Firefly Lane Page 33


"Oh, that's nice." Tully laughed, bumping her shoulder into Kate's. "You think I won't be able to stay married."

Kate leaned against her friend. "I think you'll do whatever you want, Tully. You're such a bright light. Me, I just want Johnny. I love him so much it hurts sometimes."

"How can you say you only want Johnny? You have a great career. Someday you're going to be running that agency. This pregnancy won't throw you off course. These days women can have it all."

Kate smiled. "That's you, Tully. And I'm so proud of you that I can't stand it. Sometimes at Safeway I tell complete strangers that I'm your friend. But I need you to be proud of me, too. No matter what I do. Or don't do."

"I'm always there for you. You know that."

"I know."

They stared at each other, and in that moment, with both of them dressed up like princesses and standing in front of a mirror, they were fourteen years old again, planning the whole of their lives.

Tully finally smiled. This time it was the real thing. "When are you going to tell your mom about the baby?"

"After I'm married." Kate laughed. "I'll confess to God, but I'm not telling my mom till I'm Mrs. Ryan."

For a single, glorious moment, time simply stopped. They were TullyandKate again; girls sharing secrets.

Then the door opened.

"It's time," Dad said. "The church is full. Tully: you're up."

Tully gave Kate a big hug, then hurried out of the dressing room.

Kate stared at her dad in his rented tux, with his newly cut hair, and felt a rolling wave of love for him. Through the doors, they heard the music start up.

"You look beautiful," he said after a moment. His voice was uneven, not his usual sound at all.

She went to him, looked up, remembering a hundred moments in the space of a heartbeat. The way he read her bedtime stories when she was little and tucked spare money in her back pocket when she was older, the way he sang off-key at church.

He touched her chin, tilted her face up. That was when she saw the tears in his eyes. "You'll always be my little girl, Katie Scarlett. Don't you forget that."

"I could never forget it."

Inside, the music changed to "Here Comes the Bride." They linked arms and walked toward the church's double doors. One halting step after another, they made their way down the aisle.

Johnny stood at the altar, waiting for her. When he took her hand in his and smiled down at her, she felt that swelling in her chest again, the sweet knowing that this was the man for her. No matter what else would happen to her in this life, she knew that she was marrying her true love, and that made her one of the lucky ones.

From then on, the night took on the hazy, insubstantial edges of a dream. They stood at the end of the receiving line, kissing friends and relatives and collecting their well-wishes.

The world felt wide open. Anything was possible. Kate found that she couldn't stop smiling or crying.

When the music started—Madonna's "Crazy for You"—Johnny found her in the crowd and reached for her hand.

"Hey, Mrs. Ryan."

Touch me once and you'll know it's true . . .

She moved into the circle of his arms, loving the feel of him against her.

All around them, people stepped back, making room for the newly-weds to dance. She could feel them watching, smiling, saying how romantic the song was and how beautiful the bride looked.

It was the Cinderella-at-the-ball moment that Kate had dreamed of all her life. "I love you," she said.

"You'd better," he whispered, kissing her gently.

When the song ended, the audience burst into applause. Champagne glasses were raised alongside bottles of beer and cocktail glasses; guests shouted, "To the Ryans!"

It wasn't until the tail end of the most magical of nights that Kate's smile first left her. She was at the bar, getting another glass of sparkling cider and talking to her Aunt Georgia, when it happened.

Later, over the years that followed, especially in troubled times, she'd wonder why she looked up at precisely that instant, or why, with all the people in the room, dancing and talking and laughing, she'd had to look up at just that moment to see Johnny, standing all by himself, sipping a beer.

And looking at Tully.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

I don't know who writes these directions, but I don't think the assholes speak English."

Kate smiled and stepped cautiously down the ladder. They were in the downstairs bedroom of the houseboat, readying the nursery. She could tell that Tully was about thirty seconds away from throwing the screwdriver at the freshly painted wall. "Let me look at the sheet."

From her place in the middle of the floor, surrounded by piles of white sticks and boards and groupings of screws and washers, Tully held up the long, wrinkled piece of paper. "Be my guest."

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Kate studied the ridiculously complicated directions. "We start with that long flat piece. It dovetails into that piece, see? Then you screw that part on there . . ."

For the next two hours, they sat or stood, hunkered together and hunched over, putting together the most complicated crib of all time.

When it was done, and tucked in place against the sunshine-yellow wall with the Winnie-the-Pooh border, they stood back and admired it. "What would I do without you, Tully?"

Tully put an arm around her. "Thankfully you'll never have to know. Come on, I'm making margaritas."

"I can't drink. You know that."

