Authors: Teresa Toten
Kate threw her arms around Olivia. “Shh, it’s okay. It’s all okay. It will be okay. I promise.” She hugged her tighter. “Remember what I told you all those months ago? Only look forward, right? Just today and tomorrow. The rest is horseshit.”
Olivia stopped trembling in the embrace. She had been calmed.
Yes, Kate was worthy of her.
Dr. Kruger leaned forward on her desk and clasped her hands tightly. “You’re in the running, Kate. Yale is not out by any means. Your marks, your preparation, your story alone…”
She was trying to hose me down. I was radioactive on this issue. But this was about Yale. Everything was about Yale. Kruger knew that I’d sworn it to my mom as she was dying. A promise is a promise.
“You’re in the general pool, and I know you have more than a fighting chance, as does Olivia. Of course, she’s a legacy, but you are definitely in the top tier. I also think the other schools will go after you. Do not despair.”
Easy for her to say—and so she did, often. This was our dance. Kruger would pretend to assure me and I would pretend to be assured. She said more or less the same canned thing every session, and she would keep saying it until the bitter end. I noted that today the shrink was shrink-wrapped in a Diane von Furstenberg. How long had she been doing him? Was it from her change of wardrobe on, or before? Kruger spent the rest of our session examining me while trying to look like she wasn’t. Something other than her concern about my concern was evident in those hands gripping each other like a vise.
“Everything else under control?” she asked.
“Sure. Midterms are a ways away, and let’s face it, we’re all just trying not to drive into a ditch with senior slump.” I glanced over at the photo of her and her husband and their small son. Was it recent? Was the small son still small, or was he old enough to ask questions, notice changes in Mommy? What about the husband? He taught clinical psychology at NYU. Was he oblivious to the obvious?
Kruger unclasped herself and leaned back in her chair. “And how are the Wonders?”
“We’re cool.” I shrugged. “I mean, we’re not on call as actual Wonders until the spring board meeting and working dinner. But we still hang at school and over coffee. We’re going to a party en masse at the end of the month. So if you’re worried about me not socializing enough, I’ve got that covered.”
Kruger nodded, but she was frowning. Shrinks should get a better hold on their facial expressions. They all look at us, but they forget that we’re looking at them. I lost her for a minute. It was as if she had left the room. I took in the locked file cabinet in the pause. The urgency to break into it had ebbed since Olivia coughed up that seismic fur ball about being pregnant. I was spending too much time processing that one. Mistake. I had to smarten up, had to get in the files to see if my girl had any other surprises. There had to be more.
“And Serena?” The cords on Kruger’s neck tightened into visible ropes. “Have you seen much of her?”
“Well, not so much after the gala, I guess. Just around, you know? We were together yesterday. Why?”
“How did she seem to you, if you don’t mind my asking?”
But I did. I minded a lot, all things considered. Dr. Kruger was no longer the trusty shrink with my best interests at heart.
“She was a bit distracted.” Truth was, Serena was a seeping, leaking mess. Mark was done with her. Finished. She was impossible. Truth was, I had to skip physics yesterday and get her out of the school, she was that strung out. Serena had always dabbled in prescriptions, as did half the school, but she’d slid fast and furious from dabbling to drowning. She was into him way too deep. How had Mark allowed it to get so rabid so quickly? Hell of a misstep, if you ask me. He’d picked the wrong screwup to play with. This would get ugly. And then, just when I didn’t think it could get any sicker…
“I admire your loyalty, but I suspect you won’t be surprised to learn that Serena is leaving the school.”
“Yes.” She cleared her throat. “I think I can confide in you, since you know that Serena has been under increasing family pressures and, as you say, distractions.”
in me? Come on! Since when does the school shrink confide in a student?
“Couple that with the potential substance issues I suspect you are aware of and, well, it has made her situation at the school untenable. Her father is taking her back to London with him. She’ll be under his care and will likely finish out the semester there.”
“Her father? Not a chance! London?” Then it hit me. How convenient. “When?”
“Tonight. She’s leaving for London this evening.” Dr. Kruger sighed, but the cords in her neck looked like they were going to break free. “I…we at the school hope that we can count on your discretion, but we’d also ask you to convey to those who care about her that London is the very best option for Serena, for her physical and emotional health. Tell the other girls that Ms. Draper and I both feel,
blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…
It was as if I were listening to her underwater.
a genius. I had trouble locating my breath.
to do his dirty work because he had her in so many ways. She had a job to protect, a family to protect and, probably, him to protect. I had a moment to consider the fact that Draper and Kruger were working in concert for him. Did they know about each other? He was a snake. My father was a snake. I bet Johnny was a…
In response, Kruger reverted to her classic hand-clasp pose. Her face had all the color of uncooked dough. She spouted pap like “healing venue with her father,” “support from that branch of the family,” “healthy psychic distance,” “excellent care” and “Serena’s remarkable resilience.”
Weasel words. Rinse and repeat. Serena was about as resilient as a wet paper towel. Her father must have been jubilant to be able to swoop in like a white knight and “save” his only daughter. Better a damaged daughter than no daughter at all.
