The Natalie IncidentbyCactus Jack©
So this was how it happened.
I'd known Natalie for a few months, through a friend of a friend, you know how it is. After I moved to Los Angeles I found myself attending party after party filled with people just like me. That is, out of work actors/actresses waiting tables and cutting hair in between audition after useless audition. One night, I was at a typical gathering when I saw her across the other side of the pool. I nudged my buddy Keith;
'What the hell is she doing here?'
'I think she came with her brother. He knows whoever owns this house.' He looked away, his interest freshly sparked by the blonde girl who had just walked in front of us.
She was talking to another girl that I didn't recognise, and I swear she was more beautiful in the flesh than the times I had seen her on screen. Her jet black hair was pulled away from her face in a simple pony tail, and even from a distance I could see her green eyes shining. She was dressed in jeans and a white shirt that hung loose over her butt. There was a bottle of beer in her hand and she looked liked she never had a care in the world. I couldn't stop staring at her, and when she turned her head after sensing me looking, and then smiled at me my guts churned. I think I probably fell for her in that moment. One thing was for sure; I had to go over and talk to her, or regret it for ever.
I ran my fingers through my too-long hair, took a deep breath and walked around the pool towards her. As I approached her I wondered how to play this. Did I go in arrogant or charming, shy or confident? I decided on a little of all of them.
Her friend had gone as I reached her, and her back was turned to me. I cleared my throat and spoke.
She turned quickly, hair whipping around her. Jesus, up close she was just so gorgeous, maybe too much. There wasn't a blemish on her skin, and her pink lips shone in the torchlights that had been placed around the pool.
She nodded. 'That's me. Who are you?'
'You mean you don't know me?' Why the hell would she. I worked as a barman downtown and had been in one avant-garde production for two weeks in a theatre that had thirty seats and no heating. Still, I was gonna keep this tack up.
She frowned. 'Sorry, I don't think I do.'
'I'm Richard Edwards.'
She shook her head again. 'And you're Natalie Portman, both of us are great people who want each other, and that's what makes this so perfect.'
'Are you trying to pick me up?'
'Am I, you tell me.' I levelled what I hoped would be my best Tom Cruise grin at her. 'Do you want me to?'
Natalie burst out laughing and turned away. 'Forget it, you're a pompous jerk.' She strutted away towards the house, leaving me floudering like a fish out of water.
Fuck it. I chased after her and caught up as she was about to enter through a set of large french doors. 'Wait, please.' She stopped and I saw her sigh before turning towards me.
This time I was myself, what did I have to lose? 'Look, I'm sorry. You're right, I was acting like a fool. That wasn't really me back there.'
'Wasn't it? Why act that way then?'
'Because I was afraid if I was myself you wouldn't be interested in talking to me.'
'Oh? And what are you?'
This time it was my turn to sigh. 'I'm just an out of work guy trying to make a name for himself in this town, just like a million others. I've got no money, I sleep on my friend's floor and I drive a Pinto with a broken clutch. Why would you want to talk to me.'
She remained silent, but her face softened. This was my last chance.
'You're successful, and I'm nothing. But when I saw you across the pool I couldn't stop looking at you. This isn't a line, but you are the most beautiful thing I've seen since I've been in L.A. and if I didn't try to talk to you I'd have been kicking myself forever.'
Her face broke and she smiled. 'So, why can't you guys be honest like that more often?'
I shrugged, dropping my eyes from her own. 'Maybe it's not in our genetic make-up.'
She took me by the wrist, small fingers soft and warm on my skin. 'Let's go inside and get a beer,' she said, 'it's getting cold out here...'
So that was how I came to meet and become friends with Natalie Portman. After my bout of ill-advised arrogance that evening we hit it off instantly, and I was drawn to her natural friendliness and confidence straight away. Los Angeles is a town full of sharks, everyone wants a piece of the pie and believe me, there is never enough to go around. People drift in and out of your life with monotonous regularity and ninety-nine percent of them are only interested in what they can take from you. With Natalie, I found an honest friend, someone who I trusted, and trust is a hard thing to recognise when you are not used to seeing it. Of course, I also desired her as more than a friend, but she let me know from the outset that she had a boyfriend and that was not going to change, all though she did find me attractive. As you'd imagine, that was frustrating for me at first, but soon I began to realise that her friendship was almost as good as a relationship. Perhaps more so, with all the problems that can arrise from being involved with somebody. Anyway, I needed to find work, not be bothered with other distractions.
