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I walked into the production offices. No one had arrived yet – it was 6:00 a.m. Most people in this industry didn’t get up this early unless they were working on set. Kale’s office door was wide open; I assumed to let me know to come in. I walked up and knocked on the open door. Kale was nowhere in sight. I felt a presence come up behind me. I turned around to find Kale smiling at me, and I watched his eyes scan me up and down in my white organdy sundress and flat white sandals. He handed me a latte in a Peet’s cup.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” he said and took a sip. “I see you got my message.”
I sipped and tasted the latte – my favorite. I was touched that he remembered. “Thanks for the coffee,” I said and nodded in appreciation. “I was surprised you wanted me to scout locations with you.”
He looked very relaxed in khaki cargo shorts, a slate-blue T-shirt and brown leather sandals. Kale walked over and picked up a black leather backpack and talked over his shoulder as he did so, saying, “I want you to learn the entire business.” He lifted the backpack and swung it over one shoulder. “Producers don’t always scout locations, but you and I will go look. Then we’ll hire a production designer.”
He walked out toward the front door. I trailed behind him, and a small smile slipped onto my face. It occurred to me that this was Kale’s veiled way of spending time with me under the guise of work. Just as we were about to walk out into the hallway, Monica came off of the elevators. I saw a strange look on her face as she looked at both of us. I didn’t know what to make of her. Was she upset or jealous? She stopped in front of Kale.
“Are you coming back in later?” she asked and moved very close to Kale, so that her line of sight was at his muscular chest. She was much shorter than my gentle giant.
“No,” he replied with little emotion and walked onto the elevator that had just opened its doors.
I walked past Monica, who shifted her posture. She looked visibly troubled, and then she looked down and away from me. I ignored her and entered the elevator with Kale. It felt so good to be with him again. His presence was always a comfort to me. It was so hard not to reach out and grab his hand. He did stand very close to me, and today he didn’t seem as guarded. I wasn’t sure if this trip was an olive branch or just some paternal act of mentoring. I never said I intended to produce, but it occurred to me that maybe I should make it a goal.
His silver Mercedes was waiting downstairs for us with the valet. I slid into the passenger side and Kale got in the driver’s seat. He turned on his iPod and old Cold Play’s Glass of Water played. I thought to myself. Kale drove a little over the speed limit, and we zipped down the freeway. The convertible top was folded down. The wind blew through Kale’s blond hair, and the sun shone bright and luminescent on him. He looked like some ethereal, glowing god. He glanced at me and gave me the warmest smile. What had changed? He was barely talking to me last week, and here today he seemed relaxed and genuinely happy.
“You look good,” I said quietly.
Kale shifted and glanced at me. “You, too,” he replied and reached across the seat to stroke my upper leg. It was gentle and sweet. The moment was also deeply loaded in unexpressed emotion. So many things we had not said to each other. Was he willing to forgive me? Should I bring it up and spoil this peacefulness between us? Or could we get past it if we didn’t discuss it?
We soon arrived at Highway 1 and drove north. I didn’t even know where we were going. “What’s first?” I finally asked.
“Malibu Lagoon,” he said. “It’s the big surfer spot. You have all those beach and surfer scenes. We need to look at local choices.”
“Maybe I don’t want to produce,” I said suddenly.
Kale laughed. “You say that now.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked with a furrowed brow.
“It means you’re working with me,” he said. “I get your vision, but just one producer or director who doesn’t and you’ll be begging to produce.”
“Why?” I ignorantly asked, eager to show him I was open to learning.
“Ask my last writer,” he replied with a laugh. “You don’t have the last say, Brea. Producers and directors can change your vision entirely. You end up not recognizing your own story just once — and well! You’ll be begging to produce.”
As the car drove over the hill, I saw the ocean and sighed – the endless blue horizon spread out in front of me. I heard Kale, and I didn’t want my writing trashed. Maybe he was right. I had certainly had enough magazine editors rewrite some of my articles and not for the better. Some people just had to mark their territories and much to my chagrin.
“Are you going to trash this script?” I suddenly asked.
Kale shook his head. “No, we had you do that,” he said and laughed.
“What?” I asked and frowned.
“All those rewrites.” He gave me a reassuring look.
