Once and Again...Once Again
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Summary of Thieves Like Us
By Angela Stockton
Edited by Elizabeth Eccher
Like giddy rabbits, Grace and Carla hop out of a store, Eli tagging along and grinning at their antics. [To the camera, Grace says, "I know how it started. It started because we both wanted to spend time with Carla. So now we're like good friends -- sort of."] To Grace and Eli's horror, Carla nonchalantly jaywalks across a busy street, forcing drivers to slam on their brakes.
Whiling away an afternoon, the teens drop into another store where Eli examines the greeting card display, Grace tries on sunglasses, and Carla brazenly stuffs packages of cupcakes into her jacket. "See anything you want?" she asks Grace, smirking.
Later, Carla offers to share the stolen cupcakes with Grace, who can't bring herself to accept. When Carla tosses a wrapper in the general direction of the trash can and misses, Grace feels obligated to pick up after her. She watches uncomfortably as Carla and Eli share a cupcake.
Meanwhile, Lily calls Rick from her office to cancel her dinner date with Rick because she has to work late. Rick is forced to admit that he'd forgotten all about it. They decide to have dinner the next night, with their children included.
At the same time, Jessie is at Dr. Rosenfeld's office, where she's put off by the way he noisily sips his water and wipes his mouth, and by the house slippers he's wearing. He stares at her silently until Jessie feels compelled to speak, if only to say that she has nothing to say. When she adds that she has been eating recently, she's disappointed that he looks at her with undisguised skepticism. "Don't you believe me?" she asks. "Why wouldn't I believe you?" he counters.
Eli takes Carla and Grace to Rick's apartment. Grace has never seen it before, and she looks around with avid curiosity. Carla beckons Grace to join her upstairs. They enter Jessie's room, where Grace watches in dismay as Carla handles Jessie's stuffed animals and props her feet on the bed. When Eli comes to shoo them out, Carla drawls, "He thinks we're in looove!" Carla and Eli grope each other until she playfully pushes him away and "warns" him, "Hey, no means no!"
Eli again orders Carla and Grace to leave Jessie's room, but first Carla picks up one of Jessie's bras and slingshots it toward Eli, then palms a jar of glitter makeup. Pointing to a framed photo of Jessie, she confounds Grace by remarking that Eli's sister is sexy.
When Eli and Carla start to kiss, Grace "remembers" that she is thirsty, and leaves Jessie's room to go downstairs. But with no idea how to entertain herself alone in a strange apartment, she sits and stares at the walls and listens to Carla giggling in Eli's room.
The strumming of a guitar seems like a signal that the coast is clear, but just as Grace starts to open Eli's door, more lewd giggles from Carla and Eli send her retreating to Jessie's room. Seeing the jar of glitter, she picks it up and gazes at her reflection in Jessie's mirror. Just as she is about to apply glitter to her face, she hears Carla calling her. Quickly she places the glitter back on the dresser - only to reach back and snatch it up before leaving the room.
Next day, Carla and Grace are in English class, where Mr. Nerolik, the teacher, is explaining "unity of effect," Edgar Allan Poe's theory of constructing a work of fiction. When the dismissal bell rings, he tells Carla that he needs to see her after class on Friday. She responds by "saluting" insolently and tossing a chewing-gum wrapper onto the floor. Grace again feels compelled to pick up after her friend.
When Lily arrives home, she's met by Zoe, who warns her that Carla is there. Zoe has taken a fierce dislike to Carla, particularly the black gum that she chews eight pieces at a time, and her habit of dropping the wrappers everywhere except in the wastebasket. Lily walks into the kitchen, where Carla is snooping in a folder stamped with the pagesAlive logo, and Grace is whining that no one cooks dinner in their house any more. Lily tactfully relieves Carla of the folder and informs Grace that they're having dinner at Rick's.
