Home > The Fiancee(6)

The Fiancee(6)
Author: Kate White

“Oh, you’re sweet to remember, Blake. Yes, I’m still tweaking it. It’s about five women planning to do an intervention with a friend and at first you think it’s about alcohol or drugs—if I’m doing my job right—but then you realize it’s about the friend having had way too many cosmetic procedures. The good news is that it was accepted into a small playwriting festival and is going to be staged in November.”

“How clever, Summer. It sounds wonderful.”

Well, it’s not a damn Netflix pilot, but it’s something. “Thank you, Blake.”

“Is there a part for you, I hope?”

I smile. “Better be.”

“The voice-over stuff sounds great, too. When we were in the pool, Gabe mentioned that you set up a recording studio right in the loft.”

“True, though it’s nothing fancy. I just put up some acoustical foam in a walk-in closet. But I can do a lot of voice-over jobs that way—even if it sometimes seems like I’m in a padded cell.”

“Ah, but to have so much freedom in your professional life. There are days when I feel like I’m stuck on a gerbil wheel.”

The comment surprises me. I always assumed Blake, the responsible oldest child, was thriving in his work or at least convinced it was worth all the spoils: a huge house in the suburbs; a condo in Aspen; weekend jaunts to the Caribbean. Is it possible he’d like a break from always having to follow the rules?

“What about a short sabbatical?”

“It’s hard to do in my world, and I don’t know if it would help. I’ve always envied Gabe. He parlayed his passions for wine and travel into a business and gets to do what he really loves every day. I like medicine, but it’s hard to be passionate about removing endless moles from people who refuse to stay out of the sun.”

Before I can ask him to elaborate, he switches gears back to the voice-over work. Though I appreciate his friendly questions, they have the unfortunate effect of forcing my mind on the morning’s recording session, and I start to wonder if I should have attempted any kind of damage control with the director.

As Bonnie and her helper clear away the plates from the first course, I excuse myself, head to the powder room off the main hall in the house, and shoot Shawna a text.

Sorry abt all the back and forth today. Hope everyone’s happy with the final results.

I give it a minute, waiting to see if she’ll respond. No reply appears. I slip my phone back into my purse and step outside, but I don’t return to the table yet. Instead, I pause in the corridor, leaning against the row of tan slickers that hang on wall pegs, placed there by Claire for anyone in the house to borrow in foul weather.

There’s something else on my mind and I fish my phone from my purse again and send another text, this one to Billy Dean, my college friend who is now an actor-barista-tour guide in New York. It happens that he was in that West Village showcase with me.

Crazy Q 4u. I was thinking of those plays we did abt 2 years ago at the Lilac Theater on West 13th St. Do u remember the name of the girl who played the cat who turned into a woman? In the last play?

By the time I return, the pasta with tomatoes and melted Brie is being served, and the volume of the conversation has gone up a decibel or two. Dusk has begun to dissolve into darkness, and fireflies dance in the yard beyond the patio, oblivious to all of us.

During this part of the meal, I chat with Gabe’s uncle, and I also have the chance to observe Hannah in action. She’s to the left of Aunt Jean, Ash’s sister, with Nick on her other side, his arm draped around her shoulder like a pashmina she’s brought along in case the weather cools.

While nodding and smiling during the conversation I’m pretending to be engaged in, I manage to hear Hannah entertaining Nick, Jean, and Wendy with a story about her first day on a film set. When she heard the term “honey wagon,” she tells them, her voice sparkling, she assumed it was where food and beverages were served, but it turned out to be the trailer with the toilets. She’s greeted with warm laughter from her listeners.

As I watch her from the corner of my eye, I’m struck by how totally unselfconscious she seems. Her hands move a little for emphasis or illustration when she’s telling a story, but she never touches her face, twirls her hair, or nibbles a cuticle, which is my go-to nervous habit. During my first years in New York, when I wasn’t chasing auditions or waiting tables, I took endless acting workshops and classes, and the best ones focused on training you to look natural and spontaneous when you performed—acting teachers call it being “unentangled.” The legendary Stanislavski—whom I did not study with needless to say—stressed that actors need to learn “public solitude,” meaning that even with people watching you, you’re at ease. Hannah’s more than nailed the technique.

Discreetly, I steal a glance toward Marcus at the far end of the table, wondering how he’s handling Hannah’s presence. He seems fully absorbed in conversation with Claire and his cousin. But a few seconds later, as I’m about to ask Gabe’s uncle a question, Marcus shifts slightly in his seat and reaches for the breadbasket, and as he does, his gaze shifts to Hannah. He stares hard at her, seemingly unable to look away.

Has he misled Keira, I wonder, allowing her to believe he was never serious about Hannah? Maybe he’d been as enthralled with her as Nick is. And if that’s the case, I can’t imagine how uncomfortable he must be, not just from Hannah’s being here but also the fact that she’s bedding down with his twin.

I can see how Hannah would have been attracted to both of them initially. As fraternal twins, Marcus and Nick aren’t supposed to look any more alike than regular brothers, but there’s an uncanny resemblance. They’re both about six feet tall, a little shorter than Gabe, with light blue eyes like their mother and her blond hair, as well, though slightly darker.

That said, they lack the magical bond so many identical twins have. They get along well enough most of the time, but from what Gabe has told me, and what I’ve seen with my own eyes, there’s always been a subtle, unspoken rivalry between them. By all accounts, Nick was an easygoing and fun kid, a natural athlete whom others glommed on to, whereas Marcus was a chubby, introspective child, who spent hours in his room and didn’t fully come into his own—and his looks—until his midtwenties, around the time he and Gabe began their partnership. And though Marcus is now happily married and runs a successful business with Gabe, due in no small part to his excellent head for numbers, I sense he’s still envious of Nick at times.

And though this is far less obvious, I suspect Nick has moments when he envies Marcus. For being so brainy. For not needing to charm people until their cheeks hurt from smiling.

Once the heavenly tiramisu has been served and eaten, I rise and make my way over to Henry, who’s been entertaining Ash through the meal and now has his eyes at half-mast. Gabe joins us.

“Want me to tuck him in?” I ask.

“No, I better do it,” Gabe says. “I want to make sure he feels really comfortable sleeping in a different house from us. I’ll meet you at the cottage, okay?”

I nod. “Night, honey,” I say to Henry, tousling his silky light brown hair.

“Can you do Peter and Wendy tonight?” he asks, looking up at me.

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