All 16-year-old Talio Mirisha wanted was a get-well card for his girlfriend.
With a little help from pop star Selena Gomez, he got one Wednesday. At a Walgreens. In St. Petersburg.
She even signed and paid for it, too.
"I didn't really know if it was her at first, but I kind of looked closer," the Admiral Farragut Academy sophomore said Thursday about Gomez, who is in town filming Spring Breakers. "What the heck, it could be her, so let me just ask.
"I said: 'Are You Selena Gomez?' And she said yes. Then I asked if she could (sign) a get-well card for my girlfriend. She said: 'Sure thing.' "
Talio picked a card for Lexi Wolf, 14, and rejoined Gomez, who was buying groceries, at the checkout counter:
"So, she's at the cash register signing the card, and asking how long (Lexi and I) had been going out. I said a year. She was asking me normal questions, like: 'What's wrong with her?' "
"Selena was really nice, calling me cute and adorable, and just being really sweet. She called me a really great boyfriend. In the card, too, she even writes: 'You have a great boyfriend.' In the card."
Gomez, 19, arrived in St. Petersburg this week to begin filming Spring Breakers, a teenage crime drama written and directed by Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo). She'll play one of a group of college co-eds who get arrested on vacation and bailed out by a drug dealer, played by James Franco.
Spring Breakers is a departure for Gomez, who rocketed to fame on the Disney Channel hit Wizards of Waverly Place. She's also known for her boyfriend, pop phenomenon Justin Bieber. Together they're the Brangelina of their generation, a power couple before they were able to vote, and poster kids for teenage romance.
Currently Bieber, 18, is elsewhere recording his next album, according to his Twitter feed. Talio said Gomez was accompanied at the Walgreens near 66th Street and Central Avenue by her mother, a young female friend — and a bodyguard.
When Talio pulled out his cell phone to take a photograph, the bodyguard first told him to put it away. He sensed the teenager wasn't a threat while Gomez chatted with Talio, even using the boy's cellphone to take a photograph of the pair.
"Then I was, like: 'Oh, I forgot my wallet in the car,' " Talio said. "(Gomez) took the card out of my hand and gave it to the cashier. I was, like: 'Wow, you're such a sweetheart. You didn't have to do that.' And she was, like: 'Oh, no, it's fine.' I didn't know what to say.
"She gave me a hug goodbye and then (I told her) good luck with Justin. And she's, like, good luck with Lexi. And I left."
Talio drove to Lexi's home nearby, shaking and "still dumbfounded by what just happened." He arrived to find Lexi sitting on the couch with her mother and 12-year-old sister, Alyssa.
"Here, I got a really special card for you," Talio told Lexi, and walked to the kitchen so his grin wouldn't spoil the surprise.
"Lexi opens up the card … sees what Selena wrote and her face completely dropped. She was freaking out. Then her sister came over and started crying. She rubbed her face against the card, saying: 'Oh, my god, Selena Gomez touched this!'
"Then Lexi came over and gave me this huge hug."
A day later, Lexi confirmed to the Times what Gomez wrote in her card.
"Yeah, I definitely do have a great boyfriend," she said. "He's always there. When I'm sick he's always bringing things over; little teddy bears or cards or something.
"I think it's pretty equal to Justin and Selena. Not in the way he can bring her to all these amazing places around the world and stuff. He does whatever he can to make her happy, and it actually does resemble me and Talio in a way."
But if Lexi had to choose between Justin and Talio?
"I would have Talio."
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.