Faye moved the eggs around on her plate and shrugged. “Don’t ask me. I haven’t had many friends in years.”
“You’re shitting me. You had loads of friends here.”
Glancing up at him, she leaned back in her chair, putting her feet up on the table. “You’ve met my mother. She’s a loony. Makes it kind of hard to bring friends home.” She picked up a piece of egg and dropped it into her mouth. “And then when you’re famous,” she continued, “you get people who think being your friend will make them famous. Or they want your autograph. Or, my personal favorite, they think being your friend means they get to fuck you.” She shrugged. “I gave up on friends years ago.”
“Jesus,” Conway said, linking his hands behind his head and tilting his chair back. “That’s just sad.”
“Yeah, I spend all of my time weeping over how pathetic my life’s become,” Faye said sarcastically.
“Nobody’s going to give a shit about how famous you are here, you know.”
“Except super-excited fan-girls in the Iga.”
Conway laughed. “Katie. Yeah, her mom said she was pretty thrilled that you were in town. Although she didn’t sound real happy about how you treated her.”
“You’ve mentioned Katie twice. Who the hell is she? She’s not — ” Her eyes widened, and for the first time she glanced at his left hand, the fourth finger of which was conspicuously bare. Faye frowned. “She’s not your daughter, is she?”
He choked and brought his chair down hard. “Jesus, no. She’s one of my kids. My students. I ran into her mom — you remember Cindy Lanners — and she couldn’t wait to tell me about her daughter’s brush with celebrity.”
“Your students,” Faye said flatly.
Conway grinned. “High school English and drama and the boys’ baseball team.” Seeing her look of disbelief, he added, “We can’t all be famous, Spence.”
“But you hated school.”
“Life’s ironic that way.”
Conway stood and collected the plates. “So what are you planning to do while you’re here?” he asked, scraping the plates and putting them in the dishwasher. “Are you working on a new book?”
His back was to Faye, so he missed the shudder that ran through her. When he turned back around, she’d drawn one knee to her chest, her foot balancing on the edge of the chair. He swallowed. Her lack of clothing made it hard to concentrate.
“Maybe you should think about a shower,” he suggested when she failed to respond to his question.
Faye gave him a look. “Is that your way of telling me I smell?”
“Well, I wouldn’t suggest entering any beauty contests until you clean up a bit,” he said. “Seriously, why did you drink so much last night? The Mariners aren’t that bad.”
“Don’t want to talk about it,” Faye said, standing up. “Anyway, thanks for coming by, I guess. And breakfast. Thanks for that. Guess I’ll see you around.”
“Spence, it’s Saturday. I have nothing to do. Do you want to — ”
“Oh, go away,” Faye said grumpily. She turned and stalked down the hall without bothering to see if he was listening, unearthed a clean pair of underwear and a bra from her bag, and dug out a towel from Sarah’s linen closet. It was eerie, in a way; almost all of Sarah’s things had been left exactly where they had been when she was living in the house. The glasses in the cabinet, the linen in the closet… It struck home as Faye pushed open the door to Sarah’s bedroom and saw Sarah’s hairbrush on her vanity, her neat row of lipsticks, the jar of anti-ageing cream… Faye swallowed and shut the door. She wasn’t ready to deal with this — not physically, with a roiling stomach and a pounding head, and definitely not emotionally. Instead, she went to the bathroom at the end of the hall, closed the door, and locked it. She leaned against the wood for a minute, pulling herself together, and then dumped the towel and underwear on the counter and turned on the shower as hot as it would go. Sarah’s hot water had never been very good.
She stood under the water for a long time, letting it wash away the dried mascara and sticky alcohol and soothe her unhappy head. For awhile she tried to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come; instead, images flashed through her mind, of Aunt Sarah at her door in New York, of Aunt Sarah on the floor in her apartment, of the flashing police lights and the sirens fading into the distance. Of Barney growling at the door and of her flinching every time someone knocked.
When she climbed out of the shower, she was shaking. Fingers trembling, she wrapped her towel around her body and opened the bathroom door. “Conway?” she called. There was no answer, and a sudden panic flooded Faye’s body as she remembered that the back slider had been open and that if Conway had left, the front door would have been left unlocked.
She ran down the hall, leaving a trail of water behind her to sink into the carpet, and smashed into Conway as she rounded the corner into the kitchen. She screamed and kicked away from him, knocking her elbow against the door frame, before she realized who he was.
“Jesus Christ, Spencer, what the hell is wrong with you?” Conway demanded, crouching down in front of her and grabbing her arms.
“I thought you’d left the house,” Faye said, scrabbling at her towel to hold it up. “I was worried about the doors.”
“You look awful,” he said, sitting down next to her. “And terrified. Who did you think I was?”
His face flickered through her brain before she firmly thrust him away. “No one,” she said, lurching awkwardly to her feet. “I was just — startled.”
He stared up at her, debating whether to call her out on the lie, and finally said, “Okay.”
Caught off guard, Faye half-turned back to him. “Okay?”
He pushed himself to his feet. “Okay,” he said. “Whatever’s going on with you, you clearly don’t want to talk about it, so I’m not going to make you. But if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me.”
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