"Of course I am. Now, let’s start with the relevant history. In 1960 or ’61, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN, was founded . . ."
Tully wrote as fast as she could.
For just under two weeks Tully worked her ass off. Eighteen, twenty hours a day she was reading, writing, making phone calls, setting up meetings. In the few rare hours when she wasn’t working or trying to sleep, she went to the kind of stores she’d never frequented before—camping stores, military supply outlets, and the like. She bought pocketknives and netted safari hats and hiking boots. Everything and anything she could think of. If they were in the jungle and Edna wanted a damn fly swatter, Tully was going to produce it.
By the time they actually left, she was nervous. At the airport, Edna, wearing a pair of razor-pressed linen pants and a white cotton blouse, took one look at Tully’s multipocketed khaki jungle attire and burst out laughing.
For the endless hours of their flights, through Dallas and Mexico City and finally onto a small plane in Managua, Edna fired questions at Tully.
The plane landed in what looked to Tully like a backyard. Men—boys, really—in camouflaged clothing stood on the perimeter, holding rifles. Children came out of the jungle to play in the air kicked up by the propellers. The dichotomy of the image was something Tully knew she’d always remember, but from the moment she got out of the plane until she reboarded the flight for home five days later, she had precious little time to think about imagery.
Edna was a mover.
They hiked through guerrilla-infested jungles, listening to the shrieking of howler monkeys, swatting mosquitoes, and floating up alligator-lined rivers. Sometimes they were blindfolded, sometimes they could see. Deep in the jungle, while Edna taped her interview with el jefe, the general in charge, Tully talked to the troops.
The trip opened her eyes to a world she’d never seen before; more than that, it showed her who she was. The fear, the adrenaline rush, the story; it turned her on like nothing ever had before.
Later, when the story was done and she and Edna were back in their hotel in Mexico City sitting on the balcony outside Edna’s room, having straight shots of tequila, Tully said, "I can’t thank you enough, Edna."
Edna took another straight shot and leaned back in her chair. The night was quiet. It was the first time they hadn’t heard gunfire in days.
"You did well, kid."
Tully’s pride welled to almost painful proportions. "Thank you. I learned more from you in the past few weeks than I learned in four years of college."
"So, maybe you want to go on my next assignment."
"I’m interviewing Nelson Mandela."
"Count me in."
Edna turned to her. The sticky-looking orange glow from the bare outdoor bulb highlighted her wrinkles, caused bags under her eyes. In this light she looked ten years older than usual, and tired; maybe a little drunk. "Have you got a boyfriend?"
"With my work schedule?" Tully laughed and poured herself another shot. "Hardly."
"Yeah," Edna said. "The story of my life."
"Do you regret it?" Tully asked. If they hadn’t been drinking she never would have asked such a personal question, but tequila had blurred the lines between them for just this moment in time. Tully could pretend they were colleagues instead of icon/newbie. "Making this your life, I mean?"
"There’s a price, that’s for sure. For my generation, at least, you couldn’t do this job and be married. You could get married—I did; three times—but you couldn’t stay married. And forget about kids. When a story broke, I needed to be there, period. It could have been my kid’s wedding day and I’d have left. So I’ve lived by myself." She looked at Tully. "And I’ve loved it. Every damn second. If I end up dying in a nursing home alone, who gives a shit? I was where I wanted to be every second of my life, and I did something that mattered."
Tully felt as if she were being baptized into the religion she’d always believed in. "Amen to that."
"So, what do you know about South Africa?"
The first twelve months of motherhood was a riptide of cold dark water that all too often sucked Kate under.
It was embarrassing how ill-equipped she turned out to be for this blessed event that had been her secret girlhood dream. So embarrassing, in fact, that she told no one how overwhelmed she sometimes felt. When asked, she smiled brightly and said motherhood was the best thing that had ever happened to her. It was even true.
Yet sometimes it wasn’t.
The truth was that her gorgeous, pale-skinned, dark-haired, brown-eyed daughter was more than a handful. From the moment she came home Marah was sick. Ear infections followed each other like cars on a train; just when one ended, another began. Colic caused her to cry in-consolably for hours at a time. Kate had lost count of the times she’d found herself in the living room in the middle of the night, holding her red-faced, shrieking daughter and quietly crying herself.
Marah would be a year old in three days and she had yet to sleep through the night. Four hours was her record so far. Thus, in the past twelve months, Kate hadn’t slept through the night. Johnny always offered to get up. In the beginning he’d even gone so far as to throw back the covers, but Kate had always stopped him. It wasn’t that she wanted to play the martyr, although she often felt like one.
Johnny had a job; it was that simple. Kate had given up her career to be a mom. Thus, getting up in the night was her job. At first she’d done it willingly, then at least with a smile. Lately, though, when Marah let out her first wail at eleven o’clock, Kate found herself praying for strength.
