Johnny followed Polly a couple of times before he got his nerves under control. He’d practice what he was going to do, tried to get it down into the muscle memory, but there was nothing like the real thing. There were a thousand thousand things that could go wrong.
It was a sunny Wednesday when he decided to go for it. He waited at a coffee shop for her to come out of the cigarette shop. He saw her coming out, in a hurry, not watching where she was going. He’d picked the coffee shop because it was in between Polly and the SUV she drove.
“Oh, Jesus, I’m so sorry!” he said, as he crashed into her. He wasn’t a particularly big man, but Polly was a tiny woman and he almost knocked her down. All the things she carried went sprawling, and his coffee splashed over her designer tee shirt.
“Shit! Ow! Ow! Ow!” she said, fanning the shirt away from skin, trying to keep the coffee away. He kept apologize and stooped quickly to help pick up her stuff. While she was distracted, he switched the box of cigarettes in her handbag with his special mix. Polly didn’t see a thing.
“Are you okay?” he said. He handed her bag to her.
“I’m really sorry. Are you sure you’re okay?”
She flashed him a smile, something that he didn’t see very often from her. It was amazing, and he actually felt a vague flutter in his chest.
“It’s okay,” she said, “I’m a total klutz, so this is just karma.”
“I don’t think that’s true, but I’m still sorry.”
“No blood, no foul.”
He laughed. She laughed, and he gave her another apology before she walked away. She pulled into traffic and disappeared into the LA traffic. He watched her go, let out a long slow breath, then ran to the nearest alley and threw up.
Johnny didn’t watch the news that night, didn’t get online. He sat alone in a small apartment with the lights turned off and stared at the ceiling. He felt…he didn’t know how he felt. He wasn’t sure that he felt anything at all. He wasn’t even anxious to find out whether or not it worked. He just felt empty and he wasn’t sure why.
It was all over the news the next morning. The Starlet was dead, after valiant attempts by the staff at Cedar Sinai to revive her. There were two other people, quasi celebrities that even Johnny wasn’t familiar with, who were in critical condition. Collateral damage.
Johnny wondered if he should feel bad about that, but he decided that anyone that was hanging out with the Starlet was just trying to catch a little of their reflected glory. He decided that he didn’t feel bad at all.