Home > The Dollhouse(7)

The Dollhouse(7)
Fiona Davis

“Today, Tyler asked if I’d cover some new strip club in Brooklyn that offers farm-to-table food and microbrewed beer. It’s called Au Naturel. Can you believe it?”

Griff nodded. “Very hip. Are you going to do it?”

“I’d rather not. I’ll let one of the assistant editors have it.”

“Why all the fluff all of a sudden?”

“I think the board is pressuring Tyler to attract more advertisers. And right now that means finding readers who only eat organic at strip clubs and are willing to drop two hundred bucks on a pot of beard-grooming cream.”

Griff smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Could be a great story.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Hey, sometimes you have to do certain things to please certain people. Then you get what you want.”

She sat up, surprised. “I guess so. Still.” She checked her watch. “The risotto should be ready. Are you hungry?”

“Um, not yet.”

Usually he came home ravenous.

“Okay, we can wait a few more minutes, no problem. You’ll never guess what I learned from Patrick today.”

His brow furrowed. “Patrick?”

“The Irish doorman.”

“Right.”

“I shared an elevator with one of the longtime residents, a very odd, elegant old lady who wore a veil that covered her face. She lives in the apartment right below us. Turns out she was involved in an incident on one of the terraces way back when. She was cut on the face by a maid, who then fell to her death.”

“Huh.”

He was far away, not even listening to her.

“Anyway, what a story, right?” She ran a finger around the lip of her wineglass. “And your daughter called, looking for you.”

He snapped back to attention. “Which one?”

“Miranda.”

He leapt up with a smooth leonine grace. “I’ll call her back now, before dinner.”

His footsteps echoed against the stark walls as he retreated into the bedroom. He didn’t seem like a man on the verge of proposing. Or maybe he was behaving so strangely because he was nervous.

Swigging down another mouthful of wine, she looked out the window at the brick facade of another building filled with people who were aging and fighting and making love. The thought was oddly comforting.

Griff’s murmurs were unintelligible. She wandered to the kitchen and gave the risotto an idle stir before adding salt and pepper.

“Can we talk for a moment?”

He was suddenly beside her, looking serious.

“Of course.”

He led her back into the living room and they sat back down. As he reached into his pocket, she gripped her palms tightly together, trying to remain calm. The time had come. He was so anxious, her heart went out to him.

He pulled out his cell phone and turned it off.

Griff never turned off his phone. He’d put it on vibrate, maybe. But not off.

“You’ve been so good to me,” he said.

“Of course. And you’ve been good to me.” Her words came out robotic, an automatic response.

“Rose, I love you so much.”

Her mouth went dry. She was reminded of the first time she’d ever presented the news: the countdown to going on air, the fear of doing something stupid or saying the wrong words. Like then, she reminded herself to breathe and loosened her shoulders, letting the tension flow out of her. She hoped he’d get to the point quickly, put her out of her misery, proposal or no.

“Talk to me, Griff.”

“I’ve been speaking with Connie lately, about the girls, and we’ve been really worried, particularly about Miranda.”

Not the response she was expecting. And the use of we was troubling. Not we as in Rose and Griff, but the prior we.

He continued, one jean-clad leg jiggling furiously. “I do want to get married. I do.”

The sentence should have been a simple declaration. But the two words tagged on at the end changed everything, acted as a hinge, a doorway to a different meaning entirely. She waited for the next part of the phrase, the one that would turn it on its head.

“I think I have to go back to them.”

Her head swarmed with confusion, her thoughts like bees whose hive has been destroyed. “Go back to Connie?”

“Not Connie, exactly. The girls. I realize what I’ve done to you is a terrible, terrible thing. I love you and I always will.”

She held perfectly still and scrutinized his face. His eyes were wide, innocent, an open book. But his pupils dilated with fear, dark wheels barely encircled with green.

“And I love you.” She continued to play by the script, waiting until she had surer footing.

“But my family needs me right now. The girls are a mess. Miranda’s been suspended from school again. Connie can’t handle her alone. “

“I’m so sorry, but maybe you shouldn’t make any impulsive decisions right now. Let’s furnish this apartment so you can spend more time with the kids here. I’ll help. You don’t have to go there every weekend.”

Every weekend. He’d told Rose that Connie stayed with friends when he went to the house in Litchfield to spend time with the girls. But maybe she’d been there as well, luring him back, sleeping with him, making him miss the comforts of home and hearth. While Rose had been left sitting in a half-empty, three-bedroom condo, playing the patient girlfriend when she wasn’t putting in ten-hour workdays.

She’d taken a huge cut in salary to join WordMerge. How was she going to pay for her father’s care now? Her despair simmered into a dull anger.

The smell of burning rice snapped her to attention.

In the kitchen, she yanked the pot off the burner and turned off the gas. The bottom of the risotto was burned, and the pot would have to be tossed. How would she be able to buy a new one, never mind an entirely new set of cutlery, dishes, furniture? The list went on and on.

Griff came up behind her and rested his hands lightly on her shoulders. The pressure was soothing. Maybe this was temporary insanity.

She turned around and his hands slid to her hips.

“Do you think that maybe you’re panicking here?” she asked. He dropped his head and pressed his forehead to hers. Her heartbeat slowed ever so slightly, more like R & B than speed metal for the moment. “Miranda will be fine; you need to give her time. Think of everything we have together.”

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