Green's Hill-Amy Lane's Home - News

Friday, April 29, 2016

But yes, I made it to lunch...

So a few months ago, this absolutely wonderful woman named Karen Rose hunted me down on e-mail and said she loved my work. (I'm totally name-drop-bragging now. I realize this.)  I was tickled and awed-- because I had JUST uploaded like, six of Karen's books onto my Kindle. I've said it before-- het suspense is one of my favorite author candies, and Karen's books looked like they were just what I needed.

They were.  They are wonderful examples of the genre, and her characters--warm, awesome, unique, alive, frustrating, endearing, flawed and fanTASTIC.

I'm on book four, and I'm totally going to shotgun everything she's written.

So, Karen was going to be in town visiting another friend (rhymes with Brenda Novak. Okay, it's Brenda Novak. Yes, I know who that is too. *squeal*) and she wanted to meet, and could I meet?

Oh YES I could definitely meet for lunch.

I put it on the calendar. April 28th. Hm... April 28th... is there anything... well, it's my nephew's birthday-- but he's 25-- I don't think he'll care too much if I don't show up after his shift at the warehouse with a cake. Oh wait! His birthday's on the 29th! Still not showing up, and no-- I have nothing doing.

Huzzah! I'm going to lunch to meet a new friend.

And all I had to do this morning was write some e-mails of vital importance, and then a friend called with a must-have chat, and then I'd forgotten to pay a bill and those people called and then--

Oh! Hey-- another friend is knocking on my door. She has the day to putz around, and maybe we could have lunch?

Uh... sorry? No? Come in though and hang out! You know where the cold cuts are and the dogs love you. Now scuse me while I spazz around my computer and finish up what I'm doing and hey-- oh my God!  It's 11:15! I haven't showered--how in the hell did that happen!

So I run in to the bedroom to gather my clothes, and have a no-shit-three-minute panic attack of what do you wear when lunching with a friend in Citrus Heights (not known for fashion here folks!) and while I"m in the middle of that... 

Chicken calls. She hasn't slept in three days and she's non-verbal and she has three miles before she gets home.

The whole world stops as I talk to her about random things and she sees her house and Karen texts me and says she's at our cafe but don't hurry!

You BET I hurried. The minute Chicken got home I took off in a flurry-- three minute shower in cold water, fuck it all I'll wear this, make-up on in the car on the way oh... "Goodbye, Wendy, I'll see you after I pick the kids from school, thanks for stopping by, later, ciaou!"

And into traffic I go.


I got there just about when I said I would--and lunch was lovely. And she was even lovelier. I recognized the rhythm of a true storyteller in her speech and just settled down to listen.

I want to have many many more lunches with this woman, because people? She's amazing.

But next time, I'm going to send the ever-loving universe a copy of my schedule with the date blacked out.

The universe knows why.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Five Senses Blog Tour-- Amy's Day

With a hypersensitivity to smell, an autistic person may find smells intense and overpowering. This can cause toileting problems. It may also mean they dislike people with distinctive perfumes, shampoos, etc.

This is part of R.J. Scott's blog hop, and you can find the other posts HERE--and they're wonderful. 

Hi, all!  

So, I'm part of the Five Senses Blog Tour--and proud to be a part of it.  Although my oldest son was diagnosed with a Communication Handicap, when he was younger (he is college aged now) many of the children in his special education classes were diagnosed with autism. I have volunteered in his classroom, in my younger children's dance classes, in their actual classrooms--I have worked first hand with many children with autism, and I am very much aware:

I never know enough.

 I am not used to touching students or children. As a high school teacher, with nearly grown students, I got lots of hugs, but it was always mutual and there was a question/response pattern. I'd extend my arms, the kids would go in for a hug. Often I would ask, "Want a hug?"  And the kid would go in.  So when I was asked to supervise a group of twenty kids under eight at the last minute, with no toys, no instructions really, and about four hours to kill, I was very ginger about the hand on the shoulder to get attention, or the redirect. But Chance was having difficulties--I didn't blame him, he was bored silly.  Chance doesn't talk much, and although we'd established a "play pen" of sorts using gym mats and my helper had read half the kids a story while the other half colored, these were not Chance's activities, and he was losing his mind. He was also tired and hungry--this was at a dance recital rehearsal, and his mother was one of the teachers. We offered snacks, but they were not his snacks, and on the whole, the entire moment was too loud, too over stimulating and too crowded.

He kept trying to make a break for it by running past me.

I kept stopping him and asking him to go back.

The third time he did it, I was at a funky angle and caught him-- wrapping my arms around his chest.

He went limp. Just limp inside my arms.

I remembered reading once that some autistic children liked that pressure around their torsos--that it grounded them, calmed them down. Chance was in a strange situation that was NOT ideal--and somebody was holding him in his comfort place.

We only had another half an hour--I kept my hold around his chest for most of that time. When the rehearsal was over, his mom came and asked him how things went--and I said pretty good, once I figured out what he needed in the situation.

She smiled and told me he loved that.  

It was sort of funny-- that year, my own son, with his chronic ADHD started in Chance's mother's class. And she was the first ballet teacher he ever had who knew how to redirect him with a hand on his shoulder. Nobody else had tried that--they just yelled at him until he sort of came back from the zoo.

I think being a parent of a child with special needs makes us better people as a whole. Very often we stop looking at the external symptoms of a child's behavior--tantrums, spaciness, short temple, mood swings--and we start looking at the underlying root cause.  It makes us less about yelling and more about adapting. It makes us better communicators.

About two years ago I rounded the corner at RWA and ran smack into a group of mothers with writer ID's, talking about their children. Hey-- my kind of conversation, I jumped right in. These mothers had just met, had rounded the corner just like I had and were waiting for a panel to start and BOOM. Five women in a parent's support group when we'd thought we were at a writer's conference.

All of us had children with some sort of special communication need. Lucky me, I had two.

I started to wonder--what were the odds of that? That all of us possessing skills at communication had been given the task of caring for children who needed--in particular--parents with that skill.  

And then I wondered if the child had been given to the parents with the skill set-- or the skill set hadn't evolved around the child. 

I know my adventures with my children have made me more empathetic than I ever was in my callow youth--and that makes me a better storyteller. So I am grateful for all I've learned from my children.

And I remember Chance's mother, putting a gentle hand on my son's shoulder, and I think that perhaps that's true for all of us. Communicating with a child who has autism or a cognitive disability isn't easy--but I love the person it has turned me into.  

