CHAPTERS 17-24

CHAPTER 17

17-1

We hear Alina’s voice over a black screen: “Tracey. Tracey, wake up.” Slowly, Tracey’s eyes open, and she establishes consciousness as she peers around the hospital room. Alina stands beside the bed. “I’m here, baby,” says Alina. Tracey blinks slowly and needs an extra moment to process everything. Then, Alina again: “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Tracey, increasingly more alert, has nothing to say. “Forgive me, Tracey. Darling. Please. I’m so sorry.” Then a nod from Tracey. All is forgiven as she extends her hand to Alina, who leans over to kiss her protege on the forehead. “Thank you,” Alina whispers. “Thank you.”

17-2

A doctor slowly removes the bandage from Tracey’s forehead as she sits upright in bed. Alina stands on the opposite side, offering encouraging words: “You’re doing great. Being so brave.” There’s a knock at the door. It’s Ward. The doctor smiles and waves him in. Tracey stares quietly at him, and Alina whispers: “Keep your spine about you. He’s a pushover.” Ward can’t see Alina, even though he positions himself next to her. He hovers awkwardly, silently, watching the bandage removal process. “Swelling looks minimal,” the doctor says. “We’ll have you out of here in a couple hours.” He scribbles some notes on a clipboard, smiles, and exits, leaving the two—or three, rather—alone. Alina again: “Where’s Helene? Ask him where Helene is.” Tracey opens her mouth to abide, but Ward cuts her off: “Hi Sadey. How are you feeling?” Tracey’s mouth stays open, though she’s speechless. “It’s on your tax papers. And thank god. I mean, how else could I have contacted your parents to tell them you were here?” // “You did not.” // “I did. And I Googled you…quite the history! But don’t worry, your parents won’t be coming. Mom said they hope you’re well, though it didn’t sound too sincere.” Alina’s turn: “What’s all this? Who’s Sadey…?” Ward continues: “Helene broke her hip last night. They operated, and she’s upstairs.” This news worries Alina more than it does Tracey. “Oh my god,” Alina says to Tracey. “We have to go see her.” Then Tracey, to Ward: “Can we go see her?” Ward nods: “She would like that.” Ward notices that Tracey keeps looking to some non-thing, to where we know Alina resides. He peeks over to that same space, and we see in his face that he’s piecing together something. “Let’s all go upstairs,” he says, turning his back on the women as they share a concerned look.

17-3

Tracey and Ward now stand on either side of Helene. Alina is at the foot of the hospital bed, watching over. “So, they’ll keep me here a while,” Helene is saying. “Chemotherapy and physical therapy, hand in hand. What a way to spend my final days.” Alina starts sobbing, though it’s so melodramatic that it’s kind of humorous. She excuses herself to the corner; Tracey stares in that direction, which also catches Ward’s attention. “But, on to more optimistic topics,” Helene says. “How’s your head, Tracey dear?” // “Fine. I got a few stitches. Behind my hair. I think there are 8 in all.” A pause. “I’m going home today. But I can stay here with you and—” Ward cuts Tracey off: “I’ll stay with her. You focus on your next deadline.” “I’m her girlfriend,” Tracey replies sternly. “I’ll stay. I can work from here.” “First of all,” Helene starts. “Nobody here is anybody’s girlfriend. And second of all, everyone here is taking a couple weeks off work. Get your lives in order. I’ll do the same, as best I can from this sterile prison. Tracey, I’m so relieved you’re ok. But don’t do something so childish like that again.” // “But I didn’t…” “Don’t bother,” Alina says from the corner. “Just tell her you’ll be better from now on.” Tracey repeats the phrase, almost robotically. “I’ll be better from now on.” // “Good,” Helene says.

17-4

Ward escorts Tracey out of the hospital. Alina tags along, a few paces behind. “Did he call us a cab?” Alina asks. “He’s always a gentleman to me and Helene. Ask him if he called a cab.” Tracey turns to Ward: “Did you call us a cab?” “I think you’ll manage on your own just fine,” he says as he sees her out the front revolving door. Then he ends with business talk: “I’ll reach out to schedule the next publisher meeting. And please give Helene and me some space for the next couple weeks. I mean that.” He doesn’t wait for a reaction; he just marches back into the hospital. “Ward turned into an ass hole,” Alina says as Tracey looks spurned. “Don’t listen to his bullshit. We have to see Helene, though, once she’s home. I need you to take care of her. For me.” // “I will, Alina.” // “I knew I could trust you. I love you for that.” … It’s exactly what Tracey wanted to hear.

17-5

Tracey and Alina hold hands in the back seat of the cab; they make eyes at one another and giggle. We see the cabbie watching the scene from his rearview mirror; he’s confused, and a little put off. After all, he just sees Tracey. Alina slips her hand past Tracey’s waistline; it’s like the scene we saw before, with roles reversed. Tracey invites it, and her face can’t help but express the elation. The cab driver sees her expression in the mirror, then turns around to see what’s happening. We don’t get his perspective, but we know that he finds this inappropriate and lewd. “Get out!” he screams as he pulls over to the side of the overpass. “Get out of my car, now!” // “What the hell?! We’re on the overpass, dude!” // “Do you understand consequences of choices?” he yells. “OUT!!! NOW!!!” Tracey hurriedly climbs out the back right seat, with Alina behind her. Cars blare their horns. “We really should stop taking cabs together,” Alina jokes. Tracey has a mildly deranged smile. Cars honk from behind, and she turns to them, smiling still, waving her middle finger. Both women laugh hysterically.

