by C.J. Spataro
Julianne sat cross-legged on the roof of her rental car, which was sturdy and gray. It was the kind of non-descript car that an FBI agent might drive on a mob stakeout, or a suburban accountant might drive to work. She was oblivious to the warmth of the breeze or the dappling sunlight as it filtered through the boughs of the shady oak underneath which she’d parked. A trickle of sweat dripped from beneath her black wig and ran down her neck unnoticed as she tugged at the brim of her baseball cap and adjusted the focus of her binoculars.
She had her camera ready, too. It hung heavy around her neck in the early morning sun, the lens almost as long her slender arm. A gentle breeze rustled through the leaves and if she’d been paying attention, Julianne would have appreciated the delicate perfume of the bougainvillea blooming on the nearby hillside.
“Come on you mother-fucker,” she mumbled to herself. “Where are you?”
* * *
“I’m sorry but the court has no choice in this matter,” the judge said from behind his oaken bench.
Julianne thought that he did look like he was sorry as he pushed back his glasses and shifted in his seat. Her stomach rolled and she reached for her lawyer’s hand.
“As reprehensible as I think the defendant’s behavior might be, I find that the plaintiff had no reasonable expectation of privacy considering the location of the incident and the public nature of the plaintiff’s occupation. I must also find that digging through a person’s garbage, as disgusting as that may be, is not a crime in as much as the items taken were being discarded.”
Julianne’s lawyer squeezed her hand with a, we gave it our best shot, frown pressed onto her face.
“And as to the matter of Miss Gigliotti’s dog…”
* * *
The phone clipped to Julianne’s baggy sweatpants buzzed against her hip. She tapped it with the thumb of her left hand while steadying the binoculars with her right, not bothering to check the caller ID.
“Well, good morning to you too, sunshine.”
“What are you doing up so early?” Julianne said, tucking a stray blond tendril back under her wig.
“Movies don’t produce themselves, Julianne. I’m on the way to the studio, which is where you should be.”
She grunted, tightening her grip on the binoculars.
“Don’t humph me. I can’t believe you backed out of this picture so you could go–”
“Go what, Greg?”
“Go do whatever it is that you think you’re doing.”
She shifted her position on the roof of the car, for the first time feeling the heat of the rising sun. Through the binoculars, she could see a screen door swing open onto the patio of a secluded backyard.
“I have to go.”
“I’m not kidding. My source told me that he likes to swim nude early in the morning.” She could hear Greg sigh, then light a cigarette.
“Your source? Which one are you today, Starsky or Hutch?”
“Make fun of me all you want. I’m going to post that fucker’s pecker all over the internet.”
“You’re out of control. I still don’t understand why…” Greg’s voice trailed away as Julianne dropped the phone with a thud onto the roof of the car. Hanson’s blurry, slightly bloated figure shuffled out through the open door onto the patio, a silky red robe cinched tight around his waist. The wind lifted wisps of his strawberry blonde comb-over up and down slowly like a waving pageant queen. Quickly she replaced her binoculars with the camera, twisting the lens into focus.
“I could get a close-up of an ant’s pecker with this lens,” she muttered, clicking the shutter.
“What was that? Jules? Is everything okay?”
Greg’s voice sounded tiny and far away, Julianne thought, and for a moment she felt like she might cry.
“Jules pick up the fucking phone. I mean it.”
The sadness passed as quickly as it had come. She picked up the phone and spoke succinctly. “Must. Go. Now. Call. You. Later.” Then she tapped it shut without waiting for a reply. She refocused the lens on Hanson. “Come on baby,” she said, “show Mama what you’re made of.”
* * *
“It is clear to me that the injury to Miss Giglotti’s dog,” the judge lowered his reading glasses to examine the paper in front of him more carefully, “one Mr. Fufu, was caused by a kick delivered by the defendant.” The judge pushed his glasses back on top of his head. “However, it is also clear to me that Mr. Fufu had his teeth sunk deeply into Mr. Hanson’s other leg at the time.”
Julianne leaned into her lawyer, her carefully dyed blonde hair falling over her shoulder. “Fufu’s lucky his teeth didn’t fall out.”
Her lawyer frowned at her again. Not quite as sympathetically as the last time, Julianne thought.
“But since Mr. Hanson was rooting through Miss Gigliotti’s garbage at the time, I am going to dismiss his counter claim for medical bills resulting from the dog bite.”
