Fly Away Page 51


No.

I can do this. I can. I take another Xanax (I will quit tomorrow) as I head back to my closet to pick out some clothes for the event.

I will need …

What? Why am I standing here in my closet?

Oh. A hair appointment.

“Tully?”

Am I imagining Marah’s voice? I turn so quickly I stumble, bang into the door of my closet. I am unsteady on my feet as I make my way through the condo, toward a voice I don’t really believe is even there.

But she is there, in my living room, standing in front of the wall of windows. She is dressed in black, with her hair short and spiked and pink; she has silver charms hanging from her eyebrow. She looks dangerously thin; her cheekbones are like knife blades above her pale, hollow cheeks.

She is going to give me another chance. “Marah,” I say softly, loving her so much it hurts. “I’m glad you’re back.”

She shifts nervously from foot to foot. She looks, not scared, exactly, but uncomfortable.

I wish my head were clearer, that this damn headache would loosen its grip. I feel restless, a little impatient for her to speak.

“I need…” she begins.

I move toward her, a little off balance. I am embarrassed by my unsteadiness. Does she notice?

“What do you need, baby girl?” Did I say all of that, or only think it? I wish I hadn’t taken that second Xanax. Is she running away from Paxton? “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Pax and I need money.”

I stop. “You came to me for money?”

“That’s how you can help me.”

I press two fingers to my temple, trying to still the pain. My little fairy tale collapses around me. She doesn’t want me, isn’t here for my help. She wants money and then she will leave again. Money for Paxton, most likely. He has put her up to this. I’m sure of it. And what would Johnny say if he found out I gave her money and let her go again?

As gently as I can, I take hold of her wrist and push her sleeve up. Her forearm is pale and crisscrossed with a web of scars, some silvery and old, some new and red and sore-looking.

She pulls her hand away.

My heart breaks for her. I can see that she is hurting. It is what we have in common these days, but now we will come together again, be there for each other. I will never let her down again. I will be the godmother Kate wanted me to be. I will not let her or Johnny down again. “If you’re okay, why are you still hurting yourself?” I try to ask it gently, but I am really shaking. I feel headachy and nauseated. The blood is pounding in my ears. It’s like a panic attack is coming on, but why? “I want to help you, you know I do—”

“Are you going to give me money or not?”

“What’s it for?”

“None of your business.”

The words hurt me as deeply as she obviously intended. “So you came to me for money.” I look at this girl whom I barely recognize. “Look at me,” I say, wanting desperately to make her understand how dangerous her choices are. “I’ve screwed up my life, Marah. I don’t have any family; no husband and no kids. The one thing I did have—my career—I lost. Don’t end up like me. Alone. You have a family that loves you. Go home. Johnny will help you.”

“I have Pax.”

“Some men are worse than being alone, Marah.”

“Like you would know. Will you help me or not?”

Even in my precarious state, I know I can’t do what she is asking. I want to, want it like air, but I can’t make it easy for her to run away again. I have made a lot of mistakes with this girl over the years, none worse than romanticizing Paxton and concealing their relationship from Johnny, but I have learned. “I’ll give you a place to live and set you up with Dr. Bloom, but I won’t make the same mistake again. I won’t go behind your dad’s back and give you money so you can live in some hovel with that weirdo who doesn’t care that you cut yourself.”

After that, we say terrible things to each other, things I want to forget. This girl I love as much as my own life gives me a look that could shatter wood. Then she leaves, slamming the door behind her.

* * *

The day of the movie premiere sneaks up on me. How that could be, I don’t really know. All I know is that on the evening of September second, I am moving listlessly from room to room, doing nothing, pretending to work on my memoir, when my cell phone bleats out an appointment alert.

I look down at the entry. Movie. Eight P.M. Network brass. Then I look at the time.

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It is 7:03.

I will go. I must go. This is my opportunity. I will not let fear or panic or desperation stop me. I will dress up, look good, and retake my place in the spotlight. This is America, after all, the land of second chances, especially for celebrities. Oh, perhaps I’ll have to do the Hugh Grant talk show walk of shame, apologize with a smile, come clean about my anxieties and my depression, but people will understand. Who doesn’t have anxieties, these days, in this economy? Who hasn’t lost a job they love?

I am a little panicked as I make my way back to my bedroom, but a Xanax will help, so I take two. I can’t worry about an anxiety attack tonight. I have to be perfect. And I can be. I am not the kind of woman who hides out beneath warm covers and behind locked doors.

I go into my closet, stepping over clothes I don’t remember buying, let alone wearing, and stand in front of my dresses. I am too overweight to make a fashion statement, so I pluck an old standby off the rack: a vintage black Valentino with an asymmetrical neckline and patterned black hose. It used to hang beautifully on me; now it fits me like a sausage casing, but it’s black and it’s the best I can do.

