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Authors: Lisa Beazley

Keep Me Posted

BOOK: Keep Me Posted
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NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY

Published by New American Library,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

This book is an original publication of New American Library.

Copyright © Lisa Beazley, 2016

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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-98988-3

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
CATALOGING-IN-PUBLIC
ATION DATA:

Names: Beazley, Lisa, author.

Title: Keep me posted/Lisa Beazley.

Description: New York: New American Library, 2016.

Identifiers: LCCN 2015038157 | ISBN 9781101989869 (hardback)

Subjects: LCSH: Sisters—Fiction. | Letter writing—Fiction. |

Self-actualization (Psychology) in women—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION/

Contemporary Women. | FICTION/Sagas. | FICTION/Literary.

Classification: LCC PS3602.E265 K44 2016 | DDC 813/.6—dc23

LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015038157

INTERNAT
IONAL EDITION ISBN
978-1-101-99171-8

Designed by Kristin del Rosario

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

To sisters everywhere, especially mine.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you . . .

To Erika Mailman. Writing this was fun because of you.

To my agent, Marly Rusoff, for her most excellent guidance. Thanks also to Julie Mosow and Michael Radulescu.

To my wise and delightful editor, Claire Zion, and the good people at the Berkley Group, including Kara Welsh and Jennifer Fisher.

To my grandparents, Ben and Pat Beazley and Julie Wood, for making reading and writing the thing we all do.

To my parents, Mike and Julie Beazley, for filling my childhood with books (Mom) and adventure (Dad), and for a lifetime of pure and unconditional love and support.

To Jeff, Sarah, and Kate, for being the kind of people who led me to write a book in which the happy ending involves moving in with your adult sibling.

To my husband, TJ Kling. I couldn’t ask for a more selfless and generous partner. I’m tremendously grateful for all of the weekends you let me hide away with my laptop while you keep our world
spinning.

To my beloved children, Grady, Seamus, and Arlo, for making me feel all the feelings—mostly the good ones—on a daily basis.

To Agnes Laurente, for taking such loving care of my family and my home so that I can write.

To the talented writers who worked alongside me in Erika’s class, especially Leslie Cauldwell, Brett Singer, Ellen McGarrahan, Emily Bond, Elizabeth Cockle, Rosanne Dube, Beth Dougherty, Lynne Hoerauf, and Lucie Patrowicz.

To the mommy bloggers. Your wit, generosity, and honesty helped to shape Cassie.

To my friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and in-laws. I’m lucky to be surrounded by such smart, funny, and interesting people. If my characters are any good, it’s because I know
you.

CHAPTER ONE

L
ater—much later—I would regret pretending to be asleep when Leo sidled up to me in bed that night. Not that it was an isolated incident; it’s just that the timing stands out as an apropos kickoff to what would be the year everything went pear-shaped.

“’Night, Cass,” he said, coming in for a kiss. When I didn’t turn toward him, he planted a soft peck behind my ear and lingered for a few seconds.

“Niii,” I mumbled, my sleepy voice more indicative of my state of mind than my level of alertness. In fact, I was wide-awake and mentally scheduling my morning to somehow fit in packing and an activity to exhaust the boys before sticking them in the car for our eight-hour drive.

Sadly, I’d reached a point where when faced with the options of sex or hours of sleepless anxiety, I chose the latter. Would I like some kissing and breast caressing? Nah. I think I’ll formulate snarky retorts to made-up potential insults for ten or fifteen minutes. How about an orgasm or two? No, thanks! I’m good mentally
going through my inadequate wardrobe, trying to figure out what to pack for five days of holiday merrymaking with my family. Fall asleep sexually satisfied and with a grateful-and-therefore-more-likely-to-wake-up-first-with-the-kids-in-the-morning husband? I’ll pass. My restless legs syndrome should be kicking in anytime now, and I’m due to be pacing and stretching in the living room.

So steeped in ennui was I that doing something guaranteed to relieve stress, boost endorphins, and strengthen my marriage—all without leaving my bed—seemed like just another chore.

It’s not like we were going in for lengthy acrobatic sessions. Quite the opposite, I’m afraid. The tired-parent sex between Leo and me had become what I thought of as a battle for the bottom, with one person (the winner) lying there while the other (the loser) expended minimal effort from the top. My tactics had recently moved beyond polite and passive maneuvering to actual deceit. If you think I’m exaggerating, listen to this one: I told him it was suddenly easier for me to orgasm from down there. (It wasn’t.) So that caused a whole other set of problems.