“Ha!” Julianne squeezed her lawyer’s hand.
The judge’s head whipped in her direction.
“Sorry, your honor,” she said. She blinked her famous brown eyes, trying her best to look chastened. If she needed, she could muster a few tears for Mr. Fufu.
The judge sat back in his chair, but said nothing to Julianne, who shifted nervously on her black Prada pumps. Her mouth felt dry. Her fitted Michael Kors suit suddenly felt a size too small.
“I can understand the plaintiff’s frustration in this matter,” the judge said. “However I fail to see how her life has been detrimentally affected in any significant way. I will, however grant the plaintiff’s request for a restraining order.”
Julianne’s lawyer smiled at her triumphantly. “Well, at least he’ll have to leave you alone now,” she whispered.
Julianne felt her face twist into a grimace. A restraining order was the least of what she wanted. The guy should be in jail for breaking Mr. Fufu’s delicate Pomeranian leg. Any normal person could see that. Why couldn’t the judge?
“I hereby order that the defendant must maintain a distance of at least twenty-five feet from the plaintiff at all times.”
Twenty-five feet? Julianne felt her throat close. She looked at her lawyer her eyes wide, her mouth twisted. Was he kidding? She bent over coughing, pounding her own chest with her fist in an attempt to suck in more oxygen. The lawyer reached for a glass of water and offered it to her.
“Miss Gigliotti, are you all right?” the judge asked.
Julianne gulped down some water, her eyes watering and tried to pull herself together. “I’m just stunned is all, your honor.” She wiped the corner of her mouth with her hand. “I mean twenty-five feet? For god’s sake he could stalk me with a disposable camera at that distance.” She leaned against the table. “We could end up in the same room with each other. You know he broke Mr. Fufu’s—.”
The judge’s gavel came down with a loud smack. “Miss Gigliotti!”
* * *
Julianne ignored the phone as it buzzed and skidded across the roof of the car. Hanson had untied his robe. She’d thought that maybe Hanson dyed his hair to make himself look younger. He’d clearly had work done, but she could see now he was ginger from head to toe. Julianne held the camera steady and clicked the shutter like Richard Avedon at a Milan fashion show. She sighed with satisfaction. The guy in the camera shop had been right. Three hundred yards, no adapters and the photos would be crystal clear—Hanson in all his teeny, weenie glory. He did three sun-salutations then shook his arms and legs like an Olympic swimmer before his final heat. She filled half a memory card before he dived into the pool.
If he had been a celebrity, instead of a bloodsucker who made his living off them, Julianne thought, his real estate agent would never have even showed him that house, knowing that there was a bluff such a short distance away. Irony was just as satisfying in real life as it was in a film script.
* * *
“Restrain yourself!” The judge glared at Julianne and although there were more words fighting to get out of her mouth, she shut up. The air felt dry and brittle and Julianne was sure she could hear Hanson snickering. She clenched her fists at her side. If she were a man, she thought, Hanson wouldn’t be laughing he’d be out cold.
The judge turned his attention to Hanson. “As for you sir, you are not the first of your kind to appear in my courtroom, nor I’m afraid, will you be the last. If you break this restraining order in any way, I will see you jailed, sir. Do you understand me?”
Julianne leaned around her attorney, saw Hanson nod his shaggy head, a smirk still spread across his pig-eyed, fat face. She wouldn’t be surprised to see Hanson and his lawyer give each other a high-five.
“We’re done here,” the judge said with another bang of his gavel. “Now get out of my courtroom.”
* * *
“Finally,” Greg said to Julianne when she answered the phone.
“Too bad my camera phone doesn’t have telephoto lens,” Julianne laughed. “Now I know why Hanson is such a sad, bitter man. I wish I could email this to you.”
“Jules, you didn’t.”
Julianne smiled as she slid down off the roof of the car onto the hood. “Oh, yes I did. And this, my darling, is just the beginning. I know where he’s going to be and who he’s following.” She scooted off the hood and paced back and forth. “I know when that bastard is going to take his next shit.”
“I’m not exaggerating. It’s amazing what a lot of money and a good private detective will buy you.”
“I’m worried about you. I don’t know why you won’t listen to me. I’m telling you, Dr. Kaplan—he’s the guy.”
Julianne sat sideways in the driver’s seat and began packing up her camera. “I don’t need a shrink. I feel great.”
“This is going to end badly. I can feel it.”
