Authors: Lauren Weisberger
“Why are we here?” she asked, looking around. On the first floor were a yoga studio, a landscape design firm, and an organic market that advertised a juice bar in the back.
Paul held open a door that read
, and she followed him up a staircase to a cheerfully lit waiting area. On the three doors here, she saw signs announcing their occupants as two child psychologists and one speech therapist. Past that area and down the hall were more doors, each adorned with a person's name, and at the very end of the hallway, a door with no name. Paul typed a four-digit codeâtheir shared ATM pin, she noticedâinto the keypad and swung it open. Inside was a small but surprisingly spectacular open-plan office with washed-oak floors and modern but warm furniture: desk, leather swivel chair, bookcases filled with framed family photos and Miriam's favorite hardcovers and tchotchkes she'd collected from her travels over the years. Best of all, it was filled with the most incredible light, from the two enormous overhead skylights and the back wall of windows that looked out over a small tributary of the Byram River. There was a Juliet balcony that overlooked the idyllic grassy river spot and, down below, a picnic table where a woman in her twenties sat reading, a cup of coffee in hand.
“What is this?” Miriam asked, although now that she could see the contents of the bookshelves, it was rather obvious.
Paul just stared at her.
“What for? I'm not working enough to justify having an office. Especially not one this pretty,” Miriam said, admiring how the space felt both modern and uncluttered yet cozy and inviting at the same time. She couldn't have pulled that off if she'd tried.
“You're an incredible momâdon't get me wrongâand the kids are so lucky to have you at home with them, but we both know it's not making you happy.”
“That's not true, it's just thatâ”
Paul reached up and touched her lips with his finger. “I wanted you to know that I've been hearing you. A lot has changed since we've left the city. Things are weird out here. Good, I know, but weird. You don't want to go back to working eighty hours a week and commuting to and from a demanding firm in the city, but I can also tell that going to gym
classes and PTA meetings all day long isn't doing it for you. You're always happiest when you're busy, so I thought if you had a proper dedicated space to escape from the rest of us, you could take on more legal work in town. Only if you wanted to, of course. There's no pressure. You always said no when I suggested you get your own office, and I completely took over the home office. So I'm sorry I've been secretive and had to do all this behind your backâand I'm doubly sorry if you don't like it, but Ashley picked the decoratorâbut I really wanted you to have this. Because I love you. And I'm here for you.”
“So you're not cheating on me?” Miriam didn't know when the tears had started, only that they were streaming down her cheeks.
“I'm not cheating on you.” Paul opened his arms, which she gladly collapsed into.
“You didn't find someone with a better vagina?”
Paul gently pushed back her shoulders and peered at her. “What did you say?”
“I figured that's why you weren't so interested in sex anymore. One of the reasons, at least. I mean, you should hear the way these women talk about it.”
“My God, Miriam. Is that what you've been thinking? That we have less sex now because there's something
She could only manage a nod.
“Come here, baby. I'm so sorry. I don't know what's been going on exactly, but I think it's kind of normal for people who have been married this long. These things wax and wane, you know? Not that I like it, but it's something we can work on. This whole adjustment to the suburbs hasn't been easy for either of us.”
Miriam reached up to kiss Paul on the lips. And as she took Paul's hand and walked around her gorgeous new office, painted in soothing shades of Burnt Ember and Smoked Truffle, she spotted something else. There, draped over a fabulous little love seat upholstered in a rich eggplant velvet, was a throw blanket. It was gray with an off-white ikat pattern, and the cashmere was so rich and plush, she felt like she could
wrap her entire body in it and sleep comfortably on the hardwood floor. The tag read:
CASHMERE AND SILK, HAND-LOOMED BY ARTISANS IN NEPAL, BROUGHT TO YOU EXCLUSIVELY BY LOFTED,
although Miriam could have guessed as much before she even read it.
“I'm sorry” was all she could manage to choke out before the sobs started to accompany her tears.
“I love you, Miriam. I love our family. I love our life together,” Paul said, enveloping her in a full-body hug that made her feel everything in the whole world was exactly how it should be.
