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The End Zone
Morgan McKenna was America’s favorite daughter. She graduated from Avalon Valley High School in Northgate, Washington (a suburb of Seattle), traveled across the country and studied journalism at University of Minnesota. She graduated magna cum laude in 1992 and was almost immediately hired by the NFL as a sideline reporter. She became an overnight celebrity, and everyone knew it was a match made in heaven when she and Packers wide receiver Patrick Connolly got married in the summer of 1993.
Celebrities rarely have stable marriages, but Morgan and Patrick did. They had four children – twin daughters Callie and Caitlin and sons Andrew and Will – and lived contentedly in Indianapolis, where Patrick played his last season for the Colts. It was the best season of his career. He caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks. The April afterwards he went to speak at elementary schools in Los Angeles; his flight back was delayed and he ended up having to reroute and spend the night in St. Louis before flying home to Indianapolis the next morning. The murderer broke into his hotel room in the middle of the night. Needless to say, Patrick Connolly didn’t make his flight home to Indianapolis.
The gossip magazines were filled with rumors: Would Morgan move back to her family in Seattle? Would she pull the kids out of their public schools and keep everyone at home all the time? Would she retire? What would she do?
She retired from her reporting job. But the Connolly children continued going to Indianapolis schools. No one retreated to Seattle. In an interview, Morgan said, “I am not going anywhere. My children have their roots here, their lives, their friends, their niches. Their father’s death has ruined their lives enough already. They don’t need to be uprooted again for the sake of my loneliness.”
She added, “But rest assured I will find the man who murdered my husband.”
one year after Patrick Connolly’s death
“No. Absolutely not,” the woman on the cell phone stated emphatically. “We are not going to go through this again. I have explained to you more than once how I want it done. Case closed.” She snapped the phone shut.
“Do you know who that is?” my buddy whispered to me.
“No, who?” I asked.
“Morgan Connolly? You mean Patrick’s wife?”
He nodded. “I mean Patrick’s wife. Right there.”
“Whoa.” I breathed out. “What a lucky man.”
“Yeah,” my buddy agreed. “Hey, now he’s dead, maybe you…” He smirked suggestively, elbowing me.
I snorted, but inwardly I grinned. He didn’t know that it was all part of my plan.
I let myself slip back in time to the night Patrick Connolly died.
The darkness in the hallways of the hotel felt like an oppressive blanket. The spring night outside was still chilly, the darkness out there cold and clear. In here it was stuffier.
I felt my way along the walls, my breathing hampered by the ski mask. I clutched the thick knife I had stolen from the breakfast room. Three-fifty-two, three-fifty-two, three-fifty-two…
Three-fifty-two. Ah. I unlocked the door with the master key I had also stolen from the hotel’s front desk and stole in, step by silent step.
I stepped up to the bed, brandishing my knife. Sweet, sweet satisfaction. Within minutes Patrick Connolly was dead, my knife through his heart.
I softly closed his door and booked it downstairs. On my way out, I snuck back to the front desk. The clerk was gone. I slipped the master key back into its place and dashed out and exited by a back door. I tumbled into my car and drove out by a back alleyway that few people knew about.
I was never caught. I was never even suspected. Nobody thought of me. That’s what made it perfect.
Every day there’s something. Since I quit working for the NFL, I’ve gone into architecture, which used to be my first love until the glamour of a public career caught my eye. Many of my clients are frustrated certifiables who have no idea what they really want. And every day something becomes more difficult than it was the day before. On top of that, I have four children. Enough said.
I walk sedately through the building where my husband’s former agent works. Jeff Rodney is – well, I guess he’s a good guy. He handled all of Patrick’s affairs before he died. Now we’re working on Patrick’s affairs after his death. He was Patrick’s best friend, but I don’t know. Something’s wrong about him somehow.
I knock on the door of Jeff’s office. “Come in,” he calls.
I push the door open. “Hello, Jeff,” I say. “What have you got for me?”
“Well,” he begins, “you knew the contents of Patrick’s will, correct?”
“Wait,” I say. “He made a will?”
Jeff looks surprised. “Well, of course. Most football players do, you know. They might be killed at any moment. Like Patrick was.” A slick smile crosses his face.
“Please.” I sit down. “I don’t know what makes you smile about anyone’s death, let alone your best friend’s.”
“I’m sorry,” he says smoothly, and continues. “Since you evidently don’t know the contents of Patrick’s will, I’ll read it off.” He whips out a pair of wire-rims and puts them on.
I steel myself.
“To my wife, Morgan Katherine McKenna Connolly, one fifth of my estate.” Jeff looks at me over the top of his narrow glasses. “Which amounts to…”
“Don’t tell me the amount. I know every fraction his estate can be divided into. I’ll do the math myself. I just want to know how he divided it,” I say.
“One fifth to you and each of the kids,” Jeff says.
“The kids’ shares are set up so that you are entrusted with the shares until the kids turn eighteen. The principal is to be paid over to the kids on their eighteenth birthdays. The interest, in the meantime, is to be used as you see fit for their benefit.”
“Okay. Any restrictions on my share?”
“Just one.” Jeff clears his throat and reads again. “To my wife…one fifth of my estate, not to be used towards the welfare of our children.”
“Not to be used?” I say.
“Not to be used,” Jeff repeats. He clears his throat again. “I believe that his intention was to be sure that you were provided for.”
“I see,” I say.
“Anything else you need from me?” he says.
“No,” I say.
“You know, Morgan,” he says, “you ever need anything – absolutely anything – you know where I am.” He gives me a leering smile. I stiffen.
“Thank you very much, Jeff,” I say sarcastically.
On my way out the door, I mutter, “Nice try.” As I’m going down the corridor, I think: Okay, so my dead husband’s best friend just tried to flirt with me. What’s next?
six years later
I pull into the parking lot of the junior high track. As it happens, both my sons are right here. How convenient. Will is sitting on the bleachers with his heavy gym bag next to him and his backpack at his feet. Drew is somewhere in the muddled huddle that is the eighth grade football team.
I climb up onto the bleachers next to my son. He is the spitting image of his father, with soft brown hair and big hazel eyes, this one of my children who knew his father the least. Will was only four when Patrick was killed. Now he’s eleven. This is his first year of junior high cross-country, and he’s surprisingly good.
I ruffle his hair and think of Patrick, like I do every time I look at him. “How was school today?” I ask.
He shrugs silently. “Okay,” he says at last, quietly.
“Just okay?” I say.
“Just okay,” he says. His eyes are fixated on the group down below us on the field, Drew among them.
“Mom?” Will says.
“Yes?” I say.
“Do you miss Daddy?”
I inhale sharply. This kind of question has never come from my silent son.
“Every day, Will,” I say calmly, but one tear begins.
“I miss him,” Will says softly. “But how can you miss someone you hardly knew?”
I turn my head and stare at him for a moment. Out of the mouths of babes, and toddlers, and lanky eleven-year-old boys whose fathers are dead.
“I don’t know, Will,” I say.
“Is it weird?” he asks. “That I miss him without knowing him?”
Hasty words leap to my tongue, the first ones being, “Who said you didn’t know him?” But I consider, and finally say instead, “No, Will, it’s not weird. He was – and is – your father.”
Will looks up at me, and his eyes, so like Patrick’s, nearly break me. But he smiles and says, “Thanks, Mom.”