If you're lucky, being a parent makes you a better person--it's one of the best parts of parenthood. I'll stand by that. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Scorpion on the Moon

So, sorry about slacking off on the ficlets-- I left you right in the middle of a whole werewolf thing, and then RT happened.  I'll get back to more of that this weekend I promise--but for now, I'm feeling an odd need for poetry.

But first, Big T's friend asked Neil Gaiman a question--and Neil answered it on tumblr-- the question was about grammar, and, per usual, Neil's response is many shades of perfect:

And now, for some free-form weirdness.  But when is this blog NOT about free form weirdness?

*  *  *

The Scorpion on the Moon

I saw him, in the shadows, a pale young man
Touched by the light of the moon.
The light glowed on his skin
Turned his cheekbones into swords,
His canines lengthened
The sign of immortal doomed.

The moon was my friend.

It showed me his secrets
The gentle and tender
The touch at the heart of his
Shadowed divinity.
His lips gently curved
In a smile for me
Even as his fangs pierced
My throbbing vein.

The moon was my friend.

I fell in love with a vampire
In the light of the full moon.

There is a scorpion hiding
In the shadow on the moon--
Like a poisonous car
In a darkened garage.

It scuttles with spider-legs
Stealthy and furtive
Where is it now? The danger

The moon waxes, the scorpion huddles
Oh, only the shadows!
It plans it's advance.

Where is it now? A liquid puzzle,
Armed with it's venom
And flesh-stripping claws!


My flesh has been torn!
The barb's pierced my heart!
I grow cold and pale from a surprise attack!

Oh! Oh no!

My lover's been punctured,
His skin and flesh scraped
Back from cold bones!
He's blood now, not moonlight!
A corpse rotting in plain sight
Another victim
Of the cold Scorpion moon.

I sit now in sunlight
And yearn for my lover,
Not warmed by the day.
Sunshine! Sweet sunshine!
Spills over my eyes, my cheeks
And my throat,
A lover's touch at my breast.

I do not dwell in the night.
The joy of cold starlight
Forever denied.
My lover is ashes
My hope scattered with it.

The light in the darkness
Burns cold strips on my skin.

The moon was never my friend.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dragonflies and Peacocks

 So, now that I'm home and things are recovering their normalcy, I am back to taking walks every day and knitting. (And writing and editing and picking kids up and napping--I'm a SPECTACULARLY consistent napper) but the walks and the knitting bring me special joy.

So, this morning, as I was walking, I stopped to smell a flower. Yes, you read that right--just like in the books, I STOPPED to SMELL a FLOWER. And it was only lightly scented, but I realized I was sharing a flower with this guy, and he made such a pretty picture I took it.

Of course, me, being me, walked away and wondered, "Gee, did I post a picture of a dead dragonfly on Twitter, cause he was awfully still..." but let's pretend that's not a possibility and I just caught him in the middle of a nap.


A dragonfly nap.

We'll stick to that story, okay?

And someone posted the T-shirt on my FB page and I... I WANT IT my people, I WANT IT. Of course Mate has been very indulgent of me, especially as I was losing my shit over getting everything to RT, and I am already up a couple in the crazy knitter lady T-shirts... BUT... BUT... *sigh*  I'll settle for showing you the picture here.

Is. So. Awesome.

I'll console myself with the thought that they probably don't have my size.

And lastly...

I may have mentioned that during  Cinema Craptastique at RT I sat behind the screen and pressed Play and Pause while Damon made us laugh about a terrible movie. I was knitting between play and pause, and while Damon joked that it looked like a big woolen condom (ITCHY!) I kept smiling at Tere Michaels, RT coordinator extraordinaire and the person who was working our tweet wall. And hoping that she didn't figure out that the shawl (NOT a condom!) was for her.

I finished the shawl on Thursday and gave it to Tere Friday morning (I think? It all sort of blurs together.)  And the thing with giving it to Tere was funny-- I loved giving it to her because she's my friend, but that shawl practically BEGGED to be made for her.

I know peacocks. With the exception of Mate and Chicken, my entire family loves bright colors. The most subdued we get is burgundy, and that's my stepmom, but usually she's brightly dressed to match the season. (And nail polish and earrings. She's adorable, just take my word for it.)  But peacocks. Jewel tones. Deep, lush colors. Bold, bright color ways.

I mean, I myself am a self-proclaimed color slut--even my LYS owner doesn't know what I'll walk away with from one day to the next.

And this ball of yarn was one of those things. It was a palette of neutrals with a subtle strip of rose. And it was long enough--just barely--to make a shawl.  I knew maybe two people who would really love this shawl, and Tere was the one who was about to finish a Herculean task, and so it went to her.

She loved it--and I loved giving it to her (for one thing, she's always cold--she's a perfect recipient of knitted items, that is all I am saying) and I was suddenly seized with the idea to knit MORE SHAWLS, MOAR, but in PEACOCK COLORS, for all of my peacock friends!

I backed that down to a scarf. But you can see my dilemma... so... many... scarves... so little time!

Heh heh heh... I'll just have to keep knitting!

Overheard in My House

Mate to dogs: C'mere. No, you don't need to lick me. No, I don't care about that. No, stop getting excited. Listen. This is important. Don't chase the cats. You heard me. Don't. Chase. The cats! Do we understand?

Dogs: *chase cats chase cats chase cats*

Me: Yeah, I don't think they get it.

*  *  *  *  *

Squish: So, I'm reading this book where the one witch is always eating chocolate and we don't know why and then the other girl can turn her desk into chocolate.

Me: That's handy.

Squish: The teacher in the book says it's not a good talent though.

Me: I think that's one of the best talents EVER.

Squish: Right? Stupid teacher.

*  *  *  *  *

Me: Zoomboy, did you just pick your nose?

Zoomboy (with finger up nose): No.

Me: Go away.

Zoomboy scampers in his father's direction.


Mate: Go wash your hands!

Zoomboy: DAMMIT!

* * * * *

Chicken, on text, after calling me to talk about her heinously shitty day at work: That was a funny cat video mom. So cute. Just like my cat. I love you. You're awesome. And beautiful. I love you so much.

Me: Go home, turtle, you're drunk.

Chicken: How'd you know????

*  *  *  *  *

Big T: Mom--so, that thing in the fridge?

Me: The thing with the steak from mine and daddy's dinner?

Big T: Yeah. Can I have that?

Me: You can have the prime rib, but the other one is daddy's.

Big T: Dammit.

Me: You already ate the prime rib, didn't you.

Big T: It was AWESOME.

*  *  *  *  *

And of course, Mom's everyday refrain of "What the hell is that smell!!!!"

Ah, home.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Help, I need a backhoe!

