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For some reason I found this hilarious, and when I started to laugh, she did too.

“Can we have more?” I asked, sliding back onto the floor. I felt good, clearheaded and alert, but I was also already worrying that the effects would wear off. “Since nobody died or anything.”

Alaia smiled and took the bag out from her purse again.

“Have you ever been to Burning Man?” she asked as she poured more out.

“No, have you?” I asked, running my tongue over the roof of my mouth. The ridges felt numb and foreign.

“Yes. You have to come with us this year. My friend can fly us in.”

I nodded, smiling slightly.

“That sounds fun. I’d like that,” I said. “I don’t have many friends in LA.”

Alaia looked at me quickly and then nodded, and I wondered if that had been obvious when she saw me standing alone in the kitchen.

She handed me the straw again, and I bent over to do my second line. I had only cleared half of it when I felt something catch in my throat and I straightened up to swallow. As I did, I happened to glance at Alaia, who was holding her phone at an odd angle in her lap. I stared up at her, and I could tell instantly from her expression that she had been filming me.

“Give me the phone,” I said, my voice low and rough. Alaia froze, panicked, and I grabbed it from her lap. The grainy camera was still recording when I turned it over. I realized that I had no idea how to stop it or how to delete what she had done, so I pressed some buttons on the side until the screen went black.

I turned and walked out of the bathroom. Alaia followed me as I stumbled down the stairs and out of the sliding doors to the backyard. People were staring as we passed them, but I stopped only when I reached the edge of the pool. I dropped the phone on the ground next to me and then stamped on it, hard. It crunched satisfyingly under my foot, but I still threw it into the swimming pool once I’d finished.

“That’s my phone, you freak,” Alaia said, but I just turned and walked back through the house and out the front door.

I sat on the step outside the house, watching a couple arguing on the lawn while I drank a cup of warm beer that someone had left behind. After a while, the door opened behind me and Elon walked out. He stood in front of me, shaking his head distastefully.

“Where have you been?” I muttered. “You’re a little late to save me.”

He rolled his eyes and then surprised me by sitting down next to me.

“Did you hear what Alaia did to me?” I asked, and Elon didn’t say anything for a while. I pulled away from him and stood up. “What the fuck, Elon?”

“It could have been good for the movie,” he said, shrugging.

“In what way, exactly?” I asked, and even I could hear that I was slurring badly.

“Go home, Grace,” Elon said.

“I know you’re gay,” I said. “Would that be good for the movie too? Is that why you’re hiding it?”

The couple on the lawn in front of us stopped arguing long enough to turn to stare at us, and Elon grabbed my wrist tightly. He pulled me up and dragged me further away from the house. I hoped there weren’t any photographers lurking to catch this special moment.

“It is not your choice how and when I come out,” he said, once he was sure we were out of earshot of anyone else.

“Fuck you, Elon,” I said as I slid down the side of a parked car and slumped against it. My red dress was riding up and I was sitting in the dirt, but I didn’t care.

Elon eyed me with disgust.

“You’re a terrible actress, you know,” Elon said. “You ruined that movie.”

I shook my head. I knew it wasn’t true.

“You ruined that movie,” I said, jabbing my finger at him. “I don’t need this garbage movie. You do.”

“Everyone was tiptoeing around you so that you didn’t shatter,” Elon said, and the look of revulsion in his eyes was so pure that I was silenced for a few seconds. “So what are you, bipolar?”

I stood up and shoved him hard so that he had to grab onto the wing mirror of the car to catch his balance.

“Stupid bitch,” he said before he turned around and walked away. I stood dumbly for a moment, waiting for him to come back or for someone to tell me what to do, how to get out of there. Once it was obvious that nobody was coming, I pulled out my phone and looked down at it.

I called the only number I’ve ever known by heart.

* * *

? ? ?

When Able pulled up outside the house, I picked myself up off the ground and climbed wordlessly into his car. He turned the engine off so that we were sitting in the dark, lit only by the streetlight outside. I felt instantly embarrassed about how I looked—overdone as if I’d somehow believed I would be treated like an adult when I got dressed earlier that evening. I noticed then how dirty my legs were against his clean cream interior, but if Able noticed, too, he didn’t say anything.

“Are you okay?” he asked quietly, after a moment. My eyes instantly filled with tears.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“You don’t need to apologize to me,” Able said. “You never do.”

“I nearly messed it all up,” I said, needing him to understand what had happened because now that I was next to him, I wasn’t angry at him anymore. I just felt ashamed. I was riddled with guilt that I’d even taken the role in the shitty movie in the first place. Able had put his faith in me from the moment we met, and now I’d nearly thrown it all away just because I was always trying to prove something.

“It’s okay. It’s okay. I’ll handle Nan,” he said, once I’d finished telling him what happened, and as he brushed at my tears with his thumb, I thought about how kind it was of him not to say I told you so. I promised myself that I would never expose myself like that again.

“None of this is your fault. You should never have been put in this position,” he said.

“Thank you,” I whispered. Able tapped my seat belt and I fastened it before he pulled off, his headlights illuminating the dark canyon.

“You know, I actually called Mandy before you started shooting,” Able said after a moment. “To stop anything like this from happening.”

“You spoke to Mandy,” I said slowly, trying to understand. “What did you say to her?”

“I made it clear that under no circumstances was she to push you too hard.”

I thought of what Elon had said about people tiptoeing around me on set, and my cheeks began to burn. Able sensed my discomfort and his voice softened.

“I did it to protect you, Grace. I didn’t want her getting frustrated with you.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked before I could stop myself. Able turned to study me, and I could see the indignation building in his face.

“Remember that I know your limits better than you do. Mandy needed to know how easily you can become overwhelmed, and how that affects your processing and judgment, and how it can make you hostile to the people around you. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a part of who you are, but I knew you would never tell her if something was wrong.”

I sat very still in my seat as a warning signal went off somewhere inside my brain. I pushed it back down into the depths of my subconscious and nodded, knowing what he wanted from me.

“Thank you,” I said.

“How did you find working with someone else anyway?” Able asked casually as he pulled to a stop at the traffic lights on Crescent Heights.

“It was the worst,” I said, and Able smiled next to me. “Mandy didn’t care about any of it, and Elon . . .”

“What about Elon?”

“Elon said I was . . .” I started, but I couldn’t finish. “He said I was a horrible actor.”

Able froze, and even though he didn’t say anything for a while, I could feel his rage fill the car around us. When he did speak, his voice sounded thick with emotion.

“Look at me, Grace,” Able said, turning my face toward him. I looked at him, my eyes finally meeting his. “That person isn’t even worth the ground that you walk on. He’ll be working in a parking garage by the time he’s twenty-five. This will be the last film set he ever works on, trust me.”

I smiled slightly and Able smiled back at me, bathing me once again in his pure light. It always felt so much warmer when he looked at me, I didn’t know how I’d forgotten.

“You know I’d do anything for you, don’t you?” he asked then, changing tack and catching me off guard again. I sat up a little straighter as the traffic light turned green and he pulled off, the engine murmuring gently.

“Yes,” I said carefully.

“Well, you understand that works two ways, Grace. And now you need to earn back my trust.”

I felt a thrum of dread deep in my stomach, but when I sneaked a look at him, Able was still smiling. I wondered if I’d got everything confused in the past: maybe Able was right and my useless, burned-out mind meant I couldn’t process information like everyone else around me.

“I mean that if our partnership is going to work, we’re going to need to trust each other with every single fiber of our beings. There can never be so much as a flicker of doubt between us again. Do you understand that?”

I nodded slowly.