Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

 

After the night Hannah cried, I assumed she would come home. She didn’t. She “still needed to think,” she said, and she “might have more stipulations.”

 

On Friday afternoon, I met with Pam and Gail Wieder of Denver Buzz. Gail showed me around the set, thanked me for agreeing to appear, and briefly reviewed the program. Afterward, Pam and the staff talked me through a pile of paperwork.

 

“I need you here at seven on Wednesday,” Pam said. “Here. I’m not going to hold your hand, Matthew. Call me when you arrive. We’ll go over everything, they might want to do a little makeup, then we’ll rehearse some more and—”

 

“Makeup?” I sneered.

 

“This is TV, Matthew. Don’t be na?ve. Also”—she glanced at my gray shirt—“no gray. And no crazy prints. Wear something solid, bold, a rich color that won’t wash out under the light. No red and no white. Do you have blue? Well, of course you do. Wear blue.”

 

Pam went on talking as we left the building. She gestured officiously as she spoke, tapping my shoulder for emphasis.

 

I stared at the pavement. The gray day suited my mood. Where was Hannah?

 

“Your job this weekend is to memorize the talking points. Hit your points. Less is more. You’re conveying a message. And do not ramble.”

 

“Hannah … you think she’ll watch the show?”

 

Pam sniffed. “Not sure, Matthew. Not relevant.”

 

“Mm. Sorry.” I leaned against my Lexus.

 

“Any relevant questions? I need to get to the office.”

 

“Will Knopf publish Night Owl?”

 

Pam laughed and began looking for her keys. “Knopf will publish anything you write, but you can’t be serious. Haven’t you already—” She cut herself short.

 

I knew where she was going.

 

Hadn’t I already damaged my relationship enough?

 

“Hannah’s a good deal more open-minded than you know, Pam. And she’s a bit of a writer herself. You better watch out; you might find yourself in a book.”

 

I opened my car door and lingered, waiting for Pam’s riposte.

 

Pam rattled her car keys.

 

“Duly noted, Matthew, though you forget that I already am in a book. A certain W. Pierce refers to me as ‘the shark.’ My, my.”

 

I grinned and climbed into my car.

 

Back at the condo, I lay on the couch and struggled to memorize my stupid talking points. I found myself concentrating on Hannah’s handwriting—cute, bubbly cursive.

 

Hunger scraped at my stomach. I felt light-headed, depressed. I called Hannah and the call went to voice mail. “Leave a message!” she chirped.

 

I cleared my throat.

 

“Hey there, birdy bird. I’m just … hanging out at the condo. Not doing anything really. I wanted to say…” To say what? Come home, I’m getting badly depressed? “Uh, the cards. Thank you again … for the index cards. I’ve been memorizing them. Yeah, that … thing is on Wednesday. The Buzz. Talk show thing. So, wish me luck. Anyway … call me sometime.”

 

Hannah didn’t call.

 

I slept away the weekend, which is what I do when I feel bad, and I marked off days on the calendar. Four weeks since she moved out.

 

What did this mean? When was she coming back?

 

On Wednesday morning, I woke with the idea to e-mail Hannah a piece of our collaborative story. I hadn’t thought about the story—really thought about it—for months. We simply left our characters on the road to Seagate, an imaginary port city in an imaginary world.

 

I smiled as I remembered. Hannah and I began with Lana and Cal. Their attraction was our attraction. Their adventure was our adventure. How could we let it go?

 

I showered fast and pulled on boxers and a blue cashmere sweater. Blue for Pam. I sat at my desk and sifted through e-mails until I found the last story installment.

 

Oh, right … Lana and Cal were camping by a river … bathing together.

 

I reread my last paragraphs, then Hannah’s last paragraphs. Cal was washing Lana’s skin. I described the water—cold and silver like mercury—and sidestepped much description of Cal’s body. I noted a tattoo along the tops of his shoulders. I wrote that his hair was long and corn yellow, his eyes shining and orange. Cal: a strange creature from the borderlands of reality.

 

Hannah, too, shied away from the details of Lana’s body. Cal captivated Lana, she wrote. She barely breathed as he rinsed the soap from her skin.

 

The scene was suspended before intimacy.

 

And I, who wrote Night Owl and sex scene after sex scene, felt suddenly anxious about writing sex with Hannah. What the hell?

 

I typed a few sentences. I deleted them. I couldn’t access Cal’s mind.

 

Defeated, I moved Cal out of the river. He dried himself and lay naked on his bedroll. Summer wind washed through the field. I felt that night as if I were lying in it—I saw the starry darkness Cal saw—and then the words came.

 

He called to Lana with his hundred voices.

 

I e-mailed the paragraph to Hannah. My phone began to ring. It was Pam.

 

“Where are you?” she said.

 

I checked the time. Fuck. It was 7:45 and I was sitting at my desk in a sweater and boxers, my hair dripping wet.