Firefly Lane Page 35


New York City was everything Tully had dreamed it would be. In her first week here, with her new NBC business cards clutched in her hand, she'd walked down these busy streets like Alice in Wonderland, her face perpetually tilted upward. The endless skyscrapers amazed her, as did the restaurants that never closed, the horse-drawn carriages lined up along the park, and the crowds of black-clad people who filled the streets.

She'd spent two weeks exploring the city, choosing a neighborhood, finding an apartment, learning to navigate the subways. It could have been a lonely time—after all, who wanted to see the sights of a magical city like New York alone? But the truth was, she was so excited about her new job that even being solitary didn't bother her. Besides, in the city that never slept, you were never really alone. There were always people in the streets, even in the darkest hours.

And then there was her job. From the moment she first walked into the NBC building as a reporter, she was hooked. She woke every morning at two-thirty so that she could be at the studio by four o'clock. Although she didn't technically need to get there so early, she loved to hang around and help out. She studied Jane Pauley's every movement and mannerism.

Tully had been hired as a general assignment reporter, which meant that she was assigned bits and pieces on other people's stories. At some point, if she was lucky, she'd get to cover a story the big correspondents wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole—the biggest pumpkin in the state of Indiana or something equally relevant. And she couldn't wait. When she'd paid her dues, she'd get a real story to cover, and when she finally got that break, she'd knock it out of the park. Truthfully, when she watched people like Pauley and Bryant Gumbel, she knew how far she had to go. They were gods in her eyes, and she spent every spare minute watching how they did their jobs. At home, she analyzed the broadcasts, recording each one on her videotapes and playing and replaying them.

By the fall of 1989, she'd found her groove and begun to feel less like a cub reporter and more like a young woman poised to make her mark. Last month she'd gotten her first honest-to-God assignment: she'd flown to Arkansas to report on a prize-winning hog. The story never actually made it on air, but she'd done her job and done it well, and she'd learned a lot that trip.

She would have learned more in the studio, she was certain, if the morning show hadn't been in such upheaval. There was a war going on on-set and the whole country knew about it. Last week they'd taken a new publicity photo and Deborah Norville, the host of the early, early show had been on the couch with Jane and Bryant. That one picture sent shockwaves through the network and indeed the country. One article after another appeared; they all claimed that Norville was pushing Pauley out.

Tully kept her head down and stayed away from the gossip. No rumor mill was going to upset her chances for success. Instead, she kept the focus on her job. If she worked harder than anyone else, she might get a replacement shot on the early, early show, NBC News at Sunrise. From there, she was sure she'd someday get a crack at the Today news nook, and from there, the world would be her oyster.

Eighteen hour workdays didn't leave her much time for a personal life but she still had Katie, even with all the miles between them. They spoke at least twice a week, and every Sunday Tully called Mrs. M. She told them both stories about work pressures and celebrity sightings and life in Manhattan; they responded with details about the new house Kate and Johnny had bought, the trip Mr. and Mrs. M. had planned for the spring, and—best of all—the news that Kate was pregnant again and it was going well.

The days passed like cards falling from a deck, so fast that sometimes they were just a blur of sound and color. But she was on her way. She knew that, and the knowledge kept her going.

Today, an icy cold late December one, just like each of the countless days that had come before it, she spent fourteen hours at the station, then headed tiredly home.

Down on the street, she was captivated by Rockefeller Center at the holidays. Even in the fading gray of an overcast evening, there were people everywhere, shopping, taking pictures of the giant Christmas tree, ice-skating in the seasonal rink.

She was about ready to start walking home when she saw the sign for the Rainbow Room and thought, What the hell? She'd been in New York for more than a year now, and although she had made a lot of acquaintances, she hadn't bothered with dating.

Maybe it was the Christmas decorations, or the way her boss had laughed at her when she asked for the holidays off; she wasn't sure. All she knew was that it was Friday night, only a few nights before Christmas, and she didn't feel like going to her quiet apartment. CNN could wait.

The view from the Rainbow Room was everything she'd heard and more. It was as if she were on the bridge of some great mothership from the future, hovering over the multicolored magnificence of Manhattan at night.

It was still early, so there was plenty of seating at the bar and at the tables. She chose a table by the window, sat down, and ordered a margarita.

She was just about to order another one when the bar started filling up. Men and women from Wall Street and Midtown congregated in groups alongside overdressed tourists, commandeering the tables and chairs, lining up three deep at the bar.

"Do you mind if I join you?"

Tully looked up.

A good-looking blond man in an expensive suit smiled down at her. "I'm tired of elbowing my way through the yuppies to get a drink."

An English accent. She was a sucker for that.

"I'd hate to think you were going thirsty." She kicked the chair across from her out just enough for him to sit down.

"Thank God." He flagged down a waiter, ordered a scotch on the rocks for himself and another margarita for her, then collapsed into the chair. "Bloody meat market in here, isn't it? I'm Grant, by the way."

