I feel frozen in place. I’ve never heard Lola talk this way to . . . well, anyone. The logical part of my brain is telling me to turn around and call her later, and that nobody ever heard anything they liked while eavesdropping. But a larger part of me is intrigued, dying to know who she’s talking to and fascinated by this side of her.
There’s a rhythmic thump on the other side of the door, the sound of her boots as she paces back and forth across the wooden kitchen floor. I’m just about to leave when the sound comes to an abrupt stop.
“No, I absolutely understand what you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that Razor wouldn’t do that. I know there’s a certain feel you’re going for, but it’s in direct contrast to anything the main character would do.”
My eyes widen and my stomach evaporates into nothing. She’s talking to Austin. Holy shit. There’s a minute of silence punctuated by “Uh-huh” and “Yeah,” and “I see,” and I’m holding my breath, wondering if she’ll stick to her guns or let him turn the conversation around and manipulate her into getting what he wants. My heart is pounding so hard in my chest I briefly worry she’ll be able to hear me from inside.
I didn’t realize until right now how badly I needed to see her take charge of her career again. It was eating her alive. It was changing her.
“Listen,” she says, and I can hear the forced calm in her voice, “I feel like I’ve been really accommodating about a lot of the changes you’ve asked for, and like I told you, I understand where you’re coming from, I do. You make movies. I don’t. But what I do do is write stories and create characters and build worlds, and the two characters in this world are not in love with each other. There’s no romance angle to play up, no sexual tension. Change that and Razor’s motives and every one of his actions can be called into question. He does the things he does because he sees what she can become, not because he’s in love with her.”
I press my hand to the doorframe and feel my chest unwind. And despite everything that’s happened between us the last few days, I’m smiling, knowing Lola is fighting for the things she loves. She can take care of herself. If Lola can handle a studio full of film executives, she can fight her way back to me.
Finn’s words replay in my head and although he made a few good points, I know Lola. She might be inexperienced when it comes to relationships but when she wants something, she knows how to fight for it. She doesn’t need saving. If I went in there now and tried to walk her through everything between us, I’d always wonder if she’d have come back to me on her own.
I have to believe she’ll fight for us, that I’m not wrong about her. I have to believe that I want to be there for her, always, but that she doesn’t need me to be.
I move away from the door and turn back toward the elevator, the sound of her voice growing fainter and fainter with each step.
IT’S BEEN SO long since I’ve slept in my childhood bed that it takes me a full five seconds to figure out where I am when I wake up.
It’s the glass knob on my closet door that clues me in. Every single door in this house has these giant, crystal knobs. Mom bought them on a whim during one of Dad’s deployments, and spent an entire weekend furiously swapping out the generic brass ones for these. They’re heavy, and seem to glow like an eye at the perimeter of each door. It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about this old Craftsman house: everything feels so sturdy, even when the human contents seem to fall apart with the slightest breeze.
He pauses and then the knob turns and he pokes his head in. “I didn’t hear you come in last night.”
“I came to check on you but you were already sawing some pretty serious logs. I’m not surprised you didn’t hear me.”
He laughs stepping into the room and I see he’s holding two mugs of coffee in one hand. “I don’t remember the last time you slept here.”
“Me, either.” I sit up and pull my hair back from my face. A glance at the clock tells me it’s only six. Dad has always been an early riser from his days in the Marines; he considers this letting me sleep in.
“You didn’t have to come all the way over here.”
Taking the coffee from him, I say, “I wanted to. It’s been a while since you liked someone as much as you liked Ellen. I want to see you happy.”
Dad looks at me skeptically. “You hated her.”
“Okay, maybe I didn’t like her, but maybe I also wanted to be here for you, jerkface.”
“I’m okay.” He grins. “Maybe you needed a change of scenery.”
I inhale the steam, and let it help wake up my brain. “Maybe.”
Dad sits on the corner of my bed near my feet and sips from his mug, staring at the wall. I can sense the looming start of a conversation, the moment when he talks about Ellen, or asks me more about what’s going on with work, with me. I feel restless in my skin, like I’m not sure I want to be here, but I don’t really want to go home, either.
To be honest, it’s how I feel about every single thing in my life right now: I want this career I’ve created but I want it to be smaller, simpler, more manageable. I want Oliver, but I don’t want to need him so much. I want to be able to breathe without feeling like my chest is bound with rope but everything is dialed up to eleven right now. And most of all, I want to know how to fix what I’ve done. The prospect feels overwhelming.