And as she performed each one of these tasks, June was forming her plan. I will kill him, she thought as she washed Nina’s hair. I will kill him, she thought as she changed Jay’s diaper. I will kill him, she thought as she gave Hudson a bottle. But first I will lock him out of the goddamn house.
When the kids were asleep—Nina in her bed and the two boys sharing a crib—June poured herself a shot of vodka and threw it back. Then she poured herself one more. Finally, she called a twenty-four-hour locksmith out of the yellow pages.
She did not want Mick to step one foot in their house, did not want him to ever again sleep in their king-sized bed, or brush his teeth in one of their master bathroom sinks.
When the locksmith—a Mr. Dunbar, sixty years old in a black T-shirt and dungarees with yellowing blue eyes and wrinkles so deep, you could lose your change in them—got there, June hit her first roadblock.
“I can’t change the locks without an agreement from the master of the house,” Mr. Dunbar said. He frowned at June, as if she should know better.
“Please,” June said. “For my family.”
“Sorry, ma’am, I can’t change the locks if the house isn’t yours.”
“The house is mine,” she said.
“Well, not only yours,” he said, and June guessed his own wife might have locked him out of the house a time or two.
June continued to plead to no avail but the truth was, she was only a little surprised. She was a woman, after all. Living in a world created by men. And she had long known that assholes protect their own. They are faithful to no one but surprisingly protective of each other.
“Good luck to you, Mrs. Riva. I’m sure it will all work out,” he said as he left, having done nothing but extort a fee for being dragged out of his bed.
So June used the only tool she had at her disposal: a dining room chair. She lodged it underneath the knob of the front door and then sat on it. And for the first time in her life, she wished she were heavier. She wished she were broad and tall and stout. Hefty and mighty. How silly of her to have worked so hard to stay trim and small this whole time.
When Mick came home at 1:00 A.M., after recording—his collar undone, his eyes vaguely bloodshot—he found that the door would open a crack but budge no further.
“June?” he said, into the thin space between the door and the frame.
“The thing that upsets me the most,” June said, plainly, “is that I think I knew it, already. That you weren’t being faithful. But I put it out of my head because I trusted what you said more than I trusted myself.”
“Honey, what are you talking about?”
“You have a third child,” June said. “Your girlfriend dropped him off here with us. Apparently, she’s not ready to be a mother.”
Mick remained silent and June found herself desperate for him to say something.
“Oh, Junie,” he said, finally. June could hear his voice give, as if he were about to cry.
Mick fell to the ground, shaking his head and then burying it in his hands. Jesus, he thought. How did it come to this?
• • •
It had all felt so simple to him before Carol.
He could have the beautiful house with the beautiful wife and the beautiful children. He could love them with all of his heart. He could be a good man. He had meant to be a good man.
But women were flocking to him! Good God, you’d have had to see it to believe it. Backstage at his shows, especially when he was appearing on a bill with guys like Freddie Harp and Wilks Topper, it was like Sodom and Gomorrah.
June never understood that. The way the young girls looked up at him from below the stage, with their big, bright eyes and knowing smiles. The way young women would sneak into his dressing room, their dresses open two buttons too far.
He said no. He said no so many times. He’d let them get close or touch him. Once or twice, he’d even tasted the schnapps on their lips. And then he always said no.
He would push their hands away. He would turn his head. He’d say, “You should go. I’ve got a wife at home.”
But every time he said no, he worried he was that much closer to the one day when he would say yes. And he wasn’t sure quite when it had been, but sometime when Nina was still just a tiny little something, he realized he was saying no the way you decline a second helping of dessert. You say no while knowing that if it’s offered one more time, you’re going to say yes.
That yes finally came in the parking lot of the recording studio during his first album. Her name was Diana. She was a twenty-year-old redhead backup singer with a beauty mark drawn above her eyebrow and a smile that made you think she could see you naked through your suit.
Heading home one night, Mick ran into her by his car and she met and held his glance just a second too long. Before he caught himself, he was kissing her against the side of the building, pushing her up against the stucco, pushing his body against hers as if it would save them both.
Seven minutes later, he was done. He pulled away from her, fixed his hair, and said, “Thanks.” She smiled and said, “Anytime,” and he knew, in his bones, he was going to do it again.
The thing with Diana lasted for two whole weeks and then he got bored. But he found that once it was over with Diana, the guilt made him want June more. He needed her love the same way he’d needed it when he first met her. He craved her acceptance, couldn’t get enough of her big brown eyes.
It was that much easier to cross the line a little while later with Betsy, the waitress at the bar across from his producer’s office.
And then there was Daniella, a cigarette girl in Reno. Just a onetime thing. It meant nothing.
And what did it matter?
He could still be a good husband to June. He could show up on time to every recording session. He could sell out crowds. He could charm the young and the old, wink at the old ladies who showed up with their husbands to have a good time listening to the hip young man. He was giving June everything they had dreamed of for themselves. They had their two sinks and they were starting a great family. And anything June could think of, he would give her.
He just had this one thing for himself.
But then he met Carol. It was the Carols that ruined everything. And he’d known that. That’s what was so maddening about it. He’d learned this all already, watching his father.
He’d met Carol at a show at the Hollywood Bowl. She’d been there with a studio executive. She was so tiny but her attitude filled the room. She didn’t want to be there, didn’t even know who Mick was—a distinction that was becoming more and more rare. She shook his hand politely and he smiled at her, his very best smile, and he watched the edges of her thin pink lips start to curl up ever so slightly, like she was trying hard to dislike him but couldn’t quite muster it.
Forty minutes later, he had her right there in an unlocked limo they found behind the venue that night. Just before they both finished, she screamed his name.
When they were done, she got up and left with little more than a “see you around.” And ten minutes later, she was back on the arm of the exec she came with, not giving him a second look.
Mick was sunk. He needed to see her again. And again. He would call her agent’s office. He showed up at her apartment. He could not get enough of her, could not help but be enchanted with her passive charm, her indifference to almost everything—including him. He could not get enough of the way she could talk to anyone about anything but did not hang on a single person’s word. Even his.