Known Issues: Cliche plot. Clunky dialogue in places.
"Isn't this so exciting?" She smiled at me and squeezed my hand. We were standing at the edge of the reception area, looking at all the people in their "black-tie-event" clothes. They were milling about. Mingling. "This is just the beginning for him, you know? He's gonna be huge."
I wanted to punch her in the face. I wanted to grab her by the back of her freshly dyed hair and yank down hard enough to snap her neck. I wasn't angry with her. I knew that. She was just making small talk. It was Evan. Evan was the fucking problem.
"Yeah. This is wonderful." I flashed my teeth at her in a big fake smile. She nuzzled me and rubbed my arm. The feeling of her hand on my arm made my skin crawl. We stepped forward, into the party.
It was one of those parties where half the people are there to enjoy themselves and the other half to beg for jobs. You could tell the difference by body language. Relaxed postures, their shoulders turned to whoever they were talking with. Their smiles and laughter coming at unpredictable moments. Most of them were older, established. Almost all were wearing wristwatches or bracelets worth several months salary to the likes of me. None so much as looked at me, or Lucy. It was the rare room where Lucy didn't get at least passing glances of admiration, but this was one of them.
The other group, the networkers, the needy people, well you could tell them by their body language too. They were tense, their heads swiveling back and forth like remora fish in search of a bigger, fatter, shark. Their laughter came in bursts, like gunfire.
A half-dozen, or so, of the networkers were clustered around Evan. He was sitting back in his chair, tie undone around his neck, completely comfortable. Why shouldn't he be? He was in command. He was nobility and these were but the first wave of his supplicants. I could see him eyeing one, a petite girl with dark hair, tanned skin, and big (probably fake) breasts. Just Evan's type. He would leave the party with her and take her back to our apartment. Six months ago he was in the middle of a dry spell, unable to find a willing partner in any number of bars and after-hours clubs. He'd hit on Lucy. Grabbed her tit. She'd slapped him. Told me she'd never liked my creepy roommate and wouldn't be staying over anymore. I wondered how she'd react now. Things change quickly.
Evan spotted me. He shot me a look, subtle but unmistakable. "Look at me, here, the center of all this. Look at me...bitch." I thinned my lips and smiled to keep from snarling. The blood throbbed in my veins, a heady mix of rage and jealousy pushing my heart up over a hundred beats a minute. I had visions of sneaking into Evan's room in the morning with a knife and butchering him in front of his little brunette conquest-to-be. She'd shriek, covered in blood, and I'd grin at her. Maybe offer her a finger or something. You know, as a souvenir. She'd want a token to help her remember the time she'd slept with "The great director."
"Hey Chris, come on over." Evan waved at me, displaying magnanimity as a means of dominance. When you're the king you can afford to wave your enemies over to your table. Your generosity reminds them of their irrelevance. Lucy and I did as we were bade, and approached.
It wouldn't take a gun or a knife to kill him. Evan, for as long as I'd known him, had had bad food allergies. He'd once had to go to the hospital after using a knife tainted with peanut butter. Gluten made him burst out in hives and gave him the shits. Living with him was like living with a kosher Jew. Separate plates and knives and whatever else could be tainted by my food. It would be so easy to poison him. A little bit of nut paste in his soup.
"This is Chris, my roommate, everybody. And that's Lucy." They eyed us, seeing if we had anything of interest to offer them. We didn't. They turned back.
"You know, Evan, the thing that really got to me was the originality of your idea. It just...wow." The words belonged to a willowy blonde, obviously in competition with the brunnette. Lucy's hand clamped down on my arm hard enough to leave a bruise. My breath went shallow. That skinny blonde bitch. I wanted to snap her in half. Probably could have, too. I wanted to reach into her back and yank out her spine. I wanted to feel her bones snap.
"It just...came to me." Evan smiled in that winning way of his. That million dollar smile. 2.7 million if you believed the rumors. I'd seen the contract and it was lower than that. But not much. It should have been my contract.
"How about a drink, baby?" Lucy was trying to pull me away from this. To keep me from making a scene. She was trying to protect me. She was always to protect me.
I didn't acknowledge her words but I headed to the bar, looking for something with which to douse my white-hot fury.
I was sipping a triple vodka (the bartender hadn't wanted to give me anything over a double, but I gave him $20 and he poured as I asked.) It was good vodka, with an icy-clean taste. It was my second. I was starting to relax now, taking in the scene. I didn't have to like being here, I didn't have to pretend to be happy for Evan, but as long as I could keep my mouth shut and stay a couple hours I would be able to get out without disaster. That was what I was aiming for at this point. Something less than the Titanic.
I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Chris, buddy, can we talk?"
I turned. It was Evan. He was alone, the remorays temporarily shaken. I looked around for Lucy. She was talking to a platinum-haired woman in a $3,000 dress. Trawling for parts.
"What about?" I took a big sip of vodka and it hit my stomach with a nice smooth warmth. The shit I drank at home usually felt like napalm.
