Authors: Wren Mingua
THE DATE AUCTION
By Wren Mingua
Three years ago, I had the most amazing moment of my life. I got to meet Harry Shaw.
Actually, if I'm being totally honest, I didn't actually “meet” Harry Shaw. A meeting might involve a handshake and a polite exchange of names, but it was nothing like that. I suppose you could call our encounter, well... an
Nobody knew Harry Shaw back then. He was an obscure British actor, my best kept secret. He had acted in a few television shows for the BBC, a few adaptations of period pieces and some short films that can't even be found on the internet. Being the dedicated Anglophile that I am, I'm always scouring BBC America for the next big thing. Harry Shaw IS the next big thing. Not only is he the handsomest man who ever lived, he's also an amazing actor. Back then, I might have been the only
who cared to know his name.
I crossed the pond, so to speak, just to see him in a play. At the time, Harry was starring in a West End adaptation of Henry IV. I'm not the biggest fan of William Shakespeare by any means, but I wanted to see Harry, to be in the same room as him, to stare at his beautiful face. My seat was front and center, which was perfect. I didn't want anyone sitting in front of me, obstructing my view. Knowing my luck, had I been sitting in the second row, I would have had a seven-foot man in a bowler hat sitting in front of me. Front row tickets might have been more costly, but it was certainly worth it.
Harry was an amazing Prince Hal, incredibly dashing and intensely heroic. His prowess with a sword was commendable, his natural ability was awe-inspiring, and his performance kept me riveted from beginning to end. Once, he enunciated his Shakespearean lines so precisely, he accidentally fired a projectile of spit in my direction. It might sound gross to have spit raining down on you, but I didn't mind. At the time, I was so obsessed with Harry Shaw, I might have bathed in a pool of his saliva.
After the play, I broke free from the crowd and wandered to the stage door. I was determined to see him up close and personal, to get his autograph. I don't know what I was expecting, but the experience was more awkward than I ever imagined. Where was everyone else? Where were all the other fans waiting to meet him? Apart from myself, the stage door was populated by two teenage girls, who were trembling like timid kittens at the prospect of meeting our god. I leaned against the wall and took a deep breath, determined to hold it together. I even asked for signatures from some of the other cast members, hoping it would prepare me for the task ahead.
When Harry finally emerged from the stage door, my heart must have died in my chest. I'll never forget what he looked like. He wasn't the dapper Englishman I expected to see; he was nothing like the man I had grown accustomed to seeing in movies or pictures. He looked...
. Beautiful, but normal. He was wearing a pair of ragged jeans and a simple black t-shirt. His dark hair had been slicked back, and his cigarette was already lit and hanging from the corner of his mouth. This wasn't the Harry I had fallen for in the movies. This Harry looked dangerous.
Sexy, but dangerous.
Was that my voice? Did I really just shout his name? I am sure the teenage girls were grateful for my intervention, because I don't think they would have been capable of approaching him on their own. Someone had to break the ice, and I'm surprised that it was me.
“Will you sign this for me?” I wagged my program in his direction. I had to pay four pounds for that silly program, which is something like six or seven American dollars. At that moment, the money I spent was more than worth it. “I'm sorry to bother you.”
I will always remember his reply, because I've replayed it in my head a thousand times.
“Don't apologize.” His cigarette wobbled in his mouth as he spoke, so he removed it. “It's a wonderful thing to be bothered for.”
I expected to see my hand shaking as I handed him my pen, but it wasn't. I kept my cool and maintained my composure, which was more than I could say for the young girls who were approaching his flank. After he signed my program, I stepped back and let them have their moment.
moment was already over. Just like that, my long-anticipated encounter with the man of my dreams was at an end.
Or so I thought. Before he left, Harry turned around and smiled at me. Or it might have been a smirk. Either way, I'm quite convinced it was the most amazing smile I've ever seen.
I wanted to pour out my heart to him. I knew everything about his life, and he knew nothing about mine—not even my name. If I told him how much I adored him right then and there, I am sure I would have looked insane. And desperate. But I needed to say something,
, so I could keep him with me a little while longer.
“You were great in the play.” The smile never left his face as he soaked in my compliment. My words weren't especially clever, in fact, they were pretty run-of-the-mill. But I'm glad I summoned up enough courage to say
“Great. I'm glad you liked it.”
I was in such a daze, I'm not sure I heard his reply, or if that's what he even said.
“I was sitting in the front row,” I told him. “You accidentally spit on me.”
. That might have been the worst thing I could have possibly said to him, but he looked amused by it. Harry's grin was broadening.
“I would say that's good enunciation,” Harry said. “My mum would be proud.”
As it happened, Harry's “mum” was a theatre teacher. I had done some extensive digging into his life, so I knew a lot about his origins. I wonder if he'd be scared to discover how much I know about him?
He bowed his head in polite salutation and uttered a curt “cheers.”
And just like that, he was gone. After a few pitiful seconds, the most amazing moment of my life had ended. Harry was gone, out of my life for good. He would return to his world, and I would return to mine. I would see him on television in my tiny Brooklyn apartment, and I would lust for him from afar. It would probably be the last time our paths would ever cross. I never thought I would be lucky enough to meet Harry Shaw, let alone, date him.
Something like that could only happen in my dreams, right?
Video game time was sacred time. It was the only time of day when it was acceptable to shoot and decapitate one's friends.
At the moment, however, Jamie and Will were playing on the same team, facing off against faceless online opponents. And they were losing. Miserably. Fortunately for them, they had no idea their avatars were getting mutilated by a twelve-year-old girl.
