Home > The Fiancee(7)

The Fiancee(7)
Author: Kate White

I’ve been reading Peter Pan to him when he stays at our loft in the city, acting out the characters, but it’s clear he’d pass out tonight before I uttered a line. Plus, it’s good to give Gabe some time alone with Henry. He’s got great natural instincts as a father, but I know he’s always working at being an even better one. His marriage broke up when Henry was only two, and he initially felt fairly hapless as a single dad, along with petrified that Amanda would sense his insecurity and use it to press for full custody. He stockpiled dozens of parenting books and even did sessions with a child therapist to help him gain more confidence and skill.

“Some other night this week, I promise. When you’re not so sleepy.”

Gabe sweeps him up in his arms and off they go. Moments later, the extended family members say their good-byes before they start back to New Jersey, and Blake and Wendy announce they’re turning in. Before they head up to the carriage house, which they’re sharing with Nick and Hannah, Ash announces to everyone that the badminton tournament kicks off Monday at four so we have the weekend to simply relax. Too bad, I think. I’m going to have to wait two whole days to see the mistress of the shuttlecock in action.

After wishing the remaining guests good night, I wander up to the cottage. The sky is cloudless, scattered everywhere with bright white stars, and the night air is filled with the insistent, magical calls of katydids and crickets.

Inside the cottage, I curl up on the sofa, waiting for Gabe. My tummy, I notice, is still doing a vaguely nervous jig. I check my phone, but there’s still nothing from Shawna. Which makes sense, of course. Why would she bother answering a work text on a Friday night in the summer?

There is, however, a text from my mom, asking how things are going in Pennsylvania. Nice, I tell her. Good to see everybody. Will give you a call this week. I know it’s not necessary, but when I talk to my mother, I often find myself underplaying how much fun I have with the Keatons. Despite their sadness, my parents tried their best to give my sister and me a happy home, and I don’t ever want her to think that our family was lacking.

Fifteen minutes later, Gabe still isn’t back, and I realize he’s probably having a hard time getting Henry down. I mount the stairs and change for bed, telling myself I’ll read until Gabe returns, but when I feel him crawl in bed beside me, I realize I’ve dozed off with the lights on.

“Hi,” I murmur, happy to finally see him again. “Where’ve you been?”

“I ended up walking Nick and Hannah over to the carriage house after I put Henry to bed.”

“Oh. What did you think?”

“My mom did a really great job with it. Open plan downstairs, two bedrooms on the second floor.”

“No, I mean what do you think of Hannah?”

“Oh, the mystery woman,” he says, reaching across me and turning off the light on my bedside table. “Yeah, she seems nice, fun. Certainly an improvement over the girl Nick brought to our apartment a few months ago.”

“Did you know that she used to date Marcus?”

“Yeah, so I hear. But he says it wasn’t a big deal. Apparently, she was a little too flashy for his taste.”

“Did he sleep with her, do you know?”

“He admitted he did, but says it didn’t mean anything.”

“Your father seemed to like her.”

“Yeah, but as Nick knows, Mom’s the tougher critic.”

“Any idea what she thinks?”

“None at all,” he says, wrapping an arm around me. “But don’t worry, babe. No matter who Nick ends up with, you’re always gonna be her favorite daughter-in-law. Night.”

I try to get back to sleep, but I can’t seem to. After about thirty minutes, I slip downstairs, where I pour a glass of water, and park myself on the couch again. My phone’s still on the coffee table and I notice two text alerts on the screen. The first text is a reply from Shawna:

Thanks for going with the flow. Have a nice weekend.

Not what you’d call a direct response to my comment about hoping everyone was happy, but I don’t want to bug her and press for more.

And there’s a message from Billy, sent only ten minutes ago.

I’ll give you the name but first tell me why you’re so hot to know.

That’s typical of Billy. He likes to use gossip as a bargaining chip. Confident he’s still up, I tap his number and call him.

“Why aren’t you in bed with that hunky hubby of yours, the wine impresario?” he says.

“What makes you think I’m not?”

“Let me hear him snoring.”

“No. What about you, the playboy of the Western world? It’s Friday night.”

“She just left.”

“Right. So do you remember the girl I’m talking about?”

“Of course, but tell me, why so curious?”

“Uh, I was at a party at my in-laws’ tonight and I thought a woman I was talking to might be her.” That’s the most I’m revealing to Mr. Blabby. “I’ve been racking my brain to think of her name.”

“Well, the actress’s name—excuse me, actor’s name—was Hannah. Hannah Kane.”

So my memory had been correct after all. It’s possible Hannah’s simply forgotten, but that seems unlikely. The showcase was only two years ago, and most actors can tell you every part they ever played, right down to roles like “Shepherd #1” in the fourth-grade Nativity play.

“Not her then?” Billy says into the silence.

“Actually, it is. But she swore she wasn’t in that showcase. Why would she lie?”

“Maybe she wants to pretend that whole nasty experience with the other actress never happened.”

The skin on the back of my neck begins to crawl. “What nasty experience?”

“You don’t remember? The night of the dress rehearsal turned into a real shitstorm. Because Hannah stole a wad of cash from the other actress.”




My heart skips. Nick’s new girlfriend isn’t only a liar, she might be a thief, too?

“How much cash are you talking about?” I ask.

“I think it was close to a hundred bucks,” Billy says. “But that actually wasn’t the worst part. She also took a pricey necklace, which the chick said was a gift from her parents.”

“Who was this other actress, anyway?”

“Cary something. She was in the same play as me. Curly brown hair, overacted as if the fate of Western civilization depended on it.”

I know exactly who he’s talking about. One evening she and I had gotten to talking and realized we both loved the play Skylight by David Hare, how our dream would be to star in it. We’d even gone out for coffee after an early rehearsal and had promised to stay in touch, but as often happens, neither of us ever reached out.

“And she was sure Hannah did it?”

“Well, Hannah wasn’t required to open her purse or consent to a strip search if that’s what you mean. But Cary Whatever-Her-Last-Name-Is said that they’d changed clothes at the same time in that pit of a dressing room, and she caught Hannah watching her during the process. If I remember correctly—and I’m trying not to tax too many brain cells doing so—Cary said she’d forgotten she’d worn the necklace that day, and stuck it into the toe of her boot because she couldn’t wear it during dress rehearsal. She’s clearly one of those actors who believe in total authenticity . . . . Don’t tell me none of this is ringing a bell?”

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