“Don’t be so dramatic Greg. You’d think you were the actor.” She twisted the lens off the camera and placed it on the seat next to her. “I warned him. He followed us to Greece, Greg. He’s chased us down the highway how many times?” She crossed her legs and leaned forward. “At my grandmother’s funeral, he snapped me smiling at my cousin—what was the headline in the next day’s Inquisitor?”
Greg was silent.
“Come on Greg, what was it?”
“Julianne Laughs at Grandmothers Death.” He repeated it to her in a toneless monotone. She hated when he did that.
“Do you know how much that hurt my family? To see that picture, to have my grandmother’s funeral violated that way?”
“I can only imagine.”
“You amaze me. You act like I’m supposed to just accept this. Like there’s nothing I can do.”
“You did do something. You took him to court and got a restraining order.”
She stood and paced again, kicking random acorns into the woods. “Fat lot of good it did. He still followed us to Greece.”
“You don’t know for sure that he took those pictures.”
She took off her baseball cap and flung it on to the front seat. “It was him, I know it was. And I know you don’t want to hear about this either, but I’m sure Hanson was the one that took those pictures of me after I lost the baby.”
She sat back down on the edge of the car seat. She knew she should tread lightly here with Greg. It hadn’t been his baby, and they hadn’t been together then. “Why can’t you just be angry for me, just once?”
She could almost hear Greg shrug. “I do get angry, Jules. Just not as angry as you do.”
Julianne leaned back against the big bucket seat of the car, ran her hand along the plush fabric. “Well, I’m doing this for both of us.”
“Bullshit. You’re obsessed with playing out some crazy revenge fantasy. If you’re not careful someone will get hurt.”
“Okay, okay. You’re right,” Julianne said. “This is it, really.” She could hear Greg talking to his driver in the background.
“Jules, I’m at the studio. Can we have dinner tonight? Talk this over before you do something stupid?”
“Sure.” Julianne smiled at her reflection in the rear view mirror. Her face was streaked with sweat, black polyester strands from her wig stuck to her forehead. She wore no make-up and her blond lashes disappeared against her pale skin. There were no smoky eyes, no spackled and rouged cheeks—just Julianne. Even in her most challenging roles like Darkstar in X Men Forever or Kitty Kavanagh in The Barefoot Diva, she had never found herself this submerged in character. This was not a face she recognized.
“Jules you still there?”
“Sorry, I got distracted for a minute,” she said, turning away from her reflection. “How about Jimmy’s Tavern on West Pico? I have a hankering for corned beef.”
“Hankering?” She could hear Greg chuckle. “That sounds more like my Julianne. Meet you at eight.”
“Let’s make it nine.”
* * *
The judge sits behind the bench, looking over the materials before her. Julianne stands next to her lawyer in a pale blue Carolina Herrera suit, her palms clammy, her forehead damp. This is all wrong, she thinks. The picture is reversed, everything is backwards. The judge is a woman now, her lawyer a man and she is standing on the wrong side of the room. She steals a glance behind her. Greg is there, looking to her as if he might cry and Hanson is there too, with his arms crossed against his chest, his bushy comb-over a flyaway mess, a self-satisfied smirk plastered across his pudgy face, his pig-eyes narrowed into a menacing squint.
“Was it worth it, Miss Gigliotti?” the judge asks her.
She looks down at the table in front of her, not sure if it is a rhetorical question or not.
“Well, was it?” the judge asks again.
Julianne looks up, presses her palms against her skirt. “I don’t honestly know your honor.”
* * *
Julianne smiled when Greg waved to her from the host-stand of the restaurant. She was a little out of breath when he reached over and clasped her hand in his.
“Glad you could make it,” he said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.
She swatted his arm, but leaned in against him anyway. “You smell good,” she said.
“It’s not me, it’s the corned beef.”
“So nice to see you again, Mr. Towson, Miss Gigliotti,” the maitre d’ said as he showed them to their table.
Greg pulled Julianne’s chair out for her and she slid into it, comfortable for the first time all day. The maitre d’ held the back of Greg’s chair for him while he sat down then offered them their menus.
“Thanks, Tommy,” Greg said.
“Yes?” Julianne looked up from her menu.
“I, well,” the maitre d’ picked up the salt shaker and examined it, then quickly set it back on the table. “I don’t want to disturb your evening, but I did want you to know that Derrick Hanson is here tonight with his wife.” He leaned in, lowering his voice. “I believe they’re celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary.”