Drew, laden with his hulking pads, clambers up to where we are on the bleachers. His bangs stick to his forehead. “Hi, Mom,” he says hoarsely. “Can we go?”
“Let’s,” I say, getting to my feet. “How was practice?”
“Good,” Drew says as we exit the arena. “I made a touchdown.”
“Oh, Drew, that’s wonderful!” I exclaim, hitting the button to open the back of the Highlander, parked near the exit. Will heaves his gym bag into the back. Drew throws his on top, and I close the hatch.
“Okay,” I say, climbing in and turning the ignition. “Let’s go get Cait. Cal has a game.”
Fifteen minutes later, Caitlin is sitting next to me in the front seat and the boys are busily pummeling each other in the far back as I back out of the high school stadium parking lot. We have to go around the block to get to the gym where Callie’s volleyball game is starting in – right about now, actually.
I glance at the clock and sigh. If the car is in sync with the clocks in the gym, the game started five minutes ago. I know, and Callie knows, that in a game of any kind five minutes are a lot. I hope she didn’t notice that we weren’t there.
I park the Highlander in the gym parking lot and unlock its doors. Will and Drew are still bothering each other in brotherly love as they follow Caitlin and me into the building. At the door, Caitlin flashes her student ID and darts into the gym ahead of us. I pay for myself and the boys.
“Mom,” Drew says, “can we get something to drink?”
I hand him a five-dollar bill. “You boys go. Come find us, ‘kay?”
There is no response as they dash off. I gaze after them for a moment and hope they can keep each other in line. Crazy boys.
I make my way into the crowded gym and search the faces for Caitlin. “Mom!” she hollers at me from the upper section of the bleachers. I climb up and sit down next to her. “Can you see Cal yet?” I ask.
Caitlin points. Callie is standing at the side closest to us, right up against the net. The ball flies over. In order, one of her teammates bumps it, another sets it, and Callie swings her arm back and spikes it over the net. One of the opponents dashes to hit it but it slams to the ground right before she gets there. Callie has scored.
I cheer. Caitlin looks embarrassedly around. “Mom,” she hisses, “do you have to do that?”
“Yes, I do,” I answer as the boys climb up to our section of the bleachers, each with a large drink in one hand.
“Here, Mom,” Will says. “This is for you and Cait.”
“What’d you get?” I ask.
“Coke,” Drew answers.
“Thanks, boys,” I say and hand the drink to Caitlin. “Thanks, guys,” she echoes before taking a long draught.
After about five more minutes, Callie scores again. I cheer again. This time Caitlin puts her fingers in her mouth and gives her signature high-pitched whistle. I have no idea how she does it. Her father taught her. Will covers his ears; Drew laughs at him. I grin.
Callie’s team wins the game by three points.
We meet Callie at the door of the locker room as she comes out, sweaty in her uniform with her clunky gym bag banging against her hip. “Hi, Mom,” she says wearily.
“Nice game,” Caitlin says to her.
“Thanks,” Callie answers.
“Great job, Cal,” I say, giving her a one-armed hug.
“Thanks,” she says again. “But Mom, next time, could you be there when the game starts?”
I sigh inwardly. “I promise to try.”
Callie shrugs me off. “Let’s go home.”
Will runs ahead to the car and stands waiting impatiently for us. Drew struts his way there, trying to impress himself. Callie drags herself along. Caitlin walks silently beside her. I follow the whole crew, considering.
When we get home, it’s nearly seven-thirty. Callie and Caitlin retreat to their bedroom to do homework together. Will gets in the shower. Drew hides in his room. I stand in the kitchen, with my shoes still on, my purse still over my shoulder, the keys still in my hand, just standing aimlessly in the middle of the kitchen. A thick ache creeps into my stomach, and I lose myself in thought.
I am still standing in the kitchen when Will comes downstairs, his wet hair dripping all over the floor. I snap to awareness and scold him. “Will! Go get a towel! Your hair’s getting water all over.”
“Sorry,” he says hostilely and stomps upstairs again. I sigh and think, Back off, Morgan, he’s only eleven.
Then another part of me answers, He has to learn. If you don’t teach him you can’t guarantee that anyone else will.
But he’s still so young, the first train of thought protests.
Never too young to learn to live with other people, hisses Train #2.
He’s the youngest! cries the first inner voice. He doesn’t know. Besides, you can’t expect him to be born thinking of everyone else. No one does that.
He’ll grow up to be a selfish pig and no one will want anything to do with him, taunts the second voice.
“Ugh!” I say aloud. “Shut up, both of you.”
Drew and Will stop short and stare at me.
Oh, great, I think.
“Mom?” says Will.
“Sorry,” I say. “I wasn’t talking to you. Thanks for getting a towel, Will.”
“Yeah,” he mutters, looking down at the floor. Drew looks at me curiously. “Mom, if you weren’t talking to us who were you talking to?”
“Does it matter?” I snap. “What did you want?”
“Nothing,” Drew says cautiously. “I just…” He pauses.
I tap my foot impatiently. “I’m waiting,” I say shortly.
Drew glares at me. “Nothing,” he says flatly.
“Fine,” I say. “Go to bed.”
“To bed?” Drew cries. “Mom, it’s, like, eight!”
“Are you going to obey me?” I explode.
Drew looks cowed. Will scampers out of sight and up the stairs.
“I’m sorry,” I say softly.
Drew gives me one hurt glance and turns to go upstairs.
I sigh, for what must be the twenty-eighth time tonight. What have I done to myself and my children?
I trudge upstairs. Drew’s door is shut. Will’s too. And the twins’. And even mine, for that matter. I push it open and plod inside. I kick my shoes into the corner, drop my purse with a jingle of keys onto the dressing table, and sit down with another large sigh on the bed. Ugh.
I sit for a while longer when someone knocks on my door. I shake myself. “Come in.”
A teary-eyed Will pushes the door open. “Mom, I’m sorry we made you mad.”
I hold out my arms and he comes towards me. I thank God that this last son of mine is not too old yet for his mother’s hugs. “It’s okay, Will,” I say softly into his hair. “It wasn’t your fault. I shouldn’t have blown up at you.”
He pulls away from my arms. “Mom?”
“Do we still have to go to bed?”
I laugh out loud. “No.”
Drew pokes his head in the door. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah,” I say. He slips past the door. The twins follow him. “Hi, girls,” I say.
Drew comes and sits on the empty half of my lap. The girls flank us.
“Mom,” Caitlin says.
“Cait,” I say.
“I think we all figured out that you had a rough day,” Caitlin says quietly. “So we came in to make it better. I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, Mom,” Callie and the boys echo.
I wipe away a tear. “I love you too.”
No one says anything for a moment. Then I revert back to ‘mom mode’ and say, “Have you all done your homework?”
Drew shifts uncomfortably. “No.”
“Okay then,” I say. “Anybody else?”
“We’re working on it,” Callie says.
“I don’t have any,” Will explains.
“Okay. Get it done, Drew,” I say. Slowly, reluctantly (whether to leave me or to do their homework I don’t know) all four get up off the bed and trail towards the door. Callie is the last to leave, and she stops and says, “Mom?”
“Yes, Cal,” I say.
“We miss him too,” she says.
I look up at her. She, too, has her father’s eyes. “Oh, Cal,” I say wearily. “I know you do.”
She nods and leaves, closing the door behind her.
