Reel (Hollywood Renaissance #1) - Kennedy Ryan Page 0,1

dropped a line in rehearsal for the final school play, Our Town. I had that monologue down. How did I forget?

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” I recite my character Emily’s words under my breath and pull Mama’s old Camry into our driveway. “Every, every minute?”

I scoured my brain for those words, but for the life of me couldn’t find them anywhere when I needed them. I even knew the line that came next, the stage manager’s response, his answer to the question I couldn’t come up with.

“Saints and poets maybe.”

The theater department is the best thing about our little high school. I wouldn’t have a full scholarship offer to Rutgers’ drama program without everything the drama club and classes have taught me.

I put the car in park and bang my head against the steering wheel, still mad about forgetting those lines today. “Damn salt.”

When I look up, Brandon’s F150 is parked up ahead under our car porch. My boyfriend—correction, my fiancé since we got engaged over Christmas—always seems to come right when I need him. He’s not thrilled about the Rutgers offer, even though I haven’t decided if I’ll go or not. He hopes I’ll attend a school closer to home, though none of them have offered to pay my way. Despite our recent tension over my future plans, this bad day just got better knowing he’s inside waiting, even though I didn’t expect him.

I love it when he comes over after his shift at Olson’s, his daddy’s garage, where he’s a mechanic. Brand’s got a knack for cars—always has. When no football scholarships came through, he took it in stride and started working at Olson’s without complaint. He always smells like Irish Spring, the soap he uses to wash up after work. No matter how hard he scrubs, stubborn traces of grease usually stick under his nails and in the creases of his hands. I don’t mind as long as his hands are on me.

Brand was my first. My only. Secretly, I’ve been leaning toward staying, maybe studying drama at our community college instead of going up north because I can’t stand the thought of being away from him four years.

I hop out and head for our ranch-style brick house.

“I’m home!” I pocket my keys and close the front door behind me.

Brandon always waits in the living room. Mama would skin us alive if she ever found us in my bedroom, though we’ve gotten away with it a time or two.

I head up the hall, stopping short when I see my sister Terry seated beside him on the couch. They were both juniors when I started high school. Terry is so beautiful, everyone tries at least once with her, but as far as I know, Brandon never has. I couldn’t believe it when he asked me, a freshman, out.

“Hey, guys.” I walk in and flop onto the couch since they’re squeezed onto the love seat. Brandon holds himself stiffly beside her, sitting straight as a pole, fists clenched in his lap. Terry, with her quick smile and that fat ass, is the life of every party, but right now her brows pinch, her face twisted with what looks like misery.

“Who died up in here?” I blow out a laugh, which fades when Terry’s eyes drop to her lap, and Brandon looks away altogether. My father died of a heart attack when I was twelve. I’ve been paranoid about losing someone else ever since.

“Did somebody die?” I sit up straight, fear thinning my voice. “Mama? Aunt Alberta?”

“No,” Terry cuts in. “Ain’t nothing like that. We, uh . . .” She shakes her head, presses her lips together and closes her eyes.

“We have something to tell you.” Brandon’s voice is gravelly, grave. “We . . . well, Terry—”

“I’m pregnant.”

Her words drop like a stone into the small living room, and I blink at her stupidly. For a second, even though I know this must be the last thing Terry wants since she just finished cosmetology school, I feel joy. I’m going to be an auntie! Terry and I have laid on my bed dreaming on Saturday afternoons about my wedding to Brandon, and how I’d probably have babies before she did because she’d take forever to settle down. We’d laugh, me on the floor between her knees while she braided my hair.

The joy, short-lived, evaporates like steam exposed to air.

We have something to tell you, Brandon said.


They are not a we. Brandon and I are