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“I guess it feels like there are just more people to let down this way,” I say after a moment, an idea slowly unfurling in my mind.

“You won’t let anybody down,” Emilia says firmly. “Remember that you aren’t accountable to anyone except for yourself. You need to keep your head down and focus on your own recovery. Fuck everyone else.”

“Can I be honest with you, Emilia?” I ask, and my whole body is trembling now. Emilia reaches over and takes my hand.

“Of course.”

“I’ve never wanted a drink more than earlier, when I was saying those words out loud.”

Emilia makes an anguished sound as she turns toward me.

“Oh, darling, I’m so sorry to hear that. I wish I could stay and look after you.”

I shrug, waving my hand at her, realizing as I do that it’s the exact way that she does it.

“I’ll be okay. I’ve been through worse than this.”

“Is there someone we can call? Do you still have a sponsor?” Emilia murmurs.

I shake my head, and then I feel a rush of disappointment as Emilia stands up anyway, dropping the clothes from her hand into her overnight bag and zipping it up.

“Well, you know both Able and I will be home tomorrow night if you need us,” she says gently.

“I’ll be fine,” I say, forcing a smile. Emilia is watching me now with a sad look on her face, and I can see that she’s teetering on the edge of making the right decision; she just needs a little nudge.

“I should go,” I say as I stand up. Then, as I lean in to hug her good-bye, I dip my hand into the pocket of my bag and flick the bottle of Percocet out onto the bedroom floor. We both watch as the bright orange bottle rolls along the rug, stopping underneath Able’s bedside table. Emilia looks at the bottle and then back at me. I can’t tell whether she knows I did it deliberately or not, but either way it serves the same purpose.

“Excuse me, Grace. Give me a minute.”

I pick the bottle up and hold it in my clammy hand as I wait on the bed. I wonder what I’ve done, if I’ve gone too far this time. I take my phone out of my bag to distract myself, and find a message from Esme asking when we can meet again. I ignore it and put my phone away. After a long while, maybe twenty minutes, Emilia walks back in and stands in front of me. She looks flushed, unhappy, but she forces a bright smile.

“What do you say to a night of Katharine Hepburn movies and hot chocolate?”

“What about the screening?”

“I’ve spoken to Able, and he agrees that I should be with you tonight,” Emilia says, not looking at me anymore. “This is more important than his ego. Come on, let’s go downstairs.”

“He doesn’t need you there?” I ask as Emilia wheels her suitcase back into her walk-in closet.

“You need me here,” she says, and I feel a stab of guilt that I’ve manipulated her like this, but mostly I am relieved that she chose me over him, even though I forced her to. I comfort myself with the notion that I’m actually protecting her, because if she knew what he was really like, she would never choose him again.

We sit together on the sofa with a mug each of creamy hot chocolate and a bowl of buttery popcorn to share, and we don’t speak another word about the interview, or Able, or my sobriety for the rest of the night. Instead we watch Stage Door and The Philadelphia Story, and just after midnight Emilia hands me a pair of brand-new silk pajamas before showing me to the guest room. I climb into the giant oak bed and, for once, fall asleep almost as soon as I close my eyes.

* * *

? ? ?

In the morning Emilia cooks me a heap of scrambled eggs with a smiley face made out of pine nuts, and, with her back turned to me, she tells me that she heard from Able overnight.

“He’s canceled his flight home,” she says, and I can’t quite read her tone. “He said he needs more time to work on the edit, whatever happens at the screening today.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, because I understand that he’s punishing her like he used to punish me.

“It’s not your fault,” she says, but there is an edge to her voice that I haven’t heard before. Emilia puts her own plate of eggs on the table and sits down opposite me, but she doesn’t eat. Instead she rests her chin in her hand, studying me.

“He won’t be back until the twenty-third,” she says after a moment, and the hardness is already dissipating. “Breezing back home just in time for Christmas with the kids.”

I feel a jolt of energy at Emilia’s words, but I try to keep my face neutral as I swallow my mouthful of food and place my hand over hers on the table. Emilia’s engagement ring is sharp against my palm as I smile at her comfortingly.

“Well, you know I’m always here if you need me,” I say, and I can almost feel her gratitude for my presence.


Wren walks down the stairs of the glass house in a short black dress and snakeskin Louboutin shoes, with her glossy hair tumbling perfectly down her tanned back, her skin glowing with youth or goodness or Glossier highlighter or something, but Dylan still hasn’t looked at her once.

I’m wearing a silk Saint Laurent dress I bought in Paris, and I want to believe that I only remember I wore it on the first night of our honeymoon when I see Dylan’s face, but maybe I knew all along. Dylan stands for a few minutes staring at me on the doorstep, forgetting to invite me in, and I have to slip past him into the foyer of the house so that Wren doesn’t notice how strange the atmosphere is.

“What do you think?” Wren asks Dylan eventually, doing a self-conscious shake. She turns to me and explains, “I’m hardly ever out of my work clothes, so this is a big deal.”

Dylan nods and then glances at me again quickly before turning back to answer his girlfriend.

“Beautiful. You both look beautiful.”

Wren’s face crumples for one tiny second before her smile slides right back, and I already wish I were anywhere but here.

* * *

? ? ?

The taxi drops us at the top of an alley, right in the dirty heart of Hollywood. Wren and I walk past a snaking line of beautiful people of fluid gender and indeterminate age, and she takes me right to the front, where a man stands flanked on either side by two strikingly beautiful women in leather jackets and tight neon dresses. The bouncer frowns at me for half a second before waving us in, lifting the rope so that we can shuffle past him.

“I don’t want to eat anything tonight. We’re not eating, right?” Wren says, and I recognize her steely determination already, remembering how many times I’ve begged someone not to go home just because I need a warm body next to me while I self-destruct. She threads her arm around my waist and rests her head on my shoulder for a second as we walk, and the small gesture makes me want to try harder to make her happy.

The club is small and almost empty, despite the massive line outside. It is decorated like an old circus with neon lights and distorted mirrors lining the walls, and a bar at the back. Wren heads straight to the bar to order two dirty vodka martinis, her pale hand holding the back of the bartender’s head gently as she speaks.

“Filthy. I’m talking super, super dirty. Like how dirty you’re thinking right now, times a thousand,” she says loudly, and I wonder if she’s already drunk.

When the drinks arrive, Wren holds up her glass to cheers me before she downs half of her drink in one sip. I look down at my glass and imagine the vodka slipping down my throat easily, familiarly. I touch my glass to my lips and then take it away again when I remember Emilia telling me how beautifully I was doing. I’m finding it harder to remember whether I’m lying when I say I’ve never had a drinking problem, or when I say I have one.

“We should get another order in now. That felt like it took ages,” Wren says, taking another long sip of her drink.

“Wren, you know that’s just straight vodka and vermouth.”

“You’re right, not nearly enough olive brine. Can we get two more of these, please? Extra brine,” Wren shouts to the barman, and he nods. We stand, moving slightly to the music as the venue fills up around us. The music is louder now, and I’m grateful that neither of us has to make conversation because we really only have one thing in common.

“You look good,” Wren shouts at one point, studying me.

“I feel okay,” I say, but even as the words leave my mouth, I’m scared that I’m leaving myself open for it all to be snatched away. It turns out that Wren wasn’t talking about my emotional well-being, though, as she reaches out to touch the ends of my hair softly before we’re interrupted by a beautiful boy dressed as a leopard asking Wren to take a picture of the two of us. Wren smiles and obliges, snapping a few photographs of us on his phone. Before he leaves, the leopard boy asks me to say the line from Lights of Berlin, but I pretend not to hear him and pat him gently on his furry shoulder instead.