar for months, and the realization that I would have the satisfaction of seeing Hayes without the moral dilemma of flying across the country for that sole purpose felt like a win. This I was able to rationalize. Even to my daughter.

I picked her up from school the Friday before, and she was still riding high from her performance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream earlier that week. “Scott, the drama teacher at the Upper School, came up to me in the hall and said he couldn’t remember when last he saw a more compelling Hermia. He said that! To me!”

She was gushing as I pulled out of the carpool area. Her smile bright, eyes dancing.

“That’s great, peanut. You were compelling. You were very, very good.”

“Yeah, but you have to say that because you’re my mom. Oh, and Ella Martin, her brother Jack played Lysander. She’s a junior and she’s like beautiful and smart and everyone loves her, and she congratulated me.”

“That’s awesome,” I said, drinking her in. Her long hair, wild, free. “How’d the algebra quiz go?”

“Blech.” She stuck out her tongue. “Torture. I’m never going to be good at math. Clearly, I didn’t get Daddy’s gene.”

“Sorry,” I laughed.

“It’s not your fault. Well, maybe a little bit.” She smiled. She was syncing her iPhone with the car stereo, thumbing through her various playlists while I navigated the traffic on Olympic. Eventually she found what she was looking for.

A piano intro began, vaguely familiar, melancholy. She leaned back in the seat, closed her eyes. “I love this song. I love this song so much.”

I did not need to ask. The vocals kicked in, the voice deep, raspy, unmistakable.

“‘Seven Minutes,’” she said. “Hayes has the sexiest voice ever…”

I could not say anything for fear of giving myself away. We sat there quietly, Hayes filling the space between us. Will you catch me if I fall? I could feel my face growing hot, his thumb on the inside of my wrist. My thoughts, indecent.

“Is my fencing tournament in San Jose next weekend?” Isabelle sat forward, breaking the spell. “Who’s taking me, you or Daddy?”

“Daddy. I’m in New York next week for Frieze. Remember?”

She sighed, sinking back into the seat. “I’d forgotten.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You’re always gone—”

“Izz—”

“I know, I know. It’s work.”

I reached over the console then and squeezed her hand. “I’ll make it up to you. Promise.”

* * *

New York was a dance, coordinating our itineraries so that Hayes and I might steal a few hours together. He was in midtown. I was staying in Soho, but commuting up to Randall’s Island for the fair. We were not exhibiting this time around, so I’d come alone to meet with clients while Lulit held down the fort at home. There were business lunches and festive dinners and few opportunities to fraternize outside of work. But Hayes’s schedule made mine look like child’s play.

It was his grandeur, in a town as big and bustling as Manhattan, that affected me in ways I did not expect. An album promo plastered across the side of a city bus. The band’s image looming large in Times Square. The occasional tween sporting the now-familiar Petty Desires tour T-shirt. Hayes’s face greeting me at random turns. At once lovely and unsettling.

On Friday morning, I’d met Amara Winthrop, a former classmate who was now working with Gagosian’s camp, for an early breakfast at the Peninsula. I’d arrived fifteen minutes late, apologizing profusely for the abominable traffic. “Oh please,” she’d said, waving her hand. “It’s Friday. It’s the Today show. I should have warned you. I think that British boy band is playing. It’s madness out there. Latte?”

It hadn’t dawned on me until that moment that when Hayes had mentioned doing the show, he was talking about performing before close to twenty thousand in the middle of Rockefeller Plaza. That the ripple effect of him and the group singing alfresco on a Friday morning in midtown would affect me and a million others attempting to negotiate our morning commutes. I’d had this naïve idea that if I just ignored his celebrity, I would become immune to it; that it might cease to exist for me. I was wrong.

* * *

We had made tentative lunch plans. I was to meet him at the Four Seasons after spending the morning up at Frieze. He’d warned me it might be hectic, but nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of fans surrounding the entrance of the hotel. It appeared to be some three hundred of them, swarming, swooning, waiting for a glimpse of their idols. Augies clutching photos and cell phones. Paparazzi convened and at the ready. There were barricades erected on both sides of the main entrance and the opposite side of the street. At least a dozen of the band’s security milled about, dressed in black with identifiable lanyards. Another seven or so guards in suits blocked the hotel’s entrance. And half a dozen or so of New York’s Finest. My heart was racing as I exited the Uber car. As if I’d somehow caught the girls’ excitement by my proximity. These fans were older than Isabelle and her brood. More impassioned, more determined. And being near them left me with a feeling I could not quite articulate. Along with the rush and the nerves, there was a sensation not unlike fear.

I had no problem walking into the hotel. Hayes had said I wouldn’t. That hotel security would assume I was a guest and not question my being there. I was the right age and socioeconomic background, and I imagined most groupies did not wear The Row. Regardless, he’d had one of the band’s detail meet me in the lobby: Desmond, a stocky redhead who greeted me with a little bow before escorting me to the elevators and up to the thirty-second floor. I could only imagine what he thought my visit might entail, but if he assumed anything improper, he did not let on.

   
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