The View Was Exhausting

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From The View Was Exhausting

As Win dressed for the enactment that evening, she watched Whitman Tagore look successful the mirror: the dense acheronian hair, the precocious cheekbones, a winding silhouette and huntress shoulders. She practiced playing herself arsenic a role, keeping her existent aforesaid hidden. She practiced her smile. “Don’t look truthful pleased with yourself,” Marie said, and truthful she switched to the wide-eyed, agog look of posh London girls that she and Shift utilized to laughter at. She was Whitman Tagore, who wanted thing much than to spell to a enactment with a spoiled It boy. While she slipped into her heels and pulled connected a cape of airy silk, Marie briefed her arsenic though she were a worker astir to spell into the field.

“There’s a enactment of property arsenic you locomotion into the building. They volition beryllium hard connected you. Maybe the different guests, too. Milanowski won’t propulsion thing astatine his dad’s ain party, but helium won’t support you, either, if things get tough. It’s okay. Just support calm, and support smiling. Stick to our narrative.”

Win met Leo for the archetypal clip successful the backmost of a achromatic sedan. There was little fanfare than she had been expecting, nary elaborate greeting, nary stilted instauration from Marie oregon 1 of Leo’s entourage. As she slipped into the car, helium said, “Just inquire the set to commencement later.”

He waved astatine her and mouthed, On the phone, arsenic if Win couldn’t spot the compartment telephone tucked nether his ear. Leo Milanowski had a strong, handsome face, a crisp jawline dappled with stubble that seemed designed to framework his mouth, and disarmingly agelong eyelashes. He wore what Win guessed was a precise costly suit with negligent ease, and helium looked bored and a small sleepy, similar a commuter connected the tube, arsenic though helium hadn’t noticed the lush leather interior of his surroundings oregon the histrion sitting beside him.

“No, I won’t beryllium determination for long,” Leo said, moving his fingers idly done the hairsbreadth that curled implicit his forehead. “Just request to shingle immoderate hands.” He laughed astatine thing the different idiosyncratic said.

He stayed connected the telephone for the full drive, leaving Win to ticker Manhattan descent past them successful silence, unsure if she was annoyed oregon grateful for the peace. She resisted checking her telephone excessively often; precocious it had lone brought her atrocious news. She stared retired the model and tried to relax.

When they stepped retired onto the street, determination was a tempest of camera flashes. At the show of Win and Leo, the thicket of paparazzi surged forward, the assembled enactment of information hardly holding them back. They were each calling her name.

Leo leaned successful truthful his rima was astir touching her ear. “Hi,” helium said, “hand connected your back, oregon limb successful arm?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m a manus connected the backmost guy, personally, but it’s your call.”

They were talking retired of the sides of their mouths, with information waiting astir them. Win remembered Marie’s remark this afternoon. She needed to look vulnerable, pitiable. The weaker one.

“Why don’t you travel closer?” she said.

Leo gave her a quick, assessing look, past enactment his limb astir her shoulders, pulling her against his side. She turned her look toward his chest. He was precise warm, this close, and erstwhile helium ran his fingers mildly done the hairsbreadth falling implicit the nape of her neck, she didn’t person to fake the shiver.

They walked into the enactment similar that, arms astir each different and turned distant from the flash of cameras. When she peeked up astatine him, Leo’s look was quiescent and calm, astir possessive. He was a bully actor, too, she realized.

In the lobby helium uncurled his limb from her shoulder.

“No offense,” helium said, “but if I was you, I astir apt would’ve stayed astatine home.”

Win smoothed down her formal and patted her hairsbreadth to marque definite it was inactive successful place.

“Unfortunately, staying astatine location was not an option.”

“Tell maine astir it,” Leo said.

They sized each different up, an unusual infinitesimal of stillness successful the mediate of the party. It wasn’t the accustomed up-and-down look Win was utilized to from imaginable emotion interests; it was much calculating than that, much thoughtful. Win wondered what the anticipation was of Leo selling his Whitman Tagore communicative to the press. She wasn’t definite what Leo was thinking.

The walls of the lobby were decked retired successful graffiti overgarment (the graffiti artists, Leo told Win later, had been flown successful from Paris and Rio de Janeiro, and their designs had been vetted by a squad of six executives earlier they were allowed to commencement painting). Below the chandeliers, whose bulbs flickered to make a seedy, municipality effect, guests mingled and waiters toting trays of champagne circulated among the crowd. The aureate reception table had been dented and artfully tarnished to springiness the illusion of decay.

“Edgy,” Win said, surveying it.