Julianne closed her menu. “I’m surprised anyone could stand to be with him for fifteen minutes, let alone fifteen years.”
The maitre d’ cleared his throat. “I agree with you, I’m sure. I’ve seated you in the opposite dining room so you should never have to see him, but I will understand if you decide not to stay.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said. She smiled at Greg, squeezed his hand. “That business is all behind us.”
“Very well, then.” The maitre d’ brushed some imaginary crumbs from the table. “Enjoy your dinner.”
Julianne had her head buried in the menu, but she could feel Greg looking at her. “What?”
“Did you know Hanson was going to be here?”
Julianne shrugged. “Believe it or not, I really do feel like corned beef tonight.”
“I can’t believe you would try to get the guy arrested on his anniversary.”
“What? I told you, I’m really in the mood for Jimmy’s corned beef.”
Greg shook his head and looked down at his menu. “I’m really in the mood for a martini.”
The waiter set the steaming plate of corned beef and cabbage down in front of Julianne and then asked if there was anything else that they needed. Julianne gave the waiter a smile and shook her head. She picked up her knife and fork and cut into the pink flesh on her plate. The food reminded her of home, of her parents on St. Patrick’s Day, not that there was a drop of Irish blood in her entire family, but Julianne’s mother always said that everyone was Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
Julianne chewed slowly thinking of the last phone call she’d gotten from her mother, hysterical at seeing her on the cover of the National Inquisitor, a blackout bar across her naked breasts and Greg’s blurry hand on her ass. Julianne’s Wild Romp with Married Lover, the headline had read.
“Do you have to do those things, Julie?” her mother had asked. “Do you have to go topless when you know that someone will probably be in the bushes just waiting to take a picture of you?”
Her mother had been on the verge of tears. “I know you live that wild life out there in Hollywood, but honestly, Julie. First it was all that business with the baby and Billy Castro and now you’re running around naked in public with a married man?”
Julianne had been in bed alone when her mother called, Greg already on his way to the studio.
“Mom, I don’t know why you always have to bring up Billy and the baby.” She lit a cigarette. “It’s ancient history. Besides, I told you about Greg. Greg Towson, the producer?” Julianne rushed on, not wanting her mother to interrupt her. “Technically he’s still married, but he’s been separated for years. It’s nothing like I’m sure they made it sound in that stupid rag.” The cigarette had turned sour in her mouth and she stubbed it out. “Why do you insist on reading that trash anyway?”
“Well I can’t very well avoid it. Everyone in Toledo knows who you are. They see your picture every time they go to the grocery store.”
Julianne sat with her arms folded across her chest, her comforter pulled up under her arms.
“You know that your father and I love you, but all our friends. They don’t understand like we do.”
She pictured her parents, sipping gin and tonics on the deck of their yacht club, nestled quietly on the mouth of Maumee Bay, trying not to listen to their friends gossip about her as the sun set over Lake Erie. “I’m really sorry, Mom. I don’t know what else to say.”
“Hey, how’s your dinner?” Greg asked as she stared at her plate of quickly cooling beef.
“It’s good, it’s good,” she said, taking another bite. “I was just thinking about my mom is all.”
“How is Betty?” Greg smiled and took a sip of his martini. “Still scandalized by our relationship?”
“She’s fine.” Julianne set down her fork. “And I wouldn’t say that she is as much scandalized as she is disappointed.”
“I see,” Greg said.
Julianne cut her meat into tiny pieces.
“Well, I talked to Lola yesterday, as a matter of fact, and she promises me that as soon as the season wraps in New Zealand we’ll settle this whole divorce thing.” He put a forkful of food into his mouth and chewed slowly. “I’m mean, she’s ready to move on, and well, I hope you know how I feel.”
Julianne shook her head. “It really doesn’t matter to me, Greg, I swear. You and Lola can stay married forever.”
Greg frowned. “If I didn’t know you better, I might take that the wrong way.”
“Take it anyway you like.”
“Hey, what’s the matter with you?”
She closed her eyes. “I’m sorry. Just ignore me. You know how I hate talking about my parents.”
“I didn’t know we were talking about your parents. I thought we were talking about getting married.”
Julianne looked at Greg, his easy tanned face, the trim cut of his jacket, the smooth ovals of his manicured nails.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to get married,” she said, pushing her soggy cabbage around her plate. “Things are good the way they are, aren’t they? Why spoil it?”
