“Is this Margaret?” It was definitely Alan. “It’s Alan. Look, love, I just got out of the meeting, and I’m on the way to the hotel to change. My driver tells me I should be there by six, six-fifteen at the latest. I’m looking forward to seeing you.”
“Me, too,” I echoed, clutching the phone to my ear. I held it there long after he hung up. Alan Rickman. Dinner. My landline rang again, but I ignored it. I was not going to let my mother ruin my mood, which she would do in a heartbeat. I went into the living room and flipped on the television to take my mind off my nerves. It seemed like forever until my buzzer rang. I glanced at my watch and saw it was six-fifteen on the dot. I turned off the television, jumped to my feet and raced to answer it.
“It’s Alan. I just made it.”
“I’ll be right down.” I was touched he actually got out of his car to buzz me when he could have just called me on his cell from the car. I grabbed my purse and a wrap and flew out the door. I almost dropped both wrap and purse when I saw Alan looking natty in a black sports coat and slacks with a brilliant blue shirt.
“You look lovely,” Alan said, offering me his arm.
“You look very handsome as well,” I replied sedately. What I wanted to do was drag him upstairs and have my way with him. I didn’t, however, and contented myself with stealing sideline glances at Alan who looked so damn hot. The car, which was a black Cadillac, looked great, too. I was glad it wasn’t a limo; I found them to be too pretentious. Alan ignored the driver who was standing by the back door and ushered me into the car. He went around to the other side and settled in besides me. A feeling of unreality crept over me as I sat next to my favorite actor. I gathered my thoughts so I could add something to the conversation.
“So, what play would you be doing for the Guthrie next season, or shouldn’t I ask? Wait, don’t tell me, all I really want to know is if you get the girl in the end.” I cringed at my flippant tone, but it was how I dealt with uncomfortable situations.
“Yes, I would get the girl in the end,” Alan said, a slight smile on his face. “Why is that so important to you?”
Thus emboldened, I plunged into a narrative of how I felt it a shame that British actors were used primarily as villains unless they were stereotypically hot such as Jude Law or Kate Winslet. I went on to say how much I preferred foreign films because the actors were usually people who looked like normal people, albeit good-looking normal people. They were people I could meet at a pub, perhaps taking home for the night. When I watched American actors, I could only see them for who they really were. Actors. Grossly overpaid actors. Some who couldn’t even act and were liked more for their looks than their abilities. In addition, American actors were so overexposed, it was difficult to get past their images.
“But I ramble,” I said, screeching to a halt. Alan had been scrutinizing me as I talked, making me feel as if what I had to say was of the utmost importance. “I tend to do that when I get heated.” I wished I could take back that last word as it gave the sentence a double meaning, but Alan chose to respond to my surface statement.
“It’s a good thing, I think, the ability to care deeply. It’s also rather refreshing to talk to someone who cares more about substance than the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.”
“Take Brad Pitt, for example,” I said, warming up to my theme. This was one of my countless soapboxes, and I was willing to expound for a millennium on the evils of Hollywood. “Most American women think he’s just about the cutest actor around. To me, he’s more like a frat boy who has a few acting chops. I never got the attraction. In addition, stars make it big in America by playing certain roles. Most of them get paid lots of money to play the same role over and over again. From what I understand, Brits don’t get paid residuals for their movies and don’t get paid the astronomical sums that American actors do. I think that’s one reason British actors are more willing to take on a variety of roles.”
Alan and I chatted about theatre, movies, and all sort of things on the way to dinner. I had no clue where we were going, but it wasn’t in Minneapolis. If I guessed correctly, we were going to the lesser-known Twin City, which shot up my estimation of Alan quite a bit. Anybody could know the hotspots of Minneapolis; it took a bit more diligence to find the gems of St. Paul. Halfway into our ride, I had basically forgotten that I was talking to Alan Rickman, my favorite actor. He had the ability to put a person at ease with his down-to-earth manner. There was nothing about him that screamed, ‘I’m a star’, not even the car.