Grace takes her mother aside, trying to wangle an invitation for Carla; but Lily is adamant that the invitation does not extend to her, and ends their testy discussion by ordering Grace to get dressed. As Lily turns back toward the kitchen, she overhears Carla on the telephone. Carla lies that she has already eaten dinner and asks to speak to her mother. Lily hears her ask petulantly, "Would it be asking too much to let me speak to my own mother, please?" While she lurks out of Carla's sight, Lily sees her throw a gum wrapper on the kitchen floor.
During dinner, Rick observes that the evening is not quite as "nightmarish" as usual; Lily quips, "Let's not play Monopoly, though." While Eli, Grace and Zoe are still eating, Jessie asks to be excused. Seeing her father's uncertainty, she insists that she ate two "gigantic" pieces of pizza, and that the others saw her. When he still hesitates, she challenges him to count the slices to see how many are missing. Rick relents and Jessie, saying she has homework, shoulders her bulging backpack and leaves the dining room.
After dinner, Grace keeps Eli company while he's playing his guitar. Leafing through a magazine, she's dispirited by the sight of a saccharin greeting card which Eli has addressed to "Dear Carla." In the dining room, Rick counts pizza slices, trying to verify his daughter's account of her consumption.
In Jessie's bedroom, Zoe visits with Jessie, who suddenly realizes that the jar of glitter is gone. She storms into Eli's room, loudly asking who's been in her room and saying that she knows Eli brings his girlfriends around when their father is not there. Trying to shush her, he insists that no one took anything from her room, and turns to Grace for corroboration, which she stammers out. Jessie demands that the glitter be returned by the next day.
When Rick and Lily knock on Eli's door, they feel the tension and quickly learn that something has disappeared from Jessie's room. However, Jessie refuses to identify exactly what's missing other than to say, "It's something I need for school." Trying to be helpful, Lily searches Jessie's room. Under the bed she finds a crumpled gum wrapper, Carla's brand.
Rick wonders if Jessie left "it" at Karen's house and offers to drive her there. When they enter the dining room, he sees Karen hurriedly stuff a folder into her briefcase. Rick explains their errand, and Karen laughs understandingly, saying that losing things is genetic - she's just lost something herself. [In black and white, Karen explains that the lost item is a jar of "glittery stuff that you put on your face and...other areas. I think I must have inadvertently thrown it away. I think part of me wanted to get rid of it because it was somewhat inappropriate -- too young for me," she says in embarrassment.]
While Jessie "searches," Rick confidently tells Karen that Jessie ate two pieces of pizza. She asks if he actually saw her eat, and he lies that he did.
When Jessie reports that she hasn't found her missing item, Karen offers to help her look. Left alone with Karen's briefcase, Rick struggles with temptation for only a moment before he opens it. He has just enough time to see that the folder is a private investigator's report on Miles Drentell before he hears Karen returning. Quickly he returns the folder to the briefcase.
Saying that she has some reading to do, Karen broadly hints that Rick should leave. Though still skeptical, she agrees that it's great that Jessie ate the pizza. But before she can press him for details, Rick nervously says he has to go.
In her bedroom, Grace takes the glitter from its hiding place and sets it on her desk. Seconds later, Lily knocks and opens the door. "Mom, I would appreciate some privacy!" Grace snaps at her; but Lily, seeing it as nothing more sinister than an adolescent mood swing, seats herself on the bed.
She asks Grace if Carla is spending time at Rick's, mentions the gum wrapper under Jessie's bed, and asks if Grace thinks that Carla could have stolen something from Jessie's room. As Grace heatedly defends Carla, Lily looks past her to the desk. "Is that..." she asks; Grace visibly tenses before Lily finishes, "...my garnet necklace?" Grace exhales when Lily picks up the necklace, ignoring the glitter.
Zoe enters the room, spots the glitter, and starts to reach for it, only to have Grace snatch it away. Before Lily can do more than comment that the glitter is "the good stuff," the ringing doorbell and Zoe's "Rick's here!" divert her, and she leaves. Though relieved, Grace is unable to fully relax, not certain that she's been ruled out as a suspect.