CHAPTER 18

18-1

“I have a favor to ask you,” Alina says to Tracey. They’re in Tracey’s room, lounging in underwear on her double bed. It’s daytime, but the blinds are down, so only a sliver of light trickles in. “What is it, baby?” Tracey asks back, lost in Alina’s gaze. After a charged pause, Alina says sternly: “I want you to be me. Make the book your own. Make Helene your girlfriend, because you love me and because it’s what I want. I want you to have everything I had. I want to give it to you. Will you let me give all of that to you?” Tracey looks like she’s just won the lottery; she can’t find any words, much less catch her breath. She nods her head as a tear falls down her face. Alina smiles back.

18-2

Loud riot grrrl music blares in Tracey’s room. She’s grinding against the dresser, as Alina rocks out behind her on a guitar. (Apparently, ghosts can manifest guitars.) They kiss, they jump, they dance, they peel off their shirts and do it all again in just their bras. There’s a banging on the door. We hear it, but Tracey doesn’t. It persists, and finally the door bursts open. A hipster Korean man is there—he must be Tracey’s roommate—and he’s pissed. Tracey still doesn’t notice him, and we see from his POV that she is dancing alone, singing to some imaginary person in the room. He locates her computer and cuts the music. Now, we’re back in Tracey’s POV, and we see Alina again. “What the hell, dude?” Alina says. Tracey repeats it: “What the hell, dude?” He looks back at her, unphased: “Four hours ago, when you started playing your noise, it was midnight. I’m going to sleep.” Tracey is not cool with this: “GEEEEEET OUUUUUUT!” She looks unleashed. He’s scared now, and hustles away. Tracey resumes the music, and their party-girl smiles instantly return. The dancing continues.

18-3

The two women shop for eyewear. Tracey tries on different frames as Alina stands by for a second opinion. The store staff is befuddled at the sight of Tracey interacting with… nobody. “Which ones are your style?” Tracey asks. “You’ll know when you find them,” Alina responds. // “We’ve tried everything here, though.” // “So let’s go to the next store.” // “We’ll find them, I know it,” Tracey says. Now they’re in a new store. A clerk approaches Tracey and offers his help. Tracey starts describing the frames she’s looking for. She’s studying Alina’s glasses as she speaks. Just like the others, this clerk can’t figure out what’s going on, given that Tracey seems to be interacting with something that isn’t there. “Oh, I have a photo of them,” she recalls. She takes out her phone and scrolls a ways up, to a photo of her and Alina together. She shows the clerk: “I want the frames she is wearing. Do you sell those?” // “No, that’s not our brand, sorry. I can’t tell which brand they are, either.” Tracey is dejected as they leave the store. “Maybe the ones I have are close enough? I bought those based on your style anyway, when I was trying to mimic you.” // “No,” Alina says defiantly. “You need to find the ones I’m wearing.” // “Can’t you just check the brand? You’re wearing them now.” // “I don’t have that memory. Sorry.” Tracey’s gait folds into a pouting slouch.

18-4

Now they’re at a coffee shop. Tracey punches away at some work, while Alina sits besides her on the couch and stares into the text on screen. She makes little suggestions here and there, reacting to the words as Tracey types. “I love your writing,” Alina whispers. “I learned from you,” Tracey responds. Alina buries her head onto Tracey’s shoulder, as Tracey closes her eyes and absorbs the warmth. Suddenly, a man sits down on the couch beside Tracey. She opens her eyes and Alina is gone. “Excuse me, sir. This seat is taken,” she says to him. “It is now,” he replies. “I’ve been here an hour; there ain’t nobody sitting here.” Tracey searches the room for Alina—there she is, by the exit. She summons Tracey to pack up and leave. Tracey does exactly that.

18-5

They’re in bed again, cuddling, laughing, flirting. “I’m gonna go wash up, baby,” Tracey says seductively to Alina. She slips out and goes into the bathroom. There, she disrobes, and catches her own reflection. She draws closer to the mirror, studying every wrinkle on her own face, from various angles. She pulls on her curly hair at the ends, to flatten it out up top as she examines how it looks. She smiles that familiar deranged smile, and chuckles to herself. Then, she starts twirling and dancing—no music or anything—giddy with herself, just smiling and chuckling. She keeps the dance moves going as she opens her toiletries and fishes out a ziplock bag. She has to dig past a few pill bottles to find it. Now, she’s dancing with her own reflection, smiling at herself as she pulls a large knotted ball of black hair from the baggy. She rips some strands from the it, and eats them. She gnaws on the hairs, smiling that deranged smile, ever pleased with her luck.

