Fly Away Page 59

As Johnny came forward, cameras pointed at him, flashes blinked on and off. The signs—WE ♥ YOU TULLY ♥; GET WELL; WE’RE PRAYING FOR YOU—lowered slowly.

“I know you have been apprised of Tully Hart’s miraculous recovery. And it is miraculous. The doctors here at Sacred Heart, especially Dr. Reginald Bevan, gave Tully exceptional care and I know she’d want me to thank them for her. I know she’d want me to thank her fans, too, many of whom prayed for this recovery.”

“Where is she?” someone yelled.

“We want to see her!”

Johnny held up a hand for silence. “I’m sure you can all understand that Tully is focused on her recovery right now. She—”

A gasp went through the crowd. The people in front of Johnny turned as one, faced the hospital doors. The photographers began jostling into one another, their flashes erupting.

Tully sat just outside the hospital doors, which kept whooshing open and closed behind her. She was out of breath, and the chair was cockeyed, no doubt because she was too weak to roll herself steadily forward. A gentle rain fell on her helmet and splotched her blouse. He went to her.

“Are you sure?” he asked her.

“Abso … lutely not. Let’s do it.”

He wheeled her forward; the crowd quieted.

She smiled uneasily at them, said, “I’ve looked better.”

The roar of approval almost knocked Johnny back. Signs shot back up into the air.

“Thank you,” she said when the crowd finally quieted.

“When will you go back on air?” one of the reporters yelled.

She looked out across the crowd, and then at Johnny, who knew her so well, who’d been with her from the beginning of her career. She saw the way he looked at her: Was he remembering her at twenty-one, when she’d been a firebrand who sent him a résumé a day for months and worked for free? He knew how desperately she had always needed to be someone. Hell, she’d given up everything to be loved by strangers.

She drew in a deep breath and said, “No more.” She wanted to explain herself, to say that she was done with fame, that she didn’t need it anymore, but it was just too hard to gather all those words together and put them in order. She knew what mattered now.

The crowd erupted in noise; questions were hurled at Tully.

She turned to Johnny.

“I’ve never been more proud of you,” he said, too softly for anyone to hear.

“For quitting?”

He touched her face with a gentleness that made her breath catch. “For never quitting.”

With the crowd still yelling questions, Johnny took control of the wheelchair and steered her back into the hospital lobby.

In no time, they were in the car and heading north on I-5.

Where were they going? She was supposed to be going home. “Wrong way.”

“Are you in the driver’s seat?” Johnny asked. He didn’t glance at her, but she could tell he was smiling. “No. You’re not. You’re in the passenger seat. I know you’ve recently suffered a brain injury, but I’m sure you remember that the driver drives the car and the passenger enjoys the view.”

“Where … we going?”

“Snohomish.”

For the first time, Tully thought about her year-long coma. How come no one had told her where she’d been all that time? Were they keeping it from her? And why hadn’t the question occurred to her before this? “Have Bud and Margie been taking care of me?”

“Nope.”

“You?”

“No.”

She frowned. “Nursing home?”

He indicated a turn and exited the highway toward Snohomish. “You’ve been staying at your house in Snohomish. With your mother.”

“My mother?”

His gaze softened. “There have been more than a few miracles in all of this.”

Tully didn’t even know what to say. It would have been less surprising to hear that Johnny Depp had nursed her through the long dark months.

And yet, a memory teased her, came close, and then darted away. A slippery combination of words and light. The smell of lavender and Love’s Baby Soft … Billy, don’t be a hero …

Katie saying, Listen. It’s your mother.

Johnny pulled up in front of the house on Firefly Lane and stopped, turning toward Tully. After a long pause, he said, “I don’t know how to tell you how sorry I am.”

The tenderness she felt for this man was so sharp it was almost pain. How could she make him understand what she’d learned in that darkness—and in the light? “I saw her,” she said quietly.

He frowned. “Her?”

She saw when he understood.

“Katie.”

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“Oh.”

“Call me crazy or brain-damaged or drugged. Whatever. I saw her and she held my hand and she told me to tell you, ‘You did fine and there’s nothing for the kids to forgive you for.’”

He frowned.

“She thought you’d been kicking your ass about not being strong enough for her. You wish you’d let her tell you she was afraid. She said, ‘Tell him he was all I ever needed and he said everything I needed to hear.’”

Tully reached over and held his hand, and there it was, between them again, all the years they’d spent together, all the times they’d laughed and cried and hoped and dreamed. “I’ll forgive you for breaking my heart if you forgive me, too. For all of it.”

He nodded slowly, his eyes glazed with tears. “I missed you, Tul.”

“Yeah, Johnny boy. I missed you, too.”

