Isn't She Lovely Page 43

Ethan rocks back in his chair and studies me. “Wow, just a couple of hours in your old get-up and you’re back to your old bitchy self.”

His comment stings, and I fiddle with the tab on my soda can so he can’t tell. I wasn’t trying to be bitchy. Maybe that’s my problem. The real me—the one that doesn’t wear sundresses and shimmery eye shadow—is bitchy without trying.

It’s no wonder he likes the fake me a hell of a lot better than the real me.

Although I have to admit that as far as summer clothes go, the fake me’s attire is a hell of a lot more practical. It’s also comfortable. Too comfortable. So I figured it was time to remind myself that it’s not the real me. I pulled on my old cargo pants and tank top today, although I stuck with flip-flops instead of the boots. I didn’t miss Ethan’s double take when I came into the kitchen, but what did he expect? We don’t have any Price family obligations, and we had to go to campus to have Martin Holbrook look over our notes for our screenplay. This is my turf. Surely Ethan didn’t expect me to be wearing freaking pastels.

And besides, I need my old stuff—my battle armor. Things have been getting a little too close between the two of us lately. I want some distance. And judging from the way he’s been snapping at me since the night of his cousin’s wedding and spending all of his time at his dad’s office, I suspect he does too.

But we can only avoid each other so much, and the clock is ticking on our film project. It’s time to focus on the reason we went down this path in the first place: turning this train wreck into a movie idea.

“I think Professor Holbrook has a point,” I say as I glance down at the scribbles all over our story notes.

“Quit calling him that,” Ethan says as he continues to rock back and forth in his chair like an insolent schoolboy.

“Well, I’m not going to call him Martin,” I snap. “Just because he was your father’s frat brother and is your freaking godfather doesn’t mean he’s anything other than a professor to me. And if you don’t mind, I’d very much like to do well in this class.”

His chair comes back to the floor with a loud click. “All right, all right. Take it easy before you whip out your knife collection.”

“I wish I had a knife collection,” I say under my breath.

“So what was Martin yammering about when he read our notes?” he asks, pulling my notebook toward him. “Something something conflict?”

“Yup. It’s the single most important aspect to a storyline like this one. We don’t have it.”

“What do you mean?” he asks. “We have two complete opposites thrown together pretending to be a couple when they don’t like each other. Bam. Fireworks.”

I snatch the notebook back. “Where exactly is the bam? Holbrook’s right. As of now, we have the two protagonists one hundred percent cooperating in this little venture. They’re both getting something out of it. They’re on the same page. They’ll happily part ways when they’re done. It’s boring.”

Do I feel a little silly talking about the two of us in the third person? Sure. But I have to stay objective. Our little adventure is the basis for the screenplay, but at the end of the day this isn’t about me or Ethan. It’s about the characters. It’s about what would make an interesting film.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

He’s clasping and unclasping his watch, which probably cost more than the house I grew up in, and I resist the urge to snatch it out of his hands and throw it at the wall. I don’t know what is with us these past few days, but we are not in sync. It’s as though that playful evening when he carried me through Central Park was some sort of warning sign that we were on the verge of screwing everything up. And so we’ve both regressed into antagonistic children.

The plan was supposed to be simple, and instead it feels more complicated than any real relationship I’ve ever been in.

It’s as though …

A lightbulb goes on. That’s it.

“These characters have to fall in love.”

Ethan freezes in his fidgeting. “Excuse me?”

“Tyler and Kayla,” I say, referring to the names of our screenplay characters. “They have it too easy right now. They have to start to fall in love. Or at least one of them does.”

He stares at me. “And that will give us conflict?”

“Come on,” I say, giving him a look. “Let’s pretend it’s real life. Would the two of us falling in love create conflict?”

The silence in the small study room is almost painful, although I’m not sure why. I mean, we’ve both seen the movies. We both know the Pygmalion story. We both knew at the start of all this what would need to happen in the screenplay.

But I know we’ve both been avoiding putting real emotion into our screenplay for this very reason. Because it’s getting harder and harder to separate Ethan from Tyler, and Kayla from me.

Our screenplay is supposed to be based on real life, but maybe we’re terrified that things will get reversed. That putting love in the screenplay will affect real life. And that’s so not in the cards.

“Okay, I’m with you,” he says slowly. “So Tyler and Kayla—do we really have to go with those names? They sound too similar … Too many Ys?”

“Change their names to whatever you want,” I mutter as I begin scribbling ideas in the notebook. I try to ignore him as he begins to rattle off alternative character names, although I cut him off when he gets to Woody and Ursula.

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