“Oh,” I replied and looked down at my hands. I realized he had upset me. I had been nervously picking at my nails.
Kale glanced at the physical proof of my edginess. He frowned and reached across and rubbed my arm. “What’s this?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said flatly, not wanting to address the insecure swell in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know why, but I felt completely off and anxious. Maybe it was the undercurrent of tension between us. I felt an urge to lean across and kiss him, but quickly suppressed it. I had assured myself Kale would have to make the first move if we were to reunite. And I still felt certain – especially after running into her that he and Monica were together. I didn’t want Kale to think I would ruin their relationship if it meant something to him. I just didn’t know how to ask.
He pulled the Mercedes into the parking lot, killed the ignition, leaned back and grabbed his backpack. He didn’t say anything and got out. He pulled his sandals off and tossed them into the backseat. He walked ahead of me and then turned and waited. I tossed my own sandals and rushed to catch up with him. He was so much taller that he walked so much faster, and it forced me (despite my own height) to hustle slightly quicker than usual to keep up with him. Kale seemed like a man on a mission. The crashing of the waves made a regular and soothing background noise. I loved the steady roar of the waves and the foaming bubble noise. He found an outcropping of rocks and began taking pictures from all angles. I figured he would give the pictures to the production designer.
After about 30 minutes, he knelt down, opened his backpack, pulled out a blue blanket and rested it in the sand. Then he pulled out Tupperware loaded with vegetables and fruits. He sat down on the blanket and looked at me expectantly. I realized we were going to picnic and sat down next to him. As I sat, he felt familiar and close. He extended a plastic bowl loaded with fresh blackberries, from which I happily took a few to eat.
“Fresh summer fruit,” he said quietly and leaned back as he lazily chewed.
I nodded. “I love cherries, blackberries, raspberries.”
Kale looked at me with his clear, light eyes – his eyes were at once intense and yet very expressive. “Are you still seeing the guy?” he asked.
I sat up a bit and looked at him, searching his face for anger. He looked interested, but relaxed. I supposed we could talk about it since he brought it up. “No, and I was not seeing him when we were together,” I replied.
“No?” he said. “Didn’t look that way to me,” he said with a slight hint of rancor.
I knew it was now or never. “Kale, what we have — had,” I corrected myself, “had nothing to do with it. Have you ever gotten involved with someone and you know it’s wrong, but there is something so deeply chemical between you that it’s inexplicable?”
Kale nodded a bit and then looked down. “I thought that’s what we had,” he said.
I moved so that I was now sitting on my knees in front of him. “No,” I said flatly. “We’re real!”
Kale nodded and asked, “Do you know how many nights I sat around trying to get past what you did? I want you back, but I can’t trust you. How am I supposed to get over such a fundamental part of any relationship?”
“Maybe you don’t force it,” I said and moved up closer to him. I wanted to kiss him so badly it hurt. I deeply missed him.
His eyes met mine. He stared at me with such force. We didn’t say anything at all when my phone rang in my purse. I knew I should ignore it.
“You should answer that,” he said.
I picked it up and saw what it said and put it back. Kale looked at me suspiciously. “Let me see it — please.”
I stared him straight in the eyes. He just unflinchingly looked back. I knew right then I would have to be transparent whether it was good or bad. If I quit hiding things, then maybe we would at least heal our friendship in some way. I handed him the phone, which was still ringing, and he saw the name. His eyes widened a moment, and then he handed it back to me. It stopped ringing.
Kale rose to his feet. I, too, stood upright. He picked up the blanket and shook the sand out. He carefully folded it and tucked it back away. Then he moved very close to me and hovered, but not in a menacing way. His eyes looked somewhat sad, but still focused as he held my gaze.
“I have to warn you, sweetheart,” he said. “Unions are nasty things. That actor could take down the whole production.”
He started walking back to the car. I didn’t know what to say. We finally got back to the Mercedes, and each put on our respective pairs of shoes. I walked up to him and blocked his way into the car. This move stopped him in his tracks. I pressed in very close to him. He held my gaze for a moment, but seemed paralyzed by indecision. He wanted to kiss me too, but I could see the internal struggle going on by the expression on his face. I didn’t want to prematurely rush anything, so I eventually relented, stepped aside and got in the passenger side. We said nothing on the drive back.