“Thaaaat’s Daddy,” Leo said.

People had already begun to announcement them. Back then, Leo’s fame acold dwarfed Win’s, truthful helium was getting astir of the funny looks and hopeful waves, but determination was a ripple moving done the crowd, too, a snarky, sideways lowering of voices and narrowing of eyes, and Win knew that was conscionable for her.

“You could unreal to faint,” Leo said, keeping his dependable debased truthful lone she could perceive him. “That would get america some retired of it.”

“No,” Win said. “I’m fine. I americium having a good time.”

The country of Leo’s rima twitched, but helium didn’t argue. He offered his manus and Win took it, linking their fingers together. She leaned against Leo’s side, similar she was overwhelmed and needed him to support her. It felt unusual to beryllium acting successful existent life; Win kept wanting to apologize to him. But Leo lone looked entertained.

“Let’s spell get immoderate drinks,” helium said.

“Strong ones.”

They stuck together. Leo declared himself “unmoved” by the remainder of the guests, and Win was tense the full time, focused connected her resoluteness to beryllium arsenic Whitman Tagore arsenic possible: open, harmless, calm. After a week wrong the media firestorm, she was perpetually expecting attack, and it was lone Leo’s manus connected the tiny of her backmost that kept her from her instinct to chopped and run. Leo seemed to notice. When a probing New York columnist was getting a small excessively acquainted for comfort, helium leaned into her receptor and said, “Honey, tin I bargain you for a moment?”

Win couldn’t convey him properly, with truthful galore radical around, but she could instrumentality the favour erstwhile she saw him cornered by a grabby trustee. She caught his limb with affected urgency. “Darling, your begetter needs you.”

They ran into Bernard Milanowski successful the smoking lounge. Bernard had the aforesaid discerning look arsenic Leo, the aforesaid demanding jut of his chin, but Bernard expected obedience, not attention. He gave Win 1 abrupt, broad look, and nodded astatine Leo. Win tensed and straightened without thinking. A 2nd later, she realized Leo had, too. He fto Win respond monosyllabically to Bernard’s prosaic questions astir however they recovered the enactment portion helium stared distantly implicit his father’s head.

Win knew Bernard had lone invited her arsenic bait for the press. She got the content helium recovered her beingness to beryllium a distasteful necessity, similar having to extremity a maître d’ to get the champion table. After helium excused himself, Win and Leo fto retired duplicate sighs of relief.

“I’m not a cliché, by the way,” Leo said, arsenic they escaped to the balcony. “I don’t hatred my dad. I conscionable don’t attraction for him.”

“You’re precise complex,” Win agreed. She turned arsenic thing caught her eye. There was a waiter a fewer feet distant with an bare tray tucked nether his arm. He was leaning against the railing with 1 manus hanging carelessly astatine his side, his telephone angled toward them arsenic if by accident. Win couldn’t archer if helium was taking photos oregon filming. She nudged Leo precise gently, nodding successful the waiter’s direction. Leo kept his look casual arsenic helium glanced implicit his shoulder.

“He could astir apt get fired for that,” she said.

“Well,” Leo said, turning backmost to her, “let’s marque it worthy his while.” Win’s enactment caught arsenic Leo waited conscionable agelong capable to springiness her the accidental to archer him no, and past helium pressed guardant against her successful a sudden, lilting kiss. His rima was warm. She could consciousness his thorax against hers, the property of musculus connected silk. Win brought a manus up to cupful his cheek, which was cleared of stubble but inactive faintly rough, and she felt his grip tighten connected her waist. People would beryllium looking.

Leo broke off, and she fto her manus descent down to his neck.

“Too much?” helium murmured.

She astir laughed; it was astir funny. She’d popped 1 ft up erstwhile helium kissed her, not connected intent but instinctively, and she brought it down now. She could ideate the manager successful the corner, shouting, Cut!

“We got it,” Win said.

Leo eyed her, making immoderate judgement that she couldn’t way oregon decipher.

“Whitman Tagore,” helium said. “Would you similar to stock a joint?”

Even six months later, by past a diligent pupil successful what Leo called Marie’s House of Shame, Win couldn’t judge she’d risked it. She didn’t cognize Leo then, and if he’d wanted helium could person destroyed her with 1 well-timed photograph catching her successful the act. Win knew amended than to enactment her religion successful handsome strangers. But that nighttime she looked up into Leo’s secretive, smiling look and realized that an evening that should person been an ordeal was turning retired to beryllium the astir amusive she’d had successful weeks.

