Before Brooke could drive the kids anywhere, let alone to the American Museum of Natural History, first she had to drive Connie safely into the city and back. Maybe next week, they’d move a few of her things to the Perry Street Tower. Or, Connie said, Brooke’s stuff could remain in boxes at the farmhouse forever. The A-frame was under construction.
Brooke knew that. Sunday night while they were in Bearsville, she had ridden her bike home, to find the A-frame surrounded by barriers and scaffolding. Was it still an A-frame with a basement and two storeys?
Yes, an A-frame twice its original size and converted into two deluxe apartments, the one upstairs with balconies. Connie and Chase would live at his house, where, don’t worry, Brooke and Tara would always have bedrooms. The architect in Beacon was inspired by Chase’s rustic old barn surrounded by forest. Connie had meant to tell Brooke sooner. But last week, the builders were suddenly ready to work. And, of course, Brooke had noticed the pool.
Of course. Matthew had told her at Christmas.
Did she know Fletcher had asked Connie, when he sent her his crafty little video, if buying a condominium was too much for Brooke? “I think,” Connie said, “because you’re so squeamish about money.”
After the family had watched Brooke turning through the glass rooms, Connie sent the video to Matthew. And then she had phoned him, asking what did he think? Connie touched her daughter’s shoulders and attempted a serious tone. “Matthew said anything you do, Brooke, is ‘perfect.’ But whatever that means, don’t take it literally.”
“Squeamish me? It’s not like I’m gonna strut around wearing a crown—queen of the town, Mama.”
“I know, honey.”
Because Dex too had seen Brooke starring in her red dress, he did not, as she had feared, take one look at her hair, run upstairs, and slam his door. His dad had said the condominium was temporary. And, that he’d watched this great video where a girl cuts her hair and looks like an angel.
“Dex, did he really say that?”
“Well, I sure didn’t! It’s embarrassing.”
Brooke twisted around to fix the heel of her shoe, feeling as if the wind were knocked out of her.
“I hate my hair, Dex. I was playing with scissors and accidentally cut some of it. Then Fletcher’s hairstylist did the rest.”
“Are you gonna grow it back?”
“Yeah. But it’ll look bad in between.”
“Wait here.” Dex returned with the straw hat Matthew had handed her all summer after they played in the waterfalls.
Fixing her shoe again, she managed a husky: “But that’s for summer.”
“Wear it indoors.”
Brooke still hadn’t forgiven Fletcher for being the meanest he’d ever been to her, despite his apologies and presents, despite him phoning Monday and Tuesday many times. But when he knocked on the door, she opened it. The way he smiled at her—shit, she’d forgotten the hat and snatched it off.
Right-o. Now show some sympathy for his ordeal. Fletcher’s Aston Martin had died in the lane. And bloody hell! He must have trudged half a mile!
Opening the door wider, Brooke said, “Fletcher, why not get your own haircut, wear the red dress, and do the interviews yourself?
“Tut-tut, love. I’m here; I’m queer; get over to it. Do you have Perrier?”
“Even better. Bond’s kitchen is bigger than my living room and foyer combined.”
“Well, a lot of people live here, but most of the time, he’s not one of them.” She poured their tea and told him that Connie’s massive renovations left her adrift.
“Nonsense, dear. Next year, Connie and Chase will live happily nearby—under their own roof. Don’t repeat this, but I’ve always admired your boyfriend’s generosity. No strings—.”
“—attached.” Brooke looked at him and he pretended he wasn’t amused. She sighed, “All right. Fletcher, if you have the numbers handy, I’ll call the Swiss bank.”
Lucky for them, Mme Thérѐse was working late. Did Brooke have a lawyer? Fletcher did. Brooke repeated the name and numbers. The lawyer would pay the sellers in full and put the maintenance cost and taxes in escrow.
Her voice shaky, Brooke asked if enough money remained for college.
“Mais oui!” Mme Thérѐse said. She’d send Brooke a certified report. The bank managed accounts of eight figures, minimum. And as for Brooke’s holdings, Mme Thérѐse had instructions to replenish any large withdrawal immediately, via a different account.
Fletcher asked if anything was wrong.
“Not a thing. Shall I drive you home?”
Friday before rehearsal, brokers and lawyers read documents to Brooke and if she agreed—and one lawyer pointed out that of course she agreed—she should sign here and there…for hours.
To distract her, Fletcher whispered obvious aphorisms, such as: “Adjusting up is easy. It’s the other direction that’s so troublesome.”
Then Tara showed up. Brooke had given her control over maintenance and taxes. Fletcher said, “Tara, a word outside, please?”
In the hallway he said, “No tricky bookkeeping.”
“Frankly,” Tara said, “I’m insulted.”
The sisters didn’t have time for lunch afterwards as Brooke had hoped.
The closing was exhausting and then rehearsal ran into the evening. But Fletcher insisted they look at her purchase.
When the elevator opened on the 10th floor, Brooke said, “Sir Fletcher! Amenities!” And collapsing onto a clever little couch: “How’d you do it?”
“Design Within Reach, mostly. Everything can be exchanged. Do you like the lighting?”
She loved the lighting. He was so right—she could get used to this.
Then on Monday, she drove Connie there in Matthew’s Mercedes, her Yeti in back.
That Thursday was the dress rehearsal before previews. Brooke woke at twilight and wheeled her bicycle into the elevator. Crossing the highway, she shuddered in the spooky, cold dimness. The river slapping hard in the wind, she pedaled into thin air, no hills, no forest, and for half an hour, no other bike riders.
Unnerved by the strange surroundings, she turned at the North Cove and remembered her helmet. The girl who closed her eyes speeding down Mountain Mead Road saw the man’s purple and orange leggings. Nonexistence seized her, although, screaming pain cut through it—until oblivion.
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