Home > The Idea of You(12)

The Idea of You(12)
Author: Robinne Lee

“Fuck. I’m sorry. I just…”

“Come here.” I reached for him.

“Fuck,” he repeated, lying back beside me.

He was quiet for a moment. And then: “Once, when we were in Tokyo, there was this girl who … Never mind. I don’t want to talk about it. Just promise me you’re not going to go crazy.”

“Okay.” I smiled. “Promise.”

He jumped up again. “And I checked in with you, right? I asked if you were okay. Several times. Right?” He sounded uncertain.

“Yes, you did.”

“I just want to make sure I’m not losing my mind.”

It was fascinating to see his anxiety. The things that tormented him. I couldn’t begin to imagine what life for him and the other guys in the group must have been like. Not knowing whom to trust, and worried that at any time something could be used against them. I assumed there was probably much at stake.

“And don’t let the rock star rubbish get to you,” he said, lying down again. “Because it’s not real, it’s crap. It’s like this idea and it’s not who I am and … I’m always going to be real with you, okay?

“Fuck, it’s late,” he said, glancing at his watch. “I have a six a.m. wake-up call. Which is in three and a half hours. And I’ve been up since four. God, I just want a bloody break.”

“Is that the watch?”

“Yeah. What do you think?”


“It’s kind of sleek, isn’t it? This one is the Carrera … Carrera Calib-something … I don’t remember. It’s late.”

“It’s a good-looking watch.”

“I think it’s too sleek for me,” he said, slipping it off his wrist. “It’s fancier than I usually am. Here, you try it.”

I let him put the watch on me. It was stainless steel: clean, masculine, elegant.

“Wow, that looks good on you. Keep it.”

“No, thank you.”

“I’m serious. It looks good on you and I’m probably never going to wear this one. They gave me two others. Just keep it.”

“I’m not keeping your watch,” I said, handing it over.

“Okay, just borrow it, then.”

“Hayes, I’m not the woman who’s going to accept gifts like this from you. Thank you, but no.”

“Don’t think of it as a gift. I’m lending it to you. If you borrow it, it kind of ensures that you’ll have to see me again.”

“You still want to see me again? Even after I freaked out on you?”

He nodded, a lazy smile spreading across his wide mouth. “Yeah. Because you have to return the favor. And I’m too exhausted to let that happen now.”

I started to laugh. “Really? So we’re going to do this again because I owe you?”

“Yes,” he laughed, sitting up and inching across the bed. “And because I have lots more things I want to do to you, I’m just too knackered to think of them.”

I sat up and watched him collect his belongings, zip his boots, smooth his hair, reapply his lip balm.

He made his way back over to the bed to kiss me. “This was fun,” he said, slow, sensual, his eyelids heavy. “I really like you.”

“I really like you, too.”

“Thanks for giving me the pleasure.”


On the way out of the room, he stopped and placed the TAG Heuer atop the stenciled credenza in the corner. “I’m going to be in the South of France next month. You can return it to me there.”

And then he was gone.

côte d’azur

I knew I would go. The way he’d dangled it in the air … like candy. This sweet, sweet lure. The way he’d phrased it. As if I did not have a choice. The way it fit into my schedule. Easy.

I had the gallery’s travel agent make the arrangements: a quick detour to Nice following Art Basel. I lied to Lulit and told her I was visiting family. I lied to my family and told them I was meeting clients. I tried to be honest with myself. It was just physical, this arrangement. Carnal. Nothing more, nothing less. And knowing that, I thought, would allow me to enjoy the ride.

I should have been able to pull it off: sex without guilt, sex without shame, sex without expectation. The French had been doing it for centuries. It was in my DNA. Surely, I could tap into that part of me that had yet to surface. Three days on the Riviera with a beautiful boy and no strings attached. I would not overthink it. I would go and have fun, and then return to my life. And no one would be the wiser. It had been three years. I deserved this.

