Dez clutched an empty bowl of popcorn while reaching for the tissue box. It was coming, she knew it, the end was coming.
He turned to look over his shoulder, his back still towards her. The man's gorgeous frame left a shadow by the door.
"I never wanted it to come to this."
Tears now. Lots of fake, but beautifully convincing tears.
He couldn't resist.
Grabbing her, his lip barely quivered before breaking down. In an instant, her arms were around him, holding on desperately because she knew.. she knew this would be goodbye. There was no music. Silence and sniffling. Gasping breaths and stifled sobs.
Peter put his hands around her face, framing her red cheeks, and kissed her passionately.
"You know I'll always love you."
His eyes were pink and puffy. The make-up was fantastic. He turned then, trotted to the door, took one last look, and left.
The camera panned out to show Cherise making her way over to the couch, where she sat delicately on the edge and slowly redirected her gaze from the barren door to the her empty hands.
Dez was audibly crying now as the door was flung open and her brother noisily made his way inside.
"What? It's my living room too!"
"Gosh, Sam! I'm trying to finish this."
Her voice came out crackly and weak. He snickered at her.
"Not this dumb show again."
"You need to sit down and not say a word. It's the finale and it's almost over."
He acted uninterested but he obediently sat on the couch next to her, plunging his hand into the bowl of popcorn kernels in search of anything to salvage.
"What's it called again?"
"Second Chances, now shut up."
Mickey entered the room from the kitchen door to find Cherise sitting alone. He treaded lightly, reading her mood as clear as day from across the room.
She lost it then. Collapsing into her open hands, Cherise could no longer act strong. Mickey quickly made his way over to her, where he kneeled beside her and tried to understand. There was an urgency and tension that still remained. Even though Peter was gone.
"Cherise, there was something I needed to tell you."
Looking up from amidst her tears, she tried desperately to focus on his words.
"Cherise... I lied to you. When Helena took her pregnancy test-
"Who is that?"
"I told Mom and Dad it was Peter. But the truth is- I'm the one who got her pregnant. I'm the father."
"I'm so sorry, Cherise, I didn't think- I wasn't thinking, I was just trying to save my own skin."
"Samson shut up. You don't even know what's happening."
"The girl next door!"
Dez furiously turned up the volume.
"But," Cherise gently stood and walked to the window, in search of something. "That means Peter didn't cheat on me. That means-"
"He loves you, Cherise."
"I didn't believe him," she whispered. "How can he ever forgive me? I told him we were done. I could never trust him again."
"It's not too late."
"I think it is, Mickey."
"It's never too late for a second chance."
Samson sat, stunned.
"They can't be serious. That is a TERRIBLE ending."
"Sam, you just don't appreciate a good soap-opera."
"No, I don't think the people who wrote that garbage appreciate a good audience."
"UGH, you wouldn't understand, that's the only episode you've ever seen."
"Well then, I'll watch them all!"
"You? Take the time to watch a soap opera?"
"Why not. There's more to Samson Tuckett than meets the eye."
"There sure is. Whatever girl ends up with you is gonna be thrilled to know you binge watched an entire soap opera one summer."
While chopping peppers in a bite-sized apartment downtown, Dez switched on the local news while simultaneously feeding her 6 month-old more Goldfish crackers.
"Petey loves his fish," she said, using her best baby-talk.
The little boy smiled and let out a squeal of joy, pounding his feet against the high chair.
"IN other news, a local movie critic and film director has purchased the long since retired soap-opera Second Chances."
Dez dropped a few Goldfish on the floor.
"MR. Samson Tuckett bought the rights to the show in hopes of bringing back the cast from 2003 and picking up where the story left off, but about 10 years later. A bold move, many disapprove of the soap opera's return, including some of the cast members. Perhaps they just need to give Second Chances a second chance."
She was on the phone and waiting for him to pick up before the report concluded. How could he, was he insane? Samson was a smart guy and a wealthy man, how was this going to bring him any business? It could take him for everything he was worth! A small part of her felt a premature excitement rising up from the place she stashed all her memories of this show.
Sam didn't pick up and she assumed he was getting mobbed with phone calls. Standing at the kitchen counter in disbelief, Dez raised a glass to her audacious brother and proclaimed,
"It's never too late for a second chance."
Elliot sat in the office alone, awaiting Camryn's arrival. He couldn't understand why he was nervous. Did he look okay? Did he smell okay? Everything about himself he questioned. What would he say? What if... what if nothing had changed?
"Sorry about that Mr. Wilkes," Samson entered the room with a vibrant tenacity. "We didn't mean to keep you waiting."
He resisted the urge to whip his head around to see her walk in the door. Instead he sat there patiently, fighting back an eagerness that made him feel young again.
