When her boss slipped his hand up the skirt of her suit, she smiled at him and moved away. When a producer chased her around the watercooler, she laughed it off as best she could.
On weekends, she’d hang out with her girlfriends and find a bar on the Sunset Strip—the Roxy, the Rainbow, maybe join the party at the Motley House—and make out with whatever eyeliner-clad metal rocker suited her fancy until the early hours of the night.
Eliza was not looking for love, necessarily. She had other things on her mind. Both long term and short term. She was angling for the head of production opening at work. She was saving up money to buy her own condo in West Hollywood. She had not yet decided if she ever wanted to have children.
But she would welcome a certain type of man in particular: a good man, who was a nice guy, who didn’t play games and understood that her career was important to her, that she could never quit the business, that she was living her dream. A man that could give her an orgasm every night and not expect her to make breakfast in the morning. That Eliza Nakamura would have welcomed with open arms.
But as Eliza stood in the gravel driveway—now listening to her friend Heather and two other girls ponder whether or not to go talk to some actors inside—she was perfectly happy not finding love at all. She had two scripts back at her apartment that she was supposed to finish by Monday morning. She was looking forward to getting that done tomorrow.
And so, she did not go inside. Instead, she hung out in the front yard, talking to her friends.
And Seth hung out in the backyard, looking for love.
Hud grabbed Ashley’s hand. “C’mere,” he said, as he nodded toward the worn path and stairs down the side of the cliff.
“To the beach?” Ashley asked.
“Just for a second, just to talk,” Hud told her. “With no one else around.”
He led her over to the steps gently and when they got down to the beach, the two of them sat on the sand. It was cold, almost wet, having released the heat of the sun.
Hud put his arm around Ashley and confessed. “I fucked up,” he said.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Hud shook his head, buried it in his hands. He should have told Jay long ago. He should have confessed it all to him the moment he realized he had feelings for Ashley, when she and Jay were still together, before he ever slept with her, before he fell in love with her, before before before.
What sort of man sleeps with his brother’s girlfriend?
“I lied to Jay,” Hud said. “I made it seem like I wanted to ask you out instead of … well, you know.”
Ashley braced herself. “And what did he say?”
Hud looked at her. “He said he’d rather I didn’t.”
Ashley frowned and turned her head toward the water. She watched it ebb and flow at its own pace, entirely unhurried.
She hadn’t wanted to push him on this. She hadn’t wanted him to feel like he had to choose. But he might have to. That was becoming clearer to her by the minute.
“I’m going to talk to him tonight,” Hud said. “Again. I really am. I’m going to be firm about it. Explain that I’m very serious about you. And he’s going to understand.”
Ashley watched the waves come in to the shoreline, watched the moonlight bounce off the water, creating ripples like stripes. She caught her breath.
“Hud,” she said. “I’m pregnant.”
Bobby Housman came through the door looking like he’d raided Jordache. He had on black acid-washed jeans, a yellow patterned button-down shirt, and a jean jacket with the collar flipped up.
He was not handsome. He was portly and had a slightly cartoonish nose. He had always known if he was going to make it in Hollywood, it was going to be behind the scenes. That was fine with him. He’d been studying films since he was old enough to watch them, holed up in his parents’ finished basement outside of Buffalo.
And now he was the guy writing some of the biggest hits of the decade so far. Gorgeous, Baby. Summer Break. My Mia. Bobby Housman was thirty-two and considered Hollywood’s new “It” screenwriter. He’d always imagined that if the day ever came when he was the hottest screenwriter in town, he’d shed his crippling inhibitions and have the time of his life. But in reality, success had not done enough to change him.
Three blockbuster comedies under his belt and he still felt like the weird wallflower at the movie premiere, the guy not making eye contact with anyone at the Golden Globes.
But he always liked the Riva party. He’d been invited to tag along with a producer the summer Gorgeous, Baby came out. That night back in ’80, he’d smoked a joint with Tuesday Hendricks and made her laugh. Every year he came since then, he felt a little bit more like he belonged.
That night, when Bobby set foot on the landing of Nina Riva’s front steps, he saw that the party was packed. He was, in fact, the first person to comment out loud that things were getting a bit crazier than in years past. His exact word was “Whoa.”
He looked through to the kitchen to see Nina Riva and that tennis guy. She was sipping a glass of wine and talking to a woman next to her.
Bobby couldn’t help but smile just looking at her. He’d loved her T-shirt ad, with her hair hanging long and her arm up against the doorframe. That see-through shirt and red underwear. Soft to the touch. That was gold. He’d come to Hollywood, in part, to meet a girl like that, so tall and lean and tan. California Girls, man. Heartbreakers, all of them.
Bobby watched Nina touch her husband’s arm and then leave the kitchen, out of his sight. He remembered his mission and got to work. He had spent the day procuring an obscene amount of coke and he was going to give it out to everybody. Wallflower no more.
As Bobby stood in the foyer, he saw a cocktail waitress—Caroline—walking by with a tray of shrimp.
“Coconut shrimp?” she asked when Bobby caught her eye. She moved the tray toward him, grabbing him a napkin.
The very fact of her beauty made Bobby nervous. He tried not to think of it. “Can I … Can I have your tray?” he asked.
“My tray?” she said.
“Yes, please. If you don’t mind.”
“I can’t just give you my tray.”
“Because it has shrimp on it?” he said.
“Uh …” she said. “Yeah.”
Bobby, in a moment of inspiration, took each one of the three remaining shrimp and ate them. And then he said, “Now it doesn’t have shrimp on it.”
“I guess so,” Caroline said. She handed it to him and smiled and then started to walk away.
“Wait,” Bobby said. “I have a gift. For you. If you want. Just hang on.” He looked at her for only a split second, but in that split second he felt the spark of something strong enough to give him hope in himself.
He wiped the tray down with a napkin. And then took half a brick of cocaine from the inside of his jacket. There was another full brick in his car.
“Oh my God,” Caroline said.
“I know.” Bobby poured a little out and started cutting it into as many lines as he could using his Amex Gold. And then he rolled up a hundred. He was embarrassed it was the smallest bill he had.