The problem with running off from the farm to join the circus is that while you're trying to be a clown, the cowshit is backing up and the chickens keep laying eggs in full nests.

In short, I'm buried.

B.U.R.I.E.D. Hence, this little conversation between me and my conscience. Fucking conscience. Needier than the damned dogs:

* * *

"Wait, Amy, when's that novel due?"

"The fifteenth of April-- did you hear the deadline fly by?"


"Neither did I. I think it hit a wall-- I need to clean it up and finish the damned book."

"Wait, Amy-- don't you have an edit on your desk?"

"Which one?"

"I don't know, which one do you work on for ten hours on Wednesday?"

"That was Fish Out of Water-- that one got turned in. But I've got another one."

"Great-- short?"

"No. Part two of Rampant."

"Oh God, so, long then?"

*Amy rolls her eyes*  "Anyway-- I've got an edit on my desk."


"And a date with my husband."


"I just finished launching Selfie."


"A book due June first after the one that was due the fifteenth?"


"I still haven't done laundry from Vegas?"


"I'm sorry! It's all delicates! When my brain is backed up I get boggled by delicates."

"Anything else?"

"Me and the kids need to do something fun tomorrow or they'll start telling people I'm not their real mother."

*pets*  "Well, you know, their real mother could probably cook."

"Shut up."

"It's true!"

*Amy grumbles*  "I bought them pizza bites!"


"I'm a little busy, okay?"

"Yeah, if you're so busy, Amy Lane, why are you having a long conversation with your conscience on your blog, while more shit piles up in your e-mail?"

*sob* "I have no idea."

"Stop fucking around and get to work--remember, your exercise regimen starts on Monday!"

*weeps quietly*  "Yeah. Fine. I"ll write some more."

*conscience cracks whip*  "Yeah, you writers--you go out to a convention and think you can get away from us. Ha! Writers are at the mercy of their conscience. You, Amy Lane, are your super-ego's bitch."

"Oh Jesus, shut up. I'm writing until one, and then I'm going to bed."

"Well done. No sex while you're there--it's too much like fun!"

*Amy cackles evilly to herself*  "I'll call it research. Try and stop the sex NOW, you filthy conscience!"

*Conscience sighs*  "Yeah, yeah... so, sex is a gray area. Keep writing, wench. You got an hour more to go!"

So, uhm, excuse me, y'all-- as you can see, me and my conscience have some is-sues. If you need me, I'll be chained to my keyboard, begging to use the bathroom.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ten Hours Editing

I know I joke a lot about how my pastimes make me the world's most boring human, but seriously.

Yesterday I spent ten hours editing.

Ten. Hours.

I woke up this morning with an editing hangover--neck hurt, back hurt, head hurt--and then, because tired, I didn't make it to the pool which would have eased some of these problems considerably.

And I have nothing to blog about.  The kids let me nap today-- that was about it.

Wait-- amend that. Squish came home from camping with some sort of rash- that was exciting. Zoomboy came up with a good #hashtagwars line for #fantasysongs -- UpLaketown Village Funk.

So, there you go. All glitz and glamour here at the Lane house--it's practically Vegas all over again.

Speaking of Vegas, I just found out I forgot to tell poor Jennifer Morris from  Coastal Magic that Chicken was even at the convention  AND THEY K NOW EACHOTHER.  I just failed as a social director-- EPIC FAIL.

Okay-- wait. Here's something. I found the secret cache of kid gifts that Chicken collected. These are gifts she not only had bought for her siblings (and me) but swag she'd gone around and collected for us. The kids got excited about squishy wolves and things, and me?

Well, I love this not only because it's awesome, and DUCK, but because (unbeknownst to  Chicken) she got the swag of one of my favorite new friends of 2016, Asa Maria Bradley, who is funny and sweet and a joy to meet in any venue.

And now I have her duck.

I'm so tickled.

So, editing done, now is time to write!

At least I have friends to keep me company.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Backlist Ba-Dump-Bump!

Hey all-- I'll have some more RT stories for you tomorrow, and some chatting about Selfie, but in the meantime, Lillian Francis sent me her Ba-Dump-Bump a couple of weeks ago, and she's been waiting SO VERY PATIENTLY too!

So enjoy the history of her book Lovers Entwined-- I love that she sent a YouTube clip and had stories to tell!  Authors, don't forget your stories and inspiration, if you'd like to be part of this feature!

And as for me? Well, back to catching up. I have a lot of writing to do before the next edit comes down the pike!


About Lovers Entwined

by Lillian Francis
A darkened cinema. On screen a computer generated fight between pirate captain and his modern day counterpart. A spark of an idea, but the movie is fun and engaging and I think no more about it. Until I sleep on it. Bam! Plotbunny.

And Lovers Entwined, my second novel was born.

Okay, there was more to it than that. The story concept drifted and changed form but that idea that sparked it all stayed more or less a constant during the writing process. What didn’t remain constant was the title.

My working title for Lovers Entwined was ‘Echoes of the Past’. As a title it fit the subject matter perfectly and, combined with the blurb, gave readers an idea of exactly what they were getting.Unfortunately, it didn’t meet the publisher’s ideal for their mainly romantic readership. A new title was required.

Fine! I mean, how important is the title anyway. As a reader I would suggest the title is quite some way down my list, certainly behind author, blurb, and friend’s recommendations. Possibly on a par with cover art.

However, when you stop to think about it, what are the first two things you see as you are streaming through the huge number of new releases every week?

Title and cover art.

While neither of these aspects might make you buy the book, either could be the reason why you stop to look in the first place.

So, I came up with what felt like a million titles, carried out a survey on my blog to see what titles my readers thought would make them stop and glance at the blurb.

Sixteen titles, including my favourite of the bunch, ‘Historical Precedent (for Love)’—not very catchy but different enough to stand out—and not one acceptable despite loads of them mentioning love, hearts, desire.

‘Through Dreams we Collide’, the one that appealed to my readers. Rejected.

Finally I asked a few author friends and at the end of my tether I submitted this final list in order of preference:

Echoes of the Heart

Timeless Hearts

Lovers Entwined

You don’t need to guess which one they chose.

When I got my rights back to this book I considered changing the title, but hey, I’d been over my pique at being railroaded on the title a long time ago and I had no desire to confuse my readers with a new title to an old book, so Lovers Entwined it remained. Anyway, the title’s kind of grown on me over the years.

And the film that started it all? Yeah, I’ve watched it several times since. It’s funny and mixes the excitement of a new medium with memories of my childhood. I’m still waiting (im)patiently for the sequel. And you are probably waiting impatiently for me to tell you what it is. If you’ve made it this far you deserve to know the film in question.

