The Beach House – Chapter 11

For someone so concerned with what I thought of her, she had no inhibitions with other people. The poor guy at the cash register at the clothing store was left in a terrible state.

“Ma’am, these panties are short a pair.” He thought he was being helpful by pointing out the missing merchandise.

“That’s because I’m wearing one.” She said it with a straight face, never offering any reason as to why. He was a little flustered but kept ringing up the other items. He ran through a couple of bras and then found an unattached bra tag.

“Ma’am, there’s no …” Mia just smiled and winked at him. He rang up the missing bra and continued through other missing items, never asking again. Mia was looking good in a new pair of khaki shorts and a light blue pullover shirt. She had on a nice pair of sneakers that made her look a bit energetic. I liked the new Mia. The clerk rattled off some total, and I handed him my card.

“Horrible suitcase accident.” I smiled at him. I think he believed me. Mia was snickering. We moved to the pharmacy down the street. Mia embarrassingly told me she was going to get me a new toothbrush too. Seems she had been secretly using mine. I laughed. It was kind of sexy to me. She thought she was being gross. I had no idea why sticking her tongue in my mouth was okay, but using my toothbrush was gross.

It took us two trips to bring all the booty inside the house. I was pleased when she started to put it all away in the master bedroom. I was afraid she might try and claim her own bedroom. I was relegated to the bottom shelf in the medicine cabinet. I just sat on the bed and watched her continue to mark her territory in the closet and dresser drawers. I remembered that she must had done it before with Carlos. It was just natural for her. I simply loved the idea of her becoming part of my life.

We ordered in Chinese and spent the evening watching movies. Mia ate a lot of rice, and I scarfed down most of the meat and veggies. I wanted to pop a bottle of wine but thought better of it. Any drug right now would be a bad drug. To me, Mia looked fully recovered, but I knew the effects of heroin would be with her for a long time.

When the last movie ended, Mia grabbed my hand and took me to the bedroom. I was grateful that she didn’t purchase any pajamas. She disrobed to all her glory. We cuddled ourselves to sleep again. She was my ocean.

The morning brought Dr. Wally Williams back. He examined Mia in the bedroom and returned with her about twenty minutes later. “I’ve got to say Dale, you’re a hell of a nurse.” He was smiling at me. “Mia is in much better shape than should be expected. Her vitals are back to normal, and she seems to have skipped of few days of ugliness.” Mia was obviously pleased with results. “I have to say Mia, you look a lot happier than most of my detox patients at this stage.”

“Dale has been taking good care of me.” Mia and I shared a smile that was not lost on the doctor.

“Mia was telling me about your beach. Mind taking me for tour?” I saw Mia fold her hands across her chest, and she seemed to lose a bit of confidence. She sensed she wasn’t invited. The doctor was already heading toward the sliding glass door, not waiting for my agreement.

“Sure Doc, it’s a quick walk.” I gave Mia a reassuring look and followed the doctor to the door. He waited until he was sure he was out of earshot of Mia.

“Dale, it looks like you two are living together.” He made it sound like it was bad thing. I wasn’t really concerned about his moral opinions. I just wanted him to make sure Mia was physically okay.

“And it’s done both of us a world of good.” I was sporting a relaxed smile. I was committed to my course of action and I wasn’t even sure convincing him was worth the time. He paused for a moment considering my response.

“How smitten are you?” He wasn’t beating around the bush. I could almost hear the gears moving in his head as he analyzed the situation. I saw no need to hide the obvious since he suspected anyway.

“Fully and completely.” I gave him the same confident smile.

“How do you think she feels?” I didn’t expect that question. I thought he was going to just lecture me on how foolish I was. I had to think a second.

“She’s terrified I will find out about her past.” I didn’t add that I thought she was falling in love with me albeit a bit slower than I was. He stopped walking and thought deeply.

“This can go badly for her. All though she doesn’t look it, she’s fragile right now. If for any reason she thinks you are rejecting her, she will return to her old habits.” He sounded like he didn’t like the whole situation. “You don’t even really know Mia. What if you don’t like what’s in her past?”

