Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bachelor Number Five - Chapter Five

Here it is, the latest episode in the adventures of Amanda in Hollywood.  This week, our heroine checks out her new surroundings and then stops in at her local sandwich shop for a cheesesteak and a beef cake.  :-)  Enjoy!

Chapter Five

Hollywood Boulevard and the “Walk of Fame” were only ten minutes by foot from the apartment, according to Lauren.  It was still hard for Amanda to believe that she actually lived here, in Hollywood, California.  It felt instead as though she were living someone else’s life; someone more exciting and courageous than she was.  As she walked up her street, though, she was struck by how unglamorous it all seemed.  Not that there was anything wrong with it, per se.  It just wasn’t what she’d expected.  To be honest, she wasn’t sure what she’d expected, really.  Maybe just that she’d be more impressed.  These residential streets were nothing special.  The apartment buildings were mostly ordinary, at 2-3 stories high and of varying styles.  Some were boxy and plain, others with Spanish tile roofs.  The few single-family homes on the block weren’t so different from the house she’d shared with Piper, but with palm trees in the yards.  Palm trees.  She almost had to stop and stare.
When Amanda turned right and then left onto Highland Avenue it began to feel as though she really was in a big city after all, with four lanes of traffic and the first rows of commercial buildings she’d come across since leaving the apartment.  There was a sandwich shop advertising Philly cheesesteaks.  That looked promising.  She’d be spending some time in this place, she was fairly sure.  Next door was a tattoo parlor, then a medical marijuana dispensary and finally a psychic.  She certainly wasn’t in Quincy anymore.
Amanda came to Sunset Boulevard and waited for the light to change before crossing.  Her hometown had not one single stoplight.  This one was for an intersection with four busy lanes in each direction, just blocks from her home.  Everything about her new reality was going to take getting used to, yet at this point even the things most people would consider mundane provided Amanda with a thrill.  When the light turned green she moved on across the street and past the blocky white buildings of a school.  Students mingled out front or practiced flipping their skateboards into the air.  Hollywood High School, read the sign.  Amanda tried to imagine what it must be like to go to a school like this, where the kids looked so mature and worldly.  Just the thought made her feel small and insecure.  She’d missed so much in her life, but that was all going to change.  It had already started.
When she reached Hollywood Boulevard things really began to get more interesting.  On her left was a souvenir shop full of t-shirts, key chains and refrigerator magnets.  Across the street was a massive four-story shopping mall.  At her feet was the “Walk of Fame.”  Each pink star in the sidewalk was roughly three-feet square, with a brass name and a small brass symbol.  Some had a radio microphone, others a television or an old-fashioned movie camera.  She turned left toward the setting sun and read the names as she went.  Most of them she’d never heard of.  Spade Cooley, Evelyn Rudie, Art Laboe, Elia Kazan.  That last one sounded familiar anyway.  She nearly bumped into a small group of tourists speaking a language she didn’t understand.  French, perhaps?  They gathered around one of the stars to take photos.  Amanda peeked through their legs to read the name.  Claudette Colbert.  A bit of home in a land far away, perhaps.
As she kept walking, Amanda passed two men leaning against a wall in front of a small market.  They wore dirty, ragged clothing and had dirty, ragged beards.  Each one held a hand-lettered cardboard sign.  “Beer Fund,” read the first, with an arrow pointing to an upside-down baseball cap on the ground in front of him.  “Bad advice: Free,” read the other.  “Good advice: One Dollar.”
“Care for some advice there, sweetie?” the man said to Amanda.
“No thanks,” she picked up her pace.
“Bad advice is free!” he shouted after her as she hurried down the sidewalk.  In the mall across the boulevard Amanda saw a broad walkway leading to an open courtyard.  High up at the top, two enormous stone elephants sat on their haunches with their feet in the air, reminiscent she supposed of the movie spectacles of old.  She wondered how many restaurants might be located inside the mall.  One of them must need a reliable waitress, she thought.  Amanda needed a job, and quickly, if she hoped to keep up with her rent.  She’d start her job search in the morning.  For now it was all just so much to take in.  On her left was a building that looked like a temple of some sort, with large Greek columns facing the sidewalk.  In between each column hung a big red banner.  She read them in order.  “JIMMY.  KIMMEL.  LIVE.”  She stopped to stare.  They actually filmed it right here?  Piper would die of envy!  The thought that Amanda could walk back up here sometime and watch the show live and in person was quite a proposition, though at the moment hunger and exhaustion were setting in.  Amanda needed to eat something.  She thought back to the cheesesteak place.  There was no time like the present to give it a try.