“We’re going to WA Frost, aren’t we?” I exclaimed as we got off 94E onto Dale. “I love that restaurant.”
“Yes, I heard it’s quite good,” Alan said, nodding his head. WA Frost was considered upper-scale dining in the Twin Cities, but it wasn’t pretentious. Good food at decent prices with a nice ambiance. They even had outdoor seating which was refreshing this time of year. Most likely, the outdoor seating would be full, but the whole restaurant was nice. I didn’t get to go often—not on my budget—so I was looking forward to the treat.
At the restaurant, Alan tried to persuade the driver to come in and have dinner. The driver was grateful, but declined the offer. It wasn’t protocol, and he wasn’t willing to risk his job for a free meal. I didn’t know how he thought his bosses would hear of it given that neither Alan nor I would tell, but he stuck to his guns and settled in the car to wait. Alan gave up after five minutes, but I thought better of him for having tried. I was a bit wary of his reception upon entering as I didn’t know if he’d be treated like a star or not. It wasn’t as if he were Jennifer Aniston, but he wasn’t the man walking down the street (an extra), either. The maitre d’, as it were, greeted us warmly but not fulsomely. I relaxed as I saw a few women eyeing Alan with interest, but none approached. WA Frost was a class act, which allowed me to relax entirely.
“Hi, my name is Anne. May I get you something to drink?” Our server was a fresh-faced blond—surprise, surprise—with just enough friendliness to make us feel welcomed. She handed us our menus as she waited for our reply.
“I’ll have a lager, if you have it,” Alan said, perusing his menu.
“Rum and Diet Coke,” I chimed in, opening my menu as well. “Oh, and a glass of water as well.” Anne nodded at us before leaving.
“Diet Coke?” Alan asked, lifting an eyebrow. “You can’t be slimming, not with that smashing figure of yours.” I blushed at his praise, but I kept my nose in the menu.
“I prefer the taste of diet,” I explained. It was true, but I also thought I could stand to lose a few pounds.
“What is it with you women? You all want to be sticks. I blame Bridget Jones.”
“I’ve never read the books or seen the movies,” I protested, lowering my menu. To my consternation, I found Alan grinning at me.
“Gotcha.” He turned back to his menu, allowing me to do the same.
He ordered the walleye because he wanted to try the native fish while I had the mahi mahi.. I loved fish, but didn’t have the patience to cook it, so I always ordered it whenever I ate out. I gulped half my drink when it arrived, thankful that I wasn’t driving. Alan sipped at his lager which looked warm by the state of his bottle. It was probably how he preferred it as he was a Brit. I never understood the reason for drinking warm beer, but to each his own. I enjoyed watching him drink. Hell, I enjoyed watching him sit. It didn’t really matter what he was doing, obviously, as I just enjoyed watching him. Hey, I had to do something while waiting for my dinner besides eat all the complimentary bread.
“Excuse me.” A classy blond with augmented breasts approached the table. Her hair was immaculately coifed, and it was easy to see she came from the moneyed set. “I don’t mean to intrude, but you’re Alan Rickman, aren’t you?” The blond was in her early forties and didn’t mind advertising the fact, aside from the touch-up to her roots.
“Yes, I am,” Alan said, his smile slipping a millimeter. I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t been watching him, and I doubted that the blond noticed anything amiss.
“Would you mind?” The blond held out a napkin and a pen to Alan who accepted with alacrity. “My name is Christine with a Ch, Peterson, o-n, not e-n.” I watched as Alan scrawled, ‘Best wishes, Christine Peterson, Alan Rickman’ across the napkin before handing it and the pen back to the blond. She took them reverently as if she’d been handed them by God Himself. “Thank you so much. Enjoy your dinner.”
“Does that get tiresome?” I asked, curious to know if Alan liked the adulation or preferred to let his work speak for itself. I had a hunch it was the latter from the little I’d read about his personal life, but I wanted to know for sure.
“Very,” Alan said, swigging his lager. “But it’s the fans who make what I do rewarding as well, so it’s a Catch-22. As long as I’m not eating, I don’t mind signing a few autographs.”
