Fly Away Page 10


“Yeah.”

“Are you saying you didn’t forgive me?”

He sighs. “None of this matters anymore,” he says after a pause. “She loved you. That’s that. And we’re all hurting. Christ. How are we going to make it? Every time I look at the bed, or at her clothes in the closet…” He clears his throat. “We’re going to Kauai today.”

“What?”

“We need time together now. You said so yourself. Our flight is at two, on Hawaiian.”

“That’s not much time to get ready,” I say. An image blossoms in my mind—the five of us on the beach, healing together. “It’s perfect. Sunshine and—”

“Yeah. I gotta go.”

He’s right. We can talk later. Now, I need to hurry.

* * *

I hang up and get moving. Packing for paradise takes no time at all, and in less than twenty minutes, I am packed and showered. I pull my damp hair into a stubby ponytail and dash on makeup as quickly as I can. Johnny hates it when I’m late. Tully-time, he calls it, and he’s not smiling when he says it.

In my walk-in closet, I find a teal and white Lilly Pulitzer dress and pair it with silver high-heeled sandals and a white straw hat.

As I slip into the jersey dress, I imagine this vacation. It is something I need—this time away with the only family I have. We will grieve together, share memories, and keep Kate’s spirit alive among us.

We need each other. God knows I need them.

I am ready at 11:20—only a few minutes later than optimal—and I call for a Town Car. I’m not that late. No one really needs two hours at the airport.

I grab my small rolling bag and leave the condo. Downstairs, a black Town Car is waiting in front of the building.

“SeaTac,” I say, depositing my luggage at the curb by the trunk.

Surprisingly, the traffic is sluggish on this warm autumn morning. I look at my watch repeatedly.

“Go faster,” I say to the driver, tapping my foot on the floor. At SeaTac, we pull up to the terminal and I am out of the car before the driver can even open his door. “Hurry up,” I say, waiting for him to get my luggage, checking my watch. It is 11:47. I am late.

Finally, I get my bag and I run, holding my hat on my head and dragging the suitcase behind me. My big straw bag keeps slipping off my shoulder, scratching my bare arm. The terminal is crowded. It takes me a minute to find them in the crowd, but there they are, over by the Hawaiian Airlines ticket counter.

“I’m here!” I yell, waving like a game show contestant trying to get noticed. I run toward them. Johnny stares at me in confusion. Have I done something wrong?

I come to a breathless stop. “What? What’s wrong? If it’s the time, I did my best.”

“You’re always late,” Margie says with a sad smile. “It’s not that.”

“Am I overdressed? I have shorts and flip-flops.”

“Tully!” Marah says, grinning. “Thank God.”

Johnny moves in closer to me. Margie eases away at the same time. Their movements feel staged, as choreographed as something from Swan Lake, and it bothers me. Johnny takes me by the arm and pulls me aside.

“You aren’t invited on this trip, Tul. It’s just the four of us. I can’t believe you thought—”

I feel as if I’ve been punched in the stomach, hard. The only thing I can think of to say is, “Oh. You said ‘we.’ I thought you meant me, too.”

“You understand,” he says, phrasing it as a statement, not a question.

Apparently I am a fool for not understanding.

I feel like that abandoned ten-year-old again, sitting on a dirty city stoop, forgotten by my mother, wondering why I am so easy to leave behind.

The twins come up on either side of us, jubilant in their excitement, amped up on the idea of adventure. They have unruly brown hair that is too long and curling at the ends and bright blue eyes and smiles that have returned since yesterday.

“You comin’ to Kauai with us, Tully?” Lucas says.

“We’re gonna surf,” Wills says, and I can imagine how aggressive he will be in the water.

“I have to work,” I say, even though everyone knows that I walked away from my show.

“Yeah,” Marah says. “Cuz, like, having you come would make it fun, so natch you’re not coming.”

I untangle myself from the boys and go to Marah, who is standing by herself, doing something on her phone. “Cut your old man some slack. You’re too young to know about true love, but they found it, and now she’s gone.”

“And, like, sand is going to help?”

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“Marah—”

“Can I stay with you?”

I want it so badly I feel sick, and although I am notoriously self-centered—in fights, Kate often called me narcissistic—I know a bone-crushing fall when I see it. This is not about me. And Johnny is in no mood for this. I can see it. “No, Marah. Not this time. You need to be with your family.”

“I thought you were part of the family.”

Have fun is all I can manage.

“Whatever.”

As I watch them walk away, I feel scaldingly, achingly alone. None of them looks back at me.

Margie moves closer and touches my face. Her soft, lined palm presses against my cheek. I smell the citrusy hand lotion she loves; that and the barest hint of menthol cigarettes.

“They need this,” she says quietly. I hear the raspy sound of her voice and know how tired she is—to her bones. “Are you okay?”