Samson stood before him with a smile on his face.
"Peter," he said playfully. "Here's your Cherise."
Camryn looked as amazing as the last time he saw her. Sure she'd aged, but aged beautifully. Her hair was shorter and she was wearing more make-up. But pushing beyond that, her eyes spoke of a time that he dreamed about late at night.
"Hi- uh Cam," he muttered, standing and reaching his hand to her.
"Hello Elliot." Her voice projected a coldness that made him ache. "I can't wait to start working."
Turning to Samson, she began firing questions. Her initial chill numbed Elliot's ability to listen to what they were discussing.
Nothing has changed. She's still upset, or at least- distant.
"I would like to speak with the writer," she demanded elegantly. "I mean- the show can't start out that way."
"And why not?" Samson eagerly questioned. He was prepared for this. That's why he hadn't disclosed to anyone yet that he was the screenwriter.
"Well-" she came to a sudden loss for words.
Glancing at Elliot, she knew that the problem she had with the Pilot episode was much deeper than the writing.
"Well to start, Peter and Cherise begin in bed. How mundane and regular is that? Where's the drama?"
"If I remember correctly, they wake up together after a hard night before."
"Aren't they married?"
"You haven't read the script that far, have you Camryn?"
"I don't need to, it reeks from the first few pages."
Samson laughed loudly at that.
"What do you have to say Elliot?"
Elliot scrambled for words.
"I'm just happy to be here. I haven't acted on TV since that last time I walked out the door."
Camryn was slightly shocked by this.
"You mean- you haven't been acting at all after Second Chances?"
"Nope, Samson snatched me out of retirement. My day job was getting kinda old, I suppose."
Camryn, hardened by the profession, stared at him. She had a hunch why he had left. She pushed the premonition away.
"Didn't feel the same without you," he admitted.
Suddenly finding herself unable to breathe, she excused herself to rinse her face with some cold water. She was right. He left his career behind for her. And then she left...
"Okay, let's try that again folks. It was better, but remember what I said the last time about authenticity? The scene is still reading a little shallow."
Pausing as the camera panned out so as to reveal both Peter and Cherise asleep next to each other. Peter awakes first, finding his arm laying almost perfectly across Cherise's shoulder. He delicately starts to untangle himself and sit up in bed, keeping the sheets close to his bare and aged chest.
He stands, wraps a robe around himself, and watches his love as she snoozes soundly. The camera follows him as he rubs his eyes with his right hand and shakes his head solidly.
Elliot thought Samson wrote beautifully. When he complimented the screenplay Samson told him who the real author was. Elliot was the only one to know. The best part of it all was that somehow Samson was able to capture Elliot's feelings in Peter's lines and blocking. The heaviness of the character's steps. The gruff sound of the words he shares with Cherise. Everything seemed to resemble their own reality.
Peter sat at the edge of the bed and felt Cherise's hair. A close-up revealed just how badly Peter longed to stay there, a pained look in his eyes. A moment later and Cherise was awake, puzzled and searching his face for an answer.
"Peter," she said sternly. "Oh my gosh-"
He smiled sadly.
A wonderful stage direction.
He continued to touch her hair as she pulled herself up out of bed, quickly realizing her bare chest and taking the sheet with her.
"How did this happen? Where did I meet you?"
"We met last night. In the bar, remember?"
"Oh my gosh-" she repeated. "It's been..."
"So long," he said. "I know, we talked about that last night."
He smiled again, happy to remind her.
"Let's get some breakfast and some coffee before we talk anymore," he suggested kindly. "I'm sure there's a lot we still have to discuss."
"Cut! That's it, cut to commercial."
"Perfect you guys, you really got it on that run. Let's take a 5 minute break. Then we'll start from the last scene and call it a day."
Camryn strutted off to her dressing room without looking at Elliot. He watched her go before he made his way to his. It was conveniently on the other side of the studio. He couldn't understand why she was being so cold to him. It was as if he were acting alongside a marble statue. That thrill, though. The electricity that coursed through him as he lay beside her, his arm draped over her as if- as if for a moment he could pretend she was his again! His to hold and to touch, to press close to his heart and never let go. To feel loved and maybe even more so, not alone. It was a blessing every time he got to shoot that scene. The intimacy of just touching her hair over and over again, to look at her with love in his eyes- that wasn't hard to do- it wasn't acting for him.
His agent warned him not to get involved. The show probably wouldn't take off past this first episode and it wouldn't be worth it to hurt himself again. Camryn had done so in the past. They were that couple back then. The celebrity, dream couple. The wedding would have been outrageously huge. The guest list alone would have been insane. Maybe that's why Camryn insisted on not getting married. Either that or she really didn't love him at all. She just loved that look, that idea, that... chase.
