We watch the fire, blinking at each crack and pop that sends sparks up into the air, mesmerized by the soothing twist of the flames. Outside the tent the sky stretches overhead, vast and black and blanketed with stars that seem close enough to touch. I hate how many times in my life I’ve looked up at a sky just like this and thought of Sam pointing out the constellations.
“I’m nervous about tomorrow,” I admit quietly. “It’s a big scene, and having them both there watching makes me feel like a dumb kid again.”
Charlie reaches over to grab my hand, weaving her fingers through mine. “But you’re not.”
EXT. FLO AND FREEZE—DAY
A beautiful summer evening. Richard and Ellen eat at an outdoor table beneath the shade of a large tree.
People at nearby tables steal glances their way. TWO MEN stand and walk over. Richard keeps his eyes down. Ellen is scared but meets their gaze directly.
She knows what this is about.
Can I help you?
The two men keep their eyes on Richard.
Ma’am, is this man bothering you?
Have I given some indication that he is?
Their eyes shift to Richard again.
No, ma’am, but—
But what? We’re sitting here trying to eat our dinner, and you’re interrupting us.
Richard reaches for her hand on the table and speaks softly to her.
Ellen . . .
Man 2’s hand shoots out, gripping Richard by the wrist to stop him.
Son, you better mind those hands.
Don’t you live up on the big farm on Sutter Lake Road?
Not that it’s any of your business, but yes. It’s my father’s farm.
He know you’re running around with one of them?
A tense moment of silence. Richard has kept his eyes down, but lifts them to meet Ellen’s across the table. Richard’s face is tight with controlled anger.
My father doesn’t get a say in who I run around with. And if he did he’d sure as hell tell me to stay away from a couple of ignorant fools like you.
Man 1 moves towards Ellen. Richard stands up.
Somebody ought to teach you—
The MANAGER of the restaurant steps up to the table.
Is there a problem here?
These men were just commenting on the weather, but they’re done now.
The manager looks between them. The two men eventually leave. Alone again, Richard looks down at the table.
I wish you wouldn’t do that.
Do what? Try to eat my dinner in peace? I paid fifteen cents for this hamburger and now it’s cold.
A soft look across the table.
You know what I mean.
I do know what you mean. I always thought I was talked down to for being a woman, but I’m beginning to see it pales in comparison.
It isn’t safe.
These fools run all over the county on Friday nights tipping cows, for God’s sake, but have the nerve to think they have some sort of genetic superiority because of the color of their skin? (beat) I’m not naive, Richard. I know I’m allowed to speak up because I’m white, and you’ve been made to feel like you can’t because you’re black. Please don’t ask me to stay quiet. I know you worry. If I’m honest, I worry, too.
Richard holds her gaze.
Someone should marry you, Ellen Meyer.
Maybe someone should do it right . . .
It’s as if everyone on set gives one collective exhale.
Gwen moves to check the shot, and Nick grins at me from across the table.
“Holy fuck, that was good.”
A breeze twists through the scattered picnic tables and I nod in agreement, unable to shake an odd sense of déjà vu. I rub my arms as goose bumps rise to the surface of my skin. “Yeah . . . it was.”
Nick’s smile straightens; head tilting as he considers me. “You okay?”
“Just . . . intense, that’s all.”
He nods, and we’re both startled when Gwen claps her hands from behind the wall of monitors. “That looks good!” she shouts to the crew, before conferring with Sam and the script supervisor. Nodding in agreement, they each make a note, Sam in his laptop and the script supervisor in her book. When Gwen turns back to us, I force myself to focus on her, not Sam.