Today's Reading

After we leave the cafe... I sit in my car for a solid ten minutes, unsure of what to do next. I probably would've sat for longer if some asshole hadn't started honking at me to give up my parking spot. If I'm being honest, I know there's only one person I really need to talk to about my dilemma. And I'm dreading it, not because I don't want to talk to her, but because I'm pretty sure I already know what she's going to say.

Pulling into the driveway of my mom's house in the Hollywood Hills brings on its usual flux of competing emotions. Her house is adorable and perfect for her and the fresh start she desperately needed after my dad passed away four years ago. It's also an overpriced reminder that I'll never step foot in my childhood home again. And although I understand why she needed to leave—not just to escape the memories, but because the house was too much for her to care for on her own—it doesn't take away the sting of losing one of my last tangible connections to my father.

My parents had the kind of relationship you don't often see in movies because it's what happens after the film ends, when the two people so perfectly suited for each other build a real life together. They had a classic showmance, one of the few that lasted well beyond the first movie they ever made as costars, one that landed them on every list of Hollywood's top power couples. It was easy to write epic love stories when I had my very own example to study. It's been a lot harder since my mom lost her partner and best friend.

I would sit in my car for another ten minutes here, too, but I know she's already seen me pull up. If I don't climb out soon, she'll have no problem coming outside to find out why. So I trudge up the steep steps to her front porch and push open the door she's already unlocked for me.

"I'm in the kitchen," she calls, as if I wouldn't have been able to easily locate her in the tiny two hundred square feet that comprise her living room, dining room, and kitchen.

I kick off my shoes and sink onto the couch, swinging my feet up on the ottoman that doubles as a coffee table.

"Coffee?"

"No, I'm good. I just had one with Liz."

She comes in a minute later, two mugs in her hands, passing one off to me before folding herself into the armchair across from me.

"Why do you even ask if you're going to bring me one anyway?"

"I thought writers subsisted solely on coffee." She flashes me a smile while trying to disguise her look—you know the one, the one moms level at you when they're trying to figure out what you're hiding. When I was a teenager, I hid secret crushes and an occasional bottle of alcohol. As an adult, I stick to hiding my emotions. Not that it ever works.

I ignore her alien brain probing and focus on taking a long sip of coffee, which of course is prepared exactly how I like it.

She clears her throat and raises her eyebrows in some kind of mom power move. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Can't a daughter just swing by and check on her mother for no specific reason?" I shift my body, angling myself slightly away from her just in case her brain probe is real.

"Yes. But you obviously have a reason." She sets down her coffee on the side table next to her chair and clasps her hands together in her lap. "Why don't we skip the song and dance, and you just tell me what's going on?"

Purely on instinct I open my mouth to argue with her, but then I think better of it.

"Liz wants me to be in the movie."

The lack of surprise on her face makes it clear that Liz has mentioned this to her already, which is honestly rude and should be illegal. My mom and Liz hit it off the moment they met on move-in day back during our freshman year of college and have had their own pseudo mother-daughter relationship ever since. "And?"

"And I don't want to be in the movie." I study her face, watching for even the smallest of hidden messages in her reaction, but the woman is a three-time Best Actress Academy Award winner and gives away nothing.

"So tell her no."

"I did. Several times."

"Then what's the problem?"

I glare at her for being purposefully obtuse. Is this what it's like to have a child? Because no thank you. "The problem is she keeps pressuring me."

"If you don't want to do it, then who cares? Liz is your best friend. If you don't want to be in the movie, she'll find someone else to be in the movie." She picks up her mug and watches me carefully over the rim as she sips.

"What if she can't find someone else?"
...

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