Chapter 8


Tracey emerges from her bed sheets and comes up for air; Alina catches her own breath as Tracey snuggles beside her. “Looks like we can both teach each other something,” Alina laughs. Tracey goes to her dresser and returns with a joint, which she lights up and shares. “I love being close to you,” Tracey says, somewhat vulnerably. “I want to climb inside your head and see what you see, do what you do, think how you think, and write the same way.” Alina holds her tongue, unsure how to respond to something so intimate. Then, as she exhales smoke: “I think the way you see things, the way you write, the way you think…those should be things you’re proud of. The world doesn’t need another me. That won’t do anyone any good. Maybe the world needs its first Tracey Gorman.” // “Sure, but in the meantime, I can learn a lot by watching you, studying you, copying you. I mean, I’m writing a book in your voice, in your style.” // “Well. Technically I’m writing the book in my voice, in my style. And you’re following cues.” Tracey pushed the wrong button, and she knows it. “But you’re doing a terrific job,” Alina says, trying to remedy the tone. Tracey takes a puff and smiles, but not sincerely.


Alina sulks in Ward’s office, her face in her palms. Ward is flabbergasted: “Wooooooooow. Wow. Wowowowowow.” // From Alina’s corner, a muffled “I knowwwwwww. What the hell do I do?” // “This is totally my fault, Alina.” // “No it’s not. I allowed it to happen.” // “Well, she’s doing the same thing with you as she did with Quinn Healy. He’s got a restraining order on her now.” // “WHAT?!” Alina springs up, shocked and upset at this news. // “After she came to work for you, she still kept showing up at his place. Started following his wife. Crazy shit.” // “You never mentioned that she was a psychopath.” // “Well, we didn’t know that yet. Plus, she was helping you! I figured it would slow you back down if I pulled Tracey out. I thought maybe she was just crazy for Quinn or something. Not crazy all around.” // “And now I’m paying her, and fucking her…” // “And cheating on Helene…” // “Thank you, for that. It didn’t start that way, ass hole. I need to shake her, don’t I?” // “The sooner, the better.” // “Do you have another author you can pawn her off to?” // “I know better than to do that now.” // “So I get to clean up your mess?” // “I’m not the one cheating on my sick wife with my assistant. This is your mess now.” Alina collapses back into her own lap. “Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh!”


Alina and Tracey work quietly at a coffee shop in the West Village. Alina keeps looking up from her computer, trying to find the right moment to say… something. Finally, Tracey looks up and their eyes meet. Alina freezes, and Tracey smiles warmly. Alina forces one in return, then Tracey resumes working. Finally, Alina finds her words: “Tracey, um. Can I talk to you about something?” // “Mhmm, what’s up?” // “Um, I just wanted to say how good it’s been working with you.” // “Likewise. That’s so sweet.” Tracey grabs Alina’s forearm. She draws her finger along the veins, before Alina pulls away. “Well, also, I wanted to say that now that we’re done with this draft, I’m in the phase where I’m all set, you know? Like, the publisher and I work together, so they’re kind of my second eyes, and second opinion.” // “I’m contracted through the end, Alina.” // “Yes! I know. An oversight on Ward’s part. I was shocked yesterday when he told me that. He should know better; we’ve been working together for years…” Tracey starts to smell the BS. Alina continues: “And don’t worry, you’ll still be compensated for the whole contract. We’re good for that.” Tracey’s trigger goes off: “This is about Helene.” // “Why would you say that?” // “This isn’t professional, it’s personal.” // “No, it’s not personal. I’ll even be your reference for other jobs. You’ll be writing your own books in no time, I’m certain. This will help you get there faster.” // “I know what I’m capable of, Alina. And I don’t need to kiss your ass to get there.” “So you’re genuinely attracted to me?” Alina asks. A pause, followed by a staredown. “Yes.” // “Then I’m breaking things off. And you’re fired. Effective immediately.” The stare continues, as Tracey’s upper lip quivers furiously.


“I’ll call you a car,” Alina says to a teary-eyed Tracey. They’re outside the coffee shop. “I’ll just have it drop you on Eastern Parkway.” The car arrives, and Tracey climbs in the driver-side door. She leaves it open and goes to the far seat, then peers out: “Are you coming?” // “No, I’ll get my own, thanks.” // “We live a few blocks apart. I’ll hold it together; I’m capable of that.” Alina rolls her eyes: “Fine. Keep your hands to yourself.” // “Jesus, seriously?” Tracey responds as the car moves. “You must think I’m desperate. You’re the washed-up dyke in this outfit, FYI.” Alina politely ignores her and turns to face the passing scenery. The car arrives outside Alina’s apartment on Eastern Parkway. “This is good, thank you,” Alina says to the driver. She turns to Tracey, whose makeup is smudged halfway down her face. Alina unremorsefully puts her hand on Tracey’s shoulder: “We’ll send you a check for outstanding dues. Good lu–” // “Fuck you.” // “I’m sorry? You should be thanking me…” // “Helene threw you away. She didn’t want you; she’d rather die alone. And now you’re groveling. She’s going to fucking croak and you’re going to waste away waiting on her, when she doesn’t even need you.” // “Wow, and being with you would have been a more rational decision?” // “FUCK you.” It’s pure vitriol, rage, jealousy. Alina slaps Tracey, turning her brown cheek a deep red. Tracey instantly pounces, pulling off Alina’s glasses and ripping out a lock of hair. The driver yells over them, reaching back to break up the quarrel. Alina kicks Tracey away, and even cuts her cheek with her sharp heel. “I’ll see you in court,” Tracey threatens. “Not after you get your second restraining order,” Alina says. “I’m gonna blacklist you, bitch.” “GET OUT OF MY CAR, BOTH OF YOU!” the driver screams. Tracey exits in a huff, still clasping a bunch of Alina’s hair. Alina gathers everything and steps out her door, which is facing the street. Just then, a truck passes, too close to swerve away, and strikes. Alina hardly manages a scream before it rips her into a million goddamn pieces.


Tracey screams, then scopes the scene, her mind racing. She sprints away as the taxi driver yells after her, as the truck driver weeps, as traffic stops and the ambulance and police approach. We hear their sirens still from inside Helene and Alina’s apartment, where Helene washes produce and readies for dinner. She’s rehearsing a speech of some sort, nervously juggling phrases into order: “I’m ready to fight. With you. Thank you. … I’m going to fight. We’re going to fight. … Thank you for reminding me what is important. You are important. Let’s fight together. I need your help. … Oof. I’m not the writer here, that’s you. But thank you, for reminding me what’s important. I want to fight. I am so grateful for you, I love you so much. I want to get better. I want us to get better…” She fills a glass of water, chokes back a handful of painkillers, then peeks out the window to survey the scene on the street. “A shame,” she says as the respondents cover a corpse with a white sheet, as their lights blanket the boulevard in a sobering strobe. Helene instinctively does the sign of the cross, then returns to her dinner preparations. She checks the time, then locates two wine glasses, filling both as she smiles reflectively, graciously.

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