Authors: Lauren Weisberger
“Very, ma'am. I was the officer on duty who completed her booking. The field officers left at shift change, and I was responsible for finishing her paperwork.”
“I see,” Miriam murmured. “And you clearly remembered her
for a Breathalyzer?”
“And may I ask why you didn't administer one? Isn't that protocol for all suspected DUIs?”
“Yes, usually. But in this case, Chief Cunningham said that we were forgoing the sobriety tests because Mrs. Hartwell was a VIP.”
“That Senator Hartwell wouldn't be too pleased if his wife was arrested for drunk driving. I wasn't entirely comfortable breaking with protocol, but I did understand it was a sensitive situation.”
“Yes, I can understand that,” Miriam said, trying to sound sympathetic.
“I should have called earlier .Â .Â .”
Miriam nodded, even though he couldn't see her. “Of course, Mr.
Lewis. I think anyone could understand your hesitation. But will you do the stand-up thing and set the record straight? You're off the force, there will be no personal fallout for you. And Mrs. Hartwellâwho just so happens to be a lovely person who has suffered a great dealâwill be forever indebted.”
There was a moment of silence. “You would use my name?”
“Yes,” Miriam said definitively. “That's the only way.”
Another moment of silence, during which Miriam held her breath, and then she heard: “Okay. I'll do it.”
They arranged a time and a place to meet that coming Friday, and Miriam pumped her fist when they hung up. She grabbed her purse and coat and flew down the stairs, not even bothering to lock her office. She and the others who shared the space were like a dysfunctional family. They complained about the weather over coffee each morning and drinks occasionally after work. They signed for each other's packages and greeted each other's clients and shared news updates and weight-loss tips. The psychotherapist named Dara, whom Miriam adored, had started dragging her to some insane Pilates-meets-kickboxing class three times a week, and Miriam had already dropped two sizes.
When she raced into the salad place, breathless, Ashley looked up from her phone with a strange expression.
“Sorry I'm late. Iâ”
“Miriam?” Ashley interrupted, leaning across the table far enough to stop Miriam midsentence. “I have something to tell you.”
“You and Eric are getting back together?” Miriam asked, nearly certain that would be the outcome, when being the only question.
Ashley twisted her mouth into a look of pure disgust. “Eric? Oh, hell, no!” she said loudly enough for the people behind the counter to turn and look. “He can go screw each and every one of his Ashley Madison girls for all I care.”
“Okay.” Miriam laughed. “Noted.”
“I've met someone. More than met, I guess I should say. I'm in love.
“He's a local dad, actually.” Ashley lowered her voice, although they were the only two customers in the entire place. “I can't believe I never knew him, but I suppose Greenwich is bigger than we think. And our kids aren't the same age.”
“That sounds great,” Miriam said genuinely. A divorced dad who lived locally sounded like one of the best possible outcomes from this whole horrible ordeal.
“And I haven't even told you the best part.” Ashley leaned in and whispered, “He's British.”
“He's gorgeous. And so, so sexy.”
“Good for you,” Miriam said. “I'm really happy for you.”
Ashley nodded. “Thanks. I know it's a little awkward with you and Emily being friends and all, but I think we can all be grown-up about this, right?”
“Emily? My Emily?”
Ashley peered at Miriam. “She didn't tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“Normally I'm not one to gossipâand Alistair has assured me there's nothing going on between themâbut I did see a naked selfie she sent him on her phone.”
“WaitâEmily Charlton? Some guy named Alistair? That's ridiculous. She would never do that,” Miriam said with more confidence than she felt.
Ashley pulled her own phone from her bag, scrolled, and held up the screen for Miriam to see.
Miriam narrowed her eyes. “Those are just naked breasts. They could be anyone's!”
“Please, Miriam. I have her number in my phone. Just so long as she doesn't think I stole her man or something. Whatever they had isn't any of my businessâand
you know how much I admire herâbut, well, I don't want her thinking there's still anything between them. Because there's not.”
Something about the way Ashley was looking at her made Miriam want to laugh. Suppressing the impulse, she said, “Is that maybe something you'd like me to convey to Emily?”
