Twice in a Blue Moon

Page 53

“She’s a chip off the old block,” he says.

“No one says that anymore.”

After a long beat of silence, his head falls back and he lets out a booming laugh. The pressure is released from the moment, and everyone else finally laughs too.

The wine flows, and even Gwen starts to loosen up, telling us stories from other sets: disasters, successes, urban legends that turn out to have been true. For a short while she even keeps Dad quiet and riveted. But then it’s his turn again and he dials up the charm. I’m faintly aware of the tables around us going quiet to listen to him, and my pulse picks up, worried about what he’ll say, and constantly aware of Sam so nearby, hearing everything.

With a few glasses of wine in my blood, I can no longer keep such a stranglehold on my thoughts, and the itch is back, tickling my brain, making me want to know whether Sam thought of me. Whether he saw my life taking off and ever regretted shoving me away the way he did. Were his feelings at all real? Or was it always a play to get money, from that very first night?

I tune back in to Dad, seeing directly through his veneer of self-deprecation, of humility. He’s telling one of his favorites, and at least this time it’s true: the first time he visited me on the Evil Darlings set, and all the ways I had the entire cast and crew wrapped around my finger. The subtext is always clear: my daughter has the magic touch—she got it from me.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Sam stand, check his phone, and then ask Devon something that makes him point over in the direction of the stairs, to the same office I had used to call Mom earlier. He straightens and crosses the room like a ship cutting through water.

He’s going to make a phone call.

Before I really think it through, curiosity propels my legs back so I’m standing, pretending I have to use the restroom, following Sam across the room.

I’m not even sure what I’m expecting to happen, what information I think I’m going to glean from this. But I need to know where he’s been all these years, who he calls after dinner.

Once he’s out of the dining hall and past the entryway, he climbs the stairs two at a time. He’s so long; maybe he’s in a hurry, maybe it’s just his stride. It means I have to fall back, hang in the shadows. My hands are sweating. My head is telling me to go finish dinner and stop playing Nancy Drew.

I just want to know who Sam Brandis is.

He ducks into the office, lifts the phone, and I hear him dial; there’s the electronic beep of a landline, touch-tone phone. I lean against a wall, pressing into the darkness.

If Sam is the man who can write the script I fell in love with, how can he also be the man who threw me to the world in London? How can this sensitive, compassionate writer live inside the body of such a heartless, cold man? I feel unbalanced. Maybe a little unhinged.

“Sorry to call so late,” Sam says quietly. “The service here sucks . . . No, I’m good. What’s the latest?”

A pause.

“So they’ll keep her overnight?” he asks. “Okay.” Another pause. “Okay, that’s good news at least. Shit, I’m sorry I’m not there.”

Is it about his mother? Or Roberta? I’m still trying to get clues from the words I’ve just heard when he says quietly, rumbling: “Sounds good, Katie. Kiss the girls for me. Tell them I love them.” A pause. “I will. Go get some sleep.”

With our backs on the grass and our faces to the sky, Charlie, Nick, Trey, and I proceed to finish off whatever bottles of wine were left half-empty on the various tables throughout the dining room once everyone left.

I’ve warned Charlie that she used to ski down the hill on cardboard boxes. I’ve reassured Nick that he’s sworn to secrecy now that he’s figured out Dad is full of shit. I’ve let Trey braid my hair, and the entire time I feel like a balloon being filled, pressure increasing inside me, but on glass of wine number four, I break.

“So I think he’s married,” I say. “And he’s definitely got kids.”

Charlie has been peeling the bark from a stick she found in the grass, but at these words, she aggressively tosses it into the bushes. “Motherfucker.”

“Can you believe it?” I ask, slurring and cutting out about two syllables. “I’m here, single, lonely, with all kinds of baggage, and he’s fucking married. With daughters.”

She groans and passes the current bottle of wine down the row. We’ve given up on the pretense of glasses. I take a swig and hand it to Trey, who partakes, even though he’s barely awake.

“Who’s married?” Nick asks. His words are slow, voice deep and hypnotic.

I stare at his mouth for a few seconds too long and it curves up into a smile. “Sam Brandis,” I say.

He nods drunkenly, the momentum keeping the nodding going for a few beats. “Your first love.”

“Why do you think he’s my first love?”

“Because I saw you react to him,” he reminds me. “You freaked the fuck out.”

“No, I was just surprised.”

He waves a heavy hand. “No, no, also you get that look.” He points to his own face and puts on a shocked expression that in no way demonstrates what a good actor he really is. He gives it up pretty quickly, too drunk to bother. “The one where it’s like you’re just trying to keep breathing around him. I think he’s your first and only.”

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