I need him on my side, at least until I can come up with a plan.
“We’re going to need to brainstorm some damage control in the car,” I say. I look back at my father. “It sounds like we’ll all be heading out soon, so I’ll reach out to Althea about Christmas.”
Dad’s confident smile returns. “Sounds good, cupcake.” He leans in to kiss my cheek and then offers his hand to Marco.
Out of nowhere, hot, betrayed tears prick at my eyes, but I quickly blink them away.
“Marco,” Dad says, “it was nice seeing you, as always.”
“Likewise.” Marco and I watch as Dad makes his way back to his Tesla, small puffs of dust kicked up by his feet. I assume he’ll just send someone to the farm to pack up his things; he has more important things to do than take care of a suitcase full of clothes. With a final wave and his trademark smile, he pulls the car around and drives back down toward the gate.
The subsequent silence is heavy.
“I’m sorry, Tate,” Marco says finally.
“It’s just business,” I tell him. “I should be used to it.”
“No, you shouldn’t be.”
Shoulders sagging, I feel the enormous weight of everything happening. “I know you want to jet, but I need to talk to Sam.”
He stops me with a hand around my arm when I’ve only taken one step down the path. “Tate . . .”
The swell of dread rises higher and higher in my throat. Not again. Please. “He’s gone, isn’t he?”
Marco looks ten years older. “Gwen put him on a plane.”
“Did he leave a note or say anything?”
Sensing my impending panic, Marco takes a step forward. “He didn’t, Tate, but honey, I need you to listen to me.”
“I don’t,” I say, beginning to feel light-headed. “I don’t understand what’s happening. He just left?”
Marco places a hand on each of my shoulders, and bends to meet my eyes. “We’ll go over everything once we’re out of here, but here’s what I know right now. I got a call from one of my guys this morning saying he’d received an anonymous tip, and a few others were already headed here. They’re also staked outside your place, Nana’s house,” he pauses, swallowing. “And Sam’s farm.”
My eyes snap up to his. “In Vermont?”
“I’m sure they’re already talking to his neighbors, his ex-wife—”
“Her baby just got out of the hospital,” I tell him.
Marco nods. “Tate, I had to call Gwen. This is a multimillion dollar film, and one of the biggest scandals in Hollywood has just been dropped in the middle of it. This shit is like candy to these guys”—He lifts his chin toward the front gate where the photographers are undoubtedly still waiting—“and the studio needs to be ahead of it. I’m sure you have at least a dozen messages by now—something you’d know if you had your damn phone with you.” Frowning, he tells me, “Sam was gone before I got here.”
“Marco,” I say, and the idea that hits me feels so terrible, it makes my hands grow immediately cold. “You don’t think Sam had anything to do with it, right? Calling the press? Like, we agree this was all Ian.”
“We agree it was all Ian.” His mouth turns down into a grim line. “I know that doesn’t make it any easier. From what Gwen told me, Sam was as shocked about all this as any of us. He’s going to go retreat to his support system, and you need to go home to yours. Your mom flew down about an hour ago. She’ll be at your place when you get to LA.”
I take a few seconds to press the heels of my hands to my eyes. I don’t know what his support system looks like. His ex-wife is going to have her hands full. Roberta and Luther are gone. Does Sam even have a manager? This is going to be a pain in the ass for me, but it is going to be brutal for him, and he’s going to need all the help he can get.
I know this, and I keep repeating it over and over, but when we reach the Oakland airport almost three hours later and I still haven’t heard from him, my stomach feels like a hard, sour pit. Everything’s a mess. Between the last-minute flight, the stress of knowing this story is out there and the message is careening out of control, and the chaos of the press—there’s so much happening. Maybe his phone is being inundated. Maybe he just turned it off. Maybe he doesn’t have my number—why would he? Maybe it’s going to take a few calls to find me, and maybe he assumed, like I should, that we’ll figure it all out when the dust settles.
After the cabin at the farm, my house feels enormous and sterile. The art I used to see as minimalist and clean just looks lonely on the expansive, white walls. My living room—filled with white furniture I once thought of as inviting and cloud-like—just seems overly precious; not anything someone could actually collapse on at the end of a day.
Even my bedroom is too big, too empty, too impersonal.
Oddly, just imagining Sam here with me—stretching out long and muscular on my bed, reading on my couch in socks and sweats, whistling while he cooks dinner at my massive stove—makes this house feel incrementally warmer. For the first time in my life I get it: home isn’t always a space; it can be a person.
I turn and stare out the window while Mom folds laundry on my bed.