INT. PETER’S APARTMENT. NIGHT.
Peter straightened his tie in the mirror and wondered for the hundredth time how he had agreed to this. He was pretty sure he hadn’t but he was still roped into dinner at Evelyn’s house tonight. He sighed in frustration and decided the tie was good enough. He stepped away from the mirror and looked about for his suit jacket.
He surveyed his apartment a little wearily. It was small, three rooms, and a mess. Piles of everything lay on the floor under coats of dust. The cheap linoleum in the kitchen was discolored and peeling. The carpets in the living room and bedroom, to the best of his memory, had at one point been an off-white but were now a dirty grey-brown and one side of the bathroom wall was peeling and cracked from water damage. Things were scattered everywhere, on the floors, on the tables and counters, conversely most of the drawer and closet space was empty. Occasionally he had tried to bring some order to the chaos, but always found he just didn’t care.
He grabbed his jacket off an armchair and slipped it on. He picked up his car keys off the kitchen table and headed out, locking the door behind him. It was about an hour’s drive to Evelyn’s apartment building. He gave his name to the desk clerk who was professional enough to hide any surprise or interest and was sent up to her floor.
He knocked on the door with a feeling of trepidation. It was opened almost immediately, Evelyn greeting him with a broad, welcoming smile.
“Peter. It’s so good to see you. Come in! Come in!”
She led him into the living room and they both took a seat. Evelyn pulled a drinks tray closer. “What would you like?”
“Here you go.” She handed him a glass. “I thought you’d prefer just the two of us this evening so I sent the cook away after she made dinner. And I thought it might be nice if we just ate here at the coffee table. More informal. Just old friends catching up.”
Peter tried to hide the skepticism in his voice as he replied, “Sounds good.”
“Just sit there and I’ll bring the plates out.” Evelyn rose up and seemed to float away towards the kitchen. Peter couldn’t help but grin to himself. She always could pull off an exit. He glanced up as she came back in, balancing a tray. “There now. I hope you like it. I’m afraid I couldn’t remember what you like.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” said Peter.
There was a long silence as they both started to eat. Peter kept wondering what the point was. It was decidedly awkward. At least for him it was. As he glanced out of the corner of his eye, Evelyn seemed completely at ease. But then it was Evelyn. He wondered if she had ever felt self-conscious for one moment in her life.
“I am so glad you could come tonight,” said Evelyn, interrupting his thoughts. “Since we ran into each other at the after-party I’ve been meaning to catch up with you.”
“Hmm,” said Peter, noncommittally.
“It really has been too long. I think you mentioned you’re working at the moment?”
“Yes, a TV movie.”
“I’ve made a few of those myself,” sighed Evelyn. “If you’re not one of the lucky few, it seems most actors end up there at some point.”
Peter twirled his fork absently through his food.
“Of course you’re a little young to have ended up there already. Given where you started that is,” conceded Evelyn.
Peter frowned and glanced over at her, sensing she was getting to the reason she’d invited him tonight but still unclear where exactly she was headed. He shrugged and picked up his glass of bourbon. “I should be glad for the job. Matt worked hard for it.”
“How is Matt?” asked Evelyn, enthusiastically. “I haven’t seen him in ages.”
“Pretty good. He’s represents Kennedy Hale, so suddenly he’s found himself very busy.”
“Isn’t that the girl in the new ‘young adult’ supernatural melodrama?” She said ‘young adult’ with a great deal of sarcasm. “That must be working out well for him.”
Peter chuckled. “I think so. For a relative unknown she’s suddenly getting a lot of attention.”
“And what about you? Have you got any interesting offers lately?”
Peter chuckled again, but this time humorlessly. “No. I don’t really get interesting offers anymore. Matt follows a more ‘beg, borrow or steal’ kind of process when getting me parts.”
“I see.” Evelyn sighed. “Well I know I’ve been there. Trying to find parts in my forties was torture.”
“I think it’s slightly different.”
“Only superficially. No one wanted to cast me because I was past my prime. No one wants to cast you because you were tried for murder.”
Peter stared at her for a minute and then let out a bark of laughter. “I do love your bluntness. You’re really not afraid of anything are you?”
Evelyn smiled. “I’m not afraid of words at any rate.”
