Liam told Leonie everything in the best sequence he could muster. Her face was like stone, her eyes wide.
She never said a word. Only frowned.
Once he was done talking she got up and walked out of the room – and the front door.
“Leo … no.” Liam pleaded, weakly. He did not have the strength to run after her, plus he could not just leave the kids.
He watched her drive off and closed his eyes.
So, was that it then?
Not even a fight, not a chance to justify himself?
He sat on the couch and hung his head, feeling deflated.
‘Honesty is the best policy’, they say.
Liam would disagree.
“Leonie, we do not have a session scheduled today.” Michelle cooed, smiling, but her smile faded when she saw Leonie’s unusually hard and cold face.
“I am not here to work out. I am here to tell you what a miserable snake you are.”
“Oh, don’t you ‘what’ me! You have played me. You lying scum-sucking dirty nasty filthy..”
“Leonie! Keep it down!” Michelle looked around the exercise room if anyone had witnessed the outburst.
“You are worried about your clients finding out what you are really like before you can play them too?!”
“Leo, I do not even know what you are …”
“Don’t you dare insult my intelligence any further by trying to feed me that load of BS! It’s more than bad that you spoon-fed me that ‘we-are-friends-and-I-will-help-you-girl-power‘ crap as I sat there pouring my heart out to you about my fears of losing my husband, when all along you were trying to get into his pants and bank account, while sticking him with a kid that’s not even his!” Leonie yelled.
“Leonie, stop! Please!”
“Me? Stop? I have not even started yet. If you EVER dare to go near my husband, or put your grabby nasty paws on him or tell anybody you did something with him which you didn’t I will make you regret it. Whatever you had planned to do in that insane head of yours, what I would do to you would be a thousand times worse!”
“I was not planning anything. I went to see you, you were not home, and suddenly Liam just attacked me, tore of his clothes and …” she was interrupted by Leonie slapping her, hard.
“Save your lies! I know that nobody takes me serious. Oh, little chubby sweet quiet patient Leonie. Guess what?! I am fresh out of patience and not feeling so sweet or quiet. So I tell you again, ever try anything with my husband again and you will be more than sorry you ever messed with him – or me! He is mine. ALL mine. And the likes of you will never change that! So keep your hands of the merchandise. Liam is MY husband. And if he were to stray, definitely not with a skank like YOU! Plus, your idiotic story does not even make any sense you skinny dumbass!”
“I … I …”
Leonie began to stomp off. There was another patron exercising not even looking at either of the women, but either he had his music up loud on the earphones or he knew what was best for his health.
“Oh, and needless to say, Michelle: I am cancelling my membership!” Leonie called back over her shoulder.
Liam heard the car arrive, then the front door. He closed his eyes again, inhaled deeply, his heart was racing as he went to see her.
“Leo…where have you been?” he said, his voice sounded begging as he attempted to smile soothingly.
Her face had been neutral, now she grimaced when she replied in an unfamiliar tone that truly shocked Liam.
“Just had to go slap some trash around. It’s all good now.” her face relaxed. Then she smiled at him, her face now soft as usual.
She did not say anything, but what she did made a gigantic rock drop off his heart.
She kissed him. Longing and intensely.
When the kiss ended, she smiled up at him, his heart skipped a beat, as he sighed a sigh of relief.
“Leo, thank God, I …”
“No talking. Take me to the bedroom right now.”
“OK.” he said surprised, but no need to ask him twice.
She grabbed his hand, dragged him along with her, even though he followed willingly, grinning. She pulled her dress over her head and they engulfed in heated kissing.
Unfortunately did they forget to lock the door. It wasn’t one of the kids, but Dakota, the dog, barking his little head off at them.
“Go! Not now! Go find Natty!” Liam yelled at the dog in between kisses. Dakota did not even take it into consideration, kept pawing and barking at them until both had to laugh. Liam wrapped a towel around himself, then got up.
“Jeeze, you! I am going to rename you ‘Loki’, short for ‘Love Killer’!”