It is about an hour later when all the lights are finally out. I close my door after saying good night to the twins and change into my pajamas. The soft glow of the moon hits my bedroom floor, the leaves gently tracing shadows on its light.
I crawl into bed and pull the covers over me. After Patrick died I left the room just as it was, except for cleaning his things out of the bathroom and the closet. Therefore, the bed has more than enough room for me, but I prefer to keep it this way and not have to find someplace to store this one and buy a new one. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
I unexpectedly think of the night the twins were born, and how young and beautiful and grown-up they are now. Callie, tall and blonde with her father’s hazel eyes, Caitlin, smaller, like a reddish-blonde pixie with blue eyes like mine. Callie, the all-around good kid, hanging out with her best friends, getting straight A’s and throwing herself into her sports, with a few activities in the mix. And Caitlin, the artistic, creative, outlandish daughter, the family peacemaker, full of music and art and words and not a little spring in her step. Drew, who looks just like me with blonde hair and blue eyes, following in his father’s footsteps with football. And Will, the spitting image of his father, with a newly discovered talent for running.
The thought of Will brings with it the thought of Patrick, and then I think of all the things he missed, is missing, will always miss. He wasn’t even around for Will’s first day of school, or the twins’ first day of high school, or anyone’s first day of junior high. He didn’t see Callie’s first volleyball game in seventh grade. He wasn’t there to coach Drew through seventh grade football, didn’t get to watch Caitlin’s first performance with the color guard at a football game. He wasn’t there to see Will’s spectacular finish at his first cross-country meet. He missed first concerts, first plays, first dances. He never hugged his daughters when they first appeared with makeup on. He never sympathized with his sons about girls. He will never see driver’s licenses or graduations or weddings. He missed so much, and he will continue to miss everything – which is why Callie, and for that matter her sister and brothers too, take it so much to heart when I’m not there to see.
One tear slips down my cheek and lands on the pillow. “Oh, Patrick,” I sob. “Couldn’t you have made it easier?”
I wake up at six the next morning, as usual. The sunlight hits my eyes and I wriggle out from under the covers, stumble into the bathroom and brush my teeth.
The shower in the girls’ bathroom turns on. Callie, the early riser. Five minutes later, it will turn off, then after two minutes Caitlin will turn it on and it will remain on for ten minutes. The entire household is utterly predictable. It’s all routine, like clockwork. Actually, it is clockwork, since we do it all by the clock, but point taken.
Twenty minutes later, I’m standing in front of my bathroom mirror putting on makeup when Callie comes in. “Mom?” she says.
“Yes, Cal?” I say.
“Mom, do I have to go to school today?”
The hand with my mascara brush freezes and I turn and look at her. “Why don’t you want to?”
“Well…” she hesitates. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to.”
“Callie,” I say. “There’s got to be something. What is suddenly so unappealing about school?”
“I don’t know, Mom,” she says sadly. “I just feel like hiding away in a little hole and never coming out.”
I smile ruefully. “You and me, honey. If you can find a hole where I can’t find you, you can stay.”
“That’s a no, isn’t it?”
“Essentially, yes,” I say, and lean towards the mirror again.
“Mom?” Callie says in a very small, shy, nervous voice.
“Yes, Cal?” I say.
“Mom, I…” She stops, considers, takes a deep breath and says, “Mom, I dreamed about Dad.”
This is not unexpected. I have dreamt about Patrick many times myself, and Caitlin and Drew have had dreams about him too. The unexpected part is the dreamer. Callie never dreamed about her father.
“Really?” I say casually. “What was the dream?”
“I dreamed about his trip to Los Angeles,” Callie says, low. “Like I was actually there, in the plane, with him. I dreamed I was there when he stopped in St. Louis, and I dreamed I was there in the hotel when he died.”
I drop my mascara and it clatters into the sink, decorating the enamel with black splotches and specks. “You dreamed what?”
“I dreamed,” Callie repeats shudderingly, her voice shaking with tears, “that I was there in the hotel when he died.”
I grip her by the shoulders and stare her in the eyes. “And? What happened? Who killed him?”
“I don’t know!” Callie sobs wildly, her frightened eyes locked with mine. “I don’t know! I dreamed I was in the hotel room with Daddy, and he fell asleep but I didn’t, and then a man with a ski mask and a big butcher knife opened the door and came in. Then I woke up.”
I clench my hands around her shoulders. “What did he look like? What else was he wearing? Tell me!” I am shouting now as I clutch her shoulders tighter.
Callie cannot seemingly do anything but continue to sob. I sigh and let go of her. “Cal,” I say. “I’m sorry.”
Callie shakes her head. “Mom,” she says over and over. “Mom. Oh, Mom.”
“Callie,” I say, crying, folding her into my arms. She sobs against my shoulder. I hold her close, my rain of tears settling like dew on her hair. I resolve again to find the man who murdered Patrick.
So that day, after dropping my various kids at respective schools, I drive to Jeff Rodney’s building and stride through the rat’s nest of hallways to his office. I knock decidedly.
“Come in!” his voice calls, too cheerful.
I march in. Jeff looks up, and for a moment he looks unbelievably frightened. Then his features smooth into a calm, slick smile, and he says, “Hello, Morgan.”
“Hello, Jeff,” I say.
“Can I do anything for you?” he asks suavely. I sniff. The smell of cologne in the room is overly heavy.
“Actually, yes, you can,” I say. “May I sit down?”
Jeff looks surprised again, but he indicates the chair in front of his desk. I sit in it and cross my legs.
“I want to find Patrick’s murderer,” I say simply.
Jeff stops shuffling papers and looks up at me over the top of his glasses. “Excuse me?”
“You do not need me to repeat it.”
“You want to find Patrick’s murderer?”
“Isn’t that what I said?”
Jeff stammers. “Well, yes, but…”
“But nothing,” I say evenly. “I am going to find the man who murdered Patrick. And you are going to help me.”
“Morgan,” Jeff says condescendingly, as though he were talking to a very small child, “you know, as well as I do, that the police are working on it.”
“Jeff,” I say, doing my best to be just as sweetly venomous, “you know, as well as I do, that the police have made no progress. They gave up on the case five years ago. So we are going to take it up.”
Jeff sighs. “Morgan…”
I lean forward. “Jeff. You’re pushing a lost cause here. I’m his wife. I want justice. You’re going to help me get it.”
Jeff sighs again. “All right. How do you want to do this?”
I dig in my purse and reach across the desk, handing him a business card. “This is an old friend of mine who went into criminology. I want him to do the job.”
Jeff reads the card aloud. “David Bergstrom, Forensic Investigation.” He pauses and looks up at me. “Palo Alto? How do you have contact out there?”
“I just told you,” I say angrily. “David’s an old friend; I went to college with him. After we graduated he moved to Palo Alto. You know what happened to me. Now. I’ll be the one to call David and get him up to date. What I need you to do is to help me keep this from the press. They’ll be all over.”
Jeff nods. I rise and go to the door.
“Morgan,” Jeff says behind me.
I turn. He stands behind his desk and says, “Morgan, this may or may not be a good idea. It might be painful for you or the kids…”
I face him directly, my hand still on the doorknob. “Not knowing,” I say, cutting him off, “is causing me and my children more pain than you could ever imagine.”
Then I turn on my heel and slam the door behind me.
