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Ryan Kim 6214 Rocktrail Oval Middleville, AV 02102 firstname.lastname@example.org 703-555-6415
EXT. UNCLE JIM’S HOUSE - DAY A BOY, 22 years old, stands outside of his Honda Civic and takes a deep breath. He has an empty look in his eyes and he looks up at his uncle’s four bedroom, two and a half baths, one den, and two car garage single house with a backyard and front lawn. The BOY stands and looks at the suburban home. He closes his eyes and breathes in deeply. He has dark, short hair that hasn’t been brushed. He hasn’t taken a shower in days, not since the tests. The doctor told him he would call him with the results as soon as possible. But he didn’t quite trust the doctor. When he was in his office there were a number of golf trophies, posters, and memorabilia that ate up the space in between check-up rooms and the hallway. He wasn’t sure whether the doctor was qualified to be practicing medicine anymore. The only plaque hanging from the wall that had anything to do with medicine was one that said, “Voted One of the Best Doctors in America – 1999.” He was starting to feel the stress of having to be checked out by a “had been” Best Doctor of a decade long gone. This was like winning an opportunity to meet the Heavyweight Champion boxer from 1976, who would most likely be in a wheelchair with dementia, a champion from a year he could no longer remember. The doctor had drawn blood and urine, CAT scanned and MRIed the life out of him, figuratively. After all those tests, the doctor had told him that it would be a few days before the results. That’s what the doctor before this one told him and the results weren’t positive, which was why he was led to more tests and to more incompetent doctors. He had overheard the golf doctor make plans to shoot 9 later that day. The doc was probably playing when he should’ve been getting answers from his blood. The BOY looked back on his life. The lies he told to sleep with girls, the times he had cheated on exams, manipulating people for his benefit and entertainment. All to get what he wanted. How vain, he thinks. How meaningless his life is, would be. Hence, the lack of showers, the surplus of grease in his hair, and his overall negative attitude on this day when he has to babysit his young cousin. This is SAM. INT. UNCLE JIM’S HOUSE - DAY SAM enters the living room as A MAN walks frantically through his house, grabbing keys, laptop, bag, and yells out instructions as he paces back and forth, wondering if he’s forgotten something. He walks around looking for something that he can’t seem to find and seems nervous. He is nervous because today could be his last day at work. The company is merging with another and for efficiency’s sake, they are laying off those
with “unnecessary” positions. For three whole, blissful, 2 week with vacation, 401k, dental and medical insurance beneficial, carefree months, he was happy. He could breathe. He could enjoy the living room he had recently painted a nice robin’s egg blue. He could enjoy the 52 inch flat screen HDTV he had bought to liven up the living room. He, his wife, and daughter could sit out on the deck on a nice, breezy Saturday afternoon eating medium rare ribeye steaks with a cool Guinness to compliment the red meat while his daughter ate macaroni and cheese with a cold Capri Sun to wash it all down. His daughter would ask if she could go back inside and watch a movie on the new TV and he would say yes. She could turn on and work a digital camera when she was five, popping in a Blu-Ray was the next, natural step. He and his wife would remain outside and enjoy another Guinness, savoring every dark, roasty sip. He stopped trying to fill in the awkward silences long ago because that was when they were still without a child and those silences were awkward mainly because of that absence, but now as Up played on the TV in the background, he could share this moment with his wife without any pressure, without fear of being impotent. He and his wife could just sit in a comfortable silence, knowing that it wasn’t completely quiet and with joy they were thankful to the god of First Presbyterian Church of God because if it wasn’t for Bill, a member who helped him get on his feet financially, then all this wouldn’t be possible. Of course, the irony is that if it wasn’t for Bill, he wouldn’t be as worried as he is now, or angry. Angry that Bill gave