I nod, still holding on to Oliver’s amused gaze, but they can’t see it so I manage a “Yes.”
“You’ll be great,” Benny says in his reassuring voice. “This is fantastic, Lola.”
“It is,” I agree in a squeak. I know Harlow would never understand this inclination of mine, but I really just want to hide in my writing cave until it’s all done and I can go see the film in a wig and sunglasses.
“Good,” Angela says. “It should be up on Variety within the hour. Enjoy the moment, Lola. This one is all yours.”
I can tell the call is about to end but there is the loud familiar clang of the dreaded glass door in in the background and a muffled male voice saying, “Fuck.”
Angela clears her throat. “Ah, it appears Austin would like a word.”
“Okay,” I say. Oliver has gotten up from the couch and steps into the kitchen.
“Lola!” Austin booms, and I’m glad I have it on speaker because against my ear it would have been deafening.
“Good morning,” I say, and reach up to playfully tap Oliver’s nose to draw his attention away from where he’s sternly staring at the phone.
“Look, I have a meeting in five,” Austin says, “so I just wanted to pop in, but I was thinking last night: what if Razor wasn’t from a parallel time loop, but actually from another planet?”
I blink, and my brain seems to stall out.
Oliver’s eyes widen, and he mouths, “What the hell?”
“Sorry,” I say, and shake my head to clear it. I thought Austin really connected to the book. “An alien? Like from Mars?”
“Well, the specifics could be decided down the road,” Austin says casually. “I’m just thinking that for the American public, an alien would be easier to understand than the idea of various parallel time loops.”
“But Doctor Who is a thing” is all I can think to say.
He laughs, thinking I’m being rhetorical. “Right? Well, just think on it. I think it could be a really easy change for us to make that wouldn’t influence the story much at all—just make it more accessible.”
I nod, and then realize again they can’t see me. “Okay, I’ll think about it.”
“Great!” he crows. “Talk to you later, Loles.”
My phone gives out three beeps, indicating the call has ended, and I carefully slide it onto the counter.
Oliver crosses his arms over his chest and leans back against the sink. “ ‘Loles’?”
My eyebrows inch up to the roof. “We’re starting with that?”
He laughs, shaking his head slowly. “I’m not sure either of us wants to start with Mars.”
I walk over to the fridge and pull out the bag of coffee beans. “I . . .” I turn, pouring the beans into the grinder, and look up at him helplessly as it loudly pulverizes my coffee. My brain is mush, my heart sags, my lungs seem to have given up and simply shut down.
Turning off the grinder, I say, “I don’t even know what to say. A Martian. An actual Martian. That’s not even a real suggestion, is it? I mean, Razor and all other Bichir evolved in Loop Four from the same earthly material we did, just . . . differently. In an alternate time, under alternate conditions.” I rest both hands on my head, trying not to panic. “The whole point of him, and who he is, is alternate evolution.” I look up into his deep blue eyes. “Here. On Earth. The only reason he cares about Quinn initially and what she’s doing is because Earth is his planet, too. It’s just a different version of it.”
I know Oliver already knows this, but talking it out will unknot something in me.
Either that or completely send me into a spiral.
“You can push back, Lola,” he says. “For what it’s worth, I don’t agree at all with Austin that it’s too complicated a story line.”
“I thought we might be discussing more nuanced changes,” I say, “like having Quinn fight only one attacker in her first fight, or having Razor come to her rescue a little sooner with the Andemys.”
Oliver shrugs, spinning a spoon on the tile countertop. “Yeah, me, too.”
“And a press release?” I shake my head, dumping the grinds into the coffeemaker. “I’m going to hide in the shop today, if that’s okay.”
“I think the shop may be the least hidey place you could find, Lola Love.”
I nod, loving the way he says my name. His o’s are always so wiggly, nothing makes my spirits lift like listening to his voice. “Are you hungry?”
He reaches beneath his shirt to scratch his stomach, and my heart dive-bombs into my feet. “Starving,” he says, shrugging.
I point to a pile of fruit on a platter and reach above the fridge for the cereal, grabbing the Rice Krispies because I know it’s what he wants. He’s already beside me at the fridge getting out the milk.
“I’m in a world where someone sends over social media copy,” I say. “I guess I should start some social media, huh?”
He laughs, peeling a banana. “Let Joe run your Twitter. He’d be good.”
Oliver shrugs as if to say, Like I said, and then pauses, staring back at me.