“It’s okay, Liam. We’ll make it a raincheck, okay? Better luck later when all the two and four legged family members are asleep. Looks like the little monster needs out.”
“Fine then, come here. If you gotta go, you gotta go, I guess.” he bend down, while Leonie giggled. Hearing that made everything better instantly. Despite the interruption.
He picked up the dog and took him outside. His mood was still way up high.
In the meantime Leonie got dressed again, and found their oldest son in the home office.
“Whatcha doing, kiddo? Does not look like homework, which you should be doing…” Leonie told him.
“Already done, mom! I was looking online for a cool present for Jake’s birthday.”
“Aren’t you a sweet big brother. Come here, your mommy needs a hug.”
Everett was an exact replica of Liam, not only in appearance, but from what his mother had told Leonie, also in character. Liam was a big sweetie, with an explosive, adventurous, hot-headed side, which used to get him into trouble. And he was always highly protective of those he loved. Just like Rett. He and his sister Natty were inseparable and Leonie could imagine that once she would be old enough to date, meeting her dad would be the least of all worries for any potential boyfriends. Her guess was the big brother would be a serious date-blocker.
Few days later Liam got a call from his manager, basically ordering him back to Del Sol Valley.
He walked up to the assistant.
“Hey Lana, is he in?”
“Hi Liam. On the phone. Just sit down for a moment, okay.” she smiled at him. She could easily be a model.
Liam had just walked over to the seating area, when Lana told him to come with her.
“He is still on a call, please be quiet.” she whispered as they entered, gesturing him to sit down.
“Liam, my friend, how are you?” Evan Rosenstein was done and stood, the men shook hands.
“No need to be so formal, I have known you since you were how old again?”
“Seventeen.” Liam answered the rhetorical question.
“Yeah, seventeen. A baby. You have come a long way. A lot has happened. A lot has changed. You want a drink?”
Liam shook his head but took the offered seat.
“You are wondering why I asked you here.” Rosenstein said with determination.
Liam knew him well enough to know that he may seem very nice and personable, but beneath that was a cunning businessman, highly influential, and not someone you wanted to ever upset.
“True.” Liam said, smiling.
“Liam. Liam. Liam Liam Liam …. what am I going to do with you?”
‘How about talking to me like a normal person and not some Greek oracle?’ Liam thought to himself.
“You are how old now? Real years, not Valley-age. Ha ha ha”.
“So you have been in the biz for a solid 13 years, huh? Yeah, you know, I never thought you would last this long. Pretty boys with attitude like you come and go, but they don’t last. You outlasted your predictions by more than a decade, kid. Something to be proud of.”
“Okay….” Liam was taken aback. Where was he going with this?
“See, the biz is a dog eat dog world. You win some, you lose some. You have to be flexible and do what needs to be done if you want to have a career as long as mine.”
Evan Rosenstein was now a seasoned manager and producer, but still acted selected roles. His career spanned at least 3 or 4 decades.
“I understand, but do not know why you are telling me that.” Liam said.
“Kid, did I ever tell you about that camera over there?”
“Your first camera, you were given by Steven Spielberg when you helped him save a doomed production with an innovative idea.” Liam recited the story he had heard so many times before.
“Yeah, that’s the story. Except, none of that is true. I made that up to impress people. Truth was that when I moved into the office the corner over there was bare and I found that stupid ugly old camera on eBay. Spielberg would not know me from Adam when I bought it. And now he is practically competition.”
“Oh .. ummm…”
“The point is, in this business, a lot is smoke and mirrors, and everyone and everything has a shelf life. The only way to extend it is to do things you may not want to do, give up things you would want to keep and to be flexible. None of those apply to you anymore. I’ll make it short, kid, I will miss you. Not as much as Lana is going to, but I will. Was good knowing you, and that I do not say about many people. At least I do not mean it when I do.” he chuckled, while Liam was trying to make heads and tails of the cryptic message.
