Page 25

“I really am sorry. I know you have families and, like, billion-dollar houses to pay off and stuff. I do understand that. It’s hard. It’s just, you kind of convinced me I already was a household name?”

“Do you think anyone in Wallace, Idaho, wonders where Grace Turner went?” Nathan asks. “Do you know how hard everyone worked to get that movie out in time to be eligible for awards season because of you? Do you know how much groundwork we laid to try to get you that Oscar nomination? We rented a fucking billboard on Sunset Boulevard, Grace, but you’d already left by the time it went up. We played the entire thing perfectly from the start, and you fuck it up at the last minute by disappearing. Who blows off the Golden Globes?”

Nathan looks at Kit, who shakes his head sadly, and I wonder how many times they’ve had this conversation.

“You know, actually, let’s talk about the Globes for a moment. We flew sixty-five members of the Hollywood Foreign Press out to Berlin for the wildest party they’ve ever been to. Most of these guys didn’t sleep for the entire trip. Two guys missed their flights home. Our For Your Consideration campaign was so fucking flawless that kids would have studied it in film school for years to come. If you hadn’t disappeared six weeks out.”

“I didn’t know you were doing all that,” I say defensively. “Nobody told me.”

“Don’t play dumb now, Grace. You know, even if by some miracle you’d won that fucking Oscar, everyone always knew you needed one more movie to fully cross over. You’ve fucked it up.”

“Nathan, I get it,” I say, holding eye contact with him for the first time. “Please. I really get it.”

“No, because if you got it, you wouldn’t have done what you did. Have you thought about what you’re going to do next? Because whatever you do has to be commercial but still have integrity, and do you know who the only person creating commercial stuff with integrity at the moment is?” I can tell that Nathan’s about to lose his shit again.

“Can you at least see what else is out there?” I direct my attention to Kit, even though the real battle is with Nathan. “It’s pilot season next month. There has to be something for me.”

“Sure, honey,” Kit says, pulling out his phone and frowning as he reads something. Nathan does the same. They are letting me know they are done with me.

Kit’s mouth moves slightly as he types a message.

“Are you making a note of that?” I ask, narrowing my eyes.

“Of course,” Kit says absentmindedly.

I stand up, and then I stamp all over the expensive rug to get to the door. I turn around and shake my head. They both ignore me, tapping away silently at their phones.

“You guys are fucking cretins.”

* * *

? ? ?

The valet at Nathan’s office building, Pat, isn’t as friendly as he used to be. I wonder whether it’s filtered down to him that I’m not someone he needs to impress anymore. I try to remember whether I usually give him a tip for Christmas or not. I hand him a fifty-dollar bill from my sunglasses case anyway and he’s a little nicer after that, opening the car door and smiling at me. Pat used to tell me that my talent was a gift from God every time he saw me, but this time he just says, “Happy holidays,” quickly as he’s closing the car door.


I sit in the car with my eyes closed for a few minutes, trying to ground myself or whatever it was my Transcendental Meditation coach was always trying to teach me to do. I feel uneasy after my meeting with Nathan and Kit and I’m irritated to find that I still care what they think. When my phone buzzes on the seat next to me, I pick it up, staring at it for a moment. I clumsily tap in my security code before opening the message app like my sister taught me.

    Don’t be mad

I handled it

(It’s Esme btw)

Want to know whose little friend this is?

The picture is of a dick, purple and swollen. I slap my hand over the screen and check outside my window to see if anyone is watching me. Fuck, fuck, fuck. What is she doing?

    That’s right, it’s Mr. Best Buy, cretin-in-chief, liar-in-command himself

You’re welcome

I delete her messages and throw my phone back onto the seat next to me, banging the steering wheel hard. Then I pick it back up and open a new text to Esme. I type slowly and with lots of autocorrect errors at first.

    How did you get that? This is completely illegal and inappropriate.

Esme texts back almost immediately.

    It is not illegal. I was trying to help. Don’t bother replying if you’re going to be dramatic

I rest my head on the steering wheel for a moment, but when I pull out of the parking garage and into the stark sunshine, I’m surprised to find that I’m laughing.

* * *

? ? ?

“Sooo, what do you think?” Esme says, trying to control the pride in her voice. I press the phone against my ear and sink back into the porch chair.

“I think I could probably get arrested for having that hideous picture on my phone. Is Mom home?”

“They’re both out. Jesus, chill, you’re not going to get arrested—he’s super old.”

“How old is super old?”

“At least twenty.”

“How did you even get that?”

“Instagram. I started talking to him under a fake account, and he asked me to send a nude first,” Esme says defensively. “So I figured he definitely deserved it. He knew nothing about me and he still thought he’d earned the right to see me naked.”

“You didn’t . . . ?” I ask hesitantly, thinking of the nude she sent at school.

“Of course I didn’t. I’m not a total idiot, Grace. I sent him one I found on Reddit, and he sends me his shit back right away, and it was just so gross that it had to be real.”

“Oh God.”

“Look, I’ve already been in contact with him to reveal our true intentions, and he’s agreed to post something else about you in return for us not sending his dick pic to his boss at Best Buy. So, you’re welcome.”

“Something else?”

“Something to say he was just trying to get attention by posting mean things about you, and you’re actually really normal and nonderanged. Et cetera, et cetera,” Esme adds.

“Well. This was all very . . . kind of you, in a way,” I say, feeling bad because she seems so pleased with herself. “But that’s not going to work.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just not how it works, Esme. Nobody will even bother printing a tiny retraction, let alone a whole new post to say I was behaving perfectly normally on a Wednesday afternoon in Best Buy. That’s not a story. Have you ever read that about anyone?”

“That’s bullshit,” Esme says sulkily, and I feel like I’ve just told her that puppies don’t exist, or that Tom Hanks is a raving misogynist.

“People are saying you have a problem. Like drugs or drinking or something,” Esme says, and I resist the urge to tell her that it’s probably the first time in five years that I don’t have either of those particular problems. She doesn’t need to think any less of me than she already does.

“Maybe even psychosis,” she adds.

“Esme, I appreciate the effort you went to, but I’m pretty sure that however you got that photo is the last thing I need to be involved in right now. Thank you for what you were trying to do, but can we please just forget about the kid with the boner?”

“But why should he get away with it, just because he’s a guy?” Esme says, sounding as if she’s about to burst into tears. “Didn’t anyone teach you that you have to stand up to bullies?”

I try to remember a time when I believed in rules like this, too, when I last felt owed anything by life. I feel a tug of envy at her na?veté.

“Sometimes real life doesn’t work out like that,” I say quietly. “Look, you may not know this yet, but there are some bad people in the world, and while some of them get exactly what they deserve, others just don’t. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. This guy might feasibly keep winning, over and over, to the point where you can’t even begin to understand how unfair life can be. So the sooner you just accept that, the easier it will all be.”

Esme is silent on the other end of the phone, and I shift in my chair to stop my leg from cramping up.

“The Best Buy geek is going to win?” she asks eventually. “What are you saying?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, exhausted suddenly, and grateful that my parents aren’t home to witness the demotivational speech I’ve just given my sister. “No, probably not.”

“So who’s going to win?” Esme asks softly.

“Can we talk about something else?” I say, and for some reason I feel lonelier than I have in a long time.

“Why are you just giving up? It’s so sad to watch,” Esme says, sounding just like our mother.