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"Tallulah Hart?"

She sighed, disappointed. "This is she."

"I'm Fred Rorbach. You may remember me . . ."

"Of course I remember you. KILO-TV. I sent you a résumé every week for my entire senior year of high school, and then I sent you tapes in college. How are you?"

"I'm fine, thanks, but I'm at KLUE-TV now, not KILO. I'm running the evening news."


"Actually, that's why I'm calling. We're probably not the first station to call you, but we feel certain we'll make the best offer."

He had her full attention now. "Oh, really?"

Kate slid off the bed and stood next to Tully, mouthing: What's the buzz?

Tully waved her off. "Tell me about it."

"We want to do whatever it takes to make you part of the KLUE news family. When can you come in to talk to me about this?"

"I'm being discharged right now. How about tomorrow? Ten A.M."

"We'll see you then."

Tully hung up the phone and shrieked. "That was KLUE-TV. They want to hire me!"

"Oh, my gosh," Kate said, jumping up and down. "You're going to be a star. I knew it. I can't wait to—" She stopped in the middle of her sentence; her smile fell.



Tully felt something twist deep inside her. She wanted to pretend there was something to think about, a decision to be made, but she knew the truth, and so did Kate.

"You're going to be a huge star," Kate said firmly. "He'll understand."


Kate pretended to focus all of her attention on driving Tully's car, but it wasn't easy. Ever since she'd picked her up from the interview, Tully hadn't stopped talking, spinning out the old little-girl dreams. We're on our way, Kate. As soon as I get an anchor spot, I'll make sure they hire you as a reporter.

Kate knew she should put the brakes—finally—on this dual future of theirs. She was tired of following Tully, and besides, she didn't want to quit her job. She had a reason, finally, to stay where she was.


How pathetic was that? He didn't love her, but she couldn't help thinking that maybe with Tully gone, she'd have a chance.

It was ridiculous, and embarrassing, but her dreams centered more on him and less on broadcasting. Not that she could admit that to anyone. Twenty-five-year-old college-educated women were expected to dream of more money and higher positions on the corporate ladder and running the very companies that had refused to hire their mothers. Husbands were to be avoided in the pre-thirty years. There was always time for marriage and children; was the common refrain. You couldn't give up you for them.

But what if you wanted them more than you wanted a singular, powerful you? No one ever talked about that. Kate knew that Tully would laugh at such thoughts, say Kate was stuck in the fifties. Even her mother would say she was wrong and bring up that weighted word: regret. She'd parrot the words that filled the pages of Ms. magazine—that being just a mother was a waste of talent. Her mother wouldn't even notice how sad she looked as she spoke, as if the life she'd chosen had been for nothing.

"Hey, you missed the turn."

"Oh. Sorry." Kate turned at the next block and circled back, pulling up in front of Chad's house. "I'll wait here. I've got The Talisman to finish."

Tully didn't open her door. "He'll understand why I can't marry him yet. He knows how much this means to me."

"He certainly knows," Kate agreed.

"Wish me luck."

"Don't I always?"

Tully got out and walked up to the front door.

Kate opened her paperback and dove into the story. It wasn't until much later that she looked up, noticing it had begun to rain.

Tully should have come back by now, told her to drive on home, that she'd be spending the night with Chad. Kate closed the book and got out of the car. As she walked up the cement path, she had a bad feeling that something was wrong.

She knocked twice, then opened the door.

Tully was in an empty living room, kneeling in front of the fireplace, crying.

Tully handed her a piece of paper that was splotched with tears. "Read it."

Kate sat back on her heels and looked down at the bold black handwriting.

Dear Tully,

I was the one who recommended you to KLUE, so I know all about the job you've come to tell me about, and I'm proud of you, baby. I knew you could do it.

When I took the job at Vanderbilt I knew what it meant for us. I hoped . . . but I knew.

You want a lot from this world, Tully. Me, I just want you.

It ain't exactly lock-and-key perfect, is it?

Here's what matters: I'll always love you.

Light the world on fire.

It was signed simply, C.

"I thought he loved me," Tully said when Kate handed her back the letter.

"It sounds like he does."

"Then why would he leave me?"

Kate looked at her friend, hearing the distant echo of all the times Tully had been abandoned by her mother. "Did you ever tell him you loved him?"

"I couldn't."

"Maybe you don't love him, then."

"Or maybe I do," Tully said, sighing. "It's just so damned hard to believe in."

That was the fundamental difference between them. Kate believed in love with all her heart; unfortunately, she'd fallen in love with a man who didn't know she existed. "What matters now is your career, anyway. There's always time for love and marriage."

"Yeah. When I've made it."


