Chapter Two: After hours
It’s summer, but that doesn’t stop the earth from spraying a cold breeze over the land. As Amy is wrapped in a warm hoodie, casually dressed instead of neatly styled, she makes her way over to her parents’ company. Every since she was a little, blond girl, becoming part of the movie industry has been her lifetime goal.
Her mom and dad inherited a movie company called Wolfe Movies ten years ago, when granddad and grandma decided to step back and enjoy their much deserved retirement. Of course, the company logo is a wolf. All she has ever known is being on sets and watching actors give their best and worst performances. There’s something magical about the industry. The way imaginary worlds are created, how written words can be uttered to warm hearts or break them, how the chemistry between actors can spark off the screen. Amy had always believed in true love. The fact that she fell in love with her best friend only intensified that belief. Until she was left alone, of course, and Alex took off as if they had never meant anything to one another. Ever since then, she finds trouble in reading romantic scripts and capturing them perfectly on film.
By the time she arrives at the studios, she finds Hal 5 transformed into a replica of a suburban house. In the movies you get the entire image, but standing in front of it discolors the magic of it all. Sets have a maximum of three walls. There is no such thing as a ceiling, because that’s where the lights and the microphones are installed. And apart from outdoor scenes, shot at carefully selected locations, the sunshine streaming through every window is nothing more than some professional lighting powers of experienced people. She looks over to some actors, running their lines once more in whispers, standing on their designated X-marks on the floor, while makeup artists patch up their faces. The overweight director is seated in his stereotypical chair, waiting for every single one of the crew to wrap up their tasks. He looks annoyed. From experience, Amy can tell that most directors look annoyed.
Amy’s blond hairs twirl through the air as she enters a nearby room unannounced. It’s her parents’ office, where all the big decisions are being made. More importantly, it’s where her mom’s waiting for that much deserved cup of tea Amy stacked away in a paper bag. Both her mom and dad raise a curious eye when the noise of a widely opened medal door reaches their ears, and only after they discover their own flesh and blood standing in front of them, they start reacting enthusiastically.
“Amy,” her mom sighs, with a touch of happiness so sweet that it warms her daughter’s heart instantly. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“I was here yesterday, mom,” the lady protests after quickly checking her phone.
She distributes coffee, tea and kisses and takes a seat in the leather couch facing the crammed desks, where her parents assign, accept and manage the business. Sure, they aren’t Warner Bros or Paramount Pictures, but the family company has been participating in the relentless, hard world of showbiz for decades now. It’s known in circles as the only one left with moral integrity and compassion. Somewhere deep inside, Amy hopes it’s not exactly true.
“Well,” the older lady protests. “You haven’t been around much this year, have you. Always flying to some movie set, leaving your parents behind.”
The touch of drama is a bit exaggerated – must be because of the fictional world they live in. Sure, Amy’s schedule is pretty occupied, but she’s home at lot too, in between projects. When you aspire to be a big name one day, you can’t just wander around town and expect it to be thrown at you.
“When will my little girl start playing for her own team?” her dad asks.
The ambiguity of her father’s expression gets lost in some giggling from the female part of the company, while Amy gets up and rolls her eyes over that same old question.
“After I’ve made editor. I want to accomplish something before I play on daddy’s ground for the rest of my life.”
He clearly disagrees: “You can skip a few steps when you work here. No more listening to elder assistants or editors.”
“Experienced assistants and editors,” she correct him while taking a sip of coffee. “And you know it’s a big deal to work with them.”
Her fingers curiously flip through the pages of a script that’s lying in front of her. Once in a while, she frowns disapprovingly over what she finds printed. Her father gives in by softening the tension around his brown eyes and smiles simultaneously: “You are way too soft for this world. Any other editor would kill for an opportunity to get ahead so fast.”
“Being your daughter has already helped me a lot,” she confesses. “I’m already way ahead of the competition.”
His daughter first checks the ‘tired of all the nonsense’ expression of her mother and then turns her head toward him. She giggles but simultaneously surrounds herself in complete silence. They’ve been over this a million times. She’s been to Stanford for a reason: to achieve in life, not to cheat. What can she learn by immediately starting at the top? Nothing, it’ll only prove her lack of experience an that would result in destroying her entire career at once. She has thought things through, you see. There’s a plan she’s determined to follow. Always has been. And she will.
“I have to go to San Fransisco again by the end of the week. Check the screenplay, discuss which actors we’re interested in.”
“That new movie of yours?” her mother asks in a calm, yet interested voice.
The woman never stops going through papers and contracts. Her majestic hairdo wiggles along with her movements. She looks gorgeous for a fifty-three year old. Amy shakes her head and gets on her feet again: “No, a show this time. It’s a bit of a crowdfunding thing. They’re still looking at the options.”
