Home > The Dollhouse(8)

The Dollhouse(8)
Fiona Davis

“That’s just it. We do have so much, such an amazing connection. But I have to do this for my daughter.”

“But you’re divorced. Who goes back to their ex-wife? It’s insane.”

“You can stay here for as long as you need to, while I work the details out. I’m as confused as you right now.”

Fuck the risotto. Fuck his sad-dog face and soft words that covered up the fact that he was dumping her. Fuck him.

On her way out the door, Rose picked up the vase of peonies from the foyer table and threw it down the hall, sending shards of glass skittering across the rosewood floor.

“He’s an asshole.”

Maddy tossed back the last of her bourbon and followed it with a defiant shake of her blond head.

Rose nodded but couldn’t speak. She kept waiting for a flood of tears to come, now that she was safe in a Hell’s Kitchen bar with her best friend, away from Griff and his lies and betrayal. Her mind was working like some kind of supercomputer, circling around her father, her finances, her future, then back again to Griff, but she was in a daze, perhaps still recovering from the shock. They made quite a pair in the dive bar, Rose dressed in the casual uniform of an Upper East Side power wife, the part she thought she’d been auditioning for, and Maddy in a strapless lilac gown, looking as if she’d just descended from a horse-drawn carriage.

“Looking back now, he has been sort of withdrawing the past few weeks. I just didn’t know why.” Rose took a sip of her bourbon, and for a fleeting moment the liquid’s slow burn provided a distraction. “Thanks for meeting me. I know this was supposed to be a fun night for you, not a sob fest.”

Maddy yanked up the bodice of her dress. “I lost, anyway. To Missy Lake. Her fake boobs were bigger than mine. Typical. I knew I should have gone up a size.”

“Stop. You don’t want to look like a Real Housewife.” Maddy and Rose had bonded the first day of speech class at college, when the professor had encouraged the students to open their throats wide, as if “you’re swallowing the Empire State Building.” Maddy, a beauty queen with champagne-blond tresses, had burst out laughing, as had Rose, and they’d been tight ever since. Even now, if they passed the landmark building in the backseat of a cab, they’d lose it, unable to speak for several minutes.

“So tell me what the clues were.”

Rose sighed. “He called less and less, just to check in. At one point, he said he had a conference call and went into another room, but his tone wasn’t right; it wasn’t work. He was talking to Connie.” Anger and confusion welled up in her stomach, and she thought she might be sick.

“He’s a dick.” Maddy rubbed her friend’s back and signaled the bartender for another round.

“He’s worried about his daughter.”

“You’re being too nice. Who leaves his girlfriend to go back to an ex-wife? He encouraged you to give up your apartment and move in with him. You gave up your apartment for him.”

The loss of her cozy studio apartment, sunny and equipped with a working fireplace, a true find in this city of overpriced hellholes, cut into her like a knife. Someone else lived there now. She’d given up the one thing she’d been most proud of: a rent-stabilized West Village studio. The perfect artist’s garret, at the top of a set of narrow, creaky stairs.

“I’m homeless.”

“No. He told you that you could stay at the condo as long as you needed. You’re not homeless.”

“A few months ago, I started having a recurring dream. That I was looking for an apartment in a strange neighborhood I’d never been to, somewhere kind of dangerous. The apartments were dirty, desolate, and I woke up in a total panic. Then I looked around and remembered how safe I was, lying next to Griff, and tried to put it out of my head. I knew. I knew all along.”

“You can always stay with us, you know that. I promise Billy and I won’t throw things at each other when you’re around.”

Rose smiled at the memory. “That was some New Year’s Eve party.”

“Don’t worry,” said Maddy. “We make up as hard as we fight.” She waggled her brows.

“That’s the difference between you and me. My work life feels crazy enough without having to come home to any madness. Griff and I love each other. Our sex life is great. He makes me laugh, he’s so supportive. Calm seas, no drama.”

“Sounds suspect to me.”

“Well, we care about each other.” The words hung in the air.

Maddy gave Rose a sideways glance and swirled the liquid in her glass. “You always have a place to crash. You know that, right?”

“I do. Thank you. Though sometimes I’m convinced I’ll end up a deranged old lady wandering around the city, looking through trash cans.”

Panic welled up. This was real, it was happening. Griff was leaving her.

“Please, don’t cry. Have another drink.”

“Fuck, Maddy. How am I going to do this?”

“You will manage the way you always have, brilliantly. Look at when you started working for the network. You were an intern one day, and the next you were reading the news.”

“First of all, that’s not quite accurate. And second, every other newscaster on Channel 7 hated me for moving up so fast.” Their catty comments still stung.

“True. But that just made you more determined. And now you’ve dumped all the stupid hairdos at the network for something more serious. No more talking head. You’re running the show.”

“Tyler, the preteen despot, is running the show.”

“For now, but wait until WordMerge is bought by a big fish, which you know is going to happen. Then you’ll be right back on top.”

“You’re very optimistic. In the meantime, my salary’s been cut in half. And you’re rewriting history. I got tossed out of network news. I didn’t move on voluntarily. I’m thirty-five and all washed-up. In more ways than one.”

“Stop that. I’m going to pee. Don’t go anywhere.”

Rose looked around the room. Who were all these people working at jobs they thought were important and then going home to someone they loved and hoped loved them back? How did anyone ever survive it, knowing that their story was just a single beam among millions of flashing lights? That no one mattered much at all, when it came down to it. Rose was unimportant, inconsequential, a face in the crowd. Petals on a wet, black bough, according to Ezra Pound.

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