The Adventures of Tintin.


Ewan Matthews is one of Boston’s leading genealogy experts. When a would-be bridegroom comes looking for confirmation that there are no skeletons in his ancestral closet, Ewan considers turning the job down. Trey Capell is a jerk of the highest order and yet Ewan experiences an infuriating attraction that’s easy to justify. Trey’s exactly his type—a carbon copy of the man Ewan’s been looking for his entire life.

Harder to explain is the sense of recognition that leaves Ewan speechless the moment Trey steps into his office. Or the stomach-churning sensation at the thought of casting the job aside.

Trey gets more appealing by the day, leaving Ewan struggling with forbidden desire for his client. Desire not helped by strange voyeuristic dreams that have started to haunt his sleep. Dreams that appear to be an echo of the past.

Buy links

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


* Zoomboy is fine. He wants everyone to know that he did NOT catch that minnow in the picture I put up two days ago, that was BAIT, and his first fish is yet to be caught.

* Squish is fine. I went to brush her hair this morning and realized that it was still in a tight braid like my mother would work for her, which means that she hadn't bathed or washed her hair since Friday, and that she may need to give her teeth some attention too. *headdesk* I'm pretty sure the teachers know when I'm out of town. 

*  Big T is fine. I cooked tonight--gravy and english muffins. He was thrilled. I also brought him pickled garlic, olives, and frog balls from the little stop on the way home from Vegas. Finally-- a gift T can really get into.

*  Chicken is fine. Her cat is pretending to love her roommate more than her though. She is a little upset, but I told her that the cat has to make sure she understands that she was gone for three days and HAS DONE WRONG. She thinks she can win the cat back with bribery and attention. I wished her godspeed.

* The dogs are fine. Needy little assholes, but fine.

* Gordy is suffering from spring allergies. Other than that, he still licks Mate's hair.

* Steve hates me. All is right with the world. 

* Mate missed me. He asked me if I wanted to go out on a date tonight. I burst into tears. I think it may have been too soon.

*  I need more sleep--because three hours of naps was not enough today. 

*  And don't forget that Selfie is out!  You can find it from AMAZON HERE,  You can also find Vinnie's two monologues here: 

Vinnie's monologue #1

Monday, April 18, 2016


It's out (yay!) and I'm so proud. I'm traveling from Las Vegas back home today, so I'll post the backlist bump on Tuesday and talk some more about RT on Wed.  In the meantime, enjoy Connor--I so much loved having him in my head.

_  _  _  _  

One year ago, actor Connor Montgomery lost the love of his life to a drunk driver. But what’s worse for Connor is what he still has: a lifetime of secrets born of hiding his relationship from the glare of Hollywood. Unable to let go of the world he and Vinnie shared, Connor films a drunken YouTube confession on the anniversary of Vinnie’s death.
Thankfully, the video was silent—a familiar state for Connor—so his secret is still safe. He needs a fresh start, and a new role on the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing might be just that.
The move to Bluewater Bay may also mean a second chance in the form of his studio-assigned assistant. Noah Dakers sees through Connor’s facades more quickly than Connor could imagine. Noah’s quiet strength and sarcastic companionship offers Connor a chance at love that Hollywood’s closet has never allowed. But to accept it, Connor must let Vinnie go and learn to live again.

April 18, 2016  -  My Fiction Nook
April 18, 2016  -  Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents
April 18, 2016  -  Crystals Many Reviewers
April 18, 2016  -  Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
April 18, 2016  -  Creative Deeds
April 19, 2016  -  Prism Book Alliance
April 19, 2016  -  GGR-Review
April 19, 2016  -  That's What I'm Talking About
April 19, 2016  -  Erotica for All
April 19, 2016  -  Two Chicks Obsessed
April 19, 2016  -  QUEERcentric Books
April 20, 2016  -  Man2Mantastic
April 20, 2016  -  Bookaholics Not-So-Anonymous
April 20, 2016  -  Book Reviews and More by Kathy
April 20, 2016  -  Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
April 20, 2016  -  The Novel Approach
April 20, 2016  -  Under the Covers
April 21, 2016  -  Joyfully Jay
April 21, 2016  -  Alpha Book Club
April 21, 2016  -  The Jeep Diva
April 21, 2016  -  The Day Before You Came
April 21, 2016  -  Wicked Faerie's Tales and Reviews
April 22, 2016  -  Love Bytes Reviews
April 22, 2016  -  AReCafe
April 22, 2016  -  All I Want and More
April 22, 2016  -  Sinfully Gay Romance
April 22, 2016  -  TTC Books and More