The rooftop was not rather finished, Astroturf fractional rolled down, wheelbarrows and tools inactive kicking around. Leo and Win slipped retired of presumption of the unfastened doorway and implicit to the edge. There was nary dependable oregon motion of the party. Leo’s weed was beardown but friendly, relaxing Win’s shoulders further.

“How galore of these bash you spell to?” Win asked, and Leo considered, taking different hit.

“One oregon 2 a year. My siblings and I commercialized them off,” helium said. “We utilized to spell unneurotic but 1 clip my member brought this truly shitty acid, and maine and my sister astir drowned successful the champagne fountain. Gum freaked retired and tried to bash CPR connected a statue. Dad said we were a atrocious power connected each other, truthful present it’s 1 kid per launch.”

Win wheezed with laughter, tucking her chemoreceptor against Leo’s shoulder. She ever got touchy erstwhile she was high, but helium didn’t look to mind, slouching obligingly truthful she had amended access.

“Then for a portion I brought my ain dates,” Leo continued. “But erstwhile I was eighteen I was seeing this German popular star—”

“I had a German fellow erstwhile I was seventeen,” Win said, remembering him fondly.

“Germans spell hard.”

“Germans spell hard,” Leo agreed. “And we, uh, we snuck disconnected to person enactment successful the assistance and we deed the exigency halt truthful nary 1 would know, but we didn’t announcement erstwhile they fixed it and the doors opened successful the mediate of the party…Dad was not happy. So present I don’t usually get to prime my ain dates.”

“How person I not seen photos of this?”

“Oh, Dad has 5 antithetic instrumentality firms connected retainer for crap similar this. There was my sister’s motorbike period, and the clip I got uppers mixed up with poppers, and different clip astatine the White House Correspondents’ Dinner wherever they decided for immoderate crushed it would beryllium a bully thought to person a abstracted enactment for anyone underage. Politicians’ kids are fucking crazy, determination were these 2 senators’ daughters passing maine betwixt them—”

“Oh, it’s been a hard life,” Win said, but she couldn’t halt laughing. They exchanged quick, pleased glances, investigating each different out, liking what they found.

“Well, you’ve had a mean childhood,” helium said. “I don’t cognize galore radical similar that. It’s mysterious.”

“Very mysterious,” Win agreed, and told him astir the raves she and Shift utilized to spell to and the model successful her household location she utilized to ascent backmost done until her mum wearily told her that she mightiness arsenic good conscionable usage the beforehand door. Leo had lived successful London connected and disconnected for years, but helium didn’t cognize the curry houses successful Aldgate wherever Win and her begetter utilized to spell aft school, oregon the location parties successful Brixton retired of whose windows Win had thrown up lone a fewer years earlier. Hilariously, helium thought helium mightiness person seen Shift play 1 of her aboriginal Dalston nightclub residencies, 2 years agone now: “That’s my champion friend!” Win said, pounding connected his enarthrosis successful glee.

“Maybe we were some there,” Leo said, and gallantly offered her the past hit.

They swanned backmost to the party, Win’s manus clasped lightly successful Leo’s, ducking astir models and moguls. People were inactive staring astatine them, but present the full happening felt ridiculous, Upper East Side snobs slumming it successful Brooklyn, pretending to unsmooth it portion they sneered astatine the disgraced Whitman Tagore. It made her laugh, and Leo laughed, too, without asking what the gag was. Win felt precocious and satisfied, arsenic though she could scope done the messiness and sound to make the enactment she wanted, each the information of the evening made impotent similar a defanged snake.

•••

The adjacent morning, it was the sheer measurement of photographs that shocked her the most. They had been immortalized successful movie astatine each infinitesimal of the party: Win and Leo catching eyes implicit different guest’s shoulder. Win and Leo dissolving into laughter astatine immoderate forever-private joke. Leo tucking his chin implicit Win’s enarthrosis arsenic helium excused her from a treatment with 1 of the Horizons investors. Win and Leo sequestered distant successful secretive corners, looking arsenic if they were whispering things excessively intimate to repeat. And of course, the kiss. His hands successful her hair, the footwear up of her bottommost arsenic she leaned into him. Afterward she had bitten her articulator and smiled, and their waiter had caught that, too.

Win went done the fourth, seventh, tenth gossip nonfiction astir them. They looked unbelievable together. She thought abruptly that it was downright selfish of Leo not to beryllium a existent actor. Directors dreamed of this benignant of chemistry. She lone stopped clicking erstwhile her telephone rang.

“Marie,” Win said. “I request to speech to—”

“I person him connected the different line,” Marie said. “Did you spot the Post? I’m sending you a nexus to the beforehand leafage close now.”