Rick feels compelled to share with Lily the existence of the private investigator's report. However, Lily is less shocked by the fact that Karen's clients have spied on Rick and Miles than she is by Rick's having opened the briefcase. While feverishly searching the kitchen cabinets for her Scotch, he agonizes over what to tell Miles. "I wish I didn't know this," he moans, and abruptly declares that he needs to leave.
"Because there's nothing to drink?" Lily asks derisively. To a chastened Rick, she shares her suspicions about the thief in Jessie's room. Later, Rick confronts Eli, who admits that he has brought Carla to the apartment, but hotly denies that she has stolen anything.
Grace takes a phone call from Spencer Lewicki, who asks, "So what's unity of effect?" But since he answers his own question before Grace can, it's clear that it was only a pretext for talking to her. [In black and white, Grace glumly asks, "Here's the question: Who would sit in someone else's room, waiting for two people to finish...enjoying themselves? What kind of person would do that?"]
Grace tells Spencer that there's something wrong with her; Spencer assures her that there's something wrong with everybody. "What if I'm just going to be alone for the rest of my life?" she asks. He replies comfortingly, "I sorta believe there's someone out there for everyone. It's what keeps me going." Moved to tears, Grace quickly hangs up and sprawls, crying, across her bed.
The following morning, as Lily and her daughters are having breakfast, Rick calls and asks to speak to Grace. Taut with apprehension, she's stunned when he merely asks her to go with him on Friday to shop for a birthday present for her mother. But his comment that it will be an opportunity for them to talk unnerves her all over again.
During lunch with Miles in a Middle Eastern restaurant, Rick is appalled when Miles pumps him for anything he can use against Karen. "Is she still in love with you?" he asks bluntly. The normally all-business Miles turns his head when a statuesque blonde walks past their table, while Rick nervously eyes a dark, burly man seated at the bar.
In English class, Mr. Nerolik pauses in his reading of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" to call for comments. "Wasn't Poe a drug addict?" Carla asks, asserting that "they" don't want to admit that a drug user can be a successful writer. Spencer argues that since Poe died penniless and in debt, he wasn't successful. Mr. Nerolik, struggling to minimize digressions, asks why the narrator keeps hearing a relentless heartbeat. "Why does the beating get louder and louder until it becomes almost unbearable?" he persists. "What dark emotion could he be attempting--"
"Guilt!" Grace shouts. Though pleased that she answered correctly, Mr. Nerolik is startled by the vehemence of her outburst, as are the other students.
After school, Carla, Grace and Eli again go to Rick's apartment. Grace slips upstairs to Jessie's room and rummages in her purse, but she can't seem to find what she's looking for and dumps the contents onto Jessie's bedroom floor. In the kitchen, Eli brings up Carla's earlier remark about their being in love. "Like that would be so impossible?" he asks.
"It is on my part," she replies flatly. With her back to Eli, she doesn't see the heartbreak in his face. "You're just not the type I fall in love with and get obsessed with, and that's good. You don't want to see me when I fall in love. I get insane," she says as indifferently as if discussing an allergic reaction.
His illusions destroyed for the moment, Eli mentions Jessie's missing glitter and demands that Carla return it. "You think I'd steal?" she asks in disbelief.
"I've seen you steal," he reminds her.
"From a store, not from someone's little sister!" she insists righteously, dismissing the issue with, "Glitter is so over, people's mothers wear glitter now!"
Carla goes to Jessie's room, where she finds Grace kneeling on the floor, refilling her purse. Grace lies that she's looking for a pencil. "Try her desk," Carla suggests coolly.
With Carla watching her, Grace dutifully opens the desk drawer. Inside, she is stunned to find two slices of dried-out pizza. She immediately understands their significance but closes the drawer, saying, "No pencils."
"Just put it back, OK?" Carla sneers. In spite of Grace's denials (which are less convincing since she can't look Carla in the eye), Carla accuses her of having stolen the glitter to spite Carla and Eli, and possibly to break them up. "You do not want to be my enemy," she warns Grace menacingly.
