Ward is in standstill traffic; numerous cars blare their horns in frustration. He’s dressed in a black suit. He’s sullen. He stares at a memorial leaflet on the seat beside him, at a photo of Alina. The driver behind him beeps her horn, bringing him out of his trance. He creeps forward a few car lengths. He’s feeling overheated, so he rolls down his windows to let in some fresh air. The sound of a honking grows louder and louder. He takes a few deep breaths, but it isn’t enough to calm him down. He pushes his car horn and lets out a loud, agitated wail. Cut to: Ward exiting his car at home, walking up to his front porch, and stopping. He takes three more deep breaths before entering.
In his bedroom, Ward takes off the suit and tucks it away in his closet. Our POV is from inside the closet, and we see the bed behind him as he fusses with the garment bag. He leans in to hang it up, filling the frame, and when he retreats, there’s a woman sitting on the edge of his bed. It’s alarming to us, but not to him. He doesn’t see her yet but he knows she’s there; without turning around, he looks out the corner of his eye, and hesitates. She’s caucasian, dressed very modern, hair pulled back. “Not now, Amanda,” he says as his eyes fill with tears. “Please, just not now. Not tonight.” “If today isn’t indication that life is short, I don’t know what is,” she says without remorse. Ward leaves the bedroom without acknowledging her. She screams after him, but doesn’t leave the room. “Ward! Honey! Ward! Come back here. Where are you going?!” He leaves the house, and sits on the front porch while he makes a call. It rings a couple times, then we hear Helene’s voice: “Ward. Hi.” // “Hi darling. Can I come keep you company?”
“I keep seeing her everywhere,” Helene says, staring into a glass of wine, tucked beneath a blanket in the corner of the couch. “I pray she’ll just reappear. I don’t know…so that I could say sorry, for giving up. Now what? She was the strong one. The brave one. The selfless one. I used to be the rock. When did that change? When did our balance shift? Why did I just throw her away like that? I thought it was good for her, to stop wasting away on me. Now it just feels like I got what I deserve, like I shoved her in front of that truck.” She sniffles: “Sorry, I don’t mean to play the victim here…” The rambling halts, and she offers a long enough pause for Ward to interject: “It’s OK to feel shame, but it’s important to make peace. The sooner, the better.” // “What, with my six or seven months? If I even live that long, I hope it’s because I suffer.”
Helene has fallen asleep on the couch. She’s so much smaller than Ward, which we realize as he lifts and carries her into the bedroom. He tucks her in and dims the light, then goes to the bathroom to fill a glass of water, which he sets beside her. He stares forlorn at Helene, asleep without her other half. There’s a photo on the bedside table; it’s of the four of them—Alina and Helene, plus Ward and Amanda, the woman from his bedroom—they’re all smiling near the beach; it must be Hawaii since they have leis around their necks. Ward turns again to the frail, old woman in bed, leans down and takes her hand. She squeezes, unconscious still, and takes a deep, clear breath—as if she is finally relaxing, for the first time in days. Ward gives her forehead a kiss, and at last leaves her to rest.
Ward goes to the hall closet and pulls out some spare bedsheets; he’s very automatic about converting the couch into a makeshift bed. He turns out the light and wraps himself in the sheets, then rolls over and shuts his eyes. He takes a few deep breaths, then opens his eyes again. Something is weird. There’s someone else breathing in the room. “Helene?” He sits up in bed and looks into the dark living room. There’s a silhouette there—a woman—but Helene’s bedroom door is still shut. He turns on the light next to the couch, and we see her: Alina. Sitting in the loveseat across from him, just like she sat across from his desk. She’s dressed up—a blazer and slacks—her legs are crossed, her eyebrow cocked. She stares at Ward, and he stares at her. Her smile grows, and he mutters “No fucking way.” She mouths back: “Yes. Fucking. Way.”
“My therapy bill is big enough,” Ward says to Alina. “And Lord knows this will kill Helene.” Alina, still smiling: “So don’t tell her, then. I’m here to see you.” A pause, then Alina asks, sincerely: “Are you doing ok?” // “Why are you asking about me? Why aren’t you asking about your wife?” // “How are YOU doing, Ward?” He’s stunned. He doesn’t know how he’s feeling, especially given this. “I’m… lost. This all happened just as I was sure I was over everything. I must be going crazy; I don’t believe you’re here, too.” // “I’m sorry that you’re confused about everything. How’s Tracey?” // “Really? You care how she’s doing?” // “Yes. She’s half the reason I’m here, right? Or rather, half the reason I’m not here.” // “She came to the funeral. The cabbie said you two really went at it.” // “What else did he say?” // “He didn’t remember much, just that you two were fighting about something, and you had fired her maybe. I had to act surprised. But Tracey was really shook up. Helene has been very gracious to her. I hope that’s OK. She doesn’t want any bad blood, plus Tracey seems devastated.” // “That’s all fine. Good, actually. But back to you…” // “What about me?” // “You introduced me to her.” // “You were behind on your deadlines!” // “Well how’s this for deadline?” She waves both hands over her spectred self. // “So this is my fault?” // “I’m not saying that, Ward.” // “You can’t just appear here to blame me for this…” His voice raises for a second before he hushes the tone, careful not to wake Helene. Then Alina: “I’m not here to blame you. I’m here to ask your help.”