him an “unnecessary” position, that these 3 months weren’t a taste, but a tease of things he could never fully enjoy in security. Now, he’s wondering what to do if he loses it, he can hope for a severance pay, but it wouldn’t be enough for his wife to stay. He told his wife the bad news the night before last and she stayed silent and it was a very different kind of awkward. She had enough of Jim’s insecure security; she should’ve married John the accounting major, not Jim the hopeful photographer slash starving artist. The concept was too romantic to pass up: a poor photographer trying to pay the bills with freelancing while a wishful contemporary ballet dancer would make ends meet working as an office assistant. But at least they had each other. Thoughts of regret sent Sarah out to work early this particular day, leaving him to get a babysitter for the day since it was a teacher work day. He had gotten his nephew to babysit, who reminded him of himself when he was young. He quietly hoped that his nephew wouldn’t turn out the way he did, forsaking photography and getting certifications and licenses in real estate and computer programming in hopes of finding a stable job to take care of his mortgage, car lease, and private school bills. All to be a “good, responsible father”
as Sarah defined it. He finds his Rayban sunglasses, even though it is forecasted to rain that day and gathers his things in his little bag and is ready to leave in his leased Lexus. This is UNCLE JIM. Sam walks into the house and is greeted by Uncle Jim’s last minute instructions. UNCLE JIM (rushing to the door) Sam, remember to feed BELLA no later than 1, ok? She likes the crust cut off her sandwiches and she won’t eat just peanut butter. You have to put on a lot of strawberry jam, but not too much and don’t forget to give her milk. She doesn’t really like it, but just make her drink it. Any questions? SAM Do you have any beer? UNCLE JIM (waves him off with a hand) Don’t drink in front of BELLA, Sam. And… (in a whisper) Don’t curse in front of her. She likes using new words she learned at the dinner table. SAM Alright, Uncle Jim, I’ll make sure I won’t say ass. UNCLE JIM Damn it, Sam! A gasp echoes throughout the house. The word ass and damn echoing through a LITTLE GIRL’s ears and being embedded into her mind for later use at the dinner table when she will describe how her ass hurts from the discomfort of the damn chair. Her mother will look at Uncle Jim and he will blame it on Sam. UNCLE JIM (waving his hands in denial)
Oh, no. Daddy meant damn as in dams that people build to keep in water, like beavers. Daddy was just telling Sam to dam up his mouth. It’s an adult saying. Don’t use that word, ok? Ok, behave. Bye-bye now. Uncle Jim gives Sam a dirty look as he leaves. Sam stares indifferently, but his look changes to nervousness when he thinks about the uncertainty of the test results, which will come later this day when he is still babysitting Bella. These test results will change Sam and Bella’s lives. IN THE LIVING ROOM A LITTLE GIRL, about 12 years old, is eating Fruity Pebbles in front of a 52 inch HDTV. Sam feels his age. She doesn’t know what it’s like turning on a 20 inch television set with a dial. She doesn’t know why it would be necessary to wrestle with an antenna on top of a television set to clear out static in hopes of finding a new channel, perhaps even an erotic one. And she doesn’t know what it’s like to turn down the volume just enough so only the pubescent viewer can hear it; she doesn’t know what it’s like to squint, trying to make out the fuzzy images, using one’s own imagination to fill out the blurry parts. The only thing she would ever know is HD and then 3D; the only time she would see TV on a regular 27 inch screen is when she would go over to her friend’s house when she was 15 years old and all she would do is complain about how they should’ve just went to her house and pretty soon they’ll stop being friends. She sits on a Friday morning eating cereal and watching Scooby-Doo, but it won’t capture her attention for long; she only watches to keep her eyes busy. She eats fast to get back to her Nintendo DS. She leaves the TV on as she does this because the one thing she can’t stand is silence. It scares her. Silence means nothing is happening and if nothing is happening then it must be dead. What is it? Everything. To her, silence = death. And death is the last thing on her young mind. She has so much to live, nothing to live for, but she has much to experience. Piercing her ears without her parent’s permission, being peer pressured into smoking marijuana, losing her virginity to a boy who says he’ll love her, getting a tattoo on her ankle of a butterfly which will grow bigger as her ankle becomes one with her calf. And she’ll do all this to avoid having a quiet moment. She’ll blast the volume on all the Blu-Ray movies she’ll watch and her parents will be comforted by her loudness because they can’t
