“Not even in Mon El?” I ask.
“Nah, that was just some kissing.”
I bite my lip and grin at him. As he knows, there are two love scenes in Milkweed, and both of them are pretty intense. “You’ll be fine.”
“You ever do one like this?” he asks. “I should’ve asked you this that day they made us read it.”
“A few. Nothing like this, though. They’re awkward, but they don’t have to be too bad.”
“Maybe they could even be good,” Charlie says, low enough that only I can hear.
“Okay,” Nick says, “so if this is the trouble trailer, who’s going to give me the dirt on the crew? I’ve only worked with Deb Cohen before—everyone else is new to me.”
I’ve never worked with most of them, either, but have heard enough stories from Dad over the years to have a general sense of their eccentricities. “Liz is the 1st AD, and she’s amazing. Cool and organized. I’ve been warned not to hit snooze because Devon will come in and wake us up himself. The production secretary has decided this shoot is the best time to quit smoking so, seriously, avoid him at all costs. And from what I’ve heard, Gwen can be intense and a bit of a perfectionist.”
“Yeah,” Nick says, nodding, “I’ve heard that too.”
“But whatever, it’s Gwen Tippett.”
“Honestly,” I tell him, “I think this is a pretty solid crew.”
“So, it’s just us young up-and-comers trying to prove ourselves to Ian Butler,” he says with a knowing gleam in his eye. “Do I have that about right?”
I laugh, melting a little. I have an ally here. “Something like that.”
An alarm goes off on Charlie’s phone, and I peek at it—we need to head down to the Community House for the table read. The loose-limbed ease I’ve found in the trailer immediately hardens back into a tense anticipation.
“Wait.” Charlie halts me, finishing some work on my eye shadow. “I think this is good. But have the producers check it out. Wardrobe might want it softer.”
I nod, and then we meet eyes and she smiles a soft smile that Charlie doesn’t give just anyone. “Don’t be nervous,” she says quietly, and helps me stand. “You’re going to be amazing.”
Nick and I leave the trailer with the sounds of music—and Charlie and Trey laughing hysterically about something said after we left—filtering along after us. We are immediately swallowed by the serenity of the farm; in contrast to the makeup trailer, the space outside is so quiet it’s a little like stepping onto an empty soundstage, with that hollow, echoing silence.
“You’ve known Charlie since you were kids?” he asks.
“Eight years old.”
He grins back over his shoulder at the trailer. “She’s a trip.”
I laugh at this, nodding. But Charlie is more than a trip. She’s a sparkler, firecracker, a fistful of gunpowder. Marco is my calm, Mom is my home, Nana is my conscience, but Charlie is my wide-open sky, my free-dancing, stargazing wild rumpus.
“There’s your dad,” Nick says, voice low. He clearly took my word for it that it’s okay to call him “your dad,” but had some reservation about whether or not I need careful warning.
I follow his attention up the path toward the Community House. Even at a distance, it’s easy to recognize my father—it’s his posture, the cocky lean. He’s in jeans, a worn leather jacket, sunglasses, and wearing the ubiquitous brilliant grin. Facing another man, Dad is listening in the intent way that makes a person feel like the only important thing on the planet. I have a pulse of envy that this is the only sign of intimacy I ever get from Dad—his attention, his complete focus—and it’s really just something he’s mastered to appear sincere. He gives it away to anyone.
Dad spots me over the man’s shoulder and perks up, waving. “There’s my girl!”
The other man turns. I don’t know him, so my smile is that instinctive kind of bright that I’ve learned makes me seem friendly, chases away any potential diva concerns. He’s enormous. Oh, the writer, my brain sings back to Charlie in the trailer. Bearded, frowning, eyes like moss, with a scar through his—
Shock is a cold hand on my shoulder, a complete standstill in my brain and chest and veins. Nick collides with my back, and reaches forward, gripping my arms from behind. If he hadn’t caught me, I would have fallen forward onto the dirty path, face-first, straight as a board.
“Tate.” Nick’s deep voice is surprised, and seems to come in and out. “Whoa. You okay?”
Dad’s words float to me, also muted and fuzzy. “Tate! Up here!” He waves wildly, and his grin is something from a carnival; his head is too big, his mouth too wide.
I blink down to my feet; my heart is a hammer, my ribs are nails. I’m trying to put all of this together, to figure out if I knew, if someone told me and I forgot. Did I lose this important piece of information somewhere along the line? How could he just be here? The trail weaves in front of me but I stare at it, willing it to come into focus, unable to look at the man beside Dad.
His face registered immediately who I was, but his expression revealed no shock. He stared grimly down the path at me and then bowed his head, exhaling a long, resigned breath.