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“Not really,” I say, then I collect her plate on top of mine and put them both in the kitchen sink.

I watch the rest of the episode with my parents before excusing myself, but I know my mom will think she has won anyway. Because surely that’s what she was doing—appealing to my engorged celebrity ego, thinking that I would never be able to resist the slithering pull of awards season. Surely I would never miss seeing Able win for his body of work that couldn’t have existed without me. That this entire time I’ve been pretending to rebuild Grace Hyde, we all knew my alter ego was always going to win in the end.

I try not to think about his papery skin, the copper smell on his hands, but the memories slide and distort behind my closed eyes until they fuse together like a time-lapse film. I open the secret drawer of my old jewelry box and pull out the orange tube of pills I haven’t touched since I left Los Angeles, running my thumb across the smooth label. Percocet: a prescription for yet another version of myself, the one you may find in a heap on the bathroom floor. I quietly pour two pills out onto my sweaty palm and swallow them dry. After a moment I swallow one more because they haven’t kicked in quickly enough to stop the shame clawing at my insides, and I don’t think I can risk what comes next: the involuntary mental checklist of all the ways I’ve ever failed anyone.

I sit against my bedroom door and wait for the numbness to melt over me, for the present to replace the past, to be aware only of the blessedly tangible: the texture of the carpet beneath my fingertips, the hum of the dishwasher in the kitchen, the canned laughter from the TV down the hall. Just as my muscles start to melt, my heart rate slowing down to normal, I hear my sister’s voice, calling out for my mom from her bedroom. I slip into the bathroom next to my room, and I stick the plastic end of my toothbrush down my throat, vomiting messily into the stained porcelain basin as hot tears streak down my face. Afterward, I curl up on the bath mat and rest my cheek against the cool linoleum floor. Maybe my mom was right about me when she said I wasn’t happy, but what she doesn’t understand is that since the age of fifteen, I’ve never even dared to want to be happy. I’m just trying to stay alive.


For the first time in months, sleep eludes me entirely. It becomes something slippery, just out of reach, and I know that it has started all over again. Able has crept into this house and I will start to see his face reflected next to mine in the bathroom mirror, the outline of his profile in a slice of burned toast. My mom may have been the one who said his name, but I’m always the one who leaves the door open for him. He was never supposed to exist here, but now that he’s here, he comes after me like a flood.

I already know what happens next if I stay, because it’s the only part that ever comes easily to me. Worse than the numbness, worse than the bending and yielding to fit myself into a place I no longer belong, I will become resentful, bitter, and it won’t be long before I’m drinking again, mixing vodka with my pills and blacking out in an effort to forget my own name for just a minute. My parents will no longer be able to ignore what I’ve become, and neither will my sister. I understand that they have all just been tolerating my presence since I got back, waiting for me to get sick of them and leave again. I don’t think I can even blame them for it, as much as I want to.

As the sky begins to lighten outside, I pack up my things, dropping the clothes and books from my drawers into my small suitcase without looking at them. I arrived at my parents’ house with little, and I’ll return to LA with even less.

I peek into my parents’ bedroom on my way out. They seem older when they’re asleep, on their backs with their mouths tugging down at the corners. I feel a shift somewhere deep in my chest, so I close the door gently behind me and creep toward the front door.

“You weren’t going to say good-bye?”

My mom appears in the hall behind me, one hand gripping the wall. She’s like me, a useless automaton version of herself until she’s had a cup of coffee.

I shrug, the key she gave me hovering next to the lock. “I’ll visit soon.”

“You’ll miss Thanksgiving,” she says matter-of-factly.

“We barely celebrate Thanksgiving,” I say, smiling slightly.

“Will you be back for Christmas at least?”

“I don’t know,” I reply.

My mom runs a hand through her fine hair, and I wonder for the first time if this is hard for her too. I remember how much I used to worship her before we moved here, and I know that I would take it all back if I could, and if I could just figure out how to tell her that, it might be the most honest thing I’ve ever said.

“I just wanted to be normal for a while,” I say quietly.

A flicker of a smile.

“You could never be normal, Grace, you just don’t know it yet.”

I don’t say anything as I turn back to the door.

“You don’t want to say good-bye to Esme?”

An image of Esme as a young child appears in my mind, but I shake my head. I’ve always been good at leaving; it seems strange for her to have forgotten already.

“Grace?” my mom says when I’m halfway down the front porch steps, but her next words get lost in the sound of a lone car speeding past us.

“What did you say?” I ask, and suddenly something is pressing on my chest, making it hard for me to breathe.

“I said, watch the traffic around the 710,” she says, louder this time.

I nod wordlessly as she closes the front door.


After my audition, arrangements were made for me to screen-test in LA over the summer break. My parents left Esme with a friend, and we boarded a flight without her for the first time since she was born. I held my mom’s hand during takeoff, and even though I could see how clunky a metaphor the ascent into the clouds was for how I was feeling (even my insipid English teacher would have circled that one in red), it did nothing to stem the growing feeling I had that all the other passengers on the plane were just along for the ride. While my parents slept for most of the flight, I watched a garbage movie about vampires that I had never been allowed to watch at home, and I wondered if I’d ever feel grounded enough to sleep again.

Our flight landed in the late afternoon, and a black town car was waiting to take us straight to our hotel. The production company had booked us a suite at the Four Seasons, and I knew as soon as we arrived in the perfect, marble lobby that the new pair of Reebok shoes my parents had bought me were all wrong.

Everything in the hotel was a beautiful, rich cream color with gold accents and little touches we never even knew we were missing. My mom and I ran around our suite, calling each other over to feel the luxurious bathrobes hanging on the back of the door, or to touch the embroidered cover of the book of dreams tucked in the drawer next to the bed. My dad trailed behind us, already off-balance by the whole experience. The studio had left a giant hamper filled with American sweets on my bed, and my mom and I tore through Tootsie Rolls and Twinkies as we flicked through the TV movie channels. I felt mildly guilty that Esme wasn’t there to see any of it, but it was also the most attention I’d received from my parents in a long time. I hadn’t let myself realize how much I’d missed it.

I had three auditions over the next week, and each time I read the lines I felt more connected to them, as if they were bubbling up from a place inside me I never knew existed. I didn’t even care when the adults behind the table interrupted me to order Mexican food or whisper notes to the assistant standing with a clipboard behind them. I think my parents were worried that I already wanted it too much, but it never felt like a risk to me because I had a feeling the role was already mine.

Sure enough, the night before we were due to fly back to London, we were invited to dinner at Nobu with Able Yorke and his wife, Emilia, along with Nathan and Kit, the two men who would become my agent and manager. I had been introduced to all of them at various points over the week, but at the time I had lumped them all into the same category, filed only under “adults I need to impress.” As we walked into the dark restaurant, my mom reminded me that Able Yorke was the person I needed to win over the most.