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“Hello? Earth to Grace? What is wrong with you today?”

“I’m just thinking it through,” I say, walking over to the sink and turning it on. “While I think it’s great that you’re so passionate about this, I just don’t know how realistic some of the logistics are going to be. Plus, you know I haven’t heard any more about the awards show, so I’m not really sure what’s happening with that.”

“Well, why don’t you ask?” Esme says, watching me from the sofa.

“I’m not in a position to chase right now,” I say.

There is another knock at the door. I walk over to it, grateful for the interruption until I realize who is standing on my porch. It’s Camila.

I open the door slowly, and I can feel my sister moving behind me.

“Wow, you’re brave coming back after what you pulled last time,” I say quietly, remembering her parting question the day of the shoot. When I turn around, Esme is hovering a few feet behind me, trying to hear what I’m saying. I wave at her to sit back down on the sofa, then I step out onto the porch, leaving the door open only a couple of inches.

“Can I come in?” Camila asks, but she doesn’t try to explain herself or say she’s sorry. I wonder if she’s remembering my comment about women apologizing too much.

I shake my head, and, to her credit, she doesn’t try to look past me into my house. Her expression is set like a linebacker at a championship game, and I figure that she must really need whatever she thinks I have to say.

“I’m here to ask you one final time if you have any statement to give on Able Yorke winning the lifetime achievement award at the Independent Film Awards in a little over two weeks,” she says slowly, her eyes never leaving mine. The sound of his name still has the power to wind me, but I try not to let it show.

“I already gave you the interview,” I say. “Didn’t you get what you wanted?”

“Did you?” Camila responds instantly.

I study her face, a quiet intensity written all over it, and I wonder how different the roads were that led us both here.

“Are there others?” I ask after a moment.

Camila pauses, debating how to answer my question.

“I don’t know,” she says, and my face must tell her how much hinged on her answer, and that maybe her words prove exactly what I never wanted to face: there was just something bad about me. Camila steps forward then and leans in so close to me that I can smell the coffee on her breath. “Look . . . I’ve heard about other women who are coming forward . . . not about Able but about someone else, and . . . I think something is building, Grace.”

For a moment, time stops on the porch, a cool breeze slipping through the heat of the sun and lifting my hair off my shoulders. I think of everything I could tell this woman, wondering how I could ever reduce it to a statement. I’d have to distill it, purify it, erase any of the nuances that could cast me in an unflattering light because I know what people would say about me. People would want to blame me, too, and the worst part is, I wouldn’t know how to stop them. Able doesn’t look like a monster: he’s not slithery or lecherous, foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. He’s not racist, or homophobic, or any of the other labels I know how to use. His is one of the most beloved faces in America, yet another example of how hard work and perseverance can triumph over adversity any day, further proof that if you fail here, maybe it’s just because you never tried hard enough. I wish it was as clear-cut as I made it out to Esme, but I have never been able to separate myself from any of it, and in my darkest moments, I wonder if I don’t actually want to face up to what it would mean if I did. Whether I say the words today or at the IFAs, I will never be anything other than Able’s victim. He will still own me, just in a different way, and I would never move on from my past because it would be all anyone saw when they looked at me.

Camila’s expression is determined, but I can see something else now too. Is that empathy? Of course not. It’s pity. She pities me.

“No comment,” I say quietly, and I’m turning around to go back inside when she reaches out and puts her hand on my forearm. My skin burns where her fingers touch it.

“Everyone would be listening to what you had to say,” she says softly.

“I wish I was stupid enough to believe that,” I say, shaking her hand off. I close the door without looking at her again.

When I turn around, Esme is standing next to the open window, watching me. She is holding the video camera, and the red light is flashing. She swings it around to follow me.

“Turn that off,” I say as I walk into the kitchen and turn the kettle on, more to drown out the words still hanging in the air than anything else.

“What was that about?” Esme asks slowly, holding the camera up. I make a big thing about choosing a specific mug from the two options I have, eventually settling on the baby-blue one Emilia gave me, and then I remember the apple pie. I grab the rubber mitt, but by the time I’ve opened the oven door, smoke is already pouring out around me. When it clears, I can see that the pie is black, ruined.

“You’re still going to do it, right?” Esme asks, the red light still flashing on the camera. “Confront Able?”

“Turn the camera off, Esme,” I say, aware of how cold I sound. I can feel everything I ever wanted slide further out of reach every time I hear his name.

Esme turns the camera off and throws it onto the sofa.

“You know, I really need to do something for work. This just isn’t a good time for you to be here.”

Esme folds her arms across her chest. “You hardly have a job. What, did you forget to get a spray tan?”

“Esme,” I say, my voice intended as a warning.

“You promised me you’d do it, but you’ve forgotten already,” Esme says, her voice shaking slightly. “You’ve forgotten who you are.”

“Esme, please,” I say, not in the mood for her theatrics. “Look, I know that Mom and Dad have made you feel like you’re the center of the universe, but you’re not. Life isn’t always black-and-white, and things don’t always end up exactly how you planned.”

“Mom was right about you. All you do is let people down.”

I walk toward the front door and open it, waiting for my sister to leave. Instead she stays put, watching me as if she can see through me to my blood, and I feel so angry suddenly, because she was given everything I ever needed and she’s still giving me a hard time about it.

“I have been by myself since I was fourteen years old and I have worked, and fought, for every single thing I have. You would never understand that. I’m not going to reduce my entire life to being a footnote in someone else’s legacy.”

“You said it was all bullshit.”

“It’s no more bullshit than pretending to be someone I haven’t been for nearly ten years. Esme, this is all I have left, so please don’t make me feel bad for wanting to protect it. You can’t go up against someone like that and win. Not in the long term,” I say, my voice quiet. I can feel my sister’s disappointment in me, and I suddenly want to be anywhere but here.

“Why are you so scared of everything?” Esme asks, looking at me as if I’m a stranger. Every emotion I am feeling is reflected in such excruciating detail on her face that I have to turn away.

“You know that I didn’t ask for you to follow me around, right? In fact, I have never invited you over, not even once. I don’t know how to help you and I can’t tell you that everything works out in the end, because it doesn’t, and the truth is that you will never get what you actually want, because by the time you do, you won’t want it anymore. That’s the secret of the fucking universe that nobody wants to admit to themselves. Do you feel better for knowing it?”

I fold my arms across my chest and stare at my younger sister as her eyes fill with tears, and I remember now that she’s just a kid, that it’s not her fault everything is so fucked. I remember how she used to stare at the broken limbs of her dolls in her small hands, trying to work out how to put them back together, somehow believing that things were always better when she could control them, even if she ended up breaking the thing she loved. I have to swallow the lump rising at the back of my throat without my permission, and I want to tell her that I understand. That I tend to break things before they can hurt me, too, that I’m sorry, that I have the emotional intelligence of a fucking slug, that it’s probably our mom’s fault, when she stands up roughly.

“I actually feel sorry for you,” Esme says. “Because you lie to yourself every single day, and you lie to everyone else too. Your life is just one big fucking lie, and I wish you weren’t my sister.”

Esme pushes past me roughly, and I watch her walk away even though I know I should stop her. The saddest part is that, unlike me, I know my sister never lies.