Namoira and Aara were pushing their way through the crowd as most of the party had begun engaging in sexual adventures.
“What the fuck did you do. Did you put some of your stupid love potion in the drinks?” Namoira said furiously
“Wow, first of all, language. You’re a god not a gutter ruffian.” Aara replied offended “Secondly, I was dancing with you the entire time, when would I have done that?” Aara replied
“Then why are all the mortals fornicating?” Namoira asked
“Heavens If I know. All I know is that I didn’t do anything.”
“What about Qynir? Did you put him up to this?” Namoira questioned
“Namoira, we were just taking the piss, we weren’t actually going to do anything.” Aara reassured her.
“Well, I have to find Henry and Elaina and then I’m getting out of here.” Namoira said, rushing off.
Namoira walked out of the house into the backyard just as Elaina and Henry re-entered the house.
“We’re never going to find him, there’s way too many people here.” Elaina said defeatedly
“Elaina, he has a goddamn fishbowl on his head, he’s not exactly conspicuous.” Henry replied
The two looked around the lower level, and then saw Bruckner standing on the balcony of the second floor. They carefully made their way through the crowd and up the stairs to the balcony. They approached him and he turned towards them.
“Henry, is that you?” He said with a hearty chuckle.
“Yes, it’s me. How’s it going?” Henry asked, shaking his hand
“Why aren’t you enjoying the party with the other guests?” He asked
“Well, uh you know… I.” Henry stammered. He was trying his hardest not to stare at the large goldfish swimming around the eccentric director’s head.
“Ah, you fancy yourself a voyeur, just like myself.” Bruckner replied, elbowing Henry playfully in the ribs.
“Yeah, sure.” He responded
“And who is this lovely lady?” Bruckner asked looking towards Elaina
“Oh, this is my… Friend Elaina.” Henry said
“It’s nice to meet you.” Elaina said with a smile.
“So, Henry. I wanted to talk to you my boy. I have a script for a film I’d like you to look over and punch up for me. Could you do it?”
“Of course, I would love to!” Henry exclaimed
“Fantastic! Oh, and if you’re interested, you can come on set and be a script supervisor, I think it would help a lot. We will be filming over the course of about 15 to 20 days so it won’t take too long hopefully, I know you’re a busy man.” Bruckner responded
“Wow, I’d love to join you on set Mr. Bruckner. Just send me the script and I’ll happily take a look at it for you.” Henry answered with a grin.
“Perfect. Well, thanks for coming to the party, and if you have any recommendations for actresses for the new film, just send me an email.”
“You know, actually…” Henry started
“Henry.” Elaina sighed
“My friend here is a bit of an aspiring actress, right Elaina?”
“Henry, can we not?” She replied
“I would love to see it. Do you have a monologue memorized or something?” Bruckner asked
“Yeah, I have one memorized that I can do.” Elaina said quietly. Henry guided her gently with a hand on her back and she stepped forward. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath. She shook her hands out then started the monologue
“Look Jack, I don’t expect you to be good at communicating… Or-or to not be afraid of commitment. Plenty of guys are, even ones without your particular quirks.”
Henry smiled as he realized it was from one of his own movies.
“… But I think the box you’re putting up around yourself isn’t just an imaginary one. I think the face paint you wear isn’t just a costume, it’s a mask. A mask you have to hide behind because you’re afraid of admitting to yourself that somebody could actually love you. That I love you.”
Henry was mouthing the words along with her.
“ …So don’t just pull on that rope alone. Throw it to me and let me pull you in. And you don’t have to say anything. Those painted on tears say enough.”
She finished and smiled. Bruckner clapped sarcastically.
“Henry, you’re a funny guy. She’s not an actress, right?” he laughed
“Yeah, she’s my agent. It was all just a joke. That’s… That’s why I’m a comedy writer.” Henry stammered
“Ah, I love this guy!” Bruckner laughed. “Alright, have a nice night you two.” He said, turning around and leaving, twirling his cape as he did. Elaina was already storming off down the stairs. Henry hurried after her calling her name.
Namoira was sitting on the back porch of the house alone. She was picking up rocks from the garden pathway and throwing them at the fountain. Aara appeared out of nowhere and sat down next to her.
“What’s the problem love, why are you sitting out here alone?” she asked, putting her arm around Namoira
“I don’t understand why I’m even on this gods forsaken rock.” Namoira sighed “They sent me down here to try to understand why mortals are worth saving and all I’ve gained from it is that I should have let that damned astroid hit them.”
“C’mon Namoira, I know you know that’s harsh.” Aara scolded her
“Why should I respect them? Nobody respects me. Not even the other gods.”
“I respect you sweetheart.” Aara said with a smile. “You just need to loosen up a bit.” She laughed, shaking her shoulders, much to Namoira’s dismay.
“How am I supposed loosen up when my entire existence is causing other people pain?” Namoira responded “Do you think I want to have to kill things?”
“I mean, you did just blow up an entire planet for no reason.” Aara said
“There was no life on that planet!” Namoira remarked “But this is the burden I was tasked to bare. I suppose it makes me stronger in way, doesn’t it?”
“I sure think it does.”
Namoira sighed and looked over at Aara. “I wish I had a fun job like you. It must be nice not having to worry about the delicate balance of creation and destruction. All I’ve ever been good at is killing things, and I’m even questioning if I want to do that now.” She sighed
“You know why that is?” Aara asked
“Because I’m having an existential crisis, which I didn’t even know was possible because I’ve literally been around since the creation of the bloody universe.”
“No, because I think you’re starting to care about some of these mortals, which means the punishment is working.” She stood up and waved goodbye before disappearing into the night.
