I remember my very first day in Edmonton. It was also the first day I saw him. Well, in real life that is. I was trying to put on a brave face though deep down I was terrified. I couldn’t help the feeling, despite being very excited at the same time. I’d packed up my whole life into two large suitcases and a back pack, said good bye to my family and travelled half way across the world into the unknown. It was what I’d always wanted to do, even before I realised it. It was what I’d needed to do. A part of me had yearned for this breakaway from the life I’d lived. A part of me had craved something new, a part of me had hoped there was more to life than what I knew, more than the norm. So, when I applied to University of Alberta for the research program, it had felt more like heeding a call than an academic move. I’d told no one about it, and when I’d received the offer, it came as a shock to my family. My parents were lost as to why I would want to go so far away from home and the family. They couldn’t understand why I would apply in the first place and hard as I tried, I couldn’t explain it to them! They wanted to know if I was leaving cos I was unhappy or if it was that they had missed something. I didn’t know what to tell them, couldn’t explain the deep need for something more, the need to be by myself, so I didn’t. I just packed up and left a month later.
Straight from the airport, I got a cab to the address. I’d found the ad on the internet and had corresponded via mail with a Mr Williams. It was supposed to be a studio apartment above an old couple’s home, so I guessed Mr Williams was the home owner. We’d agreed on a price I thought was reasonable and I’d paid the deposit via bank transfer. For all I knew, the address didn’t exist and it was all a hoax and I would find myself homeless on my very first day in my new life!
The cab dropped me off in front of an old house that looked pretty much deserted.
I stood for a moment on the cobblestone side walk, looking up at it. Despite the fact that it was old and looked lonely, I sort of liked it instantly. It had this elegant feel to it, like an old dignified lady who had been a real beaut in her prime. It sort of had this aura about it that seemed to welcome me, beckoned to me. The house was two stories high with an attic of sorts on the east side. I reckoned the attic was the ‘’studio apartment’’ that was to be home from now on. I went round the back and searched for the set of keys Mr Williams had promised would be under a loose stone in the foot path. I saw that the house had a nice little garden that looked like it could use a bit of weeding. Despite the weeds, it still managed to look cheerful and I could imagine what it would look like in summer when it was in full bloom. I bent down to pry the stone loose and the weight of my back pack shifted suddenly, almost sending me into a somersault! I straightened up quickly and the weight sent me reeling backwards this time, into a solid wall behind me. Arms appeared out of nowhere, pinning me o the wall and I yelped.
“Whoa! Steady!” the wall said from behind me.
I swivelled as fast as the back pack and the arms which were still around me would allow and my mouth dropped open in shock. I stood there frozen in time, my face inches away from one that mirrored my shock and bewilderment.
Okay, if this is a dream, it is a really, really good one!
I was staring into the face of Mark Petersburg, my all-time favourite actor and my lifelong crush! Finally, he seemed to collect himself and took a step away from me dropping his arms, his face a bewildered mask.
“Sorry to startle you.” He said smiling to cover up the awkward moment.
That smile! My heart melted like it had done a million times while seeing him on TV. Fancy seeing him here in my new landlord’s backyard, of all places!
“You must be Francesca.” He said extending his hand.
Huh?! I took his proffered hand in a daze. How on earth did Mark Petersburg know my name?!!!
“William Harding. We corresponded via e-mail and I wasn’t expecting you till much later.” He continued when I didn’t say anything.
Wait! William what?!
I’ve often been told that I’m smart but at that moment, I felt far from smart! My brain was finding it hard to process all the info it was receiving. First off, what on earth was Mark Petersburg doing here, all the way in Edmonton and why was he referring to himself as William Harding? And why would he dye his beautiful glorious blonde hair brown?!!!
Oh shoot! William?!
“You are Mr Williams?!” I finally managed to squeak. He smiled again.
“William Harding, nor Mr Williams. There must have been a miss-understanding.”
I really felt stupid right then.
“Here, let me help you with that.” He said taking my back pack off of my shoulders. He started to walk towards the front of the house and I followed him, still trying to work things out in my head. He produced a bunch of keys and opened the front door.
“I…so you are my new landlord!” I said for lack of anything better to say.
He looked at me over his shoulder and he did another double take, like he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Well, not really. My grandmother is. I’m just here to show you around.”
Blank, blank, double-blank!!
