Home > The Dollhouse(6)

The Dollhouse(6)
Fiona Davis

“That sounds like a dream. But we don’t have any such people in Defiance.”

“So don’t go back to Ohio at all, then. You can stay here in New York City.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t do that.”

“But why not?”

Darby wouldn’t dare explain why. That she’d miss her dogs too much, and Mother would be left alone with Mr. Saunders and his moods and temper.

“Did you hear what happened last year?” Candy addressed the entire table, cutting into Darby and Stella’s conversation.

“No, what?” asked Stella, turning away from Darby.

“I heard one of the girls jumped to her death from the fourteenth floor.”

“Hush, Candy. That’s just a rumor and you know it.”

“No, it’s true.” Candy stared right at Darby. “One of the doormen told me all about it. Said they covered it up so the papers wouldn’t find out, just shoveled up the body and sent it home to wherever she was from.”

“Awful!” The girls’ protests rang out.

“We’re not supposed to know. And apparently another girl used a gun to shoot herself in the head in her room several years ago. Her ghost still walks the halls, half of her head gone.”

Stella pushed away her plate. “Lord, Candy. I’m still eating. You could at least wait until bedtime for such gruesome stories.”

“She wasn’t a guest editor or a model, I know that much. Probably a Katie Gibbs girl. You better watch out, Darby.”

The room began to spin.

“You don’t look very well,” said Stella.

“I’m fine.” Darby wiped her mouth with her napkin and offered up a weak smile.

“You know, I have a powder that would be perfect for the shine on your nose.” Stella again, saving the day. Bored with the line of conversation, the other girls turned away. “I’ll give it to you when we go back to our rooms. Would you like that?”

“I would like that very much. Thank you.” Embarrassed, Darby patted at her cheeks with her napkin, hoping to tone down the oily sheen that had haunted her since she was fourteen. She was way out of her league with these girls: ugly, uninformed, and dull-witted. How many dinners would she have to sit through before she could return to Defiance? September through June, ten months, seven dinners a week, four weeks a month: two hundred and eighty, minus some for the holiday vacations.

Back in her room, Darby threw herself facedown on her bed and silently wept into her pillow. She had just wound down when a knock sounded on her door.

“Darby, I brought your powder. Pond’s Angel Face; it’s to die for.” Stella stepped in and closed the door behind her. “Why are you sitting in the dark?”

Darby sat up and wiped her eyes. “I want to go home, Stella. I don’t want to be here.”

Stella joined her on the bed and put her arm around her. She smelled of vanilla, and Darby couldn’t help but lay her head on her shoulder. Stella didn’t flinch, as she might have, and this small kindness almost set off another round of tears.

“There, there.” Stella reached around with her free hand and tucked Darby’s hair behind her ear. “You’ll settle in soon enough.”

“Do you really think there’s a ghost?”

“No. I think Candy’s a first-class brat. Don’t let her get to you. You’re a Barbizon girl now; you’re one of us.”

The dull panic that had clutched her heart since she’d left Ohio loosened, just a little, and Darby let out a deep, sad sigh.

CHAPTER THREE

New York City, 2016

The risotto was simmering nicely by the time Griff arrived home, and the scent of the peonies drifted in from the foyer, where Rose had placed them in a glass vase. He popped his head into the kitchen and she smiled up at him. “Well, hello, stranger.”

Her heart flipped as it always did when she saw him, even after three years together. His eyes, which were the color of seawater, had a laserlike intensity that made politics the obvious career choice. That or terrorist interrogator. She’d seen both men and women turn into pools of mush before him. To be the object of his affection was flattering.

He gave her a quick kiss. “Gotta change out of this suit. Just give me a minute.”

“How did it go today?”

“The mayor’s got me digging into the latest housing scandal, leaving me to figure his mess out.”

As the first deputy mayor of the city of New York, Griff was in charge of everything the mayor threw at him. Rose sympathized, having experienced similar chaos in the television studio.

While he changed, she poured two glasses of his favorite Burgundy. After a gentle stir of the risotto, she lowered the burner to a simmer, covered the pot, and joined him in the living room.

Griff reached for his glass of wine and took a large sip, then sank down into the sofa, staring into the black void of the TV screen.

“The risotto needs another ten minutes.” She rubbed his leg with her hand. “You okay?”

“I’m fine. I have some interesting news.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“On my way out the door, the mayor stopped me and suggested I run for office when he’s done with his term.”

Griff had talked about running for mayor down the road, when he had more political capital and experience behind him. But that was supposed to happen far in the future. If Griff ran and won in the next election, she’d be the first lady of New York City in less than two years. The idea rattled her. The scrutiny would be horrible, Page Six of the New York Post every day. “Wow. That’s a huge leap.”

Griff gave a shy smile. “He thinks I have a strong chance, that people are looking for a fresh candidate—one who isn’t imbedded in the system.”

Whatever happened, they’d manage. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. She loved the way he seemed surprised by his success, and he truly was. Just a good boy from upstate who happened to be brilliant at his job.

“Probably best not to think about it too much yet.” Griff dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “There’s so much to accomplish before then.”

“Of course.”

His eyes were more sunken than usual, and she wondered if he might be coming down with something. She curled her legs under her and snuggled in for closer inspection. Usually when they met up in the evening, she liked to entertain him with the latest exploits of her ridiculous twentysomething boss. When Rose’s job at the network had ended in a spectacular flameout, Griff had encouraged her to take a pay cut and work where she could write about culture and the arts, her first loves. She took a job at WordMerge, a media start-up with an admittedly terrible name, one that tripped on the tongue when uttered aloud.

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