Authors: Lauren Weisberger
“You too!” Miriam said. “Are you still at MTV?”
“Yep, still plugging along. I escaped to get my hair blown out because I have an event tonight at Gagosian and won't have time after work. You know how it is.” Stephanie scrunched up her nose. “Wait, why are you all the way down here?” She was polite enough not to comment on Miriam's outfit: ripped jeans that she suddenly felt too old to wear, paired with a cardigan and last year's booties. Flat, of course, for city walking.
“Me? Oh, I'm just getting some paperwork done while I wait for Paul. He had a meeting in the city today, so he's giving me a ride back to Connecticut. We have parent/teacher conferences this afternoon.” Why was she blathering on like that? Couldn't she have stopped after “paperwork”?
Miriam laughed uncomfortably. “Oh, you didn't know? We left the city last fall. Greenwich. So the kids could have a backyard, you know, the usual.”
“I had no idea! Wow. That's amazing. I've wanted to move out of the city since we had Dashiell, but I'm too scared of the commute. I barely see him now, and that's with me living on the Upper West Side. How are you managing?”
Miriam could feel the flush start in her chest. “I, umÂ .Â .Â . I'm not working right now.”
Stephanie clapped her hand to her mouth. “I'm so sorry! I had heard some rumors about Skadden, but I never figured it would affect you. As a partner and all.”
“I wasn't pushed out.”
Stephanie's eyes widened. “You quit?”
“Yes,” Miriam said with more conviction than she felt. “Paul sold his company, and I thought it might be good for the family ifâ”
“Right,” Stephanie said. “It makes total sense. I'm sure you'll go back when you're ready.”
“Yes, I'm sure,” Miriam said, and although there wasn't the slightest hint of condescension or envy in Stephanie's tone, Miriam sensed herself being hyper-vigilant to it. She had quit her job to stay home and be more present with her children. She had zero plans to go back to work, even if there were days when she missed it like an amputated limb.
“Well, you remember what it's like when you duck out and all hell breaks loose?” Stephanie held up her phone to show her twenty new emails.
They waved goodbye, and it was all Miriam could do not to put her head down on the table. The entire interaction had just beenÂ .Â .Â . exhausting. She turned back to her pile of papers. When she'd volunteered to help Karolina sort through all of the legal and financial documents surrounding the divorce, she'd been appalled to find that they had a slew of unpaid bills between them. Karolina had given her the password to
their online bill-paying account, and Miriam could barely believe what she saw: cable bills, electricity, insurance, credit card bills, home repair, doctors' billsâall either unpaid, overdue, or paid twice. One Verizon bill had been paid three times.
When Miriam asked Karolina about it, she'd just shrugged. “Sometimes I pay. Sometimes he pays. Sometimes we both pay. Sometimes neither of us does. It always works itself out.”
“Why don't you have your accountant do this?”
“Why? He does the taxes. But we can pay our own bills.”
“Clearly not. Some of these have gone to collections. Do you have any idea what that does to your credit?”
“What do I need credit for?”
So there it was. They were just too wealthy to care. Too rich to need a mortgage or be concerned if they'd paid three times for the same thing. She would sort through and organize her finances, pay the outstanding bills, and, most importantly, get a handle on what Karolina and Graham had as a couple and as individuals. Make sure Graham hadn't stashed anything in an offshore account in the Caymans or Geneva. Or hell, didn't own a property somewhere that he'd failed to mention. God only knew what else this man was capable of.
