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Chapter 3 Exes Reunited

  • After her colleague left, Zoey fronted Natalie. “Claude signed on for a major production. He was shooting behind closed doors in South America for six months and only returned last week... Claude’s a late addition on your show at the behest of his agent who called in this morning. I’ve only found out about that when I came in.”
  • Zoey’s voice shrank as she spoke until she finally sighed, “Look Nat, I think you should just go back...”
  • “This is my show. How could it do without my presence in it?” Natalie flipped her hair as she flashed a dazzling smile. “We should expect great ratings with the participation of this newly crowned Best Actor!”
  • Zoey was speechless.
  • Anyone else who had not been close with Natalie for as long as Zoey did would have been convinced that Natalie had really moved on. Only she would know how profoundly Claude had hurt her best friend.
  • Seeing the way she acted, there was not much else Zoey could say before she handed Natalie the file containing the script. “Handle this however you deem fit.”
  • “I’m the show’s anchor. Of course, the limelight has to be on me.” Natalie pulled Zoey in and kissed her. “Since Sebastian has a new squeeze, I doubt he’ll be coming around tonight. I’ll probably need you to help me with a take-out.”
  • “Got it.” Zoey shrugged her off and went off in the opposite direction.
  • Natalie stood there until she disappeared from sight before she rescinded her smile. Her hands shivered as though the file she held weighed half a ton.
  • She only came out of her stupor when the makeup artist rang her up. With the file in hand, she made for the dressing room.
  • The makeup artist too happened to be a fan of Claude. She was excited to learn that he was on the guest list and could not stop talking about him as she was doing Natalie’s face.
  • Hopping around the topics of her effusive praise for Claude’s star quality being made for the big screen, a commentary about his meteoric rise to fame, an observation of his low profile and squeaky clean image to his dedication to his craft, and finally, plaudits to his crowning as Best Actor for the performance in his second feature film, that mega fan just kept the reel rolling.
  • Natalie obliged her with the occasional nod and words of affirmation while the script in her hands creased in her own ever-tightening grip.
  • At ten past one, the six guests arrived in the studio. Owing to the presence of Claude, more than a few of the station’s staff had come forth to welcome him, resulting in congestion in the hallway.
  • Natalie breathed in deeply and brought out her best smile as she stepped up to greet the incoming visitors.
  • When she reached the front, a slim silhouette appeared in the corner of her eye.
  • She instinctively retreated when a large hand reached over and enveloped hers.
  • “Nat.”
  • Natalie’s mind went blank when she felt the slight coolness on the man’s clean and slender hand.
  • Her physiological responses were not a reaction to this reunion, but to her own inexplicable thoughts of Sebastian’s face and the dryness inside his palms.
  • Her thoughts about the man’s peculiar quirks made her hips burn.
  • All the eyes of the stunned onlookers were transfixed on Natalie and Claude when they saw him initiate contact with her and greet her so tenderly.
  • Natalie noted how off-color her assistant’s expression was and immediately banished those random musings from her mind.
  • She confidently lifted her head to make eye contact with the man in front of her and curled her red lips into a slight smile. “I must say that I’m quite overwhelmed by this warm gesture from Mr. Nealey. I’ve very much enjoyed your movies, so consider me a fan of yours.”
  • There was an inkling of excitement in Natalie’s tone, as though she was standing in front of her idol. “I never expected that you would be able to make time to grace my program with your presence right after being crowned Best Actor. It feels almost surreal that you’re here.”
  • Natalie broke the ice with her clever words and had the onlookers quite entertained.
  • Some of them went on to tease her. “Then you really should see to it that you butter him up well! I’m sure you’ll stop feeling that way once he starts to drop in more often.”
  • “Of course.” Natalie then took the opportunity to casually pull away from Claude.
  • “Never mind Mr. Nealey, it seems that you have a pretty packed schedule yourself, Mr. Seder. It took me a good many months to get you in here, so you’re going to love all the forfeits I’ve got lined up for you.”
  • Mr. Seder smiled bitterly. “You’re really not going to go easy on me, are you, Nat?”
  • “That’s what friends are for, wouldn’t you agree?” Natalie then instructed the makeup artist to lead Claude and the other guests to the dressing room while she attended to Mr. Seder personally. “Those are what your fans have conceived specially for you.”
  • “Bah, what fans? I think they are just eager to see me make a fool of myself.”
  • Natalie’s body went on autopilot.
  • Her nerves only started to calm after Claude was completely out of sight.