Fly Away Page 14


“I’m sorry.”

I wipe my eyes. “Yes. Well. I’m ready to go back to work now. I’d like to start taping on Monday.”

“Tell me you’re joking.”

“You think Monday is too soon?” I don’t like the way George is looking at me.

“Come on, Tully. You’re smarter than this.”

“I don’t know what you mean, George.”

He shifts in his chair. The expensive leather makes a whispering sound. “Your show, The Girlfriend Hour, was number one in its time slot last year. Advertisers were clamoring to buy time. Manufacturers loved to give away products to your audience, many of whom drove hundreds of miles and stood in line for hours to see you.”

“I am aware of all of this, George. That’s why I’m here.”

“You walked off set, Tully. Took off your mic, said goodbye to your audience, and left.”

I lean forward. “My friend—”

“Who gives a shit?”

I sit back, stunned.

“How do you think the network felt about your exit? Or your employees, all of whom were suddenly unemployed?”

“I … I…”

“That’s right. You didn’t think about them, did you? The network wanted to sue you.”

“I had no idea—”

“Unreturned phone calls,” he snaps. “I fought like a tiger to protect you. They decided not to sue—thought it would be a public relations nightmare because of the cancer card. But they pulled the show, no reruns, and replaced you.”

How do I not know this? “They replaced me? With whom?”

“The Rachael Ray Show. It’s kicking ass in the ratings. Growing fast. And Ellen and Judge Judy are still pulling huge numbers. And Oprah, of course.”

“Wait. What are you saying exactly? I own my show, George. I produce it.”

“Too bad you don’t own a network. And they have the right to air reruns exclusively for now. They aren’t running them, either. That’s how pissed they are.”

I can’t even process this information. I have been successful forever. “You’re saying The Girlfriend Hour is done.”

“No, Tully. I’m saying you’re done. Who is going to hire someone who walks away without a conversation?”

Okay, so this is bad. “I’ll produce another show. On spec. We’ll sell it ourselves.”

“Have you spoken to your business manager recently?”

“No. Why?”

“Do you remember donating a substantial sum to Stand Up 2 Cancer four months ago?”

“It was a gift for Kate. And it was great publicity. They reported it on Entertainment Tonight.”

“A lovely, beautiful gesture, yes. Except you have no money coming in, Tully. Not since you walked. You had to pay off a lot of employee contracts when you stopped taping the show. It cost you a small fortune. And let’s face it, saving money was never your strong point.”

“Are you saying I’m broke?”

“Broke? No. You’re still more than comfortable. But I’ve spoken to Frank. You don’t have enough to bankroll production. And no one is going to want to invest in you right now.”

I feel an edgy panic; my foot taps on the floor, my fingers curl tightly around the armrests. “So I need a job.”

The look George gives me is sad. In his eyes, I see the whole arc of our relationship. He became my agent almost two decades ago, when I was low man on the totem pole at the network morning show. We’d been drawn together by our mutual ambition. He’d brokered every major contract of my career and helped me make millions, most of which I’d pissed away on extravagant travel and gifts. “It won’t be easy. You’re kryptonite, Tul.”

“You’re saying I can only work at the local level?”

“I’m saying you’ll be lucky to work at the local level.”

“No top ten.”

“I don’t think so.”

The pity and compassion in his gaze is more than I can bear. “I’ve worked since I was fourteen, George. I got a job at the Queen Anne Bee newspaper in high school, and I was on air before my twenty-second birthday. I have built this career from scratch. No one gave me anything.” My voice breaks. “I put everything into my work. Everything. I don’t have kids or a husband or a family. I have … work.”

“I guess you should have thought about that before,” he says, and the gentleness of his voice takes none of the sting out of his observation.

He’s right. I know the journalism business, and, worse, TV. I know “out of sight, out of mind.” I know you can’t do what I did and come back from it.

So why didn’t I know it in June?

I did.

I must have. I chose Kate instead. “Find me a job, George. I’m begging you.” I turn away before he can see what this last bit has cost me. I don’t beg. I’ve never begged, not for anything … except my mother’s love. And that was a useless waste of time.

I walk quickly through the hallowed white halls, making eye contact with no one, my heels clicking on the marble floor. Outside, the sun is shining so brightly it hurts my eyes. The sweat on my forehead prickles along my scalp.

I will solve this.

I will.

It is a setback, to be sure, but I am a survivor and always have been.

I flag down my driver and get into the back of the Town Car, grateful for the dark, quiet interior. I have a pounding headache.

“Beverly Hills, ma’am?”

Johnny and the kids.

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


I want to go to them now. I want to spill these troubles to Johnny and have him tell me I will be all right.

But I can’t do it. My shame is overwhelming and pride stops me.

I put on my sunglasses. “LAX.”

