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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Chapter 30

YOU AND CELIA DIDN’T HAVE any contact at all?” I ask.

Evelyn shakes her head. She stands up and walks over to the window and opens it a crack. The breeze that streams in is welcome. When she sits back down, she looks at me, ready to move on to something else. But I’m too baffled.

“How long were the two of you together by that point?”

“Three years?” Evelyn says. “Just about.”

“And she just left? Without another word?”

Evelyn nods.

“Did you try to call her?”

She shakes her head. “I was . . . I didn’t yet know that it is OK to grovel for something you really want. I thought that if she didn’t want me, if she didn’t understand why I did what I did, then I didn’t need her.”

“And you were OK?”

“No, I was miserable. I was hung up on her for years. I mean, sure, I spent my time having fun. Don’t get me wrong. But Celia was nowhere in sight. In fact, I would read copies of Sub Rosa because Celia’s picture was in them, analyzing the other people with her in the photos, wondering who they were to her, how she knew them. I know now that she was just as heartbroken as I was. That somewhere in her head, she was waiting for me to call her and apologize. But at the time, I just ached all alone.”

“Do you regret that you didn’t call her?” I ask her. “That you lost that time?”

Evelyn looks at me as if I am stupid. “She’s gone now,” Evelyn says. “The love of my life is gone, and I can’t just call her and say I’m sorry and have her come back. She’s gone forever. So yes, Monique, that is something I do regret. I regret every second I didn’t spend with her. I regret every stupid thing I did that caused her an ounce of pain. I should have chased her down the street the day she left me. I should have begged her to stay. I should have apologized and sent roses and stood on top of the Hollywood sign and shouted, ‘I’m in love with Celia St. James!’ and let them crucify me for it. That’s what I should have done. And now that I don’t have her, and I have more money than I could ever use in this lifetime, and my name is cemented in Hollywood history, and I know how hollow it is, I am kicking myself for every single second I chose it over loving her proudly. But that’s a luxury. You can do that when you’re rich and famous. You can decide that wealth and renown are worthless when you have them. Back then, I still thought I had all the time I needed to do everything I wanted. That if I just played my cards right, I could have it all.”

“You thought she’d come back to you,” I say.

“I knew she’d come back to me,” Evelyn says. “And she knew it, too. We both knew our time wasn’t over.”

I hear the distinct sound of my phone. But it isn’t the familiar tone of a regular text message. It is the beep I set just for David, last year when I got the phone, just after we were married, when it never occurred to me that he’d ever stop texting.

I look down briefly to see his name. And beneath it: I think we should talk. This is too huge, M. It’s happening too fast. We have to talk about it. I put it out of my mind instantly.

“So you knew she was coming back to you, but you married Rex North anyway?” I ask, refocused.

Evelyn lowers her head for a moment, preparing to explain herself. “Anna Karenina was way over budget. We were weeks behind schedule. Rex was Count Vronsky. By the time the director’s cut came in, we knew the entire thing had to be reedited, and we needed to bring someone else in to save it.”

“And you had a stake in the box office.”

“Both Harry and I did. It was his first movie after leaving Sunset Studios. If it flopped, he would have a hard time getting another meeting in town.”

“And you? What would have happened to you if it flopped?”

“If my first project after Boute-en-Train didn’t do well, I was worried I’d be a flash in the pan. I’d risen from ashes more than once by that point. But I didn’t want to have to do it again. So I did the one thing I knew would get people desperate to see the movie. I married Count Vronsky.”


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