stand the impotence of silence either. But someday she’ll realize that silence is great and good; everything that she had dreaded would become everything she had hoped for. All of the indie bands she would listen to, all of the trip-hop, all of the soundtracks to movies she only saw once would be in vain. She’ll cry because of her loud past and her loud future. She’ll be dying of the same disease that killed her beloved cousin, Sam, when she was about 12 years old. Test after test and no relief from pain. Groans and screams from agony. She’ll remember Sam’s silence and the loud mourning at his funeral. She’ll remember how he enjoyed sitting outside on their deck drinking her father’s Guinness. She’ll smile a bittersweet smile, trying to enjoy the silence around her because no one will be at her deathbed. Of course, this was how her life was supposed to pan out. But it wouldn’t and it would be because of this day and Sam’s remaining years with her. Sam would change the way she lived her life, changing her potential daily habits, including her dietary and physical ones such as smoking, drinking, and recklessly fornicating. These seemingly small changes will save her from the horrible disease that will kill Sam and would’ve killed her. This LITTLE GIRL’s life will be changed. This is BELLA. SAM Hey, Bella. What’re you watching? BELLA I don’t know. SAM You don’t know? It’s Scooby-Doo. Classic. Bella doesn’t respond as she finishes the last bite of her cereal and drops the spoon into the bowl. SAM How’s your cereal? BELLA It’s soggy. SAM That’s too bad. Bella puts her bowl down on the floor with the milk still in it and grabs her Nintendo DS.
SAM Aren’t you going to put your bowl in the sink? BELLA No. SAM Why not? BELLA I don’t want to. Normally, Sam couldn’t care less about what Bella did or didn’t do. It was her life and her decision. But that was how Sam thought before he felt a sharp pain in his stomach, which he blamed on the 50 wings and pitcher of beer he consumed on Wing Night. It happened on occasion, but a few days passed and the pain only got worse as he started to puke his brains out. After a few visits to the doctor, pending test results, Sam has changed. He cares what Bella does or doesn’t do. He doesn’t know why yet, but he really would appreciate it if she listened to him. SAM (with parental authority) Bella, put your bowl in the sink. BELLA No. SAM Bella, if you don’t put it away, I’m taking away your Nintendo. BELLA No. Sam takes away the Nintendo DS and turns it off. BELLA Hey! I didn’t save the game! SAM Put your bowl away.
BELLA No! Give it back! SAM No. Sam holds the DS above his head where Bella can’t reach. BELLA Give it back! SAM Put your bowl in the sink. Bella grabs her bowl and takes it to the kitchen and is about to pour the milk down the drain. SAM Drink the milk. BELLA (with a look of betrayal) No fair. You just said to put it in the sink. SAM It’s not good to waste food. BELLA It’s not food. It’s milk. SAM Drink it. BELLA I don’t like milk. SAM It’s not going down that drain. You better drink it. Bella furrows her brow and then smiles mischievously. SAM What?
Bella holds the bowl over the kitchen floor and pours it all out, white spray ricocheting onto her red sweatpants. SAM What the hell? BELLA (with judging eyes) You said a bad word. SAM You’re being bad. Clean it up. BELLA I don’t know where the paper towels are. SAM Then you’re not getting your DS back. Sam takes the DS and puts it in his pocket. BELLA (yelling) But I don’t know where the paper towels are! Bella accidently drops the bowl onto the ground splashing more milk onto her pants. SAM (yelling and pointing to the paper towels next to the sink) Bella, the paper towels are right there! So just clean it up! Bella starts to whimper and starts crying. Sam closes his eyes and breathes deeply. SAM Why are you crying? Bella starts to bawl. BELLA I hate you.