There were other problems, too. First off, her looks had gone to hell. She was pretty sure this was yet another ripple in the no-sleep pool. No amount of makeup or moisturizer helped. Her skin, always pale, was J. P. Patches white lately, except for the shadows under her eyes, which were a lovely shade of brown. She’d lost all of her baby weight except for ten pounds, but when you were five-foot-three, ten pounds was two sizes. She hadn’t worn anything but sweats in almost a year.
She needed to start on an exercise program. Last week she’d found her old Jane Fonda workout tapes, a leotard, and leg warmers. Now all she had to do was hit play and get going.
"Today’s the day," she said aloud as she carried her daughter back to bed and gently tucked her in beneath the expensive pink and white cashmere blanket that had been a gift from Tully. Luxuriously soft, it had become the thing Marah chose to sleep with. No matter what toys or blankets Kate offered, Tully’s was the one. "Try to sleep till seven o’clock. Mommy could use it."
Yawning, Kate went back to bed and snuggled up to her husband.
He kissed her lips, lingering as if maybe he wanted to start something, and then he murmured, "You’re so beautiful."
She opened her eyes, staring blearily at him. "Okay, who is she? Guilt is the only reason you’d say I was beautiful at this godforsaken hour."
"Are you kidding? With your mood swings lately it’s like having three wives. The last thing I want is another woman."
"But sex would be nice."
"Sex would be nice. It’s funny you brought that up."
"Funny ha ha, or funny I-can’t-remember-the-last-time-we-made-love?"
"Funny that you’re getting lucky this weekend."
"Yeah, how’s that?"
"I’ve already talked to your mom. She’s taking Marah after the birthday party and you and I are going to have a romantic night in downtown Seattle."
"What if I can’t fit into any of my nice clothes?"
"Believe me, I have no problem with nudity. We can order room service instead of going out. Although you’re the only one who thinks you haven’t lost the weight. Try on something. I think you’ll be surprised."
"No wonder I love you so much."
"I’m a god. There’s no doubt about it."
She smiled and wrapped her arms around him, kissing him softly.
They had just closed their eyes again when the phone rang. Kate sat up slowly, and looked at the clock: 5:47.
She picked up on the second ring, saying, "Hello, Tully."
"Hey, Katie," Tully said. "How did you know it was me?"
"Lucky guess." Kate rubbed the bridge of her nose, feeling the start of a headache. Beside her, Johnny grumbled something about people who couldn’t tell time.
"Today’s the day, remember? My report on the reservists Bush called up to active duty. My first honest-to-God important story."
"You don’t sound very excited, Katie."
"It’s five-thirty in the morning."
"Oh. I thought you’d want to watch the broadcast. Sorry I bothered you. ‘Bye."
It was too late. The dial tone blared at her.
Kate cursed under her breath and hung up the phone. She couldn’t seem to do anything right lately. She and Tully had so little in common these days there wasn’t much to talk about. Tully didn’t want to hear endless "mommy" stories and Kate could only stand so many my-life-and-career-are-great anecdotes. The postcards and calls from distant, exotic places were vaguely irritating.
"She’s on Sunrise this morning, remember?" Kate said. "She wanted to remind us."
Johnny threw the covers back and turned on the television. They sat up together, listening to Norville’s report on the buildup of hostilities in Iraq and the president’s response.
Then, suddenly, Tully was on the air. She stood in front of some rundown concrete building, talking to an impossibly fresh-faced kid with a thick red crew cut and freckles. He looked as if he could have been wearing braces and a letterman’s jacket ten seconds ago.
But it was Tully who demanded attention. She looked trim and utterly professional and beautiful. She’d tamed her curly auburn hair into a sleek, sophisticated bob and applied just enough makeup to accentuate her eyes.
"Wow," Kate whispered. When had that transformation occurred? She wasn’t overblown Tallulah anymore, child of the coc**ne-and-glitter eighties. She was reporter Tallulah Hart, as beautiful as Paulina Porizkova, as professional as Diane Sawyer.
"Wow is right," Johnny said. "She looks gorgeous."
They watched the rest of the broadcast. Then he kissed Kate’s cheek and headed into the bathroom. Within moments she heard the shower start.
"She looks gorgeous," Kate muttered, leaning sideways for the phone.
She punched in Tully’s number. The NBC receptionist answered and said she’d need to leave a message.
So Tully was pissed.
"Tell her Katie called to say the story was great."
Tully was probably right there, standing next to the phone, wearing her expensive designer skirt and blouse, digging through her quilted designer handbag, watching the light flash on her phone.
Kate got out of bed and went into the bathroom. There was no point in trying to sleep any more. Marah would waken any minute. In the shower, her husband was singing a very off-key version of an old Rolling Stones’ song.
Against her better judgment she looked in the mirror. Steam clouded her reflection but didn’t obscure it.
Her hair was straggly and too long. Dark blond roots showed how long it had been since she’d had a foil. She had bags under her eyes the size of open umbrellas and enough cl**vage for two women.