CHAPTER 19

19-1

Tracey is on a date. With a guy. He seems a little boring, judging by her roving eyes; she’s flirting with the bartender at every given moment. The bartender likes the attention, and he sends it back to her, even giving the pair of them a round of drinks on the house. Tracey’s date excuses himself to the restroom, and the bartender wastes no time coming over for an introduction. “Gabor,” he says as he extends his hand. “Gabor… where are you from?” // “Hungary.” He emphasizes the first syllable. “I’m Alina,” Tracey says, shaking his hand. “And I’m on a terrible date.” // “Well, I’m going to the basement to switch out some of the kegs,” Gabor says. “Just through the door past the restrooms.” He smiles, and departs just as Tracey’s date returns. “I’m going to relieve myself too,” she says, excusing herself. She turns from her date and walks towards the restroom, then through the doors just past. At the bar, two stools away from where Tracey was sitting, we now see that Alina is there too, watching everything unfold.

19-2

Tracey’s date has finished his beer, which was full when she left. She returns, apologizing for the holdup. “There was a woman in there, just… sobbing!” she lies. Alina, still there, snorts her drink. “I had to help her,” Tracey continues. “Her husband left her.” Just then, a woman rounds the corner, returning from the restroom. She walks past the bar and smiles at Tracey, if only politely. “That’s her,” Tracey says to her date, who is buying it. “She seems perfectly fine,” he says as he studies the woman. “That’s why it took so long,” Tracey says “She had to collect herself.” They watch as the woman joins a man in a booth, and kisses him. “Then who’s that?” the date asks. “Certainly not the husband?” // “Well, she was going to leave her husband, but he left her first. For her sister. So it was shocking in its own right.” // “Wow. Shit.” // “Yeah, shit.” Alina is still laughing at all of this, and finally speaks up: “You’re so full of shit. But that’s what I love about you. You’re so confident.” Tracey sips her cocktail as Gabor the bartender returns from the basement. He and Tracey smile playfully. Tracey’s date turns to her: “You wanna get out of here?” // “Yeah, sure. I wanna get out of here. And I wanna go to your apartment. And I wanna wrap my legs around you.” He wasn’t expecting this response; after processing that this is real life and yes, Tracey really just said that: “Wow. Damn. Yes. To all that. Let’s go, Helene.” (She has lied to both men about her name.) Tracey waves goodbye to Gabor, who, like Alina, chuckles to himself as the pair exits.

19-3

Tracey and Alina exit the subway at Grand Army Plaza, and walk down the Parkway towards Tracey’s apartment. “That was a lot of excitement for one night,” Alina says. “I’m proud of you, girl. But your date—what was his name?—what a snore.” // “I was hoping he’d surprise in bed,” Tracey says. “I think you surprised him…he seemed beside himself, at his luck.” // “That’s because I was pretending he was you.” // “Well, next time, maybe don’t stare at me the whole time, give him a little eye contact, too.” // “There won’t be a next time for him, poor thing. But I enjoyed myself, thanks to the imagination. I’m glad you could be there, too.” // “I like being with you everywhere. I’ve never felt so close to someone, Tracey.” Tracey blushes as they pass Alina and Helene’s apartment. They both look up at the building. “Not even to Helene?” Tracey asks. Alina hesitates, then: “I don’t know. But… I want to get even closer to you. Can we get even closer?” Tracey nods. Yes. Yes. Yes yes yes. It’s exactly what she wanted Alina to ask.

19-4

“I’m with Helene so that I can be as close to you as possible,” Tracey says. They’re back in Tracey’s bed, under the sheets. “To be in your skin. Your home. Your wife’s embrace. She needs you now, and so I want to help her, since I know you wanted to help her.” // “Wow, that’s so courageous of you, Tracey. That’s what I love about you. You’re so courageous. Always trying to help. Helping me by finishing my book. Helping me by helping Helene. Even after I left you. Even after you pushed me in front of that truck.” // “I didn’t push you…” // “You’re right, you didn’t push me. But I know you think you did. And you didn’t. That’s what I love about you. You could have hurt me intentionally, but you didn’t. You’re a responsible woman. And now you’re accepting the burdens of my life. And I love that you’re building your own career from the accident. That’s so smart of you. I love how strong and aggressive you are. It turns me on. It makes me want to get even closer to you. I love everything about you. I want to live inside of you. You are so smart and beautiful and talented and vibrant. You remind me of me. But with even more potential.” Tracey so loves this praise. She loves every word.

19-5

The women are in the middle of making love—we just see the bedsheets moving around their coupled bodies. Tracey’s head emerges from the sheets, expressing delight as Alina worships her. We hear Alina’s voice: “I want to get even closer. Can we get even closer?” Then, Alina’s head appears from the sheets, and she repeats it: “Can we get even closer?” Tracey, sweaty, nods in delight. “Yes. Yes.” Alina disappears again, as Tracey screams “Yes. Yes. Yes!” That last one is punctuated with the glossing-over of her eyes, with the writhing of her entire body. Then she exhales, very dramatically, and falls flat on the bed. The sheets fall flat over top her too… she’s alone. She laughs hysterically to herself, running her hands all over her body, as if feeling it for the first time. “So, this is what it feels like, being you,” she says to herself. “This is gonna be fun.” We close in on her deranged face, as she laughs hysterically to herself once more.