“I’m pretty sure I won’t like it. I won’t let it stop us though.” I stopped smiling as the doctor tried to put doubts in my head. “In fact, I think me knowing is absolutely necessary.” I had already started on this train of thought. This conversation was just solidifying it. Wally shook his head and smiled.

“This was not what I was expecting at all.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “You are an insane man, Dale. I truly hope this works out for the both of you.” We started walking again down towards the beach. “She’s not going to want to tell you everything, you know.”

“I’m working on finding out myself. I have some people looking into things.” I wasn’t sure why I was confiding in him, but he seemed to have Mia’s health and well being on top of his list. He just chuckled.

“Damn you live dangerously.” He was shaking his head again. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near her when she finds out. You really love her, don’t you?”

“With all my heart.” I stopped walking. I just admitted it out loud again.

“I did not expect this at all.” He looked at me. “You know a lot of people aren’t going to understand this.” I laughed.

“Wally, I am very practiced at ignoring people. I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks about Mia and me. They will just have to get over it.” It felt good to think that my past isolation had a purpose. We continued down to the beach.

“This is actually pretty nice. Kind of peaceful.” Wally was admiring the view as the waves gently crashed at the breakers. “You’re going to have to find out why she tried to kill herself.” I didn’t like hearing it put that way. I knew it was true, but I wished he would use more tactful language.

“I know, and I will.” I wasn’t looking forward to that part. I didn’t want to think about it right now. I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I didn’t have any friends, so it could only be one reason. I pulled it out and saw a text from Bob Farring that contained only a phone number. “I have to make a phone call, Wally. Meet you back at the house?” He agreed and headed back up. I tapped the number.

A gruff voice I didn’t recognize answered the phone. “This is Dale Tomlinson; I’m looking for Bob Farring.” I kind of expected a receptionist or Bob.

“Mr. Tomlinson, I’m Frank Talbot. I was hired by Bob to look into some issues for you. Due to the direction the investigation took, I felt I should talk to you directly.” He was speaking rather quickly. “I felt some discretion may be required. Are you related to Ms. Perez?”

“Ah, no, Frank. I am just concerned about her.” I was quite sure I wanted him ignorant of my desired relationship.

“I want to warn you that you may not like what you hear. If she means anything to you, you can’t un-hear it later.” What the hell is he preparing me for?

“Just give me the report Frank.” I braced myself.

“Ms. Perez was an RN about 3 years ago at St. Vincent’s. She was the sole survivor of a car accident that killed her family on March 23rd, 3 years ago.” Survivor? I thought she said she was at home. I interrupted.

“She was in the car?” I had to know everything.

 

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A Unique Gift – Chapter 18

The night of the party arrived and Jack met up with Abby outside before they went in. She checked he had the collar and her eyes fluttered for a moment when he said yes. They made their way in, loud music made Jacks ears hurt until he adjusted to the volume. It was hot and there were people everywhere, all of them college students wanting to forget about the week and just get drunk. By the state of a few they were already well on their way. They made their way to a large table lined with drinks.

“Move,” a voice rang out as Abby was pushed to one side. Jack spun round to find himself face to face with Amanda. He sighed, this would be fun. She was the most popular girl on campus. Intelligent and attractive with huge tits and an ass kept firm by hours of working out.

“Hey!” Abby cried out. Amanda looked at her as if daring her to say something. Jack had an idea and stepped forward. A few people were watching as he approached.

“Hey, apologize to my friend,” Jack demanded. Amanda just looked at him and laughed.

“And who are you?” She sneered.

“I’m her friend and you owe her an apology,” Jack continued.

“Yeah right, get out of my way,” Amanda replied with a sharp edge in her voice. She did not like people not doing as she said.

“Tell you what, since you’re so smart I’ll make you a bet,” Jack began.