She liked his smile and gave him one of hers. "Tully."

"No last names. Brilliant. That means we don't have to do that whole exchanging of our life stories. We can just have fun."

The waiter delivered the drinks and left them alone again.

"Cheers," he said, tipping his glass against hers. "The view in here is better than I'd been led to believe." He leaned toward her. "You're beautiful, but I expect you know that."

She'd heard those words all her life. Usually they meant nothing to her, bounced off her like raindrops on a metal roof, but for some reason, in this room, with the holidays approaching, the compliment was exactly what she needed to hear. "How long are you in town for?"

"A week or so. I work for Virgin Entertainment."

"Are you making that up?"

"No, really. It's one of Richard Branson's companies. We're scouting U.S. locations for a Virgin Megastore."

"I shudder to think what you sell."

"How naughty of you. It's a music store, for starters anyway."

She sipped her drink, eyeing him over the salted rim, smiling. Kate was always telling her to get out more, to meet people. Just now, it seemed like damned fine advice. "Is your hotel nearby?"

--- Read books free online at novel68.com ---


Part Three

THE NINETIES

I'm Every Woman

it's all in me

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Just knock me out. I mean it. If they won't give me drugs, get a baseball bat and hit me. This breathing is bullsh—aagh!" Kate felt the pain twist through her insides and tear her apart.

Beside her Johnny was saying "Come on . . . ha ha ha . . . you can do it. Breathe ha . . . ha . . . like this. Remember our class? Focus. Visualize. D'you want that statue we—"

She grabbed him by the collar and yanked him close. "So help me God, if you mention breathing again I'm going to take you down. I want drugs—"

And it was back, wrenching, cutting, twisting through her until she cried out. For the first six hours she'd been pretty good. She'd focused and breathed and kissed her husband when he leaned down to her and thanked him when he pressed a cool wet rag to her forehead. In the second six hours she lost her natural sense of optimism. The relentless, gnawing pain was like some horrible creature biting away at her, leaving less and less.

By hour seventeen she was a flat-out, cast-iron bitch. Even the nurse came and went like Speed Racer.

"Come on, baby, breathe. It's too late for drugs. You heard the doctor. It won't be much longer."

She noticed that even as he tried to soothe her, Johnny didn't get too close. He was like some terrorized soldier in a minefield who'd just seen his best friend blown up. He was afraid to move at all.

"Where's Mom?"

"I think she went down to call Tully again."

Kate tried to concentrate on her breathing, but it didn't help. The pain was rising again, cresting. She clung to the bedrails with sweaty hands. "Get . . . me . . . ice . . . chips!" She screamed the last word. It would have been funny, watching Johnny bolt for the door, if she hadn't felt like that girl swimming alone in Jaws.

The door to her private room banged open. "I hear someone is being a total bitch-o-rama in here."

Kate tried to smile, but another contraction was starting. "I don't . . . want . . . to . . . do this anymore."

"Changed your mind? Good timing." Tully moved to the side of the bed.

The pain hit again.

"Scream," Tully said, stroking her forehead.

"I'm . . . supposed to . . . breathe through it."

"Fuck that. Scream."

She did scream then, and it felt good. When the pain subsided again, she laughed weakly. "I take it you're against Lamaze."

"I wouldn't call myself a natural childbirth kind of gal." She looked at Kate's swollen belly and pale, sweaty face. "Of course, this is the best birth control commercial I've ever seen. From now on I'm using three condoms every time." Tully smiled, but her eyes were worried. "Are you okay, really? Should I get the doctor?"

Kate shook her head weakly. "Just talk to me. Distract me."

"I met a guy last month."

"What's his name?"

"That would be your first question. Grant. And before you barrel through some idiotic Cosmo girl list of how-well-do-you-know-your-man questions, let me say that I don't know squat about him except that he kisses like a god and screws like a devil."

Another contraction hit. Kate arched up and screamed again. As if from a distance she could hear Tully's voice, feel her stroking her forehead, but the pain was so overwhelming she couldn't do anything except gasp. "Shit," she said when it was over. "The next time Johnny comes near me I'm going to smack him."

"You were the one who wanted a baby."

"I'm getting a new best friend. I need someone with a shorter memory."

"I have a short memory. Did I tell you I'm seeing someone? He's perfect for me."

"Why?" Kate said, panting.

"He lives in London. We only see each other on the weekends. For totally rocking sex, I might add."

"Is that why you didn't answer when Mom called?"

"We were in the middle of it, but as soon as we finished, I started packing."

"I'm glad to see you have—oh, shit—priorities." Kate was in the middle of another contraction when the door to her room opened again. The nurse was first, followed by her mother and Johnny. Tully stood back, let everyone get in closer. At some point the nurse checked Kate's cervix and called the doctor in. He bustled into the room, smiling as if he'd run into her at the grocery store, and put on some gloves. Then the stirrups came out and it was time.

Prev Next