"Come on. You know." He was all shifty-eyed now. Uncomfortable. A man with a secret. And why shouldn't he be? He'd fucked me. He'd fucked our friendship. He'd fucked 10 years of me putting up with his shit and dragging him along and propping him up. He'd fucked me and now he wanted forgiveness. Or at least a vow of silence. Something.
"Wonderful. Spectacular work. Call me sometime. I may have something for you, after your next project, of course." It was a name producer. He handed Evan his card. He shook Evan's hand. He asked Evan about his influences. He treated me with all the interest and attention one might lavish upon a fern, or a mote of dust.
I turned towards Lucy, but Evan grabbed me again. "Excuse me, sorry, I have to work something...with my friend" He smiled his million dollars worth at the producer, who nodded and faded back into the crowd.
"Not here. Not around...all this. Back home." My skin felt tight. I wanted to smash my glass into Evan's face. I wanted to lie down.
"We'll go somewhere." He pulled me over towards an exit. I gestured frantically to Lucy, but she wasn't looking at me. She was working her producer, cultivating a relationship. I needed her.
Evan pulled me out into a stairwell, and then up a flight of stairs. There were still people milling about here, smokers who didn't want to brave the bracing cold outside. Young, lubricated, people who wanted semi-privacy to seal the deal on a fuck. We went up another flight, to the door to the roof. Evan looked for signs of an alarm, and when he didn't see it he pushed the bar and pulled me out, into the night.
Our breath condensed as soon as we left the warmth of the stairwell. There was a bitter cold wind, and I felt it ripping through my clothes. My testicles shrank in protest. My nipples stiffened. I could feel the mucus congealing in my nostrils. Evan didn't seem to notice the cold.
"It's a beautiful night." It was, visually. No stars visible in the city, but the moon was high and full and the electric lights around us were spectacular.
"Is that what you wanted to say?" My voice dripped with contempt.
"Come on. Man." My hand was stiffening. I walked over to the edge of the roof and set the drink down on the ledge.
"What do you want? I didn't say anything. You've got your contract. Your new life."
"I guess I want your blessing." I turned to him, incredulous.
"You stole my fucking script. You stole it and you said it was yours and you turned it into all of this." I waved my hands. "You took our dream and you made it yours and you did it with something that was mine."
"Come on, man." I picked the drink up, gulped the remainder of the vodka, and slammed it down. The glass cracked. "It was just one script. It's easier to get funding as a writer/director, you know? And you've got better stuff. That wasn't even in your top three. You can still make it, you just need to hustle. And I can help you now."
"Why didn't you ask me then? Why did you steal it?"
"Because you would have said no, and you weren't fucking doing anything with it, and I knew I could." He turned and leaned on the ledge, looking off into the night.
My hands were around his throat and I was pushing him over. His face was etched with shock and fear. His hands clawed at my chest, tearing at my shirt. It took me a second to realize that this wasn't a fantasy.
"Chris! Chris!" He thrashed, knocking my vodka glass over the edge. I didn't hear it break. I could feel his blood, pulsing through the veins of his neck. The steam from our breath was mingling now, into a single ragged cloud. I tightened my grip.
"Chris. Dude. You're fucking...I'm...choking." I pushed him further over the edge. His feet were off the ground now. He was balanced on his ass on the ledge. If I just pushed down a little harder he'd go over. He'd fall like the glass and I'd never hear him hit.
"Chris! I'm sorry? Jesus...what...do...you...fuck...I can't..." I thought about Evan, dead. I thought about his funeral, just a few people now that his new 'friends' couldn't get anything else from him. I thought about his drunk father crying on his abused mother's shoulder. I thought about his casket going into the ground. I didn't feel shit.
Then I thought about Lucy. I thought about making love to her. I thought about her bringing me coffee in the morning when I'd had like 2 hours sleep. I thought about her big green eyes. I thought about her going over my scripts with a red pen, sparing nothing with her brutal honesty, even though it hurt her, and even though she knew I'd yell at her even if she was right. Especially if she was right.
I thought about my scripts, and that award I'd won in college, and my tired and wheezing half-dead Hollywood dreams. I thought about Catalina island, to which I'd never been, and car trips up the coast. I looked up and the moon was still there, bright and cold. A quarter million miles away.
I pulled Evan up off the edge and let go of his neck. He fell to the ground, coughing. I turned and walked, slowly, steadily towards the door. I left him there and went back down to the party.
"Hey, honey." Lucy smiled warmly. She'd been looking for me. "Where were you?"
"Evan and I had a little talk." She squeezed my hand.
"How was it?"
"Okay. It was okay."
"Did you guys work things out?" There was hope in her eyes.
"Something like that." She squeezed my hand again.
"I'm glad. That was very mature of you." Across the room Evan came back to the party. His suit was a little rumpled but otherwise he'd pulled himself together quite nicely. He glanced at me and then quickly away. No eye contact.
"Let's go home." She looked around. There were still producers to schmooze, directors to talk to. Business cards to be taken.
"Okay. Let's go." I kissed her, and together we headed out, into the night.