Firefly Lane Page 53


"You don't have to yell. I'm coming. We all are. But you better have alcohol ready for me when I get there. And I'm not mixing it with that gross juice your kids drink."

Kate laughed. "It's the morning, Tully. I'll make you breakfast."

"Thanks, Kate," Tully said quietly. "I owe you one."

When she looked up she saw Fat Bob. He was filming all of this from the doorway, with Johnny standing beside him.

But it wasn't the red light on the camera or the knowledge of her public humiliation or the all-seeing lens that broke her.

It was Johnny and the sad, knowing way he looked at her that finally made her cry.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

The documentary aired two weeks later, and even Kate, who was used to Tully's amazing successes, was caught off guard by the public's reaction. It caused a media frenzy. For years Tully had been seen on camera as the cool, witty professional, following stories and reporting on them with her journalist's detachment.

Now the public learned how she'd been disappointed and abandoned. They saw beyond the journalist to the woman within, and they couldn't stop talking about her. The phrase heard most often was, just like me.

Before the documentary, the public respected Tully Hart. Afterward, they adored her. She graced the cover of People and Us in the same week. The documentary—and segments from it—were played and replayed on entertainment news shows. America, it seemed, couldn't get enough of Tully Hart.

But while everyone was watching Tully and the sad encounter with her estranged mother, Kate saw something else entirely on that tape, and she watched it just as obsessively.

She couldn't help noticing the way Johnny looked at Tully at the end, when Cloud's disappearance was revealed, the way he'd gone to her and taken her in his arms.

And then there was the quiet talk Tully and Johnny had had out at Sunshine Farms. They'd edited out whatever words had been exchanged and gone to an establishing shot of the commune, but Kate couldn't help wondering what they'd said to each other.

She studied their body language like a primatologist, but in the end she had only what she'd had in the beginning: two old friends working together on an emotional documentary and a wife who'd worried for a long time about them.

That should have been the end of it. If nothing else had happened, Kate would have boxed up her old jealousies and put them away again, just as she'd done dozens of times over the years.

But something had happened.

Syndiworld, the second largest syndication company in the world, had seen the documentary and offered Tully her own one-hour show, of which she would be a majority interest owner.

The idea had rocked Tully's world, offered her a way to be herself on camera, to show the world who she really was and how she really felt. No more three A.M. start times, either. The minute she heard the idea, she said it was exactly what she needed, but even so, she'd put down two conditions: first, they had to shoot in Seattle; second, John Ryan had to be her producer. Neither of these had she bothered to clear with her friends.

Kate and Johnny had been on the back porch, talking over drinks after a long day, when the first phone call had come in.

Johnny had laughed at Tully's offer, told her to find a producer who specialized in prima donnas.

Then Tully mentioned a salary in the millions.

Now, two days later, Kate sure as hell wasn't laughing. She and Johnny were in the living room, trying to keep their voices down because the kids were in bed. Tully was back in New York, no doubt sitting by the phone, waiting to see if once again she'd get her way.

"I don't know why you're fighting me on this, Katie," Johnny said, pacing in front of the window. "It will change our lives."

"What's wrong with our life now?"

"Do you understand how much money they're offering us? We could pay off this house and send the kids to Harvard for medical degrees. And I could do a few shows that mattered. Tully said I could spotlight places in the world that are in trouble. Do you know what that would mean to me?"

"Is that how you want your career to be from now on—starting everything with, Tully said?"

"Are you asking if I can work for her? The answer is hell, yes. I've worked for a lot worse people than Tully Hart."

"Maybe I'm asking if you should be working for her," Kate said softly.

He stopped in his tracks and turned to look at her. "You've got to be kidding me. Is that what this is about? One night a million years ago?"

"She's an incredibly beautiful woman. I just think . . ." She couldn't finish, couldn't put her old fears and insecurities into words.

The look he gave her was so hot she felt herself melting, disappearing. "I don't deserve that."

She watched him storm up the stairs, heard the bedroom door slam shut.

She sat there a long time, staring down at her wedding ring. Why was it that some memories could never be erased? Slowly, she turned off all the lights, locked all the doors, and went upstairs.

At their closed door she paused, taking a deep breath. She knew what she had to do now, what she had to say. She'd hurt his feelings and insulted him. They both knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Her insecurities and jealousy couldn't stand in the way of that.

She had to go to him, say she was sorry, and tell him she was foolish to be afraid, that she believed in his love like she believed in sunshine and rain. It was true, too. She did.

Because of all that, she should be proud of Johnny and happy for this chance and what it meant to him. That was what marriage was, a team sport, and this was her time to be cheerleader. But even knowing all that, she couldn't quite be happy.

Instead, she was afraid.

Yes, they'd be rich. Maybe even powerful.