“I need you to look after her,” Alina continues. “She’s going to let herself go, I know it. She might even do something brash, because she doesn’t see much use in carrying on. Especially now.” // “Of course, Alina. You didn’t even need to ask me that. Of course I’m going to look after her.” // “I’m sorry to burden you with this.” // “It’s not a burden. She’s family to me.” // “I’d probably be writing some stupid mommy blog, married to an idiot banker if she hadn’t come along. I’d rather be dead.” She chuckles to herself. Ward is still too shocked to find any humor in this. “Alina, it’s really nice to see you, albeit unexpected and a bit startling. But, is this… is this going to be a recurring thing?” // “You mean, since you’re trying to escape it at home and this was supposed to be your safe space?” // “Exactly that, actually.” // “Well, sorry. Yes. It’s going to be a recurring thing.” // “Then I’m going to take a Valium, turn out the lights, and put in my ear plugs.” // “I wasn’t finished…!” // Then, sarcastically to himself, as he turns out the lights: “What’s MY point in carrying on?”
It’s late morning by the time Ward wakes up. He slowly opens his eyes, afraid to turn over and see if Alina is still there. He closes them again, takes a deep breath, and quickly turns toward the rest of the room. “Still here,” Alina says at that very instant, crosslegged in the chair. “Jesus Christ,” Ward screams; he half expected this but it startles him nevertheless. From the kitchen, Helene’s voice: “Ward? Everything OK?” // “Yes Helene,” he calls back to her. “Just having a pesky dream.” Alina rolls her eyes and gives him the finger. Helene walks into the room with coffee and a fruit bowl. She can’t see Alina. “You were practically knocked out. I didn’t want to wake you. Here, darling; it’s just what you like.” // “Thank you, love. Sweet of you. I won’t be a bump like this, I promise. Just the one night. It’s me who should be helping you.” He’s trying his best to ignore Alina, to focus entirely on Helene so that she doesn’t suspect anything strange is happening. She takes a couple steps backwards to sit exactly where Alina is. Alina jumps out and moves aside, just in time for her wife to sink into the chair. Then, Helene speaks: “So. Some big news. I’m going to shut down the business. I’m done. I’m done. I’m…,” She fights for the words, closing her eyes as a tear falls. “I’m giving up.” Now Ward turns to Alina, who is leaning against the opposite wall. She’s fighting tears, too.
Ward and Helene walk through the farmer’s market at Prospect Park, stopping between booths to sample and buy food. As she examines some ears of corn, Helene asks a question: “So how are YOU, Ward?” // “Me? People keep asking me that.” // “Well. You lost your best friend, your best client, and if you don’t mind my saying, you don’t have much else going for you without her, do you?” // “I’ve been trying to ignore that fact.” // “So. How ARE you?” // “Are you trying to recruit me to harakiri, or…?” She manages a laugh; he’s happy to see her smile. “I’m just worried about you,” Helene says. “Just as I was done worrying about you. Now, I can’t stop thinking about what you should do.” // “Well? What do you think should I do?” // “I haven’t any conclusions, or else I’d stop thinking about it.” He purses his lips, like “Yeah, hmm,” and we cut back to Helene’s apartment, as she and Ward eat dinner. We hear Alina’s voice, shouting from the couch nearby: “Ask her about my book.” Ward gives her a glare as Helene is distracted by the meal. Alina again: “Ask her!” Ward fumbles for words: “Helene?” She looks up, smiling. He continues: “What would you like to do with Alina’s manuscript? I reckon the publisher will still want to print it.” // “So print it, for God’s sake. That’s a no brainer.” // “Well, it needs rewrites. Lots of them. It’s great but there’s a lot of change in direction.” // “So have Tracey do it. She can work from here. I’d love the company.” Alina, screaming again: “Plot twist!”
Alina, barking loudly as the table gets cleared: “It makes sense! Tracey has the knack. She’s a psycho bitch who better not mess up my final book, but you’ll keep close watch! I’m just glad it’ll get published. And that’ll keep you afloat for a while too, Ward. It’s great, right? Why don’t you look more excited? Everyone wins! And if she works from here, I’ll be able to keep track of her, too…Oooh, maybe I can haunt her?” Alina won’t shut up, even after Ward leaves the living room for the kitchen. Helene is in there, loading the dishwasher. “Are you alright with me going home tonight?” he asks her. “I think I’ll sleep better there.” // “Wow, the tides have shifted, have they? Are you making progress with…everything?” // “Heaps. I’ll be back first thing in the morning, and we can discuss the Tracey thing. If that’s what you want.” // “We both owe it to Alina to help get this book published.” Cut to: Ward pulls up to his Westchester home. Instead of hesitating to go inside, he marches in, but the momentum dies just before the bedroom. After stopping to collect himself, he turns on the light and sees Amanda, who is sitting at the end of the bed, as always. Before she can say anything, he starts: “I’m selling the house.” A long pause, then Amanda: “Where will I go?” // “I’m selling the house.” // “Where will I go, Ward?” // “I’m selling the house, Amanda.” // “Where. Will. I. Go?” // “I’m. Selling. The. House.” // “WHERE WILL I GO?” // “I’M SELLING THE DAMN HOUSE.” He’s boiling now, and seals it: “I don’t care where you go. As long as I never have to see you again.”