I get home and go to dial David’s number, but just as I reach for the phone, it rings. I pick it up. “Hello?”
“Have I reached the Connolly house?” asks a female caller.
“Yes,” I say warily. “Who’s calling?”
“This is Chloe Lee Shaw from USA Today. I’ve heard reports that Mrs. Morgan Connolly is investigating into her husband’s death…”
I interrupt. “Two things, ma’am. First, you have no business butting into my private life. Second, my name is Mrs. Patrick Connolly. Goodbye.” I hang up.
I am sorely tempted to call Jeff and give him a piece of my mind, but instead I reach for my copy of David’s business card and dial the number.
The phone buzzes in my ear. I wait, holding my breath. A female voice picks up. “Hello?”
“Hello, may I speak to David Bergstrom?” I say.
“Just a moment,” says the female voice. She sounds extraordinarily young, which is suddenly explained when I hear her yell, “Dad, phone!”
Almost immediately another line picks up. “This is David Bergstrom.”
“David?” I say, relieved. “It’s Kate.”
There is a long silence. “Kate?” he says. Even after all these years I still remember the way he said my name.
I don’t know what to say, so I remain silent.
David says, “I thought you went by Morgan now.”
“I figured you’d remember me if I told you I was Kate,” I say.
He is silent for a moment. “You’re right, I did remember,” he says quietly.
“David,” I say desperately, “I need a huge favor.”
“Anything, anytime, Kate,” he says. I breathe deeply again.
“David, did you know my husband died a few years back?”
There is silence on the other end. “Yes, I knew.”
The unspoken question that hangs in the air is How did you know? But I choose to ignore that and say, “The police gave up the case five years ago.”
“They did?!” His voice is incredulous. I can just picture the expression on his face.
“Yes. I was hoping you would help me take it on.”
He says nothing for a few moments. “You want me to help you?”
“Yeah,” I say. “You don’t have to.”
“No, Kate,” he says. “Anything, anytime, including the Patrick Connolly murder case.”
I exhale. “Oh, David, thank you so much.”
He cuts me off. “I said anything, anytime, Kate.”
“Thank you anyway,” I say.
“How do you want to do this?” he asks brightly, and I am reminded of Jeff Rodney, who asked me the same question not thirty minutes ago, but in such a different tone.
“Well,” I say, “I’m new to this, you know, so I don’t know.”
David laughs. “Yeah, not every day your husband gets murdered, is it?”
I laugh too, and it strikes me again, the contrast between David and Jeff. If Jeff had made such a comment I would have socked him through the nose. But David is too sympathetic, even if he is laughing, to be angry with.
“Who else knows that you plan to go ahead with the investigating?” he asks.
“Patrick’s former agent,” I say. “Jeff Rodney. I told him I wanted you to do it.”
“Okay,” David says. “Do you want me to come out there?”
“Can you?” I say.
“Of course,” David says. “I’m not working on anything at the moment, and we’re often away from home working on other cases. It’ll be fine.”
“We?” I ask.
“Yeah,” David says. “My daughter Winter, my son Dennys, and me.”
“Oh,” I say.
“My wife left us four years ago,” David says flatly, as though he knew I was about to ask.
“I’m sorry,” I say, and change the subject. “Don’t your kids have school?”
“They’ve always done online courses,” he explains. “We’ll come out there for a while. However long it takes to get this one done.”
“Thank you, David,” I say gratefully.
“No problem,” he says easily. “We’ll get it done, Kate.”
After hanging up with David, I immediately call Jeff Rodney. When he answers with his usual “Jeff Rodney; how may I help you?” I say bitingly, “Well, Jeff, you could have helped me by keeping this information from the press, as I requested.”
There is silence on the other end.
“Jeff,” I say evenly, “this is unacceptable.”
“Morgan,” he says, his tone sugary sweet. “I can explain…”
I cut him off. “No, you cannot. I do not care what your reason is for going behind my back. I gave you a specific request and you turned around and did the exact opposite. I don’t care what it was, Jeff, but you are as of now no longer affiliated with me or any of my family.”
“Morgan!” Jeff’s tone is panicky. “You don’t need to do that! How could you do that? Patrick was my best friend!”
The name hits me like a blow to the gut, and I double over. He’s right. He was Patrick’s best friend. He handled Patrick’s press relations and gave him advice when he needed it. He even went with Patrick to Los Angeles seven years ago…
Los Angeles. Seven years ago.
“Morgan? Please. It was all a misunderstanding; I’m sure you understand,” Jeff pleads.
Suddenly a plan forms in my head, and I cut him off again. “Jeff, I need to speak with you in person. And in private. Can you arrange that?”
Jeff sighs. “Well, I don’t know,” he says cautiously. “The offices are not very private. Anyone can see you going in and out, as they must have done today.”
“Can you or can’t you?” I inquire firmly.
“Not here,” he says evasively. “How about you meet me at the Starbucks on the corner of Seventy-fifth and Madison?”
I think for a moment. “Fifteen minutes, Jeff.”
“Fifteen minutes,” he answers, and hangs up.
And so it is that fifteen minutes later I arrive at the said Starbucks. I don’t go here very often – I only know where it is, in fact, because the ice rink where Caitlin skates and the boys play hockey is just down the street.
I open the door and the little bell rings as I walk in. It’s noisy, but there is no line. One of the cashiers stands on tiptoe and shouts, “Can I get you anything, ma’am?”
“Not at the moment,” I shout back. Call me heartless, but I love making cashiers miserable.
I scan the crowded room for Jeff. He’s sitting alone at a table-for-two at the back of the room, hunched over his gleaming iPhone. I unexpectedly feel like ripping it out of his hands and screaming at him for having it, which is a bit hypocritical considering I have an iPhone of my own.
I take a deep breath and march over to the table where Jeff sits. He looks up as I approach. “Hello, Morgan,” he says coldly.
“Hello, Jeff,” I say, doing my best to be equally cold.
“What did you want to discuss?” he asks, still aloof. I suppress a laugh with some difficulty.
“Jeff,” I say. “I do not wish that you be affiliated with the family any longer, but before I let you go, I have something I want to ask you.”
“You went with Patrick to Los Angeles, didn’t you?” But it is not as much of a question as it sounds, and Jeff knows it.
“I did,” he answers steadily.
“So you know what happened, then?”
“No!” Jeff says forcefully. Then he notices my shocked face and backs off. “I…no. I don’t know what happened. We – we stayed in separate hotels.”
“Why would you do that?” I demand. That makes no sense. If they were traveling together, why not?
“Because!” Jeff snaps, and calms himself again. “He asked me if I wanted to stay with him. I said no.”
“Why?” I challenge him.
“Because I had already called my wife and told her where I would be,” he says at last. I think for a moment. Jeff and his wife had divorced some years ago. I can’t remember how long. To be honest, I can’t blame the woman. “And,” Jeff continues, “Patrick had made his plans.”
I think back to the phone call I had received from Patrick the night he had spent in St. Louis.
“Guess what?” he had said, in that half-joking tone of his. “My flight’s delayed.”
“It is?” I asked. “Why?”
“Bad traffic, thunderstorms, failed engines, something. Don’t know, don’t care; it’s probably a really stupid reason anyway.”
“Of course. Where are you?”
“I’m in St. Louis.”
“How long will you be there?”
“I’m gonna have to spend the night, sweetheart.”
“When will you get here?”