“I love you too.”
arolina took a sip of her nigori sake and checked her phone. It wasn't like Trip to be late, especially when he was the one who had pleaded to meet in the first place. She knew Miriam had been trying to set up a meeting and he'd refused to see her. For better or worse, Karolina's curiosity about what her former “friend” had to say meant she'd agreed to meet him. Without her lawyer. Miriam might kill her. Emily certainly would. The waiter came by to refill her shallow sake bowl, and Karolina promptly downed that too. When Trip finally did arrive, he wore an inscrutable expression.
“Thank you for meeting me. I'm sorry I'm late,” he said as he sat down next to her. The four-top was set for two people to sit across from each other, but Trip merely dragged the place mat in front of him. He leaned over to kiss her cheek, but she ducked.
“I ordered a drink without you. Are you offended? Or totally expecting it?” Karolina said.
“Oh, please. I know you don't have a drinking problem.”
“Weren't you the one who told me I had a DUI in the first place? I had to pretend I went to rehab, for God's sake. My âfriends' in Bethesda haven't spoken to me since the night it supposedly happened. Since the night your BFF used his political and civic connections to frame me for a crime I didn't commit so he could look like the victim instead of the cheating scumbag he actually is.”
Trip grimaced, and it made Karolina want to punch him.
“So is this the meeting when you tell me that it was all a big misunderstanding? That Graham is sorry and we can be
now? Because if it is, you can turn around and head right back outside. I'm not interested.”
The waiter returned and Trip sounded desperate as he asked for a vodka on the rocks with extra olives. “Something's come up. And we need to discuss it.”
“Continue,” Karolina said.
Trip cleared his throat. He was actually nervous.
How dare he
, Karolina thought. And then the words Emily had drilled into her for months:
The waiter arrived and they ordered. Then there was an awkward moment of silence. Clearly they had plenty to say, but they hesitated to jump into the heavy stuff.
Trip placed his hand over Karolina's. And for some reason, she didn't remove it. “First, I owe you an apology.”
“For what? I want to know.”
“I stood by him while he did these awful things to you. And I don't know why. Out of some misguided sense of loyalty, maybe? He was always there for me from the day we met as undergrads. When my parents died six months apart. When the twins were born prematurely and we spent weeks in the NICU. When Ellen left me. He's always been there, and I guess I thought I owed him for that.”
The waiter appeared with two small bowls of soup and two salads with ginger dressing, and they had to rearrange the table to accommodate it all.
“I have to ask you something,” Karolina said, feeling a familiar lump in her throat. “And I need you to be honest.”
“I swear.” He peered at her.
“Did you know about the vasectomy?”
Trip crinkled his nose. “The what? Whose vasectomy?”
Karolina studied his face: he was telling the truth.
“Graham had a vasectomy five years ago and never told me.”
“Jesus Christ, Lina. That has to be bullshit.”
“I didn't believe it either. But it's true.”
Trip placed his fingertips to his forehead. “Oh my God. I don't even know what to say. I swear to you, I had no idea.”
“No wonder it was so hard to get pregnant, huh?” Her laugh was mirthless.
Trip hadn't lived through the day-to-day while Karolina desperately tried to have a baby, but he knew the broad strokes. He'd helped Karolina arrange a consultation with a fertility specialist who was visiting from Switzerland and had the highest success rate in the world.
Trip was quiet. “He told you about the, um, the incident in high school?”
Karolina nodded, sipping some miso soup from the outsize wooden spoon. “Yes. He told me when we first married. I didn't know he told you too.”
Trip exhaled. “I don't think he meant to tell me. We were seniors at Harvard and he got trashed one night. More than usual. I guess it was the anniversary of the girl's death, and he got so shitfaced that he came home from the bar and broke down. Sobbing. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen in my life. But the next morning he either didn't remember or he pretended he didn't remember, and we never spoke of it again. I think he shut down. Maybe forever.”
