Authors: Lauren Weisberger
She could not get out of bed. Her comforter was made from eiderdown, but it seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. As did her legs, which felt barely strong enough to take her the ten feet to the bathroom. She hadn't showered in two full days and nights; there was stubble in unacceptable places and a furry feeling to her tongue. She knew this was depression. She'd had a bout with it during her endless struggle to conceive, but this felt ten times worse.
Since even holding the remote was too exhausting, Karolina couldn't
turn off CNN, where it was obviously a slow news day because they were looping coverage on the new health care bill Graham was spearheading. So-called experts on both sides of the bill kept appearing and disappearing from Anderson Cooper's table, arguing whether the bill would single-handedly save or disastrously ruin the United States for all eternity. She had watched it four times over now. No one said anything new or interesting. She would so much rather be watching
or Bravo or nothing at all, but the remote was lost somewhere in the impossibly heavy comforter, and it would take too much energy to find it. Exhausted, Karolina stared at the hideous modern light fixture Graham had chosen when they bought the house. The sleek automated blinds made the room feel about as warm as a hospital ward. One day, if she could ever find the motivation, she would rip them out and everything else too.
Karolina didn't even realize she had fallen asleep until she awoke to the sound of Graham's voice.
“Graham?” she nearly shouted, bolting upright faster than she'd thought possible.
He didn't answer. Karolina looked around the room, but all was just as she had left it. And then she saw him: alone at Anderson Cooper's table, the rest of the talking heads cleared out so the man himself could have the full stage.
“I hear what you're saying, Anderson, I do,” Graham said, nodding gravely. “And that's a concern for me as wellâand all Americans. But now is the time for us to put our hesitation and fear aside and do what we all know is right.”
Karolina collapsed back against her pillows and exhaled. When had he gotten that suit? She bought all of his clothes, and she was certain she'd never seen that one before. Even more irritatingly, it looked great on him.
The show went to commercial break, and Karolina made a serious attempt to find the remoteâno one should have to endure the sight and sound of her estranged husband on television while trying to wallow in
self-pity. It had been nearly three weeks since she'd seen him, but it felt like three years.
“If you're just joining us, I'm here with Senator Graham Hartwell, the junior democratic senator from the state of New York and the sponsor of the HartwellâConnolly Bill. Senator, thanks for joining me.”
“Always a pleasure, Anderson.” Graham offered an easy smile. He was completely comfortable on live national TV. Hell, he was completely comfortable everywhere.
“So, before the break we were discussing the impact the HartwellâConnolly Bill will have on a specific population. How will your bill offer protection when Republicans want mental health and addiction provisions removed from standard coverage?”
Graham appeared to consider. “Well, you know, Anderson, I think Americans are more concerned about mental health and addiction than those of us in Washington would like to think. Take my own personal situation, for example. As you may have heard, my wife got in some serious trouble earlier this month.”
The camera zoomed in on Anderson's face, which registered shock and then unbridled joy, in that order. Had the senator just
brought up his famous wife's very notorious DUI? Had he actually uttered the words “as you may have heard” to address the single most covered topic in the United States so far in the month of January? Was there a political pundit or journalist or comedian or talk show host or news anchor or gossip columnist who
commented on Karolina's run-in with the law? Jimmy Fallon had dedicated an entire opening monologue to it.
Anderson collected himselfâit wasn't easy to surprise the Silver Fox, and if the circumstances had been different, Karolina would have admired Graham for it. “Yes, of course,” he said, his voice reflecting the gravitas of the situation. “I'm sure it hasn't been easy.”
“Most certainly not. My wife is very ill. It's taken me a long time to understand that alcoholism is an illness, but I do now. That said, she has had every opportunity to get helpâcertainly many more chances than
the average American ever has, I recognize thatâbut still she continues on with this risky behavior. I've tried to help her for many years. If it were just meÂ .Â .Â .” Graham allowed his voice to trail off, and the average viewer couldn't be blamed for thinking he was actually choked up.