“What’s the bet?” Amanda replied, she didn’t really care but couldn’t be seen to have her intellect challenged by some nobody.

“If you figure out how this bar trick is done, we’ll leave and I’ll even apologize to you BUT if you can’t you have to say sorry to my friend and wear this for the evening,” Jack smiled, producing the collar.

“Do you have some kind of fetish or something?” Amanda smirked as she saw the collar.

“Hey if you don’t think you can figure it out you can walk away now,” Jack replied, goading her.

“Fine, deal. What’s the trick?” Amanda asked dismissively. Jack grabbed a bowl of olives off the table and poured a few out into a pile.

“Ok it’s simple, we each take turns taking olives from the pile, you can take one, two or three at a time. Whoever takes the last olive is the winner,” Jack explained. Amanda looked at him before looking at the olives for a moment as if thinking. Abby was grinning, she knew this trick.

“Alright, fine,” Amanda replied. She was good with numbers and this was just a numbers game, she just had to work out how many to take each turn. She began taking two olives, so Jack took two as well. She then took three and Jack only took one. By now a crowd had gathered and Amanda looked worried. In her hubris she had agreed to something she now realized was a bad idea but she couldn’t back out in front of all these people. They each continued removing olives until Jack took two of the last three. She sighed in frustration at losing.

“You cheated,” she accused Jack.

“I didn’t, you just agreed without thinking it through. All I had to do was make sure that four olives were removed each round,” Jack explained. It was a trick he had learnt from a regular at the bar where he worked. He had used it more than once to persuade drunk customers that if they couldn’t beat him, they were too drunk to have another drink.

“Fine, you win,” Amanda relented.

“Follow me, lets go somewhere quieter where Abby will be able to hear your apology,” Jack smiled. The trio made their way through the crowd and into a bedroom. They shut the door and the sound of the music dulled significantly.

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=99

 

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Matchmaker’s business flourishes amid ‘dating app fatigue’

Michal Naisteter approached a city planner at Reading Terminal Market and bantered with a pediatrician at the Bok Bar rooftop. At a Franklin Institute Science After Hours event, she was intrigued by a young entrepreneur, and she chatted up a Delaware politician at a local coffee shop.

No matter where she meets people, her introduction remains the same.

“Hey, I’m Michal. I’m a married matchmaker,” she says. “Are you by any chance single, ’cause I think you’re really cute.”

All those people ended up saying yes to Naisteter, 35, who for two years has worked as a matchmaker for the national company Three Day Rule.

They are soon added to her company’s pool of more than 4,500 Philadelphia singles, most of whom are not paying members but are open to being set up. After a meeting where they have a “heart to heart” with Naisteter, she considers matching them with a client.

While many people may start humming along to the song from Fiddler on the Roof when they hear the word matchmaker, Naisteter’s company emphasizes a modern approach to what may seem like a quaint method for finding love.

There has been demand for matchmaking services as the proliferation of apps has chipped away at the stigma associated with seeking outside help for dating, an IBISWorld report on the growing $3 billion industry shows. Even with free options like Tinder at the fingertips of singles, some people turn to matchmakers for a more personalized, albeit pricey, experience.

People in Philly seem particularly disgruntled with the city’s dating pool, Naisteter said. Though loyal to the city, they say living here is like a small town where they already know everyone. That’s simply not true in the sixth largest city in the United States, she says.

For those who want to work with Naisteter, there is a $5,500 premium membership fee for three months, with higher priced options for six and 12 months. With this payment comes an in-depth meeting about anything from family history and past relationships to the attributes of a potential partner, as well as a professional photo shoot.

Then, Naisteter will search LinkedIn, Instagram, and networking events, or while living her daily life, like grocery shopping, to find people to match with her clients, with a goal of at least one match a month.

Other matchmakers range from national companies like the paid-service It’s Just Lunch to Danielle Selber, who is called the “in-house matchmaker” at the Philadelphia nonprofit Tribe 12, which encourages people to make a $36 donation if they are satisfied with the experience.