“Wow. Did he tell you what happened?” She lowered her voice to a
whisper. “Was it his fault? Was he speeding? Drinking? I didn't ask and he didn't say.”
“I don't know. He just said she ran out in front of his car, and he hit her before he ever saw her. I never told another soul.”
“I didn't either.” Karolina paused, remembering she'd recently told Emily. “Well, only one person. But I swore her to secrecy.”
“Nothing would ruin his political career faster. He might have had a chance to overcome it if he'd admitted it from the beginning, explained it, repented for itâbasically done exactly what he feelsâbut it's too late now. He's made it this horrible secret, and it would ruin him.”
“I agree. And as tempting as it is to go public with it, I never would. I don't want Harry to have to make sense of something like that. And to drag the girl's parents through it all over again? It's too cruel.” She paused. “The vasectomy, however, is tempting.”
They finished their soup in silence. It wasn't until Karolina took her first bite of salad that Trip looked at her. “Lina?”
Something in his tone made her set her chopsticks down.
“Graham asked me to tell you that he's considered it all carefully, and he thinks the best thing for Harry is to go to boarding school. Like he did, and his brothers.”
Karolina pushed back her chair to stand, furious. “That animal! How can he even think of sending our son toâ?”
.” His voice was steely. “He has made arrangements for Harry to start at Choate in the fall.”
Karolina could feel her eyes widen. Choate? That was right here in Connecticut. What sort of fresh hell was he planning to torture her with now? “OkayÂ .Â .Â .”
“And he thinks it would be best if you stayed at the Greenwich house indefinitely so Harry can visit you on weekends and holidays, and perhaps you can go up there during the week sometimes to see him. Take him and his friends out for dinner, that kind of thing.”
“Why would he voluntarily choose to send Harry to school near me?”
“I'm not so sure it was voluntary,” Trip said quietly.
Karolina leaned in. “What do you know?”
“Nothing beyond what I just told you. So my suggestion would be to enjoy this victory. Because that's definitely what it is.”
It wasn't the first time Karolina had cried in front of Trip, but for some reason she felt more self-conscious now about the tears than she had in the past. “You really think he means it?” She tried to wipe the mascara from under her eyes but figured she was probably streaking it.
Trip nodded. “He already completed the paperwork to arrange for the transfer. Sidwell is making him pay for the entire year because it's too late to withdraw. And he's still doing it.”
“I, IÂ .Â .Â . I can't even speak,” Karolina said, pushing her salad away.
“He asked me to tell you myself. Said you hung up on him when he called.”
Karolina could barely describe the rush of elation pulsing through her. She still had rageâfive years lost to his lies, if not more. But knowing that she would continue to be Harry's mom, to be part of his life, to see him on a regular basisÂ .Â .Â . The other worries faded into the background.
This time Karolina took Trip's hand. “I have to get home. Can we finish another time?”
Trip would have to wait. Everything would have to wait. Right now the only thing that mattered was getting home to talk to Emily. Never in her entire life could she remember feeling as grateful as she did at that moment; as she raced to her car, she could practically feel her son in her arms. She drove as quickly as she could.
Â Â â¢Â Â â¢Â Â â¢Â Â
er call to Miriam went straight to voicemail, but by then she was already pulling onto Honeysuckle Lane.
“Emily! Emily! Em! I! Lee!” Karolina shouted as she ran through the kitchen as fast as her wedge espadrilles would allow. “Emily!”
Karolina looked around. There was a half-drunk bottle ofÂ Whis-
pering Angel on the coffee table, accompanied by a pack of Marlboro Lights. That inane Bravo reality show about yachts was blaring from the television. All the lights were on. And the pair of nude ChloÃ© sandals that Emily had been wearing since Memorial Day were on the carpet. Clearly she was here. So why wasn't she answering?
“Emily! Are you up here? You need to hear this,” Karolina called, racing up the carpeted stairs. She checked the two guest rooms that Emily had been switching between, depending on her mood and a number of other factors Karolina couldn't quite understand. “Where the hell are you?”