It had felt difficult to move before, as if she were swimming in a resistance pool, but now Karolina's entire body felt paralyzed, and her brain had ceased processing certain words.
Illness? Alcoholism? Risky behavior?
“I'mÂ .Â .Â . sorry?” Anderson said, newly flustered. Had there ever in his entire career been a guestâa United States senator, no lessâwho had so willingly broached the subject of his deliciously salacious personal life?
“But it's not only about me. I have to consider my son. I would be remiss as a father if I allowed my romantic relationship to further put my child at risk.”
A howl escaped from Karolina's lips. Had she just made that noise? Had Graham just called their ten-year marriage his romantic relationship? And referred to Harry as
son and not theirs?
Anderson cleared his throat. He looked edgy, like a hunting lion about to strike. “Are you saying that your marriageâ”
Graham clenched his hands together and stared solemnly at his lap. “You make all sorts of exceptions for the people you love. But I no longer see a path forward for us.”
“I see,” Anderson said, although he clearly did not.
“Does anyone remember you were talking about the fucking HartwellâConnolly Bill?” Karolina screamed.
It was as though Anderson heard her through the TV. He said, “I have to take a quick break, Senator. I hope you'll stay with me to discuss thisâand everything elseâin further detail?”
Graham nodded. “Of course, Anderson. I'd be happy to.”
Her phone rang immediately. It was her former agent, Rebecca, the woman who had mentored her through all her top years of modeling. Karolina knew Rebecca always kept CNN running in the background
of her office, had done so for years, and clearly she was watching the Graham interview. As Karolina was debating whether or not to answer, it went to voicemail. A call from her aunt quickly followed. After sending that one and the next two directly to voicemail, Karolina switched off her phone. She yanked the covers to climb back in bed and almost sat directly on an apple-size spot of bright red blood. One glance down at her stained-through underwear confirmed it. How had she not even realized?
Sighing heavily, Karolina stripped in the bathroom, threw her soiled clothes into a sink full of cold water, and climbed into the shower. Although it required superhuman amounts of strength, she grudgingly scrubbed and shaved all the parts that needed attention and wrapped herself in a massive Frette bath sheet. It wasn't until she went to pull on a pair of fresh underwear and clean flannel PJ pants that she discovered she was fresh out of tampons.
“Christ,” she muttered, stuffing a wad of toilet paper in her underwear the way she used to do in middle school when she found herself without supplies.
It wasn't even five in the afternoon, but she was entirely alone: the caretaker couple had already called twice to ask if she needed them to return, but Karolina had insisted that she was fine by herself. A local woman came a couple mornings a week to clean, but she didn't come on Fridays. With no choice but to actually leave her house, Karolina padded to the kitchen. Unable to resist, she swiped open her email on her iPad and scrolled through the new messages. She didn't make it past the first one, a note from her aunt that contained only two items: an attached photo with a long chain of question marks preceding it. The quality was grainy, since her aunt had taken a picture of the picture using her phone and then emailed itâsurely on the lowest resolutionâto Karolina, but it didn't take long to make out the players. Seated at Capitol Prime in D.C., known as the power lunch place for politicos, were Trip, Graham, and Joseph, Graham's chief of staff. The interesting addition was the striking woman seated to Graham's left.
Regan. The Ice Queen
camera caught her only in profile, but she was gazing at Graham while tossing her head back slightly and laughing. Graham was cutting his food and grinning a smile much wider than his grilled salmon probably warranted. All four wore business suits. To the normal onlooker, it appeared to be exactly what it was: a business lunch among colleagues. Your average Joe would not look at that photo and immediately think,
Those two are fucking
, but Karolina would bet her life they were. And so, obviously, would her aunt.
Close it, close it, close it
, she coached herself, possibly aloud. Her hands moved to flip the screen cover back on, but she couldn't stop herself. Up came Google and in went the woman's name: Regan Whitney. Karolina paused for a moment, knowing that she couldn't undo what she was about to discoverâsimultaneously proud for never having given in to the temptation before and ashamed for being too weak to resist it nowâand then hit “return.”
