EXT. STREET. NIGHT.
Peter pulled up to the curb outside Holly’s apartment and got out of the car. He cracked his knuckles and stretched, feeling an odd desire to postpone pressing the buzzer. The reluctance struck him as odd, as only a few hours ago he had been quite looking forward to the evening. He realized, as he pressed the button, that there was an odd sense of déjà vu. Here he was. Again. Anxiously trying to earn time with a woman who was off with other men.
As he heard the building door click open and he went in, he had to admit to himself that wasn’t quite fair to Holly. It was obviously different this time. Holly wasn’t with ‘other’ men. She was with Alan. Her boyfriend. He, Peter, was the one trying to lure her away. Maybe that meant he wasn’t any better than the countless boyfriends who had come in and out of Layla’s life. No, he thought, as he angrily punched the button to call the elevator. This was different. Holly and Alan were dating, they weren’t married. And there’d been nothing underhanded.
The elevator door slid open and he got in, pressing the button for the top floor. As the he rode up, he tried to shake the image of Layla out of his head. There were words for women like her, words Holly probably could barely comprehend. Holly was different. And right now he didn’t need the rage that thinking of Layla always brought up to him.
There was a small jolt as the elevator stopped and the door opened, and he tried to force a smile as he stepped out into Holly’s apartment.
“Peter!” Holly waved from the sofa, where she was sitting next to Evelyn.
Peter waved back and came over, taking a seat in an armchair nearby.
“Hello Peter.” Evelyn smiled at him.
“Evelyn.” He paused a moment and then added, “How are you?”
“I’m well. How’s the crocodiles?”
“What?” He blinked.
“The ones in space?”
“Ah,” he grinned a little sheepishly. “Unfortunately still out there.”
Holly, who had gotten up, now returned with a drink for Peter and then sat back down on the couch.
“So where is Alan?” asked Peter. He tried very hard to keep his voice neutral, but he could have sworn he saw Evelyn glance at him as he asked.
“New York. He’s doing some promotional work.”
Peter nodded and took a sip of his drink to avoid looking at either of the two women.
A few minutes later the episode came on TV and Peter could safely avoid making conversation and simply watch the episode.
He couldn’t resist a smile as he watched; Holly did well. There were a few moments where her inexperience came through just a little, but she had a good screen presence. He had known her long enough to recognize her strange combination of openness and shyness, but on screen only the outgoing part of her nature came out, giving her quite an arresting air.
As the credits rolled, Evelyn sighed contentedly. “Excellent Holly! I’m quite proud of you.”
Holly blushed a little and grinned. “Thanks.”
Evelyn sighed and rose to her feet. “Well I suppose we’d best be going. I’ll see you at work dear.” She turned to Peter expectantly.
“Right, yes,” he rose to his feet hastily. “Bye Holly. Thanks for having me over.”
“Of course. Anytime.”
Peter followed Evelyn towards the elevator door. As they waited for it to open, he began to fish in his pockets for his car keys, wanting to limit the amount of awkward small talk he and Evelyn would be forced into.
“Shoot,” he said, as the elevator slid open.
“What is it?” asked Evelyn.
“I think my keys fell out of my pocket.”
Evelyn glanced towards the elevator uncertainly.
“You go ahead,” he said, “I’ll only be a minute.”
Hesitantly Evelyn nodded and stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for down. A short time later she stepped out into the entrance hall and walked across it, pushing the door open to the outside and making her way towards her car. She got in but didn’t put the key into the ignition. Instead, she sat waiting, watching the door of the building in her side mirror. She waited for fifteen minutes. When no one came out she sighed deeply and drove away.
Upstairs in Holly’s apartment, Peter fished behind the cushions of the armchair and pulled his keys out.
“Oh good!” said Holly, as he brandished them. “I’m glad they weren’t lost. The first week I moved in here I managed to drop mine down the elevator shaft. That was a pain.”
“Thanks again for everything,” said Peter stuffing his keys back in his pockets.
“You don’t have to leave yet,” said Holly, “You could hang out awhile if you like. Watch some TV? With Amy out, the apartment seems a bit empty.”
Peter hesitated and then nodded. “Okay, sounds good.” He sat back down.
Holly scooted over on the sofa, to sit nearer to him, pulled the coffee table up closer and the two propped their feet up. She picked up the remote and started flicking through the channels.
“What do you want to watch?” she asked.
Peter shrugged. “Anything would be good.”
“Is there anything you like?”
