Firefly Lane Page 64


Kate was relieved beyond measure simply by her daughter's presence. She moved to the middle of her bed and patted the empty place beside her.

Marah sat opposite her instead, leaning back against the silk-upholstered footboard, with her legs drawn up. Ragged holes in her favorite jeans showed the knobby curl of her knees.

Kate couldn't help longing for the time when she could have scooped her daughter into her arms and held her. She needed that now. "You knew about the show, didn't you?"

"Tully and I talked about it. She said it would help us."

"And?"

Marah shrugged. "I just wanted to go to the concert."

The concert. It hurt Kate deeply, that simple, selfish answer. She'd forgotten about the concert and Marah's running away. The trip to Kauai had cleared her mind of all of that.

No doubt as Tully had intended. It had also gotten Johnny out of the way so he couldn't stop the plan.

"Say something," Marah said.

But Kate didn't quite know what to say, how to handle this. She wanted Marah to understand how selfish she'd been and how deeply that selfishness had hurt Kate, but she didn't want to load guilt on her. The weight of this debacle fell on Tully. "Did it occur to you when you and Tully were hatching this plan that I might be hurt and embarrassed by it?"

"Did you think that I'd be hurt or embarrassed by not getting to go to the concert? Or rockin' midnight bowling? Or to—"

Kate held up a hand. "So it's still about you," she said tiredly. "If this is all you have to say, you can leave. I don't have the strength to fight with you now. You were selfish and you hurt my feelings, and if you can't see that and take responsibility for it, I feel sorry for you. Get out. Go."

"Whatever." Marah got off the bed, but she moved slowly. At the door, she paused and turned around. "When Tully comes over—"

"Tully won't be coming over."

"What do you mean?"

"Your idol owes me an apology. That's not something she's good at. I'd say it's something else you two have in common."

For the first time, Marah looked scared. And it was at the prospect of losing Tully.

"You better think about how you're treating me, Marah." Kate's voice broke on that; she struggled to sound in control. "I love you more than the world and you're hurting me on purpose."

"It's not my fault."

Kate sighed. "How could it be, Marah? Nothing ever is."

It was exactly the wrong thing to say. Kate knew it the second she said it, but she couldn't take it back.

Marah yanked open the door and slammed it shut behind her.

Quiet came instantly. Somewhere outside a rooster crowed and a pair of dogs barked at each other. She heard people walking around downstairs. The floorboards of this old house creaked with the movement.

Kate looked at the phone, waiting for it to ring.

"I think it was Mother Teresa who said that loneliness is the worst kind of poverty," Tully said, sipping her dirty martini.

The man to whom she spoke looked startled for a moment, as if he were driving on some dark, empty stretch of road and a deer had suddenly bounded into his path. Then he laughed, and there was so much in the sound, a shared camaraderie, a hint of superiority, an undercurrent of privilege. No doubt he'd learned to laugh like that in the hallowed halls of Harvard or Stanford. "What do people like us know about poverty or loneliness? There must be one hundred people here, at your birthday party, and God knows the champagne and caviar didn't come cheap."

Tully stood there, trying—and failing—to remember his name. He was her guest; she ought to know who in the hell he was.

And why had she made such a ridiculously transparent remark to a stranger?

Disgusted with herself, she finished the martini—her second—and walked over to the makeshift bar that had been set up in the corner of her penthouse. Behind the tuxedoed bartender, the glittering starburst of the Seattle skyline was a magical combination of bright lights and black sky.

She waited impatiently for her third martini, making small talk with the bartender. The minute the drink was ready, she set a course for the terrace, sailing past the table overflowing with foil- and ribbon-wrapped gifts. She knew without opening a single package the kind of gifts she'd received: champagne glasses from Waterford or Baccarat; silver bracelets and frames from Tiffany; Montblanc pens; perhaps a cashmere throw or a pair of blown-glass candlesticks. The kind of expensive presents that strangers and co-workers gave each other when they'd reached a certain economic status.

There wouldn't be anything personal in any of those beautifully wrapped packages.

She took another sip of her martini and went out onto the deck. From the railing, she saw the barest outline of Bainbridge Island. Moonlight painted the forested hills silver. She wanted to look away but couldn't. It had been three weeks since the broadcast. Twenty-one days. Her heart still felt cracked beyond repair. The things Kate had said to her kept running on an endless loop through her mind. And when she managed to forget, she saw them in print, in People magazine or on the Internet. Her own mother didn't even love her . . . there's your icon: a woman so warm and caring, she's probably never said I love you to another human being . . .

How could Kate have said that? And then not called to apologize . . . or to say hello . . . or even to wish her a happy birthday?

She finished the drink and set the empty glass on the table beside her, still staring out across the black expanse of water. Behind her, she heard the phone ring. She knew it! She ran back into the condo, pushed through the people crowded in her living room, and went into her bedroom, slamming the door shut behind her.