“There’s a flight leaving tomorrow morning at ten-thirty. I’ll be on it.”
“Okay. Where are you staying?”
“There’s a Comfort Inn about five blocks from the airport.”
“Morgan, love, I’ll be fine.”
“See you guys tomorrow, then.”
“I love you, Patrick.”
“I love you too, beautiful.”
“I love you.”
“Morgan!” Jeff was trying frantically to get my attention. “Did you hear me?”
“Did I hear what?” I asked, dazed.
“I said, Patrick had already made his plans.”
“Yeah, I heard you,” I say, feeling sick. I hadn’t thought of that phone call in years.
“So there you have it,” Jeff says complacently, leaning back in his chair. “Patrick and Jeff’s Night in St. Louis.”
“All right,” I say. “Jeff, I’ve decided not to fire you after all.”
He leans forward. “Really?”
I nod and gaze out towards the front of the shop.
“Oh, Morgan!” he sighs, as though he’s in a rapture. “Thank you. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. Oh, I’ll always remember how kind you’ve been…”
I pull my iPhone from my purse and check the time. 2:35. “Yeah, yeah,” I say. “Forgive me, Jeff, but I have someplace I need to be.”
“Talk to you later, then,” he calls after me as I exit the shop.
I stand for a moment on the sidewalk, feeling the city pass by. I was fibbing outright when I told Jeff I had somewhere to be. It occurs to me that I have nothing to do for two hours straight. None of my kids are done with after-school practice until 4:30 at the earliest. I turn left onto Seventy-fifth and walk down the street, passing tiny retail and novelty shops, much like the kind I frequented as a young college kid in Minneapolis.
Although I’m forty years old and not getting any younger, I admittedly strut down the street and get unabashed looks from men several years younger. I’ve forgotten what it is to be pretty. But I’ve forgotten a lot of things, being pretty not the least of them.
I continue down Seventy-fifth, passing all kinds of people – young couples holding hands, mothers with two or three small children, artistic types with seventeen rings in their ears, young businessmen in a hurry to go somewhere. One of these passes me at a rate just short of a run, and I wonder what is so urgent that he can’t feel his life slipping through his fingers.
I spend an hour browsing happily in the little shops on Seventy-fifth, buying nothing, only looking. When I check the time, I realize I only have twenty minutes before Drew is done with football, but it occurs to me that in all this time I have not yet set foot in a bookstore. I remember there is one near here.
I waltz confidently down the sidewalk and step into the hole-in-the-wall bookshop, realizing I haven’t read a novel for the sake of reading in who knows how long. “Can I help you?” asks the salesclerk.
“I’m just browsing,” I say breezily, and proceed to do so, wandering into the store’s shelves and scanning the array. Lots of old, unique books, plenty of poetry. I make my way down the aisles and spot several of my old favorites – Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, John Knowles, William Faulkner…
I continue to scan and spot an old, unkindly treated copy of Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. I haven’t read the book in years; but it was one of my favorites when I was in college. I read it for the first time lying on my stomach in the middle of the quad one October afternoon with David…
I hadn’t thought of that afternoon in a long time, either – reading Kristin while David lay beside me, on his back, reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I smiled to think of what literature nuts we had been. I had read Jane Eyre to him one Saturday morning when we had nothing else to do; and he had been the one to hook me on Charles Dickens.
I stand for a minute, staring at the worn copy of Kristin.
I make an impulse decision and reach for it.
When I arrive at the checkstand and the clerk takes it to scan it, I almost yank it back. I can’t bear to let go of this newly found treasure. She scans it. I hand her my credit card and she rings it up, then hands it back to me. She starts to slide the book into a plastic bag.
“No!” I burst out. She glances at me strangely. I compose myself. “I mean, that won’t be necessary. I’ll just take it. Thank you.”
She hands it to me, still giving me wary glances, and I leave, clutching Kristin to my chest. I hurry back down Seventy-fifth and turn by the Starbucks. As I pass it on my way to where I parked the Highlander, I spot Jeff, still sitting alone in the back of the shop. I smirk and climb into my car, set Kristin on the console and put on my sunglasses.
Ten minutes later I arrive at the junior high football field. This time, both Will and Drew are sitting on the bleachers, and as soon as I pull up they both scramble down and race to the car.
“Mom!” Will shouts almost before he opens the door. “Guess what!”
“What?” I say.
“We ran today and I beat everybody back.”
He nods, his eyes gleaming in victory.
I reach back and give him a high-five. “That-a-boy!”
Drew heaves his bag into the car, settles into the seat, and sighs, a long, heavy sigh. I am reminded that I have some important news for him – for all four of them, actually.
“Tough practice, Drew?” I ask as I back out of the parking lot.
He nods wearily. I decide not to push.
It is only after we have picked up Caitlin from color guard and Callie from volleyball and made all the way home – in fact, it is only after I have made it to my bedroom and taken my shoes off that Caitlin reminds me she has a performance with the color guard at the high school football game that night.
“Well, it might have been nice to know that when you got in the car,” I say.
Caitlin rolls her eyes. “Please, Mom. Aren’t you always telling us to be flexible?”
I sigh. “All right. Don’t go anywhere.”
I get up and go knock on the twins’ door. Callie yells from inside, “What do you want, Drew?”
“It’s your mom,” I yell back.
“Oh,” Callie says. Then, louder, “Sorry, I thought you were Drew. What’s up?”
“Come out here, please,” I call.
She opens the door. “I need to talk to all four of you,” I say. “Go sit in my room. I’ll be right there.”
She edges past me. I knock on Will’s door. When he opens it, my heart almost breaks at the sight of him, small and sweet and still so innocent. “I need to talk to all four of you,” I say bravely. “In my room.”
Will gives me one quick hazel glance. “Mom,” he says. “Is this about Dad?”
I take a painstaking breath. “Yes. Go.”
He obeys, and I move to knock on Drew’s door. There is no answer. I knock again. Maybe he has his headphones in. I push the door open and look in. He is sound asleep on his bed.
I hesitate to wake him up. He needs to hear this, the decisive part of me insists. Think what would happen if he woke up and you were in the middle of discussing it with the other three.
I step forward and shake him gently. “Andrew,” I say softly.
He blinks his big blue eyes open. “Wha?” he says blearily, struggling to sit up. He groans, rubs his eyes, and looks up at me. “Was I asleep?”
I nod sympathetically, my hand on his shoulder. “Come with me, honey. I need to talk to you. All of you.”
He walks almost mechanically to the door ahead of me and stalks into my room, where he drops on the bed between the girls and sits waiting. I pull the chair from my dressing table over to face the row on the bed and lean forward. “Okay.”
Caitlin breaks the silence that follows. “What’s up, Mom?”
I inhale, consider, and decide not to beat around the bush. “I’m investigating into Daddy’s death.”
There is a stunned silence. Drew blinks again, trying to clear the sleep from his eyes and his brain. The twins glance at each other. Will stares at me. His eyes glimmer with unshed tears.
Callie looks at me, the tears streaming down her face. “Why, Mom? Is it because…” she hesitates. “Because of me?”
I wrinkle my forehead. “Why is that a bad thing?”
“Because I don’t want to think that I was the one who…” Her voice trails off.
“The one who brought any pain on all of us?” I say as gently as I can. I am crying too.
Callie nods, wordless.
I shake my head. “No, Cal. It’s my fault if it turns out to be anybody’s.”
