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.“Oh my God.” Her knees literally went weak, and she had to sit down on the coffee table.“Mother!”“Don’t yell at me!” Daphne covered her face with both hands.“I can’t take it.”“How long have you been running up this bill?” Lila flipped through the itemized statement, which was at least five pages long.“I didn’t run up the bill!” Daphne cried.“Your father paid the full balance every month.” She cleared her throat.“Well, he did on this card, anyway.”“He did?” Lila peered closer at the bill to check the purchase dates.“Then what.Holy crap, you bought all this stuff in the last few months?”“I was bereaved, okay? And you of all people should understand that shopping sometimes helps when you’re lonely.Wasn’t that the whole point of your job? To sell people things they didn’t need when they were feeling vulnerable in the middle of the night?”Lila gasped.“First of all, don’t try to turn this around on me.Second of all, everybody needs breathable, high-quality percale sheets for a one-time-only clearance price at two a.m.Third of all, what the hell did you buy?” Lila scanned the retailers listed.“What’s this huge charge at Bloomingdale’s?”Daphne shrank into the sofa cushions.“New breakfast dishes.They’re casual and bright, but they’re still fine china.And they’re dishwasher safe.I was trying to be practical.”“Pottery Barn, Sephora, Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany.” Lila dropped the bill and regarded her mother with confusion.“Did you go to New York?”“Don’t be ridiculous.” Daphne sniffed.“I haven’t left this tiny little backwater town in years.”“So this was all online shopping?”Daphne nodded.“But if you never leave this tiny little backwater town, why do you need expensive shoes and fancy jewelry?”Daphne started crying, but these weren’t her dainty, ladylike, get-out-of-jail-free tears.She was genuinely upset, shaking and red-nosed in her sorrow.“I don’t know.”“Well, where is this stuff?” Lila demanded.“Where do you even keep it all?”“The closet.”“You mean the master bedroom closet that I’m not allowed to open?”“Well.Yes.” Daphne twisted her hands together.“And the guest room closets.The attic.The storage space over the garage.”Lila opened and closed her mouth several times before demanding, “Show me.”Her mother led the way up the elegant staircase with the hand-carved banister, past the family portraits hanging in the upstairs hallway, across the restored antique rugs, and through the master bedroom.Lila threw open the closet door and discovered.“So basically, your closet is the women’s department at Nordstrom.Look, this dress still has the tags on.” Lila pointed at a plum-colored silk gown.“So does this one.So does this one.”Daphne hung her head.The floor of the closet was obscured by dozens of cardboard shipping boxes and shopping bags, all of them stuffed with tissue paper and plastic wrap and receipts.“I’m sorry,” Daphne said softly.And in her mother’s voice, Lila heard layers of remorse, years of regret, untold stories of frustration and loneliness and longing.So she stopped arguing and asking questions.Instead, she fell back on her new mantra: Take action.“The good news is, we can return a lot of the stuff that still has receipts,” Lila said.“Let’s go through all the boxes.You start over there, and I’ll start over here.”“No, no.” Daphne clutched the plum-colored gown with both hands.“We’re not returning anything!”“Yeah, we are.” Lila glanced inside a bright blue box from Tiffany & Co.“Everything’s going back.”“Have you no heart?” Daphne demanded.“Mom, come on.” Lila held up a sequined evening gown with a plunging neckline.“Where are you going to wear this in Black Dog Bay?”“Just because I’ve been stuck here for thirty years doesn’t mean I have to give up and be frumpy forever, does it? I’ll always love fashion, no matter where I live or how old I am.”“You can love fashion without spending tens of thousands of dollars on it.” Lila gasped as she opened the flaps of a carton from Bergdorf Goodman.“Hold the phone—is this what I think it is?” She lifted out a caramel-colored Chloé bag made from buttery soft leather.“I tried to find this last spring and it was sold out everywhere! How did you get this?”Daphne shrugged.“I have my ways.You have to know how to shop, sweet pea.”“And it’s still in the box? You just left it here to rot?” Lila shook her head at her mother.“You’re the one who has no heart!”“What difference does it make, since everything is going back to the store?”“Everything is going back to the store.” Lila ran her fingers along the cool gold hardware and the smooth leather.“Everything, that is, except this bag.”* * *The real estate agent showed up at nine twenty-five the next morning with a box from the Eat Your Heart Out bakery.“I hope you like orange cranberry scones,” Whitney said as she climbed the porch stairs.“We love orange cranberry,” Lila assured her, positioning her body just outside the front door.“But there’s been a slight change of plans.”Whitney’s smile flickered.“Is this not a good time?”Lila glanced back at the closed door and lowered her voice.“I’m thinking maybe we should wait to do a walk-through of the house until my mom’s not here.”Whitney lowered her voice, too.“She’s the homeowner, correct?”“Correct.”“Doesn’t she want to be part of the process?”“That’s the problem.” Lila opened the white box and grabbed a scone.“She doesn’t want there to be a process.Don’t get me wrong—we’re definitely selling.But she’s still, you know, warming up to the idea.”“Got it.” Whitney nodded.She couldn’t have been more than twenty-four, but she exuded a degree of confidence and capability that Lila could only dream of.“And I hope you’ll trust me to handle it.Most of my business really comes down to dealing with people.Buying or selling a home can be very emotional.”“‘Emotional’ is one word for it.” Lila paused for a bite of the zesty, buttery scone.“Have you met my mother?”“We haven’t been formally introduced, but I’ve seen her around town.” Whitney’s dimples were back in full force.“She seems lovely.Very stylish.”“She is both lovely and stylish,” Lila conceded.“But she’s also recently widowed, and she’s had more than her fair share of bad news over the last few days.”The door opened and Daphne emerged, crisp and coiffed and perfectly put together.She wore her asymmetric-shouldered tunic, double-wrapped belt, and tight black leggings with an almost aggressive hauteur.“Lila? Who are you talking to?”Whitney stepped forward, offering a handshake.“Hi, Mrs.Alders, I’m Whitney Sosin.I’m here to—”Lila threw herself between the real estate agent and her mother and tried to do some preemptive damage control.“I asked her to come, remember? Since we’re thinking about putting the house on the market?”Daphne rounded on Lila with the most ferocious frown her Botoxed face could muster.“I already told you, we are not selling the house.”Whitney retreated toward the porch steps.“Maybe I should give you two a moment.”“Good idea,” Daphne agreed.“Lila, I told you: I’m not ready for this.”“And that’s fine, because we’re not really doing anything,” Lila assured her.“We’re just walking [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]