The way Naisteter views it, a matchmaker saves her clients time by searching on their behalf and then screening people before a first date to make sure they are representing themselves accurately and are a good fit. Her objective, she says, is getting people on fewer but better dates.

Three Day Rule launched in Philadelphia in May 2016, three years after its founding in Los Angeles. In that time, the company says, it has matched about 550 people in Philly and sat down with more than 1,500 singles. Naisteter has worked with more than 50 paying clients and of her current clients, the youngest is 26 and oldest is 67.

While Naisteter said there is not one metric for success, since not everyone is looking to be married right away if at all, the company said that in the last couple years, 70 percent of its clients overall were still dating one of their matches when their contract ended.

Even if the people Naisteter meets don’t fit well with a paying client, she helps them improve their dating profiles or offers general advice.

“I’m like a cheerleader and a sex therapist and your girlfriend all rolled up into one,” she said.

Modern matchmaking

Three Day Rule CEO Talia Goldstein started listing her colleagues’ recent successes on one of their recent weekly conference calls with matchmakers in 10 cities, including Los Angeles and New York.

“For matching shoutouts, Melissa has two second dates and a third date. Samantha has a third date. Julia has a second date, and a client who went on hold to date her match….”

But when it was Naisteter’s turn, she didn’t highlight a traditional success like a wedding. She told a story about rejection.

He is in his 30s with a healthy career, but no relationship. Any time she sent him a match, he would ask: “What do I say to her?” ”What do I text her?” ”Where should we go?”

Naisteter has worked on empowering him to make his own decisions. “If you want to meet someone amazing, you have to be amazing yourself,” she would tell him.

So he gave it a try. He took a date to a ping pong bar in Philly and thought it was fantastic. But when Naisteter debriefed the woman after, she said he didn’t talk about things he did outside of work, and she didn’t feel as if he would be interested in what she does for fun, like salsa dancing. Naisteter relayed this to him and told him the woman wasn’t interested in a second date.

“So the next day, he wrote to me, ‘You know what, I think I’m still going to write to her, like I would be down to go as friends. I want to go salsa dancing, or I would come to one of the events that you organized,'” Naisteter told colleagues.

Naisteter considers her job more than just getting people dates. Along the way, she wants them to learn more about themselves and how that reflects what they are looking for in a partner.

In a way, she’d been readying herself to be a matchmaker long before she even knew a job like this existed.

After taking a human sexuality course as an undergrad at Pennsylvania State University, she went on to earn a master’s in that topic at Widener University.

She lived in Tel Aviv for a year, teaching English to children of migrant workers. She also worked in Boston and did HIV counseling on needle exchange vans. After working in public health, she decided she wanted to do more on the education side and learn Spanish.

So she went to South America with a backpack and suitcase and ended up in Medellin, Colombia, for four years. Back in Philly, she wanted a career change that blended her education, experience, personality and life history, and found this job while searching online with a friend one night.

While in Medellin, a friend set her up with her now-husband. The two have an 8-month-old daughter, Hanna Rodriguez.

With clients, Naisteter will tell them about her husband, Manuel Rodriguez. At 31, he is younger than her and from a different religion. “If we were on an app, I could’ve potentially swiped the wrong way.”

But instead of focusing on physical attributes or what was written down, the friend simply said: “You’re a good person, and he’s a good person.”

They call that friend “our cupid, or our matchmaker.”

‘Dating app fatigue’

It isn’t likely that matchmaking services like Three Day Rule will overtake the online and mobile dating market, said John Madigan, an industry research analyst at IBIS.

Tinder, PlentyOfFish, and OkCupid are all brands from Match Group Inc., which IBISWorld reports has about 42.3 percent of the industry’s market share. Match Group’s stock has more than quadrupled to about $61 Monday from $15.20 in November 2015.

Dating sites like Match.com, eHarmony, and Chemistry.com comprise half of the market. Mobile dating, which can be found free with apps like Hinge and Bumble, is 31 percent. Matchmaking is just 12 percent. Match Group was an early investor in Three Day Rule in 2014.

