The others, he said, said were groupthink behaviourists, gestalt interventionists, or enthusiasts of birth reenactment. Also: mutes, lecturers, eyebrow knitters, hand holders and worse.
As Brooke’s advocate, Fletcher attended two sessions, reiterating his worry that she harbored a death wish.
Virginia doubted that, and early the next morning rang Fletcher to say she would not proceed without him.
Fletcher reminded the wily septuagenarian that Brooke could speak for herself.
“Mr. Fletcher,” Virginia said, “As Brooke’s murderous father’s surprise sex partner, you’re in the room, warming a chair or not.” Further, the enchanting teenage girl and the middle-aged, recovering alcoholic, homosexual shared a singular relationship.
“Say no more,” Fletcher said. Every other morning then, he propelled his aching body to keep pace with Brooke, who darted swiftly into the winter wind. After three weeks, they agreed: Virginia’s advice was distinctly helpful.
When Tara moved into the media room, where she enjoyed privacy that was impossible in her dormitory, Virginia noted that because of her work hours, she posed minimal inconvenience.
When Pious Lies’ opened, Fletcher invited his heavenly darling Luke for the weekend. He and Brooke feared Tara would damn the couple. Virginia suggested that they—i.e., Fletcher—refrain from sarcastic intonations.
Upon learning that Pop had become Monsignor Numerary’s favorite and no longer needed Luke, Tara found the big, blond farm boy simpatico. He had a Master’s degree in Computer Science and watched, just as avidly as Tara did, Children’s Minds in continuous succession.
Also fortunate was Brooke’s request, while still in the hospital, that Annie represent the cast and crew in any interviews, assuming they were not cancelled because Brooke was unavailable.
None cancelled. New York’s drama critics were engaged by art, not hype, at least for now. The clique, Fletcher said, had blatantly overlooked Annie. But no more—her performance as a knowing, straitlaced Bernice drew accolades from the first. “Now that the nitwits have noticed, Annie, they won't dare forget! Your star will endure.”
“Thank you, Mr. Fletcher,” Annie said. “And thank Brooke for me. Tell her I miss her.”
The obscure little play, which had been seen (if seen) as a portrayal of stifled lives, was acclaimed as sharp and affecting.
On Theater Talk, Annie said how much she loved working with the talented, collaborative troupe. Wise Mark Fletcher and ingenious young Brooke Logan were exhilarating. Then the host of Times Talk recalled Annie’s blazing Joan of Arc last year. Finally, she began getting the offers she had stopped dreaming about years ago.
The laudatory rush caused Fletcher to worry about his limited run of Into the Woods in May—a worry he put aside in order to make plans for Brooke. Within six weeks, she must be absorbed by endeavors in another hemisphere. They had acknowledged the need for oceans separating her and Bond—Brooke because she had missed him forever and Bond because, otherwise, he couldn’t possibly stay away from her. As of yesterday, he was due to arrive in New York the day after she underwent surgery to remove the pins planted in her forearm.
This cold Monday morning, Brooke skipped ahead, stopped, and pivoted. Her glow intensified until Fletcher looked away. But a second later, she was smiling in his face. “Today can we ask Virginia about my seclusion? I’ve been lonely most of my life, Sir Fletcher, but never—banished.”
“She already knows, Fletcher. She seemed to know about Matthew and me before we told her.”
“We haven’t told anyone! Do you imagine you’re being cut off from your lover as a test? It’s wrenching for those of us who love you. But you’ve sacrificed and he’s slaved and sacrificed for James Bond’s reincarnation in Readiness Is All. You must not tell Virginia or anyone else.”
“She knows, Fletcher. I mean, Jesus, you even told her about a parallel between me and Matthew and you and Dickie.”
“Fletcher, what’s wrong with you? Doctor-patient privilege makes Virginia like a priest who can never reveal the sin if the sinner’s sorry.”
“Bloody hell, child! Do you not know the truth about priests?”
“I know there are priests—and there are priests. But I also know Virginia’s trustworthy. And so is Annie.”
“I need to sit down.”
Brooke looped her arm through Fletcher’s. “Don’t you remember that rehearsal when I flew off the stage because Matthew was in the audience? Even since, without saying a word about it, Annie’s protected me. She threatens anyone she suspects of ‘rumormongering.’”
“I refuse to believe that either Virginia or Annie know Bond’s a paedophile with an insatiable desire for you!”
“Shit, Fletcher!” She pushed him away. “If Matthew’s a paedophile, I’m the diabolical tyke you always said I was.”
“Even at my worst, I was never that vicious.”
“Yes, you were.”
“Good Lord, Brooke—” The color drained from his face. “I’m sorry.”
She steered him into Virginia’s office where the woman said that on Wednesday morning she’d have a list for Brooke in preparation for exile. “Return to Woodstock. Walk in the woods. Visit the waterfalls. Love yourself more than Matthew, his children, and Connie combined.”
“What about me?”
“You and I shall continue, Mr. Fletcher.”
“I meant that I—”
Virginia smiled. “Yes. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.”
Sick and distraught, Fletcher followed Brooke home to Perry Street and checked their mail slot. Cho! It contained a most welcome letter. “Look at this, Brooke. To ‘Sir Fletcher’ from Ha-neu Rhee. In other words, to Brooke from Bond.”
“Have you read it?”
“Brooke, didn’t you hear Virginia? I’m never to snoop or lie to you. I may to others, if necessary, but never again to you.”
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