Honestly, the script is amazing, even Amy can tell. But finding the right people to finance and manage it is always the hardest part. Surprisingly, some terrible movies that make it to the cinemas get funded like it’s nothing.
“Now I have to go. Lots of work to do before I leave. An editor’s work is never done,” she proudly and dramatically declares after hearing another email alert on her phone.
Her father scoffs amusingly: “An assistant editor.”
She fakes a vindictive smirk and proceeds with throwing kisses in the air.
“Are you coming over for dinner tomorrow night?” her mother asks, finally looking up from the paperwork.
She even stops writing for a second. The younger version of herself freezes on her way out and puts her head back in the doorway.
“No, I’m meeting David. It’s been a lifetime since I saw him.”
Her parents turn their heads toward each other. Their little girl is meeting David. That could mean trouble. Thing is, they picked her up and glued the pieces back together when she fell apart after Alex left her all those years ago. Because even David started taking some distance after Alex left. Being a person in the middle of the drama made him feel uncomfortable. But her parents, they have seen their little girl at the edge of an actual heartbreak. She cried until they worried that she’d never run out of tears. They stood outside her bedroom, staring at the door, while listening to the agonizing ways Amy could cry. And there was absolutely nothing they could do about it.
David’s one of the best friends Amy ever had. They’ve known each other since kindergarten, right when she got introduced to the now famous Alex Ochoa. See, the thing is: David and Alex are cousins. His father and her father are brothers. To make things even more complicated, they all used to live in the same house. It had been that way since both their mothers died at a very young age. Raised by a pack of men, grandfather included, the youngsters of the house found joy in playing rough games and climbing trees most of the time. Alex’s hair was a mess until she started coming over at Amy’s house. Her own very feminine mother would braid her dark hair and free the semi-adoptive child from interference during playing around. The kids were practically inseparable. Wherever Amy went, Alex followed and the other way around. They transferred to the same middle and high school, never even questioning if another one would be better. It simply wasn’t an option. And David, he just tagged along, with his younger brother Eli.
When Amy notices him sitting patiently in a bar, she joyfully raises her hand to draw his attention. The place is so crowded that she just barely recognizes him. Mister handsome looks up and smiles amusingly, directing her to come over. Amy determinately makes her walk through the crowd, stopping briefly once in a while to say hello to an old friend. The green-eyed boy resumes a conversation he seems to be having with someone sitting next to him, but Amy’s view is blocked by a stranger’s massive head. By the time she reaches the table, her fists have crawled to the sides of her hips to expose her staggered impression. It’s Susan, sipping the straw of a cocktail, and staring into David’s green eyes. He seems impressed, until he notices Amy standing next to them.
“Oh, my God! You haven’t changed a bit,” he enthusiastically utters while getting off his seat.
They haven’t seen each other in over a year.
His lips kiss her cheek and instead of teasing Susan about her overly curious nature, she drops the act and wraps her arms around his neck.
“I have missed you so much. My famous journalism star, how have you been?”
“I’m just a blogger,” he corrects her.
She shrugs: “Still pretty famous.”
Before he can stop himself, he says the words: “Runs in the family.”
There’s an awkward silence that gets resolved quickly. They let go of each other and sit down on the last two available chairs there are to find in this place. A playful poke from the elbow allows Susan to welcome her friend to the gathering.
“I bet you introduced yourself to David already?” Amy says in a way to provoke the dark skinned beauty.
But David’s social skills kick in and he points to the girl across the table for an explanation.
“Susan heard you were to meet me tonight and instead of spending the night at home, like a true boring person would do, she decided to take a chance and tag along.”
He doesn’t mind at all that she’s here. In fact, a few cocktails have been consumed already and they’ve reached the point of knowing enough about each other to calls themselves temporary friends. But the blond one of the company shakes her head disapprovingly and clenches her teeth for a second.
“Miss Curiosity found out I had a thing with your cousin Alex Ochoa and she’s all about the details, so she stalked me.”
That comment is not being appreciated, because as the words have just left her mouth, the person on her right pats her shoulder.
“I don’t stalk!” Susan objects. “I get overly invested in discovering the entire story, that’s all. And I happened to read your text messages yesterday.”
As the blonde perfects her judgmental killer look, David smirk and looks directly into Susan’s eyes: “You sound like a journalist. I like that.”
“Some of us have dreams, Writer Boy,” Amy teases him after she gratefully thanks the waiter for the drinks he leaves at the table. “She’s part of the film crew of my new project. Mean drunk after hours.”