As it happened, she helped me on the work front, and before you ask, I didn't use her influence. A casting director that she knew saw my (thin) resume at her appartment and called me, asked me to come over to the Television section of Universal and meet with him. Before I knew it I had regular work on a new show. Nothing major, only four or five lines a week, but the exposure was there for me and obviously the money was damn useful.
So life was starting to look a little brighter. Regular work, Natalie as a friend and the Summer just around the corner. I even moved my home from Keith's floor and started sharing an apartment. However, a phone call late one Friday afternoon changed everything.
I'd been working at the bar till two, played three sets of tennis and done a half-hour in the gym. I flopped when I made it home, and was sitting in the cool shade drinking a coke and reading Hemmingway when my cell-phone went. I looked at the screen and saw that it was Natalie.
'Hey stranger, how's it going?' I said. She had been away on a location shoot and I hadn't seen her for over a week.
'Not good, I'm stuck out in the desert.' Her voice sounded thin and raw due to the reception.
'I've got a rental, and basically it's blown something. I don't know what but steam is pouring out of the hood.'
'Are you all right? Have you called a breakdown?'
'Yes I am and no I haven't. My phone is almost out of power and I wanted to call someone that I knew would answer. Could you come and get me?'
I groaned inwardly. I was beat, and the last thing I needed was a drive out of the city against the rush-hour traffic. 'No problem. Where exactly are you?'
She gave me the details and I borrowed my room-mate's pick-up, not trusting my own hunk of junk to the journey. The picture she was involved with had been shooting out in the Santa-Cruz desert, and normally at the end of the day all cast and crew would retire to their trailers that were kept off-set. However, Natalie had hired a car to drive back to the city so she could visit her Brother. Normally, the studio would arrange a driver for a star such as her, but she had insisted on doing things her own way. As I battled against the flow of traffic I could imagine how insistant she had been, knowing full well how stubborn she was if the mood took her. Now, as I leant on the horn almost permantly and recieved the finger in return, I really wished that she had been more flexible. But I also reasoned, she was a good friend, and I knew that she would drive to me if I was in trouble.
It was gone Six when I came upon the dusty Ford at the edge of the road. I pulled in infront and smiled as I saw Natalie wave from where she had been sitting in the open driver's door. All around us was the pale yellow of the desert, and already the sun was dropping toward the horizon.
She came running up to me as I climbed out of the truck, and my heart bounced a little as she planted a kiss on my cheek. 'Rich, you are a lifesaver, thankyou.'
'Well I wasn't about to leave you out here to the rattlers, gorgeous,' I said as I moved toward the Ford. I could still see slight trails of steam leaking out from the radiator inlets. I popped the hood and spent a good ten minutes fiddling with plugs and cables while Nat sat behind the wheel and tried the ignition when I told her to, but my knowledge of automobile repair was amateur to say the least, and I suspected that the Ford was in need of an expert to get her running again. We pushed the car well off the road and locked it securely, climbed in the truck and I swung it around onto the highway and headed back to the city.
I couldn't help stealing glances at Natalie as I drove. She was dressed in a white vest with an open check shirt over the top, and a pair of denim shorts that lived up to their name. She propped her feet up on the dashboard and her lightly tanned legs looked luscious illuminated by the light from the setting sun. She stretched her arms over head and yawned loudly.
'Tough day?' I asked.
'Yes,' she sighed. 'It's so hot workng out here that all your energy is sapped. What I need is a cold drink and a shower.'
I passed her the water that I had bought with me. 'Here, it's not ice cold but it's better than nothing.'
She took the bottle gratefully and swallowed several mouthfuls. 'That tastes pretty good to me,' she said, before tipping a little of the water into her hair. I watched as it trickled down over her closed eyes and dripped off her chin, landing in spots on her vest. She tilted the bottle again and this time more water escaped over her face, rivulets showering the cotton over her breasts. Her left nipple, small and dark, poked through the wet material. I felt my jeans tighten as my erection grew.