So far Miriam had made her way through nearly all the household bills for the Bethesda home in the previous year, and there was only one small manila envelope left to sort through. It was labeled
HARTWELL FAMILY BILLS
in Sharpie script and showed a return address of a concierge medical practice in Bethesda. Karolina had explained that Dr. Goldwyn was a dear family friend who acted as the overseer of medical care for both her and Graham, and the last time she'd stopped in to say hello, his receptionist had handed her a pile of unpaid bills. Miriam began to sort and pay. The medical dermatologist for Karolina's full-body scan; the cosmetic dermatologist for her Botox and Fraxel treatments; the concierge pediatrician they used for Harry; a whopping figure to the Mayo Clinic for something called an “executive physical” for Graham during which, it looked like, they tested pretty much every
cell, organ, and membrane in his body; an orthopedist for Harry's broken arm; a private rehab facility where Graham worked on an old knee injury twice a week; charges for Karolina's annual Pap smear. It was a mess but all pretty self-explanatory. It wasn't until Miriam ran across a bill from a surgeon's office in Manhattan that she needed to pick up the phone for clarification. In addition to spelling Graham's name wrong, the bill didn't describe the treatment, and Miriam couldn't understand why, if he had no existing medical condition that she could see, Graham would meet with a surgeon in Manhattan. Her heart skipped a little beat: was this going to be where she stumbled across Graham's secret face-lift plans? That would make the day
much more interesting.
She called the office and asked for accounting. If she had to tell a small white lie and mention something about power of attorney in order to get the information, she wouldâafter all, Karolina had given her permission to investigateâbut the young woman who answered sounded bored, overworked, and interested only in getting off the phone as quickly as possible.
“Hello, I'm a lawyer representing the Hartwell family. Karolina Hartwell has asked me to settle any unpaid pills, and I have something here that reads âUnspecified' with code number 394. Could you please tell me what that was for?”
“Yeah, one sec.” The account girl put her on hold. She was back about two minutes later. “Is that invoice number 635380101?”
Miriam scanned the bill. “Yes.”
The sound of typing came through the phone. “That's super-old. Like, five years ago old. And I show here that it was paid. In full at the time of treatment. In cash, actually. So I'm not sure why you even have a bill.”
Miriam said, “This is from Blue Cross. And now that you mention it, it isn't a bill, it's a statement. And I didn't realize how old it was. Sorry about that.”
“No problem,” the girl said, although she wasn't convincing.
“Just one thing: what was the procedure that took place? I need to
make sure I've accounted for the correct one,” Miriam said, stringing together a bunch of nonsense words in what she hoped sounded like an authoritative voice.
“The code listed here is for a laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair.”
“Oh, okay,” Miriam said, unable to keep the disappointment out of her voice. “Thanks for your help.”
She was just about to hang up when the girl said, “Wait. Oh, never mind, it's nothing.”
“It says here they also did a vasectomy. But they didn't code it separately, so it didn't show up on the statement. Whatever. They tack the vasectomies on to a lot of the hernia surgeries these days, it's not a big deal.”
Miriam nearly dropped the phone but took a deep breath and forced herself to stay calm as the girl continued. She thanked her lucky stars that this person appeared never to have heard of HIPAA. “Are you sure?”
“Yep. Says so right here. October nineteenth, 2013. Performed by Dr. Hershberg at Mount Sinai at eight-thirty in the morning.”
“Got it. Okay. Thank you so much. You've been very helpful.” Miriam quickly hung up before she could say anything suspicious.
It was unfathomable. Had he been sitting across from her, she may have murdered him.
Violating every ethical/professional bone in her body, she reflexively dialed Emily, not Karolina.
“Why are you
me? What couldn't be discussed over text?”
“Graham had a vasectomy.”
“A vasectomy! He got snipped! Like, permanently.”
“How do you know?”
“I just got off the phone with the doctor's office. He did it
five years ago
. Right when Karolina was trying to get pregnant! Getting IVF shots!”
“Christ. He's such a scumbag!”
Miriam smacked the table so hard her coffee splashed over the side. People around her stared, but she didn't care. “Karolina still doesn't know! You're my first call.”
“No way, Miriam. Not me. You're out of your fucking mind if you think I'm going to be the one to tell her this.”
“You wanted the dirt!”
“You're her lawyer. And a friend since childhood. I'm her freaking image consultant! You think I should be talking to her about her husband's surprise snipping?”