Some guys blatantly pass their table and check out the women seated around it. A confident Susan winks at one of them, which makes the muscled G.I. Joe lookalike shy.
“I don’t want to talk about Alex tonight. She’s – um … I don’t feel like it. All I want to do tonight is drink and get completely wasted, like monumentally fucked, and certainly not think about her.”
The boisterous area takes some of the worry away, along with a good sip of beer. The second dreamy, hurtful eyes accidentally cross those of a patient David, she sighs. He knows her best – the longest. She used to be shelterless and relentless. There were no secrets, no subtext, no regrets. Now there’s nothing left but those exact same things.
“I remember this,” David suddenly whispers, loud enough to hear, though. “Next thing you know, she’ll order some shots.”
An accusing finger points his way, together with a challenged voice: “Don’t make me …”
Time passes and they talk about work and family. They have three other drinks, which lightens up the mood. The G.I. Joe guy from earlier starts a silent flirting conversation with Amy, but it’s mostly one-sided. She experiences it as a distraction, a nice getaway from the world she definitely doesn’t want to be reminded of right now.
Apart from the strangely amusing tension between the two old friends from kindergarten, the lingering curiosity of the third wheel fails to stay hidden. Her fingers refrain from keeping still. All they do is tap the top of the table incessantly. It reminds Amy of Alex. She used to do the exact same thing.
“Oh, come on. I dressed up nicely. I did my hair,” she suddenly bursts.
But Amy disagrees with a overly amused sense of sarcasm: “You have no hair.”
Patting herself on the head helps reminding herself that shorthaired people can in fact have many hairdos. It’s just not as sensational as the other hairstyles.
“Point is: I made an effort. I had to make an effort to break into your phone and track this place down. I started talking to three other men before I found David this evening. I want to know about Alex.”
Her name is enough to freeze the air in the room and stop Amy’s heartbeat. It’s just a word, it’s not even the real person, but it’s enough to drag her back to that part of her life when she thought it would never get better again. When Alex took off in the middle of the night and broke her fucking heart. She had never felt that broken before, so lost and incomplete. It took her a month to finally stop crying. David knows that. He has seen the worst of her. The worst that Alex brought upon her. That’s why he decided to take a step back, around that same time. Because he couldn’t understand what his cousin had done to this gorgeous girl.
In a surprising twist of events, Amy gives in with a sigh: “Fine. What do you want to know? It’s because she’s a supermodel, right?”
But Susan objects: “That’s just an extra interesting part about the story. I’m not surprised you would fool around with women, though you never did tell me that about yourself.”
It comes out accusingly, but in a friendly way. An amused Amy just smiles and sits back, licking her upper lip. The male part of the threesome keeps his mouth shut and enjoys what’s left of his beer, before ordering another round. They are slowly starting to feel the buzz of the alcohol and it feels great.
By finally be granted the permission to shoot the questions, the relentless nature of Susan comes bursting out. She straightens her back, as a job interview would require, and claps her hands in all her enthusiasm. Amy can’t stop smiling over her friend.
“How was it, being with a girl, being with her?”
Amy is being observed as she puts her fingers around the bottle in front of her and gets carried away to a time she had thought of so little lately. It doesn’t mean she forgot a single detail about it, though. She remembers everything, the second she tries. It comes naturally. Everything involving Alex comes naturally. The girl was hypnotizing. Addictive.
“It was strange,” she quietly starts. “I’d stay over at her dad’s house all day and all night and when the time came to go home, I didn’t want to. Like I hadn’t had enough of her yet. But at the same time, it was … magical.”
The feeling gets expressed with a convincing hand gesture. Like Amy’s trying to reenact the action of a bomb explosion.
“Each time we saw each other again, it was like looking in the mirror and finding that part of me that was missing all along.”
David clears his throat and gets pulled back into the memory as well. He stood nearby them for so long, during all the phases of their relationship. He knows just how crazy they were about each other.
“A girl that answered you questions with quotes from Finding Nemo and Mulan will forever be your favorite, won’t she?”
He looks at Amy and catches her pained smirk. She told him that once. Looks like he remembers. Susan gets lost in the familiar interaction, but decides to ignore it for now. There are more important questions to be asked before Amy gets the chance to shut the subject off and get all emotional. She couldn’t stand seeing her pretty, white friend cry. She’s not a pretty cryer. There are only a few that carry it off nicely.
“So it was pretty epic?” she asks in an attempt to reboot the conversation.
“We had this kind of love that people write about and turn into movie scenes,” Amy romantically smiles, using her own job experience to describe it perfectly.
David sees the irony in that: “Funny. That’s exactly what you’re doing now, aren’t you?”
