Firefly Lane Page 32


She stared down at it. Her first ridiculous thought was that for a girl who'd dreamed of becoming a mother, she was damned close to crying.

Johnny wouldn't be happy about this. He was nowhere near ready for fatherhood. He hadn't even said he loved her yet.

She loved him so much, and everything had been so great for the past few months. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that it was fragile, this relationship of theirs, that the balance was tenuous. A baby could ruin them.

She hid the package and indicator back in her purse—the extraordinary thing mixed in the ordinary debris of her life—and took a long hot shower. By the time she was dressed and ready for work, the alarm was going off. She went to the bed and sat beside him, stroking his hair as he woke up.

He smiled up at her, said, "Hey," sleepily.

She wanted to say simply, I'm pregnant, but the admission wouldn't come. Instead, she said, "I've got to go in early today. The Red Robin account."

He looped a hand around the back of her neck and pulled her down for a kiss. When it was over, she meant to ease away. "I love you," she whispered.

He kissed her again. "And that makes me the luckiest guy in the world."

She said goodbye as if this were just another in the string of mornings they'd woken up together, and went to work. In her office, she slammed her door shut and stood there, trying not to cry.

"I'm pregnant," she said to the ad-covered walls.

Now, if only she could say it to Johnny. She ought to be able to say anything to him, wasn't that how love was supposed to work? God knew she loved him enough, maybe even more than enough. She could no longer imagine a life without him. She loved the routine of their lives, the way they often had breakfast together in the kitchen of his houseboat, standing side by side in front of the sink, or the way they sat in bed at night, snuggled together, watching Arsenio Hall. When he kissed her, whether it was a quiet goodnight kiss or a passionate let's-start-something one, her heart always kicked into high gear. They talked all the time, about anything and everything; until today, she would have said there were no words she couldn't say to him.

For most of the day, she moved forward on autopilot, but somewhere around four o'clock, her will failed her. Picking up the phone, she dialed the familiar number and waited impatiently.

"Hello?" Tully said.

"It's me. I'm having a crisis."

"I'll be there in twenty," Tully said without hesitation.

For the first time all day, Kate smiled. Just being with Tully would help; it always had. Fifteen minutes later, she tidied up her already neat desk, grabbed her purse, and left her office.

Outside, the sun was a pale white ball in a washed-out blue sky. A few hardy tourists walked up and down Pioneer Square. Across the street, the homeless people who lived in Occidental Park lay sprawled out on the cobblestoned ground and the ironwork benches, huddled beneath filthy blankets and old sleeping bags. The trees around them were in full bloom.

Kate buttoned up her coat just as Tully pulled up in her brand-new metallic-blue Corvette convertible.

As always, the car made Kate both shake her head and smile. It was so damned . . . phallic, and yet somehow Tully fit it perfectly. Her wool pants and silk blouse were even the same color blue as the car.

Kate hurried around to the passenger side and got in.

"Where do you want to go?"

"Surprise me," Kate answered.

"You got it."

In no time at all, they'd snaked through the downtown traffic, rocketed over the West Seattle Bridge, and arrived at a restaurant on Alki Beach. On this faded spring day the place was empty, and they were seated instantly at a table overlooking the steely Sound.

"Thank God you called," Tully said. "This was the week from hell. They've had me traveling to every armpit town in the state. Last week I interviewed a guy in Cheney who's built a truck that runs on wood. I kid you not. He has a stove in the bed that's the size of an aircraft carrier and it takes a half a cord a week. I could barely see the damn truck through the black smoke it belched out, and he wanted me to report that he'd discovered the future. Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to Lyn-den to interview some Hutterite chick who won thirty-two blue ribbons at the fair. Yippee. Oh, and last week—"

"I'm pregnant."

Tully's mouth dropped open. "Are you kidding me?"

"Do I look like I'm kidding?"

"Holy shit . . ." Tully leaned back in her seat, looking stunned. "I thought you were on the pill."

"I am. And I've never missed one."

"Pregnant. Wow. What did Johnny say?"

"I haven't told him yet."

"What are you going to do?" The question was heavy, weighed down as it was by the unspoken option.

"I don't know." Kate looked up, met Tully's gaze. "But I know what I'm not going to do."

Tully stared at her for a long time, saying nothing. In those amazingly expressive dark eyes, Kate saw a parade of emotions—disbelief, fear, sadness, worry, and finally, love. "You'll be a great mother, Katie."

She felt the start of tears. It was what she wanted; now, here, for the first time she dared to admit it to herself. That was what a best friend did: hold up a mirror and show you your heart. "He's never said he loved me, Tully."

"Oh. Well . . . You know Johnny."

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With that, Kate felt the past rear up between them. She knew Tully was feeling it, too, this thing they tried so hard to forget: their shared knowledge of John Ryan. "You're like him," she finally said. "How will he feel when he finds out?"

"Trapped."

It was exactly what Kate had told herself. "So what do I do?"

