“Grace, I messed up. Nathan and Kit have been harassing me for your address, and I gave them your cell number. Do you hate me?” Wren asks, sounding upset.
“No, it’s fine,” I say, stretching slightly and trying to keep the sleep out of my voice because it’s eleven thirty on a Monday . . . or maybe it’s Tuesday. “I needed to call them anyway so they stop ringing the house.”
“Are you going to start working again? Feminist space movie?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I guess I’ll see what they think.”
“Who’s the one who talks really fast? Nathan? He sounds pretty pissed.”
“I can only imagine.”
I assure Wren one more time that I don’t hate her, and then I hang up and call my old agent Nathan.
* * *
? ? ?
Nathan and Kit were with me from that very first dinner at Nobu. Able brought them on to represent me when I moved over, and the two of them, plus Able and my publicist, Nan, became my team and, in effect, my new family.
Nathan, my agent, is the younger of the two, probably only just nearing forty now, and he hadn’t had much success when I signed with him. What he lacked in experience, however, he made up for in arrogance and delusion, two qualities admired above all else by men in this industry. Now he looks after some of the biggest names in the business and has an office with a view from Korea Town to Pacific Palisades to prove it.
Kit, my manager, likes to think of himself as a more cerebral man. It’s definitely an image he has cultivated, playing the role of a beleaguered Ivy League professor who has rather embarrassingly found himself embroiled in our indecent industry. As far as I’m aware, Kit grew up in San Diego and comes from NASCAR money.
We meet at Nathan’s office like we always used to. It’s been redone again, and everything in the room is now bright white, including Nathan’s jeans and his ratty Pomeranian, Dusty. It’s like stepping into a seventies insane asylum.
“The prodigal daughter returns.” Kit pulls me into a hug even though I’ve told him at least forty times over the years not to touch me. He gestures to the white leather sofa, and I’m stepping across the shaggy white rug when Nathan grabs my arm and shakes his head.
“Honey, no. This rug is worth more than your marriage. It’s not for walking on.”
“No problem.” I roll my eyes and climb over it dramatically. I’ve always been on my worst behavior with the two of them, and I naturally fall back into it. I met them when I was thirteen, and it was the only role I ever carved out for myself.
Kit sits in an ivory and chrome chair opposite me while Nathan paces the room in front of the window.
“Someone forgot their Ritalin today,” I say, and my first clue that this isn’t going to go how it used to is that neither of them laughs. Dusty curls up on the white rug below me, and I look at Nathan pointedly. He doesn’t say anything.
“First of all, welcome back to LA, Grace,” Kit says, steepling his hands like a Bond villain.
“How was Anaheim?” Nathan asks, saying it as if I’ve been in Fallujah and not a mere forty miles outside of Los Angeles.
“I should have told you where I was,” I say courteously.
“You also shouldn’t have left,” Nathan says.
“It’s not. Debatable,” Nathan says, and I think he’s gotten hair plugs since I left. Was everyone just waiting until I left the city to fulfill their cosmetic surgery goals? “You realize we’ve spent the best part of ten years working with you, right? We have built an entire network based on you being here, showing up and working. Your actions are no longer just your own at this point. You do understand that?”
“Nathan—” Kit interrupts, but Nathan holds up his hand. His lips are slick with spittle, and he wipes them with the back of his hand. When he puts his palm on the desk to steady himself, I can see the glob of saliva on his knuckles, and it makes me feel embarrassed for him. Nathan used to invite me over to his house in Brentwood and his entire family would treat me like I was Beyoncé, calling in the sushi chef from Katsuya and opening $800 bottles of wine that I inevitably ended up knocking over when I got too drunk.
“I just need to check that she understands that if this was any other business, we’d be able to sue the fuck out of her. Because it’s not like the CEO of a tech company going missing, or even the lead designer, it’s as if the fucking product itself disappears into thin air. Do you get it?”
“Like I said, I should have told you where I was.” I fold my arms across my chest and shift in my seat like a child in trouble.
“In all honesty, Grace, yes, you could have sent an email. We looked like retards,” Kit adds, and my surprise must show on my face because he shrugs and mouths what? at me after.
Nathan stands in front of the window with his arms folded across his chest. The winter sun spills in behind him, lighting him up like an angel. “You know that people very nearly forgot about you. I don’t know if that surprises you, but it shouldn’t.”
“Did you call this meeting to tell me that I’m expendable?” I ask, more surprised than anything.
“Not entirely. But yeah, everyone is expendable. What? I’m being honest,” he says when Kit frowns at him.
“I think what Nathan is really trying to say is that what you do next is very important. Have you . . . heard from Able?” Kit asks delicately.
I shake my head as my heart rate speeds up. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but Able chose them too. They were nowhere near as successful as he was, so when Able suggested they team up, they probably jizzed in their Calvins at the mere thought. Maybe they don’t know who they are without him either.
“Gracie sweetheart?” Kit prompts.
Gracie sweetheart. Said as if I’m still thirteen, fresh in LA in a Minnie Mouse T-shirt and a pair of cream Converse signed by all my friends back home.
“I still don’t understand what happened,” Nathan says, looking up at the ceiling as if summoning all of God’s strength just to deal with me.
I move in my seat, staring past them and out the window, at the city sprawled beneath us. I’ve seen this view at least five hundred times, from the highest peak of Runyon Canyon to the rooftop of Soho House, and I have never understood what people like so much about this city. Dylan used to try to explain how much energy he found in the twinkling lights of the valleys and the pastel houses sprouting up in the hills, how much beauty he saw in even the darkest corners of Hollywood and the dusty Topanga Canyon trails concealing rattlesnakes and mountain lions. The problem was, I could never see any of it through the smog.
“Like you said, everyone’s expendable,” I say coldly.
“Are you sure there’s nothing you can do to fix it? You didn’t do anything to upset him?” Nathan asks, still desperate to understand just how the well dried up so suddenly.
“Nathan, we’ve been through all of this. It’s over.”
Nathan shakes his head, glancing at Kit for support. “Let’s see how you feel about that after a year of making holiday movies for Hallmark.”
“Okay, there’s no need to be mean,” I say, frowning as Dusty lets out a piercing yelp.
“He made you what you are, Grace. I don’t know if you can come back from that,” Nathan says snidely.
And that’s when it hits me that Able still controls it all. He set it up from the start so that he is at the core of every choice I make and every choice made for me, and the best part is, he never even has to think about me. My career, my relationships, even where I live: Able is still at the crux of it all. Maybe he knew all along that without him I would become untethered, floating all alone in the ether of Hollywood. He always knew that nobody else would want to touch me.
“Isn’t it your job to figure that out? It seems like a flawed business model to only have one available avenue for your client,” I say bitingly.
“Grace. Your last movie came out over a year ago. If you found a project tomorrow, the movie could take up to three years to be released. In that time, even the microscopic percentage of moviegoers who still care about you will have forgotten you. You were one fucking movie away from being a household name. One movie.” Nathan slides into the chair behind his desk and places both of his palms in two tiny sandpits on either side of his Mac. He traces his fingers lightly through the sand and then gently rubs them together until his hands are clean again. I raise my eyebrows at Kit, but he just shrugs. I figure that Nathan’s feng shui guy has instructed him to do this to calm down in moments of high pressure, and he seems to have nearly achieved it when he catches sight of me. A deep red flush climbs up his baby-smooth neck, and his lips tighten.
“Are you fucking laughing, Grace?” Nathan turns to Kit and points at me, as if he can’t deal with me anymore. “Is she laughing?”