In Ward’s office, he and Tracey sit across from one another. She looks surprised by something he has just said, though he seems none too excited. “Really?” Tracey stammers. “Was this your idea?” // “Not entirely. The publisher wants this book, and I think everyone owes it to Alina to get it printed. Wouldn’t you agree?” His tone is pointed, but Tracey is too preoccupied to notice or care. “So are you my agent then? Oh my God, do I have an agent?! // “We’ll draft a contract for something short term, for the project.” // “This is great news!” // “You’ll forgive me for not agreeing entirely, or perhaps for seeing the full picture.” // “Let me have this moment, will you? How many times will I get to write my first book?” // “You mean ghost write. And it’s practically finished. Now…” He starts to list some logistics of the project, and we can see the anxiety flooding his face as he looks into her eyes, as we pan in on her terrifying, sociopathic smile.
A real estate agent shows Ward’s house to a young couple and their 5-year-old daughter. They like the place, and seem interested in buying it. Everything is quiet as the agent guides them into each room, but whenever we cut to Ward’s POV (as he follows them around), we hear shrill screams from Amanda. While he answers a question about the master bathroom, she’s behind the group, shouting “THIS IS OUR HOME. THIS WAS OUR LIFE. OURS. YOU CAN’T JUST HAND IT OVER TO THEM. WE BUILT THIS.” She’s sobbing, she’s unhinged. Then, as he explains some design features in the kitchen: “WE WOULD HAVE ALL OF THIS IF IT WASN’T FOR YOU. IF YOU HADN’T KILLED ME, POISONED ME. HOW DARE YOU GIVE EVERYTHING WE BUILT TO THESE STRANGERS.” We see him look over to her once, just for a split second, and the couple’s daughter turns back to see what he’s looking at. Amanda is there, in the doorframe of the bedroom, but only Ward can see her. He’s poised nevertheless. He’s really selling it with a smile.
Ward enters Helene’s apartment, and is greeted by both Helene and Tracey, cozied up on opposite sides of the couch. They’re laughing and chatting with full mugs in hand. Alina sits in the chair before them, and as Helene says “Hi dear!”, Alina turns to Ward, grinning widely, and says “Don’t mind us, we’re just catching up. Couple o’ young gals gossiping over hot cocoa. No tears here.” Ward ignores her, even sitting himself in her chair, which forces Alina to move as she mutters “Ass hole! I was sitting there. Jerk…” Ward is suspicious of this scene, but he tries to play friendly: “What a nice surprise. So good to see you smiling, Helene. “Tracey just stopped by with flowers, and thanked me for entrusting her with finishing the book,” Helene says. “If everything is alright, she’ll start this week.” Then Tracey: “Everything’s alright, isn’t it?” Then Alina: “IS everything alright, Ward?” We don’t see him respond, but we do see him mull it over for a few seconds, trying to stay poised.
Ward and Tracey leave the building together. They’re heading opposite directions. “I have an appointment this way,” Ward starts. “But quickly, before I forget to say so…” Tracey smiles innocently, intently. He continues: “You are to follow my instructions throughout this entire process. I know what happened with you and Alina. Everything that happened. The affair. Your being fired. Everything. Your track record—even before you signed on with her—is a red flag. But I’m willing to see past that. For this book, and for Alina.” Tracey isn’t smiling so innocently now, but she’s just as intent. Ward finishes: “My patience will be as short as the leash you’re on.” // “Are you going to give me a fair shot at this?” // “At what, finishing Alina’s book, per the contract?” // “You’re afraid to let me shine.” // “For my own health, maybe.” // “You’ll see what I’m capable of.” With that, she’s off.
A broker shows Ward around an apartment. It’s a large 1BR, newly refurbished. “I’ll take it. Absolutely.” They shake hands. He exits onto Underhill in Prospect Heights, and we track him from the front as he walks away, toward Eastern Parkway. He steps onto the boulevard there, then points to the Soldiers and Sailors Arch. He’s having a conversation with himself, just mumbling words—not in the same way he might converse with Amanda or Alina. He looks even more worn-down than ever, but upbeat, like he knows he will go no lower. He arrives to his parked car, gets inside, and breaks into a fit of laughter and tears.
“Do you know anything I don’t know?” Helene quizzes Ward over a quiet dinner out. She looks more fragile now, be it from ailing or mourning. “In regards to what?” Ward responds. “I can recite all of the James Bond movies in chronological order. Can you do that?” // “Very funny. No, about Alina and Tracey. Why did Alina fire her right before the accident?” // “Oh. Well, I think it was an ego thing. You know, Tracey encroaching on Alina’s space, disregarding her institution, if you will.” // “A shame, then. She’s such a talent.” // “She’s no Alina.” // “But I see it in her. I see Alina in her. I know it seems backwards to have her in my home again, but I just feel like Alina is there again, for some reason.” Helene feels silly for saying this. Ward can only offer comfort: “Well, maybe Alina is there after all.” Helene’s voice cracks, sniffling: “I hope so.” She nods to herself, staring down at her dinner. “Oh, I really hope so.”