Under an overly excited headline, the main changeable was of Win and Leo waiting for their car. There had been a little ablution of rainfall, and information was excessively preoccupied with the photographers to bring them an umbrella. Instead Win held her silk cape up for some of them and they huddled nether it together, Leo’s manus wrapped astir her waist, his eyes sparkling betwixt camera flashes. The caption beneath the photograph read:

Whitman Tagore and Leo Milanowski leaving the party. Exactly however agelong the imagination romance has been going connected is unclear, but by the look of these pics, these 2 cognize each other…shall we say…intimately. Looks similar the witch has jumped disconnected her broom and into bed.

Below the article, comments were reeling successful connected an endless feed.

omg whitman tagore and leo milanowski!! im SO WEIRDLY into this!

ugh that formal is giving maine LIFE

how agelong has this been going on??

is she trolling us?

sucks to beryllium josip lol

couple of the twelvemonth tbh

“This is simply a large deal,” Marie said. “If we play it right, it could wholly eclipse the voicemail. It could bash much than that—it volition marque radical emotion you. All we request to bash is springiness them more.”

Win laughed. She hadn’t thought it would beryllium this easy. Just find different lad and marque him similar you, and the satellite volition travel suit.

“Hey,” Leo said erstwhile Marie had patched him through. “Your adjunct is beauteous intense.”

“She’s not my assistant.”

Leo made a disinterested noise; helium was harder to work implicit the phone, erstwhile Win couldn’t travel his assemblage connection and his cue. “What tin I bash for you, Whitman Tagore?”

She tried to dependable nervous, successful lawsuit that mightiness entreaty to him. “I’m just— I wanted to accidental convey you.”

“You’re welcome,” helium said. “Although, you should astir apt accidental what you’re thanking maine for—was it convey you for the Post oregon convey you for BuzzFeed?”

“You’ve seen the pictures,” Win said.

“They were hard to miss.”

“Well—thank you. For each of it. I had a truly bully clip with you.”

“Likewise.”

There was a pause. Even without him successful the room, she could consciousness his amusement. He was enjoying holding back, waiting to spot what she was going to accidental next.

“Leo.” She made her dependable breathy, similar she was pent up with excitement alternatively than determination. “I don’t cognize what it is astir you. I’d truly similar to spot you again.”

He laughed. “Is that your champion line? Did your adjunct constitute it for you?”

“She isn’t my assistant,” Win repeated, irritated.

“Try again,” Leo said. “I privation a amended story.”

“Okay, I don’t cognize what it is astir us. But radical similar it. I deliberation we have…”

“Chemistry?” Leo suggested.

“I was going to accidental signifier presence.”

He laughed again. “So what are you asking maine for?”

Win paused. When she archetypal started acting, it was due to the fact that she was bully astatine it, due to the fact that it was wherever she felt champion successful the world, inhabiting a quality and making them real. Her begetter had loved that astir her. He’d told her that she had a acquisition and that she shouldn’t squander it. She was definite that this—investing successful herself arsenic a brand, making radical attraction astir her idiosyncratic beingness and not her work—was not what he’d meant.

But it was becoming wide that her enactment wasn’t enough. And if she didn’t privation to squander her gift, if she wanted to enactment existent to her ambition and her father’s content successful her, she would person to marque definite that she got the opportunities she needed. To bash that, she had to beryllium liked. With Leo, she would beryllium loved.

Win took a steadying breath. “I privation america to unreal to date. I privation to beryllium seen with you, and I privation america to look good.”

Leo was soundless for a moment. If helium was impressed with her honesty, helium didn’t admit it. Eventually helium asked, “And what’s successful it for me?”

“You look bored,” she said. She thought of Leo’s lazy regard drifting astir the party, the mode his absorption had narrowed successful connected her. Leo seemed to similar playing games. Maybe helium would judge her arsenic a teammate. “I thought you could bash with a project.”

Leo laughed again, abbreviated and delighted this time, similar she’d caught him disconnected guard. “I’m flying backmost to London adjacent week for my friend’s assemblage opening. You tin person maine for 8 days. How’s that?”

“I deliberation that volition work,” Win said. She sank backmost into her chair. She was smiling. “As agelong arsenic you enactment connected a bully show.”

“If you amusement maine a bully time,” Leo said, truthful that Win could perceive him grinning implicit the phone, “the remainder of the satellite volition person a bully time, too. I promise.”

Annoyingly, helium was right.

Excerpted from The View was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta. Copyright © 2021 by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta. Reprinted with support of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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