A little bit softer now . . .
The crowd crouched, stilled, then raised their hands and rose up again, chanting along.
As always, the minute Tully stepped into a party, she was "on." Gone was the edge of depression, the hesitant smile, the irritation at losing the job. Kate watched in awe; her friend instantly grabbed everyone's attention.
"Shout!" Tully yelled out, laughing. Boys moved in close, drawn to her like moths to a flame, but Tully barely seemed to notice. She surged onto the dance floor, dragging Kate along with her.
It was the most fun Kate had had in years.
By the time she'd group danced to "Brick House," "Twistin' the Night Away," and "Louie Louie," she was hot and sweaty.
"I'll be right back," she yelled to Tully, who nodded, and then she went outside, where she sat on the low brick wall that marked the property's edge. Cool night air breezed across her sweaty face. She closed her eyes and swayed to the music.
"The party's inside, you know."
She looked up.
The guy who'd spoken was tall and broad-shouldered, with wheat-colored hair that fell across the bluest eyes. "Can I sit with you?"
"I'm Brandt Hanover."
"Is this your first frat party?"
"Does it show?"
He smiled and went from good looking to gorgeous. "Just a little. I remember my first year here. It was like being on Mars. I'm from Moses Lake," he said, as if that should explain everything.
"Speck on the map."
"It is kind of overwhelming."
The conversation moved easily on from there. He talked about things she could relate to. He'd grown up on a farm, feeding cows before dawn and driving his dad's hay truck when he was thirteen. He knew about feeling both lost and found in a place as big and sprawling as UW.
Inside, the music changed. Someone turned the volume way up. It was ABBA's, "Dancing Queen."
Tully came running out of the house. "Kate!" she yelled, laughing. "There you are."
Brandt immediately stood.
Tully frowned at him. "Who's this?"
Kate knew exactly what was going to happen next. Because of what had happened to Tully in the dark woods by the river all those years ago, she didn't trust boys, didn't want anything to do with them, and she was committed to protecting Kate from any kind of harm or heartbreak. Unfortunately, though, Kate wasn't afraid. She wanted to date and have fun and even maybe fall in love.
But how could she say that, when Tully was only trying to protect her?
Tully grabbed Kate's arm, pulled her to her feet. "Too bad, Brandt," she said, laughing a little too loudly as she dragged Kate away. "This is our song."
"I saw Brandt at the HUB today. He smiled at me."
Tully fought the urge to roll her eyes. In the six months since that first toga party at the Phi Delts, Kate had found a way to mention Brandt Hanover at least once a day. You'd think they were dating, as often as his name came up. "Let me guess: you pretended not to notice."
"I smiled back."
"Wow. A red-letter day."
"I thought I'd invite him to the spring dance. We could double date."
"I have to write an article on the Ayatollah Khomeini. I figured if I keep sending stuff to the paper, sooner or later they'll publish something. It wouldn't hurt you to try a little harder to—"
Kate turned to her friend. "That's it. I renounce our friendship. I know you have no interest in our social life, but I do. If you don't go—"
Tully laughed. "Gotcha."
Kate couldn't help laughing. "Bitch." She slung an arm around Tully. Together they walked along the grass-dotted sidewalk of Twenty-first Street and onto campus.
At the campus security post, Kate said, "I'm headed to Meany. How about you?"
"That's right! Your first broadcast journalism class—and with that famous guy you've been stalking since we got here."
"How many letters did you have to write to get in?"
"About a thousand. And you should be coming with me. We both need this class."
"I'll get in as a junior. You need me to walk you over?"
Tully loved her friend for that. Somehow Kate knew that despite her show of courage, Tully was nervous about this. Everything she wanted could start today. "No, thanks. How can I make my big entrance with someone else?"
She watched Kate walk away from her. Standing there, alone among the crowd of students moving between the buildings, Tully took a deep, relaxing breath, trying to still herself. She needed to appear calm.
She strolled confidently past the fountain of Frosh Pond and went into the Drama/TV Building, where her first stop was the restroom.
There, she paused in front of the mirrors. Her curled, sprayed hair was perfect, as was her makeup. The skintight, flare-legged jeans and shiny white tunic blouse with gold belt and Nehru collar managed to be both sexy and businesslike at the same time.
When the bell rang, she hurried down the hallway, with her backpack bouncing against her ass as she moved. In the auditorium, she walked boldly down to the first row and took a seat.
In the front of the room, the professor sat slumped in a metal chair. "I'm Chad Wiley," he said in a sexy, whiskey-rough voice. "Those of you who recognize my name get an A in the class."
There was a smattering of laughter around the room. Tully's was the loudest. She knew more than his name. She knew his whole life story. He'd come out of college as a kind of wunderkind in broadcasting. He'd moved up the ranks fast, becoming a network anchor before he was thirty. Then, quite simply, he'd lost it. A pair of DWIs, a car crash that broke both of his legs and injured a child, and his star had fallen. There'd been a couple of years with no mention of him at all, and then, finally, he'd surfaced at UW, teaching.
