Good Morning, Nickolas!
I hope all is going well. I have to ask if you can please follow up today with Cynthia and the Legal team and update me on the status of the rights to ‘Double Wedding’. Please let me know if they’ve succeeded in negotiating a price with MGM or whoever owns the rights; I’ve not heard anything and am eager to have the rights fully secured and signed off on.
Thank you for getting Levi’s things moved into the house. I think that’s made him feel far more at home than he has felt so far.
Also, I will be looking to you for assistance in hiring my temporary assistant for the Italy months. Can you put a posting in the paper or on Monster or wherever job postings go these days? Schedule the interviews for the more promising candidates for when I’m back. Have them interview at my Paramount office; I don’t want strangers coming to the house. I should be finished with Atlanta and back in Los Angeles by the 20th.
Thank you for all you do. You’re a lifesaver and the greatest assistant a guy could have. I’m giving you a bonus this week—double your weekly pay—as a thank you for holding everything together while I’m gone. But, dollars aside, thank you. Both Levi and I thank you.
“Cunt,” Nickolas spat at his phonescreen as he read the e-mail. “Both Levi and I?!” He screamed furiously, waking his neighbor, no doubt.
“Both I and Levi. . .Can you put a posting in the paper? Like people read the paper!”,hje ranted as he took his morning pee. “Jesus, I’m surprised the idiot didn’t try to put a stamp on the e-mail. Idiot actor. Overpaid, idiot actor. . .Both Levi and I. Fuck off, Damien Lanchester. Fuck you and your faggot boyfriend to fucking hell. . .You know, I’d love to tell him, ‘I have a screenplay. Maybe instead of trying to buy rights and remake some old movie you could read my fucking screenplay and let me direct it!’”
He screamed, gargled some mouthwash, and got in the shower.
“That’s where you grew up?” Damien asked him.
“Yup. That’s it,” Levi said, as they stood in front of the Ansley Park Craftsman on a tree-canopied street.
“You lived here when you lil’ boy?” Track asked from his seat in the stroller, leaning forward as if wanting to run across the lawn.
“I did,” Levi told him. “When I was your age.”
“Wow!” Track cried. “Daddy—this house old!”
“It’s called ‘charming’, Track,” Damien instructed his son with a wink at Levi. “This house is charming.”
“And old!” Track added.
Levi shook his head at the For Sale sign at the sidewalk’s edge. Pointing to it with disgust, he said, “I knew the people I sold it to were way over their heads. They had it for all of three years, I guess? Already back on the market. What a shame.”
Damien gazed whistfully at the house, the neighborhood, and then at Levi. “Would you want it back?”
“How do you mean?”
“Would you want it back? To live in again?”
“We live in Los Angeles—”
“But you grew up here—”
“I don’t need to live here. Why are you asking—”
“What if we all left Los Angeles and came here.”
“Well, first of all. . .we need to talk about that if that’s a serious idea.”
“Okay. And that’s the first I’m hearing about it.”
“So then we’ll talk, about it,” Damien said.
“And. . .why would you want to move to Atlanta? Los Angeles is—”
“Full of assholes,” Damien finished. “I don’t need to live there to get work.”
“Don’t you, though?” Levi challenged him. “Think about it: If you don’t live in Los Angeles, and you aren’t on the screen for six months between films, do producers think about you? Or do they think about the guy they do see at the parties each week? Isn’t that how the business works and why we always have to go to one party or another each—”
“I’m a father first, actor second.”
“But in order to be a father—”
“I don’t need to live in Los Angeles.”
“I don’t need to live in Atlanta,” Levi told him. “I like L.A.”
Damien made a face.
“I do, Damie. I moved there for a reason.”
“Okay. Just a thought,” Damien told him. “It’s just that I look around where we live now and I think it’s not the best place for Track—”
“Or your boyfriend who will likely drive to his death one night negotiating all those cliffs.”
“Exactly,” Damien sighed, looking around him. “This neighborhood is exactly what I’d want. He can play here. Literally have friends next door—not be chauffeured to playtime. Go to school in his neighborhood.”
“Actually, I was bussed to my school,” Levi corrected him. “Morningside is a few miles away.”
“But you went to school with kids from your neighborhood, correct?”
“Yeah,” Levi said. “So?”
“There are no kids where we live.”
