Home > The Fiancee(8)

The Fiancee(8)
Author: Kate White

I’ve combed through my memories as we’ve been speaking, pulling up a few images from the run of the showcase: the overcrowded coed dressing room that reeked of someone’s BO; a director going nuclear on one actress who wasn’t off book by dress rehearsal; Gabe applauding wildly as I took my bow on opening night. But I finally realize why I missed the showdown Billy’s talking about.

“I needed to meet Gabe at an event that night, and I had to leave the second my own dress rehearsal was over,” I tell him.

“Too bad, because the drama in the dressing room was better than anything those playwrights had written. I almost thought Cary wouldn’t show for the play the next night, but someone apparently talked the poor thing off the ledge.”

“And Cary’s only evidence was that she’d noticed Hannah watching her undress?”

“No, there was also some maintenance guy who was dragged into the mess. He claimed he’d seen Hannah alone in the room at one point, in the corner by Cary’s stuff.”

A bed creaks on the floor directly above me, and I pause for a sec, wondering if I’ve woken Gabe, but the cottage goes quiet again.

“Do you think Hannah really stole the stuff?” I ask.

“Probably. She denied it and claimed the maintenance guy was pissed because she’d given him the deep freeze after he’d tried to flirt with her. But there was something off about her whole demeanor that night. She seemed almost bemused by the accusation, not at all embarrassed.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah, wow. I’d thought about asking her out for a drink but changed my mind. You know I like edgy, Summer, but I draw the line at sociopaths.”

“Glad to hear you were looking out for yourself. Anyway, I appreciate the info. And I better let us both turn in now.”

We sign off, and I tiptoe back upstairs, crawling into bed in the pitch-darkness. I flip onto my back and lie there with my eyes wide open and my curiosity on fire.

Did Hannah really steal the cash and the necklace? I’ve only got Billy’s version of events, but the fact that she lied to me about being in the showcase suggests she has something to hide.

It’s hard to draw a bigger conclusion from it, though. Maybe stealing’s something she did once out of total financial desperation. I certainly felt a little desperate for cash myself in the years before I began landing regular voice-over work and married Gabe. True, I never stole anything, but when I was waiting tables for extra income, eager for the biggest tips possible, I regularly upsold my customers desserts like Anjou pear crisps and pumpkin mousses they so didn’t need.

It’s kind of a moot point, anyway, I think as I finally drift off to sleep. If Nick’s recent history is anything to go on, his relationship with Hannah is hardly likely to progress beyond a sex-fueled fling.

When I wake the next morning, Gabe’s side of the bed is empty, and I find a note from him on the dresser explaining he’s at the tennis court hitting balls with Henry. I’m shocked to discover that my watch says it’s eight o’clock. Peering out the window, I see that it’s another drop-dead gorgeous day, the kind of weather that reminds me I should be relishing the week ahead, but I still feel oddly unsettled—about yesterday’s recording session, and about Hannah.

After a quick shower, I start up the path to the house, where I know Claire and Bonnie will have set the sideboard on the patio with a continental breakfast. Fortunately for me, late sleepers are never penalized here. Off in the distance, I hear friendly shouts from the tennis court and the plock, plock of a ball in play.

Nearing the house, I pass one of Claire’s larger gardens and a favorite of mine. It’s an extraordinary mix of not only colors but textures, too, and abuts a grove of boxwood clouds, bushes that have been pruned into massive balls of green with a small glade in the middle, like something from the pages of Alice in Wonderland.

There’s a wrought-iron table at the edge of the garden, and this morning a mug is resting there along with a floral plate hosting a half-eaten piece of dry toast. Thinking they’ve been left behind, I start to grab both to take indoors, but then notice that the mug is filled with what looks like tea.

A moment later, I hear murmuring and the snap of a branch as Wendy steps out from behind one of the boxwoods, talking quietly on her cell phone. She’s dressed in a filmy, pale orange tunic and white capris, with a thick gold bangle on her wrist. I view the loose top—along with the dry toast—as an additional hint that she might be pregnant.

It takes her a second to notice me, and when I see that she’s about to jump off the call, I shake my head to convey that I’ll catch her later. But she quickly murmurs a farewell, disconnects, and moves toward me.

“Sorry,” she says. “Work. Clients don’t consider Saturday an off-duty day.”

“Blake said you’ve been on the road a lot lately, too.”

“Unfortunately, yes. I’ve got a client in Palm Beach I see several times a month. And two in Texas. One’s a friend from Yale who’s already made a fortune in oil and gas.”

That’s something else that works Gabe’s last nerve—Wendy doesn’t like to let a conversation go by without a reminder that she went to Yale.

“Are you feeling more pressure now that you have the gallery?”

“A bit, but I so prefer running my own show. Of course, what I do comes down to helping very rich people sell pictures to other very rich people, as opposed to, say, trying to solve the climate crisis.”

“Well, what would the world be without art?”

“Ah, thank you, Summer. By the way, Blake told me about your play. It sounds brilliant.”

“Well, I don’t think I’d use the word ‘brilliant,’ but I’m excited. It was great, by the way, to catch up a little with Blake last night. It’d been way too long.”

“Yes, he’s been crazed at work, too. Sometimes I sense that he’d like to bag it and never look at another squamous cell carcinoma again. As long as he can still get his hands on Botox, I’m fine with that,” she says, grinning, and I notice the lack of lines on her high, smooth forehead.

“Ha, I’m going to need that myself before long . . . . Do you know if anyone’s still at the breakfast table?”

“Keira and Hannah were both having coffee when I left. They might still be there.”

Okay, that’s interesting—Keira sharing a meal with her husband’s ex. I wonder what that must be like for her.

“Oh, good, I’ll join them . . . . It’s nice, isn’t it, that Nick could bring someone out for the week?”

I know I’m fishing here, but it’s just a line in the water, to see what bites.

“Yes, though frankly, I’ve started to lose track of the names of some of his objects of affection.”

I quickly glance around the area, making sure we still have it to ourselves. “I noticed you sat near Hannah. Did you have much of a chance to chat with her?”

“I did actually. And of all things, we ended up talking about dressage for a while. It turns out she trained, too, so it gave us a lot to discuss.”

Dressage. Until I was about twenty-five, I thought it was French for putting on fancy clothes for a night on the town, but it’s actually a kind of horseback riding. Apparently, Wendy studied it as a kid, part of her equestrian training. Though she didn’t grow up in a family nearly as well-off as the Keatons, Gabe heard no expense was spared on her and her brother when they were young.

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