“Shit, man!” Will tossed his controller across the room and crossed his arms. “I swear I used to be better at this game!”
“You were never good at this game,” countered his older brother. “I always kicked your ass.”
Will's pout was hardly a demonstration of manhood. “Not
. Just sometimes.”
“Ninety percent of the time, I kicked your ass.” As he waited for the next bout to load, Jamie glanced in his brother's direction and raised an eyebrow. “Are you still playing?”
“Are you sure?”
After a moment of reluctance, the hesitation in Will's eyes was replaced with newfound determination. Just once, he wanted to put his opponents in their places. “Okay. One more game.”
Jamie stumbled across a flamethrower early in the round, which gave their team a distinct advantage. He torched his way across the battlefield, leaving a trail of burnt corpses in his wake.
“We really need to find something more productive to do,” Jamie said with a sigh. His opponents were falling before him as if he was a god, but it did little to improve his mood. As a moderately successful male model, he rarely felt like he was doing actual work. Wearing fancy clothes and posing for pictures had left him unfulfilled. He was thirty-one now, which meant he was likely coming to the end of his career. Most male models of his acquaintance had retired by the age of thirty-five. Not long ago, Jamie had Googled the question, “what do male models do when they retire?” because he was at a loss with his life.
Someone had answered, “
they act, or they disappear.
While many of his friends were actors, Jamie had little talent for acting. It seemed that he had no choice but to disappear. He was destined to fade into obscurity, stuck in an irrelevant life.
If Jamie Thierry was the handsome brother, William Thierry was the talented one. At twenty-six, he seemed adept at almost everything he set his mind to—except for video games. He was skilled at baseball, playing the guitar, singing and acting. The latter was his focus, although attaining a successful acting career had proven to be a struggle in the last few years. It had been almost two years since they canceled Brooklyn Rookie. He loved every second he spent as Ty Brockland, the rookie cop with a chip on his shoulder. Unfortunately, the cable television show didn't find the funding it needed, and it was canceled after two seasons.
“Don't you ever feel like you've wasted your life?” Jamie asked with a sigh. “I do. Every day.”
If his sneer was any indication, wasted potential wasn't a topic William wanted to discuss during game time. Jamie's mind seemed to be in another realm, but even so, his score was commendable. Try as he might, William knew he could never compete with Jamie's body count, not when his brother had a flamethrower. It hardly seemed fair. “I try not to think about that kind of thing,” William finally grumbled a reply.
“I'm thirty-one years old, and I have nothing to show for it.”
His brother's complaint had William rolling his eyes. Jamie had modeled for Dior, Calvin Klein, Burberry and Armani. His statement was hardly valid, considering his success. “It sounds like you're being ungrateful.”
“Ungrateful?!” Jamie shrilled. “Ungrateful of what?”
“Ungrateful for what you've got, what you've done.” During his conversation with Jamie, an enemy trooper popped out of cover and filled William with holes, which meant he was temporarily out of the game. He blamed his brother. “You had a lot of success. More than me.”
“You're younger than me.”
“Not by much.” As he watched his brother rain a storm of fire on his opponents, William seethed with envy.
“Five years is a lot.”
William shrugged. “Not really.”
“Where can I go from here? What can I do? What do I have to look forward to?”
“Well...” William snickered before giving Jamie his answer, because he knew his brother wouldn't like it. Neither Jamie nor his friend seemed eager to participate in his little charity project. “There's the date auction.”
.” A predictable groan spilled from Jamie's throat. “The date auction. How could I forget about that? I'm trembling with anticipation.”
“I know. You and Harry can't even contain your excitement.”
“Harry's going to get mobbed. I seriously fear for his life.”
“A date with him might end up being a lot more costly than a date with one of us,” William sighed. “It's because he's British.”
“Yeah. The bloody British,” Jamie snorted. “If I had a dollar for every time I heard some girl say she liked his accent, I'd be a rich man by now.”
a rich man,” his brother pointed out.
“Not rich. Just... comfortable.” Looking around his Manhattan apartment, Jamie had all the proof he needed. While he had little love for his modeling work, it had been good to him.
“Anyway,” William attempted a change of subject, “you might end up liking the girl who wins the date with you. You never know.”
“Or she might be horrid, and I could end up having the most miserable night of my life.”
“I think you just described every date I've ever been on.” William's love life, or lack thereof, was something he didn't care to discuss. Jamie, on the other hand, cycled through women as often as he cycled his laundry. Jamie was always dating someone, and he rarely kept a girlfriend longer than a few months. His inability to form proper attachments was starting to make him feel like something less than human. “I'm just saying you should keep an open mind.”
keeping an open mind!” Jamie insisted. “If you think I'm bad, you need to talk to Harry. He's been dreading it way more than I am. He--” Before he could utter another word, there was a knock on the door. They knew who it was. Who else could it be? “Ah... speak of the devil.”
William, who had been eliminated from the game some time ago, went to greet their guest. When he opened the door, Harry rushed inside. He gave his tie a tremendous yank, tearing it from his neck. “Bloody hell! That thing was starting to feel like a noose.”
William closed the door and stuffed a hand into the pocket of his jeans. “How'd it go?”
“The premiere?” Harry raked a hand across his head, tousling his inky black hair. “Tiresome.”
“Some of us might actually be happy to be in a Hollywood movie.” William slid a glance in the direction of his brother and added, “Some of us might actually appreciate the success we've had. And by someone, I mean