Firefly Lane Page 36


"Push," the doctor said in an entirely reasonable, pain-free voice that made Kate want to scratch his eyes out.

She screamed and pushed and cried until as quickly as it had begun, the agony was over.

"A perfect little girl," the doctor said. "Dad, do you want to cut the cord?"

Kate tried to lift herself up, but she was too weak. A few moments later, Johnny was beside her, offering her a tiny pink-wrapped bundle. She took her new daughter in her arms and stared down into her heart-shaped face. She had a wild shock of damp black curls and her mother's pale, pale skin, and the most perfect little lips and mouth Kate had ever seen. The love that burst open inside her was too big to describe. "Hey, Marah Rose," she whispered, taking hold of her daughter's grape-sized fist. "Welcome home, baby girl."

When she looked up at Johnny, he was crying. Leaning down, he kissed her with a butterfly softness. "I love you, Katie."

Never in her life had everything been so right in her world, and she knew that, whatever happened, whatever life had in store for her, she would always remember this single, shining moment as her touch of Heaven.

Tully begged for an additional two days off of work so that she could help Kate get settled in at home. When she'd made the call, it had seemed vital, unquestionably the thing to do.

But now, only a few hours after Kate and Marah had been discharged from the hospital, Tully saw the truth. She was about as useful as a dead microphone. Mrs. Mularkey was like a machine. She fed Kate before she even mentioned she was hungry; she changed the baby's handkerchief-sized diapers like a magician; and taught Kate how to breast-feed her daughter. Apparently it was not as instinctual a thing as Tully would have thought.

And what was her contribution? When she was lucky, she made Kate laugh. More often than not, though, her best friend just sighed, looking both remarkably in love with her baby and profoundly worn out. Now Kate lay in bed, holding her baby in her arms. "Isn't she beautiful?"

Tully gazed down at the tiny, pink-swaddled bundle. "She sure is."

Kate stroked her daughter's tiny cheek, smiling down at her. "You should go home, Tully. Really. Come back when I'm up and around."

Tully tried not to let her relief show. "They do need me at the studio. Things are probably a real mess without me."

Kate smiled knowingly. "I couldn't have done it without you, you know."

"Really?"

"Really. Now kiss your goddaughter and get back to work."

"I'll be back for her baptism." Tully leaned down and kissed Marah's velvety cheek, and then Kate's forehead. By the time she whispered goodbye and made it to the door, Kate seemed to have forgotten all about her.

Downstairs she found Johnny slumped in a chair by the fireplace. His hair was a shaggy, tangled mess, his shirt was on backward, and his socks didn't match. He was drinking a beer at eleven o'clock in the morning.

"You look like hell," she said, sitting down beside him.

"She woke up every hour last night. I slept better in El Salvador." He took a sip. "But she's beautiful, isn't she?"

"Gorgeous."

"Katie wants to move to the suburbs now. She's just realized this house is surrounded by water, so it's off to some cul-de-sac where they have bake sales and play dates." He made a face. "Can you imagine me in Bellevue or Kirkland with all those yuppies?"

The funny thing was, she could. "What about work?"

"I'm going back to work at KILO. Producing political and international segments."

"That doesn't sound like you."

He seemed surprised by that. When he looked at her, she saw a flash of remembrance; she'd reminded him of their past. "I'm thirty-five years old, Tul. With a wife and daughter. Different things are going to have to make me happy now."

She couldn't help noticing that he'd said going to. "But you love gonzo journalism. Battlefields and mortar rounds and people shooting at you. We both know you can't give it up forever."

"You only think you know me, Tully. It isn't like we traded secrets."

She remembered suddenly, sharply, what she was supposed to forget. "You tried."

"I tried," he agreed.

"Katie would want you to be happy. You'd kick ass at CNN."

"In Atlanta?" He laughed. "Someday you'll understand."

"You mean when I'm married, with kids?"

"I mean when you fall in love. It changes you."

"Like it's changed you? Someday I'll have a kid and want to write for the Queen Anne Bee again, is that it?"

"You'd have to fall in love first, wouldn't you?" The look Johnny gave her then was so understanding, so knowing, she felt skewered by it. She wasn't the only one who was remembering the past.

She got to her feet. "I gotta get back to Manhattan. You know the news. It never sleeps."

Johnny put down his beer and got to his feet, moving toward her. "You do it for me, Tully. Cover the world."

It sounded sad, the way he said it; she didn't know if what she heard was regret for himself or sadness for her.

She forced herself to smile. "I will."

Two weeks after Tully got home from Seattle, a storm dumped snow on Manhattan, stopping the vibrant city in its tracks. For a few hours, at least. The ever-present traffic vanished almost immediately; pristine white snow blanketed the streets and sidewalks, turned Central Park into a winter wonderland.