 

CHAPTER 20

20-1

Tracey lets herself into Helene’s apartment. Her hair is straight, pulled back. She’s dressed different from usual—she looks more mature, like Alina. She has glasses exactly like Alina’s now, too. Helene is home alone—she’s sitting upright in bed, and smiles to Tracey. Still radiant, despite her ailing. “Darling, how’s your head?” she asks. Tracey chuckles as she pulls an armchair to the bedside. “I forgot all about that,” Tracey replies. We see the stitches—but did we see them in the previous few scenes? “Sorry I haven’t been by, Helene. Ward forbade it.” // “Forbade is a strong word. You’re welcome here anytime, if you can spare the dramatics,” Helene says. “I’ve missed your company, in fact.” This triggers something in Tracey’s brain; she corrects her posture, taking Helene’s hands. “I’m here now, baby. I’m here now.” Helene can see that something unusual is happening behind Tracey’s eyes, but she nevertheless squeezes Tracey’s hand in gratitude.

20-2

Tracey serves Helene soup and wine in bed. “Should you still be drinking?” she asks Helene as she pours herself a glass. “I don’t drink enough,” Helene says. “Besides, it’s how I want to go. Drowned in Shiraz. Wearing cashmere and lace.” There’s an awkward pause… “Sorry, I’ve had a lot of time to think about how I want to die. But it seems like fate is going to make it cancer, or, hell, maybe septic shock if I’m lucky. It’s just so unromantic. Not dramatic. A shame.” They both laugh at this. Helene tastes the soup, then stops: “This tastes just like Alina’s recipe. You made this?” // “I made this. You said it tastes exactly like Alina’s?” // “Yes, that’s what I said.” // “That’s exactly what I thought you said.” Tracey slurps her soup, ever pleased.

20-3

Helene is taking a bubble bath, sipping wine. It’s reminiscent of the earlier scene involving Alina and Helene, only now Tracey sits beside the bath. She readies a wash cloth and then begins washing Helene’s back. “This is much more sensual than when I ask Ward to do it,” Helene laughs. “Bless him. And bless you. This is quite nice.” // “Do you miss taking bubble baths with Alina?” Tracey asks. It’s very weird, her delivery. “Oh, well, yes. Though we could never take them together. She likes the water very cold. Said it was good for her skin. But… I miss everything about her. You understand.” // “Do you miss making love to her?” // “I miss everything,” Helene repeats. “I had a good life. We had a good life.” A tear runs down Tracey’s cheek—she’s smiling though—as she splashes water over Helene’s back.

20-4

Tracey tucks Helene into bed. Helene is wearing silk pajamas; it’s rather precious, even though she looks so tiny in these clothes that once fit. “I’m going to stay the night,” Tracey announces. “I’m in no condition to cuddle,” Helene says. “But you are welcome to stay on the couch. I enjoy the company.” Tracey ignores all that: “I want to make love. Like we used to.” // “Was that lovemaking? I think it requires more history.” // “Helene, I’m Alina. I’m Alina, inside.” // “And outside, too,” Helene says. “You look like a black Alina, like maybe if she and I had a baby. It’s a little unoriginal, darling. You have so much potential as yourself. You don’t need to feel like Alina.” // “It’s not a feeling. Let me praise you. I’m Alina, OK? Treat me like your wife tonight.” // “OK, but the safe word is ‘More Shiraz.'” // “Do you need more Shiraz?” // “Yes, to be safe.”

20-5

The two women lie in bed. The lights are out. “Uncanny,” Helene says, fighting sleep. “You really are Alina, when you want to be. No wonder you write just like her. Such… embodiment.” She laughs as she repeats the word “embodiment” while drawing her finger along Tracey’s thigh. “Thank you for seeing past my ailings,” Helene says. “I feel quite undesirable. It’s good to know I’m not broken, at least not entirely.” That last line falls out in a whisper, as Helene dozes off at last. Tracey, gently stroking Helene’s shoulder, smirks, and we see the twitching behind her eyes as she looks ever proud of herself. “I love you, and thank you,” she says quietly. A brief pause, and then, Tracey replies to herself: “I love you, too. And you’re welcome.”

 

CHAPTER 21

21-1

“I need help coming up with pitches,” Tracey says to herself. She’s in her bedroom, at her desk. “You were copied on lots of my emails, weren’t you?” she responds to herself, in an airier voice, almost like Alina’s. “I bounced around a bunch of ideas with Ward, remember? You should use them. I doubt he remembers much of it, plus I trust you with those ideas. You’ll make them shine.” She continues this 2-person dialogue, altering voices: “You seriously don’t mind?” // “Are you kidding? What are those ideas going to do if they never get pitched? Honey, I can’t wait to see you as a real-deal author. And I hope we get to share the credit on my final book. I want you to ask for shared credit OK? You’re as much the author as I am.” // “You always tell me what I want to hear. I love you for being so supportive.” // “And I, you, for being such an ingenue.”21-2

