cameo: a small character part in a play or movie, played by a distinguished actor or a celebrity.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Tallulah sighed tiredly, sinking down into her bubble bath. It had been hours since she went to her callback—since she saw her ex-husband. Now, she was the major supporting role in the legendary Eugene Aaron’s upcoming indie film, Forget Me Not, about the estranged son of a woman suffering from terrible memory loss who goes through extreme measures to get ahold of an experimental drug. Tallulah was to play the mother’s private nurse, a voice of reason for the lead he rarely listens to but has a soft spot for. She should have been ecstatic about the opportunity. Her first big break ever! However, the fact that her ex-husband was her co-star depleted her celebratory mood to zero. That and he had no fucking clue he had an eight-year-old son.
“Oh, Milo,” she said softly, shaking her head. “What am I going to do?”
Mrs. Newberry took Milo on a worldwide excursion into town. Grocery shopping, feeding gulls at the beach, visiting her older sister who lives at a nursing home, church choir practice, and then a game of bridge one of her elderly friend’s houses. He was supposed to be grounded, but Tallulah was too exhausted to inforce it.
For now, it was nice to have some peace and quiet.
As she bathed herself, she tried not to think about Nick, but every time she attempted to close her eyes and relax, he fluttered into her mind like a goddamn wet dream. She couldn’t deny he was breathtakingly handsome. It made sense that he won World’s Sexiest Man four times. He looked perfect. Society had come into agreement he was a perfect male specimen, but to her, he was perfect back then too when he was hers.
Now, in a way, he was everyone’s.
The moment their hands touched in the audition, a jolt of electricity shot through her and warmed her body. She did a great job at ignoring it, but putting it on the backburner hadn’t been for the best. In the company of others, she managed, but alone, that sensation was filling up her insides surely and quickly.
Thinking about those damn blue eyes didn’t help any either.
She chewed on her bottom lip as she slithered her fingers slid down her belly to touch a place she had neglected for quite a few months.
Heavy knocks on her front door made her freeze. Her eyebrows shot upward at the sound and she leaned her head out of the bathtub, waiting quietly to see if she should bother getting out of the tub. Silence filled the apartment and just as she reclined back into her original spot, there was another sequence of knocks. However, the delivery was much more playful.
Dripping in water and suds, she wrapped herself in a towel and shoved her wet feet into her house slippers, shuffling hurriedly through her home to get to the front door. She rose to the tips of her toes, her face contorting in horror at the sight of her ex-husband on the other side.
“What the fuck,” she gasped.
“I know you’re in there, Ray. I strong-armed it out of Finn like old times,” Nick said, leaning closer to the door to say in a lower register, “You better let me in before a neighbor sees me and calls the paparazzi, so they can use some money to move out of this shitty place.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and muttered a curse before she unlocked the door, flinging it open and hissing through grit teeth, “Get your ass in here now, now, now.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Nick said, sauntering proudly into her apartment.
Tallulah gently shut and locked the door in his wake, not wanting to draw any attention. “What are you doing here, Nick?”
“You said that getting your part today was your first big break, so I brought you some champagne from my personal wine cellar to celebrate the occasion,” he said as he briefly presented the rose gold bottle in his possession before he took it upon himself to make his way into her kitchen. The name sprawled on the golden label was engrained in her mind in mere seconds.
He brought her a 10-thousand-dollar bottle of Dom Perignon champagne from his personal wine cellar?
She held her towel tightly around her as she scurried after him, witnessing him rummage through her kitchen draws. “Thank you for the thoughtful gesture, but that really wasn’t necessary.”
He pondered to himself, “Where in the devil is your corkscrew?”
Then he snapped his fingers as a revelation came to him and he moved over to the fridge, opening it to retrieve the handy tool. She hated that after all these years, he remembered. She always kept the corkscrew in the fridge because that was where she stored her 10-dollar wine bottles. So, after a long day of work, she only had to make one trip to treat herself to something nice.
A charmed smile plagued his mouth that made her feel all gooey as it blossomed like a flower in spring before her very eyes. “You haven’t changed one bit, Desiree. Not one bit at all.”
She pursed her lips, trying to get ahold of her self-respect. “And you have changed a lot, Nicholas.”