But Madigan has noticed that “dating app fatigue” is driving demand for matchmakers.

“People are getting tired of swiping right, swiping left, ‘Do I find this person attractive?’ It’s a very superficial-based connection,” he said. While other matchmaking firms do this work, Madigan singled out Three Day Rule in his report because it has been “growing quite quickly,” doubling in revenue in 2018.

After spending years swiping through five different dating apps, Ed Cahan, 37, an engineer who works in real estate, was losing hope. His friends were married and having their second children, and he felt his time was ticking away.

He got coffee with Naisteter and asked how the premium membership worked.

“I thought about it for a couple days, and then I was like, ‘You know what, I tried all the apps, I tried all these things, Why not? I’ll say yes and I’ll see what happens.'”

So they met up again. Naisteter optimized his dating profile by helping him get new photos and linking his Instagram account to show off his woodworking hobby. She told him his usual date suggestion of coffee around 6 p.m. was just plain bad. Since he doesn’t drink, she suggested going to a nice restaurant at 8 p.m. for dessert and a better ambiance.

Cahan, who lives in Northern Liberties, told her how he was looking for someone who was Jewish like him, adventurous, entrepreneurial, and outdoorsy.

When she sent over his first match, he told her the next day that she nailed it. “You listened to me and you found exactly what I was looking for,” he recalled.

The two went on a dessert date last month at Parc. Even though he said it was a good date, the two haven’t gone on a second.

Now he is waiting for more matches.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 15 – Madam Wong’s West – The Yamamato Sisters

“Frank, this is Jill and Vickie. They’re sisters. They’re going to hang with us.”

Frank and I decide to go check out Madam Wong’s West over on Wilshire Blvd. It’s a famous rock and roll place that originated in Chinatown, (See: Tales of Rock – Esther Wong) But the place we’re going is her other location in Santa Monica. It’s within walking distance from our shitty apartment. The goal is to check out the local rock scene and try to talk to some girls.

We are drinking 102 beer at the apartment getting our pre-game on. (it was called 102 because it took them 102 times to get it right. They didn’t, because it was $2.99 for a 6 pack of 16 oz beers!) We didn’t have a name for it back then we just drank before we went out so we wouldn’t spend so much money when we went out. All this accomplished was getting us thoroughly plowed before we walked out the door and then we would just drink more. So it’s a bad idea that we did over and over again. I’m sure we did it for years after that but, youth… live and learn.

I remember that night very clearly. I was drinking a beer in the shower while I was getting ready. I had my boom box on. We had a red light bulb in our bathroom and it was cool. I was listening to “I don’t need no doctor” by Humble Pie. It was amazing.

We get all dressed up and head out, buzzed and ready to see the night in L.A.

We get to Madam Wong’s and realize that although I’m legal to drink in New Jersey at age 18, the drinking age is 21 in California. So I’m fucked.

I get an underage stamp but Frank gets a 21 stamp. Well this sucks. Fucking state laws. I’m pissed but we’ll make it work. We’re a crafty lot.

We go in and head upstairs. It’s got bands downstairs and upstairs.  I love that it’s two floors of rock. We don’t have anything like this back in Jersey. It’s like a giant house of rock. I loved it instantly and wanted to play there.

We find a cool round booth upstairs and take a seat. Some band is playing onstage and they suck. On the table there is a card that says “Two Drink Minimum” and I tell Frank to drop out jackets and go get some beers and I secure that table.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to go downstairs and procure us a couple of women to join us at our table. So go get four beers. ”

“No fuckin’ way.”

“Way.”

“Okay. Well then have at it Chaz.”

Frank doesn’t know my mad game from picking up babes in Wildwood,NJ for years.

We’ve got our booth and Frank is getting our beers and I head downstairs to hunt. I have no idea what I’m doing and I have very little knowledge of women in L.A are like but at this point I’ve had a few beers and my courage is alive and well in me due to the alcohol.

