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Heart on the Line

He had waited until almost 4:00 in the afternoon, but now that his audition was over and he had nothing standing in his way, Rome sat down on the edge of his bed and purposely called the number he’d accidentally called the night before. He prayed Ella was working and that she was the one who answered. For all he knew, Sinders had a whole bunch of customer service representatives.

“Sinders Cinema Marketing. This is Ella.”

Her message was shorter this time, and it seemed like she knew it was him. There was an excitement to her voice he hadn’t noted the day before, at least not when he’d initially started talking to her. “Hi, Ella. It’s Rome.”

She was quiet for a second before she said, “Hi. How are you?”

“Good. I’m good. How are you?”

“Great. I mean, I’m okay. Just… working.”

“Yeah. I’m not. I was earlier. But I’m done now. Do you just do customer service or do you have other duties? I don’t mean just do customer service, like that’s not enough or anything. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with customer service. I just meant do you also do other things or is customer service your jam?” Rome slapped a palm against his forehead. He sounded like an idiot. She would probably transfer him to a supervisor who’d reprimand him for wasting his worker’s time.

Ella giggled, and it sounded like music in his ear. “My jam? Customer service is definitely not my jam. But I do like my other job, my main job. I do marketing as well.”

“Marketing? Oh, that’s cool. I mean, I guess that makes sense if you work at a marketing firm. You do marketing and customer service?”

“We don’t get a lot of customer service calls. My da--that is, Mr. Sinders--knows almost everyone who he does business with. So most of them just call him directly if they need something. I usually get calls from movie theaters who aren’t happy that a poster ripped or assistants who can’t find the number they need to call someone higher up the chain.”

“I see.” She’d slipped, and he’d caught it. She’d almost said “my dad” instead of Mr. Sinders. Could he really be talking to Ella Sinders? Lloyd Sinders’s missing daughter? “I’m glad you like the marketing aspect. What’s that like?”

“Well, today, I’m working on a poster for an animated movie, which isn’t as much fun as some of the others. But yesterday I worked on a really cool poster for a movie that’s been out for a few weeks and is doing so well, we’re doing a second round of advertising.”

“Oh, what movie is that?”

The Way You Hurt Me,” she said, and there was something about her tone that almost made him think she might know who he was.

“Yeah? Have you seen it?”

“No. I don’t go out much.”

“Oh. Why is that?”

She was contemplative for a long moment. “I don’t know. I just… don’t. I work a lot. I just moved back from France a few weeks ago. I’m staying with my stepmom and sisters, and I don’t have a car.”

“You have a lot of excuses, Ella. Have you heard of Uber?”

She laughed. “I’ve heard of it. I’ve never used it. Have you seen it?”

“Seen Uber?”

“No, silly. The movie.”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve seen it.” He considered telling her who he was, but what if she knew about the feud and hung up on him? “You don’t live with your dad?”

“He’s overseas. He travels a lot.”

“Yeah. My dad works a lot, too.”

“What does he do?”

Rome took a deep breath. “He’s… in the movie business.”

“Like an actor? Is he an actor or something?”

“Nope. Not an actor.”

“Rome? Do you not want to tell me what your dad does for a living?”

“It’s not that. It’s just… I’m afraid you might not want to talk to me anymore.”

“Is he in the mafia?”

Now it was his turn to laugh. She sounded so serious. “Yes, the movie mafia. No, it’s not that, Ella. It’s just… I know I’ve only been talking to you for a few minutes, and I just accidentally called you yesterday. But you seem really cool, and I don’t want you to hate me.”

“Hate you? Why would I hate you, Rome?”

“Because… I think your dad hates my dad.”

She was quiet so long this time, he thought maybe she had hung up on him until he glanced at the phone and saw that the time on the call was still revolving. “Then… I really am talking to Rome Verona?”

“You know who I am?”

“I just spent eight hours yesterday working on a poster with your face on it. I know who you are.”

Chuckling, he said, “I have to apologize for that. Your work sounds incredibly boring now.”

She giggled. “It wasn’t so bad.”

“I guess there were some other hot guys on there, then? Like Clint Dixon and Marv Patrone?”

“Who?”

“Ha, very funny.”

“No, seriously. I don’t know who those guys are. If they’re the other stars of the movie, then, yes, they were on there. But I only know your name because my friend Mary told me who you were.”

Curiosity got the better of him. “Why did she tell you my name and no one else’s?”

He could practically hear her blushing over the phone. “Uh… because I made a comment about you to her, and she was… teasing me.”

“Comment? What sort of comment?”

“Uh… I don’t wanna say.”

“Why not? Was it mean? Did you say I had ears like a car driving down the road with the doors open?”

“No!”

“Is it about my dimples? One is bigger than the other. Ugh. It’s a curse.”

“No, it wasn’t that either.”

“Did my hair look funny in the picture?”

“No, Rome! I just made the comment that you were… cute. That’s all.”

Now, it was his turn to blush. “Why, thank you, Ella. I appreciate that.”

“Please. You must have girls falling all over you all the time. What do you care what a customer service representative who works for your father’s enemy’s company thinks?”

“Because you’re sweet, and kind, and I like you. And you’re not just a customer service representative. You’re a marketer. And you are Lloyd Sinders’s daughter, aren’t you?”

“Yeah… I am. But… I’m also Teresa Main-Sinders’s stepdaughter. She… doesn’t really like to include me as part of the family.” Her voice was low now.

“Why not?” He didn’t like how her voice sounded when she made that comment, like she was scared or upset.

“It’s hard to explain. I guess she just doesn’t care for my mother, God rest her soul.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that, Ella.”

“It’s okay. I’ll make it. Anyway, I do have some work to finish up before she comes to check on me. So… I have to go.”

That last part sounded weird. “Okay. Can I call you later? Are you going out tonight?”

“I’m sorry, Rome. You can’t call me after 5:00, and I’m not going out.”

“Could you give me your cell number?”

“I don’t have one.”

“What do you mean….”

“I’ve gotta go.”

She hung up so quickly, Rome almost called her back. It just didn’t seem right. Concerned, Rome looked at his phone for a few minutes before he did a Google search of Ella Sinders. But he couldn’t find anything.

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