She felt a little woozy. It was nice, like being wrapped in a warm-from-the-dryer blanket. But when she came to, and saw where she was, it wasn’t so nice.
She was sitting on a closed toilet seat in a restroom stall, slumped over, with tears drying on her cheeks. How long had she been here? She got slowly to her feet and left the bathroom, pushing her way through the theater’s crowded lobby, ignoring the judgmental looks cast her way by the beautiful people drinking champagne beneath a glittering, nineteenth century chandelier. The movie must be over.
Outside, she kicked her ridiculous patent leather pumps into the shadows. In her expensive black nylons, she walked in the spitting rain down the dirty Seattle sidewalk toward home.
A bright pink Martini Bar sign caught her attention. A few people were clustered together outside the front door, smoking and talking beneath a protective overhang.
Even as she vowed to pass by, she found herself turning, reaching for the door, going inside. She slipped into the dark, crowded interior and headed straight for the long, mahogany bar.
“What can I get for you?” asked a thin, artsy-looking man with hair the color of a tangerine and more hardware on his face than Sears carried in the nuts and bolts aisle.
“Tequila straight shot,” she said.
She drank the first shot and ordered another. The loud music comforted her. She drank another straight shot and swayed to the beat. All around her people were talking and laughing. It felt a little like she was part of all that activity.
A man in an expensive Italian suit sidled up beside her. He was tall and obviously fit, with blond hair that had been carefully cut and styled. Banker, probably, or corporate lawyer. Too young for her, of course. He couldn’t be much past thirty-five. How long was he there, trolling for a date, looking for the best looking woman in the room? One drink, two?
Finally, he turned to her. She could tell by the look in his eyes that he knew who she was and that small recognition seduced her. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“I don’t know. Can you?” Was she slurring her words? That wasn’t good. And she couldn’t think clearly.
His gaze moved from her face, down to her breasts, and then back to her face. It was a look that stripped past any pretense. “I’d say a drink at the very least.”
“I don’t usually pick up strangers,” she lied. Lately, there were only strangers in her life. Everyone else, everyone who mattered, had forgotten about her. She could really feel that Xanax kicking in now, or was it the tequila?
He touched her chin, a jawline caress that made her shiver. The boldness of it, just touching her; no one did that anymore. “I’m Troy,” he said.
She looked up into his blue eyes and felt the bone crushing weight of her loneliness. When was the last time a man had wanted her? She couldn’t even remember.
“I’m Tully Hart,” she said.
He kissed her. He tasted sweet, of some kind of liquor, and of cigarettes. Or maybe pot. She wanted to lose herself in pure physical sensation, to dissolve like a bit of candy.
She wanted to forget everything that had gone wrong with her life, and how it was that she’d ended up in a place like this, alone in a sea of strangers.
“Kiss me again,” she said, hating the pathetic pleading she heard in her voice. It was how she’d sounded as a child, back when she’d been a little girl with her nose pressed to the window, waiting for her mother to return. What’s wrong with me? that little girl had asked anyone who would listen, but there had never been an answer. Tully reached out for him, pulling him close, but even as he kissed her and pressed his body into hers, she felt herself starting to cry, and when her tears started, there was no way to hold them back.
September 3, 2010
Tully was the last person to leave the bar. The doors banged shut behind her; the neon sign hissed and clicked off. It was past two now; the Seattle streets were empty. Hushed.
Traffic made the pavement hum beneath her bare feet. She made her way down the slick sidewalk, a little unsteady on her feet. A man had kissed her—a stranger—and she’d started to cry.
Pathetic. No wonder he’d backed away.
Rain pelted her, almost overwhelmed her. She thought about stopping, tilting her head back and drinking it in until she drowned.
That would be good. Drowning.
It seemed to take hours to get home. At her condominium building, she pushed past the doorman without making eye contact.
In the elevator, she saw herself in the wall of mirrors.
She looked terrible. Her auburn hair—in need of coloring—was a bird’s nest, mascara ran like war paint down her cheeks.
The elevator doors opened and she stepped out into the hallway. Her balance was so off it took four tries to get her key into the lock. By the time she opened the door, she was dizzy and her headache had roared back to life.
Somewhere between the dining room and the living room, she banged into a chrome side table and almost fell. Only a last minute Hail Mary grab for the sofa saved her. She sank onto the thick, down filled white cushion with a sigh. The table in front of her was piled high with mail. Bills and magazines. Junk mail.
She slumped back and closed her eyes, thinking what a mess her life had become. “Damn you, Katie Ryan,” she whispered to the best friend who wasn’t there. This loneliness was unbearable. But her best friend was gone. Dead. That was what had started all of it. Losing Kate. How pitiful was that? Tully had begun to plummet at her best friend’s death and she hadn’t been able to pull out of the dive. “I need you.” Then she screamed it: “I need you!” Silence.
She let her head fall forward. Did she fall asleep? Maybe…
When she opened her eyes again, she stared, bleary-eyed, at the pile of mail on her coffee table. A Star magazine lay on top—a small, business card size photograph of her was in the upper right corner. Beneath her name was a single, terrible word.
She reached forward, grabbed the magazine. It was a small story; not even a full page.
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 she’s had all her life. In recent months, Hart has “gained an alarmingamount of weight” and been abusing drugs and alcohol, according to Ms. Ryan–
The betrayal hurt so badly she couldn’t breathe. She read the rest of the story and then let the magazine slide to the floor.
The pain she’d been holding at bay for months, years, roared to life, sucking her into the bleakest, loneliest place she’d ever been. For the first time, she couldn’t even imagine crawling out of this pit.
She staggered to her feet, her vision blurred by tears, and reached for her car keys. She couldn’t live like this anymore.
Copyright @ Kristin Hannah 2013