All thoughts of lust were soon lost as I heard the engine cough, rattle and die. Natalie opened her eyes as I ground down on the accelerator to no avail, and the truck lurched forward as a series of loud backfires erupted from the exhaust. I cursed and banged my fist down on the wheel, before guiding the vehicle to the gravel embankment, where she cruised slowly to a halt. I tried the ignition several times but all I got was a mournful whine. We were going nowhere.
'What's happened?' Said Nat in a small voice.
'I don't know. Surely we can't have this kind of luck. Two dead vehicles on the same day.'
I climbed out and leaned against the wing, pulling my phone out of my hip pocket. I tried the operator but couldn't get a tone, then tried Keith. Again, no tone.
'I can't get a signal' I said to Natalie as she came around the truck toward me. 'You?'
'I used all my battery calling you.'
'Fucking hell,' I kicked a pile of sand away with my boot. 'Damn sand,' I said. 'Probably getting in the carbs on the engine and causing things to seize up.'
'Do you think that's it?'
'Dunno. Sounds good though, don't you think?'
We looked at each other for a moment before bursting out laughing. 'Sorry I got you into this,' she said through her giggles.
'I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Anyway, what else could I do on a Friday night?'
'So what do we do now?'
I looked around me. The sun was now nothing more than a crimson stain on the horizon, and the light had become almost purple. I knew it was the fore-runner to blackness, and I didn't particularly want to be stuck out in the middle of the desert at night. Too many things lurking in the gloom.
'Well, we can either walk back to the city of Angels, which must be fifty miles, or we can sleep in the truck, which doesn't appeal either, or-' I paused, pointing my finger along the road, 'we can head back towards that motel we passed a mile or so back, see if they have got a phone and maybe a cold beer. I'll leave it up to you.'
It took her about two seconds to make her mind up, so for the second time that day I secured a beaten-up vehicle, and we began the walk back the way we had come, toward the neon sign that glowed in the rapidly advancing night.
The motel was typical of the kind found along every long and lonely highway across the United States. Cheap cabins grouped in a rough circle, and an equally cheap looking office with a dirty Oldsmobile parked out front. There were no other cars parked, which made me reason that the place wasn't exactly humming with business. The sign buzzed with a flashing and unnessersery 'vacancies' statement beneath the name; Drop-Inn Motel.
The only thing that was dropping was sweat from myself and Natalie. Although the sun had now completely disapeared the humidity was still high, and moisture covered my back like a layer of frost. We had walked fast back to the motel, especially after the low cough of a coyote had come out of the darkness, and now I was hot, dusty and becoming rapidly pissed off.
My mood didn't improve when the guy in the office imformed us that the telephone was dead.
'What?' I said, leaning heavily on the formica counter.
'I'm really sorry guys, there's a storm moving closer and it always affects the lines this way on.' He peered at both of us through thick glasses, his gaze running longer over Natalie than me. 'Don't I know you folks from somewhere?'
'We're from the city, I don't think so,' I replied. I turned to Natalie and led her a few feet away from the counter. The fatigue was evident on her face and she looked as downhearted as I felt. I brushed a finger under her chin. 'Come on, smile.'
'I don't feel like smiling. I just want this day to end.'
'Me too. Look, let's cut our losses. What do you say we bag a couple of rooms, have a shower and get clean. If a storm is brewing like he says then we're going nowhere tonight anyway. Might as well just sleep and get back in the morning.'
We negotiated two cabins, numbers 7 and 8, for forty dollars. The desk-clerk showed us the rooms and gave us clean towels before he left us alone, and I caught him looking back at Natalie once or twice as he returned to his office, and I think that the spark of recognition about who she was was finally dawning on him. Luckily we had enough cash between us for the tariff, so there had been no reason for Nat to use her credit card, which she would have had to have done as my own had been discontinued a couple of months previously.
In all fairness, the rooms were quite decent; the small bathrooms were clean and I was overjoyed to feel hot water come out of the shower-head. There was a small television bolted to the wall and the carpet reached all four walls and was not quite threadbare. Most importantly, a decent sized double-bed dominated both of the rooms, and when I sat on the edge there was a pleasing firmness to the mattress.