Bella runs away upstairs in her soggy pants. Sam lets her go and watches the paper towels soak up the 2%.
LATER Sam sits at the kitchen table sipping a Guinness. He looks around the kitchen and sees a family portrait of Bella, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Sarah. Sam studies the picture, most likely taken by a professional with the lighting just right, all of them wearing matching outfits. Sam smiles faintly at the thought of raising a family, but his smile fades as he thinks about raising a daughter like Bella, or worse, a son like him. He’s about to take another sip of beer, and then his cell phone rings. He looks at the caller ID and it says “Doc.” SAM (nervously stands up and walks to the kitchen window) Hello? Hi. Yes, this is him. (paces back and forth) What does that mean? No, I don’t want to come in. I want you to tell me right now. (stops pacing) How long? Please just tell me an estimate. (walks over to the kitchen counter) I see. No, I’ll call back to schedule another appointment. I’m sorry too. Sam hangs up the phone and sits back down at the table. He takes the Guinness bottle and throws it at the wall, letting the rest of the beer spill out onto the floor. Sam sits, he covers his face, and a sob escapes him. He stands up to grab some paper towels to clean up the mess and he sees another picture. It’s a picture of Bella when she was about 7, running around outside at a playground. UPSTAIRS Sam approaches Bella’s room and knocks on the door.
SAM (softly) Bella? Are you in there? (closes eyes and takes deep breath) Listen, Bella. I’m really sorry. I was angry and I shouldn’t have yelled like that. Please open the door. BELLA No. SAM Come on, Bella. You can’t stay in your room forever, just open the door and let’s talk. BELLA No, I don’t care. SAM Come on, please. It’s almost lunch time. You must be getting hungry. BELLA What’s for lunch? SAM Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. BELLA I want pizza. SAM Open the door and we’ll talk about it. BELLA I want pizza. SAM Bella, open the door or you won’t eat at all. The door opens slowly and Sam sees Bella run back to her bed where her laptop is.
SAM What? You have a laptop? BELLA Doesn’t everyone? SAM I mean yeah, but you’re just a kid. What’re you doing with a laptop? BELLA For like homework and stuff. I’m going on pizzahut.com, so we can order. SAM You don’t need a laptop to do homework and we’re not eating pizza. Let’s go downstairs, I want to talk to you. BELLA Wait, I’m playing a game. SAM Don’t make me unplug your laptop. BELLA It doesn’t matter, there’s a battery. SAM (in a serious tone) Bella. BELLA Fine. Bella closes her laptop and walks past Sam to go downstairs. IN THE LIVING ROOM Bella turns on the TV and sits on the couch. Sam turns off the TV and sits down next to Bella. BELLA Hey! SAM Bella, we need to talk.
BELLA Turn the TV back on! SAM No. Bella grabs the remote and tries to turn the TV back on, but Sam grabs it out of her hands before she can. BELLA Why can’t I watch TV? SAM Because I want to talk to you. BELLA I can do both. SAM I know you can, but I want you to focus. BELLA If I focus, can we eat pizza? SAM Bella, that’s what I want to talk to you about. BELLA Pizza? SAM No, I just want to talk to you about you without the TV and laptop and Nintendo. BELLA (sighs and rolls her eyes) Let’s just eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. SAM We’ll eat, but I want to talk to you first.
