Authors: Pamela Redmond Satran
Tags: #Fiction, #General
s soon as she
saw me, Raquel Gross clicked her switchblade phone closed as if there hadn’t been anyone on the other end and hurried around her glass and steel desk to enfold me in a huge embrace.
” she said, rocking me back and forth.
“Me too,” I tried to say, though she was holding me so tight it came out as “Mmm-tuh.”
“You…are…going…to…be…a…star,” she said, separating the words like that.
“I’m so glad you decided to sign,” she said, bustling back to her side of the desk and motioning for me to sit. “That is
the right decision. I mean, ‘Should I pursue a fabulous modeling career or do nothing in nowheresville?’ Duh!”
When I didn’t laugh, she cleared her throat and shuffled through the papers in front of her.
“All right,” she said, pushing the first thick stack of papers toward me. “Initial here and here and here, and sign here, and, let me see, here.”
I picked up the document, thick and dense as a history paper, except neater, and started reading.
“What are you doing?” Raquel said.
“I’m reading it.”
She snapped her scarlet-tipped fingers in the air. “This is New York!” she cried. “People do things fast here! They don’t read their contracts.”
The Man I Should Have Married
Babes in Captivity
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2007 by Pamela Redmond Satran
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
DOWNTOWN PRESS and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Illustrations by Sara Singh
Visit us on the World Wide Web:
For the Satran Family of Eagle River, with love
I was, through one of those amazing New York accidents, a fashion editor at
for six years, which taught me all I know about the world of fashion shoots and supermodels.
A special thanks to my longtime partner in fashion crime, Kim Bonnell, for always making that world fun and challenging, and to Lisa Lebowitz Cader, Cindi Leive, Lauren Brody, and the late great Ruth Whitney for being wonderful and lasting connections to the
experience. Thank you, too, to Judy Coyne, originator of the
who launched me on the form.
My Eagle River, Wisconsin family, parents-in-law Dan and Betty Satran; sisters-in-law Jane, Jone, and Mitzi; brothers-in-law Dan, John, Tom, and Tim; outlaws Leslie, Mike, Chuck, Carol, Steve, and Holly; along with my husband, Dick, have over the years generously embraced me and made me feel part of their beautiful corner of the world. Special thanks to Mitzi for the insightful tour of the Rhinelander airport and to Tom for the outdoorsman’s perspective.
On the publishing front, I owe eternal gratitude to my ever-wise and supportive agent Deborah Schneider, and to the formidable executives of Downtown Press—Louise Burke, Amy Pierpont, Lauren McKenna, and Megan McKeever—who expertly guided this book from conception to reality.
And a special thanks to my son, Owen, who convinced me to write it in the first place.
aybe I was holding
on to Tom so tight at the airport because some part of me knew I wouldn’t be coming back, at least not the way I planned, and not for a long time.
But that day, my clinginess just seemed strange. All I’d been thinking about for months and months was the trip to New York my mom was taking me on as a combination graduation/birthday/last-and-next-Christmas present, and then when we got to the airport I couldn’t stop holding on to Tom. Suddenly I didn’t want to go, didn’t want to leave him for even one minute, couldn’t imagine why I ever wanted to see New York in the first place, even though I’d been dying to go there my entire life.
“Let’s tell them now,” I whispered to Tom.
My lips brushed the edge of his tattered green fishing cap, fragrant with the trout he’d caught that morning and a hundred other mornings before. Tom was the only boy in Eagle River who was both taller than me and liked my height, as well as most everything else about me. He’d delayed a trolling trip to Big Secret Lake with a high-paying client to be here at the Rhinelander, Wisconsin, airport with me.
I felt him shake not just his head, but his entire lean and muscular body, as resistant as a hooked rainbow. It wasn’t like Tom to waste a word when he didn’t have to, even as short a one as
But he was adamant that we were not going to tell my parents that we’d decided to get married until after my eighteenth birthday, which I’d be celebrating in New York with Mom.
“I’m scared,” I whispered.
I was afraid that going on this trip would be like the pebble that starts the avalanche, the one tiny change that would set off the reaction that would somehow transform everything. I loved things exactly like they were right now. Blinking back tears as I stared over Tom’s broad shoulder at the Oneida casino posters, I thought maybe Tom would meet someone else while I was in New York, and that by the time I got back he wouldn’t want to marry me anymore.