“How do you know?” Levi asked. “You don’t even know hwo your neighbors are.”
“Well, I never see any and I wouldn’t want Track playing in those streets anyway. But here? Look at that! Kids just walking down the street. Little parks everywhere.”
“I like it here, Daddy!” Track chimed in. “I like the porks.”
“See?” Damien laughed. “Track likes the porks.”
“I think you’re too famous to live here,” Levi said.
“No one’s bothered us yet and we’ve been strolling for an hour.”
“Yeah, but once word gets out. . .look how vulnerable we’d be. People can just come right up to your door here.”
“They can do the same at our house in L.A.”
“True. But the door is on a gate; it’s not the very door that opens into your house. And if they can’t get through, they can’t get in. Here. . .they can go around to the back porch. . .the cellar. It’s not safe enough for someone as well known as you.”
“Just a thought,” Damien said. “I would never look into it without your agreement.”
Levi smiled at him and noticed how Track’s eyes were aglow as he took in all the houses built into sloping hills, the many steps leading to some, the small, grassy parks that ran into little brooks and tiny ponds, the trees now bare of limbs but promising a fury of colors come Spring and Fall. The tiny streets of a hundred curves and inclines and declines, full of friendly, welcoming, and gracious homes—some far more opulent than others, some more welcoming and comfortable than the occasional stuffy Georgian or Greek Revival.
“I could get over my issues,” Levi told him. “For you and Track.” He hesitantly added, “If I say I can’t live here, then they—as they say—win. You know, the terrorists. I don’t know if you realize it but Piedmont is right over this way. Ansley Park is between Peachtree and Pied—”
“I didn’t realize,” Damien said. “When we came in off Peachtree, I wasn’t mapping it out in—”
“Don’t worry about it,” Levi said, smiling. “I know. It’s hard to tell where you are in an area like this—all these curves and bends. But I’m good. If we end up moving here, if that’s what you decide you want, I come with you.”
“Well, there’d be more talking before we looked into it,” Damien promised him. “I want it to be both of us making that call.”
“Just know that I’m okay with it,” Levi told him. He took in a breath and announced,
“And this building here? That is where Margaret Mitchell lived after Gone With the Wind was published.”
“Whaley?” Track asked, as if he had any idea what Levi had said.
“Really. And she lived. . .right. . .up. . . there,” Levi said, pointing to a row of windows above the entry facing the corner of South Prado and Piedmont.
“Well, look at that,” Damien said. “Right in your old neighborhood.”
“And her husband. . .after she died. . .he took the manuscript to her book and burned it downstairs, in the building’s furnace.”
“Why did he do that?” Damien—to whom original manuscripts and screenplays were to be treasured–asked.
“No one knows for sure,” Levi said. “He just was heartbroken and, after her funeral, took her papers down to the basement and burned them all. My mother used to say, ‘They buried her body in Oakland. He cremated her spirit in the basement’.”
“So sad,” Damien said.
They quickly took a photo of the three of them in front of the brick, three-story condominium, making sure the plaque noting the building’s placement on the National Registry of Historic Places was in the shot, and, as they returned down the steps to where the stroller sat by busy Piedmont Avenue, Damien realized that right across the street from them was Piedmont Park.
He noticed Levi paid it little mind. Instead, he lovingly placed Track in the stroller and strapped him in place and began pushing him back up South Prado into the Ansley Park neighborhood.
“I love walking the city with you,” Damien whispered.
“Why’s that?” Levi smiled.
“It helps me piece you together. You sphynx.”
“Ha!” Levi laughed at him. “Am I such an enigma?”
“If my life has a purpose,” Damien told him, “It might just be to solve Levi Hastings.”
He bussed Levi’s cheek with a kiss. And Levi thought, “Maybe moving back here wouldn’t be so bad.” Anywhere that afforded them these walks. . .that was home.
“Margaret Mitchell used to walk these blocks,” Levi told him, not quite understanding why this story was the one that sprung to his lips. It was one that had always endeared him to Mitchell, even if he loathed her book due to its never-ending presence in his upbringing. “Her husband had a heart attack and, for years, she would make him leave their apartment there and walk these streets. Every day. Without fail. She’d carry a little folding stool for when he was tired but she’d march him up and down these blocks, like a military commander, trying desperately to make him healthy again.”