The moan I give for the camera might be fake, but the way his words snag and hold my attention is completely real.
“I mean, I am playing his grandmother in this scene. I’m sure he’s not enjoying watching this.”
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s what this is.”
I hate the jolt of adrenaline this gives me, because in what world does Sam have the right to be upset about any of this? And why do I care? I’m working.
We stop so a battery in the boom mic can be changed, and I stare up at the beams overhead. That’s the way movies are: hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. It leaves way too much time to think.
Because there’s that feeling again, the urge to break out of the box I’ve put myself in, the urge to rebel and tell Nick what really happened. “I told you, we had a fling when we were younger.”
“And he’s pissed a decade later.”
“He’s the one . . .” I pause, not sure how far down this track I intend to go. Nick is so easy to be with, so easy to confide in. Even now, he doesn’t push, just wraps a piece of my hair around his finger and waits for me to continue—or not. Like it’s my decision. Nothing about Sam has ever felt completely like my decision. But I’ve also been burned by spilling to a guy before and am not up for it to happen again, from lover or friend.
I lower my voice to barely a whisper. “Okay, complete vault here, Nick: Sam is the one who told the papers that I was Ian Butler’s daughter. He sold the story and then just sort of vanished, and I didn’t see him until that day on the trail.”
It’s a tribute to Nick’s acting skills that he barely reacts. “Okay,” he says, and gives the smallest tilt of his head. “That explains a lot. Wow.” After a minute, he adds, “What a dick.”
I straighten the leg that’s hidden by the sheet, just to have something to do. I feel restless and uneasy. I don’t exactly want to defend Sam, but a strange protectiveness builds in my chest.
“He had a really good reason for doing it,” I say, “and I know that now, but it doesn’t really erase the habitual rage from all the years I didn’t know it.”
“Makes sense.” He glances up. “He’s always looking at you. The man has longing in his eyes.”
“No he doesn’t. He has a wife. You’ve seen him go upstairs at the Comm House to call her every night. I’m sure it’s just awkward for him to watch this.”
Nick shrugs, unconvinced. “Whatever. Fuck that guy if he doesn’t know what he missed out on—whatever his reasons. I don’t care how nice he is now. Even if he were single, no way would you go for that again. Once bitten, and all that.”
I go quiet at this, and Nick looks down at me.
“You know I won’t tell anyone,” he says quietly. “I know I’ve been hounding you for the dirt, but only because your brand of quiet makes me mad curious. You can trust me.”
I don’t say it, but I know he sees it in my eyes. I hope so.
Gwen tells us we’re ready to roll, and once Nick is moving over me again, I know I’m mostly hidden from the cameras until the cameras move in for the tighter shots. I imagine how Nick looks from above, how the shape of me looks beneath the sheets, and wonder where Sam Brandis thinks he gets off being jealous, and why there’s a tiny, glowing ember in me that needed that petty consolation that this isn’t easy for him, either.
BY THIS POINT IN the shoot, the Ruby Farm staff seems pretty used to the nightly chaos caused by an entire cast and crew crowding around a campfire or taking over the dining hall in the Community House. In fact, many of them regularly join us. It’s cold out tonight, so the crowd inside is enormous. Some of the permanent staff have hauled a pool table into the main room. Someone else found an old, dusty karaoke machine. A brave—or masochistic—soul has passed around a couple bottles of Patrón, and everyone appears to be taking swigs as the amber bottles wind around the crowd.
I have an early call so I stick to wine, not wanting to deal with a headache in the morning on top of everything else. I listen to the conversations happening in our little circle, chiming in when I need to, all too aware of Sam on the far side of the room.
I catch him watching me a few times, always looking away the moment our eyes meet. He’s sitting with Gwen and Devon, but he doesn’t seem to be listening. And then I see it on the table between the three of them: my Vogue cover. The issue came out today; I completely forgot. They chose the Audrey Hepburn–style photo, the one that reminded me of myself, then.
I lift my eyes from the magazine on the table to find him studying me. Did he have the same reaction to the cover photo as I did? Did he read the profile, full of the same lies about my return to Hollywood that have always been told—never any mention of the man who, for better or worse, changed my life completely? Is that a flash of pain I’m seeing in his eyes?
It’s hard to deny what Nick said—I knew Sam once upon a time, and his expression isn’t completely without longing. Even so, he hasn’t bothered to come over, to tell me what he thought of the scenes today, to be at all social. Maybe I was wrong last night on the grass—no bond was forged. I feel perpetually wrong about that.
When he stands, he doesn’t do what I expect and head upstairs to make his nightly phone call to Katie. Instead, he heads toward the exit, and I feel an electric impulse to follow and poke at him. Maybe just to find a way to tell him to stop making this emotionally complicated for me. I don’t want to want him anymore. I don’t like the feeling that I would kiss him in a heartbeat if I could. This is the trouble with sets like ours: It’s forced proximity, intense and constant. It makes the rest of the world fall away.