It was easy falling for her. Anyone could say that, of course. But it wasn't her beauty that drew him to her. Rather, it was her complete and utter normalcy. The way her hair looked when thrown up into a messy bun. How she sat cross-legged to eat her Ramon noodles and watch Jeopardy. The silly little tune that would get stuck in her head from the minute she brushed her teeth in the morning to the moment she did so at night. Humming and brushing, while happily looking at him with a seductive and child-like gaze.
Her body felt natural to hold through the dark of the night. Elliot felt how Adam must have felt holding tightly to his Eve. A woman and a man, alone in the cold and misty breath of evening. He was alive back then. Alive because he had her. Because he needed her. Alive because every second of his day was spent thinking or being or loving her. Camryn was what filled in all the cracks. There was nothing left to be desired or wondered about. She just was. And he never anticipated the day when she just wasn't.
Closing her eyes and sitting very still, Camryn's mind raced as her make-up was being reapplied. If the damn director made them do that opening scene one more time, she swore she'd leave the show. It was hardly promising. She'd probably lose money with this engagement. That thought didn't sit right with her. It wasn't about the money.
In all honesty, she couldn't bare another moment being that close to Elliot. It brought back a familiar guilt that she didn't like to acknowledge. The guilt was always disguised. A big part of her felt guilty for enjoying it. Why, after all these years, did she still desire to be held by him? Why, after leaving him, did she want to run back to be by his side?
The drugs had all but nearly swallowed him whole whenever he was acting. His face was desired by nearly every company and TV marketeer. The star of multiple shows, not just Second Chances, Elliot knew that acting and modeling would bring him millions.
But that never satisfied him.
"Elly," she said desperately. "Elly, listen to me. Stop, stop baby, listen to me."
He stared at her through red eyes. The withdrawal was even worse this time.
"Sweetheart, come back to bed," she was practically crying. "It's 3am baby, come back to bed. Don't go outside."
She clung to his arm then, trying her best to convince him to stay.
"Don't go out there... please don't leave me!"
"Cam," he whispered as if a maniac. His hands were shaking. "I have to."
"No, no, honey please-"
She kissed him then. Wiped his cold, sweating forehead with her hand and pulled him closer to her. Her fingers felt good in his messy hair. He fell into her kiss and desired to stay there forever.
What a fix, he thought before turning to grab his jacket and leaving to find a dealer on the streets.
Camryn had never cried so hard as she did that night. At one time, they were happy. She had been enough. But it was then that she decided she had to go. She loved him. But she had to leave him.
Knocking on the door softly, she answered for whoever it was to enter. She had just finished getting out of her costume and back into street clothes. Hungry and ready to leave the studio, Camryn debated which restaurant she'd hit up for take-out tonight. Chinese or Italian?
"It's- it's me."
His voice sounded so different. It startled her.
"You can still come in, Elliot," she half-laughed and opened the door.
He wouldn't look at her, but he held a bouquet of flowers as if they were his only hope of getting in the door.
"I know, I know.."
"You didn't have to-"
"Come in. Please."
Sitting in a booth by a window, they drank cheap wine at a cafe that was nearly deserted. Here they could talk in hushed voices about a time that was dead, in hopes that a fortunate whisper could bring it back to life.
"I've been sober for 7 years now. This is... actually one of the first times I've drank wine again."
"That's amazing," she said warmly. "I'm sure none of it was easy."
"It wasn't," he admitted. "I had hit rock bottom and... well, I guess there was nowhere to go but up."
A light nuance of folk music lifted in the air and the smell of a cigarette drifted in from down the street. The windows were open. There was a soft light from the sun going down.
"I'm just so sorry, Cam."
"You deserved so much.."
"Please, you don't have to-"
"I never knew just what I had until you were gone."
"You were never anything but good to me.."
"I can't believe I took that for granted.."
"Elliot, it's my fault too!"
He looked up from his hands to stare at her, puzzled.
"I didn't love you. Not enough. I should have- I should have stayed, I should have helped... I could have been there for you, but instead.. I just left. I took all the things I couldn't stand about you and I packed them in a bag and I left. I didn't love you enough Elliot to change. I couldn't change. I wanted my fun, enticing, romantic dream.. I wasn't willing to embrace the dark and true reality. I didn't love you."
"Don't you ever say that," he urgently reached for her hand, feeling all the years without holding it. "You loved me with all that you were. It wasn't your fault."
"It wasn't your fault!"
Their eyes watched for an indication to keep going. But there seemed to be a shortage of words.
Finally and with a pounding heaviness, she bravely whispered,
"It's never too late for a second chance."