Twice in a Blue Moon

Page 52

Nick looks up, and points across the water to where Gwen walks along the lake edge with Sam and Liz, the three of them deep in conversation. I’m guessing they’re done shooting for the day, and the sun is already sagging in the sky, threatening to duck below the tree line and pull the cold air over us like a blanket.

I stand, just as Nick teases, “I’m gonna find out what happened with you and the writer.”

“Why do you think it’s at all interesting?” I ask, keeping my tone playful. “I told you we were just kids.”

“Nah. I’m going to be here with you for, what? Two months?” he says. “I want to get in that head of yours. And that story feels like a real glimpse at you. You’re an enigma, you have to know that.”

Charlie and Trey go still, as if they’re working to be invisible during this conversation.

“I’m an enigma?”

“Beautiful,” he says, “but sort of unknowable.”

Huh. That’s exactly how I’d describe my father.


EVERYONE GATHERS IN THE Community House for dinner together; tonight it’s a rustic spread of roasted chicken, root vegetables grown on the farm, salad, bread, and for dessert, apple pie. I sit at a table with Dad and Marissa, Nick, Gwen, Liz, and Deb. It’s fun, and definitely good to bond with all of them together, but I find myself glancing in yearning every now and then at the raucous table just beside us with Devon, the teenage versions of Ellen and Richard, some of the livelier members of the crew . . . and Sam.

Despite what my head tells me, my eyes have missed the sight of him. It’s so crazy how we age but don’t completely change; how I can still see the twenty-one-year-old in him. I’ve imagined him so many times in the first few years after London, tried to remember exactly what he looked like, the way he sounded. And then I worked to forget him entirely, and mostly succeeded. It’s hard to believe I’m not staring at a mirage.

My attention is jerked back to our table when I realize Dad is telling a story about me. “. . . she ran off the deck and jumped right into the river. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

Everyone laughs knowingly—kids, am I right?—but I scrabble through my thoughts to place the story he’s telling. The only time I remember running and jumping off a deck into the river is up in Guerneville, where Dad has literally never been.

“Apparently she and Charlie did it all the time,” he says, shaking his head. “They’d just never done it before during any of my visits.” Dad meets my eyes and winks. My fingers tingle cold. “She probably knew I’d go insane if I saw that. Such a cute little river kid.”

He’s full-on telling a story about something that never happened. It’s not unexpected that we’d have to share some fabricated father-daughter time—we’ve had to do it once or twice for magazine interviews—but I’m aware of Nick watching me closely, remembering what I said earlier. And as complicated as my feelings are about Dad, I don’t want him to be exposed publicly as a liar. I’m aware of everyone else watching me, waiting for me to chime in with my side of the story.

I smile over my wineglass at him. “No one ever got hurt,” I say.

“As far as I know,” Dad teases, eyes light. Our eyes lock, and his are so full of glimmering adoration, it seems he believes the lie as much as everyone else does.

“So—wait,” Gwen says, “you’re talking about Charlie, from hair and makeup?” She looks at me. “Did I hear right that you’ve been friends for years?”

“Since elementary school, yeah,” I say. “She’s a trip.”

“Oh, Charlie,” Dad says, laughing. “Now she was a handful.” He leans back in his chair and regales everyone with stories about some fictional version of my best friend, daredevilish in ways that feel true to Charlie’s spirit but are completely fabricated. Skiing down hills on cardboard skis, climbing water towers our town didn’t even have. I look around—my eyes flitting past Sam’s broad form only a few feet away—and find her at a table with Trey and a few of the grips. I make a mental note to tell her about all the trouble she got up to as a kid later. Dad didn’t actually meet her until she was well into her twenties.

I risk a glance at Sam as I turn back around, and he’s looking directly at me, smiling at something Devon has just said, but his eyes are distant, like he’s really only straining to hear what is happening at my table. He blinks away when our eyes meet, down to his plate, and spears a piece of chicken.

I tune back into Dad, talking now about what it was like to volunteer in my classroom and try to pretend like he wasn’t Ian Butler. My God. I feel half of Nick’s attention on me, half on my father, as if he’s trying to put together what version of the story to believe. Does he see me as the bitter child of a Hollywood legend, trying to make him look like a deadbeat dad? Or does he see through Ian’s lies and my bright smile to the facade we’re trying to maintain?

“Okay, Dad,” I say finally, laughing lightly. “Enough embarrassing the kid.”

He grins, and stretches his arm across the back of Marissa’s chair. “You know you love it.”

No words. I have no words.

Liz shakes her head at us. “You two are so cute.”

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