Fate or Misfortune

Concentrating on her newest marketing campaign was super hard for Ella when all she wanted to do was stare at the picture of the actor from yesterday’s poster and check her phone. She knew it seemed ridiculous to think that Rome would actually call her back, especially so soon after he had called the first time, but that didn’t make her any less anxious to hear his voice.

She had his number from the caller ID. In fact, she’d memorized his number. She couldn’t call him, though. Teresa might not actually do all of the things she threatened to do, but Ella did believe that she really did check the outgoing call logs. So if she called Rome, it would have to be out of desperation, as a way of getting herself rescued. Since she didn’t even know him, chances were he wouldn’t believe her and would think she was crazy if she tried to tell him that her stepmom had her locked in the attic twenty-three hours a day.

The new marketing campaign was for an animated film, which wasn’t at all as interesting as the poster she’d been working on the day before. It was still her job, though, so she worked as diligently as she could, hoping to get the majority of the main concept designed that day so she could do the perfecting the next day.

The fact that she’d cropped the handsome actor out of her assignment from the day before and had his picture in the corner of her computer screen while she worked was only a slight distraction.

Around lunchtime, Mary came in, carrying a plate with a sandwich and chips on it for Ella’s lunch. She set it down on the table next to her elbow and snuck a bottle of Coke out of her apron. Putting her finger to her lips, she said, “Shhh!”

Ella was only allowed to drink water, so anything other than that was a real treat. “Mary! You shouldn’t have. What if you get caught?”

“Are you kidding? They’re all laying out by the pool again, and the rest of the staff is too busy trying to get all of their work done before Mrs. comes in and yells at them that they’re not doing it right. At least she never comes up here to see what I’m doing.”

Ella took a long drink of the refreshing soda and let the bubbles tickle down her throat. It was amazing. It wasn’t quite as good as an alcoholic drink would’ve been, but it was definitely better than water.

“Oh my gosh!” Mary exclaimed, almost making Ella choke on her soda. “What is that in the corner of your computer?”

“Huh? Oh, uh, nothing. It’s nothing.”

“Really?” Mary asked as Ella turned and closed the picture of the gorgeous actor. “Cause it looks like a little somethin’ somethin’.”

“No, it’s not. It’s just something I was working on yesterday that I forgot to close, that’s all.”

“Uh, I saw what you were working on yesterday, and there were a lot more people in the picture than just one hot dude.”

“Right. But that was a piece of what I was working on yesterday, that’s all.”

Mary giggled and turned around to get busy with her broom. “Whatever, Ella. I may not have known you that long, but I know you pretty well. I can tell by the color in your cheeks someone’s got a little crush. It’s okay. He’s a famous movie star, right? I bet a million girls are crushing on him.”

“Honestly, I don’t even know who he is,” Ella admitted. “I just saw him yesterday and thought he looked… interesting.”

Mary did a little more sweeping up and then said, “Good for you, girl. If you’re not gonna actually be out there in the real world, you may as well have some vivid fantasies about it.”

“Vivid fantasies?” Ella felt her face getting red again. “No, I just wanted something more interesting to look at while I am working on these animated animals, that’s all, Little Mouse.”

“Whatever you say, girlfriend. Just remember, if you could actually go out into the world, you could probably meet him. I’m pretty sure he lives around here. As a matter of fact, I bet your cousin knows him.”

“Wait--do you know who he is?” Ella felt her heart flutter in her chest. It would be great to have a name to go with the face.

“Of course I know who he is, sister. I haven’t been living under a rock--or locked in an attic--for the last few months.”

“Well, who is he?” Ella said, spinning her chair around to face her friend.

“Oooh, so now you want to know!” Mary giggled and went back to sweeping.

“Mary! You’re awful!” Ella picked up a chip off of her plate and tossed it at her friend.

“Hey! Don’t make a mess! I’ve gotta clean that up!”

Before she could even get her broom over to where the chip had landed, a mouse came scurrying out of the wall, grabbed it, and went back in.

“You’d better run, you little bastard!” Mary went chasing after it, waving the broom in front of her.

Ella couldn’t help but laugh, even if she was still waiting for Mary to answer her question. As soon as the mouse was out of harm’s way and Mary was done cursing at it, she turned back around. “One of these days, I’m bringing a cat with me! I swear to God, I’m getting that bastard.”

“Ah, Little Mouse, he can’t help it. He’s just doing what mice do.”

Mary went back to shaking her head and sweeping the floor, mumbling under her breath.

As desperately as Ella wanted to know the name of the man in the picture, she didn’t want Mary to know how badly she wanted to know. When Mary started humming, she knew she hadn’t forgotten--she was teasing her. “All right, Mary, just tell me already!”

Mary started laughing hysterically. “What? I thought you didn’t care.”

“All right--well, I guess I do. A little. I’m just… curious.”

Coming to stand next to her, Mary put a hand on her hip and said, “I can’t blame you. He sure is handsome. Who wouldn’t want to stare at Rome Verona all day?”

All the blood in her body seemed to stop flowing as Ella’s jaw dropped open. “Wha--what did you say his name is?”

“What? Rome Verona. Why? Oh, that’s right! Your dad--I forgot.”

Ella had no idea what Mary was talking about. She was just hung up on the actor’s name. Granted, there wasn’t much of a chance that the Rome who had called her yesterday was actually the man in the picture. That would be an impossible coincidence. Or fate. She wasn’t that lucky.

“I’m sorry, baby. Just because your dad and his dad are archenemies, that doesn't mean you can’t crush on him. So… hey, whatever wets your whistle.”

“Archenemies?” Ella repeated. “What are you talking about, Mary?”

“Girl, don’t you know? Your dad and Monty Verona had a falling out years ago, and now Verona Productions, one of the biggest production agencies in the world, won’t do business with Sinders Cinema Marketing. So… your dads probably wouldn’t be so happy if the two of you dated.”

Ella absorbed all of that and then said, “Well, I guess it won’t matter anyway since all I have is a picture of Rome Verona, and I seriously doubt the man is going to accidentally stumble into my father’s attic.”

Mary gave her a small, sympathetic smile. “It doesn’t have to be that way, my friend.”

“Yeah, it does. For now.” Ella took a deep breath and turned back to her work, done with talking about things that could never be. Whether it was Rome Verona who had called her or someone else, she was pretty certain she’d never hear from that man again anyway. She was just as alone now as she was before she’d found out the name of the actor, maybe even a little more so. At least before she had her imagination. Now, she felt like that had been taken away, too. Some things just weren’t meant to be.

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