Ashley appeared to think about this. “If
want to. So long as you don't think she'll be offended.”
Miriam smiled. “You can never tell with Emily, but I'll do my best.” Her phone buzzed and she glanced at it. It was a text from Paul.
Have you had lunch yet?
Here now w/ Ashley. She has a new man.
That's good b/c Eric has three new women.
Sorry. Anyway made a rez for date night tonight.
Where we going?
Miriam was so caught up in her text exchange, she didn't even notice Ashley stand up. “Sorry, I have to run,” Ashley said. “The hair place just called that they can fit me in. I want to get a blowout before my date. Thanks for listening, Miriam. You're the best.”
“Anytime. And I'm happy for you, Ash. You deserve it.” Miriam watched as Ashley walked to her slate gray Range Rover with a bounce in her step.
Good for her
, she thought.
This time her phone rang. “Hey, baby,” she answered. “I was just about to text you back.”
“Time for a quickie?” Paul asked, his voice gruff and sexy.
“No!” Miriam laughed, although she was delighted he'd asked. They were both trying to make more of an effort at spontaneity. “Ashley just left and I'm headed back upstairs.”
She was updating him on the new development in the Karolina case when Miriam felt a strong hand clamp down on her shoulder and she jumped. Paul stood just behind her, grinning.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, standing up to kiss him.
He didn't say anything. He threw out her empty coffee cup, collected her purse from the back of the chair, and took her by the hand.
“Where are we going?” Miriam asked, practically giggling like a little girl. “I haven't even ordered yet.”
“Shhh. Can't you keep quiet for a minute, woman? We're going to check out that insanely expensive throw blanket in your office. Let's see if it delivers the quality it promised.”
utside were low, slightly decrepit stone walls, a beautiful flagstone terrace with a fire pit, and climbing ivy on the brick facade. Inside it had a massive farmhouse sink, three wood-burning fireplacesâincluding one in the master bedroomâand the most exquisite exposed beams in all the common rooms. There was a small but lovely saltwater pool and, best of all, a lavishly finished basement rec room complete with an indoor sports court and a theater room where Harry loved to entertain his new school friends.
Karolina stretched out on her brand-new club chair, an oversize and overstuffed monstrosity from Restoration Hardware that gave her an almost inordinate amount of happiness. Everything from its plush velvet fabric to its ability to recline made her smile. It was three times the size of what she needed, but no matter: it was perfect. She
felt that way about the whole new house, actually. It was still mostly unfurnished; when she'd listed the old house, she'd been eager to sell everything that Graham had chosen. But even empty, this house had a warmer and more inviting feel than she could have hoped. With an accepted offer for the old house, Karolina had pounced on a brand-new listing after spying it online. It was in the so-called Back Country part of Greenwich, which felt more rural and private, and it maintained a lovely French-country feel.
Karolina could hear the thump-thump of the basketball as Harry and two other kids shot hoops downstairs, and she smiled. It would be hard to improve on this Saturday, she thought, spreading open the
New York Times
for what might have been the tenth time that morning. The final chapter of Operation Karolina had come to a boldly beautiful end that day with the publication of ten simple words on the front page, right below the fold:
NEW INFORMATION EMERGES IN THE CASE OF SENATOR HARTWELL'S WIFE.
The story detailed how Officer Lewis, no longer with the Bethesda Police Department, had confirmed Karolina Hartwell's claims that she not only “requested but actually begged” for police to administer a Breathalyzer test. Questions remained about why such a test was not administered, per protocol, and both the Department of Internal Affairs and the Bethesda DA's office were investigating. Officer Lewis went on to say that Karolina “appeared distraught, as one might expect after being arrested in front of one's child, but in no way appeared intoxicated or otherwise impaired. It occurred to me thenâand probably to others, although we did not discuss itâthat it was highly unusual for her to be kept overnight with no corroborating evidence.”
Karolina picked up her phone to text Miriam yet another thank-you, but it rang before she could dial and displayed an unfamiliar 202 area code. Figuring it was someone from the media, and today was a day she would
make a statement, she answered it.