“I am not following…”
“OK, more plainly then. You are out. Done for. It’s over for you. Your contract is about to expire soon and won’t be renewed. Your non-compete will remain in effect, can’t have you running over to the competition, but you are no longer of use to me. You keep declining roles, you do not want to travel, if you do travel you go for three weeks max … all those interruptions cost me a pretty penny. So, sounds like you want your family more than your career and I am giving you want you want.”
“What?! You are firing me? How am I supposed to support my family now?!”
“You cannot star in movie roles, but other than that all is fair game. The non-compete allows for things like small appearances, cameos, made-for-TV series – yeah, I could see you in a soap opera. Maybe as a handsome doctor all the nurses and patients go nuts over. The drama would basically write itself. Or do commercials. Sell some hemorrhoid cream, kid, or condoms. Although with all the kids you have now, I doubt you’d be the most convincing spokesperson .. ha ha ha ha.”
Liam felt like the rug had been pulled out from under him. This was a death sentence. Lightly administered, but still every bit as lethal. All this meant he would never star in another movie again. Ever.
“I have one last check for you, actually, I don’t have it. But swing by tomorrow morning. You can say hello to Francesca then, she would be very upset if you left without saying goodbye to her. She still drools over you.” Francesca was Rosenstein’s much younger and beautiful wife.
“I … ummm … I assure you I never …”
“I know. You don’t do that either. You really do not fit in. See that hot piece of ass out there at the desk? Lana and I have a lot of fun together. And my young, model gone actress wife as well. And a few little wannabe starlets too. I help them and they help me. Oh, don’t look at me like that. I never had to force myself on anybody. It’s how things are done. After tomorrow you can go home and play house with your little housewifey and your rug rats. Isn’t your sister married to one of those Auditores? Have him invest your money for you. If they are as good as I hear, you should be set for life.”
Liam was ushered outside. Standing in the cool breeze it finally hit him. He was jobless now.
Fallen from grace because he wanted to be a sound person. And strangely, he felt nothing. No regret. Only relief.
As agreed he came back the next day, picked up a few things, along with his last pay.
Rosenstein’s wife was there now.
She treated him like an old friend, kissing and hugging and then he was dismissed like an old toy that got boring.
“Daddy!” it chimed in children’s voices times two along with Leonie’s surprised exclamation
She, Everett and Natalie were eating lunch when he walked in. The two little ones were likely down for their naps.
“Baby, are you hungry? I’ll get you a plate…” Leonie jumped up and hurried into the kitchen, Liam followed and kissed her.
“Hello dad … we are still here too …” Everett complained. Liam bend down and hugged his oldest.
Then Natty wanted her turn.
“Actually, come on and sit down, all of you. I have something to tell all of you. It is pretty big, I think.”
“Is it another movie, daddy?”
“No. Quite the opposite. Looks like your daddy retired for good now. Wasn’t exactly my choice, but I am out of the showbiz. Means I will be home a lot more. Pretty much all the time, really.” Liam dropped the bomb, waiting for everyone’s reactions.
“YAY!” the kids cheered and even Leonie smiled satisfied. That went better than expected. They talked a little more, then the kids went on to do their homework together.
“Umm Liam ….?”
“I thought you wanted to eat…”
“I rather nibble on you for now…”
The following weekend, summer was here now, it was Jake’s birthday. He’d be a school child now too. Wow. All of Liam and Leonie’s Clique plus kids were invited, along with all grandparents, Vivian and Vitto and Steven. Surprisingly, everybody showed up.
Vitto was still a hit with Natalie, and Steven acted very civil. (many images, but more text at the end)
Soon the first dog days of Summer happened.
It was scorching hot, so the family played poolside.
Including the four legged family members.
Life was good.
As Liam sat outside, sipping coffee, he thanked all the powers there be for his family and for being a mortal, able to enjoy this day with them like a father should.
Many more days like this followed, and Liam got to enjoy them all with no upcoming travel looming over his head. He really felt like ‘happiest man alive’ was a term coined for him.