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Authors: Jane Lotter

Tags: #Fiction, #Humorous, #Literary, #Contemporary Women

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“I was wrong about something,” Tully says, moving his fingers gently over my head. “I said architectural salvage was an oxymoron. But I’ve been thinking about it, and it’s not much different from when someone dies and we look at their picture or reread a letter they wrote. That’s salvage too. If you think about it, people spend a lot of time trying to hold on to things that are gone.”

He caresses my head a bit longer. His hands are superb.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” he finally says.

“Is it what you wanted to tell me this morning?” I say. I feel dreamy from the head rub.

“Yeah, it is. Last night I was restless, couldn’t sleep.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Was the bathtub terribly uncomfortable?”

“It was fine,” Tully says. “I couldn’t sleep because I kept thinking about what Veronica said at her shop. That the
Spy Team
script was worth millions, that you should get an attorney. I was curious. You left your bag downstairs. Excuse me for doing this, but I went over and took out the script. I sat in an old armchair down there, and I read it.”

“Could we please not talk about
Spy Team
?” I say.

“We have to talk about it.”

“I don’t know why.”

Tully moves his hands from my head down to the nape of my neck. He begins kneading my neck and shoulders.

“Because for one thing,” he says, “Veronica was right. Your father was a good writer. That story has a great ending. I bet your dad was proud of
Spy Team
. I bet he’d be proud now, if he were alive, and he saw that years later people still enjoy that show. Enjoy it so much they’re lining up to buy the Blu-ray high-def twenty-four-disc ultimate collector’s edition with pop-up packaging.”

I’m ill with regret and remorse. Why did God invent cigarette lighters?

“When I finished reading the script, it was late,” Tully says. “I went to bed. Then this morning, I woke up early. You were asleep, so I went out. I brought back milk, eggs, groceries. And I brought back something else.”

“The
New York Times
,” I say.

“Right, I got that. But did you know there’s a FedEx office near here? Open twenty-four hours. I took the
Spy Team
script over there.” He ceases rubbing my shoulders.

I twist round and look at him. “You—”

“Photocopied it,” Tully says. “I figured I better do that in case something happened to the original.”

I jump from the fainting couch, turn, and stand there, facing him. “But you didn’t tell me! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Margo, you were completely mental about
Spy Team
, your father, all of it. I saw your face when Veronica said the script your dad cowrote with Orson Welles wasn’t worth much. I knew how you felt about your dad working in television. You thought television killed him—when maybe it was, you know, other things.”

I picture the many people I met today at AA. All of them finally accepting the truth about themselves. “It was other things,” I say. “I know that now.”

“Okay. So anyway, I decided to wait until you calmed down. When you and Dottie were up here talking to Georgia, I put the original script back in your bag. Then I texted my literary agent. She’s here in Manhattan, but her agency has a Hollywood office. I wanted to see if she knows anything about Joshua Epstein, that LA attorney Veronica recommended.”

“Does she?”

“Yeah. I went and saw her, we talked. She says Epstein has a good rep.”

I’m lightheaded, dizzy. I may swoon onto the fainting couch. “You made a photocopy of
Spy Team
?” I say.

“Actually,” Tully says, “I made two.”

“You’re a genius!”

He grins. “Some people do say I have a very high IQ.”

“I could kiss you,” I say.

He throws open his arms. “Baby,” he says, “what’s stopping you?”

I return to the couch, and do what I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I kiss Tully Benedict. Even more wonderful, he kisses back. He is a fabulous kisser, and he kisses me back many times. In many places. In many ways.

The next morning, I wake up feeling better than I have in years. For someone still suffering the effects of alcohol withdrawal, I have a surprising amount of energy. Sitting at the kitchen table in my bathrobe, I telephone Joshua Epstein in Los Angeles and take him on as my legal representative.

Then I pull out the creamy vellum card Malcolm Belvedere gave me that day we first met in Malibu. The card that lists all his private numbers.

I call Malcolm and tell him he can have
Spy Team
, but he’ll have to work with Joshua.

“Done!” Malcolm says into the phone. “With
Spy Team
in my pocket, I have a shot at reclaiming my studio. Hah! You’ve done me a great kindness! I’m back in the game!”

I tell Malcolm that, as part of the deal, I’d also like a month-long stay this summer at that beach cottage of his in the Hamptons.