He dropped my back pack in the entry way and went back out to bring in the suitcases I had forgotten all about.
“Thanks!” I said. Stupidly. Very stupidly.
“No worries.” He said. “Your place is this way.”
He led me up a flight of stairs which led to a landing that looked over the whole of the ground floor. I couldn’t help stopping to look down at the pretty sight. The ground floor was an open plan which consisted of a living area and a large kitchen and dining area. The living area was warmly furnished in warm tones that just begged you to come in and cuddle up on a cold day. There were frames and frames of pictures scattered across the room and sitting by the bay windows was a shrouded figure which looked so much like a piano. My fingers started to itch just looking at it.
“Frankie?” William called from the flight of stairs above me. I started and went after him, feeling like I’d been caught snooping.
“You can call me Chesca. Everyone else does.” I said going up after him.
“Great! That means Frankie will stay just between the two of us!”
In as much as I loved the idea of going exclusive with a Mark Petersburg look-alike, I sure didn’t fancy a boy-sounding-name!
“Thanks, but Chesca will do!”
“Here you go!” he said throwing the door to the attic open.
I stepped into the empty space and I knew immediately that I had come home. I forgot all about Mark Petersburg and the entire world for that matter as I wandered around the space. I didn’t see the bare floor or the fading paint work. Instead, I saw lovely pink wall paper with pretty blue and yellow flower patterns. I saw book shelves filled with my paper backs. I saw an old stuffed arm chair by the window. I saw potted plants lazing in the bright sunshine, a warm rug under my feet, my guitar sitting in the corner…
“So, what do you think?” he broke into my thoughts and I finally remembered that I was standing two feet away from my dream man.
“I love it!” I said breathlessly, knowing somehow that the journey across the world was going to be the very best thing that ever happened to me. William smiled at me like he knew just how I felt at that moment, like he understood, like he felt it too.
“I’ll help you bring your things up.” He said turning to leave.
“Thanks! I’ll come with you.” I said, hating to break the moment.
“Can I ask you a question?” he said, pausing at the door to look back at me.
“Sure!” I said.
“Have we met before somewhere?!” he asked and I laughed nervously.
“Believe me, if we have, I would remember!”
He gave me a little smile and he had the look of someone who was missing out on a big secret.
“Why is that?!” he asked and I laughed again.
“Hello! Have you looked in the mirror lately?! Just dye your hair blonde and you’re Mark Petersburg!”
His face went blank.
“Are you kidding me?! Mark Petersburg! Double revolt! Ricochet! Dying days! Angels’ Peak! 7 Grammys, 9 nominations! You seriously can’t be serious!!!”
He just shook his head, laughing softly and my insides turned to mush. It was exactly the same warm one Mark had used to capture hearts over and over! I fished my mobile out of my pocket and went to my pictures gallery.
“Here!” I said thrusting it in his face. “Look familiar?!”
“Whao, I have to say the resemblance is corny!”
“Resemblance?! This guy could as well be your twin!”
“Well, in that case, we know who the better looking twin is, don’t we?!”
I scoffed and we both laughed.
“You really haven’t heard about this guy?!” I asked again, wondering how anyone wouldn’t know Mark Petersburg!
“Nope!” he said. “Never been much into the Hollywood scene.”
“Are you for real?!”
“Yes ma’am!” he said going out the door and I followed.
“Let me tell you something you might actually not find real.” He said.
“What? You’ve never heard of Brangelina?!” He laughed at that.
“I think I’ve met you before, or at least, your twin.”
He hefted my back pack onto his shoulder and grabbed one of the suitcases.
“Nope, sorry to disappoint you.” He said.
I grabbed the second suitcase.
“So, who was she?!”
“She was my wife.” He said simply.
Then I kinda woke up!
“Nope, sorry to disappoint you.” He said.
I grabbed the second suitcase.
“So who was she?!”
“Dunno really. I saw her in this weird dream I had and I swear she looked just like you!”
I expected to wake up then but I didn’t.
“Yep! I almost freaked out when I saw you out back.”
Didn’t have a reply to that so I just stood there staring at him. He adjusted the weight of the back pack on his shoulder before starting up the first flight of stairs. That was when I caught a glimpse of the simple gold band on his left hand.
Damn! Just when I meet a Mark Petersburg look-alike, he has to be married!
I followed him up the stairs, hoping he wasn’t married to my look-alike.
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