Tully grinned at her. "My deepest apologies for that, but you'll notice that I have no bun in the oven. I don't believe I'm within eight hundred miles of a bun, in fact. So, not only can I have a margarita, but after putting together that crib—a job which, I might add, is totally Johnny's and in fact required a scrotum to complete in less than a full day—I deserve a margarita. And you, O fattening one, can have a virgin drink. Ironic, don't you think?"

Arm in arm, they went to the kitchen and made the drinks. All the way there, and back to the living room, where they sat in front of the fire, they talked. About little things, mostly—the speeding ticket Tully got last week, Sean's new girlfriend, the class Mom was taking at the local community college.

"What's it like," Tully asked when Kate got up to put a log on the fire, "being married?"

"Well, it's only been three months, so I'm hardly an expert, but so far it's great." She sat back down and put her feet on the coffee table, resting her hand on the barely noticeable bump of her stomach. "You'll think I'm crazy, but I love the routine, the way we have breakfast together, each reading our own stuff; I love that he's the first person I see every morning and that he kisses me goodnight before I fall asleep." She smiled at Tully. "But I miss sharing a bathroom with you. He's constantly moving my stuff and putting it away—and then he forgets where he put it. How about you, Tully? How's life in our old apartment?"

"Lonely," Tully said, shrugging and smiling as if she didn't care. "I'm getting used to it again."

"You can call anytime, you know."

"And I do." Tully laughed and poured herself a second margarita. "Have you guys figured out the plan for life after my godchild's birth? Will they let you have a few weeks off?"

This was the subject Kate had tried to avoid. She'd known what she wanted to do from the moment Johnny had married her, but she hadn't had the courage to tell Tully. She took a deep breath. "I'm quitting."

"What? Why? They've got you on the best accounts, and you and Johnny are making good money. It's 1987 for crying out loud. You don't have to quit your job to be a mother. You can hire a nanny."

"I don't want someone else raising this baby. At least not until kindergarten."

That got Tully on her feet. "Kindergarten? What is that, eight years?"

Kate smiled at that. "Five."

"But—"

"No buts. It's important to me to be a good mother. You, of all people, should understand how much it matters to a kid."

Tully sat back down. They both knew there was nothing she could really say to that. Tully still bore the scars of a bad mother. "Women can do both, you know. This isn't the fifties."

"My mom went on every field trip I ever took. She was a helper in the classroom every year until I begged her to please stop coming. I didn't take the bus until I was in junior high and still remember talking to my mom on the ride home after school. I want my child to have all that. I can always go back to work later."

"And you think that will be enough for you—carpools and field trips and classroom-volunteering?"

"If it's not, I'll find something else. Come on, it's not like I'm an astronaut." She smiled. "So, tell me about your job. I'll live vicariously through you, so make the stories good."

Tully immediately launched into a hilarious story about her most recent assignment.

Kate leaned back and closed her eyes, listening.

"Kate? Kate?"

She was so lost in her thoughts it took her a moment to realize that Tully was talking to her. She laughed. "Sorry about that. What were you saying?"

"You fell asleep on me. I was telling you about this guy who asked me out and when I looked over, you were out like a light."

"I was not," Kate said quickly, but the truth was that she did feel drowsy, kind of light-headed, too. "I think I need a cup of tea." She stood up and swayed precariously, reaching out for the back of the couch. "Wow, that was—" In the middle of her sentence, she looked at Tully and frowned. "Tully?"

Tully got to her feet so quickly, she knocked over her margarita. She put an arm around Kate, steadying her. "I'm right here."

Something was wrong; a wave of dizziness struck her so hard and suddenly that she stumbled.

"Hold on, honey," Tully said, moving her gently toward the door. "We need to get to a phone."

A phone? Kate shook her head in confusion; her vision blurred. "I don't know what's happening," she mumbled. "Is this a surprise party for me? Is it my birthday?"

Then she looked down at the sofa where she'd been sitting.

A dark pool of blood stained the cushion and splattered the decking at her feet. "Oh, no," she whispered, touching her stomach. She wanted to say more, pray to God to for help, but while she was grasping for words, the world tilted sickeningly and she passed out.

Tully forced them to let her stay in the ambulance. She sat by Kate, saying, "I'm right here," over and over.

Kate was conscious, but barely so. Her skin was as pale as an old overwashed sheet; even her green eyes, usually so bright, were dull and glassy. Tears leaked down her temples.

The ambulance pulled up to the hospital. Tully was pushed aside in their haste to get Kate out of the van and into the bright lights of the hospital. She stood there in the open doorway, watching them take her best friend away. Suddenly she felt the full impact of what was happening.

Women having miscarriages could bleed to death.

"Please, God," she said, wishing for the first time in her life that she really knew how to pray, "don't let me lose her."

She knew it was the wrong prayer, not the one Kate would have wanted. "And take care of her baby."

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