“Some things haven’t changed.” His profoundly vivid eyes swept her wet form shielded by the fluffy towel she held to her body. Her brow wrinkled and she shook her head, immediately ridding herself of the foolish suggestion that his gaze had been a hungry one. With his infamous collection of gorgeous ex-girlfriends, there was no doubt in her mind that he lost a taste for someone like her. She, also, refused to be that type of ex-wife saw ‘signals’ that weren’t there.
He popped the cork, letting the champagne’s abundant fizz catch in a wine glass before he offered it to her. Hesitantly, she accepted it and gave a tentative sip, fighting the urge to roll her eyes into the back of her head as the exquisite liquor glided across her tastebuds and fluttered down her throat smoothly.
He poured himself a glass and lifted it slightly.
“Welcome to the big leagues, Ray,” he toasted.
She rose her flute weakly. “Thanks.”
In unison, they downed their drinks with ease. It went straight to her head and she cleared her throat as if it would soften its effects.
Nick picked up the bottle once more. “Another dosage?”
“Alright.” Tallulah nodded, thinking another dosage of liquid courage might to tell her ex-husband that he had a son who would be walking through the front door at any given moment.
Once he filled up her glass, she took deep gulps to drain the champagne and blinked her eyes as her eyesight went fuzzy for a few seconds. She placed her flute on the kitchen counter before pressed her back against the fridge, matching his unwavering regard of her with one for him.
She began, “Ni—“
He then admitted huskily, “I want you to know something about me, Ray. I’m goddamn hungry.”
Her pulse quickened as she stuttered out, “W-w-what? I don’t understand.”
“I told you this morning that I’m hungry for authenticity in our line of work. Hollywood is full of liars and pretenders. I’m surrounded by them day in and day out. I’ve become one of them. Seeing you today…working with you like old times…it satisfied this raging hunger inside me just for a little while. That’s if you and I work together. We both can give Gene’s film the justice it deserves,” he explained, inching his way to her, “but I’ve got another type of hunger within me.”
Tallulah gulped before she asked, “And what kind of hunger is that?”
“A hunger for you. I’ve been trying to replicate what we had for years. You’ve seen the magazine covers, gossip blogs, and all that shit. Models, actresses, pop stars, and billionaire heiresses, we all use each other in our own ways. I’m tired of using and being used. I just want someone to see me for me like you did. You loved me when I didn’t look like this,” he stated, a desperation worming itself into his voice as he trapped her against the fridge. “You’ve said it yourself. I’m nothing like I used to be.”
Her breath hitched in her throat at his imposing closeness and warmth, his arms caging her in. His cologne’s mellow spicy aroma and intoxicated her as it invaded her senses, sending a weakness to her knees.
“That’s not always bad,” she whispered softly.
“It is when I lost the only authentic person in my life in exchange for countless fakes.” He returned throatily, his face mere millimeters from hers.
Her voice falter as she suggested, “You should broaden your horizons and meet other people then, Nicholas.”
“Why? None of them would be you.”
“You don’t want me, Nicholas. You just want the idea of me.”
He nuzzled his nose against the tip of hers. “Don’t tell me what I want.”
“What about what I want,” she said, tilting her chin up a little.
“What do you want, Desiree?”
“I,” she stopped herself short as heated breath from his encroaching lips brushed against hers like a teasing prelude to a kiss years in the making.
Her eyelids fluttered shut as she sucked in a tiny gasp, which parted her pouty mouth in anticipation. Nick laid his lips upon hers, a tender exploration—a testing of the waters. A lengthy moan bubbled at the back of her throat as a result, a key of permission to unlock another layer of this palpable tension. His tongue slipped inside her mouth, caressing hers gently—an exercise of restraint.
She let him do something to her that was very wrong, but in that moment, it felt right.
Her hands rose to touch his face, her fingers grazing his coarse groomed beard before she curled her arms around his neck. She tugged him down to her level as if he hadn’t already accommodated her enough. Her wrapped towel went slack, being its descent to the linoleum kitchen floor. In a panic, she broke the kiss and withdrew her arms to catch the terrycloth.
However, he captured her wrists, carefully maneuvering her arms back where they needed to be: around his neck. “Let it fall.”
Then he claimed her lips roughly. Her sensitive nipples grazed across his shirt, hardening up. Her blood ran cold as she heard the muffled jingle of keys, the click of a lock coming undone, and the distinct whine of hinges as the door eased open.