Still Tully made it to work at four A.M. In her freezing walk-up apartment, with the radiator rattling and ice collecting on her paper-thin antique windows, she dressed in tights, black velour stirrup pants, snow boots, and two sweaters. Covering it all with a navy-blue wool coat and gray mittens, she braved the elements, angling her body against the wind as she made her way up the street. Snow obscured her vision and stung her cheeks. She didn't care; she loved her job so much she'd do anything to get there early.

Inside the lobby, she stamped the snow off her boots, signed in, and went upstairs. Almost instantly she could tell that much of the staff had called in sick. Only a skeleton crew remained.

At her desk, she immediately went to work on the story she'd been assigned yesterday. She was doing research on the spotted owl controversy in the Northwest. Determined to put a local's "spin" on the story, she was busily reading everything she could find—Senate subcommittee reports, environmental findings, economic statistics on logging, the fecundity of old growth forests.

"You're working hard."

Tully looked up sharply. She'd been so lost in her reading that she hadn't heard anyone approach her desk.

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


And this wasn't just anyone.

Edna Guber, dressed in her signature black gabardine pantsuit, stood there, one hip pushed slightly out, smoking a cigarette. Sharp gray eyes stared out from beneath an Anna Wintour razor cut of blue-black bangs. Edna was famous in the news business, one of those women who'd clawed her way to the top in a time when others of her sex hadn't been able to come in the front door unless they had secretarial skills. Edna—only the single name was ever used or needed—reportedly had a Rolodex filled with the home numbers of everyone from Fidel Castro to Clint Eastwood. There was no interview she couldn't get and nowhere on earth she wouldn't go to find what she wanted.

"Cat got your tongue?" she said, exhaling smoke.

Tully jumped to her feet. "I'm sorry, Edna. Ms. Guber. Ma'am."

"I hate it when people call me ma'am. It makes me feel old. Do you think I'm old?"

"No, m—"

"Good. How did you get here? The cabs and buses are for shit today."

"I walked."

"Name?"

"Tully Hart. Tallulah."

Edna's gaze narrowed. She looked Tully up and down steadily. "Follow me." She spun on her black boot heel and marched down the hallway, toward the office in the corner of the building.

Holy cow.

Tully's heart was pounding. She'd never been invited into this office, never even met Maury Stein, the big kahuna on the morning show.

The office was huge, with two walls of windows. Falling snow turned everything outside gray and white and eerie. From this vantage point, it felt vaguely like standing inside a snow globe, looking out.

"This one will do," Edna said, cocking her head toward Tully.

Maury looked up from his work. He barely glanced at Tully, then nodded. "Fine."

Edna left the office.

Tully stood there, confused. Then she heard Edna say, "Are you epileptic? Comatose?"

Tully followed her out into the hallway.

"Do you have a pen and paper?"

"Yes."

"I don't need an answer, just do as I ask and do it quickly."

Tully fumbled into her pocket for a pen and found some paper on a nearby desk. "I'm ready."

"First off, I want a detailed report on the upcoming election in Nicaragua. You do know what's going on there?"

"Certainly," she lied.

"I want to know everything about the Sandinistas, Bush's Nicaraguan policy, the blockade, the people who live there. I want to know when Violeta Chamorro lost her virginity. And you've got twelve days to get it done."

"Yes—" She stopped herself from saying ma'am just in time.

Edna came to a stop at Tully's desk. "You've got a passport?"

"Yes. They made me apply for one when they hired me."

"Of course. We'll be leaving on the sixteenth. Before we go—"

"We?"

"Why the hell do you think I'm talking to you? Do you have a problem with this?"

"No. No problem. Thank you. I really—"

"We'll need immunizations; get a doctor here to take care of us and the crew. Then you can start setting up advance interview meetings. Got it?" She looked down at her watch. "It's one o'clock. Brief me on Friday morning at, say, five A.M.?"

"I'll get started right now. And thank you, Edna."

"Don't thank me, Hart. Just do your job—and do it better than anyone else could."

"I'm on it." Tully went to her desk and picked up the phone. Before she'd even finished punching in the number, Edna was gone.

"Hello?" Kate said groggily.

Tully looked at the clock. It was nine. That meant it was six in Seattle. "Oops. I did it again. Sorry."

"Your goddaughter doesn't sleep. She's a freak of nature. Can I call you back in a few hours?"

"Actually, I'm calling to talk to Johnny."

"Johnny?" In the silence that preceded the question, Tully heard a baby start to cry.

"Edna Guber is sending me to Nicaragua. I want to ask him some background questions."

"Just a second." Kate handed the phone off; there was a sound like wax paper being balled up and a flurry of whispers, then Johnny came on the line.

"Hey, Tully, good for you. Edna's a legend."

"This is my big break, Johnny, and I don't want to screw up. I thought I'd start by picking your brain."

"I haven't slept in a month, so I don't know how much good I'll be, but I'll do what I can." He paused. "You know it's dangerous down there. A real powder keg. People are dying."

"You sound worried about me."

Prev Next