Home > The Fiancee(5)

The Fiancee(5)
Author: Kate White

She tips her head in confusion. “Showcase?”

“Yes. One with six or seven ten-minute plays. Down in the West Village.”

“Hmm, I’m afraid you must have me mixed up with someone else,” she says. “I’ve never done a showcase in the Village.”

This is totally bizarre. I have no idea why, but I’m sure that she’s just told me a big, fat lie.

 

 

2


Okay, wait, maybe I’m wrong, I think, feeling a twinge of embarrassment.

But a beat later, I reconsider again. Hannah’s too distinctive looking, especially with her mile-long lashes and lips full enough to be used as a flotation device. I know it was her.

“It’s possible I’m remembering the location wrong,” I tell her. “But you were a cat that a scientist turns into a woman, and then falls in love with. I played a failing country western singer in one of the other plays.”

I expect her to raise her eyes briefly upward and to the left—that’s where people look when they’re trying to remember—but instead she holds my gaze, her expression blank.

“Nope, I’m sorry,” she says. There’s a base note of relish in her words, as if she likes proving me wrong. “I’ve worked in theater, but never a role like that. Though it sounds like an intriguing concept.”

I guess I am hopelessly confused, because why would she be reluctant to admit it? Tons of actors do showcases. And one of the biggest freaking musicals of all time has an entire cast of people pretending to be cats. I concede. “Well, you’ve got a doppelgänger then.”

“Good to know,” she says slyly. “In case I’m ever wrongly accused of murder. Though not so great for an actor, is it—someone going after the same roles?”

I force a chuckle. “Are you based full-time in New York?”

She nods. “I stayed in L.A. for a little while after I graduated from USC. You know, University of Southern California?”

Of course I know. It’s one of the best drama programs in the country.

“But I really prefer New York,” she continues. “There are so many movies and TV shows shooting in the city right now, and though I do love theater, I’m mostly concentrating on film work these days.”

“Oh, like what?” I ask, barely getting the words out.

“I just finished a pilot for a Netflix series, and—fingers crossed—we’ll be green-lighted this month.”

It takes everything I’ve got to paste a smile on my face. Am I the only actor on the fucking planet not currently shooting a Netflix pilot?

“That’s terrific,” I say.

“What about you?”

Hmm, what should I tell her? That my main role in the past six months was an “under five” on Law and Order: SVU, where I played a secretary, and that two of my five lines were, “He’s on a call right now so it might be a while,” and “Wait, you can’t go in there”?

“I do a mix of things—TV, theater, voice-over work,” I say instead, trying to sound confident. “My main project right now is a short play I wrote. It’s going to be part of a festival this fall.”

“Oh, how fun,” she says.

Fun? She makes it sound like I’ve informed her we’re having s’mores for dessert tonight.

I’m saved from further conversation by Ash’s announcement that dinner is served at the other end of the long patio. Nick reappears and takes Hannah’s hand. At the same moment, Gabe heads in my direction, carrying a half glass of wine. People meld together and we make our way to dinner, the dogs practically glued to our sides.

“Shoot,” Gabe says, “I never let Amanda know we arrived.” He whips out his phone and quickly texts her.

“Do you think she ever misses any of this?” I ask when he’s completed the task.

He shakes his head. “I doubt it. For some reason, she never took to it like you have, babe.”

I think I know why the festive and celebratory atmosphere the Keatons create means so much to me. My own parents couldn’t be nicer or kinder, but two years before I was born, they lost my brother, Leo, to meningitis, and a faint sadness always seemed to permeate our home, especially in the evenings.

We reach the end of the patio, where there’s unified murmur of appreciation for the dinner setup. A long wooden farm table sits under the vine-laced pergola, and it’s been strewn with twinkling votive candles and tiny vases bursting with lavender and other fresh herbs. Along the outer wall of the house is a rustic wooden sideboard laid with platters of antipasto—roasted vegetables, cheeses, olives, salami, and prosciutto.

“This looks fabulous,” I say to Bonnie, the fiftysomething Energizer Bunny–like housekeeper who’s standing by to help with serving. She’s been with the Keatons for over two decades and is a total gem.

“Thanks, Summer,” she says, cocking her head toward Claire, “but of course you know who the real maestro is.”

After helping Henry pick and choose from the buffet, I return to the line and load up my own plate. I end up sitting between Gabe’s uncle and Blake, whom I’ve yet to connect with today. His short, prematurely gray hair, which matches his trimmed beard and mustache, is still slightly damp from his swim, and he’s dressed in slacks and a long-sleeve white linen shirt. A little formal for outdoor dining, but that’s Blake for you.

“Dr. Keaton,” I say, giving him a peck on the cheek. “At long last.”

“I know, I know, sorry about that. Wendy’s been crushed, traveling a lot for work, and I’ve been busier than I ever imagined.”

Blake’s a dermatologist, an anomaly in a family of entrepreneurs. He’s forty-one and a bit square compared to his younger brothers—I could make him blush simply by saying the words ass crack or lady parts—but he’s also genial and inquisitive, with a big heart. I always enjoy his company.

Before we can chat anymore, Bonnie and a young, pink-haired female helper, whom I vaguely recall from another event, approach with bottles of red and white Italian wines, compliments of Gabe and Marcus’s company. When they’ve finished filling our glasses, my father-in-law rises and raises his glass in a toast.

“Claire, my dearest, you’ve done it again,” he says, leveling his gaze at her. “Thank you. And to everyone else: Welcome, enjoy, and we’re so glad you’re able to share this wonderful family time with us.”

After what seems like endless clinking of glasses, I turn back to Blake. “Well, I’m just glad that with all the work on your plate, you both managed to get away this week.”

“My mother would strangle me if we ever skipped a year.”

“Really?” It’s hard for me to imagine Claire annoyed at any of her sons, but especially Blake. He’s such a solid citizen.

“I’m kidding, of course. We wouldn’t miss it for the world. We all have so much to catch up on.”

I’m reminded suddenly of the swell in Wendy’s belly. Maybe she is pregnant, and they’re planning to tell us this week.

“The last time we spoke at length,” he says, “you were picking my brain about fillers and Botox for a play you were writing. Are you still working on that?”

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