“I don’t write the movies, dear. I just edit the camera work,” Amy corrects him.
Susan takes a brief look around and spies the G.I. Joe still staring at her secretive bisexual friend. She winks at him again, which makes his company chuckle.
“Okay. Next question. Are you over her? I mean … She seemed to mean a lot to you.”
The silence coming from the hurt woman next to her deafens the crowd present in the same room. Amy has never really thought about that before. Ever since Alex left, the only emotion she experienced when it came to her was hate. And anger. Rage. Confusion too. The first few months, she had always hoped Alex would change her mind and come back. In her mind, she would miss her girlfriend too much to be away from her so long. She was wrong. Even her supermodel career, which made her even more visible and noticeable than necessary, didn’t bring her back in the right direction. Sure, Alex went around the world probably, literally passing her home town once in a while. But she never visited. And as time went by, Amy’s hate grew stronger. She forgot to stare at the ads and billboards where models were displayed. She refrained from going through every magazine like a detective. For a while, it seemed that even her photos disappeared. And so missing her became easier, because she wasn’t constantly reminded of her face. And her perfect body.
“You know what’s depressing? We used to be best friends. Friends that told each other everything, even the embarrassing stuff. She was supposed to be the love of my life. And suddenly, she’s nothing but a distant memory – a person I’d probably pass if we’d cross along the street downtown. How’s that possible, right? How do you just erase such a part of your life? In all honesty, I think that, if I would run into her at some point, and she’d smile at me or wave, all my emotions, all the pain would not allow me to act natural. I’d turn around and run away. I don’t think that I’ll ever stop hating her.”
David closes his eyes for a second and regrets to have ever heard that comment.
“I thought I was going to marry her. I was wrong,” Amy suddenly day-dreams, getting pulled back into her emotions by all the memories.
The cousin of the so called demon sighs uncomfortably and cups her free hand to show his compassion: “Who said she wasn’t going to do that?”
Intrigued eyes stare into his. They are confused and overwhelmed at once. What is he talking about?
“And you, you’re her cousin. Don’t you know anything about it?” Susan suddenly interrupts, addressing her question to David.
He shrugs and shakes his head: “Alex made her choice. I had no say in it. I never agreed with what she did, though.”
Amy and David never even talked about it. He might have been her cousin, but he had no control over her actions. His eyes wander to a nearby table as he sighs and coughs.
“It may not have been the best choice, but it was her choice. And despite everything, Alex truly believed she made the right one. We don’t talk about it, when we meet. Not like that happens a lot anyway. And even if it does, you never really get her all to yourself,” he reminisces.
“Why’s that?” Susan curiously asks.
Again, he shrugs before looking at Amy. She knows exactly what he’s talking about.
“Alex had a natural flair, she’d walk into a room and anyone would turn their heads and stare. The way she walked, the way she moved and slowly lashed her eyebrows. There’s no way describing it. Time had a different pace when you looked at her. It slowed down so you could absorb more of her. And she didn’t talk to people, she’d flirt with them. It’d normally take a minute or two before someone ended up being her personal slave for the evening. It was marvelous to look at. And so much fun. By the time she went home, she’d be all: ‘People are always so nice to me. I don’t get it!’.”
Amy smirks with an underlying nostalgic feeling and agrees: “And I would laugh, stare at her boobs and explain in a very detailed way how even I drooled all over her after all those years.”
But her company seems to be surprised by her sudden comment. It’s the first time she tells them something with such sincere happiness over a memory.
“What?” she scoffs. “She had amazing breasts.”
David puts up a rejecting hand to dial back the details. This is something he doesn’t miss.
“She’s my cousin, man!”
Amy bends over and wiggles her eyebrows: “And your cousin has amazing breasts. Deal with it.”
Out of nowhere, a person appears next to the threesome. They look up and find G.I. Joe taking a chance. He nervously says hi and introduces himself as Joe. Susan slaps her fist at the table out of disbelief as her jaw drops: “What are the odds?”
The guy is confused, but the other two catch the comical subtext. Amy still keeps a distance by formally smiling and nodding. She thought he wouldn’t go there. How easy do men think women are nowadays?
A quick glance at Susan expresses her thought and the black goddess wouldn’t be herself if that didn’t result in an epic safe: “She’s out of your league, man. She once had sex with a Latina, lesbian supermodel. Hard to top that.”
David explodes into laughter and covers his mouth with both hands.
Amy adds the last detail by whispering to Susan: “And I have a boyfriend.”
“Oh, right,” Susan remembers. “And she has a boyfriend.”
