A Heaven Hill Christmas(3)

By: Laramie Briscoe

She sure enough didn’t have to tell him twice, Layne turned on his heel and went right about making their dinner.

Chapter Two

“This is really good,” Jessica moaned as she tore into the second half of her sandwich. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was, but forgetting to eat wasn’t unusual when she got deep into the flow of her story and hated to let it go. Seeing and hearing her characters wasn’t always the easiest part for her – she was more of a storyteller – so, when the characters spoke to her, she had to run with it as long as she could.

“I’m glad to see you actually eating something.”

Layne’s condescending tone caused her to stop chewing and lift her eyes to his. They were shadowed in the muted light of the studio, and she didn’t necessarily like what she saw there. Where she normally saw love and understanding, tonight there was barely leashed anger and possibly a little fear and frustration.

“I eat,” she defended herself.

“Not when you’re holed up in here for days at a time,” he raised an eyebrow, daring her to argue with his words.

Confronted with a truth she didn’t really want to face, she shifted her eyes from his, down to her plate. The sandwich lost a little of its appeal, but she still forced herself to eat the rest of it. She was hungry and appreciated the fact he’d cooked for her, even if it was the most kindergarten of meals. Layne used mayonnaise on the outside of the bread instead of butter and the sandwiches were always grilled to perfection. She kind of hated him for the fact he could cook it so well but it was the perfect comfort food for her.

She was quiet as she finished, washing the crumbs down with a large swallow of Sprite. The two of them didn’t argue much in their marriage, but she could feel when Layne was ready to read her the riot act. She could feel it tonight, had felt it the minute he came through the door earlier. There had been a chill in the air not caused by the weather outside. “Obviously you have some things you need to get off your chest, so I’ll sit here and take it,” she sat back in her seat, daring him to say what was on his mind.

His eyes flashed and the face that had been a semi-relaxed mask changed in an instant. He clenched his jaw together so tightly she could almost hear his teeth crack together. Whatever she’d said had set him off. “Don’t be cute, Jess. I’m not in the mood for it tonight.”

“I’m not, I’m telling you to let me know how you feel. You obviously want to say something, and I’m giving you carte blanche.”

She watched him closely, knowing he hated confrontation with her. The both of them were so passionate about what they believed and how they felt – sometimes it was like a powder keg going off. It was necessary though; they could only let things build up for so long until the situation exploded.

He opened his mouth and closed it a half a dozen times before he ran his hand over his chin. “Fuck it,” he breathed. “I’m just gonna lay this shit straight out for you. You’re working way too fuckin’ hard. You sat here for almost twelve hours and didn’t even eat. Why are you doing this to yourself?” his voice was hoarse as he questioned her. The hand he’d had on his chin was now clenched in front of him as he waited for his answer.

She knew he hated to make it seem as if he didn’t support her, they’d had this conversation before, but he’d never come right out and asked her. “I love what I do, babe,” she smiled over at him, hoping to soften him up a bit. “There’s a million stories running around in my head every day and I get to take these two awesome characters, break them up, and put them back together again. It fulfills something in me I didn’t even know was missing and I can’t help but get carried away. It’s like there’s a whole group of people and they want their stories told. Sometimes I can’t even sleep at night because I have these thoughts running around,” she frowned. “I’m not sure if I can even explain it to you or anyone else.”

“Carried away from time to time is one thing,” he argued, breathing deeply. “But what you’ve been doing the last three months is going to land your ass in the hospital. I’ve got to make you see that this shit isn’t healthy. I know you love it, but you’ve got to take a break. I miss you, but at the same time, I hate seeing you so fucking tired when I do get to see you. I don’t want to get the left-over part of you. I want to get you full-on. You’ve got to start taking some time for yourself. I don’t want you burnt out so bad; you end up in the mental ward.”