Home > California Girls(13)

California Girls(13)
Author: Susan Mallery

She’d been telling herself that for hours and hoping that, at some point, she would believe it. Only now, lying on their bed, in their bedroom, in their house, knowing he was probably fucking Treasure right this second, she was finding it harder and harder to believe that was all it was. Her spinning head and muddled mind weren’t enough to distract her from a horrific truth. That Nigel hadn’t failed to come by because he was ashamed or because he was busy having sex. He hadn’t come by because he wasn’t here anymore.

In LA, she clarified for herself. She wasn’t thinking he was dead.

She reached for her tablet, put it down, then swore under her breath. After sitting up, she drank more vodka, grimacing when she realized the ice had melted, diluting her drink. Stupid laws of physics or whatever it was that controlled melting ice cubes. She didn’t want watery vodka, she wanted cold vodka.

She opened the tablet and went directly to the TMZ home page. She didn’t have to look hard to see the headline: Does Treasure Have a New Man?

Her vision blurred more as she started crying again. Finola angrily brushed away the ridiculous, useless tears and clicked on the link that took her to the page. There were more pictures than text, which was fine with her. The last thing she wanted to do was to give herself a headache from reading impossibly small and moving print.

Instead, she studied the photos, trying not to care about how young Treasure was and how incredible she looked in a very tiny bikini.

“Look at her ass!”

Finola thought about the hours she spent working out and how every year it was just a little bit harder to keep things high and tight and firm.

Life was many things, but fair wasn’t one of them, she told herself.

There were more pictures, all of them of Treasure. Once Finola had accepted the other woman’s incredible body, she started paying more attention to where the pictures had been taken. One word jumped out at her. “Bahamas.” Her already shaky stomach sank.

“He’s not there,” she whispered, even though she knew he had to be. She scanned the pictures again, looking more closely at the people in the background. No Nigel, no Nigel, no...

She turned back to one of the pictures she’d already studied, peering at it more closely. There, in the background. The image was blurry, but she recognized the man. He was with her. Nigel had gone to the Bahamas with Treasure.


She reached for her drink, only to remember the watery contents, then bounded out of bed. That last thing was a mistake as the room spun and her stomach lurched. She hung on to the nightstand to steady herself. When she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to fall over, she headed for the landing and, clinging to the railing, made her way downstairs to the kitchen.

There were two empty bottles of vodka on the counter. A third still had most of its contents. She dumped the tepid liquid from her glass into the sink, added ice, then poured in more vodka. After two big gulps, she set the glass on the counter and closed her eyes.

Nigel had gone away with his twenty-three-year-old mistress. Right now they were together, having sex or mocking her or something awful and hideous. He’d left her, just like that, with no warning. He’d left her on the weekend she’d wanted to tell him she was ready to get pregnant.

Sadness overwhelmed her. Sadness for what had been lost. For all her hope of him being sorry and them getting over this, she honest to God didn’t know if that was possible. Even before she decided if she was willing to forgive him or not, Nigel had to come home and that sure wasn’t happening now.

Tears returned, along with frustration and anger and hurt. She hated Nigel, hated him. She didn’t want him dead, she wanted him punished and humiliated. She wanted him naked and in public with lines of people pointing and laughing at his dick. She wanted him tied up and left in a public square until he was forced to pee and shit on himself. She wanted his fingers broken so badly, they would never heal right and he would have to stop doing surgery. But mostly she wanted it to be last Thursday so she didn’t know about the affair and she didn’t have to hurt this much.

She went back to their bedroom and walked into his closet. Finola grabbed an armful of the clothes he hadn’t taken. She carted them over to the French doors, then stepped out onto the balcony. She didn’t hesitate at all—she simply flung the clothes off the balcony, onto the patio below. A few shirts fluttered into the pool.