Her daughter is dead and she is worried about me. I close my eyes, wishing I could be stronger.

Then I hear her crying; it is a sound as soft as a feather falling, almost lost in the airport noise. She has been strong for so long, strong for her daughter and everyone. I know there are no words, so I offer none. I just pull her into my arms and hold her close. Finally, she lets go and steps back.

“You want to come home with us?”

I don’t want to be alone, but I can’t go to the house on Firefly Lane. Not yet. “I can’t,” I say, and I see that she understands.

After that, we go our separate ways.

* * *

At home, I pace the rooms of my high-rise condominium. It has never been a home, this place. No one has ever lived here except me, and I have really only resided here. There are few personal mementos or knickknacks. My designer pretty much chose everything and apparently she liked ivory. Everything is some shade of off-white: marble floors, nubby winter-white furniture, and stone and glass tables.

It is beautiful in its way, and looks like the home of a woman who has it all. But here I am, forty-six, and alone.

Work.

My career has been my choice, over and over. As far back as I can remember, I’ve had dreams with a capital D. It began in the house on Firefly Lane, with Kate, when we were fourteen years old. I remember the day as if it were yesterday; it is a story I’ve told in a dozen interviews over the years. How Katie and I were in her house, and Margie and Bud were watching the news and Margie turned to me and said, “Jean Enerson is changing the world. She’s one of the first women to anchor the nightly news.”

And I said, “I’m going to be a reporter.”

It had been as natural as breathing, saying that. I wanted to become a woman the whole world admired. I did it by paring away every single dream except one: I needed success like a fish needed water. Without it, who would I be? Just a girl with no family who was easy to leave behind and put aside.

It is what I have in life—fame and money and success.

At that, I know. It is time for me to go back to work.

That’s how I will get through this grief. I will do what I’ve always done. I’ll look strong and pretend. I’ll let the adoration of strangers soothe me.

I go into my walk-in closet and exchange the brightly colored jersey dress for a pair of black pants and a blouse. This is when I realize I have gained weight. The pants are so tight I can’t get them zipped.

I frown. How is it that I didn’t notice gaining weight in the last few months? I grab a knit skirt and put it on instead, noticing the bulge of my belly and the widening of my hips.

Great. Something else to worry about: weight gain in a high-def world. I grab my purse and head out, ignoring the pile of mail the building manager has placed on my kitchen counter.

It is only a handful of blocks to my studio, and usually I have a driver pick me up, but today, in honor of the widening of my ass, I decide to walk. It is a gorgeous fall day in Seattle, one of those sunshine masterpieces that turn this city into one of the prettiest in the country. The tourists have gone home and so the sidewalks are quiet, populated by locals who rush to and fro without making eye contact.

I come to the large, warehouse-type building that houses my production company. Firefly, Inc. The space is absurdly expensive, located as it is in Pioneer Square, less than a block from the blue shores of Elliott Bay, but what do I care about cost? The show I produce makes millions.

I unlock the door and go inside. The halls are dark and empty, a stark reminder that I walked away and never looked back. Shadows collect in corners and hide in hallways. As I walk toward the studio, I feel my heartbeat speed up. Sweat breaks out along my forehead, itches. My palms turn damp.

And then I am there, standing at the red curtain that separates backstage from my world. I push the curtain aside.

The last time I was on this stage, I’d told my audience about Katie, how she’d been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, and I’d talked about the warning signs, and then I signed off. Now I would have to talk about what had happened, explain how it felt to sit by my best friend’s bed and hold her hand and tell her it would be okay long past the time when that was true. Or how it felt to gather up her pills and pour out the last of the water in the pitcher by her empty bed.

I grab the stanchion beside me. It feels cold and unforgiving in my grip, but it keeps me standing.

I can’t do it. Not yet. I can’t talk about Katie, and if I can’t talk about her, I can’t stride back into my old life, onto my stage, and be the Tully Hart of daytime TV.

For the first time in forever, I don’t know who I am. I need a little time to myself, so that I can find my balance again.

* * *

When I step back out onto the street, it is raining. The weather in Seattle is like that: quicksilver. I clutch my handbag and lumber up the slick sidewalk, surprised to find that I am out of breath when I get to my building.

There, I come to a stop.

What now?

I go up to my penthouse and I walk idly into the kitchen, where mail is piled in a huge number of stacks. It’s funny, in all my months away, I never really thought about the nuts and bolts of my other life. I didn’t check messages or open my bills or even think much about any of it. I counted on the machinery of my life—agents, managers, accountants, stockbrokers—to keep me on track.

I know I need to dive back in, to take charge again and reclaim my life, but honestly, the thought of going through all this mail is daunting. Instead, I call my business manager, Frank. I will hand off the responsibility to him. It’s what I pay him for: to pay my bills and invest my money and make my life easier. I need that now.

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