“Dear girl,” Malcolm says. “Anything. Hardly use the place. Month-long stay every year for the rest of your life if you want.”

I tell him, Yes, that’s exactly what I want.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

BEACH COTTAGE

A
ssuming you live through it, the best thing about falling apart is you get to put yourself back together. I go to Alcoholics Anonymous two nights a week now, more if I’m feeling shaky.

My outburst at that first meeting is legendary. I can’t tell you how many people in my chapter have come up to shake my hand. They tell me they thought they’d seen it all, until the night they shared fellowship with me. I’m the benchmark for out-of-control behavior, the poster child for escaping the hellish jaws of alcoholism. And escape it I have. Or at least, you know, as Kay said to me that afternoon at the Museum of Science and Industry: One day at a time.

Charlotte wrote me a check for sixty thousand dollars, plus expenses. And she gave me title to the MG. She was right, you can’t keep a car in Manhattan, the garage fees are astronomical. So I store the car out of the city, but Tully and I often take it out on weekends. We go for long drives in the country. Sometimes we stop for ice-cream.

With the cash Charlotte gave me—plus the obscene amount of money I received from the sale of
Spy Team—
I paid off my debts and then some. I won’t have to worry about finances for a long time now, if ever. Dottie is helping me find homes for the things in Finn’s shop, many of which we’re simply donating to museums and restoration projects.

After we empty the shop, I’m closing the business. I’m done focusing on the past—my own past anyway. I’m looking to the future. And I’m going back to school. Eventually, I want to train to become an architectural conservator. I want to work at saving important buildings
before
they’re torn down.

Tully has nearly finished his book on miniatures. He asked me to move in with him, into his flat in Brooklyn, and I did. We plan to be married in the fall—I in the strapless Donna Karan, he in the Armani tux. Georgia has volunteered Ricky Wallingford to play at our wedding reception. We’ll see.

In the meantime, it’s summer, and Tully; his daughter, Emma; and I are spending a month at the beach. We’re staying in Malcolm’s seaside cottage—which, to be honest, is a sort of luxury oceanfront home.

Emma, I should tell you, is beautiful. I don’t mean physically, though she’s nice-looking. I mean, her energy, her exuberance. I love the way she dances by the water, turning cartwheels and laughing.

She and I take long walks along the shore and talk about many things. I’m not trying to replace her mother, and she knows that. But I do hope to be her friend. Together, we worked out that “Margo” was too formal, and “Mom” belongs to her real mother. So I told her about my own mum, who came from England. Because of that, and because of my accent, she decided to call me Mum.

This morning, for instance, while Tully works on his book, Emma and I go for a beach walk. She stops and picks up a smooth white stone and holds it in her hand. Then she looks out at the blue, rolling sea. “Mum,” she says, “is everything in the world connected? I mean, you know, except for what’s up in the sky?”

I ponder that one for a moment. Now that I’m a mum, I no longer believe in telling half-truths. I believe in giving as honest an answer as I can. Because perhaps if people spent more time being honest with each other, especially with children, there would be less unhappiness in the world.

I know I couldn’t love Emma more if she were my own child, and I know it’s possible to find heaven on earth, but this is a new kind of philosophy. I mean, really, is everything—
everything
—in the world connected? Finn, Pennsylvania Station, Tully, dollhouses, me, Orson Welles? Every leaf, every insect, every raindrop, every person I ever met in my entire life? Are they all connected?

So finally I tell her, Yes, everything in the world is connected. And in my opinion, what’s up in the sky as well.

“I thought so,” she says, dropping her stone into the palm of my hand, and running off to splash in the water.

Personally, I can’t say I’d given it much thought before, certainly not prior to becoming a mum. But now that I’ve considered it, now that I’ve made peace with so many things, and now—to paraphrase brave Bette Davis in
Now, Voyager
—now that I have a home of my own, a man of my own, and a child of my own—

Well. I’m quite sure it’s true.

THE END

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J
ane Lotter was a Seattle-based writer and humorist whose work has appeared in national publications. Her hilarious column, Jane Explains,
ran in the
Seattle Sun
,
winning several awards, including one from the Society of Professional Journalists. Jane’s only novel,
The Bette Davis Club
,
won first place in the Mainstream category in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest.

BOOK: The Bette Davis Club
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