"Someone will definitely love me then."

"The whole world will love you."

But later, long after Tully had said, "Screw him anyway," and laughed a little desperately, Kate couldn't expel those last words from her mind. Suddenly she was worried.

What if someday the whole world loved Tully and it still wasn't enough?

Tully had forgotten how long and lonely a night could be. For so many years, Chad had been her protection, her port. With him, she'd learned to sleep through the night, breathing peacefully, dreaming only of her bright future, and because he'd loved her, she'd slept well in her own bed, too, on their nights apart, comforted by the knowledge that she could go to him anytime.

She threw the covers back and got out of bed. A quick glance at the alarm clock on her nightstand revealed that it was just past two o'clock in the morning.

As she'd thought: long and lonely.

In the kitchen, she put a pot of water on the stove and stood there, waiting for it to boil.

Maybe she'd made a mistake. Maybe this emptiness she felt right now was love. With the life she'd led it made sense that she would notice the negative of an emotion rather than the positive. But if she did love him, what difference did it make? What would she do? Follow him to Tennessee and settle in university housing and become Mrs. Wiley? How would she be the next Jean Enersen or Jessica Savitch then?

She got a big KVTS cup out of the cupboard and poured her tea, then went to the living room, where she sat on the couch, tucking her feet beneath her, warming her cold hands on the porcelain. Fragrant steam floated upward. She closed her eyes and tried to let her mind clear.

"Can't sleep?"

She glanced up and saw Kate, who stood in front of her bedroom door, wearing the same flannel nightgown she'd worn for years. Tully usually teased her that she looked like one of the Waltons, but tonight she appreciated the familiarity. It was funny how a single garment could remind you of years together—slumber parties and makeovers and breakfasts spent watching Saturday morning cartoons. "I'm sorry if I woke you."

"You walk like an elephant. Is there more tea water?"

"The pot is on the stove."

Kate went into the kitchen and came back with a cup of tea and a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Tossing the box between them, she sat down facing Tully, leaning against the arm of the sofa. "You okay?"

"My shoulder hurts like hell."

"When did you take your last pain pill?"

"I'm overdue."

Kate put down her cup, went into the bathroom, and came out with a Percodan and a glass of water.

Tully took the pill and washed it down.

"Now," Kate said, retaking her seat. "You want to talk about what's really wrong?"


"Come on, Tully. I know you're thinking about Chad, wondering if you did the right thing."

"This is the problem with forever friends. They know too much."


"And what do you and I know about love anyway?"

Kate's face took on that sad, semi-judgmental look that Tully hated. It was almost a poor-Tully look. "I know about love," she said quietly. "Maybe not being in love or being loved, but I know about loving someone and how much it can hurt. I think if you really loved Chad, you'd know it, and you'd be in Tennessee right now. At least, if I loved someone, I'd know it."

"Everything is always black and white with you. How do you always know what you want?"

"You know what you want, Tully. You always have."

"So I don't get to fall in love? That's my price for fame and success? Always being alone?"

"Of course you can fall in love. You just have to let yourself. They don't call it falling for nothing."

The words should have comforted Tully; they were intended to be hopeful, she knew that, but just then, she couldn't feel that optimism. Rather, she felt colder and emptier having heard them from Kate. "There's something missing in me," she said quietly. "First my dad saw it. Whoever the hell he is; he must have taken one look at me and run. And let's not even discuss my loving mother. I'm . . . easy to leave. Why is that?"

Kate scooted down the couch, leaned against Tully just the way they used to, all those years ago on the banks of the Pilchuck. The snack box poked into her back and she pulled it out from behind her and tossed it onto the messy, newspaper-strewn coffee table. "There's nothing missing in you, Tully. It's the opposite, in fact. You're more than most people. You are really, really special, and if Chad didn't see that—or couldn't wait for you to be ready for him—then he wasn't the guy for you. Maybe that's a normal problem when you're with an older guy. He's ready to land when you're just taking off."

"That's true. I am young. I forgot about that. He should have understood that and waited for me. I mean, if he really loved me, how could he have left me? Could you leave someone you loved?"

"It depends."

"On what?"

"If I thought he was ever going to love me back."

"How long would you wait?"

"A long time."

That made Tully feel better for the first time since she'd read the note from Chad. "You're right. I loved him, but I guess he didn't love me. Not enough anyway."

Kate frowned. "That's not exactly what I said."

"Close enough. We're way too young to get tied down by love. How could I have forgotten that?" She gave Kate a hug. "What would I do without you?"

It wasn't until much later, after a long and sleepless night, as Tully lay in bed watching another day dawn through the window, that her own words came back to her, haunting in their intensity. Easy to leave.