“Speaking of, I have a question. Why do you usually sign with a silver or a pink pen?” I wouldn’t have asked him that question when I first met him, but it didn’t bother me at all now. Alan laughed his wonderful laugh before answering.
“When I’m on the set, such as in the Potter series, I sign a plethora of photos at a time. I use whatever pen they give me, and the Potter crew seems partial to pink and silver. That’s it. Nothing sinister or mysterious at all about it.”
“Oh, my God. You are Alan Rickman. Jessica, I told you so!” A busty brunette who couldn’t have been older than twenty-one cried out to her friend, who was a slender blond. Both looked like kids playing dress-up in Mommy’s clothes with their slinky dresses and caked-on makeup. They were clutching each other like schoolgirls, making me feel sorry for them. “Mr. Rickman, we so totally loved you in the Harry Potter series. You’re so mean as Professor Snape. Could you…” The brunette girl’s voice trailed off as she thrust a napkin at Alan. Jessica followed suit, and both the girls’ hands were trembling.
“Sure,” Alan said, smiling. “What’s your name, love?”
“A-A-Ashley Walters,” the brunette stuttered, looking as if she was going to faint. “This is—”
“Jessica Jenkins,” the blond cut in, glaring at her friend. I guess she didn’t want to let Ashley have all the glory, which was understandable. Alan scrawled the same messages as he had to Christine on each of the girl’s napkin.
“Oh my God,” Ashley breathed, clutching her napkin to her chest. “I can’t believe this!” She burst into tears before hurrying away, Jessica hot on her heels. I watched Jessica put her arm around Ashley’s shoulders and steer her to the bathroom to repair makeup damage—and to gossip about Alan, most likely.
“Well, that’s done,” Alan said briskly, finishing off his lager.
“That’s a bit creepy,” I said without thinking. I blushed when Alan looked at me with a question in his eyes. “Sorry, never mind.”
“No, go ahead.” Alan motioned to me to continue, so I did with reluctance.
“Those girls are probably in their early twenties, if that. You’re quite a bit older than that. It’s just….” It wasn’t like me to flounder, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
“I’m old enough to be their grandfather?” Alan asked dryly, quirking his eyebrow again. I nodded, hoping I hadn’t offended him. To my relief, he was smiling. “To tell you the truth, I get a bit squeamish about it as well. I mean, why me when they could be going after Jude Law or Ewan McGregor? I’ll never understand girls, not if I live to be a hundred.” He drank some water before adding, “You’re not exactly in your dotage, yourself, so what’s your excuse?”
“I like older men,” I said boldly. It was true, though the oldest I’d gone out with was ten years my senior. Fortunately for me, the food came before I could further incriminate myself.
“Excuse me, Mr. Rickman,” Anne said as she set down our food. “If you find yourself bothered by unwanted admirers, just let me know. It’s our policy that everyone feel comfortable here.” She smiled at Alan, receiving a smile in return.
“It’s all right, love. I can handle a few fans here and there. Thanks for inquiring, though.” Predictably, even the professional Anne melted a bit from Alan’s warmth.
“Is that natural to you, or do you have to practice?” The question slipped out before I had a chance to censor it. I tried to think of an alternate meaning, but Alan knew what I was asking.
“A bit of each, really.” He tucked into his walleye while I ate my mahi mahi with gusto. There was a wonderful pineapple/wasabi sauce which brought out all the flavors. The salad was refreshing with the raspberry vinaigrette dressing I had requested on the side.
The more time I spent with Alan, the more I liked him. Not just as an actor, but as a person. Time and time again, I had to remind myself that he was in a serious, long-term relationship and that I shouldn’t do anything to endanger said relationship. I may not have any morals according to Bryan Fischer or the Christian church for that matter, but I considered myself a moral person in the areas where it really counted. I gave to various charities, and I gave to the homeless on the street. Some would argue that I was just contributing to the problem because the money I gave was most likely going to drugs or booze. I say, whatever it took to get through the nights, especially during the frigid Minnesota winters, was all right by me. One of my morals was that I didn’t seduce married men, which Alan was, for all intensive purposes.