* * *

Marah threw herself into the decorations for Tully’s homecoming, but even as she talked to her grandparents and teased with her brothers, she felt as if she were walking on eggshells. Her stomach was tight with anxiety. She wanted Tully’s forgiveness desperately, but she didn’t deserve it. The only other person who looked uncomfortable with the upcoming celebration was Dorothy. Tully’s mother had seemed to lose mass in the past few days, to grow smaller somehow. Marah knew that the older woman had begun to pack her few things into a bag. While everyone had busied themselves with decorating, Dorothy had said something about needing supplies at the nursery. She’d been gone for hours and hadn’t yet returned.

At Tully’s homecoming, everyone cheered and clapped and welcomed her back to the house. Grandma and Grandpa hugged her carefully and the boys shrieked at her return.

“I knew you’d be okay,” Lucas said to Tully. “I prayed every night.”

“I prayed every night, too,” Wills said, not to be outdone.

Tully looked exhausted, sitting there, her head cocked in a strange way; the clunky silver helmet made her look almost childlike. “I know … two boys … who have a birthday coming up. I missed a year. Buy two presents now.” Tully had to work really hard to say all that, and when she was done, her cheeks were bright and she was out of breath.

“Probably matching Porsches,” Dad said.

Grandma laughed and scooted the boys into the kitchen to get the cake.

Marah made it through the party on false smiles and mumbled comments. Fortunately for her, Tully tired easily and said her good nights at about eight o’clock.

“Roll me to bed?” Tully said, taking hold of Marah’s hand, squeezing.

“Sure.” Marah grabbed the chair’s handles and wheeled her godmother down the long, narrow hallway toward the back bedroom. There, she maneuvered Tully through the open doorway and into the room, where there was a hospital bed, and flowers everywhere, and pictures cluttered on the tables. An IV stand stood beside the bed.

“This is where I’ve been,” Tully said. “For a year…”

“Yes.”

“Gardenias,” Tully said. “I remember…”

Marah helped her into the bathroom, where Tully brushed her teeth and slipped into the white lawn nightgown hanging from a hook on the back of the door. Then she got back into the wheelchair and Marah maneuvered her to the bed. There, she helped Tully to her feet.

Tully faced her. In one look, Marah saw all of it: my job is to love you … the fight … you’re my best friend … and the lies.

“I missed you,” Tully said.

Marah burst into tears. Suddenly she was crying for all of it—for the loss of her mom, and for finding her in the journal, for the way she’d betrayed Tully and all the wounds she’d inflicted on people who loved her. “I’m so sorry, Tully.”

Tully brought her hands up slowly, cupped Marah’s cheeks in her dry, papery palms. “Your voice brought me back.”

“The Star article—”

“Old news. Here, help me into bed. I’m exhausted.”

Marah wiped her eyes and pulled back the covers and helped Tully into bed. Then she climbed up into bed beside her, just like in the old days.

Tully was quiet for a long moment before she said, “It’s true, all that going-into-the-light/your-life-flashing-before-your-eyes stuff. When I was in the coma, I … left my body. I could see your dad in the hospital room with me. It was like I was hovering in the corner, looking down on what happened to this woman who looked just like me but wasn’t me. And I couldn’t take it, so I turned, and there was this … light, and I followed it, and the next thing I knew I was on my bike, on Summer Hill, riding in the dark. With your mom beside me.”

Marah drew in a sharp breath, clamped a hand over her mouth.

“She’s with us, Marah. She will always be watching over you and loving you.”

“I want to believe that.”

“It’s a choice.” Tully smiled. “She’s glad you ditched the pink hair, by the way. I was supposed to tell you that. Oh, and there was one more thing…” She frowned, as if trying to remember. “Oh. Yeah. She said, ‘All things come to an end, even this story.’ Does that make sense?”

“It’s from The Hobbit,” Marah said. Maybe someday you’ll feel alone with your sadness, not ready to share it with me or Daddy, and you’ll remember this book in your nightstand.

“The kids’ book? That’s weird.”

Marah smiled. She didn’t think it was weird at all.

* * *

“I’m Dorothy, and I’m an addict.”

“Hi, Dorothy!”

She stood in the middle of the ragtag circle of people who had come to tonight’s Narcotics Anonymous meeting. As usual, the meeting took place in the old church on Front Street in Snohomish.

In the cool, dimly lit room that smelled of stale coffee and drying donuts, she talked about her recovery and how long it had taken her and what a dark road it had sometimes been. She needed this tonight, of all nights.

At the close of the meeting, she left the small wooden church and got onto her bicycle. For the first time in ages, she didn’t stop to talk to anyone after the meeting. She was too edgy to play nice.

It was a blue-black evening, full of swaying trees and tiny stars. She rode along the main street, indicated her turn, and headed out of town.

At her place, she veered down onto the driveway and came to a stop. Balancing her bike carefully against the side of the house, she went to the front door and turned the knob. Inside, everything was quiet. There was a leftover aroma in the air—spaghetti, maybe—and some fresh basil. A few lights had been left on, but mostly it was quiet.

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