“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” I say. I feel spinny, like I’ve had one drink too many. I have had one drink too many. “I don’t want to talk about Sam ever again.”
“I need to get this one to bed.” Charlie stands, pulling Trey up. “I’ll see you at five,” she tells me, and I groan.
I pull back Nick’s sleeve on his sweater to look at his watch. It’s after midnight, and most everyone has been smart enough to go to bed early. Only a small group, some of the camera crew and sound techs, remains at a table inside the dining hall. Devon reminded us of our call time and gave us both lingering Be good looks before disappearing to his own cabin. We probably should have taken his nonverbal advice, but drinking wine was so much more appealing; I needed something to put out the fire in my blood after hearing Sam on the phone to what was very clearly a wife.
Kids. How does he get to be a dad? How does he get to have his shit together?
I’m sure whenever he thinks about my life, Sam thinks everything turned out okay. I’m famous. I have my dad back. Everything is great. Except my personal life is a total mess, and it’s his fault. He’s the one who taught me what love looked like and felt like and then taught me it’s a lie. I have never been able to come back from that.
“No shit,” Nick says. “That sucks.”
I groan, swinging my head to look at him. “Did I say all that out loud?”
“You did,” he says, nodding.
“About how he taught you what love looked like and that it’s a lie.” He grins. “You also said how you wanted to make out with me under this tree.”
I gasp. “I said that, too?”
He laughs. “No, but now I know it’s true.”
“You’re trouble,” I tell him.
“Not really.” His words are so gentle, they’re almost self-deprecating. It feels like he’s admitting he’s a mess, too, that distraction is good for everyone. If I were less tipsy, I would press into this a little, turn the attention away from my heartache and toward his.
But I am tipsy.
We come together like we’re falling forward, mouths meeting in a sweet, messy press of breath, and tongue, and teeth. It stirs me, waking that heat in my belly for the first time in so long. I haven’t loved since Sam, but I’m not dead inside, either.
Even so, it doesn’t feel right. It only lasts the span of a few kisses before I’m turning my face away. Nick kisses my neck, my jaw, my ear. It’s so sloppy, so loose; I have the sense that we’re leaning sideways and then we are, toppling over.
Nick laughs into my neck. “What are we doing?”
“God, we are too drunk for this.”
He helps me stand, and I brush off my jeans, struggling to remain steady.
“You kissed me,” I say.
“I think you kissed me.” Nick grins at me, asking again, “What are we doing?”
“Getting into the role?”
“Did I tell you I’m nervous about the sex scenes?” he drunkenly stage-whispers.
And I know as soon as he says this that I have another friend on set. A genuine, new friend.
“You’ll be fine.” I point a weaving finger to my chest. “I’m a pro.”
When I straighten, I see a shape in the shadows, walking quietly past us down the trail. It’s not hard to make out who it is; no one else’s walk stirs in me this brand of nostalgic heartache.
I don’t know where he was coming from, what he saw, or what he heard. I know Nick and I weren’t kissing for more than a couple seconds—
I immediately drag the next thought forward to the front: It doesn’t matter how long we were going at it or what he saw. What Nick and I do isn’t Sam’s business.
But I hate that he saw this. Already I can tell that it didn’t mean anything romantic to Nick, either, but it’s messy, and I don’t like to be messy. I don’t want Sam to see me like this. I know the reason I kissed Nick in the first place is also the reason I don’t want to name that other feeling in me, the one that Sam pushes on like a bruise. But it’s too late. My truth magnet is back, and never before and never since him have I ever felt such acute, painful, delicious longing.
A part of me still wants him.
And he’s married.
I’M FALLING IN LOVE with nearly everything about this shoot—other than the presence of Sam and Dad, that is. I love working with Nick. I’m enamored with Gwen. Devon, Liz, Deb—they’re all masters. And as much as becoming Ellen is a complete revelation, at the end of the day there’s also something cathartic about coming back to my cabin, peeling off my costume, washing the decades off my face, and turning back into Tate.
But with no Netflix or internet, no town to visit or hotel bar to take over, the evening hours sometimes seem to stretch for an eternity. We only have a few night shoots—the big barn-burning scene is coming up about midway through our schedule—which leaves most of our evenings free, so the craft services crew gets creative, hosting barbecues and campfires up near some of the common buildings.
Dad once told me that Hollywood was very different in the seventies and eighties, and being on location for an extended shoot was like being at a very grown-up, R-rated version of camp. Drugs were prevalent, sex was everywhere, there were no cell phones or cell phone cameras, no internet, no political correctness, or Big Brother watching your every move. He described drug dealers coming right on set, with cast and crew lining up and ready to spend their per diem, drunken parties that lasted long after the sun came up.