“Emily. I'm just saying that we are
helping her recover from this, so we should tell her together.”
Emily laughed. Not nicely. “No, thank you. Did I tell you I tripped over Ashley's husband climbing all over some teenager? My policy is no drama. No way.”
“Ashley? Your friend?”
“YesâI know. I meantÂ .Â .Â . you saw her husband flirting with a teenager?”
“Not flirting. Fucking. Pardon the crassness, but there's really no other way to describe it.”
Miriam rested her head in her palm. Her skull was suddenly throbbing sharply on one side. “You're sure? Where? Why didn't you tell me?”
“At that weird
Eyes Wide Shut
party she dragged me to. And I didn't tell you because I don't want any involvement whatsoever. But it was him.”
“Oh God. What do I do?” Miriam moaned.
“Nothing! You do nothing! This has nothing to do with you. She'll hate you if they get divorced because she'll be convinced it was somehow your fault, however irrational that is. And she'll hate you if they stay together because she knows you know this humiliating thing about her. Trust me. The only way to play this one is to pretend you don't know a goddamn thing.”
“She's already worried he's cheating. She found his email address on the Ashley Madison leak site.”
“Do nothing. Karolina, though, you
to tell. I've always felt she doesn't hate Graham as much as she should in light of what he's done to her. This will help that. Plus, you're her lawyer.”
Miriam's stomach dropped. Her call waiting rang. “Em?” she said. “It's Paul. I've got to run.”
“Okay. Let me know how it goes.”
Miriam clicked over. “Paul? Hey, where are you?”
“Outside. And I'm double-parked in a no-standing, so can you come out?”
“I need a second to pack up and everything.”
“If I'm not here, I'm circling the block and I'll be right back.” And he hung up.
Okay, then. He was a half hour early and she still had a list of things to do, but she packed up her laptop and papers and threw out her coffee. He wasn't outside when she got to the sidewalk, but he pulled up within a minute. In the red Maserati. With the top down despite the chilly day, music blaring. At least a dozen people on both sides of Bleecker turned to look.
“Can you turn that down?” she asked, trying not to sound as peeved as she felt.
“It would be criminal to turn down a sound system like this,” Paul said, not noticing her irritation.
.” She knew this was New York and no one remotely cared what car she and her husband were driving, but she hated feeling so conspicuous.
“Who cares? Come on, get in before I get a ticket.”
Miriam tossed her laptop bag in the backâwhich was about all that could fitâand got into the passenger seat. The leather felt cold but plush, and the music beat in her chest.
Paul leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Hi.”
“Hi. Are you still up for Corner Bistro? I'm dying for a decent burger.”
“Can't,” he said. “I have to jump on a call before we go to the conference.” He started weaving around cars and taxis in an aggressive way, in and out of his lane with no turn signals and no regard for right of way.
“What? I'm driving like a New Yorker.”
They didn't say another word until they were on the West Side Highway, first passing Chelsea Piers and then the giant lot where the city stored all the towed cars and finally stopping at a red light next to the
“Can we put the top up? I'm freezing,” Miriam said.
Paul looked displeased. “Sure.” He punched a button and the convertible instantaneously did its thing.
“Can I ask you something?”
He glanced over. Looking nervous? Dubious? Or was she imagining it?
“What do you know about Eric?”
He squinted almost imperceptibly but kept his eyes fixed on the road ahead. “In terms of?”
“What? That's a really vague question. I don't know him that well at all. He's made a decent effort to be friendly. He's called me to come over for poker nights and that kind of thing. You know that.”
“Yes, but has he told you anything aboutÂ .Â .Â . him and Ashley?”
Paul smiled. “I've told you before, honey. Guys don't talk like that. We don't sit around talking about feelings. Or our marriages.”
“So you don't knowÂ .Â .Â . anything?”
Paul gazed ahead, but Miriam could've sworn she saw the briefest flicker. “Anything about what? Whether or not he's happy with her? No.”