“I honestly don’t want much TV.” He hesitated and then continued. “Too many people kept appearing on it whom I had bad experiences with.”
“Oh.” Holly ran a hand across her hair.
“But, it’s been long enough now. And I’ve been enjoying Homestead for the past few weeks.”
“You’ve been watching?”
“Of course. It’s really good.”
“I’ve been watching it too. Never saw it before I was cast, but now I’m all caught up. It’s probably bad to say this, since I’m on the show, but I think it’s really good.”
Peter laughed. “I think it’s important to be able to say that about the things you’re in.”
“I tried to get one of the writers to tell me what was going to happen with the Reservation plotline but they won’t give me spoilers.”
Peter nodded. “They like to keep those things under wraps.”
“It’s fun though. Getting to be on the inside. Watching it come together. It must be even more exciting to be someone like Ian who really sees it every step of the way.”
“That’s the new show runner right?”
“Yes. Ian MacAlister.”
Peter grunted noncommittally.
“What is it?” asked Holly, curiously.
“You don’t like Ian?”
Peter sighed heavily. “Not a whole lot, no. He had-,” he shifted uncomfortably and then shrugged. “He had an affair with my wife. Of course the number of people who had affairs with my wife is pretty extensive. I couldn’t stand half of Hollywood if I begrudged them all. Of course they can’t stand me so I suppose I might as well resent them.”
Holly sat for a moment hesitant to prod a sensitive subject, but Peter had brought it up, ignoring it might seem just as rude.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “It must be hard.”
He glanced at her and then made a noise that was almost a laugh. “Hard doesn’t even begin to cover it.” He passed a hand across his face. “Sorry if that came out…harsh. I don’t talk about this to a lot of people. Actually I don’t talk to a lot of people period,” he admitted ruefully. “I’m out of practice on the personal stuff.”
“That’s okay,” said Holly. “Personal stuff can be hard.”
“It sure can.”
There was a pause as both sat for a moment watching the TV, pretending to be interested in the singing commercial for car insurance.
“Do you ever miss her?” asked Holly suddenly.
Peter looked over in surprise. “What?”
“Your wife. Do you ever miss her?”
Peter thought for a moment. “You know you’re the first person who ever asked me that. I don’t know if ‘miss’ is the right word. I regret. You know the last time I ever spoke to her, we were screaming at each other? Arguing about moving. Of all the things I could have yelled at her about…that was it? That was my line in the sand?” He shrugged again. “I wish I could have held on to what I thought she was. It would have been easier.”
There was a long pause and Holly was just beginning to try and figure out a way to change the subject when Peter suddenly started talking again.
“No one really understands why I stayed with her so long. But despite everything, I still believe there was more to Layla then they ever saw. There were times-…there were times when she could be really nice. Not just at the beginning when she was trying to interest me. But even at the end too. She could really….try sometimes. She could be sweet and funny and amazing to be around. It was rare. But it was there.”
Holly flicked channels again.
Peter snorted. “I remember that film.” He gestured to the TV screen. “I’m in it.”
“Yep. I was twenty-one. And exploring method acting.”
As they watched the movie, Peter kept interspersing stories from behind the scenes. It was, as Holly pointed out halfway through, almost like watching with a commentary. As the final credits rolled Holly shut off the TV.
“I actually think method acting worked quite well for you.”
“Yes, but I annoyed everyone else on set.”
“It’s a shame Amy isn’t here,” said Holly, stretching. “I feel like I could do with some her cupcakes about now.”
“Hmm.” Peter nodded. “Those were good last time.”
Holly considered for a moment and then shrugged. “You know the park where she’s set up is only a fifteen minute walk from here. We could go buy some cupcakes.”
Peter grinned. “Sounds fun.”
Holly grabbed her purse and the two headed downstairs and outside, and began to walk at a leisurely pace Holly leading the way.
“You know you really were good tonight,” said Peter suddenly. “In the episode. I was really impressed.”
Holly looked pleased. “Thank you.”
They finished their walk in a companionable silence. As they reached the park, Peter could hear sounds of a film playing. Past a large copse of trees and down in large dip of grass a projection screen was set up and a black and white movie was playing to a crowd of a couple hundred people.
“Over this way,” Holly whispered, pointing to the opposite side of the crowd. “I see Amy.”
They made their way across the grass and reached the stand which Amy had piled high with cupcakes, cookies and muffins.
“Holly,” Amy greeted her with pleasant surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“We wanted cupcakes,” said Holly. “Peter missed them from last time.”