But Tom believed I meant I was scared of the flight, or of New York itself. He gathered me in close and hugged me with those arms that were stronger than he knew, so tight that all the tears popped right out of my eyes, blinding me. I had to think so hard about breathing then that I stopped feeling scared. I kept meaning to complain about the tightness of those hugs, except I was afraid that would make him stop giving them to me.
I heard my dad clear his throat and then Mom said, “It’s time, Amanda.”
Then Tom shocked me by giving me an enormous kiss, right on the lips, with tongue, in front of my parents and everyone. For once, it was me who pulled back, just in time to see my dad reel around and pretend to be deeply interested in the Avis sign.
“Amanda,” said my mom, reaching out her dimpled arm to me.
“Please,” I said to Tom, gripping his waist.
But instead of answering me he stripped off his fishing vest, the one decorated with all his favorite flies in the world, and handed it to me. Then, without a word, he turned around and headed toward the door and the parking lot beyond, waving over his head so I would know he was still thinking about me, even if he could not show me his face. He and Dad were driving home together, so Dad watched after him nervously, and then moved to kiss first me and then Mom on the cheek.
“Have fun, you two,” he said. And then he too was gone.
As I moved zombielike with Mom through the makeshift security gate, where they actually made me take off my sock monkey slippers and send them through the X-ray machine, I tried to think of ways to distract myself from my near overwhelming feeling of dread. Here’s what I did:
Finally it was time to file out onto the tarmac and into the tiny plane, where the flight attendant who gave us the safety lecture and the pilot were the same person. I gripped my armrests and closed my eyes until we were high in the sky and the plane leveled off. Then I finally let out my breath and peered from my window, trying to find Eagle River and any place in it that meant anything to me. I could not pick out our old red house or the shops but I did spot Big Secret Lake, and imagined Tom and me on the island where we always camped there, doing nothing but making lazy love and fishing for days on end. I felt at that moment that Tom was always with me, like the sky or the land, and that realization finally brought the comfort that imagining underwear and even holding my mom’s hand did not.
When we landed in Milwaukee, I stood up and opened the overhead bin, intending to retrieve my suitcase. But it wasn’t there. It was not under the seat in front of me either, and I definitely had not checked it at the airport. The last I remembered was setting down the suitcase—the suitcase filled with all the new clothes that Mom had bought me specially for this trip—right before I hugged Tom, right before I whispered those things in his ear. The suitcase was still in Rhinelander, it was clear, and now I would be making my grand entrance in New York wearing cutoff jeans, a House O’ Pies T-shirt, Tom’s fishing vest, and the sock monkey slippers on my feet.
When Mom burst into tears as the Empire State Building came into view from the bus from LaGuardia Airport, I thought it was because she was upset about my leaving the suitcase behind.
“I’ll use my own money to replace the clothes,” I told her, thinking that instead of going to Wisconsin Dells for our honeymoon, as we’d hoped, Tom and I could just go on our usual weekend-after-Labor Day trip to the island in Big Secret. “My friend Desi promised me she’d show me all the cheap places to shop.”
Contemplating buying an entirely new wardrobe with Desi made me feel as excited as the sight of all those tall buildings shining on the sunny horizon, like some non-Emerald but even-more-beautiful Oz. I’d met Desi online, in a vintage clothing lovers’ chat room, way before I knew I’d ever get to go to New York. I’d sent her a House O’ Pies shirt and a genuine coonskin cap from the St. Vincent DePaul shop; she sent me her mom’s old flamenco shoes and a pink fur stole that would have looked swell on Gina Lollobrigida, one of my vintage style icons. Anticipating not only going shopping with Desi but
to buy clothes erased the final traces of feeling sad about missing Tom.
“I don’t mind about the clothes,” Mom said, sniffling. “I’m just so tickled to be here again.”
I tore my eyes away from the skyline ahead. “Again?”
“I mean I’m tickled again,” she said, attempting a smile. “As thrilled as I was on Christmas morning when you unwrapped your ticket.”
“Me too, Mom.”
