Long Lost Page 16

Terese moved toward the window so that she was as far away from me as possible.

’’I\'m going to tell you something now, okay? But I want you to promise me something first.’’

’’What?’’

’’Promise me you won\'t try to comfort me,’’ she said.

’’I\'m not following.’’

’’I know you. You\'ll hear this story and you\'ll want to reach out. You\'ll want to hug me or hold me or say the right thing because that\'s the way you are. Don\'t. Whatever you do, it will be the wrong move.’’

’’Okay,’’ I said.

’’Promise me.’’

’’I promise.’’

She cringed even deeper into the corner. The heck with after I wanted to hold her now.

’’You don\'t have to do this,’’ I said.

’’Yeah, I do. I\'m just not sure how.’’

I said nothing.

’’I met Rick during my freshman year at Wesleyan. I came in from Shady Hills, Indiana, and I was the perfect cliché the prom queen dating the quarterback, most likely to succeed, sweet as sugar. I was that annoying, pretty girl who studied too hard and got all anxious she was going to fail and then she finishes the test early and starts putting those reinforcements in her notebook. You remember those little white things looked like flat peppermint Life Savers?’’

I couldn\'t help but smile. ’’Yes.’’

’’I was also that pretty girl who wanted everyone to dig beneath the surface to see I was more than just pretty but the only reason you\'d want to dig was because I was pretty. You know the deal.’’

I did. To some this might sound immodest. It wasn\'t. It was honest. Like Paris, Terese was not blind to her looks, nor would she pretend otherwise.

’’So I dyed my blond hair dark so I would look smarter and went to this small liberal arts college in the Northeast. I arrived, like so many girls, with my chastity belt firmly attached and only my high school quarterback had the key. He and I were going to be the exception we were going to make a long-distance relationship last.’’

I remembered those girls from my Duke days too.

’’How long do you think that lasted?’’ she asked me.

’’Two months?’’

’’More like one. I met Rick. He was just this whirlwind. So smart and funny and se*y in a way I had never seen before. He was the campus radical, complete with the curly hair, the piercing blue eyes, and the beard that scratched when I kissed him. . . .’’

Her voice drifted off.

’’I can\'t believe he\'s dead. This is going to sound corny, but Rick was such a special soul. He was genuinely kind. He believed in justice and humanity. And someone killed him. Someone intentionally ended his life.’’

I said nothing.

’’I\'m stalling,’’ she said.

’’No rush.’’

’’Yeah, there is. I need to get this over with. If I slow down, I\'ll stop and I\'ll fall apart and you\'ll never get it out of me. Berleand, he probably knows this already. It\'s why he let me go. So let me give you the abridged version. Rick and I graduated, we got married, we worked as reporters. Eventually we ended up at CNN, me in front of the camera, Rick behind it. I told you that part already. At some stage we wanted to start a family. Or at least I did. Rick, I think, was more uncertain or maybe he sensed what was coming.’’

Terese moved toward the window, gently pushed the curtain to the side, and looked out. I moved a foot closer to her. I don\'t know why. I just somehow needed to make that gesture.

’’We had fertility problems. It\'s not uncommon, I\'m told. Many couples have them. But when you\'re in the throes of it, it seems as though every woman you meet is pregnant. Fertility is also one of those problems that grows exponentially with time. Every woman I met was a mother, and every mother was happy and fulfilled and it all seemed to come so naturally. I started avoiding friends. My marriage suffered. se* became only about procreation. You become so single-minded. I remember I did a story on unwed mothers in Harlem, these sixteen-year-old girls getting pregnant so easily, and I started to hate them because, really, was that cosmically fair?’’

Her back was to me. I sat on the corner of the bed. I wanted to see her face, just part of it anyway. From my new vantage point, I was getting a sliver, maybe quarter-moon view.

’’I\'m still stalling,’’ she said.

’’I\'m here.’’

’’Maybe I\'m not stalling. Maybe I need to tell it this way.’’

’’Okay.’’

’’We saw doctors. We tried everything. It was all pretty horrible. I was shot up with Pergonal and hormones and Lord knows what. It took us three years, but finally we conceived what everyone called a medical miracle. At first, I was scared to even move. Every ache, every pang, I thought I was miscarrying. But after a while, I loved being pregnant. Doesn\'t that sound antifeminist? I always found those women who go on and on about their wonderful pregnancy to be so irritating, but I was as bad as any of them. I loved the rushes. I glowed. There was no nausea. Pregnancy would never happen for me again this was my one miracle and I relished it. The time flew by and before I knew it, I had a six-pound, fourteen-ounce daughter. We named her Miriam after my late mother.’’

A cold gust blew across my heart. I knew now where this had to end.

’’She would be seventeen,’’ Terese said, her voice sounding very far away.

There are moments in your life when you feel everything inside of you go quiet and still and fragile. We just stayed there like that, Terese and I and no one else.

’’I don\'t think a day has gone by in the last ten years when I don\'t try to imagine what she\'d be like right now. Seventeen. Finishing up her senior year of high school. Finally past the rebellious teen years. The awkward adolescent stage would be over, and she\'d be beautiful. She\'d be my friend again. She\'d be getting ready to start college.’’

Tears filled my eyes. I moved a little more to my left. Terese\'s eyes were dry. I started to stand. Her head snapped in my direction. No, no tears. Something worse. Total devastation, the kind that makes tears seem quaint, impotent. She held up her palm in my direction as if it were a cross and I a vampire she needed to ward off.

’’It was my fault,’’ she said.

I started shaking my head, but her eyes squeezed shut as if my gesture were too strong a burst of light. I remembered my promise and backed away and tried to make my face neutral.

’’I wasn\'t supposed to be working that night but at the last minute they needed someone to anchor at eight o\'clock. So I was home. We lived in London then. Rick was in Istanbul. But the eight PM hour man, I wanted that coveted time period. I couldn\'t pass that up, now could I? Even if Miriam was asleep. Career, right? So I called a good friend Miriam\'s godmother actually and asked if I could drop her off for a few hours. She said no problem. I woke Miriam up, and I stuck her in the back of the car. The clock was ticking and I needed to be in makeup. So I drove too fast. The roads were wet. Still, we were almost there quarter of a mile away at the most. They say you don\'t remember a big accident, especially when you lose consciousness. But I remember it all. I remember seeing the headlights. I spun the wheel to the left. Maybe it would have been better if I had just gone headfirst. Killed me and spared her. But, no, it was side impact. Her side. I even remember her scream. It was short, more like an intake. The last sound she ever made. I was in a coma for two weeks, but because God has a sick sense of humor, he let me live. Miriam died on impact.’’


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