"You're asking me? The woman who can't keep a goldfish alive for more than a week?" Tully laughed; it sounded only the tiniest bit bitter. "You go home and tell the man you love that he's going to be a dad."

"You make it sound so easy."

Tully reached across the table, taking her hand. "Trust him, Katie."

She knew it was the best advice she could get. "Thanks."

"Now let's talk about the important shit, like names. You don't have to name her after me. Tallulah sort of sucks. No wonder dopehead picked it, but my middle name is Rose. That's not so bad . . ."

The rest of the afternoon passed in quiet conversation. They avoided talk of the baby and focused on inconsequential things. By the time they'd left the restaurant and driven back to town, Kate's desperation had eased. It wasn't gone, but having a plan of action helped.

When Tully parked behind the houseboat, Kate gave her friend a fierce hug and said goodbye.

Alone in Johnny's house, she changed into a pair of sweats and an old T-shirt, then went into the living room to wait for him.

As she sat there, knees pressed together (too late for that), her hands clasped, she listened to the ordinary sounds of this life she'd grown accustomed to—the slap of the waves on the pilings around her, the squawking of seagulls, the ever-present chug of a motorboat going past. It had never felt quite so fragile before, or so bittersweet. All her life she'd imagined love as a durable thing, a polyester emotion that could handle the wear and tear of everyday action, but now she saw how dangerous that perception was. It lulled you, put you at risk.

Across the room, the lock clicked and the door opened. Johnny smiled when he saw her. "Hey, there. I called you before I left the office. Where were you?"

"I played hooky with Tully."

"Happy hour, huh?" He pulled her up into his arms and kissed her.

She let herself melt against him. When she put her arms around him, she found that she couldn't let go.

She held on so tightly he had to actually pull her away. "Katie?" he said, stepping back enough to look down at her. "What's wrong?"

In the last hour she'd imagined a dozen different ways to tell him, to ease him into the news, but now, standing here in front of him, she saw what a waste all those plans were. This wasn't a gift that could be wrapped in pretty paper and she wasn't the kind of woman who could stay silent.

"I'm pregnant," she said in as firm a voice as she could manage.

He stared at her for an eternity, uncomprehending. "You're what? How did that happen?"

"The normal way, I'm pretty sure."

He let out a long, slow breath and sank to the sofa. "A baby."

"I didn't mean for it to happen." She sat down beside him. "I don't want you to feel trapped."

The smile he gave her was a stranger's, not the one she loved, that crinkled up his eyes and made her smile back. "You know how much I want to just pick up and leave when I'm finally ready. Follow a big story and redeem myself. It's been in my head for so long . . . ever since I screwed up in El Salvador."

She swallowed hard, nodded. Her eyes stung, but she refused to draw attention to her tears by wiping them away. "I know."

He reached out, touched her flat stomach. "But I couldn't just leave anymore, could I?"

"Because of the baby?"

"Because I love you," he said simply.

"I love you, too, but I don't want to—"

He slid off the couch, positioned himself on one knee, and she drew in a sharp breath. "Kathleen Scarlett Mularkey, will you marry me?"

She wanted to say yes, scream it, but she didn't dare. Fear was still too much a part of how she felt. So she had to say instead, "Are you sure, Johnny?"

And then, finally, she saw his smile. "I'm sure."

Kate had taken Tully's advice—of course—and gone for timeless elegance. Her wedding dress was an ivory silk gown with a heavily beaded bodice and an off-the-shoulder neckline. Her hair, carefully lightened in a trio of blonds, had been drawn back from her face and coiled into a Grace Kelly twist. The veil, when she put it on, would float over her face and fall down to her shoulders like a sparkling cloud. For the first time in her life she felt movie-star beautiful. Mom thought so, too; she took one look and started to cry. A few moments ago she had hugged Kate fiercely, kissed her cheek, and gone into the church, leaving Kate and Tully alone for the first time all day.

Now, standing in front of a full-length mirror that captured her fairy-tale reflection, Kate glanced over at Tully, who'd been uncharacteristically quiet on this grand poobah of hair and makeup days. Dressed in the pale pink strapless taffeta bridesmaid's gown, she looked vaguely out of place and fidgety.

"You look like you're gearing up for a funeral instead of a wedding."

Tully looked at her, trying to make a smile look real, but they'd been friends too long to pass each other such counterfeit emotions. "Are you sure about getting married? I mean really sure? There's no—"

"I'm sure."

Tully appeared unconvinced; more than that, she looked afraid. "Good," she said, biting her lower lip, nodding stiffly. "'Cause it's forever."

"You know what else is forever?"

"Dirty diapers."

Kate reached out for Tully's hand, noticing how cold her friend's skin was. How could she convince Tully that this was the Y in their lives, the inevitable separation, but not an abandonment? "Us," she said pointedly. "We'll be friends through jobs and kids and marriages." She grinned. "I'm sure I'll outlast several of your husbands."

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