Excerpt: Chapter One
Can I Come In From the Out Now?
There was a terrible sound—a shrill cacophonic assault—and I closed my eyes against the crippling brightness in our—my—beach house and whimpered.
Oh God.
What had I done?
The cacophony erupted again, and I rolled to my side, pulling the covers over my head, groaning. I’d left the patio door open, and the ocean roared carelessly on outside. It should have been a soothing sound, but my brain felt like a land-mine detonation facility. The phone rang again, and another bank of explosives went off, including a few in my stomach that would have sent me running to the bathroom if I could move.
I couldn’t move.
“Vinnie,” I moaned. “Vince . . . baby . . . get the phone . . . Oh fuck.”
My voice pitched on the “fuck,” because I remembered why Vince wasn’t there. Suddenly my hangover was nothing, a torn cuticle, a pimple, a plucked hair, compared to that terrible, terrible voiding pain of the severed half of my heart.
Vince wasn’t there. He’d been gone for 366 days, and he wasn’t coming back.
Nope, Con, I’m not there. You need to get the phone, you lazy bastard.
The phone rang one more time, and I fumbled at the end table and answered it because that beat the alternative.
“Do we need a Bloody Mary?” Jillian Lombard’s voice was like a spring-powered launch of ice picks, all of them driven through my left eyeball to the back of the brain.
“I can’t do bitchy,” I whined. “Why are we bitchy? Make the bitchy stop.”
“I’m sorry, sweetums, am I bitchy?” she asked pleasantly. In the background I heard the sound of a lighter flicking, and a heavily indrawn breath.
“You started smoking again?” I was concerned. Jillian was in her early fifties and built like a fireplug. “That’s not healthy, Jillian—I thought you’d quit.”
“I did,” she snapped bitterly. “I did quit, because you and Vince were happy, and you were making scads of money, and suddenly, my shoestring operation was in the black and I could afford to worry about my health. Things have changed, buttercup, oh how things have changed.”
I wanted to bitch and moan, but I couldn’t. Instead I swung my bare legs off the white-sheeted bed, leaned forward on my knees, and massaged the back of my neck, trying to remember grown-up skills. I’d had grown-up skills once—I was famous for them. In a land where people were prone to excess, where you had to talk your boyfriend into rehab once every three years or so, the guy who didn’t drink too much, didn’t do too much blow, didn’t party too much—he was considered a grown-up. I was that guy. I didn’t get into fights, I didn’t slip up our little cover, I didn’t make scenes on set. I did my job, I did it professionally, and I enjoyed the hell out of it—my God, I worked hard on my reputation as a good guy in Hollywood, I really fucking did.
Or I had.
“I told you yesterday,” I said, after a heavy silence between us. “I’m throwing my hat back in the ring. Go ahead—sell me. I’m product. Auction me to the highest bidder. I’ll do it—I’m raring to go.”
My voice held all of the excitement of a boiled eel. I was not, as I said, “raring to go.” I was, in fact, not raring. And not roaring. And not going.
I was pretty sure that yesterday’s conversation with Jillian, in which I pronounced myself so “raring,” had been the beginning of last night’s bender. I remembered, I was standing on the balcony, looking off into the poetic ocean distance, talking to Jillian and taking healthy swallows from a bottle of Pinot Grigio. In my head I could hear Vinnie chiding me for drinking what he called “flat 7 Up,” because I never had developed a palate, and in my ear, I could hear Jillian telling me that I’d been grieving for a year, and it was time to jump back into the shark pond again.
“You wouldn’t say that to me if we’d been out and married,” I’d snapped, aching. Because you got more time to grieve a lover than a “bro,” didn’t you? With a bro, you were expected to carry on, but if we’d been married . . . if we’d even been dating . . . no.
For ten years Vince Walker had been my shadow, my lover, my best friend, the one person on the planet I could tell my secrets to. I’d chivvied him into rehab and supported him when he came out, and together we’d been the nonparty boys, the most clean-cut actors in Hollywood, hosting clean and sober parties in my place or his. We’d been photographed for three years in a row, having Christmas in his place, with his family, and pretending I only spent the night in his room on Christmas Eve so there could be space for his brother and two sisters and spouses and kids and such to take over his place for the holidays.
We’d bought houses right next to each other in Malibu, but so what? So had Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, right? We were like Alex O’ and Scott Caan, or . . . or . . . oh Jesus, who cared.
Because we weren’t like those guys at all.
We were in love, and we’d started working in this business when you just didn’t fucking come out, not if you wanted to be leading men in big-budget movies, and so we hadn’t. We’d just bought our big fucking houses and took turns sleeping over and quietly building a life together, only it wasn’t together, it was separated by two walls, a hedge, and a big fucking swimming pool.
So, yeah. I may have been bitter when I told Jillian that I was willing to be thrown back into the shark tank.
must have been bitter when I told her that. Because I remember taking a healthy swallow of flat 7 Up, and then another one.
And then another one.
And then sitting on the balcony, staring into the orange sunset, and thinking about Vinnie.
And then waking up to the phone.
“You’re right.” Jillian’s voice came from an entire continent of pain away. “You’re right. I wouldn’t throw you back into the pit if you’d been married. But do you think you could have said that yesterday?”
“I thought I did,” I mumbled.
“Yeah, and then you said okay.”
“Then why are we having this conversation?” Oh God. When Vinnie was alive I wouldn’t have gotten this drunk. When Vinnie was alive, I’d very, very carefully only had a social drink of wine in company, because Vinnie wasn’t drinking at all and I knew how hard that was on him.
“Because it was most obviously not okay!” Jillian burst out, an exhalation of smoke hitting her receiver as hard as her voice.
“I don’t remember saying that,” I said plaintively. Don’t make waves. Treat your agent with respect. Remember, most people in Hollywood would sell their souls to be you and sell you out in a hot second if they even suspected you and Vinnie were an item. I remember thinking all of that, but I don’t remember saying anything at all resembling the truth.
“That’s because you didn’t!” she snapped, setting off a trash-can chorus in my head.
“Then how do you know it wasn’t okay?” I demanded, because God, it was like “Carol of the Bells” was being played in broken glass between my ears.
“Uh, Connor?” For the first time something akin to sensitivity tinged Jilly’s voice.
“What?” I asked suspiciously. “What’s wrong? Why do you sound like that?”
“Connor,” she said slowly, and I remembered the last time she tried speaking slowly to me.
My stomach wasn’t feeling great, and when my bowels contracted in an icy heave I contemplated running for the bathroom. Oh, dear Lord—no. How bad could this be? I’d already survived the worst, right?
“What? What’s wrong? Who’s dead?” I asked, aware that after the last year this wasn’t hyperbole and not the least bit funny. I needed to know how my world was going to be turned upside down as soon as possible, so I could hide all the hurt and pretend it didn’t happen.
“Who’s dead?” she repeated. “Your career, honey. You killed it last night on YouTube.”
I closed my eyes and tried to think. What had been the last thing I’d done as the wine had weakened that brick wall between myself and my grief? I remember seeing the camera Vinnie had kept on the mantel. He’d been so good at social media—had taken short videos almost constantly.
And then edited them.