“I don’t know. I thought it was something you wanted.”
Julianne felt the heat rise in her cheeks. “Why? Because I’m a woman?”
“You really are exasperating sometimes.” Greg shook his head. “I thought you wanted to get married because we love each other.”
She sighed. “I do love you. I’m just tired from a day of stalking.”
“Oh yeah, that was supposed to be the whole purpose of our dinner, wasn’t it.”
“Hold that thought,” Julianne said, swinging her handbag over her shoulder. “I’m going to run to the restroom. If the waiter comes back, order me another drink would you?”
Greg caught her hand as she stepped away from the table. “Jules, stay away from Hanson—it’s his anniversary.”
Julianne flashed him one of her famous toothy smiles. “Hanson who?”
* * *
“I’ve never been in this position before,” the judge says, shuffling through the papers before her. “A verdict has been rendered, and I can’t say that I disagree with it, and regardless of any mitigating circumstances, I must pass sentence.” The judge looks down at Julianne, shaking her head. “Why someone in your position would feel compelled to do what you did is beyond me. Lack of maturity, perhaps? Or more likely some sort of feeling of grandiosity or narcissism that always seems to go hand in hand with your profession.”
Julianne can hear Greg shift in his seat behind her. How many times has he suggested she see a shrink?
“Do you wish to make a statement before I announce the sentence?”
The lawyer looks at Julianne, concern pulling at the corners of his mouth. He gives her a firm pat on the shoulder.
“Yes, your honor, I would.”
* * *
Julianne rounded the corner towards the bathrooms, nodding to restaurant patrons who seemed to recognize her, but were too polite to say anything. For this, she was always grateful.
As she passed the bar she spotted Hanson and his wife getting up to leave, a spent sparkler sticking out of a half-eaten piece of cake on their table. For a split second she was unsure if she should go through with what she’d planned. She’d already posted the naked pictures of him on the web and emailed copies of them to every tabloid in the U.S. and Britain. Not that any one would print them, but they would see them nonetheless, know who he was and laugh, and that was the point. Humiliation. Perhaps an ambush was unnecessary. Then she thought about her trip to the vet with Mr. Fufu, how terribly he whimpered on the front seat of her car. How it was Hanson who had followed her and Greg on their first date and snapped photos of them coming out of the Viper Room, how he had pushed her publicist to the ground at a post Oscar party just so he could get a clear shot of her in a Badgley Mischka gown and how one night, after a really bad fight with Greg, he had chased her in his car for ten miles down the Pacific Coast Highway, trying to pull alongside her and get a picture of her crying. Hanson. It was always Hanson. He was a monster, around every corner, calling her name, the click of his shutter, the burst of his flash, photographing every private moment in agonizing detail for the whole world to see and judge. What was one little amateur ambush compared to all that?
Really, she couldn’t have timed it better. They were taking their time. She watched as Hanson draped his wife’s shoulders with a mink stole. Ill-gotten goods, Julianne thought. Spoils of war. Mother-fucker.
The kitchen was located behind the bar. Julianne could see the waiters going in and out through the swinging doors. If she hurried she could slip through the kitchen and out the service entrance before Hanson and his wife hit the sidewalk.
She stepped into the kitchen, the odor of garlic and sautéing salmon swirled around her. Waiters and busboys dodged in front and behind her.
A cook wiped his hands on his chef’s coat, leaving a trail of tomato sauce. “Can I help you?” he asked.
“The service entrance?”
“Back behind the dishwasher.” He pointed around the corner. “Someone bothering you Miss Gigliotti?”
She smiled. “Something like that.”
“We get celebrities back here all the time. I helped Leonardo DiCaprio sneak out of here just last week,” he said, as she walked through the dishroom. “Be careful, the floor’s slippery.”
There was no sign of Hanson or his wife as she opened the door onto the sidewalk. The parking valet looked slightly puzzled to see her come out the service entrance, but then he’d probably seen it all, Julianne thought.
“Get my car for me, would you?” She said, pressing a fifty into the valet’s hand.
The kid grabbed her keys and took off running. This would delay the Hanson’s long enough for her to get him good and worked up. She positioned herself behind a well trimmed shrub, pulled her camera from her bag and waited. It wasn’t long before both the valet and Hanson were out on the sidewalk along with several other patrons from the restaurant.
“Derrick!” she shouted, springing from behind the bush. “Derrick, over here!”