“Fuck, he’s here,” Tallulah whispered frantically as she reached down to grab her towel, curling it around her body swiftly.
Nick frowned, stepping away from her with a furrowed brow. “There’s a man of the house you didn’t tell me about?”
“Yes, I’ve had one for the last eight years.”
“It’s us, darling,” Mrs. Newberry called out in a cutesy singsong voice as she tiptoed in the apartment. “A congratulation is in order!”
The older lady walked past the kitchen and froze in place, her eyes growing wide. A hand shot to her chest and she choked out a ‘oh my sweet baby Jesus’.
“What’s wrong, Mrs. N?” Milo asked as he walked around her with a gift bag stuffed with tissue paper in his hand before he looked into the kitchen. “DADDY!“
Milo dropped the gift bag and darted into the kitchen, colliding full-force into Nick and hugging his father’s waist, jumping up and down excitedly. “I knew you’d come for me.”
Nick opened his mouth to speak, but Milo gazed up at him in utter adoration with his brilliant blue eyes. His hereditary claim that he couldn’t denounce or hide. He squatted down to his son’s level and smiled broadly.
“Of course, I’d come for you,” Nick assured calmly.
Milo threw his arms around his father’s neck, embracing him with everything he had. He buried his face into Nick’s neck, snuggling his cheek into his father’s shoulder.
Milo pleaded, “Promise to don't leave us ever again.”
“Oh, I’m not going anywhere.” Being the amazing actor he was, his happy façade evaporated once Milo’s face was tucked away in the crook of his neck and he pinned Tallulah with a silent look of fury. The worst kind of guilt overcame her and it took everything in her power not to shrink away from her furious ex-husband.
Mrs. Newberry cleared her throat uncomfortably and backed away from the unplanned reunion scene, excusing herself with a quickness.
“Let me know if you need anything, darlings,” the neighbor called over her shoulder as she scurried out of the apartment, quietly sealing them inside. “Anything at all!”
“Alright, kiddo,” Tallulah then replied nervously. “Get ready for dinner.”
“Already ate,” he muttered in his father’s neck, tightening his embrace. “There was a potluck at the bridge party.”
Tallulah parted her lips, but Milo interjected swiftly, “And I already did my homework at choir practice, okay? All I want to do is hug my dad.”
“Then you should take a shower, Milo. It’s been a long d—”
“Mom, stop trying to take Dad away from me!”
She flinched at the accusation and stepped forward, saying softly, “Milo, I don—”
Nick gently pried Milo away and braced the eight-year-old’s shoulders, giving him a stern fatherly look. “Yeah, don’t you dare talk to your mom like that or I’ll tear your hide up. You hear me, boy?”
His Kentucky accent slipped out at the tailend. It took him a long time to master an average American accent to make him more appealing to a broader spectrum of audiences. Tallulah knew because she helped him practice before his auditions.
Milo stared at his father with wide eyes, nodding slowly. The boy wasn’t used to a father figure putting his foot down yet alone promise him a whipping. Though Tallulah believed in old-fashioned punishment, she never had to raise a hand to her son. It was only within these last few weeks his behavior began to take a turn for the worst.
Nick aimed a nod at the kitchen doorway. “Now, go on and take that shower like she asked. You understand?”
Nick arched a thick eyebrow. “That’s ‘yes, sir’.”
“Yes, sir,” Milo squeaked before he scampered away.
“Get new pajamas, drain the tub first,” Tallulah called.
“Okay,” Milo paused, adding in a panicky voice, “um, I mean yes, ma’am!”
Once their son was safe behind a closed bathroom door, Tallulah swirled on her heels and marched out of the kitchen. “I need to change into something…other than this.”
Nick stalked her all the way to her bedroom.
“Not so damn fast,” he growled in a low octave once they were alone. “When were you going to tell me that I had a son, Desiree?”
Ignoring his question, Tallulah rushed into her small walk-in closet and attempted to close the door for some privacy to change, but Nick pursued her, yanking the door wide open—filling up the doorway with his lofty frame.
“Now ain’t the time to be shy, Desiree. I’ve seen it all and more,” he snarled, his Kentucky accent leaking out. “Now when were you goin' to tell me that I had a son?”
Tallulah huffed and yanked the towel, biting out a ‘fine’. She jerked her body into some pajamas under his watchful gaze.
