Today's Reading

"I understand that you think you can't. But I know with one hundred percent certainty that you can. And not only that, but you should." She tousles her white-blond pixie cut, which perfectly frames her pale, heart-shaped face, and turns her piercing blue eyes on me in what I know is a challenge.

I blink first, turning my gaze to the brightly colored chairs, the art on the walls, and the bud vase sitting in the middle of the table. "I'm not an actor, Lizzie, you know this. I haven't been in front of the camera in more than fifteen years. And I prefer it that way."

We accept our food from a server, two stacks of pancakes as big as my head. Liz doesn't say anything while she butters hers and pours on an avalanche of syrup. The stress must really be getting to her, because Liz is one of the most health-conscious people I know; she only calls for pancakes in the most dire of circumstances. She shovels in a huge bite, chewing slowly before she turns her puppy-dog eyes back on me.

I hold up a hand in front of my face so I don't have to see her. "No. Do not even try that. I am immune to your begging."

"Then why are you hiding?"

I lower my hand, peering out cautiously, only to be hit with those big, baby blue buckets of sadness. "Liz. I can't. You know what happened last time."

She puts down her fork and reaches across the table to take my hand in hers. "Last time you were just a kid, Em. Look at how far you've come, at this amazing career you've had. You won a goddamn Oscar last year, and you're going to let something that happened a million years ago keep you from doing what you love?"

"That's the thing though: I don't love acting. At least not anymore. I'm a writer. And I'm perfectly happy doing what I'm good at and nothing more." I squeeze her hand before pulling mine away, lest the simple touch somehow reveal the fact that I'm lying. Not about being a writer. I do love it, and it does make me happy. Just maybe not totally and completely happy.

"You might not love acting—although the way you jumped at the chance to read for Isobel in Jonathan's audition begs to differ—but you love this character." She shovels another bite into her mouth, but I don't fill the silence while she chews. "I know you do, Em, because I could hear it in your performance. And I know how much this movie means to you."

I purse my lips to hold in my retort. She's not wrong. Isobel, the female main character in No Reservations, is one of my favorites I've written. When we found ourselves in need of a reader for auditions for the male lead, I did jump at the chance. But it was meant to be a one-time-only, special-occasion, never-happening-again performance. Even if it was the most fun I've had in a really long time.

Unfortunately, I may have filled the role a little too well. Liz has been on me to play the part ever since, especially as we get closer and closer to our scheduled start date and seemingly further and further from finding our Isobel. I never would've pushed for my best friend to direct this project if I'd known how much whining and cajoling would ensue.

I've been stalling, certain that the perfect actress would make her way to auditions. Meanwhile, I've had to tell Liz at least once a day that there is no way in hell she is casting me in my own movie.

Safe to say, things are not going as planned.

And the most annoying part is that I don't want Isobel in the hands of someone unqualified. Someone who doesn't get her, doesn't get my words.

But I don't know if any of that is enough. Yes, I love this movie and this script and this character. But do I love her enough to forget about the past and try it all again?

Liz can tell I'm wavering. I know she can because there's a hint of a smile pulling on her stupidly full lips. "You know you and Jonathan would be awesome together, and he'd be an incredibly supportive costar." I open my mouth to speak, but she holds up her hand. "Don't make any decisions right now. Take some time to think about it. But not too much time." Her hint of a smile fades. "You heard Kurt."

"Do you think he was serious about the twenty-four hours?" The thought of losing our funding on this film is a knife to the heart. It took me a long time to fall back in love with writing about love, and if No Reservations doesn't even make it to the screen, I don't know how I'll push through to write another.

"I think Kurt is always serious." She hits me with her most formidable stop-being-an-idiot look, one I've been on the receiving end of frequently during our many years of friendship. "So promise me you will seriously consider doing this. We need you."

"Fine. I'll think about it," I grumble, happy to put a pin in this whole conversation. "But don't get your hopes up. I'm sure the right actress will come along just in the nick of time."

The all-too-knowing smile she gives her pancakes makes me come close to hurling up my own.
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