Natalie brightened when she saw the room, and I knew after some good sleep she would be back to her old self. I fetched us a couple of Cokes and some pre-pack sandwiches from a large automated cooler in the office, smiling as I saw the desk clerk asleep with his glasses askew and his feet on the desk, a copy of Hustler laying in his lap. My quarters rattled in the machine base as I fed in the right change but the noise never disturbed him. My guess was that we were the first guests he had booked in here for some time.
We sat in my room and ate the bland sandwiches, which had seen better days, and drank the sodas which were ice-cold and slipped down very easily. With the bedside lamps lit the room took on a gentle light which never reached the shadowed corners, and I lay back on the pillows and kicked my boots off. Natalie was lying across the end of the bed, her head propped up on crooked elbow as we talked. It was still hot in the room and she had taken off her checked shirt, and the white vest clung to her slender frame and small breasts. The hem had risen up her stomach, and I could see a maddening strip of tanned skin above her shorts, her belly-button a tiny blemish on the smooth surface.
'It's raining,' she said, cocking her head back and looking at the ceiling. We both listened for a moment as droplets started to strike the wooden roof of the cabin, the sound part sinister, part comforting.
'Looks like old Magoo got the forecast right,' I said.
'Yep. Probably felt it in his water or something.'
'I don't think he was feeling water,' I replied, and related to her how I seen the magazine earlier. She laughed and lay flat on her back, stretching like a cat with her arms above her head. This action only served to raise her shirt higher, and I ran a horny gaze over her torso down to her thighs and over her bare feet. The tiny toenails were painted a delicate shade of pink.
She sensed my looking and turned to me. 'Are you alright?'
I smiled. 'I'm fine. I just never thought I'd be spending tonight in a motel room, is all,'
'I know. It feels like were on another world. I'd never believe L.A was fifty miles away unless I knew better.' She paused for a moment and looked reflective. 'I'm dirty.'
I grinned. 'Lucky me.'
'You know what I mean. I need that shower and a bed. What time is it?'
'Just after Nine-thirty.'
She sat on the edge of the bed and slipped on her sandals before standing. I also stood, but not before I'd adjusted myself. Things had gotten hard again after I had been watching her.
'Step outside and you'll get that shower,' I said, opening the door to reveal a torrent of rain lancing down.
'Great,' she replied, peering out of the doorway, 'I was hoping for something a little warmer.'
Across the now-muddy but still empty carpark I could see the dark highway, before a flash of light from a slowly passing car illuminated the tarmac. I was glad I wasn't driving in this; the cheap little motel was looking more attractive as the minutes went by.
'You gonna be Okay,' I said, turning towards Natalie.
'I think so. I just want to sleep.'
'Well, you know where I am if you need me.'
'I know. Thanks Rich, you've been wonderful today.' Before I could offer a modest reply she slipped a hand around my neck onto the back of my head, fingers in my hair, and pulled me towards her. The kiss onto my lips was soft, and I felt her mouth slightly part as she broke it. The taste was wonderful.
'Good night,' she whispered, and dashed off through the rain. Although it was less than ten feet to her door, the rain had soaked her by the time she pushed the key into the lock. She gave me a quick wave as I watched her step inside, then she was gone.
When I closed my own door the room seemed cold and empty. It was as if the warmth that had been had left with Natalie, and I immediately wished that she were back. I turned down the covers on the bed and pulled my shirt off and drapped it over the back of a chair, before moving into the bathroom. There were some complimentary soaps and toothpastes on a glass shelf above the basin, and I smeared a line of minty flouride protection along my finger and proceeded to clean my teeth as best as I could.
As I was rinsing, I heard a door close on the other side of the thin plasterboard wall that seperated the two rooms. A second later there was a faint hissing of a shower, and I knew that no more than a few feet away from me Natalie was preparing to step under the hot spray of water she had been craving a few minutes ago. I stood quietly in the bathroom, and imagined her pulling that tight white vest over her head, unbuckling and lowering her shorts, before stepping naked into the cubicle and gasping as the water struck her skin. I closed my eyes and leant against the basin, lost in my fantasy as I pictured her lathering soap in her hands, before smearing it over her body. Fingers stroking around her neck, along her shoulders and down her arms, before moving up her stomach to the swell of her breasts. Her nipples hard, as I had seen in the truck earlier that day. One hand moving slowly over the sensitive flesh, as the other traced patterns up her parted thighs. Rising higher to meet with soft matted hair and-