Amy looked extremely happy. “Well here you go.” She filled a container of six and handed them to Holly. “On the house.”
As Holly let them back into the apartment, she sighed happily. She led the way to the kitchen, pulling down two plates and then bringing out two water glasses and filling them. They took seats on the stools set against one of the counters and Peter opened the plastic container, passing it to Holly before taking out a cupcake himself.
“These are good. Definitely worth the walk,” said Peter.
“I think so. Amy is brilliant. One day I hope I can help her open a bakery. That’s what she really wants to do and I’d love to be a part of that.”
Peter watched as Holly tucked a stray strand of hair back behind her ear. Distractedly he took a second cupcake.
He watched her as she ate, seemingly oblivious of his stare. It almost made him feel self-conscious how unaware she seemed of him looking at her.
Suddenly an impulse crept into his brain. He tried to shove it away. It had appeared before but he had always managed to shut it up. But now…with Holly right in front of him, just them alone, it was so much harder…
He cleared his throat.
She looked up, smiling.
“Holly…” he began hesitantly.
He closed his eyes for a second, trying to muster both his words and his courage. “Holly, I like you.”
She looked at him a little uncertainly. “Well I…like you too.”
“I love you,” he clarified.
She dropped her cupcake. “What?”
“I care about you very deeply.” Realizing he had basically just said the same thing in three different ways, he tried for something different. “I know it might not be a good time to be saying this. But I really love being around you. It makes me happy. It’s fun but it’s also meaningful. I just…love you. And I want to be with you.”
Holly’s jaw had dropped opened and she was staring at him wide-eyed. “Peter…” She struggled for words. “Peter I never meant-, I don’t want…you.” She winced at her own bluntness.
Peter stared at her, his jaw clenched. Then he nodded curtly and rose to his feet.
“Peter, wait. I’m sorry. I just,” she shrugged helplessly, “…I didn’t know.”
“Of course you did,” he snapped, still raw from her rejection. “I was just standing here throwing myself at you for the past three months. I went to the party, for you. I ignored the tabloids and put up with the gossip, for you. I think I made it pretty darn clear how I felt. And you could have found a way to let me know how you felt but you just wanted to ignore it!”
“That’s not fair. Peter, I don’t see how you could have thought I could possibly be interested in you under the circumstances.”
A rather ugly expression flashed across Peter’s face. “Right. Because I killed my wife, is that it? Everything you said was bull wasn’t it? Everything about not judging my guilt or innocence? You did decide.”
“Peter that’s not-”
“Stop.” He crossed the room and jabbed the elevator.
Holly wanted to say something, but he kept his back turned to her and the gesture was so clear, she found herself at a loss for words. So she sat there, watching him silently, until the elevator arrived. It wasn’t until the door closed behind him that she said aloud, to the empty room,
“I meant because of Alan. I wasn’t talking about your wife.”
Peter remained emotionless until he reached the sidewalk. He even made it to his car and was unlocking the door, before he suddenly lashed out at the car and kicked it five times, hard. He then slid down to lean against it and sighed heavily, thumping his head against back against the car door.
“I’m an idiot,” he muttered.
Back in the apartment Holly, almost mechanically, picked up the plates and cups and placed them in the sink. Her mind was working overtime, her thoughts speeding past her. She felt rotten about what had happened. She felt upset. But there was something else she felt…something that had suddenly become very clear…something that she had to do.
Almost subconsciously she crossed over to the phone and picked it up and punched in a number.
It rang on the other end for a long time and then she heard,
“Hello, this is Alan. Sorry, I can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
A second, mechanical female’s voice then followed,
“Please leave your message after the beep.”
“Alan, I wanted to tell you. I’m sorry that I didn’t say anything. At the airport, when you told me you loved me? I should have said something. You’ve probably guessed that I haven’t done this a lot. I haven’t really had relationships so I’ve probably made a lot of mistakes, and when you told me that you loved me I think I panicked. I froze up and I couldn’t even kiss you and I should have. And I couldn’t say it back to you because I just didn’t know how I felt. But I think I just didn’t know how I felt because I was kind of, sort of terrified of how I felt. And how you felt. But something…just happened that made me realize, that I do love you. And I think that scared me as much as the fact that you love me. So thank you Alan for loving me, and I really, really want you to know that I love you too. And I can’t wait for you to come home. Oh and this Holly. Which actually you probably guessed by now. So I’m just going to hang up and stop this message before it gets anymore rambling. Good night. I love you.”