Alissa had mentioned that Leonardo invited the cheerleaders to a private after-party at club Erehwon (“Nowhere” backwards). Leigh had an idea. It might be crazy but why should her sister have all the fun? She looked in Alissa’s closet and found some clean cheerleader uniforms. She called an Uber, then slipped into one of the white uniforms.
The Uber dropped her off in front of club Erehwon and the bouncer-sized doorman, noting the uniform, let her in, saying, “Take the second stairs on the left.” At the stairs, another large man unhitched a velvet rope and said, “First turn on the right.” She climbed the stairs to booming music and a pounding heart.
The door was closed - disappointment stirred in her. She’d expected the door to be open - all she wanted was a peek. Her curiosity immobilized her - she’d never seen someone as famous as Leonardo in person. She noticed the little camera above the door then there was a metallic clack as the door was pulled open - she could only gape at Leonardo in the flesh.
What did he see? A young creature caught in the spill of light. Pale blue eyes, a fragile neck, an ill fitting white cheerleader uniform, bagging slightly where there wasn’t enough breast or hip to fill it, white sneakers like hooves below narrow ankles. A gleaming yellow crown of hair wrapped an upturned face. Slender wrists, long fingers. He saw her startle. He saw fear and then something in her gaze flared like bared teeth. Defiance. He didn’t recognize her as a child. He wouldn’t expect to see a child here. He’d been expecting Alissa and radiated a perceptible and impatient hunger.
What did Leigh see? A surprisingly tall man, in dark gray slacks, a black t-shirt and a matching dark gray jacket. A fine gold chain hung from his neck and there was a diamond earring in one ear - blonde hair barbered precisely and a slight stubble of beard framed that familiar face pin-pricked with freckles up close. His complexion was tan but fair and his eyes were deep pools of turquoise. He was flat-out beautiful but looked older than on screen and right now his eye lids seemed heavy and his posture made her think of an alert animal.
She saw him see her, sensing how the sight of her arrested him. “Who are you?” he said. Then Alissa was coming up the stairs, she had on a crimson cheerleader uniform which fit her like her own skin. Leigh slid away, along the wall, and Leonardo followed, getting slightly ahead.
There was laughter and music coming from the room “Where’s Leo?” someone shouted.
She’d been foolish to think she could just observe the party. A silly child, all dressed up.
“Who are you?” he asked again. Helplessly, she looked at Alissa, who appeared to be both angry and trying to squelch the giggles. She couldn’t admit her name - say who she was and why she was here, not when she was dressed up like this and he was looking at her that way. There was no answer.
“She’s just a kid,” Alissa said, taking Leonardo’s arm. “She’s not supposed to be here.” she said, as she glanced at Leigh and twisted her head to signal “GO.” He didn’t shake her off, but he didn’t respond to her touch, either. He was still looking at Leigh. Alissa was looking at her, too, he couldn’t see that Alissa was biting her lip, eyes full of mirth.
Their faces cornered her like hounds surrounding a fox. “Shall we?” Alissa said, after a moment, her voice was rising. He yielded, and started to follow. Leigh pressed back against the wall and turned her face away as he passed, she caught the smell of his cologne and some other fragrance, slightly bitter. She wasn’t used to strange men examining her and her skin seemed to prickle. As he moved away, his step slowed. She knew he was willing her to look up into his face, but she wouldn’t.
“She’s just a kid,” Alissa said again. “Leigh, go home.”
“Leigh,” he repeated.
Still she didn’t look up, not until Leonardo and Alissa had finally closed the door. Leigh darted down the stairs and out of the club. There was a crowd now and what looked like paparazzi - but no one took notice of her as she moved partway down the block and began to pace, and chew a fingernail, while waiting for her Uber.
now for something completely different.