Karolina skipped over the Wikipedia entry, the Facebook link, and a handful of the most current news articles and clicked directly on “images,” where she was rewarded with thousands of photos. Regan Whitney at four different inaugural balls, wearing four different gowns, posing with four different guests. Teaching English at a mud hut schoolhouse in rural Nigeria. At a gala benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Holding hands with a small, sad Syrian child who had been granted a visa to the United States. Looking positively luminescent in all white at a Hamptons clambake.
Karolina clicked back to the nitty-gritty bio details that she'd never allowed herself to read. Some were familiar, because as the daughter of a former president of the United States, Regan had been in the public eye since childhood. Like the fact that Regan's mother had died in childbirth and she, the youngest of five children but the only girl, was her father's favorite. But some she hadn't paid much attention to years earlier, during President Whitney's administration. Karolina either didn't know or didn't remember that Regan had gone to Sidwell Friends and played two varsity sports and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. There were pictures
of her being picked up at the White House on prom night by her date. Princeton. The Peace Corps. Then finally a master's at Harvard. The closest thing to a scandal Karolina could uncover was an embarrassing photo of Regan clutching a bong and exhaling a long stream of smoke in what was obviously a fraternity room with half a dozen other well-scrubbed, white, and preppily clad college kids.
Karolina snorted. Regan Whitney was the closest thing to real live political royalty in this generation. Twenty-nine years old, brilliant, accomplished, gorgeous, polished, and a humanitarian to boot. As pretty as the young woman was in her blue-eyed, blond, all-American way, Karolina knew Regan couldn't compete with her in the looks departmentânot even with the advantage of being nearly a decade younger. At thirty-seven, Karolina still turned heads each and every time she stepped outside. While Regan's body was trim and fit, Karolina's was slamming: curvy and tanned and sexy and tightâquite literally the stuff of fantasies for boys and men worldwide. Regan's bouncy bob framed her pretty face and showed off her translucent skin; Karolina's wild brown waves tumbled down her back and grazed the very top of her buttocks and seemed to suggest that she had always just climbed directly out of someone's bed. Pretty versus hot. Brilliant versus sexy. Ivy League humanitarian versus high-school-dropout lingerie model. All-American privilege and upbringing versus peasant roots and a slight but persistent Polish accent.
Karolina may have stayed there all day, clicking madly, but she had female matters to address. She slipped on her favorite boots, a massive Canada Goose down jacket, and a pair of outdated glasses from the kitchen drawer. In the car, she commanded Siri to take her to the nearest drugstore, which directed her to Whole Foods instead. Unwilling to continue driving, Karolina parked and braced herself against the frigid January wind as she made her way to the front door in the darkness. As though the cold wasn't bad enough, it had to get dark in the middle of the day. Had that happened in Bethesda too? Why did it seem so much worse here? And was that creepy guy standing just inside the entrance
FaceTiming someone, or was he holding his phone up like that because he was taking her picture? She shivered, unwilling to know the answer, and had begun a frantic search for the toiletries aisle when she heard a familiar voice.
“Oh my God. Karolina!” Miriam materialized, pushing a cart, her cheeks adorably red from the cold but her expression one of concern.
“Hey, fancy meeting you here.”
“Karolina! You look
. What's going on with you?”
“I have my period.”
Miriam frowned. “Is that code for something? Orâwait. Are you relieved? Or upset? Are you
Karolina laughed and it sounded bitter even to her own ears. “Yeah, only for seven years now, and you can see how well that went.”
“I'm sorry. I didn't meanâ”
“No, please, it's fine. I'm here to buy Tampax.”
Miriam looked relieved. “How are you doing otherwise? I've called and texted you the last two weeks, butÂ .Â .Â . Anyway, I didn't want to stop by unannounced.” She made a show of looking Karolina up and down. “But I probably should have.”