AN: Thanks to DreamOfTheEndless for pre-reading.
This was my donation to Fandom4Heroes. Enjoy.
She sat alone, watching the glittering lights of the cityscape before her. It had become too crowded for her inside the hotel function room. There were too many people, and all of them wanted her attention. She knew most of them by reputation, but had not met a lot of them before. She had been too busy with work to have much of a social life, even though the media would have had her fans believe differently.
Out here, she felt calm, almost peaceful even though the sounds of the city surrounded her. These were the noises she had come to know well. They seemed to be able to soothe her mind which always appeared to be on a constant loop.
She was too lost in her daydreaming to realise that someone else had entered her haven. It was not until she heard the footsteps approach the bench that she turned her head slightly, not facing the intruder head on.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as the tall stranger approached the bench, his steps almost faltering when he noticed someone before him. When he saw who the woman was, he continued on his course, seemingly not put off.
"Do you mind?" he asked in a strong British accent, pointing at the empty side of the bench. The woman turned to face him and shook her head. Truthfully, she did mind, but she also knew who he was. She was not about to say no to him. "Thanks," he added, taking a seat. His breath came out in a harsh sigh as he perched upon the bench. He lounged back just as she crossed her right leg over her left, and clasped her hands together on her knee.
She felt nervous around him, but not out of fear. No, she admired the man sitting beside her. But her nerves left her unable to think of something to say. Perhaps he only wanted to escape from the party inside as well. She did not wish to interrupt the calm.
"I'm Anthony by the way," he said when she made no move to speak.
"I know," she gushed as she turned to face him. She smiled brightly before saying, "I'm-"
"Bella," Anthony interrupted. "I know." He returned her smile.
"You do?" she asked.
"Of course. Who doesn't? You've become one of the most popular artists in America."
Oh, she thought. He may have heard of me, but that doesn't mean he likes my songs. She found it difficult to keep up her happy appearance, but her media training helped her out. She thought that maybe it was best to turn the conversation onto him while she recovered from the sting of disappointment.
"You probably hear this a lot," she began, "but I think you're one of my favourite actors."
"Really?" Anthony asked, not seeming to believe her compliment. After all, maybe she was only saying it to be polite. He was at least ten years her senior. He did not think that she had watched him in some of his more intense roles.
"Really," she replied. Perhaps it was her love of all things British that made Anthony adhere to her. Moving to L.A. from England when her career took off made her feel homesick at the best of times. She found comfort in the fact that she was not the only British person in the vicinity.
Her posture relaxed as she unclasped her hands and sat up a little straighter, her body turning so she faced Anthony even more. "I think I must have first watched your performance in Origin before I saw you in anything else," she said. "But after that, I watched some of your older stuff, including that adaptation you did on the TV back home-"
Anthony laughed. "Don't remind me." He did not enjoy being part of that period drama. He enjoyed his job, but not when it entailed working in the cold English countryside, and especially not when the leading lady turned out to be a complete diva.
"Sorry," Bella said. "I must sound so... fan-like." She almost grimaced. She knew first hand how fans could act around someone famous. Sweet, normal people turned into screaming, crying and almost crazy individuals.
"No, it's okay," Anthony replied. "It's flattering."
Bella felt a little embarrassed by her ramblings. She smiled shyly at Anthony before returning to her earlier position of watching the cityscape. A few minutes passed before either of them spoke.
"Are you not enjoying the party?" Anthony asked.
Bella sighed before saying, "Not particularly. I, uh, I get claustrophobic when there are too many people. Thankfully I haven't fainted in a while, but it's been known to happen."
"How did you manage to sneak out here?" he asked.
Bella chuckled quietly. "The guy on the door was a fan. He said he would let me out if I signed something for his daughter."
The secluded garden was off-limits to the party-goers. Bella guessed that the hotel management did not want it to be ruined once the guests had had a few too many to drink.
"What about you?" she asked. "Isn't it kinda your party?"
The event was to celebrate the release of Anthony's new film At the End of the World. The evening started with the film's premier, which Bella immensely enjoyed. She was cajoled into attending the after show party by her publicist. "It will be a good chance to network," she had said.