Ward sits beside Helene at the doctor’s office, in Alina’s stead. We don’t witness the conversation, but the doctor is delivering sobering news as they look at some scan results. Helene grips Ward’s hand, and tries to stay poised. Cut to: We’re in her apartment, and Ward brings her some hot tea. As is now custom, Alina lingers in the chair across from them. She’s smiling happily though, observing her friend as he helps her wife. Then the front door opens: Tracey walks in with a “Hello!” and struggles for a second to get her key out of the lock. “Hi dear,” Helene says back, suddenly perking up. “So happy to see you.” Then, Alina to Ward, annoyed: “Helene gave her keys.” The two of them observe Helene as she hugs Tracey and offers some tea. The two women chit chat in the kitchen as Alina and Ward sit silently. Then, Alina turns back to him with a slight shrug that says “At least Helene seems happy?”
There’s a manuscript on Ward’s desk that reads “REVISIONS 1, TRACEY GORMAN”. He cracks it open and leafs through. We fade through various shots of the pages turning, turning, turning. Then the phone rings: “Hey. I know. It’s terrific. It’s absolutely terrific.” Cut to: Ward and Tracey at the publisher’s office. Tracey is beaming, as if she’s just heard good news. “Thank you, thank you. So sweet. I’m so humbled.” The publisher, a stodgy, unenthusiastic woman, sits at the edge of her seat. “Listen, I think there’s a place for you here once this is all done. Do you have anything of your own to show, or some pitches we could entertain?” // “Yeah, I can bring you some things next week.” // “Wonderful. And I assume Ward here will represent you?” Everyone smiles, but it feels a little forced. The publisher continues: “He’d be stupid not to, right Ward?” Now he’s really forcing a smile. He wants to disappear.
Ward and Tracey leave the publisher’s office together. He looks indifferent now, but she’s elated. “Let’s get a drink and go over the notes,” Ward says. “I can’t. I have a date tonight,” she replies as she puts on her sunglasses. “Sorry. I’ll look at them later, or tomorrow maybe. I have to put some writing samples together. Anyway, sounds like there’s not much left to do with the book.” // “There’s a lot to do yet, in fact. You’ve got to ground it in Alina’s voice. It’s reading a lot like your writing, not hers.” // “Which will be good since obviously we’ll share the byline.” // “You know damn well that isn’t happening.” // “Look, Ward. I don’t need to impress you. Now, I’m gonna go home and freshen up for my date.” She playfully pinches his cheek and chuckles coyly before walking away; it’s entirely inappropriate and crass. Yet again, Ward is speechless.
Ward and Helene rest on a bench in Prospect Park, sipping coffee on an autumnal morning. “I don’t know if I can walk home; I’m exhausted,” Helene says. “I’m parked just over here,” Ward responds. “Let me drive you back. He helps her walk slowly. “I should be stronger,” Helene says. “But I stayed out late last night.” // “Oh, doing what?” // “Tracey took me to dinner and the ballet.” Ward rolls his eyes, which Helene doesn’t see. He’s terse with his reply: “Sounds lovely.” // “I think it was a romantic thing,” Helene says. “I couldn’t tell, but it felt flirty to me. She’s the one who asked me out, too. And she even paid for everything. She insisted. I said that that was absurd since, you know, she’s probably not too well off. We took a taxi home and she kissed me on the lips. I didn’t know what to do!” // “She’s aggressive. That’s so out of line, considering everything.” // “But you know, I had a lot of fun. She’s a lot of fun! Quite the sense of humor, and worldly, too. Really charming, and so bright eyed. The whole night, I forgot I was even sick.” // “Well it sounds like you two could forge a good friendship, or maybe a mentorship.” // “I don’t know, Ward. She’s coming over tonight. I invited her. And…I might let something happen. Just, for the hell of it. I gotta get on living, you know? I think this is what Alina would want.” Close-up on Ward: He’s fuming.
A moving truck drives away from Ward’s home. Inside, he’s surveying each room one last time, to check for leftover belongings, or maybe for nostalgia’s sake. Lastly, his bedroom: Amanda is there. She’s standing where the bed used to be, sad, confused, broken. “Why have you sold our home, baby? Why are you putting me away?” Ward doesn’t answer. He studies her, his eyes welling with water, as her questions continue and her volume grows. He turns and walks away as she shouts after him: “AREN’T YOU ASHAMED? YOU KILLED ME ONCE ALREADY, YOU CAN’T DO IT AGAIN.” He exits the apartment, holding his breath, and exhales as he pushes the front door shut. Instantly, her voice is gone. We can hear his heavy breathing, his heart beating.
