Metal clinking against glass sounded for a few seconds before Allen looked up at Brent with a raised brow.

“Or we could shoot down some alien ships and use the crew to staff our sets…”

Allen pursed his lips and ripped off a sheet of paper from his notebook. He crumpled it into a ball and bounced it off Brent’s head.

“Hey!” Brent shot up.

“Might I remind you that we’re on a deadline here? We have three major films that need to be near completion by the end of the summer.”

“I’m aware of this. Relax, Allen. We’ll get it done.”

“It won’t get done unless we do it, and people don’t complete their shoots on time unless they’re pushed.”

Allen rose from the conference table and raked a hand through his salt and pepper hair. He was a bit older than Brent, almost like an older brother, and while Brent was not unaware of their financial situation, Allen tended to get very stressed over the details much more.

“What are you so distracted by?” Allen put his hands on his hips. “What’s more important than your company?”

To his chagrin, Jessica’s smile flashed in front of his eyes. Her vibrant eyes, the sway of her hips. He shook his head as though to knock the images from his mind.

“I’m just concerned about Cara lately,” Brent said.

“Ah. How’s Jessie doing? I never imagined her as Mary Poppins.”

Brent leaned back in his chair and laughed. “She seems to work magic anyway. She’s amazing, actually. It’s only been a few days, and Cara loves her.”

“Of course, she loves her.” Allen smirked.

“Yes, yes, everyone has to love your little girl. It’s like she has a second sense when it comes to what Cara needs. We’re all headed to the zoo on Saturday.”

Allen laughed. “Oh, of course. First things first: get that girl to the zoo. That’s so Jessie.”

Brent wrapped his fingers around his coffee cup. “It’s Cara, too, apparently. She’s really into aquatic animals lately. I had no idea. It seems like a small thing, I suppose, but it seems like just yesterday, I could’ve told you her favorite food, her favorite book, what kind of fabrics she can stand to wear and which ones she’ll try to take off in the middle of a restaurant... Anything!”

“I hate to break it to you, buddy, but she’s growing up. She’s getting to that age. Cara will always be your little girl, but she won’t want to tell her dad everything anymore.” Allen sighed. “Some things happened when Jessie was in school that she didn’t mention for years. Not to me, at least, and I know she wasn’t talking to her mother.”

Brent nodded. “It just shames me, I think, to know I haven’t done everything I could to help my daughter. I should know her better than anyone. And I should’ve known things were so rough for her at school before her teacher had to call me in to tell me.”

“I know you’re doing your best. It’s just a tough age. You have to know when to push and when to back off.” Allen picked up the short list of actors and slid it over to Brent. “The key is to be fully present. Work while you’re at work, and when you go home to her, put it away.”

“I try. God, I try.” Brent rubbed his temple and looked at the list.

“Cara will enjoy the zoo. Just start from there.”


Seven posters spread out over his desk, with Carl Fenderson towering above. He was a big man, though not quite as tall as Brent, and older than both him and Allen. If Allen provided the team with the harsh numbers, Carl gave them a sense of gravitas. With gray touching his temples and a network of lines along his eyes, the man had been in this business longer than any of them.

Brent stared, unseeing, at the posters. Instead, he was thinking about what Jessica would be doing right now, preparing her activities for Cara. Maybe sitting in a chair at home, wearing shorts and a tank top, with the strap sliding down her shoulder as she leaned over some game she was preparing... Or maybe her bare feet were propped on a table as she read articles on childcare on her laptop, rosy lips parted just slightly, rich brown eyes fixed in attention on her screen.

“Brent!” Carl snapped.

Brent looked up from the posters.

“Plug back in, homeboy.” Carl pointed to the poster on the left. “I told our design team that we would want to have something more like that for the initial ads. Everything needs to be luring them in. These others we’ll leave for the ‘For Your Consideration’ campaign after the movie is out. I think the more minimalist approach will draw the attention of the Academy more.”