“I don’t know, Nicholas. Alright? I don’t know,” she snapped in a hushed tone, throwing her hands up. “I’ve been playing this shit by ear.”
He invaded the crammed closet, imprisoning her against a wall. “You’ve been playing this shit by ear for eight years of him growing up plus nine months of pregnancy, Desiree? Have you lost your fucking mind?”
“Seven months,” she corrected. “I had a very difficult pregnancy. He was a preemie.”
His hardened blue gaze eased up a smidgen. “When was he born then?”
“Friday 13th, August 2010,” she answered, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “My little good luck charm when I needed it most.”
“You were pregnant the whole time when we were getting a divorce and you didn’t say a word to me?”
“It’s not like you noticed, Nicholas. You barely looked at me in divorce court. Plus, because I was a hefty girl, so it was easy to hide a pregnancy,” Tallulah scoffed.
Nick pointed to the floor, gritting his teeth. “If I had known—”
Tallulah interjected sharply, “At the time, I didn’t think you deserved to know shit. For months, you’d constantly travel back and forth from San Diego to LA to make enough money for us. Then you left me behind to move to LA for steadier paychecks for us. Next thing you know, I get divorce papers, Nick. I didn’t know I was pregnant then and when I found out, I thought about telling you, but you were so eager to erase us that I made the decision to keep Milo to myself.”
She jabbed a finger into his chest. “I didn’t need you sticking around for our sake when you already figured out your priorities. You making it big was above all to you. So, I got our son and you got your career.”
“That wasn’t your choice to make.”
“You got to decide when our marriage was over without a single damn warning, Nicholas. So, I made a decision too,” she said, fighting back her tears. “I know I’m not perfect dammit, but I am a damn good mother. Don’t look at me like I am the villain when we’ve both done bad things. You left your fat ugly wife for your career and I raised our son on my own.”
His nostrils flared at her superficial allegation. “I didn’t leave you because of that.”
Milo’s voice called out from the hallway. “Mom, I’m done! Is Dad gone?”
That was a quick shower, she thought suspiciously.
“No, baby. He’s still here,” she replied loudly, shouldering her way past him to left the closet. “We’re just catching up on old times is all.”
He grabbed her forearm, interrupting her hasty escape. “This argument ain’t over, Desiree.”
“Parenting Rule #1: Child comes first, Nick. Not Daddy’s hurt feelings. Get used to it,” She hissed as she wrenched her arm from his grasp, plastering on a fake smile as she stepped into the hallway.
She rubbed her hands together. “Time to hit the lights, little rugrat.”
Milo ran up to his father, begging him to be tonight’s storyteller. Thirty minutes later, Nick emerged from Milo’s room, joining Tallulah on the balcony. She lounged in a plastic lawn chair that had seen better days, admiring the congratulations gift Mrs. Newberry and Milo had gotten during their eventful excursion. It was a star-shaped glass trophy with Best Actress engraved on it.
Tallulah queried, “Calling it quits? For the night, I mean.”
“Yes, but we’ll finish our incomplete conversation bright and early tomorrow at my place. I’ll handle for the breakfast,” he said as he tapped away at his phone.
She rolled her eyes, chuckled bitterly. “There you go making choices for me again, Nicholas. While the grownups are talking, who’s going to take care of Milo?”
“The six-hundred-dollar an hour babysitter I just booked,” Nick replied, revealing his phone screen and the crisp photo of brunette babysitter he selected. “He told me all about the playground fiasco and school suspension.”
Tallulah leaned in for a closer look at the woman’s profile. “Kid-friendly tour guide, private tutor, certified in first aid and CPR, certified swimming coach, and has a dual Masters in child philosophy and mathematics. She also looks like someone you’d screw. Maybe for after we’re resolve our disagreements?”
Disregarding her dig, Nick placed his phone into his backpocket. “Will you see me out so you can lock the door?”
She escorted him there as he requested, widening it for him to exit. “Since you’re calling the shots for tomorrow, do you want me to dress a certain way so if the paparazzi do catch me at your mansion, I’ll look halfway decent?”
He turned around leaned through the crack, stating, “In that case, wear black.”
She taunted, “Why? Because it’s slimming for my figure?”
“No, tomorrow is going to be a bloodbath between you and I.”
Then he walked away.