* * *

The week before I left for Switzerland, Isabelle and I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara. Just the two of us, at the Bacara Resort, catching up on some mother-daughter time as I’d promised. She was heading off to Maine for summer camp at the end of the month and would be gone until mid-August. As it did every year, the pending separation weighed on me. The idea that she would return to me forever changed, in some small way or another. Time eluding us both.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday, we laid out a blanket on a promontory overlooking the ocean, and set out to capture the view in watercolors. It had become something of a ritual for us, painting side by side. I dreaded the day she would outgrow it.

I watched her as she painted in broad, sure strokes, confident in her artistry. Her nose screwed up in concentration, her French pout. Her long hair knotted at the base of her neck, secured with a pencil, like I used to wear mine in school. For all her independence, she was still my mini-me. We had marveled at that when she was small. Those first few weeks home from the hospital when everything was new and full of wonder. Daniel and I would lie in bed cocooning her and gazing at her features, her every little movement. Discovering what was mine and what was his and what was decidedly Isabelle’s. Falling in love with her, and each other, anew.

“Do you think you’ll ever get married again, Mom?”

It came out of nowhere. The big questions always did.

“I don’t know, peanut. Maybe…”

She was quiet for a moment, filling in her sky.

“Why? What made you ask?”

Isabelle shrugged. “I just wonder sometimes. I don’t want you to be lonely.”

“Lonely? Do you think I’m lonely?” I laughed, uneasy. “I’ve got you.”

“I know, but…” She stopped to look at me. “I just want you to be happy.”

I was not sure where all this was coming from. In the beginning, I’d spent a great deal of time letting her know that I was all right. That the divorce was best for all of us. That Daniel and I would be happier people apart, and how that, in turn, would make us better parents. It took much consoling and eighteen months of therapy, but lately the topic hadn’t reared its head.

“I am happy, honey,” I said, returning to my makeshift easel. “I have everything I need.”

It sounded truthful.

She watched me for a while. Scrutinizing my horizon, the meeting of violet and cerulean. And then: “I think Daddy’s going to marry Eva.”

It was a kick to the gut. “Why do you say that?”

She shrugged, noncommittal.

“Did he say something to you?”

“I think he’s feeling me out,” she said.

I sensed it: the familiar tightness in my chest. It had been years, but there it was, that thick, heavy feeling of something lost. “Why? What did he say to you?”

She shrugged again, looking away. I could see her struggling to make this easier for me.


“He said that you would always be my mother. No matter what happened. That nothing would ever change that.”

She’d said it flatly, with little emotion. But it was all there.


We sat for a moment, neither of us speaking, lost in our thoughts. The sound of the waves. The sun flaring white on the water.

“I just thought it sounded like he was trying to prepare me for something. I thought you should be prepared, too.”

* * *

It stayed with me, Isabelle’s concerns. I did not bring it up with Daniel because it wasn’t my place. But it felt a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop. And so I left for Europe with a little bit of a hollow in my heart. The one that I thought had mended. And I tried my best to forget it was there.

* * *

Hayes and his bandmates were staying at a fabulous villa on the Cap d’Antibes. They were there for only a week before heading up to record at some state-of-the-art studio in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This was a luxury, he’d conveyed, as more often than not they found themselves recording in hotel rooms in between shows. Hayes and Oliver and occasionally Rory doing the bulk of the songwriting with their producers at odd hours of the night; the boys laying vocal tracks in their makeshift studio, mattresses propped against the walls for acoustics. No rest for the weary.

In the time since I’d last seen him, they’d wrapped up the North American leg of the Petty Desires tour, spent two weeks decompressing at home, and were gearing up for their next album. It was a machine, he’d explained. They were milking them, twelve months a year, to feed a growing fandom that seemed to not be able to get enough of these five boys.

“There’s like a clock ticking. An expiration date,” he’d said, late one night on the phone from London. “I think they’re afraid we’re going to grow hair on our chests and our fans are going to just up and disappear. So they’re trying to get as much money out of us as they can now. But really we could use a break. Take That are working on yet another album, and the New Kids are still doing cruises and they’re in their forties. They still have die-hard fans. But they both took breaks.”

“Do you want to still be doing this in your forties?” The idea seemed absurd.

“I don’t know. I think I just want to do it until it’s not fun anymore. Sometimes I think that could be sooner rather than later. But then, look at the Rolling Stones. They’re still having a heck of a good time.”

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