My hands are unsteady; I can’t do much with my hair beyond pulling it back into a sleek ponytail. Huge gold and black pearl earrings draw the attention away from my sallow face (I hope). I put on more makeup than I’ve ever worn in my life and still I look tired. Old. Trying not to think about that, I slip into an expensive pair of bright pink patent leather pumps and grab an evening bag.

I am reaching for my doorknob when panic hits, but I grit my teeth and push through it. I open the door, step out into the hallway.

By the time I reach the lobby, I am hyperventilating, but I refuse to rush back to the safety of my condo.

The doorman hails the Town Car and I collapse in the backseat.

Youcandothisyoucandothis.

I close my eyes and survive this panic one second at a time, but when the car pulls up in front of the theater, I feel light-headed enough to pass out.

“You getting out, lady?”

Yes. Of course.

I climb out. It feels as if I am wading through mud as I approach the red carpet. The klieg lights burn my eyes, make me blink.

It is raining, I notice. When did that start?

Eerie red light cascades down from the marquee, flashing in puddles of rainwater on the street. Beyond the roped-off area, a giant, jostling crowd of onlookers is waiting for a celebrity to arrive.

My hands are shaking now; my mouth is so dry I can hardly swallow. I tilt my chin and force myself to walk the red carpet. A few flashbulbs go off—then they see it is me and the photographers turn away.

Inside the theater, I have the debilitating thought that I am the oldest woman here. I worry about having a hot flash, turning red suddenly and sweating. I should look for the network executives, but I can’t. Instead, I make my way into the theater and collapse into one of the velvet seats.

The house light dims, the movie begins. All around me people are breathing, moving quietly, their seats creaking.

I try to stay calm and pay attention, but I can’t do it. Anxiety is a living, breathing entity inside of me. I need to get out of here, just for a second.

I find a sign for the restroom and follow it. The bathroom is so bright it scalds my eyes. Ignoring the mirror, I stumble into a stall and sink down onto the closed seat, kicking the door shut. I slump back, trying to calm down, and close my eyes. Relax, Tully. Relax.

The next thing I know, I am waking up. How long have I been here, passed out in a toilet stall in a movie theater?

Pushing out of the stall so hard the door cracks against the next stall, I lurch out into a line of women. They stare at me, their mouths open. The movie must be over.

Downstairs, I see the way people look at me. They step out of my way, as if I am rigged with dynamite or carrying a contagious disease. My DUI mug shot is what they are seeing when they look at me. And suddenly I know: I can’t do it. I can’t meet the network brass and plead my case and get my job back. It’s too late. I have lost my chance. The realization is a pit of quicksand that pulls me under. I elbow my way through the crowd, muttering apologies I don’t mean, until I can breathe again. I end up in a quiet alleyway in the pouring rain.

* * *

Sometime later, a man tries to pick me up in a bar. I almost let him. I see him looking at me, smiling, saying something that makes me ache with longing—not for him, of course, for my lost life, but he is there and the life is gone. I hear myself begging—begging—him to kiss me and I cry when he does because it feels so good and not nearly good enough.

After the bar closes, I walk home (or take a cab or get a ride—who knows?—at least I arrive home). My condo is dark when I get there. No lights are on. I turn them all on as I stumble past, ricocheting off the walls and tables as I go.

I am so ashamed I could cry, but what is the point? I slump onto my sofa and close my eyes.

When I open my eyes again, I see the pile of mail on my coffee table. Bleary-eyed, I stare at the remnants of my former life. I am about to look away when a picture catches my attention. My picture.

I lean forward and push the stack of envelopes and catalogs aside; there, beneath the bills and junk mail, is a Star magazine with my mug shot in the upper left corner. Beneath it is a single, terrible word. Addict.

I pick up the magazine and open it to the article. It’s not the cover story, just a little tidbit on the side.

The words blur before my eyes, dance and jump, but I tackle them one by one.

THE REAL STORY BEHIND THE RUMORS

Aging isn’t easy for any woman in the public eye, but it may be proving especially difficult for Tully Hart, the ex-star of the once-phenom talk show The Girlfriend Hour. Ms. Hart’s goddaughter, Marah Ryan, contacted Star exclusively. Ms. Ryan, 20, confirms that the fifty-year-old Hart has been struggling lately with demons that she’s had all her life. In recent months, she has “gained an alarming amount of weight” and been abusing drugs and alcohol, according to Ms. Ryan.

Tully Hart once appeared to have it all, but the aging talk show host, who has openly spoken of the difficult childhood she survived, and who has never been married or had children, appears to be crumbling under the pressure of her recent failures.

Dr. Lorri Mull, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist, who hasn’t treated the star, says, “Miss Hart is exhibiting classic addict behavior. She’s clearly spiraling out of control.”

Most drug addicts …

I let the magazine slide to the floor. The pain I have been holding at bay for months, years, roars to life, sucks me into the bleakest, loneliest place I’ve ever been. I will never be able to crawl out of it.

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