"I want you to do something with the place. Something epic."
After being entrusted with her brother's Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn't sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he's gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance.
But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon’s hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades’ old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love.
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Nina LaCour (www.ninalacour.com) is the author of the award-winning Hold Still and widely acclaimed The Disenchantments. Formerly a bookseller and high school English teacher, she now writes and parents full time. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Nina lives with her family in Oakland, California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
Copyright © 2014 by Nina LaCour
Five texts are waiting for me when I get out of my English final. One is from Charlotte saying she finished early and decided to meet up with our boss, so she’ll see me at Toby’s house later. One is from Toby, saying, 7 p.m.: Don’t forget! And three are from Morgan.
I don’t read those yet.
I head off campus and a few blocks over to where I parked my car in an attempt to avoid the daily after-school gridlock. But of course the driver’s side lock won’t unlock when I turn the key, so I have to go around the passenger side and open the door and climb across the seat to pull up the other lock and shut the passenger door and go around to the driver’s side again—and by the time I’m through with that twenty-second process, the cars are already backed up at the light. So I inch into the road and pull out my phone and read what Morgan wrote.
R u coming to set later?
I miss you.
I don’t write back. I am going straight to set, but not to see her. I need to measure the space between a piano and a bookshelf to see if the music stand I found on Abbot Kinney Boulevard yesterday will make things look too crowded. The music stand is beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that if it doesn’t fit I will find a new bookshelf, or rearrange the furniture entirely, because this is exactly what I would have in my practice room if I knew how to play an instrument. And if I could afford a nine-hundred-dollar music stand.
As the light turns and I roll my car through the intersection, I’m trying to ignore Morgan’s texts and think only of the music stand. This music stand is a miracle. It’s exactly what I didn’t even know I was looking for. The part that holds the sheet music is this perfect oxidized green. When I texted my boss a picture of the stand she wrote back, Fucking amazing!!!! An expletive and four exclamation marks. And when I texted Morgan to tell her that this was the last time I would allow myself to get dumped by her, that breaking up and getting back together six times was already insane, and there was absolutely no way I would take her back a seventh, she replied with, I don’t know what to do! Indecisive and only mildly emphatic. So typical.
But the music stand, the music stand.
Turning right onto La Cienega, my phone rings and it’s Charlotte.
“You need to come here,” she says.
“Ginger took me to an estate sale.”
“A good one?”
“You just have to come.”
“Yes,” she says.
“Sounds fun but I need to measure for that music stand.”
“Emi,” she says. “Trust me. You need to come here now.”
So I scribble down the address, make a U-turn, and head toward the Hollywood Hills. I drive up Sunset and roll down all the windows, partly because the air-conditioning doesn’t work and it’s ninety degrees, but mostly because I’m driving past palm trees and hundreds of beauty parlors and taco trucks and doughnut shops and clothing stores and nightclubs, and I like to take it all in and think about how Los Angeles is the best place in the world.
I turn when my phone tells me to turn and start ascending the hills, where the roads become narrower and the houses more expensive. I keep going, higher than I’ve ever gone, until the houses are not only way bigger and nicer than the already big, nice houses below them, but also farther apart. And, finally, I turn into a driveway that I’m pretty sure has never before encountered a beat-up hatchback with locks that don’t work.
I park under the branches of old, gorgeous trees that are full and green in spite of the arrival of summer, step out of my car, lean against the bumper, and take a look at this house. My job has taken me to a lot of ridiculously nice houses, but this one stands out. It’s older and grander, but there’s more to it than that. It just feels different. More significant. I’m not thinking about Morgan and thinking instead about who might have owned this house. It was probably someone old, which is good, because an estate sale means someone has died, and it’s sad to dig through thirty-year-old people’s stuff and think about the futures they could have had.
The double front doors swing open and Charlotte steps into the sun. Her jeans are rolled up at the ankles and her blond hair is in pigtails, and her face is part serious, part elated.
“Guess,” she says.
I try to think of who has died in the last couple of weeks. My first thought is our physics teacher’s grandmother, but I seriously doubt she would have lived in a house like this one. Then I think of someone else, but I don’t say anything because the thought is crazy. This death is huge. Front-page huge. Every-time-I-turn-on-the-radio huge.
But then—there’s this house, which is clearly an important house, and old, beautiful trees, and Charlotte’s mouth, which is twitching under the tremendous effort of not smiling.
Plus it isn’t swarming with people, which means this is some kind of preview that Ginger got invited to because she’s a famous production designer and she always gets called to these things first.
“Holy shit,” I say.
And Charlotte starts nodding.
“You’re not serious.”
Her hands fly to her face because she’s giddy with the delirious laughter of someone who has spent the last hour in the house of a man who was arguably the most emblematic actor in American cinema.
Clyde Jones. Icon of the American Western.
