“Definitely not straight,” Lena decided. “What do you think?”
Sam, who stood beside her, cocked her head to the side and contemplated the question for a long while. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Seriously?” Lena looked again at the framed picture hanging over her bed. “It looks a little crooked to me.”
“Well, which way do you want me to shift it?”
“Left. No, right. No.” Lena bit her lip and stepped closer. “Maybe it is straight.”
“Does that mean we can stop obsessing over this now?” Sam reached for her bag. “Not that it’s not beautiful or anything, because it is, but I’ve been dragging the damn thing to every frame shop in Los Angeles ever since we got back, and honestly, I think the first frame was perfectly fine. So were the next twelve. And the only thing that’s not straight in this room is your answer about the TV Guide cover. So which is it: are you in, are you out? The people need to know.”
Lena sighed, but nodded. “I’m in.”
“Okay, but that means you’ll have to reschedule your dinner with...” Sam paused as she flipped through several pages of notes. “Andrea Jeffies.”
Lena headed for the door, assistant firmly in tow. Halfway down the stairs, she paused. “Who the hell is Andrea Jeffies?”
“She’s a director,” Sam prompted. “She wanted to talk to you about a role in her film.” Pause. “Lena, you spoke to her yesterday. You told me to schedule her in.”
Lena vaguely recalled such a conversation. She pondered the name as she continued her descent. “Right,” she said, finally remembering. She stopped at the foot of the stairs and looked up at Sam. “Call her back, cancel, don’t reschedule.”
“I finished the script last night.” Lena made a face to illustrate disgust.
“Let me put it this way: Yes.” She continued onward, toward the living room. “It started out fine. I thought, ‘Hey, this could be a pretty decent role,’ and then the aliens come to Earth to procreate with the human race, and my character gets eaten by a weird plant/monkey hybrid.”
“Say no more. Dinner cancelled.”
Lena sighed and plopped down onto her plush leather sofa. “Why can’t I just land something... challenging, you know?”
“Well, if challenging is what you’re looking for, here’s something: your mom called to remind you about your brother's play in two weeks. If you can’t make that, you absolutely, have to make it to the after-dinner at eight, or – and I quote – ‘your brother will never ever speak to you ever again.’”
“Is that supposed to be a threat?”
Sam smiled and sat down beside the actress. “You should at least make the dinner. You shouldn’t piss your mother off too much, because then I have to deal with her, and we both know I hate her. No offense.”
“None taken. Maybe I’ll drag Jack along. They always act at least halfway human when he’s around. Act being the operative word.” Lena caught the strange look that passed across Sam’s face and she arched a brow. “What?”
“What?” Sam was looking at her pen. “Nothing.” She coughed. “You should call Jack. He might be free. I mean, not that I think he would not be free – cause how would I know? I just mean, uh... oh, shit, I’m late for yoga.” She stood, and started toward the front door. “Call me if you need anything else. The, uh... the frame looks great.” Door opened. Door closed.
Lena sat frozen in place for about two minutes before finally reaching for her phone.
Jack picked up on the second ring. “Hey, it’s me,” she said.
“I know it’s you. What’s – oh wait, got another call. Hold on.”
Lena waited patiently, and then impatiently. She was about to hang up and call back when he switched over.
“Um, Lena, can I call you back?”
Lena frowned. “Sure...” She heard the click, and was once about to hang up when Jack’s voice came back in a big rush.
“Do you think she knows? I mean, what did you say? Was it obvious? Do you think that’s why she’s calling? Crap. I knew we should’ve told her. She’s going to freak out. What exactly did you say?”
Lena scratched her forehead, trying to piece together the pieces of this suddenly intriguing puzzle.
“Sam?” Jack prompted. “Are you still there?”
Sam and Jack. Jack and Sam. Lena narrowed her eyes. The sneaky bastards! How long had this been going on? She started laughing. “Oh you two are so busted.”
“When did this happen?”
“It’s not what you think,” Jack said quickly. “It’s not like we’re... you know, dating or anything.” He said the word “dating” as if it were a disease. “It was just sex. Once. Okay, twice. The third time doesn’t really count.”
“And we were going to see a movie tomorrow night, but that’s it.”
