Mitch is fired, but Alex is the one lost in the wilderness.
Reality turns upside down.
For years her life has been scaffolded off of this one center pole—around the show, around Mitch.
It all falls down.
Alex screams from under the rubble.
In a crisis, it’s important to scream until someone finds you.
Alex isn’t lying when she tells Mitch she doesn’t remember how she got in his bed that night in Chile. What she doesn’t tell him is what she does remember.
She remembers blinking into consciousness and the weight that was on top of her, a shhing sound in her ear, and the vague realization that she’s crying. But it’s not like she was there, not in her body, even as she can still on a bad night feel the weight of him, of it, resting on her chest. But her mind—her mind was somewhere else, in this moment only long enough to make out the face above hers. Even in the almost total darkness of the room, she’d know those features anywhere.
Alex wakes up… later. She doesn’t know how long she was out of it, but the slightest tinge of light is peeking around the hotel curtains. Mitch is splayed on the other side of the bed, snoring like a freight train. Her head is pounding, swimming. Alex feels hungover and like she’s still drunk all at once. She desperately needs to pee.
She stumbles to the bathroom where she shuts the door with what sounds like a deafening click. When she sits down on the toilet she winces. There is the beginning of bruising around her groin. She blinks, squeezing her eyes together, not understanding and then understanding in the space between seconds. It is only now that she has noticed she is naked.
She barely has time to wipe before the bile rises in her throat.
They fly home that afternoon and Alex barely says two words.
She throws up three more times.
She never tells anyone.
Years pass. Alex throws herself into being the perfect on-air partner and off-air best friend.
Mitch’s star is her star. Alex’s star is his.
They are In This Together.
There are large spans of time where Alex doesn’t think about it at all. She successfully folds it into a tiny back corner of her mind where it goes forgotten and unexamined, as if it never happened.
Sometimes she almost believes it didn’t.
They sleep together once, two years before Chile, the night they win their first Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Morning Program. Jason stays in the city with Lizzy, who has the flu. Paige is in Massachusetts; her mother had hip replacement surgery the day before. It’s only the second time they have been nominated. They are rising in the ratings, but nobody thinks TMS is going to win. They’re only in LA for the night.
The champagne flows. Excitement and promise crackle in the air.
They fuck in the limo, fast and furious, too amped up for anything more.
It’s satisfying, but it doesn’t mean anything.
They don’t talk about it, not needing to, she thought. She loves Jason. He loves Paige. It was just sex.
Alex doesn’t check up once in the two years that follow.
Something between Alex and Jason shifts. She can’t pinpoint it to Chile, to anything. The years just wear. They are strangers who share a daughter, an apartment, a life. They orbit around one another but rarely do their paths intersect.
They stop having sex years before he asks for the divorce.
He moves into the guest bedroom sometime between then and him formally moving out—not that it makes much difference. The space between their bedrooms is a mere ten paces down the hall but it might as well be ten city blocks.
But one night in the week after the Billy Bush tape drops and it’s been over a year of the news cycle from hell, she crawls into bed with Jason crying.
He doesn’t understand when Alex asks him to hold her through wracking sobs.
and when you're a star they let you do it
you can do anything
Every cell in her body is screaming.
The weight of Jason’s arms around her is too much and not enough and her head spins and spins and spins.
Mitch is her best friend.
No one gets her, gets her job, gets her life more than he does. No one makes her laugh louder. His hand reaching for hers under the desk on a hard day is a lifeline that she freely grabs hold to. He is the only one who can make her feel normal in the sea that is their highly unusual life.
Alex isn’t a nice person.
She watches Mitch’s parade of conquests with disdain. She isn’t quiet. The contempt radiates off of her, rolls off her tongue with every insult and degrading comment.
When they leave the show or get fired, Alex barely takes note.
Easy come, easy go.
They should have known better, should have known how insignificant they were, that this is how things would end.
The show must go on.
Once or twice between affairs and endless rounds of trying again with Paige, Mitch tries to slide his arms around Alex’s waist, his breath hot and sticky at her neck.
When she tenses up, when she pulls away, when she shuts him down -
She chides him, playfully.
He leaves her dressing room laughing.
She bites the bile back down and fixes her hair, her shirt, her expression.
Her knuckles bare white on the arms of her chair.
(Alex blames herself.
Not that anything happened—it didn’t.
But if there is anyone to blame,
if there is.)
Standing in front of him in his apartment, Alex sees Mitch with absolute clarity.
If he will throw her under the bus -
she will -
The night Mitch is fired is not the worst night of her life.
Alex is still screaming.