“Then why don’t you tell why you invited me for dinner?”
“To the point? Very well. I wanted to talk to you about Holly.”
Peter tensed slightly and put down his glass. He knitted his fingers together and said coolly, “I don’t really understand.”
Evelyn rolled her eyes. “And you’re really supposed to be an Oscar winning actor? Of course you know what I mean and there’s no point on lying about it. Holly told me what happened after I left that night. I knew I shouldn’t have left you two alone,” she sighed, “But then maybe it was inevitable.”
Peter began to stand up and Evelyn quickly put out a hand.
“I’m not discussing this,” he said firmly.
“Well I’m not asking you to. I’m only asking you to hear me out.”
Peter hesitated a second and then with an exasperated grunt, sat back down. “I’d like another drink.”
“Of course.” Evelyn reached over for the bourbon bottle and refilled his glass. “I blame myself a little. I saw the whole ghastly thing taking shape and didn’t warn Holly.”
“Warn Holly? Warn her from what?” asked Peter dangerously.
“Not from that,” she answered quickly. “I don’t mean you’re dangerous. I mean that I didn’t warn her from hurting you. The signs were all there and I can’t help but feel I should have helped her realize it.”
“If the signs were all there, why couldn’t she see them for herself?” he snapped.
“Oh Peter,” said Evelyn, shaking her head, “You have to have realized how young Holly is.”
“I know she’s twenty,” said Peter annoyed. “But a twelve year difference is hardly-”
“I don’t just mean that she’s twenty,” interrupted Evelyn. “She’s young…emotionally. Inexperienced. She’s just figuring out the world. We all do it at different times and she’s doing it now. Alan is her first love.”
Peter frowned, but Evelyn pressed on.
“You have to remember what first love is like. It’s intoxicating and intense and it colors your whole world while it lasts. Maybe it works out and maybe it won’t. It’s a learning experience as much as anything else. But it’s huge and it’s groundbreaking and you don’t have much space for anything else.”
There was a long lapse of silence and then Peter shrugged. “Alright. But it doesn’t make any difference. I put my foot in it and it’s done.”
“She was upset. She does value your friendship though Peter. She told me so.”
“Fan-bloody-tastic,” he muttered.
She rapped the coffee table sharply. “It is. You shouldn’t’ feel bad about any of this. She likes you. She wants to be your friend. And that’s a good thing. You can come away from all of this with a very good friendship and a very important lesson.”
Peter looked at her sardonically. “And what’s that?”
“That you really can love again,” said Evelyn gently, as she leaned closer. “Peter you had a terrible, hurtful relationship. It was destructive. After something like that, it’s so hard to find the emotional energy to even try love again. I was in a relationship when I was younger. It didn’t end well. And I never really loved anyone again. I dated people, but I never let them in. I just couldn’t. But the fact that you allowed yourself to fall in love with someone new Peter, that’s extraordinary. And wonderful. And just because she wasn’t the right one for you, doesn’t mean you should go backwards.”
Peter sat for a moment, completely still, a bizarre mixture of emotions washing through his mind. “Thank you Evelyn. But honestly love has never really worked out that great for me. It seems I keep falling for women who don’t love me back.”
Evelyn leaned back in her chair serenely. “But Holly does care about you.”
“Great. ‘I want to still be friends.’ What everyone wants to hear. Still I guess that’s more than I ever got from Layla.” He scuffed his foot angrily against one of the table legs.
Evelyn studied him intently. “Layla was a complicated woman,” she said vaguely.
Peter snorted. “Complicated? Maybe. But there was one thing and one thing only she wanted from me. Position. And she got that. Divorce was inevitable. She would have left me as soon as a better deal came along. It took me a very long to admit it, but I know now there was no love in that woman.”
Evelyn hesitated for a minute, considering, “I don’t know about that. I never told you this because I thought…it would just make it harder for you. But maybe you should hear it.”
He frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“You remember I worked with her on that Havana movie. Well we talked a few times after that. I never really understood it I admit, but she seemed to enjoy getting the occasional coffee together. I think maybe she enjoyed the contrast between me and my…well fading age shall we say, while she was young and beautiful. Maybe I’m being hard on her though.”