A portly, sage-looking man waits in the driveway next to a minivan. Ward walks over to him and, without a word, nods to the guy. It’s a cue of sorts, and the man walks into the house. We still don’t hear Amanda, but instead hear Ward whispering something to himself as he waits in the driveway. He’s nervous, staring at the front door, waiting a minute or two before the man emerges. After he does, he walks slowly to Ward, and nods. “All clear,” he says. Ward closes his eyes and collects himself, as relief and resolve wash over him.
Ward unpacks his new home. Helene stops by with wine and helps arrange his living room and kitchen. They order takeout and eat on the couch, with packed boxes still surrounding them. “Did you think we’d end up together, Helene?” he asks. “I always knew it’d be us,” she jokes back. She looks thinner yet, and she’s coughing every minute or two, but she seems genuinely happy. “I hope you take advantage of this bachelor pad,” she says. “How long since you’ve been laid?” // “Mmmm, I haven’t been.” // “Ward. Still? Oh gosh, now you’re gonna put yourself out there, right? Are you gonna date, or just get lucky?” // “I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to do both of those things, Helene.” Then, he turns it back on her: “How’s your… Tracey thing?” Helene blushes. “It’s very good. She’s like Alina in so many ways, even in bed. Is that terrible? I swear it’s more a coping mechanism or something. She can’t possibly be into me, can she be?” // “Who in their right mind wouldn’t be into you?” He’s not about to get catty with Helene, so he stays positive on the subject: “Maybe you’ll inspire her work as well. Maybe it’ll help her channel Alina, for the book.” He might have just convinced himself of this, too.
Ward walks Helene home. She grabs on to him every few paces: “I keep feeling like I’m going to fall over,” she says. “This bout has come with a vengeance.” // “You sure I can’t call you a cab?” he asks her. “It’s freezing.” // “No. I think it feels quite nice.” A pause before Helene changes topics: “Do you think it’s wrong, what I’m doing?” // “What’s that?” // “I mean, dating Tracey. Do you think it’s an insult to Alina? It kind of feels like I’m cheating on her, partially because it’s her assistant, and partially because I feel like I should be mourning more.” // “You’re not mourning?” // “In my own way, I suppose. It still doesn’t feel real. Or fair. I’ve been ready for death for a few years now. I wasn’t ready to lose her first.” Another pause, then: “I had stopped taking my painkillers,” Helene confesses. “WHAT? Helene!” // “Relax, relax. I’m back on them. I just… felt like I should be feeling some sort of agony, and I wasn’t. And now I’m… overcome with guilt. For letting her go, then making her fight her way back, and then losing her. And then… going numb. But now, Tracey is helping me to atone for some of that, to get the feeling back. I guess I see it as an appreciation to Alina. If I’m going to die in the next year, then I’m going to do it with a little fire in my eyes.” Another pause, then Ward: “You’re not going to die in the next year. But I guess it isn’t wrong, what you’re doing. And… I think Alina would agree.”
Ward and Helene enter her apartment. Everything is as it should be, with one exception: There’s no sign of Alina. Ward scans the room a few times over, certain she should be there. “You looking for something?” Helene asks as she hangs her coat. “No, no,” he responds. “Got a little nostalgic, I suppose.” He does one final scan as she slips into the restroom. We can read the bittersweetness on his face as he accepts that Alina is gone. Helene returns and he hugs her goodnight. As he leaves the building, Tracey walks up the path. She goes tense, but he gives her a warm smile. “She just got back,” Ward says. “Hope you two have a nice night.” // “You haven’t told her about…?” // “Told her about what?” He says this in a way that assures her everything is OK; he hasn’t told Helene about Alina and Tracey’s affair. “Good night, Tracey.” // “Good night.” Ward walks home, he goes into his new apartment—his silent apartment—and very happily, he brushes his teeth and washes his face, he changes into his pajamas, and he tucks himself in for the evening.
Tracey sits across from Ward in his office. It’s a familiar scene—we saw Alina in that same chair at the beginning of the story. He has Tracey’s next revisions in front of him, flipping through pages to peruse the hand-scribbled notes. “They loved the rewrite on the beauty parlor scene,” he says. Tracey beams behind her glasses. She looks more buttoned-up than usual. “You really nailed Alina’s voice here,” he says as she ties her hair back. “Really well done. And– if you’re up for it, they want to add a chapter at the beginning, for some backstory. Obviously they’ll compensate for the addition.” // “You answered my next question.” // “Great work, Tracey. I mean it.” He pauses, and studies her: “Are those Alina’s clothes?” // “Helene was getting rid of them, so she let me pick some outfits.” // “Her fragrance, too?” // “No, she’s too attached to it. But I woke up there today, so.” Now, with her hair pulled back, Tracey looks like an Alina reincarnate.