Drew is suddenly full of questions. “Mom? Who?”
“Who what?” I ask tearfully.
“Who’s going to investigate?”
“Oh.” I pause. “An old college friend of mine named David Bergstrom. He lives in California.”
Callie, ever the practical one, sniffs away her tears. “How’s he going to do the investigating if he lives in California and we’re way out here?”
“Excellent question,” I say.
They wait breathless for my answer.
“He’s going to move out here for however long it takes to get it done,” I say cautiously.
Drew reacts excitedly. “Really? A real detective!”
I laugh weakly.
“Mom,” Caitlin asks curiously, “how can he just move out here? Doesn’t he have family?”
I take a deep breath. “Actually, he does. He has two children who do online school. So he’ll be here for a while.”
“How long?” Callie asks.
“However long it takes to get it done,” I repeat.
Will has not spoken yet. I turn to him. “Will?”
He shakes his head at me, the tears welling over with his motion. “Mom, you shouldn’t.”
He stands up. “I don’t think you should.”
The door bangs behind him.
I slump back in my chair. Well, that went well.
Caitlin gets up. “Don’t worry, Mom. He’ll get over it. I want to go through with it.”
“Me too,” Callie says, and Drew echoes her, “Me too.”
“Thanks, guys,” I say, and give them a half-hearted smile. Slowly they file out, one by one. Drew, the last one out, shuts the door quietly behind him. I sink deeper in my chair and wonder what Will’s aversion to the investigation is.
I get up and go into Will’s room, where he is lying facedown on his bed, silent.
I sit down on the bed and it creaks under my weight. I wince. I felt a lot thinner waltzing down Seventy-fifth this afternoon.
“Go away,” Will says harshly, his voice muffled in his pillow.
“Why?” I ask boldly.
“Because!” Will sits up and his face is flushed. “I don’t want any stupid friend of yours from California coming here and taking over everything!”
“I don’t understand,” I say calmly. “Does this have to do with your father?”
Tears are streaming down his face, and some trickle over his lips. He nods.
“Will,” I begin, and stop. I realize I have absolutely no idea what to say – something that hasn’t happened to me in a while.
“What?” he snarls, and I freeze. I am not only taken aback, I’m frightened. Will is not like this – he is young and innocent and cheerful and good-hearted.
“Never mind,” I say, my voice quavering, but he doesn’t seem to notice.
“I don’t want your stupid friend here,” Will says defiantly. “I don’t want to do any of this worrying. I want to just leave Dad alo-one…” his voice disappears into a sob and he hides his face in his lap.
I reach over and rub his back. “I’m sorry,” I say softly.
Will lifts his head slightly and glares at me from underneath his bangs. “If you’re sorry, you wouldn’t do it,” he says, using a phrase I throw at them often, but omitting the word “again.”
“No,” I say, “that’s not what I meant. I’m definitely sorry you’re upset, but I’ve made up my mind, and I’m going to find out what happened to your father. I understand why it bothers you. I have taken it into consideration.”
Will snuffles and wipes away a few escaping tears. “I still don’t like it.”
“I don’t-” I begin. But Will interrupts me.
“I know,” he said. “You’re going to do it anyway. So I guess I don’t have a choice.”
I smile ruefully. “Well, no.”
He chuckles nervously and sniffs again. I put my arm around his shoulders, and he curls his arm around my waist.
“Mom?” he says quietly.
“Yes,” I say.
“Even if I’m doing something you don’t like?”
He laughs again and says, “Yeah.”
“Okay,” I say, and glance at the clock on his nightstand. “Why don’t you get changed into something that’ll keep you warm? Caitlin has a game.”
He nods, swipes the back of his hand across his eyes, and gets up. I leave. On my way out I say, “Love you, Will.”
“Love you too, Mom,” he says, under the clatter of his dresser drawer.
I knock on the twins’ door. Their room is uncannily divided into two precise halves. It isn’t like there’s a line down the middle and everything on Callie’s side is one color and everything on Caitlin’s side is another. More like every single item in the room has a distinct flavor of one or the other. For example, lying right next to each other, on the floor, are a pair of bright pink marshmallow headphones and a purple Converse shoe with sharpie writing all along the bottom. The headphones are easily Callie’s, and the shoe is easily Caitlin’s.
On one side of the room is the big walk in closet. The door is open and things are obviously not all as they should be inside. Callie is sitting calmly on her bed with her back against the wall, texting.
“Where’s Cait?” I say.
Callie points to the closet. We both know what’s going on. Caitlin can never find her color guard uniform – literally never. Callie has a log of whether she found it without a struggle before a game. She hasn’t yet.
I open the door and am almost hit in the face with a flying sweatshirt. “I can’t find my uniform!” Caitlin expostulates.
“I kind of guessed,” I say wryly. “Do you want me to check the laundry room?”
She looks up from amid the piles of clothes she is sitting in. Frustrated tearstains dot her cheeks. “Would you, please?”
I nod and step out of the closet, gently closing the door behind me.
Callie looks up from her phone. “Did you get hit?”
I laugh a little and nod.
Callie giggles. “Who are you texting?” I ask, indicating her phone.
She looks down and turns bright red. “Nobody,” she says quickly.
“Cal,” I say teasingly, grinning at her, and leave the room. I go down the stairs and out to the laundry room near the back door. Caitlin’s uniform is hanging neatly from the rod over the sink. I feel the cuff of the top and find it perfectly dry. I unhook the plastic hanger and take it upstairs.
Back in the twins’ room, Caitlin is still throwing things around in the closet. I open the door and get hit again with a pair of Callie’s jeans. “Cait,” I say, my voice muffled through the heavy fabric, “you can calm down now.”
I pull the jeans from my face and see her excited expression as she grabs the hanger from my hand.
“Where was it?” she asks excitedly.
“In the laundry room, where I told you I was headed,” I say.
She follows me out of the closet and is practically dancing as she kicks her shoes off to change. I close the door behind me and go to my own room. My iPhone is buzzing on the table.
I pick it up without looking at it. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s David.”
My stomach drops. “Hi,” I say weakly. “What’s up?”
“Well,” he says, “in a nutshell, I need your address.”
“Why?” I asked. “We can pick you up from the airport.”
“I know,” he says, “but I need your address so I can look in your vicinity for an apartment.”
“Oh,” I say. “Well, that’s not a bad idea. You have a pencil?”
“Yeah,” he says.
“Okay. 1794 Woodview Drive, Indianapolis.”
“Do you need any other info?”
“Not to get the apartment,” he says. “Thanks, Kate.”
“You’re welcome,” I answer.
“What are you up to?” he asks casually.
“Going to my daughter’s football game,” I answer, equally casual.
“Your daughter plays football?” he asks, confused.
I pause, think, and laugh out loud. “No, she’s with color guard,” I say merrily. David laughs with me.
“That’s great. Well, I’ll talk to you later, Kate, when I’ve got a flight booked for us.”
“Okay, thanks, David,” I say, feeling suddenly nervous.
“Thank you,” he says, and the phone clicks off.
I pull the silk thermals that I wear to Caitlin’s games from the back of a drawer and look around the room for my good coat.
My phone buzzes again, and I lean over to check the caller ID. It’s Jeff Rodney. I decide not to answer, and as I turn away and begin to rummage through a drawer for my gloves, I feel oddly free.
