Providence, Rhode Island
Wednesday, November 7
When the phone on my desk rings, my assistant stares at it as if I’ve received a call from beyond the grave.
“Is that your cell phone ringing?” Jasmine’s eyes widen and meet mine. “In all the years I’ve worked for you, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phone ring.”
I ignore her comment and pick up my phone, but the hair at the back of my neck rises. Only a handful of people have this number, and none of them would call during work hours unless they wanted to tell me about a bona fide emergency.
I glance at the number in the viewer, then tell Jasmine we can finish our reports later. After she tosses me another bewildered look, she backs out of my office and closes the door behind her.
Something inside me goes still as I press the receive button. “Tuesday Crystal. Is this Mr. Rueben?”
My lawyer’s baritone voice immediately puts me at ease. “Tuesday, how are you?”
“Fine, but I was surprised to see your number on my phone. Is everything okay?”
“I’m not sure how to answer that.” His sigh echoes over the airwaves between Rhode Island and Chicago. “I’m calling for two reasons. First, I wanted you to know that we’re putting your check into the mail today. It’s not the windfall I wish I could send, but it’ll be a nice addition to your retirement fund.”
I laugh and move to my window, which offers a view of a busy downtown street. “That’s okay—I’m amazed every time I get a check.”
“I’m not. TV Land loves the show, and in his cover letter Oliver mentioned that Nickelodeon just picked up the series. So it’s a fair bet that you’ll be in reruns and earning residuals for months to come.”
I grab a hank of hair and glance at the ends to be sure the color is holding. I’m a blonde in those reruns, and sometimes I suffer from nightmares in which my copper color has washed away, leaving me with the yellow blonde hair of my teenage years . . .
“I hate reruns.” I blurted out the thought without thinking, then realize that my lawyer must think I’m awfully ungrateful. Embarrassment burns my cheeks as my words hang in the silence like a belch at a formal dinner party.
Fortunately, Mr. Rueben knows me well. “I know you wish someone would lock all those episodes in a vault, but your mother depends on those residual checks. I would imagine that your siblings don’t complain about unexpected paychecks, either.”
“Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining.”
The lawyer chuckles. “After all these years, don’t think you can fool me. And that brings me to the second reason for my call—and I’m sorry as I can be about being the bearer of bad news.”
“Should I sit down?” I’m half-joking when I ask the question, so when he answers yes, I fall into my chair as if my knees have given way. What is going on? Thomas Rueben hardly ever calls me; he usually mails my checks with a cover letter and his best wishes. For him to feel compelled to pick up the phone—this must be spectacularly bad news. Could something have happened to one of my—
“It’s your mother,” he says, his voice flat and somber. “Oliver said she hadn’t been feeling well, so he finally got her to a doctor.”
“She’s . . . seriously sick?”
“Cervical cancer. The prognosis isn’t good.” Mr. Reuben’s voice is smooth and calm; my lawyer is an expert at delivering portentous announcements. His news whirls in my head, intelligible and specific and complex, yet my brain reduces this report to one conscious thought: my mother is too stubborn to die on a doctor’s schedule. She might be too stubborn to die at all.
The thought of my mother being terminally ill is so absurd that I almost begin to laugh. Mona Huggins, dying? I’ve seen my mother fly in the face of network executives; I’ve seen her bully her way into a bat mitzvah at the Beverly Hills Hotel so our band could play for a talent agent. The woman is half superhero and half politician. No way could she be dying.
But if by some chance she is, why should it matter to me? I can’t count the number of times I’ve reminded myself that I no longer care about what she does. Long ago I decided that I won’t cry when she dies, and I won’t go to her funeral. I am Tuesday Crystal now, and Mona Huggins has nothing to do with me—
But though our relationship has been severed and I haven’t seen Mom in years, this news drops me into a pool of confusion where I find myself swimming in a current of emotions and memories.
“How long?” My voice emerges in a rusty croak.
“The doctors give her four to six weeks. I’m so sorry, Tuesday.”
I shoehorn a note of gratitude into my voice; my lawyer might have been reluctant to make this call. “Thank you for telling me. I appreciate hearing about this before the tabloids get wind of the story.”
“Tuesday, there’s something else.”
His comment distracts me from thoughts of Internet rumors and gossip journalism. “What else could there be?”
“Your mother wants to get the family together. She wants one last reunion . . . with all of you.”
A cackle of protest rises from my throat. “Impossible.”
Mr. Rueben’s voice gentles. “Perhaps you should call—”
“I’m not calling her.”
“I was going to suggest that you call Oliver. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.”
For about half a minute I consider calling my former agent, then I shake my head. “He’d tell her that we spoke. I’ve worked too hard at making a new life for myself. I’m not Christy Huggins any more.”
“But you’re still your mother’s daughter.”
His words echo in my head, and I am unable to argue.
I am my mother’s daughter. But I was also my father’s daughter, and Cole’s big sister.
And I can never forget that Mom is the reason Dad and Cole are dead.