Hanson and his wife looked directly at her, an involuntary reflex she knew well from experience. Her flash erupted in a series lightning strikes. The other patrons started to gather around Hanson, thinking that he was someone that they should recognize. Julianne could see the panic in his face, then recognition. His wife seemed confused, and held up her hand up to her face to shield her eyes from the flash.
“The camera loves you Derrick!” Julianne taunted him. “Come on, Derrick, don’t run. Who’s your sexy friend?”
Hanson had seen the valet pull up in Julianne’s car and directed him to get his. Julianne laughed as he tried to protect his wife with his sports jacket. This was fantastic, she thought. Then he turned to her.
“You crazy bitch!” He came at her trying to grab the camera away. “What’s the matter with you—you’re frightening my wife.”
Julianne swung the camera behind her and out of reach. “Remember the restraining order,” she said, backing away from him. “Twenty-five feet, asshole.” He stopped short. “By the way, I took some great photos of you earlier this morning, when you went for a swim?”
Hanson looked confused.
She pouted at him with an exaggerated frown. “Now I know why Mrs. Hanson seems so miserable.”
“You took pictures of me this morning?” Hanson started laughing. “That’s a good one. What are going to do, hang them up in your bedroom?”
“Derrick, who is this woman?” Hanson’s wife said, tugging on his arm.
He turned to his wife with more care than Julianne wanted to acknowledge. “Honey, don’t you recognize Julianne Gigliotti? She’s been one of my most favorite subjects over the years.” He placed a protective arm around his wife.
“You remember she’s the one that got pregnant by Billy Castro.” He turned and winked at Julianne as the valet pulled up with his car. His wife pulled open the car door and slumped in the seat as Hanson ran around to the driver’s side. His wife stared straight ahead, not looking at Hanson or Julianne.
“If you ever do this to me again,” he shot across the roof of his car at Julianne, “I’ll wring your fucking neck, restraining order or not.”
So it had been him, Julianne thought. She’d been right all along. Billy hadn’t been able to face her after he’d seen those pictures in the Inquisitor. She hadn’t told anyone that she was pregnant, but somehow Hanson had found out. He found out about everything. She stood on the sidewalk, the camera hanging heavily around her neck, when she started to feel the crowd close in around her. Someone was asking her for her autograph. She blinked from the flash of an old woman’s dime store disposable. Hanson was getting away. She shoved the old woman to the ground as she pushed her way through the crowd to her car. Safely inside, she fumbled in her bag for her phone, and then gunned the engine.
She hit the speed dial. “Greg?”
“Julianne, why are you calling me from the bathroom?” She could hear the clink of his silverware in the background.
“Remember how we were going to talk about me not doing anything stupid?”
Julianne spotted Hanson’s car up ahead of her. A vintage Mustang. You could make a lot of money sucking the blood from celebrities, Julianne thought. She turned off her phone despite the protests from Greg and pushed the accelerator of her shiny new Jag to the floor. There was no way he was getting away from her. With in minutes she was behind him. By now it all seemed so out of her control. First she flashed her headlights, trying to get him to pull over into the other lane. When he wouldn’t move over, she gripped the steering wheel and smacked his rear bumper. Hanson’s wife turned around—Julianne could see her face clearly in the light from the headlights and she knew that expression well. Fear. For a split second she felt remorse. It wasn’t Hanson’s wife she wanted to terrorize, it was Hanson. She wanted to see that look on his face.
Julianne gripped the wheel a little tighter and swerved into the oncoming lane, pulling up next to Hanson, car horns wailing around her. She had to see it, the look on his face, and once she had, she could be done, and she could let it all go.
He looked over at her, smiling and gave her the finger. Julianne twisted the wheel, hitting his driver’s side door.
Hanson swerved into the next lane, nearly sideswiping a city bus. She could see him mouthing the words, “Fuck You!” He was angry, but he was not afraid.
That’s when it happened. Hanson was still looking at her when he ran the red light. Julianne watched his wife grab his arm too late. The Mustang was no match for the two ton SUV that crashed into them broadside. Julianne slammed on her brakes, skidding through the intersection, spinning out, and barely avoiding Hanson’s car as it rolled side over side across five lanes. She could see Hanson’s wife, illuminated by the lights of the SUV, as her head cracked the windshield, as her body bounced down against the roof of the car, as it was crushed against the blacktop, as the car rolled over again, resting upright, smoke pouring from the hood, shards of shattered glass glistening under the blinking stoplights.
