Ugh did her head hurt or what. She pried her eyes open to find herself lying in a hospital bed, dressed in a stark white gown, and a male figure she didn’t recognize seated beside her bed. As her vision sharpened from gathering her bearings, she tried to sit up to properly greet the man but felt the pain in her head worsen. She slid back down with one hand clutching her forehead.
“I was about to say that you might want to stay down for a while,” the man said. “The doctors said you’d feel a shooting pain in your head if you sat up too quickly. Any ways, welcome back Vivienne. How are you feeling?”
The girl grimaced and rubbed her temples. “Like a bus just hit me. Who are you?”
The man smiled and ran a hand through his short, light brown hair. “I get it – you need a refresher, don’t you love? Uh yeah I’m the guy you gave the tour to a few days ago. My name’s Liam.”
Her eyes widened and she moved her hand away from her forehead. It was all coming back to her…
Two Days Earlier
Vivienne turned around to see a young man about her age running up to catch up to her. He had a park map clenched in his hand, which to her was a dead giveaway that he wasn’t from here. She had been to Universal Studios Hollywood so many times that she skipped the map altogether. It was better if the tourists just had them instead of her.
“You look like you know this park inside and out,” the man began. “So I’d like to know where’s a good place to eat here.”
Vivienne studied him carefully – he looked familiar to her, but she couldn’t put her finger on where she had seen him. “Well uh, Mel’s decent,” she said. “But I prefer either Karl Strauss or Buca di Beppo in the Citywalk to any place in the park. The food tends to be more interesting.”
The young man grinned widely at her and straightened his messenger bag on his shoulder. “Well since you seem like an expert, how about giving me and my friends some pointers as to what’s good to do here.”
One of the young man’s friends shouted, “Why not just have her be our tour guide?”
Vivienne shrugged her shoulders and said she could do that. “Uh yeah I was about to go do the Studio Tour right now – its a great way to kick off the day. That okay?”
“Sounds awesome,” the man replied. He motioned to his friends to follow him and Vivienne as they headed to the escalators that led to the boarding area.
“So uh, didn’t get your name,” Vivienne said as she turned back toward the man.
“Yeah that’s kinda important if you’re leading us around,” the man replied. “I’m Liam. That’s Franco, Des, Tristan, and Ivy. What’s yours?”
“Vivienne, nice to meet all of you,” she replied. She hesitated before the escalator because it always intimidated her to get on safely. Liam offered her his hand and she took it as they stepped on together. She normally wouldn’t have agreed to hold some stranger’s hand, especially if it was someone she had just met, but Liam seemed to be different.
She could hear Franco hooting and Tristan making kissing noises behind them. They were quickly silenced by Des and Ivy who elbowed both of them, telling them to stop being childish. Liam ignored them and guided Vivienne off the escalator carefully.
“Thanks,” she said. “For some reason, I just always hate getting onto a down escalator. I guess its fear of stepping onto one of the cracks and falling onto my butt once the steps go down.”
Liam laughed hard at the thought of that happening and Vivienne pursed her lips. It wasn’t funny in her mind, since it happened to a few of her friends when they were little. One of them broke their tailbone and had to have it removed 2 weeks later. She remembered that her friend was in pain whenever she sat down and eventually she had to stay home until the surgery was completed.
Liam apologized once they got in line for the tour. “I’m so sorry but the thought of it is so funny!” he said. “I mean, really.”
“Yeah try telling that to my friend Bea when she broke her tailbone by falling backwards onto an escalator step,” Vivienne said. “And she said that she was crying every time she sat down until the tailbone was removed.”
“Yeah that does sound painful,” Des cut in. “So are you local?”
“Yep. Where are you from?”
Liam straightened up and replied, “We’re from the UK actually. Erm, you might recognize us from Team GB’s diving team. That is, if you watch diving, I mean. Cause if you don’t, you need to.”
Ivy rolled her eyes and tapped Liam on the shoulder, “Hey don’t forget that Des and I are actually on synchronized swim. Unlike you boys, we are elegant and coordinated.”
Liam pretended to take offense to Ivy and he drew back from her in mock anger. “Are you saying that we’re just clowns plunging off a board? I think not!” He turned toward Vivienne and threw her a pleading look. “Viv dear, please tell Des and Ivy that we guys can be graceful when diving. After all, diving is not about just getting the dive correct but doing it with elegance and a small splash.”
Vivienne looked over at Des and Ivy who were trying to persuade her with clasped hands and eager looks, then she looked at Liam, Tristan, and Franco who were giving her identical puppy dog eyes. She knew this was a cop-out answer but frankly, she couldn’t choose between one.
“I think that both sports are amazing,” she said. “I mean, all of you are really talented at something that I have no skill at doing. I would probably scream the whole way down if I dove. And I’m really clumsy so synchronized routines are hard for me to perform gracefully.”
Liam wrapped an arm around her shoulders and leaned in close to her. His lips nearly brushed her ear as he said, “But secretly you like us divers the best.”
Vivienne shot him a polite smile and removed his arm from her shoulder. It wasn’t like she thought Liam was not her type but he seemed a bit forward for her liking. Sure he was handsome and had a charming smile but the last thing she needed was attention from other girls who were watching their little group in line. She hoped that no one had seen that but it was too late – one girl in a group of others had seen her and had begun to whisper amongst each other. This girl glared hatefully at Vivienne while her friends shot her angry or jealous looks. Vivienne tried to shake it off and look ahead to the front.
As the group neared the front of the line, Vivienne felt someone shove her roughly to the side. She slammed into the railing hard and nearly fell to the ground, except she caught the horizontal bar of the railing to steady herself. She turned and looked up to see that it was the posse of girls from behind them, led by their glaring leader. She looked down upon Vivienne and gave her a cruel smile.
“Oops, didn’t see you there. Guess you must have been invisible there,” the girl taunted as she made her way over to Liam. She twirled her hair on her long, slender fingers and shot him a warm, welcoming smile. “Well hello there hottie. I know I’ve seen you somewhere.”
Liam returned a small smile before helping Vivienne to her feet. “Hey you sort of got a bit rough with our tour guide here. An apology would be great.”
“I can give you a tour,” the girl persisted as she positioned herself in front of Vivienne. “Besides, we’d be happy to show you around.”
Des got up in the face of the girl and said, “Hey we’re covered. But you could do me a favor and just get back to your original place in line. Don’t think anyone else here likes a cutter, right?”
The people around them voiced their dissent and shot the girl and her posse some harsh glares. This unsettled the girls, who decided to get out of line quickly, but not before the girl flipped off Des and gave Vivienne her trademark ice stare.
Vivienne stared at Liam and winced as she touched the side of her head. “I remember all of it. After that girl got out of line, we kept running into her every where. Then when you invited me over to swim at your hotel, I went over and she pushed me into the pool.”
Liam nodded and placed his hands on top of hers. “Good thing I happened to get there soon after. I thought we’d never come back from that one. You were unconscious and hit your head on the bottom of the pool – I was freaking out.”
“Did you get me out?”
“Yeah I jumped in and pulled you out,” Liam said. “But aside from your head being sore, how are you feeling?”
Vivienne gave him a weak smile and reddened as his thumb rubbed the top of her hand. “I’m fine, thanks to you.”