Eleanor and Raney talked over each other in their efforts to find
out what happened. I told them what little I knew. Our cab hit every
possible red light as we made our way uptown where shoppers and
tourists thronged the sidewalks in spite of the cold wind. Our driver
stomped on the brake when a couple stepped into traffic without
looking. When we stopped in front of my building on the Upper East
Side, my doorman hurried to help. Eleanor asked him to call my car
Raney took charge of getting my bag packed. “You find a flight.
We’ll do the rest.”
I worked my phone until I found the last seat on a US Airways
flight to Richmond through Washington National. I had just over
two hours to pack and get to LaGuardia. I glanced out the window.
Oh great. Snow.
“How long do you think you will be gone?” Eleanor moved
through my bedroom, selected clothes, folded them, and put them
into my roll-aboard suitcase.
“No idea. A week, probably.”
I stood helpless near the window and looked across Park Avenue
into the snowy park. Please don’t let Merry die.
With all that was on my mind, I forgot to change out of my
standard gallery attire— cashmere sweater, matching wool trousers,
scarf, and boots. I’d been channeling Ingrid Bergman, elegant and
I called the hospital but got the runaround. An emergency room
nurse told me she couldn’t give out patient information; it was
against regulations. I wanted to shout “Regulations, my ass! I’m her
mother!” but I knew it would do no good.
I called the Colonel. He hadn’t seen Merry. When he arrived, a
half-dozen doctors were in a curtained-off area at the back of the
emergency room. He used his colonel’s voice, but the ER nurse was
“Should’ve been a drill sergeant.”
The Colonel’s words made me smile for the first time since Bette
I called Emilie next. She was scared and worried about her
“I feel Mom’s dying.”
“I’m on my way. My flight leaves in a couple of hours. If you
find out anything, text. Okay?”
My phone buzzed again with a text from Alex. “I beat Em at Clue
last night. Mom wrecked her car.”
I held out the phone to Eleanor and Raney. “Trust a ten-year-old
to have his priorities straight.”
I walked toward my apartment door then stopped and took a
detour into a guest bedroom. I rummaged through a drawer until I
found a battered toy, which I tucked into my shoulder bag.
Raney opened the door, and we left my apartment. The ten
seconds we waited for the elevator seemed like an hour.
“Try and keep things on the ‘on’ side with Merry.” Raney put
her arm around my waist. I heard “before it’s too late” even though
Raney was too diplomatic to say so.
“Make this a wake-up call.”
I hugged my friends, promised to call, and stepped into my car.
“I’ll do my best. Just hope it’s good enough.”
Raney blocked the door. “Did you ever think we’d see Maxine
Davies have a Mommy two-dot-oh moment, Eleanor?”
“Merry’ll tell you I wasn’t good at Mommy one dot oh.”
“Well, now you have a second opportunity.”
“Life is giving you a ...,” Eleanor fumbled for a word, “doo-wop.”
“Do over.” Raney laughed.
“You guys are giving me a do over?”
“Don’t blow it.” Raney shut the car door and stepped back. Both
women waved goodbye.
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