Bella takes out her “smart” phone and starts to play with it. SAM When did you get a phone? BELLA (entranced with her phone) When I told mom and dad that there were some kids who didn’t have phones and went missing. SAM What? Having a phone isn’t going to prevent kidnapping. How do you even know that they didn’t have phones? BELLA Well, if they had a phone they could’ve called someone. SAM What if the kidnappers took away their phones? BELLA I don’t know. The lady that came to talk to us didn’t tell us that. SAM What lady? BELLA The lady who came to talk to us about safety when we’re playing outside. She works for some phone company. SAM Go figure. Wait, but you don’t even play outside. BELLA I do sometimes. SAM
When was the last time you went outside? BELLA I don’t know. Sam looks around the cozy living room, the Nintendo DS still in his pocket; he looks at the big screen TV with a surround sound system, countless Blu-Ray movies stocked next to it. He thinks about the laptop upstairs in Bella’s room and the “smart” phone in her hand, the blank stare that Bella has whenever she is captivated by the glowing screens of her portable video game console, her portable computer, her portable phone, and all of it makes Sam sick. The blank stare in Bella’s eyes remind him of a looming darkness that he has felt ever since entering this house, ever since he got off the phone with the doctor, who told him that he had less than a year to live. But he felt like he hadn’t really lived at all. All he had lived for was himself and he felt empty. He felt like a Russian nesting doll that started out with a confident version of himself, but got increasingly insecure and smaller as you opened each doll. Sam wasn’t so sure what he would find in the last nesting doll of himself, perhaps a sad little boy who never grew up. SAM Bella, you know that picture in the kitchen. BELLA No. SAM You know, that picture of you playing at a playground. BELLA Oh. SAM Was that the last time you were at a playground? BELLA I don’t know. Sam gets up and goes into the kitchen, and comes back holding the picture of Bella. He sits down next to Bella and looks at the photo. She looks happy. More than that. She looks alive. She
has a twinkle in her eye that is absent from her now. Sam looks at Bella and sees a blank stare in her face. She’s playing with her phone and a quiet anger rages inside Sam. BELLA (noticing that Sam is staring at her and feeling a bit uncomfortable) What are you looking at? SAM Don’t you want to go outside and play with other kids? BELLA No. SAM Isn’t it boring just staying inside by yourself all the time? BELLA No. SAM (sighs out of frustration, anger that Bella is robbing herself of her young life) Where was this picture taken? BELLA I don’t know. SAM Come on, Bella. Do you seriously not remember? BELLA (annoyed that Sam keeps bothering her when she just wants to play Angry Birds on her phone)
I don’t know. It was somewhere around here. SAM This playground is around here? BELLA Yeah, I guess. SAM Come on, get up. We’re going outside. BELLA Why? Are we going somewhere? SAM Yeah, we’re going out. BELLA (with hope in her eyes) For pizza? SAM No. Bella frowns and sits back down to play with her phone. Sam grabs the phone from her hands and looks into her eyes. SAM Let’s go. Bella notices Sam’s intensity, his face stern unlike her father’s, but strangely paternal, dark circles under his glimmering eyes. Bella stands up. Sam grabs Bella’s hand and leads her out of the air conditioned, IKEA furniture laden prison. Sam remembers when he was Bella’s age and how his dad used to take him to the park every weekend to play catch. He remembers the beat up gloves that lied on the shelf in his garage. How he hadn’t touched those gloves since his dad collapsed in the park one day, dropping the baseball that always seemed to stick to his mitt. “I could’ve been a catcher in the majors, you know,” he’d always say. “But, I never took time to put in the work. I’ll always regret that. Don’t be like me, Sam, alright? Live with no regrets. And if you do have any, try to make it right. If you can’t, forgive and be forgiven, move on.” Forgive. After his dad died, everything was so quiet and he
hated it. He hated the silence that people chose to keep at the funeral. He hated that his mother tried to hold in the tears instead of weeping and wailing like normal mourning widows. He was afraid of the silence because it seemed like everything stopped. So he tried to fill in the silence by fulfilling his desires. He tried to fill in the silence with the moans of girls whose names he didn’t remember. He tried to fill it with laughter at the expense of others like when he made fun of Bill, the Jewish kid who always wore a yarmulke. When Sam found out that Bill wore it in honor of his father, who was a Rabbi and died from a heart attack, he spent a whole night filling in the silence with his sobs. Now, no matter how hard he tries, all he hears is silence. The silence of his unavoidable fate and the silence of his regrets, and the silence of his refusal to forgive himself. EXT. PLAYGROUND - DAY Sam and Bella are sitting on the bench of front of the playground. The playground is empty, devoid of children’s laughter coming from the amusement of blowing bubbles into the air. There is no squeaking of the swing set with voices yelling, “Higher, higher!” It is quiet on the playground and Bella cannot stand it. She tries not to squirm in her seat, she hopes that Sam will say something, anything to break this awkward silence. All silence was awkward, it was unnatural to Bella, and it didn’t make sense to her why anyone could like it. The people she saw on TV sometimes meditating, sitting in one position with nothing to do except just sit there. They might as well be dead, she thought. She wants to scream and Sam can see it. He can see the frustration in her eyes. “At least her eyes don’t look so dead anymore,” Sam thinks. SAM Bella. BELLA (breathes in deep right before she is about to scream and is a little disappointed that Sam has interrupted her) What? SAM Do you know why we’re here?