"Well, not really. I don't drink and you can't escape the alcohol at these functions... You know how these things work anyway. I didn't get into acting to be interviewed or to go to these ridiculous events. I just wanted to-"
"Do what you loved?" Bella finished, referring to his acting.
She knew the feeling all too well. She didn't want the world to know absolutely everything about herself, even if there was nothing to hide. She didn't ask to be hounded by the press and paparazzi, but it sold records, and that made her record company happy. She imagined it must have been similar for Anthony. When his films came out, not a day went by when she didn't see his picture plastered somewhere, whether it be in a magazine or on TV.
This wasn't the kind of life she wanted. At the age of twenty two, she had become jaded and fiercely defensive of herself. She never used to be like that. She was happy once, but as she thought back, she couldn't remember the last time that she truly was. She loved making music, but the hassle that came with it she could do without.
She supposed that she should have felt more grateful. She couldn't help but think that it was only a matter of time before her popularity started to dwindle. What would she do then?
"Did you not come with anyone?" Anthony asked, breaking through Bella's train of thought.
"Oh... uh, no," she replied, almost embarrassed that he had asked. She was aware that hardly anyone attended events on their own, especially high profile ones. Who would she have gone with though? She had no true friends in L.A. She was only popular because of what her fame afforded her. She didn't want to be liked because of the amount of zeroes her bank balance had. It made dating pretty much impossible. Even if she liked the guy, she couldn't know for sure that he could be trusted. It made her seem to be a very guarded person. However, she did not exactly have a lot of time for the dating scene. Her career kept her pretty busy. If she wasn't travelling to perform at different venues, then she was either writing new songs, rehearsing, or attending events such as film premiers.
If she thought about it for long enough, her existence was actually a pretty lonely one.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Anthony asked, noticing Bella's dejected appearance. She almost cursed herself for letting her guard slip.
"Nothing," she said, shrugging it off. "I guess I get lost in thought sometimes."
Anthony didn't fill the silence that came next, sensing that it was needed. He wasn't sure of what he could say in any case, fearing that he had somehow upset the beautiful girl beside him.
Finally, when he couldn't take it anymore, he said, "You know something? I am a huge fan of yours."
Bella looked at him with disbelief. "Yeah, right," she said.
"I swear I am," Anthony replied with a smile on his face. "I'll prove it to you."
He put his hand in his pocket and dug out his iPhone. He scrolled through its features, finding his music library. Once he had, he handed his phone to Bella. "Take a look," he said, prompting her.
Casting one last doubtful look at the man, she took his phone hesitantly and peered at the small screen in her hand. She couldn't hold back her gasp. By the time she had scrolled through the playlist, she was laughing.
"Wow," she said, passing back the phone to its owner. "That's like... all of my albums."
"Yeah." He laughed once to himself, sounding slightly embarrassed. "I'm just glad you didn't look at my top twenty five songs."
Bella's cheeks were beginning to ache from smiling. "Thank you," she said.
Anthony looked confused. "I didn't do anything," he replied.
"No, you did. You really did."
Conversation was easy after that. The ice had been broken by their shared respect and interest in the other's work. It was the first time in a long time that either of them had felt comfortable enough around another person.
It was only when Bella noticed that sky changing colour that she realised she had to leave. Her busy work schedule didn't allow her to rest much, so she needed any sleep she could get.
She stood up with the help of Anthony, who escorted her back to the party.
"Would it be alright if I... took your number?" he asked her as she collected the purse she came with from the cloakroom. "You know... if we ever had some free time, we could... you know..."
Bella chuckled. "You're really not how the media portray you to be, are you?"
"How do you mean?" he asked, perplexed.
She shook her head gently. "I just meant that it's... refreshing... when someone you admire turns out to be such a nice guy." She held out her hand and asked for his phone, returning it to him once she had stored her number in it.
"It really was great to meet you," she said. "You're everything I hoped you would be," she added quietly before saying goodbye and walking to the exit.
"Hey, Bella," he called out before walking after her. She stopped and waited for him, and was rewarded with a gentle kiss to the cheek. "Please, call me Edward. Anthony is my acting name. My friends and family call me Edward."
Bella couldn't contain her smile. "Alright," she replied. "I will. Goodnight... Edward."