On my computer, I had the video of us kissing on a private beach, the camera held selfie-distance away from our faces, my blond hair riotous in the wind and Vinnie’s shorter, darker hair barely ruffling. We’d both closed our eyes at the end, and the camera had dropped as we’d gotten lost in the kiss and the smell of the ocean and the wind and the sand under our feet. The end of the shot had been a ragged series of frames as Vince had struggled to turn the thing off one-handed so that kiss could be the focus of our lives.
The world had the first part of that picture—“Hey, here’s the sunset in Hawaii! And here’s my buddy, Connor, ready to do some surfing!” I’d waved and winked, and lights out.
Last night, I’d looked at that camera, thought of my computer memory, crammed full of what our life had really been, and thought of what the world knew. Who cared, right? Who cared if the world knew we’d been together since our first audition, both of us nervous and cocky at the same time, neither of us getting the part.
It hadn’t mattered—we’d been in Vince’s shitty one-room apartment about thirty minutes after leaving the studio, Vince filling the condom inside me, both of us screaming loud enough to wake the neighbors.
I’d been sleeping in a burned-out car then, two months into Hollywood after leaving my home in Northern California with the scornful injunction not to come back until I’d stopped being a fag. (Well, you know, get caught deep-throating the starter of your school’s basketball team when you were a drama queer, getting kicked out of the house was bound to happen.)
I’d been desperate—desperate enough to blow a photographer to get my headshots. Desperate enough to have blown businessmen for food.
Vinnie had let me move in that day—a little banter, some hot eyeball action, and one quick fuck, and there we were, sleeping on his twin bed and throwing in for rent together. It might not have been love at first—in fact, at first I think it was mostly necessity—but after a year, and a few successful auditions, and a little bit of fucking around on both our parts, we had enough money to each rent our own apartments.
And we’d . . . decided not to.
Because what had started out as lust and convenience had turned into something more. Something bigger. Something that had us both getting tested and giving up condoms (most of the time)—but keeping the lube.
Then I’d landed a supporting role in a small television show on the CW. And then I’d been courted to be the leading man in another one when the first one folded. That gig had lasted three years, and when I’d left it because . . . reasons . . . I’d landed my first movie role. B-level action flick, yeah—but it paid decent, and I got another one, an A-level after that. Vince’s career had taken off too—he was usually the broody guy who got offed, or sometimes the villain—but he worked consistently and got paid well.
Eventually, Jilly (who had signed us by that time—she’d gotten me the gig at the CW) said we had to get houses. If we didn’t, the press would talk, the fan fiction would get out of hand, our careers would be in jeopardy.
I remembered asking, “Can’t we just come out?” Neil Patrick Harris had come out. George Takei had come out. Six years ago there had been enough out celebrities that it shouldn’t have made a difference, right?
Jillian had looked at me, pity in her cobalt-blue-tinted contacts. “Honey, you’re just not that good.” She shook her head. “Those other guys can do it because they’ve got balls-out talent—you and Vinnie, I love you guys, you’re my first big hits and my bread and butter, but you’re . . . you know. Beefcake. You’re decent enough actors to not embarrass yourselves, but mostly, sugar, you’re just a pretty face.”
I’d done a shitty job of concealing my hurt—I’d loved drama in school. I hadn’t wanted to be beefcake, I’d wanted to be an actor, damn it! But Vinnie had let it roll off his back.
“Whatever you say, gorgeous,” he’d purred. “As long as we’ve got backdoor access to each other’s pads, I’m good with that.” But he’d looked at me searchingly over her head, with a little bit of pity and fear. His family still loved him, and I knew because he’d told me that he dreaded, more than anything, losing that support.
Jilly hadn’t seen that look, though. She’d touched his nose like wasn’t he just the cutest thing? Vinnie got that a lot. “You gay guys—you flirt like gangbusters, but do you ever put out? Done, then—I’ll tell the real estate lady to look for properties next to each other, relatively private. No one will ever know.”
And no one had ever known. Ten years of a relationship forged in the crucible of Hollywood, and my only proof was a laptop full of memories that only two people had shared.
And now it was down to one.
I pulled myself back into the present with a sick thump. “Jillian . . . did I post a video last night?”
Her laugh was weak and stringy and hysterical. “Oh, honey.” I heard a shaky draw on the cigarette. “That’s like asking if the Washington Monument is a little bit of an erection.”
I didn’t look. I couldn’t look at my Washington Monument of YouTube selfies. Just getting out of bed and into the shower took everything I had. After that, it was a fight against vomiting, and I needed all my strength for that.
Forty-five minutes after Jilly hung up, she was at my house—had arrived, in fact, while I was still in the shower. When I emerged, a towel wrapped around my waist, I was surprised and touched to see she’d pulled up my comforter and cleaned up the bottles for me.
Jillian was a four-time combat veteran of the marital wars, and the mother of two. She hardly twitched a sculpted eyebrow as I started rustling around in my drawers for some yoga pants and a T-shirt. She’d once walked into the tiny bathroom of a guest-star trailer to have me sign my next contract. I’d been taking a stellar dump at the time, but she hadn’t even wrinkled her rhinoplasty. I loved her like a mother, but there was no doubting the fact that she had iron-clad tits in a stainless-steel bra.
Or so I thought.
She was sitting at my personal desk, sifting through my laptop browser when she cast a look over her shoulder and recoiled.
“Jesus, kid, you’re scrawny as hell.”
“I work out,” I mumbled, taking a hungover look at my wardrobe. I had a maid service that came in and did laundry, which was awesome—but all of my clean, pressed yoga pants and T-shirts had holes in them, and I let out a sigh. Yeah, it had been a while since I’d gone shopping.
“Who gives a shit if you work out? Do you I?”
I tried to remember the last meal I’d had, and drew a blank. “I must eat,” I muttered. “Otherwise, I couldn’t work out.”
“Right.” She shook her head and continued to browse. After a moment, she sighed. “You let your porn subscription lapse.”
I made a hurt sound, and she looked back at my computer like it held the secrets of the universe.
“And you’ve been looking at this file with Vinnie every fucking day.”
I stopped searching for clothes without holes and grabbed some boxer briefs, yoga pants, and a T-shirt and threw them on haphazardly. The T-shirt was a basic cotton tourist T—we’d gotten it on a trip to the Grand Canyon two years ago. For a while, we’d fought over it, playfully, because we never let ourselves get photographed in the personal shit, and if one of us woke up and put on that shirt, it meant he was staying inside all day and hopefully not alone.
“What do you want me to say?” I was working so hard on leeching the tears out of my voice that it came out flat, no affect, dead.
“I want you to say you want to live!” she half laughed. But she was looking at me soberly, and real concern showed, even through the trowel-thick mascara and the psychotropic contacts.
“Jillian . . .” I didn’t know what to say.
She shook her head and waved her hands in uncharacteristic agitation. I hadn’t seen her do that since the day we got back from Vinnie’s funeral. I’d asked her if she wanted to come inside—basic courtesy, really, I hadn’t expected her to take me up on it. The place had been . . . Well, I’d needed to find a different maid service after that week.