BELLA No. SAM We’re here because of you. BELLA But I didn’t do anything wrong. SAM (laughing at Bella’s idea of a punishment) I know. You think this is a punishment? BELLA I don’t know. SAM This is where kids like you come to play. This is a reward. You don’t like it? BELLA A reward? But there’s nothing to do here. It’s boring. SAM What do you mean? There’s a swing set, a slide, and there’s a jungle gym that you can climb. There’s lots of stuff to do here. BELLA There’s better stuff to do at home. SAM Like what? Watching TV? Or playing on your laptop and “smart” phone? BELLA (sensing that she is being mocked) I don’t know. It’s too quiet here. Sam senses that he has hit the heart of the issue, which he must address, but doesn’t know how to. He plays the possible
scenarios in his head, which includes Bella ignoring his stern lecture and going back to the house the same way she came out. Another scenario involves him yelling at her to stop being such a robot and to play with other kids, but the possibility of a positive outcome is little to none. As he is thinking, Bella is wondering why Sam has brought her to this desolate place. All she wants is to avoid the quiet, but it seems that all Sam wants to do is embrace it. Like he wants to embrace death. But she doesn’t want to embrace it at all, she wants to scream at the top of her lungs, to scream the silence away. And she does. Bella screams at the top of her little lungs and Sam, startled, just stares at her until she stops. SAM What was that about? BELLA (breathing rapidly) I want to go home. I don’t like it here. SAM Why not? BELLA (about to burst into tears) I don’t know. I just don’t like it here. SAM (putting his arm around Bella) Shh. It’s ok. Don’t cry. BELLA (fighting back tears) It’s too quiet. I hate it. SAM Why? BELLA Because! SAM Because of what? BELLA
Nothing! Because of nothing! Bella puts her hands to her face and sobs as Sam holds her tight. He understands. He knows that Bella is scared. She’s scared of silence, of every moment that isn’t filled with background noise, because of nothing. Nothing happens and, for her, that is utter devastation. Sam feels bad for her, bad that his own life was without any meaningful silences. Soon his life would be filled with an eternal silence and what he wanted most was to be at peace with the Lord when that day came. He couldn’t take back any wrong that he had done, there was only one way out of it and it was the path of forgiveness. To be at someone’s mercy. It was a way for him to help prevent Bella from repeating the same mistakes he made. And it would be with this quiet conversation, the first of many, the last which would come at his deathbed when he would be surrounded by his mother and Bella. Sam would begin that last conversation with “You should’ve drank that milk.” And Bella and Sam will share a last laugh, at which Sam’s mother will smile because Sam seems to be lighthearted and ready to depart this world. But at this moment, Sam is overwhelmed to the point of grief. The only way he can think of to lift Bella up out of the depths of noise is to negate it all with a stunning silence. So he holds her quietly, but somehow it escapes his lips. SAM (still holding Bella) I’m dying, Bella. Bella’s sobs pause before a few remnant sniffles clear her nose of mucous and she lifts her head off of Sam’s chest. She stares at Sam for a few moments. She then looks at the playground and back at her gloomy cousin, who is staring at the playground. Bella wipes her face with the sleeve of her red hoodie, slimy mucous and all. BELLA You’re dying? SAM (without hesitation) I’m dying. BELLA You’re dying? SAM
(looking at the playground) Yes. BELLA Literally? SAM (curious as to when Bella had learned the meaning of the word “literally”) Yes. Bella stares at Sam, who looks bitter sweetly at the playground. She focuses her gaze on the playground as well. More silence settles for a moment. BELLA Why are you dying? SAM I don’t know. BELLA You’re not that old. SAM (smirking) I know. BELLA This kid in my class, his mom died when she gave birth to him. SAM At least she didn’t die in vain. BELLA What does vain mean? SAM It means “for no reason.” BELLA Oh. (muttering to herself)