I shiver and pull the stadium blanket tighter around myself. The second quarter of the game is dragging on and on. I am sitting alone near the top of the stands with other color guard and band moms that I know slightly. All my kids are off with their friends, except Caitlin, who is standing with the rest of the marching band at the end of the field, waiting for the football team to vacate.
Eventually, the second quarter does end, and the boys file off the field. I find myself wishing Patrick were here, and then shake my head and turn my concentration to the marching band that is taking its position down on the turf. Caitlin is standing just below me. How lucky.
I lean forward a little. One of the other color guard moms taps me on the shoulder. “Which one’s yours?” she asks curiously.
I point to Caitlin’s strawberry-blonde head above the shimmering blue nylon top. “That one,” I say. “Which one is yours?”
She points to the girl standing four or five yards behind Caitlin. “That one,” she says. The girl’s hair is a deep shimmering black with a blue streak near the front that matches the uniform.
“Oh,” I say. “She did a great job picking her hair colors.”
The blue-haired girl’s mother laughs, a funny, squeaky, stuttery sound. “She did it on purpose.”
“It matches pretty well,” I say, and the blue-haired’s mother agrees.
The music begins, and I watch intently as Caitlin twirls her flag and flits on her tiptoes in perfect synchronization with all the other color guard girls and the music. The only problem is that her performance is seemingly lifeless. I lean forward, willing Caitlin to put some more spring in her step – she has more than enough ordinarily. But she goes through the motions without any kind of true performance at all.
However listless she may seem down on the field, when we greet her after the game she is undoubtedly emotional. “We sucked,” she says bitterly.
“You sucked,” Drew taunts her. I whack his shoulder to get his attention and frown at him. “Uncalled for, Andrew,” I say sternly, and turn to Caitlin. “You guys did fine.”
She glares at me, her blue eyes turned a steely gray. “When you say we did fine, you always think it wasn’t good.”
I sigh. She can see right through me. “Caitlin, you’re acting like you want the truth, so here it is. The show itself was just great. You looked like you were asleep. You weren’t performing in any sense of the word. There you go.”
She looks taken aback. “Mom, what do you mean?”
“I mean you were only going through the motions. You looked like you were doing homework or something. Let’s go.” I start to herd everyone towards the car.
The other three drag their feet, but Caitlin dashes off in a huff and arrives before we do. I unlock the car from a distance and everyone tumbles in, but Caitlin pulls my sleeve and motions to Callie to shut the door.
“Mom,” Caitlin begins, “I know what you mean. It’s like I’m not even there. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do but I’m not having any fun with it.”
“Okay,” I say. “Does that mean that color guard isn’t fun?”
Caitlin shakes her head emphatically. “No! It’s wonderful. I love it. But it’s not the same.”
“Same as what?” I ask gently.
“As last year,” she says, and wipes away a tear.
“Oh,” I say. “I know what you mean. Sophomore year sometimes seems like a bit of a drag.”
“Yeah,” Caitlin says. “See, Mom, you know.”
“I suppose I do,” I answer.
“What do I do?” she asks after a pause.
I hesitate. “I don’t know, Caity-bug,” I say affectionately. “I think you just ought to keep plugging. It’ll get better.”
“Are you sure?” she asks, almost fearfully.
“Cait,” I assure her, “you are not doomed to three years more of doing all kinds of crap you don’t enjoy. That I can tell you for certain.”
She grins, and her sweet crooked smile, so like Patrick’s, breaks my heart. I touch her hair.
“Okay. Now get in the car,” I scold her playfully, and she laughs as she motions through the window for Callie to open the door.
I climb into the car and turn the key. Moments later we are winding our way through the streets on our way home.
Once we arrive there, the kids pile out of the car and I follow them in, checking my voicemail at the same time. David left me a message. I listen.
“Hey Kate, thanks for the address, I found an apartment about three streets over and booked a flight, too. Can you pick us up on Saturday at about two? Call me back tonight no matter how late; I’ll probably be up anyway. Thanks, bye.”
I dial him back, but get no answer. I leave him a voicemail and say, “Sounds good. We’ll see you tomorrow. It’ll probably just be me. Thanks a lot, David. Bye.”
I hang up the phone and go to bed.
“Later, Mom,” Callie says as she climbs down from the car and heads into the Y for swim practice.
“Bye!” I call after her as she disappears through the door.
I sit for a moment parked where I am on the curb in front of the Y. Caitlin is at skating practice, the boys are at hockey, Callie’s swimming, and none of those are done until three-thirty at the earliest. I have time to pick up David and his kids and take them to their apartment before I have to pick up my own children.
So I turn the key again and drive to the airport and go inside and look around for the flight from Palo Alto. When I was a girl I loved airports; they were so busy and full of people you could look at and wonder about and they made me feel important. Now I hate them.
The flight from Palo Alto is precisely on time, according to the rigidly correct, yet ironically unreliable screens hanging over my head. I move to wait as close to the edge of the secure area as I can.
Five minutes pass, and a crowd of people come around the corner and through the doors that lead out. I am searching every face among them until finally I spot a rather familiar one. David.
“David!” I shout, waving my arms. I must look like an idiot, but I don’t care. His eyes roam the crowd, land on me, and light up. He looks different – he is older, obviously, but his face is less carefree, less prone to smiling than it was when we were in college. His eyes are the same, though, and as he makes his way over I see his children following him. His daughter is tall and lovely and looks nothing like him; but his son is the spitting image of his father.
“Kate?” he says as soon as he is close enough for me to hear.
“I go by Morgan now,” I say, “but Kate is still buried somewhere.”
“Why don’t you exhume her?” he says jokingly, and we laugh. Then he says, “Kate – er, Morgan, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Winter, and my son, Dennys.”
Dennys is the first to proffer his hand, so I shake it and say, “Hello.”
“Hi,” he says shyly. He reminds me so much of David. I reach for Winter’s hand and shake it too. “Hello,” I say, and she simply nods. She reminds me of her name – cold, frigid, and unforgiving.
The air is a bit tense after that, so I clear my throat and say, “Well, I’ll lead the way. Shall we go?”
“Sure thing,” David says, and as I turn to go back to the parking garage where I left the car he catches up to me, reminding me of an eager schoolboy. “So you don’t mind taking us all the way to the apartment?”
“Not at all,” I say. “I’ve got plenty of time to do just that.”
“I hope we’re not intruding on anything,” he says worriedly.
“Not at all,” I say. “My kids aren’t done with their Saturday sports till three-thirty at the earliest. We have plenty of time.”
“You have kids?” he asks, conversationally. I would have thought, since he knew Patrick was dead, that he would have already known about my kids, but I tell him anyway.
“I have twin daughters, Callie and Caitlin, and two sons, Andrew and Will,” I answer. “The boys are at hockey, Caitlin’s at figure skating and Callie’s swimming.”
“Wow,” David says. “Active kids.”
“That’s just Saturday,” I say dryly as we reach the car and I help Dennys pile his luggage into the back with his father’s and sister’s.
David grins. “So how soon do you want to get started?”
“Whenever you can, really,” I say, opening the door of the car for Winter as I head to the driver’s seat. David climbs in beside me.
I back out of the parking garage and drive to the address David gives me, which is indeed only a few streets over from my own home. Along the way, David is glancing around eagerly (the schoolboy aura again) and asking a great deal of questions. I answer them patiently, remembering that that was how he used to be.