“These pitches, Tracey! They’re great!” Tracey basks in her publisher’s praises. “And your latest rewrites…we’re almost across the finish line. “I’m glad you like everything,” Tracey says; she’s positively beaming. Ward, beside her, is silent. He’s annoyed, or maybe just indifferent at this point. The publisher continues with her accolades: “We’ll review them, but already it looks like your contract may need to be extended well beyond our initial offer. Three titles feels paltry. There’s even some potential for a couple series in here. Brilliant. Brilliant.” Tracey seizes the opportunity to ask one favor: “Do you think you could give me joint credit for this book, alongside Alina?” The publisher shrugs her shoulders like “why not?” as Ward starts saying something in dissent. Tracey cuts him off: “It just seems like the book is more mine than Alina’s. I am certain she would be OK with this, too. She was so generous like that.” The publisher and Ward share a moment of silent disagreement, just staring at each other. Then, he gives in as she nods: “I think it’ll be smart to get your name out there, to help with these future titles.” Tracey is even giddier than before. Ward, audibly: “This is a joke.”

21-3

“I’m done working with you,” Ward says to Tracey outside the publisher’s office. “This feels like blood money. I want nothing to do with you or this project. You’re a stain on this series and on Alina’s legacy. I’m not sure what Helene sees in you, or what Alina saw in you. I think you’re a hack. You steal other people’s ideas. You envy the fruits of their labor, and you want shortcuts to get those fruits for yourself. Congratulations on this latest endeavor. Only your second victim, too, it seems. Sadey.” Tracey, who has been smiling imperviously at his rant, now takes offense: “Listen, you has-been. Without me and this series, your career flatlines. So, allow me to fire you, since I want to be personally responsible for your demise. Which, by the way, will be the first and only time I will have caused anyone harm.” // “You’re too delusional to your own meddling. You’ve absolved yourself of any guilt, of consequences. And you’re just a wrecking ball; what’s your end goal with Helene? How does this end? Not well, I predict.” // “You’re fired.” // “It’s cute that you’ve empowered yourself in this way, Tracey. And, Alina, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity… I hope you see what I see. You’re smarter than this. I absolve myself of any guilt of… trying to help this book see the light of day. Goodbye, both of you.”

21-4

After Ward marches away, Tracey collects her thoughts. She’s a little dead in the face as she processes. Then, another conversation with herself: “Call Helene. You need to get ahead of him on this. Call Helene.” // “I will.” // “No, now. Call her now. Beat him to it.” On that cue, Tracey takes out her phone to make a call and holds it to her ear as it rings. Then: “Hi babe. … Oh, I’m OK. I’m fine. But, well… it’s Ward. He’s just quit on me, and on the whole project. Said he doesn’t want to help Alina anymore. … Yeah, seriously. Called it a ‘guilt trip’ project or something. Like you were forcing him to do it. Left me alone with the publisher, can you believe that?” She feigns tearful sobbing; we see that it’s total BS but Helene is buying it. “Crazy. Crazy! No, I’ll be fine, but I needed him there, you know? He’s the pro, and I’m just trying my best to keep up. I guess I’ll just have to impress them on my own. I’ll show him. … Aww babe, don’t be mad! I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said; it’s not a guilt trip. He’s just going off the deep end, maybe, after all that he’s been through. … But it’s still no excuse for abandoning me. … Yeah. You’ll be OK not having him around the apartment for a while? I can take care of you instead. I think it would be so awkward to have to see him, personally. … I don’t blame you for not wanting to see him either. … Thanks, Helene. … I love you too.” She hangs up, and says to herself: “All done.” And, in response to herself: “Well done.”

21-5

We track Tracey as she walks home from the subway. She’s carrying on some sort of conversation with herself, yet again. It’s peppered with chuckling, with changing inflection. People stare, and she even barks at one of them—literally barks, like a dog—before laughing to herself. It’s the first time we feel bad for her—or perhaps guilty for hating her, like maybe she should get help… but maybe she doesn’t realize her own problems, and the “crazy” only manifests itself when she thinks she’s alone. She stops on a corner, waiting for a light. Then, she suddenly crosses into traffic. Cars screech to a halt as she sticks her palm out—like she’s some force bringing them to a standstill. Then, as gets to the other side of the street, we see in the glow of the red traffic light, she scratches at her scalp, revealing a bald spot on the back of her head, a few inches from the stitches that remain from her self-inflicted accident. She pulls at some hair, and then chews it, swallows it, and repeats. A couple walks by and ogles in confusion. Tracey only snickers to herself.

 

CHAPTER 22

22-1

Tracey walks into Helene’s apartment: “Helene? Hello?” She’s still talking to herself: “I don’t think she’s here.” // “Well, let’s just wait until she arrives. Go try on some of my clothes.” // “Oooh, great idea.” Cut to: Tracey changing outfits over and over, examining herself in a full-length mirror with each look. She admires some white pants and notices a coffee stain on the leg. “Oh, damn, this one has a mark.” // “Maybe I can cut them into shorts.” // “I don’t think that will flatter you. They’re so low on the waist. Put them in the ‘discard’ pile.” Tracey removes the pants and tosses them on top of a single blouse. The other pile is easily 30 garments high. Then, Tracey notices some fragrance bottles on the vanity. “Oooh, which of these was yours? I liked that one.” She locates the scent, sprays herself, and puts the bottle in her purse as she inhales. “It smells just like you.” A single tear forms in her right eye, as she responds to herself: “Don’t cry, love. I’m right here. I’m with you.” // “I know. I just wish it could be different.” // “Different how?” // “Like, you could still be alive. As you. And we could be alone together.” // “We can still be alone together. Don’t forget that.”