I tried to pull back so I wouldn’t become so engaged with Alan. The trouble was, there was nothing about him that irritated me. He had flawless table manners, and he refused to take himself too seriously as a ‘big star’. He handled his fame with grace, which was more than I could say for most American stars. He dressed well without being ostentatious about it, and he seemed comfortable with himself. He was funny and intelligent without being snobby or a bore—and did I mention attentive? In short, he was everything I could ask for in a date and more. Which made it all the more cruel that this was not going anywhere except to separate beds. Even if I was so presumptuous as to think he wanted to sleep with me, I knew I had to be the strong one. Besides, I didn’t bring any protection along as I hadn’t planned on having sex. The unbidden thought that he had to drop me off at my apartment was immediately quashed.
“What do you want for dessert?” Alan asked as soon as we’d finished dinner. I had only eaten half my mahi mahi, as delicious as it was. “I’m having a coffee and something chocolate. I don’t think a meal has properly ended if there’s no chocolate. I don’t suppose they have pudding here, do you think?”
“Not unless you mean bread pudding,” I replied, smiling to tell him I understood what he meant. “I agree about the chocolate, though. No better way to wind down a meal than a bit of chocolate.”
“But you’ve hardly eaten a thing,” Alan protested, glancing at my plate. “You must be slimming.”
“If only I could,” I said honestly. “I like food too much to diet.” Alan wisely let it drop as Anne returned to our table with dessert menus. Just reading the description of the fudge chocolate torte with ganache topping made my mouth water, and I was glad I had saved room for dessert.
“I can’t decide between the raspberry cheesecake and the fudge torte,” Alan mused, glancing at me over the top of his menu. “What are you having?”
“The torte,” I said, closing my menu. “If you get the cheesecake, we can share.” Alan nodded and closed his menu as well.
The desserts were fabulous, and I savored every bite. Alan had ordered coffee with his dessert while I opted for tea—tea with skim milk. He hadn’t even raised an eyebrow as most Americans would have, but they drank cream in their tea over in England, so I guess it wasn’t much different. Alan sliced each dessert in half, then swapped pieces so we each had two different kinds of dessert. As I ate, I noticed more women glancing at me in envy. The men with these women weren’t pleased, but it tickled me to no end. I was sitting with Alan Rickman, sharing desserts, causing other women to turn every shade of green. What could be better?
“Alan Rickman. That is you, isn’t it?” A sultry brunette with a truly magnificent chest leaned against our table, a drink in her hand. It was clear by the slur of her words that it wasn’t her first drink of the evening. She set the drink on our table, so she wouldn’t spill it, I presumed. “You are even more handsome in person than in the movies.” She leaned forward even more, exposing her generous breasts. In fact, her dress was so low-cut, her breasts were threatening to spill out of it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a man get up from his table, a scowl on his face.
“Thank you,” Alan said politely, his features set. I knew him well enough by now to know that he didn’t care for overly ostentatious people. Unfortunately, the brunette seemed intent on making a scene. Maybe she thought she was auditioning for a role in Alan’s next movie.
“I just have one question,” the brunette said, pressing her breasts against Alan’s arm. He moved away so quickly, she almost fell into his lap. “Whoops! I’m so clumsy.” She giggled girlishly, which wasn’t attractive in a woman who hadn’t seen twenty in this millennium. “What are you doing with this Chink when you could be with a woman like me?” For a minute, I was certain I had heard her incorrectly. Even inebriated, she wouldn’t have said what I thought she had, would she? One look at Alan’s face told me that she had, indeed, just called me a Chink. I didn’t know whether to be offended or to pity her for her ignorance. I settled on mild outrage. Alan, it seemed, was going for anger, albeit in a British way.
“Excuse me, but I’m in the middle of dessert with my friend.” Alan’s voice was glacial, but the brunette didn’t appear to notice. “I’d be ever so grateful if you would return to your seat and leave us be.”