She leans against the house, doubles over, slides onto the marble landing. I let her have one of her rare hysterical fits of laughter as I take it all in. I can’t think of enough expletives to perfectly capture this moment. I would need a year’s worth of exclamation points. So I just stare, openmouthed, thinking of the man who used to live here.
Charlotte’s hysterics die down, and soon she is standing, composed again, back to her super-brilliant, future museum-studies-major self.
“Come in,” she says.
I pause in the colossal doorway. Outside is bright and hot, a beautiful Los Angeles day. Inside it’s darker. I can feel the air-conditioning escaping. Even though this is an amazing opportunity that will never come again, I don’t know if I should go any farther. The thing is this: My brother, Toby, and I talk all the time about what movies do. They speak to our desires, which are never small. They allow us to escape and to dream and to gaze into eyes that are impossibly beautiful and huge. When you live in LA and work in the movies, you experience the collapse of some of that fantasy. You know that the eyes glow like that because of lights placed at a specific angle, and you see the actresses up close and, yes, they are beautiful, but they are human size and imperfect like the rest of us.
This, though, is different.
Because even if you know a little bit too much about how movies are made, there are always things you don’t know. You can hold on to the myth surrounding the actors; you can get swept up in the story.
Clyde Jones belongs in the Old West. He belongs under the stars, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and listening to the wind. In A Long Time Till Tomorrow he lived in a log cabin. In Lowlands he lived out of a green pickup truck, sleeping by the side of the road a couple hours at a time, searching for a woman from his past.
Clyde Jones is the savior. The good, uncomplicated man. The perfect cowboy. But as soon as I walk through this doorway he will be an actor who spent his life in a Los Angeles mansion. The ultimate collapse of the fantasy.
“Em?” Charlotte says. She steps to the left, gesturing that I should follow, and I can’t help myself. A moment later I’m in Clyde Jones’s foyer, the doors shut behind me, gazing at one of the most beautiful objects I’ve ever beheld: a low-hanging chandelier, geometric and silver and shining.
Clyde Jones was no cowboy, but his aesthetic sensibilities were amazing.
I’m still dying over Clyde’s house when Ginger strides past me.
“Oh, good, Emi, you made it.” Charlotte and I follow her into the living room.
“Yeah,” I say, standing under the high white-beamed ceiling, next to what I can only assume is a pair of original Swan chairs positioned under a huge pastoral landscape with a clear sky as endless as the skies in his films. “It’s probably better that I don’t go to the studio today.”
“These glasses,” Ginger says, pointing, and Charlotte walks over to a shiny minibar and takes a tray of highball glasses. “Why should you avoid the studio? Oh, let me guess: Morgan.”
“She broke up with me.”
“Something about not being tied down. Life’s vast possibilities.”
“‘ Life’s vast possibilities.’ Such bullshit,” Charlotte says, setting the glasses next to a group of other beautiful objects that Ginger must have already chosen.
I say, “Yeah,” but only because that’s what Charlotte needs me to say. Charlotte is the kind of friend who automatically hates everyone who has ever done me wrong. The first time Morgan broke up with me and we got back together, Charlotte tried her best to get over it and be nice to Morgan. But somewhere around the third time, Charlotte got rude. Stopped saying hi. Stopped smiling around her. By now, Charlotte can’t even hear Morgan’s name without clenching her jaw.
Ginger shoots me a sympathetic look.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “I’m done with movie people.”
And then we all laugh, because really. What a ridiculous thing to say.
When Ginger is finished choosing what she wants, she lets Charlotte and me explore for a while and see if there’s anything we want to buy. We find ourselves in Clyde’s study, which has to be the size of my brother’s entire apartment. It has high ceilings supported by thick wooden beams and an entire wall of windows with doors that slide open to the land in back. Of all the rooms, this one feels the most Western. There’s an enormous rustic table that he must have used as a desk and a collection of leather chairs arranged in a semicircle facing a cavernous fireplace. Shelves line the entirety of one of the side walls, and covering the shelves are hundreds of awards including four Oscars, along with objects from his films: cowboy hats and guns and silver belt buckles.
Most people our age don’t know or care very much about Clyde. His career is long over. His roles were rarely sophisticated or smart; there isn’t much to recommend him to my generation. But my brother has eclectic tastes, and when he loves something, it becomes nearly impossible not to love it along with him. So over the years I became infatuated with the moment that Clyde appears on the horizon or in the saloon or riding through tall grass toward the woman he loves.
Standing in his study now feels both unexpected and inevitable. And, more than those things, it feels meaningful. Like all of Clyde’s arrivals. Like, without knowing it, everything I’ve done has been building toward this moment.
”Are you all right?” Charlotte asks me.
I just nod, because how could I describe this feeling in a way that would make sense? There is no logic behind it.
