Authors: Lauren Weisberger
“Both, actually. I went to a nine o'clock SoulCycle class.”
“Wow, I'm impressed. The Miriam Kagan I know is not the Soul kind of girl.”
“Yeah, well, I try to go a couple days a week. Not like the other moms. The instructor asked today who was âdoubling,' and half the class raised their hands. Three of them were
“Three hours of your day and a hundred and twenty bucksâaggressive. Even for Greenwich,” Emily said. “At least in Santa Monica, they don't admit to it.”
Miriam dumped in a splash of half-and-half and grabbed a croissant from the plastic bucket of assorted Trader Joe's breakfast pastries.
“You can't outrun a bad diet, you know,” Emily called.
Miriam gave Emily the finger and shoved the croissant in her mouth.
“A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.”
“These hips can handle one croissant, trust me.” Miriam grabbed a love handle with one hand while balancing her coffee cup with the other. The croissant hung out of her mouth as she carefully lowered herself
into the chair opposite Emily, trying to ignore the sensation of her stomach fat rolling over the waistband of her yoga pants. The high-waisted waistband. With extra compression. “What are you working on?”
“Trying to get my career back. I'm being Snapchatted to irrelevance. When did we get so old?”
“We're thirty-six. It's hardly ancient.”
“Look around. You have three kids. And a professionally decorated house.” Emily surveyed the family room. “It's lovely, but whoever did this clearly hates color. It's like fifty shades of gray without the S and M.”
Miriam nodded. “Exactly how I like it. So, what's going on? I hardly think it's fair to say that your career is in the toilet just because Rizzo Benz went with Olivia Belle. Or are we still not allowed to talk about it?”
“It's not just Rizzo.” Emily sighed. “Maybe I'm losing my touch.”
“Your touch? You went from being the top stylist in Hollywood to managing top celebrities in crisis. But if you don't like it, do something else. You clearly
.” Miriam polished off the last of her croissant. “What does Miles think?”
Emily shrugged. “He thinks like you. I'm overreacting. I'm great. But he's not even around these days. He's about to go to Hong Kong for three months.”
“Go with him,” Miriam said.
“I'm not going to Hong Kong.”
“It's a great city.”
“Maybe I'm depressed. Look what I'm wearing,” Emily said.
“Looks fine to me. Move in here and you can live in your pajamas all day. Just give up. I have.”
“Yeah, you have,” Emily said. “I never thought I'd see Ms. Editor of the
Harvard Law Review
doing school drop-off followed by SoulCycle class.”
“That's harsh. But fair, I guess. You should hear my mother. She's literally embarrassed by me.”
“Your mother won a Pulitzer when she was twenty-eight and ignored you until you were in college.”
“Last week Matthew told us, âWhen I grow up, I want to be an inventor just like Daddy.' And then Maisie, without missing a beat, says, âWell, when I grow up, I want to go to the gym like Mommy.'â”
Emily laughed. “Ouch.”
“Yeah, I know. Like, âSweetie, Mommy has a JD/MBA from Harvard. She made partner at the most prestigious firm in the city at thirty-four. Up until a lousy six months ago, Mommy worked eighty hours a week helping multinational companies and was the breadwinner for this family.'â”
“Did you say that?”
Miriam snorted. “She's five. And the goal is
to become my mother, right? I said something inane about whether she grows up to become a mommy or a musician or an architect or a firefighter, all that matters is that she's happy.”
“And you believe that?” Emily asked, eyebrows raised.
“Yes! I do now. I've been operating at a hundred percent since I was
age. I blinked, and my kids went from newborns to school-aged real human beings with their own thoughts and feelings, and I missed most of it because I was always at work. Now that Paul's sold his start-up everything's upside down, like we hit the lottery. How do I explain that having the chance to take a breather midlife and evaluate everything is rarer than a double rainbow?”
“Tell me you didn't say all that.” Emily brushed hair out of her eye.
“I didn't say all that. I asked if she wanted a bag of cheddar bunnies, and she broke down hysterically crying because she only likes the cookie ones. But seriously, Em, how lucky am I right now? I have choices. Not a lot of people can say that. You can too.”