As soon as we checked into the Holiday Inn on the edge of Chinatown, recommended by Desi because it was cheap, near all the coolest neighborhoods,
five minutes from her apartment, I dialed Desi’s number. When she heard my voice, she let out a scream so loud it made my heart stop.
“Are you okay?” I asked her, alarmed.
“Oh my God, that’s so cute the way you say that,
” she said. “Yes, I’m
I’m just so freaking excited! What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you excited?”
Of course I was excited, but in Eagle River, we screamed like that only if we were in the middle of being murdered, and even then, we’d try to tone it down. Don’t want to make a big fuss, you know. Better not to draw attention to yourself.
I shot a glance at my mom, who was squeezing around the furniture crowded into the tiny room, putting away her clothes and humming “New York, New York.”
“I’m excited,” I assured Desi.
“You don’t sound excited.”
This was the first time, after emailing nearly every day for a year, we’d actually talked on the phone, and it was weird. The voice I’d heard in my head when I was reading her emails, which sounded like my own, did not match the voice that was coming through the phone, which sounded like Adriana’s on
“Can we meet right away?” I said, imagining my voice was a car engine and I was pressing the gas pedal to the floor. “I lost my suitcase and I need to go shopping because all I have to wear on my feet are sock monkey slippers and I think my mom’s hungry.”
Mom refolded a pair of her gigantic underpants, hot pink and wide as a pillowcase, and nodded vigorously. It was way past lunchtime, and all they’d given us on the plane was a stale roll and a wedge of plasticized cheese.
“Okay,” said Desi decisively. “We’ll meet in ten minutes at the Dancing Chicken.”
“The Dancing Chicken?” Was that a nightclub? A fast-food place?
“Well, there’s no chicken anymore. Cruelty to animals or something, so they probably killed it.” Desi laughed. “But the sign still says Dancing. Dancing and Tic-Tac-Toe. It’s the Chinatown Arcade, on Mott Street, just a few blocks from you. Anyone can tell you how to get there.”
“Wait, wait!” I said, afraid Desi was about to hang up. “How will I know you?”
She laughed again, as dryly as she had when she said they killed the chicken.
“I’ll be wearing a red flower bigger than my head.”
There was only one person wearing a big red flower at the Dancing Chicken, and it was someone much darker, shorter, and curvier than I believed Desi to be. Although we’d traded photos online, we’d turned it into a joke, always doing ourselves up in hats and wigs and makeup and masks, so that it was impossible to tell what we each really looked like. I approached, waiting for her to give me a sign.
But she looked right at me, even down at the monkeys on my feet, and then back toward the door.
“Hi,” I said.
Again she looked at me, but just as quickly moved away, as if she thought I might try to snatch her purse.
“I guess that’s not her,” I told Mom.
Though the place was packed with people coming in and out, more people than there were in the hallway at Northland Pines High School after the final bell, no one else showed up wearing a red flower.
People showed up wearing a lot of other interesting things, however. In fact, this crowd made my fishing vest getup look positively normal. Watching everyone who came in and out, I decided there are Some Things You Can Tell About People from Their Clothes:
And Some Things You Can’t:
I saw a couple of people cast glances at Mom, who was dressed in one of her polyester print dresses, big enough for a whole family to camp in, and look away, stifling a snicker. Or not even stifling.
I hated those dresses too, but I hated the people making fun of them even more. One woman, wearing a sleeveless white linen dress I knew was Calvin Klein, looked at Mom and then clapped her hand over her mouth, like she was about to throw up. I wanted to grab her by the throat and tell her that inside my mom was the one dressed in an eleven-hundred-dollar white linen dress, and that she was the one in the psychic muumuu, but she was obviously not the kind of person who would comprehend that. Besides, that would embarrass Mom, who was standing there patiently waving her hand in front of her neck in an attempt to stay cool.
“Maybe I should just get a pretzel from that cart over there,” Mom finally said.
But Mom had been trying so hard to do low-carb all spring, not even eating the crust on her own pies, her favorite part.
“I’m sure Desi’ll be here in a minute.”
We waited some more.
“Or a little container of those Chinese noodles,” Mom said. “Do you think those have many calories?”
I looked at Mom. We’d been standing there for more than half an hour. “You shouldn’t worry about calories; we’re on vacation,” I said, stretching my arm around her shoulder. “Maybe I should call Desi.”