She didn’t die “for no reason.” Ohh. (repentantly looking at Sam) (hesitating between saying “vain,” making sure she is saying this new word in her vocabulary the right way) Are you dying in vain? Tears fill up Sam’s eyes now and he can feel the temperature on his face rising. Bella thinks she’s done something wrong and quickly tries to make it right. BELLA I’m sorry. SAM (wiping his eyes) No, it’s ok. It’s not your fault. Bella doesn’t know what to do. So she stays quiet because it seems like the only thing she can do at a moment like this. Sam looks at quiet Bella for the first time and imagines what it would be like to be a father. He imagines himself as Uncle Jim, hurrying about around his mortgaged house, worrying about paying bills, putting food on the table, and being a responsible uppermiddle class citizen. He imagines voting. It all seemed like something all men would have to succumb to in their later years, like having their prostate checked out. Only one thing appealed to Sam. SAM Do you love your father? Bella lifts her head up from leaning on Sam’s chest and she sits up. This should be an easy question to answer if only she could remember an instance of responding an “I love you” back to her parents. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t even remember the last time her mother or father said that they loved her. This startling revelation keeps Bella in silence and keeps Sam in suspense as he notes Bella’s dim eyes and paling complexion. He wonders if Bella has ever known that she was loved. Whether all the laptops, Nintendo D.S’s, and Blu-Ray movies could be a viable substitute for three simple words.
BELLA (after a long, awkward pause) Yeah. I guess I do. SAM You guess? BELLA (looking down at the ground) I mean I do. I’m supposed to. SAM (furrowing his brow) You’re not supposed to love anyone. BELLA Yeah, you are. You’re supposed to love your parents. SAM (looking straight into Bella’s eyes) Why? BELLA (avoiding Sam’s piercing eyes) Because. Because they take care of me and buy me stuff. A lot of stuff. Sam laughs incredulously, but his face quickly changes into an expression of pity. Sam imagines Bella at the dinner table between two stoic parents, who are too busy trying to fill in the empty silence of their lives with the upper-middle accustomed style of life, that they have forgotten to tell their daughter how much she means to them. How her father sacrificed his dream of opening up a gallery of his photography, how her mother gave up instructing dance to become an accountant at a construction company. All to give Bella her heart’s desires, but they never thought that it would be as simple as a hug or a kiss. Sam can still feel the calluses of his father’s hands rubbing against his small, soft hands when he was Bella’s age. Sam regrets, when he got older, pulling back his hand when his father would reach out for one more clasp, one more attempt to express as simply as he could that he loved his only son. And right at this moment, Sam felt the same child-like love that his father had shown him. After Sam’s father died, he had forsaken
that love, forgetting what it meant, unable to show it to others. Love made him feel that he mattered, that whether he lived or died made a difference. Love made him want to forgive himself and to be forgiven by all those he had wronged. And now he wanted Bella to know that love. SAM Bella. Look at me. Bella slowly focuses her droopy gaze on Sam. SAM (for the first in a long time) I love you, kid. And not because I’m supposed to. I love you because I want to. Bella believes him. She believes his sincerity enough to nod her head and to soak his love in. She can see it in his eyes, which have brightened up from before. Sam’s mouth widening into a smile and a reassuring glint in his eyes comfort Bella and prepare her for what is to come later that day. Her father will come home, after being laid off, and sit in the same wooden chair at the table that Sam had. He’d sip on a 20 year old scotch from a coffee mug because Sarah said that nice glass was never meant to be used, only shown. Sarah will come home and will infer from her husband’s breath that the steady income they had worked so hard to maintain is no longer there. Sarah’s face will be like stone and her hands cold when she grabs Bella by the hand to go to her mother’s house, where she will spend some time talking to her mother about how sick she is about Jim’s lack of effort. Bella will go empty handed, no smart phone, laptop, or Nintendo to keep her busy, and she will just sit on her grandmother’s white leather couch, listening to her mother’s justification of divorcing Jim. Bella will not cry. And her mother will not take into consideration Bella’s paternal need when Sarah calls up her lawyer within the week to prepare the papers. SAM (pointing to the swing set) Do you want to go on the swing?