She’d helped me clean up the broken glass and the ripped-down curtains, all without a word. I’d apologized, humbly, feeling like a spoiled child, as she’d sat me down with some delivered pizza and a glass of soda, and she’d done . . .
That. Held her hands up, palms toward me, waving them back and forth as she’d tried not to see . . . me. My pain. The thing she couldn’t fix.
She did that to me now, and then glared, her eyes watering. “This here is an intervention,” she said briskly, and we both ignored the way her voice got thick. “Connor, you need to work again. You need to see people again. You need a fucking goal, even if it’s just to know your line and hit your mark and look into the goddamned camera. You want to see how bad it is? You showed the world how bad it is.”
And with that she shifted aside so I could see the computer. Then she hit Play on the Washington Monument of selfies.
I watched dumbly for a moment as the camera came on, the lens showing a fish-eye view from the mantel in the living room. The furniture was there, fabric couches, matching throw pillows, complementing love seat and recliner, as well as the little conversation pit, and, against the far wall, the 116” flat-screen TV.
Some bozo in board shorts and a tank top was blocking the view, but he backed up like he’d been trained with cameras, and knew about how far he needed to go to be seen in the whole frame.
I stared at my image for a moment. Jillian was right. I look like hell. My hair was usually sort of a sandy blond, but I highlighted it because it was Hollywood. You could see about three months of growth between my part and the blond, and there was some silver in that, even visible in the grainy, badly colored shot.
You could see my ribs. Yeah, sure, there were lumps of muscle, but you could see my ribs.
I had a sort of long face, with a bold nose and a full mouth—when I was full blond I was an Aryan wet dream, really—and really nice cheekbones, sharp and distinctive. It had been the cheekbones that had convinced me I could make it in Hollywood when my parents insisted that if I wasn’t following my father into farming I would pretty much only succeed as a computer technician or an auto mechanic and nothing else.
I’d seen myself in the mirror, stared longingly at my heroes on the screen, and thought, Look at that. We have the same faces. We can be the same.
In the video I appeared . . . rodent-like, almost, and feral. My prized cheekbones threw the thinness of my face into stark relief.
I stared at my own image for a few wordless seconds before it hit me.
“What am I doing? And why isn’t there any sound?”
“There’s no sound through the entire thing,” Jillian said irritably. “Did Vinnie not show you how to work the damned camera?”
I gaped at her, and then I gaped at the computer, because no. No, he had not.
I was actually grateful as I watched what followed.
If you asked me on any given day what the worst part of this video was, I’d give you a different answer on each and every different day. I could point out the fact that my eyes were half-mast and my mouth kept opening while I stared at the ceiling in between sentences. I could say it was the beginning sequence when I seemed to be just yelling incoherently at the camera, one hand on my cocked hip, one hand waggling my index finger like a teacher drunk on his or her own power.
But it was obvious that I wasn’t drunk on power.
My tirade, whatever it had been, ended, and apparently it was time to fly. Yes, fly—flap my arms and run around the kitchen and pretend to be an airplane or a condor or a butterfly or what the fuck ever—I was gonna fucking achieve liftoff and zoom overhead, I just knew I was . . .
Right until I face-planted, arms outstretched, on the couch.
“Wow,” Jillian said, like she was impressed.
“Wow, that’s the end?” I prayed.
“No, wow, I can’t believe your luck that you missed the floor. And you only wish that was the end.”
I looked at the counter below the frame.
“Seven minutes?” Of which we were apparently only two minutes in. It went on. There was the Batusi and the bunny hop. At one point I was singing—obviously singing—head back, belting it out. I tried to read my own lips for a moment, before I gave up.
“‘Sloop John B,’” Jillian said without glancing at me.
“What?” I could not seem to look away from the . . . the train wreck of my life, on display for YouTube viewers everywhere. Oh Jesus. I had over five hundred thousand hits, and it was less than twelve hours old.
“It’s what you’re seeing. See? Right here, you can see that last part.” Oh yeah. It was clear I wanted to go home.
“Oh!” And then, as a capper to the madness, we both sang along with my silent movie self as the timer counted off twenty more seconds of my career-dissipation light.
Holy fuck.
And then . . . Oh God. On the screen I was sitting on the couch, one ankle crossed philosophically over one knee, leaning on my elbow and talking earnestly to the camera.
And then . . .
“Turn it off,” I said thickly.
I’d pulled up a picture on my phone and was showing it to the camera. It was nothing incriminating, just me and Vinnie, standing on my balcony, leaning back against the railing, sunglasses on, our faces toward the sun.
We looked so happy.
The other me, the skinny, drunk, pathetic me, just broke down and cried.
Then that same guy stood up and drew really close, so close you could see my rib cage through my tank top, so close the frame went black.
Jillian and I slumped in the desk chairs, while I thought of something to say.
“I’m sorry, Jilly,” I managed after a moment.
“It’s my fault,” she said quietly. “I thought you were okay. You said you needed time to grieve, I said sure—that’s what I did. Gave you time to grieve. I didn’t realize you were here, all alone. You weren’t getting better. You were just . . .”
“Just being sad,” I said, closing my eyes. Behind them I could see that icky, rainy May morning we’d gotten back from the funeral, when Jillian had come inside and helped me eat, and I’d told her I just needed time.
There might not be enough time in the world.
“Well, you had a right.” She clasped my hand. “I was sad—I don’t know if that helps, but I was sad as fuck. You remember when I called Christmas Eve?”
I nodded. I’d been alone, in my house, while Vinnie’s family had held a quiet celebration next door. They hadn’t asked me over. They hadn’t known about us, of course, but you’d think they might have asked Vinnie’s friend over, right?
I wasn’t sure if that meant they were insensitive, or grieving, or just . . . just users, hanging on Vinnie’s fame like my family had offered to do with mine a couple of times since I’d hit it big.
I didn’t want to think of Vinnie’s family that way. For a few years, I’d been able to pretend I had family for the holidays. It had been nice. I didn’t have much to pretend right now—I could probably just pretend they were grieving and had forgotten me.
That was easier.
“I remember,” I said, to try to pull myself away from my post-Vinnie Christmas featuring me, a bottle of wine, a steak, and a laptop full of memories. “You were the only voice I’d heard in a week.”
She rubbed the back of her neck. “Yeah.”
“Is my career over?” I had money in the bank. I’d probably have to sell the beach house if I never worked again, but I could live pretty comfortably on what was left.
“No.” Jillian rolled her eyes. “I thought it was when I called you—man, my heart almost stopped. But I’m telling you, on my way over here, I fielded about six different calls from people who want your story.”
“Do you think I don’t know that?” She simultaneously looked around for an ashtray and fished in her purse for cigarettes. Vinnie hadn’t let people smoke in the house, but you know what? Vinnie wasn’t fucking here.
Nice, asshole.
I’m not even sorry.
I opened the sliding glass door and grabbed an ashtray from outside—we kept a few for guests. The wind caught me square in the face, and I leaned into it, closing my eyes.