When I was sure he was asleep, I retrieved the iPad from under the bed and opened the Kindle app to read some of my novel. Within a few pages, predictably, my restless legs drove me into the living room, where I could pace, still reading. There was just enough mess-free floor space to make it about three small steps, so I switched to a march-in-place move, periodically shaking out my legs. My mind wandered to Christmas, and I grabbed a pen to write the letter “S” on my hand, hoping it would remind me to pack the scarf I had bought for Leo weeks ago and stashed in a spare purse in my closet. Then, with a flash of panic, I remembered that I’d never placed my online order for the boys’ gifts. My shopping cart had been filled for at least a week, yet completing a simple transaction was beyond my bandwidth: This was far more frustrating to me than my lousy sex life. With very few responsibilities other than keeping my kids alive, not being able to tick simple things off my to-do list was an endless source of chagrin.

I closed my novel and switched to Safari, then paid the rush charges to get the Batcave, Buzz and Woody costumes, and some books and puzzles to my parents’ house in Ohio by Christmas Eve.

When I checked my e-mail for my order confirmation, I had a rare treat—a message from my sister. Rare because her electronic-communication habits are those of someone twice her age: She checks her e-mail once every two weeks or so and eschews all social media. A treat because she lives in Singapore, and I hardly ever see her or talk to her—and because I adore her completely.

Cassie—

Arrived at Mom and Dad’s yesterday. Loopy with jet lag. Baked cinnamon bread with Grandma Margie today—exactly what I needed to get into the Christmas spirit. Now bring me some figgy pudding! Tried to talk her out of this last-Christmas nonsense, to no avail (sniff). Can’t wait to see you!!!

Love you.

—Sid

Buoyed by her cheer, I popped an Ambien and went to bed happy after all, anticipating a reunion with my dear
sister.

CHAPTER TWO

S
id and I had taken to calling it “the last Christmas” because Grandpa Joe and Grandma Margie announced that they were done hosting. They wanted their children to start taking turns holding Christmas Eve. It was getting to be too much work for them, they said. My parents and aunts and uncles had taken the news in stride, but Sid and I were in mourning; Christmas as we knew it was over.

To us, Christmas
was
Joe and Margie. The Old English–soap smell of their house mingling with the aroma of a roasting turkey and all the trimmings, the giant tree in their double-height foyer, the big round coffee table filled with snow globes . . . It’s everything a family Christmas should be. Imagining the alternatives—fending off Aunt Faye’s three rambunctious Great Danes while listening to Mannheim Steamroller on repeat; anxiously following the boys around Aunt Linda’s overheated little ranch house with breakable and expensive Chihuly-esque sculptures on every surface;
Mom’s and Dad’s utter uselessness in the kitchen—had me contemplating a trip to the Bahamas next December.

My sister and I adore Grandpa Joe and Grandma Margie. Sid is only fifteen months older than me, so we have many of the same magical memories of making cookies and paper dolls with Grandma Margie and reading—always reading—with Grandpa Joe. At his feet, we’d listen to anything. Margie’s maiden name was Quinn, and my twin sons, Joey and Quinn, are named for her and Grandpa.

Something about being in their home puts everyone on their best behavior. Probably because Joe and Margie are the epitome of good behavior. You’ll sometimes catch them at these gatherings, just the two of them, regaling each other with stories that
can’t
be new, the other hanging on every word, asking questions, and then finding something kind and witty to say at the close.

Leo and I have been together only five years, but if he starts in on a story I’ve heard, I’ll hold up my hand and go, “Yeah, yeah, I know this one. The dog dies.” But whenever I’m around Joe and Margie, I try to behave like they do—with courtesy and old-fashioned grace.

We are big on traditions. The men always get red sweaters from Margie; the women, gloves and socks. We do a choreographed routine to “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This last bit makes you think really hard before bringing that special someone home for the holidays. In fact, it’s rumored that my cousin Lizzy was dumped over it. One theory is that this guy took one look at her mom—my aunt Faye—doing her “lords a-leaping” with abandon, caught a glimpse of his future, and headed for the hills. It was beyond corny. But I think it’s the corny traditions that separate the interesting families from the boring ones.