Wiley stood. He was unkempt, with long dark hair and at least three days' growth of gray-black beard, but the intelligence in his dark eyes was undiminished. The stamp of greatness was still on him. No wonder he'd made it.
He handed her a syllabus and started to move on.
"Your coverage of the Karen Silkwood case was inspired," she said, smiling brightly.
He paused, looked down at her. There was something unsettling about the way he stared—intensely, but only for a second; like a laser beam switched on and off—and then he kept walking past her and on to the next student.
He thought she was just another front-row suck-up who wanted to curry favor.
She'd need to be more careful in the future. Nothing mattered more to her right now than impressing Chad Wiley. She intended to learn everything she could from him.
Love Is a Battlefield
heartache to heartache, we stand
By the end of her sophomore year, there was no doubt in Tully's mind that Chad Wiley knew who she was. She'd taken two of his classes: Broadcast Journalism I and II. Whatever he taught, she took; whatever he asked of her, she did. Full-bore. Balls to the wall.
The problem was this: he didn't seem to recognize her talent. They'd spent all of last week reading the news from a teleprompter. Each time she finished, she immediately looked at him, but he barely glanced up from his notes. Rather, he spooled off a criticism as if he were relaying a recipe to a troublesome neighbor, then called out, "Next."
Day after day, week after week, class after class, Tully waited for him to respond to her obvious talent, to say, You're ready for KVTS. Now it was the first week of May. With about six weeks left in her sophomore year, she was still waiting.
Plenty of things had changed in her life the past two years. She'd cut her hair shoulder-length and gone with bangs. Her style icon had gone from Farrah Fawcett-Majors to Jessica Savitch. Nineteen eighty was made for Tully: big hair, bright makeup, glittery fabric, and shoulder pads. No pale colors/sorority-girl styles for her. When she walked into a room these days, people noticed.
Except, of course, for Chad Wiley.
But that was about to change; Tully was sure this time. Last week she'd finally racked enough credits to apply for a summer internship position at KVTS, the local public programming station that was housed on campus. She'd gotten up at six A.M. so that her name appeared first on the sign-up sheet. When she'd been given the audition piece, she'd gone home and practiced it endlessly, trying it at least a dozen different ways until she found the tone of voice that perfectly matched the tone of the story. Yesterday she'd nailed the audition. She was certain of it. Now, finally, it was time to found out what position she'd earned.
"How do I look?"
Kate didn't look up from The Thorn Birds. "Awesome."
Tully felt a flash of irritation that was more and more familiar these days. Sometimes she just looked at Kate and felt her blood pressure skyrocket. It was all she could do not to yell.
The problem was love. Kate had spent all of their freshman year mooning over bad-haircut Brandt. By the time they finally dated, it was a letdown that ended fast. Still, Kate didn't seem to care. Through most of sophomore year, she'd dated Ted, who supposedly loved her, and then Eric, who most certainly did not. Kate went to one fraternity dance after another, and though she never fell in love with any of the doofuses she dated—and definitely didn't have sex with them—she talked about them constantly. Every sentence lately seemed to start with some guy's name. Even worse, she hardly ever mentioned the broadcasting plan. She seemed perfectly happy to take classes in other departments. Whenever one of their sorority sisters got engaged, Kate rushed to be a part of the crowd that swooned over the ring.
In truth, Tully was sick of it. She kept writing news stories that the school paper wouldn't publish and hanging around the campus TV station, where no one would give her the time of day, and throughout all of this failure, when she could really use her best friend, Kate just kept yammering on about her latest date. "You totally aren't looking."
"I don't have to."
"You don't know how important this is to me."
Kate finally looked up. "You've been practicing one news story for two weeks. Even when I got up to pee in the middle of the night, I heard you rehearsing. Believe me, I know how psyched you are."
"So how come you're so Joanie about this?"
"I'm no Joanie. I just know you'll get the anchor job."
Tully grinned. "I will, won't I?"
"Of course. You're wicked good. You'll be the first junior to actually be on air."
"Professor Wiley will have to admit it this time." Tully grabbed her backpack and slung it over her shoulder. "Want to come with me?"
"Can't. I'm meeting Josh for a study group in Suzzallo."
"That pretty much falls in the blows-chips category of dating, but to each his own." Tully snagged her sunglasses off the dresser and headed out.
The campus was bathed in cool sunlight on this mid-May day. Every plant was in bloom and the grass was so thick and lush it looked like patches of green velvet tucked neatly between strips of cement. She strode confidently through campus to the building that housed KVTS. There, she paused just long enough to smooth her sprayed hair, then went into the quiet, utilitarian-looking hallway. To her left was a bulletin board thick with notices. Roommate wanted: pot smoker only was the first one that caught her eye. She noticed that all the phone-number tabs had been ripped off of it, while the ad next to it (Roommate wanted: Born-again Christian preferred) looked sadly intact.