I felt the bile rise within me along with the enormity of what had just happened, of what they had managed to do. There were more words.
“We can count on you, can’t we, Kate?”
I must have nodded. Of course I nodded, and I kept nodding as I left her office. Mark was standing by Miss Shwepper’s desk, glancing idly at back issues of the school newspaper. He did not approach me or say anything. He just looked up and winked.
I started running as soon as I hit the hallway. What in God’s name was I thinking? That
could outmaneuver Mark Redkin? I was punching way above my weight.
And he knew it.
He lay down beside her and brushed a wisp of hair off her face. It was a gesture so tender that it almost crushed her. “You’re an angel,” Mark whispered. “I feel like I’m at peace with you. You do that.”
How could she not be enthralled? Olivia shifted slightly to be able to see him better. “Nobody knows me or has ever known me the way you do, Mark.”
“I know the inside of you,
the secret parts, the best parts.” He kissed her eyelids. “Don’t ever be ashamed of anything. Everything about you is beautiful.”
Yes, there was that.
“And what I know for sure is that you’re a wonder.” He chuckled at the word.
She braced herself. “Are you going to replace her?”
“Serena,” she said. Her eyes locked on to his. “As a Wonder, I mean.”
“No.” He nuzzled her neck, then rolled off the bed and walked over to her side. He moved like a Ferrari. “There’s no need. Spring break will be here in a minute, and then it’s wind-down. My four Wonders will be plenty wonderful enough.” He kissed her temple. He began dressing, preparing to go out and forage for their sustenance. She loved that about him. Loved so much about him. She would love to cook for him. Except, of course, Olivia didn’t know how to cook. But she would learn for him. She’d make Anka teach her so she could make intimate dinners, the envy of Le Cirque, and then they would…
“You know the rules.” Mark zipped up his jeans. “I need to think of you exactly like that on my bed as I brave the big bad city and the lineups at Zucker’s. I don’t want you to move a toe.”
“Imagining you here like that will give me the required strength.”
“Not a toe,” she promised.
She faded as soon as she heard the door shut. That was happening more and more, this thing. Olivia was never more alive and present than when she was near Mark, but as soon as they were apart, it was as if she was put on a dimmer switch and half-formed questions almost floated to the surface. Almost.
She studied her position, memorized it and then got up. So Serena was gone. Too bad, so sad. Who else was there? Draper didn’t concern her, nor did Dr. Kruger. It was obvious that he was only using them. It was understandable, really—Mark had his career to think about. Neither was a threat to her. They were old, and Olivia was sure they couldn’t do what she did. What about the other Wonders? Morgan would jump at the chance, if she hadn’t already, but she was hardly a threat, and nor was Claire. They wouldn’t be enough for him. That left Kate.
Kate would have been a problem, but her best friend seemed to despise Mark more with each passing day. Oh, she tried to muffle it around Olivia, but Kate stiffened if she even caught sight of him in the hall. No, Kate would never be a threat. More important, Kate would never do anything to hurt her.
This she knew for sure.
And this made her smile.
But what if there were others? Someone more important to him than her? The thought stuck in her throat and made her gag. When he was with her, Mark made her feel like no one else existed. He filled her lungs with pure oxygen. But when they were apart, all that was left was an anxiety-filled smog.
Olivia stepped gingerly to his dresser and started opening drawers. She didn’t dare touch anything. She left his sweaters, T-shirts and accessories undisturbed, caressing the items only with her eyes. She performed the same ritual with the night tables. What was she even looking for?
She opened his closet, which looked like the men’s suit rack at Saks. Everything was immaculate. Anka would swoon. Shoes were lined up and perfectly cared for. Ties placed on a rack in order of hue. Summer wear neatly folded in clear plastic boxes in the back. Wait. Way in the back left-hand corner, underneath a wicker basket. Was it a book? No, but it could be a photo album. Who had albums anymore? Then she remembered that Mark was older. It could be from his childhood or—she could hear her blood pumping in her ears—it could be more recent. It
include photos of his romances, of the girl who had shattered his heart. For Olivia was sure that there was such a girl. It would explain so much, and she would dedicate herself completely to making him forget that other one.
Thankfully, even lost in her reverie she managed to hear his key in the door.
The bed was too far away.
There was no way she would make it in time.
She wasted precious seconds in frozen panic. It was only when she heard him enter the living room that she shut the closet door and willed herself to leap for the bathroom.
Why was she so afraid? It was silly. Olivia gulped down air and flushed the toilet. She ran the faucet and arranged her expression.
He was already in the bedroom when she opened the door.
“Hi, you’re back so soon. I’m glad.”
Mark didn’t respond. He stood at the foot of the bed, watching as she climbed back in.
Olivia beckoned to him with open arms.
Again, Mark did not respond.
“I just had to…I know you said not to move, but I had to go, and I didn’t think—”
“You didn’t think?” His voice was measured.
“I’m sorry, Mark. I didn’t think you’d—”
“You didn’t think,” he repeated.
afraid. It was his voice, that stare, his blue eyes dark with something unknowable.
“You’re right. I didn’t think.”
He smiled then and her heart leapt. She smiled back at him.