22-2

It’s getting dark. Still no sign of Helene. Tracey has drawn a bath, and has helped herself to a glass of wine. “Where would we live?” she asks herself. “I dunno,” she responds. “Living here could be nice.” // “But you have all this history here.” // “That’s not so bad, is it? I am who I am because of Helene.” // “And I am who I am because of you.” // “So, you owe a lot to Helene too, right?” // “Do you love her more than me?” // “Why would you ask me that?” // “Just answer it.” // “I love her in a different way.” // “A more significant way?” // “Baby, you know you’re the most important person to me.” // “I know.” // “So, don’t be jealous of Helene.” // “I’m not jealous. I love Helene too, except… it’s because you want me to.” // “I NEED you to.” // “But why?” // “Because she’s sick. Because I feel guilty for leaving her behind to suffer. And I know you feel a little bad, also.” // “I do.” // “So, be here with Helene. And be here, with me.” Then, silence. Tracey reflects on this conversation, staring into the bubbles, at nothing really.

22-3

Tracey wraps her hair in a towel; there’s another around her body, and she rifles through the pile of clothes for something to wear. She’s got her Alina glasses on, too. We hear the front door open and close, which prompts Tracey to shove all of the clothes beneath Helene’s bed. She grabs her own underwear and quickly dresses herself. Then she realizes that Helene has not arrived alone; there’s a man with her. Tracey peeks out into the living room, and sees a 30s-something male—whom we recognize as Helene’s assistant designer, Kyle, from the wedding scene—and the two talk business. Helene is in a wheelchair next to the couch. “Models are in hair and makeup at 6 tomorrow,” Kyle says. “Photographer’s call time is 7:30, and we should wrap by noon.” “It sounds like everything is under control,” Helene responds. “Maybe I don’t need to come by?” // “We’ll have a couple reporters on set, so it might be best for you to entertain them.” // “My journo-wooing days are behind me, Kyle. Besides, you designed everything here. I think you represent the brand even better than I do. Everything we put out is your design anymore. It’s not me.” // “Everything I’ve learned is from you, so everything I do is yours.” // “I’m just saying, I think you’ll have it under control tomorrow. I’ll be late, I suspect. So don’t wait for me.” We’re back on Tracey, who is still eavesdropping from the bedroom. She doesn’t make much of this exchange.

22-4

Helene sees Kyle out. Tracey leaps onto the bed and feigns sleep, aware that Helene could enter at any second. When Helene does, she’s briefly startled at the sight of Tracey there, but it’s not entirely a shock to see her, given their history. “Oh, babe,” Helene says quietly, so as to not wake Tracey. “I didn’t know you’d be here tonight.” Tracey keeps her eyes closed, pretending to rest. Helene removes Tracey’s glasses and studies them: “Just like Alina’s,” she says. “Same brand, too.” Then she stares down at Tracey herself: “You’re like her in so many ways. Thank you for reminding me of my love.” We see a smirk growing across Tracey’s face as Helene lights a candle on the bedside table. Helene continues: “I never guessed it would come to this… especially with you here.” She then rolls her chair into the bathroom, gently latching the door. Tracey’s eyes shoot open, and she questions herself: “What did she mean ‘I never guessed it would come to this?… What’s that all about?” // “You’re being melodramatic, Alina,” she responds to herself. Alina’s half of Tracey begs Tracey’s half to intervene: “Melodrama is in her nature. Go knock on the door!”

22-5

“Helene! Helene! Hi! I just woke up. How are you?” Tracey pounds on the bathroom door, trying not to be too aggressive, but letting her nerves get away from her. “Helene, let me in! I want to see you, baby!” We hear rifling on the other side of the door: Drawers open and close, Helene clears her throat, and something else—is that a plastic pill bottle being unscrewed?—followed by a crashing sound of dozens of pills hitting the floor, and Helene saying “God dammit!” as they spill. “Helene! Helene! Let me in!” More pounding on the door, but it’s locked. Then, Alina speaks (through Tracey, and TO Tracey): “Kick it in, Tracey. Kick it in, baby! KICK IT!” And then Tracey takes a step back and kicks, with all her strength, against the door, which breaks mercilessly at the lock and swings open. There, Helene is sitting on the floor beside her wheelchair, collecting the painkillers in her hand—and ready to swallow them. She holds a glass of red wine in the other hand, and stares blankly at Tracey as they both freeze.

CHAPTER 23

23-1

“It can’t come to this,” says Tracey to Helene. She’s cautious to move any closer, at risk of Helene reacting fast. “Honey, honey. Please. You’ve fought long and hard. You can’t take yourself down now.” Helene, very matter of fact: “I’m tired of battling the things that will ultimately win. I’m in pain all day. Physical. Mental. Emotional. My entire life is behind me. You wouldn’t understand, Tracey.” // “I’m not Tracey. I’m Alina. It’s me, Helene. It’s actually me. I’m in here, in this body now.” Helene just stares back, speechless, confused. Tracey—or Alina, rather—continues: “I’ve been with Tracey ever since I left Ward. And I was with him ever since I left you. But baby, I’m here. Why would you take your own life when I’ve worked so hard to get back to you?” Helene, finally finding her words: “Bullshit. Tracey. Bullshit. I don’t buy any of that.”