I’m wandering downstairs and I come across a pair of pretty Asian girls. I’ve never met an Asian girl before. I literally walk up to them and ask them the following:

“My friend and I have a table upstairs. Would you like to join us?”

They say an immediate yes and I take the older girl’s hand and head upstairs. I lead them to the table and Frank’s eyes are like saucers. I can tell my comrade is pleased with my kill. He’s more than pleased. He’s amazed at my prowess.

I was really cute back then and I’ve always been charming.

“Frank, this is Jill and Vickie. They’re sisters. They’re going to hang with us.”

Frank is speechless. I see the joy in his eyes. He can’t believe I pulled this off. He has no idea that this is just the beginning of our California odyssey.

We enjoyed the night with these pretty sisters and got their numbers. We wanted to see them again and go on dates with them. That’s what people did back then. We went on dates with girls. Took them to the movies and record stores and lunch and dinner spots.

Frank and I had no money but if we had a couple of little girlfriends we were going to treat them right. It’s all we knew. I’m from Philly and everybody hates me and I have little history of dating. Frank was in the junior wing of the IRA in Belfast and also has little experience with girls. We just met a really cute pair of Asian sisters. They have our full attention!

We kissed them goodnight and even took some pictures.

We want to see these girls again!

… And we will.

Oh yes… We will.

 

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If These 22 Things Described Your Relationship, You Should Be HAPPY You Broke Up

Nobody ever jumps for joy after going through a breakup — we’re not going to pretend that you should in any way be celebrating the end of your relationship with Champagne and toasts. Even when everyone around you says that you made the right choice, it can still be hard to let go. I’m speaking from legitimate experience when I say that I get it. When you’re still reeling from the breakup, and after you put so much into the relationship, it’s easy to begin to question why you’re letting it go and moving on. These are the 22 signs that you did in fact make the right choice to end things — read ’em and rest a little bit easier, then start making moves to move on!

  1. You always feared that they would leave you.
  2. You had more admiration for other couples than you did yourself and your SO.
  3. When you think back on what the relationship was like, the bad memories come up first.
  4. Jealousy was a major dynamic between the two of you.
  5. They made you feel bad for the things you’re interested in.
  6. You didn’t feel like they supported your career goals.
  7. You lost friends because of the relationship.
  8. There was a constant struggle for superiority; the two of you were never equals.
  9. Either of you would divulge that they missed the “old version” of the other.
  10. You didn’t feel comfortable around their family, or vice versa.
  11. You felt like you had to hide an aspect of who you are to maintain their approval.
  12. Either of you had to vie for affection.
  13. You or they were constantly worried about what the other was doing when you were apart.
  14. Even small conflicts turned into tumultuous arguments.
  15. There were double standards — things that one of you could do that the other couldn’t.
  16. Either of you were continually threatening to end the relationship.
  17. The relationship more often felt draining than it did uplifting.
  18. Your friends and family think the two of you are better off apart.
  19. You depended more on others for emotional support than you did your significant other.
  20. You often found yourself lashing out at your partner, sometimes without really knowing why.
  21. Your lives never fully (or easily) melded together.
  22. You were more often worried about your future together than you were excited for it.

 

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Celebrity Sightings: Vanessa Hudgens – Part 2

Spectacular legs…

I absolutely adore Vanessa Hudgens.

 