“It's been, what? Six months out of the city? Another six and you'll want to step directly in front of one of those Range Rovers out there.”
“Maybe. But for now it's okay. Besides, I'm doing some freelance stuff on the side. Local projects, to keep my edge.”
Miriam could see that Emily's attention was already starting to drift back to the TV. On the screen, Hoda and Kathie Lee were drinking rosÃ©.
“Like nanny tax law. Prenups. Estate planning. That kind of thing.”
“Don't be a bitch.”
“That's exactly what you said to me during the summer we met when you thought I was making fun of that nitwit. What was her name? Rosalie?”
Miriam laughed, remembering how everyone else at camp was scared of Emily, who wore lipstick despite the no makeup rule, slept in boxer shorts she claimed belonged to her older boyfriend, and said “fuck” with abandon. Miriam had never met someone who would flat-out refuse to play lacrosse for “personal reasons,” or insist on wearing stilettos to the weekly dances on the basketball court with the boys' camp, or convince the CITs to sneak her cigarettes. The first week they met, Miriam thought Emily was mocking a bunkmate's weight, and Miriam told her in front of everyone to stop being a bitch. By visiting day, they were introducing each other to their parents as best friends, and by summer's end, they clung to each other when it came time to say goodbye.
“How do you remember that? I was convinced you were calling her fat,” Miriam said.
“She may have been a little bit of a chunker, but I was walking like an elephant because I was imitating that buffoon who worked in the officeâwhat was his name? Something rapey.”
“Yes, Chester! Have you ever looked him up? We should Google him. I bet he has more pedophilia arrests than we can count. I'm just sure of it.”
“He was the grossest man ever,” Miriam said. “He leered at all the girls whenever they went in to pick up mail or drop off postcards.”
Miriam's phone rang. “It's her. Finally!” she said, and snatched her
phone from the table. “There you are!” Miriam said before Karolina could say a word. “How are you? Where are you? I've been leaving messages for you stalker-style for three days!”
“You saw the papers,” Karolina said, her slight Eastern European accent sounding more pronounced.
“Of course I saw the papers! The whole universe saw the papers! But I didn't believe them for a second. Where are you? I must have left a thousand messages.”
“I'm in Greenwich.”
“To âcollect myself.'â”
“Oh my God. I'm coming over.” Miriam glanced at the wall clock. “I need to shower, but I can be there within the hour.”
At this, Emily looked up. “Who is it?” she mouthed.
“You don't have to rush over. I'm sure I'll be here for a while,” Karolina said, her voice breaking. “I just miss Harry.”
“Oh, honey, I'm on my way. Same address?”
Karolina sobbed. “Yes, the hideous house with the gold-enameled mailbox.”
Miriam pictured the McMansionÂ .Â .Â . splashed across the cover of the
that morning with the headline
WHERE WILL HIGH-FLYING MRS. HARTWELL LAND THIS TIME?
“Okay, I'll see you soon. Can I bring anything?”
“Maybe some pills? What do people take these days? You wouldn't know it from the news, but I'm out of the loop. Valium? No, that's old-school. Percocet? I feel like now is an excellent time to develop a prescription-pill problem. I'm a drunk, apparently. No one will be surprised.”
“Sit tight, I'll be right there.”
“What? A mommy friend calling to commiserate about her maid stealing the silverware?” Emily asked, typing furiously on her laptop.
“Karolina Hartwell calling to say that she's here in Greenwich.”
Miriam was halfway to the stairs when Emily called, “I'm coming with you!”
“No, it's not a good time. She sounds really upset. I don't think she would want a stranger showing up at her house.”
“I'm not a stranger! I met her a hundred times when I was at
. She must have been on the cover, what, five times while I worked there? She was in and out of the office every three seconds. I can
“I don't knowÂ .Â .Â .”
“Trust me, it'll be good to have me around. You go shower. I'll change and pack a few necessities. Between the two of us, we can cheer her up.”
Miriam nodded. As usual, she felt powerless to stand in the way when Emily made her mind up. “Meet me in the car in twenty. And please, no booze until we hear what's really going on with her.”