“We were going to tell you. It’s just... it just sort of happened, and we weren’t really sure what to tell you, since you know, it’s nothing.”
“Nothing,” Lena repeated, amused. “Of course.”
Jack let out a deep breath. “Are you mad?”
“Yup, totally pissed,” Lena answered, smiling. “So, when did this ‘nothing’ start?”
“New York. The last night we were there. We both had too much to drink and...”
“And then the nothing happened?”
“I knew you liked her,” Lena said. “I just had no idea she liked you back.”
“Neither did I,” Jack admitted. “You know, cause of the gay thing.”
Lena frowned. “What gay thing?”
“Sam has a gay thing?”
“Well, yeah. I thought you knew? I mean she was like in love with y– I’m saying too much. I am. I need to shut up before she kills me. No gay thing. There are no gay things, except mine. I am very, very gay.”
“Jack, what the hell are you talking about? Sam’s not gay.”
“That’s right.” He paused. “She’s bi. But if you tell her I told you, I swear to God, I will... I will... well I will be really pissed at you for a very long time.”
Lena rubbed her temple with her free hand. This was way too much information to process in one phone conversation. “Okay. Look, I really don’t care that you and Sam are dat—“
“We’re not dating!”
“Fine, that you and Sam are nothing-ing or whatever, but please, please, don’t break her heart and make her hate you because I really, really need her to remain my assistant.”
“Spoken like a true romantic.”
“Jack, I’m serious.”
“As am I. Are you sure you don’t want me to set you up on a date? I know someone. Very discreet.”
“I’m hanging up.”
“Just don’t tell her about the g...”
Jack’s voice faded as Lena took the phone off her ear. A second later, she shut it off. She stared at the device in her hand, not really looking at it. Jack and Sam. And Sam was bi. Why hadn’t Sam told her that? Not that they were best friends or anything, but still. Then again, it wasn’t like Lena had been particularly forthcoming with any personal details of her own.
She looked blindly at the receiver for a second longer, and then put it back on its base. She stood once that task was finished and made her way back to her bedroom.
It’s not straight, Lena thought, glancing up at the picture as she crawled into bed. “But then, that’s probably appropriate,” she said, to no one and nothing in particular. She sighed and reached for the book on her nightstand.
The card fell onto the bedspread from somewhere between the pages, and Lena stared down at the white, rectangular shape resting against her navy blue covers. The name Kara Danvers stared up at her in black, bold letters. Beneath the name: an email address.
She hesitated briefly, putting the book back on the nightstand. She picked the business card up, and held it in front of her. She didn’t know why she’d kept the card, but she knew it had something to do with the fact that the artist’s name was on one side of it.
Minutes passed as Lena contemplated the ridiculous notion of emailing a perfect stranger. Why shouldn’t she? Surely an artist would want to be complimented on their work? She glanced at the computer on her desk and back at the card. What would she even say?
Moments later, propelled forward by unidentifiable means, she sat at her desk and hit a random key, bringing her laptop to life. A picture of a sunset stared back at her, and she moved the cursor on her screen until her browser opened. She couldn’t email this person as herself, could she? No, she decided, signing up for a new email account. She filled the name as Tess Thorul, opting for her birth name, and an anagram of her last name.
Registration completed, compose email screen opened, she typed the email address written on the card, wrote ‘Your Art’ into the subject line, and sat back.
After a minute, she began to type:
I’m not sure if you’re used to receiving emails from strangers or not, but I couldn’t keep myself from writing to say that I really love the art piece I purchased from you last week. I’m not much of an art critic, and don’t pretend to know much about it. However, when I saw your sketch, it took my breath away. And since few things in life have such an effect on me, I figured the least I could do was let you know.
I don’t reside in New York, but if I ever find myself there again, I wondered: do you have your work on display at a gallery? Or should I simply take my chances at Central Park again?
Thank you for your time.
Lena read over her words, feeling like a monumental fool.
The cursor hovered over the ‘send’ button, while her mind registered a thousand different reasons why this was a bad idea; something she was certain to regret twenty minutes after the fact; something that would haunt her into the wee hours of the morning while she tossed and turned in bed, thinking, Whyyyyyy did I send that?
And yet, she clicked anyway.