Article after article say the same general thing.
“This is insane!” I toss Charlie’s phone down on the couch. “Come on.”
“I agree it’s ridiculous,” Marco says. “But it’s also the current narrative, and everyone—and I do mean everyone—is running with it.”
“What are you doing to fix this?” I feel my voice thinning out, growing hysterical. One look at Marco and I’m reassured that my demands aren’t bothering him; he knows I’ve hit a proverbial wall.
“I’ve reached out to my contacts at AP and most of the networks.” Marco takes a deep breath. “But Sam isn’t refuting it, and neither is Ian.”
“Then get me an interview. I’ll explain it.”
Marco is already shaking his head.
“What about a statement?” Mom asks.
“We’ll issue a statement,” Marco explains patiently, “but we have to coordinate with Gwen and the studio, and that is not a fast-moving machine. Ultimately, this is on Sam, too. If he doesn’t get out in front of this and face the music, he looks like an opportunistic monster.”
“So we get out in front of this now and tell them the truth,” I say.
“And what’s that exactly?” Marco says quietly. “That he did exactly what everyone is saying he did?”
“You know that’s not true,” I practically shout. “They’re twisting everything. If we explain—”
“Tate, I need you to listen. You said you trust me, right?”
My heart is racing in my chest, adrenaline pumping. I manage a short nod.
“Then trust me to do my job. All these people care about is a sound bite. Something titillating enough to get people to click. They don’t care about excuses or extenuating circumstances because nobody has the attention span to read more than a headline or a tweet. In this version you come off looking like the victim, yeah, but also weak and gullible. That is not who you are or the brand we’ve created. Let Sam worry about Sam’s brand. We need to get out of here for a while and let the studio come up with a message. Then we talk about an interview.”
“I need to talk to Sam. I need to . . . find him.”
“He doesn’t want to be found, Tate. I’ve tried. Nobody can get ahold of him.”
I let that sink in. Was I wrong about him again?
Did I get tricked again?
“Okay.” I let out a long, slow breath. I’ve done this before—picked up my pieces and carried on. I can do it again. “When do we leave?”
MARCO MAKES ARRANGEMENTS FOR us to stay somewhere sequestered from the press. Before sending us out the back way, with a few security guys leaving in decoy cars, he also suggests I get in touch with some of my friends in the media or with big online followings. Not to give an official statement, but a quick call to convey that I know what’s happening, my team is on top of it, and I’ll reach out as soon as I’m able to say something concrete.
As usual, it was the perfect move. Now there are a handful of tweets along the lines of:
I know Tate and this story isn’t accurate.
Don’t believe everything you read.
Everyone needs to calm the hell down and wait for the real story to come out.
The tide changes, as it so often does online. My friends’ tweets are retweeted with confident commentary:
The knee-jerk reaction is never right
You fools jumped on that too fast
Get outta here with your drama shit
The rebuttals may not be entirely fair, but they’re enough to allow me to take a breath.
The house Marco finds for us is a breath of fresh air. I didn’t want a city, and I didn’t want the country or a cabin in the woods where I’d be reminded of Ruby Farm. Instead we drive to San Diego, take a flight to South Carolina, drive to Murrells Inlet and pull up in front of a two-story, gray-sided house that’s surrounded by beach and ocean. The clock reads 6:30 a.m. when I finally collapse into my bed with the Atlantic Ocean just outside my window.
I pull the blankets over my head, blocking out the burgeoning sunlight and wishing I could shut out the static in my brain just as easily. My mind is going haywire. The relationship I wanted with my dad is never going to happen. I let Sam back in, ignoring the voice in my head telling me to be careful this time. Regardless of how he feels or whatever circumstances are keeping him from reaching out, it doesn’t change that I am in the exact same position now I was then: alone, embarrassed, duped.
I want to put a name to this feeling and call it love. I’ve never felt before or since what I feel for Sam, and it’s a devotion so intense it makes me feel carved out and filled up with something warm and pliable. It’s like having a hundred hummingbirds in my blood, thrumming. Even thinking about him now is distraction enough from the madness of the gossip machine.
But he hasn’t called, hasn’t tried to get in touch with me. It doesn’t take that long to fly from California to Vermont. Has he decided what we have isn’t worth it? And am I really lying here wondering if I’m good enough for Sam Brandis again?
I close my curtains, turn out the lights, but it still takes three episodes of Schitt’s Creek on the small television to distract me from this spiral and to pull my ego back up above-water. Remember? I tell myself, You never wanted to feel this way again. The bliss is not worth the anguish.