23-2

Tracey lunges towards Helene, to get the pills out of her hand. There’s a brief struggle, but Helene is just too weak to win. She screams in pain as Tracey squeezes her hand and then pries it open. Helene surrenders the pills, and spills her wine all over the floor. She’s just as sad about that, trying to drink what little remains. Then, she speaks again: “You’re not Alina. Stop the act. I think you need help more than me, Tracey. Or perhaps just some love. Something more than the attention you seek.” // “No, Helene. You said it yourself. We made love, you saw me inside Tracey. The way Tracey writes, it’s just like me.” // “It’s so disrespectful, what you’re doing. After all Alina and Ward and I did to help you. Wasting your talent on all this meddling.” // “Ask me anything. Something about us. I’ll answer it!” // “When is our anniversary?” Tracey doesn’t know. She fumbles for an answer… Helene’s questions continue: “What’s my mother’s name?” Still nothing. “My father’s name?” Nothing. “Where did I propose? Where was your apartment when we met? Where did we first live together? What was our dog’s name?” The pace and intensity picks up, as does the fury in Tracey’s eyes: “Why didn’t we ever have kids? Why did we break up 10 years ago? How long before we got back together? How many copies of your first book did you sell? What are you allergic to? How many questions do I have to ask before you give up your ridiculous act? YOU’RE NOT MY WIFE.” Tracey backhands Helene.

23-3

Tracey marches out of the bathroom, tearing art and photos off the wall in the bedroom as she makes her grand exit. Helene crawls out of the bathroom and locates her cellphone on the bedstand, next to the candle she lit. Tracey is in the living room now, breaking things, cursing, shrieking. Helene calls the police. As it rings, Tracey storms back into the room. Helene very quickly sets the phone down beside the table, on the floor. We hear a faint “Hello, 911, please state your emergency…” as Tracey and Helene make eye contact. “All this commotion, and you thought I was the irrational one,” Helene laughs. “So Ward was right this whole time. You’re a liability. A fraud. Too incapable of making your own place; you’ve got to latch onto everyone else’s success, with little regard for their hard work, or the precious nature of their lives.” Tracey makes one last attempt to convince Helene: “I swear. Helene. It’s me. Alina. I’m in here. See? See??” She kneels down to Helene’s level, staring her in the eyes from but a few inches away. “I’m in here… I’m in here! Baby I’m in here.” // “I don’t care if you are. You can never give me what you once did. Not as Tracey.” She pauses briefly, then: “Before I die, I’m going to get your name off that book. It doesn’t belong next to hers.”

23-4

Now Tracey is unhinged. “I’ll help you finish your own job,” she says. In one quick—and somewhat impressive—motion, she grabs and throws Helene onto the bed. She straddles Helene, who doesn’t fight much. Tracey starts choking her; Helene is alarmed at first, but then allows it. She stares painfully into Tracey’s eyes, confused and hurt, but terrifyingly sedated at the same time. Tracey is quiet, too; almost unnerved that Helene isn’t fighting. But suddenly, there’s smoke and a beam of light coming from out of frame. Helene holds the candle from the bedside just below Tracey’s shirt, which has caught aflame. It’s starting to burn Tracey, so she releases Helene from her grip and tends to the shirt. She struggles to peel it off, but now her pants have caught fire, too. She finally strips off the shirt and tosses it onto the bed, which itself slowly catches. The pants are next; Tracey shrieks “You bitch!” at Helene, who can barely move as flames rise around her. The pants are off, and, in nothing but her underwear, Tracey sprints out of the bedroom, out of the apartment, and into the stairwell. Pedestrians marvel as she exits onto the dark, snow-covered street below, and as Tracey exits the frame, we see an orange beacon of light, burning hot in a window, a few stories in the air.

23-5

Tracey runs barefoot and nearly naked to her apartment. She doesn’t have the keys though, and she’s freezing. She rings all the buzzers. One voice comes over the intercom: “Who is it?” Tracey yells back: “LET ME IN! I LIVE HERE!” The voice: “Oh hell no!” Tracey screams in anger. She runs to the side of the building and sees the fire escape dangling maybe seven feet overhead. She tries jumping a few times to grab it and yank it down. She slips once, falling onto her side. Her right leg is covered in cuts now, but she gets up to try again. This time, she clutches the fire escape with a few fingers, and dangles before it gives and comes crashing down. It’d be a success for Tracey if she hadn’t fallen as well: This time, she’s hit her head on the pavement. She’s frozen on the ground—quite literally, too—and we pull close up to her face, as her breath dissipates into the icy air: “Baby. What do we do?” A brief pause. Then: “Alina? … Baby? It’s me. Where are you? Baby? Baby? It’s Tracey. Answer me. Alina…” We pull out, overhead, pitying the poor woman in this miserable, compromised state.

