I co-hosted Smack Talk.
It wasn’t so bad.
And now it’s over.
The cameras are wheeled away, staff floods the sound stage, and the director takes Michael aside.
“Hey, good job up there.” Michelle is all smiles, her fist bumping my arm. “You were great.”
“Thanks.” My eyes scan the dark room, searching for Aidy.
I have questions.
And I demand answers.
“Where’s hair and makeup?” I ask Michelle.
“Ha,” she walks along beside me, “they’re gone. Did you need another touch up or something?”
“No.” My jaw sets, and I exhale. I guess it makes sense that hair and makeup wouldn’t stick around for the rest of the show.
“You need something from her?”
“Never mind. Forget I said anything.” We begin to walk off set together.
“Hey,” she says as we push through a set of double doors that lead to the main hallway. “We want to know if you can come back. You’re a natural, Ace. We think you’re great, and we know the viewers love seeing you and Michael together. It’d just be for the rest of the week until Antoine’s back. And maybe you can fill in from time to time?”
I chuff. “There are thousands of people out there who’d kill to have this job, and they’d do it a hell of a lot better than I ever could.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s true,” she says, her Brooklyn voice crawling to a high pitch. “But you have something they don’t.”
“What’s that?” I stop in the middle of the hall, turning to face her, hands resting on my hips. Michelle’s got to be no more than 5’3’’, and I’m an entire foot taller than her.
“You’re Ace Amato.” Michelle shrugs, her mouth bunched in one corner, and then she turns to walk away. “Think about it and let me know. You should have my cell. I need an answer by three o’clock this afternoon.”
“Hey, you’re back early,” my sister shouts over the noise of the vacuum as she lifts the corner of the coffee table and gets the dust underneath. She taps the appliance with her toe until it comes to a soft purr and shuts off, and then she wraps the cord around the back. “Enzo’s been eating crackers on the couch again.”
She peers up at me, eyes squinting, and I lift my hand.
“Don’t look at me,” I protest. I place my cosmetics case by the door and kick off my shoes.
“How was the job? I’ve never been to ASPN’s studio. Is it nice?” Wren collapses in one of the armchairs, kicking her feet straight out and resting her hands on her stomach. Her hair is tied back and there’s a slight shine across her forehead. Judging by the looks of her, she’s been cleaning since she dropped Enzo off at school this morning.
Glancing around the room, I note the lemony scent lingering in the air and the shiny surface of the coffee table. Vacuum tracks start from down the hall and lead to my feet.
“It’s very nice,” I say, glancing to the side.
“Why are you just standing there all quiet?” Her brows meet. “You’re acting weird. Why are you acting weird?”
Shrugging, I head to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water, only once I get to the fridge I completely forget what I’m doing.
“Aidy.” Wren is standing on the other side of the island now, resting on her elbows and studying me. “Did something happen today?”
“You know that baseball player?” I ask. “From last night?”
My sister nods. “What about him?”
“He was the guest co-host on Smack Talk.” I suddenly remember the water. With my back toward Wren, I add. “Isn’t that strange?”
“Strange? That a big-time retired baseball player is co-hosting a sports talk show? No. Not at all.”
“But like, I saw him twice yesterday and then again today,” I say. “And up until this week, I’d never heard of him.”
“Life is full of strange little coincidences. But that’s all it is. Pure coincidence. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to connect dots that aren’t even there.” Wren exhales.
Uncapping my water, I take a swig. “I wanted to tell him off, Wren. I wanted to tell him off so badly. But I couldn’t. I had to stay professional or Topaz would’ve killed me.”
I take another drink. “God help him if I ever run into him on the street though.”
Wren smacks her hand across her forehead then drags it down her face, groaning. “Let it go. Enzo already has.”
“He doesn’t get to be a jerk,” I say. “I don’t care if he was having a bad day.”
“Why are you fixating on this?” Wren’s jaw hangs open and she slides into a bar stool. “You’re obsessing over something truly trivial. Do you know how many famous people live in this city? Do you know how many times they get photographed or bugged about autographs? They’re not required to do anything we ask them to do. In fact, I think it’s kind of rude to interrupt their day, make a demand, and then expect them to be happy about it.”
I place my water on the counter and meet her sympathetic gaze. “Yeah. You’re right. I don’t know what my deal is.”
“You’re PMSing, that’s what your deal is.”
Rolling my eyes, I shake my head. “Nope.”