The realization was so amazingly depressing that he had to struggle not to let it spoil what had been another completely memorable day with her. With a supreme force of will, he made himself think only of the evening that stretched before him, and he smiled as she sat down beside him on the sofa. "Don't you want to pick out another movie?"
The last thing Julie felt like doing was enduring another critique of a movie she selected. Since he obviously wanted to watch another one, she was willing to be present, but not accountable. Giving him a look of exaggerated horror she said, "Pleeeease don't make me do that. Ask me to iron your socks, ask me to starch your handkerchiefs, but do not ask me to choose another movie for you to watch."
"Why not?" he asked, looking innocent and bewildered.
"Why!" Julie sputtered, laughing. "Because you're worse than the worst critic! You tore my movie to pieces."
"I merely pointed out a few flaws in it. I did not tear it to pieces."
"You did, too! You laughed so hard during that death scene that I couldn't hear what they were saying."
"Because it was funny," he loftily replied. "The writing and acting were so bad, they were hilarious. Tell you what," he compromised good-naturedly, standing up and holding out his hand to her. "We'll collaborate. Let's pick out the next one together."
Reluctantly, Julie got up and went over to the built-in cabinet that contained more than a hundred movies, from old classics to new ones.
"Do you have any preferences?" he said.
Julie scanned the titles, her gaze riveting uneasily on Zack's own movies in the cabinet. She knew that out of politeness, if nothing else, she should suggest watching one of his, but she just couldn't do it, especially not on a television set with a five-foot screen where she'd be able to see every sexy detail of his love scenes. "I—can't decide," she said after a long minute. "You pick several out and I'll choose one from those."
"All right. Give me an idea of what actors you like."
"In older movies," she said, "Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Steve McQueen."
Zack kept his eyes on the cabinet. He was surprised that courtesy alone hadn't prompted her to include his name. Surprised and a little hurt. Although, as he reconsidered it, his movies didn't really fall into the category of "older." Completely ignoring the presence of movies by all three of those actors, he said, "These movies are mostly within the last ten years. What newer actors do you like?" He waited for her to mention his name.
"Um … Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, Patrick Swayze, Mel Gibson," Julie said, rattling off the names of every actor she could think of, "—and Sylvester Stallone!"
"Swayze, Gibson, Stallone, and McQueen…" Zack said disdainfully, piqued now beyond all rational sense, because she hadn't included his own name in her list of favorites. "How long have you had this peculiar obsession with short men, anyway?"
"Short?" Julie looked at him in surprise. "Are they short?"
"Petite," Zack unfairly and inaccurately replied.
"Steve McQueen was little?" she said, rather enchanted with his inside knowledge. "I never would have guessed—I thought he was terribly macho when I was young."
"He was macho in real life," Zack replied brusquely, turning back to the video cabinet and feigning complete absorption in its contents. "Unfortunately, he could not act."
Still bothered that Zack had not given any sign that he was determined to find the real killer of his wife so that he could resume his old life, it suddenly occurred to Julie that gently reminding him of the benefits of his former life might bolster his resolve. She tipped her head to the side and smiled. "I'll bet you knew Robert Redford, didn't you?"
"What was he like?"
"He is not!"
"I didn't say he was a dwarf, I meant he isn't particularly tall."
Despite his unencouraging attitude, she continued, "I'll bet all sorts of famous actors were intimate friends of yours … people like Paul Newman and Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas?"
"Were they what?"
"We didn't make love, if that's what you mean."
Julie choked on her laughter. "I can't believe you said that! You know it isn't what I meant at all."
Zack pulled out movies staring Costner, Swayze, Ford, and Douglas. "Here, take your pick."
"The top one, Dirty Dancing," Julie said, smiling her approval, though she truly hated to waste any of their time watching movies.
"I can't believe you actually want to see this," he said disdainfully, shoving Swayze's movie into the videotape player.
"You picked it out."
"You wanted to see it," Zack retorted, trying unsuccessfully to sound completely indifferent. For twelve years, women had annoyed and revolted him when they hung all over him, oozing admiration and gushing that he was their favorite actor. They'd hunted him down at parties, interrupted him in restaurants, stopped him on the street, chased his car, and slipped hotel keys into his pocket. Now, for the first time in his life, he actually wanted a woman to admire his work, and she seemed to prefer every actor in the world to him. He pushed the start button on the remote controller and in silence watched the credits begin to roll.
"Want some popcorn?"
Julie studied him surreptitiously, trying to figure out what was wrong with him. Was he yearning for his old life now? If so, that wasn't all bad. Although she hated to cause him any misery, she couldn't banish the uneasy feeling that he should at least be talking about wanting to prove he didn't kill his wife, even if he didn't want to discuss with her how he planned to do it. The movie began in earnest. Zack stretched his legs out in front of him, crossed his feet at the ankles, folded his arms over his chest, and looked like a man who was waiting to be displeased.
"We don't have to watch this," she said.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world."
A few minutes later he let out a snort of disgust.
Julie paused with her hand in the bowl of popcorn. "Is something wrong?"
"The lighting is wrong."
"Look at the shadow on Swayze's face."
She looked up at the television. "I think it's supposed to be shadowy. It's nighttime."