“But—”

“LAX.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I hold myself together one second at a time. I squeeze my eyes shut and say silently: You will be okay. Over and over again.

But for the first time in my life, I can’t make myself believe it. Panic and fear and anger and loss are running headlong inside of me, filling me up, spilling over. Twice on the flight home I burst into tears and have to clamp a hand over my mouth to silence my sobs.

When the flight is over, I walk off the plane like a zombie, my red eyes hidden behind sunglasses.

I have always prided myself on my professionalism, and my work ethic is legendary. This is what I tell myself, pretending I don’t feel as fragile and thin as a strand of hair.

On my show, I used to tell my viewers that you could have it all in life. I told them to ask for help, to take time for yourself, know what you want. Be selfish. Be selfless.

The truth is I have no idea how to have it all. I’ve never had anything except my career. With Kate and the Ryans, it was enough, but now I see the void in my life.

I am shaking as I pull up in front of my building. Control feels far, far away.

I open the door and go into the lobby.

My heart is pounding hard, my breathing is shallow. People are looking at me. They know what a failure I am.

Someone touches me. It startles me so much that I almost fall.

“Ms. Hart?”

It is my doorman. Stanley.

“Are you okay?”

I shake my head slightly to clear it. I need to ask him to park my car, but I feel … buzzed somehow, electrified. My laugh sounds high-pitched and nervous, even to my own ears.

Stanley frowns. “Ms. Hart? Do you need help home?”

Home.

“You’re crying, Ms. Hart,” my doorman says tenderly.

I look up at him. My heart is racing so fast I feel sick and out of breath.

What is wrong with me?

It feels suddenly as if a semi has driven into my chest. I gasp at the pain of it.

I reach for Stanley, chirp, Help, as I trip over something and crash to the cold concrete floor.

* * *

“Ms. Hart?”

I open my eyes and discover that I’m in a hospital bed.

There’s a man in a white coat standing beside me. He is tall and a little disreputable-looking, with black hair that is too long in this buttoned-down era. His face is sharply planed, his nose a little hawklike. His skin is the color of creamed coffee. He’s part Hawaiian, maybe, or Asian and African-American. It’s hard to tell. I see tattoos along his wrists—tribal ones.

“I’m Dr. Grant,” he says. “You’re in the ER. Do you remember what happened?”

I remember all of it; amnesia would be a gift. But I don’t want to talk about it, especially not with this man, who looks at me as if I’m damaged goods. “I remember,” I answer.

“That’s good.” He glances down at my chart. “Tallulah.”

He has no idea who I am. That depresses me. “So when can I get out of here? My heart is doing its job now.” I want to go home and pretend I didn’t have a heart attack. Which reminds me: I’m forty-six years old. How could I have had a heart attack?

He puts on a pair of ridiculously out-of-date reading glasses. “Well, Tallulah—”

“Tully, please. Only my brain-damaged mother calls me Tallulah.”

He looks at me over the rim of his reading glasses. “Your mother is brain-damaged?”

“It was a joke.”

He is not impressed by my humor. He probably lives in a world where people grow their own food and read philosophy before bed. He is as much an alien to my world as I am to his. “I see. Well. The point is that you didn’t have what’s commonly referred to as a heart attack.”

“Stroke?”

“A panic attack often mirrors the symptoms—”

I sit up. “Oh, no. I did not have a panic attack.”

“Did you take any drugs prior to the panic attack?”

“I did not have a panic attack. And of course I didn’t take drugs. Do I look like a drug addict?”

He seems not to know what to make of me. “I’ve taken liberty of contacting a colleague for a consult—”

Before he can finish, the curtains part and Dr. Harriet Bloom walks toward my bed. She is tall and thin; severe is the word that comes to mind—until you see the softness in her eyes. I have known Harriet for years. She is a prominent psychiatrist and has been a guest on my show many times. It’s good to see a friendly face.

“Harriet. Thank God.”

“Hello, Tully. I’m glad I was on call.” Harriet smiles at me and then looks at the doctor. “So, Desmond, how is our patient?”

“Not pleased to have had a panic attack. Apparently she’d prefer a heart attack.”

“Call me a car service, Harriet,” I say. “I’m getting the hell out of here.”

“She’s a board-certified psychiatrist,” Desmond says to me. “She doesn’t call car services.”

Harriet gives me an apologetic smile. “Des doesn’t watch TV. He probably wouldn’t recognize Oprah, either.”

I am not surprised my doctor considers himself above TV. He has that too-cool-for-school look about him. I’ll bet he was a hell-raiser at some point, but middle-aged men with tattoos are not exactly my demographic. I imagine there’s a Harley-Davidson in his garage, along with an electric guitar. But really, you’d have to live under a rock not to know Oprah.

Prev Next