“Tessa, what the hell are you doing?” The angry guy had reached our table, adding to the situation. He grabbed the brunette by the arm and tried to yank her away. “You’re bothering these nice people. Come on. Sorry.” He threw the last over his shoulder at us, as if he was embarrassed. He should be for dating a no-class woman like Tessa.
“Let go of me, Jack!” Tessa jerked her arm, causing her to stumble again. This time, however, she did fall into Alan’s lap. I had to muffle a snort as Alan looked down at the hapless woman, an expression of mortification on his face. “Hi. You’re cute.” Tessa draped her arms around Alan’s neck, causing him to stiffen.
“Excuse me, Ma’am. You’re going to have to leave.” A man of great size and impeccable dress materialized out of nowhere, staring down at Tessa.
“Oh, don’t be such a spoilsport,” Tessa pouted, snuggling closer to Alan. For a minute, I actually felt jealous because she was sitting in his lap and I wasn’t. I shook the feeling away, however, because I had something more important—his respect. “Alan doesn’t mind, do you, Alan?” She wriggled her ass against Alan’s lap as Jack grabbed her by the arm again.
“That’s enough, Tessa. You’re making a fucking scene. Come on.” Jack was grinding his teeth as he endeavored to remove Tessa from her perch. She hunkered down as if waiting in a port for the storm to pass. Alan had a pained look on his face as if he were enduring an excruciating ordeal. I had my napkin pressed to my mouth to stifle my laughter. I know it wasn’t very nice of me, but the consternation on his face was priceless.
“Excuse me, sir,” the bouncer said, nudging Jack aside. He scooped Tessa into his arms and headed for the front door, Tessa protesting all the way. Jack trailed behind them, looking as if he wished he were anywhere but here.
“Can’t take you anywhere, can I?” I asked Alan, finally removing the napkin from my mouth so I could laugh. Oh, I knew it was serious and I should be miffed, but it was just so ridiculous. Alan looked at me for a long minute before laughing with me.
“I thought I was going to have to ring 9-1-1 for assistance,” Alan joked, reaching for his coffee. His hand trembled slightly, the only indication that his sangfroid had slipped a notch.
“You should have just pushed her off,” I retorted, still laughing. “That would have taught her a lesson.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Rickman,” Anne said nervously, darting her eyes back and forth between me and Alan. “I deeply apologize for that woman’s behavior. We should not have allowed it to drag out so long. Please, accept dinner on the house in return.”
“Don’t worry about it, love,” Alan said, waving his hand. “No harm done. Really.” Anne nodded her head, but she still looked doubtful as she drifted away.
We finished the rest of our desserts without incident. We continued talking and drinking our respective beverages until we realized that it was almost ten-thirty. No time to do the town, but I was glad I had a chance to really talk with Alan. He haggled with Anne about paying the bill. She tried to insist it was on the house, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Not only did he pay, he tipped her a healthy amount as well. We went out to the car feeling pleasantly sated, but not overstuffed. The driver was happy to see us; I wondered if he regretted not taking Alan up on his offer.
On the way back to my apartment, I kept thinking about whether to invite Alan up or not. I wanted to think we could just have one more drink, but I had to be realistic. If I invited him up to my apartment, I was going to try to seduce him. I wasn’t proud of it, but I knew myself too well. I could tell by the speculative looks Alan was shooting my way that he was thinking about it as well. I was aware of our thighs being mere inches apart. The heat between us was almost palpable, and I could no longer deny I had nefarious thoughts on my mind. The trouble was that I thought of myself as basically an honorable woman. If I slept with Alan—presuming he was willing—I’d have to readjust my view of myself. My pride, more than anything, was what would keep me from making a move.
“Here we are, sir,” the driver announced, pulling up to the curb of my apartment. He got out and opened the door, assisting me out of the car. Then, like the good driver he was, he got back into the car to await further instructions. Alan exited the car as well and walked me to the door. We both hesitated before I finally spoke.
