51: Viewing Party

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Months before the movie is released, the filming is completed and the cast goes to a viewing party to see the final product before it is released to the public in theatres. They meet at the theatre at the specified time and sit in the rows of chairs set up for the event. 

Adrian sits on Autumn's right, and the seat to her left remains empty until Jaxson enters a few minutes later. They glance at each other, but Jaxson breaks his eyes away. 

In that moment of eye contact, though, it hits her. She almost falls out of her chair. 

He looks like her dad. 

***

"Autumn! Look!"

She looked into his eyes, bright blue, and saw the fun and excitement reflected in his eyes. Her father was always a very enthusiastic man. 

Held up to his face was a picture book, the exact size of his face. The dark cover, which depicted the night sky, matched the shady color of his hair. Autumn clapped her toddler hands together, grinning ear to ear. 

"Yay! Bookie!" she cheered. 

Her dad laughed and opened the book, and started reading, his voice full of inflection and enthusiasm. "Once upon a time..." he read. He used different voices for each character, and though this was Autumn's favorite book and they read it almost every night, the voices for each character changed every time it was read, which made her giggle. 

When they finished the book, he closed it and looked at his daughter. "I love you," he said. "Remember that always."

In the innocent mind of a four-year-old, it was nothing out of the ordinary for a father to tell his daughter he loves her. But this was different. 

He left the next morning for work and didn't come back. That was the first time Autumn had seen her mother cry. After that day, she was much more vulnerable. More fragile. Weaker. 

***

Autumn's mother stared at a photo, her eyes unfocused. Autumn walked in on her. 

"Who's that?" she asked. 

Her mother snapped back to attention and slammed the portrait of the blue-eyed, dark-haired man with the long nose onto the desk. "No one! I mean... well..."

Autumn, now aged twelve, waited expectantly for her mother's answer. This wasn't the first time she had caught her staring at the man. 

"I... I suppose you're old enough to know..." her mother said. She burst into tears. 

Autumn rushed to her side to comfort her, not alarmed but knowing how to soothe her after eight years of the emotionalism of her mother. "It's okay, Mom. Whatever it is, you can tell me. It'll make you feel better," she said, rubbing her mother's back. 

"I... I...It's your... father..." she said between sobs. "I'm... so sorry... can we... talk... about this later..?"

"Sure, Mom,"

They never did. 

***

"Autumn?"

She looks up, and realizes she has been staring at the floor with a worried expression. She blinks and relaxes the muscles of her face. "Sorry," she apologizes, "I was just thinking about... stuff,"

Adrian nods, glad that nothing seems to be wrong. 

She focuses her attention back on the blank screen in front of her, but unfocuses her eyes again. The man to her left had those dark blue eyes of her father's, his dark-as-the-night-sky hair. 

Who did that make him?

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