Bella wants to. She wants to fulfill a dying man’s wish and to live one’s childhood to the fullest because one day we will be too old to be pushed or even swung, and will be able to only push, and then we will finally be pushed again as our legs grow too old to walk on, reverting us back to that childlike wonder of being pushed higher and higher except we will be pushed to where we do not want to go, our only hope is that as we are pushed, that when we are near our end, we may be pushed to the highest point, and that we will feel the familiarity of letting go of the rusty chains we have clung to, to fly into the Heavens, our feet never to touch the earth again, never waking up from the dreamlike suspension of being in the air for those precious split seconds, except, at our end, those moments will be eternal and Bella wants to feel that temporary moment with Sam before his moments become eternal. BELLA (smiling) Ok. Sam and Bella walk over to the swing set and Bella hops onto the seat as Sam gets behind her to gently push her as high as she wants. The sun comes out of hiding from the clouds and as Sam pushes Bella higher, the sun shines brighter. Bella closes her eyes and lets the rays warm her as the wind blows through her hair, her little legs and hips stretching forward to gain more momentum. SAM Higher? BELLA No. This is good. You can stop pushing. Sam backs off as he watches his little cousin swing back and forth on this not so lonely playground. He watches as she stretches her legs one last time before she jumps off the swing and into the air. Sam will always remember this moment, Bella with her limbs spread out like the wings of a butterfly and he’ll wish that all quiet moments were like this one. Bella runs back into the swing seat again. BELLA Again! Again! Sam gladly obliges and begins to push Bella again, watching her go higher and higher. They’ll stay at the playground for another
hour before going back home and putting together a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Bella will suck the chunky peanut butter off her little fingers as Sam licks the strawberry jam off his thumb, noting the texture of the tiny seeds in the jam. They’ll eat in front of the television, turned off, and talk about Bella’s teacher, Mrs. Big, and the way she snorts every time a student gives her a wrong answer. Bella will laugh with her mouth open when she tries to imitate a Mrs. Big snort, but will spit out peanut butter and jelly as she bursts into laughter. Sam will join her in her laughter and will wish that he could laugh with her longer, but he will die within a year. After her parents’ divorce, Bella will lean on Sam for support and love as her mother continues to pursue a man, with a steady job and title. Her father will decide to pick up photography again and spend his joint custody weekends with Bella eating pizza and teaching her the basics of photography. Sam will continue to babysit Bella until he can no longer stand on his own strength. He will enjoy silences with her, which will intermittently be filled with laughter, crying, and the clicks of a camera. Bella will take pictures of her cousin in the hospital and his smiles in the midst of his trials will only encourage Bella to live the life of love that Sam has wished for her. In his last moments, Bella will start to tear up and Sam will quickly wrap his arms around her to hug her tight and kiss her on the head. He will rock her back and forth like a baby, pretending that she is his own.