“I doubt it,” he muttered.
“Well near the end, not that long before she died…it changed. Our conversations didn’t seem superficial anymore and I almost believed her.”
“That she wanted to save your marriage.”
Peter looked at her disbelievingly and Evelyn quickly held up a hand to stop any impending remarks.
“She knew she was pregnant. She was absolutely stunned when she told me. But it meant something to her. She actually cried when she talked about you. And suddenly she wanted to make an effort. That’s why she wanted to move to New York.”
“But…” Peter blinked, confused. “I assumed she wanted to move because of a man. I loved LA, I had a life here. I had friends and I loved our apartment, then she just suddenly decided she wanted to move. I thought it was for another man. I mean that’s why I got furious. Because she thought she could just uproot us and I’d follow.”
“There was a man,” admitted Evelyn. “But she didn’t want to move to him. She wanted to move away from him.”
“Who was he?” asked Peter sharply.
Evelyn shrugged. “All I know is what she told me. She thought it would be easier for the two of you if you started over. That’s why she wanted to move. At first she thought a house in Beverly Hills and then she thought a whole new city. And so she decided on New York.”
“She like playing parts. Mother must have been just another part she wanted to try out. It wouldn’t have lasted,” he said angrily.
“Maybe it wouldn’t have lasted. But I do think she was sincere.”
“So did I when she said she made our wedding vows, but I don’t think they lasted through the honeymoon.”
“She didn’t have a reason to play me Peter. She didn’t want anything from me. And that was important to Layla: what she could get.”
He shook his head. “Then why didn’t she tell me? About the baby, the move, all of it. If I’d known…I would have moved in a heartbeat for her.”
“She was still Layla,” said Evelyn. “Honesty wasn’t her strong suit.”
Peter closed his eyes and took several long, deep breaths. Evelyn watched him silently. At last he opened his eyes and looked back at her, his expression unreadable. He rose to his feet.
“Thank you for dinner.”
With a sigh, Evelyn got up at well. “Thank you for coming. I do hope we see more of you again.”
He made a vague noise in response and the two walked to the door. As she held it open for him, she laid a hand on his arm.
“I hope I did the right thing in telling you Peter.”
He didn’t respond, and walked away and she shut the door behind him.
He called the elevator, and rode it down feeling a swirl of conflicting emotions. Part of him was angry, angry at Layla, Evelyn and himself. A part of him even felt angry at his unborn child who had affected Layla and tried to change her. He had raged and hated. It had been easier. Everything she had done, everything she had put him through. There hadn’t been anything to redeem. Nothing left to feel sorry for. Nothing to love.
He hit the side of the elevator violently.
There was another part, an old part he thought had disappeared a long time ago. Or maybe it was just a memory of that part. But it reminded him now of how much he had loved her, how much pain there had been as he slowly realized why she’d really married him. And that part felt a certain sense of triumph now at the thought that just maybe…there’d been something real after all.
He felt a little disgusted at himself suddenly. After everything Layla had said and done, he still fell for her lines.
The elevator doors slid opened and he stepped out into the lobby. He walked across to the entrance doors and went outside, grateful for the breeze that seemed to cool down his emotions.
He walked to his car, absently pulling his keys from his pocket, fiddling with them in his hands.
And then suddenly he stopped short.
Still playing with the keys, his thought back, running Evelyn’s words over in his head.
There was a man. But she didn’t want to move to him. She wanted to move away from him…She thought it would be easier for the two of you if you started over. That’s why she wanted to move. At first she thought a house in Beverly Hills and then she thought a whole new city. And so she decided on New York.
Something was trying to fit together, something vague…
There was man…she wanted to move away from him…at first she thought a house in Beverly Hills…
Move away from him…
He looked down at his keys.
A house in Beverly HIills…
His own words responded:
I loved our apartment then she just suddenly decided she wanted to move.
The apartment, he thought suddenly, she wanted to move from the apartment…and away from a man. The apartment building…she wanted to leave the apartment building…
Another thought flashed across his mind with force.
The police had confirmed that no one had left the building after the murder. The weapon had been missing. They had searched all over for it…anywhere Peter could have hid it…but they couldn’t search every apartment.
Peter dropped the keys.