59. Laurel Canyon

SO I BELIEVED HER – what else could I do? She’d told us she was moving to Los Angeles to break into the movie business. We told her breaking into the movie business wasn’t easy, that practically everyone in LA was there to do just that. She said she knew some people who could help her. When we asked who she said she had a friend who had a sister who worked in the movies. This seemed rather vague, and I said so. Was there anyone else she was counting on other than this unknown sister of a friend? That was when she mentioned Ricardo. Ricardo worked in the movies, she said. She said she had met him online and that he lived in Los Angeles and worked in the movie business. She said he was 31 and he was amazing, creative, intelligent, sensitive to her needs like none of the guys in Providence were. They had been dating for six months. I told her you cannot have a relationship with a man by email. She said there were all kinds of ways of being intimate online that I could not imagine because I was twenty years behind the times, and anyway that was precisely why she had to go to LA, to have a real relationship with Ricardo. Anyway, she said, they’d been together, a few times in fact. That time she went to Cincinnati for the weekend, she said, she hadn’t gone to Cincinnati but to Los Angeles for the weekend. She told us he’d even visited us right here in Providence, a couple of weekends ago. He’d stayed at the Motel 6. I asked her why she didn’t introduce us and she said it was because she didn’t want to put pressure on the relationship, it was so new and everything. But anyway by the end of the weekend they’d talked about her moving out west and making a life together. She said it was her idea, the whole thing, that he was willing to wait for her while she went to acting school somewhere local. She said he’d as good as told her he loved her and needed her and that he would wait for her, no matter what she did. She’d thought about it a few days, she said, and she’d decided she loved him and wanted to be with him and there were acting schools in LA weren’t there? What did she have to lose? She said he would provide for her at first, while she got established. One thing I have learned about Laura is that she will not be denied. Try to stop her from something she has set her mind to and she will do it anyway, without telling you. This was not the kind of life I would have imagined for my daughter but I have learned by now that protest only makes things worse. She was fifteen when she got her first piercing, sixteen when she dropped out of high school, sixteen when I found her smoking, seventeen when she got a tattoo. So she flew to Los Angeles with nothing more than the tote bag slung over her shoulder. She called the following week to say she was living in Laurel Canyon in a huge house overlooking the city that Ricardo owned and that everyone was being so kind to her, and wasn’t it funny that her name was Laura and she was living in Laurel Canyon? It was like an omen. She sent me a picture of the view from her bedroom balcony she’d taken with her phone, a grainy overexposed picture of a city baking in the August sun like a dying animal, with the skyline of downtown LA in the distance. I showed Grant the picture and he held my phone at arm’s length because he needs reading glasses these days and raised an eyebrow and grunted in a way that I knew meant he didn’t think much of what he saw but he was trying to keep an open mind. We didn’t hear anything more for a while, so after a few weeks I called her and left a message to tell her her father was going to Los Angeles for a conference, and I thought I’d fly over too to visit, which was all a lie of course. I didn’t hear back for a couple of days, and when I did it was a one word text – When? I made up a date and she replied she was away that weekend, and really busy at the moment with auditions, perhaps sometime in November. Meanwhile our friends were asking about Laura and I decided to tell them the truth, that she’d gone to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. November came and went and Laura said there was no point us flying over as she was coming home for Christmas. She came home for Christmas looking thin and unhappy and pretending it wasn’t so. She didn't mention Ricardo the whole time. I went through her bags and found no evidence one way or another, but later that day she accused me of rifling through her bags and told me I was a controlling bitch and she never wanted to see me again. She disappeared for two days and she came home only collect her tote bag. I offered to drive her to the airport but she said a friend was driving her. Standing at the doorway, I hugged her and said I was sorry, and she burst into tears and told me she was sorry, and she'd make it up to me next time, and when I visited her in LA she’d take me shopping, only I should wait until she got settled. I told her she didn’t have to go, but she said she felt as if she were on the cusp now, that all her hard work was about to bear fruit. She mentioned something about a TV commercial, but she didn’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much. How's Ricardo, I asked, is her taking good care of you? She nodded as tears streamed down her cheeks, and she hugged me again, and we heard a car outside beep its horn and rev its engine, and she said she had to go, and hugged me one last time, and then she was gone. Beginning New Year's Eve, I left messages and wrote emails but I didn’t hear anything back other than a text message very now and then, brief and intended to be reassuring. All the while friends and acquaintances were asking about her acting career, ever more insistently, to the point that we began to feel they were doing it intentionally, practically hounding us about her acting career. And ever-loyal I would put on a smile and calmly remind them that these things take time, that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Underneath it all I was worried, worried sick, and I can't count the times I told Grant we should go to LA to find her, and he would urge me to be patient. And so life continued in this way for a while, until the day when someone dropped a package into our letter box. I never did find out who sent it. I opened it up and inside I found a DVD called … Well, I won’t tell you what it was called. Suffice to say it was awful. I never imagined people could do such things to each other, and for pleasure. And she was in it of course. I still haven’t recovered from the shock. In fact she was on the cover – I recognised her right away. She’d changed her name. From what I could see on the DVD they’d all changed their names to something ridiculous you could tell right away was fake. You’ll never guess what she changed it to.