Henry followed Elaina outside and onto the steps of the front porch. Everyone was inside and she sat on the bottom most step. She had thrown her mask off onto the ground and tears were streaming from her eyes. Henry sat down next to her.
“I wish I had a handkerchief to hand to you, it would be a lot more romantic if I did.” Henry said, eliciting a slight chuckle from Elaina.
“Look, I’m sorry about what he said ok. Don’t listen to him, you did amazing. He’s a pretentious asshat. His last movie was about a guy who drew a smiley face on an egg, then got hungry and had to decide between eating it or not. In black and white. With no words or music.”
“But you still want to work with him, right?” Elaina replied
“Yeah, of course. I want to have a career.” Henry answered
“And that’s the problem Henry. Did you bring me here because you wanted to spend time with me and reconnect, or did you want to mingle with Hollywood people to further your career? Because you didn’t talk to me hardly at all tonight.”
“Elaina, I’m genuinely sorry you felt that way. I really am. This is my dream; I want to make it big. Watching words that I wrote… That I put my heart and soul into come to life on the big screen and seeing other people have an emotional reaction to that… That’s something I want to do for the rest of my life.” Henry said
“And that’s fine Henry, I’m not faulting you for following your dream. I just shouldn’t be here to watch you do it.” Elaina replied
“I want to be with you Elaina. But I also have to work hard and play the game, which sometimes results in what just happened tonight. And stop talking about me like I’m some big shot, ok? I have 2 semi-successful small movies under my belt. I’m not Scorsese or Tarantino.”
“You’ve won awards, Henry. I don’t know how much bigger you want to get.” She responded
“Yeah, I won a SAG Award. That thing comes pre-rusted so it doesn’t take 5 years of sitting out to do it. That’s how little anybody cares about that award.” Henry laughed “Besides Elaina, wasn’t this your dream too? To become an actor and make it big?”
“Maybe once upon a time. Maybe when I was young and foolish which is why I’m in this mess to begin with. It’s easy for you to say ‘follow your dream’ because you didn’t have to toll away doing shitty jobs and bit parts to make ends meet before you got your chance. You were lucky, or maybe that’s not the right word. You were talented enough to break through quickly, and again, I won’t fault you for that, but don’t try to act like you know what I’ve been through. You live in a nice house, by yourself. That’s quiet at night. I live in a rundown apartment complex where my upstairs neighbor is a steel drum band.” Elaina said emotionally
“If you really want me to, I can get you parts. You’re a talented actress Elaina, you shouldn’t throw that away.”
“Oh, you think I want to just be handed parts because I’m sleeping with you?” Elaina snapped
“Ok first of all, you’re not sleeping with me so…” Henry said quietly
“No, I want to earn it just like everyone else.” She continued, ignoring Henry’s remark “But it’s not worth it, even if my current job is mostly just telling ignorant 20-year-old trust fund kids that I can’t ‘arrogantly act like they don’t even want the part’ to every director that comes calling. It’s still less stressful than trying to be a professional actress.”
The two sat in silence for a moment.
“And that’s not even speaking of the… Mental issues I’ve had.” She added quietly “But you wouldn’t know anything about that, right? Because you were too busy working on fucking Lawnmower Cop.”
“Elaina, c’mon. That’s unfair.” Henry paused to collect his thoughts. “I know that nothing I ever say can truly make you understand how unbelievably sorry I am about not realizing you were struggling with an eating disorder while we were together. I realize now that I was too absorbed in my work and my success to even pay attention to you and I see that it makes me a shitty person. I don’t expect you to forgive me, but please stop kicking me about it. I already kick myself over it every single day of my life.” Henry replied somberly “That doesn’t matter though. We aren’t here to dig up the past. You got the help you needed. This just makes you a stronger person than I could ever be. You’re like Joan of Arc.”
“You know Joan of Arc got burned alive on a cross because they thought she was a witch, right?” Elaina scoffed
“I-I meant before that when she was secretly a hero… Obviously.”
Elaina had stopped crying and was looking down at her shoes. Henry on the other hand wiped his eyes as they had begun to well up.
“Henry, look. I’ve forgiven you for everything. We’re both young and ignorant still. That doesn’t change just because we’re 26 instead of 24. I mean, what the fuck do we know about anything? For all I know, there could be a god looking down laughing at us right now because we haven’t realized that nothing we do matters yet.” Elaina said
“It really doesn’t honestly.” Namoira said under her breath with a snicker. She had just exited the front door of the house and was observing the pair’s conversation from the top step, leaning against her staff.
“Well, I ordered us a cab, it should be here soon.” Henry said in a resigned tone of voice.
The three sat there quietly until the car arrived at the gate. They walked up to the car and Namoira went to get into the front seat.
“Oh sorry, I uh… You’re gonna have to sit in the back if you don’t mind. There’s space for 3.” The driver said
Namoira begrudgingly sat in between Henry and Elaina who were both silently thinking to themselves, her staff leaning up against her shoulder.
“This is Gabe Anderson, KIRNY. LA’s most Ironic radio station. Here’s Stealers Wheel with Stuck in the Middle With You.”
After a brief ride back to Henry’s house, the trio exited the car and Namoira went inside. Henry walked Elaina to her car and she opened the door.
“Goodnight Henry.” She said softly
“Goodnight Elaina.” Henry replied in a similarly dejected tone of voice.
Henry walked up the steps to his house and went in the door. He turned off the porch light and untied his bowtie, slinging it unhappily onto the back of his couch.
“I’m going to bed. Goodnight Namoira.” He sighed to no response.