"Guess what -- I'm not afraid of you!" Grace taunts her, just before Eli arrives to order them both out.
On Friday morning, Grace lies to Lily that she has to meet with Mr. Nerolik after school, and begs her to call Rick and cancel the shopping trip. Lily replies that Rick will understand if she has to cancel, but she insists that Grace call him herself. She offers to give Grace his cell-phone number, again failing to observe how nervous Grace is.
Rick and Miles meet at the same Middle Eastern restaurant where they had lunch the day before. Miles calls Rick's attention to the blonde whom Rick noticed the day before and mentions that not only does he see her every time he comes to this restaurant, but he has also seen her behind him in the drive-through lane at his bank, her silver sedan with its cracked headlight impossible to miss. To Miles, it's clear that she is interested in him but won't make the first move, and he wonders aloud when he should speak to her.
Having his own theory about why she is following Miles, Rick excuses himself to "look" for the wallet which he "thinks" he left in his car. In the parking lot, he spots the silver sedan, and crouches to let the air out of one tire. The sudden ringing of his cell phone startles him. "Hello?" he answers sharply. The caller is only Grace, calling from a pay phone at school, but she is as nervous as Rick and hangs up without speaking to him.
After English class, everyone files out except Grace and Carla. Mr. Nerolik asks Grace to leave, but on her way out, she hears him accuse Carla of plagiarism. "She didn't steal my ideas. How do you know I didn't steal from her?" Grace defends her.
Carla leaves her desk and apologizes to Grace for accusing her of stealing the glitter: "I was just mad at Eli. It was so insane, like you'd steal - you wouldn't even eat those cupcakes!" As the girls exchange a tearful hug, Mr. Nerolik says sardonically, "Say goodnight, Gracie."
At the same time, Jessie has another session with Dr. Rosenfeld. She confesses to him that she "borrowed without asking" a jar of glitter from her mother. "You stole it," he gently corrects her. As her tears flow, Jessie tells Dr. Rosenfeld, "My mother never even used to wear makeup. Why does she want it now? Now she wants attention, now she wants to be beautiful, now, for Leo. Why did she have to wait so long?"
During their outing, Grace mentions to Rick that her mother likes bath oil. In turn, Rick tells Grace that he has to ask her something about Jessie. She tenses, but to her surprise, he tells her that he and Jessie's mother are worried about their daughter, that she claims she's eating but they aren't sure. He reminds her about the pizza dinner when Jessie claimed that she ate two pieces, and asks if Grace saw her eat.
Grace stammers that she doesn't remember. "It could be worse -- she could be hiding food," Rick says, as Grace, walking ahead of him, rolls her eyes. "Sometimes people behave in ways you can't explain. It doesn't seem like you--"
"But you don't want to be you -- that's why you're doing it. Probably," Grace finishes awkwardly.
Rick ponders her insight, then says out of the blue, "Your mother is really important to me."
"I know," Grace answers shyly.
"Good. Let's go find some bath oil," he suggests. Arm in arm, they continue shopping.
Accompanied by Zoe, Lily picks up Jessie from her therapy session. In the back seat, Zoe whispers to Jessie, "Wanna see something?" and pulls from her backpack the jar of glitter.
"Where did you find that?" Jessie asks in astonishment.
"I stole it from my sister," Zoe answers matter-of-factly. In Jessie's mind, the pieces fall into place.
Rick meets them at Lily's house to pick up Jessie. Grace tenses and steps into a shadowy corner of the kitchen as she hears her mother ask Jessie, "Whatever happened to that thing you couldn't find?"
"It was right there the whole time," Jessie replies. Startled, Grace turns to face Jessie. "Good-bye, Grace," Jessie says pointedly. Grace smiles in relief.
Later that evening, Zoe closets herself in the bathroom and, opening the jar, rubs glitter across her cheeks. She smiles at her reflection in the mirror.
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