“I’m not going to ask you up,” I said softly, finding it difficult to say the words. I wanted nothing more than for him to insist that we go upstairs, but it would lessen my opinion of him if he did.
“You know we can’t, don’t you?” Alan said just as quietly. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to my cheek, causing me to tear up. “We can be friends, though. I have your number, and you have mine. And I’m going to be in Minnesota before you know it.”
“Sounds good to me,” I smiled, watching him as he walked back to his car. Halfway there, he turned as if to say something, only to wave before turning back to his car. I waited to watch him drive away, but it was apparent that he wasn’t going anywhere until I was safely in my apartment. What a gentleman.
I stood in the landing of my apartment building watching Alan’s car retreat, his words echoing in my ear. Sure, he talked about us calling each other as if we were friends, but let’s be realistic. In a week or so, he’ll have forgotten all about me as he met adoring fans all the time. As for calling him, there was no way in hell I would presume to impinge on his time in that fashion. Besides, I could just imagine his puzzled tone if I dared to call him. He’d be too polite to ask who I was, of course, but that wouldn’t stop me from feeling like a fool for calling. No, it was better to keep the evening as a pleasant memory.
“You definitely think too much, Margaret.” The voice came from behind me, but I refused to give Him the satisfaction of turning around or jumping. “What are you doing standing in the middle of your landing? At least go up to your apartment to moon over Alan.” That provoked a reaction as I whirled around, furious at Him for mocking my feelings. To my astonishment, He was actually looking at me sympathetically, which somehow made matters worse.
“You look silly,” I said sulkily, checking Him out from head to toe. He was in orange this time, which, frankly, was a hideous color on Him.
“Come on,” He said, indicating the stairs. He waited for me to go first before following. He took care to remain a few steps behind, and it suddenly occurred to me that He never came too close to me except for sitting next to me that one time. I wondered why. “Respecting your space, of course,” God answered. I didn’t even bother dignifying that statement with a reply as it was obvious to me that if God respected my space the least bit, I wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place.
“You might as well come in then,” I said, motioning Him into my apartment. Like I could stop Him from doing whatever He wanted, anyway. Still, it felt good to at least pretend I was in charge of the situation. I went into the living room and plopped down on the couch, waiting for God to tell me why He’d dropped in now.
“You could thank me, you know,” He said mildly, perching on a ledge only He could see. I had long gotten over seeing beings do weird things in my apartment so I didn’t even blink at the levitation trick. I noted with smug satisfaction that He stopped doing it when He realized I wasn’t taking the bait. “After all, it’s not every day that you get to meet Alan Rickman, is it?” He stopped, apparently waiting for me to thank Him. Well, it would be a cold day in He—aven before that happened. I was careful not to think what I’d normally say as I didn’t want a repeat of Him freezing of Hell; it was a calculated risk that He wouldn’t do the same thing to Heaven. I was right.
“You really are a most recalcitrant woman, you know that?” God asked, changing from orange to brown. I figured that was His way of sulking, which was fine with me. Brown was easier on the eyes than orange, anyway. “What would it take to please you? I mean, I give you Alan Rickman on a platter, and you’re still not happy with Me.”
“You can take this out of me,” I said pointedly, looking down at my stomach which had yet begun to swell.
“Margaret, why must you fight it so?” God favored me with a look which indicated the depths of His disappointment in me. Well, given that I was pretty mad at Him myself, His discomfort didn’t overly grieve me.
“God, please go,” I said quietly, smothering the impulse to scream. “You may not understand this, but I do need to spend a lot of time alone.” God stared hard at me before nodding once.
“I want to tell you something,” He said as He prepared to leave. “I know you are attracted to My son. There are few women—or men, for that matter—who can resist his charms. However, it would behoove you not to give in. If you cede to My son’s will, there will be consequences you can’t possibly foresee. Do you understand Me?” God stared right into my eyes, deadly serious for once. No acerbic tone, no flippant manner. Something about His demeanor frightened the shit out of me, and I could only nod in return. “I hope so,” God said softly before evaporating into the air. I slumped back against the couch, exhausted by the day’s occurrences.