I pull up to the apartment building and get out of the car to help haul the luggage from the back. When I click the button and the hatch rises automatically, Winter darts to pull her bags from the floor and hurries towards the building. She stands waiting, aloof, by the door as her father and brother collect their things.
“I’ll get to work tonight and tomorrow setting some stuff up,” David explains to me as I close the hatch. “I’ll need your help on Monday talking to people who were involved.”
“Okay,” I say agreeably. “I’ll stay in touch.”
David hesitates, leans closer, and says in a low tone, “I know Winter was cranky about this, and I apologize for her. She’s never gotten over her mother’s leaving the way she did.”
“I completely understand,” I say quietly. David nods and he and Dennys trundle up the walk to the building’s doors where Winter is waiting.
I climb back into my car and drive back to the Ice Center where Caitlin and the boys are. But my thoughts remain with David.
Normally on Sundays the entire house sleeps in, and I admit fully to being just as lazy as my children. (Well, maybe not quite.) But on this particular Sunday, I wake up at six and can’t go back to sleep.
So it is that at six-forty-five I am sitting on the family room couch wrapped in an old blanket I made for Patrick a long time ago – the season he was with the Patriots, the year Drew was born. It’s red and blue and I stitched his number, 38, onto one corner.
I gaze out the window to the house across the street. Behind it is the apartment building where David and his kids presumably are.
A step sounds on the stairs and I look. Drew is padding down, his hair sticking out in three different directions. He comes silently to the couch and sits down next to me. I wrap the blanket around him. Neither of us say a word.
“Mom,” Drew says.
“Yeah,” I say quietly, feeling like my voice is too harsh against the soft morning silence.
“Can you tell me again the story about Dad with this blanket when I was born?”
I settle deeper into the couch and push my memory back. “Well,” I begin, “your dad had the Thursday night game against Pittsburgh on November 6.”
Drew snuggles closer to me and listens intently.
“And I had been working on this blanket for him ever since he was traded to New England,” I went on. “It was finished the night before the game, and he took it with him when he flew to Pittsburgh with the team. Almost as soon as he was gone, I had to go to the hospital, so I left your sisters with Mrs. Thompson and drove myself there. And you were born, and then I asked them to switch on the TV so I could see how your dad was doing, and they had just kicked off.”
Next to me, Drew smiles, remembering. He’s heard this story so many times.
“At halftime, I called your dad and told him the news. They won the game by three touchdowns, two of which your dad made, and then he was interviewed by an old colleague of mine.”
“Amanda MacKinnon,” Drew interjects.
“Exactly,” I reply. “And she asked your dad if it was true that his son had just been born in New York.”
“Which I was,” Drew interrupts again.
“Yes,” I say patiently. “And MacKinnon asked him what your name was. He told her Andrew. And she asked him why the blanket, which he’d been waving around. He said, ‘My wife made it for me, but it belongs to my son. I’m taking it home to him right after this – I’m not even waiting for the team.’”
Drew grins widely and furtively brushes away a tear.
“And MacKinnon was starting to get frustrated with him because all he would talk about was you,” I recounted. “She asked him how it felt to win that night. And he answered, ‘Great. It feels great. Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughters to heaven and back. But this is great beyond almost everything.’”
“I miss him,” Drew says softly against my shoulder.
“We all do, Drew,” I say evenly, but my heart is thumping.
“Why does he seem so much closer the last few days?” Drew asks.
“Perhaps because we’re working with stuff that has to do with him,” I answer practically.
“Well, yeah,” Drew says dismissively, “but I think we’re working with stuff that has to do with him because he’s seemed closer.”
I remain silent, my brain mulling over these words. He’s right. “Well,” I say at last, “that certainly could be true.”
Drew shakes his head. “No, Mom,” he says. “It is.”
I sigh dramatically. “All right, you win,” I say heavily.
Since it’s Sunday and about the only free day anyone has in any week, we normally spend it doing nothing. And until about two in the afternoon, no one does anything anyway. Caitlin takes a long shower. I finish the laundry I’d started yesterday. The boys glue themselves to the video game controls. Callie hides in her room.
At precisely 2:03, Callie bounds downstairs, phone in hand, and asks if she can have a ride to the Starbucks where I met Jeff yesterday.
I look up, mystified, from the laundry basket. “Why do you need a ride to Starbucks?”
Callie blushes and stammers. “Well, this guy, that I’ve been texting, asked me if I wanted to get a drink or something.”
Robotically I fold the shirt in my hands. “What’s his name?” I ask.
Callie blushes again. “Nathaniel Fallon.”
“Oh,” I say. “Is he nice?”
“His mom was my freshman English teacher,” Callie offers. “Remember her?”
“Oh,” I say again. “Yeah, I remember her. You liked her, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” Callie says. “She was great. Didn’t you like her too?”
“Yes,” I say cautiously, “I did.”
“Can I go?” she asks.
I sigh and fold the last shirt. “I suppose so.”
“Great!” Her face is jubilant. “Thanks, Mom.”
“You bet,” I say. “But Cal? One thing. You behave, and you insist that he does. Understand?”
Callie rolls her eyes. “Mom, nothing’s going to happen, okay?”
“Cal,” I say firmly. “Understand?”
“Yes, Mom,” she says seriously. “I understand.”
“Good,” I say. “Go get your shoes on and I’ll take you.”
Not two minutes later, Callie appears with hair brushed silky smooth, freshened makeup, and in a completely different outfit. I look her up and down. “You’re fast.”
She grins shyly and blushes a little.
“You’re also lovely,” I say. “Let’s go.”
She climbs into the passenger seat next to me. I look at her for a moment, and as I am backing out, I say, “I ought to get you into driver’s ed or something, hadn’t I?”
“Well, yeah!” she says emphatically.
I look at her, surprised. “I didn’t know you were that excited for it.”
“Well,” she explains, somewhat subdued, “I get asked to places a lot, and it would help if I could drive myself.”
“What kind of places?” I ask warily, pulling out of the street.
“Parties and to the movies with girls from volleyball and stuff like that,” Callie says.
“Why don’t you ask me to go?” I ask.
“Well,” Callie says timidly, “if I ask, Caitlin gets mad.”
“What?” I ask. “Caitlin gets mad?”
“Yeah,” Callie says. “She gets angry because she thinks I get asked to places more often than she does.”
“Oh,” I say.
“Yeah,” Callie says.
“Well,” I say, “don’t let that stop you.”
Callie looks at me, amazed. “Mom! How could I? She’s my sister!”
“I know, Cal,” I say, “but it’s not your fault you get asked to places and she doesn’t.”
“Then whose fault is it?” Callie demands as I pull onto Seventy-fifth.
“You can’t always blame these things,” I say, “but it might be Caitlin’s own fault, or it might be completely out of her control. Either way, don’t let that bother you, and ask if you want to go.” I stop the car in front of the Starbucks. “Here you go. Behave. Call me when you need a ride home.”
“Oh, actually-“ Callie jumps down to the pavement and turns around. “Mrs. Fallon will take us home.”
“Oh,” I say. “Okay.”
“Bye, Mom,” Callie says, and slams the door.
“Bye,” I say aloud to the empty car, as I watch a tall, lanky, redheaded boy opens the door of the Starbucks for Callie to walk in.
Well, maybe the kid isn’t so bad.