I wind my way through the tables and out the door, into the chill of the lawn outside. Sam’s footsteps crunch on the gravel up ahead, and I have to lengthen my strides to keep up. Once we’re far enough away from the Community House, I call out to him.
He turns around, surprised, but his eyes immediately turn wary. “Hey. What’s up?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing.” I reach forward, give him a gentle punch to the shoulder. “What’s going on?”
He squints at me. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t do that.” Inside I’m all twisty. Am I reading him wrong? Am I projecting or seeing what I want to see? I’m trying to make things easy between us, why isn’t he? “You’ve been weird since the shoot this morning.”
At this, he winces and looks away, to the side. I hate how every little thing lately reminds me of the boy in the garden: the angle of his face, the set of his shoulders, even the cold air around us.
All I get is: “I’m sorry if I was weird.”
“Can you at least tell me why? I mean, if it was awkward, you could have stepped out.” The truth flows out of me. “You’re making me feel like I did something wrong.”
I laugh. “Well, I know that, I’m just trying to figure out what happened.”
He takes a breath that seems to draw in for ages. Finally: “I guess I’m having a bit of a hard time with Nick and everything.”
I scrunch my nose, trying to puzzle this one out. “With Nick?”
Sam looks back at me. “Yeah. You and Nick. Watching the scene today was hard.” He laughs, raking his fingers through his hair as he looks away. “I realize it was a set. I mean, I wrote the fucking movie, right? But I just had this awareness that you were naked there. That he was—” He breaks off, cursing. “Just—God, I sound insane.”
“You do, but say it anyway.”
Sam returns his gaze to mine. “I was jealous. It seemed so real when you were kissing. And you kissed before, though you said it was nothing. Look. I know it’s unfair.”
“Unfair for like a million reasons,” I agree, voice tight. I’ll put up with a lot, but I won’t be someone’s mental cat toy.
A tree branch creaks overhead, and I’m aware of every second of silence that passes between us. I expected him to deny that anything was wrong. His honesty leaves me dizzy.
“I made my choice all those years ago. I get that I have to live with it. I’ll do better,” he says.
“What does that even mean? ‘Do better’?”
“I’ll try to keep my shit under control, is what I’m saying. I’ll try to manage my jealousy.”
“Oh my God,” I say, angry now. “Please tell me you’re joking. You’re married, Sam. Don’t you have children at home? You don’t get to go away for a few months and pretend to be heartbroken when you look at me acting out a sex scene you wrote.”
His brows draw together, and the shadows emphasize each year that has passed between us. “Married?”
“Your wife? On the phone? I heard you talking to Katie. About the girls?”
His expression clears. “Katie is my ex-wife, Tate. Ex.”
The ground drops out from under me. “Oh.”
“All this time you thought I was married?”
“We’ve been divorced for three years, but we’re still good friends,” he tells me. “She met a new guy a couple years ago and they just had twins. One of them isn’t doing so hot, so she had to have heart surgery.”
“Oh my God. I’m sorry.”
“She’ll be okay,” he says, waving a hand. “She’s a fighter.”
I don’t know if what I feel is relief or terror. Relief that Sam isn’t married. Terror because Sam is single. “How long—when?”
Thankfully, he knows what I’m asking. “We met when I was twenty-nine. Got married pretty fast.” He wipes a hand over his beard. “In hindsight I know I just wanted Luther and Roberta to see me settled. To not worry about me. We split up after three years.”
I try to fit this new information into the story I’d created—the image of him with this perfect wife, perfect life—and I can’t. I’ve been so angry for so long, and I’m not even sure what it was about anymore. About his life, or the shortcomings in mine?
“Apparently I wasn’t a great husband.” He pauses, narrowing his eyes. “She’s a great woman, though, and I’m lucky that she still wants to be family. But if you had just asked me any of this before, I would have told you everything. Why didn’t you ask?”
“What was I supposed to ask you?”
“Anything. About this wife you think I had. The daughters. If you’d just talk to me, we could avoid at least half our problems.”
“Because your track record is so great,” I say, pulse picking up. “Because protecting my feelings and my truths has always been at the top of your priority list.”
“You told me to stay away and, other than to tell you how good you were at the role, I did. Every time we have a blowup like this, it’s you seeking me out. You want the truth?” he asks, shoving his hands deep into his front pockets and leaning forward. “I hated seeing you in the grass with Nick. I hated seeing you in the bed today with him. I don’t have any right, but I did. Every time you’re near me I can’t touch you, I can’t pull you closer. I have to sit in it, stew in it. You’re beautiful, and hilarious, and ambitious. You’re still—” He cuts off, shaking his head. “I have to see what I had and what I gave up. But feeling bad for myself isn’t how this works, is it? I made the choice.” He takes a step away from me. “This is me living with it.” He takes another step away. “I’ll apologize a million more times, I swear, but just let me have a bad fucking mood tonight.”