One year when Sid and I and our seven cousins were all in our
twenties, we started another tradition: boxed wine. Everyone in the cousin generation brought wine, and it had to be in a box. For years, that meant Franzia white zinfandel, which gives the worst morning-after headaches of all wines. But then better wines started coming in boxes, and it became a contest of who could find the fanciest or best or most expensive box of wine. Despite our best efforts, a box per cousin always resulted in a surplus of wine, and the half-empty containers could be found stashed throughout Joe and Margie’s house year-round.

So last Christmas,
the
last Christmas, I was hitting the box pretty hard. I was feeling all warm and fuzzy by the time we’d finished “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and then Grandpa Joe announced that he had something he’d like to read to us. This wasn’t unusual. He found a way to read aloud at any gathering—usually a Molly Ivins column or a passage from Thurber or Bud Trillin, as we called Calvin (we considered him to be a family friend since Joe and Margie had many years ago been at a dinner party where he was in attendance, and I had passed him on the street in New York a handful of times, even exchanging a nod once or twice). But this time he announced that he’d found a stack of letters from the early days of their marriage, while he was in the coast guard and Grandma Margie was juggling two under two at home, my dad and my aunt Faye. Sid and I exchanged a look that said,
Swoon!
and perched ourselves at Grandpa Joe’s feet like a couple of kids, although, of course, we were well into our thirties.

The letters did not disappoint. Grandma Margie wrote about sweet and funny and maddening things the kids were doing, the kind nurse at the hospital who would play with Faye and hold Dad while she dropped off jars of extra breast milk she had expressed for the orphans, and the hard time she was having as a Chicago girl
understanding the accents of their new neighbors in Bar Harbor, Maine. Grandpa Joe wrote about the comically loud snoring of his bunkmate on the boat and how his heart leaped when he could see the lighthouse in the harbor, because it meant he would be coming home to her and the kids soon.

Enchanted by the romance of it all, I privately lamented that Leo and I had never once exchanged a letter. Why would we? We’d never been separated for any amount of time, and even if we had, there were half a dozen ways to reach him and get an immediate response. I tried to imagine my eventual progeny being anywhere near as impressed by our quotidian communication. “Get milk,” “Coming home soon? May kill the children,” and the like. It was a depressing thought and made me long for a simpler time, a time when we might not have been able to text back and forth all day long. I wondered if we’d been missing out on the sort of intimacy that could have come from simply catching up at the end of the day. By the time Leo arrived home from work each day, we’d been in near constant contact. In some ways, it made me feel close to him, always knowing where he was and what he had for lunch. But it also made it easy to spend most of our evenings busy on our respective iPhones.

Later that night, back at Mom and Dad’s, Sid and I lounged on the big brown sectional in the basement, listening to old mixtapes on an ancient paint-splattered jam box, the container of Y+B Malbec still on tap at my side. Leo was upstairs putting the twins to bed on the floor of my old room. As extremely active three-year-olds, Quinn and Joey were so exhausted at the end of every day that if you could get them to just stop moving, they were asleep in minutes. It’s harder than it sounds. We figured out a maneuver likely used in state-run homes for troubled youths and animal shelters,
where you kind of held them and pinned down every extremity at the same time. When you’re putting them to bed by yourself, as is often the case, there are a couple of ways to go. With both of them on the floor, I would lie down between them on my stomach, looking like a frog that had splatted on the sidewalk as my left arm and leg restrained Quinn while my right arm and leg covered Joey. Singing—loudly—was the only way to keep them quiet. They each got a request. Quinn usually chose “Tomorrow” from
Annie
and Joey, “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” the drinking song from
Jaws
. (Not that they’d ever seen either movie.)

Leo was less flexible than me, so his plan was probably to slip Joey his phone while Quinn wasn’t looking to let him flip through pictures and get Quinn to sleep first and then move on to Joey. The songs they requested most from him were “Cripple Creek” and the theme from
Cheers
.

I was starting to feel guilty because he had been up there for nearly an hour. But we had an arrangement: He always did bedtime when we visited my family, and I did it when we visited his. Leo was the youngest of four boys in the Costa clan, so I was usually happy for a break from that frat party, but I knew he was looking forward to catching up with Sid and her son, River, too. They’d been living in Singapore for seven or eight months, and there was little chance we’d see them again before next December. Sid’s husband of two years, Adrian, hadn’t come with her and the kids. He had meetings, she told me.

“On Christmas?” I asked.

“Yeah. His meetings are in Jakarta. Unfortunately, they don’t stop everything for Christmas in a Muslim country,” she explained.

