“I wrote it the way I wanted to, and now the story is mine. Now that
I’ve sold the film rights, even more people will know my side. Once a
story’s been told enough times, it becomes true.”
“A movie about us?”
She nods. Her mascara rings her eyes in melted black circles.
“What did he do to you?”
She laughs, because she knows I know.
A foreshock occurs before an earthquake. An aftershock can ripple
out along the fault, not as devastating as the quake itself, a reminder that
the earth still owns you, can shake you out of your bed again. If you can
feel the foreshock, you can summon all your good sense and prepare
yourself for the Big One. The Big One will drag you into the hallway,
where you’ll listen to your sister cry in the attic. Pound on the hatch
door. Californians don’t have basements. If you’re bad, you could end up
there too. So you’re good. Your father tells you so. Good girl. What did
Patty do that made her so bad?
He liked me. Favored me. What unknown, unused power might I
have held? I should have said to him, Please let her out.
Her face is painted with pain and triumph. Outside the window, the
clouds part. There’s no sun. No rainbow. The baby swims laps inside me.
What will she think? She might not care. In that future world, she’ll have
worse things to worry about. Fires, fires every season. Earthquakes. Bad
air. No water.
“Patty,” I say, “have you been drinking?”
She will not look me in the eye. “I have . . . indulged. But I’m not
drunk. Not now.”
“Because of Dad?”
“You know what I mean.”
“He’s one of the reasons,” she says. “I’m divorced. I’m lonely. The usual.”
If I had been paying better attention, I could have called it. I should
have looked in the obvious places for bottles: squished behind canned
peas in the pantry, slid between the mattress and the box spring. Patty
has almost everything she’s ever wanted. Patty worked hard, muscling
her way through school. She has a successful career, money, status, a
beautiful home with a view of the ocean and the mountains. Women
stop Patty on the street and tell her that the book changed their lives. I’ve
never made music that changed anyone’s life.