Chapter 4


A manuscript thumps down atop Ward’s desk. He looks up at Alina: “You could have emailed it to me.” “I know,” she replies. “But this felt more dramatic. I’m a few chapters shy, but I think they’ll like what’s there so far.” Ward leafs through the pages. “What happens to Erica after her mother kills herself?” he asks of the story’s plot. Alina goes on to explain the storyline, which involves a woman who hires a ghost whisperer after her mother commits suicide, and is determined to admonish any guilt. Things get weird when she and the ghost whisperer fall in love, and her deceased mother, who disapproves of the lesbian love affair, starts communicating her anger. “So, the whisperer Chantal is stuck between them as lover, enemy, medium…” Alina says as she completes the pitch. Ward nods his head: “Into it. Wait, it looks here like you later give Chantal the narration?” // “Yes, we switch to her point of view midway through. That was Tracey’s idea.” // “Oh, great. So Tracey’s being helpful?” // “Quite. She’s smart. And she listens. Asks questions. Makes suggestions.” // “Can she turn back time and give me a completed novel, like, two months ago?” // “I’m starting to think she can make anything happen,” Alina says.


Ward and Alina’s last few lines pour into a scene where Alina and Tracey work together from Alina’s living room. We hear Alina say “She’s smart…” as the two women compare notes; Tracey makes some kind of suggestion, speaking passionately while captivating Alina. Next, “And she listens…” as Tracey studies Alina intently; she’s receiving feedback but is enamored by her mentor. … “Asks questions… makes suggestions…” as Alina reads red-inked notes that have been written in the manuscript, pleased with what she sees. … “Can she turn back time and give me a completed novel, like, two months ago?” as Tracey pours coffee in the kitchen; she has peeled off her button up to reveal a tank top and is now wearing her glasses, while Alina studies every curve of her body, fixated, from behind. … “I’m starting to think she can make anything happen…” as we cut to the bedroom. It’s many hours later, and Alina and Helene are ensnared in each other’s arms. Helene looks like she’s actually enjoying herself, and it’s her turn to speak as Alina rolls off to her side: “What’s gotten into you, Alina? Wow.”


“Wow. What’s gotten into you?” Ward asks Alina, waving the manuscript rapturously. “It’s terrific. Jesus; everything is so melodic, so passionate. I didn’t think you had a knack for romance anymore.” “That makes two of us,” Alina replies. “Or maybe three of us.” “You really like it, though, huh? I was worried about your reaction because of, you know, the death stuff. The burden stuff.” // “I did think some of it felt familiar. But you have to steal from your own life, from your relationships with people,” Ward reassures her. “That’s what makes these things feel real. It never felt invasive or too familiar, don’t worry.” // “Right, because you aren’t fucking your medium.” // “My problems would only just be beginning.” A pause as they both chuckle. “Really, it’s fine,” Ward tells Alina. “You have my blessing here. Especially because the writing is so damn good. Just don’t tell anyone I was your inspiration, yeah?” // “Of course not. I’m so glad you like it, Ward. Thank you. For everything, yet again.”


We’re back in the living room, as Alina and Tracey toil over the manuscript. Tracey abruptly stops what she’s doing and directs a question at Alina: “What’s Ward’s story?” “What do you want to know?” Alina replies, without looking up. Tracey doesn’t miss a beat: “His wife. She died two years ago of bad kidneys. That’s all he said. Is he ok?” Alina closes her laptop, now engaged: “Better than he has been. He, uh… he gave her one of his kidneys after hers gave out, and it failed her shortly after. So he blames himself, which he shouldn’t do.” // “Jesus.” // “He slept here for a long time after that. Maybe a year. He’s a brother to us, you know?” // “So, he’s not back on the market or anything? I guess I wouldn’t want to be for a while.” // “We’re not worried about that as much as we are his peace with the whole matter. They were ready to have kids; probably would have one right now. They just bought the house in Westchester, which is why he couldn’t go back there for so long. You lose your love, you lose your life…until you can see a new one taking shape. We hope he sees it soon.” With that, Alina purses a smile and resumes her work.


Alina and Tracey walk into the apartment with iced coffees in hand, debating the final chapter in the book. Tracey wants a downer ending, but Alina wants redemption for the protagonist; she typically has downer endings and believes it has become predictable. “I don’t want people thinking she has her life figured out,” Alina says. “But I want to leave the door open to that. I’ve put her through hell, almost literally, and I’d like to end on the slightest opportunity for hope, even when she’s being choked out by fear. Like, she sees the tiniest sliver of light…” Now they’re in the apartment. “Ok, ok, I agree I guess,” Tracey concedes. “Maybe that leaves things open for a sequel too.” // “I LOVE where your head is at,” Alina laughs, poking Tracey just below her shoulder. It’s an odd moment, one which has no verbal follow up, one that has them locking eyes, and smiling, and has Tracey reaching again for Alina’s hand, and placing it back near that point, except lower, on her breast, and then placing her own hand around Alina’s waist. A moment that has them inching toward one another, has their lips embrace, their tongues tied, their hands roaming, roaming, roaming…until Alina stops everything. “Helene,” she says. “I can’t do this to Helene. I want to do this, but I can’t do this. Also, I like working with you. Let’s acknowledge an attraction, and leave it be. OK? No harm, no foul.” Tracey nods, although she seems hurt. “OK.” // “And let’s call it a day. OK?” // “OK.”

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