Dylan shakes his head but he’s looking at me like I’m magic, and for the first time in my life, I actually want to believe him.
“Are you going to be all right?” Dylan asks while I’m reaching for my jacket and bag from the back of the car. I understand that he still has to ask me this question because just over a year ago I drove off a cliff into a ravine at the bottom of the Santa Monica Mountains, and I have the scars to prove it. Because after I faced the source of all of my nightmares at the IFAs, I then had to endure hours of questioning at the police station about the emotional abuse, the sexual assault and, finally, the crash, so that by the time they let me go, I didn’t know if I felt weightless or drained of everything I had. The state won’t press charges against me for the accident, but are still deliberating over what to do about my claims against Able. My lawyer told me that Emilia was right, the reality of California law is that my case is unlikely to make it to court, and if it does I will have to endure weeks of attacks on my credibility by Able’s lawyers that, best-case scenario, will result in a couple of months in jail and a small fine for him. Some days, just knowing that there are names for what he did, things that at one time seemed so horrifyingly unique to just me, feels like it could be enough. Other days I want to stand up in court and testify against the man who abused me in so many ways, fire roaring in my veins. I change my mind every day. And I’m allowed to.
“I think so,” I say. The truth.
I kiss Dylan on the cheek before I climb out of the car, and he smiles because it has to be good enough for the moment, while we’re still figuring everything out.
I’m a couple of feet away when Dylan winds down his window.
“Do you think it’s an appropriate moment to . . . say the line?” he says, grinning so widely I start to laugh.
“I’m not sure that it’s ever appropriate to say the line.”
“Come on . . . it’s kind of perfect.”
I stand for a moment, hands on my hips, trying to remember what it felt like to play a homicidal sex worker in an orange jail jumpsuit, rage pounding through my veins in every scene. I think about the line that strangers still shout at me when I pass them in the humid city streets; the line that I once believed could get me an Oscar, but that I now know just means a part of me will always belong to other people, whatever happens next. The line that Able wrote just for me. I take a deep breath as I turn the words over in my mind, and then I just drop my hands back down to my sides and shrug.
“You know, I think I’ve officially earned the right to never say the line again in my life,” I say, grinning at Dylan unapologetically. Our eyes meet for a second and I feel that familiar kick, low in my belly.
We’re both still smiling as Dylan drives away, his waving hand nearly lost in the Malibu dust that billows behind him. And that’s when I notice the sky above the Pacific. Have you ever seen a sunset like this one? I hope you have, the wild pink sky slashed with flaming streaks of gold, the kind of sunset that makes you feel lucky, golden; the type that has the power to tell you that perhaps, for one small moment in time, you are exactly where you need to be.
To my parents and Sophie, for your support in me and for being the funniest (and best) family in the world. D—thank you for always encouraging me to write and be creative, and for leading by example. I promise I’ll read Dracula now. M—thank you for all of your thoughtful advice and for being the first person I trust with anything, in both writing and life. S—thank you for being my best friend and my memory, and for having enough enthusiasm for us both. I am so BEYOND lucky to have you all.
To Jen Monroe, for being the smartest editor I could have dreamed of. Thank you for understanding me (and, more importantly, Grace!) implicitly, and for excavating the heart of the story. Working with you has been a dream.
To Julia Silk, for seeing something in my writing early on and for setting everything in motion. Thank you for your patience and for your wicked sense of humor—some of the lines exist only to make you laugh.
To David Forrer, for choosing to take me on and transforming my life almost overnight. I could feel your warmth and magic from the first time we spoke.
To Jin Yu, Jessica Brock, Diana Franco, Craig Burke, Jeanne-Marie Hudson and Claire Zion at Berkley, for your ideas, enthusiasm and support—I’m so grateful for all that you do. To Colleen Reinhart and Emily Osborne, for the beautiful cover. To Angelina Krahn, for being a truly talented copy editor and making me look better than I am.
To Lola Frears, for being my first reader, my hype man and my therapist all in one. I can’t wait to see what you do next. WE STILL GOT THIS, RIGHT?
To Tilda and James Napier, who believed I could do this even when I didn’t. Thank you for being such positive forces in my life, and for Jackson and Jeanne.
To Rachael Blok, for the early edits and emotional support, as well as the much-needed punctuation lessons. And to everyone at CBC, particularly Anna Davis, for the early reads and advice.
To Tim and Martha Craig, for the early lessons in confidence and kindness, and to Nora Evans and Mark Owen at KAS, for fostering individuality and creativity above all else.
To Christian Vesper and Rustic Bodomov, for your invaluable insight into the respective worlds of film/TV and stunt work—any errors are entirely my own. To Christine Louis de Canonville—thank you for your tireless efforts to reform the laws around coercive control until they reflect the realities of so many.
To Jacqueline, Lili (and Bodhi!), Mary, Dan, Jazz, Charlie, Lottie, Athina, Claire, Vikki, Maggie, Jenni, Ed, Vanna, Will, Sarah, Nenners, Merry, Janet, Dave, Hannah, Owen, Rach, Emma, Bonnie, Kim, Paul and Ben, for your friendship and stories, and for keeping me (relatively) sane. I hope I didn’t steal any of your best lines!
To Rocky, because it would be weird if I didn’t mention you once in 100,000-odd words. A true angel.
And finally, to James. Thank you for your unwavering belief in me from the moment we met, as well as your love. Thank you for always falling asleep with a smile on your face. I couldn’t have done this without you.
I started writing The Comeback in February 2017, and I understood from the start who Grace was, and what she’d experienced in a male-dominated environment of toxic power that had gone unchecked for too long.
This was eight months before the New Yorker and New York Times articles exposing the systemic sexism and chilling sexual abuse allegations in Hollywood came out. I watched in awe as the Me Too movement, started in 2006 by the relentless and inspiring Tarana Burke, took hold. At first it was stories from people like Grace, their words filtered through the mainstream press and given coverage because of who they were, but soon enough the stories took on a life of their own: thousands of secrets fighting their way out of bedrooms and offices and refuges across the world. The tireless work of Burke and the reporters who broke those initial stories—Megan Twohey, Ronan Farrow and Jodi Kantor—as well as the thousands of brave survivors who came out in the following months has been a beautiful, rallying example of how the Internet can be used for good, as well as showing the power that comes when we remove the secrecy and stigma from sexual abuse.
I made the editorial decision to leave Grace’s story as I had first envisaged it, choosing not to reference the developments that were happening in the world around me and the effect these would have on Grace’s story. While aspects of Grace’s experience are familiar, it is, like every instance of abuse, ultimately a very personal story about the shame we can carry in the aftermath of trauma.
I stand with the survivors of abuse of every gender, whether that abuse is sexual, physical, emotional or any other type, and I hope that in telling Grace’s story, I have done them a small justice.