“What’s gotten into you?” Helene asks Ward as he aggressively shoves the rest of Alina’s clothes into boxes. She’s not alarmed by his behavior, but more fascinated. “Are you a cross dresser now?” Ward is carried away: “Helene. This is selfish of me but I need Alina’s stuff out of here.” // “It’s all very expensive. I should know; I made it. Can you at least take it to a nice boutique?” She rummages through the boxes. “Now, wait a second, some of this is still salvageable. I know people who would wear this.” // “No. It all needs to go. I don’t want to see any of this again.” // “What’s it to you? And how will you see it if it’s tucked away in my closets? I know it seems like I’m moving on with my life, but I’m not ready to just exhaust the place of her presence. What’s this really about?” Her tone implies that she knows what it’s about. He searches for a different excuse: “I can see Alina. The same way I kept seeing Amanda.” Helene is shocked. “Where?” // “Here.” // “Here?” Helene’s eyes dart around the room. “She’s… here?” We can see that Ward feels bad for lying, but he runs with it. “Yes. And, she’s just as agitated as Amanda.” // “Why can’t I see her?” // “You don’t want to see her. She’s screaming at me right now. We need to get rid of her ghost, we need to remember her happily. I can’t stomach another round of this.” // “But that means something is unresolved? What is it?” // “The book.” // “Of course. Tell her about Tracey! About the book!” // “I will. But first, help me get these boxes out of here.” // “Yes, yes. Oh Alina, love, I’m so sorry to do this.” She shouts into the living room: “You hear that? I’m sorry. We’ll take care of you yet, darling!” She’s buying it.
Ward is on a date; he’s signing the check as they finish dessert. It’s a small restaurant on Vanderbilt Avenue with romantic lighting, and lavish entrees at surrounding tables. She is a stunning Spanish woman, and seems very happy on this date. “Maybe we could get another drink nearby?” Ward says. She thinks for a second, flirtatiously smiling. “I…should probably get home. But I’d love to see you again.” // “I’ll walk you.” They stroll down a quiet residential street in Park Slope. “It’s here,” she says, pointing up to a brownhouse. Ward is awkward as he slowly moves in for a kiss. She chuckles, but allows it. He puts his hand on the small of her back, bringing her closer. After a few seconds, she ends the moment. “I had a really nice night,” she says. “Can I come up?” Ward asks. It feels… amateurish. “Sorry,” she says, not making him feel foolish. “My… my babysitter is here.” // “Oh!” // “Yeah. I hope that doesn’t change anything.” // “Not at all. I’ll leave you to it, though. Tonight was nice.” With a quick, awkward kiss, they say goodbye and part ways.
Take 2: Ward on another date. The restaurant is a little divey, and his date is younger—a cute hipster 20-something. He’s paying the check as she thanks him. “My pleasure,” he says. “Want to go get another drink?” // “Sure, that’d be lovely.” // “I’ve got a great cabernet at home, if that’s of any interest.” She understands the invite, and chuckles: “That IS of any interest.” Their eyes sign the contract. Cut to: She’s putting her clothes on, in his bedroom. She readies to leave, and Ward stops her: “Wait, I have something for you.” He runs into the kitchen, only in his boxers. He returns with a bottle of wine: “I wasn’t lying about the cabernet. Take it.” // “Keep it,” she says. “I’ll come back for it.” They kiss, and she’s gone.
Ward and Tracey work quietly at Helene’s apartment, as Helene and her assistant Kyle discuss business across the room. Tracey keeps glancing nervously in their direction; it’s distracting to Ward that she keeps turning her focus. Annoyed, Ward takes his tea mug to the kitchen for a refill. Tracey watches him go that way, as does Helene. In the kitchen, Helene appears behind him: “Any sign of her?” she whispers. “Not since I told her about the book. I think she’s resolved.” // Helene doesn’t know how to react. “It’s good news, Helene.” // “Right. OK.” She heads into her bedroom as he finishes preparing his tea. Once he sits down next to Tracey again, she summons his attention. “Psst. Ward.” // “Hmm?” // “Helene told me.” // “Told you what?” // “That you can see her.” // “She’s gone now, don’t worry.” // “No, she’s not.” // “What makes you say that?” // “Because I can see her, too.” Ward turns, looking for Alina. He still sees nothing, even though Tracey is now staring at a point just near the doorframe. “And she is realllllly pissed off,” Tracey says anxiously. Ward frantically scans for Alina—staring where Tracey is staring—but still, he doesn’t see her.
Tracey sobs from the bathroom, as Helene rushes out to meet Ward in the living room. “What did you say to her?!” she asks Ward. “Nothing!” he responds. “She just started crying and ran out of here.” // “Well what’s all the fuss about?” Ward shrugs his shoulders, preferring not to enlighten Helene on Tracey’s sudden sixth sense. “I tried calming her down, and it’s not working,” Helene says. “Why don’t you try something? Offer her some Vicodin.” Helene fishes out a bottle of pills as Ward rolls his eyes. “So now I’m babysitting and drug dealing in one fell swoop,” he mutters. “Even Alina was less dramatic than this.” He ponders that thought, then pokes his head back into the living room—shouting towards Alina, if she’s there: “Actually, I take that back!” Helene is perplexed as she pours herself a full glass of wine, as her assistant Kyle awkwardly excuses himself. Ward begins coaching a terrified Tracey out of the bathroom, but he can hardly speak over her melodramatic wailing.
