I glance at Benny—this is the most open I’ve ever been about my life and my book, and surprise is clear on his face.
“How old were you when your mom left?” Austin guesses. He’s acting like there isn’t anyone else in the room with us, and it’s easy to pretend there isn’t, the way everyone has grown so still.
“Twelve. Right after my dad got back from Afghanistan.”
The room seems to be swallowed by silence after I say this, and Austin finally heaves out a sigh. “Well, that’s shit.”
He leans in again, eyes insistent when he says, “I love this story, Lola. I love these characters. We’ve got a screenwriter who will knock this out of the park. Do you know Langdon McAfee?”
I shake my head, embarrassed because the way he says it makes me feel like I should, but Austin waves away the question. “He’s great. Laid-back, smart, organized. He wants to cowrite this with you.”
I open my mouth at this unexpected revelation—me, cowriting a screenplay—and nothing but a choking noise comes out.
Austin keeps talking through my stunned reaction: “I want to talk a lot, okay?” He’s already nodding as if prompting me. “I want this to be everything you want it to be.” Leaning in, he smiles and says, “I want you to see your dream come to life.”
“TELL ME THE details again,” Oliver says. “I’m not sure you were speaking English the first time.”
He’s right. I’ve barely caught my breath—let alone remembered how to make words—since I tripped into his comic book store, Downtown Graffick, already babbling. Oliver looked up when I burst in, his sweet smile slowly dissolving into confusion as I spilled a thousand incoherent words and my emotions all over the floor. I spent two hours on the drive back from L.A. on the phone with my dad, struggling to process the rest of the meeting. Not that it really helped because, here, saying it out loud in front of one of my favorite people makes it surreal all over again.
In the eight months we’ve been friends, I don’t think Oliver has ever seen me like this: stuttering and breathless and near tears because I’m so overwhelmed. I pride myself on being steady and unruffled even with my friends, and so I’m trying to get myself together, but goddamn, it is hard.
out of my childhood ideas.
“Okay,” I start again, taking a huge breath and blowing it out slowly. “Last week, Benny called and said something was going on with the film option.”
“I thought he sent it out—”
“Months ago,” I interrupt. “Right. It’s always silence before the explosion, I guess? Because on the drive from his office to their office this morning, he told me it sold in this insane bidding war. . . .” I press my palm to my forehead. “I’m sweating. Look at me, I’m sweating.”
He does look, eyes softening as he laughs, then shakes his head a little before he blinks back down at the box he’s cutting open. “This is unbelievable, Lola. Keep talking.”
“Columbia and Touchstone won,” I tell him. “We drove to the offices and I met some people today.”
“And?” He looks back up at me as he pulls a stack of books out of the box. “Did they impress?”
“I mean . . .” I flounder, remembering how it felt when Austin turned his attention to everyone else in the room, and the meeting dissolved into a blur of acronyms and under-the-breath instructions to make note of Langdon’s schedule for the script kickoff and see if we can get the P&L to Mitchell by noon. “Yes? There were a couple people there who were sort of quiet and stiff, but the executive producer—Austin Adams—is so genuinely nice. I was so overwhelmed that I don’t know how much I was processing.” I run both hands into my hair and tilt my head up to the ceiling. “This is all so insane. A movie.”
“A movie,” Oliver repeats, and when I look back at him, I see him watching me with his mysterious, warm blue eyes.
He licks his lips and I have to look away. Oliver is both my former husband and my current crush, but it will forever remain unrequited: our marriage was never really a marriage. It was that-thing-we-did-in-Vegas.
Of course, the other two couples who hooked up in Vegas—our friends Mia and Ansel, and Harlow and Finn—are happily married. But Oliver and I occasionally (especially when drunk) like to commend ourselves for being the only ones who did the shotgun Vegas wedding thing like normal people: with nothing but regret, an annulment, and a hangover. Given the emotional distance he’s always kept, I’m pretty sure he’s the one out of the two of us who really means it when he praises our choice.
“And it isn’t just oh, we like the idea, let’s buy this option and sit on it,” I say. “They bought it and already have a director in mind. We talked about possible casting choices today. They have a big effects guy asking to be involved.”
“Unreal,” he murmurs, leaning forward to give me his undivided attention. And if I didn’t know Oliver better, I would think he just glanced at my mouth. But I do know him better: he just looks at every part of my face when I’m speaking. He is the best listener.
“And . . . I’m going to cowrite the script,” I tell him, a little breathless, and his eyes widen.
While I launch into a replay of the entire meeting this morning, Oliver goes back to unpacking the newest shipment of comics, looking up at me occasionally wearing his absorbed, little smile. I thought that over time I might figure out what he’s thinking, how he’s reacting to something. But he’s still largely unreadable to me. The loft apartment I share with my friend London is only two blocks away from Oliver’s comic store, and even though I see him nearly every day, I still feel like I spend half the time we’re together trying to work through what he might have meant by this or that single-syllable answer or lingering smile. If I were more like Harlow, I would simply ask.