I pick up one of the belt buckles. It’s heavier than I thought it would be, and more beautiful up close: the smooth silhouette of a bucking horse with a rough mountain and waning moon in the background.
“I’m going to see how much they’re asking for this,” I say.
Charlotte cocks her head. “You’re choosing a belt buckle?”
“It’s for Toby,” I say, and Charlotte blushes because she’s been in love with my brother forever. Reminded, I check my phone and see that we’re supposed to meet up with him in just under two hours.
Charlotte’s flipping through records. She pulls out a Patsy Cline album.
“I can’t get over this,” she says. “Clyde Jones used to sit on these chairs and listen to this record.”
We find Ginger signing a credit card slip for over twenty thousand dollars, which might explain why, when we show the estate sale man the belt buckle and Patsy Cline record, he beams at us and says, “My gift to you.”
“Charlotte, will you get Harrison on the phone?” Charlotte does, and hands the phone to the man to arrange a pickup, and then we are back in Clyde’s hot drive- way, out of his house forever.
Toby lives in a classic LA courtyard apartment, like the one in David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive, which chooses to focus on the darker side of the movie business, and also the one in Melrose Place, which was a nineties TV show set in West Hollywood that my dad lectures about in his Pop Culture of Los Angeles course at UCLA. Toby’s courtyard has a tidy green lawn and a pretty fountain, and from the side of his cottage you can see a tiny strip of the ocean. We walk in, and there is his stuff, packed, waiting by the door. A set of matching suitcases that look so grown up.
He hugs us both. Me first and long, Charlotte next and quicker. Then he stands and faces us, my tan brother with his crooked smile and black hair that’s always in his eyes. I feel sad, and then I push the sadness away because of what we have to tell him.
“Toby,” I say. “We spent the afternoon in Clyde Jones’s house.”
“You’re shitting me,” he says, his eyes wide.
“No,” Charlotte says. “Not at all.”
“His house was full of the most amazing—” I start, but Toby puts his hands over his ears.
“Dont’tellmedon’ttellmedon’ttellme,” he says.
“Okay,” I say.
“The collapse of the fantasy,” he says.
I know, I mouth, all exaggerated so he can read my lips.
“I love Clyde Jones,” he says, dropping his hands.
I nod. “Not another word on the subject,” I say. “But I do have something for you. Close your eyes.”
My brother does as told and holds out his hands. I pretend I don’t notice Charlotte staring at him, and place the belt buckle in his cupped palms. He opens his eyes. Doesn’t say anything. I wonder whether I chose the wrong object, and then I realize that tears are starting.
“Oh, please,” I say.
“Holy. Shit.” He blinks rapidly to compose himself. Then he rushes to his bookshelf of DVDs and pulls one out. He’s mumbling to himself as he turns on his TV and waits for the chapter selection to appear on the screen. “Saloon door . . . I’m a man of the law but that don’t make me honest . . . Round these parts . . . Yes!”
He’s found the scene, and we all squeeze onto my parents’ old sofa, me in the middle acting as a buffer for the sexual tension between my brother and my best friend.
Toby presses play and turns up the volume. I recognize it as The Strangers, but I’ve only seen it a couple times so I’ve forgotten a lot of what’s happening. The scene begins with a shot of a saloon door. We hear the voices of the people inside but the camera doesn’t turn to them. When one person matters so much, all you can do is wait for his arrival. And then boots appear at the bottom of the door, a hat above it. The doors burst open and there stands Clyde Jones.
The screen fills with a close-up of his young, knowing face, shaded by a cowboy hat. He scans the saloon until he sees the sheriff, drinking at a table with one of the bad guys. The camera shifts to his cowboy boots as they stomp across the worn wooden floor toward the sheriff and his buddy, who both spring up from the table and draw their guns as soon as they see Clyde.
Unfazed, Clyde deadpans, “I thought you were a man of the law.”
Sheriff: “I’m a man of the law but that don’t make me honest.”
The bad cowboy doesn’t say anything, but looks borderline maniacal...
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Descrizione libro Condizione libro: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Codice libro della libreria 97805254258850000000
Descrizione libro Penguin Random House. Condizione libro: New. Brand New. Codice libro della libreria 0525425888
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Descrizione libro Penguin Group USA, 2014. HRD. Condizione libro: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Codice libro della libreria KB-9780525425885
Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. I want you to do something with the place. Something epic. After being entrusted with her brother s Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn t sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he s gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance. But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon s hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780525425885
Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. I want you to do something with the place. Something epic. After being entrusted with her brother s Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn t sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he s gone. Emi may be a talentedyoung production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance. But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon s hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780525425885
Descrizione libro Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2014. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria 0525425888
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Descrizione libro Dutton Books for Young Readers. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 0525425888. Codice libro della libreria Z0525425888ZN
Descrizione libro Dutton Books for Young Readers. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 0525425888. Codice libro della libreria Z0525425888ZN