Ward raps at the bathroom door. We hear Tracey’s sniffles on the other side. He knocks again. “What?” she says, in a pained, low voice. “Please let me in.” Tracey keeps her voice low: “Where’s Helene?” Ward lowers his, too: “In the living room. You’re clear.” // “And…?” // “And what?” // “Alina.” // “She’s not here.” // “I can hear her. She’s still there.” // “Let me in, will you?” The doorknob turns with a click, and she slowly opens the door for him. Her eyes are red as they scan the bedroom for any sign of Alina. “Hurry, hurry,” she mutters as he squeezes himself through the door’s opening and into the room. She looks ghostly herself, and she’s reacting to something in real time, like she’s being screamed at from the living room. “How come you can’t see her but I can?” // “What are you seeing?” // “It’s her. It’s Alina. She’s yelling, calling me a ‘bitch’ and saying I’m stealing her wife and her book and she’s going to kill me if I hurt either of them, if I mess anything up.” // “How would she possibly do that?” Ward says, calmly. “How do I get rid of her again?” Tracey asks. “You had better learn to choose your words if you want that answer from me,” he says back. His pity has run out. He leaves the bathroom as she mutters “Please don’t tell Helene…”
Ward and Helene snuggle on the couch with wine, and Helene checks her watch: “Two hours, good grief,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I’m ready to go kick the door down. She storms into the bedroom and shouts to the bathroom door: “Darling. Enough. E-nough. Get out here and explain yourself. I don’t care what’s the matter but stop with the theatrics.” Ward watches from behind; it takes a few moments for Tracey to stop her sniffling and to open the bathroom. It’s clear to Ward she can still hear Alina, and from her stares in his direction, that Alina must be standing in the doorway next to him. “I have to go home,” Tracey says. “What the hell is going on with you?” Helene shrieks. Now, it’s obvious that Tracey can’t walk through the doorway. She’s acting so strange; it’s no wonder Helene is baffled. Ward steps into the doorway, leaving half of it free. He understands that Alina must have been blocking it, that he has to stand there so her specter moves aside. Tracey squeezes past him and hurriedly puts on her parka before sprinting away. Ward turns to Helene, who shakes her head in complete dismay.
“She was saying ‘I have to watch every word you write. You’re going to listen to everything I say. You’re going to do everything I tell you, or I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you the same way you killed me.” Tracey recounts her evening to Ward from a bench in Prospect Park. “She can’t touch you,” Ward says. “Trust me here. You don’t move out of the way for her; she moves for you. She has no physical power over you. She can’t move objects. She can’t KILL you.” // “I didn’t mean for her to die. I didn’t, I swear. And it’s not like I pushed her in front of that truck. It was all bad timing and a total accident and I just freaked out and ran away. I’ll never live with myself for what happened, but I’m trying to make the most of it and get on with my career and with my life.” A pause. “I don’t want to go back to Helene’s apartment.” // “I think we can work that out.” // “But Alina said she wants to watch me. Plus, what about me and Helene?” // “Maybe it’s time to put that to rest.” // “But we love each other.” Ward turns his head to roll his eyes, and to stop himself from choking Tracey.
Now Tracey and Ward are outside Helene’s front door. “I’ll isolate Helene, so that you can have a conversation with Alina. Learn how to control her, OK?” Tracey nods, and waits fearfully as he opens the front door. “Dolls, hello!” Helene says. She’s carefully studying Tracey, nervous for another episode. Helene goes in for a kiss, and Tracey awkwardly moves her mouth to the side, so that the kiss lands on her cheek instead. “OK, well. I’m going to the office myself. Do you two need anything for the day?” Tracey is trying hard to stay poised, despite something across the room giving her strain. “Actually, can I see you in the kitchen, Helene?” Ward asks. It’s part of the plan. She follows him into the kitchen, and he starts: “Tracey’s just… feeling the pressure. Of taking on Alina’s book. Of dating you. Of… becoming Alina, you know? She’s doing such a good job, as you know, and, uh, it’s finally just catching up to her. All the emotions. The pain, the excitement. Bittersweet stuff. She’s going to see a therapist.” // “Now, why couldn’t she tell me this herself? We’ve been intimate in every other way…” Just then, Tracey screams from the other room as something shatters. Helene and Ward rush into the living room, and see a broken lamp on the floor next to Tracey, who herself is lying unconscious, with a bloody welt on her head.
Ward and Helene sit in the waiting room at the hospital, her head resting on his shoulders, his eyes sinking into slumber. “Excuse me, are you two here with Ms. Gorman?” a nurse asks. They both sit upright. “Yes, yes,” Helene says. The nurse recognizes her. “Oh my God, are you Helene Hill?” // “I am.” // “I’ve seen all your shows. I saved up for three months to get a clutch from you; I love it so much. The one with the bronze clasp and the gold fringe.” // “Ahh, of course. One of my favorites as well. How’s our friend Tracey doing?” // “Sorry. How rude of me. Tracey is in and out of consciousness. Talking to herself, or to someone she thinks is in the room, I guess.” // “I’m allowed to let one of you back to see her.” Ward is quick to volunteer: “Why don’t you let me go, Helene?” // “Ward, no, I’ll go. It’s more appro–” // “No. I want to. You don’t need to see her in this state.” He stands and gestures to the nurse to lead the way. Helene, looking confused and a little offended, shouts after him: “Text me from inside?! Try to get an explanation!”