It’s three a.m. and Susan’s still not ready to give up on the topic of the supermodel ex-girlfriend. Though Amy surprised herself by not crying once this evening, apart from laughter, she’s had enough of it. Even David, always in for a heartwarming dive into the past, rolls his eyes when the black woman asks yet another question. After uttering their genuine surprise over the fact that Susan hasn’t taken any notes, the pair of old friends grant her one last question. Then, it’ll be over.
”One more? That’s easy,” Susan confesses.
Amy rotates her head a little bit and curiously looks at her very impressive friend.
With perfectly orchestrated hand gestures, it rolls over Susan’s tongue like a piece of poetry: “How was she in bed?”
That question must have been on her mind for hours now, Amy figures, and she nearly spits out her drink.
“I do not want to know about this,” David objects.
But Susan looks at him with ruthless eyes and shrugs: “Too bad it was my last question.”
She quickly winks to make up for it, but a nagging feeling of running out of this bar right this second sneaks up on David. Amy’s buzz is kicking in pretty hard, though, and the part she has been trying so hard not to think of the entire evening, the sexy and arousing and exhausting part of their relationship, comes knocking like a thunderstorm. She smiles a dirty smile and heaves a frustrated sigh.
“So fucking amazing,” she admits.
Just thinking about Alex’s naked body turns her on again. David recognizes a long-lost spark in her eyes. Actually, he finally figures out what the girls had been doing every time he caught them with that exact same sparkle in their eyes, when they were younger. Chills run up and down his spine. This can’t be healthy information for him.
“I bet it was,” Susan groans. “I mean, we’re talking about a supermodel here. That can never be bad.”
A lot more invested and enthusiastically than she should be, Amy picks up on the subject to further explore the level of awesomeness that Alex Ochoa was.
“Okay, listen,” she orders her friend, while bending over the table and repositioning the empty bottles of beer. Susan’s eyes have never twinkled this bright. David covers his face with both hands and utters a silent ‘Oh my god’.
“Whenever we were in bed and she was about to orgasm, she would whisper my name so silently it was barely audible. I asked her what that was about one time. She told me there was no other word in the English vocabulary that came near the intense feeling she experienced, apart from my name, because I was responsible for the total loss of control over her body, so she used it instead of a silly Oh My God. Flattering, no!? Made me come twice as hard once she told me that.”
Extremely self-satisfied and proud about the confession, Amy sits back again and winks.
But then there’s David, who holds out his hand in front of his chest and shakes his head with disbelief: “Seriously, Amy, that’s my cousin you’re talking about. That’s just nasty.”
But instead of apologizing, a giggling Amy agrees: “Oh, she could be nasty.”
The girls toast to that last comment before they empty their bottles. Then, the black woman puts her head on top of her fists and stares into the crowd, picturing the countless photos she has seen of that ex-girlfriend of Amy’s.
“Alex Ochoa,” she sighs. “Damn, even I would jump her.”
It’s the moment when David’s had enough of it. He and his cherry red, embarrassed head rise up to walk over to the bar in an attempt to flee the conversation.
An hour later, Amy gets out of the cab that brought her to the East part of town. She stares into the darkness to recognize the designated building she calls home. Christopher’s in bed already, probably hogging the sheets.
Her feet feel unstable, but that’s probably from all the drinks she’s been having. In a careful attempt to not fall, she makes her way over to the sidewalk. Just a few yards ahead, there’s the stairway to the elevated entrance of the apartment complex. Her body sits down on the second step and it hits her just how confusing this night has been. She buries her head in both hands and sighs completely discouraged. Around her, the street lights shed little vision over the parked cars and empty street. There are only a few windows that reflect a lit room in her proximity. Seeing David again was great. She has missed him while traveling around for work. He’s still as amazing as he used to be. Just as honest, as pure and compassionate. But when Susan pops up in her mind, she starts laughing girlishly. That’s some kind of woman.
She lowers her hands and stares at the tree in front of her. It’s small and fragile. Why is it even there, she wonders. Then her hand reaches for her phone, that precious possession that could easily clear up everything, yet makes it all the more complicated at the same time. She envisions her ex-girlfriend, sitting next to her. She thinks about her gorgeous hair and her natural flair. She sees her walking down the runway with a fierceness that used to stop her heart for seconds. That’s when she starts to cry, for the first time in a while. Her fingers try to stop the restless flow of tears. It takes her a couple of minutes to regain control over her emotions, to stop being such a girl about all of this.
She gets up on her feet to climb the last couple of stairs. Next to the collection of doorbells, she misses three times before putting the key into its lock. Then, out of nowhere, she throws a look over her shoulder. Because if this were a movie, she’d find Alex standing at the pavement right now.