2005–2008: High School Musical and music

Hudgens performing at the High School Musical: The Concert in 2007

In 2005, Hudgens was cast as Gabriella Montez, one of the lead roles in the Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical. The film saw Hudgens portraying the new girl at high school who falls for the captain of the basketball team. The two later reveal a passion for singing, and audition for the school play together. Hudgens starred alongside Zac Efron and Ashley Tisdale in the film,[19] the former of which she was partnered up with during the auditioning process due to their “chemistry”.[20]The film, released on January 20, 2006, was both a critical and commercial success. High School Musical was Disney Channel‘s most watched film that year with 7.7 million viewers in its premiere broadcast in the US, until August’s premiere of The Cheetah Girls 2, which achieved 8.1 million viewers.[21] In the UK, it received 789,000 viewers for its premiere (and 1.2 million viewers overall during the first week), making it the second most watched program for the Disney Channel (UK) of 2006. On December 29, 2006, it became the first Disney Channel Original Movie to be broadcast on the BBC.[22] For the film, Hudgens recorded numerous songs which had commercial success. The song “Breaking Free“, a duet with Zac Efron, went on to become Hudgens’ only Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 to date, when it peaked at number 4 on the chart. The song also reached number 9 in the UK, her highest chart entry in the country. Following the success of the film, Hudgens began work on her debut album. The project, later revealed to be titled V, was released on September 26, 2006. The album sold 34,000 copies in its first week of release, and debuted at number 24 on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States.[23] In February 2007, the album was certified gold by the RIAA.[24] As of August 2009, the album has sold 570,000 copies in the U.S.[25] It was preceded by two singles, “Come Back to Me” and “Say OK“, both of which were slightly successful in numerous countries. Both singles received heavy promotion on Disney Channel, with the music videos for both premiering on the channel.

Hudgens in concert in January 2007

In 2007, work on the second film in the High School Musical series began, and Hudgens was confirmed to be returning for the sequel. High School Musical 2 was released on August 17, 2007. The premiere was seen by a total of over 17.2 million viewers in the U.S., which is almost 10 million more than its predecessor, making it the highest-rated Disney Channel Movie of all time.[26] Disney Channel aired a weekly program called Road to High School Musical 2, beginning on June 8, 2007, and leading up to the premiere of High School Musical 2 in August. The show offered viewers a behind-the-scenes look into the production of the movie. The world premiere of the opening number “What Time Is It” was on Radio Disney May 25, 2007,[27] and similarly “You Are The Music In Me” premiered on July 13, 2007.[28] The film was generally well received by critics, gaining a score of 77/100 at Metacritic,[29] while it received a generally mixed response of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.[30] USA Todays Robert Bianco awarded the film three stars out of four, saying High School Musical 2 was “sweet, smart, bursting with talent and energy, and awash in innocence”.[31] While critics enjoyed the film, they noted that the timing of the movie’s premiere seemed odd, premiering just when school was about to start up again, while the movie’s plot involved the gang going on summer vacation.[32] High School Musical 2 won the “So Hot Right Now” award at the Nickelodeon Australian Kids’ Choice Awards 2007, in which High School Musical castmate Zac Efron hosted with The Veronicas.

In 2007, Hudgens began work on her second studio album, partly due to the success of the High School Musical franchise. Her second studio album, Identified, was released on July 1, 2008. It sold 22,000 copies in its first week of release, 12,000 less than that of her previous effort.[33] Despite the drop in sales, the album debuted at number 23, one spot higher than V.[34] The album was preceded by one single, “Sneakernight“, which was her lowest performing single in the US to date. It was a success on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart in the US, where it peaked at number 8.[35] Following the commercial failure of the album, it was announced that Hudgens had parted ways with Hollywood Records. Hudgens went on to reprise her role as Gabriella in the 2008 sequel High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the first film from the franchise to be released theatrically. It opened at number one at the North American box office in October 2008, earning $42 million in its first weekend, which broke the record previously held by Mamma Mia! for the biggest opening by a musical.[36] The film finished with $252 million worldwide, which exceeded Disney’s expectations.[37]

 

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Another Life – Chapter 18

On the night of the party, our apartment was jammed with people. They were hanging off the balcony. I counted eight people in my bedroom, at one point. The party overflowed into the parking spots behind the lawyer’s office.

Luckily, because of our location, we weren’t going to disturb anybody. The bakery was closed, as was the carpet store on the other side of us.

Ray and Karen did drop by, early on. They had a beer with me, said hello to my roommates, and then headed off to another party.