But at what cost?

Tully finished off her contract, had an emotional, celebrity-studded last broadcast, and said goodbye to New York. She found a new penthouse in the Emerald City and spent the next month in closed-door meetings, coming up with the plans for her new show, which she was calling The Girlfriend Hour with Tully Hart in honor of the Mularkeys' holiday tradition. She and Johnny had spent long hours working together like the old days, hiring staff and designing the set and devising show concepts.

By August of 2003, much of the advance work was done and she realized that yet again she'd been so busy with work that she'd forgotten to have a life. Even with Kate just across the bay, Tully had hardly seen her. So she picked up the phone and invited her best friend and goddaughter to spend the day with her.

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"Sorry," Kate said. "I can't come into the city."

"Come on," Tully pleaded. "I know I haven't called enough this summer, but Johnny and I have been working twelve-hour days."

"Tell me something I don't know. You see him more than we do."

"I've missed you."

There was a pause, then: "I've missed you, too, but today is no good for me. The boys have some friends coming over."

"How about if I take Marah off your hands? Yeah," Tully said, warming to the idea. "I could take her to Gene Juarez for a manicure and a makeup lesson. Maybe a facial. It'd be great. A girl's day out."

"She is too young for a spa, Tully." Kate laughed, but it sounded a little strained. "And you can forget the makeover. She is not allowed to wear makeup until ninth grade."

"No one is too young for a spa, Kate, and you're crazy to forbid makeup. Remember when your mom tried that? We just put it on at the bus stop. Don't you want her to learn the right way to apply it?"

"Not yet."

"Come on," Tully cajoled. "Put her on the eleven-fifteen boat. I'll meet her at McDonald's. You said you two are always fighting anyway."

"Well . . . I guess that would be okay. But no R-rated movies, no matter how much she begs."

"Okay."

"Maybe that'll put her in a good mood. Tomorrow we're going school shopping, which is only slightly less painful than a root canal without anesthesia."

"Maybe I'll take her to Nordstrom, get her something special."

"Forty dollars."

"What?"

"That's how much you can spend. Not one dollar more, and Tully, if you buy her anything that shows off her belly—"

"I know. I know. Britney Spears is the Antichrist. Got it."

"Good. I'll go tell Marah."

Exactly one hour and twelve minutes later, Tully directed her driver to pull up beside the McDonald's on Alaskan Way. She could tell by the honking that it was an illegal place to park, but what did she care?

She rolled down the window and saw Marah running toward her. "Over here," she called, getting out of the car.

Marah hugged her tightly. "Thank you so much for getting me out of the house. Mom's been ragging on me all day. What are we going to do?"

"How about makeovers at Gene Juarez?"

"Awesome."

"And after that, we can do whatever you want."

"You're so totally awesome," Marah said, gazing at Tully with the purest expression of adoration she'd ever seen.

Tully laughed. "We both are. That's why we're a perfect team."

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

The Girlfriend Hour was a runaway success from the first day it aired. Suddenly Tully was more than a journalist or a morning news anchor; she was a bona fide star. Everything about the show had been designed to play to her strengths and highlight her talent.

What she did well—what she'd always done well—was talk to people.

And she connected, not only with the camera, but with her guests, her audience, and her viewers. In the first two weeks of the show, she became a sensation. Her picture graced the covers of People, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, and In Style. Syndiworld had trouble keeping up with demand; that was how fast her show was growing into new markets.

Best of all was: she owned it. Sure, she shared ownership with Syndiworld and the Ryans had a small piece, but she was the powerhouse. As anyone knew, half as successful as Oprah was damned successful.

Now she sat in her office, going over the notes for the taping that would start in—she looked up at the clock—twenty-five minutes.

This was one of her celebrity shows. A smiling, don't-we-just-love-each-other interview. To be honest, there was still enough of the journalist left in Tully to bristle at these segments, but the businesswoman overruled her. The public simply couldn't get close enough to their stars these days. Johnny put up with these segments in exchange for his change-the-world bits.

There was a knock on the door, then a respectful, "Ms. Hart?"

She spun around in her chair. "Yes?"

"Your goddaughter is here. For the take-your-daughter-to-work segment?"

"Great!" Tully shot to her feet. "Let her in."

The door opened farther, revealing Johnny, who stood there dressed in faded jeans and a navy blue cashmere sweater. "Hey," he said.

"Hey."

Beside him, Marah couldn't keep still, she was so excited. "Hi, Aunt Tully. Daddy said I could be with you all day."

Tully walked over to them. "I couldn't ask for a better daughter. You ready to see what it's like to make a show work?"

"I can hardly wait."

Tully turned to Johnny, realizing a second too late that she was too close. She could see a tiny place by his ear where he'd missed shaving.

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