Ward steps behind a curtain where Tracey is being treated. She’s got a bandage wrapped around her head, and she’s very clearly doped up; her eyes don’t register alertness. A doctor emerges behind him, a clipboard in her hand. “Hi. Are you family, or friend?” she asks. “No,” he responds. The doctor looks concerned, but Ward recovers: “I’m her boss. I was with her when this happened. Though I didn’t witness it.” // “Yes, so I read in the report. There’s some minor swelling, but it should subside in a few days. We’ll get her a room upstairs, and she should be herself by tomorrow, though I’m going to need to switch her sedative if she keeps acting this way.” // “How’s that?” // “Episodes. Shouting. Someone named Alina?” Ward only nods. The doctor continues: “Have you contacted her family?” // “I’ll try. I have to find their info.” // “I need medical history.” // “I’ll get you that soon.” // “The bruising confirms that this was self-inflicted,” she adds. “Just to close that loop. The police might want to question you, but rest easy that they won’t be suspicious.” // “Thank you,” Ward says, in finality. The doctor smiles, and she leaves them alone. Ward doesn’t know what to do. He studies Tracey, who turns her head from one side to the other slowly. Rocking left, right, left. Her eyes pan the room. Her mouth opens, readying a scream as we change POV to Ward. We pull in on his spiteful stare as she shouts “IT’S MY TURN, ALINA. MINE. YOUR LIFE IS MINE NOW.”
Ward returns to the waiting room, but Helene is no longer there; it’s empty except for a middle-aged man with his back to Ward. Ward checks outside. He checks the women’s restroom, cracking the door and speaking her name loudly into the room. The door flies open and a young girl walks out, awkwardly stepping around Ward and shyly avoiding him. He then tries phoning Helene, but it rings into her voicemail. He fills a coffee and returns to the same chair he started in. The man in the room is the father of the young girl; she tugs on her dad’s coat, and he turns toward Ward: “Hey, buddy. Your wife, or your friend or whatever…” Ward turns around to face the man: “Yes?” // “She fell. Hurt her hip or something. They took her back there, too. The nurse just went in looking for you.” // “Oh. Uh, OK.” Just then, the nurse rushes through the doors, and shouts: “Mr. Alvaro! We need you back here.” Ward is already three paces in her direction.
Now Ward is with Helene and the doctors. She’s fighting an agonizing pain, squeezing his much larger hands and nearly breaking them. The doctors are looking at scans of her hip; there’s a large fracture in it. “We have to operate now,” says one doctor. “The fracture is serious; we need to get screws in there. Helene, are you ok with general anesthesia?” Helene looks at Ward, desperate. “I don’t want this. It’s my time. I want to go.” “Today is not your time,” he says, very poised. “It’s a setback, but we have no choice here. We have to fix this, and we can focus on getting you healed, entirely.” // She stares back, hurt by his confidence. She shakes her head slowly while keeping eye contact, begging him to let her suffer. “I was thinking about Alina when I fell. She pulled me down. I wanted to fall. I want to be with her.” The doctor interrupts: “Ms. Hill. We need to get started.” Ward has one final message for Helene: “I need you here.” She lets it sink in for a second, then turns to the doctor and nods subtly. Then, back to Ward as they wheel her bed away: “I’ll need you too, more than ever.” They keep eyes locked until she’s out of sight.
An emotionally depleted Ward makes a call from the hospital hallway: “Hi, Melissa. Can you pull Tracey Gorman’s file and get me her emergency contact information?” We hear his colleague through the phone: “Yes, one second, Ward.” // “Thank you.” A few moments… “Found it. Want me to email it to you?” // “Yes, please.” // “Of course. Also… I didn’t really think twice on this before, but I have her W9 here too. Her real name isn’t Tracey Gorman.” // “Oh?” // “It’s Sadey Preston. Sadey S-A-D-E-Y, Preston spelled like you’d think.” Ward grabs a pen and scribbles this onto his hand. “Thank you, Melissa. I’ll watch my email.” He gets the email on his phone, and sees that Tracey’s emergency contact is listed as “Ashley Anderson, friend” with a phone number. He calls the number. “Hello, Furniture Barn,” on the other line. “Hi, uh, is there an Ashley Anderson who works there?” // “No, sorry.” // “Thank you.” He hangs up, befuddled. He searches her name “Sadey Preston” on his phone’s browser. A bunch of articles appear, most from Illinois-based publications. A sampling of the headlines: “Sadey Preston Acquitted, Released to Mental Health Facilities” … “Sadey Preston to Be Tried as Minor in Homecoming Homicide” … “Prank Turns Fatal: Stevens High Yearbook Editor Drowns at Homecoming Party” … Ward scrolls and scrolls and scrolls, reading frantically. “What happened to doing goddamn background checks?” he says to himself. He scans both ends of the hallway. He’s alone. We can hear his breathing, and can see his chest pounding in and out. He hangs his head in defeat, or maybe disappointment, or maybe heartbreak, or maybe fear, or maybe in confusion, or maybe everything culminating in one. We cut to black.