She went back inside and repeated her actions until all his clothes were in the backyard. The last to go was his winter coat—a beautiful camel-colored cashmere that he wore when they went back East. She tossed it, hurling it as hard as she could so it would fall into the chlorinated water. When she was done, she went inside. She sank onto the bathroom floor and rested her head on her raised knees.

He was gone, she thought to herself. Just gone. He’d left her and their marriage as if he’d never loved her. The leaving was bad enough but to have chosen a public figure for his transgression was just as unforgivable. Because under the torment of having lost her husband and her marriage was an even more devastating truth.

Unlike most women going through this, her anguish would not be played out in private. Instead the whole world was going to know. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point a photographer would put the pieces together. In her line of work, there were very few secrets. Until today, she hadn’t cared about that. She wasn’t a secret kind of person. But all that had changed and now it was just a matter of time until she was put on trial by a fickle public and a hungry, uncaring press. Losing Nigel had nearly killed her—what was going to be left when she lost herself?

* * *

Ali got through work on Monday with a minimum of fuss, mostly because she didn’t tell anyone about Glen. Yes, it was probably the coward’s way out, but she was fine with that. Eventually she would have to come clean, but not right this second.

She finished her quarterly inventory inspection by noon, then filled in when the quality guy had to leave early to go pick up his kid. She measured parts against the specs and declared them good to go, all the while thinking only positive thoughts. She spent her lunch break making phone calls from the privacy of her car, and canceled the wedding venue and the caterer. Daniel was taking care of the photographer she’d hired.

After finishing her calls, she stayed in her car until her break was officially over. She leaned back against the seat and marveled at life’s sense of humor.

The brother she’d assumed was dependable and normal and honorable had turned out to be a total douchebag while the brother who was a little dangerous and put her on edge had turned out to be the world’s nicest guy.

At the Dodger game, Daniel had been nothing but charming. He’d distracted her with funny stories from the world of motocross. He’d stuffed her with hot dogs, peanuts and beer and had reminded her to put on sunscreen. Before they’d left, he’d insisted on buying her an official Dodger T-shirt and baseball cap. She’d gone from wary to grateful. At this point, she didn’t much care if she was his good deed project for the year. Daniel was a good man and he was determined to help her. Only a fool would say no to that.

Now if only she could figure out a way to ask him to tell her mother for her, things would really be looking up, but alas, no. That wouldn’t be right. He’d been incredibly kind to her—she wouldn’t repay that by making him face her mother. And if she was willing to be that awful, she would gain nothing. Her mother would still want to hear all the gory details from her regardless.

Ali finished her shift and like the dutiful daughter she mostly aspired to be, made her way from Van Nuys to Burbank, avoiding the insanely crowded freeway. She took Victory east, then cut across on North Buena Vista, heading to her mother’s side of Burbank. Traffic was brutal, but she was in no hurry and didn’t mind missing a few lights. Eventually, however, she arrived on the narrow residential street where she’d grown up. She parked in front of the house and braced herself for what was to come. In theory her mother should be totally on her side, but in this family, unless you were Finola, that was never a sure thing.

The house itself was typical for the neighborhood. A one-and-a-half-story ranch with a porch in front and a detached garage. Upstairs was a bonus room Ali’s mother had used for crafts and storage. On the main floor there were four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a family room that had been added on when Ali had been five or six. The sisters hadn’t shared a bedroom, but the three of them had shared a bathroom, which had turned out to be surprisingly easy. By the time Ali wanted to spend time on her hair and experiment with makeup, Finola had long since left for college and Zennie had never been one to primp.

Ali’s mother had gotten the house in the divorce. Mary Jo always complained it was too big for her, but she’d been loath to move until a couple of months ago when she’d announced she was buying a friend’s cottage near the ocean in Redondo Beach. Selling the family home first meant getting rid of thirty-plus years of memories and crap, something she expected her daughters to help with. Ali figured odds were at least even that the first, or possibly second thing her mother said when she found out about her broken engagement was that Ali would now have more time to help with the purge.

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