Sid’s son, River, who was seventeen, was watching
A Christmas Story
upstairs with my dad. Lulu, who was eight months old, slept
peacefully attached to Sid’s breast. Mom was in her room fast asleep.

“Ugh! Cass! How beautiful were those letters?” Sid said. “It kills me that Lulu will never really get to experience Christmas at Joe and Margie’s.”

“Just Like Heaven” by the Cure was the next song on the tape that Emily Van Wey had made for me when I got my driver’s license. Instead of acknowledging what she said, I sang along and absentmindedly scrolled through Facebook on my iPhone.

“What are you always doing on that phone?” she said. I wished I had been scanning the headlines on CNN or even playing Tetris, but I let her peer over my shoulder at my Facebook feed of “Happy Holidays” status updates.

Suddenly she gave a little snort, and then, because Lulu was still sleeping on her, whispered, “You’re Facebook friends with Tommy Saronto?”

“I’m Facebook friends with half the people we went to elementary school with and pretty much everyone we went to high school with,” I said.

“Oh my God, he has five kids?”

“Yep. Clara, Ava, Ella, Will, and Tommy Jr.” I felt a little embarrassed that I knew my sister’s eighth-grade boyfriend’s kids’ names.

But she had moved on. “Whoa, look at Tara Lockshin.”

“Yeah. Those boobs are new.”

“She’s so tan. Where does she live?”

“Over near Bowman Mall.”

“How do you know all of this?” Sid looked genuinely shocked.

“I don’t know. It just kind of seeps in. I mean, when I need a break from the kids, I scroll through Facebook and, you know . . .”
I trailed off, hoping to move on. Our quality time was turning into a junior high school reunion, and I didn’t want to share my sister with all of these people.

But Sid—dinosaur that she was, without a Facebook account or even an idea of what Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest were—was thoroughly entertained by my knowledge of these people’s lives. To her,
I
was the novelty act. She turned it into a game, and I, being quite tipsy, played along.

“All right. Hannah Canary. Go.”

“Radiologist. Daughter named Devina. Loves Jesus.”

“Correct,” she said in a game-show-host voice, scrolling down. “Becky Applebee.”

“She’s on the Colorado Springs city council. Married to an architect. Has triplets. One of them is . . . um . . . diabetic!” I shouted a little too triumphantly.

I nailed a few more, and then Sid said, “Okay, Cassie. You are starting to scare me. This is not healthy.”

“Oh, everyone does it. You’re, like, the only one who’s not on Facebook.”

“Well, according to River, Facebook is for old people . . . Oh dear, what happened to Jamie Walton?”

“No idea. He was such a sweet little boy.”

Sid is about three notches kinder than me, and around her I sometimes rein in my darker humor. But I could have shared some real zingers on the topic of Jamie Walton, our childhood next-door neighbor, whose profile picture was him, shirtless, draped in ammo.

Actually, Sid and I shared the same basic outlook on many things, but we differed in demeanor so much that we could say the same exact thing to a person and leave them with wildly different impressions. The two summers we waited tables together at Don
Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant really brought those differences into focus. I turned out to have a real gift for it—multitasking, food and drink, and pleasing people being among my strong suits. But Sid’s other gifts meant that she made more in tips every night. I would be killing it in my section, turning table after table of satisfied diner, and look over to see her squatting down next to a booth, chatting away like she was out with old friends while the other tables in her section sat with empty chip baskets or margarita glasses. I tried to cover for her, refilling waters or salsas and running her food as often as I could. But any frustration her customers were feeling evaporated as soon as she returned her attention to them. The way she always touches you when she talks to you or looks you right in the eye and smiles like you’re sharing a secret—those things turned out to be worth about sixty extra bucks a night.

Handing me back my phone, she said the thing that got me: “You probably know more about these strangers than you know about me.”

“That’s not true!” I immediately shot back while simultaneously wondering if she was right. “Hey, if you’re feeling left out, just get yourself on Facebook.”

“Nah,” she said, gazing down at Lulu. “It’s not my thing.”

I felt annoyed with myself for not being cool enough to be above the whole thing and blurted out, “I can’t stop looking at it! I don’t like to get behind. It’s like a sickness.”

She just giggled.

Then, in an effort to get her to see my side of things, I tried, “But occasionally there is a little gem . . . like . . .” I scrolled through my news feed, looking for something witty or astute with which to impress her, but all I found were generic holiday wishes and photos of kids I didn’t know.

“Oh, never mind,” I said, tossing my phone onto the table.

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