* * *
Julianne takes a sip of water, trying to focus on exactly what she wants to say. She’s had two weeks since the verdict to plan her statement but standing before the judge she feels more nervous than at any audition.
“Your honor, I deeply regret what happened that night,” she says splaying her fingers on the table. “The only thing that I ever intended was for Mr. Hanson, and his wife, to get a taste of what it was like to be me. To feel that panic and fear when someone jumps out of the bushes and snaps your picture, to imagine that you will never have any privacy, will never be able to share an intimate moment with someone you love because you imagine that, somewhere off in the brush, or up on a cliff side, or disguised as a hospital orderly, someone is focusing in on you with a long lens. I never wanted anyone to get hurt.” She stops for a moment. This is not entirely true and she hopes that the judge cannot read her mind. If Hanson had ended up in wheel chair instead of his wife, that would have been just fine with her.
“I never planned to chase them in the car. That was a bad decision made in the heat of the moment.” She looked over at her lawyer who nodded for her to continue.
“When I saw Hans—, I mean Mr. Hanson speed through that red light at the corner of Pico and Westwood, my heart was in my throat. I saw the whole thing like it happened in slow motion. I still hear the crash when I close my eyes and try to sleep. I was the one who called 911.”
The judge rubs her eyes like she is very tired. “I believe that your remorse is genuine Miss Gigliotti, however that does not excuse you from culpability. You had a restraining order against Mr. Hanson, which I believe he was honoring.”
“Actually your honor—” Julianne starts to answer but her lawyer places a hand on her arm.
“He did follow the letter of the order, your honor. However several days before the incident, photos taken by Mr. Hanson of Miss Gigliotti and her companion Mr. Towson were published by the National Inquisitor and were also shown on Entertainment This Week, much to the embarrassment of Miss Gigliotti and her family.”
“But the fact remains,” the judge interrupts, “that he did adhere to the twenty-five foot ruling and that you, Miss Gigliotti are the one who put yourself and the Hansons in harm’s way.”
Julianne looks down at her shoes. “Yes, your honor.”
“It is this willful disregard that I find most disturbing. Therefore I sentence you to two years probation and three hundred hours of community service. My suspicion is that Mr. Hanson will find satisfaction in civil court.”
At the bang of the judge’s gavel, Julianne collapses into her chair. There will be no jail time, just a multi-million dollar judgment, of that she is sure.
Greg rushes to her side, pulling her up by her waist. “Thank God, Jules. I was really afraid for you.”
“I was too,” she says, clinging to his neck. As she says this, she can see Hanson standing in the aisle. Next to him, his wife sits in a wheelchair, staring into space; a long raw scar crosses her forehead. That’s when she sees it—just for a moment there is a flicker of fear in Hanson’s eyes. Fear that morphs into anger as he places a protective hand on his wife’s shoulder.
Julianne turns away and buries her face in Greg’s shoulder. “Get me out of here, please.”
“There are going to be reporters everywhere,” the lawyer says. “Maybe we can get down the back staircase before anyone sees us.”
Julianne stumbles and reaches for the corner of the table. Greg and her lawyer take her by the elbows and direct her down the back hallway. She can smell the cameras, can hear the clicking of the shutters, like a thousand tiny ants swarming all over their hill.
At the bottom of the staircase, her lawyer shoves open the door onto the alley and they are there, cameras and microphones at the ready. The lawyer and Greg try to protect her but flashing cameras and barking questions push toward her in one swelling throng. The clamor embraces her, devours her, swallows her whole. She wants to collapse, to let them consume her, do what they will. Her knees feel weak. She closes her eyes and sees Hanson’s wife—the glazed blank look on her face.
“Come on Jules, stay with us,” Greg says, grabbing her by the waist. She nods and lets him pull her through the crowd.
“Julianne! How do you feel about the sentence?—Julianne! Who are you wearing?—Julianne! How will this impact your career?—Julianne! Have you and Greg set a date yet?—Julianne!—Julianne!—Julianne!”
C.J. Spataro is the fiction editor and co-publisher of Philadelphia Stories magazine and PS Books. She is a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship recipient for fiction. Her short stories can be read in a number of literary journals, including Wild River Review, XConnect, 322 Review, and The Baltimore Review. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Rosemont College and currently teaches English and creative writing courses at a number of colleges in the Philadelphia area.