Eli was a hoot. He had strapped an Atari game system to his chest, and had wires wrapped around himself. He was also wearing stereo headphones.

– “What are you supposed to be?” asked Laurie.

– “A lie detector.” said Eli.

– “Oh, brother.” she said.

– “Here, try it.” he said. He passed her the loose connection from his headphones. “Let me ask you: is this not the most original costume idea you’ve seen tonight?”

Laurie had to laugh. “Alright – I’ll give you that one.”

– “She speaks the truth.” said Eli.

“I think she likes me.” he said, once she had gone.

– “You’re an idiot.” I told him.

– “False.” he said.

I helped Rose serve some of her snacks. On one of my runs through the kitchen, threading my way through the people stacked two deep in the hallway, I ran into Laurie again.

– “Joe!” She grabbed my arm. “Do you remember my friend Barbara?”

Next to her was a girl dressed as a very sexy vampire. I did remember meeting Barbara, at the last Christmas party. I thought she was pretty then, but tonight she looked … stunning. She wore a black wig – the contrast with her light grey eyes was outstanding. Barbara was also showing a bit of cleavage (common today, but quite naughty back in the day).

– “I do. How are you, Barbara? You look … amazing.”

– “Thank you.” she said. “You look great, too.”

I was dressed as a pirate – nothing special. Laurie grinned at me, and then slipped away.

– “Where did you get your costume?” I asked. “It’s fantastic.”

Barbara grinned. “Glad you like it. I made it myself.”

– “You’re kidding.”

– “No. I wanted something … special.”

– “Mission accomplished.” I said.

She grinned again. “You’re sweet.”

– “Hmm … I’ll bet you’re much sweeter.” I said. After a few beers, I lose whatever shyness I have left – and most of my inhibitions. Fortunately, Barbara was in a receptive mood.

I don’t know who was flipping records in the living room – Ronnie, maybe – but The Pretenders’ “Precious” came on. Everybody knew it. The kitchen suddenly became a dance floor, with everyone gyrating aggressively. Barbara put out one hand, to steady herself – it landed on my hip.

She left it there.

I returned the favor, and we began to sway together. Everybody knew the lyrics, and shouted them in unison: “Trapped in a world that they never made … But not me, baby – I’m too precious … fuck off …”

Barbara and I were grinning at each other. When the song ended, I fought my way to the fridge, and got myself another beer, and a wine cooler for Barbara.

– “Want to go downstairs?” I asked her.

We worked our way down the stairs, which were packed with people. It was considerably cooler – and quieter – outside. Barbara smiled, and said: “Much better.”

Barbara worked in a record store. I asked her about it, and she told me about the highs and lows. Then we got into a discussion about the latest groups.

It was effortless, and quite wonderful. Barbara was a beautiful woman, dressed in a sexy costume. But more important, at that moment – she was easy to talk to. Our conversation was a give and take between equals, and I found most everything she said interesting.

I registered the difference at the time, and certainly thought about it later. Time flew by. It seemed like only a few minutes later when Barbara’s friend Rina came looking for her.

– “Barb? We have to go.”

Barbara smiled at me. “I’m sorry. I wish I could stay later. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. And dancing.”

– “So have I.” I told her. “I hope I’ll see you again.”

– “Me too.” she said.

After she left with her friend, I went back upstairs. It was already past 1:00. The party was still hopping. I helped Rose pick up dishes, and even managed to create enough space in the kitchen to wash a few of them.

Eli found me, and started one of the weirder conversations I’ve ever had. I pitched a towel at his head. He managed to dry dishes while spouting the most frightful nonsense. When he started quoting Nietzsche, I sent him home.

Laurie came through the kitchen.

– “Hey!” I called to her. She came closer.

“Thank you.” I said. “For … re-introducing me to Barbara.”

– “You’re welcome.” said Laurie. She just grinned.

– “I mean … you set me up. But … I’m glad you did.”

– “Of course you are.” she said. “Do you want her number?”

I grinned at Laurie. “Yes, please.”

 

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