I don’t know what to make of this, or how to process the tiny, carbonated feeling that courses down my arms to my fingertips. It feels dangerous to be this close to him, and not because I want him, or want him to want me—but because my body genuinely doesn’t know how to react to him at all. I’m cycling through a hundred feelings every minute. Am I angry? Indifferent? Happy to see him doing well? I think the fact that I never got to fall out of love with him—that I just had to keep moving forward, stumbling into something new, and totally different—means that my brain and heart don’t know the protocol here.
I keep my expression neutral. “You didn’t look like you believed I could do it though,” I remind him.
“I absolutely believe you can,” he says quietly. “And you looked right at me, and—look, I was just remembering—in spite of everything—how well we did as a team. I’m on your team, Tate.”
The way our thoughts had aligned rocks through me.
But, “That was your way of being on my team? An angry nod?”
“I don’t think I meant it to look angry.” He lets out a long breath and seems to deflate. “This is hard for me, too, okay? Really complicated.” I start to laugh, and he quickly adds, “I mean, I know it’s definitely harder for you—”
Self-preservation rushes to the surface. “It isn’t just having you here that’s stressful. It’s also having my dad.”
I think saying this out loud was a mistake; I sense it in the way Sam turns to look at the side of my face. “I thought you two were close?”
Now I’m trapped between lying and offering him something real that I’m not sure I’m willing to give. I remembered last night, while lying awake, that Sam had promised to come with me to LA to find my dad. Instead, I’ve muddled through the farce of it alone ever since.
Wait, I realize, Sam thinks he’s the hero of this story, by reuniting father and daughter, by enabling me to have a dream career. Parts of that are true, parts aren’t, but regardless, he doesn’t get to be the good guy here.
“I mean,” he says, “that’s how it looks from the outside.”
“That’s how it’s supposed to look.” I stand, swiping any dirt from the back of my skirt and get back to work.
Over the next week, we shoot the scenes leading up to the moment that Richard finally wins Ellen over—through autumn and the fake rain, to summer and the brilliant sun mimicked by a hundred intense lights aimed directly at the porch. By the time Nick stands at his mark, facing me from across the yard, the budding relationship feels hard-earned and I’m jittery in that electric, impatient kind of way to see Richard walking up my driveway, flowers in hand.
EXT. MEYER FAMILY FARM, BACKYARD—NEW DAY
Ellen looks up to see Richard rounding the house, holding flowers. Warily, she looks to her father in the porch rocking chair—his expression is vacant—and then back at the man on her lawn.
My answer is still no.
Richard nods, tipping his hat.
Would you mind if I asked again tomorrow?
She bites her lip to stifle a smile. With a little smile of his own, Richard turns to leave. From the porch, her father looks up, and seems to come into the moment.
You like him.
Fine? I see the way you hover outside, waiting for him to show up every day. But I didn’t think you’d much care what the town thinks about who you choose to dine with.
Ellen stares at William. It is the first lucid thing her father has said in days, and it catches her off guard.
I don’t care what they think.
Then why refuse a nice meal with a nice man?
You think I have time for a nice meal or a nice man?
You have all the time you make for them. I know you don’t want another Daniel, but I don’t want you lonely.
Deeply affected by this, Ellen walks to the side porch, sees Richard halfway down the driveway: hat on, shoulders square, roses in his fist as he leave.
I don’t like roses!
Richard turns, and with a grin, tosses the flowers into the field.
I don’t like flowers at all.
I like steak, though. Think you could find me a good steak?
Richard’s radiant smile could light a dark night. Ellen grins and then tries to smother it down as she straightens and turns back to her father.