As she sat in the sandwich shop sipping a diet soda and waiting for her sandwich to be ready, Amanda couldn’t help but think about her future.  It was why she’d come here to Los Angeles in the first place, but other than a vague notion that she might meet the man of her dreams she had very little idea what that future might actually look like.  Of course she didn’t want to live in Quincy for the rest of her life, but neither did she want to spend it as a waitress.  But what then?  Even if she did meet a man here and get married, she felt like she should have some greater aspirations of her own.  She’d already taken a few courses at an online community college.  Maybe she could transfer the credits and try taking classes at an actual college campus here in LA.  Maybe she could get an actual degree and pursue a career.  In what, she wasn’t sure.  She loved music.  She loved to sing and play guitar.  Perhaps a career in the music business?  She didn’t want to get ahead of herself, but then she’d never get anywhere if she didn’t start making some plans.
Sitting in this café all alone with her future so uncertain, Amanda couldn’t help but miss Piper and Lucy and all the regular customers at the diner.  She missed Whiskers and her mom and dad.  Other than Lauren and Darren, whom she’d only just met, Amanda didn’t know another soul in this entire city.  That would take some time.  She’d make new friends, she told herself.  It was far too soon to be melancholy.  Maybe if she still felt this way in a few months, then she could allow herself to succumb to the creeping indulgence of depression.
“Cheesesteak!”  A cashier placed Amanda’s sandwich on a plate with some fries and put it on the counter.
“Thank you!”  Amanda hopped up and hurried over to retrieve it.  She picked up her plate and turned back toward her table as another customer came through the door.  Amanda stopped in place.  It was her new neighbor.  Peter.  Pete.  Petey.  And his cobalt blue eyes, handsome features and perfectly cut brown hair, bangs hanging playfully over one eye.  He’d changed out of his suit and into a blue dress shirt, un-tucked with the sleeves rolled up to his forearms, and blue jeans with brown leather dress shoes.  On his left wrist was a shiny silver watch with a rotating black dial around the bezel.  Amanda had seen pictures in magazines of watches like this one.  She’d never seen one quite like it in person.  Farmers didn’t wear fancy watches, or fancy shoes or fancy anything for that matter.
“Hey neighbor.  Funny bumping into you again,” he said.
“At least it’s only figuratively this time.”
“Too true.  It looks like you’re finding your way around the neighborhood all right.”
“I guess so.  Is this place any good?”
“I come here all the time.  I guess it must be all right.”
“Glad to hear it.”  Amanda moved around Peter and returned to her table, not quite sure why she felt so flustered.  The more she opened her mouth, the more likely she was to sound like a small-town, country bumpkin.   It was better to keep that reality a secret.  Amanda took her seat and picked up her sandwich.  She wanted to take a bite but hesitated.  How could she eat with him watching her?!  She looked back at him with her eyebrows raised.  Peter turned to the counter to place his order.
“Cheesesteak and house-cut fries to go,” he said.
The cashier rang him up and Amanda bit into her sandwich, savoring the taste.  She’d known she was hungry, but this sandwich was indeed divine.  The effect on her was almost immediate as her blood sugar levels rose and her flagging energy began to return.  She took another bite, closing her eyes and breathing in through her nose as she chewed.
“That good, huh?”
When she opened her eyes again, Peter was standing just across the table.  “Mind if I join you while I’m waiting?” he said.
Amanda’s eyes opened wide.  She just wanted to eat, in peace.  As fast as she could get it down.  But what could she say?  “Sure,” she conceded.
Peter pulled out a chair and sat.  “I’m Peter, by the way.  I don’t think we were properly introduced.”
“I’m Amanda.”
“I’m assuming you’re Lauren’s new roommate.”
“Uh, huh.”
“She doesn’t like me much.”
“She didn’t say anything?”
“Well,” Peter shrugged.  “I’ve got nothing against her.  She’s a nice girl.  I’m sure you’ll get along fine.”
“I hope so.  She seems nice.”
“Yeah.  So, are you new to LA, or just the building?”
“New to everything.”
“You’re actress?”
“Who, me?!”
“That’s why people come here, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know why people come here.  Why did you?”
“I grew up here, if you can believe that.  One of the few.”
“Oh?  Did you go to that high school up the street?”
“What, Hollywood High?  No.  My background was a little more pedestrian than that.  I’m a Studio City kid.”
“What’s that?”
“Studio City?  The valley?”
Amanda shrugged.
“The San Fernando Valley.” said Peter.  “You have heard of that, right?”
“Sure, I’ve heard of it,” Amanda said, though it was just like she’d expected.  She couldn’t open her mouth without sounding like a bumpkin.
“It’s over the hills, on the other side.  You know, behind the Hollywood sign?”
“So where are you from?”
“Wow.  Good timing, huh?  You get to see what a California winter is like.”
“You call this winter?”
“My point exactly!”
Amanda smiled but then looked back to her sandwich.  She wished he’d stop asking so many questions.  All she really wanted at the moment was to eat.  She couldn’t resist taking another bite.
“Iowa, huh?” Peter mulled over the concept.  “This place must seem very surreal to you.”
Amanda nodded as she chewed carefully.
“Order’s up!” said the cashier.  He placed a brown paper bag on the counter.
“That’s me.  It was nice talking to you!”  Peter hopped up and retrieved his order.  “See you around.”
“Bye,” Amanda managed.
“Feel free to stop by if you ever need anything.  Apartment number eight.” 
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Peter gave her a smile and a nod and then walked on out the door.  As he moved on down the sidewalk, Amanda wondered what Lauren really had against him.  He certainly seemed nice enough.  Then again, Lauren was an intelligent girl.  She must have had her reasons to dislike him.  Those details were bound to come out before long.  Whatever the situation really was between them, this was a drama better to be avoided.  Amanda would try to steer clear of Petey, despite those cobalt blue eyes.

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