“Karolina Zuraw,” she said confidently, pleased to have officially switched back to her maiden name.
This is Regan. Regan Whitney.” The voice on the other end was higher-pitched than Karolina would have expected. And anxious-sounding.
“Hello, Regan,” Karolina said magnanimously, proud of how she'd managed to disguise her shock.
“Graham asked if I could call you to discuss Christmas. He thinks it would be a good idea for us to get to know each otherâto establish a working relationshipâso we can make decisions that are best for Harry.”
“My lawyer, Miriam Kagan, already reached out with a schedule of visits, and Trip agreedâI'm surprised Graham didn't tell you,” Karolina said, trying to suppress a smile. She kept waiting to feel the predictable pangs of jealousy or at least awkwardness, but they never came. In their place was a confident calm and a newfound sureness that she could handle whatever Graham and Regan might throw at her.
“Yes, well, we were very much hoping that Harry could join us at Elaine's for her traditional Christmas Eve dinner. And of course, if you don't mind, to stay for Christmas morning to open his gifts. We could have the driver take him back to you in Greenwich so you could have him for the evening meal?”
“I believe that works with the schedule, Regan. Perhaps you can ask Graham for a copy?” Karolina said.
There was a moment of silence. “I guess our wires crossed,” Regan said. “But thank you.” Her relief was palpable even through the phone.
“Well, I won't keep you any longer,” Regan said.
“There's something else you should know,” Karolina said. The words were right there at the tip of her tongue. She knew she shouldn't get involvedâno one would think she was being anything but vindictiveâbut Karolina couldn't help herself. She had
Regan. And if someone out thereâanyoneâcould have saved her all those years of heartbreak, she would have wanted to know. “Regan?”
“I know this is going to be very hard to hear. Graham had a vasectomy over five years ago. He never told me. He let me believe that I couldn't get pregnant because we had fertility problems. He let me undergo
knowing it would never work. It's certainly none of my business, but if you do want kids of your own one day, you might want to consider what I'm telling you.”
The silence was shockingly complete. Not a rustle nor a ping or a breath. “Regan? Did you hear me?” Karolina asked.
“I heard you,” Regan said quietly. “Please excuse me, because I am going to hang up now.”
And then a click.
“Mom! Hey, Mom!” Harry called as he raced into the living room, practically hyperventilating from excitement.
“Hi, sweetie,” Karolina said, her heart still doing a little tumble each time she caught a glimpse of him. She folded the newspaper and tucked it under a couch pillow.
“Mom, will you take me and Andy and Ethan to the movie theater on Prospect? A bunch of guys from school texted and said they're meeting to see
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
“Isn't that a scary movie? And what about lunch?”
“Mom!” Harry said, exasperated. “I'm
. Please.” Andy and Ethan appeared behind him, furiously nodding.
“Are your mothers okay with this?” Karolina asked, trying not to smile at the fact that Harry had turned thirteen two days earlier.
Again they nodded.
She sighed. So much for a quiet day at home. But it would be a good excuse to run some house errands while the boys were at the movie. “When do we leave?” she asked.
By the time Karolina got back to the house that afternoon, it was nearly dark outside. She'd dropped Harry at Ethan's for dinner and had stayed for a cup of coffee with Ethan's mother, a surprisingly normal woman who bustled around her kitchen, stirring pots of pasta and trying to convince Karolina to join them for dinner. But it was a relief to
get home and unwind, to slowly unpack her shopping bags of faux-fur throw pillows and bed linens and two brand-new sets of guest towels. She'd bought the most beautiful porcelain Buddha to place on the mantel in her bedroom, and a lovely textured rattan bowl to fill with fruit on the kitchen island.
This is what nesting must feel like
, she thought. Maybe someday she'd like some help, Emily continued to suggest. But for now it felt right to do it all herself. Karolina was so caught up in removing price tags and examining her purchases and placing her items that she didn't even notice the half-dozen missed calls on her silenced phone. When the doorbell rang, she assumed it was Harry, getting dropped back at home.