"Hello," she said, a little out of breath.

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"Hey, Tully, happy birthday."

"Hey, Mrs. M. I knew you'd call. I could come down and see you and Mr. M. right now. We could—"

"You have to make things right with Katie."

She sat down on the end of her bed. "I was only trying to help."

"But you didn't help. Surely you see that?"

"Did you hear the things she said to me on TV? I was trying to help her and she told all of America . . ." She couldn't even say it. That was how much it still hurt. "She owes me an apology."

There was a long pause on the other end, then a tired sigh. "Oh, Tully."

She heard the disappointment in Mrs. M.'s voice, and she felt like a kid again in the police station. No words came to her, for once.

"I love you like a daughter," Mrs. M. finally said. "You know that, but . . ."

Like a daughter. There was a whole sea in that single word, an ocean of distance.

"You have to see how you hurt her."

"What about how she hurt me?"

"What your mother did to you is a crime, Tully." Mrs. M. made a sad sound, then said, "Bud is calling me. I better go. I'm sorry for the way things are, but I need to go now."

Tully didn't even say goodbye. She just quietly hung up the phone. The truth she'd been trying to outrun landed on her chest, so heavy she could hardly breathe.

Everyone she loved was a member of Kate's family, not her own, and when the chips were down, they took sides.

And where was she left, then?

As the old song said, alone again. Naturally.

She got up slowly, and returned to her party, surprised that she'd been so blind. If there was one central lesson of her life, it was this: people leave. Parents. Lovers.

Friends.

In the room full of acquaintances and colleagues, she smiled brightly, made small talk, and went straight to the bar.

It wasn't so hard to act normal, to pretend she was happy. It was what she'd done for so much of her life. Acted.

Only with Katie had she ever really been herself.

By the following autumn, Kate had stopped waiting for Tully to call. In the long months of their estrangement, she'd settled—albeit uncomfortably—into a rarefied and contained world, a kind of snow globe of her own creation. At first, of course, she'd cried about their lost friendship, ached for what had been, but in time, she accepted that there would be no apology from Tully, that if one were to be offered it would have to—as always—come from her.

The story of their lives.

Kate's ego, usually such a fluid and convenient thing, became solid on this point. For once, she would not yield.

And so the time passed, and the curved glass walls of the snow globe hardened. Less and less often she thought of Tully, and when she did, she learned to stop crying about it and go on.

But it exhausted her, drained her. As the weather had begun to turn cold again, it took all her effort to get up in the morning and take a shower. By November, washing her hair had been such a daunting prospect that she'd avoided it altogether. Cooking dinner and doing the dishes sapped so much energy that halfway through she had to sit down.

That all would have been okay, and by that she meant acceptable levels of depression, if only it had ended there. Last week, unfortunately, she'd been too tired to brush her teeth in the morning, and she'd driven the kids to school in her pajamas.

"I don't know why that's such a big deal," she'd said to her husband that night when he asked her about it. He'd taken a job at his old station, and the lessened responsibilities gave him too much time to notice Kate's flaws. "It's just a slip in personal hygiene. It's not like I went postal."

"You're depressed," he'd said, pulling her against him on the sofa. "And frankly, Kate, you don't look good."

That had hurt, although, to be honest, not as much as it should have. "So make me an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I hardly need a physical exam. I see my doctors regularly. You know that."

"Better safe than sorry," was his answer, and so now, here she was on the ferry, going in to the city. The truth was—although she wouldn't have admitted it to her husband—she was glad to be going in. She was tired of being depressed, tired of feeling worn out. Maybe a prescription of some kind would help; a pill to forget a thirty-year friendship that had ended badly.

When the ferry docked, she drove off the bumpy ramp and merged into the early morning traffic. It was a gray dismal day that matched her mood. She drove through downtown and negotiated the hill up to the hospital, where she found a parking spot in the garage, then walked across the street and into the lobby. After a quick check-in, she headed for the elevator.

Forty minutes later, after she'd read every article in the newest edition of Parents magazine, she was led back to an examination room, where a nurse took all the usual stats and information.

When she was left alone again, Kate picked up the new People and flipped it open.

There was a picture of Tully, mugging for the camera, tilting up an empty champagne glass. She looked gorgeous in a black Chanel dress and glittery, beaded shrug. Below the photograph, it read: Tallulah Hart at a gala charity event at the Chateau Marmont, with her date, media tycoon Thomas Morgan.

The door opened. Dr. Marcia Silver stepped into the room. "Hey, there, Kate. It's good to see you again." Sitting down on her wheeled stool, she glided forward, reading Kate's chart. "So, is there anything you want to tell me?"

"My husband thinks I'm depressed."

"Are you?"

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