CHAPTER 24

24-1

Tracey opens her eyes. It takes a while for her to get acquainted with her surroundings: It appears we’re back in a hospital room, just like at the beginning of our time spent following her. Again, there’s a bandage around her head—now more severe—but Tracey seems rather lucid. She panics when she realizes her hands are strapped to either side of the bed. She yanks on them, fraught and confused, before a nurse walks in. “Hello Sadey,” the nurse says. “I’m Elaine; I’ll be helping you this week. Do you remember what happened? How are you feeling; how’s your head? You had quite the fall there.” Elaine is being polite, but her questions seem to exist if only to replace the silence; she doesn’t expect any answers, nor does she want any. Then, a buttoned-up man with a police badge walks in the room, followed by a middle-aged woman in a winter jacket. The woman and Tracey lock eyes, and Tracey panics even more. “Hi Sadey,” the woman says, with reservation. We study the woman, and see that she looks an awful lot like Tracey, perhaps 30 years her senior. Tracey pulls harder on the straps, furious now: “No. What are you doing here? NO!”

24-2

Now we’re alone with Tracey and the woman who entered her hospital room. Words have been said, and neither woman can look at the other. Then, the visitor: “We can’t get you off the hook this time. Especially if this Helene lady is dead.” A pause. She continues: “Dr. Thompson says you haven’t been to see her in months now. You’re behind on all your refills. You know what this leads to, Sadey. We’ve–” Tracey cuts her off: “Tracey.” // “You’re still Sadey to me.” // “Then you have no business being here.” // “Sadey–” // “TRACEY! TRACEY! God dammit.” // “Honey. I’m here to take you home. Until any hearings, whatever those will entail. I need you to be a bit more cooperative–” // “I don’t want your help.” // “Trust me, you’ll be a lot better with us than you will be in the facilities here.” // “I don’t want your help.” A pause. “Well, for the record, this is the conclusion that both of us prefer.” She grabs her jacket, finds her keys, and has some parting words: “Please stop pulling other people into your hell. Or pushing them.” They make eye contact one last time—silently—before Tracey’s mother leaves. Tracey sits in her hospital bed, arms tied to either side, hanging her head in shame, or perhaps relief.

24-3

It’s nighttime. Tracey’s door is cracked, and a light bleeds in from the hallway. Tracey is awake, but it looks like she’s doped up. Her eyes struggle to focus, and she’s sweating at the brow. She looks to her right, searching for someone. Then to the left. Again to the right. Then again to the left, slower this time as she pans the room. She swallows air, though it seems like her throat is dry from the strain involved. We watch this again from a wider shot, and we hear footsteps pass in the hallway as a shadow strobes over the light; the steps come and go, then it’s silent again. Tracey stares blankly to the right, now inhaling slowly, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling; she’s not searching the room anymore.

24-4

Tracey’s nurse Elaine comes in the next morning to check the monitors. She jots some notes and replaces the IV. They’re both quiet; Elaine smiles politely after awkward eye contact, and then Tracey breaks the silence: “You’re very pretty. Are you married?” Elaine, trying to be polite, acts like this is a normal thing. “Why thank you, Sadey. Yes, I am married. My husband’s name is Xavier. He’s handsome. Charming and kind.” // “How lucky for you. But he’s lucky too.” // “Very sweet, thank you.” // “You said your name is Elaine?” // “That’s right.” // “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse.” // “Is that right?” // “My whole life.” // “Maybe it’s not too late.” // “Maybe you can teach me.” Elaine is now finished scribbling notes, so she smiles politely and readies to leave. Tracey stops her: “Elaine. Is she dead?” // “Sorry, who?” // “Helene. Heh. It sounds just like your name. Elaine. Helene…” (trailing off) “…and Alina…” // “I can’t answer that for you,” Elaine says. // “Because you aren’t allowed to? Or because you don’t know?” // “Well, both.” // “Elaine.” // “Yes?” // “I hope she’s alive.” // “I do, too.”

24-5

It’s night again. Tracey has hardly slept, and she’s nowhere close to sleeping now. There are tears in her eyes, and she scans the room. She whispers: “Where have you gone, love? Where are you?” Then her sniffling turns into sobs. She tries raising her arms again and starts shaking the bed. She’s near hysterical. “WHERE ARE YOU? BABY? WHERE ARE YOU?” Two nurses and a security guard rush into the room, followed moments later by a doctor. They sedate her as she screams and wails, then she calms. The tears slow, but they aren’t gone completely. The doctor assuages her: “There, there. All better, Sadey.” “Where is she?” Tracey cries. “Where is who?” Now Tracey sniffles, turns to face the doorway, and looks longingly out of it. “Elaine. Where’s Elaine?” // “She’ll be back tomorrow. Why don’t you get some rest?” They all exit, but one of the nurses props the door open fully. She smiles to Tracey as she exits, and we pull in slowly on Tracey’s face as she babbles: “Where are you, love? Come back to me. Elaine. Come back to me. Baby… come back. Please. Come back to me, Elaine. Please. My love. Please. Please. Please. Elaine…” We fade out on Tracey.