Miriam was halfway up the stairs but could hear Emily in the refrigerator. “MoÃ«t is hardly booze!” Emily called after her. Miriam smiled to herself and thought how much she loved that crazy bitch.
s it neared eleven, Karolina peered out the window near the door that faced the grand circular driveway, working her hair into twisty knots. When they'd bought the Greenwich house a couple years into their marriage, Graham had insisted they add the automated wrought-iron gate to the driveway for security purposes. She remembered feeling like it was a prison but hadn't wanted to start another fight. “It's the smart move,” Graham had said. “It's what people do.” He'd sounded both supremely confident and totally vague.
Karolina had had a hard time understanding Graham's obsession with the house in the country. They were living in a lovely apartment in a full-service building on Sixty-Third and Park, close to the midtown law office where he was working backbreaking hours as a new associate. Who needed Greenwich? They did, Graham swore. Acres of
manicured lawn and great restaurants and fabulous shopping and only a stone's throw from Manhattan. They could have a garden and a pool and enough space to host all their friends over snowy winter weekends or long vacations in the summer. She remained steadfastly unconvinced until he had played his trump card: Harry would have a place to roam and explore without fear of getting hit by a taxi or kidnapped in plain daylight. Was she really going to say no to that? The boy was two when they got married and still wouldn't walk barefoot on grass. Harry was motherlessâGraham's first wife had died tragically of a rare type of stomach cancer when he was an infantâso how could Karolina possibly be the one to deny him this opportunity? Wasn't it time that Harry had a swing set?
Those were some of the sweetest times of their marriage. She was still swept off her feet by Graham's charm and social connections, his private clubs and the ease with which he navigated his world. He was a twenty-first-century JFK Junior, dashing and handsome and wealthy. She knew he could have chosen anyone, but he'd chosen Karolina. As successful a model as she'd been through the years, deep down she was still just a poor girl from WrocÅaw. Beautiful, yes. But also sheltered by a protective mother and surrounded by friends and family who had lacked education. How could she not fall for a man who swept her into private clubs where Rockefellers and Carnegies dined? It was a glimpse into an entirely different world than modeling afforded her. It was storied.
In those early years they threw lavish parties and extravagant dinners and booze-heavy cocktail hours. They laughed all the time and liked watching the same shows. It was hard to pinpoint exactly when things began to shift, but Karolina thought it had a lot to do with searching for the perfect Greenwich house.
It didn't take long for Graham's wish list to balloon in both size and grandeur: the quest for a modest four-bedroom home on a cul-de-sac quickly became an intense hunt for a minimum of seven bedrooms, two acres, a pool, and a tennis court. And although at the time Graham
drank exclusively beer or whiskey, it was suddenly imperative that they have a humidity-controlled wine cellar with a tasting room. Newest. Biggest. Fanciest. Karolina should have listened to those warning bells. But she didn't.
On the fourth visit, a spectacular October weekend at peak foliage, Graham fell in love with a house that was designed by a famous architect. It was ultra-modern, with jutting angles and miles of glass: 35 Honeysuckle Lane sounded like it fit the bill, but it looked like it belonged in a movie featuring a sociopath. It was perhaps the least child-friendly home she'd ever seen, but she couldn't argue with Harry's obvious glee as he sprinted across the beautiful backyard and giggled uncontrollably as the oversize fish in the koi pond leapt up as he tossed them bits of his bagel. They'd closed fifteen days later, a record, according to the blue-haired realtor. Karolina had the good sense to require that the house be in both their names. The money was entirely hers, earned from nearly a decade of modeling while Graham was still living off the interest from the trust fund he couldn't touch until he was forty. He tried to argue it would be better for “tax purposes” to list only his name on the deed, but she had insisted. If only she had known how many weeks and months the house would sit empty and unloved save for a quick trip out to pay the caretakers and groundskeeper and make sure it was still standing. The last time they'd stayed there as a family was before Graham had won the Senate race four years earlier and they'd all relocated to Bethesda, and that was only for the night.