“God, I love the ocean,” I said, thinking wistfully of when I’d have to sell the house.
“Do you?” she asked. I turned back inside and set the ashtray down for her, and she lit her cigarette with a shaky hand and a gold lighter.
I moved away from her and crossed my arms, leaning against the doorframe and letting the breeze cleanse away some of my despair.
“I really do. I wish I could live somewhere like . . . like Oregon, or Washington, or even Crescent City. Somewhere it’s cold.” Where it was cold, and the sky was blue, and the water fought an endless, frothy battle for dominion over cliffs and outcroppings of stone.
“You know,” she said tentatively, “you’ve gotten a couple of offers from television in the past months. A lot of shows are still shooting up north. Are you game?”
I nodded, exhausted, even though I’d only been awake for a few hours.
“Yeah,” I sighed, closing my eyes against the sun. “I’d love to go do something like that. Something not . . . here.”
“Well, I think I’ve got just the thing,” she said, checking her tablet. “It’s late—they might have asked someone else, because shooting starts, like, immediately. Let me make a few calls—it might be temporary, you know. Just two months of relocation, and then back here. But it’ll be enough to get your feet wet. And the show films just outside of Seattle—”
“Sounds great.”
“Do you even want to hear what it is?”
With my eyes closed, I could hear the two pulses in the wind. The first one was the ocean, and it pulsed with everything I loved.
The second one was emptiness. And it pulsed with He’s not here. He’s not here. He’s not here. Vinnie’s not here, he’s not here, he’s not here.
It was that second one that made me crave another bottle of wine before I’d even eaten breakfast.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said honestly. “It’s perfect.”
“What makes it perfect?” she asked, exhaling smoke.
“It’s somewhere not here.”
If I could have teleported directly from my balcony in Malibu to a beach house outside of Seattle, I would have, but that would have been too easy.
Jillian, apparently chock-full of remorse after I almost torpedoed my career, set about making me “presentable” before sending me away. I spent a day at a stylist’s getting highlighted, vacuumed, manicured, massaged, and waxed, and then another day with her personal shopper. I fought bitterly for the right to my and Vinnie’s old T-shirts, and in the end I won custody of three of them while she had the rest boxed and put into storage.
I got an entire drawer full of new yoga pants and underwear, as well as jeans, flannel shirts, and sturdy boots that really were made for the outdoors and not the movie set.
There wasn’t a hole in sight.
Jilly also fed me constantly—by the time I got on the plane for Seattle two weeks later, I’d gained five pounds, but she still wasn’t happy.
Oh well—agents. Jillian was the best of them, but it was the nature of the species.
And she really was the best of the lot, because I wouldn’t be getting on that plane alone.
“I’m getting you set up in the house before I leave,” she said sternly. “And you have a driver—”
“I can drive!” I protested, but she waved me off.
“Yeah, you say that, but you know what? We both know you still get lost in Hollywood, and you’ve lived there for ten years.”
“Everybody gets lost in Hollywood,” I grumbled. “This is Seattle—it’s not nearly as big.”
“Honey, you get lost in Nordstrom’s.”
“Everybody gets lost in Nordstrom’s.” Yeah, right. I’d once wandered the women’s department so long I’d bought lingerie for my supposed girlfriend and sent it to Jillian as a joke. But it rankled—my sense of direction was horrible. In fact, my horrid sense of direction was the reason Vinnie had been driving alone that night—that and exhaustion. He’d been going to a party out at the canyon, and I’d been fresh off the shoot for Jupiter Seven—I’d be no help finding the house and no fun at the party. I’d elected to stay in.
“I’m just going to drive out, make an appearance, drive back—it’ll be a few hours, I know, but don’t worry. We’ve got some making up to do!”
It was part of the job, right? We both knew that. You put in an appearance, air-kissed a few people, jumped back in the car, rolled down the top, and enjoyed the trip from the mountains to the beach.
Or got T-boned at an intersection by a guy with three times the legal blood alcohol and all the coke you never snorted pulsing through his bloodstream.
Jillian must have heard what was in my silence because she stopped buying tickets on my laptop and turned around to grab my hand. “Yeah,” she said quietly. “I think about what if you’d gone with him too. You know what I think?”
“That I should have been there?” Who didn’t think it?
“I think that he would have been driving anyway, Con. He had no alcohol in his bloodstream—you would have had no reason to drive. And then you’d both be dead.”
My heart constricted, and I fought off the temptation to point out that I hadn’t done much living in the last year. “We would have been legend,” I said, trying to be blasé about it. “All our movies would have become instant classics, and you would have been rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”
She slapped me.
It was weird; her expression didn’t change. She just pulled back for some awesome momentum and slapped me.
“Don’t be an asshole,” she said shortly, and then she turned to the computer like it held the secrets to all of Christendom.
I rubbed my cheek and watched a hot tear plop down on the touch pad, and she swore. I’d done that before—the cursor started going batshit almost instantly.
I handed her a tissue, and she blotted the touch pad, and I handed her another one and she blotted her face.
“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling empty. “I . . . I don’t know how to be about that.” When in doubt, state the obvious. “I miss him so bad.”
“Of course you do.” She patted my hand but didn’t look away from the computer. “You guys lived here. These two houses, they were your heart. But there’s more houses out there. Once you get away, you’ll see.”
“You want me to forget him?” I asked, my voice pitching querulously. No!
“No.” This time she did glance at me. “I want you to remember you can live without him. Here we go,” she returned her attention to the screen. “Two tickets, first class, no connecting flight. You get out the luggage and pack, I’ll call the house and pool service, and we can leave in three days.”
“You’re sure you want to come?” I asked, confused but grateful.
She hit the appropriate keys on the computer to make her purchase go through and then looked me dead in the eyes. “I miss the motherfucking rain. You’d better bring all the new clothes we bought—it’s going to be colder than you’re used to, and I don’t want you throwing some shitty sweatshirt you wore in high school over PacSun’s finest. My boys . . . my boy doesn’t go anywhere looking low-class.”
I nodded, and pretended not to hear the slipup. She’d known we were lovers from day one, and she’d been great at helping us fool the world. She once rerouted me through four different countries to trick the paparazzi into thinking I was having a meetup with a girlfriend, when Vinnie and I had been fucking each other’s brains out in a villa off the coast of Spain for two weeks. “Anything to keep my boys sexed up and sexy,” she’d said.
At the time, I remembered thinking that we were the best meal ticket she’d ever had. I felt ungrateful for that thought now, and unkind. Apparently she’d been doing what Vinnie and I had been doing—not the fucking part, just doing her best.
It was plenty right now. I found a smile—a real one—in the pit of my stomach and graced her with it like a gift.
“Thanks, Jillian. We can be in the rain together.”
She lifted her hand, and for a moment I wondered what I’d said, but she only patted my throbbing cheek.
“So,” she muttered, turning back to the screen, “designer umbrellas . . . who can I find that will deliver overnight . . .”
*  *  *